Why Youth Pastor’s Are Not (Real) Missionaries



I’ve heard through he years that youth pastors are like missionaries. I used to think that was true, but upon reflections, I find it is only partially true.  I just got back from Phoenix and our National Fine Arts Conference and District Council for my denom. I talked with my friend and missionary Larry Henderson. Larry and his wife Melinda are missionaries to the Canary Islands.

Larry was helping with a booth to support missions in Europe where only 3% of the population is Christian. We started talking about what is working in youth work in the Canary Islands and guess what? It’s no shocker, it’s relationships. They gather kids up weekly and play soccer and then share the gospel or invite them to a bible study. The whole thing is relationships.

Now, we , as youth workers, do share some similarities with missionaries

  • We work in a foreign culture (Two Words : Lady Gaga)
  • We have the occasional language barrier (brush up on your lingo here or here)
  • We face cannibals on a weekly basis (Don’t laugh, you haven’t seen my youth group)

We are missionaries in practice, up to a point. The differences are many

  • Missionaries are revered for their sacrifice to live in another country ( I am over 40 and culture is officially another country to me, I want a cookie)
  • Missionaries are supported financially. (Need I say more)
  • Missionaries are applauded for reaching those God forsaken pagans (we are asked about that strange kid with the purple hair)
  • Missionaries garner prayer support (prayed for any other youth workers lately)
  • Missionaries are invited to share stories from the front lines. (Can you name the last time you were invited to share what God was doing in the youth ministry with your congregation?)
  • Missionaries can try anything that might reach the indigenous people and they don’t get fired if it does not work. (We get yelled at because the music is too loud)

What do you think,  are youth pastors true missionaries? Should youth pastors move to being independent contractors (ala Young Life and YFC) and we just tell churches, we’ll work in your community but don’t tell us how to do our job? If only 3% of the teenagers in our country were Christians would the roles of youth pastors change? How?


Get Fired Up! Way To Go Life For Youth Camp!



Hey LFYC Campers!

Forst let me say I love you guys! You were a  great group this year and God did some amazing things in our midst and in our hearts. I hope the week was a powerful for you as it was for me. As I promised here is a bunch of  the stuff I used this week like the Bad Evangelism video and the video, our Alabama Disaster relief. Oh, and even the Oliver video clip

Here is a list of the songs we sang this week

Christ In Me

Tell The World

Trading My Sorrows

Happy Day

Nothing Is Impossible

One Way

What The World Will Never Take

I Am Free

Your Love Never Fails

Mighty To Save

Our God

Love Like Fire

Father Will You Come

You Never Let Go







Rascal Flatt’s I Won’t Let Go

If you have pictures or video from the week please send it to me at thedproject@me.com

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Don’t forget to download the 40 Day Sweat Club devotion. If you are needing more devotions please check the free resource. page.


Good Youth Ministry Begins With Asking Why



I have been reading a book by Simon Sinek called Start With Why. It is a marketing/leadership book for businesses but it really challenges the reasons why we don’t ask why and why we should be asking why more. The premise is simple: People are not attracted to what we do or how we do it, but why we do what we do. He challenges us to always begin our endeavors with Why?

For youth ministries, this means getting away from selling our long list of programs to students and getting down to telling a better story of why we created the programs in the first place.

Let me offer seven questions we should be asking about our youth ministries and ourselves:

1. Why do I do, or still do, youth ministry?

“Because I am called” or “Because I can’t do anything else” are both sad answers and do not inspire anyone. Dig deeper.

2. Why do I preach what I preach? 

“It’s my job” is lame and keeps you from changing the way you lead your group. Dig deeper

3. Why do I have daily devotions and prayer?

Is it because you feel guilty or you think God may punish you if you do not? Reflect not on the what or how long, but the discipline itself. Healthy youth ministry begins with healthy leaders.

4. Why do we meet?

If you can answer this question, programming will be a breze.

5. Why do we have small groups?

By asking why, we eliminate false answers such as “Because everyone else has them”

6. Why do we have outreaches?

Is it about the numbers? Go deeper and you’l find a better reason to reach our to your community.

7. Why do I do or should I do family ministry?

We do not ask this questions often enough because many ministries do not do this well, so we don’t ask.

Asking why makes us uncomfortable and it should. It reveals how little foundation we have for doing what we do. Asking why makes us unhappy in the short term but if we ask and reflect on it, it could lead us to reformulating what we do.

We cannot coast along in youth ministry with out asking why. If we’ll start with why we may just avoid the disappointing question, “What happened?”

Which of these questions challenge you most?

Is there a why question you have been pondering? Tell us what part of youth ministry we should being asking why about.


Do Mega Youth Groups Have A Mega Responsibility?



I got a call the other day from a mega youth movement in our city. They were inviting me to an end of school rally. I appreciated the call and thanked him. A few days later I received another call inviting me to the same event. I had been thinking about mega-churches and mega youth movements and their responsibility to the rest of the body of believers within the community.

Mega churches are, dynamically, like Wal-Mart. When a Wal-Mart moves into a community , it has an adverse effect on mom and  pop stores, usually resulting in them closing. Mega-churches have a similar effect. I define a mega church or youth ministry of over 100, since the average church congregation is about 100. Wal-Mart has no responsibility to mom and pop stores, but what if they did? What if they shared marketing secrets or better customer service tips? This would level the playing field to some degree and then it would be up to those owners to change to get a chance to compete within the market place.

What if Mega-Churches or groups did the same? Rather than gutting our youth ministries or young adult programs and saying too bad, teach us how to thrive. Now, I know the mega’s have events that equip the body. They host larger speakers, conferences,  and concerts that smaller groups could not afford. That certainly helps, but there are some other things I’d like to see them do.

I’d like to see mega movement youth leaders and youth pastors

  • Join a local network- Many times these leaders will say they do not have time. Bunk! Come hang out with us.
  • Teach us something- Share what you know with us. Teach us how to draw students or have an awesome camp.
  • Partner with us- Bring your awesome drama team or band to our group.
  • Reach out to us- I want to hear from you, not your people. Mega groups draw criticism because of isolationism. Break down the walls.
This is not sour grapes, just an observation. I am also not a spiritual socialist, believing all things should be equal among us.  I think Mega youth groups have a mega responsibility to the rest of the body within a community, unless they want to be Wal-Mart.  At the very least, don’t ignore us. We may be mom and pop churches but we have purpose. Invest in us, build relationships with us, and then let us stand on our own and we ‘ll see what God will do. Next time, don’t call me to come to your event, call me to come into relationship with you.
What do you think? Do Mega-Youth Ministries or movements have a responsibility to the rest of the body within a community or is it all cut-throat and the strongest survive? Tell me what you think.

6 Things I Do The Week Before Youth Camp

I am heading off to our summer camp next week and I thought I’d pass along a few things I do that make my life easier:

  1. I meet individually with students who I think might cause me a problem. I challenge them to step up and lead or give them a job for the week, such as watching out for younger students to make sure they’re not picked on.
  2. I over communicate with parents about any changes.
  3. I make sure every kid has signed our camp standards covenant
  4. I think of a surprise or bonus I can spring on the kids that week. It could be as simple as candy bars or free t-shirts.
  5. I make sure my Pastor has a count and a list of campers so he can pray for us individually
  6. I meet one final time with parents right before the trip for about 10 minutes to challenge them to prepare a home where they can live out the things they have committed in their hearts to Christ.

Do you have a list of things you run through to make your camp run smoother?  Share them with us.

Oh, here is a free Generic Camp Covenant I created for our group. Enjoy.

Seven Reasons Why Johnny Can’t Lead


If you are concerned about why your students will not step up and lead, see if any of these may be true. I have been guilty of all of these, but no more. This generation is too important for us to ignore or waste the opportunities God gives us.

1. Johnny can’t lead because he is  burdened  and buried under a culture of average.

Even though numbers drive us, can we all work to get past this?  Can we get beyond numbers or competing with First Church down the street for the sake of finding out what God is doing  and do that. Average youth ministries won’t cut it for Johnny and he won’t be there.

2. Johnny can’t lead because he doesn’t understand the gospel.

The gospel says, lay down your life,  but Johnny’s culture says to save it, hold on to it, don’t sacrifice. Johnny can’t lead because he does not understand the gospel as Jesus taught it. Unfortunately we perpetuate that because we are afraid to challenge Johnny and fear losing him.

3. Johnny can’t lead because has had no one to model leadership for him.

Where have all the leaders gone? We have silo’d our ministry so much, our young men are never a part of men’s ministry. Our men need someone to mentor and out kids need mentoring. We should try to make this kind of connection a regular part of our ministries.

4. Johnny can’t lead because no one told Johnny he could.

We should be affirming our young men in their gifts and then invite them  to use and fine tune their gifts in the ministry as well as the chance to fail greatly.

5. Johnny can’t lead because Johnny doesn’t see the value in it.

Have we turned the Christian life, the great adventure into the great list of rules? Who wants to lead that?

6. Johnny can’t lead because his youth pastor can’t keep his or her hands off things.

Stop. Just stop. Quit trying to save your job and save your soul.

7. Johnny can’t lead because he is constantly being saved from failure.

Here is a quick primer for how failure should work

  • Give Johnny a task
  • Make him accountable
  • Equip him to succeed
  • Let him fail, but not to the point that it would crush him.  Protect but don’t save.
  • Thank him if it was his best effort and rebuke him if it was not.
  • Repeat

Why  should it be our goal to erase any excuses or blockades to the door that leads Johnny to taking his place? I believe, if Johnny steps through that door, it will be awfully hard for him to go back. Isn’t that what we want?

Six Pressures of Preaching In Youth Ministry

Preaching. It means different things to different people. To some it means a short devotion, to others it is a 45 minute message with spitting and sputtering included. I love preaching but there are pressures that go along with it that I do not enjoy. When you get up to preach in youth group I can feel all those eyes on me wanting something, expecting something different. Here are the some of the pressures I feel come through those eyes and occasionally their mouths.

1. Say Something Funny:  When speaking to youth there is a pressure to be funny. We think, if we do not include some humor in this talk some how, we will lose them. The challenge for us, and by us I mean me, is to be funny and stay on topic. Some youth pastors, believe it or not, are not naturally funny. Many of us have a dry sense of humor versus being boisterous. Some of us are Steven Wright and some of us are Chris Farley. No comedian is the perfect model of funny, they are all very distinct and so are you. Be funny, but don’t feel the pressure to say something funny that will  take away from being naturally funny. Mistakes get made this way. Trust me, I know.

2. Say Something New:   We are preaching from the same book. We talk about the same people. Jesus seems to be part of every message. The good news is, this generation doesn’t know the stories and some do not know who Jesus is. This gives us a chance to present new ieas to fertile ground. It’s all new to them. For those who do know Jesus and the Bible (a.k.a church kids), can sometimes give us that look that says, “Oh, great, I’ve heard this before.”  We can’t and shouldn’t try to come up with something “new”, but to express these old truths in new ways. Try props, location (preach from on top of a table when doing the Mt. of Olives) , or preach in the dark when talking about the sun turning black. Be aware though, designing creative message every week is another pressure we often create.

3. Say Something I Agree With: Preaching against culture to young people is like preaching against bones or peeing on trees to a room full of dogs. Culture  can become a whipping boy. It’s convenient. We may think “Lady Gaga will surely supply my next sin to preach against.” Preaching against culture is easy. Lot’s of material there. Your kids may nod their heads but they are not listening. They are not erasing songs off their ipods or blocking You Tube from their computer. I do not think culture is the issue. I think transformation in Christ, long term , is. There will always be another Harry Potter or Lady Gaga to bash, but there is only one Jesus to lift up.

4. Say Something Relevant: Is this on the test? Isn’t this what we ask our teachers when studying for a test so we know whether we should be listening and learning this material? I find that kids do the same thing with preaching. Is this relevant to my high school or jr. high world? I am 43 and I find it tough, sometimes, to remember my jr. high years. The good news is, I have three kids and two of them are teenagers. It’s a great refresher course. In preaching, I can’t keep up with every trend or fad but I do know what is real, and that is the place I have to preach from.

5. Say Something, But Don’t Take Too Long: Keeping it short is tough for me. I want to say everything, but when I feel this way I have to remember what Jesus said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”. I can’t say it all. As we get older we accumulate knowlege and experiences but we cannot fit them all nside a 15, 20 or 6 hour message. We know too much and our kids know so little. The pressure to share everything can derail the point of our messages, it has for me many times. Jesus told His disciple that it was better for Him to go away so The Comforter can come. I have to trust the Holy Spirit to say what I do not have the time to say. Jesus took the pressure off his physical self and placed it in the hands of God. Not a bad idea.

6. Say Something Meaningful: This may be the only pressure I put on myself. We have 52 weeks a year, minus 3 for holidays, revival, etc. so 49 weeks to say something that matters. There is the pressure to say it all in one night, as I described above, but you can ease that pressure if you see yourself as a long term partner in ministry rather than a one time, one year, one hit wonder. The key to relieving yourself of this pressure, is to pace yourself. Think longterm discipleship preaching and not just ” I have to get a response” preaching. Think about putting together a three month preaching calendar and let your students help you. Why guess what they want when they can tell you and then support it and help you design it?

I have not “preached” and will not “preach” all summer. This is new for me. It is a different kind of sabbatical for me. I think of it in terms of my favorite musical artist. What if our favorite music artist felt the pressure to put out an album or even a song every week? What if they did? Instead of hearing an inspiring, deep felt song that shares what the artist experienced in his/her life over the past year a we’d instead get songs about him or her sitting at the DMV and brushing their teeth. What dramatic thing can happen every week that deserves a song? There is a plus side to not preaching ever week. I am at a place where I have to speak every week but I only want to preach when I have something of value to say. When I kick back into preaching in the fall, my hope is, I’ll be dropping an album worth listening to.

Preaching The Green Lantern Oath

What? You do not know the Green Lantern Oath? For shame.

Say it along with me:

“In brightest day, in blackest night, No evil shall escape my sight.Let those who worship evil’s might, Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!“

If you are going to use the oath in any of your up coming messages, by all that is holy, let’s get it right.

Here are some themes you could use using the the Green Lantern’s Oath

“In brightest day, in blackest night”  I Peter 3:15, 16, 2 Timothy 4:2

Let’s always be ready, no matter what the conditions, to share the good news

No evil shall escape my sight. Romans 12:9, Hebrews 5:14, 2 Timothy 2:22

We have to be wise, discerning what is good from what is evil.

Let those who worship evil’s might  Proverbs 14:22, Romans 2:8

If you choose to love and do what is evil, it is not going to work out for you.

Beware my power… Green Lantern’s light!“  2 Corinthians 12:9,  Ephesians 1:19, I John 4:4

Obviously, evil doers will not fear OUR power, but the ONE who is in us is greater than he that is in the world.

Green Lantern was a simple movie and much maligned movie but I enjoyed it. If you’re a believer, you won’t be able to not see the spiritual parallels.

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Is Your Youth Ministry A Secret?


Think about it. Much of our work as youth pastors is done in secret. We plan many of our messages, have meetings, and do youth work in secret. We don’t mean it to be a secret but  it just winds up that way. We’re not trying to hide what we do but inadvertently block the view of those who are desperately looking for who we are and what we are all about. Jesus extols the virtues of secret in Matthew 6

““Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

I am not asking we violate this. Jesus references the Pharisees, who flaunted their spirituality and false piety. I am not saying we take our spirituality and make it front page news. I am saying that much of what we do in youth meetings is secret to a world of young people who will never attend our youth meetings, who desperately need to see it and experience outside of the four walls of our church.

I needed some inexpensive used tires this past weekend. The usual place I go was too busy and they did not have enough used tires, which was my budget. I found a place not too far from me and they did not work in secret.


Think about it. When you go to a traditional garage, you drive in, drop off your keys, and then you wait. What they are doing to your car is a secret. It leaves your mind to wonder:

  • Are they really working on my car?
  • When will they be done?
  • Are they taking good care of my car?
  • Are they messing with anything else?

Secrecy breeds paranoia. This tire place I went to worked in the open. I drove up and saw a row of jacks in the front of the business. I was greeted by a service tech and brought to the back where I got to pick out the tires I wanted for the price I wanted.I saw him grab the tires, roll them out, jack up my truck and put the tires on, all in about 20 minutes.


What is your youth ministry currently doing “secretly’, that you could do more openly?

  • Evangelism
  • Discipleship
  • Community
  • Worship

This Wednesday we are borrowing an ice cream truck and going around our neighborhood and passing out free ice cream. We are taking who we are publicly. We don’t want people to wonder what goes on inside those four walls two times a week. We want a community to know, this is the spirit of what is happening all the time and who we desire to be consistently.

This Wednesday, we are visiting the seniors and the shut ins of our church. We don’t want them, or the church as whole, wandering what are doing or what we we are about. We don’t want our secrecy to conjure untrue thoughts in the minds of our congregation.

This Wednesday we are visiting those students who have not been in a while. We want them to know that our care is not a secret, but it lives and breathes outside our youth room.

Do your youth work in the open, dispel everyone’s preconceived ideas of what your church is about and dispel the paranoia of your church, board, and pastor. You do good work, don’t keep it a secret. God does great work, do it in the open.



Why Senior Sunday Saddens Me

Why Senior Sunday Makes Me Sad

Let me preface this post by saying I’ve been at my church for under a year. I understand that you have to jettison a senior class or two within a youth ministry to expunge former philosophies and practices and to import new ones that will grow over time. This fact does not make Senior Sunday any less sad for me.  Eighty percent of the seniors I’m graduating, have not had any significant relationship with me or have they been involved in the youth ministry over the past year. This means, when I stand up to introduce them to the congregation, I will not be able to

  • Share stories of spiritual growth
  • Share moments from trips or events
  • Share about about how much I care about them (I do but it’s hard to really care about people you don’t know)
  • Share about funny moments we all shared

Even sadder, their parents could care less if I shared about these things. Maybe because they’ve had all the spiritual moments they needed in life. Maybe because with strong family units they did not need another spiritual community. If this is the case, God Bless them.  Here’s a another saddening realization, their futures, unfortunately, include

  • Not attending church
  • Not continuing to grow in their faith
  • Not caring whether the generations that come up after them in the youth group will have spiritual role models

What if I read that as their future plans in addition to going to college? Right, like a lead balloon. Can you say job hunting? The last of the saddest news is, I don’t know if their is an answer for our community. Oh, I could say Jesus is the answer but that is trite, and quite frankly, stupid. Jesus is not duck tape, You don’t slap him on broken spiritual lives and hope it holds them together.

To quote the great philosopher Dirty Harry, “A mans got to know his limitations”- Magnum Force.

I know mine. I also know God’s, He has none. Only God, by his grace, can save, inspire, and bring to pass, the spiritual growth needed to move this community past Senior Sunday. I have no confidence  in the flesh. I have great confidence in God, but, that does not make me any less sad.

Your Turn

What challenges or emotions do you face on Senior Sunday?