Building Authentic Relationships In A Fake Relationship World, is the title of the second workshop I get to teach at SYMC.

Last night as I was leaving youth group one of my “Senior” guys was laughing about “SnapChat” pictures he likes to send people. I told him some facts about SnapChat he never knew (like how the company does indeed save your pictures, they are not truly “gone,”) and he was shocked. It lead to a conversation about the way we get to know people and go deep. We would rather text than talk in person. However, a study done by Brigham Young University found that it’s more satisfying to send a “loving” text than it is to receive one. Facebook has been dwarfed by Instagram in the teen world as a place where they post a “seflie” and create a persona of who they want to be. Did you know in some sociological circles they believe this actually helps with and is important to identity formation?

Here’s the thing. Those of us in ministry all know that relationship is the way we grow. The teen years are awkward and communication is difficult to begin with. Face-to-face relationship building is a challenge with this age. Then we add in social media and digital formats where we can “hide” our “true selves” and it feels impossible.  What do we do?  How do we  navigate growing in relationship, while embracing the world our teens are living in?

I feel like I have more and more conversations all the time about how to engage this digital culture in a relational manner. This has involved me digging and researching what those in my group are doing as well as the rest of the world.  It’s also caused me to be creative in my interactions with students, and even learn to educate parents.

In a predatory world the days of simply picking a student out and taking them out one on one are gone. In some churches and ministry this is “against the rules.”

So how DO we navigate this new world of relationships? Come to my workshop, let’s hangout and talk about it!

Leneita / @leneitafix

conferenceAre you open to growing in community?

In an earlier post on this blog, Leneita Fix shared what she’s teaching this year at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. You totally need to check out her stuff, as well as many of the other bloggers on this site who are all presenting something. I’m not kidding… these folks are brilliant and have such an amazing heart for God, students and youth workers.

For what it’s worth, I’ll also be serving at the conference. Catch up with me on any of these if you want to join into what I’ll be doing or hang out afterward:

symcI know that I’m taking a risk in sharing that with you because it comes across as self-serving. Honestly, I’ll take the risk because I really believe in SYMC is all about… a conference “by youth workers, for youth workers.”

In fact, I’d like to give you some exclusive access (with just a minor edit or two for privacy/context) to a Facebook conversation with a local friend of mine in ministry who I dared to check out the conference.

Hey bro! Thanks for liking my status. It actually prompted me to ask you a question I keep forgetting to ask – wondering if you are interested in attending SYMC in Columbus in March.

Tony, I was not planning on it. I had thought about it for a while. I still am sort of on the fence. I feel like it’s never gonna be so easily accessible again, and I even have a buddy who really wants me to go with him. It just happens to fall probably in my busiest two weeks of the whole spring, and I’m concerned about not getting everything I need to get done, done..

Hmm… I hear that tension. I’m actually doing a trip to Honduras right afterward, so I know what you mean. I would offer that it’s worth it, even if you can pop in for a day. If that’s of interest, I can probe around for you to find a one-day rate. What do you think?

Well, what do you think would be some of the things I would most benefit from experiencing?

screen568x568I’ve been a part of various conferences like these over the year, and each experience is unique. The one thing I can offer about this one (and the largest reason why I like serving with these guys) is the relational atmosphere SYMC creates that’s just rich with the Holy Spirit… not in a weird way, but in a fulfilling way.

There are, of course, a lot of great things to learn from amazing minds in ministry. You can certainly fill up a notebook with new ideas… it’s like a Thanksgiving meal, as well as the unbuckling of your belt after the meal. You take in all of the ingredients life has given you and bring those to take part in a great buffet with other youth workers from all over.

The coolest thing is you can enjoy it without any masks… some people confess their junk, and others share their victories. Everyone finds a moment of genuine laughter, and everyone finds a genuine moment for hot tears… all as appropriate.

To top it off, there’s this vibe of accessibility to everyone. It’s like a weekend student ministry retreat without the students… where you get to be on the receiving end.

Anyway, all of that to say I’m into it… truly. Where I could fall into a funk with other conferences, this one is always growing and adapting. It’s truly for youth workers by youth workers… and Jesus.

Hope that makes sense. Let me know if you’re interested or would want to hang out if you came. I’m speaking in a handful of places, but would really enjoy the chance to share some free time with you.

When all was said and done, my buddy moved some things around in his schedule and signed up. He added, “Thanks for your answers to my questions, I definitely see the value of the conference.” Another couple of friends I spoke to recently are coming, too – mainly because I couldn’t stop yapping about the thing. (It’s like when you’ve eaten pizza all your life, but then find pizza that redefines pizza,,, and you have to tell everyone else about it.)

Why does this matter?

We all have days that leave us feeling like we’re insane. It’s rare to find a ragtag community like this where you suddenly feel like you can waste less time translating what you mean with people who don’t “get it” and more time speaking a common language among other dreamers who do “get it.” .

sackchairAll that to say I hope we can hang out at SYMC this year, too. If it’s not in your budget this round, start saving up for next year. If you can still join in, count this as my official invite for us to grab a meal or smoothie sometime with me a handful of peers among thousands of other youth workers

Or maybe we’ll just hang out in the closest over-sized sack chair we can find.

We are only one week and a half or so from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  It is probably one of my favorite times of the year.  This particular conference has truly become a place where I gather with friends to talk about ministry.  I learn so much, I laugh and I hang out with people who “get me.”  In addition I have the honor of teaching and serving on peer panels.  This is how I get to meet those with fresh ideas and hear about youth min. all over the world.  I thought it might be fun to share what I am teaching this year and why it’s close to my heart.

I mean you see the titles, you read the bios, but do you have any idea why us speakers care about what we do?  So this week I would like to break down my sessions for you.


Partnering With A New Generation Of Parents: (Saturday, 9 AM):

I have been in some form of family ministry for over two decades now.  (Yes, that means I’m old.)  When I started out it was in a rural area.  The running joke has always been that it took forever to gather all of my students not because I had so many, but because they lived so far away from each other.  This was the first time I was exposed to “Christian” households that hid affairs, problems and issues.  Most of my students did have two parents in the home, but that didn’t mean they were happy homes.  Fast forward as the Lord plops me in the inner city.  I remember in my first week a 10 year old girl asking me my age.   When I told her, “24,” her response was a gleeful, “That’s the same age as my Mom!” I honestly, had no idea how to respond, as the reality of two things hit me:  1. How young her Mom was when she had her.  2.  She had 2 siblings.

I continued to meet students in these areas who came from single parent households.  Dads were nonexistent in their lives.  It was not uncommon for there to be multiple children with the same Mom and different fathers.  Time marched on and I began to help out with suburban youth ministry.  I saw patterns of divorce there.  I met kids from rich homes whose parents were workaholics.  I talked with churches all over the country and I started hearing the same stories.  The traditional “family unit” was melting away.  Grandparents and family members  were raising grandchildren. Kids were growing up in foster care and group homes.  Children were navigating four parents as divorce and remarriage occurred.  The situations may have looked different at one time in rural, suburban and inner city areas,  however,  I have seen in recent years that the same scenarios are playing out everywhere.

Honestly, I pointed fingers at who I thought were “unworthy” to spiritually lead their children.  I put myself in the position of Savior and Hero when everyone else let them down.  That’s when the Lord convicted me of 3 things:

     No matter how much time I spent with any student at some point they would “go home.”

I could not ever be the Savior, there is only one.

God’s heart for the family is for it to be whole.  

The Lord pointed me to places in His Word about His thoughts of the family and the way He wants it to be.  I saw that as I decided that “some” parents “could” never “get there,”  I was actually becoming part of the problem and not the solution.

That’s why I have taken up the cause to see every parent, every family the way the Lord does: redeemed.  Will every family get there?  Of course not.  Is it what Jesus longs for?  Absolutely.  My responsibility is to keep asking Him to give me His eyes in the situation.

I feel responsible to learn how to partner with this new generation of families, and help them see what Christ does.  Will you join me as we learn how to do this together?

Do you have any specific questions on this topic you might like me to answer in my workshop?

Tune in tomorrow for: “Building Relationships In A Fake Relational World.”
Leneita / @leneitafix

M2GT: Why Should I Care?

 —  February 24, 2014 — 8 Comments


A few weeks ago, I shared some of my experiences as a gay teen in high school. I followed up that post with a plea to see gay teens beyond their sexual orientation. Both posts have sparked some great discussions online and offline, and that’s what I was aiming for. We need to be talking about this issue.

I’m going to assume, however, that there is a question being asked internally that needs to be discussed externally. The question isn’t a wrong one, and people asking it aren’t being ignorant. Like all questions surrounding homosexuality and ministry to gay individuals, this question needs to be discussed, too. So, let’s chat for a bit.

The question is: Why should I care?

Fair question. I think there are many youth workers who read this blog asking this question about gay teens. And maybe these are some of their thoughts: “I don’t have gay teens in my church or youth group, so why should I bother with this issue? .. The chances of a gay teen coming to our youth group is slim to none. .. I’m so tired of hearing about homosexuality – move on!”

Again, fair points.

However, I would like to offer three reasons on why every youth worker (and for that matter, why every church), should concern themselves with the issue of ministering to gay teens and adults.

First, just because you may not know about them doesn’t mean there are no gay teens or adults within your church or ministry. From 1996 to 2007, nearly every church I was a part of and worked in did not know about my past or present issues with same-sex attractions. And the main reason why was because I didn’t feel safe enough to tell people. For me, it was easier to hide away my secret than to lose friendships with people I really cared about. Though today I am sure they would have continued being my friend, back then it was a fear that gripped my life.

Second, the early church included people with same-sex attractions, so why shouldn’t our churches of today include them, too? Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 are mostly used when attacking or debating gays and lesbians. However, I want us to see something. In this passage, Paul is talking to people who were Christians (see 1:2, 10), and who were still engaging in sins that they had “died to” when they came to Christ. Paul reminds these brothers and sisters that this is how they used to live, and because Christ now lives in them they should live differently.

Notice that Paul doesn’t tell the Corinthian church to shun those with same-sex attractions. He doesn’t single them out, or even tell them their attractions must change in order to be good Christians. In fact, Paul is more concerned about people following Jesus, and the transforming work of the Spirit in people’s lives. In this letter, Paul calls for the church to be united, as one body. He calls the church to suffer and rejoice together, because everyone in the church matters (12:26).

You may not have gay people in your church, but you probably have some in your community. Here’s a question I would ask: why aren’t gay people coming to your church?

The third reason you should care about ministry to gay teens and adults, what if you were in their place? What if you were the one looking for a safe place to wrestle with things? What if you were gay and didn’t know Christ; wouldn’t you want someone to reach out to you, extending God’s grace and hope of salvation?

We are not country clubs. We’re not only for the elite. God’s church is universal. God’s salvation is for all people. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, through whom God makes His appeal, entrusting to us the message of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

It is only by God’s great grace we stand in the position we do as Christians. And this grace is not beyond anyone to be a recipient of. God has chosen us (the church) to be a vessel in which His grace flows towards all people. This is why we should care.


With you,

Shawn / @611pulse

P.S. I would love to see you at my workshop, “Ministering to Gay Teenagers,” at this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference!


Earlier this week, Chuck Bomar offered 6 questions gay students are asking of youth workers. And I thought this was an excellent perspective to take on the issue of how to minister to gay teenagers.

Last year, I wrote a book specifically for youth workers that was really a first of it’s kind. In a few weeks an new edition of this book will be released, and it will offer even more practical advice for youth workers, family members, and even the church at large.

My heart is to see gay individuals become connected (and stay connected) to Christ and His body in authentic relational ways. This passion stems from my own story of being a gay teenager and young adult, and one who still wrestles with same-sex attractions even though I’m married and in ministry.

This year at SYMC, I am teaching a workshop on ministry to gay and lesbian teenagers. So for the next few weeks, I want to touch on specific ministry issues and questions that youth workers are either facing right now or will soon face one way or another.

YM from a Gay Teen’s View

If you are not familiar with my full story, you can read it here on my blog. I’ve always been attracted to other guys. I don’t know for certain how these feelings came about, and really I’m not concerned anymore. I tried dating girls but nothing felt right; I wasn’t attracted to them like I was to my own sex. I was deeply confused, and always felt alone. My parents didn’t talk with me about what was going on, and most times it was passed off as “a phase” I was going through. I had a small group of friends who stood with me – which I am grateful for, but by-and-large I was rejected by everyone else around me (at least that’s how I perceived things).

I went to school with a lot of Christians. Some of them were nice, but for the majority of them, we had a mutual agreement: they hated me and I hated them. These Christians would take every opportunity to inform me I was bound for hell, God was sick with me, and God’s love did not extend to me. Being agnostic, I was fine with this; however, looking back, their message was damaging in multiple ways. My self-worth continued to lower. My views of God were deeply warped. Their words didn’t help my already suicidal state (I still shudder when I think about this time as an unbeliever, what if I really did succeed?).

I was never invited to youth group by these individuals, much less a time to sit and talk about Jesus. It was always condemnation, or some other threatening remarks. And all I truly wanted was to be accepted and liked for who I was. This desire to be liked extended beyond my sexuality. Sure I wanted people to accept that gay was OK, but more than that, I wanted people to accept my gay friends and I for who we were. I wanted people to know that I was more than a sexuality label.

How I wish there was a place for me to go, to belong, so that I could talk about my questions concerning God and life. How I wish there was a place I could just get away, or at least escape the consuming pressures of the day for awhile. How I wish an adult would have reached out to me in support and spoke truth into my life.

This is why youth workers are so vital in a gay teenagers life. We have the hope of Christ living within us. We are vessels God wants to use to speak truth into a gay teens life, whether they know Jesus or not. We have the ability to create a safe place for gay teens to come, find true connection, and the chance to forget about the day. God has given us an amazing platform and calling to reach every student, that He created and died for, and whom He wants a personal relationship with.

Are we such vessels?

Do we offer such places of common ground in our ministry?

With you and for you,



Heyo Insiders!

What happens when you get Simply’s Matty McCage, Saddleback Church’s Kurt Johnston, and Christ in Youth’s Chad Monahan together? They go skydiving! Well, Kurt and Chad do!

But for real, it’s fun to hear these three chat about Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 happening in Columbus, OH on March 7-10. Watch below:

Are you registered for #SYMC 2014 yet? It’s not too late to sign-up yet…we promise!

We will be so sad if we don’t get to see your good-looking self there! Come hangout with 1000’s of people from the trenches of youth ministry just like you.

See you at SYMC!




The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is coming up March 7th-10th and you do not want to miss out. Register (here) Check out Kurt and I as we discuss what makes SYMC so great!!!! You will also learn of our great love for dates!!!! ha Enjoy!!


kurt & ac

One of the things I love to do, is share what I’m learning in ministry with other youth workers and volunteers. With this post I wanted to share something that I need to remind myself is the better option. I’m always thinking of the person who’s attending my workshop and I always want them to get the most out it. So my first thought is to allow questions during my session because it’s important that they leave feeling like they’ve gained a new perspective on the topic in some way. Also, I don’t want them to forget the question so I allow Q&A during the workshop. Then immediately when I’m done I regret it. Here’s why:

  1. I’ve just valued a few over everyone - By the end of the workshop I’ve spent more time answering questions for the few, then sharing the material I prepared for everyone.
  2. Random personal rants - Every person in my workshop is there to get what they need. They are not thinking about everyone else which is natural and ok. The flip side to that is they begin asking questions as if they are the only ones there.  
  3. A question becomes the workshop – I’ve just taken 15 minutes to explain something that has nothing to do with the focus of my presentation. All because someone asked a question that needed background info on the answer. Now I have question on the answer I just gave.
  4. The workshop was highjacked – I’ve just went back and forth with one person who has a rebuttal to every answer I give them. We’ve now frustrated the whole workshop and have created an angry mob. Now I’m looking for an exit. ha
  5. I ran out of time – I had to rush through the rest of my material which makes me look like an idiot, because everyone in my workshop is thinking that I should of managed my time better. I have to make the embarrassing announcement about skipping portions of the material so they can make it to their next workshop on time. Or I “Jesus-juke” everyone and say “I feel led to stop here and dig deeper” when in reality I just don’t have the time to go any further.


Now, I’m a firm believer that a Q&A within a workshop is necessary. I’m also aware of the fact that some of these things that I mentioned above can’t be avoided, but they can be managed. So here are 5 ways to do a Q&A right!

  1. Write it down. – I will let them know that there will be a Q&A at the end and that they should write their questions down as they come to them. So they don’t forget them.
  2. Set a time limit. – This help’s me manage my workshop time schedule. Also, it helps me keep track on how many questions I can take. So as the time comes to a close I can say “we have time for three more questions” or something like that.
  3. Preference the type of questions you want asked. – I will usually preference by saying “if it’s a question that you think would help everyone”. I will also say that I’m free afterwards to answer more specific questions that may not be helpful to everyone.
  4. Go off-line. – Don’t be afraid to take some questions that need more elaborate answers to email. Nothing kills Q&A time like a question that takes the whole time to answer. Let those people email you, that way you don’t subject everyone to a question that effects 5 out of the 25 people that are in your workshop.
  5. Take polls. – Some of the questions you get may be on the minds of everyone. Take a poll if you think that the question may be universal. The people in your workshop need to know that they are not the only ones struggling in that area or have that problem. Also this is a great time for them to help each other. Be cautious that no one highjacks this time either.

Answering questions that I’m covering in my presentation before I cover it is counter-productive. And that’s exactly what happens when I do a Q&A during my presentation. On the other hand, you are not going to cover everything about the topic in your presentation. So you need a time of Q&A to maybe catch somethings you didn’t mention in your presentation that the people need to know. So for me Q&A’s works best at the end where it can be managed and utilized to it’s fullest potential.

Let’s help each other out. What are some other helpful workshop tips?

Hope it helps