Several weeks ago I had the chance, along with Thom Schultz, to go to Conroe, TX and join St. James Episcopal Church in their celebration of 30 consecutive years of mission trips. 30 years… Statistically that’s longer than most people’s careers and even marriages. The coolest part of this church’s story is that there is a man that has been on all 30 trips. Wow…

As I sat there that night and listened to the tributes and stories, watched the slide shows, and talked to members of the church – I became aware of this under-current of grace that permeated this church’s ministry. The stories were about lives touched, the ministry to those in need, and God’s working in each and every person. They are a youth ministry and so there were stories of jokes and laughter and pranks but those didn’t dominate the conversation. The work of God and Grace was the dominant theme.

How I wish that for each of our ministries. Stories of grace…

There is a lasting image in my mind from that night. After the dinner and the speeches and the large group photo – small groups of people began to gather together. I could tell by dress and age that they must have been in youth group together at the same time. I saw a young single mom talking to friends. I saw married couples laughing together and remembering. I saw older adults, who must have been adult chaperones, congratulating each other for surviving. I saw Grace… 30 years of Grace.

30 Years of Saint James Youth Mission Trips


 —  March 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

Photo from PostSecret

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I love their vision statement…”You were created to love and to be loved.”
They have a great list of resources with numbers and websites that could be helpful to you and to families in your ministry.
Check out their sweet website!

This worship or lesson idea is low prep – but? h impact. Can be done for a lesson study time with the youth group. To kick it up a notch, share it with others in a worship service after your group prepares it.

Holy Week Vignettes:

The basis of it is like the old game, “Freeze Tag” or “Statue.”? Pick out several key points? of the Passion Story. Do this as one group or divide into smaller groups, one per how ever many points of the story you chose to emphasize. (I usually do 5-8). It could also be done with each group doing more than one scene.

Give your groups a copy of their part of the Gospel which tells the scene they’ll be working on.? Ask each group to study their part of the Passion, discussing what it must have looked and felt like. Ask them to? create and? practice putting themselves into a “freeze frame” scene of their part? of the story.?

After each scene has practiced, have someone read the total story. (I usually borrow from all four Gospels and have it typed up on one sheet for reading. I also give each group a copy.).? Seat your groups so they can see? the other groups do their scenes as the story is read.? At the right point of the story, each group will strike their freeze frame for the duration of the reading of their part. ? ? Set the whole thing to a great song played quietly underneath the reading? and you have a heart-warming lesson? your kids have experienced from the inside out.

Have them practice the whole thing a few times to make the flow smooth, add a spotlight for effect to each scene,? ask your audience to close their eyes while each scene is being struck (I always teach the audience to “close curtain” and “open curtain” -their eyes on the reader’s command)….and you have a fabulous live vignette of the Passion story of Christ. ? ?


It doesn’t happen all the time, but every once in a while you will get one or a few students that have a concern about some element of your youth ministry and want to talk about. These are not conversations I look forward to, but I have had enough of them that I can share the steps I use to get through it and keep the leader-student relationship intact.

Listen: The student who is coming to see you has likely thought long and hard about this conversation, so when you meet let them speak. Makes notes if you have to, the more information you get, the more you have to work with as your respond. The student might be expecting you to just dismiss them so hearing them out will be very disarming and allow a great conversation to follow.

Is it Biblical?: Now that you have heard the student’s concern about the program, are they highlighting something we are doing that is contrary to scripture? This is a great question to ask the student and chew on with them. It might put them on the spot, but it drives home the point that our goal should be to have a Youth Ministry that functions in accordance to Biblical principals. The majority of the time, student complaints are a reflection of taste and personal preference and that you are not running the youth group to their desire and if this is the case, remain calm and proceed to step 3.

Articulate the vision: Perhaps they don’t know why you don’t have the latest Skillet album playing every week when students are arriving, or that having acoustic worship as opposed to a full band means that the Worship team has less opportunities to serve. If you ask me to explain the intentional elements and reasoning behind our youth services, you better be sitting down because I could take an hour. The students don’t know all of that, and when you share why you do one thing and not another they appreciate the insider look at why things are done a certain way. While you are at it, share with that students where God is moving in the area they are concerned about, they might be surprised to hear it.

Recap and clarify: They have come to you with something they think might be wrong; make sure that you have not confused that student with Christianese Pastor Talk. This is the time to prove that you listened but reiterating their concerns and summarizing your response to it. This is really meant to make sure that they don’t leave frustrated for feeling unheard because you may not agree with them, but you cared enough to hear them out and explain why things are not changing.

Thank them: Sticking your neck out does not come easy to everyone and for a student to make time to come see you and share something they are passionate about is a big deal. Make sure you thank them, not only for their time, but for their passion for the youth ministry and willingness to talk to you and not to talk to all of their friends instead (they probably did talk to their friends about it, but verbally giving them the benefit of the doubt will go a long way). You don’t have to agree with them to appreciate the feedback/criticism, take it and be thankful.

These sort of conversations are not my favorite, but are a necessary part of being a Youth Pastor and if done well, are amazing growth opportunities for students and ourselves.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Want to get in on the fun? See how right here.

Rented a few games this week (and got to enjoy a little time off watching the kids with my wife away at our annual Minister’s Wives Retreat). Spent some time with the kids playing videogames on the Xbox 360 – beat Tron: Evolution (C-) and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (A+). Good times!


Smaller youth groups and tightening youth budgets sometimes don’t allow youth pastors to take advantage of the technologically centered world we live in today. Texting is a huge tool in a youth pastor’s world to stay connected with their students, but but budget doesn’t always allow for us to use services provided by others.

If you are a Mac user, I’ve devised a way that takes a little more work, but it allows me to send messages like I would with any other service offered. Sometimes there are some hiccups due to the email factor, but it works well most of the time.

If you can collect your students phone numbers, you need to turn them into email addresses using the appropriate email ending after their phone number (ie Take that information and store it in the Address Book app with a name. Address Book doesn’t easily give you an option to select primary email addresses. To fix that, there is a link to a plugin that will allow you to do that with a simple right click menu. If you are already using Address Book with your students, this will save you a ton of work.

In Address Book, there is a sub-heading called “Department” and you can create smart groups based on this information. I will fill in this information with “High School Teen” or “Adult Leader” and based on this text, the smart groups can be created.

You’ll need an email address to send emails from. If you use MobileMe you can create an alias email that will send to your primary account. It works better if your students can remember the email. Use the Mail app to send emails and you will be able to call up the group right from the “To:” address bar (This is where the address book plugin makes a difference because it will recall the primary email only). It makes it very easy to send messages to an entire group of students or leaders.

Students can then respond to the texts or contact me at any time without running up the texting bill on my phone.

For my group, this has been a super valuable tool. I can post this email as a way for students to get in touch with me anytime of the day, I don’t have to worry about my personal phone number getting into the hands of solicitors or pranksters, and I can reply straight from my computer. If you’re in a tight budget, this might just work for you.

Curtis Suuppi is the Associate Pastor of Teen Development at Country Christian Church in North Branch, MI.

I know that I can be a jealous person. Because of that, I have to resist the temptation to feel hurt when one of my students doesn’t come directly tome. At times, I know I set up a wall around my “territory” of students, not wanting to allow anyone else in to help them. They have to get through that wall to get to my students, and I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure they don’t get through the wall. My students are mine. Your students are yours.

That’s when I remember Rick Warren’s famous line, “It’s not about you.” Do we really want to see the student get the advice and help they need, or are we more concerned with our own pride and desire to be the hero that solved the problem? Our goal should be that a student gets the best help possible, and sometimes that doesn’t come from me. Isaiah 5:21 says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” If we keep on thinking we can fix all the problems, we’ll soon find out we’re not as wise as we thought.

I have to ask myself, “That student feels a bond of trust in the leader he went to, so am I doing everything I can to build up the same level of trust in that student?” The first thing I need to do is realize that we’re all shaped individually to handle different situations. If I know that someone else is better equipped to handle a specific issue, I should be more than willing to send my student their way. We all have been through different fires and come out with a better understanding of how to face the problem. Who better to help a student with a drinking or drug problem than a former alcoholic or drug addict? They know how hard it is to get to the other side, and they can help a student way better than someone who hasn’t had the same experience. We can’t let our pride get in the way when someone better equipped to deal with a problem is called upon. In fact, why not store that in our Rolodex of the mind, so that next time I know who to refer a future student to when they’re dealing with drugs or alcohol? If a student comes to you knowing you’ve been through something like that, it’s also important to make sure their leader knows what they’re going through. It’s great that you can share your past pain or hurt, but their leader needs to know what their student is struggling with as well.

Last week I was faced with this exact issue, but I was the one “trespassing” on another leader’s turf. One of my former students had turned to me in a time of need, but not necessarily because I was better equipped for the situation. I think in this case, he felt comfortable with me as one of his leaders, and he was too ashamed of what he did to talk to his current leader. When it happened, I did my best to counsel him and make sure the situation was taken care of, but I did make sure to refer him back to his leader and make sure to fill him in on everything. Here’s the bottom line: don’t build a “kingdom” in your youth ministry. Know that you have weaknesses and that other people are way better equipped for some things than you are. With God’s help and some discernment, you can turn your youth group from an island into an alliance.

Are you doing everything you can to team up with other youth workers for the benefit of your students?

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from two different generations and perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future — for now you canfollow them on Twitter and check out their previous blog posts here.

We used this experience during our 2006 mission trips. God used it in some pretty incredible ways that summer. It’s called the “Bread Body” and it’s a powerful visual of Christ’s sacrifice. It should work well during the Easter season and as an experience that flows into Communion or the Eucharist (depending on your church). I wanted to pass it along in case your looking for a good experiential time of worship this Easter season.

Bread Body

He is Risen!