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

Comforting Teens in Crisis

Josh Griffin —  September 7, 2012 — 1 Comment

We decided to give out a great little book to our volunteers we just discovered called Comforting Teens in Crisis. I don’t know how I’ve missed it in the past, looks perfect for our life group leaders!

Failing grades. Pregnancy. Addictions. Cutting. How do you even begin to help teens through their greatest struggles? What if you make things worse? This go-to guide gives you the confidence to share God’s love and comfort! Includes:

  • Counseling advice
  • Tips on what to say and what not to say
  • Real-life scenarios
  • Scripture connections
  • Resources for reaching out in love


Do you know someone that has a job and you think to yourself, how on earth do you do that all day? I used to know a guy, who worked at a plant that took whatever parts of the pigs, chicken, fish and other animals that were not good enough for hot dogs. They would take these parts and add in deep fryer oil, feathers and who knows what else, boil them, heat them and do all sorts of horrifying processes to them and somehow render them into useful products and chemicals that they sell to other companies. I often asked him, how do you do that all day? He of course, really liked what he did, he turned waste in to useful things and loved it.

The strange part is, I have people ask me all the time, how do you work with teenagers? They are impossible! Its true, students can be really challenging to work with, they are often passionate, sometimes unreliable, regularly fickle, occasionally emotional and changing daily. I can see how youth workers tap out after a few years. When people ask me how I deal with working young people I will remind them, that it often starts with honouring their adolescence and appreciating the way they see the world. Here is a few ways we can do that as Youth Pastors.

Acknowledge their feelings: My life does not hang in the balance of the status of my friendships or what my friends think of me but there was a time in my life where I did feel that way. So when a student comes with their world crashing down over a problem with a friend, telling them to get over it likely won’t help. Acknowledging that you understand how they could feel that way, but also following up with some sound Biblical perspective on the challenges they are facing.

Harness the Passion: High School students are passionate, its up to us to help them focus that passion. Whether into local missions work, justice projects, service or anything like that. Students have more time than money, we need to help them find ways to invest what they have in a way that is productive, God honouring and fruitful.

All of us were that age: When adults try and knock teenagers for being crazy about Biebs or 1 Direction I remind them about the Beatles or NKOTB. When parents talk about students listening to sexualized music I ask them if they remember anything about the movie Grease? I was a teenager, my parents were teenagers, Jesus was a teenager. We can not forget what the world looked like through the eyes of teenage us, our idealism, flippancy and constant wonderment of “who is going to be there” before committing to anything. We were not that different.

Its so important that we as leaders not dismiss the challenges of teenagers as trivial or inconsequential, but instead help them navigate, and understand what scripture says about what they are going through and help them realize that there is more to life than this, but we can understand why at this point, they might not see that.

-Geoff (Twitter) 

The Landing is a program that meets every Friday night to help students who are dealing with hurts, hangups and destructive habits. I asked Dennis Beckner, the director of The Landing here at Saddleback (and youth ministry blogger), to talk through some of the frequently asked questions about the program to help hurting students in case it would be helpful to you if you use the resource kit/program or not.

Is there a parental release form for The Landing?
There is a parental release form in the curriculum kit. We, however, do not use it at Saddleback Church. The biggest reason is some students would actually get in trouble or have to reveal information to their parents if their parents knew they attended.

How much counseling training do your volunteer leaders have?
Our volunteers are not professional counselors. They are only operating in a layman capacity. We do not pretend to offer professional counseling through this program. Students also voluntarily participate at no cost.

Have you had any troublemakers or issues where you needed security at The Landing?
Another layer of security we have is our security team. Security team sounds like a big church thing. Of course a big church like Saddleback would have that. While our security team is great, they are mostly volunteer police veterans who act as consultants when we need a little guidance or help. They’ve helped us report some problems to the authorities when mandated reporting issues come up. They’re a great safety net.

How do you train your youth leaders to help care for hurting students? You can download a free 74-page document that outlines our training, application, and several resources we’ve created since before we got started until last August when we had our Celebrate Recovery Summit. You’ll find that and a wealth of other resources by going to my blog where I’m giving away a ton of free stuff. You’ll see several freebies, nuggets of wisdom and guest posts on the topic.

What was your main focus during your early trainings?
1. Here’s what Celebrate Recovery is. Here’s our vision for students in recovery. Here’s what volunteering will look like.
2. Mandated reporting. We had a police officer come in and explain California’s laws on who is a mandated reporter, what must be reported and how to report it. The police officer happened to be one of our High School ministry volunteers. He shared not only the law, but the heart behind why a youth worker would want to report for ethical reasons as well as legal reasons.
3. Relational ministry. We discussed the youth ministry angle, what to expect when working with students and how to be a relational leader. We also walked through the first night which happend 3 days after this meeting and gave out leader T-shirts.

For more information on The Landing and see if it might be a good fit for your ministry context, hit up the link right here.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Get ready to go back to school by starting the habit of spending time with God every day – walk with Jesus.

Service Length: 72 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we want to send students back to school armed and prepared for each day ahead. The best way to live life is to walk with Jesus – so we challenged them to spend time with God everyday in His Word and in prayer. I challenged students to live out Proverbs 4: 20-27 and to pay attention to God’s Words so that they stay on the right path. I asked a couple students to help teach this weekend and they did a super job helping make spending time with God seem possible. It was important this week to make sure we went from ideological to practical, so we created 14 days of text devotionals (I’ll post them later this week) and gave away a TON of 1-Minute Bibles by Doug Fields.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a fun Life Group rap called “Life Groups Win” to promote the upcoming deadline for small groups, and had a funny tribute parody video to the “Footprints in the Sand” infamous Christian poem. Everything played well and for a holiday weekend attendance was up and so was the energy. Must be about time to go back to school!

Music Playlist: Our God, God Above All, Forever Reign, Burning Ones

Favorite Moment: This weekend I used 2 students to help me teach the talk this weekend – one was a senior and the other a sophomore. They did great! Seeing them teach was an incredible experience – made me think I should do that more often! Just picked out the next 2-3 who will do it in the future …

Up next: No HSM – 9/11 Memorial services in big church

Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Accountability will make you uncomfortable but is critically important in the life of a believer … and join a Life Group this school year in HSM!

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres taught the second weekend in our LAUNCH back to school series. Every year about this time we want to intentionally move students toward life groups, so we intentionally plan a weekend to encourage students to go beyond the weekend service and jump into a group. Jessica taught specifically about the accountability aspect of groups and had great stories about the influence of both peers and adults in her formative years. She did a great job teaching these principles from Scripture.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we’re wrapping up summer and headed into Labor Day holiday and back to school next week. The atmosphere was great – we had a new student on lights who did an incredible job with the energy before the service and the team made a couple of great videos to point students toward Life Groups and to become a part of HSM. Lots of student greeters, too!

Music Playlist: Go, You’ll Come, Majesty, Let My Words Be Few

Favorite Moment: One of our students, Connor Kim, shared his testimony about the impact accountability and his Life Group have made on his high school years. He’s such a stud, it was awesome for students to see a real-life example of what Jessica was teaching from the stage. Between her heart and his experience, I know tons of students will take this next step in our discipleship process. Strong.

Up next: LAUNCH (series finale, week 3 of 3)

I’ve been posting the results of a new member survey from our church that gives some incredible insight as to why people choose a particular church. Here are #6-10, if you missed the first half of the series:


#10 – Special Events and Activities

#9 – Availabilty of Church Near Our Home/Location/Campuses

#8 – Missions

#7 – Different Styles of Worship

#6 – Small Groups and Discipleship classes

Here’s reason #5 from a Top Ten list of why people join our church … I’ll post another each day this week!

#5 — Pastoral Care
The top 5 reasons are what matter most in this survey. If you want to know why people stick in your church, these will be it. At #5 this week – pastoral care. In short, if people are cared for, they’ll stick around. If you help someone through a tough time in their life, the stronger the connection is between them and the body. A wise man once said, “they’ll never care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” If this is true – time spent caring for people is critically important to faithfulness. It brings up some great questions: do people feel cared for in your church? Are you empowering tons of volunteers to do ministry? Are the people doing pastoral care, or just the pastor?

Youth ministry application: You can create a lifetime fan and a loyal follower of Jesus by walking through a tough time with a student or his/her family. Some of the best ministry moments happen when you’re in the thick of life: sitting with a pregnant daughter about to tell her parents what happened. Showing up when someone close to them passes away. Counseling them through a relational crisis.

Show up in people’s lives and people will show up in your church.


We had some training recently for Pastoral Care/Counseling here at Saddleback and they just sent around a list of solid resources/websites that might be helpful to ministers. Here’s the list – thought it might be helpful to you, too!

Accountability websites

False Teaching Resources

General Life Resources

What other sites/resource would you add to the list that you find helpful?