Tag Archives: Ken McCoy

5 Essentials To Start Your Youth Ministry Year

EARLY in the morning, like before the sun was up early – I was gathering my gear to go on a difficult nine-mile hike in the local mountains. “Let’s see. Water’s loaded into the pack? Check. Dog’s pack is loaded? Check. Hat? Check. iPhone? Check. Dog’s leash? I’ll get it on the way out. Okay, let’s go.”

I forgot the leash.

Even though I thought through what I needed to have, my sleep-deprived stupor made me forget something important. If I had remembered the leash as I was getting into my waiting friend’s truck, I would have run back inside the house and retrieved it. But, I didn’t realize my folly until we were at the trailhead.

The new school year is about to begin, and even though you may have left the house for your hike, there’s still time for you to run through a checklist of items that you need to have for your fall kick-off to be effective. Here are five items that I think you need to have for this start to the new ministry year. I’ve even been able to tie them to the five items on my list this morning!

1. Supporters In Place
Your supporters include, but aren’t limited to, your church leadership, the parents of your students, the people who you have regularly praying for the youth ministry (you DO have a group of those amazing people, right? And you communicate with them often, right?), and those people who are willing to help out “anytime you need anything.” The ability that you have to generate “support” for you and the youth ministry will determine the long-term success of your efforts. Your support group is the water in your pack. You can do a bunch of hiking without it, but you won’t be able to go very far. And, you won’t recover from a big effort as quickly or as well. So, build relationships with those who may not be directly involved with what you’re doing, but who want to support your efforts. Make sure those relationships stay near the top of your checklist.

2. Team In Place
Since youth ministry happens person-to-person, not program-to-person, you need a whole team of people to help make the person-to-person happen. Since you’re just one person, you can’t expect to have significant relationships with all of the kids in your ministry PLUS all the kids who show up to check things out. All kinds of people are needed to reach all kinds of kids, so recruit as many folks as you can who are willing to befriend, teach, befriend, cajole, console, befriend, encourage, and challenge teenagers. (Did I mention that they should befriend kids?) Your team of volunteers will help you carry the load, like my dog carries his water and food that I would otherwise have to pack.

Get Music & Media Resources for Back-to-School!

3. Big Events Identified
A youth ministry gains a lot of its reputation and momentum from the “Big Events” that it can pull off. The “GOOD TIME Event” in YLO89 is a good example of a Big Event. It generates tons of exposure, “brag factor” (what the kids talk about the next morning at school), and helps cement the youth ministry as an important part of the youth culture of that area. Think of Big Events as being paydays. You get an infusion of resources at each one that helps you continue on to the next. They are to youth ministry what a hat is to a hiker – they cap everything. (I know. It’s a stretch.)

The GOOD TIME Event is a great kick off special event — and it’s free!

4. Game Plan In Place
My iPhone tracks my hikes using a GPS app. I can see at any moment where I am, how fast I’m going, how far up I’ve climbed, how far I have to go – and see it all with the satellite imagery of the terrain I’m hiking. You need a similar view of your ministry. That’s your Game Plan. Set your teaching series, objectives, and other vital issues into place before you roll into your new year. Now, every year presents unique opportunities and challenges to a youth ministry. Maybe this year you have a huge influx of new freshmen, or you have a bumper crop of seniors. Maybe you’re really connected with the athletes this year instead of the musicians last year. You can’t use last year’s plan. So plan your programming, and your teaching series, to maximize the resources you have. You also need a degree of flexibility with your Game Plan. If something takes off unexpectedly, you need to be able to adjust – like when we decided to take a trail spur this morning instead of staying on the main trail. My iPhone showed me a possibility, and we adjusted our Game Plan to take advantage of it.

5. Budget Available
My dog, Tipper, is very well behaved. I have spent a ton of time (and money) training him. He comes when called, heels on command, and generally is a very well mannered dog. But, he’s big and black. And even though he has his own pack (which usually gets a lot of “Cute!” comments), a big black dog can spook some people. To keep him from going off in directions he shouldn’t, I bring a leash with me to use when other people with dogs are on the trail. Your budget should be like that leash. As long as you’re disciplined and well mannered, you won’t necessarily need the restrictions it brings. But, when tempted to go too far too fast, or engage in activities that might spook your church’s Treasurer, use a budget as a tool to control those urges.

I hope your new school year is AWESOME this year. I’m sure that these five items will help you make it even more effective!

Let The Music Tell The Story

STORY 20 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

We started working closely with Lisa, Andrea, and Danielle (known as Out of Eden) soon after they did their first record. We soon found that they had a great love for God’s Word and for teenagers (because they were teenagers themselves!) As we did more and more TalkBack meetings between youth leaders and the girls, what emerged was a tremendous heart to minister to the real needs of young girls.

Out Of Eden
Out Of Eden

We connected Out of Eden with several female youth ministry denominational leaders. They identified the key issues that the teenage girls were facing. The Out of Eden girls started writing songs, and our writers began working on the scope and sequence for the video and instructional package around these six key issues:

  • Discovering Life’s Destiny and Purpose
  • Finding Security and Acceptance
  • Maintaining Modesty and Fashion in Today’s World
  • Discerning God’s Views On Dating and Sexual Purity
  • Overcoming Abuse
  • Sorting Out Parental Relationships

The outcome was spectacular—and over 15,000 girls went through theOut of Eden Girls’ Event materials during the next year.

The Out of Eden Youth Event
The Out Of Eden Youth Event

We have worked with Team interlínc Artists in developing dozens of youth events including:

  • Petra’s “This Means War” Youth Event and “On Fire” Youth Event
  • Steve Taylor’s “I Predict The 1990’s” Youth Event
  • DC TALK’s “Largest Youth Group Lock-In”
  • Tobymac’s “City On Our Knees” Youth Event and “Speak Life” Youth Event
  • “ROCK’N U” Youth Event
  • Owl City’s “Good Time Youth Event”
  • The “Beach Party” Youth Event
  • Uncle Si’s “Si-cology 1” Youth Event”
  • …and many more
The Steve Taylor Youth Event
The Steve Taylor Youth Event

Here’s why these events are so popular with Youth Leaders Only members: when a youth leader combine the power of music and media with the power of God’s Truth, their students are more likely to internalize what they encounter. That means that their lives will change as God’s Word works it way from their heads into their hearts!

There’s another reason Youth Leaders Only members love these events so such: teenagers are “event” oriented. They need something “fun” to look forward to—preferably something a few weeks away from now. Think of those anticipated events as highlights on their calendar during the year. The Youth Events that we’ve created help youth leaders have enough “events” during the year to keep the momentum, enthusiasm, and anticipation flowing!

Finally, the Youth Events that YLO members have available to them help them plan better camps, retreats, overnighters, and other special events. So much of the “work” of planning those things has already been done, so youth leaders can focus on the students and other issues about those events.

There is no doubt, when you let the music tell the story, good things happen!

Youth Ministry Goes To The Movies

STORY 27 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

We have worked on over forty movies over the past thirty years, starting with ECHOES – a film that we produced, directed, and distributed in 1985. One that has reached as many teenagers as any faith-based film was Soul Surfer – The Bethany Hamilton Story. Rick Bundschuh, longtime Team interlínc Member, told interlinc’s Allen Weed, “There’s a 13-year-old surfer girl in our church who got her arm bit off by a shark. I believe that the Lord is going to do some amazing things through her life.” Allen totally missed how important what Rick was saying would be.

Several months later, Allen was eating lunch at Puckett’s Grocery — the local hamburger joint — and noticed on the television on top of the soft drink machine that the young teenager Rick mentioned was making a guest appearance on the Oprah show!

She was amazing as she shared her remarkable confidence in the Lord about the events surrounding the shark attack, how she had been dealing with it, and how she viewed her future. She quoted Jeremiah 29:11 as her rock-solid stance.

Allen immediately called Rick and asked him to get interlínc connected with Bethany’s family. From that association, The Heart of a Soul Surfer documentary was shot and sent out to all YLO members. Interlínc then worked with her family and her manager producer to coordinate the youth ministry outreach for the Soul Surfer theatrical release.

Soul Surfer Movie Guide
Soul Surfer Movie Guide

When most youth leaders think of interlínc, they rightfully think of music. We are, after all, heavily involved in the Christian music world, and most of our resources are created to use music as a hook to teach biblical truth. While teenagers are exposed to more music than any other media, we know that movies are very important and have a huge impact.

Your students are into movies—big time. Most of our young friends watch several movies a week. They watch them alone and with friends, on their phones, computers, televisions, and local theater screens. They quote lines and sing songs from favorite films, and adopt the fashions they see in the movies they like. Yep, movies are big time important to teenagers.

That means that YOU want to be able to take advantage of films that will help you reach young people for Jesus Christ, and help them to grow in their relationship with Him!

When we find movies that you would find useful, we create resources that help you use those films in your ministry to students. We review scripts and view screeners to find movies that can help you use the movie experience to impart Biblical truth to your students.

Some of the movies we've created youth ministry resources for
Some of the movies we have created youth ministry resources for

We have developed youth ministry resources for large blockbuster movies (like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and The Passion of The Christ), medium sized movies (such as Soul Surfer, and Disney’s A Christmas Carol) and smaller movies (like Alone Yet Not Alone and The Identical).

Movies can have a big impact on students. We want to help you to use that potential for Christ!

They Got There First

STORY 29 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

061615_richmullins_blogOnly a few of those who have given so much to create the resources that make Youth Leaders Only so powerful have gone on to Heaven during this adventure. I wanted you to know about three of them.

Dan Snyder Northwest Youth Leader. YLO Writer. Cindy Engøy Youth Leader. Musician. Missionary. Writer. Team Interlínc WriteGroup Member. Mrs. Kay Weed Retired English teacher. Proofer of YLO resources.

And there are others Rolly Richert, Wayne McAfee, David Busby, Dana Key, Rich Mullins.

Dan Snyder

072915_dansnyder_200Just as we were going to press with YLO68, I received some very sad news. Dan Snyder, a longtime volunteer writer for Youth Leaders Only had passed away. Dan was a youth pastor in the northwest for decades, and was a certified “Old Guy” in youth ministry. The entire interlínc team—along all the youth leaders who write for interlínc—were saddened by this loss.

I’ll let Dan say goodbye in his own words. This is from an email he sent to me:
Ken, interlínc has meant the world to me for over ten years. I will miss you and it more than anything I have done in youth ministry (other than Mexico Mission trips)! I still have every issue, and will save them for my 16-year-old son who wants to be a youth pastor some day. It has been a great ride and I’m thankful (not bitter) that I have been able to stay in youth ministry as long as I have. Thank you again for giving me the great opportunity to write for you, and more importantly, for the way interlínc “kept me going” all these years in youth ministry! I hope that you have many years to go in the most important work on this planet: youth ministry! It has been an honor to ride with you.

Dan, I really eagerly await hanging out with you in Heaven!

Cindy Engøy

072915_cindy_500wYouth Leader. Musician. Missionary. Writer. Team interlínc WriteGroup member. Wife. Mother. Friend. Cindy Engøy was all that. And more. And, for the last year she’s laughing with Jesus and enjoying Paradise. And I’m still grieving.

The cancer in her that was discovered just a few months before she left us finally prevailed over her body, but it couldn’t overcome her spirit. Cindy’s love for others, her willingness to serve, her talent and creativity continue on. interlínc isn’t the only “family” that Cindy left behind.

She was heavily involved in multi-cultural ministry from her home base in Long Beach, California. She helped to plant Light & Life Church, and then served with the Seventh Street Church. She and her husband formed YesWeServe, a mission organization that works with kids in Ghana, India, and Mexico. (She wrote an article called “My Ghana Girls” just over a year ago in YLO94.) And, Cindy was an accomplished musician who sang jazz vocals and praise music with various bands in southern California. Her musical sensibilities shone through the many music-based Bible studies she wrote for Youth Leaders Only over the years.

Cindy, I can hardly wait to play guitar in your band when we’re in Heaven!

Mrs. Kay Weed

You know how you get to know some people very well over the phone and internet, but never really meet them in person? That’s how it was with Mrs. Weed and I. She was a retired high school English teacher who volunteered to proof the Bible studies and articles for YLO once I had edited them. We spent hours and hours talking on the phone together—and she never stopped being the English tutor for me.

You need to understand something, Mrs. Weed was one of the “Greatest Generation”—a “Rosie the Riveter” type during World War II—who did something very unusual for a woman in her time: she went to college and got her degree. She was a tough teacher who garnered praise from all who knew her despite her rigid insistence on writing correctly. (See? I almost typed “doing it right” but her voice rang out in my mind, “Doing WHAT right, Ken? Define the ‘it’ in that sentence!”) Mrs. Weed took our “B” work and turned it into “A” quality. Her focus on details turned the YLO magazines from merely energetic and creative to all that and professional too.

Over the course of our many conversations and years of working together, I grew to really like this tiny old woman from the panhandle of Florida. I helped her with her computer problems, and worked with her to figure out her new digital camera. (She’d send me photos of the prize Amaryllis flowers that she was so fond of growing.) We’d talk and talk and talk about the youth ministry at her church, the mistakes I’d make in editing, and our common love for God. (By the way, she’s Allen Weed’s mom. If you know Allen, then you know what I mean when I say, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!”)

I’m sure she’s found a place in Heaven for her tremendous energy and attention to detail to be used to honor our Lord. I look forward to finally wrapping my arms around her in a big hug when I get to Heaven!

My grief about these three people reminds me of something very important about this Youth Leaders Only thing that I’ve been a part of for so many years: this isn’t a job, or a program, or a product—this is a “family” of likeminded people who care for each other, who celebrates in our creativity together, and who are elbows-deep in youth ministry together. Many of my closest friends have come from my involvement with interlínc and Youth Leaders Only. I’m actually pretty glad that I haven’t had to say goodbye to more than three of them!

The WriteGroup With The Right Stuff

STORY 10 from 30 Years, 30 Stories in YLO100

061115_ylo100_30stories_blogsEditor’s Note: This is one of a series of 30 Stories that appeared in the 100th edition of Youth Leaders Only. Make sure you check out the other great stories  from this special edition celebrating 30 years of YLO. 

WriteGroup Annual Retreat (2003)

For this one hundredth issue of YLO, we asked the WriteGroup to explain why they are involved, why they passionately pitch in their efforts, and what benefits they derive from their involvement.

Here’s how a few of them responded.

Todd Pearage

Calvary Church, Souderton, Pennsylvania

While sitting in a general session at the national youth workers convention, I heard a speaker say, “Now I feel know what a donkey feels like at the Kentucky Derby. I know I’m not the best, but it sure is fun to run with the best.” That’s exactly how I feel being a member of the WriteGroup. I have the privilege of writing Bible studies for thousands of youth ministries with the likes of Ken, Rick, Mary, Eric, Jeremy, Paul, and others.

In the last few years, I’ve been invited to join Team interlínc at music festivals and leadership conferences around the country. Countless times youth leaders have shared how much they appreciate and value the Bible studies in each YLO magazine. Their words are encouraging, humbling, and serve as a powerful reminder of the privilege of serving on the WriteGroup.

Eric Gargus

Marie Baptist Church, Dublin, Georgia

An eccentric old hermit told me the force was with my family and I, so I decided to join the rebellion. After all, who wouldn’t want to use a light saber? Actually, I have loved writing since my college days. I was looking for an outlet for my passion for writing that intersected with my passion for youth ministry. But wait, there’s more! I love music—especially great faith-based music. Writing for interlínc was a no-brainer, if given the opportunity.

Ken McCoy sent out the call for potential new interlínc writers and I submitted a study. It didn’t get published because the album didn’t make the cut for the box. I thought it was because I had not made the cut. A few weeks later during a challenging time in my ministry I got an email. It was Ken and he invited me to join the WriteGroup. I’ve been in the group ever since! From writing movie studies, song and video studies, and even a retreat based on Si Robertson’s first book, I know that my studies have the potential to help many youth leaders.

Having been a YLO member long before becoming a member of WriteGroup, I was truly humbled to join the top-notch folks in the WriteGroup. These people had unknowingly helped me in my ministry countless times through their studies. And now I had the honor of calling them my colleagues! I still haven’t met many of them face to face, but the camaraderie via internet definitely spurs me on in my ministry.

There’s something so much bigger than just being published in a tall stack of magazines (or are they “Resource Books”?) along with the other in-the-trenches youth workers of the WriteGroup. It’s about impacting youth ministry across the world by engaging students in the media that drives culture. Ultimately, it’s about proclaiming the blood of Jesus to the world. And what more fun way is there than music and media?

Rick Bundschuh

Kauai Christian Fellowship, Poipu, Hawaii

One thing that lunatics really dislike is to be alone. Lunacy is only fun when it is goaded along by other lunatics. What lured me to be part of the Write Group was the idea that someone actually was willing to host (with other similar smart aleck, witty, imaginative thinkers who all happened to be youth ministry veterans) unfettered out-of-the-box thinking about what interlínc might be able to do that would be innovative. The lunatics were invited to suggest how to run the asylum! How could you turn down an invitation like that!

WriteGroup at Hog Heaven (2006)

For a number of years we descended upon Nashville and, taking our role as the vanguard of youth ministry, created havoc in some of the fine dining and lodging establishments interlínc hosted us at—such as “Hog Heaven” and Montgomery Bell State Park. (We did get to stay at the Opryland Hotel once, but I think someone stole the towels—so that ended that.)

In the end, all the wild and wacky stuff aside, I think all of us ended up in the WriteGroup because it seemed as if we could be useful in helping connect kids with good stuff that points them to God.

The Most Meaningful Job

Forbes has just reported on the results of an annual survey of “most meaningful jobs that pay well.” (I can just hear you thinking right about now, “Umm, Ken? We’re youth ministers. What about the phrase ‘that pay well’ doesn’t fit?”) BUT, when they took the “pay well” caveat out of the equation, the results were the most meaningful jobs out there regardless of pay.

Guess what? Our job is tied for FIRST!


Yep! Along with being an Orthopedic Surgeon or a Police Chief, being a youth minister is the most meaningful job in the country! (Yes, it’s the lowest paying job of the three. Go figure.)

And, you know it’s true. Youth ministry is indeed a meaningful job. When I was first considering being a youth minister (back when Noah was thinking of building his yacht), my pastor – who was recruiting me to be the youth pastor at the church – told me, “Ken, youth ministry is a high calling – and a lousy career. Make sure you’re called by God to work with teenagers before you make this decision.”

I don’t have to tell you why youth ministry is meaningful. We get to have a significant influence on the trajectory of young lives – an impact that lasts a lifetime. We get to introduce people to Jesus at a time in their lives when they are most open, and most capable, of making a faith-based decision to follow Him. We get to have a blast taking our young friends on mission trips, camps, concerts, retreats, and outrageous events.

What a privilege we have to spend our energies doing something meaningful and with eternal value!

The S-Word

Editor’s Note: This appears as the “Letter From The Editor” in the Music Resource Book for the new YLO98

“No! Not THAT again! We hear about that all the time! We’re sick of it!”

That wasn’t the response I was expecting when I told a bunch of kids I was working on the theme of “sex” for this magazine. I was expecting enthusiasm, interest, and some questions. “Oh, that’s cool, Ken! You’re the hippest youth leader ever” would have been nice. Or, “Can I see it when it’s done?” Or even, “Can youth leaders talk about sex without getting into trouble?”

What I got was immediate revulsion. And that got me thinking. Why would a bunch of church kids not want to deal with this vital issue? What would have made them respond so emotionally to the subject? I think I might have some answers.

My first thought is that those kids don’t want to hear something that might go against their current beliefs as seen through their actions. They know that they’re disobeying God when they engage in sexual activity, and they don’t want to be reminded of it.

And then, I wonder if students have heard us cry, “Wolf!” once too often. We tell them about the racking pain of guilt that they’ll feel. We talk about the risk of disease. We carry on about the value of purity. But, the kids don’t know anyone who experiences painful guilt nor do they know anyone who has a sex disease, and the “pure” kids they know could just as easily be called “nerds” – where’s the value in that?

Finally, I’m thinking about the “hear about that all the time” phrase. “Hear about it” is probably correct. We perhaps use way too much one-way communication concerning the issues of sexuality. I long ago figured out that kids learn by doing, not by hearing. But, the “all the time” part is probably not accurate. My guess is that this topic comes up once or twice a year at their church. The topic of sex is so charged with energy that talking about it even twice a year may feel like “all the time” to a teenager.

So, despite what my young friends said, I’ll continue to find ways to engage them in learning the value of godliness, discovering the benefits of purity, and building the kinds of safeguards that will enable them to thrive in a sex-saturated society. These Youth Leader Only materials will help me. The Bare Facts DVD will be put to good use in living rooms, youth rooms, and even bedrooms. The articles in this magazine will get into the hands of parents and volunteer youth leaders. The music in the box will spread out into the cars, computers, and home stereos of my young friends.

I hope you do the same

Just Add Water?


When I was a rookie youth pastor, I had two, count ’em, TWO youth ministry books. One was Far-Out Ideas For Youth Groups and the other was Way-Out Ideas For Youth Groups.

Those two little paperbacks from Youth Specialties were all I had to go on that first year — except the dorky Sunday School curriculum that the church gave me each quarter which I promptly (and discreetly) threw away.

I might have done every idea in those two books. They were my main guides for creating a youth ministry. Sad, I know.

Youth ministry’s #1 music and media resources is now 100% digital!

The REALLY sad part is that I kept those books hidden. I wanted the kids to think that I was making up all those great ideas. I wanted them to think I was the greatest, the most talented, the craziest and the most awesome youth leader in the world. I did not want them to know that I had no clue about what I was doing. I didn’t want to let on that I had never been trained to be a youth pastor. So I kept those books hidden from the kids and continued to use those books as I tried to impress those teenagers to follow Christ and influence their friends to become Christians too.

What a dork I was!

That was a LONG time ago. I’m still a dork, but I’ve learned a thing or two about ministry with teenagers. I’ve learned that a youth leader can’t just take material and indiscriminately put it into play in their youth ministry. There is no “just add water” youth ministry material. All of the phenomenal resources that are available to a youth leader today require preparation, skill, work, and planning to utilize fully and see results in the lives of kids.

You need a clear strategy for your ministry with teenagers if you’re going to see real life change in your young friends and their families. There is just so much that you can do in youth ministry that you MUST have a way to choose what (and what NOT!) to do.

This issue of Youth Leaders Only has some help for you. You’ll find excellent insights from long-time youth ministry guru’s Duffy Robbins, Denny Miller, and Keith Cote. Their articles are actually excerpts from their books — so order their books and get the whole load of info!

Read the article “3 Faulty Foundations” by Duffy Robbins from YLO97

I really hope you’re not as dumb as I was, and keep this material squirreled away somewhere out of sight in your office. I hope you will use every bit of this material and share it with the other youth leaders you know. It’s too good a resource to waste—even if it does require more effort to use than “just add water”!

PS. (We are working on getting Denny Miller’s seminal youth ministry book, Changing Lives, into digital format. It’s currently out-of-print. We will let you know when it’s available and how you can get your own copy!)

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only features great articles to encourage you in your student ministry.

What I Learned From The Apple Announcement

I’m the guy who has the latest tech gadget. I actually had, and used, an Apple Newton back before there was such a thing as a Palm Pilot. I guess that qualifies me as an “early adopter.”

I’m the guy who can help you make your iPhone or Macintosh work for you. Because I don’t have a secretary or executive assistant, I’ve had to learn how to get the most from my personal digital assistants. As a result, I seem to be the person that people call when they need help with their Apple gear or software.

Yeah, I’m that guy. (I might be a geek, but I’m positively not a nerd!) So I, along with bazillions of others, was glued to my computer screen during this week’s Apple keynote address. I was dying to find out if they would announce the rumored “iWatch” device.

They did. And while I want one NOW, what they presented made sense for me as a youth leader. Here’s why:

It’s Designed To Be What It Is
The Apple Watch isn’t a tiny version of an iPhone. It’s a watch, designed to be very personal and helpful at a glance. People don’t stare at their watch—they glance at it. The same should be true of the various programs we run in our youth ministries; they should be designed to be what they are. Outreaches shouldn’t be worship experiences, which shouldn’t be discussion groups, which shouldn’t be… you get the idea. Check out the Create a Youth Ministry Environment article by Denny Miller in the current YLO97 for a deep dive into this subject.

It Works With The Whole Apple System
The information that the Apple Watch displays isn’t supposed to replace what you can get from your iPhone or computer, but to supplement it. An iPhone with an Apple Watch is more effective than either alone. Add a Mac into the system and everything works together seamlessly. So often I observe youth ministries that seem to be working at odds with themselves—or even with their church. We need to work toward a “system” that allows each program to function to its best and support the rest.

It’s Not Everything The Media Was Hoping For
Reading the stories leading up to the announcement, you’d think that Apple had a magic ability to create a wrist device that did everything imaginable. I’m sure that Apple tried and threw out ten times—maybe a hundred times—as many ideas as anyone else tried with their so-called smartwatches. Very few organizations know how to say “No” like they do. In our youth ministries, we too have to say “No” to many ideas, no matter how good, valuable, godly, or exciting they might be. We can’t do everything. We can’t please everyone. We have to decide what we want to accomplish, and then do only what we can (and should) do to accomplish that goal.

Yeah, I want an Apple Watch. Until I get one, I’ll have to keep focused on doing the best work I can to create the best ministry possible. You too?

Home, REALLY Home, Missions

Editor’s Note: This article was written as the Letter From The Editor for the current edition of Youth Leaders Only

Last night I participated in a youth ministry midweek meeting where I got to introduce one of my young friends as the speaker for the evening. I’ve known Juliana for at least four years, and now she’s a graduating senior. She was first up for a month-long “Senior’s Talk” series of youth meetings at this church.

What she had to say blew me away.

She talked about her journey of faith (and even mentioned the role I’ve had in it. I’m so proud!) She talked about the impact that mission trips have had. She thanked various friends and youth ministry leaders for their influence.

And then, she told about a recent family blowup that now has her — along with her mom and siblings — estranged from her father. You could have heard a pin drop as she described what happened, how she reacted, and how God has been a part of the process.

When she finished, we gathered around her, placed our hands on her head and shoulders, and prayed for her.

You would think that after all the tension in her talk, the room would explode with typical teenage energy once the lights came back on and hangout time commenced. But, what Juliana had shared seemed to hit home with a bunch of the kids. The atmosphere stayed subdued and hushed. In the minutes following the meeting, I talked with several students who are trying to cope in less-than-ideal family situations.

Breakups, divorce, blended families, anger, hurt, and bewilderment were a big part of those conversations. “I wish my dad was more like you.” I’ve heard that sentence often in my years of hanging out with teenagers. I bet that even my own kids said something similar to their youth leaders.

So, you can see why we wanted to put together this Youth Leaders Only with the theme, “Parents: Being One, And Working With Others.” Our role as parents of our own children is massively important enough, but when you add the burden of trying to be a godly example to teenagers who might have serious struggles with their parents, the weight of responsibility can become unbearable. Trying to work with the parents of teenagers while we figure out our own home situation can sometimes feel like the blind leading the blind.

That’s why you’ll appreciate the “Being a Parent in Ministry” roundtable discussion between a couple of musicians (Lecrae and Steve Taylor) and several Team interlínc youth leaders. Their insights might prove helpful for you as you navigate this area of life and ministry. You’ll also appreciate that Jim Burn’s article comes from the perspective of a seasoned veteran in youth ministry and family issues.

Being a good parent is of foundational importance if our ministry with teenagers is going to be effective. Working with parents is almost as important! We hope you make the most of the resources in this volume of Youth Leaders Only. We are praying for you!

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only features articles written for and by youth leaders. Join now and get these amazing articles, ideas, and encouragements in addition to great music and videos for your ministry.