question markI’ve worked with 18-25 years olds for over a dozen years now and one of the realities I’ve had to work through is the fact of having to walk alongside parents, too.  This can often be a time of deep relational tension and much of that comes from the hopes, dreams and expectations of parents not being met.  Their child might not be moving in the direction they think is best or had hoped for.  Or maybe their child isn’t moving in any direction at all.

In my book, Worlds Apart: Understanding the Mindset and Values of 18-25 year olds, I list out the 4 following questions that I have asked parents to consider asking themselves.  Maybe you would consider them too:

  1. What do I value about my child?
  2. Do I allow my child’s life and results to reflect on me so much that they dictate my relationship with and my counsel to my child?
  3. Do I really value my child for who he or she is today, regardless of what he or she does or becomes?
  4. Do I place a higher value on what I personally want for my child than I do what he or she wants?

If you are trying to deepen your relationship with your college age child, answer these questions honestly.  If you do, you just might find you and your child’s worlds coming together in ways you have always hoped for.

Have you ever listened to someone talk and you are either bored to death or have no idea what they are saying. Not to long ago I attended a seminar by a brilliant scholar the only problem was he decided to read the entire 3-hour lecture off of his iPad and he used words that had me scrambling for Wikipedia. It was brutal to say the least.

This started getting me to thinking about how I communicate. I have been told before that I am a good speaker and I do have a gifting for it, but is that solely what makes a good speaker. I know the answer is a resounding no.

A few months ago I was speaking to a group of students on prayer and felt like I had laid everything out crystal clear and was engaging. I was ready to finish up for the night when I decided to ask if anyone had any questions and boom a hand shot up “What do we mean when we say ‘Amen’?” While I had gone through almost everything I had taken for granted a little piece of language we so often overlook.

Now I don’t think I failed my talk and I was glad I was able to go back and explain what ‘Amen’ means. But it did cause me to think about what if I was that speaker I listened to? What if I come across as an alien speaking another language to my students. I try really hard to use their language and simplify things down to solid points but sometimes I miss it.

My lesson was simple: I need to work at re-examining my language. We sometimes get so used to insider language that we forget it’s insider. Check myself anytime I speak or answer a students question. The second part of the lesson was this: Take time to allow for questions to be asked. Often in ministry I find I am the one talking or asking the questions. Try to plan time to let students ask questions. We often learn better from asking then answering anyways.

My questions to you are simple:

  • Are you checking your language regularly? (do all your students know what sin, amen, salvation and Christ mean?)
  • How much time do you give students to ask you questions? Do you allow them time to process and clarify what you have talked about?


Kyle Corbin has been serving as a volunteer or youth pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. You can follow his blog at: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

As youth workers, our passion is to encourage students to walk in wisdom. If you are like me, you enjoy giving advice. There’s nothing like seeing a student’s face light up when they figure out the right thing to do.

Over the past few years of student ministry, I’ve noticed that how we give advice is just as important as what advice is given.

First, we are not their Savior. We are simply pouring the love of Christ into their hearts. So when a student asks a question and wants your advice…

You have a decision to make. You either muster up the most amazing, biblical, and thoughtful answer that has ever been communicated in all the history of student ministry! Or you decide to respond with a question.

If we lead students to discover what God says, we are leading them to trust God’s Word. The goal of student ministry is to help students own their faith long after they leave our ministries.

But what about if the student pleads with a pitiful, “Just GIVE me the answer!” Here are some tips on how NOT to give advice and how TO give advice to students.


Don’t respond with the answer, even if you know it. Let the question breathe. Now if they are asking if they can go to the bathroom (especially middle schoolers) you can give them the answer quickly (or you might regret it later!)

Don’t move on to a new question too early. Campout and unpack the baggage they are bringing to you. Ask questions that move from the surface to the heart.

Don’t feel like you have to know all the answers. We are human, and it’s good for your students to see that you are limited. We all know we are but most students can easily put us on a pedestal. A good response to a hard question is, “I don’t know the answer but we can find out!”

Don’t be afraid of silence. Let the student sit for a moment and think. Embrace the awkwardness. I enjoy awkward moments but even if you don’t, learn to enjoy it.


Do value their input. Do whatever it takes to value their input, but do not be artificial with your praise. Be delicate with answers that are clearly wrong. Let them know you hear them but redirect them with another question. Don’t feel like you have to finish, complete, or correct a student’s answer.

Do allow students to embrace the struggle of questions. The only way we grow is by asking questions. Help students know they can safely struggle through questions without pressure. Students want a heart relationship with leaders.

Do build upon the question. Reveal to them that it is a conversation and not a lecture.

  • I can see more of what you mean, can you tell me more about why you feel this way?
  • That is a great question, what do you think God might be showing you?
  • Why do you feel that way? What do you think you should do?

Do know where you are leading them. As you learn to master the art of the question, realize that you are simply guiding them towards God. As you think through a response, point them to their relationship with God through questions. As you fight the urge to simply give them the answer, ask a question instead to help them become leaders.

As youth workers, our calling is to lead students to help them grow spiritually in THEIR relationship with God. If we spoon feed students our knowledge, experience and biblical understanding, we can easily stunt their long-term growth.

Questions are more important than answers. Let students ask and help guide them towards the truth of Jesus.

What are your thoughts on giving advice to students? What about asking the right questions?

Josh Robinson is a the Pastor to Students at Church @ The Springs, a husband and a father. Check out his blog at or follow him on Twitter: @josh_robinson

One of our favorite quotes among our Pastoral staff is, “Leaders are learners—when you stop learning you stop leading.” These words have become commonplace in our church culture, but they’ve never been more true. As leaders, we have to be hungry to learn and willing to humble ourselves to someone else’s wisdom and experience.

So what makes somebody “teachable”?

Someone Who Asks Curious, Thoughtful Questions
Somebody who is curious and asks lots of good questions is hungry to learn. They are processing the information that has been provided, and now they’re seeking clarification for an even deeper understanding. They KNOW they need to learn and use the answers to those questions to propel themselves forward. If you want to show someone you’re listening, learning and leading, ask great questions.

Of the two, this one is easy. Obviously some folks are more inquisitive, and better at asking questions, but almost everybody enjoys learning life lessons and having teachable moments that they initiated!

Someone Who Is Humble Enough To Let Others In
It isn’t easy, but a truly teachable person allows others to speak into their life through exhortation, encouragement, correction, and coaching…even when they aren’t asking for it!

This one…is tough. To be open to correction you didn’t know you needed. To be coached in areas you thought you had already mastered. To be pushed in directions you don’t think you want (or need) to go. To learn from people who don’t know as much as you do. For instance, Josh knows almost nothing compared to me (Kurt…and apparently I didn’t write the “pride” article the other day), but I am shocked at how much I learn from him when I open myself up to his wisdom.

Chances are the older, more experienced, more educated and more “successful” you are, the less teachable you are, too. While this is natural, it doesn’t make sense. In the fast-paced, ever-changing world of ministry leaders simply can’t afford to quit learning. What I’ve discovered about so many of my youth ministry friends…and about myself…is that while we’re quick to ask questions and learn stuff we WANT to learn, we’re sometimes a little slower to become truly teachable.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

How do you reach the students who come in, don’t say a word, sit by themselves and leave as quickly and as silently as they entered?

Every ministry has students like these – here are a few ways to “go after them” and invite them to be a part of the ministry:

No on sits alone.
When you talk to your student leaders, make sure they know that “no one sits alone.” Determine that when someone visits for the first time (or the 21st time) they’re going to feel welcome. Prepare them with some basic questions to get the conversation going, and cast the vision time and time again: No one sits alone!

Consider adding a short greeting time.
We’ve recently added in a short greeting time (we stole the idea from big church), and have seen it work wonders. Put your core students on notice that everyone gets greeted, smiled at, and touched in some way. Adding a greeting time is a short and somewhat artificial taste of community, but it’s a chance to break down the walls of the wallflowers.

Add discussion questions to your program.
If you’re looking to build community in your youth service, what about inviting students to discuss the message right there in their row or at their table? If you’ve got a great volunteer in the room, make sure he/she ison the lookout to get everyone involved in the discussion, too.

Invite someone out for a Coke each week.
Ask God to direct you to the right student he wants you to give special attention to this week. When he points you to the right student, invite them out for a Coke and use the time to pour into them one-on-one. Most students who feel like losers or are lonely will find little help at a large group program, but would come alive across the table at Taco Bell.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

The beauty of leading a small group is getting to see it grow throughout the years.  But, getting started can be rough especially if you have that one kid who talks and talks and talks.  At first you like him or her because they take care of the awkward silence.  You think, “Awesome, I have someone participating and I don’t have to do all the talking.”

Then, you begin to notice that they are the ONLY student talking, which prevents the other ones from chiming in.  You also begin to notice your patience wear thin because not only do they answer every question but they begin to talk for what seems like hours.  You are tempted to yell, “SHUT UP!” but common sense tells you that wouldn’t go over well.  You don’t want to lose the group; yet, avoid embarrassing the teen.  What do you do?

Meet Beforehand – Grab them before small group and be honest with them.  Let them know you appreciate their sharing; however, you want to make sure that everyone has a chance to speak.  Be prepared because they might feel a little insulted by your confrontation.  Telling them to listen more and speak less might sound like they don’t have anything wise to contribute; therefore, make a plan to follow up after group.

Sit Next To Them – By sitting next to the talkers you are able to give them physical cues if they are talking too much.  Placing a hand on their shoulder is a subtle way of interrupting them.  You can also whisper to them encouragement if they are getting anxious by letting others speak.

Assign Questions – Talkers talk because they either feel like they always have something to contribute or they are afraid of silence.  To give them an out to their urges and fears assign questions to the rest of the group.  Instead of having anyone chime in, give the first response to someone specific.

Follow Up – Either right after the group or the next day meet up with the talker to reflect on their behavior.  Affirm them with what they did well; ask them their opinion and then address where improvement is necessary.  Because the group is fresh on everyone’s mind, you can point to specific examples of when they listened and when they dominated the conversation.

Some people will be talkers for life; however, the more the group gets to know them the pressure won’t fall on you to give others a chance to speak.  The more you check-in and communicate with the talker the less you’ll have to take the steps mentioned above.  Just be persistent with reaching out and leading the group.  Again, small group dynamics is a growing process.

How do you deal with talkers?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Our focus this week on relational youth ministry brings us to the practical question: How can we make our student ministry more relationship-based? Here are a few ways we’re trying to do just that in our ministry.

1 – Add a “welcome time” to youth group each week.
We’ve all seen this before, the “shake hands with 15 people around you” but when used sparingly it can be really effective. As your group grows, it’s surprisingly easy for the “basics” like a warm greeting to slip through the cracks!

Our students have come to love this time—we’ve expanded it to several minutes so that people can actually have a short conversation rather then just a cursory greeting. This is a great chance for introductions to be made, too! We have a volunteer every week who works hard to get to know someone new and makes it a point to introduce them to us specifically each week.

2 – Have everyone in place before and after the service.
If you are still running around finalizing details of your program when everyone is coming in, it’s gonna be tough to be relational! Work hard to do program-related stuff before students arrive; if you’re still dialing things in as they’re walking in, it’s simply too late. And tell everyone on your volunteer team they are “dead to each other” once youth group starts.

3 – Build down time to hang at every event.
If you’re at a youth conference, camp, or other big event, the planners have been paid to fill up every waking moment with something. In many cases, youth leaders choose a late-night option or yet another training session when what the group might need is some discussion time.

Maybe a break is in order, and you need to ditch a session and go get some frozen yogurt and just talk over what they’ve already learned. Relational ministry fights the go, go, go approach.

4 – Train your leaders in the art of asking good questions.
Help your leaders ask good questions—open-ended questions that require thoughts instead of a simple yes or no. Help them have an instantly ready queue of questions to ask someone they are meeting for the first time. Give them the tools to help them fight the awkward silences of first getting to meet someone.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.