article.2013.01.08What would Jesus do? The saying that launched a zillion wrist bands! But it’s a timeless question that has some fun implications when you apply it to youth ministry. Here are a few of the things we believe Jesus would do as a youth pastor.

Teach with lots of stories.
Without a doubt the Master teacher would teach with stories. He would fill his message of hope and salvation with illustrations and object lessons. He would probably be criticized as being “shallow” for his talks, but crowds would flock to hear him teach.

Spend time with core leaders.

Jesus had an inner circle he spent the majority of his time with. He would pour into a few key students in whom he saw potential, and world-changing opportunity to work through them. He would be criticized for ignoring some people, and would undoubtedly have more than a few parents complain that he played favorites.

Focus on relationships.

Jesus didn’t seem to be big on programs. When he did an overnighter, everyone fell asleep while he prayed. Instead of building great programs and youth rooms, he was a man of the people who ministered outside of the church walls.

Trust his volunteer team.
When Jesus left…he left the disciples in charge. In fact, he never came back! Talk about ownership… He was focused on building them, and then set them loose to change the world…and they did!

If you teach with lots of stories, pour into student leaders, focus on relational ministry, and empower your volunteers, you are following Jesus’ example. And while there certainly is more to the modern church, you are most like Jesus when you serve this way.

Blessings as you serve others this week!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I don’t know what is harder about working in ministry, staying informed on what is going on in the lives of our students or keeping up with the expertise in the many field required to keep the ministry going. For any youth group in any size church you are by all intents and purposes running your own small church and for most of us, that means that we have to fill the roles of each person on a regular staff of a church and that can be daunting. Being good at a few things is easy, but being good at dozens of important jobs can be overwhelming and off the top of my head here is a list of regular parts of many youth workers jobs:

  • Pastor
  • Cousellor
  • Mentor
  • Coach
  • Photographer
  • Logistics coordinator
  • Videographer / Video Editor
  • Sound tech
  • Musician
  • Graphic Designer
  • Accountant
  • Handyman
  • Bus Driver
  • Activity Coordinator
  • Public Speaker
  • Camp Director
  • Web Designer
  • Carpenter
  • Chef
  • Janitor
  • Theologin
  • Secretary
  • Marketing Director
  • Any many more…….

My brain hurts thinking about it, but for each of us we are faced with the reality of needing to wear many hats and be talented or at least competent in each of them. When you look at your ministry area are there any that we missed, any other jobs that you do? 

-Geoff @geoffcstewart

True Dat!

Kurt Johnston —  January 9, 2013 — Leave a comment

Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of about 500 youth workers from the Church Of Christ. I shared four truths I’ve been learning the past few years that have simultaneously led me to a deeper faith experience AND exposed my areas of shallowness.

1) Life Is A Squiggle.
This one isn’t really new, and it has sort of become a “calling card” of sorts for me. I’m convinced that when we embrace the reality that life is unpredictable, that we are slaves to sin (sorta like Paul), that twists and turns are all part of the journey we actually begin to rely on God in deeper ways than ever before.

2) I Need A Travel Parnter….Or Two.
I’m not talking about traditional accountability where you sit together with your accountability partner (whom you often really don’t have deep relationship with) and go through a list of accountability partners. I’m talking about a friend or two who know and love you deeply; who know the good, bad and ugly about you. A friend with whom, as my buddy Scott Rubin says, you can put “your worst foot forward”.

3) Busyness Will Keep Me In The Shallow End.
After purposely bragging in my intro about how much I have going on in my life (as part of a set up for this part), I then shared the sickening story of my recent complete unawareness that my neighbor was in her 3rd round of chemo for breast cancer. A guy who lives SIX houses down was the one who told me. The Pastor on the block…who is so busy doing great ministry…isn’t even connected to his next door neighbor. I talked about the fact that Jesus despised the Pharisees for their “cup issues”; being impressed with their outward appearance. Can you imagine me bragging to Jesus about the outside of my cup with him knowing about my lack of concern for my neighbor. Yikes.

In Life, And In Ministry, I Need A Long View
We are infatuated with the here and now, with instant gratification. But most good stuff in life takes time to develop.

Those are some things God has been teaching/reminding me of lately. If you haven’t done so in a while, take a few minutes sometime soon to jot down what He’s been teaching you.

Finished up a little book on the airplane on the way out to plan the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this week. One Word (That Will Change Your Life) by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page is a simple book that is a perfect read here at the beginning of the New Year. The book is a short read- literally took me 44 minutes but has a chance to profoundly impact your focus each year. Instead of a resolution to start 2013, the book challenges you to start your year in reflection, prayer and a search for a word that will define you in the 365 days ahead. I had so much fun with this little twist on the typical beginning of the year process. I’ll write more about the word I chose a little later in the week. Loved it!


(Here’s the 2nd installment from Brent Lacy from his new book, Rural Youth Ministry. Enjoy! – Stephanie)

Article 2) The Value of your Community in Rural Youth Ministry

You won’t be very long in your new place of Rural Youth Ministry before you hear some form of the following statement – “you’re just a transplant; what do you know?” How do you react to such a statement? You may be a seasoned youth worker of many years, but that fact might not be worth much more than rat poop to many in your community,  or even your church!  You’ll gain a lot more buy-in when you have a plan that focuses on preparing for the challenges of your transition.

  • Attitude is everything-Your initial attitude can make or break your time in a rural ministry. In some denominations, you have no say where you go; it’s what you signed on for when you accepted the Call in that denomination. Your assignment there isn’t the fault of the congregation or community members who are a part of your new rural environment.
  • Rural will almost never be the city, deal with it. If you’re coming into a rural setting after serving or living in an urban or suburban community, please realize that rural ministry is not the city, nor will not ever become the city (in 99.99999 of situations), so don’t try to make it the city. The same utilities, stores, restaurants, attitudes, or leadership that you had in the larger population may not be available in your new setting. It doesn’t make your new community a bad place, just different.
  • The Lie of “Blank Slate.” In most rural areas, you’re not the first person to do youth ministry in your community. You may be the first paid youth worker in your church history (which I am), but not the first youth worker ever.  Don’t buy into the well-intentioned lie of “you have a blank slate here.” Someone has done youth ministry that has impacted your church’s perspective toward youth ministry. This can be either very good or very bad.

If you are ministering in your hometown…Perhaps you’re a youth worker living and serving in your hometown. Maybe you never left—or you moved away and came back to serve in a church where
you grew up. Once I interviewed for a position in the church I attended growing up and it
was the hardest interview of my life! It wasn’t the questions that made it so tough. No, the
biggest hurdle was the internal mind game I played of “the people in this room have known me since I was in diapers, and they want to hire me?”  There are good situations that can come from serving in your home church. You have an edge: an understanding of the history of the area and church that other “outsider” youth workers don’t have.


Just saw that is hosting a free youth worker seminar with Jim Burns near the end of the month – Thursday, January 24, from 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM CST to be specific! Looks like you don’t have to be a member of their site or anything to attend – just sign up for Ministering with Parents and grab one of the spaces before they’re gone. Sweet.


Mike Johnson sent me this link that was fascinating to me – Buzzfeed has a great article for youth workers (and parents) to get the inside scoop on technology and teenagers. As I read it, so much of it was spot on. Here’s an excerpt – head there for the whole article:

Looking at her Instagram feed, I noticed that the vast majority of photos were of people – not beautiful views, objects, or experiences. This is in stark contrast to what the people I follow on Instagram take photos of, and very analogous to the photos that appear in my Facebook Newsfeed.

My takeaway: Facebook was smart to buy Instagram.

My sister maintains that Snapchat is up there with Instagram, in terms of usage amongst her peers. Her exemplary use case was a moment that she captured in the airport of a funny looking man who was snoozing in an awkward position. It’s the type of thing that you want to share with somebody, but it’s insignificance would make it awkward in a text or status update. “It’s a way to connect with friends when you don’t really have anything to say.” Or in my words, if traditional messaging is functional — communicating for a purpose; “What time do you want to meet for the movie?” — Snapchat is the opposite, whatever that is.

My takeaway: Snapchat is a communication tool, seriously.


Disciples of Who?

Chris Wesley —  January 8, 2013 — 2 Comments

You thrive on life change.  That’s what makes you a youth minister.  When life is tough, all you need is that one story of a teen finding Christ.  Living out the Gospel and showing you that all the pain, hurt and junk you’ve been through is worth it.  As youth ministers it’s not always about the energy, the numbers or the accolades, it’s about connecting the teens to Christ.

But, is that what’s really happening in your ministry?  Are you seeing stories of life change for Christ or something else?  Stories of life change can happen for many reason.  As youth ministers your hope is that they happen because of a personal and public relationship with Christ.  That might be happening in your ministry, but then again you might be raising up the next generation of disciples of YOUR CHURCH or YOUR MINISTRY.

It’s a mistake that’s easy to make.  It’s a trick the evil one plays on us all.  He’ll make the ministry about you, about a program or even an activity.  With those things and people comes hype, comes excitement and again life change.  But, if the life change doesn’t point to Christ you are creating a group of disciples with shallow faith.  That means a higher chance that your teens will  walk away when they move away.

So, how do you know if you are pointing teens in the right direction?  You can start by:

  • Observing The Fruit: What path are former teens taking as they graduate high school?  Are you finding teens becoming more public and aggressive with their faith?  What you need to do is sit down with your team and determine what it looks like when a teen is truly living out his or her faith.  This comes from creating a vision for your teens and coming up with signs that indicate you are fulfilling it.
  • Getting Their Story: Have a teen write out their life story.  How is God a part of it?  Or is their life change due to people and programs?  Help them see that God is writing their story and encourage them to give Him credit.  Sometimes the reason you are creating disciples of your ministry is because of a misalignment, correct it before it goes bad.
  • Ask Them Who They Want To Be:  If you ask them “Who do you want to be?” you’ll see how their faith is influencing the vision they have for themselves.  Are they describing someone who has been shaped by the world or someone who is being shaped by their faith?  Again you can have a conversation with them that will help them see how God is shaping their future.
  • Get An Outside Perspective: Talk to parents, coaches or teachers about the life journey they’ve seen in their students.  Make sure you are connected in the community to determine the true impact your ministry is having on their growth.  Are they only “Christian” inside your ministry or are they displaying Christ everywhere they go?

In the end each of your student has a decision whether or not they are going to follow Christ.  You need to guide, influence and encourage them to focus on Christ.  While you may never have a perfect success rate, you can increase Christ’ influence by pointing them towards Him.

How do you determine who a student is following?  

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)