A few weeks back I was sitting down with the director of Youth Ministry at the college I am going to be teaching at and he was telling me that Duffy Robbins himself was going to be coming in October to do a one week intensive course which amounts to much of the content that him and Doug Fields teach in their speaking to teenagers series.

I couldn’t believe it, Duffy is coming to the college, for a week in a class of only forty students, to which I replied what most people would ask, “can I sit in on the class?” I mean after all, this is a tremendous opportunity to hear from a great mind in YM and I ask a lot of questions so this is going to be great. He said of course I could attend, and I asked could I invite some of my youth pastor friends from the area to which he replied with something I did not expect.

He replied by basically saying that he had offered in the past and none would come because many Youth Pastors are only interested in professional development if it means traveling to a conference on the Church’s budget. I’ll be honest, I don’t completely disagree, I recently went to a training event that advertised $5 for youth leader training, and it that cost included all course materials, a thumb drive, a keychain and a speaker flown into town. I packed up our team and got there to find a total attendance 30 people in the auditorium of a church that held 1200. The event was well advertised and lots of calls were made, but no one showed up.

The brightest people I know in the youth ministry world are the ones that read the most, and take every opportunity to learn more and if we are serious about growing as leaders its starts with saying I don’t know it all. There is so much quality training out there, take advantage of it.

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 get asked this question all of the time: I want to work with students – what is the right path to go into youth ministry? The answer is not quite as simple as it may seem. Here’s what I think:

There are many roads to youth ministry.

I’ve been fortunate to meet a whole bunch of amazing youth workers – and they come from an incredibly varied background. I know great youth workers that learned youth ministry in the trenches, I know great youth workers who learned a ton in seminary. I know some that have little to no education at all, and some with far more education than is even practically necessary.

Aundrea was a stay-at-home mom. Jacob was a farmer. Phil was a nurse. Nathan was a police officer. Jessica was planing on being an elementary school teacher. Tommy drove a Pepsi delivery truck. Aaron worked in a warehouse. Jeremiah was a magazine editor. Johnny went to seminary, and Chris isn’t even done with school yet. I went to Bible college myself … but graduated with a business degree.

There are many roads to youth ministry.

So which is the right path? Great question, and one I hope that God answers clearly and individually for you. Will you be more hirable if you have a degree? For sure. Is not liking school enough reason to skip it? Probably not. Can you get an education yourself by going to conferences or books? I think it would be helpful for sure.

So with this concept in mind, here are a few thoughts for you as you consider what your next step might look like:

  • Look at your role models or thought leaders in youth ministry. What was their path to youth ministry?
  • Make a list of the books you need to read to develop your weaknesses or increase your top end potential.
  • Make plans to visit a church or student ministry that is will be of significant value to your leadership development. Consider which training/conference would benefit you the most.
  • Consider picking up a class in the evening or in a block format to keep pushing yourself forward.
  • Pray and ask God for clarity about going to college, or back to school, or if grad school/seminary is for you.

Whatever road you take, blessings on your journey into youth ministry!


Episode 153: I’d Watch that Train Wreck
Doug Fields, Josh Griffin, Matt McGill and Katie “The Final Countdown” Edwards return to the studio for our (almost) weekly journey into the world of youth ministry. Your questions cover a wide range of topics from: The right length for youth group messages, is seminary a must?, balancing being wife & mother & minister, and reasons for leaving a ministry.

Few would argue that some of the most passionate, gifted energy among us is housed in those who are college-aged. And yet few have succeeded in pointing such passion and energy toward lasting, healthy ends-especially in the church.

Most churches and families have programmed a finish line at twelfth grade. We walk our seniors out the door, breathe a deep sigh of relief, and let them disappear. The problem is most never come back. Too old for youth group-and feeling too displaced by labels like “single” or “young adult,” the majority of college-aged Christians disconnect from faith communities. “They’ll rework themselves into our system once grown-up,” we of an older generation surmise. “Once they’re married with kids and able to tithe. For now, however, they seem like a lost cause and our attentions are better focused elsewhere.”

This slow fade is slowly eliminating the potentials and influence of this generation and thus, the impact of the modern church.

What would it look like for a senior pastor, a college pastor, and a twentysomething to sit around the table and flesh-out issues of the current generation’s fade from the church? In The Slow Fade, Reggie Joiner, founder and CEO of the reThink Group, Chuck Bomar, former college pastor of Cornerstone in Simi Valley, CA, and I have done just this. Moving between perspectives of pastor, father, and friend, we confront this fading generation and lend insights toward its halt.

The typical model of twentysomething ministry involves about four worship songs, a sermon, and an emotive ending song to stir the heightening finale. (In the more eclectic circles, the front- and back-ends of worship might be swapped.) From here the emotionally caffeinated crowd disperses to the nearest coffeehouse, Waffle House, or frat house and flirts with the herd until the next gathering.

And we wonder why adolescents are struggling to adequately move into adulthood. We wonder why eighteen to twenty-five year olds have little to no lasting involvement with our faith communities. When the reality is, as adult believers, we have some responsibility in this. We’re among the reasons adolescents are not healthily assimilating into adulthood, because we’ve not shown them how their role matters. Furthermore, how crucial they are to our whole, should we ever hope to bring lasting Love to the world.

A discussion of the most overlooked and underdeveloped facet of the modern church, The Slow Fade makes a case for inter-generational relationships as the way to keep college-aged people engaged in faith. Leveraged belonging is necessary for lasting connectivity. Connecting college-aged people to the life of the church requires more than a flashy band, or even a relevant sermon. It requires individual care and a felt sense of belonging. If you show me my part in the whole, I will continue to show up. Meaning, the answer is not a new program and doesn’t cost a dime. The answer lies within any willing adult wanting to have influence.

College-aged people are making some of the most critical choices of their lives. And any adult who chooses to invest in the life of a college student is likewise choosing to invest in a generation. More than ever, this age-stage needs a community of faith and willing individuals interested in their lives. And we have the chance to play that role. A clan of sleeping giants lies in our midst, and we have the chance to wake them-and maybe even be woken-up ourselves.

Abbie Smith wrote her first book, Can You Keep Your Faith in College (Multnomah, 2006), while a Religion major at Emory University. She recently graduated from Talbot Seminary, in Los Angeles, with a degree in “Spiritual Formation and Soul Care” and resides in Savannah, Georgia.

Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 4 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year requires dedication, investment and using the gifts God has given you for Him.
Service Length: 79 minutes
Main passage: Luke 5:1-11

Understandable Message: This week we had the final summer guest speaker teach our entry-level program. David Hughes grew up in the ministry and has become a long-time volunteer and most recently a seminary student. He did a great job introducing himself to our students and challenging them to follow Jesus’ call on their life. He focused on Jesus calling the disciples, causes their boats to overflow with fish and them leaving everything to follow Him. In some ways our lives become a cycle of faithfulness – God entrusts us with more, and we find joy when we use everything in our lives for God.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a text poll from polleverywhere.com as well as a simple Race This! game featuring Spaceships – we divided up the crowd into 3 sections and the winning section got a candy shower. We haven’t used Race This! much in high school, but it definitely worked with the crowd and tied in nicely to the theme. We sprinkled in a few announcements and a fun video promoting the Shake It! greeting ministry, too.

Music Playlist: My Heart (Paramore cover), Awesome God, The Stand

Favorite Moment: This was a bittersweet weekend – we said goodbye to a couple of great members of our HSM team. Becka finished up her 2-year internship this week and has been an absolute star the whole time. Robby was asked by Pastor Rick to head up a new campus in Huntington Beach that will launch this Christmas. VERY proud of both of them, and VERY hard to see them go. Shoot.

Up Next: LAUNCH series finale [Fall Back to School Kickoff]

In Mark DeVries book, “Sustainable Youth Ministry”, he writes “If, instead of coasting in contentment, the youth ministry reengages in bold dreaming and engaging innovation, the seeds of fresh, new life can be planted in the ministry.” (p. 72) I believe that Mark is right on and this can be a big problem area in ministry and our personal lives. When we coast, we stop creating and looking for ways to tweak and improve good things that are already happening. It is when we stop creating and innovating that we ultimately lose the edge we have at reaching teens for Christ in ministry and going deeper in experiencing Christ personally.

But creating and innovating is not necessarily the norm and easy to do. It is something we have to fight for as, in all things, it can be very easy to coast. For example, life is going well, just keep on doing what you are doing and coast. Your friendships are going well, so just keep on doing what you are doing and coast. Or ministry may be going well, so again, just keep on what you have been doing and coast. It is when we get in these mindsets that we start becoming ineffective in our personal and professional lives.

For example, some ways that coasting can negatively affect our personal and ministry lives are:

  • You have been friends with someone for a long time and fairly recently they took up an unhealthy habit (i.e., over drinking, over eating, smoking, etc). Instead of saying the hard word, you coast by not saying anything and watch your friend deteriorate in a self-destructive habit.
  • You are in a good place right now with finances and a solid working environment so you coast and do not seek to improve who you are at all. Because you coast, when a change in working environment (i.e., new Senior Pastor) or a financial struggle comes up out of no-where (i.e., car accident), you find yourself stuck in a situation where you are not able to get out of easily.
  • Your ministry is going well and have students coming to know Christ and are being spurred to love him more. So, you coast and continue to do what you are doing with no improvements to programs, strategy or leadership. Because you coast and do not seek to improve what you are doing when leaders stop helping or when numbers decline a bit, you are not prepared to deal with changes.

So, we have to fight to innovate and improve who we are and what are ministries are. For example, some things you could do to not coast are to:

  1. Educate yourself with a seminary class, seminar, or other masters level course to help you be more effective youth minister
  2. Have an outside parent or youth minister come and evaluate your program so that you can seek ways to improve what you are currently doing
  3. Be on the lookout for new leaders. Come up with a potential leader list and start planting the seeds to others that you are interested in them being leaders for you.
  4. Set goals in ministry and your personal life so that you can continue to strive towards excellence in Christ.

As I said, these are just a few examples. Many more are out there. One of my goals for 2010 is to never miss a quiet time with the Lord. This time would not be something that I can just check off the box, but it would be a time where I spend time in prayer, listening, reading scripture, and meditation. As I have experienced a spiritual battle this past year, I know that if I am going to survive and thrive, I need that daily time with the Lord.

Because everyone benefits when we don’t coast, TAKE A MINUTE and…

  1. Examine your life and your ministry. Look what you are currently doing and set 3 goals so that you can do to stay on top of your relationship with Christ and ministry. Then, strive towards them. It would be best if you had someone to hold you accountable to them to keep you focused and on course.

If you have some ways to create and innovate in ministry and your relationship with Christ, post them so that we can all benefit.

Tom Pounder blogs very often at www.notamegachurch.com and has been featured in several guest posts when Josh is on vacation or is just plain lazy.

No red flags were waved, no sirens were sounded, and no one pulled me aside to sit me down and warn me. The day I answered God’s call to full time youth ministry I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I’ll admit…if someone had warned me about the struggles of youth ministry I probably would have run the other direction. It’s been over ten years and I love what I do, but it’s come with many lessons not taught in any seminary class or youth ministry seminar.

I remember the first big lessons I learned in youth ministry. I had been serving as a volunteer Youth Director for a church in North Jersey for three years when everything came crashing down. I had turned ministry into a business and soon found myself stepping down from my position. Not because I wanted to, but because I was asked to stepped down.

During my three years as their youth director I accomplished some amazing things. Notice the key word; “I.” I was able to organize and prepare winter retreats, summer camps, and many other events. I was able to stand before a group of students and speak. I was able to lead my adult volunteer staff and persuade them to follow me. But what I wasn’t doing was allowing God to lead the team of adult volunteers or plan the right events. I wasn’t allowing God to speak to the students by allowing Him to speak through me. I wasn’t allowing God to train and teach me what I needed to know about youth ministry by deepening my own faith. Everything I did was centered on what I wanted to see happen. My view of youth ministry was based on what I saw in magazines, websites and the occasional youth ministry conference where entertainment was the focal point of the weekend. Bottom-line…I ran the youth ministry like a business. I operated the same way in ministry as I did in my secular job (I was customer business rep for a nation wide copy center).

It was spring and I was neck deep in planning the 30Hour Famine. A few days went by and I continued with my agenda, planning the upcoming 30Hour Famine. Then one night my roommate and youth leader at the time knocked on my door. “Can I talk to you?,” he asked. “We need to talk about this coming weekend and the 30Hour Famine.” Once again my all business attitude took over as I assumed he wanted to discuss the details of the weekend. So I went into self-centered mode and began to share my thoughts and ideas as well as how awesome (fun) the weekend will be with the many things “I” had planned. In the nicest way he could, he cut me off with these words; “Brian, the Pastor and the leadership has decided you won’t be involved in the 30Hour Famine. Pastor will be stopping by to speak with you. I’m just here to get any information you have about the event so the leadership team can make a decision whether to cancel or postpone the event.”

I was so wrapped up with my own agenda and my own way because I was a “big shot youth director” I totally missed what I had done. As a result of my pride and self-centeredness the pastor asked me to step down as the youth director for an undetermined amount of time. “Ministry is about your relationship with Christ. I’m afraid you haven’t grasped what that truly means. Ministry is not meant to be run like a business,” pastor stated.

My heart was broken as I realized what I had done. That night after meeting with Pastor I spent what seemed like hours on my bedroom floor crying out to God asking for forgiveness, asking for restoration, and seeking the Holy Spirit for answers. That night I realized the truth, but I had put planning and organizing ahead of relationships; relationships with people and my relationship with Jesus.

There’s more to this story, but for the sake of editing and size I’ve shortened it. The point is nothing you do in ministry will ever be more important than your relationship with Jesus. Focus on growing deep in your own faith, not running a business. Youth ministry is not about you.

Brian Ford is the TIMS Program Director at The Christian Retreat Center. Follow his blog right over here.

I was doing an interview for a seminary student this past week and one of the questions he asked was, “What skills would you say are absolutely necessary for someone to be ready for ‘prime time’ in student ministry?” I thought about it for a while, and thought of these four. Add a couple of your own in the comments:

Basic Bible knowledge – a given since this is the very core of the calling. Thinking you have all of the answers can be a problem, but not knowing any answers is, too! Knowing some basic Bible, especially on topics that relate to teenagers, is critically important when serving in youth ministry. A walk with God is the most important!

Basic business knowledge — no matter the size of the church, the youth pastor is going to deal with budgets, accounting and reporting. Having some basic business skills will help a youth worker navigate the less glamorous side of youth ministry.

Basic people skills – to a large degree a youth pastor is in the people business, so some basic training on interpersonal relationships would go a long ways. Understanding sociology helps put perspective on the home and culture students are growing up in.

Basic speaking skills — public speaking is a significant part of youth ministry. We get the privilege of carrying God’s Word to students, so being a good speaker or at least having some trained skills in that area is important.