Its been a while since we have compiled a list of the songs that our worship teams are playing these days so here they are. It would be great to hear some songs that are really resonating with your students as well. So add a comment with your current top ten.

          Josh at HSM – Saddleback

  • We Are The Free – Matt Redman
  • All I am – Phil Wickam
  • Learn To Love – Cluster of Students
  • Child of God – Tim Timmons
  • Saviour of the World – Ben Cantelon
  • Forever Reign – Hillsong United
  • Divine and Holy – Cluster of Students
  • One Thing Remains – Jesus Culture
  • God Above All -  Hillsong United
  • We Can Change The World – Matt Redman


        Geoff at Journey – Peace Portal Church

  • Unending Love – Hillsong United
  • Saviour of the World – Ben Cantelon
  • All Glory – Nikki Fletcher
  • We Are The Free – Matt Redman
  • Reign In Us – Starfield
  • You’ll Come – Hillsong United
  • How He Loves Us – Jesus Culture
  • God is Able – Hillsong United
  • Dancing Generation – Matt Redman
  • Tear Down The Walls – Hillsong
GS – Twitter


Creating a culture of spiritual growth is hard work. It’s easy to talk about but quite a challenge to do so. It is a bit odd (and sad) that churches aren’t more open to spiritual growth, but any resistance is simply human nature doing what it does best: fight

Of course, even when you prayerfully and methodically take time to establish that your church and ministry is indeed a “spiritual growth zone,” be prepared for the following three obstacles. But take heart, there are solutions.

Challenge #1: Busyness
I addressed the topic of misplaced priorities in another entry, “spiritual maturity: a note to parents.” While I don’t have time to address it thoroughly here, it’s a big deal. And as a parent, I can tell you I am often guilty. I’ve got plenty of good reasons why my children are involved in a million and one things…to the detriment of their spiritual growth…so I can use a friendly (read: kind) reminder from time to time

More and more kids are growing up in single parent homes, and for those with two parents at home, more than 60% of them have both parents working outside the home. As a result, many families try to keep their kids busy. Some declare it’s just to keep their kids out of trouble, while others believe kids need as impressive a resume as possible in order to get into a good college. Regardless, quite often, both kids and parents end up exhausted, emotionally and physically. And since time often doesn’t allow for spiritual development, families deplete themselves in that area, too.

Solution: Focus on the parents. When families are over-committed, they’re also likely feeling guilty, so be sympathetic and encourage them. Celebrate any effort they make and work hard to establish a “guilt free” persona. You want parents feeling refreshed when they talk to you, not beat up. Once a month, provide a brief overview (no more than 1/2 a page) of upcoming lessons, along with 2-3 drive-time or dinner-time follow-up questions. Think short and sweet and be encouraged by any spiritual conversations they have.

Challenge #2: Laziness
I don’t think many people are lazy. We just find too much fulfillment in sedentary activities. How can I do a Bible study when I need more time to beat my friend’s video score? Why should I serve at a retirement community when I am intimidated by older people?

Solution: Students need vision and a challenge. First, it’s important to be sure you are providing worthwhile reasons for spiritual growth activities…more than “WWJD.” Secondly, students need to be challenged, followed by more challenges. Or they need to be challenged, followed by encouragement. The different strategy depends on the personality of the student and the relationship you or another leader has with that student.

It’s important to handle this distinction with prayer, because your attempt at motivating a student could drive him or her away. Still, don’t allow fear to paralyze you. As long as students know you care and are ready to engage with them when they’re ready, you’re in good shape.

Challenge #3: Disinterest
Face it: some students could care less. They only show up because they’ll be grounded if they don’t, so like a prison sentence, they’re doing their time.

Solution: Love and encourage them. Essentially, disciple from a distance. Students may not want to have a relationship with you or God, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything possible to build into them. Write notes, go to their games, plus any other ministry means that will allow them to see the love of Christ through you. You may never get a ‘thank you’ note from them, but you probably don’t get many anyway, so show and tell the love of Christ with great abandon!

Youth workers are resilient. Remember that the next time you’re discouraged! And also keep an eternal perspective–or at least 5+ years–so that you can continue to lay a foundation of faith, one brick at a time. Now, if we could only do something about those people moving our bricks….

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!

Cool Illusion…

 —  May 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

It’s a new scientific finding called the “Flashed Face Distortion Effect.

I did it today.  I ran my first half marathon.  I met my goal, I placed well, and I had a great sense of accomplishment.  I have thought about doing one for the past 7 years since I did a ten mile run, but I didn’t do it until earlier this year- as it is one “one of those things to do before my wife gives birth” sort of thing.

Paul reminds Timothy to “train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. (1 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV).” Keeping this in mind, as I reflected over this morning’s race- there were some leadership and ministry principles that came to mind. Here are a few.

A dream never becomes reality until we do something about it.
Proverbs reminds us that “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (29:18 KJV). I believe this is more than a dream or a hope for something.  If God has given us a vision for our community, people, or goal- we have to begin to prayerfully plan this out.  I said that I always wanted to run the marathon.  What accomplished it? It took the act of setting my deadline and planning out the steps that it would take to make this happen.

What goal, dream, or vision do we have that could be accomplished if we planned to do something about it? Keep in mind that when we plan and pray, God may and can change our plans.

There will be opposition when we work to accomplish our goals.
Running hurt.  There was one or two runs I couldn’t finish while training.  There was rain, cold weather, and even snow (thank you Wisconsin!). It rained all morning before the race.  The thought of not following through definitely crept up many times.

We have critics.  We have people with different ideas, and others that may not share our vision.  Not only that, we have an Enemy that is against our goal to help others take steps with God.  We have opposition, and this is going to be tough.  But stick it out!

Move at a sustainable pace.
During my training, I knew that I could run at a 9:00 minute a mile pace and sustain it.  I started slower than I thought, and worked to make up lost time.  I ran a 7:00 minute mile! It felt great- but I quickly realized that I would burn out at that pace before the race finished.

In leadership, we may be running at a pace that is unsustainable.  We may be able to accomplish more things in the short term and feel great (I felt really good about the 7 minute mile), but if we aren’t honest- we will burn out much faster than we are supposed to.  Move at the sustainable pace- you will accomplish more that way.

We must rest to race at our best.
My training called for a week and a half “taper” where I did a few light runs and rested from regular exercise.  I was told that this will help my body be in optimal shape before the race.  It was tough- I wanted to run the week during the race to make sure I “still had it.”  However, I simply trusted in my training and made it through.

I think about our ministry’s big events- mission trips, camps, and retreats.  Not to mention every weekend is BIG.  What if we trusted in our preparation before our big day in order to be at our best before the big day? What if we planned out our rest time before- so that we will be at our best when we need to be.  I need to be at my best for my students every Sunday, and I need to be at my best on our big events of the year- because this is an optimal time to help them take steps with God.  I can’t help but wonder if I had more of purposeful rest before hand that will allow me to be at my best.

Finally, it is best to celebrate with friends.
I loved knowing that my wife and two great friends were waiting at the finish line as I finished the race. Even though I was in pain, it was great to share the journey with them and grab a meal afterwards.  It made the experience better.  Before moving onto what’s next- take time to celebrate what you accomplished.

Tyler Volkers is the Student and Elementary Pastor at The Ridge Community Church in Greenfield, WI.  You can follow him on Twitter at @tylervolkers.

Today, I was talking to someone about all of the awesome things the Lord has been doing through the student leaders in our ministry.  As I was telling them about one of the projects a student was working on, they said, “Really? A high school student came up with that?”  What bums me out about that story is that I wasn’t surprised that they said that.  People have such low expectations of what a high school student can do and what’s even worse is that the high school students believe them.

One of the most important things I have learned since I started working with student leaders is that they all (even the confident ones) have a “wall” in their minds about what they think they are capable of.  Often, that wall is holding them back from executing the things that God has put on their hearts.  Our role, as their pastor, is to tear that down.

So how do we do it?

We need to make sure we do 3 things:

Empower: We need to be empowering our students to pursue the things that God has put on their heart.  Ask them how they are gifted.  Ask them what people group (elderly, hospitalized children, military families, etc.) their heart has been breaking for.  Then push them to go and do something about it!  Part of that means actually empowering them.  Maybe that means giving one aspect of your ministry to a student; empowering them and trusting them.

Mentor: Mentor your leaders through the process of turning an idea into a reality.  Teach them what it takes to organize or run an event or ministry.  Walk through their ideas with them.  Not every idea is going to be a winner, and if it isn’t, help them understand why it wouldn’t work out (maybe talking it out with them will even help them come up with a whole new approach to their idea).  If they come up to you with something that is already great, walk them through the steps to improve it and make it happen.

Grow: We can’t be throwing our students into leadership positions without first growing them as leaders.  Some might know how to be leaders at their school or on their sports teams, but they might not know what it means to be a leader at their church (spiritual leader).  Teach them what it means to lead like Christ.  Help them discover their spiritual gift(s) and overall leadership style.  Help them grow into confident spiritual leaders.

So far, we have seen this work in our church.  It has been so great to see students leading and creating new ministry teams and service projects!  Right now, we have a student developing an art/craft ministry, another student working on a ministry where students write encouraging letters to various people groups and organizations, and even a student working on a student pastoral care team!

What about you? What are the student leaders at your church doing in your ministry?

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.

Simple little promo video for a serve project we’re doing this weekend. Helping out the Orange County Food Bank!


One of things I am learning in my first student pastor position is the value of saying no to certain things. For ministry leaders, and student pastor like me, simply saying no can be one of the hardest things to do in ministry. In his book, What Matters Most, Doug Fields says, “While saying no results in many personal benefits, it’s a difficult word for most ministry-minded leaders to utter because their ministry culture values yes.” A lot of times student ministry culture says “you have to do more” and student pastors are falling for that lie left and right. I’ll admit, I’m not an expert at this. Being fresh out of college and in my first student pastor position, it’s easy to “always make sure I have enough on the calendar.” I’m in the process of learning how to say the word no. I am learning that there comes a time, usually it’s a lot of the time, when I need to say no because there is more important stuff to focus on. Here are some times to say no in student ministry.

1. When it takes the place of your own personal relationship with God. In a post awhile back called The Hardest Person to Lead, I quoted Chris Finchum as he said, “It’s easy to fall in love with the work of Christ rather than the person of Christ.” Student pastors must say no to something if it will get in the place of their personal walk with God. Doug Fields said this about his early years in ministry: “Because in the busyness of my first decade of ministry, I abandoned my first love (God) and developed a love affair with doing ministry.” The number one key to successful youth ministry is being a student pastor who is in love with Jesus and walking consistently with Him. Many student pastors are missing this important key because they are too busy with youth ministry to invest in their own walk with God. Revelation 2:4 says, “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Say no if it will get in the way of personal walk with God.

2. When it puts your character and integrity at stake. Another time we need to say no in student ministry is when it puts your personal character at stake. The first qualification for a leader given by Paul in 1 Timothy 3 is to be “above reproach.” As student pastors, we must guard our character. From example, don’t say yes to taking a student of the opposite sex home if it’s only going to be yourself and the student in the car. Your personal character is more important than a ride home. Some may disagree with me on this point, but I believe a student pastor’s personal character is more important that ministry to teenagers. We are called to be holy and must say no to whatever puts that at stake.

3. When it gets in the way of your family. I remember listening to a Perry Noble leadership podcast as he talked about the topic of putting your spouse before ministry. One statement he said that stuck in my head was “Jesus will take care of His church.” God called student pastors to be pastors to their spouses and children first. We are to be leaders at home, before we are leaders at church. At the end of the day, Jesus will take care of your youth ministry. God has called us to be pastors of our home before pastors of the students at our church. Don’t sacrifice your family on the alter of student ministry, it’s unbiblical and not worth it. Say no if it gets in the way of your family.

These are just a few times I believe we need to say no as student pastors. You may have noticed, I didn’t say anything about programing or even the student ministry, I focused on the leader as a person. I believe building a person is more important than building a ministry. Ric Garland says, “Build the man and God will build the ministry.” When student pastors focus on growing in Christ as a person, God will grow the ministry.

Austin McCann is currently the student pastor at Courtney Baptist Church in Yadkinville, NC. You can find his blog online at

I Love My Job Video

 —  May 18, 2012 — 3 Comments

Just saw this great video today that I’ve lived out many times as a youth worker. Really well done and thought it might be an encouragement to you today. I’m going to YS in both San Diego and Dallas this fall to teach a workshop based on my book with Simply Youth Ministry, 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders. If you’re there I’d love to meet you!