We’ve all given that one message that got great reviews. Students were complimentary. They even laughed at your jokes – and those laughs weren’t even courtesy laughs. They said they liked it, so that means you did something right, doesn’t it?

Maybe not.

Your goal is a lot bigger than merely giving a message that people like. Your goal is to usher people toward Jesus.

I’ve heard a lot of incredible speakers and can remember a lot of their funny stories, but sometimes, the greater point they made about Jesus was lost in their ability to be entertaining. That means there’s a massive difference between being effective and merely being impressive. How can you make sure you’re doing the one and not the other?

Analyze your motives. If your goal is accolades, you’ll write messages that are designed to bring accolades. If that’s you, it might be time to ask God to break you down a little bit (that’s one prayer where I’ve found God is almost always faithful).

Provide students with a talking point. If you don’t prompt students with an idea, they’ll have nothing to say to you except, “Good message today!” Instead, leave them with a question to wrestle with. Then when you see them later, ask them how that wrestling is going. Make the conversation about their response and God’s call instead of your message

Identify the memorable moments of your program. A few years ago, our media team put together an absolutely incredible announcement video. It was hilarious and it was all anyone was talking about after the service. What got lost in that? Anything that had to do with Jesus.

Make Jesus the star. If the most memorable parts of your program don’t point directly to Jesus, rebuild your program. If your hilarious story doesn’t remind students of Jesus, frame the story differently or let it go altogether.

What do you think? Is it more important to be impressive or effective?

Aaron Helman is on a mission to help end the epidemic of youth worker burnout. He writes Smarter Youth Ministry to help youth workers with their biggest frustrations – things like effective communication. He is also the youth minister at Firehouse Youth Ministries in South Bend, Indiana.

Connecting with Students

Josh Griffin —  October 23, 2012 — 1 Comment

AC had a solid blog post a couple days ago about connecting with students. He is a master relational youth worker in our ministry – definitely some good stuff we all can learn from him. Here’s a clip of the who article, head there for the rest:

  1. Lead by example and with words. – Preach and promote from first hand experience.  Would you buy a Ford from a salesman who drove a Chevy?
  2. Never miss an opportunity to point the student to Christ. – We believe Christ is the answer, the cure, the end all be all. In my experience a lot of the students problems are centered around where Christ is in their life.  You still have to be mindful of your approach but all roads should lead back to Christ.
  3. Never miss an opportunity to listen. – I cannot stress enough how important it is you become a listener.  I know some people are good at it naturally and some of us have to work at it.  It is truly a quiet mega strength that connects you with any student.


Being intentional is a concept we are all familiar with in ministry, and more and more it is becoming a key aspect as we struggle to compete with the busyness of students lives. We value our student’s time greatly and know that we are competing against a lot of other activities that they could be doing. Since we know that a student carving out a 3-hour block of time to come to church is a big deal, we respond by making a big deal of our youth night. Part of making a big deal of our night is that we are intentional from start to finish and we have a reason for every element of the night. Here are a few reasons why you need to really intentional about everything:

For God: I believe that taking your weekly gathering of youth seriously is a priority. To steal a page from Doug Fields’ book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, if something we do does not promote Worship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism or Fellowship why are we doing it? This should be a primary consideration of every element of our youth program and all events and activities we put on. I am not sure that I want to stand before the Lord and say we did something “just ’cause”, because as leaders that is not good enough. We need to point students to God at every opportunity, not just sometimes.

For Students: Modeling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at our youth program and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask. Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it. From start to finish our goal is provide them with opportunities to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents I choose to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?
-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?
-Why do you allow saved and unsaved students in the same small groups? (Actual question!)
-We never had small groups on the same night
-Why don’t you play more games? We used to play dodgeball all the time.

It is pretty easy to defuse a parent when you have a reason for doing what you do. If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand.

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason and a rationale for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

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. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

I know that students are busy these days with extra curricular sports, music lessons, part time jobs and various other activities that lead to their perpetual business but last week it just got out of hand. A student who has been involved in our ministry for several months told me that, regrettably, she could not attend youth anymore. Her explanation for not being able to attend on Thursday nights: I have to ride my other horse! WHAT??? Other horse? I don’t have A horse let alone two. While I was not surprised that this happened, and it’s been a funny story to tell, it has caused me to think about what we can do to approach this issue.

Recently I heard Doug Fields talking about speaking to students and commented that when it comes to preaching “more isn’t better, better is better” and I think that rings true of all programming as well. If we get to see a student in our building one night a week it becomes important that we make the most of that opportunity. We have recently extended the length of our program to 2.5 hours and students show up as much as 3 hours early just to connect and spend time with leaders. We have moved away from multiple events per week to doing one major event per week and trying to do it really well. If we expect students to prioritize being at Youth, we need to prioritize making sure that when they come, we are ready for them. I would hate to be unprepared and waste an opportunity to speak into their lives if we only see them once a week.

So what can we do to deal with our busy students?

1- Don’t be discouraged! Easier said than done, but if an event is poorly attended it’s easy to be frustrated at all the work that went in to it. Just make sure you don’t take it out on the ones who showed up with your disappointed attitude but take the opportunity to give more of yourself to a smaller group.

2- Plan ahead: if its on the calendar far enough out and you promote it well or even better have a successful history with that event, students will schedule around it. Less is more with events, have fewer and make them can’t miss events and students will be there in force

3- Model it: If we are encouraging students to live lives that aren’t jammed packed with activities, we need to be the first to do it. Showing that balance is attainable gives our words more traction when we confront their fatigue and chronic activity.

4- Point them to Jesus: This is the most important thing we can show them, because we need to show students that in the midst of redeeming the world, Jesus found time to be alone, and not with people, or doing His ministry. It’s our responsibility to point our students to His example.

Not every student has two horses to ride, but I am sure you have all encountered students who have forever bouncing from one thing event to another. How are you dealing with it and encouraging students to have balance in their lives?

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.