From time to time I post a question that comes into the blog that feels like we could answer together rather than me alone. What advice would you give this youth pastor who is asking about effectively ministering to parents? Weigh in!

I’ve been trying to minister to parents as well as volunteers and students – have had NO luck with anything for parents. I make resources available to them, no one shows up for my monthly meetings, everything I do seems to be met with “meh” … it is killing me and I can’t help but feel like a failure. Do you guys have parent stuff that IS working? Because I sure don’t!

Your turn, MTDB community … I’ll be back later this week with a few of the things we have planned in our next season of parent ministry – honestly I think it is time to overhaul a little bit and launch some new things, too!


Over Memorial Day Weekend, 2008, I became a minimalist.

My journey into minimalism was not entered into as a fad, experiment, or temporary life adjustment. Nor was it just for the purpose of moving, getting out of debt, traveling the world, or quitting my job. My decision to intentionally live with less was born out of my desire to line up my life’s pursuit with my heart’s deepest desires. It was about creating space for faith, family, and friends. It was a decision I knew would influence the rest of my life. And I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

Over the past five years, we have removed 60-70% of our personal possessions, we have moved into a smaller home, we have removed ourselves from the hollow race of American consumerism, and we have completely changed our habits of consumption. As a result, we have found more time for the things that are most important. In short, we have been finally able to start living the life we always wanted to live.

This journey towards minimalism has been far more life-changing than I anticipated. The possessions in our lives define who we are on a far deeper level than we know. And as a result, the process of removing them teaches us valuable truths about ourselves.

But the most important life lessons I’ve learned can be summed up like this:

1. Possessions weigh down our lives more than we realize. They are heavy and cumbersome. They slow us down. They demand our time, energy, attention, and focus. They need to be purchased, transported, organized, cleaned, sorted, fixed, and managed. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values. Ultimately, they cause us to lose our life rather than find it. Life is indeed better with less.

2. Our lives are just too valuable to waste chasing possessions. Society has told us our greatest dreams should consist of “doing well in school, getting a high-paying job, and buying a really nice house with lots of cool things.” That is a shame because we can dream bigger dreams. We can dream better dreams. Our lives can be far more valuable than the things we own. Our lives are meant to be built on the things that really matter: love, faith, hope, charity, relationships, influence, significance, spirituality…. not the physical things that will always perish, spoil, or fade.

3. Living with less provides the freedom to pursue our greatest passions. The removal of excessive possessions and the intentional decision to live with less offers countless benefits. In exchange for removing the clutter, we are rewarded with newfound finances, time, energy, freedom, and mental capacity. Our lives are lived with less stress, less anxiety, and less burden. Our finite resources become more available to us… and we are freed to pursue our greatest passions—whatever they may be.

4. The external decision to own less has a positive impact on our journey inward. Owning (and buying) less has allowed my heart to change and adopt values I have always admired in others. Through the process, I have learned contentment, generosity, gratitude, self-control, honesty, and appreciation. These attributes were difficult to discover during the pursuit of more… but the intentional pursuit of less has allowed room in my heart for them to surface.

5. Jesus had it right all along. When I removed the accumulation and pursuit of possessions from my life, Christ’s teachings on money and possessions began to take a new hold on my life. I began to realize his teachings to “sell your possessions and give to the poor” and to “not hoard up treasures here on earth” are not instructions designed to make my life miserable while on earth. They weren’t given as some means of forced sacrifice on our lives. They are an invitation—an invitation to live a more abundant, meaningful life—just like everything else Jesus taught. This abundant life is available to anyone who begins to believe that Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about… even when he encouraged us to give away our possessions and pursue something greater instead.

Joshua Becker has served in Student Ministry for 14 years. He blogs at Becoming Minimalist where he encourages others to find more life by owning less. And his new book, Living with Less: An Unexpected Key to Happiness, is written to inspire teenagers and young adults to discover the simple truth behind Christ’s plain teaching on money and possessions.

I believe that the most effective student leadership programs (and ministries in general) are the ones that empower their students. And I mean, actually empower them. In youth ministry, empowerment is rooted in the belief that students can actually make a difference in their church, community, school, and even the world!

If we were to ask ourselves if we believe in students, believe that that they could change the world, most of us would say yes. However, if some of us were to really think about it, that might not be fully true. I think we might sometimes say yes out of habit or because we feel like we are supposed to, but the real answer lies in the actions of our ministry. We can say we believe in our students all we want, but if our ministry isn’t empowering students, than we might need to reevaluate our answer. For some, their ministry used to be powered by a belief in students but, somewhere along the way, empowerment got lost in the shuffle. For others, empowerment might not have ever been a main priority in their ministry. But if we want to see students serving their church and community, we need to make it a priority.

One of the first steps in getting a student to serve is getting them to believe in themselves, and we can’t expect students to do that if we don’t believe in them first. We need to believe that God has called and equipped the ENTIRE church to serve. Each of us has been gifted for ministry, even our students. Our student leadership programs, and our ministries as a whole, needs to communicate this belief. Where are we taking a chance on students? While it is awesome to let students pass out pens and bulletins at the beginning of service, we need to be providing significant opportunities. Sometimes this means letting go of a certain aspect of your ministry and allowing a student to own it. If you have a student that wants to be a pastor and has the gift of communication, let them speak at a weekend service. If you have a student that has a heart for the elderly and the gift of leadership, let them start and lead a elderly care ministry. At the end of the day, God believes in our students and our ministry needs to reflect that.

Does your ministry communicate to students your belief in them? Does it empower them?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.



You aren’t the lead youth worker at your church? That doesn’t mean you can’t powerfully influence the lives of teenagers!
Thanks to her 25 years of experience as a youth ministry volunteer, Danette Matty thoroughly knows your world: part-time hours, full-time passion—and no-time pay. But she also knows that you’re an integral part of God’s work in the lives of students and in your church’s ministry to teenagers.
This book will help you discover how to maintain your spiritual vitality, lead from the middle, serve through all the seasons of life, and do what you do best. You’ll also gain insights into working well with teenagers, parents, church leaders, and other volunteers.
Danette’s goal in 99 Thoughts for Volunteers is to encourage and equip you—the volunteer whose commitment, hard work, and dedication are essential to a healthy youth ministry. She’s eager to deflate the “just a volunteer” mentality and inflate the truth of the primo skills and qualities that you as a volunteer bring to the team!

Check it out here!

Thank you to all the volunteers! You are changing and influencing more lives than you realize!


How do you leave a youth ministry role with honesty and grace?

The leading voices in youth ministry have said for a long time that when it is time to go … leave well. To be honest, I think I’ve even said that phrase myself in the not-so-distant past. But the more I process it … I’m not sure its possible.

Leaving well implies that it is possible to finish perfectly and that every relationship will be restored and at peace when you go. That everyone will sing songs in your honor when you leave, laying down palm branches in your driveway as your Hyundai backs out for the last time. In my experience and seeing a ton of other youth workers walk through this: transition is tough.

The good news: I do think there are a few ways to leave without adding to the pain of transition. Want to leave with honesty and grace? Here’s how …

Leave at the right time
It isn’t always possible, but leaving at a natural break is best. The end of summer is ideal but not always possible. But even more than leaving at the right time in the calendar, pray through leaving at the right time in the church culture as well. Stay too long after you know you’re done and it’ll be painfully obvious, leave too soon and blindside people.

Make the transition short
I understand the need for a transition time to help prepare students or ensure a peaceful exchange of leadership – but there’s nothing worse than a “lame duck” who is out but still in. Pray through the timing of your announcement and the timing of your last day – typically I wouldn’t put these more than a month or two apart at the most.

Protect the pastor

Don’t cause division in the church – you will only hurt God’s body and leave students and volunteers hurt in the crossfire of departure. Know that God will use that church for His glory, even if you are no longer a part of the leadership. You can’t leave perfectly, but you can minimize damage by controlling your tongue (and ears for that matter).

Leave better not bitter
Take a long hard look at yourself. Don’t jump right into your next position. Take some time to get alone and debrief with your spouse or mentor and get alone with God. Leaving is tough on a church; know that it will leave some scars on you, too. Leaving better means choosing not to divide the church, to walk away … and to work on what God reveals to you in the process.

It is impossible to leave without hurting someone. Even if you leave in ideal conditions people will be hurt to lose you as part of the church. Leaving is messy. Leaving isn’t easy. I’m not sure you can leave well … but you can leave better.


Related articles: How to Leave Well, 3 Things to Do When You’re Leaving and Thoughts About Transitions

God created us for a purpose; for something far greater and beyond ourselves.

Why is knowing your purpose important
Before I knew what I wanted to go to school for, I would just show up and go through the motions. Yeah, I was focused and excited to be there, knowing I would end up somewhere; but the direction in which I should go was just not clear. When I found out what I was going to major in, I was filled with energy and began to put extra effort forth, knowing where I was going and what I needed to do to get there; I began to live life in another realm.  Now, our purpose is not our jobs or what we do; but it is in our jobs and how we do them, as my Pastor says. We can do our jobs but if we are not using our jobs as a ministry to reach others’, then we are not living out our God-given purpose.; we are then living in a ME world which will quickly crumble.

Knowing your purpose
So how do you reach out to others’ and begin to know your God-given purpose?

First, seek God. Not for what He can do for you, but to have a relationship with Him. Begin to saturate yourself in His word and He will flow from you, throughout your daily life and interactions with others’.  As you get to know the Lord, you will desire more and more of what He desires and wants for your life.

When you see a need; fill a need.  This applies to all but if you don’t know what you are good at or where you belong; this is a great place to start. If you see a need as simple as picking up trash, fill it. See the need for nursery volunteers, fill it. See the need for a hungry child that needs to be fed, fill it. As you go about filling needs, you will begin to learn more about who you are and what God has planned for you.

God gives us each a unique purpose; no matter what yours is, each of us is put here to love one another as Christ loves us through our purpose. So let us go about reaching out and building strong relationships not built on envy and judging one another but on love and understanding; living out our God-given purpose.

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

Have you ever felt like a failure? Okay, we all have at some point, because we all fail. We all do certain things that may be great ideas, but go about it the wrong way, and utterly fail. One thing that I desire is for others’ to learn from my mistakes and failures. I try to do this with learning from others’ failures, and hopefully they can learn from mine as well. Today, I want to give you the top 5 failures that I have committed in student ministry:

  1. Epic Fail #1- Train and Equip Parents- As I have grown in student ministry (not going on 7 total years), I have learned that the parents represented in our ministry is as important as the students we are ministering too. Now, I am trying to teach, share resources with, and help parents become better parents to effectively parent the teens of today’s culture. If you are first starting out in ministry, go ahead and begin equipping the parents to build stronger families.
  2. Epic Fail #2- Recruit a team of adult leaders- In my earlier years of ministry; I had a couple of leaders, but did not set up an adult leadership that would take us to the next level like I should have. Regardless of the number of students in your ministry, it is important to begin building a team to take your ministry to the next level.
  3. Epic Fail #3- Inform parents when disciplining a student- There have been some times where a student gets in trouble, and I do not inform parents, and then the parents come back with a twisted story from their teenager, and I have to backtrack a bit, and build their trust and relationship back. I have learned that when a student gets in trouble or has to be corrected in our student ministry on an event or on Wednesday night, it is always important to mention it to the parents. I do not care how small, but in doing so, it builds relationships with the parents, and builds a greater trust from them to you.
  4. Epic Fail #4- Think through games and pranks- I am a prankster, and am personally okay with pranks. My failure is that we have not totally thought through pranks in our ministry. At camp we decided to play “human clue” and fake a real murder with the students. It seemed like a fantastic idea, but when it played out, we had students crying, had a girl faint, had a young boy call his mom for a lawyer, and upset some families that were at camp. What seemed like a fantastic idea was horrible, because it was not thought out. Think out your ideas of what could happen, and it will save you a lot of problems.
  5. Epic Fail #5- Building relationships with the local schools- Do this first. This should be one of the top things in your ministry that you are consistently doing. I have wasted time in this area at my ministry, and now am trying to play catch up. Building relationships with schools takes a great deal of time, and it is important that you stay at it, and consistently plan time to build this relationship.

So, do not fail at these things, and try your best to learn from the epic fails that I have done in our student ministry.

Josh Evans is the student pastor at Union Grove Baptist Church in the Winston Salem, NC area. He has been a mentor and pastor to students for 4 years. You can connect further with Josh on his blog or send him a direct email at

Parenting in this new millennium in the first world culture may be the most different than any other generation that has ever been before. We are in a world of being always on, teens having access to more sinful content than ever, and a culture that says it should be all about you instead of all about your children and family. At the same time, God seems to be less of a focus within the family system than ever before.

Maybe the most frequent questions I have heard as a youth worker from parents at the chapel I serve in is how parents approach technology with their children. This is a whole new world with little to no precedent established from previous parenting models. This unknown territory has initiated fear, concern and doubt in the value added to technology with their children as well as a perceived loss of family communication and values being passed on.

We want to share with you a few tips for parents to have with technology and their children. Take it if it adds value or share with us how you have done it differently down in the comments.

  • Parents Should Look Through Cell Phones
    As a youth worker, I am in the unique position between teenagers want privacy in their lives and parents wanting to protect their children. As a youth worker, we want to support great parenting and yet find ourselves also being empathetic to the teens. Yet, I constantly find myself voicing the support of a parent to have the right and authority to look through their child’s phone. If you set up an understanding with the child before you begin and explain that this is a right to have a phone with the agreement that will be monitored, it becomes less of an invasion of privacy and more about the fact that they are reminded that their phone is a privilege.
  • Pornography Is An Issue For ALL Students
    Parents here me say this and think, sure for all other children it is a problem, but not theirs. Many statistics differ. “But my would never do that!” Some studies say that 100% of children are exposed to pornography if they use the computer more than three hours a week. That would include your child. “But my daughter wouldn’t see have an issue with it.” Unfortunately, the issue of women regularly looking at pornography is sharply rising as is an addiction to it for females. Have this talk, put necessary software on your computer, and do not assume ANYTHING.
  • Do Not Be Afraid of Technology
    Technology can be a scary thing. The two points above are hard conversations and points of sin for many different people, but the nature of technology can be a good thing. To shove off all things technology would also be a negative approach. Instead, know that technology is a tool and if you keep that priority and do not allow it to rule over you, it can help your family. Make fun family videos to post on YouTube, find your favorite time with family to watch a television show, and communicate via text messages, just do so with moderation.
  • Communicate Intent With Actions
    If I could communicate any one thing to parents, it would the fact that they need to communicate their intent with their children more. Sure, not every decision you do with them needs to have a briefing of why you decided what you did, but at the same time, so many arguments and battles that happen could simply be prevented if you had just communicated the love, time, and fear that goes into why you put the different rules down that you did. Will you have to repeat them because teenagers forget? Yes. Does communicating prevent all arguments with children? No. But some of my own parenting models came from when my parent explained why I was limited on television use or needed to call instead of text them.

What other parenting tips on technology would you add to this list?

Jeremy Smith is a youth worker at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Masters of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.