If I ask you why you care students are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in “their faith.”  I inquire, “Okay, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yet, if we are honest when we take a step back and look at how we RUN our ministries, it is not always with the end “result” in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups, and do activities. Some of us will say our focus needs to be helping parents disciple their children, others say we need to build student leaders, outreach, share the Gospel, or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries.

1.  When a student leaves us, what will they look like?

I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home, and heads out into the “real world.” Who is that young adult? A fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible everyday, tell others about Christ,  pray often, and enter the mission field?  What is it? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?  The time of the “siloh” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children?  Let’s stop “starting over” every time our kids enter a new phase of life, and instead see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as a someone taking the world for Christ.

2.  How does what we are doing “influence” who they are becoming?

The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time where I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet, still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today,  not in the future. When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on, and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9-years-old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.

These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together. It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15-years-old.  When we do ministry this way we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.

Are you asking these questions?


It’s fun to see all the different graduation pictures coming across Facebook on a daily basis.  This is the time of year for nostalgia, joy and generous hugging.  As a matter of fact so many school districts are represented in Jeffrey’s group that he has spent the last two weeks rotating through morning, evening, and Saturday graduations all over Atlanta.  Due to Hurricane Sandy, our graduations in New Jersey won’t happen until the end of June.  However,  we had a big party celebrating our graduates just last week.  Although, they don hats and robes each have asked nervously, “You won’t forget me right?”



While they are heading out the door of their homes, like a family member,  they don’t really want us to go anywhere.  .  They need to know we are still around as they enter this next phase of growth.

How can we help them as they head off to school?

1.  Help Them Check Ahead:

I know of one church that has a pastor on staff just to ensure graduates get off to college well.  They research churches in the area, and  Christian clubs at the school of each student.  They call ahead to ask leaders to please welcome their youth .  Bible studies  are held for Seniors teaching them how to keep their faith in the midst of new situations.  My ministry does not have the luxury of a full time staff person for this,  however, I LOVE IT!  Don’t send them away “hoping” they will plug in.  Help them with some research, and make ways to get them involved right from the get go.


2.  Become Part Of the Leaving “Process.”

Different students let go differently.  Some will be stuck to your side the entirety of the summer before they go,  while others have had a foot out the door for months. However,  find ways to actively participate in what leaving looks like for each one.  Go with their family to pick out items for their dorm room.  Take them out for dinner the week before they go and tell them why they will succeed.   Be family.

3.  Pay Attention to The First Months:

Some students settle right into the college experience.  For others everything is strange and difficult.  Fall is one of the busiest times for us in youth ministry.  It is easy to forget those that have left.  As they make new friends,  they need to hear from home, and this means us as well.  Put it on your calendar to text them once a week with an encouragement,  and a simple check in.

4.  Actively Keep In Touch:

My Mom’s best friend sent me homemade baked goods on a regular basis my first year of college with a note that read, “I’m praying for you.  I know you’re doing great!”  The State University I was attending had roughly the same number of students as the population of my small rural hometown.  I was intimidated to say the least.  To know someone was thinking of me made me feel closer to home,  and cared for.  Not to mention getting mail in my small box,  made me feel special.  Send care packages,  and handwritten notes often. Get church members involved as well.  Who has a gift for this sort of thing that would love to organize some homemade goodies heading out to those far from home?  On a weekly basis follow up on Facebook, Twitter and email.
The longer they are away,  the less we hear from them.  That’s alright and also a good thing.  This means they are assimilating into this next “grown up phase” of life.  Still,  I think it helps them when we push them out of the nest well.

How do you keep in touch with your Grads?

Moving On

Colton Harker —  May 20, 2013 — 1 Comment

Moving On

It is crazy to believe that the school year is almost over! For student leadership, we like to give our graduating seniors a big going away party, complete with a farewell/thank-you present from our ministry. Along with a few hand written notes and some other goodies, we are giving our seniors Doug Franklin Moving On.

This is the second year that we have given Moving On to our students. We love it because it is more than just a book, it is a resource. It helps students start to answer some of the big questions they have as they graduate high school and move on to the next chapter of their life. Questions like, what should I do? and what does God want me to do?

Moving On helps them answer those questions by walking them through the formula:

Burden + Passion + Vision= Mission

The students we gave the book to last year loved it so we are bringing it back for another run. If you want to pick the book up for your students, you can buy it here.

What are you giving your students for graduation?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

resources-books-for-students-graduation-gift-setI have given graduation gift to graduating classes for years. It has usually been in the form of a Bible or a gift card to a local Christian book store so they could get an item they might want before they leave for college. I have come to the conclusion that they already have a Bible, if the first Bible they get is their senior year I probably have not done a great job communicating the need for a Bible the past 4 to 6 years, and forget the gift card…I want them to have something I think they NEED. This year we are moving towards getting our graduating seniors a few books that will encourage and grow them beyond our walls. These two bundles below each have 3 great resources…$25 worth of books for under $15, you got to like that! What do you gifting your graduates this year?

Thrive, 99 Questions Jesus Asked, and Living With Less Bundle
Graduation Gift Set 2 - Physical
Live Large Be Different Shine Bright, Creative Time With God, and 99 Thoughts for College Students Bundle.

Graduation Gift Set - Physical

article.2013.04.16Graduation! Your amazing students whom you have loved and cared for the past few years are heading out to the great unknown of college, the work force, their parents basement, or a strange combination of all three! But because moving away to college is such a big deal, those are the students we are going to focus on this week.

As students leave your ministry the temptation is to completely set them free and while this is the typical model in most churches, what would it look like if you extended your influence in their lives to cover this challenging transition? Here are a few practical ideas how.

Help them find a church.
For students who move away, the number one in a new city and starting a new life is finding a church home. Oftentimes the struggle is I just can’t find a church like ours, which is flattering, but a dangerous position for a student to be in their freshman year. So help! Google the churches within a couple miles of the campus and see which one would feel familiar to them. Visit their Web site, or give them a call and ask a few questions, and pass the information along to your student.

Here’s an idea: Find out where your seniors are heading for college, and ask a key volunteer to do a little bit of church research for each community and, as a graduation gift, give an Awesome churches near your school packet to each graduate!

Give them a resource.
Help them in this transition with a devotional resource or a letter a day from a member of your church with a verse to encourage them. Okay, we have never seen that one done, either, but how cool would it be! Don’t let students dangle in limbo spiritually; challenge them to continue in the spiritual disciplines and increase their faith in God even when they are in an environment where it will be challenged daily.

Check in periodically.
Being remembered is huge. Too often students leave for school and leave their mentors, parents, and youth workers behind. That is by design, and one of the catalysts that force students to think for themselves as they barrel into adulthood, but it also leaves them vulnerable to attack.

A quick Skype call, a phone call on the weekend, even a weekend trip to see them could be huge. You never know the power of a simple text; it would probably mean the world to your students 400 miles from home.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Over the past few months I have been wrestling with a few ideas about bridging the gap between youth and life out of high school. Our experience has not been as bleak as what many studies show about the number of students leaving the Church and their faith behind after high school but it is still a concern. Part of my wrestle is that the jump from Youth to Young adults is often pretty substantial in style and values even in the same Church. Over the past few years a trend that has begun to happen in the Vancouver area where I live is combining Youth and Young Adults into the same group encompassing grade 8 to age 23.

At first it seems crazy having that large of a spread of young people in the same room, but I have visited the groups and it is actually a really healthy environment. If you think these are small Churches with limited resources, it is just not the case. One of the Churches is around 1000 people and the other around 2500 and both are thriving with this organization. Students are making the jump more seamlessly after high school, becoming leaders and staying connected to the Church in a meaningful way. They have events outside of their weekly gather for specific age groups throughout the year and one of them breaks their summer camp up into 3 age groups as well. I am no there yet, but could be convinced to combine resources to develop one ministry of HS and College.

It seems to be working really well here, but have you tried it? Seen it done? What do you think?

If you want to check out the groups you can right here:

Relate Church  www.relategeneration.ca

CLA Church www.therevolutionmovement.com

-Geoff (Twitter)


So, I’ve been hearing about different strategies to help new students get “plugged in” to youth group. I remember talking about that at the last church I worked at. So I anticipated it… worrying about plugging them in. But strangely enough our youth group didn’t have any problems with it. It just sorta happened. I was pleasantly perplexed, but when I thought about it more… it just made a whole lot of sense. The two things I think contributed to the easy transition were these…

Teach the Gospel every week. Being exclusive is a result of your students feeling in their hearts a need to exclude. To make themselves feel more important, to feel safe. Teach them the gospel week in and week out. How through Christ their needs for love and inclusion are completely filled. It takes their focus off themselves and turns them outward towards others. It works… the students around here are not perfect (I tell them almost every week they are a bunch of rag-tag sinners), but they are more outwardly focused. Not because of guilt, but because they know they are loved. If you remember high school at all that should blow your mind. High School is the most self-centered time of your life. Solution… teach them the Gospel over and over again.
Have older students help out in the children’s classrooms. For years we’ve had a program called Kids Helping Kids. I grew up knowing the older students because they were my old sunday school teachers. Relationships were already formed. So a new 6th grader coming into youth group already knows the older students! A few weeks ago a seventh grader expressed this during a sharing time. Basically he said… I was excited and felt comfortable coming to youth group because I already knew people liked me and wanted me there. Do I need to say more? I think not.
Teach students the Gospel and have older students help in the children’s classes. It makes the whole “promotion” thing into something very natural and easy.
David Misson is the Youth Pastor at Peninsula Bible Church in Willow Glen CA. You can follow him on Twitter: @davidmisson

One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well.

19) Enjoy Everything in MODERATION!!!  There can be too much of a good thing!

20) When you SIN / Fall Away – Confess your sin to God – He ALWAYS forgives

Prodigal Son Story – “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.” “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began. -Luke 15:11-32

21) Work hard at a job you love

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

God gives the birds their food, but He doesn’t throw it into their nests.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. -Colossians 3:17

22) Family first

I don’t care how poor a man is; if he has family, he’s rich.

Nothing can ever take you away from being part of your family.  Love them and care for them – There is no replacement.

23) Change will happen

The key to change… is to let go of fear.

Don’t Forget to INCLUDE God in the change process

This is an excerpt from a letter sent to President Jackson in 1829.  As you may know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed. Martin Van Buren Governor of New York

Don’t be afraid of change – Embrace it and learn through it.  It can be very exciting, it can be very challenging, but change is going to happen.

24) Live Life to it’s fullest

God came to give us a rich and satisfying life.  He has given you everything you need to make the most of your life.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. -John 10:10

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow’s flight, and then young Frank’s tracks meandering all over the field.  “Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again,” his uncle said. “And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that.” Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life.  “I determined right then,” he’d say with a twinkle in his eye, “not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had.”

In Everything Be A LEADER: Don’t let Fear get in the way

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.

Courage is the discovery that you may not win, and trying when you know you can lose.

The world needs leaders. who cannot be bought;

whose word is their promise; who puts character above wealth;

who possess opinions and a will; who are larger than their vocations;

who do not hesitate to take chances; who will not lose their individuality in a crowd;

who will be honest in small things as well as in great things; who will make no compromise with wrong;

whose ambitions are not confined to their own selfish desires; who will not say they do it “because everybody else does it”;

who are true to their friends through good and bad , in adversity as well as in prosperity;

who do not believe that shrewdness, cunning, and hardheadedness are the best qualities for winning success;

who are not ashamed or afraid to stand for the truth when it is unpopular, who can say no with emphasis, although the rest of the world says yes.