Category Archives: Ministry Resource

The Fidget Gospel

3 Ways The Fidget Spinner Can Be Used In Evangelism

By Brooks Gibbs | SermonShare| Spring Hill, Tennessee

Every once-in-a-while someone invents a toy that captures the obsessions of children all over the world, sending their parents into a mass consumer hysteria. The Rubik’s Cube, Pet Rocks, and Slap-Wrist Bracelets once had their shining moment in toy history and today we have a new fun widget… The Fidget.

By now, you’ve seen this toy spinner. They are everywhere! I personally visited 5 Walgreens at the weeping request of my 7 year old who (using the creepy crackly low-end of his voice box) said my reputation as “the most awesomest dad on the planet” was at-risk. Somehow, I came through and snagged the last fidget on the shelf. Days later, his entrepreneurial grandma drop-shipped a box of them from china and now my kids are the neighborhood dealers. This fidget fever is out of control.

At first, I hated this trend. But after some prayerful observation, I discovered that there is huge evangelistic opportunity right in front of us, and wise is the youth pastor that takes advantage of it.

Consider what is happening right now. Kids are comparing fidgets, pointing out various differences, and discussing the virtues of the designs and colors. With a little help from us, we can empower our Christian kids to share the Gospel as they discuss their new favorite toy.

Evangelism Made Easy
I asked my boys to figure out a way to tell the simple story of the Gospel using their spinning Fidget as an evangelistic tool. Immediately my 7 year-old suggested the “Trinity.”

“Dad”, he said. “Each point on the fidget represents part of the Trinity. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you spin it real fast, it looks like they are all ONE!”

Of course a churched kid would see the Trinity in a three part spinning toy. I’m not so sure an unchurched kid would understand what my son was talking about. The Trinity is a commonly misunderstood concept among people, and a true grasp of its reality escapes even the most educated theologians.

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I encouraged my son to think again. Think deeper. HOW does God, in His triune form, work to bring someone to Christ. Explain that, and you might be able to explain the Gospel. Here is what we concluded after a little bit of discussion:

  • The Father: Loves us so much that he gave us His son to live a perfect life that we could never live.
  • The Son: Died on the cross for our sins so that we could have a relationship with God.
  • The Spirit: Speaks to our hearts and leads us into a closer relationship with God through Christ.

That more practical explanation of the work of the Trinity is what my 7 year old chose to use on his neighborhood friends. My 10 year-old, however suggested another approach. He preferred the classic A-B-C Gospel.

  • A- Admit that you are a sinner, that you mess up and your sin separates you from God.
  • B- Believe that Jesus died for your sins so that you can live with God forever.
  • C- Commit to follow Jesus for the rest of your life, and you will be saved.

Another approach to sharing the Gospel is as easy as 1-2-3:
#1. My Life before Christ: Don’t glorify your past, but mention how you were before Christ:

  • “I had a void in my life nothing could fill” (see Ecclesiastes 3:11).
  • “I felt separated from God” (see Isaiah 59:2).
  • “My life was dominated by sin and with pleasing myself” (see Luke 15:11–24).
  • Share how you never felt you could become the person you ought to be.

#2. My Life Changed by Christ: Now summarize how you came into a relationship with Christ. Be sure to mention the key elements of the gospel:

  • “I realized that I’m a sinner and that I fall short of God’s glory” (see Romans 3:23).
  • “I recognized that Jesus Christ died on the cross for my sins” (see Romans 5:8)
  • “I repented or turned away from my sins” (see Acts 3:19).
  • “I received Jesus Christ as Lord of my life” (see Revelation 3:20).

#3. My New Life in Christ: Talk about how your life is noticeably different now that you are in Christ. Put into your own words the following benefits of being in Christ:

  • “I now have peace in my life” (see Romans 5:1).
  • “Now that I’m a Christian, I know I have a purpose for living” (see Jeremiah 29:11).
  • “I now have the assurance that I’m going to Heaven” (see John 3:36).

Let’s nurture a heart for evangelism in our kids. The way we do that is helping them learn to share their faith with their friends, in a language that can be easily understood. Just imagine the joy that your kids will have when they see one of their friends come to Christ!

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I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4

What To Unpack From Camp

Help For Parents Of Campers

By Paul Turner • Pleasant Grove Assembly of God • Pleasant Grove, Alabama

Your son or daughter will be coming home from camp soon. In addition to shirts, pants, and underwear they will be unpacking their problems, victories, and emotions. When they arrive home and experience reentry into the reality of life, they will need a little help. Reentry can be a delicate time. Look over these instructions as you help your child unpack from camp.

  1. What You Should Unpack Before Your Package Arrives
  • Expectations – Remind yourself that this is a journey and your child will spend the rest of his or her Christian life unpacking what God has put in them – and so will you.
  • Understanding – When your child doesn’t live up to his or her expectations and becomes discouraged, offer a listening ear, not a condemning finger.
  • A Heart For New Beginnings – Whatever has happened in past should remain there. Your child may be bringing back some new commitments – you could also make some new commitments and join the journey with him or her. Let the arguments and face offs of the past remain in the past. Coming home from camp is a great opportunity to start fresh.

Get all the new Christian Music for your summer camp MercyMe Colton Dixon Hillsong Young & Free!

  1. Your Package Arrives: Handle With Care – No one will be more excited about camp than your child. If your child has never been to camp before, get ready for a few stories. If they are in junior high grab a seat because they won’t stop talking! Start to unpack slowly. Take all the “big items” out first. They will want to talk about the Blob™ they might have jumped on, all the fun games they played, and the late night shaving cream fight none of the counselors knew about. Rejoice with them over meal times, and maybe when they arrive arrange a special dinner out. Make sure you allow your son or daughter to unpack in their own time, but questions about the big stuff are okay to begin with.
  1. Small Pieces May Cause Choking – While unpacking, (which may take a few weeks) look for “small pieces” of the story. Some students are not very talkative about their spiritual moments while others make it the centerpiece of their conversations. They may mention the services at night or the daily devotion. If they like to write, you may want to present them with a journal to record all their moments. (If you are reading this article before they go to camp, buy them a journal and pack it off with them.) Ask them to share their favorite yet not too personal moments with you when they get back. Pick up on the “small pieces” of their camp experience such as a counselor they keep mentioning or a favorite song they learned at camp and now hum around the house. Use that as a catalyst for further discussion about spiritual things.
  1. Maintenance For Your New or Refurbished Student – Parents often ask the question, “How do I keep my kid on track?” Post-camp life can be traumatic. The commitments they made will be tested. The devil does not want them to succeed in following God. The feelings of guilt are magnified in the life of a young person. They see themselves as strong people; and when they act in opposition to the commitment they’ve made, they are prone to give up or to believe they just don’t “have it.” A few Scriptures to have handy are Romans 7:15, 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

Get all the new Christian Music for your summer camp MercyMe Colton Dixon Hillsong Young & Free!

  1. Call The Shipping Dept. If You Have Any Problems – If you experience any problems unpacking you package call “shipping” – your youth pastor and youth leaders. What problems might you experience?
  • Extremism – Your child might adopt unbiblical, extreme views about their culture and even toward some lifestyles in their family. They might think to themselves, “They (family, friends, etc) are not living the Christian life like I think they should.” Remind them God’s grace and love for them, and that same grace and love should be given to others.
  • Fascination With End Times – It’s not unusual that the Book of Revelations or the Second Coming of Christ comes up at camp. This can produce an unnatural fear or curiosity about the return of Christ. The antidote for this is to focus on the person of Christ. When the disciples became interested in the time of Christ’s return, Jesus turned their focus to the task at hand – being His witnesses (Acts 1:4-8).
  • No Change At All – Camp might have no apparent effect. Your student may come back with no new convictions. Remember, camp does not change kids – God does. God will be not give up on all the seeds planted in your student’s heart; they will flourish and grow.

If you are committed to your child’s spiritual growth I can guarantee a few things: God is committed to you and your family’s success; your youth pastor cares about your child’s spiritual growth; and you will still have to do lots of laundry when they return! The only thing I cannot guarantee about your “package” is their time of delivery. Enjoy the ride!

Rend Collective: The Campfire

Why The Campfire Is Important

NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO

We’ve created a playlist that really goes along with this blog – Rend Collective‘s hard-to-find “Campfire” album! You can listen to it here. Rend’s new Campfire II album is in the current YLO106.

This is an excerpt from the Campfire Resource Pack by the modern worship band Rend Collective – this article and the album were included in YLO95.

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” – CS Lewis


Clear the area of debris, avoid overhanging branches and make sure your fire is a safe distance from tents and other flammable materials.

The Right Material
The three types of natural fuel are tinder (material that burns easily such as dry grass or shavings whittled from a stick), kindling (slightly larger material such as twigs that will burn with a little encouragement) and firewood (dry branches that will be the main fuel of the fire). No shortcuts allowed—never use flammable liquids.

The Right Shape
Two ways to build your fire are the tepee, in which you arrange the kindling in the shape of a tepee over the tinder, and the lean-to, in which you push a small stick in the ground at a 45-degree angle with the upper end pointing into the wind. Place the tinder beneath the stick and lean the kindling against it. Light the tinder and add kindling as needed. Add the larger branched last. Never leave a fire unattended.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

Put It Out!
Pour water on the fire, stir the ashes with a stick, and pour some more. It’s not out until you can run your bare hands through the coals.

One of our favorite stories of the Celtic saint revolves around him lighting a massive bonfire on the Hill of Slane in County Meath, as part of keeping his Easter vigil in celebration of Christ. His fire rose in direct defiance of the High King of Tara, and the ancient rulers of Ireland, who had chosen the night for their own festival, prohibiting the lighting of rival fires throughout the country. Only two sources of light broke the night: one in honor of the High King of Tara and the other in the honor of the “High King of Heaven.” Conflict inevitably arose and despite the best efforts of the druidic priests, St. Patrick’s fire, miraculously, could not be extinguished. The High King surrendered to Christ and the druidic priests are said to have prophesied,

“This fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.” – St. Patrick

We praise God that the fire blazes on in Ireland! Isn’t this an amazing picture of how a celebrating, counter-cultural community can transform nations?

When Jesus speaks of the “city on a hill” that can’t be hidden in the Sermon on the Mount, He’s not talking about a glaring, neon, festival of fluorescence like Las Vegas. There is no electricity in the New Testament: He’s imagining a skyline illuminated by hundreds of simple campfires, each surrounded by their own conversations and celebrations, hopes, dreams, hurts, and healings.

Our simple campfire gatherings can be powerfully missional.

People are drawn to the light, heat and safety of Jesus and His church. Our best efforts of evangelism are our best efforts in the area of loving one another – see John 13:35. It is so much more attractive than any sermon ever could be. Our love is luminous in the darkness of a Darwinian, “survival of the fittest” world. But it doesn’t stop with loving our family in Christ: we have to be recklessly indiscriminate in spreading that love to the rest of humanity, after the pattern of our extravagantly gracious Father.

There are no outsiders in the Kingdom of God. All are invited into this mystery of God’s love. Don’t even waste your time sorting people into such categories as “in” or “out.” Rather, spend your time learning how to love better! Your fireside gatherings need to be as welcoming as the Father of the prodigal son. Surrender your social life to the service of those with whom others won’t socialize.

Be like Jesus and be held in the suspicion of the religious because you are the “friend[s] of sinners”, all the while maintaining a purity of heart that outshines the most zealous Pharisee.

There is no point developing a cozy sense of family and community in Jesus’ name if we are to ignore his great commission to invite the lost into the kingdom!

There is no point in inviting the lost into a so-called Christian community of backbiting, malice, ego and selfish agendas!

Let us love with a white-hot intensity, both within our gatherings, and when reaching out of them.


In Defense of Summer Camp

4 Must-Do Items To Have The Best Camp Ever

By Jeremy White / Valley Church / Vacaville, California /


NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO

My parents could never afford to send me to summer camp as a kid, but when I was 12 I landed my very first job as a staff member at one. Camp has changed a lot since that time – as have youth workers’ opinions about its long-term effectiveness. I’ve battled with questions about the validity of camps in our annual programming, and I continue to believe in camp wholeheartedly. Here are a few pointers for getting the most out of camp every time.

Define your purpose

In the late 1990’s, Doug Field’s Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry was an important book for youth workers. God used it to give me the hope that I could actually do this youth ministry thing long-term – and do it well. The book taught me how to define the purpose behind the programming that I offered to students, and to not feel bad if every program wasn’t an “all-things-to-all-people” effort.

Is your camp effort primarily evangelistic? Discipleship-focused? Oriented to leadership development? Mostly for fellowship and building relationships? Answering these questions will give you clearer focus on your target audience and much-needed permission to give yourself a break if everyone in your city doesn’t sign up for your camp. Knowing that camp may or may not be for everyone can help shape realistic expectations.

Take advantage of the unique opportunities that camp creates

Some of my friends serve in churches where they are forced to bring their kids to camp because that’s where their church has gone every year dating back to Noah and his three sons. Whether you love or hate the camp you’re locked into, being away from the status quo with your students can be special just about anywhere.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

If you’ve laughed together, built trust, helped students gain confidence that they’re loved unconditionally, and shared a few blue-flame moments, you haven’t wasted any time. (Why do those blue-flame moments never seem to get old?)

Consider designing and running your own camp

Pulling off your own camp may sound like a lot of work (and it is), but doing so can have some huge benefits. We currently do winter camps at a pre-programmed camp here on the west coast. But in the summer, we run our own camp. This gives us the flexibility to plan summer events, teaching series, and other elements of our programming around our camp theme. It gives us more control over content, scheduling, and activities – and helps us keep the price down. This may or may not be the case for you, but it’s worth considering.

Don’t try to do it all yourself. That would be a disaster. I suggest the following as a basic time line for putting together your own camp. If camp is to be in July 2017…

  • Summer 2016 – Assemble a team to help brainstorm and commit to making camp a success. Come up with the camp’s purpose(s), goals, themes, etc. Make sure your Lead Pastor or supervisor is 100 percent behind you and will support your efforts. Keep him or her in the loop often. The more in touch they are, the better they will be able to defend and promote your efforts. This may sounds cliché, but begin with prayer. Ask God to show you what He wants for your students.
  • September 2016 – Based on your hopes, dreams, and plans for camp, find and secure the host facility. Our church has done camp everywhere you can think of. We’ve reserved a large public campground by a lake. We’ve rented out a small mountain hotel near a lake. For this next year, we’ve rented a government-owned camp facility that is used for public school environmental camps during the school year but sits dormant for most of the summer. Don’t be afraid to start small and limit the number of sign-ups if you have to. This can build momentum for future camps.
  • October/November 2016 – Begin to recruit the camp staff. You’ll need a food service team, a technical team, an energetic and creative recreation crew, counselors, boat/equipment donors/drivers, transportation, etc. If you haven’t done so already, book a speaker and worship band. Consider using resources in your own community such as fellow youth workers or worship bands from other youth groups. Or use your own in-house band if students want to serve in that way.
  • January/February 2017 – Take a trip to the camp facility with the leader of your food service team, tech team, recreation crew and whoever else may need a look. Spend some time dreaming about where to do what – and how the flow of camp will happen. Also, begin to float summer camp dates to your students. You’re way too early to provide promo materials at this point, but ask them to save the date.
  • March/April 2017 – Begin to challenge students to pray about whom they would invite to camp in the coming summer. Design or hire out the design of attractive promo material.
  • May/June 2017 – Utilize every option you have available for promotion – website, MySpace/Facebook, printed materials, etc. Get the word out BIG!
  • July 2017 – A week or two before camp, meet with your entire camp staff to finalize logistics, responsibilities, and expectations. Spend time in prayer for students and get ready for God to do great things.

Evaluate while it’s fresh

Don’t wait for the Fall to remember the lessons learned from your camp experience. I’ve been doing camps for a dozen years and I still write down lessons learned, ideas I don’t want to forget, and observations to make next year even better (by God’s grace).

It’s been a long time since my first job on camp trash patrol, but God has helped me develop a healthy respect for what He can do when we follow Jesus’ example by taking those we disciple out of the normal routines of life and placing them in environments more conducive to hearing God speak to them. Hooray for Summer Camp!


I can trace my lifelong career back to a week at summer camp

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


NOTE: This is one of the articles about “Camp” to which Youth Leaders Only members have free access. To read the other articles, join YLO!

I decided to become a youth minister when I was a camper at summer camp. The camp was a small, under-funded, very-little-to-do-there place high in the Sierras that my church’s youth group attended each year. Our cabin’s counselor that week was the camp speaker—a theology professor from a Baptist Bible College, of all things—who didn’t spend much time with the dozen rowdy boys in our semi-permanent tent/cabin thingy.

I don’t know why, but in the absence of our theology professor adult figure, I became the default “Counselor” of my cabin. The other guys in the cabin with me were from a different church—and boy were they, umm, “carnal”! I had my hands full all week trying to encourage those guys to keep out of trouble, let alone follow Jesus.

I remember praying a lot that week.

At the end of the week, eight of those guys approached me as a group. I thought maybe they were gonna pound me, but they wanted to give me their drugs, booze, cigarettes, and, uhh, birth control devices so that I could dispose of those items. And, they wanted to give Jesus their hearts and lives.

Get all our Camp Articles in upcoming YLO.

“Ken, we’ve always thought that Christians had to be boring and lame. This week, you’ve shown us something different. We want what you have.”

Whoa! I had NO idea that living for God could be such a rush! I was more than thrilled!

The last night of that camp, around the campfire, all the students were giving their testimonies and generally working themselves into an emotional state. (I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) I, on the other hand, couldn’t shake the thought that I wanted to experience again and again the joy I had felt in seeing my new friends come to Christ. And so, I stood in front of that fire and verbally committed myself to a lifetime of youth ministry. (I didn’t realize then what that commitment would mean—to my parents, my future wife and kids, and now, my grandkids. Something about “Be careful what you ask for” comes to mind.)

That fireside comment was made to a group of friends a LONG time ago, and I’m still living out that commitment.

Summer camp is like that. Someone once told me that summer camp is a youth minister’s payday. We work hard, day in and day out, for months and months—and then, we are rewarded at camp. That idea makes sense to me. I don’t get a paycheck every day; it comes only after a couple of weeks of labor. Summer camp IS a youth leader’s payday!

He Is Risen

#TBT Vintage Easter Playlist

Greetings and Happy Easter Co-laborers in Youth Ministry,

God became one of us, lived the perfect life, offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sin, and rose from the dead. This message has changed our lives forever.

We love students. Our greatest hope is that they will come to know Christ personally and grow in their relationship with Him

Yesterday we gave you a BRAND NEW  Easter playlist to share with the kids  in your ministry. Here’s a Throwback Thursday Easter Playlist (Chuck Girard-Love Song, Larry Norman, Andrae Crouch, 2nd Chapter of Acts, etc.)

What songs did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below!

He is Risen – let’s tell everyone!





The Counter Culture

The Jesus Movement and Christian Music

By Allen Weed / interlinc / Franklin, Tennessee

Chuck Girard of pioneer Jesus Movement band Love Song
sharing with group of CCM musicians.

Last evening I had the unusual privilege to spend several hours with a group of artist-pioneers of Christian music.

Among the group were Bob Bennett, Rob Frazier (of early Petra), Bruce Carroll, Scott Wesley Brown, and Love Song’s Chuck Girard.

Many songs, great worship, and fabulous insights were shared about those special days when the Jesus Movement spread across our land and millions (many of us in the group included) understood and embraced a personal relationship with Jesus.

Over the next few weeks I hope to use Thursdays to share thoughts about those revival days so those of us in current day student ministry can ask the Lord of the Harvest to do it again.

A thought from Chuck Girard last evening: Love Song’s music was never an end in itself. It was a vehicle to convey their story. The story of a group of counter-culture hippies captured by the love of Christ who were on fire to share the truth of the Gospel with anyone they could.

More coming … but for starters, their song  “Little Country Church” (here’s your Spotify link) tells the story of the revival that took place in Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in the late 60’s and early 70’s.

Yours for using music and media to share the Good News with students,


“Saper Vedere”

Knowing How To See

By Joel Van Dyke, Director, Urban Training Collaborative
Street Psalms, Guatemala City, Guatemala

“Too often, we want to move into mission without saper vedere (before ‘knowing how to see’), and in doing so we cause more problems than we solve”

During the summer months here in Guatemala we often host groups of North Americans on what we call “vision trips.” In contrast to a “mission trip” (centered on what an outsider is invited to come and “do” in another culture), a vision trip focuses on the invitation for an outsider to come and “see” what God is doing through local, grassroots leaders serving their own people in hard places. By becoming students of God’s activity in a foreign place, the hope is that well-crafted encounters, historical analysis, and targeted theological reflection will lead participants into an ability to re-imagine and broaden their own personal understanding of life and mission. French author Marcel Proust writes, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.”

We are not unaware of the controversy that has risen in the face of such endeavors. In 2010, Kenyan leader Kennedy Odede published an article in the New York Times entitled “Slumdog Tourism,” writing that “slum tourism turns poverty into entertainment, something that can be momentarily experienced and then escaped from. People think they’ve really ‘seen’ something—and then go back to their lives and leave me, my family and my community right where we were before.” This article ignited a flurry of blogging activity that gave short-term mission trips the additional monikers of “Ghetto Tours,” “Poverty Safaris,” and even “Poverty Porn.”

In hopes of avoiding these pitfalls, we have come to see well-crafted vision trips as a means to liberate “mission” from the limitations of a “trip” or the responsibility of a select “committee” in a church. The idea, rather, is to learn to see mission as lifestyle. One of the passages that inspired a Vision Trip experience this past week for us here in Guatemala City was the story of blind Bartimaeus in Luke 18.

Bartimaeus cannot see anything with his biological eyes, but at a particular moment during the religious parade happening around him, he discerns something with his heart that he must respond to. He asks those around him what is occurring and learns that “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.”

To the chagrin of the others, Bartimaeus yells and screams until Jesus stops and invites him to a meeting in the street. Looking at the absurdity of his actions, it’s as if Bartimaeus embodies the words in the conclusion to the novel Last Lovers, where author William Wharton writes that “perhaps sometimes it is best to be blind, so one can see the way things really are, and not be blinded by the way they look.”

The climax of this encounter is the beautiful question that Jesus asks to Bartimaeus: “What do you want me to do for you?” This question animates our work with vision teams as we explore together what it means to have the ability of Bartimaeus to see (discern) with one’s heart “Jesus of Nazareth” passing by in unexpected people and surprising places. First, the presence of the Divine must be discerned, and then one needs to exercise the courage to not let the sacred moment pass by without hearing one’s personal “beautiful question” from the lips of Jesus. It is the art of knowing how to see.

In his book Summoned to Lead, Leonard Sweet described an ad campaign called “Leonardo da Vinci: The Art of Seeing.” It centered on da Vinci’s philosophy as summed up in two words: saper vedere, or “knowing how to see.” As a scientist, philosopher, inventor, and artist, da Vinci enlisted the concept of saper vedere to engage the world around him. To him, life was measured by one’s ability to see correctly. He described the almost mystical process of artists to not simply paint what they see, but to see what they paint.

Too often, we want to move into mission without saper vedere (before “knowing how to see”), and in doing so we cause more problems than we solve—while, at the same time, completely missing the beautiful question rolling off the lips of the Master speaking through very unexpected people in very surprising places.

Why Missions and Service Fit So Well Together

By Toby Rowe / Group Mission Trips / Loveland, Colorado

Every youth leader at some time and in some way asks these two very important questions: What does Jesus want from our student ministry? What do students want and need from our student ministry?

You may phrase those questions differently, or think about them a different way. But the big idea remains the same: is your student ministry headed in the right direction? Are you doing the right things to get it there?

The one thing that can bring all those needs together is – missions and service.

That’s not just a guess on our part. Our friends at Group Magazine have done some major research to determine what events and activities yield the greatest spiritual growth for students, and this is what they found. Aside from parents, missions/service trips, and retreats are the student ministry components that have the greatest long-term impact on spiritual growth. It’s why hundreds of thousands of teens (and their youth leaders) serve people on a summer mission trip every year. Missions and service hold the key to both transforming your students into Christ-followers, and growing your ministry in ways you could never imagine.

So why missions and service? Because, unlike most of the other things that we “do” or “program” in our ministries, missions teaches students how to be the hands and feet of Jesus and feel His heart and compassion for people. Those two milestones are transformational in a person’s life. You can teach a hundred Bible studies and preach a thousand sermons about Jesus being a servant and having compassion for people. Or you can integrate missions and service into your youth ministry and watch as your students are transformed into Christ-followers by responding to the real needs of real people.

That’s what Jesus did – He encountered people in need and met their needs. And the disciples became world-changing Christians as they experienced that kind of lifestyle. Your students can become the same. And while they’re serving and loving people, your group will be building unbreakable bonds with each other. As their personal ministry grows, your youth ministry will grow as well, drawing in other students who can begin their own personal relationship with the Savior.

That’s how our ministry at Group mission trips started in 1977. A broken dam and ensuing flood in Colorado displaced hundreds of people; some lives were lost as well. In a simple response of Christian love and service, the employees of Group Publishing gathered some local churches and their youth groups, and headed up the Thompson Canyon to help. People in need were served in Jesus’ name. Lives were transformed. That was the beginning of Group Workcamps and Group Week of Hope. Since then, nearly 300,000 people have served people in need through one of our summer mission trips.

We hope that you’ll make missions and service a regular part of your youth ministry. Your students, your ministry, and everyone you serve will never be the same.


Youth Leaders Only members get a collection of these practical articles with their membership. You really should become a member!

The Prepositions Of Mission

By Joel Van Dyke / Estrategia de Transformacion / Guatemala City, Guatemala

One of the most profound lessons I have learned working with high-risk young people is that I must give serious attention to the prepositions of mission. Prepositions are small words that connect thoughts or ideas. Prepositions are relational connectors that show relationship between things such as “The ball is over my head.”

When considering our work in missions, we must learn how to pay close attention to the prepositions we use.

There are really three main mission prepositions. The first one is “TO.” Ministries using this preposition tend to locate power in very specific and small places – like the pulpit. They often deal with those they want to reach paternalistically – meaning they hoard power and position themselves in a place of superiority over those they feel called to reach.

An example of this was a televangelist I once heard saying that he wanted to “impregnate his viewers with the Word of God.” Over and over throughout his message he yelled, “I am going to get you pregnant tonight.” His ministry was something he did “TO” people. Ministries that see “mission” as something they do “TO” others are oppressive and do harm to the name of Jesus. Many Christians are trapped in churches and deeply oppressed by ministry that is done “TO” them.

The second preposition often used in mission is “FOR.” These are ministries that do things FOR others. Contrasted to being paternalistic, these kinds of ministries often fall into the trap of being maternalistic. Many of us have grown up in families with mothers who tried to do far more FOR us than was healthy. In youth ministry, we tend to do far too many things FOR young people – things they should be doing for themselves. These are the kinds of ministries where the people have to consistently seek approval of their leader/pastor for everything they do because they lack confidence to think for and act on their own.

A third preposition used in the mission of the church is “WITH.” This is the incarnational preposition – Emmanuel (God with us). When this preposition drives the mission of ones church or short-term missions project, both the leaders and the people they seek to serve are transformed. There is a cost to using this mission preposition in ministry because doing so takes a lot more time and relational energy – and demands that leaders give up power instead of guard it. We shy away from using the preposition “WITH” because we do not have the time and do not like paying costs (like having to empty ourselves) to minister effectively to others.

A great exercise for your youth ministry team would be to sit down with these three prepositions and examine your own church/ministry/mission project. What preposition drives or best illustrates your ministry? What can be done to practically move you to becoming a ministry that uses the preposition “with” in the way you live out your mission?

Preposition Characteristic Leads To…
To Paternalistic Oppression
For Maternalistic Co-Dependence
With Incarnational Transformation

One of the most effective transfers of prepositions that I ever saw lived out happened in the community of “Los Brasiles” from the barrio “San Francisco” in Managua, Nicaragua. Pastor Tomas Ruiz has faithfully lived and served there for more than 20 years. He started with 25-30 members, and the church stayed at this size for the first 6-7 years. Tired of so many years of hard work without much tangible fruit, he began talking with and listening to the neighborhood residents around his church. In his first meetings with residents, Pastor Tomas realized that in many occasions he and his church had offended the community by judging and condemning them. He called a community meeting and asked the neighbors for forgiveness on behalf of the church.

Then the members of the church inquired of their neighbors, “What can we do as a church to serve and bless you?” The response was a request to rid the streets of garbage and mud holes that were causing many problems and health issues. This was the first step in moving from doing the ministry “TO” others to doing the ministry “WITH” those the church wanted to reach. The clean up took three weeks to complete. The church decided to use their Sunday morning worship time to clean the neighborhood, thereby showing their solidarity with the community during the first fruits of their time as a congregation. By choosing Sunday morning, they could use the picking up of garbage as a real and genuine act of worship before God.

Seven years later that church, Faro de Luz (Lighthouse), has 250 “disciples.” They have a multi-use church building, a school with 300 students, a computer center, a gymnasium, and they recently bought land to build the community’s first baseball diamond and soccer field. They have built 22 homes for families in the community.

Because of the trust and respect that has been built, the community recently named Pastor Tomas as their legal representative before the government. The church has successfully planted several other churches in neighboring communities.

What are the prepositions of your ministry?


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