You Don’t Need New Lipstick, You Need A New “Pig”

Have you heard the saying, “You can put lipstick on a pigs snout, but it’s still a pig?” This phrase is in reference to dressing up an ugly situation hoping you can disguise it, hiding all it’s flaws. Let’s be honest, when it comes to some youth ministries, sometimes there just isn’t enough lipstick.

Our youth ministries can get ugly sometimes . We try to dress it up for our parents, our pastors, the board, etc. There’s nothing wrong with an “ugly” youth ministry. Our youth ministries, like our students, like us, are becoming beautiful over time and through various cycles.

What I suggest is, not try to cover up the “ugly” with lipstick of excuses, pretending it isn’t ugly, in this moment.

Here are some of the lipsticks we’re tempted to put on our pig.

The Lipstick of Busyness

To add another metaphor, adding more activities to your calendar is like adding more deodorant when you haven’s showered in a few days, you still stink. More activities only masks the problem, hoping that no one will notice that the youth ministry is not making disciples, not making progress, and not growing.

Eventually, your youth ministry will slow down, and then it will hit you, “what was all that busyness for?” and your still stuck with a youth ministry going nowhere.

The Lipstick of Comparison

When we start saying things like, “Well, at least …” we’ve started lowering the bar.

Well, at least no one is pregnant.

Well, at least we’re not lot like….

Well, at least kids are coming

Is this bad? Not necessarily. Phrases like this are a coping mechanism when things are not going according to plan. We should always find the positive in our “pig”. We should always look for the small increments of growth and change in our students and celebrate it.

The problem is, if we’re using the phrase too often, it becomes a justification for not trying something different or for not giving more effort to change the things we can change to move our students deeper or further in their faith. It also becomes an excuse for not improving ourselves. The latter is something we have complete control over it. Let’s stop lowering our expectations of God, ourselves and our students and reach for higher goals.

The Lipstick of Numbers

More must mean we’re ok, right? No. Churches with bigger youth ministries just have bigger pigs to decorate. The big numbers can get in the way of a fair evaluation (if any) and slows our need to make changes.

Big numbers can mask flaws in our discipleship strategy. Big crowds are great but the youth ministry as a whole can be unhealthy.

Don’t let big numbers lull you into a false sense of security. Big numbers are not the end game, helping students become more like Jesus is.

The Lipstick of Happy

Everyone’s happy, that’s good, right? Sure it is, but is happiness a good indicator? But how did everyone get that way? Appeasement? Fulfillment?

I always want my students to be happy. I pray for their well being, but from a ministry context, my call is to put them in positions that will make them grow into who God is making them to be, this, sometimes, makes them unhappy.

This kind of unhappy is ok because it’s revealing something about their life and showing them they have room to grow.

We all have a pig, or some shade of pig. If we stay at a church long enough or stay in youth ministry long enough we’ll start to hear the “oinking”.  Once that happens, we have a choice, dress up the pig with excuses and wallow in the mud with it or do what is necessary to turn things around.

Our youth ministries will always have a little ‘pig” in them because youth ministry, leadership, teenagers and life can get ugly, but we should always love our pig and do our best to care for it.

If I can help your youth ministry be better pig, click here to book me to speak, consult or give a workshop.

Remember, pigs can still do amazing things!!

Raising The Dead One By One

This is part four in my series 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive A Dying Youth Ministry. If you’re behind, you can start HERE

Sometimes, as a youth pastor, you will inherit a hot mess or a dumpster fire. The previous youth pastor did their best or maybe not. Or maybe the youth ministry you have just went south for a variety of reasons,none of which are your fault. How will you get it back on track?

Jesus didn’t call the masses to discipleship, he called whom he wanted one by one and two by two and that is where your youth ministry’s come back begins.

When I’ve taken over a ministry like this, which has been multiple times, I have developed some comeback steps that I think might work for you. Oh, and before you think this is an over night fix, this process is labor intensive and may take years.

Build relationships and trust

Part of trust building is not making promises you cannot keep. I never told the kids I could do something when I couldn’t and when I did promise something, I darn well made sure it happened. Students need to know you’re not just a good person, but someone who can do what they say they can do.

Trust your kids back

No, their probably not as trust worthy as you, but trust them anyway. Find reasons to believe in them. Find their gifts and strengths and create opportunities for them to  use them.

Speak life to them 

Like Jesus speaking to Lazarus inside that grace, we must speak life over those kids. Kids hear enough about what they can’t do, They also must contend with their own noise their head about not being good enough.

Yes, I understand, you want the youth ministry to be be bigger, but berating your kids to do it will not get it done. Stay positive, speak positive. Hope and action are stronger than negativity.

Call them out of death and into life

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It’s easy to tell when the dead are back to life. They walk around, they talk, they eat, but they are not the same

It’s possible that the kids in your youth ministry do not know Christ. They have not experienced the living Savior and are literlly powerless to change the growth trajectory of the youth ministry .

Go back to the basics. It doesn’t matter if they prayed a prayer at camp or raised a hand in church, if they don’t understand what or who they are accepting, change will not be forthcoming.

Give their youth ministry back to them

Part of coming alive is using what God has given us. I heard a great phrase recently, “the activity of God”. Kids will see the activity of God in themselves when they start doing what they are gifted to do.

If kids are only required to show up, play whatever game you’ve come up with an then sit and listen to you speak for 15-20 minutes, its no wonder your youth ministry is in trouble. Get kids moving.

Make everything about Jesus

If we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that One died for all, therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again.…  I Corinthians 5:14

What compels you? Is growing the youth group the only thing? Put aside your ego and point to Jesus.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection we are doing this event

Because of what Jesus said we are doing this

Because of Jesus loved us we are reaching the lost.

Make it about Jesus, not you.

Check out part five: The Three Ways A Committed Mission Will Awaken Your Youth Ministry

Micro-Managing Pastors vs Hands Off Pastors

I took a recent poll of youth workers, asking them which they hated more: Micro-Managing Pastors or Hands Off Pastosr. The overwhelming answer was the micro-managing pastor was worse.

I have worked for both types of pastors and, if had to choose, I would choose the micro manager, not because I like being micro managed but because at least the micro-managers showed some semblance of caring about the end result and how it fit with everything else.

One youth worker nailed my experience with working with a hands off pastor when she said,

“The negative about my hands off leader was he wouldn’t stand up for me even though he agreed with me, BUT he always trusted me to handle things. Trusted my judgment more than his own sometimes. Micro managers don’t trust no matter what you do.”

Granted, I am a self starter and do my job responsibly, with passion and excellence, but there is also a certain loneliness in it, as if I am working by myself rather than on a team.

When I was younger, this youth workers quote rings true.

 “I was looking for guidance and leadership, but also space to spread my wings,”

Most young youth workers need this in order to grow and become.

In my experience,

A micro-manager

wants to know everything

makes suggestions for how it should be done

creates accountability for it being done

In this midst of all this micro is at least a chance for conversation and collaboration.

A hands off pastor

offers unlimited freedom but with unlimited opportunities to make mistakes

when you make a mistake, it’s all you

you have to fix what you broke, with no help from above (except for God)

That’s my reasoning behind why I’d choose micro over hands off.

Each style has pros and con but neither is the best way to lead.

Which do you hate more?





Has Youth Ministry Become All Emotion And No Technique?

There is a fascinating interview with music legend Quincy Jones on the website Vulture. Quincy is turning 85 soon and, as I’ve witnessed older people do, he just lets loose on a variety of subjects.

Apart from him fluently using the phrase MF, Quincy shares some interesting insights on today’s music that, I think, are closely related to youth ministry. Here’s is a question and answer from that interview that sparked this post.

You’re talking about business not music, but, and I mean this respectfully, don’t some of your thoughts about music fall under the category of “back in my day”?

Musical principles exist, man. Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man. Do these musicians know tango? Macumba? Yoruba music? Samba? Bossa nova? Salsa? Cha-cha? – Quincy Jones

Music and Ministry

These two things have a lot in common. They are both emotional and they both require skill. As I pose in the title, I think we have leaned way further to the emotional side of youth ministry and forgotten some of the skill.

Most of the youth ministry shots you see on Instagram are meant to evoke emotion or show the emotion of a youth ministry. Maybe it’s the worship service, the altar time, the game time, and it they show you fun, laughter, tears and joy. None of this is wrong, but you don’t see “skill” shots on Instagram.

I don’t see youth ministry posts of kids reading their bible, sharing their faith, and other than summer missions trips, kids serving.  I’m guilty of this as well, although I try to show the big picture though my Facebook Live streams of the big picture. I show students leading, students praying, students doing ministry.

I get it, fun shots sell the youth ministry. Look! We’re fun! And teenagers need fun, and need fun, right brain creative youth workers, but they also need left brain skill builder who can build long term follower of Jesus through a systematic approach. All fun and no skill isn’t youth ministry, it’s a club.

Quincy says it right, “You can only get so far without technique.” Emotions will only go so far in a youth ministry, that’s why youth worker have to develop the skills and, yes, even techniques of making disciples. Techniques sounds like a word that could suck all the emotion out of the room, but there is a technique to good youth meetings, good small groups, and good one on one discipleship.

Emotions or emotionalism will only lead a kid so far in their relationship with Christ (camp anyone?). That’s why the technique of training a kid to have a consistent devotion time is critical to that kids sustained faith in Christ.

Let’s look to one more question from the interview with Quincy Jones

What would account for the songs being less good than they used to be?The mentality of the people making the music. Producers now are ignoring all the musical principles of the previous generations. It’s a joke. That’s not the way it works: You’re supposed to use everything from the past. If you know where you come from, it’s easier to get where you’re going. You need to understand music to touch people and become the soundtrack to their lives.

Look To The Past

Wow! Read this again, but think youth ministry not music and you get the picture. Is youth ministry less good than it used to be? That;s pretty subject. The older you get the past doesn’t look so bad.

I was once young and thought we needed to throw out the hymn book or anything that reeked of the “old” but, as Quincy says, “that’s not how it works”.

I am not favoring teaching hymns to our kids, but, no matter what age youth worker you are, you should look to the past because the new and the now is passing before your very eyes.

There are cycles, fads, and trends. What you think is the model for youth ministry today is morphing right under your nose.

When I say look to the past, I’m not talking about past youth ministry ideas, although some may work (flannel graphs for days, am I right?), I’m talking about biblical principles that never change. The Bible shows us the pattern or the technique of following Jesus and the discipleship of others,; and while the youth ministry landscape continues to change, the truth of God’s word remains the same.

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

Emotional youth ministries may be exciting and even growing, but without good disciple making skills and  technique, those youth ministries are a mile wide and an inch deep.

On the other hand, a youth ministry with all technique and no emotion robs kids of the value of expression and robs God from showing Himself strong within the students to cry out, leap for joy and dance for before their King.

Balance is the key, and I think that’s what Quincy was getting at. Music like ministry can be canned, one note, sugar coated, cheap rip offs of the real thing. Let’s make sure both milk and meat are at the table when students arrive to our youth groups and at least let them lean into what they need that night, but to have one and not the other is a spiritual dietary crime.

If you’re lookin for some discipleship resources that are filled with emotion and technique, feel free to check out my store. 

Remember, even Sponge Bob understands that there’s value in technique when blowing a bubble

6 Things That Will Get You Fired In Youth Ministry

I recently watched a video (below) by fellow youtubing youth pastor Delmar Peet, and he brought out some excellent points as to when a youth pastor should  be fired. I’d like to add my two cents with a list of my own.

Sexual Immorality/Abuse/ etc. is a no brainer and is the clearest of the offenses that require a youth pastor to be fired. My list offers more subtle reasons that, if they go unaddressed, can hurt a church in the long run.

I will also add, Pastors, this is warning to youth workers not a potential list of violations you should be looking for to fire your youth worker. I’m not talking about firing someone for an individual instance but for a willful lifestyle un-open to correction.

Youth workers, here’s my list of offenses you should avoid if you don’t want to get fired.


One of my problems is that I am loyal to a fault. I have stayed in churches when I should have left much sooner, but because I wanted to show loyalty, I stayed.

Let me clarify what disloyalty is and what is not.

Disloyalty is publicly criticizing your pastor, his vision, and the church.

Disloyalty is not disagreeing with your pastor. Hash it out behind closed doors.

Disloyalty is persuading others to support your ideas rather than the pastors vision and in some cases actually work against it.

Disloyalty is not gathering a few close, trustworthy people who understand both sides of a situation and sharing your struggle.

If you can’t support  the pastor and his vision, try your best to leave on amicable terms.


I have messed some stuff up because of a lack of organization and planning. Thankfully I survived most of my jobs by the grace of God.

Constant disorganization can cost the church money, time, and relationships. It can also create an unsafe environment where unnecessary risks are taken that could result in youth getting hurt physically, mentally, and emotionally.

A youth worker who is not not trying to improve his planning skills and listening to wisdom, become a detriment the organization and ultimately has to to.

Let me recommend a book I’ve written to help you from getting fired.


Dissension is cousin to disloyalty but far more evil Disloyalty is selfishness over programs, visions, etc. Disloyalty is about what we want versus what is best for the whole. Dissension is about dividing the body and causing trouble over doctrine, theological slants, sowing seeds of suspicion.

A youth worker who intentionally tries to divide the body isn’t just disloyal, it is ungodly and listed among the acts of the flesh.

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage ;rivalries, divisions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God

Divisions, discord, and factions are usually about issues of power and who has it. A youth worker who attempt to seize power (influence) through slights or tearing leadership down is not just immature but has some serious spiritual issues that must be corrected.

Lost Faith In Students

You could say I lost my faith in science and progress
You could say I lost my belief in the holy Church
You could say I lost my sense of direction
You could say all of this and worse, but
If I ever lose my faith in you
There’d be nothing left for me to do

These lyrics by musician Sting, says the worse thing you could say about him is   losing faith in someone else. If a youth worker loses faith in his students, there isn’t much they can do except renew that faith or resign.

A loss of faith in students may look like not raising up leadership, having a controlling spirit, not planning anything because you don’t believe anyone will show up, lack of relationship building, etc.

Losing faith in students is to believe God is done with them and that is simply not true.

Spiritual Malpractice

The the oath of a doctor includes the phrase “to do no harm”.  Students are at a fragile place in live and are vulnerable to the influence of leadership, especially leadership in the local church where everyone is supposed to be workin on their behalf to grow in Christ.

In my opinion, works of spiritual malpractice include

  • Having hype meetings without making disciples
  • Manipulating others through guilt and shame
  • Not developing leaders so you can stay in charge
  • Creating worship around you rather than around God
  • Making God look like a boring dad, the tooth fairy, or a legalistic megalomaniac
  • Creating an atmosphere or judgment and condemnation
  • Creating rules heavy relationship light environment.

Of course there are others, but I think these capture the spirit of things.

Lone Ranger Mentality

Lastly, if the youth worker will not build a team, they are hurting the youth ministry. Now, if the church is limited as to who can work with teens that is one things, purposely not creating a team so the youth worker can be the star is another.

The Lone Ranger mentality is harmful to the youth ministry because it does not allow the youth ministry to multiply, listen to various perspectives, and benefit from the life experiences and gifts of others.

If a youth worker can’t build a team and train them that’s one thing.  If a youth worker won’t build a team, that’s another story.

Don’t get caught in any of these traps. Stay humble, stay teachable, keep your eyes on Jesus and your job will be safe, well, at least safer.




Leader of Systems or Leader of People?

I was eating breakfast this morning at a fast food place this morning and wondered, “does the manager manage the people or the system?” Everyone has a role.

Someone has to take orders.

Someone has to cook the tater tots.

Someone has to cook/heat up the food.

If someone does not do the job, we are tempted to fix the system rather than lead the person.

The system is like the government, education, religion, or business. We we don’t want to deal with people, we make a rule, a law, or a standard. We create a system that leads or dictates behavior.

The bell rings we change classes.

The timer goes off we move a to b

The work is on the board.

Systems don’t care if people are messy or complicated or broken. If someone breaks a rule within the system we protect the system versus helping the person become better.

Real leaders lead people regardless if it’s messy or not. It’s easy to lead a system. Look at the Pharisees of the Bible. In the story of man born blind , these men could have cared less about whether this man was healed and even threatened to kick his parents out of the synagogue.

Systems do not rejoice at progress, barriers overcome, or the blind who come to see. Systems ask if the work is done and how can we make it more efficient.

Leaders of people are willing to get their hands dirty and occasionally bloody, for those they lead.

Jesus walked with his disciples for three years and said all manner of unsystematic like things, such as

Get behind me Satan

You are forgiven, go and sin no more

You’ve been married five times and the man you are with is not your husband.

Systems are not prophetic. Systems are built to control, to manage, to reward and punish, but not lead.

To lead people we must take on the mantle of a prophet and see where people could be, get them to see it, and lead them there.