Youth Meeting: When You Don’t Know What To Preach

I love to preach. I mean, full out bringing it, but some weeks I have no idea what to talk about. It might be that I am in between series or am I am struggling for series ideas. If we were all honest, we’ve all felt this and have uttered these words, “This week, I have no clue.”

I have a t-shirt that says, “It’s all good”. My wife hates it but it’s become my motto for preaching. The bible is all good. Everything from Genesis to Revelation (even Leviticus). As I pray, listen, and trust the Holy Spirit; I know that whatever comes out will glorify God and empower kids. Many times I don’t get to preach because I am happy if I just open the altars for prayer so kids can touch the hem of Jesus’ garment. I just get out of the way.

If you really are clueless about what to preach it’s o.k.. Don’t freak. Here are a few thoughts that might stir you.

1. Just ask Jesus, “What do my kids need tonight?” It is that simple.

2. What’s happening in the world that our kids need to understand in the context of scripture. This could the Dark Knight shooting tragedy or a quote from the Olympics. Keep your eyes and ears open.

3. Is there a popular You Tube video that needs to sparks discussion.

4. Is there a popular song on the radio that’s in your head that speaks a deeper truth.

5. Do we just need to turn on some worship music and let kids come to the altar?

6. Reflect on what God is doing in your own life.

7. Share a story from your life that you’ve never told.

8. Share your testimony, don’t preach it, share it.

You may be reading the Bible and you’re just not feeling it. Keep reading. Skip around, read the passage over and over again, keep going to the well until your bucket is full first and then fill the kids bucket.

I’ve stress out about the message more than I care to admit. As long as I am loving kids enough to tell kids the truth, and loving kids period, it’s all good.




Songs You Might Want To Add To Your iTunes Wish List

Every Tuesday I scan iTunes looking for new songs, motivation, and inspiration. This morning I thought I’d share what lit my fire this morning.

Fan The Flames – Dustin Smith (anything with fire get me going)

Te Amo – Israel and New Breed (anything with T-Bone works for me.)

Mighty Fortress– Jesus Culture, Mary kat Ehrenzeller (She kills this)

I Won’t Settle – Nate Ward 11 (this will show up in a youth meeting message)

Can’t Have My Soul – Je’Kob (putting the devil and the world on notice)

Come To The River– Rhett Walker Band  (just buy the whole album)

I’ll Fly Away– Flatfoot 56 (f you are looking for a punkish version of this songs, and who isn’t, this is for you. It has


Here I Am Alive – Yellow Card (I like the pop vibe and the message)

Live Like A Warrior– Matisyahu (It’s infectious. Makes me wonder if he’s been hanging with Toby Mac LOL)

Never Gonna Give It Up – Jett Black  (My nod to 80’s style metal/rock, it;s probably the only good song on the album, ok,

Raining Rock is pretty good too)

To All My Family and Relations– Spirit Family Reunion (if you like it folksy/country/laid back, this is for you)

That’t it for now. Did this help you find some new music you can’t get out of your head? Don;t have time to scan the Ituniverse and this helped you out? Let me know and maybe I’ll bring you a new batch of tunes next week.







Would Merit “Pay” Work On Any Level For Youth Pastors?

I have been thinking about this for a while. I have been wondering if merit pay for youth pastors would work. Is there a way to use this system in the positive without the negatives. In other words, you can never lose incentives, only gain them. “Pay” in this instance is not necessarily money. Incentives could be anything: conventions, trips, access, etc. if certain goals are met.

These goals would not consist of number of salvations, baptisms, etc. This would be too creepy and carnal. I am speaking from a purely programatic sense: Numbers, trips, job well done, hard work, team work, etc.

Teachers get merit pay if their classes score good grades, etc

Football players make extra money for tackles, catches, and touchdowns.

I don’t want to say Youth Pastor are lazy but like every other job, we have our few. Would merit pay be a cure for that? It’s not Gods’ fault if a youth pastor wants to sit at Starbucks all day hope kids show up (I understand demographic issues, etc.). We work in tandem with God. We reap what we sow etc. Does merit pay or rewards work in the context of the church? I don’t know. I have never been on that type of system. I would probably buck it, but it depended on the rewards not the losses for me. Could I gain access to things I would not normally get like a cool car, more money for my budget, a tricked out van for the kids, access to authors and musicians?

Before any of us get too high and mighty and say “this is a worldly way of doing things” think of all the things you would not do if there are no incentive for you to do it. Doing what God says with out results is one thing (see Jeremiah and most of the other prophets). You know that you know you were supposed to do it, but none of us would be full time or even part time youth pastors if we did not have a way to provide for our families (unless you are a prophet, see above)

The jury is still out for me. I am just asking questions.


More Questions

Have you ever worked in a church with a merit “pay” system?

My question is, would you work harder if you knew you could gain something or that you would lost something?

Taking Student Leadership Mainstream



I love developing young leaders. Since I started I youth ministry (100 yeas ago it seems) I was taught to develop a leadership team. The book you see above was my first student leadership book. It recommended I start a S.A.L.T team, this stands for Student Action Leadership Team. From this point on I was always recruiting new leaders, we would have planning meetings, etc. It was very exclusive. Now let’s jump ahead 20 years.

I used to believed in the elite team. The special forces of youth ministry. I sought the best and the brightest, until I got a “revelation” that that is not what Jesus did. Yes, he chose 12 disciples, but that was not his “leadership” team. If they were supposed to be his leadership team, they were certainly not the best and the brightest. I would have chosen the rich young ruler or the prodigal son’s bother because he was always home and faithful.

Jesus took leadership mainstream. He called young men who could not make it in traditional rabbi school where you had to apply to be a student (yes, I used to use student leadership applications doh!). I have an Endeavor style ministry, mixed with my own thoughts and ideas, that believes all kids can take their place in God’s story.

I am still experimenting with some mid-week program models but I have divided our youth ministry meeting time into a 45 and 45 paradigm. Summer is different, but the idea goes like this,  kids think up and develop projects with an an adult facilitator for the first 45 minutes of our program. They meet, eat, chill, plan etc. Some nights they are planning a weekend retreat and some nights they are thinking on ways to add value to the program that night. Everyone can choose something. The second 45 minutes is service. We have praise and worship, offering, and message, etc.

I still have “go to” kids but my pool of developing young leaders has grown. I get to watch kids in action. It’s like watching a football combine and seeing kids run through the drills in real time. In this process kids are learning, doing, and failing vs sitting. This model isn’t perfect, no models are, but this mainstream approach to leadership feels more like Jesus to me.

For more info on developing student leaders and some of my recommended resources you can check out my article on Equipping Student Leaders

How are you taking student leadership mainstream in your group?

Life For Youth Camp Rocks The House!



I  am back from a week of ministering at The Greatest Place On Earth: Life For Youth Camp. I have included most of the links to the videos I used as well as the worship songs so you can download them for yourself. I have also included a short video of what to do now the you are back from your camp. Have a great rest of the summer and a great school year. Stay Fired Up!


Monday Night

Psalm 1

Isaiah 64:6

Hebrews 10:1-11

Luke 18:9-14

I Peter 1:24


I am looking for my notes for this and will update this when I get home.

Wednesday – Pruning and Preparing

John 15:1-17

Romans 12:1, 2

Taking Off

Romans 13:12-14

Colossians 3:5-10

Ephesians 4:17-24

Putting On

Colossians 3:12-17

I Thessalonians 5:8

I Peter 3:34

I Peter 5:5, 6

Thursday – Be Fruitful Not Fake

John 15:8

Galatians 5:17-26


You could download the song I Am A Seed from iTunes HERE


You can download the song All For Your Splendor HERE 




How Are You Protecting Your Young Men From The Worthless and the Wicked?

For the past couple of months I have been meditating on a “random” scripture from 2 Chronicles from 13.

“Then worthless and wicked men gathered around him to resist Rehoboam son of Solomon when Rehoboam was young, inexperienced, and unable to assert himself agains them.” verse 7

I will trust that you will read the chapter to gain the context while I offer some commentary on this verse

Our young men are being attacked by a worthless and wicked culture like Rehoboam. The writer seems to say that had Rehoboam had the ability to resist them he would have. I believe our young men want to resist a worthless and wicked culture but they cannot confront it for the same reason Rehoboam could not. We cannot do anything about the young part of the equation, but how can we help out in the other two?

Should we give our kids deeper experiences earlier?

I used to wait for a magic age to trust kids with responsibility. Not any more, I try my best to look at middle school kids and offer them the same things I offer HS students, just in smaller doses. I challenge them to step up with ideas, and then I get behind those ideas and create a levee of accountability for those ideas. The more experiences we can give kids through service, missions trips, leadership and other methods, the better I think they will be better prepared to face the wicked and the worthless. What kind of experiences are you offering your young men and are you seeing the fruit of these experiences?

How do we teach our kid to be assertiveness without being aggressive?

Middle school young men can be assertive in all the wrong ways. I see middle school kids be assertive with their sexuality as equally as they are assertive with their Yuh-Gi-Oh cards. This is the bane of adolescence, the inability to tell the difference of what is appropriate and what is not which, by the way, also makes them unbelievably funny. Too many young men know how to parrot biblical verses or religious slogans but without conviction and are false signs that a kid is “maturing” in the faith. I don’t know whether we should be teaching apologetics earlier but I think we can help young guys stand on higher ground, not beyond emotion, but in spite of their emotion. How are you cultivating deeper convictions in your young men?

As always, I have more questions than answers. Share your thoughts.


What Rekindled My Passion For Middle School Ministry?

You may be shocked by the answer: Kids Camp. Yes, Kids Camp. Our children’s ministry had no make adult leaders for camp, and I drug my feet, hoping someone would step up. I love kids, I have kids, but kids are not my forte’. Granted, I am more childish than child like, but I still think in teen terms, which made the three days I spent with 9 boys very interesting.

Five of the kids were adopted/foster kids and new to our church. Four were church kids. It was an interesting dynamic. The four kids from the church will be coming into youth this year and that is where my passion button was pushed.

I saw how these kids interacted. I saw their need for conflict resolution skills. I saw how easily their feelings were hurt. I saw how they jocky’d for friendship position like a race car at Talledega. I saw life from a Jr. High perspective in a way I had not seen in a while and I live with a Jr. High student, my son, who was also part of this camp.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Months before, I was approached by a parent about focusing more on middle school and allowing them to meet separately.  I blew it off because the incoming group was so small and mostly home schooled.

This shouldn’t matter, but my corporate brain took over. I was wrong and now I must re-evaluate. At this point, with our new 45 and 45 program mix (I’ll explain in another post) I am figuring out how to be more strategic with these middle school kid and families.

I am going to do a Middle School Boot Camp to help new and existing Middle School students adapt and overcome the new school year.

I plan on increasing face time with theses new students and their families.

I plan on being more strategic in my teaching.

How about you? Where is your passion for middle school right now? Do you have a Middle School plan for the fall?

Let’s collaborate and let the fire for middle school burn bright.

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Three Awards We Shouldn’t Give Out In Youth Ministry




I saw this article about a kid who received the “Catastrophe Award” for the most excuses given for not having her homework. It made me think about awards we should not give out in our youth ministry that would shame or embarrass kids.

The You Did Not Bring Your Bible For The 20th Time  Award

We preachers can say things off the cuff and mean nothing by it but our kids interpret our words differently. This award is indicative of saying, if you don;t bring your Bible, you’re not in the club. A kids may bring his Bible to youth for an 90 min and leave it sit under his bed the rest of the week. We got our pound of flesh from that kid but I would rather that kids not bring their bible for those 90 minutes, when I demanded them to, and rather a cultivate a love of God’s word (written and spoken) so they’ll encounter God’s word for 90 minutes throughout the week.

The You’re So Uncommitted Award

I was the worst at this. I would almost berate a kid for not showing up for an event. Maybe it was the pressure of the numbers, maybe it was my own Pharisaical heart, no matter, I handed out this award to liberally. Kids get enough of the “you don’t measure up” speech. Jesus is the standard not our program schedule.

The You Don’t Love Jesus Enough Award

This is closely related to award # 2. Come to the program = you love Jesus. More program = more love. This is another subconscious message we send to kids whose faith sometime hangs by a thread. Let’ not let our words but the last string that holds them.

I am not advocating to not preach the truth or to build the program to the best to four ability, but let’s not build it by giving out awards that kids do not deserve.

Have you given out some awards you are not proud of? Share them below.



Is Your Library Holding You Back?

Back in the days of books and large libraries and offices for youth pastors, when I had a need, I would go to my “go to” books on games, lessons, etc. (See Ideas Library from YS) What I found out after the tornado stole our church and my library, I discovered something: I leaned on my library too much.

Libraries are not just books. Libraries are a collection of anything, websites, camps, speakers, conferences, ebooks, etc. The questions is, are our “go to” resources keeping us stupid and outdated. Just because it’s easy to go to our favorites in a pinch doesn’t mean that it should be our first choice.

It’s not just a questions of ease, it’s questions of creativity. When I lost 90% of my library in the tornado, as well as my office, I discovered a new level of creativity. I became much more nimble in my thoughts and had to think more about what was best and not just what was easiest. Loosing my library also freed me up to pray more. It’s amazing how much we  will not pray about something when we feel like we have an ace in the hole somewhere.

I also learned to rely more on people than books or websites. Real people had better ideas than my books. They had current, passionate, and more fun ideas than my books. Shocking right? It only took a natural disaster to show me that.

To this day, one year later, I do not have an office or a library of “go to” resources and I am better because of it.

Challenge: Pack up your “go to” stuff a month (or more) and see what happens.