soccerI hear this cry in almost every church where I do a Small Church/Youth Ministry Architects assessment. Adults repeat it in one form or another; sometimes it sounds like an excuse for why their kids don’t come. Sometimes its a lament to explain low numbers. Either way, I’m not sold on it as a good reason for why their youth ministry isn’t up to par in sustainability and functionality.

Here’s why: I started a year-long coaching/teaching cohort through the TN UMC Young People’s office. In this fellowship hall were about 60 people from 13 small churches around TN. The requirement was #100 or less in worship to qualify for the program. During the day, a youth ministry pair, Carlos and Miriam, told me the story of why they were yawning all morning. It wasn’t my teaching, they said. (Whew!) They had been up late the night before cleaning up from a youth/family sports nutrition class sponsored by their church for the local soccer players. Their fellowship hall had been full!

Get this: When they were asked to lead their youth ministry, they had two kids…though they knew there were lots of kids connected to the church and on the rolls. Where were they? On the soccer field, that’s where. So Miriam and Carlos began to hold youth group at the soccer fields. At their first meeting? 42 youth attended. Now each week, they know the soccer players favorite healthy snacks and personal delivery of said snack is part of their youth ministry.


So go head and try to tell me your kids are too busy for youth ministry. Maybe its the church that’s too busy. Maybe its time for the church to turn things upside down and take it to the streets. Or the ball fields, so to speak.



Anyone remember my rant from last year? I’m sure its at the top of your mind today. Many of us are hosting youth Superbowl parties. We’re hanging out with our students today because its  a great tool from bringing kids together with each other, with you and with Christ.

So can we all agree here to not make fun of people at the half-time show? Last year, I read WAY too many posts from youth pastors mocking Madonna while students were watching with their youth leaders do it. I’ve never been a Madonna fan, but I’m even less a fan of teaching students that we love one another but that loving attitude doesn’t extend to strangers or famous people.

I’m pretty sure Beyonce’s gonna deliver a good show, but lipsync or not? Let’s show our kids that we can find good in her performance. In fact, let’s teach them Godly ways to watch the whole game. We can discuss using our biblical filters for when something isn’t pleasing to God but in a way that doesn’t make fun of people.

Now bring on the TX BBQ and queso/chips! (Since the Texans aren’t in the game, my sibs and I are cheering for the 49′ers only because they were my Dad’s team. We miss him so much.)



(“Sheesh, Stephanie Caro: could you take any longer getting the final installment posted?” Here it is from Brent Lacy, author of Rural Youth Ministry by Simply. Come meet him at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. He’ll be co-leading the Rural Youth Ministry Connect Group.)

Article 3) Outreach and Cooperation in Rural Youth Ministry

To reach an unchurched community, you have to engage people where they are. 
This means getting out of the church building and going to “them.” It’s important to be aware of what is going on in the community. Avoid blindly scheduling events, then wringing your hands if very few participate.  An annual festival or the county fair can be a great opportunity to point people toward Christ. If no one is doing anything, pray, plan and participate!  If something is already being done, partner with other area ministries for a larger impact.

What are your resources?
In a rural ministry context, resources can be scarce or nonexistent. This forces us as rural youth workers to take one of two attitudes:  1) Find others who are blessed with the resources we lack or 2) We must go it alone, lacking the resources to do what we’re called to do.
In most other professions, that second attitude would be absurd. Imagine your doctor

saying, “Well, we don’t have the antidepressant I need to prescribe for you, but I’ll give you an aspirin.” It’s dangerous. Don’t approach youth ministry this way; it isn’t effective and often not safe!

What can your ministry offer other churches in your area? Is it the gym building your church built? Maybe it’s a youth band or drama group or the church bus that seats four times the number of students you have on any given night.

God has put all kinds of churches into your area to reach all kinds of people.
There is no need to compete because there is no shortage of unchurched families in your area. This does not mean that you have one youth service in the community every week. It means that you work together when possible to make a larger kingdom impact than the individual ministries could alone. We take part in several multi-ministry nights of worship per year, have several joint youth events, and a couple of large outreaches that are sponsored by many of the area churches.  Don Perry, the lead pastor at a church near me, says: “The walls have been broken down enough to let us shake hands and work together.” – Brent Lacy

(Here’s the 2nd installment from Brent Lacy from his new book, Rural Youth Ministry. Enjoy! – Stephanie)

Article 2) The Value of your Community in Rural Youth Ministry

You won’t be very long in your new place of Rural Youth Ministry before you hear some form of the following statement – “you’re just a transplant; what do you know?” How do you react to such a statement? You may be a seasoned youth worker of many years, but that fact might not be worth much more than rat poop to many in your community,  or even your church!  You’ll gain a lot more buy-in when you have a plan that focuses on preparing for the challenges of your transition.

  • Attitude is everything-Your initial attitude can make or break your time in a rural ministry. In some denominations, you have no say where you go; it’s what you signed on for when you accepted the Call in that denomination. Your assignment there isn’t the fault of the congregation or community members who are a part of your new rural environment.
  • Rural will almost never be the city, deal with it. If you’re coming into a rural setting after serving or living in an urban or suburban community, please realize that rural ministry is not the city, nor will not ever become the city (in 99.99999 of situations), so don’t try to make it the city. The same utilities, stores, restaurants, attitudes, or leadership that you had in the larger population may not be available in your new setting. It doesn’t make your new community a bad place, just different.
  • The Lie of “Blank Slate.” In most rural areas, you’re not the first person to do youth ministry in your community. You may be the first paid youth worker in your church history (which I am), but not the first youth worker ever.  Don’t buy into the well-intentioned lie of “you have a blank slate here.” Someone has done youth ministry that has impacted your church’s perspective toward youth ministry. This can be either very good or very bad.

If you are ministering in your hometown…Perhaps you’re a youth worker living and serving in your hometown. Maybe you never left—or you moved away and came back to serve in a church where
you grew up. Once I interviewed for a position in the church I attended growing up and it
was the hardest interview of my life! It wasn’t the questions that made it so tough. No, the
biggest hurdle was the internal mind game I played of “the people in this room have known me since I was in diapers, and they want to hire me?”  There are good situations that can come from serving in your home church. You have an edge: an understanding of the history of the area and church that other “outsider” youth workers don’t have.

Great News!

 —  January 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

FROM SIMPLY YOUTH MINISTRY: BIG NEWS!! Youth Ministry Architects (YMA) will be at SYMC this year! Jason Ostrander wrote a little something: “This year at SYMC we are pleased to announce that Youth Ministry Architects will be on hand to assist youth workers with all of their student ministry consulting needs.  We have partnered with them –because they want to partner with you!  Look for their booth, and sign up for a personal consultation.  See you in Indy!”

Since I am teaching at SYMC (Thriving Youth Ministry in Smaller Churches) and am Lead Consultant for YMA (and Director of Small Church Ministry Architects – SCMA), I love seeing these worlds collide! One of  the SCMA Specialists, Duane Smith, will be a part of the YMA Consulting Team and waiting to chat with you. Hey, I’m always open for a cup of coffee as well.




(Dear Small Church Friends, I am SO pumped to bring you this 3-part series from Brent Lacy, a rural youth ministry guy. He recently published his first book, Rural Youth Ministry through Group’s new line, Everyday Youth Ministry. I asked him to write this series because I know that many of you serve in rural settings and so I thought he could serve you best in this area. Enjoy! – Stephanierural church)

Article 1) The Challenges of Rural Youth Ministry 

Youth Worker: Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to impact a generation of forgotten students. Many come from low socio-economic status in dysfunctional families facing problems like drugs, cohabitation, divorce, alcohol and domestic abuse. These students are scattered in remote parts of your ministry area, often in hard-to-reach places like farms and small towns. This message will not self-destruct. This is your calling. Welcome to Rural Youth Ministry.

What does the school district look like?
The rural school district is a remarkable beast. You often see two types of school districts. First you see districts that were created by consolidating multiple smaller districts. Then you have districts that were created because the existing districts were too far apart. Either way, you are left with this reality: You may have a lot of driving ahead of you! My county in Western Indiana has a population density of about 39 people per square mile. Within that total population, about 1,150 seventh- to 12th-grade students are enrolled in three school districts (not including home-school students). That makes just over 2.6 teenagers per square mile. That means I do a lot of driving to connect with students and parents.

Who are the subcultures?
It is also very important to identify any subcultures that may exist. Unlike workers in many urban or suburban settings, you probably don’t have the same level of ethnic diversity in your community. You have the opportunity to study your main subcultures with greater depth. This will allow you to minister more relevantly and connect more effectively with individuals and families.

Where I live, a major subculture is the Old Order Amish. In 1990, a group of Old Order Amish from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, made the decision to relocate to Parke County, Indiana. They sold their land in Pennsylvania for top dollar and were able to buy farmland in Indiana at much cheaper prices and in larger quantities. They have a totally different culture that segregates them from “the English”. Our community of believers try to take advantage of every opportunity we get to share the love of Christ with their community.

Brent Lacy serves as Youth Pastor in rural Western Indiana. He has served in rural youth ministry for 13 years. His first book, “Everyday Youth Ministry: Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted” is now available from Group/Simply Youth Ministry and on the Amazon Kindle Store. You can check out his blog at

“And the time came for her to be delivered, and she gave birth to her first-born son, wrapped him swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger – because there was no room for them in the inn.”

What will your youth ministry give birth to this coming year? I’m thinking that, by now, you’re 1) taking a little breather from a hectic church schedule and 2) considering what you want to change/add/delete in your youth ministry come January. If that’s so, you’re right on track with the rest of us.

Here’s a few questions I’d like you to noodle on in that spaghetti bowl of multiple thoughts for the future:

“No room in the inn” – What do you need to “close the door on” in your ministry?

“No room in the inn” – What habits send the message to your family that there’s no room for them in your schedule? What can you do about that in 2013?

“No room in the inn” – When students come for the first time to your youth group, what message do they get: “The door is always open!” or “Really, there’s no room for you here”? What 5 steps can you take to maximize one and minimize the other?

“No room in the inn” – What rooms in the “home of you” have you shut God out?

I’ll be thinking about this, too.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!


Magi Lesson

 —  December 22, 2012 — Leave a comment

Here’s a lesson for you to use for teaching from Matthew 2 about the Magi.


(My grandson, who is 5, calls them the 3 Henchmen. I need to review the details with his parents!)

Thanks to Mark DeVries for this lesson from his Spice Rack downloadable curriculum at

You’re welcome!