One of the responsibilities of each of us is to protect the unity of the church. At times, youth workers are put in difficult positions where we have the opportunity to listen to gossip, agree with critical spirit and add to the problems that are brewing beneath the surface of any church. Be a part of the solution, here’s what I think are some trench-tested ways to make sure

Fight gossip with praise
If you hear criticism directed at a specific person, immediately turn it around with praise. When someone identifies a weakness, speak directly to one of their strengths.

Point them back to the person it is about
Without hearing too much, you can usually see that a person’s venom is directed toward someone specific. Gently nudge or firmly direct them to the person they should be talking to, not you.

Remove the repeat offender
You will be talked about. A gossip TO you will gossip ABOUT you. People that undermine others will undermine you and unravel what you are trying to build. This is always a last-resort-tough-call-no-one-likes-to-do-it but doing it once will send a huge statement on where you stand and how seriously you take this issue.

How about you – what are some other ways to help protect the unity of the church?


I’ve got 11 copies of Doug Franklin’s new book Moving On from LeaderTreks on the way – I’m excited to get these in the hands of our graduating seniors as they turn the corner toward graduation and their future after high school. Here’s a little bit from their product description:

Moving On is a book for students to help them map out the next steps for their future, based on the clues that God has already been leaving in their lives. For any of your students facing transitions, or just trying to uncover parts of their future journey, this is a great tool.

I want these in the hands of my students because I’ve been wanting to help with the difficult transition to college. I want to help prepare them for when we won’t be there. I want to help change the percentage of students leaving their faith behind. Hope this book helps them on that journey – I can’t wait to get my hands on one – it comes out tomorrow!


Leadership Thought

 —  May 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

In my most recent book, Worlds Apart, I wrote a chapter on navigating inter-generational relationships.  I talk about this all the time in workshops and seminars, but the bottom line is leading people toward these relationships can be difficult to navigate.  There are all sorts of obstacles to tackle in churches when it comes to cultivating relationships between people of different generations.  I’ve written in LENGTH about these in previous books, but here are just a few:

  1. Intimidation of older believers.
  2. Church models that are geared toward people’s preferences.
  3. Younger believers not seeing the value of having an older person investing in them.
  4. Older believers thinking ‘mentorship’ is simply an unglorified counseling session.

I can go on and on, but there is one thing that I can tell everyone.  One thing that is universal regardless of context, regardless of generational values or preferences, regardless of intimidation factors….there is one thing that everyone needs.  Leaders need this.  Adult mentors need this.  Younger people need this.

It’s patience.

We must pay the price of time with people.

In our culture we are horrible at cultivating relationships.  It takes us a tremendous amount of time to build relationships with other people.  And yet, when it comes to mentorship somehow we expect it to work immediately…and if it doesn’t we think something is wrong.

In Worlds Apart I mention a friend of mine who says something about “discipleship.”  He says this: Disciple is spelled T-I-M-E.

Patience.  It’s how we love people (1 Corinthians 13:4).

Weekend Teaching Series:  Summer Camp Kickoff Weekend (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: An introduction to the theme for summer camp (When Heaven and Earth Collide) by the summer camp speaker.

Service Length: 68 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in the speaker, Mark Moore, who will be our camp speaker this summer. He did a great job of introducing the camp theme and walking students through the Sermon on the Mount – from memory! It was a great talk and the students were definitely into the talk for sure.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we played the most incredible game since Facebook Hack – it was called Velocicopter and it was invented by one of our team members named Hannah. So awesome! It is basically a game where we duct tape the contestants arms to their chest so they have these tiny little arms. We spilled ping pong balls on the stage and told them they needed to collect as many of their eggs in 1-minute as possible. Then we topped them off with a velociraptor mask and spun hem around as the game began. Hilarious! Here’s a little picture, I’ll see if I can find a video to put online, too. The prize was HUGE: we gave away a full camp registration to the winner!

Music Playlist: Charlie Brown (Coldplay cover), We Are the Free, Go, We Could Change the World, All I Am, Forever Reign, The Earth is Yours

Favorite Moment: I love our band of seniors! They are graduating in just a few short weeks, but they are going to also lead at camp so it was AWESOME to have them leading us this weekend. Love these students, camp will be so great!

Up next: What is Worship? (1-off)

Youth workers work hard, and I have so much respect for the ones that run two different nights for Junior Highs and High School students. In many ways its a necessary part of ministry as running a program for sixth grade to twelfth grade is challenging if not impossible to effectively engage students in such a diverse age range. We felt that same challenge in our group but did not have the resources to go to a multi-gather format. So after much thought and prayer we decided to completely overhaul our youth night to help alleviate many of the challenges we had been seeing in years past. So here is what we did, why we did it, what is working and what needs tweaking 8 months in.

Why did we change things?

For the past few years we have been facing real challenge of students making the leap from our kids program to high school. They were going from being the big fish in the pond to feeling like minnows in our student ministry and the intimidation was a big factor. Our youth night has been Thursday nights from 7:30-9:30 for 10 years now and for some parents of younger students this is a deal breaker, it was too late for their kids and up until this point our response was simply sorry.We also recognized like many of you, that resources were finite at the church and running a two night program would be a strain on our volunteers, worship teams, and myself and my family. The group was out-growing our facility and having 25 small groups trying to find a place to connect and focus was getting more and more difficult. Changes needed to happen, we needed to split the groups but going to two nights just wasn’t going to work, so here is what we did:

The Good: We are now 8 months in and things are going really well and here are a few of the highlights:

  • Early start time for Jr’s has meant that there is much less fear of coming to Youth. Young students arrive with their peers and when they join the older students for Worship they come in a wave of junior high energy.
  • Early end time has made grade six and seven parents more willing to send their kids and those students bring friends.
  • Two teaching times means that we can talk about issues differently and at a level that is challenging to both groups and has us no longer teaching to the middle or losing the young students with a high school level sermon
  • Having a game for the junior high students gets their energy out and means that we don’t have to have a game during the main session all the time which the high school students appreciate.
  • Running small groups at two separate times it allows us to effectively double the usable space in the building by using the rooms twice.
  • The High School-only hang out time before has matured that time and our high school students are showing up earlier and earlier each week just to connect.
  • We have added a half time position to cover off the Jr High coordinating but have maintained the same worship teams, volunteers and our costs have not changed either.
  • Grade 6 is a flex year where families can try youth and if it its too much their students can stay in kidsmin for one more year. Its a safety net that was never there before and it works.
  • Students now will attend youth group on the same night for 7 years and it makes it easier to prioritize instead of switching between Jr/Sr High night.

The Challenges: It hasn’t been completely smooth sailing but we have learned a lot this year:

  • Having such a concise and regimented schedule means that anything that runs long, or a technical glitch and keep the train from hitting the stations on time which can be challenging for people like me.
  • Our 30 minute worship set can keep us from being sensitive to the Holy Spirit and while early in the year we were quite rigid about the schedule, we have learned to be attentive and embrace moments that may extend the worship time and cut into small groups.
  • Grade 8′s are funny. The outline has grade 8 being a flex year and this year our grade 8′s are old for their age and dealing with challenging issues so having them with grade 6′s is not something they always want to do. We moved them up after spring break to High School for which they were thankful.
  • Having two leaders meetings has proven challenging and the frequency and quality of the preservice meet ups has diminished throughout the year
  • Writing two versions of the same sermon or two unique talks has been more work than we bargained for, but we have finally found a groove in that department.
  • Parents with students in both groups were vocal about the annoyance of coming to the church twice but with us offering activities before and after those concerns have diminished.

I am so thankful that we chose to do it this way and would make the same choice again to do it.Have you tried something similar? Do you have a question about it? Post a comment and lets chat about it! 

GS – Twitter 

Good Enough

 —  May 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

“Am I Good Enough?” – this little question is asked by a majority of teenage girls. There is an easy answer – unfortunately, most girls need to hear it multiple times, different ways and from a variety of people.

Here are some times and ways:

*Every time you interact with a girl in your ministry you can reinforce your value and worth with an encouraging word and with a hug.

*In your messages share stories of women from the Bible, from your church and from your ministry. By sharing stories of other women you are showing how Jesus sees value in all people…in all their uniqueness.

*Be clear-we are never good enough…Communicate that truth…don’t confuse students (girls) by creating false standards of what makes someone good.

*Stop focusing on the outside. We spend a lot of time talking about the issues related to a girl’s appearance…a girl will never feel good enough when it comes to appearance…point to the amazing unique qualities of each girl in your ministry and help them see what matters most about them.

*Do something special for girls to tackle this topic. Give them an outlet to process and discuss what they are feeling…being able to express their feelings in a safe place is a great gift we can give them.

*Encourage parents to talk about it with their students. Hearing that you are good and that you matter from your parents can change a students outlook on themselves!

What do you do when a girl expresses the pain of not feeling good enough?

Have you heard about Love Does? Or about Bob Goff? I heard him for the first time at Catalyst and got his book before I left the conference. It was a quick and easy read. And while it was so good- I didn’t even feel like you got a full feel of who Bob Goff is…Nonetheless, by the end, I was wishing he was my Uncle and that I that I could live life with the whimsy and creativeness that he does. I began to imagine what ministry could look like if we followed Bob Goff’s lead as he approaches love with an attitude that says LOVE DOES…not just feels.

Each chapter started with a simple statement- a before and after statement that set up the chapter. Each chapter told a story from the life of Bob- from every age of his life. He’s a big fan of Young Life and you’ll hear how it impacted his life as a teenager…which is cool for us youth workers! After each story he shares what he’s learned about Jesus. Super cool…plus he’s got some great stories that could be used in youth messages.

If you don’t have it yet, you should get it! Have you read it yet?

I learned this game at a conference from Scott Rubin ( It is super simple to play and set up. Here’s how we do it…

  • Split students up in groups of about 10
  • Have them circle up in their groups
  • Tell them to look down at their feet
  • Say when I will shout “1, 2, 3, LOOK UP!” you look up at someone in your group
  • Anyone making eye contact is eliminated
That’s it.  Whittle the groups down to one winner, if you have several groups do one final game with the winners from each group. Some groups will figure out that if everyone looks at the same person every time they will never get out. After a few zero eliminations say something like, “Ok, this time  you cannot look at the same person…1, 2, 3, LOOK UP!”
Feel free to grab this graphic I whipped up and use it the next time you play “1, 2, 3, LOOK UP!”