Today we hit on the foundation of good youth ministry: Love God, love students.

Love God

This is the first love—our hearts must be centered and aligned with his in order to do genuine and effective ministry. You can fake it, but frauds are always found out. A counterfeit youth pastor won’t make it long-term—and the key to being genuine is to be in a genuine, daily walk with The Father. We all endure seasons of spiritual dryness, but make sure it’s the rare interlude to sincere spiritual health. Remember, you’re discipling your students with your life; make sure it’s centered in the right place.

THIS WEEK: Take a little time to evaluate your spiritual health. Usually, you instinctively know where you currently stand, so don’t try to talk yourself out of your gut reaction. There is nothing more important in your life/office/to-do list than your walk with Jesus. Ask your supervisor for a spiritual retreat day. Call up a mentor and savor the wisdom in his or her words. Eat a meal alone. Talk to the person who is draining you, or finally have that conversation you’ve been dreading that’s been distracting you from truly loving God. Love Jesus more than you love youth ministry.

Love Students

For most, this comes pretty easy…it’s the reason you got into this gig—but at times students can be needy or draining. When spending time with students suddenly feels tough, fight through the temptation to focus on tasks and be constrained to your church office. Get out and be with students. We’ve both discovered through the years that the very best way to stay in love with students is to simply be around them!

THIS WEEK: Adjust your schedule to spend a little more time with students. Linger in a conversation with a student you would normally brush off. Look for opportunities to show up in a big way for a family in need.

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.

Sometimes I get the occasional comment that goes something like this: “So when are you going to get a church of your own?” What they are really saying is ‘when are you going to grow up and be a Lead Pastor, Sr. Minister, or other more responsible position within the church?’ I generally just laugh off these comments while secretly thinking to myself “when are you gonna pull your head out of your rear end and realize I already hold a responsible position?!?!?!” Over my 14 years in this thing called youth ministry, I have been asked this question more than I care to count. I’ve noticed something, however, that gives me some encouragement…the more time I spend at a given location, the less I receive these comments. This has to do with two main factors that I hope will encourage you…

1. Relationships! with parents and especially grandparents and the older generation in the church are a HUGE factor to your success and credibility in youth ministry. Remember, they have been around the block a time or two…raised their children (or are right in the middle of it) and learned from years of making mistakes. The more time you spend developing solid relationships with them, the more they will respect your judgement and leadership.

2. Risk Management! This is a term not used much in the church world but in the Insurance industry it’s huge! People want to know their kids will be safe. As ministers of teens, it can be tempting to let them act out of their desire for Adventure and Excitement *a Jedi craves not these things* in the immortal words of our pointy-eared friend. The part of a teenager’s brain that controls the realization of actions vs. long term consequences has not fully developed. As youth ministers, we must have the wisdom to harness that desire and steer it in productive directions that will glorify God instead of making a parent mad because Jimmy decided it would be a good idea to peel out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic because he wanted to get a head start on the scavenger hunt. (yes it happened) When we can be responsible, parents notice!

As they notice your ability to develop relationships with people other than teens, and as the “adult” side of you makes responsible decisions with the well-being of their kids, your stability in ministry will improve and you won’t have to field the question of “So, what’s next for you?” so often.

Lyle Parker is the Youth/Worship Tech Minister in Fayetteville Christian Church.



I serve as a volunteer service coordinator at my church’s youth group.

As I was checking on some things during our youth service on Wednesday night, a college age guy walked into the room. He stood awkwardly in the back of the room seeming as if he was looking for someone. Since I was close by, I walked over and introduced myself to him. I also asked him if I could help him find a place to sit. He told me his name and then said, “I’m here because some girl invited me.” I laughed and said, “Well, I hope you find her.”

He continued to hangout in the back of the room and survey the crowd. Since he walked in during the sermon, he decided to just stay standing in the back until after service. I had to leave him because I had some things that I needed to check on, but I made a mental note to check up on him after service.

After service I had a chance to talk with him. I was able to make a connection with him and invite him back for the following Wednesday night. I also had one of our college guys go over and talk with him and make him feel welcome. The student I sent to chat with him even exchanged cell phone numbers with him and introduced him to a few of his friends.

All of that being said, I did not write this article to show how awesome I am. I wrote this article because I believe that there are millions of people just like this young adult who visit our youth groups and churches every week. God sends them to us, but we have to keep our eyes open for them. How many young men and young women come awkwardly into our services each week and are never greeted or talked to? How many young people do we overlook that God sends our way?

May we keep our eyes and ears open to the young people that God sends to us.

Joey Berrios is a volunteer youth worker, educator, designer, and writer.

I (Josh) remember during one of my most painful seasons in ministry I got an email from a fellow youth pastor. The message was short and sweet — it consisted of 3 words:

“Hang in there.”

Today I’m heading into a painful meeting with a volunteer. He needs to be removed for us to move forward. I had a tough interaction with a parent who was upset about an illustration I used during our recent series on relationships. I had to call out someone for spreading gossip and hurting the unity of our church. It feels like every day this week I’ve been hit with something big or tasked with something extraordinarily difficult. What I need someone to say to me right now is, “Hang in there.”

Thankfully I’ve got some genuine cheerleaders on the sidelines of our ministry. They realize the long hours, tough conversations and painful weeks in ministry add up and, if unchecked, run you straight into burnout. I’ve heard a ton of encouraging words this week that even in a season like this — God isn’t quite done with me at this place. That even when things are tough, God is good and faithful. Remidners that He is changing lives even when the circumstances around our ministry are less than ideal.

So today, please hear this from me: Hang in there.

Fight the battles you need to fight today. Be strong where strength is needed and give in and be weak when it doesn’t really matter. Ask your mentor for prayer this week, grab coffee with a friend in your youth ministry network so you can vent and then gear up for another run.

No one said youth ministry was going to be easy. In fact, I think Jesus might have said our lives would be just the opposite.* But know that He is faithful and is building and shaping you and the people around you. I would imagine that you’re probably not done where He’s got you — that maybe you need to bloom where you’re planted, even if there is a little frost on the ground this morning.

So hang in there. And please remind me of this article the next time I’m about to quit, too.

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.



Facebook is an incredible tool for your youth ministry – if you’re not on it and engaging students than a great opportunity might be just ahead for you. For those of you that do, I’m curious – this week’s poll asks how much time you spend on the site (total, personal included). Vote in this week’s poll!

JG

Weekend Teaching Series: Facebook Official (week 3 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: 7 questions to ask about your dating relationship.
Service Length: 76 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I wanted to focus on a biblical perspective to dating – although dating isn’t implicitly mentioned in the Bible and is a much more modern cultural invention of ours. For sure the Bible does talk plenty in principle about WHO to date and HOW to date so that’s the perspective of the talk. I shared a bunch of personal stories from my dating life including heartbreak, and eventually how I met my wife. The talk was designed to build on Doug’s narrow vs wide way challenge from last week and included 7 questions to ask about their current/future dating relationships.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This is the last weekend before our Pumpkinfest event, so we spent a little chink of the program with a funny skit that included an awkward robot and our stage emcee. Really funny stuff, as always trying to make annoucements both memorable and engaging. We also played a funny video from RhettandLink about Facebook profile pictures and dating.

Music Playlist: Enchanted [Taylor Swift cover], Oh Lord, Your Love is Enough, Grace, Cannons

Favorite Moment: The conversations after the service were the best. Nothing like a series like this to get students thinking … and talking. Several students were convinced it was alright for them to date someone of a different religion – by far the most popular discussion this weekend after the talk.

Up next: Facebook Official (week 4 of 5) [Doug Fields teaching about sex]



This year for our ministry has had a ramped up focus on our local high schools that we feel is the final frontier of the student mission field. We have 3 major schools on the peninsula that our church is on, encompassing 4000+ students, a very daunting figure. But what an opportunity, and lets face it, students are not flocking to the Church with questions and concerns anymore so its all the more important that we be where they are. The problem is that many schools are phasing out or not allowing Youth Pastors or religious groups to be present in the school anymore.

We recently encountered one of these schools and it took 9 months of emails, follow up calls and persistence to get a meeting with the administration. In that meeting we presented what I felt was a well thought out case as to why the school needs us as much as we need them and here is what we brought to the table.

Promise not to Promote: This was the disarming opening to the conversation, as we said in no uncertain terms that we would not advertise, promote or invite any students to our program, nor would be bring in any fliers, candy or any other bribe into the school. This is non-negotiable for both the school and us because we are not the missionaries doing the heavy lifting just the supportive spotters.

Commitment to Connect: The transition into High School for some is easy and for others it can be painful and lonely. For students that have trouble making meaningful connections early in their high school career, they can end up making unhealthy connections with the first people that will talk to them. We committed to being a connector of students, being present in the first weeks of the school year and throughout the year with the intention of helping students make meaningful friendships with other teens involved in the ministry. For the school, the idea of having someone partner with them in helping students make a more successful and less stressful transition into the school was a huge plus.

Heart of Encouragement: There is something about affirming words from someone you respect that speaks to the heart on a different level. As Youth Workers, we are not parents nor are we teachers and because of our unique relationship with students, the words we say speak volumes to students. The look on our students faces when they see us walking down the hall is priceless, unless of course they are avoiding me (which happens too). A youth worker going out of their way to visit a school tells a student that they matter.

Respect: High School principals in many cases are public enemy number one, and we all know that students love to rally around a cause and in a school that can be despising leadership. Our role needs to be one where we come alongside the administration and our students and in the midst of frustrations that students may have that we will encourage them to submit to the authority that the school has (1 Peter:2:13-14) over them. Modeling respect for the school’s administration is important and the administration will love to know that we are not undermining anything that they are doing.

Relationship: Youth Workers have a relationship with students that the schools just cannot offer and for that reason we can be really helpful. Our voice is unique, and unlike parents or teachers, students choose to spend time with us and for that reason, the respect that they have for us is often earned and not expected. Our opinions, concerns and thoughts are influential in the lives of our students and as often as parents call on us to walk beside their students in times of trial, I suggested schools could do the
same. In our meeting with the school we provided a comprehensive list of all the students who were a part of their school and active at our youth group. We proposed that we would be available if they became concerned with any of our students and we could come along side the family and school and working through whatever the issues might be. This was a big seller for the school, as it became very clear that being in the school was about mentoring and investing in our students, not recruiting and proselytizing the lost.

I am so convicted of the value that investment of just one hour per school every two weeks can have in the spiritual life of our students, the perceptions of Christianity and Pastors to their friends, and the opportunities that we will have to live out a relationship with Christ to the teachers and administration of the schools we are serving. This is the case for getting into the schools and if you read my previous article you can read about the benefits to your ministry of being at the school. This is a huge win for both the schools and us as Youth Workers.

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.

Enjoyed stumbling across this old blog post from Ron Merrell (he was our camp speaker this past summer) about the 4 P’s of Church Stickyness. Program, People, Placement and Promise. Here’s a clip of his thoughts on one of them – head there for the rest:

PEOPLE – Friendly. Welcoming. Diverse. Kind. Warm. Knowledgeable. Genuine. Sincere. Safe. Compassionate. Able to listen. Loving. Respectful. Gentle. Energetic. If these words described everyone in your church, you’d be the most magnetic place in town. And I’m not just thinking about your “greeters” or “staff.” I’m thinking about your congregation. As the Lord does His work in your people, you hope that it produces the qualities above and more! People. But what can you do to develop the second “P” of church, especially when there is a less-than-friendly vibe to your crowd?

This is a hard one, because as a staff person you can create several things to allow people to connect, get them integrated into relationships, feel welcomed initially, etc. But… there’s a difference between “having a church full of winsome, loving, genuine people who go out of their way to greet others” and creating a “greeting team.” The first is better, but WAY harder to create! Focus hard on this one. You can’t train, teach, emphasize, and value real, Christ-like community enough. People WILL tolerate a subpar Program if the People are amazing. But, over the long haul, People will NOT tolerate subpar relationships even if the Program rocks.

Is your church … your youth ministry … sticky?

JG