This Christmas break I finished up a review copy of the Mike Calhoun book The Greenhouse Project: Cultivating Students of Influence – a good read for anyone looking to overhaul or reemphasize discipleship in their student ministry. The book actually covers more than discipleship, but the theme is very primary and central to his thesis that of all the purposes for student ministry – discipleship is the one that matters the most. Each chapter is guided by a contributing writer like Greg Stier, Mel Walker or Jay Strack, so while the writing feels a bit random, the multiple voices lends credibility and varied perspective. My wife actually graduated from Word of Life Bible Institute and I have enjoyed the camps and speakers in the past – I think the book is good for many settings though if you’re a “Word of Life church” it’ll really hit you where you’re at. Great title, too, our student ministry should be a greenhouse for helping students grow up in Christ.


A friend of mine asked me what are the best practices in evangelism to students right now – and I thought I would pose the question to the blog readers and see: What is working in your setting in reaching new students for Christ? Post your answers in the comments!

For us it would be a strong entry-level service that is safe for outsiders, with friendship evangelism running at the core. Occasional supplemental events help students at least cross the threshold, too. You?


I’m taking a break and letting my brain breathe from a project that I’ve been working on this morning. (This is actually one that I’ve been working on for months and will probably continue to develop it for years) But what I’m working on is something I call Mission Critical Jobs. These are coordinator jobs that are critical to our youth ministry. It’s our goal to have a volunteer in each of these roles and empower them with the ability to do more than just fulfill a job description but to have a passion and vision for that ministry area and how it will help advance God’s work at our church and in our community. (Craig Groeschel once said “Delegate authority, not responsibility”)

Some may say, isn’t the youth minister supposed to do these jobs? Yes and No. Yes…the youth minister should oversee and work with these coordinators to see that all these major areas are being developed and led in a productive way. No…it would be near impossible for one person to truly devote themselves to all these areas. No one excels in all these areas. No one is a “people person”, a visionary, a detail-er, an organizer, a designer….you get the point. We all have strengths and so we should capitalize on those and let others with a different set of strengths focus on theirs and fill in those gaps where we struggle. Not only that, in the majority of churches, youth ministries are overseen by one youth minister and there is only so much one person (especially those with a family) can do.

That is why I am convinced that without a team of key, high-level volunteers, our youth ministry (and others) will quickly reach it’s wall of effectiveness and sooner or later, even begin to regress. So, if you’re in youth ministry, start today working on what your mission critical jobs are. Be sure to develop some sort of job description or at least a detailed list of responsibilities. Then, prioritize them in order of what is needed now and start finding people who want to do more than just chaperone a trip or bring in donuts. Find those adults who want to pour their heart into a vital part of youth ministry.

This will probably an ever growing and developing list but here are our Mission Critical Jobs right now (in no particular order)…

  • Bible School Coordinator
  • Breakaway Coordinator (our weekly youth worship)
  • Sunday Night Coordinator
  • Wednesday Night Coordinator
  • Service Coordinator
  • Mexico Mission Trip Coordinator
  • Teen Lounge Coordinator (our youth room)
  • Big Events Coordinator
  • Shepherding Coordinator
  • Outreach/Evangelism Coordinator
  • Prayer Coordinator
  • Volunteer Coordinator
  • Technology Coordinator
  • VBS Coordinator (don’t judge, believe it or not, our teen VBS draws a pretty large crowd)

Joe Thompson is the mission critical Youth Minister at Fairmount Christian Church. Check out his blog right here and tell him JG sent ya.

As youth pastors we don’t like to talk about numbers, but they matter and people are definitely looking at them.

Try as we might to help leadership see the student ministry discipleship process as more than a headcount, it remains as one of the universally accepted currencies of “health” in youth ministry to the outside observer. Here are a few numbers that I keep an eye on- add other numbers you think are important in the comments:

Weekend attendance – we use a simple headcount to track this metric. It matters, especially to see trends in the year, trends by series/topics, and shifts in big picture participation. This measurement is often weighted too much in many church cultures (ours included), but it can still be a helpful number to watch because people do vote with their feet. A growing weekend number reflects a strong ideal entry-point for our student ministry, students are entering the ministry through the top of the funnel. To some degree, this reflects the health of friendship evangelism in HSM.

Small group signups – we use to track this number, the system is also great as it allows us to stay in touch easily with our leaders. We understand that the additional level of commitment to join a small group causes participation to decrease, so we expect this number to be less than the weekend number. Knowing how many students are signed up and/or actually attending can be helpful to make sure students are entering and flourishing at the next step in the discipleship process. This number should grow in proportion to the weekend number.

Salvations/baptisms – we try weekly to share about the life-changing message of Christ, and once a month we have baptisms offered after all of the 4 weekend student services. It is continually important and recharging to see how God is changing lives. We celebrate any student that accepts Christ and gets baptized because it is such an important step across the line of faith. This number is usually compiled from respose cards collected on the weekend.

Text Database – Texting is our primary method of communication with students, and we use SimplyTxt to keep track of all of the students we can contact about our ministry. We have all types of students in this database, but seeing this number grow is a reflection of the lives we are touching. Students can sign up online and be added/removed with a checkbox on the response card.

Blog/social media traffic/friends – This one is still very emerging to me, but it would be nice to see what kind of “buzz” is out there in the wild about your youth ministry. Using Google Analytics, YouTube Insight, Twitter Search and other analytical tools you can see who is viewing your videos, visiting your blog, how many people are checking you out and see what people are saying about your services and their church experience.

There are other numbers that certainly matter (kids doing ministry, offering, distribution of spiritual growth tools, etc) – what matters most to you? What’s missing here?


Enjoyed reading the sometimes painful blog 15 Signs a Church is in Trouble by Perry Noble this morning. Good stuff in here, hope it stings us a bit so we fight against it! Here are a couple of them before you head there for the rest:

#2 — When the church becomes content with merely receiving people that come rather than actually going out and finding them…in other words, they lose their passion for evangelism!

#9 — The church is reactive rather than proactive.

#10 — The people in the church lose sight of the next generation and refuse to fund ministry simply because they don’t understand “those young people.”

#11 — The goal of the church is to simply maintain the way things are…to NOT rock the boat and/or upset anyone…especially the big givers!

#15 — When the leaders/staff refuse to go the extra mile in leading and serving because of how “inconvenient” doing so would be.


Status Update

Little experiment we’re trying out the next couple of weeks during our high school services – asking students via one of our announcement slides to update their social status on Twitter or Facebook mobile right then and there. If a student is willing to share where they are (church), what they are doing (learning about God) or extending an invitation (come with me next week) then we win. Hopefully a social media student evangelism first step. Excited about the potential of reaching significant virtual social circles.


Thought this post on Ministry Best Practices was great. May this never describe us!

2. Evangelism Atrophy

Most churches in America aspire to have evangelism as a driving force but they have lost their passion. Ask every one of them, however, and they will proclaim it as a core value. Yet, a quick look at their checkbook, annual budget and programs will tell the truth. For most churches in America evangelism is a great thought and desire, but in all actuality very little in the way of evangelism is done.

3. Failure To Be Relevant

The Gospel was not written in a cultural vacuum. The words we read today were written thousands of years ago. They still apply today, but we must learn to understand them in their cultural context and then find ways to help 21st century people understand.

Church is no different. We have to do church in a way that connects with this culture otherwise the church simply becomes a huddled mass of cloistered believers hiding from a sin-sick world.

4. Inwardly Focused

The new unspoken mantra of the modern American church is; “It’s all about me.” While no one will readily admit it, all one has to do is look at the ministries and programs. What can be quickly discovered is that most churches build ministries to satisfy the already fed. These programs are good to keep the flock happy. Not necessarily a bad thing, but too much of a good thing ends up being a bad thing.

5. Personal Conflict

Church people have found a way to make an argument out of almost anything. Political power struggles rule the day.


Little talking head video of Jake promoting this week’s evangelism class. Heading into back-to-school mode gives us a great opportunity to encourage and train our core students to start spiritual conversations with their friends and invite them to church.