Really enjoyed reading this post over on the Generation to Generation blog. They hit on two critical youth ministry concepts that you have to grasp early and often: follow up and follow though! Here’s a clip, head there for the whole article:

Sometimes one of my faults is not following up on things. I really need to write things down, keep things in my Outlook calendar to remind me to do something or to re-visit something I’ve started but not finished. Sometimes I get so busy with a new project that I forget to go back and make sure the old project I was working on is complete or if it needs some further attention. I need to do this with with my high school small group as well. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in presenting a new lesson or new scripture or a new life application that I forget to go back and see how my guys are doing with things we’ve already talked about.

I don’t forget about one of my guys who has been going through a tough time or dealing with a specific issue, I’m great at follow up with that, but sometimes I forget about the general topics we talk about. For instance a few weeks ago my guys asked if we could do a lesson on girls and dating and sex and what the Bible says about these things. We had a great lesson that night and I know I made them really think about how a relationship would look like and how to make sure that they put God in the center of all of their relationships. This past week I got a text from one of my guys asking some very specific questions about what the Bible says about an issue. That should have been my reminder that I need to follow up with all of them and see how they are doing with that topic. I need to build a reminder into each small group time to begin and ask questions about past topics and make sure everyone is still on task with prior topics.

Head over there for the rest of the thought!

You have a porn problem in your youth group whether you know it or not. High school, junior high, college–it’s present at every age. No longer do students have to go looking for porn, because in today’s age, porn comes looking for them. It might not be an easy topic for most students to talk about, and you may need to find a different way to communicate with students in your group, but it’s a topic that needs to be discussed.

Over the past couple months, we have both taken a week to meet with our junior high and high school small groups to discuss God’s view of porn, how to avoid and battle the temptation, and open the door to conversation. Here are some things we did right, and also some things that we learned from:

One of the coolest things I get to do at Saddleback Church is act as the director of our student ministry building that we call “The Refinery.” It has special meaning to me because this building was basically the brain child of one of my student ministry heroes, Doug Fields. The name “The Refinery” was chosen because we are refining young souls for Christ. The building is 50,000 square feet and was designed to look like an old run down refinery mill. I get calls from churches all over the country that are looking into a new student ministry building and they want to know what we did, how we did it and what would we do different. If you’re looking into changing or building a student ministry facility, here are some of my ideas:

1. Build as big a building as you can. Even if it means you cut back on furnishings or stuff you can add later. It’s less expensive to add furniture later than to add on to a building. During the construction of our building as construction costs were going up we cut down on the size of the building. It’s still a huge facility, but in three years we have out grown the building.

2. The Refinery is a ministry, NOT a building. That’s one of my catch phrases that I instill into the staff that work in our student building. The Refinery attracts students to our campus, students who might not otherwise step foot on a church campus. We invite the community to use the meeting rooms and the gym for “non-church” functions. Our local high schools use it for sports banquets and functions. It’s great exposure to students and it definitely brings them back to a weekend church service.

3. Video camera monitoring. We have 41 cameras throughout the building. It’s an easy way for us to monitor the entire building and keep an eye on things without students feeling a negative presence. We can easily see when a teenage boy and girl are “fellowshipping a little too close” and need to be told to “leave some room for Jesus between them.” If an incident happens we have video available to find out what exactly occurred and who was involved.

4. Staffing. This has been an issue for us since the day the building opened. I want staff working in the building to interface with students, talk to them, and play games with them. I want the building to be a place where students can come and have fun, feel safe, and meet friends, all while growing in their faith. We are in the process of trying to grow a volunteer program, but even with a church the size of Saddleback it’s hard to find volunteers.

5. Security. We have some policies in place so that we can insure the security of students in the building. For example, during service times (Saturday night and Sunday morning) the upstairs of the building where all the games are located is off limits to adults. Occasionally a parent will question us on this rule but we just explain its one of the ways we keep students (including their kids!) safe from any predators. Not something that’s easy to talk about but we have to consider all potential issues. We use a LOT of grace first and only resort to calling parents and sending kids home when we absolutely have to. We have to keep order and keep everyone safe, but we also want kids to be able to have fun!

Matt Reynolds is a Security Supervisor with Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and is also the Director of the Refinery — the Student Ministry Building at Saddleback. He is addicted to student ministry and blogs and teaches volunteer student ministry leaders with Steven Orel, who is also on staff at Saddleback Church. Their blog can be found at

I like what Steven and Matt have going over on – a look at youth ministry through the eyes of a “new to youth ministry” guy and a “too old for youth ministry” guy. Their recent post, The Youth Ministry Elevator, was great. Here’s a clip:

  • There are ups: There are a few weeks where my co-leader and I seem to be right on with what God wanted us to talk about with our boys that night. Whether it’s just being able to connect with the guys and keeping them interested in what we are talking about or if they are opening up more about things in their life, I’ll count that as a win.
  • There are downs: There are more moments than I care to admit that things don’t go the way we want. Maybe we just did a lesson on family relationships and I get a call from a mom that she’s ready to ship her kid off to boarding school…Not exactly a high point in youth ministry.
  • There are stops: There are times when I feel like no matter what we do, we are just not getting anywhere fast with our boys. They seem to track well with the stuff we discuss, but then nothing happens — it’s the status quo. This can be the most frustrating part because you feel like all you’re doing is a waste, and you’re not seeing any fruits of your labor.
  • The final destination: Eventually, you get where you want to be going. Two weeks ago in my group we had a breakthrough night — my co-leader and I picked a topic that all the boys connected with, and a few of our more closed-lipped boys really opened up about some struggles they were facing. That feeling is one that keeps us coming back for more in youth ministry.


In order to build a successful youth group, you need to develop a trusting community among your students. It might seem difficult to get to a point where everyone feels comfortable enough to share what’s going on in their lives, but if you set the proper foundation students will begin to open up as soon as they feel they are in a safe and confidential environment. This is the backbone to getting any student to grow in their faith. So how do I build up trust in a group in order to get them to grow?

Students need to feel that they’re in a safe environment
In our youth group, one of the steps we take to keep confidentiality is have everyone sign a covenant. They agree that whatever happens in the group, stays in the group. That way there’s never a worry that someone will hear an issue with their friend, take it to school, and spread it all around campus. If there were ever an issue with that agreement, it would need to be addressed with the group right away to keep things at a confidential level and to show the group how serious we are about confidentiality. Following these measures goes great lengths to helping students feel comfortable about talking openly with their peers.

As leaders, we need to be available for problem solving
Just because your youth group ends at 8:30, doesn’t mean you’re off the clock. If you want your students to be open about things in their lives, you need to make yourself available. Make it known that you’re available all the time, but set some ground rules. For instance, I don’t want them to call me at two in the morning to ask, “What times does group meet tomorrow?” Give students ways to access you. Give them your cell phone number, tell them to friend you on Facebook, and be ready to talk when the phone rings. This is not an interruption to your life; it’s a responsibility you’ve signed up for as a youth leader. One of the things we do with our small group students is to sit down and have a one-on-one dinner with them (or two on one if you have a co-leader). When you do a one-on-one with a student they tend to open up more than they do in a group. When you’re first building a relationship with your students, this is an excellent way to get to know them, and for them to get to know you.

When one person opens up, the rest will follow
Usually all it takes is one person to get real for the rest of the group to open up. When the group sees that someone is letting their guard down, usually the walls fall down around the others, and they begin to peel back the layers of their lives. Oftentimes, leaders sharing their life experiences is enough to get the ball rolling. If students aren’t naturally opening up, you can start the chain by getting real about your life. All it takes is one person to take the first step, and the rest will follow.

Be proactive
If you see a potential problem forming, don’t wait for it to get out of hand. Be proactive in addressing the situation so that it doesn’t get to a point of no return. It is much easier to approach a problem before it starts than after it has time to take its toll. It shows students that you care about them and are active in their lives if you know what is going on with them. Don’t be afraid to start the conversation – sometimes students are just too embarrassed to start it themselves.

Something that might seem trivial or minor to you can be a huge deal to them. As a student leader, being available to use your life knowledge and your experiences to help a student is one of the best ways to show them you care. Relating your experience and your solutions is a way that you can pass on knowledge and growth from generation to generation.

Matt Reynolds and Steven Orel are volunteer youth workers at Saddleback Church. They approach youth ministry from an older (Matt is 50+) and younger (Steven is maybe 20) perspectives. Look for lots more from them in the future – for now you can follow them on Twitter, too!