Youth Ministry Excuse # 5 I Am Powerless

I have been told, in various churches, that I could not do something

I could not use secular music

I could not take kids to such and such

I could not redecorate the room

I could not do pool parties

All of which I thought was stupid, but it was not my call.

After I pitched my little fit and blamed everyone for why the ministry could not grow or said “If you just let me do …” I got busy doing what I could do.

Staying within the lines is not my style (and still is) but  if I wanted to keep ministering in the local church I had to quit making excuses about being powerless.

How To Kill This Excuse: Collaboration

Many Youth Workers have very little control or say so in the direction of their ministries, but we do have influence. We don’t sign the checks or have a vote, but we do have passion and vision. We can talk, persuade, vision cast, and influence the people around us who do have control over the things we want/need changed.

Real power is not having full control, real power is, according to Dacher Keltner  in his book The Power Paradox, is

“altering the states of others”

This can be done through force or it can be done though joy, surprise, or kindness.

I was a big proponent of the first way. I’d make every argument in the book for why my way is the right way. I changed very little hearts or minds.

Keltner goes on to say that power is given not grabbed and shares how power is given. He uses the word groups, but we can safely include the church in his examples

Groups give power to those who advance the great good. 

For too long I fought for the rights of our youth ministry. I saw my self as the ministry only advocate and I raised my voice when I thought we were being disrespected.

What I did not take into account was that I was a selfish knuckled and did not think of the church as a whole. I wanted what I wanted and let the rest do what they wanted. It was not until I got my thinking unstuck and started to do what was best for the whole and not just for me, did I experience true power.

This leads to principle number two

Groups reward those who advance the greater good with status and influence. 

The more I asked,

“What can the youth do to further the churches vision, message, and principles?”

the more I was seen as a team player and less of a rabble rouser.

The more I committed to being a team player and not a dangerous outlier that could upset the apple cart, the more responsibility I was given, the more my opinion mattered, the more I heard yes instead of no. For a youth pastor, this kind of power is like gold. My youthful passion cost me quite a bit of gold.

Lastly, the good use of power leads to principle number three

Groups construct reputations that determine the capacity to influence

My negative actions had built me a reputation. Although I had skills I did not have power. I was the talented monkey playing with matches. I had to rebuild my reputation

It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it. Benjamin Franklin

I had not only lost my reputation, I had buried it.

Think of the basket ball player who consistently hogs the ball and tries to make crazy shots with zero results. The team may decide they need you on the court for defense but they do not have to throw you the ball any more.

Gripe about not getting the ball and you are on your way to being traded.

One of my great tenants of youth ministry, now,  is how can the youth ministry bless and serve the rest of the church. I do this by

  • integrating the churches theme (mission, purpose) into the youth ministry DNA
  • serving other ministries in the church from nursery to senior citizens
  • create youth Sundays that will bless our congregation

You will never greater power than when you are given it rather than trying got take it.

You are not powerless! It’s not that the church won’t let you do anything, it’s that you have a bad definition of what real power looks like and your process for getting it is flawed.

You’ve been informed. Now, go kill that excuse.


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Youth Ministry Excuse #4 I Don’t Have Time

Excuse #4   I don’t have time

Really? Are you sure about that?  I bet you do. Let me speak to the two kinds of youth workers who may be reading this

If you are a volunteer/bi vocational youth worker 

You have quite a task. You have minimal amount of time to get a lesson or message  ready all the while working your other job. You love the youth ministry but you don’t feel like you have enough time to do anything well. I’ve been there. What can you do?

You are doing all you can.  I would not feel one ounce of guilt because you can’t do it all, but the key is doing what matters most with the time you do have.

When I was part time/bi vocational,  I wasn’t great at balancing life/work, it was just work. If I had it to do over, I would spend my time

  • connecting more with students outside of church
  • calling/texting students to just say hi and ask for prayer requests
  • accepting my limitations and embracing God’s grace

If you are a bivocational/volunteer youth worker, you can’t necessarily do more but you can be more. Why not

Listen to a few youth ministry podcasts to and from work like After 9,  The Longer Haul and mine,  if you want, Youth Ministry in Motion.

You could watch some YouTube vids from the Faith and Whatever guys, or Delmar Peet,  Frank Gil, or, if you want, my channel HERE instead of mindlessly flipping channels

The best way to use time is intentionally.

Remember, even more important than your youth ministry knowledge  is your ability to be available. If you’re available to talk, eat, and do life with students, you won’t have to worry about having enough time to do stuff that doesn’t matter, you’ll be investing your most important minutes face to face or text to text with kids. That’s the stuff that matters.

To you who are full time

Think about your day, your habits, your time wasters. We are privileged. We have the joy of serving full time and yet we waste tons of time on stuff that will not matter on earth or in eternity.  We waste so much time on frivolousness and trivia that we become unaware that we are losing kids, losing momentum, and losing credibility.

You know the phrase “Rome burned while Nero played his fiddle.”? Well, it’s possible that we are, unnecessarily, burning time off the clock of our youth ministry careers to pursue stuff that, in the end, will not matter. This roller coaster road trip could end tomorrow or in 10 years, we don’t know. This is why time is so important and should not be wasted.

How To Kill This Excuse: Discipline

Now, if you’re happy with a lifestyle where you get to snub your nose at time, go all in, enjoy. But, if you are complaining about your ministry, your lack of kids, your lack of vision, the lack of passion, please don’t use the excuse that  you do not have  enough time. You have control over that and you know something has to go.

Stop bingeing on Netflix
Playing on the computer
Spending so much time playing golf
Watching so much T.V.

Pick your poison. I know all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and  I am not against play, fun or any of the things I have listed above. For a time, a season, you may have to put some of this away so you can work on a skill you need such as

Take college course in person or online
Watch Youtube videos about a subject
Join a community where you can skill build
Seek out a mentor for extra help and encouragement
Take a class at the Y or the library

There are options available to us all, the question is whether we will accept the discipline to do it.

We can’t  make excuses and make a difference the same time.

Redeem your time. Buy it back, or if it’s been kidnapped, go Taken on it and get it back at any cost.

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Youth Ministry Excuse #3 But I’m Not…

I’m not __________________ (Good enough, smart enough, etc.)

A poor self image is an incubator for excuses. Consider Gideon, the Lord came to him and wanted to choose him for great things. He responded with

  • My clan is the weakest
  • I am the least

God always sees more in us than we see in ourselves. Gideon was the victim of “brainwashing” from years of hearing, over and over again, things that fed the incubator and produced these excuses. Even if Gideon’s clan was the weakest and he as the least, that made no difference to God. God saw him, and sees us, not as we are, but who we could be if we believed what he thought instead of our excuses.

Now, the truth may be the you are not good at something. You were not dealt the “game leading card” in your DNA, that’s understandable; but to say “We are not going to play any games because I’m not good at games” is kind of a non-starter with our teens, right?

The danger of the “But I’m not..” excuse is that it cripples us to do anything. Once we think we’re broken, no good, or less than we’ve sabotaged our self confidence.

It’s o.k. to say, “I’m not good at _____” but it’s not ok to say “I’m not good enough.” God placed you in a position to grow others and, in the process, grow yourself. He must think you’re pretty cool and worth calling you to such a great mission (a He did with Gideon), as youth ministry.

We all have our gifts and skills in youth ministry, but too often we’re put into a position that requires us to do everything and do everything well. We are overloaded by crazy expectation from others and ourselves.  It’s not fair, but it’s the way it is.

So how do we kill this excuse?

Weapon of Choice: Truth

Tell yourself the truth

Make a list of what you are positive you are not good  because you’ve tried and it turns our terrible every time (preaching, leading games, graphic design, promotions/marketing, etc.).

Now, is this skill on the list because you are unskilled, uneducated, or uninterested or all of the above?

If the answer is number 3,  does it need to be done in the first place? If you have no one else who can do it, will it simply go undone?  Are students, parents, and your boss ok with that? Or, could you do it,  but in way that reflects your strengths and not the perfect image of what it should be while still being effective?

Tell others the truth

Be honest with your team, your parents, your board, and whoever else needs to know, and say, unless you lied on your resumes,  “I’m not good at this, who can help me?” Vulnerability is opening the door so other gifted and empathetic people who would love to jump can jump in and help you.

Let the truth set you free

Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you will not be the greatest communicator, best game leader, or graphic design specialist that frees you up to get better at what you are good at.

Lean into your strengths and recruit to your weaknesses.

Always leave the door open for someone to come come into the youth ministry.

  • Have open door training sessions twice a year
  • Make appeals on social media for something you or the group needs
  • Create space within your ministry for others to practice or experiment with their gifts like hosting a talent show night. This way you can see where kids gifts lie.

Free to outsource

Not good at something? Let others help you. Outsource what you are not good at to those who are.

Not a gret newsletter person?  Check out  DYM and their newsletter template.

Graphic Design? 

Free to get better, if that’s what you want.

If you want to get better that designing things, check our my two videos on these free online graphic creators Here and Here.

If you want to get better and raising up students leaders, you can watch this, this, and this

We can get better at just about anything, if we want to.

You are more than you think you are. You were hired because someone saw something in you. Your board/pastor may have hired you for your skills but God called you, like Gideon,  because He sees something in you no one else sees. An opportunity to Glorify Himself.  Will you let Him?

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I Turned My Office Into A Studio

I have had this idea for a while and it was time. I hated my office. It was a junk magnet and every piece of crap including balls, banners, pieces of wood, clothes pins, just name it and it wound up in my office. No more. Time to act and make this thing useful again.

You’ll see, in the video below, the transformation and how excited I am about the possibilities. Creating media is nothing new, I just decided that if I wanted to create it and allow my students to create it, I wanted a decent space for them to do it in.

Weekly, we will now be able to produce video announcements, social media stuff, post youth meeting interviews, and more.

Watch and let me know if you have a specific place to create media for your youth ministry or would like to.

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Excuses In Youth Ministry #2: I Don’t Have The Right Team

Excuse # 2:  I don’t have the right team/I’m all alone

Missed the beginning of this series? Check it our here

Most of us work in small churches and we get who we get. Those who are committed to weekly services are the people God has brought there and that is the pool from which we have to draw.

Constantly saying “I don’t have the right team” is a an excuse to do nothing. Even though you don’t have the right team may be true,  we cannot use it as a reason to do-nothing.

I have always had big dreams. I wanted to see kids receive Christ and watch  my youth group grow as a symbol of the growth of the kingdom of God. But I have had to adjust my dreams to fit my team while I grew my team to embrace the bigger dream.

Some of my teams were just not ready for the full dream and I had to grow them into it. The question is “How long are you willing to wait?” What’s your patience like?

It’s possible that your dreams are too far out of reach for the volunteers you have and you have to scale back until you’ve grown them into your dream and this take time..Volunteers/Leaders need time to grow, time to marinate in our leadership style.

It could be that you are not good at training others, try some of these

  • find some resources on the web and do a weekly e-mail
  •  post photos or make videos for your volunteers to help them visualize what you’re trying to do.
  • Break down your dream in stages and train them with a drip, drip, drip approach, feeding them your thoughts in small dose in multiple formats.

No church has the perfect team, not even the big ones, just people who love teens and want to help minister to young people. We have to respect  where our team is at and grow them accordingly.

What if I am  all alone? If you are starting by yourself, with no team, this is a great opportunity to build trust and cast vision. A good vision will attract the right kind of people.

  • Spend time writing on social media and sharing it
  • Hang signs about your vision in your youth area
  • Put small blurbs in the your bulletin and on your churches website.

You can’t over communicate who you are and what you are wanting t do.

How do you kill that alone feeling or feel like the team isn’t getting your message? 

Weapon of Choice: Patience

Think of movies like Oceans 11 or The Hobbit. Teams are formed to accomplish a certain task. Teams gather, they come along side, they join us for a portion of the journey and then their paths diverge. This make sense if you are  planning to stay at your church for at least 3-5 years.

Consider Gideon who had to pare down his army to win the battle. God told him to filter out all the people who would not be the best candidates for that mission. As crazy as it sounds, God new something Gideon did not, with God, less really is more.  God knows who needs to be on our team. We have t be patient with the process.

When I was younger I enjoyed puzzles. I used to work on 500 piece puzzles with my in-laws.  A 500 piece puzzle can be done in a few hours. A 1,000 piece puzzle can be done in a few days. A 5,000 piece puzzle, well, a long time, if you’re me, but depending on how captivated by the picture you see on the cover of the box, will determine your patience and how hard you will work to see that picture come together.

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Genesis 29:20 

Fall in love with God,  let your team gather, and the wait will seem much shorter.

What is the perfect team? (The picture on the puzzle box)

Describe it to me?

Are you willing to wait for them?

On to Excuse # 3 “But I’m Not…” 

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10 Excuses That Are Killing Your Youth Ministry

Excuses are assassins. They are sneaky, well trained, well armed assailants whose sole job is to kill your hopes and dreams. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Let me be clear, these are excuses we make, not our kids and not our parents. These are excuses we use and try to convince others that the narrative we’re telling is the truth.. The reality is, it’s OUR excuses that could be killing the youth ministry.

I have made my fair share of excuses and eaten it’s fruit. I have blamed people, shirked responsibilities, took the lazy road, and 100 more like them and have killed my dreams one by one. I have been on a tare lately on both my Instagram and on Facebook Live, addressing excuses, their nature, and my vehement hatred of them and why I will kill every, last, one.

I want to challenge you, push you, to see excuses as dangerous thugs that ought not be played with. Every excuse has a price tag and when it comes to spiritual matters, excuses make the difference between a healthy and unhealthy ministry

So, let’s get on it.

The 10 Excuses Trying To Kill Your Youth Ministry # 1 Apathy 

No one cares/it won’t matter anyway/no on will come 

I hear you. It’s tough, but someone has to care. Pick something you don’t like to do such as calling a kid that hasn’t been to your meeting in a while or plan an outreach. What stops you from doing either of these two things? What excuses do you make?

Apathy is an excuse incubator and it must be destroyed. We have no idea what our phone call can mean to someone or who might show up to the outreach we plan or the small group we start. I have recently reached out to some kids on Snapchat who quit coming a while back. I include them in my snaps about events believing that the next snap is the one that will snap them back into attending.

I know you’ve been burned by big dreams and low results, but what’s the alternative? Giving up? Giving up is a virus our kids can catch form us. We must show them how to plan well, persevere, pray though when it’s tough, and know when to punt when we fall short.

If we put our events, plans, and, most importantly, our hearts,  into Gods hands we can live with the results. Can you live with excuses?

In the end, no one will care more about this ministry than you;; not because you’re paid to care but because this youth group has your name on it, it’s yours. Care about it and other will, eventually, care with you.

How do I kill the sprit of apathy?

Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, with takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.

– Arnold J. Toynbee

Weapon of Choice: Kill it with value

Everything we plan in youth ministry may not be of value but every kid in our youth ministry IS valuable.

Value your kids input: Consider doing a youth ministry audit/survey and see what your kids think (See 9 Questions You Must Ask Your Students)

Value your kids ideas: Don’t plan anything by yourself. Get kids and other adults to pitch in and they will get excited about doing and mot just attending.

Value the victories (no matter how small) : Look at past victories and know that you are making a difference. (See Defining The Wins In Youth Ministry)

Value the fear of a big idea: Just because the idea is big, it shouldn’t scare us. In fact, if the idea is too big for you to do, and scares you a little, it may just be a God idea. Big ideas draw people to your side.

Value enthusiasm: If we are not stoked about it neither will they. We have to be the prime mover when it come to excitement. Enthusiasm, like apathy, is viral and can be caught.

Excuse #2:  I Don’t Have The Right Team

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The Real Killer Is Not 2016

If you’ve been on social media lately, it seems 2016 is a really bad guy. I say he, but it could be a her, or maybe it’s an alien and I should call it an it. Either way, 2016 has been a villain for many, but not me.

Am I sad thar we lost so many icons and stars? Sure, I want everyone to live forever and die comfortably in their sleep exhaling rainbows like a Snapchat filter, but that’s not the reality we live in.

Great talents who died in 2016 include

Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fischer, David Bowie, Nancy Reagan and  even Abe Vigoda who people were saying had died in years past. All talented people. All beloved by us who grew up with them and who watched and listened to them display their art. The big question is, who will take their place?

Over 187 talented people from every walk of life passed from this life including sports, politics, music, medicine, movies, and television. We mourn their loss because they will not be around to bless us with what God had blessed them with. They made their mark in the world and we applauded them for it and they deserved it.

187 talented people sounds like a lot, but when you compare it to the amount of dreams and goals that were killed by excuses this year, it sounds small. The next Prince, the next Bowie, the next ____________ (fill in the blank) hasn’t stepped up yet to make their mark because of a host of excuses like “I could never play guitar like Prince” or  “I could never act like Carrie Fischer”, well you’re not supposed to, you’re supposed to become the next great you!

But that will not happen if you keep making excuses why you cannot do whatever it is that you have been gifted to do. The world is waiting and you’re next in line. Step up.


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If I Can’t Push You, I Can’t Pastor You

Push sounds like a harsh word, but considering how this applies

A coach pushes athletes to do their best

A boss pushes an employee out of their comfort zone

A teacher pushes a student to open their mind to new learning

Pushing isn’t wrong. Pushing is only wrong if it violates the boundaries of safety (physical, emotional, or spiritual) or respect. Jesus did not push his disciples past these boundaries.

In fact, He did quite the opposite, He pushed them to have faith in Him and in themselves. How else were they going to grow without a push?

Jesus told the disciples that they should feed the 5,000

Jesus bid Peter to come to Him on the water

Jesus told his disciples to go and cast out demons and raise the dead in His name

Jesus told the lame to rise up

If I am going to Pastor someone, I must lead them into dangerous territory; dangerous to their flesh, their pride, and their ego. They’ll have to trust me that I will not endanger them and I will not embarress them.

Pushing is not shoving. A shove is a violent act. A push can be a gentle nudge.

New believers, static believers, and even rebellious believers need the occasional push (challenge) in the right direction.

I won’t push forever. I’ll only keep pushing until you learn to respond to the nudge of the Spirit. Until then, I’ll  keep pushing.

Who are you pushing?

Who needs a push?

Who’s pushing you?

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Don’t Bet On The Future

For those who do not follow me on Instagram, I have been leaving one minute messages about excuses and overcoming them. I got up on December 12th and said to myself, “I want to change my morning routine.” That day I went and bought some sweat pants and set my clock for 5:30 the next morning.

I walked for about an hour, covering a little over 2 miles. Not a stellar day but I was not setting out to run a marathon, I just wanted to change my routine. I also did not wait until January 1 to make this commitment because Jan 1 is a big, fat lie.

Making a commitment on January 1 will not guarantee that you keep that commitment and neither will any other day. That is why on December 13th I got up, changed my morning routine, and went walking. Two weeks later, I am still at it.

While I walked, I go the idea to share some thoughts on Instagram. Below is the video where I talk about betting against the future.


Stop betting against the future.

A video posted by Paul Turner (@thedproject) on


The bottom line is, we cannot control or forecast the future. The future is unpredictable, but although we cannot foresee or predict the future we can prepare for it no matter what tomorrow brings.

Walking 3-5 miles a day does not secure me any more time in the future, but it does prepare me for a day, if I should live that long, for a time when I’d like not to weigh so much and have an active lifestyle when I am older.

I believe in not betting on a fickle future, because the future always wins against an unprepared soul.

Scripture tells me that the future is unstable ground when it comes to making big boasts,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make a profit.” You do not even know what will happen tomorrow! What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.… James 4:13,14

This does not mean we should not set goals or make plans, it means we must hold them loosely and prepare for whatever future may show up at our door.

I know who holds the future and He is greater, and more stable, than what the future may bring me. My bet is on Him.

Tell me, are you betting on the future? Why or why not?


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My Top Christian Albums of 2016


You might wonder how I pick my albums of the year. Like most lists, my list subjective.  I do had a few questions I have to answer in order for an album to make my list.

  1. Can I listen to it the whole way through?
  2. Does it cover a non-conventional topics?
  3. Does it get my juices flowing?
  4. Is it lyrically challenging? (Word choice, metaphors, story driven, etc.)
  5. Is it spiritually challenging or thought provoking?

True, not all of these  albums meet all of theses standards but they do meet at least 3 out of 5, and that’s good enough for me.

Crowder – American Prodigal

Skillet – Unleashed

Trip Lee – The Waiting Room

Need To Breathe – Hard To Love

We Are Messengers – Self-Titled

Viktory – Tomorrow Came

Unspoken – Follow Through (Deluxe)

Wolves at the Gate – Types and Shadows

Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be No Where

Da’ Truth – It’s Complicated

Michael Sweet – One Sided War

Bi-Frost Artists – Lamentations: Simple Songs of Lament and Hope

Dogs of Peace – Heel

Matthew Parker – Adventure

What am I missing?  Leave me your suggestion(s) below.



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