I was recently looking at some old messages and noticed that I suffered from a lack of focus.  I would have a thousand points and twice as many examples.  If you were to listen to one of these messages you would never be able to guess the bottom line.

According to the Orange Strategy you and I have about 40 hours a year with our teens.  If you speak to teenagers you probably give anywhere from a 15 to 45-minute message.  In that time allotted you probably want to say a lot of things; however, you really only need to say one.  The reason is because your time is limited.  You need to know what you can say in those few minutes that will affect the rest of their week.  Basically you need to have a BOTTOM LINE to your messages THAT WILL STICK.

To get your bottom line you just need to answer the question, “What do I want them to know?” but to make it stick you need to answer the following questions:

What do I want them to do?
Every message needs to conclude in an action plan.  If you are just filling their heads with knowledge it will get canceled out in the next conversation that they have.   Give them a tangible action step to make your lesson more concrete.

How can I continue the conversation?
Give them something to chew on.  If you just give them answers without giving them questions they either embrace what you have to say or totally reject it.  While the former is better than the latter it won’t promote growth.  You want your teens to grow.

How can it be packaged?
It’s not always what you say; but how you say it.  Therefore use alliteration, or rhyme.  Make it into a mantra that they can repeat when facing certain situations.  Just be careful not to be shticky to the point where it’s goofy.

When you make your bottom line stick you utilize those 20 minutes to the max.  The idea is to use the time you have to influence the moments you do not.  Even if you aren’t giving a message, knowing how to communicate to your audiences is key.  Always have a bottom line and be sure to make it stick.

How do you craft a memorable bottom line?

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.

I’m super excited to invite you to Saddleback Church on October 4th – Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins are coming to The Refinery to teach their incredible Speaking to Teenagers seminar. They’ve made is super accessible for everyone in the area ($25/person) and it is something I’m SO pumped to be sitting under in a month. Join us!

A practical jam packed one day seminar for Youth workers and anyone else who teaches or speaks to teenagers Including pastors, volunteers, Sunday School teachers. If you teach once a quarter or twice a week, this day is for you.

You will leave this seminar knowing:

  • The crucial elements of effective communication
  • The essentials for understanding and connecting to a teenage audience
  • Keys for personal and spiritual preparation before speaking
  • The top 10 places to find great illustrations
  • How to use the right types of words to make God’s Word come alive for students
  • 7 proven tips to make stories more personal & effective
  • An approach to turn your experiences into powerful illustrations and connecting points
  • The powerful dynamics of humor and how to use it effectively
  • How to keep teenagers engaged and deepen their learning
  • How to avoid making the most common mistakes speakers make
  • Practical guidelines to enhance your body language and gestures
  • The secrets of time and timing in speaking
  • How to match the type of message to your unique situation


Here are a few reflections as a summer intern in the High School Ministry at Saddleback Church:

5. DO get close with co-workers and focus on them more than on projects. I saw the valuable teaching role that people have in my life through this internship. I remember one day specifically, I had a lot of articles to edit and the pressure was weighing down on me, when a coworker asked me if I wanted to go to lunch with her. Everything in me said that I should focus on my work and say no, but for some reason I agreed, and it was such a great conversation about life in ministry and what I’m learning through interning. She gave me lots of great advice and it made working with her on projects such a bigger joy. My editing got done and I actually had a clearer head while doing it.

4. DO hard things. I knew that taking on the magazine would be a large workload, but I took it on knowing it would stretch me as a journalist. Boy, did it ever! Not only do I feel more prepared to be Features editor of the Biola University’s Newspaper in the coming semester, I also feel better prepared to have a career in this field. Organizing and leading a team was a challenge because of my lack of experience, but navigating that has been such an area of growth for my problem-solving and leadership abilities.

3. DO communicate as much as possible with coworkers. I wrote in one of my journals for the class that I was having trouble with the graphic designer for the magazine. I was hoping to see some layouts a few weeks ago, and he didn’t show me any for the longest time. If I had clarified in the beginning that I was expecting to see layouts BEFORE deadline to know that he was making progress, we wouldn’t have any problem because we could have had a conversation about what both of our expectations were. However, since that conversation never happened, there was a long period of mystery and uncertainty regarding when he was going to show me any work. It was frustrating for me and didn’t get me anywhere because I didn’t express it to him, so he had no idea that I was annoyed. I could have saved myself a lot of time worrying if I had just talked to him upfront!

2. DON’T be “above” anything. This is a lesson that I have discussed before, and one that was daily reinforced by the staff. Refusing to do something (or doing it with a poor attitude) because it’s not what you’re passionate about displays an entitled sense of self. Interning is about learning through experience, and certainly God can teach us through tasks beyond our specific calling or role. I learned a lot cleaning out a closet (like how much easier it is to do things with a team, and how to serve others, and how one person’s sour attitude can spoil it for everyone, and how giant cardboard iPhones should never be kept because they take up way too much space).

1. DO take time to reflect, breathe, and commune with God.  My stress level during this internship was directly related to the time I spent with God. The days when I was most stressed were the days I skipped time with the Lord, and that negatively affected how I handled myself and navigated conflict at work. Without daily time with God, I can become irritable and closed off. With daily time with God, I have a better view on what’s important and find a lot more joy in what I’m doing and who I am. He is key. Success is nothing if God is merely an afterthought.

Heather Leith is an incredible summer intern on the HSM Team. Follow her semi-annual Tweets at https://twitter.com/heatherleithal.

If every teen you ministered to were the same, life would be easy.  But, each person that walks in through the door is different.  They are different by things in and out of their control and when you can embrace what makes them unique it will lead to some dynamic and powerful ministry.

Chances are there is at least one family in your church with a child who has special needs.  It can be an intimidating situation to approach because it’s something you’ve never prepared for facing.  You are conflicted because you want people to know that you are loving and open; however, you also don’t want to disrupt the flow of how you do ministry.

I’ve been blessed to have ministers and a coworker with a special needs educational background who have shown and challenged me in creating capacity for special needs in ministry.  Three pieces of advice that they have shared with me is to:

Find People With Passion – You care for special needs teens just as you care for any teen that walks in through your door; however, there are people in your community who are passionate for them.  What you want to do is plug these adults into your ministry as small group leaders or mentors.  Have them bridge the gap and kill any stereotypes or suspicions that the teens or other adults might have.  Pick their brains and learn from them so that you can be more educated on the subject.

Be Inclusive – Certain special needs provide certain limits; however, that should not prevent you from inviting them to be a part of your ministry.  If they are high functioning you really won’t notice much of a difference.  If they do require assistance ask their parent or another minister to give them direct support.  Either way don’t close them out because it’s complicated, embrace the relationship and allow God to lead.

Communicate With Parents – Every parent (whether of special needs or not) wants their child to fit in.  When you talk to the parent of a special needs child, chances are they will want to work with you because they want what is best for their kid.  Allow them to give you wisdom on their situation and insight on how to handle other teens.  Learn what might trigger their teen to be more comfortable or distracted.  Get to know their individual child so that you know how to best serve and guide them.

How you minister to that child and their family will depend on what the need is, who the parents are and what resources you have available.  But, if you truly want to be a ministry for Christ you need to make sure it’s filled with God’s unconditional and accepting love.  It might be a challenge to have special needs in your ministry; however, it’ll only make you better.

How are you approaching special needs in your ministry?  If you aren’t why?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more about his ministry and life on his excellent blog Marathon Youth Ministry. 

Summer is crazy busy! And while the amount of activities and schedule vary from ministry to ministry, there’s no denying that summer can be a challenging time of year.

So how do you make the most of summer activities? Here are a few ways that might help you fall in love with summer as your favorite season of ministry:

Give your summer interns or key volunteers a chance to lead.
Take the summer off from teaching—and work on getting some of your people up front. Better yet, consider asking students to teach a series as well. Just because you’re not speaking doesn’t mean that it won’t be work for you helping coach them and assist in crafting their talks, but the effort will be worth it. You get a chance to listen and be refreshed while less experienced teachers are being developed.

Try something new…really new.
This summer, we brainstormed up a ton of new ways to engage students. We came up with something that is super new … The Zombie Apocalypse. The whiteboard is filled with ideas on how to make this thing epic – think capture-the-flag + zombies and you’ll get the idea. Will it work? Will I (Josh) lose my job? Who knows, but no one will say we’re content with the same old summer activities. HA! If you need ideas, and didn’t read last week’s articles…shame on you. Now that you are shamed, go read those for a bunch of ideas.

Capture as many text numbers as you can.
Use the summer to expand your contact list. For us, it’s our texting group—we want this to grow significantly heading into fall. This will help you message a ton more students when you start promoting small groups or your fall kickoff teaching series. When a student signs up for an event, make one of the required fields their phone number and a check-box allowing you to text them. They can opt out on their phones at any time.

I think we’ve said this enough the past 2 weeks, but it’s because we don’t want you to miss it! Relationships are the point; don’t lose sight of that during summer. Whatever you plan is pretty much an excuse to have conversations and challenge students in their faith. Make the most of your summer activities!

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.

This week’s poll asks a simple question: which type of phone do you have? Thanks to Jerry Varner for the poll idea – be sure to vote in the poll and then leave a comment on why you have that phone and if you’re happy with it or not!


If you’re like me, you’re quick to condemn parents who don’t appear to take a more active role in supporting the youth group. And by condemn, I don’t mean verbally bashing parents or other nay-sayers. Instead, it’s the internal condemnation that presents a smile as the acid of anger and bitterness rip apart your stomach lining, regardless of how much Maalox you ingest.

•     You’re frustrated when parents don’t give the nudge or shove you think would help their child participate

•     You smile and nod as parents give yet another excuse as to why their child won’t be attending a retreat or activity

•     You walk away dejected when you hear a few parents question or demean the youth group, with little to no resistance from usually supportive parent

That’s frustrating and, likely, undeserving. Or is it? True, the gossip that flitters from family to family is never OK, nor are the thoughtless and often demeaning remarks about the youth program or your perceived work ethic. But sometimes parents have a right to be leery of offering their full support. Have we as youth workers created an environment that parents can support?

There is no perfect youth group. There is no perfect program. There is no perfect youth ministry model. In fact, there are no perfect youth workers. But in my nearly twenty-five years in ministry (the majority with students) and fourteen years as a parent, I have not found parents looking for perfection. Some do present themselves that way, but once you crack their cold, professional exterior, you’ll find broken people who love their kids and are desperate for help. Parents aren’t looking for perfection, but they are looking for three things:

Before you tune out and shout, “The gospel isn’t safe!” be sure you understand what kind of safety parents desire. Parents will support your mission trip to third-world countries and inner-city neighborhoods. They will get behind you challenging their teen to live holy lives in an unholy world. Heck, if it were legal, they might even participate in their own round of Chubby Bunny. Ultimately, parents want to know that we have a clue. They want to know when they leave their child under our supervision, that we will care for their child’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health. It means we take time to think through how we welcome students, how we discipline them, how we split up teams or groups. Parents want us to care for their kids like they would. And that’s reasonable.

Some parents understand ministry philosophy and strategy, and they’ll have opinions whether or not they agree with yours. But most–even the opinionated ones–just want to know that you’ve thought through why you’re doing what you’re doing. Parents have a right to expect their church youth group to be different from the school’s social clubs. They want their kids to yell and scream and have fun, but they also want their kids to be challenged spiritually. They’ll want their kids to have a heart for children around the world, but they also want them to stop bullying their brothers and sisters. Parents want us to put effort into praying for and planning the ministry calendar. And that’s reasonable.

As a parent, I’m frustrated when my school gives me information about an upcoming event, only to change it at the last minute. It’s also aggravating to not find out about an event until an hour before. Granted, sometimes a school or teacher has no control over last-minute changes, and often I don’t find out about events because my children have failed to communicate with me. The issue isn’t whether or not that happens; it’s whether or not that is a pattern. Youth workers need to make clear communication with parents a priority. Whether you haven’t done that in the past because you’re intimidated by parents or because you’ve never thought about it, now is the time to improve. Our technological age provides numerous ways to communicate. And while you don’t have to use each and every mode, focus on one or two and do them well. Parents want to know what’s going on in our youth groups. And that’s reasonable.

Sometimes a parent’s frustration can be ignored, and other times it can sound an alarm. Are we as youth workers providing a ministry context that is safe, has a plan, and clearly communicates what’s happening? If so, that’s a healthy start.

To be continued next weekend …

Think About It
1.     Why does your youth group exist? What are its goals?

2.     How often do you communicate with families, as a group and as individuals?

3.     Do you have a youth ministry strategy that makes sense? Even if it’s not where you want it to be, are you beginning to lay a solid foundation?

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!

There is a tension most youth workers face in a smaller ministry setting: They want their group to be bigger! Ironically most youth workers in a large setting face a similar tension: They want to be (or at least feel) smaller! This week we’re hoping to help you think big when you’re small and think small when you’re big.

So if you are leading a smaller ministry, here are a few “big thinking” ideas that will help you where you’re at, and help pave the way for where you’re heading:

Think About Infrastructure
As you grow, how many volunteers will you need? Start recruiting volunteers now, so you are ready when growth happens. How will your follow up strategy need to evolve? Start tweaking it now! Do you have room to grow or will you need to ask to move your ministry to a larger broom closet? What will growth demand of your budget? These are just a few areas of infrastructure worth thinking about in bigger ways while you’re still smaller.

Think About Scalability
Look at virtually every aspect of your ministry and ask yourself if it’s scalable…in other words, can it handle a growth spurt? Pretend 10 new students joined your small groups—could your current system handle it? Thinking big means organizing in such a way that growth can be accommodated without completely upsetting the apple cart.

Think About Communication
More students, more problems! And one of the biggest problems larger youth groups have is in the area of communication. As your group grows, gone will be the good old days of calling every student once a week, or taking each volunteer out to lunch on a regular basis. You won’t be able to stop each parent in the church foyer to touch base.

The good news is we minister in an era that has seemingly unlimited tools and technology to meet our communication needs. Start experimenting now, so you are ready when growth arrives.

So when you’re small, think big! Prepare now for the students that God will trust you with in the future. Get ready…here they come!

P.S. Big youth groups are over-rated. Trust us on this one.

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.