Who’s Behind Your Camera?

Have you seen this video?

Six photographers get told six different stories about the same person and their portraits of him look markedly different.
It’s pretty interesting to think about how others see you through preconceived notions.
But how do your students see themselves when they’re the ones taking their own pictures?
Do you see someone who is lonely? Brave? Scared? Precious? Popular? An outcast? Loved?
While we can’t change students’ perspectives of themselves completely, we surely can help them understand who God sees when He gets behind the camera.
Someone who matters.
We, as student pastors, have an amazing opportunity to show students who God really think they are.
Are we doing it?

Bummed in Ministry? Try These 4 Things

I’m bummed.

Not depressed.

Just bummed.

The short story is that I didn’t get asked back to help with a ministry I know and love.

No hard feelings, they told me, just a new direction.

That new direction left me feeling, well, bummed.

Discouragement in ministry can happen when you least expect it.

It might be because your numbers aren’t anything like the church down the street. Or maybe they just aren’t like last year.

It may be due to the students you thought would be apart of your leadership team seeming to lose their minds and have jumped off the deep-end.

Maybe it’s because that lunch you schedule with a parent turned out not to be a good time of encouragement that you had hoped for, but rather a time when your burger wasn’t the only thing that was grilled well past edible.

What do you do when you’re discouraged in ministry? Here are four things I’ve been trying to do and remember:

  1. Say it with me: You are not your job.

This one is tough for me. If I introduce myself to you, right after my name I’ll tell you I’m a student pastor.

Sometimes that hurts, rather than helps.

Your calling is huge and God given for sure, but don’t let sometimes critique of a program you’re doing turn into a critique of you. You aren’t your job. God’s love for you is not dependent on your job title.

  1. Spend time with your family and friends.

There’s an entire cheer section you have around you: your family and friends. They love you. Let them encourage you! Tell them that you’re feeling down and ask them to lift you up. You’d be surprised how willing others will be to come alongside you when you’re feeling blue.

  1. Keep your hobby game strong.

Do you go to the gym? Or play video games? Or write? Or golf? If you’ve been so engrossed in ministry for awhile that you’ve been neglecting some “you” time, take a break. If you’re like me, you’ve got vacation days piled up that you need to use anyways. Take one and do something you love. It’s time you should be getting anyways.

  1. Dive into the Word.

I put this last because it’s most important. When I first got the news I went to the Bible to find things that were true. About me and about God. Like that He loves me. That He’s always with me. That I’m His son. That Jesus died to save me. That things happen so that God gets glory. I read those over and over again to remind myself that while other facts can be disputed, these things are true. And I was encouraged.

Being discouraged in ministry can come when you least expect it. When it comes for you, remember what’s true: God loves you and is using you to impact others.

You got this.

That Kid in Your Ministry

I remember this one kid from student ministry.

He came pretty frequently on Sunday. During his junior and senior year he helped by playing bass in the praise band. He went on most of the trips and special events, and even helped out with some Bible studies at his high school.

But that kid could get flaky.

We didn’t have a big Wednesday night program like other churches in our area. Sometimes he would come, eat with his friends, and then leave for the bigger church down the road. The other church had the lights, the worship, and the high octane youth pastor. We had some volunteers leading a Bible study. Low octane for sure.

I had to pull him aside a few times when he did show for Wednesday night stuff.

He and some of the other kids had a habit of trying to get out of the Bible study by hiding in the resource closet or playing out on the playground and no coming in when it was time to get started.

As far as relationships, I saw him bring several girls to the church every so often. But then he would disappear to whatever church they went to as well.

I felt like I was losing him to his girlfriends or the bigger churches down the road.

We talked about changing some of the things we did at our church, but I knew it wasn’t the time to change. We were doing what we were good at with our ministry. Even though he talked about it several times, we just couldn’t make it happen.

He was an alright kid, I just wish he had been a little more committed to his own youth group rather than going to church all over town, chasing girls or the flashiest new ministry. I heard he became a youth pastor. And actually, he is me.* Hey youth workers: sometimes you won’t have kids attend your church because they’re attending someone else’s service. Are you going to be mad and frustrated, or are you going to be thankful that they are continuing their journey with Christ?

Sometimes, the students you think aren’t all that committed to your ministry might turn out to be committed followers of Jesus in their adult life. Don’t think what you see from a student in your ministry is their whole story. God is still at work in them.

And some of them might even become youth workers themselves.

Questions for you as a youth pastor:

  • What are you doing to teach the students you have when you have them?
  • Are you allowing yourself to become bitter and distracted when “your” kids aren’t around because they’re attending another church?
  • How are you encouraging your students to walk with God, even if it means they aren’t walking with you?

*Disclaimer – These are thoughts I know my youth pastor didn’t necessarily have about me. We’ve talked about my flakiness during my high school career and we’re cool. Well, she’s cool. I’m still trying to be.

Middle School Gatherings Part 3


Part one

Part Two

I underestimated how concrete middle school students think when I started. Now I have a better handle on it. I can’t just say “Well, glad we learned that. Now off to big church!” and hope the lesson sticks. I give my students something to do, touch, say or whatever that helps solidify the “So What?” of the lesson. For example, this last Sunday students walked around the room and wrote out on a poster board how they would step out in faith and show love to someone. Then they signed their name to it. Super simple, but allowed the lesson to end with some concrete application that they came up with all on their own (Okay, so I gave some examples along the way too).

(AKA, talk and pray time) At 10:30 am the students head home or to big church and I hang around in the room until it clears out. I talk with the new students, pray with any who need, and generally am present until the students are gone.

Some obvious things I see writing this out I ask a lot of questions when I teach
We have a large enough group so that answers can vary but small enough that we don’t have to run a mic around the room to hear answers. If we were larger I’d have students discuss in their rows or at tables. We have a TON of moving parts. Stand. Sit. Play. Watch. Sing. Stand. Sit. It can seem like a lot is going on with our service but I’ve been in the same room with the same kids doing less stuff and have had to watch the middle school riots begin. Having a lot to do helps wiggly kids not be so wiggly and get out their energy in a positive way. It’s more planning on my end, but I love the results! I’ve written a few activity and question heavy curriculum for DYM if this sounds like something that would benefit your group. Check out Gray, Awkward, Fresh and Killing the Clique. I feel like these lean heavy on movement but also help get the truths your teaching across as well!

A couple things I wish we did better Student greeters
I really want a dedicated group of students being the “main door holder/greeters” but haven’t nail that down yet. I need to get on it! Follow-up for new kids: We do great when a student gets to our ministry, but I want to do a better job of connecting with them AND their parents right after the service too. Maybe another student led team can do this?

Adult presence
Students running everything is great. Students never seeing other parents involved in the Sunday MS Service, not so awesome. I’m trying to recruit parents to be in the room with us helping me and loving on kids. I have one right now. I want a few more for reinforcements! Student sharing/teaching: I don’t ask students to get on stage often and teach. They come and play games or lead worship, but hardly ever talk. Maybe it’s because I ask questions a lot that I don’t do this. I want to see more students sharing from the stage, though.

So that’s our service. Controlled chaos? Most definitely. Completely rewarding? You bet!

What does your middle school time look like?

Middle School Gathering Part 2


Part One is here!

Bumper Video
I teach in series and will typically create some short 30 second to one minute long bumper video to go here so the band can get back to their chairs and we can transition anything if needed. Purposeful time to let students know we’re changing gears.

Teaching Time
We only have thirty minutes left in our hour before we dismiss and let kids go. Now if I were doing high school ministry I might teach for the whole time and then have one more song at the end for a response time. But this is middle school ministry and I want these students to come back next week. So what I do is I break up my teaching into roughly ten minute segments. Something happens at the end of those ten minutes to help give students a break before we dive back in.

Typically that means the first ten minutes is:

  • Explain main point of the lesson Ask questions/take answers.
  • Read Bible.
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and play a game.

Confession: sometimes that game is an awesome illustration that helps tie in lesson beautifully. Sometimes, however, that lesson has zero to do with the truth being taught and is solely used to help break up the time and give the sixth grade boys a chance to let out their wiggles. End confession.

The second ten minutes then is:

  • Read Bible. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Unpack truths. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and tell a story that helps relate to the main point.
  • Again, this is a time when I allow for silly adlib and helping the students see that this is the time to unwind for a minute. This could easily be a video that helps relate the truth of the lesson to students also.

Sometimes I see we’re running late at this point because of good conversation and so we drop a video, game, or story so we can spend more time on the next round.

The last ten minutes usually flows like this:

  • Read Bible or revisit main point
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Begin application.

PART 3 soon!

Middle School Gatherings Part One

10994460_778993849732_4118635958539778622_nI became a Middle School pastor two years ago and it has completely changed how I look at our large group time! For a little context, I’m in a medium sized church who has its students meeting in large groups on Sunday mornings. Our middle school ministry has 6th through 8th grade students in it. The high school meets in one room and we dominate another. I’ve been in student ministry in some capacity now for nine years.

Some of this stuff is based on scientific fact and psychology and research.

Most of it is based off of assumptions and observations I had about middle school students when I was a youth pastor for 7th to 12th grade students. I knew they had shorter attention spans, higher energy, and were easily distracted. I’ve tried my best to plan to have those either work to help the lesson along or to have a plan for what to do when the expected occurs!

Let me walk you through our Sunday morning time and hope that it helps you take a closer look at what your group is doing. I’ll also share a few things I wish we did better.

Set-up Stuff Our time starts at 9:15 am, and I’m typically in the room no later than 8 am making sure last minute things are set and the stuff I put out on Friday has in fact survived the weekend. Sometimes I’ve got one of my kids with me, sometimes I don’t. They’re toddlers and have a few super fans with our students. The middle school worship band is typically practicing during this time and student volunteers show up as well. Middle school kids runs our lights, sound, and projection software. It’s awesome!

Hang Time
The first thing that happens on the schedule is hang time and I can’t stress how important this is! During this time the video game we have are going and students are in and out of the room with coffee and snacks. I’m doing my best to meet new kids and reconnect with students I haven’t seen in awhile. New kids get a coupon for a free drink to our coffee shop and an info card to fill out for me. I’ll typically pass out a few cards to other students standing around to show the new kid the coffee area downstairs. This is planned talk like crazy time. Music is playing, the band is off the stage, and everything is just waiting. Announcements typically run on the screens in the room on a loop.

Announcements/Sign-ups/Event Videos
At 9:30 am we call the students over.to grab a chair and I start off with a few announcements. If we did some awesome event the week before we show off pictures or videos from it. If sign-ups are starting, this is when we let kids know about it. Now this might seem like it’s no big deal but the point of it is to let students get settled into their chairs and transition from hanging to gathering.

This is the spot where we do some activity, game, video or illustration to get students thinking about the lesson ahead of us. I LOVE doing games where everyone plays and gets out of their chairs. This is a great time for that to happen! This Sunday we’re going to have an Easter egg hunt in our room. I’m still working on the logistics of that one… After the game is done and we get students settled back into their seats, it’s time for…

PART 2 coming soon!

We All Have Super Powers


We all have super powers!

Your words can change a student’s outlook on their entire week!
Proverbs 18:21 “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
How can you use your words to build up five students right now?
  • Text five students an encouraging Bible verse
  • Comment on five student’s Instagram photos and let them know you appreciate them
  • Hand write (and mail) a two line “You’re awesome because…” note to five students
  • Find out five student’s favorite snack, buy them, and give them to them during your next meeting with a post-it note of encouragement attached.
Get out there and use your super powers. Encourage a student today!

Appearance VS Reality and Student Ministry

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 12.40.26 PM

I just saw this video on social media and thought it had HUGE implications for student ministry (and interaction with people in general).

Check out the video below.

Things to think about after you watch this:

  • Not every student you see as “uninterested” is having a terrible time.
  • Not every student you see as “happy go lucky” is having a good time.
  • The words you use can either be used to build up or tear down.
  • Students often hide their true feelings under a facade of “just doing ok.”
  • Dogs are awesome.
What are your thoughts or feelings towards this?
What implications does this have for student ministry?
How are you going to get at the “true feelings” under the facade this week?

Who Is God?

five03What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

A.W. Tower – The Knowledge of the Holy

I love that quote.

In fact, I love that whole book. It’s a short (but VERY heavy) read on who God is.

It’s so important that we get who God is right. Tozer goes on to say in his book that:

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.

I want the students I minister to thinking about God in a right way.

That’s why I wrote this small group study called “5 Awesome Things About God.”

I want students to know and understand who God is and what He is like. “5 Awesome Things About God” is a look at who God shows Himself to be in the first five chapters of Genesis.

I hope this study will be a different way to look at those chapters than we normally do, so that we can wrap our minds around who God is and what that means to us.

I end up being a pretty terrible salesman on many levels, so here’s my book in a PDF form for free.

The only thing I ask is that if you are a student pastor who wants to use this resource, let me know how it goes for your group and how I could make it better for others in the future.

Let’s get to work on thinking about who God is so we can worship the God who made us.

Click the link to download:

5 Awesome Things About God

Snapcash is a thing. So talk about it.

I have high hopes for the students I get the privilege of ministering to. I really do.
Routinely I watch them serve in amazing ways all over our church campus on a Sunday morning: in our coffee shop, in the nursery, in the parking lot, and even running the projection program, lights and sound in the middle school room.

That’s right, every student I’m bragging on is 11-14 years old.

They’re amazing.

But I really need to talk with their parents.

Not in a “Come to me office, you’re in trouble mister,” kind of way. Being a parent of three (smallish) girls has taught me a lot about how much I know about parenting teenagers.


But, being a student pastor, it’s certainly my job to ensure that parents are equipped to raise their kids well and set them up for success.

So that when an app known for:
1. Being used to send nude pics of oneself to friends/strangers
2. Leaking said nude pics to various websites and other willing participants
3. Denying that the purpose of their app is based in the idea that what is temporary doesn’t matter
Says that they are adding on a new feature that allows cash transactions between their users, I cringe. The implications of that ability to pay someone for a pic are far reaching to say the least.

So, as a student pastor, I know it’s my job to encourage parents to talk to their kids about what’s going on.

Let me be clear here to parents and students alike: I think you’re both really intelligent and capable.

But parents, I wish you would be a student of your students. As in, study what’s going on in student culture and find ways to really get “into” their world by whatever means necessary. Have conversations with your kids about what their internet habits are. Be in the know about what apps are on their phone. Don’t take a hands off approach here. There’s too much at stake.

Hear me, I’m not advocating taking away a kid’s smartphone because there’s “bad stuff out there.” That mentality leads to a life of fear and shutting kids away in their rooms with only a Bible and a TV loaded with the latest bunch of Christian movies.

But what I am saying is do what it takes to know what’s on your student’s mind, their hearts, and yes, even their phones.
And students, know this: Your parents are smarter than you give them credit for. When they set rules and boundaries for you, 99 times out of 100 they are right on target and have your best interest in mind. And that last 1 time is the time when you should do what they say out of respect, even if you think they’re way off base.

My main point here?

Parents, talk to your kids about their hearts and their habits. Find out what they are up to. Be involved in their for real lives as well as their digital lives.

And, coming from a former student who had parents and was quite capable of lying, don’t leave it at one conversation. Have conversations with your students about important things often. And sometimes, be a little pushy if you think they aren’t being 100% honest. They’ll thank you later.

Students, listen to what your parents have to say. Don’t lie to them. It’ll be better for you in the long run.

And student pastors, do your part. Inform parents of what you’re learning about student culture. Challenge students to be salt and light in a dark world.

And for the sake of everyone, don’t send money over Snapchat.

Picture credit.