Tag Archives: youth ministry

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!

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!

One On One

080414_oneonone_bts_590x200From YLO92 | By Todd Pearage, The Gathering Dayton, Ohio

Editor’s Note: This month, as we all get in the back-to-school groove, we’re featuring articles from previous Youth Leaders Only Resource Books — articles that hit on some of the fundamentals of student ministry. We picked these articles because we know that “Back to School” is also an important time for your youth ministry as you incorporate new volunteers, new students, new systems, and new ideas. From all of us at interlinc … Welcome Back to “Normal”!

As a fifteen-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.

  1. 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 – before long, I want out. I want to be at the school helping out with the Bible Club, or eating lunch with students, or just hanging out. I want to live life with them. And I can’t do that when I’m in my office all the time.
  2. Unplug If you’ve been in student ministry for more than fifteen minutes, someone has “encouraged” you to unplug. We all know that students are on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook – well, some homeschoolers are still on Facebook. (Just kidding, I love both homeschoolers and Facebook!) But, we need real human interaction and so do our students. We need to sit down knee-to-knee and eye-to-eye with them. Buy them a coffee, milkshake, or smoothie and put the phone away. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll get to know them!
  3. Know the Calendar Here in the north we have “snow days.” I love snow days because they provide me with an excellent opportunity to grab some students and do something fun. But if I know the calendar, I can be even more intentional when students have a day off from school. Let’s be honest – we know they already forgot what you spoke about last Wednesday. So use those off days to create memories that will last a lifetime.
  4. Plan Better Sometimes I’m not as prepared as I should be. (That’s probably not a big surprise, since I just admitted to watching Duck Dynasty in my office!) I can’t tell you how many Sunday mornings roll around and I’m adding that last-minute video to the media presentation or making copies of permission slips instead of engaging students as they walk into the room. Instead of having the time to ask them how their week was – and REALLY listen, I’m running around doing tasks that should have been done during the week.

I know I need to do a better job organizing my week. I know I need to use my office time to plan and prepare. I know that when I am better prepared, real ministry can happen. And when real ministry happens, impact happens.

Back in November my family and I went back to Pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding. On our way home to Ohio we stopped and visited our “home church.” I was the youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Milton, PA for five years and we are still very close with the people there. After church we went out for lunch with some of the “students” who are now adults. We laughed for over two hours retelling stories and reliving memories.

Want to pass this article along to your adult leaders or volunteers? Download the PDF here. 

Every edition of Youth Leaders Only includes great articles like this one. Learn more about YLO Membership.

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.

How to: Build a giant air cannon

This is a how-to every youth leader needs!

The Un-Mission Trip: Get More Kingdom Bang for your Fundraising Buck

© Swisshippo | Dreamstime.com

Guest post by Rick Bundschuh, Kauai Christian Fellowship, Kauai, Hawaii

Editor’s Note: This article appears in the YLO94 Resource Book featuring articles on the theme of Missions and Service. You can preview more of the book and the music in YLO94 here.

Let me assure you that taking students to third-world countries for exposure to missions is a very valuable idea on several levels.

The trips get them fired up about missions in general, and make them very appreciative (at least for awhile) of all the things they take for granted at home. A mission project infuses the kids with a sense of responsibility for the poor that they will never shake and often brings a wonder sense of purposefulness and comradeship.

There are lots and lots of great reasons for going on mission trips — which is why I take a group of kids to Tijuana every year.

But seldom — very, very, seldom — are mission trips truly effective in reaching those in far off lands for Christ. Yes, by our presence and efforts we may be supporting a ministry that is active in evangelism, but let’s get really honest with each other here; mission trips usually do far more good (in the short run) for our kids than they do for those in foreign countries we visit for a week or two.

Oh, I know that sometimes, after the skit or presentation (if you do that kind of thing), lots of hands went up or people came forward. But, most of the time we have no idea if the locals are just being nice to the Yankee kids, or if they have a culture that responds in this way to every invitation. (No, I am not denying that God can move, but as one who has lots of friends in foreign missions who host youth groups, lets just say I am aware that all is not always as it seems.)

And then, there is the money.

Usually, thousands of dollars per student are spent to go to a place — where the money spent by our youth group to get to this place could feed and fuel the economy of an entire village for a year.

Most of us are aware of the huge discrepancy between wages in poor countries and the USA. Many of us have, sitting in the midst of poverty, felt acute embarrassment at our own over-the-top wealth and careless spending habits when just a few less luxuries at home could put the village kid we were playing soccer with through school.

So here is an idea: this year, don’t go. Don’t have a mission trip at all; have an Un-mission Trip.

Do your fundraisers, get the bucks together, make a goal that is exactly the same as if your crew were jumping on a plane or doing the road trip to Mexico on the bus. And then send all the money to the mission that you were going to work with. The money can be used to hire a local evangelist, to feed a family, to buy Bibles, to pay bills, to send a hardworking local missionary couple on a surprise weekend trip to the big city and their first-ever stay in a hotel with some spending money in their pocket. Or, bring someone from the mission you visited last year to your town. Help them get their visitor visas, buy them Wal-Mart or even Macy’s gift cards and let them go nuts. Give them the vacation of their lifetime. Let them try to minister to your church this year.

True, some kids will not be motivated by this idea. (You may have better luck with kids who have already had their eyes opened in prior mission trips) Some are only willing to work hard if they benefit from it. But it won’t take much in the way of math or graphs to make the case that perhaps this year, unlike other years, the goal of your mission efforts is to get as much Kingdom bang for the buck; and that by staying home, working hard, and sending the cash (okay, okay, pick one kid who worked super hard and send him or her down with a staff person to present the gift), the good things that can be done are multiplied.

And we all can still have fun working toward that purpose.

Movie review: Thor: The Dark World

Guest post by Todd Pearage from The Gathering in Dayton, Ohio

Thor is called the “Mighty God of Thunder” … and apparently he’s the mighty god of the box-office too.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself. In the aftermath of Marvel’s Thor and Marvel’s The Avengers, Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos … but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness. Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Whether you are a casual fan or a geeked-out fanboy, you have to appreciate what Marvel Studios is doing for the superhero genre. From constantly delivering the highest quality films (IronMan, Thor, Hulk, Captain America and The Avengers) to crossing over characters and storylines, Marvel Studios continues to impress.

Thor: The Dark World has everything a huge blockbuster superhero movie needs … likable characters, intense action, top-shelf special effects and an intelligent storyline that has both heart and humor.

All of our favorite characters are back from the original Thor film (several were also in The Avengers). Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are absolutely perfect as Thor and his mischievous brother Loki. The rest of the cast is also great and newcomer Christopher Eccleston is scary good as the villain. Because he is the only new main character to develop, we get to jump right into the action. And the action is intense and nonstop (and of course I watched the movie in 3D which amplifies the action even more.)

Besides brilliant 3D filming, the movie also features amazing special effects. From the hallowed halls of Asgard to the streets of London and back to the other nine realms, the special effects enhance the film instead of being a distraction.

Finally there is the story. I’m convinced the thing that separates the good from the great action movies is the story. And Thor has a great story jam packed with drama, love, betrayal, heart and humor. Honestly, I could not have asked for more.

I also love how this movie stands alone and yet ties in perfectly with the Marvel franchise. From the mentions of “the battle of New York” (in Avengers) to the Captain America cameo, the story is crafted with care and precision.

Besides being a very entertaining movie, I loved that I could take my 12-year-old son with me to see it. Thor is his favorite superhero and we had a blast watching it and talking about it on the way home. Thor: The Dark World may be a little darker than the other Marvel films, but it is still fun, clean and wildly entertaining.

PS Make sure you stay for TWO post credit scenes.

What should parents/youth leaders know
This film is on par with the other Marvel superhero films. There is a fair amount of violence that while it is intense at times, it is not bloody or gory. There is no sex or nudity and I believe there was one S-word in the entire film.

What youth leaders can talk about
Here are a few discussion-starting questions you can ask your students (or your own kids) as you talk about the movie:

  1. How would you describe the trust level between Thor and Loki?
  2. Why was there broken trust between the two brothers?
  3. How would you explain or define trust?
  4. Do you find it easy or difficult to trust other people? Why or why not?

Read Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
 do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do,
 and he will show you which path to take.

  1. How is “Trusting in the Lord with all your heart” different from trusting a friend?
  2. Why can we “Trust in the Lord with all your heart” without any fear?
  3. What can you do this week to deepen your trust in God?

Thor: The Dark World
Release Date: 11/8
Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some suggestive content.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Christopher Eccleston, Natalie Portman, Idris Elba, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson and Stellan Skarsgard
Directed by: Alan Taylor

Skillet’s John Cooper on the impact of youth camp

Sometimes in the (literal) heat of the season, it’s easy to let the planning and details and logistics and last-minute-everything of summer camp keep us from seeing the impact of all the work and prayer that goes into such a big annual event. In our conversation with John Cooper from Skillet last week, he reflected on the impact that summer camp had on him. We wanted to share this short clip as a reminder and an encouragement. Don’t doubt that all your hard work is making an impact on your students. Both now and on the adults they will become.

Watch our complete video chat with John Cooper of Skillet

YLO Members: You received a download card for the new Skillet album “Rise” in your YLO92 box … go here to redeem the code. And you can share this link with your students so they can get their own copies of “Rise”

Get 4 copies of “Rise” when you join YLO. Click here for details.

From the Editor: I’m That Guy

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.

I use my computers (that includes my phone and pad) to communicate, create, learn, troubleshoot, and play. Instant Messaging/Videochatting/Texting/Conferencing makes my farflung friends and collaborators seem like they’re right next to me.

I don’t have a landline for work or home any more – just my cellphone, which I use as a phone, a camera/camcorder, a Dictaphone, a game console, a music/video/book/magazine library, and on and on. I haven’t sent flyers out in the mail in ages – texting is way more efficient. I post pictures on the Internet instead of the bulletin board in the youth room. My phone is used to play songs and videos in the sanctuary at church, in the bus on the way to the beach, and everywhere between.

Yeah, I’m that guy. (I might be a geek, but I’m positively not a nerd!) But being that guy doesn’t mean that I understand, or even fully appreciate, the tsunami of change that the technological marvels we own has brought to youth ministry. My technology makes me more efficient, but I sometimes wonder if it makes me more effective for God’s kingdom. That is the big question of the Technology “flavor” of this Youth Leaders Only magazine. The issue to consider is: with all the technology that we have available to us, will we create a better ministry, or just something cool?

This issue of YLO includes some great new music … check it out here!

Nobody questions the fact that technology has changed our lives and ministries. In this edition of YLO we explore some of the issues that are raised by that change. From ideas for using social media in your ministry to handling the technological A.D.D. that many teenagers have, you’ll find a lot of information in these pages that you can use in your ministry with teenagers.

I hope you enjoy this issue –and if you want to videochat with me, just drop me an email and we’ll set it up!

Millennials + stress = music

I saw this infographic a few days ago on Twitter (thanks to @youthculturerep for pointing it out). The topic is millennials and stress. According to the link:

… a study by the American Psychological Association, Millennials (born from 1979 up to 1993) average a stress level of 5.4 on a scale of 10, the second highest of all generations, only slightly eclipsed by Gen X (born from 1965 up to 1978) with an average of 5.6.

Sounds kind of dull and … well … boring. And it’s not really news. After all, aren’t we all stressed? (As a Gen Xer, obviously I am!) But check out that stat about millennials using music to cope with stress — 60% of millennials deal with stress by listening to music.

Check out the complete infographic here.

This is yet another reminder of the powerful influence that music has on students. It’s something that they turn to at some of their most stressful, vulnerable moments. Their choices are many, but wouldn’t it be great if at least some of the music they play in those moments did more than “relieve stress”? What if it could actually teach and encourage them in their faith?

That’s what great Christian music can do. And it’s why we keep talking about the role that youth leaders can play in introducing students to new bands and new songs. Music plays an important part in students’ lives. Don’t miss the chance to introduce them to new artists and songs that have an eternal message. Who knows? Maybe next time they’re stressed they’ll look for a playlist of music you told them about.

Learn more about Youth Leaders Only and how you can get great Christian music for half the price of iTunes.