article.2013.01.08What would Jesus do? The saying that launched a zillion wrist bands! But it’s a timeless question that has some fun implications when you apply it to youth ministry. Here are a few of the things we believe Jesus would do as a youth pastor.

Teach with lots of stories.
Without a doubt the Master teacher would teach with stories. He would fill his message of hope and salvation with illustrations and object lessons. He would probably be criticized as being “shallow” for his talks, but crowds would flock to hear him teach.

Spend time with core leaders.

Jesus had an inner circle he spent the majority of his time with. He would pour into a few key students in whom he saw potential, and world-changing opportunity to work through them. He would be criticized for ignoring some people, and would undoubtedly have more than a few parents complain that he played favorites.

Focus on relationships.

Jesus didn’t seem to be big on programs. When he did an overnighter, everyone fell asleep while he prayed. Instead of building great programs and youth rooms, he was a man of the people who ministered outside of the church walls.

Trust his volunteer team.
When Jesus left…he left the disciples in charge. In fact, he never came back! Talk about ownership… He was focused on building them, and then set them loose to change the world…and they did!

If you teach with lots of stories, pour into student leaders, focus on relational ministry, and empower your volunteers, you are following Jesus’ example. And while there certainly is more to the modern church, you are most like Jesus when you serve this way.

Blessings as you serve others this week!

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.

Hipster, valley girl, geek, jock, goth, nerd, average Joe. These are some of the labels we give some of our students. What label would you give yourself? Each one of us has a label that someone would throw on us. Myself, I would probably be the class clown.

Naturally when we tend to have a leaning we tend to fit in with a certain group of students better. Because I am a bit of a clown, I find it really easy to spend time with the “funny kids”. If a student is going to be a stand up comic, that is the kid I will gravitate towards. But what about the rest of the students? Where do they fit into our relational ministry model.

It is okay for each one of us to have a tight knit group of students we disciple. We just have to keep in mind that there are other students who need to be ministered to as well. I think there are a few solutions that we all need to find a balance with:

1. Staffing: If you are in a big ministry, it might mean hiring staff or finding volunteers with different personalities from yours. Find someone to partner in ministry who might be a geek or a valley girl. Try to cover the bases of all the types of students you have. Maybe you might not get a 1:1 ratio but you certainly will be able to be more diverse in who you are effectively ministering to.

2. This one involves you whether a large or small church context, but especially if you are the main person in your ministry. You need to find ways to connect with each of the groups of kids. Find something you can have in common, for the kid who likes comics, go to a local comic shop find one that you can at least appreciate and then talk to the student about that. For the kid who is super into music; find out who their bands are; get some music and then talk to them after you have listened to it.

What about the kid who you “just don’t get what they are all about”, have them explain it to you. Maybe they love modern art, go to an art gallery with a couple students and have them explain to you what they love about it and how to appreciate it.

The thing I have found about trying to reach out to my students this way is:

  • I connect better with them and find out how to reach them for Christ and how to help them reach others for Christ.
  • I have found some things that I enjoy that I never would have realized.

As we start a new year, perhaps its a good time to connect with students who otherwise might be less connected.

Which student are you going to connect with this year?

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: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle


 —  December 8, 2012 — 1 Comment

One of the best lessons that I have learned this year is the power of showing up. Whether it is a football game, a jazz band concert, or a chess tournament, your presence can make a huge difference. Since I made student’s events a higher priority I’ve noticed a huge difference in the strength of my relationships with students and the number of relationships I have with students. From my experience, I believe that this is one of the most powerful things we can do in relational ministry. The reason I believe in it so much is that it builds and creates relationships with several different people.

The student(s) you came to watch. Think about the people that came to your events when you were in high school. Mostly parents, maybe a few close friends if it was exciting enough. The people that go to your events are the people that love you. That is what you are telling students when you show up… you love them. You are saying that you care about what they care about. You are entering their world. You are showing them that your ministry doesn’t stop at the door of your church. It is crazy how much it means to them and it something that they won’t forget.

The student(s) that you see when you’re there. If you happen to go to one of those exciting events (football games, basketball games, musicals?, etc.) you might get to run into other students (or you can just bring some with you). It’s cool because the message of love and support that you are sending the student you came for is being seen by all of the others in the crowd. You are letting students know that your ministry cares for students all of the time, not just on the weekends and at small group. It is an awesome opportunity to meet some new students that might not even go to church. How cool would it be if their first impression of your ministry is shaped by you actively caring for a student?

The parent(s) when possible: When you go to a sports game, a play, or a concert, parents notice. It lets them know that you care about their kid… a lot. Make sure you take the time to meet and talk with the parents. It can sometimes be hard to find organic ways to do parent ministry, but this is one of them. You get the chance to brag about how awesome their son/daughter is and it is a chance for them to get to know you better. Your interest in their child and family will help form how they view not just you, but your ministry and church.

You don’t have to go to every game or birthday party, but make sure that every once in a while you’ll be there. Go to stuff and see what a difference it makes in your ministry.

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

Doing Youth Ministry Well

 —  December 6, 2012 — 1 Comment

I liked reading Justin’s post 5 Things You Need to Know in Doing Youth Ministry Well - thought it was some good stuff for you all to check out today. He’s got 5 good insights there, here are a couple to get you started before you run over to his site for the rest:

Be all in- Go all in. Get involved. Break the awkwardness of you being one of the only adults in the room. You know, the students know it, just jump in and break that awkward wall down. Greet them, get involved in the games, the worship, the message. They are watching you whether they know you or not and will determine if you are the real deal or not within two seconds. Is it going to be weird? Probably at first, but once they see you go all in, they will be right behind you.

Be real- Students are the best B.S. detectors I know. They can easily sniff out someone who is not genuine from the start. Don’t try to be the “cool” person because they are not interested. What I have found in doing ministry is that student respond best to any adult leader when they are open, honest, and real. You will not have every kid there liking you, but there is at least one kid that needs to hear your story and how you handled it that will help shape their spiritual life. Students will come to you once they know you are a “real” person.


Pizza nights, Slurpee runs, late night runs to McDonald’s, loads of chips and pop.

These sound like some of the awesome things that make a fellowship fun in youth ministry. Donuts, coffee, pie, potlucks, these are the things that make church fellowship excellent. People bond over food and drinks. Look at your house, people congregate around the kitchen. Look at a party, people are where the food is.

I don’t know about you, but I love food. Now I don’t think you could call me a true foodie (largely because I’ll eat anything from fast food to fancy food) but you can certainly bet that if something delicious is out I’m not far away.

As a youth pastor I am constantly around junk food, and pop. I love the stuff, but I have to resist eating it.  This past January I was hit with the harsh reality that I was seriously overweight. I had always known I was a little on the “husky side” but I had pushed beyond that and gone into a category all of its own “obese”. Now I hate the word, because many people can’t get around it but the fact of the matter is that I hit that level on a medical chart. So I decided I would do something about, I started exercising more and trying to eat better. Since January of last year I have lost 35lbs, slipping back down into the category of “overweight”. That isn’t crazy fast weight loss, but it is great because I have still been eating what I want( for the most part) and I haven’t regained even when my exercise or eating have spun back out of control for a day or week or two.

So why am I talking about this. I am not talking about it because I want praise, I am not talking about it because I think that I have gone from HUGE to tiny. I am talking about it because when I look around at the many youth pastors and church staff I know as a whole, I see a lot of overweight people. We have a calling to work with people, our jobs require us to be at a desk often working, studying, emailing and praying. These are parts of the job that are required, so we can’t put them off. But what is going on with our waistlines. Its scary they are ever growing!

I feel like it needs to be said: “Youth workers, Pastors, friends we need to lose some weight”. There are a few reasons why I think we need to lose it:

1) We are called to be good stewards in life
This is a stewardship of our ministry, our family life, our money and yes even our own bodies. If we don’t take care of our bodies, we are actually hampering our ministry. Whether we like to admit it or not, being overweight will eventually cause what we eat to come back to bite you. (pun intended). We will have health problems directly relating to our eating and body weight.

2)  We are examples to those we work with
We are examples to the people we work with. As christian leaders we strive to show good habits of reading scripture, worshipping God, treating people with respect and leading a life of health and balance.  But when it comes to the pastors I know, we often have a bit of a problem with eating and self control. If we want to be good examples, we should strive to have balance in every aspect of life.w

3) For your family
Do it for your wife, your husband, your kids or your grandchildren. I currently have no kids but I do have a wife and my weight directly affects her. It affects her in my level of energy, since I have been exercising more and eating better I have had more energy to go do fun things with her. And I have even been able to serve her better because I’ve been cleaning and cooking with some of my spare energy!( I’ll tell you that she loves it!)

While I am still young I can’t help but think of the long term, I hope to be a healthy and active grandparent one day. I look at my grandfather and because of obesity we never went out and did much together. But when I look at my wife’s one set of grandparents they are in their 80’s and go hiking weekly and we go sailing together often during the summer. It is truly a joy that I hope to be able to experience when I am in my 80’s.

If I don’t take care of myself now though, I certainly won’t have the health and fitness to be able to go for fun trips with my grand kids when they are in their 20’s. I think we should start a challenge amongst the Christian Leadership network for weight loss. Let’s get the ball rolling.

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: or Twitter: @CorbinKyle.

Several years ago, as my wife and I were stepping into a new season of Ministry, one of my mentors asked me an incredible question. He said, “What are you consistently and deliberately praying for in your ministry?” At the time, I prayed for our ministry regularly, as I am sure you do as well, but I had never considered a consistent and deliberate prayer request.

In that season, I began to ask God to give me a clear prayer focus for the Student Ministry I led. In the first few years my requests were fairly normal… God help our ministry to do this… Help our kids to be that… I would wake up, and begin each day with prayer, making sure to include that request. In time, I watched God multiply the incredible things He was doing in our ministry (or at least increase my ability to see them).

As I sought this consistent and deliberate prayer focus at the beginning of last year God very clearly turned the attention of my prayer to my own heart. John Calvin once said, “The human heart is a factory of idols.” Powerfully true. You and I have the ability to turn basically anything into an idol. Now, we all know that some idols are easier to identify then others. I wasn’t bowing down in front of a golden calf, or anything, but God quickly revealed that I was beginning to make an idol out of my “ministry.”

Here’s the deal… I am a good Youth Pastor. I am not bragging, it’s just true. I am a good Youth Pastor, and I am sure you are too. In fact, you are probably much better at it then I am… But my concern is this: Some of us are probably better “Pastors” then we are followers of Jesus. As my friend Lance Witt accurately explains it; Jesus is the gift and ministry is simply the box by which we deliver the gift, yet some of us have switched the two.

It seems to me that some of us unintentionally slip into viewing what we get to do as our occupation rather than our calling. If I view my role as an occupation than I can do it, I can make it happen, I can figure it out on my own… If it is a calling, however, than I am in desperate need of the Holy Spirit to help me do what God has asked me to do. We forget that.

I had begun to try and “manufacture” ministry from my own spirit, in my own strength, and in my own direction. I was doing what I thought was best for our kids and our ministry… Some of us subtly believe that we can teach, preach, meet with families, recruit Ministry Partners, hang with kids, and host huge killer events with little to no reliance on the Holy Spirit. At least I did.
So my prayer became simply this: God, help me not try and manufacture ministry, but to be deliberately dependent on You. Praying this everyday of the year (sometimes several times a day) gave me life in ministry like I had never experienced before. It took the pressure off, because I was forced to remember that I am not the Holy Spirit (we all need that reminder sometimes). It restored my energy, and renewed my excitement to see what God was going to do next. It is teaching me to be more thankful. It is helping me to remain open and teachable. Most importantly, it is teaching me to stay out of the way of what God wants to do in and through our ministry.
This question has helped me, and maybe God will use it to help you: Am I trying to “manufacture” ministry, or am I being deliberately dependent on the Spirit of God for every step I take?

The reality is that God’s plans for our respective ministries are far greater than we could ever think or accomplish. The more we try to do in our own power the more we rob ourselves and our students of experiencing all that God has in store. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to miss out on anything God wants to do.

Consider seeking a consistent and deliberate prayer request for your ministry this year. You never know what God might want to teach you…

Ryan McDermott is the RP Director of Student Ministries at Christ Fellowship – Royal Palm, FL. Follow him @ryanmcdermott.

While you and I are called to serve teens and their families, our most important audience is the volunteer who serves alongside of you.  Without them you can only do so much and last so long.  That’s why every summer you make a huge effort in recruiting and training them in your craft.  Every year there is a mad rush to get them and then when you do you are happy because you have a team.  But, you aren’t done.

The hardest part about building up your volunteer base isn’t asking them to join, it’s retaining them for the long haul.  When you have a volunteer who not only commits to your ministry for one year but five or even ten, the amount of fruit their service will bare is immeasurable.  So, how do you keep them around?  Well, it’s all about how you pour into them.  Some of the big ways to do this is by sending them to conferences and hosting all day training events.  However, the investment doesn’t always have to be expensive and complex.  There are a few small things that you can do that will go a long way.

Here are three practical ways you can invest in your leaders:

Send Them A Note – There is nothing better than receiving an authentic hand written thank you note in the mail.  It communicates; I took the time and effort to express my gratitude for you.  You don’t have to write anything profound, just thank them for something simple or small that meant a lot to you.  It’s another way of telling them how valuable they truly are to you and the ministry.

Get Personal With Them – You might meet with your volunteers constantly; however, how many times is it personal?  Agenda-less meetings are essential to the relationship you have with your ministers.  Find time to take a few of them out for coffee.  Invite a couple of them over for a bite to eat or to watch a movie.  Indoctrinate a couple of the key leaders into your family.  The more they get to know you the easier it will be for them to return the investment.

Brag To The Pastor – Our pastor encourages the staff to introduce to him the all star volunteers and first timers.  While he’s not going to get to know all of them, he wants to know the people making an impact on the church.  When you introduce a volunteer to the pastor it shows them that you are so impressed with their work that you want the boss to know.  That just might be the public affirmation they need to bring their service to the next level.

It’s important to note that you can’t do all these things for everyone.  Not only is that a difficult task but also if you tried to praise everyone equally your investment would lose value.  Lastly, always think simple.  Your investment doesn’t have to be expensive or overly creative.  Just make it authentic, transparent and spontaneous.

What other ways can you simply invest in your team?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Absolutely loved this super-practical article from Gen 2 Gen Youth Ministry. It answers and gives some helpful pointers to a great question: how do I add/welcome in new students to an established small group? Really helpful stuff, here’s a clip, head there for the whole article – it make a great handout for your volunteers!

  • Don’t talk about the past. This might seem a little extreme at first glance, but let me explain. The more you use lines like, “Remember that time when…?” and “How great was it when…?!” the more you’ll make the new guy realize he’s new. Try to focus as much as possible on the present and future. Talk about where the group currently is, and the hopes you have for where you want them to be.
  • It’s not just awkward for the new guy. Chances are, your group may be a little uneasy about bringing in an “outsider” if they’re really well connected. Help them to see that they can’t be exclusive, and that everyone deserves an opportunity to be in a great youth group–even if it’s a little awkward at first.
  • Keep your lessons at a level everyone can understand. You may have students who’ve been Christians for a while and a new student might be new to this whole Christian thing. Keep your lessons interesting for both groups.