5 Tips For Talking With Teens

I guess I never real thought about it, I’m not a shy person. As a youth worker I saw other youth workers who were outgoing and up front people. This style of youth work seem to fit my personality and I thought it as the way all youth workers were. I soon discovered that not all youth worker were the same.

Some youth workers have to force themselves to be outgoing when they would rather just work behind the scenes. Teens can be a loud and scary bunch sometimes, so, if this is you, I don’t blame you for being shy or even intimidated by them sometimes.

What can we do to break the ice with teens and get those relationships rolling? Let me offer a few ideas

Invite them to a game

One way I’ve found to break the ice with teen is through play. Maybe I’ starting a game of Ninja or showing kids how to play Munchkin. Either way, when teens are active, engage, and laughing, they tend to open up and allow us to ask questions and be more personable.

Become the student

If kids are doing something interesting, like playing a game on their phone or   taking about something you’ve never heard about, show interest and ask them to teach you something new.

Look for cultural clues

I always have my eyes open for cultural clues like band shirts, tattoos, shoe styles, etc. and if those subjects are in my wheelhouse, I share my love for X with them and show that we’re not that far apart.

Grab My 7 Secrets For A Successful Youth Ministry 


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Invite them to do a task with you

If it’s a Wednesday night, I usually leave a few tasks  undone so I can ask kids for help. I have not problem asking a new kid to help because they show up and wonder what we are about. Well, if they’re helping me get ready for service, the find out real quick what we awe about. They made their first meeting happen and I can thank them for their help.


Simple, if teens and grown-ups don’t have anything else in common, we both eat. We have a cafe in our youth room and I always reserve food for guests. If it’s a teens first time with us, their food is on us and I try to eat with them if I can. Whether it’s sharing a meal or a piece of gum, sharing is a great way to start

Got a favorite tip? Leave a comment below.

Here are my go-to books to get kids talking in small groups.

Would You Rather 

Have You Ever

What If 

The Complete Book of Questions 



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3 Ways to Spice Up The Boring Grad Gift

You Still Have Time 

To make your grad gifts shine! Whether you are a youth pastor prepping for Grad Sunday or a parent just want to make graduation a little extra special, here are three ways to spice up the boring grad gift.

I just finished the video that shows my completed grad gift boxes (or suitcases) and I hope it will give you some last minute inspiration.

Let me offer three ways you can still make your grad gifts excellent and memorable.

1. Change the experience

You may have no control over what you are giving to your grads, but maybe you can change how they receive them. I made suitcase but you could create a different kind of experience.

Lock up each gift with a combination lock and give each grad one or two numbers (depending on how many grads). After service they have to trade numbers to get the right combo to open their gift.

Hide one gift and, after service, give them a clue sheet to go and find it.

2. Change how many senses are involved 

Use all your grads senses, not just sight and touch.

Connect a smell and/or taste to a place you have all been. Put some coconut or fruit with your gift to remind kids of that mission trip the Caribbean everyone went on.

Put together a Spotify playlist of all the worship songs, retreat songs, etc. for their last ride out of High School and that also reflects their time in the group.

Record individual audio or video messages to each student and text it to them after the grad service.

3. Change the packaging 

What did you get your kids for Grad Sunday? How can you change the packaging to make it more special or fun? How about wrapping them in fast food bags to represent all the times you went out to eat? Or put their gifts in a their favorite pizza boxes.

I hope these last few ideas stirs up some inspiration and will make your Grad Sunday or Wednesday the best it can be,

You can also check out my Graduation Playlist on Youtube for some extra ideas.

Have an awesome Graduation Sunday Service!

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How Come No One Told Me?

Growing up…

No one told me that I’d be second guessing everything at 49

No one told me it was ok to switch directions.

No one told me its was ok to pursue something different.

No one told me it was ok to have many dreams, not just one.

No one told me that it was ok to let go.

No one told me it was ok to fail.

No one told me life could be more flexible than rigid.

No one told me that loyalty wouldn’t get me anywhere.

No one told me my mentors would be authors and YouTube personalities.

No one told me, “Just wait, the best is yet to come”

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Maybe they did, and I just wasn’t listening.

I’m listening now.


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We Do Have A Choice

“One of the consequences of sin is that it makes the sinner pity himself instead of causing him to turn to God. One of the first signs of new life is that the individual takes sides with God against himself.” ― Donald Grey Barnhouse

Jesus challenged his disciples:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

We have to choose a side. There is nothing in me that wants to take up a cross or follow Jesus. It is God who impresses on me the necessity of this things, like another waking up their children for school. They would much rather stay under warm covers and sleep than to be obedient.

We have no problem choosing between

fear and faith

joy or sadness

salad or dessert

We know which is in our best interest. It is when Christ offers us

a narrow road or a wide road

a narrow gate or a wide gate

seek the Kingdom or seek our own fortune

The Apostle Paul tells us there is a  choice between feeding and leading from our  Flesh or Spirit

We can choose, but most of the time we choose in our own best interest.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

Knowing the end of one of our choices should makes our choosing all the more easy.




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11 Worship Resources To Help Teens Embrace The Quiet

If I took away your band (if you have one), how would you invite your students to worship God?

Can you worship God without a band? Blasphemy to think such a thing, but many of our students don’t think so because youth workers, like us, say, “Its time to worship” and then the band comes up.

I had a talk with a youth worker the other day and, both being Pentecostal, bemoaned the fact that our kids want (sometimes demand) an experience with God and if they did not have an experience with God, then worship or the service was null and void. We’ve conditioned our kids to believe that worshipping God is a  little one note (pun intended). How do we undo this?

First, we must help kids understand the object of our worship is God not our worship experience.. Worship by definition is

show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.

Worship is about the heart not about the mouth. Singing is one way, albeit the most popular way, of worshipping God. but it’s certainly not the only way. There must be other ways to show reverence and adoration to God without singing, right?

Although I am Pentecostal, and Pentecostal’s love loud, the exuberant, and sometimes the wild, I also have had the benefit of growing up Catholic and understand the need and joy of silence and reflection.

Teaching Pentecostal students the joys of practices that run counter clockwise to their ideas of worship is a challenge but a challenge worth taking as I have seen the Spirit of God do tremendous things in the silence as well as the loud.

Here are  a few books that helped me introduce different practices of worship to students as well as inspired me to write some of my own resources.


Sacred Space: A Hands On Guide To Creating Multi-Sensory Worship

The Book of UnCommon Prayer 

The Book of Uncommon Prayer 2

Worship Feast: 100 Reading, Rituals, Prayers, and Guided Meditations

Praise Habit: Finding God In Sunsets and Sushi – David Crowder

Worship Feast Ideas: 100 Worship Ideas For Postmodern Youth 

Prayer Stations

Easter Prayer Stations 

Three Cups 

Humility Prayer Stations 


The Lord’s Prayer: An Interactive Guide 

I love a good, Pentecostal experience with God. But a Pentecostal experience, as I understand it, is one where the Holy Sprit is present and active, and it does not always need to be loud. Loud and exciting is not a doctrine, it’s a preference.

Don’t be afraid to slow things down and challenge kids to reflect on the goodness of God in their lives. These ideas and practices may sound foreign to you, but feel free to add your own ideas to them to make them work for your groups.

If you happen to be Pentecostal, like me, let me encourage you to slow things down a bit. Let’s teach our students, as God taught Elijah, “I am not only in the loud, I am also in the whisper”.  Let’s make sure our band isn’t louder than His voice.


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3 Tragedies of a Complacent Life

The tragedy of life is often not in our failure, but rather in our complacency; not in our doing too much, but rather in our doing too little; not in our living above our ability, but rather in our living below our capacities. – Benjamin E. Mays

The first tragedy of complacency is regret. No one says at the end of there life,  wish I did  less. I wish I wouldn’t have been so daring. I wish I hadn’t taken so many chances. There will come a day where we’ll beg for one more opportunity to make a difference.

in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.  – John Krakauer,  Into The Wild

The second tragedy of complacency is that our adventurous spirit shrivels up and we condition ourselves to pursue what is comfortable and secure. To prevent this kind of tragedy we must regularly do something where the outcome is unsure.

Christians are as subject to complacency as anybody else, and we can certainly settle into repetition and forget that something radical and extraordinary is being asked of us – Francis Spufford

The third and final tragedy is that we traded God’s call to be extra-ordinary for a life of predictability. We went to church but we did not become The Church. We sang songs, but we did not worship. We gave in the offering but we did not go and help the people ourselves.

A tame faith is not what God created us for. Let’s get back to looking and listening for God’s next great adventure for our lives.

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7 Concepts I Want My Graduates To Grasp

In my very first post on this blog,  I share about graduating seniors and wondering what kind of questions we should be asking to make sure kids were spiritually ready of the world.

The article was not meant to encourage some kind of spiritual purity test for graduates but rather an encouragement for youth workers to  create a way to judge their own effectiveness as they launched kids into this thing called life.

Example:  By the time a student graduates, what should they know about the Bible, God etc. and can they explain the plan of salvation, the timeline of the end times and quote Numbers with poetic flair.

If you think these subjects are important for graduating seniors to know, you should start teaching it to your freshmen or middle school students now.

No matter what the questions are, our students may not (read asmore than likely will not)  be able to answer all your questions (or even one) due to the fact that they may not find the material relevant ( now) or they’ve just forgotten.

Teens want to know, “Is it on the test?” because if it’s not, they need the space for…well… anything else.

Most of my students will not quote chapter and verse upon graduation, so where does that leave me? Ultimately, my hope is that my example and, more importantly, the example of their parents,  will lead to their understanding of often hard and complex spiritual truths.

This thought brings me to the seven things I want my students to understand before they graduate, but in asking the questions, it’s led me to examine my own life and ministry. It’s not just about what I am teaching  but how and if I am living what I am teaching.

Do you understand that God loves you, no matter what? 

“Did I loved you no matter what? Did I love you when you snuck out of the cabin to launch all the canoes into the water? Did I show grace and mercy when you blew it big time and I did’t cast you  away? Did I affirm God’s long suffering and patience? Did I forgive and ask for forgiveness? Did I

Do you understand the Bible is where you find truth? 

Did I show you that I loved God’s word? Did I show you it was my go to book for wisdom? Did I treat the scripture with care when I spoke? Was scripture integrated and foundational to the counsel I gave you? Did you see me read the Bible when I wasn’t preaching?

Do you understand that Church is about community and connection?

Did I bad-mouth our church to score points or did I do my best to explain that we’re not a perfect group of people and we’re all on this journey together? Did I participate in service rather than spectate? Was I engaged or aloof? Did I integrate you with the adult congregation enough so that some of that ancient wisdom rubbed off on you?

Do you understand that prayer is a conversation?

Did I demonstrate that you ought to listen more and talk less? Did I show you how to pray for and through hard things? Did I pray with you as well as pray for you? Did I show prayer as a joy or as drudgery? Was prayer just something we did before we ate pizza or went on the mission trip? Did I show that  our Heavenly Father desires to hear from, and to fellowship with, us?

Do you understand the difference between believing in God and following Jesus?

Did I show you what a disciple looks like? Did I show you that when I got it wrong I didn’t quit but pushed on? Did you see that you can mess up and continue to follow Jesus? Did I show you what sacrifice looked like? Did I live like God was real, Jesus was my only hope and not just a nice idea? Did I show you that their was more to the Christian life than coming to youth group, church, reading your Bible, and giving in the offering?

Do you understand that you are called to influence others for good?

Did I tell you over and over again that God can use your talents and gifts to make an impact on the world around you? Did show you how to us influence to glorify God rather than yourself? Did I give you every opportunity to use your gifts and talents? Did I crest space for you to rap, draw, paint, and create for God?

Do you understand how to come back to God, should you wander off?

Was I grace filled? Did I make it easy or hard to come back from the brink? Did I reveal a pattern of how God gladly receives us when we are repentant and contrite? Did I show you that humility goes a long way and that pride is a killer?

And how does a student understand? Was it because of my great talks or the epic game nights? Probably not. Their understanding of a big concept came through the examples of the people around them.

Graduation is not about just about the things they know or learned, but it’s about the things they have been shown and experienced, the examples they’ve been given. What did they see and remember versus what they read or heard and forgot.

This is why Jesus not only taught in parables, but was a living parable. The disciples only “got it” when they saw it, was a part of it, and experienced it.

My graduates may not recall my messages and lessons but  they will remember my example.

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What Is The Perfect Gift For High School Graduates?

Every parent and youth worker are asking this question. If you are youth worker, we’ve all been down that path where we are looking for that something special and wind up giving out graduating seniors a bible and card. There’s nothing wrong with that but I think you have way more to offer your seniors.

Each of us have our own gifts, talents and abilities. Why don’t we use them to bless our kids?

If you write music, compose and record a song for each of them.

If you’re good at graphic design make each one of them their own super hero logo.

If you’re good at sowing, make them a special stole for grad day.

In my latest video, I share our unique gift and how you can create the same for your students.

Check out the video below and get inspired.

Here are the links to the supplies you need

Antique Map of Africa

Antique World Map

Espresso Spray Paint

Travel Stickers

Check out the finished product!

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Are SMART Goals A Dumb Idea For Youth Pastors?

We all have goals, but we don’t all reach them the same way.  I should have titled this Are SMART Goals A Dumb Idea For Certain Kinds of Youth Pastors, but that was too long . Certainly, the SMART Goals system will benefit some youth pastor but maybe not all.

Youth Pastors on the whole, tend to be outgoing, gregarious, big picture kind of people, not so concerned with the details of…well, anything. That’s not to say we cannot or should not change, because details are important.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.  John Wooden

SMART goals are just one we we can put emphasis on and flesh out the details of our biggest goals.

If you’re not familiar with SMART goals, SMART goals is a system to improve your performance and productivity.

SMART goals stands for (with additional options in parenthesis)

Specific (simple, sensible, significant)

Measurable (meaningful, motivating)

Achievable (agreed, attainable)

Realistic (relevant, reasonable, )

Time Bound (time based, time/cost effectiveness, time limit)

Now, why would I think that SMART goals were a dumb idea for youth workers? Well, as I said earlier, youth workers tend to lean to big picture kid of people and some youth workers may say, “This would only slow me down”. Although this might be true, slowing down, making sure you have your bases covered and your goals fleshed out  is not a terrible idea.

I’ve tried SMART goals and it is a valuable tool, but  I was hit and miss on them due to that, “slowing me down thing” and my somewhat ADD personality.

I have been creating events and programs for a long time now, but when I started, I had plenty of events go to crap because I forgot a detail like

  • getting the check to pay the band
  • getting the flyer proofread
  • building a team to promote
  • follow up material for new converts

and the list goes on and on.

I’m an outgoing person. My gifts are in speaking, motivating, etc. On the Briggs Myer personality scale I am a ESFP (Extravert, Sensing, Feeling, Perceptive) the near opposite of this is ISTJ (Introversion, Sensing, Thinking, Judging). This is the personality that is geared toward details. Details is no where to be found in my ESFB.

So, what are you to do if you are the fun loving, big picture, extrovert? Well you can’t just ditch the details just because it’s not in in your personality profile. By the way, Lead/Sr Pastors do not favor the “that’s just not personality” excuse.

Using  SMART goals to dig deeper, to bring out what you really want to accomplish in your youth ministry, is a discipline, a habit we make. No matter what personality you are, you can learn to do something  that is not natural to you, it just takes work.  No excuses.

To start, you can download this SMART GOALS Message Template  I created just for youth pastors. There is a blank version for you to use and one I filled out as a sample.

More templates will be made available and the good people of the Fresh Impact newsletter will be hearing about the first so don’t forget to sign up. in doing so, you’ll also receive my 7 Secrets To A Successful Youth Ministry ebook.

Recommended Resources

SMART Goals Made Simple 

Wired That Way Personality Profile: An Easy-to-Use Questionnaire for Helping People Discover Their God-Given Personality Type


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