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Andy Stanley recently said something to the effect of, “The church should be the safest place to talk about anything.” I’m no Andy Stanley, but the other day while talking to one of our interns I said something that I thought was equally brilliant: “Always make extending the conversation one of your goals.”. Now, if you combine these two thoughts, you have a golden nugget of wisdom for youth workers!

“Church should be the safest place to talk about anything, and once a student opens up about something, don’t shut them down with easy answers or judgmental proclamations…instead, extend the conversation!”

Some related questions for you to ponder (and feel free to answer in comments if you’d like!):

- If students think there are taboo questions or topics at church, where will they go to talk about those things?
- Do you trust the input they will get from the other sources concerning those questions?
- How much pressure do you feel to always have an easy, confident, answer for every topic a student raises?
- Many questions deal with doubt…can helping students embrace doubt be a good thing?
- Where does that pressure come from: Self-imposed? Parents? Your church culture?
- Why is the art of “extending the conversation” so vital for youth workers?
- when scripture doesn’t speak clearly or directly about a topic, how do you address it with students?
- On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best) how “safe” a place is your youth group for students to ask honest questions and express
doubts and struggles?


It seems like I’m in a bit of a learning season…or perhaps a relearning season.

- Learning that clear is always better than cute. A few times recently in my never-ending desire to be clever, cute and creative in my lesson writing or other areas of communication I’ve been embarrassingly un-clear. As a result, things that should have been very simple turned out overly complex.

- Learning that knowing people’s love languages, and acting on them, truly makes a difference in relationships. I’ve specifically targeted my teenage son in this area and as a result our relationship is stronger than ever.

- Learning that social media can turn conversations, news items etc. into “run away trains” in a matter of hours! Whether it’s the Mark Driscoll scenario, the current fiasco the NFL finds itself in regarding violence, our awareness of ISIS or a seemingly benign post or comment on facebook, our 24 hour social media addiction is radically affecting how news spreads, public opinion is formed and policies implemented. For better and for worse.

- Learning that it’s always better to utilize volunteers in areas of their passions and giftedness rather than in areas of our need.

- Learning that I’m not as good a surfer as I once was….and paddling out in big surf (which there has been a ton of lately) is a lot tougher on me, mentally and physically than it once was.

- Learning that there are lots and lots and lots of ways to do youth ministry and that just because somebody says “this won’t work anymore” or “this is where things are headed” or “this is the best way to do it”….doesn’t make it true.

- Learning that I’m more in love with youth ministry than ever before!

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Hey Simply Insiders!

Start fresh this fall with a brand new LIVE Curriculum! Introducing LIVE Journey to Freedom, 36 weeks of inquiry-based lessons designed to boldly examine some of the toughest issues youth face today.

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Respond to your teenagers who have hit a wall in dealing with their hurts and bad habits and don’t know the next step toward spiritual health.

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Thanks for loving students!

       Amber / @youthministry

Harvest Season

 —  September 5, 2014 — 2 Comments

Starting out in ministry in camps was a joy. The kids came, spent a week with me and left clinging to the cross. Even the most hardened student seemed to walk away changed. Transitioning into rural and then suburban youth ministry I felt like I made a difference. Then I walked into a world where primarily all of my students were “unchurched.”

When I had been “doing this” for about two years I had become very discouraged with the calling that the Lord had put on my life. I felt that I never saw any “results.” All of my time was spent with youth from the inner city day in and out. Relationships were built, the focus was Christ and yet somehow still there were fights, cussing, backbiting, and generally bad attitudes. I cried out to the Lord, “WHAT AM I DOING WRONG??” This is when the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 3,” I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers…”

Don’t we always hear about the harvest? After all it is mentioned both in Matthew and then again in Luke 16, “He (Jesus speaking) told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Here we plant, we water, we harvest…

I had always imagined it was sort of like an apple orchard at harvest time. Anyone who has ever been apple picking knows that the idea of it is much more fun than the actual act. Why? If you go at the height of the season, a person can basically go to one tree, give it a good hard shake and end up with more apples than you know what to do with! If I just go out under my tree the Lord is going to allow all of the “souls” to fall right into my basket. They are out there simply ripe and ready and there is no work that I have to do in order to see lives changed.

However, this is apple picking. Having an eye on the harvest is all together different. Someone had to plant the apple tree. Someone had to think about the orchard.

Planting an apple orchard is a lot of work. For even a small orchard there is planning, preparing the soil, planting the seeds, care of the seedlings and protection. Starting the orchard takes a lot of care. One must take a seed and wrap it in a wet paper towel until it starts to sprout some basic roots. Then you plant that seed in a special type of fertilized soil placed in a Styrofoam cup in a greenhouse environment.Then you wait for that to sprout a tiny little seedling.Then you replant your little sprout into a bigger bucket of special soil, and you can now allow it to acclimate to the air outside.When it finally gets a little bigger, you can finally transplant it outside in your “orchard.” Trees must be a certain distance from one another and the sapling must be planted at a specific depth. The soil has been specially prepared once again for the reception of your tender little “tree.” Rocks were dug up, soil was tilled, fertilizer was laid and even the ph balance of the soil kept in check. Now you tie your little shoot to stakes so that it can grow straight and strong. You will be the protector from such enemies as bugs, pests, birds, evil fungus, and the weather. For about 4 years your tree will simply grow, bearing no fruit. Yet, you will prune back the branches and cover it from frost. On year five your apple tree will produce An apple, (maybe two). The next year a couple more. Finally after TEN years from seed to tree you will pick your first real “crop” of apples. That is just one tree.

After a decade of care you are able to open your gates at the harvest and invite the workers to come. Yet, the marvelous thing is, at this point you can’t keep the tree from producing fruit. With some simple maintenance it will produce fruit about 8 months of the year. At this point the “harvest is plentiful and the workers are few.” You are trying to give apples away. They are so abundant. This is the point at which you stand back and say, “I had a part in that apple tree!”

Yet, even then we must harvest. This is not the act of taking a bushel of apples and going home to make a pie. A harvest means we ensure that ALL the fruit from the tree is gone. There are two waves of harvesters. One goes to do the initial picking then the “gleaners” go behind to get anything that was left behind. The workers are so few in that harvest field because it takes time, care, and precision. One does not haphazardly “harvest.”

We can never claim that the tree belongs to us. However, it is now ready to withstand the elements and live for a very long time. We planted, we watered, and the Lord took care of the growing. Yet, we were a vital part of the care for that amazing tree. When the harvest is complete we ensure that more fruit will come along. It is a process during which all the elements are vital.

As I mature, I realize that I am a farmer. Sometimes I plant, other times I water, and in fortunate moments I harvest. No matter where I stand in the cycle I must see the goal. It is not always the easy choice; yet, it is right where the Lord has put me. I plant, nurture and wait with expectancy for the day that I will see the harvest. It is not always the most glamorous position and it takes a lot of patience. There are days when I think my little tree might just not make it. There are days when all of my work looks like a bunch of sticks coming up from the ground. There are times when the Lord has to wipe the sweat from my brow. Moments happen as scoffers point and whisper at my toil. I flail my arms and scream that one day the fruit will grow so strong form these tress. However, I can’t wait for the day when I will open my gates wide and invite the workers to the field, the Lord’s field and watch that fruit simply drip from the tree! I know that for me, on that this fruit will be that much sweeter. For in the seed, I saw a harvest of apples. FYI- I read somewhere once that a healthy apple tree will bear about 464 apples in one harvest.

Leneita / @leneitafix




While we’re talking about growing things…check out Grow Down by Ken Castor. It’s an awesome student book!


Forty years ago, when GROUP Magazine was an infant, the “rules of evangelism” were well-known and commonly accepted.

Today, the cultural landscape is a harsh ecosystem for conventional ideas about evangelism. In youth ministry, it’s still high on the “to-do” list, but very few actually model or train students in how to do it.

We have to find a way forward—a path that will lead young people (and us!) to a mindset that frees us to engage others about the person and promise of Jesus. So long-time GROUP Magazine editor Rick Lawrence asked two friends who are passionate about Jesus and natural evangelists, Carl Medearis and Greg Stier, to discuss the future of evangelism. They come at this from very distinct vantage points…

You can watch their discussion! We’ve condensed and split the entire conversation into four video segments here. A complete article is available to read online or in print from the special edition 40th Anniversary issue of GROUP Magazine.




Then, JOIN the discussion on the future of evangelism. Greg Stier, Carl Medearis, and Rick Lawrence will be answering questions and sharing more thoughts during a LIVE Twitter Q & A on Tuesday, September 2 from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. (MDT).

Tweet your comments and questions to them at their usernames below:

Greg Stier – @gregstier

Carl Medearis – @carlmedearis

Rick Lawrence – @RickSkip

Don’t miss out on this and more excellent youth ministry-focused content! For a limited time only, a subscription to GROUP Magazine is only $9.99. Subscriptions include 6 bi-monthly issues each year in both print and digital format. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

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Hey Simply Insiders!

Hope this back-to-school season means an influx of new students and the return of regulars for your youth ministry! It can be tough to keep track of who’s attending and who’s missing. So to help you through this busy time, we are doing a special FREE extended 45-day trial of the EVENTS tool from Simply Youth Ministry’s TOOLS!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!


Here’s how EVENTS can help you:

* Generate Revealing Reports on:

  • who’s missing
  • who’s new
  • who’s attending
  • and more!

* Administrative Events:

  • Add the what, when, and where details.
  • Send out event invitations.
  • Send emails or texts to all registered, attendees, absentees, etc.

* Track Attendance:

Check in students yourself or allow them to check in via

  • desktop
  • laptop
  • Android
  • iPad
  • or iPhone!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!

Have questions about EVENTS or other Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS? Contact Jake Rasmussen at 520.661.9846 or

Let us know how it helps you in your youth ministry!

Keep on keepin’ on,

Amber / @youthministry