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Posts tagged ‘Youth ministry’

4 Ways to Respond to the Teen Sexting Problem.

What would you say to the members of your church youth group about sexting?
What would you say to the members of your church youth group about sexting? (Ambro)

Think back when you were a junior high or high school student. What would’ve been the equivalent to sexting?

I’m guessing it would probably be flashing. The only difference between the two (besides the obvious) is that a quick flash would only be talked about after it happened. Sexting pics are forever; therefore, people have visuals to add to the conversation for years to come.

If you think sexting is about students just getting a quick fix of sexual gratification, you are mistaken. There is a lot more going on. did a very detailed survey on sexting, and the results were interesting:

  • One in five teens has engaged in sexting—sending, receiving or forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text message. And over a third knows someone who has either sent or received messages like this.
  • 38 percent of teens confessed to someone sharing with them what was sent to them.
  • 34 percent of the girls that have participated in sexting say they did it to feel sexy.
  • 23 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys say they were pressured by a friend to send the inappropriate pictures.
  • Most participants say they engage in sexting because their boyfriend/girlfriend ask them to or to have fun.
  • 52 percent of girls said they did it as a present.
  • 29 percent of teens believe those exchanging sexually suggestive content are “expected” to hook up or date.

These statistics say a few things that we in youth ministry need to pay attention to:

  • These statistics change the face of the person who’s sexting. When you think of a flasher, you think of an old pervert who walks around in a trench coat all day. Well, when you think of sexting, you may think of an older, porn-exposed student who’s been a troublemaker for most of their life. These statistics suggest that’s not the case. These statistics normalizes the profile of a sexter to look a lot more like your everyday teen in junior high or high school who may or may have not viewed porn before.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming normalized within boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming more normal and culturally acceptable in the world of teens.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is a gateway to getting into more sexual activity.
  • These statistics suggest that it’s impossible to shield your child from sexting.
  • These statistics suggest that there is a deceptive identity/power piece that sexting gives to girls and guys.

So, what should be our response?

Sexting is a complete lie embedded in the mindset that it’s innocent or that it’s not worse than having sex. Here are four ways I feel we should respond:

1. Prayer. We should be interceding for our students and for the students at our local schools. Prayer in our ministries needs to be proactive, not reactive. Keep your ministry connected to the power source—God.

2. Educate parents on trends and technology. About two out of every five teens say their parents have no idea what they are doing online. So we must take the initiative and help parents become more knowledgeable with trends and technology. Let’s be the support they don’t know they need.

3. Talk about it in youth group. I wrote a post on this (click here). Add sexting to the list because it’s becoming the norm. And right now, students don’t get a choice whether they are exposed to it or not.

4. Challenge your students. I think sometimes we may feel like a good talk is enough, but actually talk is only half the battle. You need to challenge your students to take action and stand against cultural norms that are slowly destroying their generation. Give them action steps that will give them confidence in the stance they take. Teach them how to move in righteous anger. Be creative in what you give them the opportunity to do. I would grab a few students and let them help you shape the challenge. I love getting students involved in stuff like this, because it gives them ownership.

What are some other ways we should respond to sexting?.


Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He’s married with three children, loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs

For the original article, visit

What Stereotypes Do Your Students Carry?.

What stereotypes do the children in your youth ministry hold?

What stereotypes do the children in your youth ministry hold? (Lightstock)

I need to begin with context. Our ministry is a multisite urban youth ministry. We work with a mix of “churched,” “unchurched,” “dechurched” and “overchurched” students.

Our students are primarily African-American. My family and I have chosen to live in a neighborhood with some of the families that are a part of our ministry. That particular area happens to be a multiethnic community whose residents are primarily living under the poverty level. To be blunt, we are known as the “white family” on the block.

At one of our small groups a couple of weeks ago, we happened into a discussion that has left me thinking. One of my students made this statement: “All white people are rich.”

I almost choked when 15 other high school students nodded their heads in unified agreement. I thought of our struggle to pay bills weekly in our home, the one car we drive and the stuff we don’t own. However, I also knew many of these students didn’t have a car at all and that food in their cupboards is sometimes dwindling. My mind wandered to where this perception had been perpetuated.

All is a strong word,” I said. “You do know we live three blocks from here?” (I was intimating we live in the same neighborhood they do, and they did not believe themselves to be rich.)

“Yeah, so?” was the student’s response. I could see from the wheels turning that she knew we choose to live there. Even more so, it was her belief that at any point we could make a move to any other location, while she may never do that.

“All,” I pointed out once again, “is a strong word. When we start using that word, we fail to see individuals.”

We talked about struggles, racism and those who have fought for each student in that room to be able to truly be anything God has called them to be. I asked how many people in the room had cable or a flat-screen television. All hands went up.

I said, “We don’t, and this is a choice based on finances. As a matter of fact, our television is 30 years old, and we have to use a pencil to turn it on.”

There was an audible gasp let out across the room, followed by perplexed looks.

“Now, don’t get me wrong,” I went on. “Our needs are met; however, we are far from rich. My kids don’t get everything they want, and neither do we.”

We then talked honestly about barriers the students might face that I might never know. I also let them know that Jesus came to overcome all of this. Their road might be difficult; however, this can’t be an excuse to give up now.

We talked about what a stereotype is. It is a negative overexaggeration based on some common traits. In short, it takes the bad habits of some of a group of people and labels them “all.”

There are movies and television shows that perpetuate certain stereotypes based on our background and the color of our skin. There are others that are attached to our gender, size, hair color or geographic upbringing. Some of them make us laugh. Some of them we latch onto. However, I was struck with just how dangerous stereotypes can be.

These students were using that statement as an excuse. They had already come to believe their lives were on track to be the same as most of those they know. They would never attend college. They would exist day to day. They would struggle and be called poor. Most of all, they would be stuck in a life they hate, living in a place they despise, and they would never have a way out.

“We can never know all people are any one thing,” I told them.

They were shocked at the number of African-Americans I am friends with who are married, living in the suburbs and not struggling to put food on the table.

I finished with letting them know it is about the willingness to get to know people and never looking at only the surface.

Then I got to thinking about when I was their age. I had made some connections and carried my own stereotypes:

  • “People in certain denominations aren’t really saved.”
  • “Kids from that side of town are ‘those’ type of kids.”
  • “People from the north are cold and indifferent; people from the south are shallow.”

I, too, used these stereotypes as an excuse to not believe Christ can change everything. I used them as a reason to never see or talk to certain people. I used them as a reason to stay stuck, existing in a box that couldn’t see the rest of the world.

Chew on this today. What are the stereotypes your students carry? What are those you carry? What will we do to stop using the word all?

Leneita Fix is the director of ministry development for Aslan Youth Ministries, a family-focused urban ministry serving Monmouth County, N.J., and Haiti. She has been working in some form of youth and family ministry for almost 22 years.

For the original article, visit

Written by Leneita Fix

Youth Groups Driving Christian Teens to Abandon Faith.

Teens against wall
A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith upon high school graduation (lusi/

A new study might reveal why a majority of Christian teens abandon their faith upon high school graduation. Some time ago, Christian pollster George Barna documented that 61 percent of today’s 20-somethings who had been churched at one point during their teen years are now spiritually disengaged. They do not attend church, read their Bible or pray.

According to a new five-week, three-question national survey sponsored by the National Center for Family-Integrated Churches (NCFIC), the youth group itself is the problem. Fifty-five percent of American Christians are concerned with modern youth ministry because it’s too shallow and too entertainment-focused, resulting in an inability to train mature believers. But even if church youth groups had the gravitas of Dallas Theological Seminary, 36 percent of today’s believers are convinced youth groups themselves are not even biblical.

After answering three questions at, each survey participant received NCFIC Director Scott Brown’s e-book entitled Weed in the Church: How A Culture of Age Segregation Is Destroying the Younger Generation, Fragmenting the Family and Harming Church as well as access to a 50-minute-long documentary entitled Divided: Is Modern Youth Ministry Multiplying or Dividing the Church? (Divided has been viewed by 200,000 people.)

The survey is still active online through Friday, Nov. 8.

Adam McManus, a spokesman for NCFIC, is not surprised by the church’s deep concerns about youth groups.

“Today’s church has created peer dependency,” McManus says. “The inherent result of youth groups is that teenagers in the church are focused on their peers, not their parents or their pastors. It’s a foreign sociology that leads to immaturity, a greater likelihood of sexual activity, drug experimentation and a rejection of the authority of the Word of God.

“Proverbs 13:20 says, ‘He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.’ The result is that the youth stumble, they can’t see beyond their noses, and spiritual adolescence is prolonged well into adulthood. It’s crippling the body of Christ. That’s why it’s time to return to the biblical paradigm and throw out the youth group structure entirely.”

He continues, “I am greatly encouraged by the results of our survey. American Christians are finally waking up to the disconnect between the clear teaching in Scripture in favor of family-integration and the modern-day church’s obsession with dividing the family at every turn. Age segregation, especially during the tender and impactful teenage years, not only hasn’t worked, it’s been detrimental. Even worse, it is contrary to the Bible. But the good news is that practices in the churches related to youth groups are changing dramatically. Twenty years ago no one was even asking this question.”

McManus cited the following Scriptures to document his contention that it’s God’s will for the church to embrace the biblical model of families staying together in the service as the Word of God is preached: Deuteronomy 16:9-14, Joshua 8:34-35, Ezra 10:1, 2 Chronicles 20:13, Nehemiah 12:43 and Joel 2:15-16.

“Our fervent prayer is that God will raise up Spirit-filled, Bible-preaching, Christ-centered, family-integrated assemblies from the ashes of our man-centered, family-fragmenting churches,” McManus adds. “Plus, the church needs to begin to equip Christian fathers to communicate the gospel to their families. Today, Christian parents are beginning to realize that they have not fulfilled their spiritual duties by simply dropping off their kiddos to Sunday school and youth group, allowing other parents to disciple their children by proxy.

“Let’s not forget the powerful words spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-7: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.’

“It is the parents’ primary obligation to disciple their own children, impressing God’s commandments upon them in the home on a daily basis.”

Cameron Cole, youth director at Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Ala., says, “There is a propensity in our culture to outsource the development of our children. For intellectual development, we send them to school. For athletic development, we send them to Little League. And for spiritual formation, we send them to youth group. The church has done a poor job of communicating to the parents that they are the primary disciplers of their children. Parents don’t believe this, but the reality is that kids listen to their parents far more than they’re going to listen to a youth minister.”

“It’s time for the Christian father to take the central role which God has ordained,” McManus concludes. “Gathered around the dining room table, the father needs to lead family worship once again, which had been standard behavior for a vibrant American Christian family for hundreds of years, dating back to the Plymouth, Mass., colony of 1620. Dad needs to read from and discuss the Bible, sing Christian songs and pray with his family, his little flock over which God has appointed him shepherd. Frankly, I’m not as concerned about what happens in Sunday school in church as I am with what happens in ‘Monday school’ and ‘Tuesday school’ at home with the family.”



How to Defuse a Youth Ministry Bomb.


How do you resolve conflict before it starts?

For most youth workers, few things in ministry are as dreaded as navigating conflict—especially when it comes in the form of an angry parent or frustrated volunteer and when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly.

You know the scenario: You’re hanging out in the youth room doing your youth pastor thing, and before you see it coming, he’s in your face. He’s on a mission. He’s got a few concerns, and he’s gonna share them with you right now. He has no desire to think about the timing. His agenda is the only one that matters. He’s a ticking time bomb, and time is running out.

Don’t panic—what looks like an explosion waiting to happen can usually be defused quite easily and turned into something positive. Here are steps I try to take in these types of scenarios to defuse the bomb.

1. Directly engage. It’s tempting to try to avoid the person, especially since you’ve got a program to run. But time bombs can’t be ignored. They demand the proper attention. I’ve learned the best thing to do is to proactively engage the person immediately. This lets the reasonable person know you’re concerned that he’s concerned about something, and it lets the unreasonable hothead know that you aren’t afraid to engage—that you won’t be bullied or intimidated.

2. Don’t get defensive. This isn’t the time to defend yourself. The truth of the matter is that most frustrated folks simply want to be heard. When you take a defensive posture, you reinforce their suspicions and concerns. However, when your first response is to acknowledge their concerns and listen to what they have to say, it shows them their concerns are important to you and things (usually) begin to cool down right away.

3. Delay the rest of the conversation. Chances are you won’t be able to address the entire issue in the two to three minutes you can afford to give this person before youth group, so don’t try. Instead suggest that you delay the rest of the conversation to a later time in the very near future. Invite them to coffee or lunch, and let them know you would welcome the opportunity to continue the conversation at that time.

This will do two things: It will give everybody time to cool down and think about the issue at hand, and it will communicate you’re taking their concern very seriously and want to address it as best you can.

I’ve learned over the years that trying to avoid frustrated, angry people almost always serves to make the situation worse. But when I’m willing to directly engage, when I don’t get defensive and when I offer to reconnect about it later, I not only defuse the bomb but also often build trust and loyalty along the way.

Written by Kurt Johnston/Saddleback Church

Kurt Johnston has been on staff at Saddleback Church since 1997 and currently leads the student ministry team. He is the founder of and has written numerous books, including Middle School Ministry Made Simple, and has created dozens of resources for youth workers.

For the original article, visit

What Matters Most in Ministry?.


Aaron Crumbey (r)

A lot of times we can get into the results game or the comparative game and lose sight of what matters most. We think if only I had that building, that equipment, more staff or more money, then we would be able to do ministry better.

I’ve learned that if you start playing that game it’ll never end. You will always feel like you can do better ministry with more. I think we all know this but sometimes need to be reminded.

God has us where we are, for the work He has for us to do.

That doesn’t mean we can’t set goals or grow and strive to serve more. We just need to know that what matters most should be our motivator and focus. In ministry, the why is always more important than the how, where and who. If you get the why right, the how, where and who will align.

I’ve witnessed God doing amazing things with the ministries in Rwanda with people who are simply focused on introducing people to Jesus Christ with nothing but a bible and the shoes on their feet. I’ve also seen the same focus at Saddleback Church with the resources we have. It doesn’t matter if a ministry is mega or small, if it’s not focused on what matters most it’s not fulfilling its intended purpose. I believe that if we are not watchful we can get caught up in the how, where and who and allow those things to motivate us and drive us in ministry instead what matters most.

I think we can all agree that whether your youth group has 20 kids or 20,000 kids, encountering Jesus Christ in a real authentic way is what matters most. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have, students encountering Jesus Christ in whatever strategy or model your minstry uses is what matters most.

I really want to encourage you to focus on what matters most in the ministry God has you doing. Allow it to motivate and drive what happens in your ministry within the context of your ministry. Here are four questions I want to leave you with that come to my mind when I think about how I continue to pursue what matters most.

1. Am I personally invested in what matters most? How are you helping people encounter Jesus Christ in your personal life? I believe that when you are invested in what matters most it can’t help but spill over into the rest of your life, especially ministry. When I say invested I’m saying what matters most should have priority in my life.

2. Am I motivated by what matters most? This question is simply asking what motivates me every week to do what I do for youth ministry. To give a few examples it could be for self gain, self notoriety, notoriety of the ministry within the church, status, keeping a job, getting a job or is it introducing students to Jesus Christ in a real authentic way. You need to know this because being motivated by anything other than what matters most will not end well for you.

3. Does what matters the most to me agree with what matters the most to God? We need to be aligned with what matters most to God.

4. Do I allow what matters most to speak into what I do? This is basically saying, “as I plan and strategize, am I thinking about what matters most or am I thinking about other things.”

I only listed four but I know there are more. What are some other ways we can keep what matters most as our focus and motivator?

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He’s married with three children and loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs

For the original article, visit

Written by Aaron Crumbey/Saddleback Church

How Will We Reach the ‘Nones’?.


© Lightstock/Alyssa Marie


Emma grew up in a small town her whole life. She dated and had a steady boyfriend for two years, until he succumbed to the ribbing of his football teammates and tried drugs for the first time. After learning of his new found habit, Emma’s parents forbid her to see him. But after spending most of her time with him and his friends for the previous two years, she never really found a place to belong again. The local churches’ youth groups were nonexistent; her sister had her own friends, and failed attempts to make the school’s sports teams left her feeling rejected. At home, she often saw and heard her parents fighting about money and didn’t get the attention she wanted from a distracted mom consumed with trying to keep her marriage together.

This May she graduated from high school. One glance at her Twitter account reveals who Emma is today. Years of feeling isolated, unaccepted, directionless and angry now play out in 140-character posts:

“I hate my parents. They’re always wondring what I’m doing wrong w my life.”

“Everyone I love leaves me or doesn’t care abt me.”

“Ugh. My mom is making me go 2 church. It’s so boring. Someone come save me. Now. Help me!”

Unfortunately, Emma isn’t the exception. You’ve probably heard repeatedly that the church is losing (or has lost) this generation. It may sound like a worn-out phrase to those not connected with the youth of today, but anyone who works with teens in some capacity knows this is the sad reality.

A 2012 Pew Research Center study revealed that one-fifth of the U.S. public—and a third of adults under 30—are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research polling. In the last five years alone, those who marked “none” identifying their religious affiliation have increased from just over 15 percent to almost 20 percent of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent).

Motivated by these findings, the Barna Research Group delved deeper with their own study to explore the nation’s emerging post-Christian landscape. The study found that the younger the generation, the increasingly post-Christian it is compared with its predecessors. Nearly half (48 percent) of Mosaics (ages 3 to 21) qualified as post-Christian, compared with two-fifths of Busters (40 percent), one-third of Boomers (35 percent) and one-quarter of Seniors (28 percent).

Barna Research commented on their findings: “The [generational] differences are striking, and they suggest a less ‘Christianized’ nation in the decades to come. … These patterns are consistent with other studies that show the increasing percentage of ‘Nones’ among younger generations.”

With these findings and statistics in mind, how do we redesign youth ministry to capture the hearts of churched kids and win back the new teen atheists?

A Decades-Old Challenge

For the past 70 years, reaching young people has been a daunting challenge for the church. Since the term “teenagers” was conceived as a sociological group in the 1950s, the struggle to authentically pass on faith has met continued resistance. In each season, the church has faced the challenge with diverse tactics in hopes of reconnecting the younger generation with the gospel. During the Billy Graham crusades and Youth for Christ movement of the 1950s, millions of youth were won to Christ. The 1960s gave rise to a number of ministries, such as Young Life, birthed to take the gospel to campuses. Thankfully, many of those ministries have stood the test of time and still exist.

We also saw the emergence of a new leadership species: the youth pastor. Senior pastors seeking to be diligent in their duties to care for the younger generation hired youth pastors who specialized in grounding teens in their faith. I was one of those teens in the 1970s who was reached by a youth pastor in the middle of my party lifestyle. I thank God for his intervention in my life.

Each youth generation has faced its challenges. And for the most part, the church has always risen to those challenges, ensuring that the gospel was passed on.

Yet today we face a whole new set of truth-obscuring obstacles. The Internet and media pull at the hearts and minds of teens as they seek community (including virtual, pseudo community fueled by social media), acceptance and a place to belong.

For the past 25 years at TeenMania’s Acquire the Fire conferences, I have stood face to face with teens every weekend. In each season, I’ve worked hard to bring a message that’s relatable to teens—helping them deal with the most urgent issues they face—while boldly proclaiming the orthodox biblical gospel. Each year, we wrestle with how to present the gospel to the millions of teens who will come to our events, listening to the thousands who after high school have come to our campus for an internship called the Honor Academy (see An Unshakeable Nation).

This real-life, consistent experience has given me perspective and insight to ask two essential questions: In light of today’s advancements and “progress,” what are the most poignant challenges to reaching an ever-changing group? As leaders of Jesus’ church, how do we confront these challenges?

Our Current Dilemma

Think about the above-mentioned studies, then add to them this report: In a 2007 poll by the Pew Research Center, 83 percent of Millennials said they “never doubted God’s existence.” In 2012, that number decreased to 68 percent—a 15-point drop in five years.

These trends are no doubt the result, in part, of the popularity of the “new atheists” and the growing trend of tolerance as the ultimate virtue. These factors have caused the younger generation to regress, believing that even if God exists, Jesus could not be the only way to God. For example, consider the sentiments and comments of popular atheist authors like Christopher Hitchens and TV personalities such as Bill Maher, who regularly serves up one-liners like these:

  • “Believing in God is like believing in your invisible friend.”
  • “Even if there was a God, believing that His Son, Jesus, is the only way to God is so arrogant. It is so intolerant of you to judge other religions and think that you are the only one who is right.”
  • “Believe in Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and Jesus Christ: All are fantasy, your parents just forgot to tell you about Jesus.”

Hearing these and their derivatives in sitcoms and classrooms thrusts teens—churchgoing and not—into a conflict, especially when they realize they have no response. Because they have been told to “just believe,” regardless of what anyone says, they are both humiliated and embarrassed. “Just believing” is getting more and more difficult. As a result, today’s teens are literally being mocked—not talked—out of their faith!

The strategy of the mockers is simple:

1) Use ridicule to label people of faith as anti-intellectual or irrational. 

2) Set off a false dichotomy between science and faith, asking people to choose one or the other.

3) Keep the debate one-sided by not allowing dissenting opinion in the public arena, ensuring that expressions of faith are only allowed in religious settings.

Add to that the fact that by the time a teen graduates from high school, he has been exposed to 40,000 hours of television and movies and 11,000 hours in the classroom, while getting only 800 hours in church. It’s easy to see, then, as Christian media and film critic Ted Behr writes in his book, The Culture Wise Family, how teens are overcome with prevailing cultural views.

Hearts Not Heads

Part of our challenge as we reach out to young people who have grown up in church is that we’ve literally won their hearts to Christ, but not their heads. In other words, they may have a really moving experience at church, youth group or summer camp, but they are not taught how to think deeply about their faith. They are “low information believers.”

Here’s what you and I can do:

Seek to understand: If we were in another country as a missionary, the first thing we would do is to try to understand life from the viewpoint of those in the culture we were trying to reach—to learn their perspective on life and their concept of God. It’s the same with reaching post-Christian teens.

Considering that almost half of this generation is post-Christian—and most have grown up in church—we would be wise to recognize that even though we talk about God every week, teens are not necessarily on the same page as us. The 2005 National Study on Youth and Religion found that even though many teens call themselves Christians and attend church every week, their beliefs are so different from orthodox Christianity that they are now labeled “moral therapeutic deists.” They may be using the same words as us, but the meanings for salvation, commitment to Christ and the concept of “God” are completely different. They may really believe that Jesus is good for them but not the “only way” to heaven, since in their view that would be arrogant and narrow minded.

In seeking to understand, we need to know what our teens believe and why they have come to specific conclusions. To communicate with them, we need to understand how they think and the connotations to our spiritual Christian-speak—and then find new metaphors and phrases to connect the truth of Scripture to their present paradigm in a meaningful way.

For example, if you’re talking about homosexuality—and addressing the popular belief that people are born this way—start with a point of agreement: “We all know that everyone wants to be loved and to love. The question is: What is an appropriate expression of that love? You might say, ‘Anything is appropriate; love whomever you want.’ Of course you don’t really believe that, because you wouldn’t accept a romantic relationship between any adult and a 3-year-old, right? So you do have a line. And I have a line (that I found in Scripture). It’s OK to admit you have a line somewhere. So do I; we just have them in different places. So let’s talk about where to put that line and why.”

With this example, you’ve leveraged questions for them to ponder. Don’t think you need to (or even can) get them to change their thinking immediately. Give them questions that bother them.

Remember, we can no longer simply say, “The Bible says this, so do it.” They may not care what the Bible says, and it may not be a good enough reason for them anyway (since they doubt Scripture’s authority in their life). They want to see we have good reasons for what we believe.

Sometimes our version of getting truth through to teens is similar to going overseas and speaking really loudly and slowly so the person who knows no English will understand you. If we use the same words we’ve always used, we’ll get the same results we have now. We may be saying words, but the important thing is how they interpret what we’re sayingIs it changing their perspective? Is it touching their heart? I’ve found that even though I’m in youth ministry and think I’m relatable, if I do not keep asking questions and seeking to understand, my words become limp and lifeless to the ears I want to affect most.

Live authentic lives: This should go without saying, but I can’t stress how important living authentically is to the younger generation. They are so used to seeing hypocrisy when it comes to religion. Yet they are looking for traces of authenticity to connect our lives to our message. The adage “more is caught than taught” may be truer now than ever.

This doesn’t mean that we need to be perfect. In fact, teens like it better when we’re not perfect, ifwe talk about our imperfections, wounds and flaws. Somehow, most of us grew up and were trained for ministry in a way that presumed we needed to put out a performance of perfection so others could live up to it. None of us could live perfectly, so many leaders just lived one way but preached another.

The time for show is over. Our life is our show. Honestly sharing the issues we have struggled (and are currently struggling) with—and how God helped/is helping us confront and walk through those issues demonstrates authenticity to the younger generation. They will be more willing to trust what we have to say about Jesus.

Senior pastor engagement: We are in a time of potential crisis in the church, and as has happened in past seasons, church leaders have the opportunity to rise to the occasion and focus our attention on getting the truth of the gospel firmly planted into the hearts and heads of the next generation.

The senior pastor determines what’s important to the church. As I mentioned earlier, as a teen a youth pastor reached me. But it was the senior pastor of the church who drew me to the deeper things in Christ. Ultimately, he invited me to live with him and his family for my senior year of high school after discovering I’d been kicked out of my house because of my faith. This man took a risk on behalf of the younger generation.

Unconventional encounters with God: The undeniable distinctive with this generation is the amount and frequency of media it consumes. Of course, now it’s not just TV and movies. Every handheld gaming device known to man has somehow been made into a constitutional right of ownership at increasingly younger ages.

My concern is about not only the content (I wrote extensively about this in my book Battle Cry for a Generation), but also the frequency of time they’re consistently in front of a screen. I continue to hear of teens (and adults) spending hours, sometimes all night, in front of a screen playing video games. Even if they regularly attend church and youth group, it’s increasingly difficult to connect in a meaningful way.

Extracting teens from the noise long enough to engage their hearts and minds can happen in a number of creative ways. Summer camps and retreats have long been known for their great impact on teens. How much more important are events like these to serve as a culture detox of sorts, to pull them away from all the confusing voices long enough to hear God’s voice.

This is what we’ve worked so hard for as we carefully plan out the 27 hours that thousands of teens spend at Acquire the Fire each weekend. This phenomenon has been called a “temporary suspension of disbelief,” as a teen will come to our gathering and think, I don’t really believe all this stuff, but there are thousands of others singing and worshiping, so maybe it’s true. Then after a few hours, the calloused layers begin to peel off. The heart softens. God breaks through.

I think of a story about a hardened teen that Jacob Bergui, a veteran youth pastor in New Jersey, shared with me. This kid refused to respond to the gospel. His single mother had come to Jacob saying, “I’m going to get my kid here, but I need you to get through to him!”

Jacob used every trick in the book to get through. He met with him one on one, used everything he knew to build a relationship with him, but Mom still had to force the teen to come to church. He was still living his worldly lifestyle. Finally when Acquire the Fire came to town, his mom forced him to go.

The teen was having a pretty good experience surrounded by more than 10,000 peers worshipping God. Little did Jacob know that the following week the 15-year-old would bring all of his secular CDs to him and say, “I’m through—you can have them all!” Shocked, Jacob stared at the pile of music and asked, “Why now?” The teen described how God had gotten hold of him over the weekend and how he really “got it.” Four years later, this young man is now growing in his maturity in Christ and still on fire for God!

Sending teens on a mission trip provides the same effect. Teens are extracted from the culture for a week, maybe two or, even better, a month (the longer, the better in my experience), giving them a chance to see God do some real work in their lives.

I think of Jeremy, a 14-year-old pastor’s kid who had heard the gospel preached his entire life. He went on a mission trip with his youth group to get away from his parents and have fun, and after six weeks in Guatemala was revolutionized. Jeremy came back with a passion and zeal for God and began sharing with his friends what he had found. Each summer throughout his teen years, he returned to the mission field, always bringing more friends with him. After graduation, he went on to college and then to live on the mission field for a number of years. As a result of that initial trip, Jeremy is still in active ministry today, often sharing how that trip to Guatemala was when “my faith became my own.”

Creative apologetics: Equipping the flock to “give an account for their faith” has taken on a whole new meaning when we examine how this culture demeans people of genuine faith. We live in a world full of one-liners and comedic mockery. We can’t teach our people just to approach the “nones” with statistics and data to prove the Bible when they’re wrestling with truth. They aren’t interested in a dialogue about the probability of Jesus actually fulfilling 800 prophecies in His lifetime. To them, using the Bible to prove the Bible just is a lot of ineffective circular reasoning.

What if, in addition to Scripture, we were to find ways to talk about God that validates His existence and the truth that Jesus is the only way to Him?

Consider this potential dialogue: “When I pick up a phone to call home, is it arrogant of me to believe that only one number will cause that phone to ring? What about a pilot flying an airplane? Is it arrogance for him to insist there is only one way to fly that plane? What about a doctor who insists there is only one medicine for your ailment. Is that arrogance? Throughout life, we’re not offended that there’s only one way. In fact, we’re quick to admit, ‘I dialed the wrong number.’ Why is it so outrageous to think that there is only one way to the Creator?”

What if we not only taught teens the arguments for the validity for their faith (which we must do), but we also equipped them with one-liners that provoked doubters to seriously question why they doubt. In this manner we can start to transform “low-information believers” into “high-processing disciples.”

When our kids literally have no response to the guy who says, “You’re so arrogant to think you know the only way to God,” their belief begins to wane. No one wants to be seen as judgmental about other religions, so our kids slowly move into the Universalist belief system.

Simply telling teens, “The Bible says so,” does not work to validate their faith in today’s culture, nor does it work for those with no faith.

This is our moment. History will record what the leaders of the church in the 21st century did when it looked as if the most Christian and wealthy/generous nation in the world’s history tipped towards atheism in mass. We have the opportunity to rise and do what our courageous forefathers have done in the past as we focus on planting the gospel firmly in the hands of the next generation.

F-Luce Sidebar1About Our Guest Editor…

After a six-month mission trip around the world in the mid-1980s, Ron Luce and his wife, Katie, thought hard about becoming full-time missionaries. The young couple had been involved in youth ministry and had a desire to inspire teens to live for God in a deep and authentic way. But they also had seen such physical and spiritual poverty around the world and a need for the gospel to invade unreached places that they wondered if they were to give their lives to serving the nations overseas. After returning to the U.S., it became apparent that their calling involved both aspects through a ministry that would reach out to young people and inspire them to change the world through missions.

Since its founding in 1986, Teen Mania has expanded to become one of the most influential ministries within today’s Christian youth culture. Its vision—to provoke a young generation to passionately pursue Jesus and to take His life-giving message to the ends of the earth—is now played out through six major programs: Acquire the Fire youth events, Global Expeditions mission trips, the Honor Academy internship, the Center for Creative Media, Extreme Camps and the School of Worship.

The author of 35 books who has made numerous media appearances, Ron continues to be a significant voice not only to emerging generations, but also to parents and pastors, helping them understand the plight of today’s youth and showing them how to be part of the solution.

Written by Ron Luce

Ron Luce: Feed My Lambs.


© istockphoto/MikeCherim

It’s no secret that almost 90 percent of those who come to Christ do so before the age of 20. Youth ministries are built upon the premise that the younger years are when the harvest fields are richest.

But time and again, I hear senior pastors and church members express the same frustration: “I just don’t know what to do to get through to these kids!”

The good news is that “getting through” is easier than you may think. Put simply: Just feed them! (And I don’t mean just feed them pizza, though that may be a good start.)

Jesus told Peter in John 21:15, “Feed my lambs.” It was the first of three commands He gave Peter in their exchange in which He mentioned taking care of His sheep, the church. What most people overlook, however, is that Jesus specifically pointed out that at least one-third of Peter’s attention ought to be devoted to the young ones, the lambs, and not just to the sheep.

This prompts a question that arises in many senior pastors’ hearts: What can I do? How do I feed the young ones? What is my role, my responsibility?

The following are a few points taken from the Double Vision book and DVD seminar that literally thousands of churches have used to double the size of their youth groups. It’s a simple planning process that allows you to “Feed His lambs”—and a lot more of them.

1) Pray.

Real impact begins with prayer. Of course, we should always be praying for the young people in our lives, given the unique challenges they face today in a culture opposed to righteousness and godly values. But we need to also pray for the 26 million teenagers at large in America.

As you get your church praying for the vices and challenges teens are facing with media, sex, drugs and music, those church members’ hearts will be softened and ready to reach out to the youth they’re praying for. Every time you see a story of somebody being killed by a teen, or a teenager being a victim of someone else’s bullying, it should trigger prayer from you and your congregation.

Equally as more important, pray for the young people in your county, in your city, in your community. How many teens are there in your area? How many high schools and junior high schools are there? What is the teen pregnancy rate, the drug use rate, the suicide rate for your area?

Remember, however, that no matter how much the culture is trying to steal your young ones, the gospel is stronger than culture. The gospel meets the cry of their hearts like no drug, like no sexual relationship. The gospel fulfills every need of their hearts. Though teens may look happy on the outside, they’re really empty and destitute, looking for hope.

As you pray, also remember that the gospel doesn’t need to be watered down for young people to embrace it. As a teenager, when I was reached for Christ in the middle of my partying days, it wasn’t because someone watered it down. It’s because someone laid it out in a way I could understand. Just speak the potency of the truth in a way they can understand it, and you will see real life-change as teenagers come to Christ.

2) Picture.

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory” (ESV).

God is saying in this Scripture, “If you can imagine it, I can do way more than that.”

The imagination is uniquely ours as humans. Animals can’t imagine a better future or ways to make life simpler. It wasn’t a cow that invented the milking machine or a horse that invented the tractor. It’s only us as humans who have that unique God-given ability.

Can you picture in your mind having a church filled with young people? Can you imagine a Wednesday youth outreach that doubles, triples, even quadruples the number of young people who are hearing the gospel and having their lives changed?

The thing we imagine is the thing we begin to pray about. The thing we begin to pray about is the thing in which we become engaged.

As you dare to imagine what it would look like for youth revival to happen in your city, start to pray in that direction. It all starts with picturing it in your mind. Dreaming God’s dream for the youth of your region begins with the senior pastor.

One way to begin is to imagine what it would look like after 12 months if Jesus Christ came back to be the youth pastor of your church. What kind of youth group would that be? What would the worship be like? The outreach? The leadership development? How much would it grow in the next year? Double? Triple? What kind of kids would you reach out to? Pregnant teens? Jocks?

Write it down. By imagining this from His perspective, it could be the beginning of dreaming God’s dream for the teens in your region!

What if God wants to do something great in your region and He’s just waiting for someone to dream great dreams on his or her behalf?

That someone could be you.

3) Plan.

We see God’s plan for us fleshed out in Jeremiah 29:11, where He says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Take your dreams, your thoughts, your imagination and ask God, “What will it take to accomplish the dream?”

It’s the senior pastor’s job to be the chief strategist of the church. Keep in mind that the people who run MTV are not young. They get young people to be on the TV shows, but it’s the older people who look a lot like you and me who are doing the planning and strategizing. The pastor’s job as chief strategist is to rescue a young generation.

Since God is a planner, we need to be planners too. Even a bad plan is better than no plan.

Start with the dream. Write it down. It could be that you want to have 100 young people in your church every week, with great missions teams, worship teams, outreach teams and drama teams. Begin to put a plan together.

Spending one day planning with your youth director and his volunteers—and even inviting your businessmen and leaders from your church—can be revolutionary. Better yet, spending one day together planning to implement the dream could be the launching of a teen revolution for Christ in your city!

Just one day.

4) Produce.

In the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30), we see that God expects us to be productive with the talent or talents He’s given us. We already know He’s given us a light in our communities, a well in the desert. There are broken people all around us. Now the task is to utilize the talent we’ve been given and, in our unique environments, produce results.

To do this you take the plan and put it into action. It should be broken down into monthly goals in each department and into organization charts. It will likely include job descriptions for each of your volunteers coordinating different parts of the dream.

When you’ve reached this stage, now it’s your chance to begin to work the plan, orchestrating the volunteers in the youth ministry, getting the church praying for the vision and monitoring the results.

Little by little you’ll see a thriving youth ministry happening at your own church—not just because you begged kids to come, but because you thought deeply, keeping the dream in mind, about how to take strategic steps to get there.

This is just a quick overview of a planning process. I encourage you to take an entire day and spend it with your youth pastor and his team. The sky’s the limit. If all of us got engaged at this level, there’s no telling how many multiple thousands of young people could be rescued for the cause of Christ and who could be turned into disciples that reproduce.

This is our moment!

Written by Ron Luce

With almost three decades of youth ministry experience, Ron Luce has a heart to partner with senior pastors and youth pastors on the journey to reach young Christians at the most critical stage of their lives—the teenage years. To that degree, he offers strategic monthly insights on the most effective ways to engage the emerging generation with the message of Christ and to prepare them for a life of Christian leadership. To receive these invaluable insights from Ron in your inbox, go to to sign up. 

How Not to Be a Youth Pastor 101.

Youth-ministryIt begins with a lump in the throat, followed by a cold sweat and clammy palms, and it finishes with a sinking feeling. It’s the moment you realize you’ve “failed” in youth ministry.

Today I thought I would share some of my most cherished moments from the “How Not to Be a Youth Pastor” handbook.

1.  The “unbroken arm.” Imagine your student who is “that kid.”  You know—the one who needs to push all of your buttons, and you are too proud to admit it? At camp I say four times, “Don’t stand on the trash can that is 5 feet in the air. We are playing basketball, and you could fall off.” Fourteen-year-old Malcolm ignores me. He falls, then grabs his arm, screaming, “It’s broken!” Me, in an award-winning moment: “No, it’s not. Go play basketball like you were asked.” Malcolm finally begs me to go to the nurse.

Begrudgingly, I take him, even though I think he is milking it. I go back to my group while he ices his arm. An ambulance comes. Four hours later he returns, waving a cast in my face, and says with an evil laugh, “It’s broken.”

What I learned: It doesn’t matter if a student doesn’t listen; when they get hurt, you should not prove a point. Also, next time, don’t let them get on the trash can in the first place.

2. The “biking home” incident. Imagine taking your students camping. You bring bikes so they can explore on their own. Everyone else thinks a different adult told Freddy he could take a bike. So when everyone was supposed to meet back at 3 p.m., he was nowhere to be found.

Dinner came and went, but still no Freddy. Police became involved. I got to call home to tell Mom, who barely spoke English, that we had lost her son seven hours from home. Finally, somewhere around midnight, he was found, sunburned and dehydrated. Apparently, Freddy had attempted to bike home after deciding no one liked him.

What I learned: Taking students on trips for the sake of the event doesn’t really fit into my philosophy of “relationally driven” youth ministry. Also, losing kids is bad. Even in the age of cellphones, batteries die or they get turned off. Instead, I realized that going forward in all things, we would have one small group leader with three to five students every time we set out on any trip where they had “freedom.” The purpose? To build relationships. To be a family on a “family outing.” Since that time, you would be shocked at the depth of life we have learned from students in lines for roller coasters at parks and places where you can “go exploring.”

3. The “stump” incident. (This one comes to us via my hubby, but it’s too good not to share.)

Camping trip. Youth leader sees a tree stump sticking out of the ground that can fit maybe four kids holding on to each other. Decides to have a team-building exercise, where 12 to 15 kids have to stand on the stump together. By the end of said activity, all the students are complaining and revolting so violently that lunch is withheld until they make it happen (although it was literally impossible).

What I learned: You need to have team-building that’s actually conducive to building cohesiveness. Actually, the youth did unite—against all the adults. They had teens so angry from the event that parent meetings were held when the trip was over. Those youth, who are now in their mid-30s, make sure to bring up this activity, laughing, whenever they see us. The point? No activity can be about the leader needing to be in control of the teens. In addition, deciding they will “learn this lesson or else” rarely works as a model of youth ministry. Instead it’s about setting it up, allowing them to learn something (even if it isn’t what you intended) and knowing when to pull the plug.

I have many more failures over the years that I could share. Through these, I have learned invaluable lessons about honoring parents, teaching methods and having more compassion for my students, just to name a few. While there was a higher percentage of all-out blow-ups in the early years, I still fall down. It reminds me I am still learning, and it is the Lord’s ministry, not mine.

What about you? What’s your biggest mess-up as a youth worker, and what did you learn?

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Written by Leneita Fix

How to Move Beyond ‘Youth-Sitting’.


Imagine a church breathing fresh winds of the Holy Spirit’s presence and joy throughout its entire church family—winds generated by God’s grace but rising specifically from His working among the teens and college-agers within that body.

For many pastors, this vision of the Spirit igniting a church’s youth to affect the entire congregation is a “prophecy in waiting.” And as with all prophecies, discernment is essential—to receive truth and to reject confusion or error. To do both, let me recommend two things you, the lead pastor, must sign off on.

1) The foundation. What is the perceived relationship between you and the youth pastor regarding job description and expectations? If all I do is hire someone to offload my task as lead pastor while expecting the youth pastor to fit in and do his job—without growing him into the vision, culture, purposes and ministry philosophy of the body I lead—I’ve done nothing more than hire a “youth-sitter.” When that happens, no one wins in the long term.

I’ve seen the best and worst of this up close. During my first 10 years of ministry as a youth pastor, I learned the best through men who treated me as a partner. I never expected to be considered an equal, only partnered with as a younger brother who was eager to learn from them. And I did learn from great pastors who modeled and mentored with an open door and ever-welcoming hand to me, and who trusted my vision enough to raise questions that deserved better answers than I had.

In one case, however, a lead pastor had a bad taste in his mouth from two former youth pastors-gone-bad. Those experiences made him reticent to empower any youth leader, thereby stifling any cultivation of the two foundational basics key to lead/youth pastor teamwork: trust and partnership.

I learned how life-nurturing these two essentials are by experiencing the blessing of growth in a healthy climate and by encountering the disappointment and frustration that is bred in the absence of both. True fruitfulness for all involved requires the growth in and commitment to trust and partnership—led by the lead pastor, who shapes the mindset of the congregation’s leadership to live in these values and affirm their application to the youth in general, not only to the youth pastor.

Trust grows through regular interaction and by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and patience that honors both the worth of the younger and the wisdom of the older. Partnership develops through a regular pattern of meeting between individuals who are joined to frequent times of agreement and faith in prayer. This is a proven course for threading a bond of unity together. Things work because hearts have been knit together.

2) The funding. Trust begets partnership, and funding flows from each partner bringing what they have to the table. In youth ministry, this boils down to pastoral and elder leadership determining that the youth budget is one of the body’s fiscal priorities. Honesty with reality mandates the decision: contending prayer, a convinced and tithing congregation will assure adequate resources. It can be no other way: Where our heart is, the treasure will be in evidence!

As a lead pastor, the church elders and I determined that if our youth leader and his team believed in a program or emphasis, and if additional funds were needed to advance touching and shaping youth, they received the funding. That’s all there was to it! They didn’t have a carte blanche;they had pastoral and corporate support when God stirred vision.

The two basics I’ve noted here are proven and will garner fruit—namely, the discipling of youth and effective evangelizing of added teens and collegians. When my wife, Anna, and I began in Van Nuys, Calif., with 18 members, we had one 12-year old. When we concluded, there were 8,000 members and more than 1,000 teens and collegians. It was a “God thing,” with no credit to us. But it was also the case of a church family who loved their young people, grew leadership who trusted and united in ministry, and who funded a ministry to youth because our hearts demanded it of our wallets.

Source: Ministry Today.

Written by Jack Hayford

A former senior editorial adviser of Ministry TodayJack Hayford is the founding pastor of The Church On The Way in Van Nuys, Calif., and founder of The King’s University.

How Youth Ministers Should Treat and Respect Parents.


How, as a youth minister, is your relationship with church parents?

This is a topic that freaked me out my first year in youth ministry. As a young parent myself, it’s not easy telling grown ups how to deal with their children.

So, it took me a while to really get to a place where I was comfortable with talking to parents. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. I thought I’d list some principles that I’m learning along the way that has helped me navigate dealing with parents.

Know your role to parents. We are support to parents first and foremost. Let them take the lead. My value is in being another voice for the student to hear the same message that their parents give. It may sound different and even be presented differently, but it should be the same message—unless, of course, the message is contrary to God’s word.

Parents are primary. Keep parents in their place as primary. Let them make the final decisions because they will have to be the primary enforcer, encourager and disciplinarian. We make suggestions not decisions.

Parents aren’t perfect. Children do not come with manuals and so parents have no other choice but to parent out of their brokenness. So don’t be shocked if the parents don’t have it all together. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child”.

Parents don’t have all the answers. A parent may ask a question and you’re thinking “shouldn’t they know this already?!” That should never be your response but you should talk it out with them. Help them think things through and sort things out. Your perspective has an immeasurable amount of value to parents, so share it.

Parents need your prayers. We have a great advantage of being able to pray for parents specifically and strategically. We know the needs and the struggles students have. We also know the struggles parents have. So we definitely should be praying for our parents because they need it.

Parents need your encouragement. I understand this more now then I did when I didn’t have children. Parenting is not easy and most of the time there is no instant reward. You won’t fully see the rewards of your parenting until your children are on their own. Therefore, parents need to be encouraged that all the work they are doing now is not in vain. They need to know that making their kid come to youth group is not in vain. So be your parents biggest fan.

Keep parents leading spiritually. Now, this doesn’t mean you get to put parents in check when you think they’re not. What it does mean is you must work with the parents and keep them the primary spiritual leader in their child’s life. For example, this year with my small group guys that I lead I’m going to send the lesson home a week early before it is taught. Then they can discuss it with their parents if they choose. This does two things:

  1. It keeps the parents in the loop on what’s being taught.
  2. Also, it challenges the parents to engage with their children spiritually. We will discuss what was discussed with their parents before we start the lesson each week. This will give me the opportunity to agree and reinforce some of the truths that the parents share with them from the lesson.

I only listed a few and I know there are many more. This post is really about partnering with parents better. I would love to hear your thoughts on the post. What did I leave out?

Source: Ministry Today.

Written by Aaron Crumbey/Saddleback Church

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ. He’s married with three children and loves family time, sports, movies and all things musical among some other things. He also runs

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