Turning Youth Ministry Outsiders Into Insiders

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We recently had a young lady join our youth ministry. She is as sweet as could be, a little shy, but I also sense an inner stength brought on by trial. This past week we kicked off our summer TRIBES and one of our tribe leaders bough shirts for the kids for like $1 a piece.  This sweet girl came up to me and said (and I paraphrase),

” I know I have not been here long, and our leader gave us these shirts and I did not know whether it for was for members or not. It was like that way at my last church.”

I was stunned, but there’s more…

“You see, in my last church I was left out alot and sometimes I even felt like the youth pastor was keeping me from joining things on purpose. I was an outsider.”

Are you feeling what I’m feeling? Anyone want to round up a posse and get this guy?

The problem is, sometimes we are this guy and we don’t even know it.

I told this gal, if you are here, you are an insider. You are with us. You’ve been with us several weeks and there are no hoops to jump through. You are one of us. She gave me a big smile and said thank you.

Let me say that I understand I am hearing only one side of the story and I have only known this girl for about a month. That being said, I have some suggestions on how to make insiders of outisders

  • If everyone goes out to eat after youth make sure you invite them along and pay for their meal
  • Offer them free food from your cafe
  • Offer them scholarships to events if they are in need
  • Find out what they are good at and let them be good at it
  • Feature them in pictures on your social media pages
  • Let them in on inside jokes
  • Listen to their feedback or suggestions (better sill ask them personally)
  • Don’t focus on the rules focus on the realtionships

Those are just a few ideas. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section. Leave me one or three.

 

 

 

 

Help! I’m Afraid To Ask For Money For Our Students: 5 Fear Busting Tips

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T0days post is from the lovely Mrs. Turner, my wife. She is the VP and chief fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Club of Central Alabama. Kim raises hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for kids to life changing opportunities.

Sometimes it’s scary to ask for money from your congregation, but you know your your kids need some help. Here are five tips before the “big ask”

Listen to The Donor

When asking for a donation, the most important part is listening. You can talk yourself right out of a donation if you talk too much. Make the ask centered around the donor, not on the ask. You should always have someone who has a good relationship with the donor make the ask, if you don’t it is awkward and you definitely will not get the amount you hope for.

People give to people, not causes

That is why famous people do telethons after natural disasters and for Jerry’s Kids. When Brad Pitt looks into a camera and asks you to give to New Orleans, he is banking on the fact that you know him, you love his movies and even though you thousands of miles away, you will send him money because he is your favorite actor and his cause is worthy. Nothing is more difficult that asking someone you don’t know for money. It is easy to say no to a stranger. Brad Pitt is your friend.

Start A Conversation

It is easy to start talking to your friend – that is why you bring Brad Pitt with you, or if you don’ know Brad, then you bring someone who knows the potential donor with you to the meeting. Let them introduce you and begin talking about normal things. After about five minutes go ahead and jump into the real reason you are there.

Explain The Outcome

Have two of three outcomes that will happen because of the donation ready to share with the donor. Don’t overwhelm the donor with information. Be sure to have a flyer or pamphlet to leave with the potential donor with more information. Stats are boring. Sharing a great success story will help you get your donation.

Practice, Practice, Practice

It is good to work out your plan before you go. There is nothing wrong with having a script and making a plan.

 

Your Turn

What’s your toughest issue with asking for money?

What’s your best pitch line for asking for money?

Leave me your success tips when you do ask for money.

 

Healthy Ministers Part 5 : Being Offended By All The Right Things

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This whole week I’ve shared about dealing with wounds, hurts, and offenses. It’s been a very cathartic experience for me and I hope it’s been a helpful process for you. Yesterday I shared about creating sell pile of hurts and offenses in order to redeem them and turn them into something useful that may help others. The best way to not to become hurt hoarders, is to limit what offends us in the first place. Some people will be offended at a drop of hat and others are more thick skinned, most of us are somewhere in-between. Working in or attending a church is rife with opportunities to be offended

  • We did not like what the preacher said.
  • We did not like worship or a certain song.
  • We did not get the leadership position we thought we deserved.
  • We don’t like certain programs
  • We don’t like certain kinds of people the church reaches out to
  • We did not get the backing we thought was there.
  • We did not get the raise we wanted.
  • We did not like someone’s choice.
  • We did not like being left out.

This list is potentially endless and I invite you to share your ideas in the comments. I have my own pet offenses

Long standing members who leave the church without warning.

and

People who have an issue with me, but talk to everyone else

I deleted my commentary for both of these issues because even the mention of these two things bring bad feelings to the surface. See what I mean about offenses?

We, as ministers, and Christians have to limit and even should  redefine what we are offended by if we are to healthy productive servants in God’s kingdom. It’s been preached that dead men, dead to the old way of self and crucified to our own flesh aren’t offended.  I agree, if we were dead to self we would be offended less, but God did not create and off switch for offenses, He did create a process to deal with them and pathway to spiritual maturity  Jesus said

He said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks come, but woe to him through whom they come!

Offenses are like ticking time bombs waiting to go off. I am going to be offended, but the extent, the blast radius if you will,  of my offense shows me more about my spiritual maturity than the person who offended me. I have a choice. Prayer is like cutting the wires to the bomb. Once we take our own lives before God and make the offense about my journey in Christ and my spiritual health, rather than the offender, is to cut the wire to the bombs ignition switch.  So, I say we invert our offenses, placing the focus on our lives.  Let’s be offended

  • at our own ability to be so quickly offended
  • at our own spiritual immaturity
  • at our own propensity for pettiness
  • at our own hurry to rush to judgement
  • at our own self righteousness to hold an offense
  • at our own weakness to take things to the cross
  • at our own stubbornness to forgive
  • at our own reluctance to resolve a conflict

Proverbs says,

A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Prayer and refection about my own spiritual maturity puts my life in light of God’s grace and mercy and ultimately diffuses my offense bomb waiting to go off.

Your turn:

How do you process through an offense?

When you are offended, do you tend to focus on you or the offender and the changes they should make?

Do you have an offense bomb waiting to go off? How are you going to diffuse it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Ministers Part 4: Redeeming Your Wounds

 

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In my last post I shared about about Peter Marsh’s system of creating three piles to help families deal with their junk. The three piles are Keep, Sell, and Throw Away. Yesterday I focused on the hurts we can keep that won’t hurt us in the long run. The hurts we keep are the ones we can testify about, the ones we have forgiven, and the ones that made us spiritually stronger. Today I want to talk about the Sell Pile.

The sell pile is where I struggle to release my hurts to be redeemed. I like to hold on to my offenses because I think I am justified in doing so. When I hold an offense and don’t  release it (sell it, redeem it) it because of a a few factors. The first factor is that I think it is the higher ground. In some warped way I think I am teaching someone a lesson by withholding my love, affection, or attention. This could not be further from the truth. The old adage about drinking poison and waiting for other people to die applies here. Most of the people I am offended at don’t even know I am offended at them.

The second factor that allows me to hold an offense is my inability to process the hurt. Sometime where we are hurt all communication shuts down and all we are left with is our own thoughts. I have all my arguments down and the mental role-play I rehearse reinforces my position. Selling or redeeming something we’ve grow attached to becomes more and more difficult the longer it stays in our hearts.

Watch Peter try to talk through selling items with these clients

Click HERE to watch

Peter reflects what the Holt Spirit does with us. The clients represent us, bickering with the Holy Spirit who is trying to help bring resolutions our lives. Solomon shows us the futility of exercising our authority especially when we are wrong.

No man has authority to restrain the wind with the wind, or authority over the day of death; and there is no discharge in the time of war, and evil will not deliver those who practice it. All this I have seen and applied my mind to every deed that has been done under the sun wherein a man has exercised authority over another man to his hurt.

Ecclesiastes 8:9

Evil will not deliver those who practice it. Let’s rephrase that

Bitterness will not heal us.

Grudges will not deliver us.

Open wounds will not restore us.

Nothing good can come of holding on to past, unforgiven hurts.

Jesus came to redeem, to purchase back was stolen. We slow down the work of the Holy Spirit and our own spiritual maturity when we won’t release those who hurt us. A house filled with clutter limits our movement. A heart filled with hurt limits our potential.

Isaiah explains God’s exchange system to Israel

To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified Isaiah 61;3

Israel had been through slavery, poverty, and the the Lord’s own discipline. God is patient. He’s wait until we are ready to make the exchange. Our hurts for his healing. His beauty for our ashes.

Jesus confirms the great deal God offers

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.… Matthew 11:28, 29

 

At the end of each Clean Sweep episode their is a yard sale where all the items put their are sold. Money is made and space in the home has been redeemed. Picture all your hurts on the front lawn of your home with a bog For Sale sign put up. Now, imagine Jesus driving up in a pick up truck or dump truck and saying, “I’ll take everything you got”.

 

Your Turn:

What offenses need to go on your sell pile?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Healthy Ministers Part 2: Dealing With Emotional Attachments To Our Hurts

 

 

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Yesterday I shared some thoughts on staying emotionally healthy in ministry and today I want to share  where most of my emotional upheaval comes from in one word: Expectations

Ministry and the church, unlike a corporation, comes with some non-negotiable values built into it that you expect people to embrace. Corporations do not ask you to love the person in the next cubicle, the CEO is fallible, which makes the rule book or book of standards the corporation teaches fallible as well. The church, and the people who attend their, know, at least in part, what it’s all supposed to be about. You would think after 30 years in the church, and 24 professionally, I would have figured out that not everyone is going to meet my expectations  let alone God’s. I am a part time Pharisee, I do my best to do what is asked of me and I expect others to to do the same. That’s where my trouble begins.

I have been hurt more deeply and more often by “Christians” than any sinner or pagan could ever do. Now, if I worked with or among pagans or people who did not know Christ, my expectations would be different. Hurt or offense would still come because we are human and that happens if you stick around any kind of people for any amount of time. It is when I become an emotional hoarder and believe that every negative emotion I feel is justified and worth holding on to that my state of mind becomes a cluttered mess. The T.V. show Clean Sweep reminds me how to approach out my emotional junk drawer.

In Clean Sweep organizer Peter Walsh takes on homes that are unorganized messes and are causing friction in the family. He often has to do battle with residents over material items they refuse to let go of. Watch the video below between a woman and Peter about her uncle’s clock.

 

Every hurt has a story. We can remember times, places, the people who were there wen we were hurt. Peter would be symbolic of the Holy Spirit trying to convince us to deal with our emotional attachments to our hurts. I can hear the Holy Spirit challenge me, “When are you going to deal with this?” or “Isn’t it time to let this go?” I will often fight the Holy Spirit, like this woman, and justify my reasons for holding on to my hurt and offense. I’ll say, “I’ll deal with it someday.” The Holy Spirit won’t let me get away without putting a date on when I should deal with it.

Recently I found out that a young man, who had been in my youth group, had an issue with me. When I found out he had an issue with me I did not confront him due to the lack of relationship I had with him, but through a third party I sent him a note apologizing for whatever I had done and invited him to talk with me whenever he would like and I left my phone number. I have not heard from him. I am not responsible for his response, I am responsible for my response. I could have chose to deal with it later or not all, but that would have troubled me. Dealing with an issue as soon as possible gets that trash in the right receptacle and out of my “house” so I can make room for the good things the Lord brings me.

Jesus says,

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

Jesus prods the disciples to deal with their stuff now, not later. Although it does not say it , I think the reverse applies. If I  have something against someone, it makes presenting my offering or worship prayers to God very difficult. If I do not deal with it now, at an appropriate time, it will be my soul that suffers and not the person who has offended me.

No matter what the song says, I don’t like to “let it go”,  but I know if I don’t, I risk my own spiritual health and productivity as a minister.

 

How often do you relay stories of hurt?

Do you see that as a sign that you have not forgiven the person or dealt with the issue?

Are you dealing with an issue that needs a date of resolution?

Would fixing a date make you deal with the issue sooner rather than later?

 

 

 

Healthy Ministers Part 1: Sorting Our Emotional Trash

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I do my best to recycle. I cut up copier mistakes into note pads, I reuse left over wood,. and I salvage trash and turn it into something useful. Recycling bins make it easy to sort your stuff; paper here, plastic here, cans here, trash here. If we had one of these sorters in our mind and soul I know, for me, it would make life much easier and lighten my emotional load. But why can’t we set that up? We can.

Let’s begin with the fact that emotions are bad.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells us there is a time for everything, even anger and sadness, as an appropriate part of life and ministry

4a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

and

8a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.

Raw emotions such as anger and  sadness can  be very useful. Anger and sadness can create great works of art or motivate us to be activists and help others. Anger and sadness, unchecked and unreconciled, leads to relationship problems in the church that impede ministry. Anger and sadness that devolve into bitterness, rage, depression, etc. is when our lives become mentally and emotionally unhealthy. When I allow my emotional trash to pile up., well, let’s just say my life  evokes a noticeable, funky smell.

Thankfully, Ecclesiastes verse 6  releases me to sort and dump my emotional trash

6a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

Tomorrow  I’ll share how hoarding hurts hurt our lives. (Click HERE To Read Part 2)

How about you:

How do you sort your emotional junk?

How do you stay emotionally healthy in ministry?

 

Off Road Preaching: How To Keep Your Message From Bogging Down

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When I prepare a message, most of the time, I usually know where I’m gong with it and I have an outline in my head. There are times though when I leave the prepared path and go muddin’ (as they say in the south). In preacher talk we call them rabbit trails. Talking and preaching like we have all the time in the world, is like a fun day at the mud pits. Well, it’s fun for us but the people in the passenger seat may not feel the same way. 

Unless your students like to sit and hear you preach for hours and hours, like mine do (insert eye roll here), we all have a limited amount of time to say what we feel like God has put on our hearts before kids mentally check out on us. Remember, muddin’s fun but we can also lose track of time. A rabbit trail here and a mud sling there can add 10 minutes to our message that is not necessary. Those ten minutes can suck up our prayer time, response time from kids, or worse, it could get us stared at and watch tapping from parents at our door. Before you swing that oratory wheel screaming, “Yeee Haw!”  take another look at your message and ask a yourself a few questions.

Is this necessary? 

When I say we should examine our message before we speak, I am not taking about slapping on the rubber gloves for an invasive probing. If you write out your messages, look at your introductions and decide how far you have to go before your kids are with you. Ask yourself whether the story fits, is the intro video too long, and whether the game you want to play really gets you group moving in the direction you want them to go. Much of what I want to say may be fun or cool but isn’t necessary.

 

Where am I going with this? 

The old adage, “Begin with the end in mind” has saved me a ton of time and grief. If I know my kids need time at the altar I won’t put a lot of fluff in the beginning. If I know that I just preached an intense series and our kids need to lighten up a bit I may close with a funny video. If I have a feeling that our kids need to connect with each other I may have them team up at the end and pray for each other. As tempting as it may be, I cannot afford to do all these things in one night so something has to get cut. I have to think about the end of the night and where God is wanting me to lead our students.

 

What is the Spirit saying? 

Not too long ago  we had what was called a SERVE night. It was not a normal service night because kids would be breaking up into small groups for projects. On these kinds of nights we only do a couple of songs and then break up so kids will have time to serve. One of the songs that night had a closing chorus that said, “let the veil down, let the praise go up, we’re in the presence of the Lord.” The Holy Spirit pinched my heart and said, “Let’s go muddin’ here”. I decided to trash my mental notes and spend 10 minutes talking about the veil that was torn in two when Christ was crucified and that many of the students were living on the wrong side of the veil and not entering into God’s presence. After using a few student as an illustration, I invited kids to “pass through to the other side of the veil” and into the Holy Of Holies, Best muddin’ ever! Kids came to the altar for prayer. I cut MY stuff for Spirit stuff and the kids had plenty of time for serving.

Asking these three questions before you get up to speak will not only save you time but will help you get your kids where God needs them to go faster. Off Road preaching is fun, just remember whose in the truck with you.

 

How about you? Where do you tend to go muddin? Games? Message?

Do you feel like you tell too many jokes or get onto issues that have nothing to do with your topic?

Tell me about it in the comments.

Thursday Morning Quarterback : How To Deal With Angry Parents

 

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It’s Thursday and maybe you had some drama in your youth program last night. Did I say maybe? There’s always something going, sometimes it’s big, sometimes it’s small, and sometimes it’s nuclear, like an angry parent.  I have had my share of conversations with parents who were not happy with me because of a game we played or something I said. Those conversations did not always go well. The good news is I grew up, had kids of my own, and gained perspective. Now, you may not be there yet, but you can still minister to parents with grace and love.

Whether you get a call on Wednesday night  or Thursday morning there is way to handle the angry parents that will not make matter worse. Here are my tips for dealing with the not-too-happy-adult.

1. Listen

Whether the parent calling is justified to be ,angry or not they simply want to heard. You will feel the need to be defensive but I encourage you to resist that temptation as it can only make the situations worse.

2. Evaluate

Work through the statements being made. Are they of genuine concern or is it a venting session. If it’s option two see tip number one. If it is a genuine concern, be empathetic. Share their concern and don’t just pass it off as another parents who does not “get me”.

3. Take Action

There are lots of options here you can take to show the parent you are genuinely concerned. Offer to:

  • sit down and talk about the situation
  • tell them you will look into it (and then look into and get back with them asap)
  • agree with them if they are right and make changes
  • ask for their input as to how they think the situation should be addressed

4. Look for the Win/Win

Sometimes an angry parent can rattle us, especially if we’re new to our job but that does not mean we anyone has to lose. Confrontation is not fun but it can be an opportunity to win over and minister to parents. Whatever happened at youth group may not be the main issue, t may be just be the last straw of an already stressed out life. Look at it as a ministry opportunity.  Look for the win, not just in the moment, but for the future as well.

How about you? What are some of your tips for dealing with angry or concerned  parents?

STEPPS 6: Creating a Youth Minstry Of Contagious Stories

 

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Every youth ministry, not matter the size, denomination, or ethnicity, has a narrative. One year into serving at my current church, a tornado came a stole our church. We spent the next year rebuilding. Our youth ministry remembers that year. We met in other church youth rooms, we met in tiny tiny, restrictive room, but through it all we grew and ministry. That story defines us. We are a come back story, and overcoming story and held together until we could get our legs under us.

Jonah Berger’s STEPPS 6, and his last in his STEPPS of how to make something contagious, is Story Telling. When people ask about our youth ministry, how quick are we to tell them what we believe verses telling them a story about where God has brought us from and where we are going to? One of the main reasons the Christian and Jewish faith are so strong is because of the tradition of oral story telling, remembrance and celebration. What if the Bible were called the Greatest List of Rules, Ever  instead of The Greatest Story Ever Told. The former has no traction and would actually repel people away (and does). What can we do as a youth ministry to help creat contagious stories?

Testimonies

Letting kids share in the weekly service is powerful. It builds faith and gives kids a chance to be interactive with the service don’t limit kids to sharing “how they met the Lord” but I  let kids share how God is moving in their lives and what their hopes are for the future. I also let kids share what our youth ministry means to them and share their hearts with their peers and fellow believers.

Powerful Moments

As much as I love to preach I don’t worship it. If I did,  the youth service would quickly become about about me (and it has in the past) . That is not to say that kids are not touched by preaching because they are, especially if the illustration is powerful. But, sometimes I curb my preaching in favor of prayer time, worship time, prayer stations, or other connecting moments. I used to see my role as fiery prophet with “The Word” for every one, but age and experience has taught me that my role is to connect kids to God and if it means me shutting up, so be it. Besides, most kids will not remember what I have preached or any of my messages, but they will remember their moments with God and that is what it’s all about.

Pictures

We have a Wall of Fame hallway in our youth room. They are filled with pictures of kids, past and present, involved somehow with our ministry. It could be a camp picture or kids just hanging out. When a new kid comes into our room they eventually look through the hallway and check out the pictures to see who we are as a community. If one of our regular kids brings a guest, and they are in one of those pictures, they will tell their friend the story behind that picture.

Take-aways

One of my former students, now married ( I was blessed to officiate her wedding) ran across a take-away I had given her for graduation, a baton. She sent me a picture of her holding it (this is the photo at the beginning of the post) and I asked her to elaborate on how she felt when she found it. Here is what she said to me

“Well I was digging through some stuff in my old room at my parents house. And found it (the baton) in my closet. My first thought was, “I gotta show Paul what I found!” Lol but then thoughts of the meaning came back to me and what it represented. 10 years ago in 2004 you handed me that baton and told me to keep running the race. I think I did that but it has more meaning now. My baton has been passed on through the kids that I’ve ministered to. And some of them have their own batons. It’s a never ending cycle. Another thought after I sent you the picture and got your statement of still running the race… It was a heart check. A reminder that the race never stops. That I am still receiving and giving batons. Even though my life is COMPLETELY different now, my race is still being run at 28 as it was at 18. You never stop running. You never stop living. You never stop having batons, it’s just what you do with them. And if you pass them along.”

What a blessing. This is the kind of stories I want here 10 years after ministering to kids.

Now it’s your turn.

How can you stir up more story telling in your ministry ?

Do you have place where you hang photos in your room?

Do you follow up camp with slide shows?

Do you let kids share their hearts in service?

Tell me how stories are impacting your ministry? Or may how they are not impacting your ministry?

Leave me your thoughts in the comments section.

You can read all the posts in this series by starting HERE

Here is Jonah Berger talking about contagious stories

STEPPS 5 : 10 Ways Your Youth Ministry Could Be More Practical

 

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Yes, teenagers should go to church, be in a community of faith, but sitting home and playing video games or doing homework sounds like a more practical idea. If our only answer to the question, “Why should I come?” is  “You’ll have fun” there are a dozen other ways that kid can have fun. You may get a kid to come one time with the “You’ll have fun.” but it better be really fun or they are not coming back. What practical things does your youth ministry offer that would get a kid to come through your doors and maybe stay? Here are some practical reasons I offer kids who are in our church but not in our youth group

– We can help you become a leader.

– We can give you opportunities to use your gifts and talents to serve others.

– We can offer you practical world experience on one of our missions trips.

– We can offer community service hours through local missions.

Those are just a few things in the realm of the practical, but you may have other things to offer such as

– Job training

– A drama team

– A fine arts program

– College scholarships

– Tutoring after school

– A killer band that tours in the summer

Yes, there are scriptural reasons to be part of a youth ministry/church. God calls us to be a part of the Body of Christ somewhere. If your town is like mine, there are no shortages of churches to choose from who have similar reasons to be a part of their programs. Parents also look at practicalities such as how close the church is to their house, is the group a good fit for my kid, and is are the economics of the church similar to my own. You could present those practicalities like this:

– We offer camp scholarships to new students

– We have a small group bible study in your neighborhood

– We have several kids who go to your child’s school

Bonus

– We offer free counseling

By all means, be as impractical as you want. Be the Yale of youth ministry where it’s hard to get in, hard to connect,  and even harder to stand out, but the reason most kids don’t go to Yale is because not practical. It’s better to be the community college where everyone can get in, find their place, and excel at their own pace. If you have worn out your super spiritual reasons list to come to your youth ministry, try making a practical list instead. The kid(s) who are getting practical help for their problems, practical wisdom from God’s word,  will be more likely to share with others who have the same problems.

What problem(s)  does your youth ministry solve?

Leave me five practical reasons a kid should come to your youth group in the comments section.

STEPPS 6: Creating a Youth Ministry of Contagious Stories

Here’s Jonah Berger talking about being practical