Our Call and Response To Youth Ministry



With Mission Week over and our big fundraiser done for our youth ministry, and our week long focus on Fall Planning with guest posts by Ryan Latham,  this week is sure to be slower than last week. Time for reading an reflection.


I saw this video this morning and it jostled some thoughts about “receiving our call” .

This little girl’s reaction to her “call” is precious. Sheer joy. But what this little girls does not realize is that she is in for long hours of practice, correction, and “Do it again”.  I have to admit, when I was first called to youth ministry, I had romanticized the whole thing. I wanted the preaching and hanging our with the kids but not the meetings and the boring or painful stuff. This little girl will get her time on stage but it will cost her, but will she be as happy to be on that stage after the up-teenth performance? Maybe, if she feels really called to perform. If not, she will be miserable. Such is the calling of youth ministry.

After a few board meetings, parents meetings, and chew outs, you’ll know whether you are called or not. God calls us not only to the stage, but to the preparation for the stage. If you are not as joyful as you once were for the ministry, of serving, think of the blind man.

“Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”- Mark 10:49

Remember it is He who called you. Not your church or yourself.

Embrace your “call” today. Rejoice, God has called you to great things through humble actions. Jump, shout, and freak out! Jesus is calling.

Do you still rejoice over your calling?

Are you waiting for another call? What call are you waiting for?







Summer School For Youth Workers: Dealing With Teens In Crisis



I ended Last Friday‘s post by saying this week will focus on summer school for youth workers, and so here we are. This is your syllabus for the week.

  • Show up to class every day and and comment  “Here!” for roll.
  • Bring your Bible, a pencil, and a desire to contribute.
  • Answer the questions given.
  • Do your home work and turn it in by commenting

Oh, and no sticking gum under your computer.

Class Notes

Last week I asked youth workers what youth ministry course they would take if it were available right now and I got some really great answers. Today we’ll focus on the first course:

Ministering to a Generation in Crisis suggested by my friend Georg Lynch

Crisis and teenagers go  hand in hand. Most of the crisis’ are small, to us, but they are huge to them. Feeling like they have no close friends or any friends is a crisis, not having a boy friend or a girl friends is a crisis, not having anything to do is a crisis, but these are micro crisis’. Oh, and every one of teenagers is in a different crisis all at the same time to boot.

The mico-crisis is what we, as youth workers are used to dealing with.  Macro-crisis, or a national crisis, is where most of us scratch our heads and say things like “What am I supped to do with this ?” Like this latest story Adam McClane sent me about smoking alcohol. Smoking Alcohol? Really? Alcohol and drugs are a macro-crises’. Smoking alcohol may just be a micro crisis.  I live and work in a small town, but I bet there are kids affiliated with our youth ministry who are googling this up. Here’s a question:

Macro Crisis’ are things like



Drugs and Alcohol

Education/Dropping Out



Gang Violence

How does a youth ministry (which is micro in nature) tackle macro-problems? How does your youth ministry deal with macro issues beyond teaching about them?

Which teenage crisis, do you think is most pressing on this generation and why?

What are your “go to” scriptures for dealing with teens in crisis?

Home Work

Search for youth ministries that are dealing with the macro crisis in a micro way and come back and leave your comment and link in the comment section. What did you learn? How could you implement a micro-strategy in your youth ministry?

Class dismissed. See you tomorrow. Don’t be tardy.

Oh, and here is my  5 Step Crisis Strategy

On to Lesson 2 : Equipping Parents To Lead


Not All The Action Is At The Front Of The Church



I have been to many church and camp altars. I have made public expressions of faith and commitment at the  front of the church “in front f God and everyone”. I have experienced powerful moves of God at the front of the church, but there is nothing sacred about the front of the church. God uses all the parts of the building to minister. I had such an experience yesterday.

In Sunday service I normally go to the front to pray with people during the “altar time” but I saw that our prayer team had it covered pretty well, so I made an altar for myself at the back of the church, on my knees. My friend Band Aid (his nick name) came and prayed for me and gave me such strong words and images of encouragement. It was a much needed drink of water to a dry soul. I would not have received that a the front of the church. Thankfully, God’s blessing is not limited to my proximity to the front of the church.

As youth workers, many of us build to a time of commitment in our services. The altar call. I love altar calls, but I am not married to them as the exclusive way for God to move on the hearts of kids. I have started some new practices:

1. In Sunday service, many of our students will come and pray for people, but not necessarily come and receive prayer. So, I have circumvented that by going to kids and asking them if they have any needs and asking if I can pray with them right at their seat.

2. I asking kids to kneel at their chairs and allow our volunteers to go and pray for them.

3. I ask kids to break up into small groups and pairs and pray for one another.

I’ll continue to  call teens to the front for prayer because it requires an act of courage and some kids need that “stand up and be counted” or “This I believe” moment to give their faith a jolt. But, not all the action is the front of the church. An altar can be built anywhere. If we help kids learn to build altars everywhere and anywhere, no matter where they are (college home, etc.), God will be there to meet them.

Your Youth Meeting Is Another Chance To Tell A Story




Photo Credit

Nerd On A Mission Update: I raised my first $100 last week right before my birthday thanks to my childhood friend John, who also is a fellow nerd. Thanks John. That means I only have $1500 more to go. You can check out my mission, my progress and give HERE


Did you tell a story in your youth meeting this past week? Maybe it was a parable from scripture or maybe it was a personal story. I bet you told a story and you did not even know it. Every week, our youth meetings tell a story.

This past week we told a story of fun and community. We had a Luau, danced the hula, and did the Limbo. We also talked about Jesus; and the fact that we talked about Him at a Luau tells the story that Jesus likes Luau’s as much as he likes weddings. Fun is not the absence of Jesus and vice verses. We promoted summer and told the story of how epic it was going to be. It was a good story.

Every meeting is a chapter in the lives of relationships; our relationship with our students, students’ relationships with each other, and all of our relationships with God. We can look at each meeting as a list of things to do or we can craft them into a story we want to tell about who God is , who we are in Christ, and who we are as the Church.

Each week new characters show up in our story. The endings of our meetings are sometime epic and sometimes they have a twist, and sometimes they just fall flat, but they are all a part of our story. In our youth meetings there are surprises, tender moments, acts of kindness and redemption, and some drama that rival Shakespeare. I can’t and would not edit our story. It’s who we are. It’s God’s story in us and through us. Don’t be ashamed of your story, embrace it.

That’s my story and I am sticking with it.

What story is your group telling in your church, in your community?

Are you happy, ashamed, thrilled, or upset about your story?

What are three things you can do to change your youth ministries story?





So, Being A Christian Is Radical? Is This News?

I recently read an article from Ed Stetzer called Is Radical Christianity A Form of Legalism? The article was a response to Christianity Today’s piece called Here Come The Radicals Both are very good articles and I encourage you to read them both, contrast and compare.

Pastors should be looking at how to lead heir flock to living an authentic, radical faith. I believe men like David Platt, Francis Chan, and Shane Claiborne love the church and want God best for it, to shake it up, but they are men on a spiritual journey of their own. They have chosen a life that makes their faith come alive, forces them to trust God, and in the end, become stronger in their faith.

We as adults, and this generation of teenagers, need examples like this. Radical people with sharp sticks to poke us out of our affluent haze of heart, but these men do not set the bar for what radical is, Jesus sets the bar for radical and it is our indifference to Jesus’ call to be radical that has created a vacuum of life giving examples of what radical faith is and why Platt, Chan, and others take radical, if not extreme (to some) steps to reawaken the believers heart to think “is there more?” As youth pastors, we can show Chan and Platt videos in youth group or or we can just program being radical into all we do.

Jesus did not ask everyone to sell all they had and follow him as he did with the Rich Young Ruler. The Apostle Paul did not make everyone get beaten or stoned for the sake of the gospel nor shamed others for not being  beaten or stoned for the sake of the gospel.

When I was younger in my faith, I  preached on the streets of New Orleans during  Mardi Gra through a bull horn. I and some others, thought that was radical and it was. The very act made my faith come alive. My faith became valuable. God’s faithfulness became evident, and life made more sense. I gave God permission to do something radical in me. That is why radical obedience is needed in the life of every believer. If you are bored with your faith, do some radical like :

  • forgive someone you hurt you and tell them
  • Ask someone to forgive you
  • admit your prejudice and set out to make it right.
  • give money you don’t have to someone who does not deserve it
  • get out of your daily faith routine and serve in a place with people you do not know or understand
  • Step up and serve in your churches nursery (Radical x 10)
  • Go to a nerd convention and hand out New Testaments

The longer you wait. make excuses, and ignore the level of radical God is calling you to, the more frustrated, bored, and unfulfilled in your faith and with God you will be.

We can cheerlead our radical beliefs

Or we can live radically. It’s our choice.



Finding Your Youth Ministry Path: Experience vs Academic



photo credit 

I have been thinking about this issue of youth ministry education and education in general for a while, but first let me give you a little history on my education journey.

I was 17 years old when I received the call to ministry when an African pastor, who did not know me, called me back after praying for me and asked me, “Do you feel a calling to ministry? ” I said I did and we prayed again. That sealed it for me.

I did not have many job choices as a senior, it was youth pastor, social worker, or professional bowler (no kidding, I had mad skills)). The prayer with that African Pastor, plus the investment of youth pastors, pastors, and camp counselors made my choice pretty easy. So, I chose to go to a year of community college and then I went to a 4 year college which lasted all of about three months. Cranial development was not for me; at least not in book form. I needed something different.

I then shipped myself off to a year long, experiential discipleship school called Master Commission. At the time, it was the only school of it’s kind, located in Phoenix, Az.. I drove my beat up Ford Galaxy, vinyl seats, and no air conditioning through the Texas and New Mexico heat. It was a great year and I learned many great tools and disciplines that helped me launch my youth ministry career.

Today, after 23 years of youth ministry, I still have no degree, but I have a blog, a couple of You Tube shows that I am proud of, a youth ministry store with 17 products and growing, and a full time youth pastor job at a great church with great kids. Life is good. ( note: I went back to school and I am two classes (both math, both I hate) shy of my two year degree)

In the end, there are 2 grinding paths. The educational path is one type of grind. We grind out grades, papers, and in the end a diploma, a masters, a Phd, write a book, teach at a college, etc. Some Pastors hire based this grinding path. The academic path is a vetting system. It tests you and if you pass you are worthy of hiring.

The experiential grind means we train early (17,18) work like crazy, develop skills, get mentors, get licenses and certifications, work on projects that are unique and succeed at them, and build a life where one day you are “in demand” because of the skills you have developed. Some Pastors loo at the experience portion of the resume before the academic accolades. The are asking: Did you pay your dues? How many successes have you have? Do you have the skills (vs academic knowledge)  to help me build this church? The experience grind, and youth ministry itself, has a way of separating out the weak from the strong; the called and the merely interested.

I chose the latter path. I am neither better nor more qualified as a youth pastor because I chose it, but I am glad I did. That path fit me perfect. If you are on a path and the grind is just too hard, or simply ill fitted to your personality, try another path. It’s ok. Freedom!

Which path did you take? Are you glad you took it?

What path are you on right now?

Did your path produce what you though it would?

If you were advising your 17 year old self right now, what would you say?


I’d Rather Have Jesus


I haven’t listened to this song in a long time. I found a current version yesterday on iTunes. The fresh, clear, bold words poured from the singers mouth like an anthem.

I listened to it again this morning as part of my devotion time and I just wept. The lyrics are simple

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway;
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame;
I’d rather be true to His holy name

(these next two lines are left out from the modern interpretation I listened to this morning, but it take nothing away form the song)
He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom;
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb;

He’s all that my hungering spirit needs;
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead

I meditated on the line “I’d rather have Jesus than world wide fame.” Rhea F. Miller could not have known in 1922 when she wrote the song, that the desire of men to be known and glorified, and  would reach new heights through social media. That desire for fame has always been in mankind’s heart, but it has become too simple to make ourselves the star of our own story instead of Jesus.

This is not meant to be a guilt trip in any way, just a reflection. We all

  • Check our Twitter too much to see who RT’s us
  • Check out FB too much to see who like, shared and commented
  • Check out our You Tube channel to see who viewed and subscribed.

But, I’d rather have Jesus than all these things. These tools are meant to glorify God, not ourselves. If it is choice between Jesus and fame I choose Jesus. Pretty easy huh?

The choice get tougher though, if it’s a choice between Jesus and being liked I still choose Jesus..

One harder still, if it is a choice between Jesus and sharing what I had for lunch in Instagram, well, that’s a choice we all have to make, every day, and much more often than we think.

In honor of George Beverly Shea passing away a few months ago, I give you his version of I’d Rather Have Jesus.

Finish this sentence, I’d Rather Have Jesus than….. Use it as a confessional tool.




We Raise The Dead



We’re youth workers.

We raise the dead, every week

We have The Power on our lips

We speak life

We share Jesus

We play games to resucitate the joy of living

We lead songs of victory to a life-giving, soul stirring, resurrected Savior who snapped the leash of death and told us to do likewise.

We preach from a life giving Book.

We hug necks, shake hands, and high five hearts back to the the land of the living

We are youth workers

We raise the dead

Dead hearts.

Dead Souls.

Dead Faith

Dead Hope.

We speak, “John come forth” and he comes

We speak “Hayden come forth” and she comes

Out of darkness

Out of death

Out of despair.

Out of broken homes and broken lives.

Out of addiction.

Out of bondage

Out of hopelessness

Out of confusion.

We are youth workers.

We raise the dead, every week

Fighting The Resistance: Challenging Teens To Share



Getting Your Students To Step Up To the Microphone

Have you ever come back from a retreat, camp, or event where God moved powerfully and then were met with resistance when asking kids to share their experience? Yeah, I’ve been there too, but recently I have tried to head off the resistance with a simple plea to those who went to our yearly youth convention. Here’s what I asked of them, feel free to steal, modify, etc.

Hey All,

It’s been a few days since convention and I hope you all had as good a time as I did. I believe God did something in my heart and I am pretty sure he has done something in yours as well.

I’d like at least one of you to share tomorrow night at Fusion. I know what you’re going to say “not me” “I am not a good speaker” etc. etc. but consider a few of these reasons why you should share before you answer:

1. It will encourage people to go next year. If the rest of our group does not know that God did a work in our hearts, why would anyone want to go next year?

2. Like the messages we heard, it’s time to step up. It’s time to stop using excuses like the ones above. Sharing is a simple way to be obedient to what God did in our hearts.

Finally, and maybe the most important,

3. If we don’t share what God has done, if we don’t declare his goodness to others, how long do we expect that good work God did in us to last? It’s funny how many times kids come back from camp and within a week “lose” whatever they got. One quick way to hold on to, keep, nurture, and protect what God has given us is to share it, we need to let our own ears hear what God has done.

Revelations says 12:11, “They OVERCAME him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their TESTIMONY; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”

I want you to be over-comers. I will help you.

So, with that said, I am asking you to pray through the fear, the doubt, and the anxiety and share what God has done in and for you.; for your benefit and the benefit of others.
If you say no, no hard feelings. I will not put you down or think any less of you. This is what I do guys. I lay the challenges out there, so you can pick them up.

I love you all.

Pastor Paul

Your Turn

What has been your experience with kids sharing/testifying in your youth ministry?

How do approach kids to share what God has done in their lives?


Failure Is An Option

I was told numerous times in staff meetings over the years that failure is not an option. But it is and it should be. Usually this slogan is centered around:

  • a big church event
  • keeping your job
  • growing the church or youth ministry (see #2)

This is small thinking at it’s worst. Failure in these cases is certainly an option and should be an option. I was recently on a missions trip and the boys we were with were making some building mistakes. Our crew chief, Billy (an amazing man) would say, if you are not failing you are not doing anything. I could not agree more. Our fear point for failure revolves around us. We worry what others (the world), other churches, or believers will think of the us or our church (small c).

We need to broaden our view of failure. Would Peter’s daring walk on water be nearly as interesting if he had not sunk? No, because the lesson here is not: Don’t Sink, the message is: Keep your eyes on Jesus. We are so worried about sinking we never even think of getting out of the boat. Let us  keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Let’s challenge our youth and ourselves to fail greatly for the cause of Christ. This should be our list and mandate for failing. These are dreams, goals, and mandates that our worthy of our efforts and even our failures in our effort to achieve them.

  • Building the Kingdom of God
  • Raising up a new generation of leaders
  • Making our youth ministry student-led instead of spectator induced
  • Keeping our personal lives above reproach (this does not mean making mistakes)
  • Glorifying God with our lives

Now go and fail greatly; believing that in the end, there is no failure  or condemnation in Christ Jesus.

Need some more inspiration? Here ya go:

Failure Magazine

Michael Jordan “Failure” Commercial

How Failure Breeds Success

Failing Forward- John Maxwell