Upping Student Engagement In Your Youth Ministry Through Crowd Sourcing


Yesterday I framed the idea of crowdsourcing with our youth ministry to mark our meetings with their fingerprints and to challenge them to think deeper about their faith.  Today I’d like to break it down with a few ideas  I am experimenting with with  our own group.  If you decide to try a few of these ideas, remember:

The more students you field a question to, the more potential engagement you’ll have.

Crowdsourcing is not a substitute for prayer and the Word, it is an enhancement. (Duh!)

Ok, onward.

One of the keys to getting a good response is to offer an either.or approach. Ask an open ended question like, “What do you want to do tonight?” and you’ll get confusion. Ask an either/or question and you’ll get more kids offering decisive a answer.

Elements You Could Crowdsource 

Take some of the pieces of the meeting I mentioned yesterday and send them out via text or Facebook and see who’d like to take those responsibilities.

Maybe you have two messages on your heart. Ask your kids which one would benefit them  most. Ask this one early enough. Give them your text as well and maybe they’ll look it up.

Which game would you rather play tonight Ninja or Volleyball?

Announcements: Should I wear the sombrero or the viking helmet to do announcements? Take a picture with both hats on and let kids chime in.  (I wish I had a viking helmet)

The goals of crowdsourcing isn’t just to field the elements of your meeting, but to get insight about your kids, spot idea leaders, and get feedback about the program or even get new kids involved by asking their opinion.


1. Don’t be afraid to try and fail. We all fail, but at least your kids see you reaching out.

2. Be patient with your kids. It may take them time to respond. Don’t judge them as slackers too soon.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some crowdsourcing ideas using the social media our kids use.

Which of these ideas are ones you could try with your group?

Have you tried anything similar? What was the response from your kids?

Experiment and let me know what happens.








Painters and Players: Game Store Discipleship Part 2

Yesterday I shared a conversion I had at a game store that sold me on a hobby I was interested in. As a youth pastor who focuses, (some say obsess) over the process of discipleship, I knew what was happening to me, I was being evangelized and offered the opportunity to be discipled in the

Warhammer 40k way. As with many things, such as sports, Warhammer 40k is not a hobby but a lifestyle to some. They live it, breathe it, talk about it and share it. Isn’t that what we desire for ourselves and for our students who claim the name of Jesus? With that said, let’s look at how my conversation with a game store owner breaks down into some practical principles for our youth ministry.

Let’s start again:

Her: Welcome to Games Workshop!

Me: Thanks

Her: What brings you by today?

Note: This is a key question. Why did that guest come? Why do our regulars come? Asking students why they come to our meetings may seem obvious (social, parents make them, etc.) but when I entered this store I was looking for information and connection, not just a salesman who wanted to sell me stuff. The same can be said of the kids who come to our meeting.

Me: Just looking

Note: Defines many of our kids.

Her: Do you know what you are looking at?

Note: Great question. Do our kids know what they are looking at? Even our most seasoned kids may not know. They don’t know or understand that we are Christ’s hands and feet, His church. We should ask this questions more often.

Me: Yes.

Her: What are you working on right now?

Note: She knew I had some gaming affinity and thought maybe I already had an army, etc. I include on my guest cards and I ask, “So where do you normally go to church?” I think a better question is, “What are you currently working on in your life right now? ” The answer to this quesiton will clue us in to where kids are with Christ and not just their religious affiliation.

Me: Nothing at the moment, I’m a newbie. have some unpainted models at my house.

Her: Would you like to put some paint on a model?

Note: Here’s what she did not do: “Let me tell you all the rules of Warhammer 40k and it’s history.” She had me start painting and engaging to see if something would spark. I have decreased, to almost nil, of what is required to be a leader in our youth ministry. The “rules” to becoming a leader became impediments to kids “putting paint on a model.” If you want to see how we get kids “putting paint on models” you can watch my video HERE and HERE

Note: Once she knew I had an army, unpainted, she knew I had interest but not desire. Many of our kids love God in theory, but their desire has lapsed. It should be our goal to get kids re-engaged with the God who called them in the first place.

Me: Sure

When I finished my basic paint job,

Her: Would you like to put your model in a game?

Me: Sure.

Note: Now, after I painted, she challenged me to play. She knew, “if I can get him to play, I can show him how much fun this is.” We should always be introducing the next level of joy in knowing Christ.

She taught me some basic rules and had me moving pieces and rolling dice. After we were done she continued:

Her: What did you like best? Painting or Playing?

Note: In the end, this gaming evangelist wants to sell product and create another gaming enthusiast which will add to the gaming community synergy. In the Warhmmer 40k community there are painters, and they enjoy collecting and painting models, but that is it. There are players who enjoy the game but not the painting process. It’s the same with faith.

We will always have students who like to paint. they like the artistry and color of religion. Students will come to events and enjoy the pageantry. We know the joy of living our faith and our joy of knowing God, let’s create and offer the next level of joy to our kids every week.

Me: I like both

Her: Great, how would you like to get started?

Author Donald Miller, in the forward of his book Blue Like Jazz, talks about not being  interested in jazz until he watched a man passionately play jazz on his saxophone.  It goes without saying, but I’ll say it. Christianity is not hobby. It’s not something we dabble in. Jesus is life and lifestyle or he is no life at all. Lets’ all live passionately for Christ but let us also create and offer every kid a chance to “put paint on their model” (know Christ) and play it out (live for Christ).

How are you getting kids to experience or re-experience faith in your youth ministry? Share  your process of how you get kids to re-ignite their faith

Painters and Players: One Game Store’s Way of Making Disciples Part 1

My son and I recently took up a new hobby together, Warhammer 40k by Games Workshop. It’s expensive, time intensive, and we love it. Everything about the hobby says “this hobby  is going to cost you in time, money, and relational energy” and yet 100’s of thousands buy, paint, and play the hobby all over the world.

I never wanted to get into Warhammer 40k because I knew the time it would need to get good at, but a Games Worskshop store opened up near me and I thought I would check it out. From the time I walked in I had the undivided attention of the owner/manager. Here’s what our conversation looked like:

Her: Welcome to Games Workshop!

Me: Thanks

Her: What bring you by today?

Me: Just looking

Her: Do you know what you are looking at?

Me: Yes.

Her: What are you working on right now?

Me: Nothing at the moment, I’m a newbie

Her: Would you like to put some paint on a model?

Me: Sure

When I finished my basic paint job,

Her: Would you  like to put your model in a game?

Me: Sure.

She taught me some basic rules and had me moving pieces and rolling dice. After we were done she continued:

Her: What did you like best? Painting or Playing?

Me: I liked both

Her: Great, how would you like to get started?

Feel free to comment below on what you spotted in this process that looks like (or should look like) evangelism/discipleship in your youth ministry and tomorrow I will come back and share a few ideas of my own.

I break down this conversation and what it could like in your youth ministry in Part 2 of this post HERE

How did Jesus model this conversation with potential disciples in scripture?

How does youth ministry, church in general, and maybe your church break down the disciple-making process?


10 Ways To Look Positively At Your Youth Ministry

I am tired of that negative voice in my head. Do you know the one? The one that makes you second guess your efforts? Make you wonder if you or you’re youth meeting had any impact?

These kind of thoughts make you wonder whether you’re good enough, smart enough, or brave enough to lead your group?  It’s time to tell that voice to shut up.

Author and speaker Seth Godin calls this kind of thinking, The Lizard Brain, the part of our brain that is all about surviving, hiding, and avoiding risk, instead of thriving.

I have spent too many Thursdays (post youth meeting) rehearsing my pain to anyone who would listen. I used to, with much haste, send  up the white flag of disappointment without even looking at all the good that God did and is doing in my life and ministry. Join me in considering these statements to turn around your thinking :

  • God called you. You showed up. Remember that day.
  • Kids showed up. Maybe not as many as we’d like but they showed up.
  • A student grew in their faith, learned something new, and stepped up to lead
  • You saw where you could improve. Next week will be better because you learned something about yourself, about God, and about the students you serve
  • You lived to fight another day, to change, to grow.
  • Someone in your youth ministry loves you for who you are and would miss you if you were gone.
  • God is not disappointed with you or your group. He is proud of you and is ready to help. He is moving in your group in ways you cannot see but He is moving. He promised He would.
  • You found a way not to do something. A game didn’t work, a program element failed, etc. Let it inspire you to do it better.
  • You loved someone unconditionally and revealed the heart of God.
  • You went home to a great family or friends who don’t care if you’re a great youth pastor, leader, or communicator.

Is that negative voice picking away at you today? Tell it it’s  wrong.

Customizing The Discipleship Process

Youth discipleship is a slippery beast, but not ungraspable if we are willing to work a little harder at customizing the discipleship experience. Isn’t it funny how we make a big deal when someone “get’s saved” but say nothing after that? Why don’t we celebrate and say things like “This kid did not have a daily bible reading experience and now they do!”?, “This kid never raised his hands during worship and now he is all into it!”Discipleship is as equally awesome as evangelism, it just doesn’t get the press time evangelism does. jesus celebrated with his disciples when he said

“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” Luke 10: 21 NIV

I think customized discipleship brings in this celebration factor and honors a teens commitment to Christ. I listened to an interview last year about customizable shopping and I am pretty sure this is what jump started this journey for me to customize discipleship material for kids.

I am doing my best to treat each kid in my group differently and teach my adult leaders to do the same, because each kid is different. Their needs are different and how they learn is different. “But what if I am not gifted in writing or creating, can I still meet kids needs?” Yes, my gift is writing and creating and I have a passion for learning and getting kids to learn so that is what I do. You can customize the discipleship experience for your kids by asking a few simple questions

1. Where are my kids favorite places to eat? 

Why not have your bible study or accountability time there.

2. What are my kids favorite style of music?

Use music that kids are familiar with to share the gospel or to share a biblical truth. I give certain cd’s to certain kids because that is what they like. One of my kids is all about sceamo metal, that is what I give him,. He is starting a Bible study soon around that music. I don’t push what I like on them and expect them to accept it because I do.

3. What are your kids favorite hobbies?

I have a girl who is into Anime. Now, I do not watch Anime as a general rule, other than when my son was into the cartoon Avatar: The Last Air Bender,  but I do make room in my brain to learn something about Anime so I can at least know what she is talking about. Knowing something about anime also means I am looking for Christian manga resources to share with her because that is the method she would best receive it in. Like The Mange Bible.

These are not knew ideas. They have been done for years. What is new is the culture we live in where everything is streaming, on demand, and customizable. It take work to know what our kids like and we lose none of the power of the Gospel by creating customized plans or spaces for kids to learn what we want them to learn in a way they want to learn it. It’s easy and lazy to do mass discipleship, (take these 5 classes, etc.) It is harder to customize the experience, but it is more productive and more worth while.

Do you customize resource for your kids? How do you do it? Leave a comment below.


Designing Your Youth Space: Plan Like NYC

Because of our new youth room, my mind is attuned to anything that is talking about space. So, the other day I was listening to Diane Rehm  interviewing New York City Planning Commissioner, Amanda Burden. She had some great things to say about creating special spaces in a huge city like NYC. I’d like to offer a few quotes and then some commentary.

And just before that time, I met my most important mentor. His name was Holly White, William H. White, and he wrote “The Organization Man,” and he was an urbanologist who specialized in public spaces. And he said to me, you can measure the health of the city by the vibrancy of its streets and public spaces, and that became my passion.

ur·ban·ol·o·gist (ûrb-nl-jst)n. A sociologist who specializes in the problems of cities and urban life.

You could say, “You can measure the health of a youth ministry by it’s space.” but that is a little overboard. I would re-phrase it this way,

Rooms and space are an important aspect of a youth ministry’s ability to be spiritually and emotionally healthy,

Buildings and room plans cannot change a heart but it might put a teen at ease long enough to listen to you share the gospel. I have not done a formal study on this, but my guess is, the church in your town with the best facilities is getting the lion share of kids to show up. That doesn’t mean they’re doing everything well or even making disciples of Jesus, but they do have the raw material of the gathering to work with. 

We can swing overboard both ways on this topic. We can obsess about our meeting space or ignore it and say things like “It’s the Spirt that matters, not the room we meet in.” I agreed, to a point, but some teens may want to come to your creepy church basement to experience the Spirit. Let’s be people of balance. 

And having the public spaces to study, it makes all the difference in the world because that’s what makes people fall in love with the city. The public spaces, the parks, the streets, just finding places that they can enjoy, have that respite, whether it’s on the waterfront, whether it’s in Bryant Park, or whether it’s in a small place in Paley Park, whether it’s on a sidewalk café. All of those things make a city wonderful.

I like the word respite. It’s possible that our youth rooms can be so busy (video games, lights, etc.) there is no respite. No place to think, talk, rest, or pray. In other words, we have to balance the energy of Times Square and make room for the respite of Central Park. 

Yes. Well, you know, as you’ve heard, we have very, very broad, ambitious plans for shaping the whole city, but really how we judge a project is how it feels at the street. That’s what people really care about. How does it feel walking along that street? Are there many stores along an individual block? Are there shade trees in a park? Are there places to sit that are comfortable?

This is the key phrase “What does it feel like at street level”. When was the last time you looked at your space from a teens point of view? The “build it and they will come” may have worked for a few weeks, but if we watch how our teens gather, how they break up, how they sit together, it may clue us to the effort we should put into the seating and lay out of the rooms we meet in. 

When you sit at the water’s edge, can you see over the railing? Or does the railing block your view? Do you feel that there is a place for you, for sun and shade, a table to hold your book? Each of these things is very important and details make all the difference.

Pay attention to detail. Your kids are. They know when it doesn’t look right or feel right. Our rooms, their smell, their color, and their layout all may be making our jobs of ministering to our teens  little harder. 

If you would like more room design ideas, I have 29 videos just waiting for you over here.

 What do you think? Take the poll. 

7 Reasons Why I’ll Skip Your Youth Ministry Network Meeting

This will sounds grossly arrogant, but I don’t “need” a network. Now, let me clarify, I do not need a traditional network. I’m in certain category, I am a 45 +, 27 year youth ministry veteran. Many networks are sponsored to pimp programs or sell stuff. Think of the timeshare you sat through to get the free ticket to x park in Orlando. Was it wort it? This is not to say I don’t need Christian friendships or professional peers, I just have a different context for those.

So, whether it is Greg Stier from Dare 2 Share doing a luncheon 2 hrs from me or a company at YS doing a network deal at a conference or a local network in my area, I apply the following rules to all of them.

. Here are a few reasons I’ll skip a network meeting:

1. I’ll skip it if we are only meeting so you can share your agenda and why we should jump in/buy your stuff (aka pimping your stuff )

I have enough going on. I don’ t need another thing to sponsor.

2. I’ll skip it if I feel there isn’t space to share my experience or talents.

Like I said, I am in a different boat and the context of many meetings don’t apply to me. I’m at the point in life and career where sharing and passing on what I know is of utmost importance.  Hence this blog, my Youtube Channel, my podcast, etc. If there’s not open space, within a network meeting, to help someone, I check out.

3. I’ll skip it if I think you are going to waste my time (meeting just to meet)

Once again, meeting to meet, unless I am with my closest friends (shout out to my Hueytown crew), is a a waste of time. I don’ need a guest speaker. I can watch what I want or need on YouTube.

4. I’ll skip it if there is no networking.

I have been to many kinds of network meetings, seated around round tables, and I left without having really networked. To me, and to most people I think, networking is not a meeting or a guest speaker. Networking is for sharing ideas, making friends, and praying with those who share your burden for the next generation. A network sponsors role is to create the context where these things can happen.

5. I’ll skip it if I am not challenged to be more.

I want to network with people who challenge me, challenge the way I think about ministry, life, and faith. I don’t need a pep talk, I need answers and life on life relationships. I have enough surface relationships, thank you.

6. I’ll skip it if I sense I won’t walk away smarter or better than I walked in.

This goes back to the principles of networking which is relationship. You many also say, “How arrogant.” Go ahead and say that. Let’s see what you’re like after 20 years, you have a family, you have kids in college, and see if a network meeting is the same draw for you. I love relationships and new ideas. I want those at my network meeting.

7. I’ll skip it if I feel like I’ll be shamed for skipping it.

If you run a network or host a network, you should love your network and value the people in it. Shaming someone because they’ve missed or because you think that person doesn’t “buy in” to your philosophy is the wrong direction.

Advice to network leaders, Treat youth pastors like you would the kids that come to your youth ministry:

Always keep your channels open.

Send friendly reminders that you missed them.

Offer them the opportunity to contribute (they won’t skip as much)

Love them fiercely.

So, whether you think I am arrogant, pretentious, or just crazy, that’s o.k.. I know me. I am who I am and you are who you are. I’m getting ready to “play the back nine” , as some say, and I want a network of people who will make playing the back nine as fun, informative, crazy, and as fruitful as the front nine.

You may say “If you’re so dissatisfied, Why don’t you start your own network then.?” Good idea, and I have. Most of my networking these days are online so you can get with me on with of my Facebook page Youth Ministry University or Disciple Project Ministries. You can also interact and leave comments on my Youtube channel and always comment back.

What about you? Do you have a youth ministry network? Do you love it or hate t? Do you skip it for any of the reasons above? Which ones?

If you are a network leader frustrated with how your network, do any of the above principles apply to you? Which ones?

Why do you think people are skipping your network meetings?

From Idea To Reality In Four Steps

We are coming off a great night last Wednesday. We saw our kids fulfill one students desire to have a youth choir. We showed that a kids idea can go from thought to reality.

Step one in bringing a kids idea to fruition is first to listen for passion cues in key phrases. What is a passion cue? A passion cue is something a student says that reveals what they may be passionate about. Even a complaint may be a passion cue in disguise. Here are some of phrases that may cue me in to the possibility of a kids passion which may result in a new project, outreach, or program idea:

“I wish we could..”

“I think we should have…”

” I wonder if we could..”

“Is it possible to..”

“Why can’t we …”

What do we do after we here one of these passion cues? What is our method of getting these ideas to fruition? I recently shared this four step response with our staff and is the second step  to bringing the idea to reality.

Second, consider the request. Is it self serving or does it serve a greater community need or a need of the group?

Third, pursue the student. This is where we usually drop the ball by not following up. Ask the student whether they would be willing to head it up. Ask them why they think their idea is important to the group or community. If they’re not willing to at least share the idea with the group or share in the leadership of idea, then the passion is not there. But that doesn’t have to be the end of it.

Fourth, ask them, “What if we could help you make it happen?” Offer support, in the form of helping to publicize or help them plan the event or service. .

The third step is the easiest. Get it on the calendar, make a big deal about it, and then execute it. When we implemented the choir as a project, we used the second half of our service to execute it. Did we lose a few kids for a few weeks, sure, but on the night we sang, we had 25-30 in the youth choir, including some visitors and we blessed our Wednesday night adult crowd.

Yes there will be balking, but that will be by the students who have no ideas, no better ideas, or no conviction to make their ideas a reality. Move forward and watch what God does.

What are some other passion cues you listen for? How do you bring kids ideas to the table and make them a reality? Share your story below.

Youth Pastors, Why Isn’t This In Our Job Description?

Failed Job Desciptions

  • Schools teach Math, History, etc.
  • The military teaches discipline, leadership, and job skills
  • Sports teams teach sportsmanship and how to pay the game
  • Churches run programs to keep people busy and not sin as much

These are organization with a list of activities with no clear goals. What if they said,

  • School’s produce imaginative students ready to solve problems in a complicated world?
  • The military trains men and women to be people of character who can ably defend our country both home and abroad.
  • Sport teams make leaders who will do their best on and off the field.
  • Churches make disciples who make disciples to impact the world for Christ.

These latter job descriptions are far more compelling than the former.

The church teaches about God? Really? Is that all? You may say, “Isn’t that enough? Think about the job description you received when you were hired. How much of that are you fulfilling? What impact are you  making because of it? Now, think about what you are CALLED to do. How much of that are you fulfilling? Who we are as believers and youth pastors impact schools, military, and sports teams by impacting students . In a word, we impact CULTURE.

What has the church, as an spiritual organism/organization produced in recent years? We can’t produce Christians because God does that; so what does the church produce? Can’t we produce better educated, leaders of characters with skills to impact the world around us? Why isn’t it in our job description simply ot make disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus to impact the world around us? Why doesn’t the details of  this job description include

  • Helping kids use their imaginations to see what God sees
  • Teach job skills and make better employees of our community
  • Take more mission trips and have less pizza parties.

Why do churches set the bar so low by asking youth pastors to “run the program” ?  Why can’t churches set the bar high with “Equip students to do the work of the ministry” or “Make disciples of Jesus?” . Why Because it’s less work, and less mess, to just run the program.

Your Turn

How can you expand, re-write, your job description to be more effective at making disciples of Jesus.