From time to time we play a game in youth group that requires a contestant or two on stage. Here’s a quick principle that I’ve seen work over and over again:

The right contestant makes a good game great.

Picking a great contestant on the fly from stage is really difficult – the host feels pressure to pick a contestant right away and the person that typically immediately responds to the call for a contestant doesn’t usually make a good one. Since the right student is so important, here’s what I suggest: pick them ahead of time. During the countdown to your service starting (or whatever you use to kick things off) take a second to scan the crowd and select a solid person to play the game. It will save you from that awkward moment when you don’t have anyone volunteering or the same kid raises their hand eagerly every week. Pick them ahead of time and you’ll get variety. skill and personality like never before. Try it and you might never go back.

Any advice for youth workers picking a student to play a game?


So many aspects of youth ministry leadership find themselves in direct opposition of each other. The problem is – they both can be necessary and good things. The first step is to identify the tensions of youth ministry, and then figure out how to manage them. Here are a few of them I’ve identified, feel free to add another in the comments if one comes right to mind:

Tasks vs. People
There is work to be done! And administrative work and email is part of the gig. But the tension could push you to fail people or fail at paperwork. You can’t do either one! There is a tension here, but a competent youth pastor has to fight though the tension and balance both well.

Program vs. Relationships
I love a great program – but the programs and services we offer pail in comparison to what the world offers. Yes, we need to spend time crafting and creating incredible programs and creative elements to share the timeless message of Christ. At the same time – we offer so much more than that! We LOVE people! There is another tension at stake, and neither can suffer. Get the program stuff done, even done well, and pour into people.

Crowd vs. Individual
I am a crowd person al the way, but the tension is to find time to focus on the individual. Both are critically important! I live in this tension every week, and must remember that the crowd is made up of individuals. Every moment that you spend with individuals builds your crowd, and in every crowd situation you have to focus on the individual.

One last one for now … this old post from 2008 about Workaholic vs. Passionate Worker might be a good read.

What else do you see as a tension of youth ministry?


From time to time I post a youth ministry question that I’ve received and leave it to you, the MTDB youth ministry community, to answer it. This one from a youth worker in Canada, but it could be from anyone since it applies to so many ministries. Chime in with your wisdom, response and best practices. Go!

Last week I had a meeting with 4 students who said they needed our Youth Program to be deeper. There are few words that bring a more unclear and vague feeling to my mind than the idea of deeper. Depth is such a personal thing, taking the whole group there in a one size ministry (grades 7-12) isn’t easy and even if you have just Senior Highs, reaching the core and the crowd can be hard to do. So the question is this: How do you respond to students that want to go deeper? How does this work out in your youth services?


This weekend we played a GREAT game our team came up with called Facebook Hack. Have you ever left your Facebook logged in and someone posted a fake status? Just about everyone has – and this week, we asked for a volunteer in the audience to come up on the stage and do just that – log in and give control of their Facebook profile in the hands of the host. The audience immediately reacted to just how big of a deal this was – we haven’t had a game with this much engagement in a while. They needed to answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly or pay the virtual price.

There’s a fine line hosting something like this, and Chris handled the game masterfully – posting funny updates to their status and unfriending people from their top friends list – all live on the screen shown to the crowd. The crowd even got into it and started posting pics/comments on the contestant’s profile page while the game was going on. So awesome!

The contestant had to answer nearly impossible questions correctly to avoid the consequences to their friends list. The whole game showed just how incredibly important Facebook is to a student, and it tied in SO well to the series theme of Facebook Official.

Maybe an idea that would work for you or a springboard that you could work from. It was SO great!