Introducing Change Without Killing Your Student Ministry

Introducing Change Without Killing Your Student Ministry

We’ve Never Done it that Way Before

We’ve all heard these statements: – “We’ve never done it that way before” and “It’s always been done like this.”  Change is inevitable in life; we change as individuals.  Our cities grow and change, and we face change in our jobs and families.  A person can’t live without change affecting them.  Yet some people resist or feel uncomfortable with change. Here’s what we need to know and do about this…

Change is Unavoidable, Necessary but Dangerous.

Over the years I’ve been part of many change initiatives. Most of the time the change was well received, however, there have been other times when resistance was met.

This week is the first part in a series that will look at change in student ministry and how to navigate it so that it continues to be effective.

How Change Feels

Change is defined as: “To make different or alter,” “make radically different,” “to give a different position, course, or direction.”

There are times when a youth pastor/worker needs to step back and look at the youth ministry and make an honest evaluation of it to see if it’s effective.  There may come a time when an area or areas of a ministry need to be changed or revamped.  We need to remember that people are creatures of habit and comfort; their nature tends to resist change.

Change is disruptive to a person’s comfort zone.  Change can create resistance when an attempt is made to introduce new ideas into a student ministry.  In many churches, including youth ministries, there are the ‘sacred cows’ that have been around for a long time and it’s difficult to question or even consider assessing.

Why People Resist Change

It’s important to understand and remember why change is hard for some people.

1)            People can presume the worst.

Our brain is naturally wired to pick up risks. Many times people’s initial response to change comes from an emotional reaction rather than from rational thinking.

2)            People can have uncertainty about the new ideas.

A new idea or change can lead a person to apprehension about the future. If a ministry has been running a certain way for a long time, a new idea may invoke the fear of the unknown. To avoid this fear, it is important to communicate as much and as early as possible about any changes that you are trying to make.

3)            There may not be a culture of change.

Sometimes people are conditioned against change.

It may be that a youth ministry or church has been running the same way for a long time. When this is the ethos of a church or ministry the leader may have to address the culture before they address any change.

4)            People can only handle so much change at once.

If there has been a lot of change already in a church, there may be those who resist because they are overwhelmed with all of the change that has taken place. (We will look at timing in a later blog)

5)            The longer a custom or tradition has been observed, the harder it is to change.

It’s like I said earlier “We’ve always done it that way”.

6)            The risk seems larger than the reward.

When someone cannot see or determine what the return on the risk will be, they are more likely to protest. While a leader who is initiating change needs to understand this, one needs to remember that anything of value requires risk.

Answer 8 Big Questions

When thinking of introducing change or are attempting to revamp part of a youth ministry there are some important questions to ask:

  • 1) Why is change taking place?
  • 2) What is the vision/purpose of the youth ministry?
  • 3) What is being changed or revamped?
  • 4) Who is initiating the change?
  • 5) What are resources available to us?
  • 6) When is the change taking place?
  • 7) How will the change occur? Phases or all at once?
  • 8) How will opposition be handled?

Think Before You Change

As one looks at change it is important to examine the existing student ministry to determine its focus and purpose. Any organization, business, church, or youth ministry needs to be clear on its purpose and have a mission/vision statement. (That’s another topic for another day!  Doug Field’s Purpose Driven Youth Ministry is an excellent book on this subject)

So, when thinking about change, take time to examine and evaluate your current student ministry programs.  In part 2 we will look at ways to evaluate a student ministry.


Matt is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has over 20 years of student ministry experience all over the country. He has 3 kids. His 2 girls are in their teen years so he has lots of opportunities to put his student ministry years to good use at home everyday. He’s completing a Masters in Adolescent and Family Counseling.

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Top 10: “Silver Bullets in 5th-9th Grade Ministry…And Beyond”


I have people ask me all the time about the “silver bullets” or “secret sauces.”

I also hear and read just as much there is none, there are no bullets, sauces and secrets.

Well, I think there is actually more than one there are a couple. After hanging around this youth ministry thing for awhile now and spending that last half of my youth ministry years working with 5th-8th graders.  I have noticed a couple things over and over again in other people’s ministries (and my own).



Cut the show and the fluff, stop trying to be the next _________ (insert your favorite speaker) and teach the Bible.  Notice I didn’t use the word “preach”, the word is teach!  Teach the always relevant truth in relevant ways that relate to real life of your students. (*see #4, below)


You cannot do it alone.  You need other people filling in the gaps of your weaknesses and pushing your strengths farther. Your personality is not going to fit with every student so build a team with some people like you and a bunch of people not like you at all.


Do not keep doing this thing if you are looking at it as the old “stepping stone.” Do not do this because someone said you had potential, do it because God called you! Please do not keep doing this if you don’t like 5th-9th grade students or you have got to a point you do not like them anymore!


Know what you are doing and how you are doing it.  Be able to fully and clearly explain it to everyone who asks.  If you are unprofessional and unorganized, your vision and direction will be unprofessional and unorganized and then your ministry will be too.


 See #7.  Tell everyone about what, when, where, who, and why all the time and in every way possible.  Information that Interests will turn into Involvement.


Not friendship, but absolutely relationship.  Get to know students, their lives, families and NAME! Students will come back if they know they are cared for, loved and connected to you, your team and other students.

Also, relationship and connections in your church with parents, staff and members.  Find and build adult relationships and connections.


You do not have to be personally creative, but be willing to let your ministry be creative (see #9) by finding other people who are AND/OR look around and find borrow and buy! With creativity comes the continual, ongoing, NEVER ending willingness to change.


Yep, them.  If you get them onboard and excited about what you are doing and what is coming on. They will be your cheerleader, protector and supporter!   You can not get very far, for very long, if they are not onboard (*see #7 & #6)


In the 5th-9th grade they are the ride, the wallet, the permission and the life.  You want to do ministry, you have to be ministering to parents and families.  Get them on your team by getting them ON your team!  Parents make great leaders.  Like the Senior Pastor, they will be your cheerleader, protector and supporter!

1. GOD!! 

This is not the obvious answer or the go to #1 of the list because it has to be.  If your ministry is formed around a program, a curriculum, a church, fun or YOU! It will fail at some point sooner or later.  If your ministry is formed around being successful and that is your focus, it will fail. Those things will become “god” instead of GOD!

Your want to know the silver bullet, it is God, but it is honestly not on as many people’s lists as you would think in reality.

dan.DAN ISTVANIK is the 5th to 8th-grade pastor at Victory Church in Lancaster, PA. He has been working in youth ministry for over 20 years serving churches in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Virginia. Besides serving in the local church setting he is also the youth ministry content writer for Parent Ministry.Net, along with being a contributor to a variety of other great youth ministry resources like Youthworker Journal, Group Magazine, Download Youth Ministry, and more. Additional he shares daily Jr. high/middle school ministry specific resources, and hints on his own blog “The Middle Years” at: WWW.MIDDLEYEARSMINISTRY.COM.

This post was previously published by MIDDLEYEARSMINISTRY.COM

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS. 

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Another Tragedy and Why Youth Need “A Safe and Friendly Place”

Another Tragedy and Why Youth Need “A Safe and Friendly Place”

I woke this morning to the news. Another mass shooting.

The first thing I did was hug my kids. I decided not to tell them right away what had happened. Our time together in the morning is a time of peacefulness and preparation. Each weekday, we have breakfast together – without the TV or radio – and pack lunches and backpacks. Each day, Amy and I tell our boys we love them as we drop them off for school.

Our youth group meets in a few days. In the meantime, we’ll tell our boys that God loves them, but I’m grateful our boys will hear from our faith community about how God grieves, just like us, when human-caused tragedies occur. Lord, in your mercy…

I’m thinking of all our partner churches today, and the youth they serve. I am thinking especially of one church that asked YMIM for some strategic planning support last week. By a large margin, members of the church advocated that their youth ministry should be a “safe and friendly place for youth.” Over 60 percent of those surveyed prioritized this value.

Frankly, I couldn’t agree more with this congregation. The news was especially hard this weekend before today’s news. In our community, a teenage girl took her life on Friday in the hallways of the school she attended. Our family visited St. Louis over the weekend, where protesters again filled the streets, chanting disappointment with a judicial verdict that was race-related.

I am thankful that our youth group is a “safe and friendly place for youth.” YMIM has a small mailing list, so as I read through the names – including your name – I share a prayer that each congregation may also be this beacon of hope, grace, and faithfulness for young people in our communities. Please let me know if I can help.

Enrollment Deadline in Two Weeks – October 16
Try YMIM for Free at our Next Retreat

We are pleased to share that six youth ministers joined our two-year Cohort Learning Program this fall. There’s room for two more!

Our cohort meets every month in Kansas City, attends four national conferences, and studies four theological intensives. YMIM also provides on-site support, including an experienced youth ministry coach that personalizes the program.

All costs, including hotels, meals, airfare, books, and course registration, are included with enrollment.

Youth ministers are invited to our next retreat on October 16–17 for no cost. Try out our program! It may be a great fit for your church, or for a church and youth ministry program you know.

October classes include: Evangelism in Youth Ministry, Introduction to the New Testament, Creative Worship in Youth Ministry, Understanding Family Systems as a Leader, and Retreats and Recreation.

Youth Ministry Institute Midwest is a nonprofit organization that seeks to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ with young people through skilled and effective leadership. Contact Matt by replying to this email or by calling: 913-972-2530.

Featured picture, left to right: Matt Vaughan, YMIM Director; Charles Lingerfelt, Pittsburg FPC; Megan Doffin, Norfolk FUMC; Jenna Soltys, Village Presbyterian Church; Matt Dumler, Hays FUMC; Ryan King, Lawrence FPC; Bryant Westbrook, Valley Center FUMC. These six youth ministers recently joined our two-year Cohort Learning Program. More details are available on our website.
Also pictured: Youth ministers in our program from Wichita, St. Louis, Central Missouri, Central Kansas, and Eastern Kansas were recognized and commissioned at a service in April, 2017. A full list of our clients is posted online and updated regularly.
Fall and Winter 2017 Dates and Events for YMIM
Scheduling for other events is in process – contact Matt for more information
  • Oct. 5 – Consulting in Lenexa, KS
  • Oct. 10 – YMIM board meeting
  • Oct. 16 – Fall enrollment deadline
  • Oct. 16-17 – Retreat with Cohort Learning participants in Prairie Village, KS
  • Oct. 22-24 – PCUSA conference in Kansas City
  • Oct. 26 – Consulting and networking in St. Louis
  • Oct. 29 – Consulting in Lenexa, KS
  • Nov. 1-2 – Consulting in Lincoln, NE
  • Nov. 6-7 – Retreat with Cohort Learning participants in Prairie Village, KS
  • Nov. 12 – YMIM Topgolf Fundraising Event
  • Nov. 27 – Board end-of-year conference call
  • Dec. 11-13 – New Testament Intensive retreat in Prairie Village, KS


Original Source

Today’s Great Day Addendum: Be Wise!

Be Wise

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.” – Ephesians 5:15-17 NIV

This passage just sort of jumped off the the page at me today and made me ponder life and the choices that we make.

I know there are many of us (especially men, for some reason) who struggle with choices… who struggle living as wise instead of unwise. For some reason, we want to be wise, we like to portray ourselves as being wise (vs being foolish or unwise), yet we all have some fatal flaw, which usually revolves around ego and selfishness.

So, hidden to most, we struggle making wise decisions. We struggle and fight somewhere deep inside, inside some compartment that is locked away from everyone except us. Longing for wisdom, longing to make the most of every opportunity, longing to live a life that is honoring to Christ.

Yet, we live on day by day… even seeking God, even praying, as we struggle with our self made flaw and never fully give it over to God.

As I think of my own flaws, my mind goes back to King Solomon.

Solomon became king at a young age. Taking on leadership and responsibilities of a much older man. He could have prayed for riches, treasures and wealth, but he did not. He prayed for wisdom. And the Lord gave it to him abundantly, along with great wealth. All because he gave himself to the Lord and prayed wholeheartedly to the Lord.

That doesn’t mean that if we give ourselves and our flaws completely to the Lord that we will not struggle and stumble, or that the struggles will somehow just go away and disappear (though they could). However, it does mean that our heart is completely His, making Him not only Savior but also Lord. And with Jesus truly Lord, that’s the first wise decision we make that leads to living a wise life.

And the more we seek Him, the more we will know Him and worship Him and desire to be more like Him, and thus begin to know His will for us.

In other words, Jesus wants all of us… even the little (or big) compartments that we lock away from the rest of the world. He wants our laughter and good times, and He wants our struggles and down times. He is Savior. He is Lord.

Keep the Faith… Carpe Diem

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How to Lead Better in This Phase—Starting Now!

Whether it simply lurks at the back of your mind during infrequent moments of insecurity or it keeps you up at night, you probably worry at times that you don’t measure up as a leader. You see social media posts from peers and experts that are “killing it,” and you silently wonder when (or if) you’ll ever reach that level of success.

You’re also reminded daily that people count on you. You want to lead better, do better, and be better for them, and for yourself. You know that time is passing quickly, and the children, teens, volunteers, or staff that you lead are looking to you for answers. But sometimes the words or knowledge fail you.

And sometimes it’s all just a bit overwhelming, isn’t it? You want to appreciate the people around you today, because they’ll transition or graduate to the next phase of life soon. But how do you invest in them, and yourself, without shirking your other responsibilities?

These are common struggles for all leaders, and though there are no easy answers, solutions may be closer than you think. Here are three ideas to help you sharpen your leadership skills, beginning right now.

Keep learning.

Experts become experts because they kept learning. And the people you follow and hold in high regard should still be information seekers, even if they’ve achieved some measure of success. The truth is, despite what you may have said behind someone’s back, a “know it all” doesn’t really exist.

This also includes learning from failures, not just through books, podcasts, and conferences. That #epicfail you had last week serves as a perspective for the week ahead.

Great leaders are learners. So, grab that book, earbuds, event ticket, or reflect on what went wrong. School’s always in session.

Celebrate the wins, big and small.

It’s really easy to look at your never-ending To Do list and see what you haven’t accomplished. It’s also easy to celebrate the big wins because they are front-and-center and usually public.

But it’s important that you celebrate the small wins as well. Did all your volunteers show up this week? Did that weird kid you adore finally make a friend? Did the next stage of the mission trip get planned? Did your team turn their budgets in on time? These are all reasons to celebrate. You may not throw a party for any of these reasons, but you should take a break, have coffee with a friend, or scroll leisurely through Instagram for a few minutes. You decide the reward, just be sure to enjoy it.

Little tasks lead to large goals. They’ll also keep you motivated on the journey to progress.

Be kind to yourself.

Can we just agree that there is enough shaming going on in the world? If someone heard you say some of the things to yourself that you think or utter out loud, you’d be declared a bully and sent home to get an earful from your parents. Enough is enough. Jesus was a big fan of grace, and guess what—that even extends to you.

As a leader, you should absolutely push yourself to be better. But that doesn’t mean you should create additional pressure for yourself. That won’t help you lead better, but it will help you burn out faster. Become a person of grace, so that you can extend that same grace to others.

Did any of these ideas surprise you? Probably not. Do you know why? Because you’re already a good leaderSure, there are always improvements to be made, but just remind yourself how of far you’ve come.

You’re trying hard.
You care about the people you lead.
You want to do better. (And you will.)
You have some good days and some bad days.
We all do, even those people who look perfect online.

But right now, at this moment, you’re already a good leader.

Repeat it aloud to yourself. Seriously, right now. (“I’m a good leader.”)

Bonus points for telling someone else today that they’re a good leader. It can be through a hand-written note, high-five, hug, or a few heartfelt words. It’s something we all need to hear, and is always appreciated, no matter what your title or experience.

So, how can you be a better leader in this phase? Start by realizing you already are, and then make plans to build on that. Great leaders enjoy the process.

And if you’d like to keep learning, celebrate big and small wins, and be kind to yourself all at the same time, we’d like to introduce you to Phase Guides.

As the next chapter of The Phase Project, these interactive, journal-style books will serve as your guide while you lead and parent kids to grow in their faith and character.

Because each of the approximately 936 weeks from when a child is born to when he or she graduates from high school will seem to fly by, we’ve created a guide for each year from newborn through 18 with research-driven information, engaging activities, spiritual reflection, and milestone celebrations.

In each guide, you’ll discover . . .

what’s changing about a kid over the next 52 weeks,

the 6 things he or she needs most,

and 4 conversations to have in this phase.

While we can’t guarantee that these guides have all the answers, we can guarantee that they’ll help you make the most of every phase in a child’s life.

Phase Guides.

Because every leader can use an assistant.

Buy your copy today at

Original Source

A List of Favorite Youth Ministry Books

A List of Favorite Youth Ministry Books

Hey, Friends! Whether you’re on day one or year forty, we all know that serving in youth ministry can sometimes feel like a daunting task. In those moments some of us are fortunate enough to have someone to turn to that has maybe navigated those waters before us. Others of us have found ourselves, confused, frustrated and alone. Well, the great news is that even if you happen to find yourself by yourself, you’re far from being alone.

As a result of years of research and writing, there are so many great books available that allow us to be mentored by some of youth ministry’s best and brightest. We can learn from their pitfalls and their triumphs. We can utilize their resources and we can find ourselves overcoming our biggest challenges without many of the missteps that have thrown others off of the path.  Some of our friends that we’ve met through years have shared their go to books that have helped them to navigate the many challenges of youth ministry and equipped them to serve their families, their churches and their young people well in every season of their life and ministry.

So in no particular order, here were some of the fan favorites and why they were chosen.

DIVIDED BY FAITH, by Smith and Emerson—great resource if you’re building towards a multicultural church/youth ministry.

YOUR FIRST 2 YEARS OF YOUTH MINISTRY, by Doug Fields—comprehensive book to help you not only survive, but thrive during the beginning phases of your youth ministry career and prepare for the long haul in ministry.

SUSTAINABLE YOUTH MINISTRY, by Mark Devries—in this book Devries pinpoints problems that cause division and burnout in addition to dispelling strongly held myths. He does all of this while providing practical tools and structures that church leaders need to lay a strong foundation for a youth ministry not built around personality or trend.

THE MINISTRY OF NURTURE by Duffy Robbins—a practical, in depth look at leading your kids into discipleship.

ADOPTIVE YOUTH MINISTRY by Chap Clark—the focus of this book is to help you learn how to integrate emerging generations into the family of faith, helping young adults become active participants in God’s redemptive community.

TAKING THEOLOGY TO YOUTH MINISTRY by Andrew Root—focuses on addressing key theological ideas in a modern youth context.

THE MASTER PLAN OF EVANGELISM by Robert Coleman—this book reminds disciple makers to teach to the masses, model to large groups, mentor a few, and multiply yourself through 1 or 2 people.

SEARCHING FOR GOD KNOWS WHAT by Donald Miller—this book reminds us that relationship is God’s way of leading us to redemption.

YOUTH MINISTRY MANAGEMENT TOOLS 2.0: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO SUCCESSFULLY MANAGE YOUR MINISTRYby Mike A. Work and Ginny Olson—it honestly simplifies all of the practical essentials, gives you sample forms and provides a quick primer on background checks, medical releases, etc.

THE THEOLOGICAL TURN IN YOUTH MINISTRY by Kenda Dean and Andrew Root—the book helps you to reflect on your own practice of theology, and learn how to share that theology through rich, compassionate conversation and purposeful experience.

LETTERS TO A YOUTH WORKER by Mark Devries—this book allows you to have some of the best youth ministers in the country ride shotgun on your journey by providing wisdom and insight into practical and effective youth ministry.

PRESENCE-CENTERED YOUTH MINISTRY by Mike King—this book gives shape to what it means to develop a ministry where kids learn what it is to love and follow Christ through the classic disciplines and potent symbols and practices that have sustained the church over the centuries.

LOVE DOES by Bob Goff—this book is a light and fun, unique and profound read with the lessons drawn from Bob’s life and attitude and just might inspire you to be secretly incredible, too.

GOSPEL-CENTERED YOUTH MINISTRY—both practical and theological, the authors work to explore how each ministry activity serves to teach, form and equip our teens with the gospel.

GOSPEL-CENTERED DISCIPLESHIP—outlines a spiritual transformation through the work of the gospel in an intentional relationship between shepherd and sheep.

CHOOSING TO CHEAT by Andy Stanley—a great book for setting healthy boundaries around your team so that you can effectively serve your family and serve in your ministry.

BECOMING A COACHING LEADER by Daniel Harkavy—this book shows how coaching makes developing people a high-payoff activity. It allows you to equip tomorrow’s leaders today. And it gives you the ability to improve performance while raising the quality of life inside and outside of the ministry.

GETTING TO YES AND CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS—this book is useful for learning to navigate the important church staff and parenting issues that go with student ministry.

DON’T DO THIS by Len Kegler and Jonathan Hobbs—helps rookie youth leaders to know some things that may be more advantageous to stay away from in their youth ministry journey.

PRACTICING PASSION by Kenda Creasy Dean—does a great job of placing youth ministry in the context of the local church, and the responsibilities that each has for the other.

THE YOUTH BUILDER by Jim Burns—this book can help you to make a life-changing impact in the lives of your young people.

PLAYING GOD by Andy Crouch—this book looks at the concept of power and how we’ve made it a dirty word and how the misuse of power causes many different problems in the world.

YOUTH MINISTRY 3.0: A MANIFESTO OF WHERE WE’VE BEEN, WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE NEED TO GO by Mark Oestreicher—in this book youth workers will explore the voices of other youth workers, why we need change in youth ministry, from a ministry moving away from dependence on programs, to one that is focused on communion and mission.

MY FIRST 90 DAYS IN MINISTRY by Group—practical, from the trenches advice to keep you on safe ground as you navigate a new church culture, settle into a ministry role, and sort through a pile of priorities.

THIS WAY TO YOUTH MINISTRY by Duffy Robbins—in this book thirty-year youth ministry veteran Duffy Robbins explores the theology, theory and practice of youth ministry to serve as a field guild to helping you navigate this unique calling.

THE GODBEARING LIFE by Kenda Dean and Ron Foster—in this book the authors offer a spiritual primer and practical guide for those who pastor young people.

REVISITING RELATIONAL YOUTH MINISTRY by Andy Root—this book shows that true relational youth ministry shaped by the incarnation is a commitment to enter into the suffering of all, to offer all those in high school or junior high the solidarity of the church and gives us guidance for how to effectively enter in.

So that’s what we have to offer. Which ones have you already used? Which ones are you most excited about checking out? What are some books that we haven’t mentioned, but have been ministry game changers for you? Share the wealth and let’s keep growing together!

Kristin D. Hemingway is a Detroit native currently residing in Atlanta, GA. With over 12 years of youth ministry experience, she currently serves under-resourced middle and high school students in the metro area. She loves traveling and helping people to live a life that they absolutely love!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.

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Best Practices for a Successful Fall

Best Practices for a Successful Fall

written by Dave Livermore September 18, 2017

September means it’s the start-up of a new season of ministry. For many of us, this is the most hectic and exciting time of the year. Because of the energy and stress that come from starting a new ministry year, September, more than any other month, can define our entire program.

As important as Fall events are, let’s keep it in perspective. What we seek to accomplish at this time of year must last beyond the season. What we’re launching can shape where we’ll be next year at this time. With that in mind, here are a few suggestions as you gear up for the big Fall push:

Embrace the truth that bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Often the first question is, “What did we do last year?” And we assume that this year’s events must be even better than last year’s. Keep in mind that your program start-up events can’t get bigger each year—and last year probably wasn’t as huge as you remember it.

Avoid the bait and switch.

The problem with some events is that new kids get the impression that youth group meetings always are parties with rock bands and free food. When they return and see people sitting in circles discussing the Bible, they’ll think they’ve come to the wrong place.

Don’t put all your energy into one event, leaving nothing for what comes next.

Kickoffs, events, and trips usually have a big workup, followed by a big letdown. Yet the time after an event is often a portal to helping kids connect with what’s next. Start-of-the-year events might grab teenagers’ attention, but they don’t have enough power to keep them around.

Begin with something that has the potential to be lasting.

Offer friendships, honest conversations, listening adults, a safe place for kids to be themselves, prayer, and a compelling picture of God’s Word demonstrated through actions. Read more about creating a transformational environment in your ministry, right here:

Practice missional ministry – plan this Fall with next year in mind.

Set yourself up to continue the journey, rather than merely re-creating the prior year. That changes the way you evaluate a successful event or kickoff season and keeps you from focusing on numbers or gimmicks. May this Fall’s ministry inform and bless next Fall! May the kids you minister to this year be around next year, too—not because of your killer start-up event but because you were faithful in what you delivered this semester, next semester, and all year long.


By Dave Livermore and Steve Argue


Leveraging The Spiritual Spike from Summer Missions


As our calendars flip toward summer, our planning turns toward our summer missions/convention/camp trips, and in the back of our minds we begin to think about this:  The post-missions trip spiritual spike and fade. The spike is nice and the fade, it seems, is inevitable. Of course, we don’t do missions trips for the spiritual boost it gives our students. Our goal is to help people and share the love of Christ, both in actions and words. But a spiritual boost is a nice windfall and it usually occurs. And it almost always fades.

Does it have to be this way? We’ve all tried to minimize the fade factor, employing different tools and strategies for post-trip follow-up. Some of us have accepted it as inevitable and simply appreciate the brief spiritual boost students enjoyed. There is, however, one tool that guarantees fade-free results and you already have it on your desk, or shelf, or phone.

The Bible.

Perhaps one of the best follow-up actions we can do as youth workers is to connect the enduring, sustaining Word of God with the freshly softened and newly humbled hearts of our students. We are given a special window of spiritual hunger and curiosity after a missions excursion. Let’s leverage that for life-long benefit. But let’s do it with some strategy.



21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (NIV)

The missions experience itself is an opportunity to “keep” (obey) Jesus’ commands, likely through the purpose of the missions experience, whether it be in the form of taking care of the least of these, sharing compassion, or making disciples. Further, we most likely crank up the “having” of Jesus’ commands through increased devotional or quiet time during the experience and in prep for it. This one-two punch leads us to experience the promise Jesus gave in John 14:21: He shows Himself. We see Jesus! It’s why missions experiences are so powerful and a spiritual boost is likely.


Commitments are made. Stakes are driven down. Accountability is scheduled.


A third thing we know. The commitments fade. The stakes rot. Accountability gets squeezed out of the schedule.


I contend that it doesn’t have to be that way. This, then, brings us to the fourth thing we know: We have a tool at our disposal that promises lasting, sustaining impact. The Word of God.

This is nothing new, but maybe we have all gotten a little stale at being intentional and creative in connecting mission-impacted, soft-hearted students with God’s Word. Let this summer be the summer that changes.


Below are a few strategic ideas for custom-connecting your missions experience with meaningful engagement in the Word of God. As you read these you’ll see a pattern: identifying something specific from your missions experience and connecting it to a parallel in Scripture. We have a unique and small window of opportunity. This process is our hook for effectively fastening a fleeting spiritual boost to the enduring Word of God.


Your missions work will likely have an overarching purpose—evangelism, compassion, building, teaching, justice. Plan a post-trip dive into a Bible theme that connects with the purpose of your missions work. Will it be evangelistic in nature? Mine out evangelism passages (instructions, examples, promises). Are you doing a compassion project? Explore the word “compassion” or compassion examples through the gospels. You get the idea.


It’s likely that your students will notice, maybe for the first time, how everyone brought a unique set of gifts and talents to the missions experience, enabling your group to accomplish way more than seemed possible. Springboard off their observations into a study of spiritual gifts. Set out to “own” the key spiritual gifts chapters of Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 (with a 1 Peter 4:11 kicker). Hone in on the mutual dependence we are to have on each other and our unique giftedness.


After your trip, poll your students with this question: What commands of Jesus did we live out in our missions experience? Or: What traits of God did we experience on our trip? Or: How did we see Jesus? Let each answer serve as a topic to explore in Scripture over the weeks following your trip, one topic per week. You could front load this by asking students to be on the lookout for those things throughout the week.


Utilize newfound spiritual zeal to teach students how to engage in Scripture. Offer a post-trip deeper dive Bible experience (using the above ideas or a Bible book of your students’ choosing) and introduce students to inductive Bible study tools or match each student’s learning style with a Bible study tool, resource, or genre of Bible book to explore.

When God’s Word is described by, well, God’s Word, you see traits like enduring, everlasting, bedrock-solid. It seems God is emphasizing a point. Youth workers are in a unique position to fasten spiritual zeal to the bedrock of God’s Word before the zeal begins to fade. Channeling spiritual zeal into a study of Scripture at a time when students’ curiosity is high is a gift you can give your students that they will enjoy for the rest of their lives.

I’d love to talk specifics on this topic with you. Feel free to drop me a note or comment.

Barry Shafer has been in youth ministry over 25 years and is the author of UNLEASHING GOD’S WORD IN YOUTH MINISTRY. As director of InWord Resources, he has written many small-group Bible studies and teen devotionals. Barry lives in Middletown, Ohio with his wife Jessica, and their two toddlers, Reade and Rachel. You can connect with Barry through EMAIL, HIS WEBSITE, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, the INWORD BLOG or his PERSONAL BLOG.

Toxic Volunteers


By Doug Franklin May 30, 2017

Adult volunteers are so important to our ministry programs. They are our small group leaders, our mentors, our drivers, and our students’ advocates. We need them. They bring us balance. We get wacky ideas sometimes, and it’s nice to have someone talk us (or in some cases, wrestle us) down from the ledge.

A few years ago, I was teaching weekly in a youth ministry. It was fun to get up in front of the students and lay out a biblical message they could apply to their lives. I loved teaching, but one thing was ruining the experience: someone kept talking during my lesson. You’re probably picturing an immature boy. If so, you’re on the right track. But it may surprise you to learn that this was a 40-year-old boy—an adult volunteer. Every week he was talking and making snide comments, all so students would like him. He needed to be the center of attention. I needed him to shut up! When I sat down with him to explain the situation, he was surprised. He didn’t even realize the problem he was causing.

That’s just one of the many types of toxic volunteers who might be damaging your ministry. Chances are, you’ve seen at least one of these damaging volunteers:

Toxic Volunteers

  • The Class Clown. Like the man from my story, these volunteers crave the spotlight. They steal the group’s attention away from where it should be to focus solely on them. In many cases, these adults simply want to earn some relational currency with the students, so they do whatever they can to make students like them. But if you’re taking students into the emotional crux of a lesson, and an immature joke from an adult brings them out of it, you’ll know how damaging this type of volunteer can be.
  • The “No” Man. These volunteers complain about everything you do. Want to start a new initiative? They’ll poke holes in it. Want to teach on a particular topic? They’ll tell you why another is “more biblical.” Want to appoint someone to student leadership? They’ll question your choice, eyebrow raised in condescension. It’s tough to make progress in a ministry when you’re always being pulled one step back by this volunteer.
  • The Hawk. Some volunteers think they are the parents’ eyes and ears in the youth ministry. They circle around your ministry to make sure you don’t mess up, and as soon as you do, they swoop in to tell everyone. Nothing undercuts your ability to minister to students quite like a negative volunteer going behind your back to squawk in the ears of parents and students.

So what do you do when an adult volunteer goes bad? The first thing is to resolve to deal with it. Too often we want to complain to the other volunteers, pastors, or our spouses. Don’t do this. It leads to you talking about the problem and never dealing with it. The faster you confront the issue, the more effective your ministry will be. If you fail to deal with this issue other volunteers will wonder who is leading the youth ministry.

“What do you do when an adult volunteer goes bad? Resolve to deal with it.”

After that, consider using the following steps:

3 Important Steps

Step 1: Be Preemptive
Every problem with volunteers in your ministry starts with unmet expectations. Unless you are clear in your communication, your volunteers will create their own expectations. For example: The volunteer who thinks his job is to be your boss and not a spiritual mentor to students. Most youth workers are so focused on students and logistics that they forget to communicate their expectations to volunteers.

Step 2: Be Consistent 

After communicating your expectations, it is important to consistently uphold them. Be sure volunteers understand the reasons behind what you are doing. Hold yourself and them to a high standard.

Step 3: Be Decisive
When the time comes to take action, don’t hesitate. The longer you wait, the worse things will get. Decide on your course of action and follow through. Your volunteers will appreciate your honesty, and your consistency will convey care to the rest of your staff.

Often the best thing you can do for a difficult volunteer who refuses to change is to fire them. We learn the most important lessons in life from difficult situations. Being a leader requires commitment to your volunteers. Commit yourself to always doing what is best for them and this in turn will be what is best for your team.

Doug Franklin


Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner  who never leaves their side.

7 Deadly Sins of Student Ministry Volunteers


For student ministries, volunteer engagement is essential.

The days of a student ministry being led by a charismatic leader with adult chaperones is as far behind us as bellbottom jeans.

Every church ministry must be aligned around relational discipleship for the flourishing of the Gospel. Student ministries will fail to develop disciples when the student pastor is the only person investing into the lives of the students. When we fail to develop disciples, we fail to fulfill the Great Commission.

Leaders are the key to student ministry discipleship. You can say goodbye to discipleship if multiple adult leaders are not connected to students.

That’s a big deal! The discipleship process must involve every adult volunteer. If we want to ensure every adult is on mission we need to identify what is getting in the way of our discipleship efforts.


Are you committing any of these deadly sins? Be honest with yourself, then take the necessary steps to get back on track with God’s mission.



Nothing communicates a lack of investment more than showing up late or leaving early. A large portion of discipleship is proximity. Those who are inconsistent at Bible studies and worship gatherings are not developing disciples. The Great Commission doesn’t say “Sit in a youth room to fulfill a student-to-leader ratio.” Jesus commissions every disciple to create disciples.


Why are you volunteering with the student ministry? Is it to invest in students? Great. Investment doesn’t end once you step into the room; that is when investment begins!  Don’t fall into the temptation of sitting in the back of the student room and chatting with the other adult leaders. You are serving to make a Gospel difference in a teenager’s life. So pull up a chair and get to know some students.


One hour of communication per week does not sustain a friendship. Discipling students involves following up with students throughout the week. This may look different each week (attending ball games, texting students Bible verses, inviting students to events), but the key is to show up in the life of a student. When you show up outside of “church time” students will begin to see that God cares for them outside of “church time.”


Student ministry isn’t all fun and games. Who am I kidding? Student ministry is awesome! The presence of games shouldn’t lead to an absence of Biblical instruction. Each student ministry volunteer has a responsibility to share about the grace, love and goodness of Jesus. Don’t let the student pastor be the only voice the students hear.


You know that being an adult doesn’t bring clarity to life and an uncanny ability to live perfectly! Be careful not to project a “holier than thou” persona in front of your students. Jesus has saved you, and the students, by grace alone. Sure you have some wisdom to share, but be sure that you are communicating that you still need Jesus.


The number one role of a student ministry volunteer is to be a spiritual leader. It doesn’t matter what area you serve in, you must be growing spiritually. The church’s mission is to create disciples. Only disciples can create disciples. An excellent book to gauge your spiritual health is TEN QUESTIONS TO DIAGNOSE YOUR SPIRITUAL HEALTH by Donald S. Whitney.


How many hours have you spent working on the worship set list this week? Or how much time have you spent looking at your small group lesson for Sunday? How about this one: How many hours have you spent encouraging and communicating with students this week? Preparation and study are essentials to be a great leader, but when we drift away from the people and only invest in the program, lesson or worship gathering, our students will leave the church.


After taking an honest look at this list, how many of these sins are you struggling with? Being able to diagnose our current level of engagement will allow us to dive deeper into our discipleship efforts!

What other areas would you add to the list?

Chase Snyder - Headshot - 200x200CHASE SNYDER is the founder of MINISTRYBUBBLE.COM and serves as a Family Pastor in Knoxville, Tenn. He seeks to live a life that glorifies God and disciples others through their day-to-day lives, and his passion is equipping those in the church to seek those who are outside of it. Check out his writing at MINISTRY BUBBLE or connect with him on FACEBOOKTWITTER, or INSTAGRAM.