I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there as well.

A young person arrives to your youth group for the first time with one of their friends, a regular. Your eyes light up. A NEW KID! She is strangely familiar with what goings on, even paying attention to your inspirational talk, but you just read that as unbridled teen confidence.

Then, over the usual youth minister/teen small talk you discover a disturbing fact. This bubbly teen normally goes to another church. What do you do?

I wish there were an easy answer. I wish there was a chapter in the youth minister’s handbook which gave you a step-by-step guideline.

If we’re honest, this can be an issue we sidestep since, if a teen from another church comes “every so often” then it bumps up our attendance. If we’re underhanded then these types kids can be sort after and pursued by our flashy advertising and subtle “encouragement” to “check out what we do.” But as servants of Christ, we must be guided by openness and honesty; for the teen and both churches. Deception or lying will do no one any good.

The first thing to be determined are the intentions of the teen. Is she just checking out the youth group, but has no intention of “jumping ship?” Second, you need to work out the situation of the home church. Is she visiting because your church provides something which her church, for whatever reason, doesn’t or can’t? Are there underlying problems which have prompted her to consider moving? Third, you should try and discern the teens heart.

Over time, does it become clear that she is just wanting to feed her personal preferences?  Will she attend whatever group is more exciting or stimulating and given week? Given some of these answers… Do you ever drive her away from your front door? I don’t think so, but we should be aware of some of the land mines which lay ahead. For, eventually, the hard questions will need to be asked.

  • Where is she going to connect and serve, using the gifts and talents which God has given her?
  • How does her indecision effect those around her? Does it decline their commitment and set a negative example for younger kids?
  • By going to both group, but not grafting herself to either, is she getting adequate pastoral support?
  • Is she weakening one or both faith communities by not committing to either?

For double dipping youth groups is not a positive long-term option for the teen or either church.

Has this ever happened to you? How do you handle this situation?

Importantly, do you contact the “other” church and how does the conversation begin?

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


  • 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.

I just finished reading “The Contemplative Pastor” by Eugene Peterson.

Whilst speaking about the nature of pastoral work, the author makes the significant point that a difference exists between a job, a profession and a craft.

  • A job is just that… A job. An occupation. Something you do for a pay check. You find out what is expected and you do it. You don’t extend yourself beyond what is anticipated.
  • A profession is beyond a job. In a profession you’re working for and towards something. Behind a profession there is a driving force, be it rising up the corporate ladder or something more profound.
  • A craft is undertaken amidst a medium which you honor through your efforts. You want to make your desired outcome significant.

What happens when we hold up these three terms against the backdrop of youth ministry?

There are parts of youth ministry which aren’t glamorous. Doing attendance spread sheets isn’t something highlighted on too many youth ministry recruitment posters, but it’s a part of the job.

But youth ministry is more than merely a job.

We all know, in ministry, you should be working with something bigger in mind. We want to reach teenagers for Christ. We want to see young people develop their God given talents and skills. We want to see the Kingdom grow.
In youth ministry we are driven by more than the desire for a wage at the end of the month. Just as a lawyer should be driven by the desire to see justice, or a teacher driven by the desire for others to learn, we are to be inspired by the Spirit of God and given the example of Jesus to follow. We are sent out with the words of the Great Commands and the Great Commission ringing in our ears.

But… Is youth ministry beyond a profession?

Is youth ministry a craft? I think so.

We work in the extraordinary mediums of young people and life change. We want to honour those who God has placed in our care. We want to allow God’s Spirit to transform the lives. Do you look at your ministry as a job, a profession, or a craft?

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




I’m currently on holidays… and I have a problem.

Like me, you have probably heard a lot about appropriate boundaries and taking sufficient annual leave. Each year, in our January staff meeting, we all lock in our holidays for the next 12 months. The problem, which I assume I am not alone in confronting, is the timing of my current holidays.

At the moment, in Australia, we are in the middle of a school term. Is it reasonable for a youth pastor to take time off during school term? (To be clear, I usually take time off when kids are also on vacation.) Is it reasonable for a church to “strongly suggest” that you cannot take a week off at another time?

I’m genuinely torn about the issue. I have known/worked for churches where this isn’t an issue and known others where it has caused major fallout. Trouble is, I can make an argument for both sides. If you plan ahead, let everyone know and adequately resource others, is there a problem? If you use this time to evaluate the ministries reliance on your personality and utilise this time as a chance to train up others, are your holidays reasonable? Additionally, if you have a jam packed “holiday window between terms” through camps/mission trips and forward planning, is it fair to go six months (or more) without time off? Alternately, there are plenty of “down times” in youth ministry due to the layout of the school year. Should it be your responsibility to arrange that your holidays fall in this time frame?

If other jobs, retail particularly, can dictate time frames where their employees cannot take leave (usually November to mid-January), why should those within the church be immune to this reality?

I would love to know how youth ministers and churches have dealt with this issue.

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

Who comes first, the youth minister or the young people?

Many churches would respond with the first option… The youth minister.

As a result, they hire a youth minister (usually part time), and expectantly hope him/her to bring about revival. To save the church. To fill the pews with families and young people.

I don’t think this should be the case. A youth minister is not a church revivalist.

Sure, any youth minister will use the gifts and skills God has given them to reach out, nurture and disciple young people in the gospel. But if a church is going to grow, it shouldn’t come out of the youth minister’s office alone. Instead it should come from the faithful people within the church loving their community and inviting them to partake in the life giving message of Christ. The ministry of reaching people never ceases to be the calling of the entire congregation. Once a church is ready to accept and include teens and young families, then they can look to bring in someone to assist their ministry desire.

The youth minister should never be the hired gun that saves a church. Unfortunately, too many job descriptions thrust before youth ministers, desire just that. If a church is not reaching out to families and young people, but remaining in their holy huddles, then there may be a reason the church is on life support… But what if your church already looks at you like a revivalist?

1 – Get plugged into a support network. Lean on others who are familiar with the hard road of energising people to do what God has invited them to be a part of and know the weathering it can produce.
2 – Keep an eye out for those who are sharing the gospel and serving the church. Pray that their example rubs off on the rest of the church.
3 – Most importantly, don’t forget why you ARE called to minister at that place. Keep being faithful to growing young people on the life changing transforming of Jesus.

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

I once lead an evening service at my home church and plainly said “I don’t know”. I had just taken over from my long-term youth minister and was out of my depth. I was in my first ministry position and felt I had no clear vision or direction for the juggernaut that was placed in my lap.

We’ve all been there. Probably more than once.

When attendance at youth group seemingly drops for no reason…
Or the reason teens seem to be dropping out seemed unavoidable…
When your small group is on the brink of you and two others… again…
When a parent asks you “Why doesn’t my kid believe in Jesus yet?”…
When a kind congregant ponders “Where are all the young people you’re meant to be working with?”…
When your fears of TOO MANY kids attending are realised (a great problem!)…
When you feel like you’re barely holding it together…
When your well laid plans for the week/quarter/year are tossed into chaos…
When you look out at a church service and sense nothing but empty chairs…
When great people move on and don’t seem to be replaced…
When you’re patiently waiting on God to reveal the next step…

At these times, and a thousand others in ministry, you look skyward and whisper “I don’t know…”
At these times you want to shout at the heavens “God! What are you doing?”
When you gaze into your answer depository and find it’s as empty as Old Mother Hubbard’s cupboard.

Keep trusting God.
Know that He is still faithful.
Hold firm that He is still good.
Draw near to God.
Keep expectantly waiting.

I don’t write this because I’ve got it figured out. I don’t. In fact, I seem to be quite a distance from possessing many of the answers that will allow me a better nights sleep, but stay true the calling God has placed you your life.

It’s worth pressing on, through these “I don’t know times” times, to see what God has in store. Quite often, the answer God has isn’t the one you’d meticulously crafted anyway…

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

GUEST POST: The Speech

 —  January 22, 2011 — 1 Comment

Last night I watched a re-run from the TV show “The Practice” that had this scene that included a powerful speech that inspired this post to you today. Every so often one of the attorneys would need “the speech” to remind them that they should persevere. No matter if they are a prosecutor and are staring injustice in the face, or on the defensive side of the judicial system and troubled by an ethical dilemma, they eventually ask to hear “the speech.”

It reminded me of youth ministry – sometimes we need “the speech” too. So, for those who are nearing the end of the year and require “the speech” to keep going… here you go.

Dear servant of the Lord Jesus,

I don’t know you, and really, I don’t have to. You may be tired and ready to chuck it in… But you are making a difference. In your church or school, to the kids that God has called you to shepherd over, you are making a difference.
You may not think so. Or feel like it right now.

But you are.

You may be in a place of discouragement by your own design or by the actions of someone else… Keep going. You may feel overwhelmed or dangerously alone in your struggles… Don’t give up. You may be entrenched in an unsupportive congregation or under a problematic Senior Pastor… Hold on. Please.

You have a magnificent privilege in serving God.

Remember what He has done in your life. Remember when He has shown Himself to be faithful. Remember when He has come through. Remember the times in your life and ministry when God has shown you that He is worthy of your awe, praise and entire life. And remember what He has called you to do. To love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. To love others like yourself. To go and make disciples in His name. So don’t give up.

Following Jesus works and telling this truth to teenagers is an amazing privilege (even if working for His people can be trying!). When a teen understands the Gospel for the first time or makes a breakthrough in their faith journey, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. When you persevere with the kid who requires a lot of attention, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. When you pour your life into your leaders, you make a difference for the Kingdom of God. If “the speeches” aim is to tell “why we do what we do,” then the bottom line is this… God has called you to speak of the great things He has done for the salvation of the world.

Do so fearlessly. Despite the obstacles and difficulties. Because you are making a difference.


PS. When I need it, can you give me “the speech?” I’d really appreciate it. And so will your fellow workers.

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