Movies may require you to be silent when you’re watching them in a theater, but they can often create more conversation than we’re prepared for afterward.

Have you seen the trailer for the movie “Heaven Is For Real” yet? Here’s a glimpse:

Greg KinnearThere is even a free movie screening for ministry/education peeps:

Just in case you don’t know, the book was written by a pastor who shared about conversations he had with his son. Here’s a YouTube video that summarizes it:

I mentioned in a previous post about the forthcoming movie “Noah” that we have to be prepared to talk about these topics, whether or not we’d go see the movie ourselves. There’s a reason why Hollywood is spending a lot of money on hiring solid actors to present these themes. They know that culture-at-large will swoop in and take it in.

So… how do we prepare for that?

For example, how can this conversation be less about what we “think” heaven is like (which everyone has an opinion about) and more about what it actually is?

  • What questions should we be asking ahead of time?
  • Is it worth doing a sermon series on heaven and hell prior to this?
  • Do you believe in the content of the movie yourself?
  • Will you take your students to see this

It never occurred to me what would happen if I couldn’t attend youth ministry one night because of an emergency.  I had always made plans for when I went out on vacation; however, what would happen if I got sick or my family needed me.  I was finally put in that situation during the time of my wife’s pregnancy with our son Matthew.  I not only had to plan for the dates I thought I would be out, but just in case our son had come early.  I had to answer the question:


In youth ministry you need a back up plan because it will help you prepare for times when:

  • You are sick
  • Something happens in the community
  • The church has a big announcement
  • Weather disruptions
  • Family Emergencies

Your team, parents, and teens depend on your back up plan, because it gives them stability in moments of change.  If there isn’t certainty in what to do, anything can and will happen.  To build a successful back up plan you need to:

  • MAKE IT SIMPLE: If the power went out, leaders didn’t show up or your message got magically erased what could you simply do with the students.  For us the answer is FORM SMALL GROUPS that pray together, share life together and pray for one another.  This is already at the core of what we do in our ministry.  If you keep your plan simple and it stems from the foundation of your ministry leaders will have an easier time adapting to the sudden change an emergency will bring.
  • COMMUNICATE IT TO EVERYONE:  Make sure everyone on your team knows what to do.  That means everyone knows who is leading the ship in your absence, and what they need to do if they are in charge.  Provide an accessible document, cover this in leadership meetings and constantly grow leaders.  Great communication leads to effective preparation.
  • PRACTICE IT: You need to practice your backup plan so that people get a feel for what it looks like.  Great times to practice a backup plan are in the summer, during a weekend you know that there will be competition (i.e. Sunday after Thanksgiving) or when you plan to go away.  This way you can troubleshoot any errors in the plan.

No one likes to think that they need a back up plan because it can mean a drop in excellence.  But, the best youth ministries are the ones that prepare for moments that may never come.  Your ministry should not be a program, it needs to be a movement.  Make sure it can move with your life, your teens and your community’s.

What does your back up plan look like?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

It’s one of the most important aspects of youth ministry.

And yet, for a lot of us, it’s one of the most challenging.

I’m not talking about teaching your 8th grade guys what the Bible says about sex. I’m talking about teaching the Bible to teenagers . . . period. The way I see it, youth ministry is primarily about helping teenagers know God and to be transformed as a result.

The hands down, best way to do this is through teaching students the Bible. After all, this is the main reason God gave us the Bible. It’s God’s most complete way of revealing to us his character and his ways.

If this is true, it becomes imperative that we not only teach the Bible, but that we teach it well. Essentially, when we teach the Bible as it’s meant to be taught, we’re leading teenagers to encounter God. And when we’re most effective at leading students to encounter God through the Bible, we’re simultaneously most effective at setting them up for meaningful life change.

But the fact still remains that teaching the Bible can be intimidating, confusing, or for many of us, deeply uninspiring.

I want to change that. That’s why I wrote “The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible.” This isn’t a dry instruction manual. It’s not overly academic. I don’t spend a lot of time making the case for why you ought to be teaching the Bible. (I mean, c’mon. You know it’s important.) What the book does, however, is pretty simple:
• It explains exactly what the 7 Best Practices are
• It makes the case for why each of the 7 Best Practices is important
• And it gives you a TON of practical examples of activities and strategies so that you can IMMEDIATELY apply the 7 Best Practices to your Bible teaching.

In case you’re curious, here are the 7 Best Practices:
• Best Practice #1: Engaging With God
• Best Practice #2: Prepare Well, Teach Well
• Best Practice #3: Context Is Key
• Best Practice #4: Embrace Unpredictability
• Best Practice #5: Plan For Interaction
• Best Practice #6: Teach For Application
• Best Practice #7: Know Your Role

Here’s the deal: I think most people want to be better Bible teachers, but don’t really know where to start to gain the skills. My entire purpose behind writing this book is to make it super simple for youth workers to become dynamic and effective Bible teachers. Nothing more, nothing less.

The question I hope you’re asking is, OK, where can I check this out? You can sample the first chapter and learn lots more info by simply going to this website. And if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at

Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360. Andy has worked in youth ministry for 13 years developing Bible study resources for several youth ministry organizations. Andy is a volunteer youth leader with his church’s youth group, leading small groups, and speaking and teaching whenever he gets the chance. Andy blogs about discipleship and spiritual formation daily at

See You in 7

 —  March 30, 2012 — 4 Comments

I close each youth service with the phrase “See you in 7.” It reminds kids that our ministry is here every week for whatever they need and also lets them know I’m inviting, even expecting, them to make church part of their life and routine. Yet it’s also a sometimes-painful reminder to me that another service is right around the corner, no matter how this one turned out.

Creating a compelling youth service or meeting every week can feel weighty. Just as you collapse to recover from one, you have to prepare to do it all again. My team has been discussing a new strategy to get things accomplished with such short turnaround. Our services are on Saturdays and Sundays, so you may have to adjust the days below to fit your program.

“See you in 7″ falls from my smiling mouth to my ringing ears each week. But with the right preparation and goals, it’s an achievable task.

Delegate —What tasks do you need to dole out to ensure success? For that matter, what are you even doing next week? Make sure all the projects, videos, music, humor, and handouts have an owner; then be confident that people will follow through. Ideally, list program elements on a whiteboard so a few volunteers can start moving on their assignments. For me, as the primary communicator, Tuesday is an important day to get a jump-start on message preparation, too.


Do—This is the day to really accomplish things. Shoot the video. Buy prizes. Test out games. Whatever needs to happen for the weekend, do it on Wednesday. As I write this, a student is preparing a testimony to share, a volunteer is editing video, and my sermon draft is halfway complete.

Done—Today it all comes together. The student outline is finished, slides are made, videos are selected, handouts are copied, and anything that was ordered is ready to go. By the end of Thursday, the sermon is largely done and in the hands of a few trusted friends for review.


Dream—You must make space for greatness and creativity, so force yourself to finish things early instead of succumbing to the uncontrollable chaos of last-minute details. That cushion also allows you to work ahead a bit and be intentional about relational ministry.

Originally appeared in the November/December issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

We have pretty high expectations of the leaders in our student ministry as I have written about previously and it’s to the benefit of our students and the effectiveness of the small groups that we do it. We are beginning process of review and meeting with all our leaders from this year and asking them to consider whether or not they want to lead next year. Many will remain and a few will leave, but those returning will hear 4 criteria that we ask them to sign off on doing week in and week out for the next school year.

Commit: This is the foundation of all of it, asking leaders to be there every week, present and engaged with their students. It’s a big ask, but worth it when leaders honor it. We fully recognize that there are circumstances that might cause a leader to miss a week, but asking them to make mentoring high school students a priority means that they will be far more diligent about being there. Sporadic attendance from a leader can be the death of a small group, as momentum, trust and relationships are lost, not only that it can really be detrimental to other leaders as well, who have to pick up the slack or lead two groups.

Call: This might be the toughest thing to get leaders to do regularly, but calling their students is so important. That mid-week phone call tells a student they are wanted, memorable and worth the effort. It might be the best part of their week, even if the awkwardness of the conversation might indicate otherwise. Calling students is more important than leaders realize, the fruit of which is regular youth group attendance and a closer relationship with their leader. We ask our leaders to set aside an hour per week to call all the members of their small group.

Pray: We ask our leaders to pray for their students and when they call them, ask what they can pray for them about and let them know they do pray for them each week. Put yourself in the shoes of a high school student and someone you respect greatly, calls you each week to see how they can pray for you. That is powerful stuff!

Prepare: We give our leaders curriculum each and every week, but we ask that they read it, know it, study the word and come prepared to teach it. There are few things worse than an ill prepared small group leader stumbling through the questions and fumbling through their bible in front of their group as they are seeing it for the first time. Leaders need to lead their group and being prepared is a key part of that.

These are four non-negotiable expectations we have and you could add more but I chose to focus on these four because they have a tremendous impact on the student’s spiritual growth. Its important that we see ourselves as the advocates for our students needs, and what our students need are leaders who are willing do these things, and do them consistently well.

What are your non-negotiables?

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.

Last summer was incredible so this summer we’re hoping to build on what we learned and have another great break. Here is a little insight behind what HSM has planned for this summer. If you haven’t seen the calendar and list of events yet, you can check it out here:

All about relationships
The summer is all about hanging with students. We embrace the beauty of time off from school and the different pace around the church office. Summer = relational ministry goldmine.

Free, free, free
Summer camp is the signature event to kickoff the summer and the only one that costs money – after that every event is totally free. In the past we have had events that each charge admission, and over time these add up to frustrated parents and limiting participation.

Low prep time
The events on the summer calendar are meant to be low-prep time events. They are basically excuses to do relational ministry. Prep for Free Coke Friday? Grab some frisbees and a cooler of Gatorade. Done!

Regular recurring events
Want to remember the summer schedule? Every event happens 7 times this summer. 7 Midweeks, 7 Free Coke Fridays, 7 Bagels & Bibles. If you come to one, you can figure out the schedule for the summer. If you’re free on a Friday, you know what we’re up to that day.

Lots of Bible time
One of the big emphasis of our summer is plenty of time in the Word. One of the advantages of no small groups and no high school classes is that we have blocks of time and regular opportunities to pull off our own classes fr spiritual growth.

What should we try next summer that is working for you?