Announcing Another New Contributor: Darren Sutton

The vision behind is to provide youth workers with skills, tips, and encouragement from in the trenches veterans. Today I am excited to announce that Darren Sutton will be another voice adding to the youth ministry conversations on this blog. This week he and Leneita Fix will be sharing the advice for newly wed youth workers, as well as advice for veteran youth workers.

In the meantime, here’s a little about Darren: 

Darren has served in youth ministry for over 20 years.  He has a passion for students and the adults who influence them.  He co-founded Millennial Influence with his wife, Katie. Together, they produce a weekly podcast reaching parents of teenagers. Darren is a student pastor in Texas.

You can connect with him at:


Advice For A New Youth Worker

In my previous post I talked about the advice I had recently given three students who were considering a career in youth ministry. (Check it out and add your advice to the comments too)! Today, I want to focus on the advice I give new youth workers who have been in the trenches for less than two years. There are many things I could cover in this post, but here are the essential things I choose to share. Maybe you could add some more to this list in the comments section?

First, it’s important to realize that youth ministry can be one of the most rewarding and exciting things to do! There are times when I pinch myself because I can’t believe I get paid to invest in students lives. However, having done this for a long time now, I have come to realize that the blessing of youth ministry can quickly feel like a curse if we do not build the right foundations as we start out…

Develop Healthy Spiritual Foundations Now: Starting out in our first ministry is exciting and daunting at the same time. It’s easy to get swept away in the ministry nuts and bolts and find yourself spiritually dry a year into things. Unfortunately, this can become the pattern for the rest of your ministry. Ensure that quiet times and bible study are the foundation to your ministry, not an add-on!

Determine To Be Teachable: I hate to even say this, but I meet so many young youth workers who think they know it all… (I was one of those youth workers a while back too…) A few years at college or a few years as an intern does not mean you have all the answers or have figured how the church needs to change for the better. One of the best qualities of any youth worker is the ability to always remain teachable and realize there is always more to learn. Even after nearly two decades in youth ministry, I realize I still have so much to learn… Unfortunately, I see many young youth workers constantly asserting their new-found knowledge in unhealthy ways in order to gain quick influence in their churches. Unfortunately, much of the time they come across as the arrogant “know it all” and actually don’t gain the influence they were hoping for… Read more

Advice For Students Looking Into A Youth Ministry Career

In the last two weeks I have spoken to three students about the possibility of them pursuing youth ministry as a career. Two are current high school students in my ministry, while the other is the son of a friend I play soccer with. (His son is a freshman in a Christian college nearby).

What advice would you give someone who is looking to pursue a career in youth ministry? Here’s what I started with: 

1) PRAY, PRAY, PRAY: This should be a given! But, do you know how many young people I have spoken to who want to go into ministry because it looked fun? It’s so important that we help students to see that youth ministry is a calling and should not be taken lightly. I believe there are great deal of youth workers who burn out early because it simply was not their calling, or they did not take the time to prepare for it…

2) Get Involved In A Local Youth Ministry While At College:School is very important, but it is essential that you get 3-4 years as a volunteer / intern under your belt before you set off into full-time ministry. You will be able to see the good, the bad, and the indifferent as you work in the trenches. It will also allow you discover and develop your strengths, as well as face your weaknesses. Learning these lessons in the relative safety of a volunteer position or internship is a whole lot less painful than being the paid guy or gal…” Read more

Introducing Two New Contributors!

Today I am excited to announce two new contributors to this youth ministry blog! Here’s some info about them:

John and Leneita Fix have been in some form of youth ministry for almost 20 years. In the early years John volunteered and spent his days as a High School science teacher,  while Leneita was the one considered “full time.”  That all changed about 16 years ago when they both came on staff with an urban youth ministry.  They have always approached ministry with a shared vision to see the next generation grow from survival to thriving in Christ.  With the changing landscape of “urban” ministry their heart is for unchurched families.  Together they bring a unique perspective of ministering in  a variety of  settings   from running ministries,  to programming,  teaching,  speaking and simply enjoying their marriage while raising 4  children.  All the while they do this by living in the inner city learning to be a neighbor to those who are there with them.

Friday Freebie: Youth Worker Devotional

In March I am excited to attend The Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville, KY. I love this conference for it’s authenticity, incredible learning opportunities, and the chance to connect with dear friends in ministry who I have met in previous years.

Simply Youth Ministry is deeply committed to tending to the souls of youth workers just as much as they are about resourcing and equipping them. In fact they have created an incredible 12 months of devotions specifically designed for youth workers like you and me. The conference is “for youth workers, by youth workers” and these devotions are for youth workers by youth workers too. They are written by in the trenches veterans who know what we need to stay strong in our faith and ministry…

Check ’em out: Free Youth Worker Devotions

I hope these devotions minister to you as you as you minister to your family and students!

Phil <><

Too Busy To Breathe?

Have you had those seasons in ministry and life where you just don’t seem to get a time to breathe? The last few months for me have felt that way. Between a constant barrage of family sickness, more ministry “emergencies” than normal, as well as over extending myself in some areas, it has been a challenging couple of months. Maybe you can relate?

In seasons like this it’s time to breathe, time to learn, and time to look forward. 

TIME TO BREATHE: The last couple of months have been very busy, but it means everything to stop and be filled up instead of running on empty. The last two weeks I have had to be very intentional to calve out time to be alone, read God’s Word, and be silent. It’s not easy, but it’s essential. It’s challenging to slow down when there are so many things to get done and so many people to keep happy. However, hanging in the long-haul and being effective in the short-term depends on our dependence on God. We must be ruthless with our schedules and intentional about taking time to breathe with our Father.  Read more

The Long-Term View… Self Feeders (Revisited)

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime…”

A while back, I talked about having a A Long-Term View of Student Ministry and focus on the critical areas of ministry that will lead to long-term life change. In ten years from now, what will the faith of our students look like because of what we (and their parents) do today? So often, it’s easy to get caught up with a short-term view that focuses on todays numbers or todays immediate challenges. Here’s the problem: When we live in the short-term, we often shortcut what students really need. Rather than helping them to become self-feeders, they learn to be spoon fed by what we give them in our ministries.

At the beginning of the new year I want to revisit some specific steps I am taking to help students become self-feeders in their faith walk. If I am honest, in the past, I have been too focused on creating an engaging message that will feed my students spiritually, and fail to realize that I am not helping them learn feed themselves. Are we helping students depend so much on our weekly message, yet they spiritually starve the rest of the week? How are we helping them to grow independently from our ministries?

1) Teach Them Self-Feeding Principles: At least once a year, (January or the start of the school year are good times for our ministry), devote a whole series to personal growth. Teach on Bible study, prayer, quiet times, giving, and serving. Feel free to add to this list, but you get the idea. We just began a series called “The Journey” that uses material from LIVE curriculum, (the series is called “Lifelong Faith” under the curriculum, we just created a different series name).

2) Show Them In Our Teaching Times: In our teaching times, we must ensure that we walk through some of the steps we took to gain understanding to a passage or topic. Students need to see that they could quite easily unpack a passage and find application from it. Too often students will not read the Bible when they think only “smart” people can do it. Walk them through the background to the passage, what it meant to the biblical audience, the theological principle, and application for us today. If you have limited knowledge in how to do this, and want to do some self-study, I recommend Grasping God’s Word by Duvall and Hays.

3) Have Them Lead it: In our small group times, instead of a master teacher telling them what the passage says or what they need to know, it’s important to give the ownership and discussion over to the students. Ask questions about a passage instead of making statements. Have key students lead the questions and have them prepare for the study / small group time beforehand. Support them as they lead and give them feedback afterward. This will take more work than if we do it ourselves, but the long-term results are worth it.

5) Give Resources To Continue Self Feeding: Whether it’s a monthly devotion or Bible study resource we give them to take home, it’s imperative we resource them to read God’s Word and pray at home. We use On Track Devotions and our students love them. They are cheap, but well done. Click here for info. 

6) Have Students Share Their Experiences: Anytime we have students share their testimony, we always ask them how they are growing in their faith and what ways they are self-feeding. It’s so important that students get to hear from their peers and what is working for them.

Well, there are some ways I am trying to help my students become self-feeders. How about you? What are you doing to help your students own their faith in greater ways? What is working for you? What tips could you share?

Phil <><

3 Healthy Ways to Start Your New Year in Ministry: Part 3

In my previous post I talked about the importance of throwing off the things that are hindering our lives and ministries. So often we fall back to the familiar instead of stepping back to survey what needs to change. It’s easy to depend on familiar programs, systems, or self reliance instead of depending on God to clearly direct.

Today, I want to continue to look at Hebrews 12: 1 as we look at the intense and challenging issues of being entangled by sin in our lives and ministries.

We Are All But One Step Away From A Fall: “…and the sin that so easily entangles” Hebrews 12:1

A True and Painful Story: A number of years ago, I remember walking across the parking lot into the church where I was the youth pastor. It was the day I was scheduled to preach, but it wouldn’t be any typical sermon… The Sunday before, we had announced to the church that our senior pastor had been forced to resign because he had committed adultery. It was tragic and horrendous for so many people who loved him, his family, and loved their church…  My sermon would be the first sermon following this deeply painful announcement… If I am honest, as I walked across the parking lot into the church, I was angered by this man and what he had done to so many people… It was at that point that God spoke to my heart very clearly. Instead of casting judgment, God show me how all of us in ministry are but one step away from becoming entangled by sin that will lead to destruction and pain.

Be Honest: Therefore, as we make our way into the new year, we should take an honest look at the repeat sins in our lives that have begun to entangle us. It’s crucial that we get help now, not later. It’s paramount that intentionally seek God and spend time with Him to find freedom from being entangled by sin… I have never met anyone in ministry who intentional wanted to fall to a moral failure or lose their position because of poor choices. However, I do know that sin can creep in very quickly and will easily entangle us if we are not careful…

Here’s three questions we should be asking: 

1) What sin is at work in our lives that will entangle us and eventually destroy our family and ministries?

2) Are we running from God or are we coming to Him honestly and openly with our struggles? We all preach it to students, but when was the last time we fell into the arms of our Savior in confession and repentance?

3) Who can help us and and hold us accountable in areas of struggle?

4) What spiritual habits need our attention to help release us from being entangled and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus?

What else would you add? What wisdom have you gleaned in these situations? What hope can you offer? Please feel free to comment. Let’s help each other.

Phil <><


3 Healthy Ways to Start Your New Year in Ministry: Part 2

In my previous post I shared some insights from Hebrews 12 and the importance of realizing we are not alone in ministry. Often ministry can feel like we are isolated and it feels impossible to hang in for the long-term. Realizing the countless ministry heroes who have gone before us, as well as seeking out the veterans of today, goes a long way to help us stay encouraged when we have “those days.”

Today, I want to focus on a second healthy way to start out the new year in ministry:

Get Rid of Excess Baggage:  let us throw off everything that hinders… Hebrews 12:1

The Complex and Absurd of Ministry: One of the greatest challenges I see for youth workers is the natural tendency to allow our lives and ministry to be overly complex and absurdly busy. Many youth workers wear this badge with pride, and I have often been one of those people. However, as time goes by, I am seeing the foolishness in chasing after every opportunity and every latest trend.

The Hebrew Christians had begun to move away from their dependence on God’s grace through Jesus and had become increasingly focused on Jewish rituals, traditions, and backsliding to old habits. In many ways, I see a similar principle played out in ministry, and it is to the detriment of our personal walk with God, and ultimately the shepherding of students… We often depend too much on traditions, familiar ways, and our personal dependence on ourselves…

Here’s what I am considering this new year: 

Dependence on Programs, Systems, and Self! It’s easy to focus more on a program or system, than the power of God and His wisdom to guide us… It’s easy to get stuck in traditions and familiar ways of doing ministry instead of seeking God’s immediate best… It’s easy to depend on our own skills, work longer hours and become driven by certain results… In the long-term, they can squeeze out our dependence on God and His specific focus for our ministry… How much is my ministry defined by traditions, familiarity, and systems, rather than stepping back to seek God’s leading? 

Before you rush in to 2012 and fall back to the familiar, take some time to step back to survey what needs to be thrown out…

What are some of the things that are hindering you and your ministry?

Phil <><

3 Healthy Ways to Start Your New Year in Ministry: Part 1

Happy New Year to you! I hope you have made a good start to your new year so far. As we enter into the 2012, I wanted to share 3 healthy ways to begin this new year. Recently, I have been reading through Hebrews and I have found some good reminders to help me (and you) stay healthy. Although, these healthy ways might be familiar to us, it’s always good to have reminders…

Realize you’re not alone: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses… Hebrews 12:1a (NIV)

Many Have Gone Before Us: The context of this verse is referring to the martyrs who had gone before and were deemed to be heroes of the faith. Ministry is not a new thing and there are countless lives who bear witness to God’s faithfulness and His ability to work through the lives of ordinary people. There is hope that we can look forward to God using us in our good, bad, and indifferent times of ministry. The key is this: Do you want to be used to make a difference? If the answer is “yes”, we can be confident that God will do immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine when His power works through us…

Many Are Making An Impact Today: Not only have countless people gone before us and survived, we have many more ahead of us who are still doing brilliant in youth ministry. With stories of moral failure and challenging situations, it’s easy to focus on the negative.  However, we often fail to celebrate the incredible victories of those who are wildly passionate for their ministries and being used by God in powerful ways. I am blessed to know many veterans in ministry who are a great encouragement to me. They help me realize how God will work through me just as He has for them. Yes, there are many challenging stories too, but it’s imperative to have a long-term view and see how God is using others to make an eternal impact in ministry. Who are the veteran youth workers in your life who encourage and challenge you to stay the course? 

“Yes, but I am not one of those guys / gals!” – We might not be just like a veteran we look up to, but have you taken time lately to get alongside a veteran youth worker and ask them honest questions about their struggles, hurts, and failings? Have you heard their stories of hitting rock bottom and then seeing God pick them up and achieve great outcomes? Have you spent time discovering their authenticity and understanding how “normal” they are. So often we play the comparison game and think that God only uses “those” kinds of people. How are you taking time to get to know the authentic stories of veteran youth workers in your life? 

Often ministry can feel like we are isolated and it feels impossible to hang in for the long-term. Realizing the countless ministry heroes who have gone before us, as well as seeking out the veterans of today, goes a long way to help us stay encouraged when we have “those days.”

Phil <><

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