What Works Best in YOUR Ministry?

I love reading blogs… I love reading youth ministry books… I love listening to incredible youth ministry speakers… I love networking with other youth workers… Bottom line, I love these things because I love to learn how to do ministry more effectively, and discovering new ways of doing ministry! But here is the problem we all face these days:

With a greater access conferences, books, and resources, (and so much information to digest), it can be easy to stop thinking and praying through what works best within our own ministry contexts.

Before we begin to implement the newest idea or the ministry philosophy that  has worked somewhere else, it’s imperative that we take important steps to ensure that new ideas and philosophies will actually work in our ministry contexts. In my last three positions, I have found that no ‘one size fits all’ approach works. In fact, I have had three different approaches for the last three churches…

Here’s what does work however:

1) Seek God’s guidance for your specific ministry. (Do we really spend days and weeks seeking God when it comes to implementing ideas and programs)?

2) Spend your first year listening and understanding the people, the community, and the church. (Just because we are the paid person with the expertise does not mean that God does not want to speak through the people).  Read more

Youth Ministry Freebie: Easter Lesson

Our friends over at ym360 are giving away an awesome free Easter Bible study lesson. This is a great lesson! It helps students look back through Scripture, tracing a thread of God’s love from Creation to Jesus’ death and resurrection. It will allow your students to really grasp the importance of the Easter narrative by putting it in the context of the big picture of God’s story. The download comes with a Leader’s Guide, PowerPoint, and a Student Guide. Check it out here (you’ll love it):


The 7 Best Practices For Teaching Teenagers The Bible: BOOK REVIEW

If you haven’t picked up a copy of The 7 Best Practices for Teaching Teenagers the Bible, you really should! By Andy Blanks of YM360, this book is probably the most effective book I have read when it comes to breaking down steps in teaching the bible.

The chapters are broken into the 7 practices and each include compelling reasons for the practice itself, along with super practical applications that anyone could put into to action immediately. Beginning with foundational practices, Blanks takes us on a journey from start to finish in the essentials of highly effective Bible teaching.

For me, the best practice (and the most challenging one for me personally), was the practice to Embrace Unpredictability. This practice challenged me to consider how ‘unpredictable’ my teaching style is. Or as Blanks says it: Read more

Youth Ministry Leadership: What’s Your Leadership Style?

FREE LeaderTreks Youth Worker Leadership Style Assessment

What’s your leadership style? Do you value tasks more than relationships, or do you care more about people than getting the job done? The answer could say a lot about how you lead and how others perceive your leadership. We all naturally value one over the other; it’s not wrong, it’s just how we are wired. However, it’s important to know which way you lean so you can make adjustments to become a more balanced leader.

Youth workers who understand their leadership style are in tune with how their leadership impacts parents, students, adult volunteers and other church leaders. When you know your leadership style you can craft your interactions with key people in more intentional ways and you’re more able to achieve key goals.

When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry: Revisited

Last night at our midweek environment we had two factors working against us. First, we have had our first two days of warm weather as we heated up to the 70’s here in Michigan, (the average high is 43). The second was the beginning of Spring sports and countless try-outs that took students away from our midweek environment. When this kind of double whammy occurs, it can be easy to become despondent and defeated, but it’s important to step back and see the big picture of what is happening. It’s also important to consider how we respond to these times in ministry. Below are some points I made last year in a post titled, When Sports Compete With Youth Ministry: Part 1

Viewing the Situation Differently:

1) Embrace, Don’t Fight: Attacking the school system, parents, and schedules does no good! Our message might be accurate, but it falls on deaf ears when we challenge commitment to the church. In my experience, parents and students will always try to “make it work” for the church when we come alongside them instead of attacking them. It is often in the “come alongside” moments that they are more willing to make it work for our programs. Remember, parents and students are not our enemy, culture is.

2) Understand Parents and Students Better: It’s hard for me to understand parents of teenagers since I am the parent of two toddlers. However, I have made it my goal to ask questions about the reality of sports for parents and their kids. I have some brilliant youth leaders who are parents themselves. I make a point of  listening to what it is like to have a student in sports and try to understand the struggles and pressures on the family. It’s not as clear cut as we might think sometimes… I have acquired much more empathy for parents as they make tough decisions with their kids schedules. Until I am in their shoes, I cannot judge how easy it is to make decisions about sports and church schedules. Read more

Youth Ministry Leadership: Friend or Leader?

Students don’t need youth workers to be their friends, they need adults who will lead them to God and invest in their lives. Unfortunately, many of us have bought the lie that we need to be ‘friends’ with our students in order to have influence in their lives. Some of us have even allowed our need for acceptance from students to cloud our need to lead them effectively.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love doing youth ministry and I love investing in students. I love spending hours talking with them,  laughing with them, and getting to know their heart. But I do this as someone who is leading them and is invested in their lives as their pastor and youth leader... not their friend…

Besides, students don’t see us as their friends. They see us in a distinct role as youth leader, youth director, youth pastor, (or whatever your title is). Even though we might try to gain acceptance as their friend, they will never see us that way, so why keep trying? God has called us to be their leaders. They already have a bunch of friends, why would they need more?

Over the years, here are some observations I have made when I see youth leaders trying to be a friend instead of a leader.

friend to students can easily get caught up in popularity of students but unknowingly take away from the person of Jesus. A leader to students will do everything they can to point them to Jesus and ensure that He gets the glory. A leader to students also recognizes the need for team and looks to applaud fellow youth leaders

A friend to students can easily get sucked into unhealthy need for acceptance by students. When a student rejects that leader, it can feel devastating. Whereas a leader to students feels totally accepted by God and is focused on helping students discover the same acceptance. If we are devastated by a students rejection, we must consider if we are getting sucked into an unhealthy need for acceptance. Unfortunately, I have met many youth leaders who are fueled and ruled by the need for acceptance from their students. This is a very dangerous path to walk down.

Read more

SYMC 2013 Promo Video


Last weekend I attended The Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I came across their promo video for 2013 and thought I’d share it with you? Are you coming?

(Click here to register)

Phil <><

Athletes In Action Speakers = Great Outcomes!

Last night, as part of our mid-week program we had two athletes from The University of Michigan Athletes in Action come to share their faith with our high school students. Craig Roh (defensive end football player), and Brandi Virgil (softball player), did a brilliant job sharing their faith in a relational and engaging way. It was promoted as a night to bring friends to, and a night where the Gospel would be shared clearly. It was a brilliant evening! Here are some of the outcomes and takeaways I discovered:

  • It was an easy invite for students to bring their friends to: Having a local college athlete share their story is an easy way to get students to bring their friends. We saw a large number of visitors last night who all came with regular students to our ministry.
  • A guest speaker can share the Gospel boldly: It’s not that we do not share the Gospel regularly, but there is something great in having someone else share the Gospel to our students. It’s not the same voice or same style and therefore the students tune in and hear the Gospel clearly. Read more

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