5 Tools Needed to Reach Teenagers

toolI read today an article by Cameron Cole of the Rooted blog. He posted this article on the Gospel Coalition site, 5 Tools Needed to Reach Today’s Teens.  I must say that I fully agree with these points, but I believe there is an even bigger more essential point that Cameron assumes on the outset. One that cannot be understated or glossed over.

Before I reveal my additional point to his 5 tools needed, let me summarize his article and recommend you read it in full to get a much deeper appreciation for each point.

  1. Knowledge about the canonization of scripture: More often than ever we face questions concerning authority. How can we be sure God’s Word is authoritative for 2013? If teenagers do not trust the bible, they will not have the foundation essential for Christian doctrine or practice. 
  2. Developed Theology of sexuality, especially homosexuality: Teens today are bombarded with competing truth claims. We need a balanced and biblical answer for these questions. If we do not speak boldly with truth and compassion on these topics, the biblical message will be drowned out in a rising tide of unbiblical messages. While homosexuality is a hot topic, we need a balanced view of all aspects of sexuality. Teens need instruction on what a proper biblical heterosexual relationship looks like, as much or more than warnings of improper relationships.
  3. The ability to teach the Bible in the greater context of redemptive history: While telling your own story is important, teens today want to be connected to a bigger story as well. They want to know there is meaning and purpose behind how we got to where we are today. Explaining the grand narrative of redemptive history and then describing our chapter in that story is very powerful.
  4. A Theological, not only moral, understanding of Sin: This is very important. Teens need to understand the eternal weight of actions not just focused on consequences in relativistic society, but in a view of an eternal, unchanging, completely perfect God. Teens today recognize the futility of just slapping sin on the wrist, but need to understand why.
  5. Understand Adoption as an Element of Salvation: In a culture of divorce and superficial relationships the opportunity to be a part of a true community can be life changing. Teens place a huge value on relationships. Since this is true, the biblical concept of “Koinonia” (greek for doing life together, i.e. fellowship) when righty applied in a church should be a significant factor in discipleship and life change. Teens long for meaningful relationships, this need is met first in Christ and then His bride.

Read the full article by Cameron Cole. It reminds us of the inside life that teenagers really are living day to day. To best reach this generation we need to understand how to connect.

Which brings me to my addition. In my 6+ years of full time youth ministry I believe a colossal step is being assumed by Cole, that needs to be clearly articulated constantly to all adults who work with teenagers. This is so important that all the above points completely lose thier meaning when this is absent.

  1. Personal Holiness and Passion Cannot be Faked: If you want to work with teens, prepare for your life to be examined and imitated. Teenagers can detect a fake in a heartbeat and once this is sensed they will turn off. Why do teens leave the church? In many cases it is because they see conflicting examples in their parents on whether or not church is important. As a leader, it doesn’t matter if you can wax on the details of the Canon, refute homosexual marriage, and recite the history of the church. If you are dead spiritually, do you really want mold teenagers in that same pattern? To be open and honest with a growing relationship with Christ is what teens need to see first. Before any other questions come up they have got see something real in your life. This cannot be assumed, it must be intentionally cultivated in the life of any christian, leader or not.

I am so thankful for guys like Cameron Cole who are striving to make youth ministry better. We all benefit from reminders like this. And it is my prayer that I can add to the conversation and push us all one more step toward Jesus.


Social Media Boundaries for Student Ministry Workers

social mediaLets face it, social media is part of life. It is a two edged sword if you are not careful how it is handled. When working with teenagers we have an added responsibility to model how to live and act, even in the online forum. I ran across this helpful article by Phil Bell of Youthworktalk.com and forwarded it on to my small group leaders. Here are his wise suggestions for some boundaries regarding the powerful tool of social media.


Here are 5 social media boundaries for you as you go about your youth ministry:

1) Accept that leaders live in ‘glass house.’ This is hard to accept, but when you are in ministry and you are using social media, it automatically means that you are under the spotlight. Leaders, parents, and students are looking up to you and will often follow you for inspiration, guidance, and hope. On the other hand, others will follow you to get an inside track to see whether you fit their mold of an acceptable youth worker.

Like it or not, the reality is that a leader is always watched closely. What are others seeing?

2) Wait to be Friended or Followed: If you don’t know a student well, wait for them to friend or follow you. I know this might seem a little extreme, but unless I know a student quite well, I will wait for them to friend me. If there is a student in your ministry who is new and getting plugged in, it might be worth waiting for them to friend you. Waiting for a student to ‘friend’ you simply avoids any weirdness and ensures they are happy for you to get an inside track to their life.

3) Avoid Private Conversations: Avoid private messaging students. Try to keep messages public and for all to see. If a student wants to talk to you about an issue or a problem, try to do it face to face in full site of others. It’s also essential to communicate with parents that you are talking to their student. I know this might seem a little over the top, but here are two good reasons why contacting parents is a good idea:

  • It opens the door for a relationship to partner with parents.
  • It avoids parents wondering what your intentions are. In this day and age, parents are protective when other adults contact their kids, and rightly so. Honor parents by touching base and letting them know who you are.

4) Consider carefully what you post: Here are three things that can get you in trouble.

  • Questionable pictures: In certain social media platforms such as Facebook, you can create a setting that gives you the option to ‘allow’ pictures you are tagged in. Ensure that the pictures of you will always allow others to see you in a positive light.
  • Complaints: Complaining about others simply does not look good. It shows weakness that we can’t talk to the person directly as well as modeling a poor method of dealing with conflict.
  • Controversial Issues: For me I don’t post  anything that could divide people in my church. Political statements, local controversies, and attacks on political leaders should be avoided.

In what you post, would others describe you as a  divisive and opinionated person, or a inspirational leader? 

5) Leverage social media to inspire and uplift:  This should be a given, but many of us have discounted the great value of regularly posting to inspire others. As I said at the beginning of this post. People are looking for hope and direction. Consider what influence you can have by using social media effectively?


5 Reasons I Write My Own D-Now Curriculum

The Band has been rockin’, the speaker has been bringing the Word. Disciple-Now is in full swing this weekend for my ministry. The students just finished up a video scavenger hunt and have gone to a few hours of free time before our next session. In this moment to breathe I have decided to type up a quick blog on some of my methods. It was on my mind last night when I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking of all the details for the next day. If you work with teenagers, I hope this encourages you to take your next event to the next level.

Here are 5 reasons why I write my own material for event weekends like Disciple Now.

  1. It’s Free– When paying for a band and a speaker, hotel rooms, small group leaders, travel expenses, and the list goes on, here is an area I can save money. If you preach every Wednesday anyway, this is not very different study-wise, other than I just give the material to someone else to teach. By writing my own material I can maximize the funds toward keeping the cost low for the students. This year I charged $10. Bam. Success. There are lots of students who don’t participate in camps and retreats because it costs 100s of dollars. This is an event I want any and every teen to be able to come to. A little more work on my end helps keep it that way.
  2. Be Theologically Rich– Even though it is free, that doesn’t mean when you write your own material it will be lame! I make sure we tackle deep subjects and dive into the theological deep end! When you purchase a pre-packaged curriculum you do not know the theological leanings of the writer or the depth to which they will challenge your students. I want my students to have the best, so why would I leave that up to an unknown author? This weekend we are looking at Ephesians 3 – a theological treasure trove! Oh yeah!
  3. The Exegetical Approach–  On the heels of #2, I really believe every verse in scripture is important for believers. If that is true I want to instill that into my teenagers. When we take a whole weekend to unpack a single chapter of the bible, that is one message that is communicated. Also when you systematically approach a text, it makes it easier to see the bigger picture the author intended to communicate. I believe this also provides cohesiveness to the weekend. Each time we gather the students know where to turn in their bibles. I have not found any national chain producing exegetical material for events like this, possibly with the exception of Global Youth Ministry, but then again, refer to point #1.
  4. I know my group– When you write your own material you can tailor it for your specific group. While God can use anything and anyone to speak through, I doubt that same d-now material being used by 43 other churches this weekend can intentionally speak to the subtleties of a specific group better than a prayerful pastor who spends every week with them. So why not use a weekend to address what you want to see happen! It helps when another voice comes in and says the same things you have been saying all along.
  5. Graphics don’t have to be intimidating– “I cant make great looking flyers and promo material!?!” For real, don’t be scared, you can. Here are two things that make life super easy when it comes to promoting your event. Cool Fonts and Stock Photos. Combining these make great stuff.  My d-now was themed “The Mystery”, below is a cool stock photo and a cool font to title it. Bam, easy promotion. Sites I uses for photos are istockphoto.com and Bigstockphoto.com. Make an account and spend a few buck on a high res picture with no copy right issues for your next event. Then go to dafont.com or just google “free fonts” and get some fonts that really add depth to your flyer.  It’s not that hard and for a couple bucks you can have a professional looking flyer/promo that corresponds to your personalized material.

I hope these thoughts help as you plan your next d-now or retreat weekend! Pray for me as we wrap up ours! May God be glorified by your efforts!


mystery image

Youth Ministry Burnout Stats



These stat are a little scary (mostly because I believe they are true). Fellow pastors and ministers, be on close guard of you time, family and personal rest. Congregation members, could I suggest you all be on the watch for warning signs of burnout in your pastors, and if seen, be part of the solution not part of the problem.

One of the scariest stat lines: 70% of youth workers say they have NO close friends. Yikes.

Watch out for this and many other warning signs that are all to often in ministry.

See You At The Pole – 2012 – Awaken

This morning students around the country are gathering at flag poles on their school campuses. It is a morning to stand and be counted. A morning to lift up to our God prayers for our friends, family, schools, administration, teachers, city, state and national governments.

I will be spending my morning at Oakland Middle school where I am predicting 150+ students will gather in Jesus’ name to pray. It is an honor to stand among them.

Whether a single student standing alone, two or three huddled together in unity, or hundreds gathered in front of the school, See You at the Pole is about students praying for awakening on campuses all over the world.

The 2012 See You at the Pole theme is Awaken and the Scripture is Ephesians 3:14–21—“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father… I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts…And I pray that you… grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine…’”

Pray for these teenagers today that as they take a stand on public property and exercise their religious liberty, they will be a light that points not tho their own spirituality or goodness, but to Jesus.  For He is the only hope for our schools, our nation, and our world.

To Him be the Glory this morning.

If you are reading this before 7:00am, hey, I’ll see you at the Pole!

Here are some quick links if you want to learn more about this national movement.

SYATP Frequently Asked Questions



Wiki write up on SYATP

Lecrae, TobyMac, Owl City: Christian Music Making Mainstream Waves



We all know that music is a huge influencer in the lives of teenagers. They live and breathe it. Here are some amazing artists who are rising to the top of their field, receiving recognition in both christian and mainstream venues. Check out this encouraging article I found.


What an amazing 14 days!

Two weeks ago today, Owl City‘s new album “The Midsummer Station” released and immediately climbed to #1 on the iTunes album chart. Last week, tobyMac‘s “Eye On It” landed at #1 on that same chart, causing more than one music fan to scratch their heads and say “toby WHO?”

And then today, Lecrae‘s much anticipated (by me and a whole lot of other people) “Gravity” shot up the chart … as of noon it’s the #1 album on iTunes.

When stuff like this happens, I usually do one of two things: I get wrapped up in the excitement of it (I admit it, I kept checking iTunes every 30 minutes this morning watching Lecrae climb those last few spots to the top). Or, I write it off as “just numbers” (I’m a pessimist at heart).

But today I was really struck by how much of a God thing this is. Think about it. In the last two weeks, three incredibly talented artists — three believers who have followed a call to use their talents to glorify their Maker — have had their work showcased alongside Carrie Underwood, Maroon 5, One Direction, John Mayer … the “best” of pop music. People from around the world, not just those that regularly listen to or seek out Christian music, are being exposed to great music that was written to reflect the true Light into a dark world.

[check out this tweet by Lecrea]

But God isn’t always easy. Adam, tobyMac and Lecrae (and countless other artists, musicians and songwriters) spend weeks on the road away from family and friends, and long days (and nights) in the studio. But they keep doing it because they know it’s their gift. Their calling. Their platform. And landing on the iTunes chart isn’t about success; it’s about a bigger platform.

So thanks guys, for the great new music … and for the reminder that as Christ-followers we are all called to embrace our God-given talents, exercise our gifts and strive to use them to honor the One who gave them to us.


Reblogged from Interlinc Music Resources. Thank you for this article Sheridyn Williamson and keeping us up to date in the christian music industry!



Top 25 Student Ministry Blogs For 2012

So you must take into account that this is just one opinion concerning quality and content of student ministry blogs compiled by Youth Cartel. (If you get 10 pastors together to rank resources you are likely to get 12 opinions.) I post this so all of you who work with teenagers in any capacity will have ample resources to draw from. I listed my top five visited blogs for student ministry HERE, and only 3 of my list made the top 25 by Youth Cartel. So search broadly and you will find many resources from many different traditions and philosophies. Find what works best for you and what fits in with your theology. Most importantly, don’t forget to make the Word of God your standard by which you judge all things.

2012 Rank Name URL 2011 Rank
1 Josh Griffin http://www.morethandodgeball.com/ 1
2 Doug Fields http://dougfields.com 7
3 Mark Oestreicher http://whyismarko.com 2
4 Adam McLane http://adammclane.com 4
5 Jonathan McKee http://www.jonathanmckeewrites.com 10
6 Tim Schmoyer http://studentministry.org 3
7 Fuller Youth Institute http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/ 8
8 Adam Walker Cleaveland http://pomomusings.com/ 6
9 Kurt Johnston http://www.juniorhighministry.com/ 19
10 Youth Specialties http://youthspecialties.com/blog 5
11 Brian Kirk, Jacob Thorne rethinkingyouthministry.com 13
12 youthministry360 youthministry360.com NR
13 Jeremy Zach http://www.reyouthpastor.com 9
14 Greg Stier gregstier.org 16
14 The Youth Cartel http://theyouthcartel.com/blog/ NR
16 Ian MacDonald http://www.youthblog.org 12
17 Walt Mueller http://learningmylines.blogspot.com/ 18
18 Youth Leader Stash youthleaderstash.com NR
19 Chuck Bomar http://www.collegeministrythoughts.com/ NR
20 Rachel Blom http://www.youthleadersacademy.com NR
21 Mike King http://king.typepad.com/mike_king/ 17
21 Jake Bouma http://www.jakebouma.com/ NR
23 Kenda Creasy Dean http://kendadean.com/ 20
24 Matt McGill http://lovegodlovestudents.com NR
25 Terrace Crawford http://terracecrawford.com/ 19