By Todd Pearage / New Hanover UMC / Gilbertsville, PA /


As a many-year veteran of student ministry, I’ll admit that I love the big events. I love planning them with my team and working out the details. I love the excitement of seeing a ton of students having a blast – in church. I love the crazy games, the loud music, and the free t-shirts. Throw in a Christian band and I’m in heaven.

However, in recent years there’s been a movement to shift away from the big events, and “programming” has become a dirty word. Youth pastors have been told to abandon the program and “just hang out with kids.” When you talk with youth workers, it does not take long before the conversation turns to the “program vs. relationship” debate.

Before we go and split the church over this philosophy of ministry (don’t laugh, it’s been split over far less important issues), let’s agree that both sides of this conversation have valid points. We have all seen the benefits of the big event, and I believe there will always be a place for them. But, I am convinced that impact happens person-to-person. So here are a few things I do to make an impact.

Get Out of the Office – I have two offices at my church – I have the “official office” which is really just a cubicle right outside my Senior Pastor’s office, and I also have a “secret office” which is in our student ministry area. Truthfully, I love my “secret office.” I can listen to Thousand Foot Krutch as loud as I want, search YouTube for the latest viral video, and even catch the latest episode of Duck Dynasty, all while getting my work done.

But as cool as my secret office is and as funny as it may be to watch Uncle Si’s crazy shenanigans, the truth is…

To read the rest of Todd’s article, go here.


By Ken McCoy / JumpStart Ministries / Charlotte, North Carolina /


Today is See You at the Pole day – it’s about one simple act—prayer. Here are three reasons we have been a part of this movement since its inception 25 years ago.

1. Christian students discover that they aren’t alone. When they gathered at their school’s flagpole this morning, they met a bunch of people from other churches, kids they otherwise might not have known were believers.

2. The community takes notice. In an environment that is anything but friendly to Christianity, students who are willing to gather together to pray for their schools is a remarkable event.

YLO Members get tons of great youth ministry articles like this. Let us serve your ministry all year long with youth ministry’s original low-cost music& media service Youth Leaders Only!

3. Prayer is effective. Prayer changes hearts, opens doors, and creates movement. Any time we can encourage students to pray, we’ll be engaged.

Seven Ways to Connect with Students

By Mandy Kyes / Southwest Community Church / Indian Wells, California /


Establishing solid relationships with students in your ministry is one of the most essential pillars needed for a ministry that goes beyond the walls of a church and into a deeper foundation for discipleship. These relationships take more than one or two “group nights” a week to build; they require an intentional mindset and a willing heart. Here are seven simple ways to connect with your students outside of scheduled ministry programs. When you connect with them outside of the church building, they will feel valued, validated, and loved.

1. Attend a sports event, a school play, a band performance, etc. in which your student/students participate. Unfortunately, many students don’t get any support from the people who are closest to them, including parents. Your small act of showing up tells the student that he/she is worth your time.

YLO Members get tons of great youth ministry articles like this. Let us serve your ministry all year long with youth ministry’s original low-cost music& media service Youth Leaders Only!

2. Remember their birthdays and show recognition through a phone call or card. I know how daunting remembering each one can be, especially when some of us can’t even remember what day of the week it is! Make it easy on yourself – when a student fills out a welcome card, make sure their birthday is listed, and then enter it as soon as possible in your phone calendar, office calendar, etc. Have a dry erase calendar board on the wall of the youth room and have students put their upcoming events (including birthdays) on that month. This will help you keep better track of the students’ activities (see number 1) and special days.

3. Take them out for lunch. I know budgets are slim and money is tight, but that’s a two-way street. Some students haven’t splurged on a greasy, cheeseburger for quite some time. So treat them! It’s a great way to have casual conversation in a non-threatening environment. This lets students know they’re worth more to you than your money. (Note: Although intentions are pure, remember that society looks at the interactions between older men/women and minors. Be above reproach; only have one-on-ones with students of the same sex. You can always bring lunch to the students’ schools and interact in small groups all while achieving the same goal.)

4. Encourage students through little notes, postcards, texts, etc. Students are surrounded by put-downs, criticism, and verbal abuse at school, home, and/or just walking in a store. Bullying is at an all-time high, and depression in youth is rising. Counteract the disease by encouraging students at every opportunity. Postcards and letters make great “trophies” that students often put in their binder covers. A little encouragement goes a long way with students. Show them how valuable they are through your words.

5. Provide ways for students to show off their talents. Noticing that Jenny and Angelica are creative geniuses could spark a craft day or art gallery showcase. Hearing Matthew’s guitar skills may bring a day of guitar lessons or even a youth band in which he helps other students find their musical abilities. Have a writer in your group? Ask them to write an article about the latest youth trip; better yet, add a student who loves photography and you can get a youth newsletter up and running. Whatever the case may be, provide opportunities for students to shine with their God-given talents.

6. Be real. Need I say anymore? If we’re honest with ourselves, we try to paint ourselves in the best light for students, but the reality is that students want to see that you have flaws and are working on them, that sometimes you don’t always respond the way you should, that you yourself are growing in Christ, just as they are. This doesn’t mean you divulge things that you share with your accountability partner; it just means that it’s okay to be real and open about some of the flaws you struggle with. This flips the script and lets students know YOU trust THEM.

YLO Members get tons of great youth ministry articles like this. Let us serve your ministry all year long with youth ministry’s original low-cost music& media service Youth Leaders Only!

7. Be available. Plain and simple. Students have curveballs thrown at them left and right. When they trust you enough to reach out, reach right back! Return phone calls in a timely manner, text back when you can, and answer your phone. (You need to have time for your family and for yourself. So if your office hours are 9am-5pm, be available.) What students often need most is just for someone to listen. Be the one to step up and listen up.

Don’t feel pressured to implement all of these at once. Tackle them one by one and enjoy the ride!

The Video Music Awards scream SEX SEX SEX!

Is this MTV's attempt to rebuild their audience?

By Todd Pearage, New Hanover UMC, Gilbertsville, PA,


The MTV VMAs scream SEX SEX SEX! This night is clearly more about how many times you can twerk and how little you can wear and less about artistry of music and entertainment. Years ago we all screamed “I want my MTV”…today I’m screaming “just put some clothes on”.

I know this isn’t new, but (and maybe I’m getting older) it is getting worse. And the more we celebrate this hyper sexualization the more sexual these shows will become.

Why did DJ Khaled have a two different sneakers wrapped around his neck all night? Please tell me that’s not going to be a thing.

Finally Key and Peel were so not funny. I think I’ll tweet that.

Maybe they know, maybe they don’t, but MTV and so many of these artists make it very difficult for us to do our job. As youth pastors we try to teach our students to be an example in their speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. And then I watch this and wonder if that message is being heard and how to be even more effective.

Three Reasons You Should Embrace The Pokémon GO Phenomenon

Youth Leaders Should Have Fun Too!

By Ken McCoy / JumpStart Ministries / Charlotte, NC /


Unless you don’t know any teenagers, you’re aware of the Pokémon GO craze that’s hit North America this past weekend. People everywhere are using their phones to play an augmented-reality game that turns their city into a Pokémon-infested world where art sculptures are Pokéstops, coffee shops are Pokémon Gyms, and town squares are ripe with virtual critters.

Without getting into the “how to play” info – full disclosure, I haven’t really played it much, there don’t seem to be any Pokémon creatures in my neighborhood yet – I’ve thought of at least three reasons I need to embrace this phenomenon.

The Game Is Fun!
A whole generation of kids grew up with “Nintendo Thumb” from playing Pokémon on a handheld gaming console, and imagining how cool their world would be if Pokémon characters inhabited it. Now, they’re even closer to experiencing that reality. Using the camera on their phones, those kids (who are now old enough to be youth leaders) can now be in that world. How cool is that?

You Can Play With Friends
While there is no multiplayer functionality in the game yet, you can still go hunting with friends. I saw a dozen people gathered at a Pokéstop in my little town over the weekend. They were laughing, looking at their phones, and generally seemed to be having a great time even in the summer heat and humidity of North Carolina.

Players Get Exercise
Finding the fantasy creatures requires you to get out and get walking – or running – at all times of day and night. The more ground you can cover, the more creatures you will find. After decades of watching kids veg for hours in front of a computer or television, I’m all for getting outside and exploring – especially if I’m doing it with some of my young friends from church!

I recognize that I’m a geek – not a nerd, a geek – and an early adopter. Still, I’m pretty sure that Pokémon GO will be one activity that works its way into my schedule this week. How about you?

Hurting Kids: I Wish I Would Have Known

I’ve learned a few things that I wish I would have known

By Mark Hall / Lead Singer, Casting Crowns; Youth Pastor, Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church / McDonough, Georgia

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 5.26.06 PM

Even after many years as a youth leader, ministering to hurting, troubled, and needy kids remains a challenge. When I started in youth ministry, I came in as a music major who didn’t really have much training, just a lot of love for young people. However, along the way I’ve learned a few things that I wish I would have known in the beginning.

First, a ministry will never outgrow its leader. As a youthworker, your walk with Jesus is the glass ceiling of your ministry. Your kids are going to learn from you and your lifestyle. You’re going to do more “ministry” by letting your kids see what a Christian looks like while dealing with bad traffic than by any talk you give on a Wednesday night. Ministry is always going to be the overflow of our own relationship with God. One of the first changes that God makes is our eyes—the way we see the world. All kids will face crisis, all kids are needy, and all kids can be a challenge. If you’re not careful, you can feel like you want to strangle a middle schooler before it’s all over! I need to see my students the way God sees them. I need to be able to see that the guy-crazy girl is making poor decisions because she doesn’t have a strong father figure at home and she’s desperate for affection. If I’m not walking closely with Jesus, I’m not going to see her the way He does.

Beyond seeing with Christ’s eyes, we have to earn the right to speak into teens’ lives. This generation will not respect…

Use this link to read the rest of the article.

Hurting Kids: Systemic Abandonment

By Dr. Chap Clark / Fuller Seminary / Pasadena, California

Systemic Abandonment

I spend a good deal of time in the academic realm where scholars discuss the latest research. I also spend time with parents and other adults, who share with me their concerns and questions about kids. I have been privileged to see the world from the eyes of the kids themselves, and I want to help adults do a better job of caring for the kids in their lives.

This is wake-up call designed to challenge every adult to recognize and struggle with what our choices as adults have done to the children of our society. The major consequence of adult inattention has been a profound sense of abandonment among today’s teens. The only solution to this problem is for adults to roll up our sleeves and invest ourselves in the lives of the individual young people we know.

Abandoned and All Alone

All of us have felt abandoned at times. But as I learned during my journey into the world of today’s teens, abandonment is a normal and accepted part of their lives.

Abandonment is the fundamental cultural reality of kids today. This makes perfect sense to some readers, but others aren’t so sure. They see kids in large groups at school or at church events, and they say, “This doesn’t look like abandonment to me.”

But let’s look more closely at the lives of kids and see if signs of systemic abandonment become clearer. As we look more closely, may we be inspired by the words of my middle son, a high school junior, who gave me this warning when I started this journey: “I know you think you know a lot about kids, Dad, but you had better be ready for a shock. I don’t think you really get it! I don’t think any adult gets it!”

Better or Worse

Experts disagree about whether contemporary youth face brave new challenges that kids have never faced before or whether today’s kids are basically dealing with the same kinds of problems kids have always dealt with. This disagreement carries over into our discussion of abandonment.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Powers made his perspective clear with the title of his controversial 2002 article in Atlantic magazine, “The Apocalypse of Adolescence.” Powers also discussed the article on TV’s 60 Minutes. Powers argued that “the inconvenience of children, the downright menace of children—has become a dominant theme of life” for many adults. And his article explored a culture of disenfranchisement that is increasingly troubling many kids, resulting in violence and other ills.

On the other side of the debate is University of California, Santa Cruz, sociologist Mike Males, who says adolescents are in far better shape today than they have been in years. Today’s young “are doing better than ever,” he says in his 2002 Los Angeles Times article, “The New Demons: Ordinary Teens.” Males says our fears about troubled teens are misplaced and overstated, leading to a dangerous condition he calls “Ephebiphobia” or “extreme fear of youth,” an ailment that is propelled by a “full-blown media panic.”

The debate continues. And while some people may wonder how two smart people could come to such opposed opinions, I look for the ways in which their views connect and overlap with each other. After listening to the debate by these and other experts, here’s my conclusion: as adolescents attempt to…

Use this link to read the rest of the article.

Hurting Kids: Symptoms and Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide

By Steve Gerali

This is an excerpt from What Do I Do When Teenagers are Depressed & Contemplate Suicide, which a part of the “What Do I Do…” series from Youth Specialties. To get the entire book or series, go to or wherever books are sold. All rights reserved. Used by permission.


Teenagers who commit suicide usually believe that their present lives are hopelessly painful and filled with the darkest despair, and that their futures won’t bring any relief, being equally dark. Death becomes the only means of escape. Suicide is among the leading causes of death among adolescents in the United States and worldwide.

Symptoms of depression. These are often the primary and most prevalent signs. About 90 percent of all teenage suicides are accompanied by depression or grow out of prolonged depression. Depressed teens need to be monitored closely. Sometimes when teens appear to come out of depression, it may be that they’ve resolved to attempt suicide—in other words, the opportunity to escape the pain of depression may be a relief to them and paradoxically elevate their moods. Such a decision can feel empowering and can give them more energy. So if depressed teens’ moods begin elevating, they need to be monitored more closely.

 Verbal Cues. Teens contemplating suicide may speak about or ask questions about death and funerals. They may ask questions such as, “Does the Bible talk about suicide?” or “Do people who commit suicide go to hell?” They may make comments about being better off dead, wishing they’d never been born, or speak in terms of not having a future (“I may not be here for that”), or exclude themselves from life milestones they’d typically want to experience with their peers (“My friends will graduate this year”).

Verbal cues will also accompany and explain some behavioral cues. They may talk about not needing their things anymore or ask people to take care of their pets. Verbal cues can also include teens coming right out and talking about feelings and thoughts of suicide.

 Behavioral Cues. Some of these cues have already been mentioned but are worth repeating. Teens who are suicidal may engage in…

Use this link to read the rest of the article.

Hurting Kids: Mercy For Self-Harm

By Nancy Alcorn / Mercy Ministries of America / Nashville, Tennessee /


 I couldn’t stop myself. I had to cut. Not cutting meant everything was okay, and everything was anything but okay. So dead inside, I picked up a blade and glided it across my thigh. – Lindsay

Lindsay couldn’t take the silent suffering any longer. She had no way to express the pain she felt or the sense of being a prisoner to it, except through self-harm. If she could not feel anything on the inside, she had to prove to herself she could at least feel something on the outside.

Just like Lindsay, millions of people of all ages wrestle with the seemingly inescapable problem of self-harm on a daily basis. Out-of-control emotions or the inability to feel at all may result in self-harming behaviors, such as cuts, burns, bruises, or worse.

Does this scenario describe someone you know who is struggling with self-harm on a regular basis? Are you desperate for answers? There are many girls wanting a way out. Many have found it. Since 1983, Mercy Ministries has served more than two thousand young women from across the country and from varied cultural and economic backgrounds, facing a combination of difficult circumstances.

Julia’s Story

It started out as an accident, really. I was eight years old and dealing with so much hurt and anger. While doing the dishes, I cut myself on some broken glass. For the first time, I felt a moment of freedom from the pain inside, and at the same time it kind of broke through the numbness. I felt alive, almost normal.

Gradually it escalated from “accidents” to very intentional actions. For me it was important, and a bit obsessive, to see…

Use this link to read the rest of the article.

Excerpts taken from “Cut: Mercy for Self-Harm” by Nancy Alcorn
The Mercy For book series addresses the life-controlling issues that threaten thousands of young women every day such as eating disorders, self-harm, addictions, and sexual abuse. In fact, Mercy Ministries has received several testimonies from young women who have gained practical advice and scriptural insight from these resources and found freedom! Visit for more information.

Hurting Kids: Where To Turn

Since you’re a youth leader, you WILL encounter crisis situations. When they happen, you’ll need to know where to turn. Here are some websites and information that could prove invaluable to you.

Where To Turn


  • If you are in crisis, need immediate help, or facing a potentially life-threatening emergency, call 911
  • Critical Incident Response – This coalition of crisis responders coordinates specialized training and resources to help prepare youth workers and local Networks to meet needs when crises strike, such as a teenage suicide, fatal car accident, school shooting, or other trauma. Four levels of involvement and training can be found at


  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline – If you or someone you know is considering suicide, do not wait to get help. Take the concern seriously and call 800-273-TALK to talk to someone who cares. Go to
  • The HopeLine– Longtime youth minister and well-known youth communicator Dawson McAllister offers help to teens struggling with critical life issues and who may be considering self-harm or suicide. Call 1-800-394-HOPE (4673) to talk with a Hope Coach, or communicate by chat or text. Point your web browser to
  • Groundwire – Need to talk? Chat now with a spiritual coach. Coaches are available to listen and offer spiritual advice, encouragement, resources, and prayer. Get online with them at


  • To Write Love On Her Arms – TWLOHA is a movement dedicated to hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. Find help online at
  • A.F.E. ALTERNATIVES – This is a nationally recognized treatment approach, professional network and educational resource base committed to helping you and others end to self-abusive behavior. Link to

Substance Abuse

  • Teen Challenge – Faith-based help and healing for those facing drug addiction and life-controlling problems. Teen Challenge has centers located in 70 different countries. Their online presence is at