Relentlessly Poking The Revival Fire

This is my ninth, and final, post in my series 9 WaysTo Dynamically Revive Your Youth Ministry. You can click here to start at the beginning.

When I give you ideas and tactics for reviving your youth ministry, I make some assumptions.

I assume you are praying. I assume you are taking care of your own soul, I assume you are passionate about what you do. I don’t think these are careless assumptions. These are, or should be, core beliefs for someone in our position.

If all the above is happening (not perfectly all them) and heading in the right direction, then our role is to poke the fires.

This is also called stoking the fire. By definition, stoking the fire means to poke a fire and fuel it so that it burns higher. In the case of a camp fire we move the wood around so that oxygen and can get in and we add wood when the fire gets low.

These are all tangible effort. If we are praying then God is listening. What Neds to be done is the work. Look at Elijah,

Elijah took twelve stones according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD had come, saying, “Israel shall be your name.” So with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD, and he made a trench around the altar, large enough to hold two measures of seed. Then he arranged the wood and cut the ox in pieces and laid it on the wood.        I Kings 18: 31-33

Like Eliajah, we have to build the altar, lay the stones, get the wood, cut up the sacrifice. If Elijah does not of this, God does not answer by fire. This is not about working harder, longer hours; this about making preparations for God to answer our call.

Elijah dug trenches because he was one upping the prophets of Baal. Their God did not answer at all. Elijah essentially said, “Hold my beer”. He embarrassed the prophets of Baal by adding water to the sacrifice. Not only would God anger by fire, but he can even set a wet sacrifice aflame.

I don’t think we should be so brazen as to our water over our sacrifice. The wood in many youth groups are already wet making it hard to start a fire at all. Our kids are soaked with the world and water logged with cares and worries.

So, how do we poke the fires?

First, watch for the flicker.

It’s hard, sometimes, to get youth genuinely excited about the things of God, but I always watch for the flicker. I feel like I am trying to start a fire in a hurricane and my match keeps going out. I have to remind myself, It’s God’s job to answer by fire, not me. I watch for the spark and the flicker.

So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. I Corinthians 3:7

We build, we prepare, God brings the fire.

Next, add a log to the fire 

When I do see the flicker, I hurry and grab some kindling, not a big log. I don’t throw a ton of responsibility on a kid the minute they sense the Holy Spirit working in them. I take small steps, twig by twig I feed the flame.

I find out what they are good at and then try to match it with something in our youth ministry. If I cannot find a place for them to serve I create a place for them to serve no matter what they can do. The flame builds a little hire.

Finally, poke it here and there

I watch there fire closely. I watch for the winds of doubt and the flood discouragement that may try to extinguish the flame of faith. I poke the fire with relationship, with encouragement, with affirmation, and with motivation.

If there is more than one flicker I band those logs together so they feed off one another. I poke the fire even more making sure there is room to breath and experience God. Then, I work and I wait to see what happens next.

Like fire building, reviving a youth ministry is a slow process. The fire may never get as hot or as high as we like it, but we should always be grateful their is a fire at all.

I hope you enjoyed the series, and if you did, leave a comment. Be sure to sign up for the Fresh Impact Newsletter to receive more ideas, resources, and strategies.



You Won’t Revive Your Youth Ministry Alone

This is the seventh post in my series The 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. You can start at the beginning here

One of the most powerful movie moments I can remember is from the movie The Abyss. It stars Ed Harris and the scene is Harris’ character Virgil Brigman breaking down while trying to revive his drowned ex-wife.

3:37 -8:30 (some nudity and language)

Youth Pastor’s (and Pastors of all kinds) have fought for their youth ministries and churches like this. They’ve tried to breath new life into, banged on its chest, blew into its mouth, slapped it in the face and screamed at it at the top of their lungs. Some youth ministries respond to that and for others we have to call the time of death.

If youth ministries were only like movies. They play like one, but the endings vary greatly.

Revival doesn’t mean numbers. Numbers can be an offshoot of a youth ministry experiencing revival but it by no means the only indicator.

A youth ministry can be dead and have 100 kids in it. Numbers are not the only indicator of life. Revival means to bring back what was once dead.

Passion for worship

Hunger for the Word

A new love for God and others

This kind of revival doesn’t require numbers to validate it, but a youth ministry revived has a better chance at growing than a dead one. Revival doesn’t come so the youth ministry can grow, revival comes because a loving God wants to have a passionate relationship with our students, growth is a by-product.

If you watched the video, everyone is surrounding Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Someone is pumping the air bag, someone is charging the paddles, someone is doing chest compressions. The others are waiting, hoping, praying.

I have seen a few ministries under my own leadership die. In some cases, it was me, alone, trying to bring the group back to life. I preached, I prayed, I outreached, but nothing. It’s possible that even the best teams couldn’t have resurrected these youth ministries, but too many youth ministries don’t have resurrected leaders or teams. The dead cannot bring back the dead.

As grim as this sounds, dead youth ministries can come back to life but it will require a team who themselves are alive in Christ. The team must work together to bring revival, not revival for numbers sake but revival so God might receive the glory.

If you want to revive your youth ministry, you need a team who is alive, working together, won’t give up, has some fight in them and when that youth ministry does come back to life, they’ll look at each other, cry, rejoice, and look at each other with a knowing glint that God has done this and not we ourselves.

Getting close, on the eighth post in the series, Letting Parents Power Your Youth Ministry

5 High Value Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Middle School Ministry

This is the sixth post in my series on The 9 Dynamic Ways To Revive Your Youth Ministry. Click HERE to start at the beginning if you like.

If you want to revive your youth ministry, look to the bottom grade level. Look at who is coming up from your kids ministry. Look at the middle school kids you already have. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask yourself and then do something about.

Do you have separate times to bond with just middle school kids? 

Schedule some time to attend middle school events your middle school kids are in. Not because they are your biggest givers or give you the most affirmation, but because they are most likely to receive your investment as genuine love and interest.

Have you created an on-ramp for middle school kids to serve? 

Whenever the church has asked me if there was anyone who could do X, I normally would recommend a middle schooler. I did so because I knew if they caught the serving bug, they’d go all in on it.

Middle school is a great age for discovery what they are good at and if we give them opportunity accompanied by affirmation, the church will benefit from their commitment for years to come.

Do you visit your children’s ministry once in a while to say hello? 

I like to make monthly visits to kids church. I poke my head in and say hello and ask if they need anything. I like to meet new kids because one day they could be in the youth ministry and I don’t want them to think of me as a stranger.

I also volunteer for VBS, to take pictures at the Easter Egg Hunt, and do a booth at the Fall Festival. Is it always convent and simple to do these things? No, but I am sowing towards the future which means I need to plow the ground now.

Do your high school kids have a sense of responsibility? 

Plan a few middle school only events and maybe ask some of your high school kids to tag along and “help”.  Getting your high school kids to invest in the younger kids teaches them to pass on what they have learned.

I always remind my High School students that one day they won’t be in youth group any more. I ask then, “What will you leave behind?” This is discipleship.

“Go into your own youth ministry and make disciples of all middle school students.” Doing so brings a revival of service and an excitement from the bottom up.

How will you bring your middle school kids in?

We have a youth group of about 15-20 kids, which makes bringing middle school kids in homey and less anxious for the student.

Last year the middle school created a chain of teaches and students that an upcoming middle school student followed over to the youth room. It was the kids church’s way of seeing one of their own off to the youth ministry.

When the middle school student arrived our students picked them up off the ground, lifted them into the air, and cheered them. Pretty powerful stuff. The student also received a box of goodies, a bible, etc.

Here’s a video I did talking about a gift box for guests, it may give you some ideas.

Pay attention to the “bottom” of your youth ministry, it’s where life begins and the future is stored.

Onward to the seventh post, You Won’t Revive Your Youth Ministry Alone