As I work with the adult volunteers, I continually am trying to teach and model a relationship-building concept that I call the “30 second and 3 minute conversations.” Allow me to explain the thinking behind the 30-second and 3-minute conversation concept – it helps us go after the feeling of genuine warmth and community when the ratio is at best 1 adult to 10 students.

In order for each youth to be personally greeted and engaged, it’s absolutely imperative that our adult volunteers are extremely intentional about our conversations with the youth. The adults are simply unable to engage in long conversations with each youth on Wednesday Nights, so we’ve put into practice the 30-second and 3-minute conversation concept.

When each youth walks into the church, they are greeted and engaged with at least one 30-second conversation. This 30-second conversation is designed to be an open-ended conversation with the youth. The adults ask questions like, “How is your week going?” or “How has your summer been?” or “What have you been doing for fun lately?” The questions are designed to let the youth talk about themselves and give the adults the opportunity to learn about the youth.

The 3-minute conversation is essentially taking the time to learn one story about the youth. The conversation may be longer or shorter than 3-minutes and that’s okay. The intent is to learn one story so that our adults can begin developing a relationship with our youth.

The final piece of this concept is this. If during the course of the 30-second and the 3-minute conversations the adult discovers that a longer conversation needs to take place, the next step is to invite and engage the youth in a Coke or Coffee date sometime later in the week. This allows the adult to continue to engage the other youth that are attending and allows the youth to be valued outside of the Wednesday Night worship experience.

If your adult volunteers can grasp this concept, then I believe meaningful relationships between the adults and youth can be developed. What do you think about the 30-second and 3-minute conversation concept? Would this work in your youth ministry?

John Howell is the utility pastor for Celebrate Church in Sioux Falls, SD which is a fancy way of saying that he does a little bit of everything, including working with and training adult volunteers in their youth ministry. Check out more of his stuff at

I find the most rewarding experience I have in ministry is to watch a student surrender their whole life to Jesus Christ. I love those moments when a student goes all in for Christ and will do anything He asks him/her to do. It’s amazing! It inspires not only me but also the people who are privileged to witness it happen. There is nothing like it.

I believe there are many students, and people for that matter, who know of Jesus but don’t believe in him. There is a huge difference. Knowing Jesus won’t change your life. Believing will. And not just believing, but following Christ will take you on an adventure you may have never imagined. However you can’t follow Jesus unless you totally surrender to Him. Christ wants control of you whole life not just a part of it.

Anyone whose been hanging around me the last couple of weeks as heard me say, “Salvation is free, but following Christ costs me everything.” It’s true. Following Christ has cost me my whole life. This thought has changed my desire for how a student looks spiritually when they leave our student ministry. I want our students living out Luke 9:23-24 which says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

Luke 5 is an amazing story that many of you know. I would encourage you to go read it today. In verse 8 Peter goes from knowing Jesus to fully believing Him. A few verses later he leaves everything and follows Christ.

I want to create environments, lessons, worship experiences, and serving opportunities that force students to make a choice, to follow Christ or not. My desire is for our students to wake up everyday of their life and die to themselves. To live out each day asking the question, “God want do you want me to do today, my life is over.”

Matt Cote is the Family Pastor at Brentwood Church and blogs at

New Life Video

 —  June 30, 2010 — Leave a comment

A little video we bought/used for the weekend to end the talk about Jesus giving new life.


A video from Worship House Media we used during the countdown on Father’s Day weekend in HSM.


Here’s a shot from this weekend – we gathered up a bunch of students on stage to say goodbye to a couple of long-time staff members and friends. Jared (on staff a few years ago focusing on Student Leadership) and Alanna (on staff currently as worship/music coordinator) are headed to Virginia as youth workers at a great church there. Made me think about something I’ve been learning the last few weeks again – part of youth ministry is saying goodbye:

Goodbye to graduating seniors
This is the time of year when you have to say goodbye to students that have hit for the cycle and are heading out. Some seniors you may be pretty excited to say goodbye to and some you will literally shed tears over. Either way, saying goodbye is part of the gig.

Goodbye to great volunteers
The end of the school year is also a time when volunteers start to think about what’s next. Small group leaders that finish with seniors might think about moving to another ministry. Life stage changes mess with availability and commitments, and parting ways with your student ministry might be part of that evolution.

Goodbye to great members of the staff
This is the toughest – sometimes people on your church staff transition, too. This isn’t always a bad thing! Could be a great promotion, a clear calling from God, a chance to take a step of faith to whatever it is that God has next.

Of course, remember that the end doesn’t have to be the end. The relationships you build with students, volunteers and staff can last way beyond the years where your paths intersect directly. Either way, youth workers who come to terms with having to say goodbye is wise.


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend: El Toro HS (week 2 of 5)

Sermon in a Sentence: God is the Great Rescuer.
Service Length: 69 minutes

Understandable Message: The weekend told the story of the Prodigal Son through a message as well as real-life stories of God rescuing students and bringing them back to him. A powerful combination of the teaching of the passage and illustrations of it on stage.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: This series is about students doing everything – and that’s exactly what they did! Lights, camera sound, band, choir, control room, setup, cleanup, stage, greeting, activity afterward, prayer patio, testimony, speaking, program. Students took over every role, the adult team simply looked for conversations and helped create a welcoming environment.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Students created a positive atmosphere with creative school-themed decorations like streamers and posters, as well as had a ton of greeters to make everyone feel welcome. They had a funny video as part of the countdown and used the school drum line as part of the opening to the night, and even included them in the worship songs at the end of the night. Positive, fun, memorable.

Music Playlist: Song of the Broken, Amazing Grace, With Everything

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment came Sunday afternoon – I took my kids to Yogurtland as a treat for doing so well in flag football Saturday morning. The student behind the counter regularly attends HSM, and she mentioned bringing her friend for the first time, and that they absolutely loved it. The weekend is our front door – we work hard to create a positive, welcoming environment with lots of students involved sharing an understandable message – it is always a great feeling when students feel safe enough to bring their friends. Love it!

Up Next: YOTW – Capo HS (week 3 of 5)

Got a great question this week via the contact page, thought I would turn it into a quick post.

QUESTION: If you were going to serve at a church that had no student ministry program, where would you begin?

ANSWER: Great question! There are two things I would jump on immediately:

Behind the scenes, I would begin to build a crack team of volunteers. This is absolutely crucial in starting a youth ministry from scratch. I would evaluate my circle of friends and start there, as well as begin to mine the congregation for star players. Starting a youth ministry from nothing isn’t easy, so you’re going to need to look for great players who can handle the bumpy road of getting this thing off the ground. The first program I would launch is a (the weekend, or whatever time is best) worship service. Building a great entry-level program is a great place to start. Begin with a simple program that is relationship-focused, friendly to outsiders and builds a community. It’ll give you a great base to build on from there!

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment with your answer, too.


Weekend Teaching Series: Stories (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: Stories of students’ life-change told live on stage.
Service Length: 59 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was all about stories of life-change: Kristen shared about God’s mercy through a family crisis, Shea shared about accepting Christ and forgiving someone who had hurt him deeply. Martina shared her story of depression and suicide, Ryan and Taylor talked about sponsoring a couple of street kids in Kitale, Angie shared about visiting a local mosque and hoping her new friends would accept Jesus, Arianna told about shoplifting, partying and coming back to God. Very diverse stories with tons of different possible takeaways.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: No adults were on stage at all this weekend – all students, all of the time. Volunteers worked the crowd looking for conversational opportunities with students. Good stuff.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend had a couple of fun moments within the stories, though we didn’t program in a significant amount of direct humor. We did play a great little video from SYM Media Store and I wrote up a little script to end the weekend to tie the stories together and end on a positive note, pointing them back to Christ in all of this.

Music Playlist: You’re Not Alone, Safe, Fix You, More Than Anything

Favorite Moment: This weekend my favorite moment was talking to parents. SO many parents visited HSM this weekend, it was exciting to see them supporting their children and cheering them on from the audience. Great conversations, great connections.

Up Next: EASTER at Angel Stadium (no HSM next week!)