When I read Josh’s poll about ministry education it got me thinking about who I am and where I have come from. It got me thinking can I integrate my lessons learned from the past to make me a better student pastor?

Now I have a varied background when it comes to how I got to where I am now working with students from grade 8-young adults (18-25). I started volunteering in ministry as soon as I could, when I was in Jr high I helped out with Sunday school, as I progressed to high school I helped out with junior high students when I moved on to college I began to help out with high school students.

My education is also a bit of a mess if you looked at it on paper. I spent time in Bible school obtaining a Diploma in Christian Studies at which time I decided to take time off of school to work in full time camp ministry. I eventually returned to school to take a Wilderness Leadership certificate. My thinking was if I have more technical experience I would become a better outdoorsman. After returning to camp ministry for a brief period I believed God was calling me on to something different. I worked for 3 years in the death care industry, learning simple lessons from working with people grieving. After this I ended up going to school to become a Paramedic, and right after I finished my practicum, training and licensing as a Paramedic I landed in my current position. Now I am working full time with students but also working on my Masters in Christian studies with an emphasis on Biblical exposition.

Now I am sure if a lot of churches looked at this they would laugh and move along in the pile of resumes that came into them for a position, but where I have come from gives me a lot to stand on.

My Christian studies are used daily as I teach and preach, these skills are closely tied to my job. It is without question in my mind that some type of biblical training whether formal or informal greatly helps one in their ministry.

My time in camp ministry and taking wilderness leadership has given me the unique opportunity to take students into the outdoors and use nature to teach about God. I take students whitewater rafting, hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, my goal is to even do a canoe trip or a multi-day wilderness excursion.

Working in the death care industry helped me understand working with grieving people. Now I am not a gifted counselor but students are going through a lot, and sometimes they are grieving. With having experience in this area I can feel comfortable talking to them. I might not know what they are going through but I can navigate through this area of trouble.

Training as a paramedic is useful. At All-nighters I have dealt with concussions, cuts, breaks, sprains and the list will continue to grow, with my understanding of first aid and medicine I am equipped to hand these injuries and it has given me a lot of credit with parents. I would encourage you if you don’t have any first aid, take a class it will increase your credibility with parents in your church.

It is hard to see for many how my journey has ended up where I am at along the road. But when I look at it, I see areas where I have unique strengths that help me in my ministry. I also see where God has taken me to help patch up weaknesses to make me a better servant.

Please take some time and share where you have been. I think it would be encouraging to hear the stories of how God has tailored each one of us to be the servant we are today.

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. You can follow his blog at: kylecorbin.blogspot.comor Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

As a kid I used to dream big, and you probably did too. Not NHL or NBA big. I’m talking hero to thousands big! Someone who would receive global recognition for their efforts and heroism. As I grew up these dreams changed and altered to varying degrees but more or less, I always wanted to be a hero. If I heard on the news that there was a devastating Tsunami with millions injured or political wars over economic crises, I often dreamt of being the one to come up with a solution and being recognized as, you guessed it – the hero. Or, on road trips with family I would stare outside the window watching telephone pole after telephone pole with a glossy look on my face not paying attention to what I was looking at but letting my imagination run wild. Dreaming of someone in need of a knight in shining armor, thinking of those who needed a savior. Wanting to be like Spiderman or Superman there was something in that desired victory. Heroism wasn’t something someone told me to think about, it was just there. It is just there even today.

Why bring up this desire for victory? Because it is likely that many students across the world have these same desires. I have been in church for many years now. And I want to submit this notion that the victory of Christ at the moment of the Resurrection should not be highlighted solely on Easter Sunday. In my studies I’ve come across a picture of Jesus known as the Christ Pantocrator. Pantocrator in Greek simply means “Almighty” or “All-powerful” and the image is one that emphasizes the all powerful victory and strength of Christ at the destruction of sin and death at the Cross and Resurrection. Students who desire victory need to know that they can live in Victory - Christ’s victory. The yearning for victory and the success of the greatest victory is exampled in Jesus Christ. Preaching victory is preaching the Gospel. Students of all ages need to be reminded that the greatest victory has been accomplished and as we dream of victory, the reality is we can have victory in Christ.

If a students desire or vision for victory is never encouraged how does one expect that student to walk victory in their life? If there is no constant reminder that Jesus is victorious, what encouragement do we have to be victorious in a fallen world? The victory of Christ is central to the Christian message. If Christ has not been raised, Paul would argue, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins; in other words, we have no victory (1 Cor. 15:17). As a kid, the desire for victory was always there but I constantly dwelled upon what my victory could look like for my name, fame and glory. That desire for victory in light of the work of Christ enables students to walk in confidence for the name, fame and glory of Christ. The desire for victory is present within us all. Lest we forget that Christ actually was, and is, victorious.

Ryan McCurdy serves as a volunteer at Revolution which is the Youth and Young Adults Ministry at Christian Life Assembly in Langley B.C. You can follow him at Twitter here. 

-GS



Authentic encouragement is an important part of a successful youth ministry.  Here are some tips to effectively encourage students.
1) BE SPECIFIC
Don’t just tell a student that they rock.  Tell them why they rock.  The more specific you are the more encouraging it is to the student.
2) DON’T BE or SOUND CONDESCENDING
It’s very easy to sound condescending when you are trying to be encouraging.  Make sure that you are not talking down to them, and be aware of your tone. When in doubt practice the statement with yourself or another adult leader to test if it is condescending.  I know that may seem weird, but it is better than inadvertently being condescending to a student when you are just trying to encourage them.
3) MEAN WHAT YOU SAY
Students can tell when you aren’t being sincere.  Don’t try to fake it, mean what you say!
4) WATCH FOR THE MIDDLE STUDENTS
Middle Students are the students who are not the rough students, but also aren’t the really outgoing talented ones.  These students are the most neglected, and need the most encouragement.
5) KEEP THE ATTENTION ON THEM
This is not the time to talk about yourself, or sneakily brag about yourself.  This is all about them and for them.
6) ASSUME THEY ARE NOT GETTING ENCOURAGEMENT ANYWHERE ELSE
You may be the only person that ever encourages them.  So go in with that mindset with every student, because it may be true.
7) ENCOURAGE OFTEN
Make encouraging a common practice in your life.  You may not be a natural encourager, but the more you do it the easier it gets.
Derek Parson is the youth pastor at Shippensburg Church of the Nazarene in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.  He has a youth ministry blog:www.youthministrycafe.com.
-GS

What in the world am I doing here? I fumbled my way through the Sunday morning lesson while 50 teens chatted and ignored me completely. I couldn’t do this. Why would God put me here where I was obviously not wanted?

Three years after we left volunteer youth ministry, God called us back in. This time as the leaders.

Our church had been without a lead pastor for around six months, and now their beloved youth pastor was moving on. They needed someone to keep the youth ministry going until pastors could be hired. For some crazy reason, God called my husband and me.

It was one of the hardest, sweetest, trying, and tearful 14 months of my life. It was wonderful.

The world of youth ministry was not foreign to us, but the world of leading one was. Without the proper training, our education came from the trenches. Here’s a little of what we discovered:

Own your ministry.

When we came in, we miserably attempted to recreate all the activities that everyone was so fond of. Every single one of them bombed. After about two months we realized that we had to be who we were. Things went much more smoothly after that.

God will provide.

I was convinced that God had closed that door forever on working with teens, and being back was not really where my heart was. I asked God to give me a love for these students because I simply didn’t have it in me. He was faithful to pour that into me, so much so that as the weight of it came over me, I second guessed that desire!

Establish healthy boundaries.

It didn’t take long for ministry to take over many areas of our lives, blurring some of our boundaries and creating a mess. My husband and I had to learn to respect each other and our differences. We established stronger time boundaries which also helped us in our personal lives.

Youth ministry is hard.

Yes, you know that. But seriously, volunteer sponsors really have no idea! We spent hours and hours helping, working, and serving in youth ministry, but still had no idea how much harder it is to be the guy in charge! It’s extraordinarily hard. And every youth pastor/director should be given something really awesome, like ice cream.

Simple can be good.

With our lack of proper training, an existing full time job, and not as many volunteers as we would like (can I hear an amen?) our students had to fill in the gaps. The amazing thing about this was that they did. And they were awesome! They learned and grew right alongside us. They got to experience the difficulties and take ownership of their ministry.

The biggest thing I learned was that God is in control and working bigger and better things than I can ever imagine.

I am just thankful he let me have a part in it.

Melissa Duggan  just wrapped up a year of working as the Interim Youth Director at her church and is now (again) happily being the support guy in student ministry.



My first year in ministry has been incredibly awesome, incredibly hard, and easily the best year I’ve had yet. It has been so great to look back and reflect on all of the successes and… not successes that I’ve had this year and see how much God has taught me along the way. I thought I would share a few of the big things that I have learned this year.

Look Around. I’m an ambitious person. I am always looking ahead at what is coming next and always looking at achieving my goals. This has been really helpful in my career, but at the same time, really challenging. It keeps me from pausing and embracing where I am. It seems like it’s so hard to be present. I found before I started working on it, I was rarely satisfied with where I was or what I had. It kept me from taking a break and trying to see what God was trying to teach at that moment, to see what opportunities He was trying to present. So I learned to not just look ahead, but around as well. I learned to try to find out the purpose God has for me in this stage of my life. It is far more important to achieve God’s goal for my life than my own.

Ministry is a Rhythm. A couple weeks ago, our church’s head pastor spoke to our Student Ministries Team. One for the most impactful things that he talked about was that ministry is a series of rhythms. Sometimes we take the things we want to spend our time doing (family time, personal time, ministry time, etc.) and prioritize it or faction it out. We try to make sure that at all times, every part of our life is getting attention. The problem is that isn’t how ministry works. Sometimes you need to spend more time in ministry. You will spend 60 hours in the office and have an event every night of the week, but that is okay. Its okay because you will (eventually) have a time where you don’t need to spend more time in ministry and you will have more time to spend more time by yourself, with your family, or whatever you need. Ministry is a series of ebbs and flows; give and take. This is guilt-free ministry.

Be Expectant. I was originally going to title this point as “Trust God,” but I think that “be expectant” does the idea more justice. Trusting God is an action, a great action, but being expectant is a mentality and a lifestyle. The last year was filled with uncertainty. Whether it was the success of an event or my future in general, I was so afraid that God wasn’t going to provide and I focused more on being okay with things not working out than expecting God to show up. I wasn’t praying the “big” prayers because I was afraid I’d be disappointed if it didn’t come through. Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes God doesn’t provide in the ways that we want and that can be disappointing, but He always provides in the ways that we need. We need to be praying those big prayers and expecting God to show up in big ways.

For most of you, your first year of ministry wasn’t very recent… but you are still learning! What are some of the biggest lessons God has taught you during your time in ministry?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Getting into youth ministry is like signing up for a basketball league where every 30 seconds there’s another slam-dunk opportunity. But once you get into it, it feels much more like a soccer game where there’s a heck of a lot of running around before reaching a goal.

Let me explain.

If you’re like me, you do student ministry for those great moments: When a student finally “gets it.” When small group conversation goes deep. When a teenager posts, “Best weekend ever!” on the Monday after the retreat. These are moments that make it all worth it!

But what about all the other in-between moments? The moments that aren’t so exceptional – that are normal. Average. Gray. Like when you have to clean up the youth room after everyone has evacuated. Or when you have to make a hundred phone calls to get the event planned (the one that get’s cancelled because of bad whether). Or when you have to dissect the copy machine because somewhere hidden deep inside of it is a stuck piece of paper… allegedly. What about all the undesirable, underrated and unexceptional tasks of youth ministry?

Now, I get that there are “soccer players” out there – that is, people who love the running around. But my general response is, “This is not what I signed up for!”

But I wonder if God can teach us all something about those gray times in between. Perhaps the exceptional times of discovery in ministry are not the moments we expect.

Oswald Chambers wrote: “It is inbred in us that we have to do exceptional things for God; but we have not. WE HAVE TO BE EXCEPTIONAL IN THE ORDINARY THINGS, to be holy in the mean streets, among mean people, and this is not learned in five minutes.”

 I am guilty of wanting five-minute fixes. Of asking for humility and success and patience… and wanting them all right now. To some extent, we are all tempted toward the big, grandiose occasions, when people point and say, “What a life-changing leader! What an incredible ministry!”

But what if our best leadership today was picking up after students? What if worship found it’s way into filling out finances? What if God was waiting to meet with us each day as we move between meetings?

And what if God’s most exceptional gifts to you today in your ministry were hidden in the common wrapping of everyday tasks?

Sam Townsend works on the Training and Programming Team at YouthWorks, where he helps develop materials to point teenagers toward Jesus. After the workday, Sam is a youth group leader, a seminary student and a conversationalist over half-price appetizers.



If you have worked in a rural context for more than five minutes, you can see that things are a little different here. The towns are smaller farther apart, and seem to operate at a slower pace. Do not let all this deceive you. You have not stepped into 1940, 1960, or even 1990. You have not stepped into a smaller version of some small city. Relationships and rivalries run very deep. Resources can be as slim here in a rural context as you would see in many urban situations.

Despite all the differences, many things are similar – parents are still parents, and students are still students. Students still have many of the same struggles as their urban and suburban counterparts, such as drugs, teenage pregnancy, bullying, and truancy. Students still hurt. Parents still try and fill every spare moment with an activity, club, or sport.

With all these challenges before you, many will ask? Why bother with Rural Youth Ministry?

Here are 4 good reasons to say “Why Not Rural Youth Ministry?”

1) Much of North America is Rural

Many refer to Rural communities as “flyover country”, giving the impression that the Rural areas do not matter. However, large portions of North America are represented when you say the word Rural. This includes a lot of students that attend small Rural schools. The county where I live has about 1100 7th-12th grade students scattered among three school districts.

2) Even though many small Rural churches are closing, there will be Rural churches around for many years to come.

I have worked as a Youth Pastor in Southern Baptist Churches for 13 years. The largest majority of churches in my denomination are under 500 in attendance. I have heard it said that the average size church in the SBC is about 350. This means that for every mega-church, there are many more small churches of less than 100, or even less than 50. Many other denominations have very similar numbers.

3) Many Rural youth ministries have smaller numbers of students, allowing more individual attention.

One of my favorite parts of Rural Youth Ministry is the opportunities that I get to invest in the lives of students in one-on-one or small group interactions. With a smaller ministry size, I can slow down and focus on one or two students that really need that help through a tough situation or rejoice with them in successes. I also get to experience a lot of “firsts”. There is a student that I have had the pleasure of being with the first time he left the state of Indiana (…and we live 20 minutes from the state line) and the first time he ever flew on an airplane.

4) We are given the mission and commission to “Go into all the world”  - and this includes Rural areas.

One of the members of the leadership team at my church has said many times over the last few years “God told us to go, that means we need His permission to stay”. In many Rural areas there are so many needs that could be met with a few small resources, a person with a specific skill set, or a person willing to take the time to help another pick up the pieces of a broken life. The Gospel is needed in Rural areas just as badly as in the prisons, urban centers, or the wealthy suburbs. They are people that Christ died for that need what only He can give.

Brent Lacy is a Rural Youth Pastor in Western Indiana that lives in the “Covered Bridge Capital of the World” with his wife and 3 kids.  You can come connect with him at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference, where he will be helping to lead the Rural Youth Workers Connect Group. You can also find out more about his book Rural Youth Ministry: Thrive Where You’re Planted at SimplyYouthMinistry.com

I grew up in a church where disapproval was an often-used method of keeping us teens in line. If we got too rowdy during the church service, people would shoot disapproving looks our way till we quieted down. If we’d be too lacklustre in worshipping, we’d get ‘the look’ as well.

The youth leaders had the disapproval method down to a pat too. When they encountered us doing something we weren’t supposed to do (like smoking, using bad language or pda’s ), the disapproval would be clear from their faces, their words and their whole demeanor.

It worked. But it also had an unintentional result: we experienced not just disapproval over what we did, but also over who we were. At least, I did.

I wasn’t a bad kid as a teen. In all honesty, I was doing pretty well in terms of faith. I took it seriously, tried to read the Bible and pray, brought friends with me to youth group and everything.

Still, I always felt I wasn’t good enough. There always was this disapproval when I did mess up. I distinctly remember hearing the words ‘I’m disappointed in you, I never expected that from you’ a couple of times and it hurt me deeply.

It also reinforced a gospel of performance in me, something I struggled with even years later. The thought that even my best wasn’t good enough to please leaders whose opinion mattered to me, influenced my image of God, as I figured he’d feel the same way.

Disapproval isn’t necessarily wrong, as long as it’s aimed at the behavior and not the person. But too often, disapproval is our knee-jerk reaction as youth leaders when we’re confronted with ‘bad behavior’ from our students. Too often we show our disapproval, our disappointment even, before we show grace and try to understand the ‘why’.

No matter how shocked or disappointed we are at the behavior of our students (especially when it concerns those students we don’t expect it from!), our first reaction should be love and not judgment. Our first reaction should be to understand, not to be heard in our anger or frustration. Our first reaction should be to show kindness and mercy, not a desire to point out something students will already know in all likelihood anyway.

Disapproval can have lasting effects in the lives of our students. They’ll feel weighed, measured and found wanting.

On the other side, acceptance and unconditional love will have lasting effects as well. When we live out God’s mercy and love, we’re showing them a powerful image of God, one that may impact the rest of their lives.

Disapproval or love, judgment or understanding, which one will you choose?

Rachel Blom is Dutch of origin, American at heart and ultimately heaven bound, but currently residing in the south of Germany. She’s an author and speaker and a veteran youth ministry enthusiast. Find her at Youth Leaders Academy where she blogs on everything youth ministry or on Twitter.

-GS