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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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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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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


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.

Leading Through Brokenness


I used to drive home each day from work seeing a billboard advertisement for a dentist office. The advertisement claimed that coming to see them for dental work is not like going to the dentist at all.

While I appreciated their desire to lessen the association of pain with regular checkups at the dentist, I see this promise and desire span broader and deeper through many areas of life.


So often we want to skip out on the hard stuff in life. We know where we want to be – on the other side of it – but we do not want to acknowledge the actual feeling as we proceed through it.

We have run so far away that it is as if we do not know what to do with the in-between places, especially relating to pain but equally relatable to boredom or almost any other emotion labeled uncomfortable or unwanted, including brokenness.

We eagerly saturate the process with distractions and call this good because we think it makes it easier; truthfully, it makes us ignorant and numb.

I know this because I am the one running through the hot coals of brokenness claiming everything is good as my feet sear with pain at each step.


In part, this is because I honestly see the beauty in the brokenness – it is not a lack of sincerity. I can see the working out of my faith in the places that hurt.

But brokenness has sharp edges that should be attended to lest they pierce us when we ignorantly try to run through the pain.

The fact that life is hard does not negate that it is full of goodness. And all of the goodness does not negate the fact that life is hard.

I propose that these are intertwined rather than on opposite ends of a spectrum; both are needed for life to be lived with any amount of sincere joy.

But none of that means it is easy.

Sometimes I need to sit in the space with what is available.

Sometimes what is available is brokenness.

Sometimes what is available is tiredness.

Sometimes that space is full of awkwardness.

Sometimes it is full of anger or hurt.

Sometimes it is just full.

And sometimes it is empty.

And this is OK.

It is OK to sit there. It is OK to just be there.


I am by no means casting my joys aside. I can sit amongst the brokenness resting in a peace that does not equate to the place. I can honestly speak of joy while also talking about heartache.

The heartache does not drive the joy away; rather, it increases it.CLICK TO TWEETI can sing songs of joy with tears in my eyes. I can wait patiently for the promise of goodness because my hope lies in the Lord and not in circumstances. I can trust that the Lord is good – I CAN EVEN TASTE IT – when situations are full of frustration.

When I stop trying to fill the spaces that are uncomfortable, whether that is anger or silence or brokenness, using habits of Facebook or exercise or friends, I can see not only what is broken but also the goodness. And it is by stopping that I can see the movings of the Lord; his response to my need of him in these places.

That is the goodness. That is the joy. That as I sit in these hard places, I can invite the Lord there with me and rest in him as I sit in the momentary place of difficulty.


But what happens when I am broken and I have to attend to others, to lead them, to comfort them, to speak hope and truth and grace?

How come we believe we are less effective when we are in seasons of brokenness?

It is in the brokenness that we get to glimpse scripture as alive and active when we read that his grace is sufficient and how his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 CORINTHIANS 12:9). Do we believe that? Or do we just like how it sounds?

Looking back, the seasons of brokenness where I am most convinced of my own need of God are the most beautiful of seasons.

Looking around, it is those who speak from brokenness that I want to follow.

There appears to be something sacred about the way people see their need for God to be God and then give him the space to do just that. There is something magnificent when others acknowledge their limitations of brokenness and the body gets to work together to fulfill what the Lord has called us to be and do; to be the church.

We are not less because we are broken. God becomes more real to us and gets glory in our brokenness. And there is no better place from which to lead and to call others into.


Andrea Gaston received her Master of Arts in Counseling and spent several years as a professional counselor as well as an adviser position in higher education before becoming involved with women’s ministry, which led to a focus in college ministry. In the Summer of 2016, Andrea moved from Georgia to Iowa to pursue the opportunity of working specifically in college ministry. She practices working out the rambling thoughts in her head through writing in THE MESSY PLACES OF GRACE blog.

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. 

Making Sense of Suffering


Making Sense of Suffering

Suffering is a part of life.

Mikhail Gorbachev said, “You are born. You Suffer. You Die.” There is so much horrible suffering in this world.  How do we make sense of this? I think it is answered by Christ’s death on the cross…

He Takes Responsibility for Suffering Upon Himself

The Bible calls Jesus a man acquainted with grief. It says, He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. (Isa 53:3)

God could have made a universe that provided no free will and no option for evil to enter the universe. He chose to create beings like Lucifer and Adam who had the ability to do evil. Although he does not sin, never has and never will, he took responsibility for sin upon himself.

If anyone says, “This world is sick. Why doesn’t God do something?” You can respond “He has.” God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son…. (John 3:16)

He Enters Our Pain

God has empathy. He feels our pain; he does not feel it  just from heaven; he came here and felt what it was like. He knew what it was to be hungry, tired, thirsty, betrayed by friends and rejected by society. The greatest agony he ever felt was taking all of the sins of humanity into his body.

Are you suffering? Do you know someone who is? Jesus suffers with you and them. The Bible says that although he has this incredible place of authority he still relates to our pain:  “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He gets what we are going through.

I had a 2000 pound suspended ceiling fall on me years ago… I felt like I was dying. Two bones in my spine were crushed. It hurt… a lot.  At the same time, I never felt Jesus closer. He comforted me all through my recovery year .

He Rescues Us

There’s a place in Star Wars where Obe Wan Kenobi says that he will become even more powerful in death. He must have borrowed that from Jesus. Jesus overcame our greatest enemy –not Darth Vader but close… it is death. How do you know that you can make it through this life? –Because the one who gives us life is the one who successfully defeated death. He rose from the dead and He delivers us from evil.

Life can be difficult. Many suffer unreasonable inexplicable  pain. Facing pain never gets easy. Thankfully, we don’t have to face this pain alone and sometimes, miraculously, God takes the pain away.

Let ‘em know

Easter is such a great time to help people understand that God has an answer for their pain. It is found by understanding the meaning of the cross and allowing the one who died on it to enter into our suffering..

Ron Powell


Ron Powell is the Director of the Youth Ministry Institute at Vanguard College. He has been involved in youth ministry for 30 years. He continues to volunteer, write, teach, and speak to parents, leaders and teens. If you would like to contact him you can email

Youth Ministry Volunteers Partnering With Parents



By Doug Franklin March 30, 2017

Parents: the most important and influential people in a student’s life.

Youth ministry volunteers: outsiders who demonstrate the same life and spiritual values from a perspective outside of the family system.

Parents are the primary faith influencers, and youth ministry volunteers are the critical third party voice. When working in tandem, parents and volunteers reinforce from all angles how to walk with Christ. They dig deep into a student’s life, model a godly life from various positions, and empower students to carry their ownership of their faith as they walk through the doors of adulthood.

“When working in tandem, parents and volunteers reinforce from all angles how to walk with Christ.”

In order to be effective and transformational, parents and volunteers have to be on the same page and work together. Here are three tips that pave the way to just that:

1. Communication

An open line of communication is one of the most important ingredients in the relationship between volunteers and parents. Parents give more freedom and trust when they are informed about a volunteer’s goals for a student, and volunteers gain confidence when they know they’re mentoring within parents’ guidelines for a student. This doesn’t mean every detail of a student’s life is revealed and discussed at meetings; it just means that there are regular opportunities to check in, share wins, and confront problems or obstacles together.

2. Respect

Parents and volunteers must also have mutual respect for one another. Both parties are making an investment in the spiritual growth of a student, but each party understands different aspects of a student’s life. Parents understand a student’s history better than anyone else, but a volunteer will see and likely understand a student’s life outside of the family context. Because parents know parts of their student’s story that a volunteer cannot know, a volunteer must respect and support parents’ decisions and desires. Parents must also give volunteers the ability to build a relationship that is uniquely different than a parental relationship. It takes a great deal of respect to have two coexisting parties with different roles and responsibilities, but wise parents and volunteers will respect and value the role of the other.

“When parents and volunteers spend time dreaming together and determining goals for a student’s growth and development the outcome is an individualized spiritual development plan for each student.”

3. Shared Mission

Parents and volunteers need each other; neither one is completely effective alone. Having a shared mission unites parents and volunteers, allowing them to work together more successfully. When parents and volunteers spend time dreaming together and determining goals for a student’s growth and development the outcome is an individualized spiritual development plan for each student. Parents drive home foundational truths, and volunteers begin to smooth out the rough edges in a student’s development which parents may struggle to reach. Together parents and volunteers can support one another, encourage one another, and ultimately, challenge students toward growth and consistency.

When a student hears a message only from one place, they are likely to compartmentalize it. So when following Christ is only embraced in the home and at church, it is easy for a student’s faith to become environmental. Having a Christ-like influence outside of the home helps take the “daily grind” mindset out of a student’s faith and allows students to safely process and apply their faith in even more areas of their life. But parents and volunteers must work together. I encourage you to communicate regularly, show value for your respective roles, and get on the same page about your goals for your student.

If you are a volunteer and haven’t checked in lately with your student’s parents, go out to coffee and encourage and pray together for your student. If you are a parent, give your student’s youth ministry volunteer a phone call and check in. You may learn something great about your student you never knew. Together parents and volunteers are a force to be reckoned with!

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.

How to Get Teenagers to Stop Doing the “Christian” Life


How to Get Teenagers to Stop Doing the “Christian” Life

written by Darren Sutton April 12, 2017

Our culture values doing over being. Business cards reveal what we do, not who we are. College applications ask what students have accomplished, not who they’ve become. Even churches and youth groups sometimes unwittingly encourage right actions before faithful hearts.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, for sure. Here are a few ways to recognize the differences…

DO asks: Have you read your Bible today?

BE asks: When you read your Bible, what trait of Jesus do you resonate with most?

DO asks: When is the last time you raised your hands in worship?

BE asks: When was a time you were so captivated by worship that you felt lost in lyrics and emotion? What was that environment like, and how did it influence your response? What was happening inside you at the time, and why?

DO asks: How many service hours have you logged?

BE asks: Who are “the least of these” in your sphere of influence? When you notice them, what do you do, or wish you would do? Is prayer an action or a copout in these situations?

DO says: You know how to behave. Don’t step outside the lines and do something bad.

BE says: Your heart is the wellspring of life and action. When you mess up or fall short, what do you say to yourself? What does Jesus say to you? What would you want him to say?

DO says: Everyone needs a regular quiet time.

>>Students who are attached to Jesus starts with an authentic youth ministry. Join Rick Lawrence and the Beckynator this week as they talk about how to build an authentic youth ministry that values participation not performance. 

BE says: When you pay ridiculous attention to Jesus, every moment becomes your quiet time. He speaks in a myriad of ways, including special, set-aside times for him and everyday, run-of-the-mill times for you. Are you looking for Jesus in all your moments, not just the quiet ones?

Jesus is more intent about who we’re becoming than what we’re doing for him or even how we’re behaving.

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Behaviors and actions are dictated and measured by the unseen forces on the inside. Those compel us to notice Jesus and allow him the space to transform us. If we help teenagers get their actions right before we help them engage their hearts, we create shells—whitewashed tombs—capable of regurgitating “water” from an unclean well, laced with toxins that don’t allow for a very long shelf life.But if we help kids embrace the BE of the Jesus-centered life before they embrace the DO? That builds a pure well whose water is life to those who drink it.

This week we released a new devotions for teens graduating from High School and it’s all about identity. It’s called Destination: Life, Navigating your future with Jesus. It covers “Who does Jesus Say I Am?” Packed with relevant devotions that bring the heart of the issue back to Jesus paired with fun “how to be an adult” tips. Check out the sample devotionals below: