The next couple posts for me will be letters/articles I would write to a college freshman/graduating senior.  Here is the first one:

You may be involved on your high school campus now, but when you become a college freshman, you are entering a world that is bigger, tougher, and much more difficult to feel connected in. The comforts you now know in school will be gone, at least temporarily. Here’s some advice—be prepared.

This may not be as drastic if you are attending a junior college because your community of friends will not be as rudely disrupted and your family likely lives close. However, when you go away to school, you will have to find a completely different community of friends, and for some, adjusting to college life is tougher than others.

Your biggest sense of involvement will come in your time with the individual friends you make. These relationships will take some time to develop, but they will come…with roommate(s), classmates, and those beyond. The key is finding an encouraging community and choosing it wisely.

The Unimaginable

You might not be able to imagine life without friends you have in high school, but this will change. There might be a few of your high school friends that you keep in touch with, but most you will only see at reunions. Most move on, grow up, and have a life that doesn’t include high school friends. You will probably do the same. It’s not a bad thing. It just happens.


The friends you are closest to in college will be your friends in life and will be around much more than your high school friends ever were or will be. Some will have the same life direction, major, and goals. They want what you want. You sit in classes with them—multiple ones. You study for tests, write papers, and present projects together. You will study at the local coffee shop with them at 3:30 a.m. cramming for the test at 8:00 a.m. You will know them…they will know you; you will be in their lives and them yours.

Beyond the Classroom

People are always your point of contact in life—whether it’s in college or in finding a job after you graduate. Making new friends is harder for some than others, but eventually your contact with people will lead you to involvement. On the other hand, a lack of relationships could lead to a lack of involvement. If you want to be involved on campus, you must be involved with people.

One of the things you will find on more major universities, and even smaller ones, is different faith-based organizations that meet on campus. The Christian world is often small, but key in getting involved.

Be prepared to adjust in college—you are about to enter some new struggles in your life. This next stage for many is by far the toughest of their lives. There are many reasons—too many for this article—but just know you will likely face some depressing and lonely times. Getting involved in a ministry on campus is a key element in not only making it through these times, but also possibly helping you dodge some of the tough times.

There are many great Christian campus ministries on college campuses. Here are some thoughts on them that are worth thinking through.

  • They will provide a community of friends that can be very healthy. These people can serve as a great source of accountability and connection. Some could be your best friends that help you through tough times.
  • You will be exposed to people with completely different backgrounds—church and family—and view things entirely different than you. You will start to see different ways of viewing things in which you were not previously aware. You will be forced to think through why you believe what you believe—possibly for the first time in your life.
  • Most of these ministries have a mission on campus. This is great for you because your tendency may be to lose your sense of mission. You will be focused on yourself, your homework, and your social life and can easily lose sight of the fact that people need to know what you know—the gospel. These ministries can really encourage you to stay strong in this area.

It is vital that you get involved on your campus. This is the place that God has placed you…embrace it with everything you have. Despite coming struggles, you are about to enter a great time in your life! Meet people. Get involved. Cause waves. Make a dent. Charge it.

I may be late in suggesting this but here is a great deal on most anything in the Simply Store.  Plan your whole year of teaching now and get 20% off.  If you like writing your own material that’s great but if you need a break buy a series or two and hand if to your teaching team.  Get a few volunteers on the calendar, maybe around your; anniversary, or a conference, or your vacation…get a series for them so the work is done.  Make sure you click the 20% off link and then search away!

Let me suggest a few of my favorites:
26 Teaching Outlines Vol. 1, Vol 2, Vol 3
Jr High Teaching Outlines
What’s Next?

One Hit Wonders

I do not know if the discount works on these but I use them and our staff love them:
LIVE High School – Download

LIVE Junior High – Download



Got a great question from a fellow youth worker this week about topics we cover every year in our youth ministry. It was a quick answer for me – and I’ll share those below – but would LOVE for you to share in the comments what you teach on each year as well:

Each year, I try to start the school year with a 1-off message or short series about your purpose in life, the purposes for the church and our new identity in Christ. Every year it is framed differently and people might not even recognize it is intentionally the same message every student needs to hear again and again.

This is the easiest one on the list – simply because this is by far the biggest felt need of students so we for sure cover it every year. It is the most widely promoted, best attended series of the year. Last year’s version was called Facebook Official and was really great.

Apologetic Series
This is a more recent addition to our “teach on every year” list but it has become more and more important to see that students are challenged to build a stronger foundation for their faith. The past few years we’ve brought in a special guest speaker who specializes in this (maybe you could find a local Bible college professor or something) to help you bring the heat that series.

Life/Teachings of Jesus
Every year I want us to do a clear Life of Christ series. Maybe 3-4 weeks on the teachings, miracles, statements, sermons, parables – something that centers on Jesus alone.

I think those are the big ones – oh, one last thing – I would have added that we do a Christmas series every year … but this year, we’re trying something new and doing a series called InstaLife in December then joining up with families/parents the week of Christmas. Hope it goes well!


I’m a huge Matt McGill fan (tell me you subscribe to his youth ministry blog) – and today I discovered another timeless video of him giving the camp rules that you have to see. There’s simply nothing like this guy. Genius.




I recall the first time we moved into an inner city neighborhood.   We laid in bed the first night listening to gun-fire for almost an hour.  In my half- asleep stupor I rolled over and said to my husband,  “What have we done?”

It had seemed like such an amazing and “noble” idea at the time.  Move onto the street with the families we “served.”  Instead of telling everyone how the “hood” should change,  why not live there and be a light in the midst of it?  It took less than 24 hours for reality to hit.

We all carry stereotypes and we didn’t even realize that our neighbors had certain pre-conceived thoughts about us.   Within 20 minutes of arrival someone had asked us for money.   The “Christian Folk, “ are supposed to give it all away.   Within a week a policeman pulled me over and asked if I was “lost?”  The color of my skin apparently did not fit “this place” in his eyes.  (This has since happened many times.)  No one told us  before we came that drug dealers lived next door.  In our mind it would all work out like a “feel- good” movie.  Within two hours we would swoop in,  everyone would “accept” Jesus,  and all would be transformed.  Instead we learned that seeing the effects of  generational poverty undone was a snail pace process.  Some days (many days) it felt like there was no movement in a forward direction at all.  Still the Lord seemed to have us there for a purpose and a plan, and he used us in spite of ourselves.

Several months ago the Lord made it clear that we were to move ministries, lives, and “hoods.”  We were FINALLY starting to see some progress where we were,  why would he  shift us?  Honestly,  there was little that I looked forward to in starting over.  My neighbors were sad to see us go,  as was the ministry and our friends.  I think I cried the first 6 hours of the 23 hour trip.  I knew this was what the Lord wanted,  but I thought that meant it would be much more effortless than this.

As we pulled the moving truck in front of our home this past Sunday,   I watched as those on the new street held their breath in our arrival.  Once again our faces, and the color of our skin appear to “not belong.”   As if to put an exclamation point on the situation as we were carrying in our couch a gentleman down the street screamed out,  “WELCOME TO THE HOOD!”   Reading between the lines we knew he was saying, “Do you know where you have moved? ”  The guys across the street pulled speakers onto the porch and began to blare Little Wayne in all his expletive glory to see our reaction.   The woman to our right sat on the porch and would not look us in the eye.   Once again I wondered,  “What have we done?”


Then something interesting began to happen.


Two little boys showed up from two doors down and insisted on helping us move in.  Later in the evening we stood outside and met their Mom.  While they did ask for money for the ice-cream truck,   they just want to be around us already.   Mom found out about our ministry and has them signed up for the fall.

The family next door turns out to be a Mom and Dad, with three kids, our own children’s ages.   Apparently up until about 6 months ago our house held the local dealer.  They were wondering why they were there.  They started to hope and pray a family with a 13 year old, girl who happened to be a sweet, bookworm would move next door. Hmmm?  We just so happen to have one of those.

Midnight the first night in there was a knock on the door.    Someone was coming around looking for a little “something” from the previous tenant.   After they took off we stuck our heads out the door to see who they could have been.  Miss Flo three doors down informed us that she told the bleep- bleep – bleep to take off.  We just moved in.  We are good people.  She wanted us to know that she has our back.  “That’s what neighbors do around here.”

I know you are looking to hear  it’s “that easy.”  We move in.   It all is different now.  TADA the problems of the inner city are gone!  There is no neat way to wrap it up with a bow like that.   Urban ministry doesn’t seem to work that way.  However,  I do believe that there was a shift and a groan  in “the world” as Christ pushed forward when we came here.  It will take years for transformation to be apparent to our sight and touch.  What has changed is that I KNOW that Jesus wants all around us to belong to him.  I AM CERTAIN that while I may not know the results I can trust his plan.   We start by simply getting to know our neighbors.   Those around us are watching and wondering who we are.  Another neighbor has already admitted that they were pondering why we would want to be the “only white people” around.   Already though the kids on the block are knocking to see if my children will come out to “play.”

In case you have never noticed,  ministry is really hard work.  We are clinging to Christ as our official “first day” hasn’t even begun.  All we have done so far is reside.   I guess maybe that is the point isn’t it?  Being about the business of the Lord has little to do with a building,  programming,  or hours kept.  Instead it is about showing up,  and remembering that Jesus was already there first.   We carry around the Holy Spirit with us as we “go,”  and wherever we wander,  those are the ones that need to see his reflection behind our eyes.   I know that when we got here we changed the face of this place, literally, figuratively and spiritually.   We are here for such a time as this as they say….  As a friend of mine says so eloquently there is a reason why the windshield is larger than the rear-view mirror… May we ever be focused forward….

Trying to have some fun with announcements – been kinda dry lately, this got a good laugh and possibly also helped give the announcements. Fun!



I believe that one of the big reasons that youth workers come and go so quickly in churches is that they are not team players. Too many, for reasons of insecurity, pride or both, come into a ministry convinced of how they want to “do ministry” and after a year or two wonder why they keep butting heads with either students, parents, church leadership or all of the afore mentioned. Chances are that if you end up having conflict on a somewhat regular basis with any one of these parties, the problem is you.

To me, being a team player in youth ministry means being committed to the vision of your church’s overall youth ministry and ultimately the vision of the church you are working at. As a good team player, you need to know your role and how that role fits into the overall vision of your ministry and church.

This means that you need to be a student of your church. You need to be a learner. I will talk more about this later. But for now, one of the best things you can do, especially for the first year or so, is to learn all you can about your church. Where has it come from? What are some of the significant events that have shaped the church culture and youth ministry? What is your church’s vision for the future and how do they plan on seeing it fulfilled? How do they expect the youth ministry to fit into that vision? Make sure you go to different leaders and members of your church for this information.

Every church has its unique culture and getting to know that culture takes time. Lots of time. It’s just plain crazy to think that you can execute your plans for your ministry and hope they will succeed if you don’t understand the culture in which they will be executed. What works wonderfully at one church may totally flop at another often times because of the different church cultures. If you don’t take the time to get to know your church’s culture, you will most likely end up not being a team player and find yourself constantly bumping into problems.

You need to also work at being a team player with other churches and youth ministry organizations. Never assume that your ministry, however established it is or becomes has all the answers. Your ministry will have a specific role in your community. Because you are going to want to have a ministry that has an impact on your community, you need to know who the other players are in your community. Who else is ministering in your community and what does their role seem to be?

This is not a very popular thing to do in most youth ministry circles. By default, most churches, and especially youth ministries, become very ingrown and focused only on what their calling is in their community. This makes sense because running a ministry takes a lot of work. But this still gives you no excuse to not engage with other youth ministry colleagues in order to better reach your community.

Rob McIlvoy is a 30-year youth ministry veteran who has worked in churches, Young Life and internationally. He initially wrote this for his 23-year old son who had just landed his first full-time youth ministry position. He was hoping to impart words of advice as he began his own calling.

Inspired by last week’s posts, we’ll be posting quotes from students about their mission trip experiences over the next couple weeks.  God uses these experiences to change lives.  We believe that teenagers encounter Jesus in the context of a mission trip in ways they don’t with other youth ministry experiences.  I hope these quotes will help people understand why we believe this.

“Devoting a week of my summer to help families in need is so rewarding. This mission trip has truly influenced me as a person, as I appreciate and am so much more thankful for everything God has given me. The trip has shaped my life, as my relationship with God is so much more meaningful to me. I have made some amazing new friendships with people in our youth group and people I met on this trip. I have developed a better understanding of what it means to be a leader, and the memories I’ve shared  will always remain with me throughout my life, as I continue to grow in my faith.” –Emma