Where You Can Create Remarkable Experiences

By | Chick-fil-a, hospitality, message, ministry, mission, remarkable experiences, service, small groups, Systems and Structures, SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURES

Came across this video from Chick-fil-a.  The purpose of the video was to “Remind us that everyone we interact with is a chance to create a remarkable experience.”  It made me think about the stories that walk in through our ministry and how we approach them on a regular basis.

It’s easy to get stuck in the grind of producing program week in and week out.  You show up, turn on the light, set-up the room, unlock the doors and wait for the teens.  Then it’s game, music, and a message (Not necessarily in that order) and then you send them home.  If your ministry is just a grind then you are missing out on some incredible stories and you are missing out on some incredible experiences.

As a youth minister you have the opportunity to create a remarkable experience when you interact with your teens through the:

  • Welcome And Hospitality: You need to have people at the door welcoming teens into the program.  Not only is this polite; but, it’s the perfect opportunity to engage a student as they leave the “real world” to enter into your ministry.  Notice their body language and how they respond to your greeting.  You can sometimes tell who is excited to be there and who has had a rough week.  When you notice how someone walks in the door you have the perfect opportunity to remind them that they are loved and valued.  When your students remember that, they’ll be able to let their guards down, so that the Spirit can work through them in your ministry.
  • Delivery Of Your Message:  When you speak it’s your moment to share your story,  the Gospel and to speak into their lives.  To be effective in doing this you need to know their story.  Take the time to meet one on one with teens, lead a small group or invest in their lives outside the church (i.e. Go to a school football game).  When you know their story well, you have the opportunity to challenge them to engage in remarkable experiences of their own.
  • Time In Small Groups:  Small groups are the perfect place to affirm teens in their identity.  If they know that this is a place where they can share life and be prayed over, then they’ll learn to trust.  Your teens will not only learn to trust the group; but, trust God in their lives.  It’s in small groups where their faith can really blossom because it’s being cultivated and encouraged.
  • Service Opportunities:  It’s through ministry and missions that a teen will discover his or her gifts and passions.  When you serve you have the opportunity to connect with Christ out of your comfort zone.  For a teen this can be essential to helping them discover the path God has set them on.  As a youth minister you can use service inside and outside the church as an opportunity for a teen to connect with Christ in a tangible way.

Your ministry exists for more than a fun and engaging experience, it exists to give teens a remarkable one.  While you might not feel like you hit it out of the park every week, you do have the opportunity to plant seeds.  When you build, tweak and shape your ministry make sure that you incorporate opportunities for a teen to let down their guards, build trust and embrace the challenge to grow.  The remarkable experience you can give a teen is the one where they see how God is involved in their life.

Where and how are you creating remarkable experiences in your ministry?

4 Building Blocks To Your Youth Ministry Gatherings

By | hospitality, message, Music, small groups, Systems and Structures, SYSTEMS AND STRUCTURES
Courtesy of ogimogi/Creative Commons License

The goal for youth ministry basically boils down to introducing teens into a relationship with Christ that will help them grow into a follower.  There are so many different ways to do that through service, Bible study, small groups, and worship.  But, in the end no matter how relational, or missional your youth ministry is, it needs a consistent gathering where you can come together to worship God and grow.

So, what does that look like?  What does a basic weekly gathering stripped of bells and whistles look like?  It’s easy to compare yours to others and get caught up in the hype of youth ministry; however, if it doesn’t have a solid foundation it will crumble.  For us the basic building blocks to our youth ministry gathering are:

  • Hospitality – There have been times when I’ve waited at the door for teens to come in only to realize that it isn’t unlocked.  As the teen walks up they pull on the door, turn back to their parent with an expression, “No one is here I told you!” And then they are surprised when I unlock, open and say, “Sorry, forgot that door, so glad that you are here.” When teens walk into your ministry you have no idea what their day has been like.  That’s why it’s essential to have warm, and loving hospitality.  When they feel welcome and accepted, they’ll come back.
  • Music – Whether you have a full blown band or one person leading the group in song, music can have an emotional experience.  While you want a genre that is relevant to what they are hearing, in the end the most important aspect of your music is that it is done well.  That means the worship leader must be dedicated, and the students in the band must practice together.  If finding a worship leader is a struggle my recommendation is budgeting for one if possible.  They’re preaching a message, just in a different format from what you are doing.
  • Message – Just like music, a youth minister’s message has to be practiced and done at a level of excellence.  This is the moment when you lay down truth and bring all back to Jesus Christ.  While the hospitality breaks the ice and music opens up their hearts, it’s with the message that you plant a seed that will change their life.  Carefully choose your words, receive people’s feedback before you deliver and give them an application for their life.
  • Small Groups – The teenagers in your community hear advice and voices from the peers and the world on a regular basis.  Small groups gives them the opportunity to hear insight and wisdom from God honoring adults.  It allows them to grow together with their peers and have Christ at the center. Whether they are discussing your message or sharing what’s going on life, small groups lives out Proverbs 27:17.

While there are other aspects of ministry that are important to the growth and health, it’s these four that lay down a proper foundation.  You don’t have to be complicated, extravagant and go for the “Wow” factor.  In fact, it’s about building relationships.  Before Jesus asked his disciples to go into the world, he invited them into his life, sat with them and built trust.  Do that with your youth ministry gatherings.

Share your thoughts.  What components would you build a ministry on?

Is Your Ministry Just A Game?

By | entertainment, focus, games, invitation, message, ministry health, MINISTRY HEALTH, relationships
Courtesy of Commons

When I started out in youth ministry I was a little bit of a one man show.  I did have volunteers; however, I didn’t utilize them in the way one should.  In result I was responsible for small group questions, a message and planning an activity for the group.  More times than not the activity was a fun, silly game that I would look up on some youth ministry website.  On top of each game I gave out prizes.  There were gift cards, candy, and some CD’s.  It was exhausting.  It was also addictive because it appeared that the teens loved them; however, it wasn’t really bringing them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

The fear of not having any entertainment is that teens will find church boring; therefore, never come back. While there is some truth to this, the answer lies in turning entertainment into engagement.  To do this you need to focus on:

  • The Relationships – If a teen connects with another teen, or an adult in your ministry the chances of them opening up are higher than if they just sit in a chair.  How you conduct and cultivate relationships in your ministry are important.  That means creating opportunities like small groups, and having people greet teens at the door.  To engage in a relationship with Christ, a teen needs to engage in a relationship with someone who knows him.
  • The Message – Whether you are giving a talk or running an activity the message has to be clear.  The reason why so many teens feel bored at church is because they aren’t drawn in by what you are saying. Doesn’t matter how much scripture you use, if you don’t practice your delivery they’ll cut you off.  While content is so important, the context in which you speak or deliver the Gospel is essential.
  • The Invite – Most times the reason a teen won’t come back is because no one invited them back.  They might have seen your ministry as a one night event.  They might have enjoyed themselves; however, feel like they need to be invited back to belong.  Don’t be afraid to invite your teens back each week by following up with an email, contacting them on Facebook or announcing it at the end of your ministry.

There is nothing wrong with having games in your ministry as long as they aren’t the foundation to your engagement.  Games can break the ice; however, if you want teens to go deeper it’s all about relationships, your message and inviting them to follow you.  When your ministry relies on pure entertainment one day you will lose out and lose out big.  To really build an engaging; yet, Christ centered ministry you need to focus on content, context, and relationships.  Not only will teens come back, but they will bring their friends as well.

Do you think games play a role in your ministry? Why or why not? 

Watch Yourself

By | best practices, message, Systems and Structures

Courtesy of .reid./Creative Commons License

In college I had a small stint as a disc jockey for the campus radio station.  It was a cool idea, something I was really excited about and enjoyed until I heard my voice.  It wasn’t necessarily what I was saying but how I was saying it.  I felt like it was a load of mumbling and yammering which, lead me to wonder, “Who in their right mind would listen to me?”
As a youth minister there are many people listening to you, whether it’s giving a message, leading a workshop or running a meeting.  It doesn’t matter how long you spend on editing your message and crafting your bottom line, if you can’t deliver it, than all you are doing is wasting air.
Your effectiveness as a speaker and presenter is not only determined by the words you speak; but, how you speak them and if you want to know how you are doing then just:


Easier said then done because it’s intimidating to look at your self.  But, if you to improve as a speaker you need to know how your words are coming off to the crowd.  If you want to know whether or not people are even listening you need to take the time to examine what needs work.  Especially in these areas:
  • Your Delivery – Are you speaking too fast? Do you make the right pauses?  Do you know when to get loud and soft?  Examining your delivery will help you know if you are hitting your points and making words come to life.
  • Your Body Language– I use my hands too much, something I wasn’t aware of until I watched myself.  It’s funny to see the habits you have that you aren’t aware of and they can be a distraction for others if not careful.  One person told me the waving of my hands made me look like I was drowning…not cool.
  • Your Dress – As youth ministers how we dress might not matter as much for our teens as it does for their parents.  I’m not advocating suits and ties, but there are certain audiences you need to dress for, because their perception of a youth minister may be different from yours.  Dress to impress because sometimes people will judge a book by its cover.

You can spend hours editing and rehearsing your message; however, if you want to truly bring it to that next level, watch yourself.  It’s as simple as setting up a camera; however, if you don’t have access to one, find someone who does (someone has to have one) or find someone you trust to take notes and hold you accountable.  It’s not about putting on a show, but delivering a great message with excellence.  After all you don’t want your lousy presentation to get in the way of the Good News.
How do you work on your presentation?  Do you have any tips to offer?

Is Your Ministry Polarizing?

By | conflict, doubt, message, ministry health
Courtesy Of

This last month we’ve doing a series on Sex and Dating.  In this series we are trying to address everything from homosexuality to the sexual pressures that guys and girls face on a daily basis.  The series has been great at engaging the teens and it has given us a great opportunity to talk with parents.  However, the bright spot of this ministry is that it gives us an opportunity to address a subject that is polarizing.

Chances are you approach certain subjects with the mindset, “No way.” or “Bring it on!” While it’s not always healthy to be the HOT TOPIC church, there are times when we need to look at certain subjects.  When it comes to themes like sex, evolution, abortion, the death penalty, etc. a lot of hype seems to surround them.  And as important as these subjects can be, if we come on too hard or brush right over them we only end up fueling their polarizing nature.

If we aren’t leaning in and addressing these topics we give our students the impression that we don’t care or that they aren’t important.  This mindset will only show them the church doesn’t care about what really matters.  If we go in full force with nothing but the truth, knocking down every opinion, ounce of doubt and curious thought we show them the church is nothing but closed minded.  Either way we risk losing teens.  The healthy approach is to engage with the proper content and context by:

  • Encouraging Them To Sit In The Tension – Many times we put teens in a situation where they have to make a decision before they are ready.  When this happens they don’t truly embrace a belief.  By encouraging them to sit in the tension we bring them along a journey to gain appreciation and ownership for what can be a bold statement.  Sitting in the tension also allows them to think outside the box, to look at other perspectives, which will also give them the confidence to defend it.
  • Promoting Honest Questioning And Authentic Answering – If we take away their ability to ask questions, they’ll resent us.  If we give them an answer that’s anything but authentic they’ll lose our trust.  Many times we avoid the Q&A because we ourselves are afraid of the tension.  There is nothing wrong with not knowing.  There is nothing wrong with saying, “Let’s find this out together.”  If anything it builds trusts and says, “I’m with you on this.
  • Continuing The Conversation – Even if we engage in Q&A and lean into a difficult situation it doesn’t mean it’s over when the series is done.  Most times these conversations need to be left open ended so that the teens know they can bring it up again if doubt emerges.  It’s easy to say, “We’ve discussed this already, why do we have to open up wounds?” It’s because not everyone has healed.  Continuing the conversation is saying to the teens, “I’m willing to discuss this whenever you have a question, concern or thought.
I’m not promoting controversy; however, I’m hoping you don’t run from it.  If we aren’t intentional about the topics we teach and the growth we want, we risk creating a church that polarizes people.  Granted there are going to be teens who won’t agree with church teaching; however, we have to make sure we aren’t forcing them into that situation.  On top of creating an open dialogue and sitting in the tension we need to PRAY.  Bring God into every conversation and allow Him to open minds and hearts to His word and love.

How do you address polarizing issues in your ministry?  What’s worked and what hasn’t?

Are You Giving Them All The Answers?

By | discipleship, message, ministry health

When I was a junior in high school I had to read The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner.  At that time of my life I didn’t enjoy reading anything more than a magazine, so to read something written in stream of consciousness was torture.  The only way I could get through class was by reading the cliff notes version which was not highly looked upon by the teacher; however, it worked.  I was able to share in class and it was working until the day I shared too much.  I didn’t realize that cliff notes gave you insight to information that isn’t quite there and it was discovered that my answers were not my own, but from another source.  I had learned answers to questions that I didn’t really understand.
No matter how you deliver curriculum, theology, scripture and truth you have to wonder whether or not you are really preparing teens for the real world.  Yes, you might have all the information in front of you and they might have all the information in front of them; however, how is it changing them?  While what we teach, and preach is important, it will lose it’s weight if we don’t know how to deliver it.  It isn’t always about giving them the answers, it’s also about:

  • Getting Them To Think: What is it you want them to know?  Christianity is rich with so much information, wisdom, and tradition; however, if there was only one thing you wanted them to walk away knowing, what would that be?  Once that is decided, clarify it, repeat it and give examples of what it looks like in their paradigm.  Getting them to think, in planting a seed in their mind that can grow and expand and lead to more ideas.  Getting them to think is giving them creative authority on how to go out and live their life.
  • Evoking Their Emotion: Why do you want them to know what you want them to know?  If you throw out information (even wisdom) without a reason as to why it’s important, they’ll take it as it is and probably do nothing with it.  If you want your teens to care you need to give them a reason to care.  While you want to avoid manipulation, don’t be afraid to share why it’s important to you.  The best way to do this is through story telling, because everyone wants to be a part of a story.
  • Giving Them Direction: Now that they know what it is, and why it’s important you need to show them how to apply it in their lives.  Some of the teens will feel compelled, ready to set the world on fire, while others will be reluctant because they fear failure.  You’ll want to focus those who are excited and encourage the ones who are apprehensive and this is done with clear direction.  Give them a few steps, or describe opportunities where they can apply what they know in their everyday lives.

It’s tempting to just spout out information week in and week out when we meet with our students.  It’s tempting to just get up and preach or hand out a worksheet because it’s easier.  The focus needs to be on creating conversations, growing ideas and giving them permission to fail.  Next time you plan a message, and activity don’t worry about giving the answers but ask yourself:

 “How am I getting them to the Truth?”  

How do you guide your teens to discover the answers?

Is Your Ministry All Talk?

By | communication, COMMUNICATION, job description, message, programs

If you are a leader one of the most (if not the most) important part of your job is communication.  And while what you communicate is important all of it can be trumped if we do not know how.  One of the keys to communication is being BRIEF and CLEAR.  If people aren’t engaged or don’t understand what it is you want them to know or do, they won’t follow your lead.  So where do we need to be BRIEF and CLEAR?

Ministry Job Description – The two reasons ministers will leave your ministry is because they:

  1. Have no clue what it is they are supposed to do. 
  2. Do way too much and have no focus.  

You should be able to walk up to any minister in your ministry and ask them, “What is it that you do here?” and they should immediately be able to respond in one sentence.   

Program Description – Why doesn’t anyone come to your programs?  It’s because they have no clue what it is you do and even if they do it doesn’t sound attractive.  A description of your program should have:

  1. Why your ministry exists (Vision)
  2. And how you hope to get there (Mission)

You wouldn’t want to get on a bus with no destination, it’s a little crazy.  Give people a purpose and a path, make it compelling and they’ll join you.

Message Development/Delivery – Why aren’t you seeing fruit from your message?  Because you deliver a thousand points and you speak for hours in circles.  I don’t think their is a perfect length for a message because it depends on the communicator.  But, some people can deliver gold in 5 secs while others will have you hanging on the edge of your seat for 10 hours.
If you want people learning and growing keep each message focused to one point and give them one application.  Being focused will help your message be memorable. 

When it comes to ministry there is a lot of talking and if it isn’t clear or engaging it’s just confusing.  If you want to motivate people, create movements and grow disciples you need to focused, clear and intentional about what you want them to do and what you want them to know.

In what other areas do we need brief and clear in our communicating?

3 Questions That Empower Your Teens

By | communication, COMMUNICATION, message, message series

This summer has been full of meetings, trips and recruiting ministers.  It’s been a most productive summer but I know once July starts to wind down message preparation begins to gear up.  Our message series is what drives the youth ministry.  It’s the main reason we get students together once a week to worship and praise God.  If it weren’t for these messages we would just encourage students to only attend the adult worship.
As of now we have our themes picked for the year, meaning we know the topics we want to talk.  We also know most of the scripture we are going to focus on because of our liturgical calendar.  All that’s left is to answer three questions:

What Do We Want Them To Know?
If there is one thing that they need to walk away knowing about a certain subject or a certain piece of scripture what would that be?  When we hit subjects like money and sex we tend to say too many things, which cancels out any message.  You can’t say everything, but you can say the right thing that will later lead them to other truths.  So what is it?

What Do We Want Them To Do?What is the vision that you are setting for their lives?  Now that they have truth, we need to show them how to live it out.  If you can make it tangible great, but if anything you need to make it clear.  The step might not be easy but again it should be clear.

How Are We Going To Help Them?What’s the starting point?  Where in your ministry are you going to support their actions?  Your message may mean risk and failure in their lives, so you need to make sure you have a ministry that helps them refocus.  How are small groups, and your ministry team prepared to help these students take that first step and focus on the truth?

While trips and events are important to my ministry, none of them hold the same weight as a message series. Your message is what will take a youth group and turn it into a youth movement.  Too many times we rely on the wow factor and what’s new to attract teens.  Too many times we’re about growing the group and not so much about growing disciples.  If you aren’t spending the majority of the time asking yourself these three questions, then you have to ask yourself, “What am I doing with this ministry?”

Take The Struggle Out Of Message Development

By | evernote, margin, message, Systems and Structures

We do a lot of outsourcing in the summer which gives me the time to plan out a year of message writing.  If you are a youth worker that delivers a message on a regular basis you know the grind of producing one week in and week out.  There are times where you feel as if what you are delivering isn’t up par.  There are going to be weeks when you struggle with a topic, scripture or delivery because of unplanned circumstances.  Believe it or not there are a few steps to ensure a years worth of quality messages.
How is it possible?  It starts with a system, like this one:

  1. Know The Truths Ahead Of Time:  To unfold and comprehend the entire Gospel in one year is next to impossible.  Andy Stanley and Stuart Hall wrote The Seven Checkpoints which lays out the Biblical truths that North Point wants their teens to embrace.  Too many times we try to teach it all without teaching anything.  What I’m proposing is to focus on a few that will lead the teens to more, Andy calls it Teach Less For More.  At the end of the day what are the core truths you want them to know?  Answering this question will make you efficient in message development.
  2. Put Margin In The Process: Whether you plan an entire year of message series at once or give yourself 3 months margin it’s important to plan ahead.  If you are going week in and week out you aren’t giving yourself room to fail, get busy or take breaks.  Know that in the next year you are going to face a mammoth amount of distractions and obstacles.  Margin will give you the grace to complete each message without going crazy.
  3. Evernote Like Crazy: I’m jumping on the Evernote bandwagon, but I’m using it to catalog my research.  Even if you don’t want to use this truly amazing software (they are not paying me), create a system where you can store articles, stories, videos, photos, etc.  Create a system that will not only help you gather information but organize it as well.  When you can spend time just researching and then hit the year easily pulling out references, studies and stories you’ll find developing a point somewhat easier. 
  4. Follow And Sit With A Liturgical Calendar: We follow a liturgical calendar which helps us develop message series.  If your church or denomination doesn’t follow one then it’s important to sit down and plan out the road of scripture you will want to take.  Once that’s decided, sit with it.  Again, it’s about giving yourself margin, but by reading through His word over and over again you allow Him to work through you.  Our faith gives us seasons and themes…use them.

We all work at different paces, but that should not prevent you from creating a system for long term message development.  A system is like a path, it gives you direction and parameters.  From time to time you’ll need to change the system, but again it keeps you on track.  I know some of us want to go with the Spirit, but even He will give you a path, so follow it.

What steps do you take for long term message planning?

3 Questions To Ask Before You Write Your Next Message

By | message, writing

These past few weeks I’ve been giving my volunteer ministers a shot at presenting the message.  When they asked me how long the message should go I give them the time frame of 10-15 minutes.  But I tell them while that’s the framework it shouldn’t dictate the content.
I’m not sure what your thoughts on length are, but in the end I believe it comes down to how you engage and clearly communicate to the crowd.  I know people will argue back and forth on the best length for a message but in reality if you can’t answer these three questions, then your message is just noise:

  • “What do I want them to know?”- If your audience could walk away remembering one thing what would it be?  That one thing should be a nugget of truth that they can chew on and pray about so it begins to influence their thinking.  Too often we lay in multiple points which in the end cancel each other out.  What you want to do is find one thing to say it and then say it in different ways, in other words make it stick and drive it home.
  • “What do I want them to do?”- Now that they have that piece of truth show them how they should live it out.  For a long time we were filling teens heads with information but never telling them how to apply it to their lives.  But don’t give them too many action steps or again it’s become too complex, people want clear and simple.
  • “How am I going to get them there?”- Now that you’ve told them what they need to know and how to live it out, here’s where you need to set them up for success.  Here you can get a little gimmicky (like wrist band reminders), but it’s important to give them a tool that will not only remind them but help them go deeper (i.e. small groups, ministry)

When you can answer these three questions, you can build a focused and inspirational message.  Students will leave focused on the vision with an idea of which path to follow.  You should never speak just to be heard, you should speak because you want to make something happen.

How do you construct a clear and engaging message?