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Andy Stanley recently said something to the effect of, “The church should be the safest place to talk about anything.” I’m no Andy Stanley, but the other day while talking to one of our interns I said something that I thought was equally brilliant: “Always make extending the conversation one of your goals.”. Now, if you combine these two thoughts, you have a golden nugget of wisdom for youth workers!

“Church should be the safest place to talk about anything, and once a student opens up about something, don’t shut them down with easy answers or judgmental proclamations…instead, extend the conversation!”

Some related questions for you to ponder (and feel free to answer in comments if you’d like!):

- If students think there are taboo questions or topics at church, where will they go to talk about those things?
- Do you trust the input they will get from the other sources concerning those questions?
- How much pressure do you feel to always have an easy, confident, answer for every topic a student raises?
- Many questions deal with doubt…can helping students embrace doubt be a good thing?
- Where does that pressure come from: Self-imposed? Parents? Your church culture?
- Why is the art of “extending the conversation” so vital for youth workers?
- when scripture doesn’t speak clearly or directly about a topic, how do you address it with students?
- On a scale of 1-10 (10 being best) how “safe” a place is your youth group for students to ask honest questions and express
doubts and struggles?

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I just sat in my car caught up in the radio program. The soothing voice was discussing how us parents seem to have our kids in too many activities. “Are parents taking time to just be and get to know their kids?” the person behind the voice wanted to know. The speaker made a statement I have heard many times, “We aren’t created to be human “doers.” We are human “beings.” He went on to press that culture dictates how much we push our kids to do. Are we teaching them to be?

Listening I thought how often I have felt guilty that I don’t allow my own kids to do more. Good friends of mine have “well-rounded” children who are involved in athletics, music lessons, the school play and chess club. In contrast, my kiddos only are allowed to engage in one activity per “season.” With three kids at the same stage in life (6th, 7th & 8th grade currently), we can just about manage the one thing for each of them. The speaker was pushing us parents to allow our kids to be involved in less for the sake of time together and building purposeful relationship.

It got me thinking about youth ministry and how I can have a tendency to run things. I fill the calendar with lots of activities. They are well meaning, and I try hard to be planned and purposeful. We have outreaches, retreats, and missions trips.There are special guest speakers, and creative ways to interact. Admittedly if I pull off a great talk, then it feels great.

After hearing the radio show I started wondering if I like activities because I can sit on the sidelines and cheer someone on while not engaging.

Am I really afraid of relational ministry?

Do I like activities because they are detailed and definitive?

Relationships are sticky. They are an ongoing process. When you get to know someone more deeply they share fears, frustrations, doubts, joys, sorrows, and expectations with you. We realize we can’t “fix” or “save” or “heal” people, we can simply show them love, grace and Christ. If I have a ministry that truly has a relational focus, what would it do?

I am wondering if sometimes the way I set up my ministry actually adds to the culture of creating a “doer” and I am not supporting the family to learn to BE.

BE still and know He is God.

BE present in the moment.

BE a servant, and follower and someone who is with Jesus wherever He goes.

Now let’s not move to an extreme where we have no activities. Sometimes hands on learning is the best method to meeting a student. It’s more about focusing away from me the leader and what I am teaching, to the student, their family, and what they are learning.

I’m wrestling with this idea that I maybe need to create more space to allow us all to do just that–wrestle, with the hard stuff, and expect Jesus to show up and direct my leaders to do the same.

Could or should we create an integrated culture that helps us all just be?

What do you think?



Last night I ran my small group that normally runs at about 5-6 students. Its a senior high group that has a mix of schools, sports and friendships. I love this group as they can have a lot of fun but they can go deep into a conversation and study sometimes.
The challenge was that only one student came.

There were a variety of reason; baseball and field hockey have started; the Vancouver Canucks were losing to the Sharks in hockey it was a busy night. But when only one student showed to discussion group you have to make a quick decision about what to do.

So I decided to take him out to Menchies, which is a frozen yogurt place with a ton of toppings and flavors. I decided to leverage this opportunity to talk with him about things we have chatted about in the past, we talked about everything from the timelessness of God to long boarding.

At the end of the night I dropped him off at home and felt like I had possibly had a huge impact in 2 hours of hanging out. So I started to ask myself why: why did that feel right? Why did we connect so much in that time? What made that into good youth ministry.

And it dawned on me that I was treating a student special. Very few students ever get attention from a role model they have in their life. Sure I probably could have cancelled the group before he got there, but what kind of message would that have sent?

All of this brought me to thinking about having a plan for when just one student shows up. Now some people have a tiny church and this happens all the time, others are in a mid-sized church like myself and it happens rarely, and others again are in a huge church where this would only happen very rarely in a small group setting.

But do you have a plan? Do your small group leaders know how to deal with this scenario? These moments could potentially be the most meaningful moments ever to happen in youth ministry. How are you going to leverage them?

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.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle

About 3 weeks ago I ended up deciding on a whim to head to a soccer game. It was at 10pm on a cold night. Three of my 11th grade girls were playing in a game in a women’s league. They were super pumped about joining an adults league so I thought I would go out to support them. During and after the game I was able to connect with all three girls and their parents. It was really a good time and the girls loved it.

Was it worth it?

Definitely.

But the best past of the whole thing was a week later when a father of one of the girls came up to me after church. He shared with me that while I was watching the game from the sidelines a mother had come up to him and shared with him about some of the stresses in life and how she was questioning spirituality and what was going on. In this time he was able to share about his faith and the fact they go to church. When she started asking questions about the church she asked a few questions about the youth ministry and who the youth pastor was. He pointed down the sideline and said thats him over there in the red. She was floored that a pastor would come to watch some students play soccer let alone in the cold at 10pm. She told the dad that she would be interested in coming out to check out the church in the next little while.

Now I don’t know about you, but sometimes I wonder why I show up at games. Sure people are excited that I show up but is it really doing much? Well that right there was an exclamation point to let me know that it is doing a lot more than I think. If that family makes it to church and has the opportunity to hear the message of Christ, I would stand through a thousand cold, rainy night time soccer games (and believe me it rains here in Vancouver Canada).

So take a look at your schedule. What is a time that you can show up to something? A soccer game, a dance recital, a band concert it doesn’t matter. If you are struggling to figure out how to make time for getting to every kids game because you only work part time or have a huge ministry, pick one or two major things where multiple students are playing against each other or where other students will be in attendance.

You showing up to a simple event could change someones life drastically.

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.com or Twitter: @CorbinKyle



When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for “Youth Sunday.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, so should we.

How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry?

1. Look for those who may have a calling to full-time ministry.
Guard against just investing in the popular students or those who are in student government at school. Passion for Jesus trumps popularity every time. Plus, you would be surprised how many “diamonds in the rough” are in your church waiting to be discovered. I happened to be the geeky-nerd-hyperactive kid. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to see those students whom you could potentially invite to preach.

2. Invest in them relationally.
Before you just throw them behind a pulpit, spend some time letting them see your heart and passion for Jesus and helping them continue to grow in theirs. Maybe lead a small group Bible study with all the “potential candidates.”

3. Stick with them during each step of the preparation process.
As the student begins to prepare a message to share with your youth group or church, be sure to stay along side them through each step of the process (http://bit.ly/YheAiq). This is a crucial part of their equipping. The last thing you want to do is just throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim.

4. Celebrate with them after their message.
Take the time afterward to not only review how they did, but celebrate what God did through them. Students typically need extra affirmation and encouragement – especially after getting up in front of people and communicating the Word of God.

As with any mentoring and equipping that you do with students, remember the age-old equipping process:

  1. I preach.
  2. I preach with you watching the process.
  3. You preach with me alongside you in the process.
  4. You preach.
  5. You equip someone else to preach.

PRACTICAL TIP:  Attempt to schedule having your students take the lead in speaking/teaching/preaching in your youth group or church at least one series per calendar year. This could be in the form of a “Youth Sunday” or a “You Own the Weekend” series annually.

Matt Maiberger has been involved in full-time student ministry for over 16 years. He and his family are currently in the process of moving to Fort Collins, CO where he will become the Associate Pastor of Life Church. Matt is also the founder of Youth Speaker’s Coach committed to the resourcing of youth pastors, youth workers, and youth speakers to help them become better communicators for the post-modern students represented in youth ministries today.

article.2013.04.23This week we’re going to simply knock out 20 ways you can increase the level of relational ministry in your youth group. Quick, random, hits that we hope inspire you to try something new, too!

1. Add a greeting time in youth group. Give them a couple minutes to help new people feel welcome.

2. Spend time with a student every day. It doesn’t have to be physical, face-to-face, time send them a quick text, comment on their Facebook, like an Instagram picture, etc. Just make contact with one or two students every day.

3. Start an Instagram account for your ministry. Post pictures every week of people, not places.

4. Give out your personal cell phone number instead of the church office line you completely ignore.

5. Walk slowly through church this week. You might be surprised at who stops to talk to you when you aren’t hurried.

6. Let someone else teach so you can work the room.
7. Allow volunteers to have their own style don’t force extroverts into draining conversations with one person, or kill introverts by having them be up front.

8. Ask for your office hours to be trimmed 1 hour so you can be with students.

9. Go to the FCA huddle or Christian club on campus once a week.

10. Pick a sport or fine arts event to be at. Enjoy as much of it as you can, then text the student(s) afterward to congratulate them for a job well done.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.



article.2013.04.16Graduation! Your amazing students whom you have loved and cared for the past few years are heading out to the great unknown of college, the work force, their parents basement, or a strange combination of all three! But because moving away to college is such a big deal, those are the students we are going to focus on this week.

As students leave your ministry the temptation is to completely set them free and while this is the typical model in most churches, what would it look like if you extended your influence in their lives to cover this challenging transition? Here are a few practical ideas how.

Help them find a church.
For students who move away, the number one in a new city and starting a new life is finding a church home. Oftentimes the struggle is I just can’t find a church like ours, which is flattering, but a dangerous position for a student to be in their freshman year. So help! Google the churches within a couple miles of the campus and see which one would feel familiar to them. Visit their Web site, or give them a call and ask a few questions, and pass the information along to your student.

Here’s an idea: Find out where your seniors are heading for college, and ask a key volunteer to do a little bit of church research for each community and, as a graduation gift, give an Awesome churches near your school packet to each graduate!

Give them a resource.
Help them in this transition with a devotional resource or a letter a day from a member of your church with a verse to encourage them. Okay, we have never seen that one done, either, but how cool would it be! Don’t let students dangle in limbo spiritually; challenge them to continue in the spiritual disciplines and increase their faith in God even when they are in an environment where it will be challenged daily.

Check in periodically.
Being remembered is huge. Too often students leave for school and leave their mentors, parents, and youth workers behind. That is by design, and one of the catalysts that force students to think for themselves as they barrel into adulthood, but it also leaves them vulnerable to attack.

A quick Skype call, a phone call on the weekend, even a weekend trip to see them could be huge. You never know the power of a simple text; it would probably mean the world to your students 400 miles from home.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

I think we can all be a little frustrated with our volunteers from time to time. Sometimes we want them to be just a little more relational or just a little more supportive. Maybe during service, they just sit in the back and don’t spend time out engaging with students. As frustrating as that might be, you have to look at yourself and ask, what example am I setting for my volunteers?

The bottom line: you need to be doing the kind of ministry you want your volunteers to be doing. You are the one that is setting the values for your ministry and casting that vision to your team, which means you should be following that as well.

Did anyone else grow up hearing the phrase, do as I say, not as I do? As a kid, you are left feeling confused and frustrated. You think, well if what you say is so great, why aren’t you doing it? Your volunteers are thinking the same thing when your actions aren’t matching your words. And, just like the kids that hear that phrase, your volunteers will always copy actions, not words. You need to be setting the example for your team.

Casting the vision for how leaders should minister to students is only part of the battle. You can be an incredible visionary, but if there is no follow through, your vision is worthless. Ideas are never enough. Your team needs action. Your team needs YOUR action.

So the next time you see a bad habit spreading throughout your team, look to yourself. Are you the one spreading it?

Colton [Email||Twitter]