Category Archives: youth coaches

Journey of starting a new ministry – week 5

(Over the next few months, maybe longer, I will be writing weekly posts on my journey of starting a new youth ministry position. The focus will be on general tips and suggestions for any youth minister starting a new position, but I will add-in moments specific to my situation. My goal is to offer advice to help other youth ministers and not write an online journal of my own personal experiences. In order to make this series of articles as beneficial as I can, I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts. And remember as you read about my journey in a new youth ministry that every situation is different; therefore, these ideas are just ideas and suggestions. You need to know your church culture and adjust your week-by-week to fit those needs.)

Week 5

At this point in a new ministry, you have started to settle in and should be feeling more comfortable. You will probably be in a routine. You will want to make sure your routine is a good one and you are not wasting time throughout the week. You should also be starting to build relationships with the students and the adults. And if you are not careful, you’ll forget that you are still only in your second month on the job.

This week I was able to do a couple things that I have been trying to accomplish. First, I was able to start meeting with one of the youth coaches. It was the first of an on-going series of meetings. We are going to try to meet once a week and talk about the youth ministry. Beyond that, he wanted to meet and talk about how he can be a better teacher. I am looking forward to the mentoring and training that is going to take place over lunch each week.

The second thing I was able to do was start planning for a “thank you” lunch for all of the teachers. This is something I have been wanting to do since I first got hired. I know that all of the teachers have been giving so much of their time and money to minister to the kids. Some have been doing it for years, others just started – but all are essential to an effective ministry. I know there is no way the youth ministry will reach the kids without the ministry of the adult volunteers. So I am excited about planning this lunch to show the volunteers that they are appreciated and important.

The last thing I am really excited about from this week was the changes I am starting to see in how the youth interact with me. This is a result of the relationships that are forming and the trust that is being built. They are starting to email/text/message me without my initiation. And not just me, but I am seeing a change in how they interact with my wife and kids (my kids are starting to feel comfortable around the teens, too). There is a lot of things I want to see happen in the lives of the students, but without a sense of trusting me they will not listen. (I am not trying to take the credit for something only God can do, just saying as a vehicle of that message I need to be trusted and respected.)

At this point, you should have a decent grasp on people’s names. If you are still struggling with names and faces, start studying the newest photo directory every day. People still do not expect you to get everyone’s name right, but they will be impressed when you do. If you are not already, you need to be intentional about this seemingly small aspect of your ministry.   

Week 5 Bulletpoints:
– have time for people over projects
– start a list of changes you think need to be made (don’t share it with anyone, yet)
– find one change and start working toward it
– go to lunch with a youth coach or church leader
– listen to people without talking

Goals of the near future:
– encourage a teacher
– sit in on several different classes
– learn more about the church culture

Previous weekly perspectives: week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4


Journey of Starting a New Ministry: week 3

(Over the next few months, maybe longer, I will be writing weekly posts on my journey of starting a new youth ministry position. The focus will be on general tips and suggestions for any youth minister starting a new position, but I will add-in moments specific to my situation. My goal is to offer advice to help other youth ministers and not write an online journal of my own personal experiences. In order to make this series of articles as beneficial as I can, I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts. And remember as you read about my journey in a new youth ministry that every situation is different; therefore, these ideas are just ideas and suggestions. You need to know your church culture and adjust your week-by-week to fit those needs.)

week 3

This week was more about little things than anything else.

I intentionally tried to make a few small changes in my my week. Over the past few weeks I have spent a lot of my time in the office rearranging and organizing. While I was unpacking and organizing, I was fitting in the necessary ministry work whenever I had a chance. It meant working on the lesson after a box was unpacked or whenever there was room on my desk. But starting this week, I tried to move from this less scheduled (possibly unscheduled) work week to a more structured one. 

While I was trying to maintain a semblance of office hours and such, the framework during my work week was pretty loose. I wanted to take this week and start moving toward the more structured layout of planned and allotted time for ministry work. In my last ministry I found a good breakdown of when to accomplish certain tasks, and now I need to start doing that here. Because I know I have changed and the environment is different, I am intentionally going to try a few different “schedules” within my work day.

I know ministry does not solely happen inside the walls of my office, I added a few chances to hang out with some students to my week. I was not sure how they would respond or if they would make it – since it is prime vacation time and fall sports are starting practices. I offered two different times to get together for lunch during the week. During each lunch we had a great chance to talk and get to know the students and let them get to know my family a little bit. I want to continue lunches or dinners throughout the year as an informal way to build relationships with the students and their friends. 

Being in my first month of ministry, I know there are certain changes that need to wait. One of the changes I want to implement is going to have to wait at least a few months, if not a year. But I started working on developing and putting onto paper an explanation and game-plan for this change. I know it will take a little time to process and implement, but I want to be ready when the right time arises.

Sunday was a crazy day for me. I had a lot of little conversations with people – all good. I think out of the two services and Sunday School, I was only on-time for 1st service. But I am not complaining, I loved the chance to talk and listen to people.

Week 3 Bulletpoints:
– continue talking with students & parents
– spend more time getting to know the youth coaches
– start figuring out how to structure your work day

Goals of the near future:
– improve the ministry with a small/simple change
– learn the passion/heart of the youth coaches
– encourage youth coaches
– learn more names


Previous weekly perspectives: week 1, week 2

Journey of starting a new ministry – week 2

(Over the next few months, maybe longer, I will be writing weekly posts on my journey of starting a new youth ministry position. The focus will be on general tips and suggestions for any youth minister starting a new position, but I will add-in moments specific to my situation. My goal is to offer advice to help other youth ministers and not write an online journal of my own personal experiences. In order to make this series of articles as beneficial as I can, I would appreciate your feedback and thoughts. And remember as you read about my journey in a new youth ministry that every situation is different; therefore, these ideas are just ideas and suggestions. You need to know your church culture and adjust your week-by-week to fit those needs.)

Week 2
I’m not exactly sure how long it takes to get settled into a new ministry, but I don’t think it’s two weeks. While I believe you get used to each part of the ministry on different levels and at different speeds, I wish it all came faster. Over the past week, I have had at least a dozen people ask me, “So, you getting settled in yet?” I know this is simply part of the normal process of moving and starting a new job (and I bet the questions will stop within a week or two) but I am left to wonder what specifically they mean by their question. Do they want to know if I’m getting settled into my office or into the overall culture of the congregation?

This week my goal has been to finish getting settled into the office. I believe this is an important step early in your ministry for a couple reasons. 1) It is easier to work in an organized and clean office. (Hopefully, you will keep it that way, too) 2) When people stop by to talk, they will see a clean office. And seeing a clean youth minister’s office helps people understand that you, the youth minister, take your job seriously. 3) Once you really get into the rhythm of ministry, you will not regularly take the time to clean your office – you’ll be too busy doing what you love to do. 4) There are people who will be more willing to support you and your ministry when your office does not look like a junior high locker room.

This does not mean that you lock yourself in your office and refuse to come out. There are still people to see and probably meetings to attend. And depending on how busy your office is, or how long you’ve been in ministry, it might take you a few weeks to get settled in. Most of my second week in the office was quiet, since the sr. minister is on the mission trip, so I have been able to get most of the boxes unpacked and put away. One of the last things I have yet to do is put up all of my “memories” – the trinkets and knick-knacks I’ve collected over the years and display proudly around the office.

For my second Sunday, I was able to spend more time meeting and talking with people. I did not teach, so I was able to sit in a few more classes. I stayed in the high school room for Sunday School (my goal is to spend a month in each Sunday School class before I move to another one). Seeing that I oversee all ages from 2 years old to high school, I sat in on the 2’s and 3’s class during Jr. Church. During the first few months, I really want to get a better sense of what the classes are like and how each teacher is different from the others. I know this is something that will take much longer to fully grasp, but it is important to get a good understanding early in ministry.

This week, I was able to get involved “up front” a little bit. A group of students and adults left on Sunday to go on a mission trip, so during the the beginning of our Sunday School we took time to pray for them as a congregation. I was asked to be one of the prayers. I was honored they asked me and more than happy to participate.

I wanted to start meeting with people this week. I was able to meet with two local ministers (a sr. minister and a youth minister) over lunch. I am looking forward to being able to work together and minister alongside each other over the years. I was hoping to meet with one of the youth coaches this week, but it didn’t happen. I’ll try again next week – there are plenty of people to meet with.

Week 2 Bulletpoints:
– finish unpacking office
– look over upcoming calendar of events
– start talking with students & parents
– learn more about the youth coaches

Goals of the near future:
– one “big” event for each age group planned
– meet with others in charge
– spend more time with students (outside of Sunday events)


Previous weekly perspectives: week 1

Book Review: Choose Your Top 3

I really like the Quick Questions series that Youth Specialties has been publishing for the past few years (I really don’t know how long). One of the more recent editions is a book called “Choose Your Top 3.” As the title implies, the whole book is full of questions that ask the person to choose their top 3. It could be top 3 pop songs, disney movies, baseball players, memories. I recently wrote a review for YS on this book. You can read my review of Choose Your Top 3 in its entirety over on

If you are a youth worker, you will get a lot of use out of this book. (Think long road trips or those last few minutes of class after you run out of material.)

Book Review: New Breed by Jonathan & Thomas McKee

Youth ministry cannot happen without volunteers. They are the very heartbeat of what helps students connect with a loving God. Yet, most lead youth ministers will agree that finding, working with, and training volunteers is one of the toughest parts of youth ministry – if not the toughest. For all of these youth ministers who desire to gain a better grasp on volunteers, Jonathan and Thomas McKee have teamed up to offer a handbook for the 21st Century volunteer.

Thomas has over 40 years of experience in volunteer leadership and Jonathan has a variety of experience working with volunteers in church and para-church ministries. Together they have written a fantastic book on understanding and equipping the new breed of volunteers. This new approach (or philosophy, you might say) to volunteers is needed due to the changes that have taken place among those who volunteer. You cannot approach volunteers like you would a paid staff member, nor can you approach volunteers today the same way you would have 20 years ago. So, how do you approach this new breed of volunteer?

According to the Jonathan and Thomas, there are three different levels to working with volunteers: the recruiter, the manager, and the leader. Each level has aspects that are unchanged by time, but also contain aspects that must be adjusted for the 21st Century volunteer. Being a recruiter means you have to understand those you want to recruit, which is why chapter 1 is so valuable. The next three chapters are focused on how to (and how not to) recruit, along with some tips on where to look for volunteers that you might have otherwise missed.

Being a volunteer manager is about motivating and empowering volunteers. The second section will offer you ample suggestions for doing just that. But, unfortunately, being a volunteer manager is not always that easy. Jonathan and Thomas spend an entire chapter on how to manage (or fire) the high-maintenance volunteer. Finally, there is the aspect of being a volunteer leader. The final two chapters focus on leading a successful group of volunteers. You will find sound advice, encouragement, and helpful tips that you can put into practice within your ministry.

If the book ended on page 140, it would be a fantastic book on working with the new breed of volunteers. But the book does not end there, no it has over 30 more pages of resources. These are samples, suggestions and other reproducible helps that will transition the information from the book into your ministry. This last section transforms this fantastic book into an invaluable ministry resource for youth ministers. Plus, this is not a hard book to read, which is great for the busy youth minister. All of these factors add up to a must-have for any and all youth ministers.

My advice (rating) – go out and buy it (4 out of 5)

Best of ’09: Youth Ministry Books

The year 2009 A.D. is almost over. The past 12 months have brought with them many new things; some good, some bad, and some not worth mentioning. I would like to take some time and highlight some of my favorite parts of 2009. I will call this list the “best of ’09” – which simply means that, in my opinion, these are the best items in a certain category. I fully expect you to disagree with some of my choices or to be upset I did not add other items to the list. If you feel this way, please add your “best of ’09” ideas in the comments.

The second list will be youth ministry books. These are the best youth ministry related books I read this year. They may not all be new in 2009, but this was the year I got around to reading them. This list is in no particular order and will not include every good book I read this year, just a list of my top reads – the ones I found most helpful.

Youth Ministry 3.0
by Mark Oestreicher – I picked up this book in 2008, but did not actually get around to reading it until early this year. Oestreicher writes about many of the struggles and thoughts felt by many youth workers around the country. Whether you agree with everything int he book (and you won’t), you need to read it and be challenged to see youth ministry from a different angle. Here is my review of Youth Ministry 3.0.

Help! I’m a Frustrated Youth Worker! by Steve Case – This book is small and easy to read. Most youth workers will relate to the frustrations Case writes about. I recommend reading this book, even if you only need a reminder that your situation is not “that bad.” Here is my review of Help! I’m a Frustrated Youth Worker.

Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries – Every youth worker wants to be part of a youth ministry that is sustainable. Devries knows a few things about sustainable youth ministries – he has been working with youth ministries across the country for years. This book is a must read for anyone working in a youth ministry of any size and shape. Here is my review of Sustainable Youth Ministry.

Speaking to Teenagers by Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins – Doug and Duffy have written a great resource for anyone who speaks to teenagers. This book is packed with useful information and helpful tips. Here is my review of Speaking to Teenagers.

99 Thoughts for Youth Workers by Josh Griffin – This little book has a lot of great thoughts inside. Josh collected his thoughts on youth ministry, which were written in journals, on napkins (I’m guessing a few of these were once on a napkin), and from his blog. This is especially useful if you are new to youth ministry or feel like you are stuck in a rut. Here is my review of 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers.

The New Breed by Jonathan McKee and Thomas McKee – I’m actually only 2/3 of the way through this book, but so far I think it is a great read. Every youth worker, who works with volunteers, needs to read this book and apply the principles.

As you can see, I spent a lot of time this year catching up on youth ministry books that I had not read. Expect to see some 2009 releases in the 2010 “best of” list, as I am sure I’ll get them read by then.

What youth ministry books would you add to this list? (or what books should I add to my 2010 reading list?)

Other posts in this series:
Best of ’09 – Music
Best of ’09 – Youth Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Non-Ministry Books
Best of ’09 – Websites used
Best of ’09 – Blog posts
Best of ’09 – Web Apps
Best of ’09 – Ministry Moments
Best of ’09 – Random Favorites

Relational Communication

(This article was originally posted on YW Journal, you can read & comment on it here on this blog or over at YW Journal)

When was the last time you had a significant conversation with a student? I’m not talking about the “I want to give my life to Christ for the first time” kind of conversation. I’m talking about the conversation where you hear about a recent fight with a parent. Or the conversation that details a student’s struggle to control anger and the desire to get a handle on it. Maybe it is centered around the difficulty of being a Christian example at school.

Having any type of conversation that goes beyond a surface-level can be difficult for many adults. Let’s just be honest, teenagers can be very moody and hard to understand, which makes talking with them intimidating to many adults. To make the situation even worse, most adults are so intimidated that the paid youth worker has to carry the responsibility of talking with 100% of the teenagers who come through the church doors, plus a few extra from the community. But there is a better way.

It’s not just for paid staff
Paid youth workers are not the only people qualified to have significant conversations with teenagers, in fact any adult can do it. But these significant conversations do not happen by accident, it will take effort and a better understanding of teenagers. First of all, students do not withhold talking to someone just because the person is not a youth worker. In fact, there are many students who are less willing to talk about certain issues with a youth worker than anyone else.

Being on both sides of the youth worker role, paid full-time and volunteer, has given me a new insight into one of the keys to effectively communicating with teenagers. The key is not in asking just the right questions. Nor is the key found in the location of the conversation (ie. better conversation is not had while drinking coffee at the local coffee shop). The key to effective communication with teenagers is having a relationship with them.

A listening ear
This truth became vividly clear to me one day while I was subbing in the local high school. At the time I was not in a full-time youth minister position, but I had been in the area for a few years and knew most of the students in the school. Most of the students knew who I was and they knew one of the reasons I was subbing was because I genuinely care for teenagers. During this particular day, I had three significant conversations with students – the kind of “ministry conversations” every youth worker longs to have with students.

I did not plan to have these conversations, in fact I almost missed one because I was reluctant to stop what I was doing to talk to the student. (I’m so glad I stopped and listened) Since I did not plan these conversations, what made them happen? The only connection between all three conversations was my ongoing relationship with the student. I had known them for years and they knew I truly cared for them and desired the best for their life. My relationship with the student was the key to unlocking significant conversation and that day I was reminded of how much students will share when they know you care.

Build relationships
So, how does an adult who cares about teenagers take advantage of this relational aspect to significant conversations? For starters, if you sit down with a student and its the first time you start thinking about having a significant conversation with them, then its already too late. This relational communication will take foresight and planning on your part. The first step happens when you begin to intentionally focus on building a relationship with the student. Now, this is not a form of manipulation used to get the student to talk to you – if you are not genuinely concerned with the student’s life, then they will know and they will not talk to you anyway. You cannot be fake with a student!

Actually if you are involved with youth ministry in any fashion, the desire to build a relationship with a teenager will come naturally. The first step is to take an interest in the student’s life; learn about hobbies, family structure, interests, and what they are gifted in. You cannot have an ongoing relationship if you do not know about their life and you will also struggle to carry a conversation if all you can ask is, “How was school this week?” Asking questions about specific aspects of a student’s life is important, but do not be afraid to stop and listen to what is on their heart.

The relational key
Being given the opportunity to have significant conversations with students does not involve a mysterious formula or collection of the right “buzz words.” The biggest, and strongest, key is simply caring enough about a student to have a relationship with them. Not a relationship based on what the student can do for you or the ministry you are involved with, but a relationship based on one adult showing God’s love to one student. If you have that strong relationship and listen to a student, then every once in a while you will find yourself on the listening end of a significant conversation. A conversation that just might change the future of one special teenager.

It does not matter if you are a full-time youth worker, part-time youth worker, a volunteer, a bus driver, or an “extra” adult – if you have a relationship with a student, then they will willingly talk and share with you. Most students do not talk to an adult based on the title that goes along with their name. They talk to an adult based on the relationship formed over the years. Knowing this truth and not utilizing it will lead to dozens (hundreds?) of missed opportunities to speak into a teenager’s life.

NYWC ’09: The Preparation

As I get closer to attending the National Youth Workers Convention in Cincinnati, OH, I thought I would share a few tips for getting the most out of the convention. These are tips I have used and benefited from in the past and/or things I want to do this year. (These tips can also apply to other conventions and seminars, too – well all but #9)

9 Things You Have to do at NYWC

1. Filter out the noise
There will be a lot going on. Most of it will be good and most of it could be beneficial to you. BUT if you want to hear God’s voice, you’ll have to filter out all of the other noise. You might need to avoid going to the store, the hall of booths, a class or the main sessions. Do not allow the busyness (business side of ministry) to grab your attention.

2. Know what you are looking for
This goes for resources and for the overall convention. You will want to know what types of resources (books, curriculum, tech support…) your ministry needs and stick to those items. Do not venture off into buying stuff you do not need. Also, you should know what you need to take home spiritually. If you are feeling drained, you need to spend time getting refreshed and recharged. If you need some fresh ideas, you should talk to as many people as you can about ministry. If you need some rest, you should do whatever you can to get it.

3. Talk with a convention pastor or counselor
YS provides pastors and counselors free of charge. Did you catch that, you DO NOT have to pay to talk to someone about your ministry or yourself. These pastors/counselors want to help you gain some understanding and leave a healthier person – take advantage of this opportunity.

4. Listen with an open heart and mind
You will encounter more opinions than you thought possible. You will hear differing viewpoints and beliefs. But do not tune anyone out. Listen to what they have to say with an open mind and heart. Listen without preparing your arguments. Listen. And then think about what they said.

5. Do not be conformed by the schedule
You do not have to go to everything on the schedule! (reread that sentence) The schedule is provided so you have options, not to cause stress when you can’t make it to everything. When you arrive and register, sit down and look at the entire schedule. Decide what you really want/need to attend. Then allow yourself the freedom to “miss” the rest of the stuff. Make your own schedule and allow the convention to be beneficial, not burdensome.

6. Get rest
You worked hard so that you could be gone for this Sunday. When you get back, you will work hard trying to make sure everything is ready for the next weekend. So during these 5 days, relax. Find – no take time to rest! Your bodies needs it. Your mind needs it. Your soul needs it. You will feel more relaxed and refreshed when you leave, if you take the time to get some rest while you are at the convention.

7. Do something out of the ordinary
How many times each year do you get a chance to experience new things? At this convention, you should take advantage of the opportunity. If you usually go to bed early, attend a late night session. If you usually sleep in, get up early and meet another youth worker for breakfast. Attend one of the prayer services. Go to the labyrinth. Sit down next to someone you have never met and start a conversation. Yell down the hallway. Skip down the street. Whatever you do, find someway to get out of your comfort zone and do something new.

*You need to participate in the Open Space Saturday. It is new for everyone (its the first year YS has done it, so LA is the only experience anyone has had with it), but I have heard only positive comments from people who were a part of it in LA. You would benefit from carving out some time to take part*

8. Find a new friend
At a convention for youth workers, you already have a point of common interest. Early in the convention make a new friend. Then make it a point to connect with this new friend multiple times during the convention. This way, you will go home with a new friend and someone whom you can talk to about youth ministry when you need an ear or an idea.

9. Meet Mike in person by finding him in the YS Store and striking up a conversation. (Free “high five” if you mention this blog post)
This one is rather self-explanatory. If you are coming to the NYWC in Cincinnati, I would love to meet you. Leave a comment and let me know you are going or just say “hi” at the convention. Either way, I would love to meet another youth worker with a passion for reaching students with the message of God’s love.

What do you do to get the most out of a convention?

Free ebook: Tear Down the Wall of the Youth Room

Nick Arnold, from, has just released an ebook on connecting with students outside of the “church walls.”

Here is what Nick has this to say about the ebook:

Looking for a resource filled with creative ideas to build relationships with students? This is a free resource from Ministry Allies full of relational ministry ideas, including hanging out with students, working on projects together, going to cheer on other students together, and a ton of other great ideas.

You can get the eb00k by clicking on the link. Did I mention it’s FREE and full of great ideas.

(I had the privilege of being able to contribute a few ideas and comments to the ebook, along with a handful of other youth ministry minded people)

Learned from Twitter: week ending Sept. 26, 2009

A few highlights from the last few weeks:

1. chadswanzy (Chad Swanzy) linked to a book on mentoring. If you are involved with teenagers, go check it out.

“The Be With Factor” Mentoring Students In Everyday Life is on Google Books

2. Drun (David Runnels) offered some great advice, that we all could stand to hear.

We need people who will encourage us, strenghten us so we can learn from our limitations.

3. BtotheEtotheN (Ben Boles) shared a thought on not letting all of the “noise” around you become overwhelming.

I realized last night, it’s not about the amount of noise in your life but how well you control the volume

4. gavoweb (Gavin Richardson) pointed us to an article on working with parents.

Youth Ministry Today – Parents Are Your Friends

and also this video from AT&T about “future” technology, from 1993.

RT @Alyssa_Milano See the #technology AT&T envisioned 4 our future in commercials done back in 1993 // i remember these

5. DougFields (Doug Fields) has officially stepped down as a pastor at Saddleback. This will mean he’ll be spending more of his time training and encouraging youth workers – that’s a good thing.

My resignation from Saddleback is public & all good. If you’re interested see

6. pattigibbons (Patti Gibbons) reminded me of one of the reasons I love going to the National Youth Workers Convention – getting to meet online friends in person. It’s going to be a great week.

@lilkup you mean I’m finally going to get to meet you?! 🙂

What did you learn from Twitter this week?