Abraham Lincoln once observed, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

That’s a great concept, especially when in a free market culture we’re used to “Apple vs PC,” “Coke vs Pepsi,” “McDonalds vs Burger King,” and so on. Even in Christendom, you can find yourself consciously or unconsciously at odds with another church across town. We talk a good game about how we’re all a part of the Kingdom together, yet still feel tense when someone is missing from our row of chairs and tags themselves online in a row of chairs at another church.

Aren’t we all supposed to be serving Jesus together?

We know that, right? Maybe that’s what keeps us from actually doing it.

It’s why I’m a huge fan of what Earl Henning wrote recently on his blog. Here’s a quote:

20140223-162632“Early in my youth ministry career, I learned something kind of bizarre. I tried to connect with respected youth leaders in my area in hopes of gaining a little help from their years of wisdom. I had hoped they might take this new guy under their wing to help expand some influence in our large community of lost teens.

Instead, what I learned was that they were similar to football coaches. They had their successful ministry playbook and did their best to keep it private. No follow up emails or phone calls, no follow-through on their “Yeah man, let’s get together” after an unexpected bumping in to. It seemed that this was their home field and they weren’t about to let some small-time coach come in and make their fans switch jerseys.”

Earl Henning

Check out Earl’s wicked, cool beard. If you ever meet him, ask him for the back story to it.

Earl goes on to observe how since he’s taken the other approach and reached out to younger peers he’s seen some benefits of it:

  • Venting!: “Consider it counseling without having to lay on a couch. And honestly, who can understand you better than someone who is fighting the same battle?”
  • A community playbook: “It took me a while to get used to this, but when my local youth pal and I started to share playbooks it was amazing. We’ve shared message ideas, stage design ideas, volunteer training ideas.”
  • Power in numbers: My buddy and I have kids who go to the same schools and live in the same neighborhoods. Honestly, why shouldn’t we work together to build a mega-team of soul-winners?”

You really need to read all of what Earl offers.

3D man near red question markThat said…

  • In what ways have you felt a conscious or unconscious tension with other churches/ministries?
  • Do you sense greater “rivalry” of “churches vs churches” or “youth ministry vs youth ministry?”
  • Is it fair to assume that if you’ve invested years into a student that they shouldn’t just “up and leave” one day to go to another youth group?
  • How do you view other youth workers around your city – as a network of peers who do what you do (but everyone keeps a safe distance from) or as true co-laborers that you can share life/ministry with?

Please chime in. Let’s learn from each other on this. Thanks!


Was thinking this week about the “most importants” in youth ministry and came up with 3 things that every youth worker must strive to master. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized these are to some degree unattainable, but what we still must strive for every day. Here’s what I think youth workers must master – add yours or an observation in the comments:

God’s Word
Central to our ministry is the Word of God. It must be read, studied and poured over – a hunger for the Word has to be central to our ministry and heart. The only problem is that it can quickly become an elusive or altogether forgotten goal for us to hit. Too many youth workers, myself included, at times struggle to consistently spend time researching and studying the Bible, much less hold a fierce command of it. If you are going to have longevity in youth ministry, we have to be centered in His Word.

People are at the very heart of what we do every day in youth ministry. Volunteers, staff, students, elders, parents – all play a critical role in youth ministry. You will never master interpersonal relationships, but you have to work at them every day. People are nuanced and complicated, each has to be handled appropriately and with love. People will continue to challenge you every day of ministry. And just when you think you have everyone figured out, expect a curveball.

You have to be humble to make it in youth ministry. Students have an incredible talent to sniff out the least bit of inauthenticity. Being grounded in the Word and having a heart for people is what will remind us of our place in God’s kingdom. It isn’t our ministry, it is His ministry. It isn’t our work, it is the Spirit’s work. We get the privilege of leading, and ultimately serving what He is doing. What an honor that is – which makes it all the more frustrating when our ego gets in the way. You must do battle with pride every day and serve with a humble heart.

What else do we as youth workers need to master, but never will?


Its been a few days and I think I have caught up on most of the sleep I missed on the weekend at Simply Youth Ministry Conference and I can say with certainty that it was worth all the overtiredness. I have been a full time Youth Pastor for eighteen months now and SYMC 2011 was my first taste of a full on Youth Ministry conference. It was an incredible experience and I have returned home with a greater understanding of just how blessed we are to be called to Youth Ministry. My highlights of the conference could be summed up in these three words:

Inspired: From the worship times, to the general sessions, SYMC nourished my soul from start to finish. Doug Fields opening night sermon was so incredibly intricate and thoughtful I can’t stop telling people about it and worshiping with three thousand men and women sold out to the cause of Christ is an experience I will not soon forget. There were so many elements that amazed and encouraged me in my ministry and if I am honest, there were some elements that did not go ever as well I am sure they were planned, which for those of us in the trenches it’s encouraging that its doesn’t happen to just us.

Family: From the beginning of the weekend, Doug and everyone else talked about family, from the platform speakers, to worship bands, to the skit guys, the conference was about family. What was incredible is how that concept flowed out into the lobby where youth workers just connected with the selfless inclusiveness that only youth workers can. It happened in the packed restaurants, the sack chair lounges and the elevators where people engaged one another and shared a laugh when the elevator alarm would go off because it was overloaded. The excitement of a common experience of the conference and even more so of the common calling to build the Kingdom by doing Youth Ministry was incredible.

Equipped: Part of my draw to SYMC this year was that I was excited to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best YM minds in the world and I was not disappointed. I did an eight-hour deeper learning track on Theology and Youth Ministry and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time and I am a better youth pastor for going. The options were endless and no matter where you were at educationally, emotionally or vocationally coming into the weekend, there was a session that was thoughtfully crafted for you. The intentionality of the breadth of learning opportunities was remarkably thorough.

As I sit back and think about the weekend, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed with the blessing I experienced in being there, but also the immense task that I have to now undertake as I take what I have learned and practically apply it to our ministry. I am up for the challenge, feeling renewed and revitalized that I am not alone in this. If you have never been to a conference like this before I urge you to consider making it a priority to get to one next year, you will not regret it.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. You can, too! See how right here.