• You can invite them to everything, manipulating the times and locations to perfectly line up with their needs.
  • You can have phenomenal promotional material consisting of the slickest logos, edgiest videos and most dynamic social media strategy…
  • You can promise amazing activities with the largest ball pit in the northern hemisphere, hourly laser shows, sweet smelling smoke machines and the grandest coffee machine within a day-and-a-half’s-walk…
  • You can provide the most engaging, inclusive, accepting church service Christendom has ever seen…
  • You can have the friendliest, most welcoming people…
  • You can seemingly offer every incentive shy of an dump truck full of gold bullion…

But still they won’t come and are hesitant to commit.

Perhaps it’s just me and the various settings I’ve done ministry, but within every church is the family which won’t budge. Every youth ministry encounters teens who are tough nuts to crack.

What do you do when you feel like your invitations are falling on deaf ears or your effort is (apparently) going in vain? Do you continue banging your head against the wall?

Often the answer is not a newer, flashier gimmick.

The answer lies somewhere within the following scenario… When a minister moves on from a church some kids and families who’ve struggled to engage do so with “the new guy.”The reason? A fresh voice.

In order to reach the “tough nuts” we need to allow someone else to invite them. We need others to proclaim the “victory stories.” We need others to help champion the cause. We need others to raise a banner.

Sometimes, those who struggle to engage can be reached by the voice of someone who’s not “up the front.”

What other secrets have you found to crack the “tough nuts” in your church?

Graham Baldock is a Youth Pastor from Sydney, Australia and has a youth ministry blog worth checking out at grahambaldock.blogspot.com.

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.

This week I realized I have done something no christian leader wants to admit, I fell off the personal devotional wagon. Now I am not saying I haven’t been involved with scripture, quite the opposite actually. I have done something I believe lots of other leaders do, started reading my ministry into everything.

Now I will be the first to admit, that a HUGE part of ones job when they teach is to spend time in the Word solely for the purpose of teaching, but sometimes we forget that we need to spend time in the Word for ourselves. We need to be in there digging and learning for our own walk with God.

That’s what has happened to me, so how am I going to fix it? I have decided to spend some time in my journal, I will also listen to some worship music. I am going to turn off my phone, my laptop and my tv. I am going to go into solitude. I am going to sit and be still (something I don’t do well) and I am going to read my Bible for what God wants to teach me.

Now one thing I have started to do is have a Bible I just use to read for myself out of. This might seem crazy and perhaps even expensive because I already have so many Bibles, but I find if I don’t keep things separate I don’t shut off easily. So I will use that Bible, not my iPhone, study Bible or teaching Bible for my reading.

I don’t know about everyone, but one thing I know is if I do this there are a lot of others out there who fall off the wagon. So how do you stay on the wagon? What are you doing to keep up with your PERSONAL devotional time?

Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. and blogs here and you can follow him on Twitter @CorbinKyle


There are a lot of different hats that we wear when leading students, from bus driver to fundraising champion, to cook,to first aid attendant, to counselor. But the two hats I find I wear most often are Pastor and Advocate. Stay with me here, because I strongly believe these are two roles that we have to perform, but require different skill sets and both are needed to lead effectively.

Pastor: Although the word only appears in the New Testament one time (Ephesians 4:11) it in many ways is the primary function of what we do. We lead and shepherd our students, leaders and parents week in and week out.  This is such a rewarding and meaningful part of my role in the Church as we get to experience people encountering God is such a real way. I am called to be a Youth Pastor, to invest in our students and champion their cause in the Church. I cheer them on, intentionally pastor their leaders to foster spiritual growth of our students as well. The challenge is that sometimes making decisions that affect people, potentially negatively is difficult with my Pastor hat on because the pastor in me loves harmony and values shepherding, so its then I have to go into advocate mode.

Advocate: When I am in advocate mode, things are different and here is why. My role at the Church is to be the Pastor of High School Students and that means advocating for the needs of each student. The question I am constantly asking is, what do these students need from me, from their leader, from our youth group in order to grow in their relationship with God? I met with one of our leaders recently who had been slipping in his commitment to his small group and the results were obvious. When we sat down, the conversation quickly got to reminding this leader what it is that his students need from him:

-       A leader that calls them each week and checks in and invites.

-       A leader that engages them at youth and takes an interest in their life

-       A leader that commits to praying for them

-       A leader that shows up EVERY week.

I was firm, not harsh but reminded him that I am looking out for the needs of the students entrusted to me, and asked simply, “can you be the leader that these students need you to be?” Its was an honest question, and framed this way that leader could say yes, or no. Had they said no it would be understandable why we would need to find someone else to fill that role.

The same is true with events, retreats and camps as well when we ask, is this event the best things for the spiritual development of our students? Sure its fun, and well attended, but is there something that could be more effective.

When it comes to making tough decisions, its always with my advocate hat on, because when I am in that mode, I am more willing to take on challenges and situations that when I am in Pastor mode I might let linger. We owe it to our students to provide for them what they need, which is not always what they want at the time.  My experience has been that leaders respond well to the challenge and as a team are more understanding of changes when framed within the cause of growth of our students.


Here’s a clip from Taffy’s talk this past weekend – this part focuses on the cost of discipleship and being sold out to Christ.


If there was one skill that I have grown into in the past year, its been calling students out. Calling them out for their actions, the words, their apathy, their judgment or just plain attitude. I love my students whole-heartedly, but there comes a time when I need to be the leader and not a friend and have a tough conversation with a student. How you handle these conversations can determine if they leave feeling loved or condemned and can dictate if they are going to stay or leave your group. Here is the way that teach our team to have these chats, its called “The Rebuke Sandwich” …

Slice 1 – Pull the student you need to talk to aside, away from their friends. Now before they know what hit them, affirm them! It could be a simple as the fact that you value the fact they attend, or it could be that you see leadership potential in them. Be sincere and truthful, but starting with something you appreciate about them is very disarming and will allow step two to happen much easier.

The Meat- Tell them what it is you are concerned about or which action or behavior needs to be addressed. Be factual and honest, this is the meat of the conversation so be sure that you are prepared with exactly what has spurred this conversation. This is the tough part because when students and people in general get called out, our pride is hurt and we get defensive, this could cause tears or anger or both. But no matter what happens, don’t pull the chute here or let them pull the chute on the conversation until you get through step three.

Slice 2 - Now its time to affirm them again, this is the most important part because they are likely feeling wounded or hurt, but they need to know they are loved. This is the step that shows them that despite the fact that you needed to speak to them about their behavior, it is truly in love that you are doing it when you can build them up after calling them out. Once again, it’s an affirmation that is sincere and truthful that could highlight a gifting you seen in them. **If you are a hugging youth group, now is the time.

The Rebuke sandwich is an effective tool for confronting to students because it builds them up, shows them what needs to change, and reminds them of your care for them. Confronting students is not easy or fun to do but having an honest conversation one on one is important and above all Biblical. I have found time and again that using the “Sandwich” can be very effective at resolving an issue and restoring the Pastor-student relationship quickly.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

How has your personal spiritual life been lately – specifically your Bible reading?


A lot of the things Jesus taught the disciples and some of the miracles He performed were on the way to somewhere else. The majority of the learning and ministry moments with your students may not necessarily be with in the small group time, but on the way to and from your group. Recognize these moments and make the most of them.

Compliment in Public / Correct in Private
Complimenting is important but easy. Celebrate and share their successes with others inside and outside the group. Correcting is equally important but NOT near as easy. Don’t shy away from a learning and growing opportunity for both you and the student. If a problem arises you may have to initially diffuse it in public, but address further in private. Don’t just correct, but also discuss the motives behind the offense, how a repeat offense can be avoided, the personal leadership potential in the student, and the influence they carry with others even if they don’t recognize it.

Challenge the student to step up (their influence outside the group)
As the relationship and trust grows with the student, take the opportunity to address weaknesses that you’ve noticed and current mistakes they’ve made. Don’t berate them about , but don’t completely ignore the situation, it could be the very conversation that creates a turn in that student’s life and it is a growing opportunity for the both of you. Refer to the last bullet for Correcting in Private.

Challenge the student to step out (of the boat)
If your group is doing a silly challenge, answering a tough question, or telling portions of their story and you have a quiet one continue to encourage their involvement and stress the value of their contribution to the rest of the group. Try to notice a student curious about stepping out. Look and listen for a growing interest and feed it.

Be inconvenienced
Anytime Jesus traveled, people met him on the road wanting Him to heal them. The disciples often saw these folks as an inconvenience and wanted to pass them by and keep moving. Students will often wait until the most inconvenient times to talk. While you are working on something else, talking to someone else, when it’s too late or too early. They’ve worked up the nerve to ask/talk about something; sacrifice the moment to listen and pray with the student for a possible life changing conversation.

Steven Moore serves at FaithPointe Church in Adamsville, TN. 6 years … still as his first church. That’s awesome!