Lessons-learned-300x208I had the privilege of taking a few of my student leaders to a workshop where they were a part of a Q & A panel. There were youth workers there asking questions about their experience in youth ministry. Now, they had a few of the questions beforehand, but I didn’t prep them nor did I shape their answers. I wanted them to be honest about their experiences good or bad.

It was probably one of the greatest moments in youth ministry for me. Not because they made the ministry look good, because they didn’t. They shared the good and the bad. As the youth pastors in the crowd begin to ask questions and the students begin to answer, a few things became very clear to me.

  • Life change is not in the events we do. It’s what takes place at the event that changes lives.
    We spend a lot of time and stressful hours trying to come up with the craziest and greatest events ever. Which is not a bad thing, but if you’re measuring life change based on it you are probably not going to see the fruit you expected. What became clear to me is that I need to focus my time on what happens at the event because that matters more.
  • We can view failure as a loss or a learning experience.
    The saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” should be a universal slogan for youth ministries everywhere. And I would add “try, try something different.” You must not be afraid to fail in ministry, and knowing what works warrants you to know what doesn’t work. We’ve tried a lot of things that haven’t worked. And because we are not afraid to fail, we find what does work. What became clear to me is our youth ministries are too unique to think that their is a one-size-fits all system or plan. You try, you fail, and you learn. You will find what works in the process.
  • Students remember what we do, more than what we say.
    As the students began to speak about their experiences and what has been the most impactful, none of them answered the teachings or curriculum. It was the selfless act of a leader who took time to walk with them through a difficult time in their faith and/or personal life. What became clear to me is that we need to spend more time being and modeling the Word of God to students and not just teaching it.
  • Be relationally intentional.
    I heard more stories about how God worked through relationships than anything else. What became clear to me is that we need to spend time helping our leaders become more intentional concerning relational ministry.

I learned a lot just listening to our students answer questions about our ministry. I would be lying if I said all of it was enjoyable. They spoke of things we tried that didn’t work and we learned from them. I would encourage you to do the same. Let your students speak honestly about your ministry and learn from them. You will be surprised how attentive they are to the ministry.

Hope it helps,


Myth Busters

 —  January 9, 2015 — 2 Comments


It’s always bothered me that just because somebody says something is true means it’s true.

Which must be why back in the day I loved watching MythBusters. The premise was great: Take urban legends, folklore and stuff we’ve always assumed to be true and put it to the test. What I loved most was that even though each test was meant to determine a “true” or “false” (“busted”) outcome, there was a very likely third outcome. A surprisingly high number of experiments proved to be “sorta true” or “partly busted”. In other words, there may have been some elements of truth in the urban legend, but but the outcome was far from being iron-clad; there was some wiggle room. Add in the fact that there were usually a host of variables, or factors, at play in each experiment and it was fairly easy to get a wide range of outcomes on virtually any experiment.

Youth ministry is ripe with urban legends, folklore and assumptions of our own; stuff we’ve somehow determined to be true that may, in fact, be false…or at the very least only partly true. Or they may be completely true! Variables and outside factors at play? Yep! Which is why I think a savy youth worker needs to view him/herself as a MythBuster of sorts. Here is a short list of things that I think need to be put to the test….are they true, partly true, or false? What variables and outside factors contribute to their validity at any given time in any given setting?

Here’s a short list of examples. I’d love to hear if you’ve put any of these to the test and what the outcome was. And, I’d love to learn what you’d include in a list of your own!

– Today’s teenagers are tired of “attraction” youth ministry.
– Traditional “youth sermons” are ineffective.
– Adolescence is a modern, western, construct.
– At least 60% of teenagers walk away from church after graduation.
– The primary reason teenagers leave the church is due to segregation of YM.
– Small groups are the best way to build community.
– Teenagers have a very short attention span.
– Sexting is normative for most teenagers.
– Social media has greatly hindered teenagers social skills.
– Social media has greatly hindered a sense of community.
– The church is in a state of rapid decline and irrelevancy.
– There are less and less paid youth workers.

That should be enough to get you started!


When you give just a little more, good things usually happen. A little more exercise, a little more family time, a little more quiet time….just a little bit more.

As you head into the new year, here are three areas in youth ministry I think giving just a little bit more might be worthwhile. Why only three? Because I’m hoping you will give these things serious consideration; something you won’t do if the list is twenty suggestions deep.

- A LITTLE MORE YOU. By ‘you’, I mean you and all of your volunteer leaders. More important than a tighter program, a shiny new event or paint on the walls of the youth room is the personal, physical, presence of adults in the lives of teenagers. Make a little more effort to attend their games and choir concerts. Pay a little more attention when they are talking to you. Care a little less about the look and feel of the room and pay a little more attention to the teenagers in the room.

A LITTLE MORE JESUS. More and more church-going teenagers know less and less about the real Jesus. This year, helping your students know Jesus Christ a little bit more would be time well spent.

A LITTLE MORE INTENTIONALITY. Quit doing stuff just because you’ve always done it or because it sounds good at the time. Determine why your youth ministry exists, what you hope to see God accomplish in the lives of your teenagers and plan your youth ministry….every aspect of it….accordingly. Awesome things rarely happen by accident.

2015…Time for a little more!

Christmas Trivia

 —  December 17, 2014 — 1 Comment


In case you are desperate for a time-filler at tonight’s youth group or upcoming Christmas party:

1. What is the name of the Dwarf children’s author in the movie, Elf?
- Miles Finch

2. What is the top-grossing Christmas Movie of all time.
- How The Grinch Stole Christmas($260,000,000)

3. How many english words can you make out of “Christmas”?
- 216

4. How long did it take the Maggi to find the baby Jesus?
- Approximately 2 years

5. When was Jesus born?
- Late September

6. How many real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year?
- 28 million

7. How much did Will Farrell turn down to star in Elf 2?
-$29 million

8. What color are the berries of the Mistletoe plant?
- White

9. What is the exact same about every snowflake?
- They all have 6 points

10. How much does the average U.S. family spend on Christmas…including gifts, food, decorations and cards?
- $749.51


Everybody likes guarantees, and in youth ministry there are few. But if you are hoping to stay involved in youth ministry in a local church setting for the long haul, I know the secret, the silver bullet…guaranteed:


I’ve been traveling the local church youth ministry road for over 26 years, and there have been all sorts of times that I could have exited; “off-ramps” that nobody would have argued if I would have taken. But I refused to exit. Because I’ve simply refused to take an off-ramp, I’m still on the road.

Some typical youth ministry off-ramps:

– Graduating college and need a full-time role. Nobody would blame you for that.
– Getting married and need to make more money. Nobody would blame you for that.
– About to have first child and need a job with more regular hours…
– Child #2 is on the way and my wife would like to work part-time…
– Being burned by the church…
– Feeling tired, on the edge of burnout…
– Being successful and loved by the church so a “promotion” is offered…
– Getting older and feeling a little out of touch…
– Realizing how much money your friends in non-church-based work make…
– Failing, being fired, or in someway becoming disqualified for a season…
– The opportunity arises to teach, write, or speak about YM full-time….

Why do men and women leave local church youth ministry? Because they take an off ramp. Nothing wrong with that.

Want to stay in youth ministry in a church setting for a long time? I can guarantee you a long youth ministry career in one simple step:



You’ve been there. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. “There” is that moment when you admit, and determine to do something about, what you’ve already been sensing for a little while: Things in your ministry just aren’t clicking. You’re frustrated. You’re stagnant. You’re hitting the gas but can’t get traction. You’ve quit hitting the gas and are idle. You know something isn’t quite right, but can’t put your finger on it.

What do you do when things aren’t clicking? Here are a few places I’d look at first.

The Structure:
Oftentimes the various structures we have in place are like old wineskins, unsuitable for the current realities of our ministry. “structures” that may need to be reexamined might include your budget, your schedule, your ministry paradigm and strategy, your physical meeting space, etc.

The Team:
Ministries with healthy structures aren’t always healthy! Because ministry is “of the people, for the people”, the team leading the charge is usually highly instrumental in whether things are clicking or not. And, when looking at the team, the question isn’t, “are things clicking?” so much as it is, “Are we clicking?” Are people being used in their areas of giftedness? Do we trust each other? Can we disagree without being disagreeable? Are we all pulling on the same side of the rope? Do we have a clear sense of purpose? Is anybody a continual source of frustration and conflict?

The Leader:
This may come as a shock, but you aren’t a perfect leader. And your weaknesses affect (and sometimes infect) your ministry as much as your strengths. Because leaders are influencers, a ministry that isn’t clicking requires you to take a look at yourself, too. Are you spending time with the Father? Do you still have a passion for the movement you are leading? Do you still feel called to it? Are you pursuing a life of health (personal, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial)? Do you feel supported by your supervisor(s)?

When a ministry feels stuck, there’s rarely a silver bullet that will get things moving forward again. But I’ve learned over the years that the answer oftentimes lies in the structure, the team or myself.

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1This week we continue with 4 tips on growing your youth ministry!!!

Here are a few things we want you to know.

  1. Kurt and I are committed to keeping the show around 20 minutes in length.
  2. Subscribe to the Let’s Talk Youth Ministry YouTube channel and check out other episodes that you may find helpful.
  3. Email any questions you may have to talkyouthministry@gmail.com.


Hope it helps,

Kurt & AC

Thiago-nascimento-opera-background-speaker-jpg1Ever thought how do I grow my youth ministry? Well, Kurt and I will spend the next few weeks discussing some ways to grow your ministry. So tune in!!!


Hope it helps,

AC & Kurt