Posts Tagged ‘Advice’

Let ’em Speak!

Posted: July 29, 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,


Sometimes we can be overly protective of our pulpit/lecturn/podium/music stand/stack of old shoe boxes and somehow get the idea that we are the only ones who can talk to our youth.  That within itself is an issue, but it is a particular hurdle for this post’s topic – students speaking in front of the group.

Sometimes youth leaders are unsure about letting teens give a testimony or teach in front of the group.  I get it, they are often not great at it.  In fact, when I ask teens if they want to give it a try, that is always their first objection, “I’m not good at talking in front of people or about faith stuff.”  But the only way to get good is practicing, so here we are, talking about teens talking.  We need to be encouraging teens to lead more often.  If you are already doing this, great! Do it more.  If you aren’t yet, great! Read this post and start, and here’s 3 reasons why:

They Need To Learn. As I stated above, teens can be bad at this.  Like really bad.  I’ve seen a teenager throw up in mid testimony before.  Luckily, your teens have someone they know who is a teacher and does this sort of thing all the time (you, bro).  Evangelism comes naturally to some, but is an important skill to all Christians, so helping teens to feel comfortable sharing their faith, their testimony, even teaching lessons to a group is paramount.  Give them the opportunity and the tools to succeed, then help them grow from the experience, rinse and repeat.

Because They Have The Cred. Teens have a built-in tool when it comes to sharing their testimony with other teens: they are actual teens.  They deal with the same things their audience deals with.  They know what’s really going on out there.  Their testimony and sharing can be incredibly powerful to your other students because it is coming from someone who knows where they are.  As talented as a teacher, preacher or leader you are, you don’t have that kind of cred.  If you equip teens to bring the message to other teens, you will be shocked at the success rate they experience and how your ministry begins to grow and bear fruit.

Because They Are Christians. Christians need to be able to share their stories.  Even if they are not a gifted speaker, they need to share how God has shaped and changed their lives.  Moses had a stutter; God uses anyone and everyone to speak to the world.  There are too many adults who don’t know how to share their faith that we have become a culture that is too awkward to save itself.  Christians need to be able to go out and make disciples, I think I read that somewhere once.  Teens learning and honing their skills early will help them to be better at their commission from Jesus.

Remember that you were a teen once, and perhaps you had the opportunity to speak and share your faith.  Maybe that was what helped you discern your call into ministry work.  Or perhaps you were never given the opportunity to speak and share.  Imagine where you would be now if you had been practicing since you were young.  Imagine all the people you could have been ministering to and that could have come to Jesus.  So, my fellow control freaks, it’s time to open the mic and let the students give it a whirl.  Make sure to be there as a support and give them all the tools and advice they will need, but also let them learn to be better through success and difficulty.  God will show you and your ministry such things through the mouths of students, so brace yourself and enjoy the ride!



Posted: June 3, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

Matthew 6.33

Handy Dandy Youth Ministry now has freebie Bible Verse graphics for you guys to use in your ministry worships, presentations, lessons, websites, tattoos…whatever you want to use to amp up your ministry!

If you have a request for a specific verse, feel free to comment on this post and we will do our best to get it up for you!

Shaving Cream Balloons

Posted: May 29, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


Okay, so we’ve discussed how to fill balloons with mud or paint or soup, which is a lot of fun and useful for tossing games, fights, etc., but there are some other applications that could use some other fun balloon fillings.  One such filling is shaving cream.  It’s messy and amazing.

The toughest part of these balloons is the filling process.  Place the balloon (I have the best luck with water balloons) on the nozzle.  Regular balloons’ opening is much bigger, so if you are using regular balloons, be sure to fold it over once it’s on the nozzle and hold on tight.  With either balloon type, hold the nozzle/balloon opening tightly, because the cream with follow the path of least resistance, and we want that path to be into the balloon.  Once you’ve filled the balloon to the desired size, carefully tie it off.  Now you have a balloon full of shaving cream.  Congratulations!

You can use the balloons for games in which you have to pop balloons on yourself of on others, because they explode and cover everyone within a very small radius with shaving cream.  You can even couple this activity with our game Puff Suits to create an amazing, messy game that will end with laughter, filthy teens and an unforgettable game.   

Skit Boxes

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,



There are a few things I have found to be very helpful to keep on hand for times when the weather doesn’t cooperate, the group size is drastically different than I prepared for, the power goes out or any other form of direction-shifting event occurs.  One such item is a set of skit boxes.  They are something I enjoy putting together, and we use for a myriad of different activities.

To construct a skit box, I like to go to 2 different places, the first being the thrift store.  Walk around looking for outrageous items you can use as props of costumes for a skit.  Some examples I’ve gotten are a set of diving flippers, a really old, huge video camera, boxing gloves, any old glasses, costume jewelry, old prom dresses, any hat my grandma probably owns, and a stethoscope.  Each of those items were found and purchased at a local thrift store for less than $2 a piece.  The other location I go to fill out a good skit box is my mom’s garage.  A garage or basement just screams skit box materials, because it’s usually housing stuff you don’t actually need, so dig out that old pair of binoculars or that powder blue leisure suit and drop it in a box.  

I like to have at least 2 skit boxes put together, and they are cheap rubber containers I bought at Target.  Try to divide up the contents equally, so that there is a good mix of costumes, props and goofiness in each.  I have used the boxes for a few different things, like hosting a skit night, in which we divide up into random groups and they write then perform skits on the fly.  This is a great way to fill an evening and foster creativity and acting silly, which are equally important.  Another way I like to utilize the boxes is a “Parable Project” evening, in which I assign the groups a parable and they have to rewrite them into a modern-day skit using the boxes.  Then, I usually video them acting out their skits for the larger group.  Occasionally, they do such a great/fun/goofy/crazy job, I use the video later as an illustration when teaching that parable.  It forces the youth to recreate the bible passage, spurs conversation about the meaning and gives the opportunity to talk with the wider group about the parable.

So in your storage closet or behind a couch or even in some dark, creepy catacomb, your group should have a set of skit boxes, because they are easy to use and great for both planned and unplanned events.

No More Uppers

Posted: May 12, 2014 in Uncategorized


Several years ago, I learned a lesson.  It’s a valuable lesson, and like most of the good lessons, I sometimes have to re-learn it.  So, in hopes of learning as much as teaching, I will share that lesson with you, so maybe one day you can remind me when I need to hear it.

One of your greatest resources is other youth pastors/ministers/workers.  They are a form of beta testing for new ideas and programs, they are a different avenue to the same goal, they are a new style of teaching and leading.  I know all of these things, and I believe all of these things.  But, the lesson I forget from time to time, is to listen.

No more one-uppers.  I am proud of all the activities and events my group hosts.  We work hard as a ministry to keep things fresh, engaging and fun.  We invent games and try new things constantly, so that we are ever changing, improving and adapting.  Because of this, on occasion, when other youth workers are talking to me about their programs, ministries and events, I find myself waiting to tell them about our awesome events and programs instead of listening.  I would say I suspect I am not alone in this, but I’ve been to youth workers’ trainings and conferences, so I know I’m not alone.

No more one-uppers.  Every time someone tells you about an event they’ve done, listen.  Ask questions.  Make mental notes.  Heck, make actual notes.  Youth ministry isn’t trademarked, nor is it a competition.  Fundraisers, youth events, retreats, trips…yes, we all do it the best in the world, obviously, but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve.  The best way I’ve found is shutting my big mouth and listening to the youth workers around me.

No more one-uppers.  Is my ministry the biggest in the world? No way.  Am I the best person in the world in my position? Probably not.  So when you hear me tell you that we all, as a profession, need to listen more, know that I am including myself in that statement.  Take what you hear and adapt; be creative.  Ask what could have been better, what the challenges were, what they’d do differently next time.  Ask why they decided to do the event/trip/program in the first place.  Use these answers to create a mental note so that you can use that information in the future.  If you ask those questions. even a horribly unsuccessful event or program can be useful information to you.  My most successful event came to being after hearing a director talk about trying the event and failing miserably.  I listened, learned, got creative and viola!  A star was born.  Even now, I try to listen to other’s who do similar events to constantly be refining.

No more one-uppers.  I’m serious.  Let’s take a stand against hubris and be iron sharpening iron, instead of a bunch of workers that are just waiting for their turn to tell everyone how much better their ministries are.

Okay, so it’s graduation season. Everyone’s looking for the best gift, and the same old suggestions are coming up again and again. So, if you’re looking for something other than a new Bible or a new copy of Oh, The Places You Go by Dr. Seuss, you’ll appreciate the 5 out-of-the-box ideas you can use to show your Seniors you care (and that you are pretty cool).

1. Faith Journal. These gifts should be a balance between sentimental and sweeeeeet (5 e’s), and this is heavier on the former. Buy a nice journal and put a few pictures of the graduating youth from youth events on random pages throughout. On a handful of other pages, write down some Bible verses or quotes from lessons or that you enjoy. On even more pages, jot down some thoughts or reflections about that graduate. Last, on the first page, put the youth’s faith statement from confirmation (if you have access to it) and an inscription encouraging the youth to write in the journal, flip through it, reflect on the quotes, pictures and verses.

2. College Survival Kit. If the first one was heavy on the sentimental, this one is heavy on the sweeeeeet (6 e’s). You can use a hatbox, shoe box, old suitcase, anything that’s small and convenient. I like to decorate the outside of the box with an official looking label, but the inside is more important. Use pictures of the youth and your group, funny quotes and inside jokes to line the box, then fill it with some or all of the following: King Size candy bars, AA batteries, a roll of quarters, post it notes, travel shampoo/soap/tooth paste, first aid essentials, mini flashlight, cheap flash drive, a metal spork, microwave popcorn, and/or anything 3M. Feel free to ad lib anything that you know they like or is an inside joke.

3. Wall Cross. Okay, okay…so this is as close to cliche as this list gets…but only as cliche and impersonal as you make it. Every dorm-dwelling Christian needs a good wall cross to celebrate their faith and pull a room together. I suggest making a cross; go to a craft store, get a wooden one and go to it. decoupage it with old Bible pages or old youth group flyers. Write notes or verses on it with marker. Spray paint or go all Jackson Pollock on it. Create something that will fit the graduate and will remind them who they are and who’s they are.

4. Custom Towel. Want to really stretch your sweeeeeetness legs? Every freshmen I know needs a good towel to take off to college, and here you can put a custom picture on a beach towel for the low price of $30. This might be out of your price range if you have a lot of grads, but it may also be the best gift ever given. Pick out a goofy, crazy or epic picture of the graduate so they can display it with pride each time they decide to participate in that ever-so-important trend of personal hygiene.

5. Custom College Hack Book. The last suggestion I have for you is as fun to put together as it will be for them to receive. Make a list of college hacks from your experience and create a book with advice, pictures, funny stories and secrets you’ve figured out along the way. Be sure to keep it church-appropriate, no matter what other lessons you picked up in your collegiate days…here are some examples:

– An old cassette case (what are those…?) can double as an iPhone stand.
– Keeping a clean shirt in your backpack almost always pays off big.
– If GPA is important to you, build it up in the beginning of the year when classes are easier to give you wiggle room when the going gets tougher.
– Put the guts of blue or black pens into red pen outsides, because no one steals a red pen. Seriously.
– You can use visa gift card numbers to get free Netflix trials regardless of the amount on the card (until Netflix reads this blog).
– Dryer sheets in a fan can cover most any funk you have going on in your room for a limited time basis.

If you are looking for more than the cross necklace/key chain, target gift card or the books listed above, I humbly submit some interesting ideas to try to spur that creative mind of yours into giving a gift that keeps on giving. Graduates are a big part of our ministry, send them out in style. Got another great idea? Add it here in a comment!


After reading an article by Thom Schultz called Why Church Doesn’t Fit Most People, which was a pretty good read, I decided to write an entry about one of the statistics he used.  Thom states that research suggests that only 30% or less of people are Auditory learners, meaning that they way they learn is primarily through listening.  As a former education major, I had to learn a lot about all sorts of learning styles because as a teacher, you should have an awareness.  But, sometimes as a youth minister, I get the feeling that we as religious educators don’t always take the same approach, which doesn’t make any sense.  We are educating, are we not?  So, if the words Auditory, Kinesthetic, Intrapersonal or Tactual learners seem like I possibly made them up, this post should be super enlightening.

Understanding that there are several different types of learning styles in your youth group, as well as understanding what those styles are, will help you to tailor your educational experience to them and, hopefully, help students learn and retain more information.  The first thing we should discuss is the 4 learning types:

Auditory. Like I said earlier, these students learn best by hearing the information and then speaking it out loud.  These students are probably some of your favorites, because they want to answer questions and they are able to repeat what you just said back to you, which we often incorrectly attribute to paying attention.  You are probably already teaching to these youth, because some of the things they would respond well to is reading aloud, listening to sermons or lectures, and answer questions out loud.  Some struggles auditory learners have are written directions and staying quiet for long periods of time.

Visual. These students learn best by absorbing formation be seeing it and storing the images in their brain.  These students are also pretty commonly taught toward as a secondary, though are probably not your favorites in the class because they struggle with verbal directions and are easily distracted by noise.  But, on the plus side, they respond well to the white-board scribblings we sometimes accompany our lessons with, video lessons and they often maintain fierce eye contact, which we again often misattribute to paying attention.  Color coding, providing handouts and writing down key points are all things you can do the help the visual learners in your group.

Kinesthetic. These students learn best by doing something, like moving around or experimenting.  They are physical people generally, and will usually be coordinated and action-oriented.  They are less comfortable in one place, and that’s okay – let them switch chairs when needed or change positions or couches.  These are the students in your group that may be misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD, because sitting still is not something that comes easily.  They can struggle with reading and spelling, too.  But, never fear, there are some great ways to engage these students, too.  Have these students take notes, the act of writing or drawing what they are hearing can help focus them.  If possible, incorporate a game or action into the lesson, like tossing a ball to one another while reciting a verse or learning names.  Be aware that physical games as part of your meeting will help calm and focus this student, and plan occasional breaks in the lesson.

Tactual.  These students learn two ways: touching or holding objects and relating to other people.  As we don’t often teach on the tangible, the latter is where these students will shine.  These are the students you may find to be fidgety or drive you crazy ripping up cups or drawing on everything in front of them.  Anything with fine motor skills will be a good match for them, though not many youth groups have people typing on their computers or dictating on their phones. The other positive course for tactual learners is group work. So much so that working alone can be incredibly difficult for these students.  So, to accommodate, work some partner or group work into lessons.  Give these learners a place to interact and learn together.  As a follow up, use your social media to give these learners the opportunity to type responses and communicate socially about the lesson.

All together now.  Okay, I know this seems like a lot.  4 styles to follow…I can only juggle 3 balls at a time, and even then only for a short period of time.  The good news is that this is easier than it sounds and becomes easier and easier with practice.  And, it will help a lot in the long run, because students will retain information longer and you will have to re-teach things less often.  So, I am going to write out a sample lesson idea below and how I would suggest approaching things so that you cover as many styles as possible.  Check it out:

Lesson: The Ten Commandments

Before you begin: Prepare a handout with the commandments written down with space between them for notes.

Begin by having the youth open to Exodus 20 and ask for volunteers to read aloud (Auditory learner).  While the reader is reading, write the 10 on a white board, chalk board, giant pad of paper or on the wall with permanent marker (Visual Learner).  Then hand out the handout you made earlier and have the youth group up with those around them to discuss what they think the commandments mean (Tactual Learner).  Call the group back together and discuss what they talked about, having one of the group members share one or two of their ideas (Auditory Learner) while the other group members pantomime the commandment (Kinesthetic Learner).  Then teach what each means verbally (Auditory) while writing down bullet points on your board/pad/wall (Visual).  Then have the groups meet again (Tactual) briefly to discuss new, enlightened examples and to write them down on the handout (Visual).  As a wrap-up, divide the group into groups of 10, assigning each of them a specific commandment.  Then play a game of Steal The Bacon, but instead of calling out numbers, call out commandments (Auditory) and the specific person from each team who’s commandment is called must run to the center (Kinesthetic) and grab a ball/prize/puppy/wet sponge.   

So, here are my parting thoughts.  First, if a student doesn’t appear to be paying attention, remember that different learners use different senses to learn.  Second, if a student is struggling to understand a concept, teach it in another way.  Lastly, we were all created differently, so even if this is difficult for you to do, remember that God intended these students to learn the way they do, and part of our calling as youth religious educators is to facilitate all of God’s children.  

New Car Wash Smell

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,


Every summer, we strive for new and exciting service projects to help instill a servant’s heart in a group of teens that like keepin’ it fresh, too. One of the services we have such success with is a Police Car Wash.

We usually do this as part of our VBS: After Hours, a program we run for the teen volunteers of our regular VBS. We contact the local police department and invite them to have their church to have their cruisers washed. It’s a great way to get the teens serving the community, AND having a ton of fun with a car wash, AND pay back the men and women who serve our community and keep us safe. It’s a fun way to build relationships in the community and connect with a group of individuals that don’t always get a “thank you”. Plus, it helps the teens to develop relationships with police officers outside of the initial fear of getting pulled over, which is a great fringe benefit.

You can also do this with the Fire Department, though washing those big trucks in a big job, so make sure you are prepared…and make sure you let the church know, so all the younger kids can come see the fire engines!

58617_8061 (1)

Our final installment of New Position advice is one that I believe more youth ministers should take to heart.

Stick Around. Depending on what figures you are looking at, the average youth minister is in their position for approx. 24 months. In my current position, I had a youth graduate last year that had had 5 youth ministers in their jr. high and high school career. Luckily, when I stepped into the position, he was still young enough and open enough to give me a chance, and we formed a good relationship. Having a revolving door of youth leaders is incredibly hard on the ministry and the teens with in. How can we expect a youth to open up and connect if they think we’ll ditch them in a few months?

Part of this problem is that for many, youth ministry is a stepping stone or place holder. Some take a youth ministry post to have a position while they attend seminary. This has become more and more common. In addition, some churches can’t afford a full-time youth worker, so they hitch the job to an associate pastor who has little or no desire to work with teens, so when the opportunity presents itself, they drop that part of their job like a hot potato. So, if you are beginning a position or considering taking a position as a youth minister, whether it be part time, full time or volunteer, consider that if you aren’t going to stay for more than a year and a half, you can be contributing to the problem.

So take a look at your goals. Remember that a ministry can take time to build, especially if the last person left a mess. Twice I have come into a situation in which the previous youth worker left shambles, and it takes years to rebuild. Try your best to put some roots down into this position, so you can hopefully break the chain of let downs and revolving door ministers in the lives of these young people. And if this is something you are doing while you are working through seminary, do your best to put some great volunteers in place that will be able to keep some sort of continuity when you graduate and move on to your church.

New Position Advice Pt. 3

Posted: April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized


Today we have our 3rd installment of our New Position advice series, and this might seem like a strange piece of advice, since you are just starting, but it’s just as important as our other posts.

Build a ministry that can exist without you. Even though you are just stepping into a position, someday you will be stepping out. As you are no doubt experiencing in the position you are filling, this can be hard on the youth and the congregation. Whether or not the old youth minister left on good terms, it can leave a hole that may take years to repair. So, to help you begin to construct a ministry that can survive your departure, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Make sure your ministry is Christ-centered. We build relationships with our youth, which is awesome, but we can’t let our position overshadow the teen’s relationship with God. Make sure that you keep your teachings and activities focused on Christian teachings. Encourage prayer. Help to instill a love of God that surpasses their love for you.

Spread the wealth. As a follow-up to the previous suggestion, make sure that you are letting others have the spotlight, so to speak. Have your youth pray for the group instead of you. Let your volunteers teach sometimes. Spend as much time building relationships within the group as you do building relationships one on one. Identify the natural leaders in the group and help nurture their gifts by empowering them to take the lead occasionally. All of this shows that what your ministry does is bigger than just you.

Team build. Yes, dodgeball and sardines can be fun games, but spend more time doing team building activities. Your ministry should be more than a group of teens coming to hang out with you; they should be a team of young Christians that can work together to overcome obstacles. If you prepare them to band together when they face adversity, your departure, no matter the circumstances, should be something they can endure as a ministry.

Be deliberate. When my first position came to a close, we did a series of lessons and discussions about how our group was more than any one person. We discussed the leaders in the group graduating and moving on, and the group surviving. We talked about when I started and it was strange because I was new and different, but the group survived. As tough as it can be, every once in a while, teach a lesson about change, progress or transition. Preparation is key.

There is no one formula for success in ministry, but working hard and preparing for the future is something you can do to be ready for whatever comes next. When you start a position, know that even if you work there for your entire career, someday you will leave, and it’s up to you to prepare your teens, your congregation and yourself for that.