The Value of Student Activities in Youth Ministry

church, Contributions, youth ministry,

kids too busy for youth group

This article originally appeared here:

One of the frustrations that I hear many youth ministers talk about is the fact that their students seem more concerned with extracurriculars than they are youth group or church.

I hear things like:

  • They don’t value God or the church because they miss youth group.
  • They think football is more important on a Friday night than a youth event.
  • They can’t give Jesus just 90 minutes of their time a week.

And I hear you, friends.  I’ve felt like you, and I mean, I still get frustrated.  But I’m a little more empathetic to the students, and here’s why.

Going to youth group doesn’t produce a college scholarship.

That’s blunt, I know.  Yet, with the costs of college, teenagers are trying to do whatever it takes to help pay for it.

Now, there are things that you can do as a youth pastor to help this out:

  • Provide missions opportunities to help them gain community service/volunteer work to put on their resumes. Bonus: make it open to the community of high schoolers and not just your church teens (can you say outreach?).
  • Find a way to have more student leadership positions, so that your students can put that on their resume.
  • Find people within the church who can invest scholarships into some of your teenagers.

I know first-hand that you can be a part of clubs and still be active in church; I participated and was an officer in 8 clubs in high school (I’m crazy, I know); however, I didn’t do sports while in high school, which are mega-time-consuming.  I also know that very few (if any) of your high school students will actually make it to the big leagues… Yet I also know the benefits of being on a team and the skills you can learn from that.  They are valuable skills that I think should be encouraged.

Teenagers need to be able to spread the gospel.

We emphasize to our teenagers about going into their “mission field” to spread the Gospel.  Where else can they spread it?  They can’t exactly spread the Gospel in math class.  There’s lunch period, but other than that there aren’t any real opportunities.

I think we should encourage our teens to get involved in clubs and sports so that they can have opportunities to spread the Gospel in real-life situations.  Otherwise, when they become an adult, their only experiences of sharing the Gospel will be from Missions Projects with their Youth Group.

Jesus isn’t exclusively at youth group.

One of the biggest annoyances to me is when youth pastors say that when a student doesn’t come to youth group, they’re putting their extracurriculars over Jesus. Really?  Are Sunday and Wednesday the only times that Jesus shows up?  And are you really that audacious to say that what you are providing is equivalent to Jesus?

Youth ministry isn’t exclusively at youth group.

Just like Jesus just isn’t on Sundays, neither should you.  We need to learn to reach teenagers on their turf.  

You need to consider the culture.  Honestly, if you live in a football town, why would you put a youth event on a Friday Night?  You should be at the game living life with them and rooting on your student players.  Maybe your students get swamped in the school year and Wednesdays aren’t the right days for you.

Ministry happens at the lunch table, at a baseball game, in a small group, in dodgeball, and in youth group.  It happens in a text conversation, and also in a warm hug.  They may not come to that 90 minute meeting, but is that all you’re offering them?  Small groups and mentors are great alternatives to youth group–just make sure you’re plugging them in and giving them options.

Consider that what you’re offering isn’t more appealing than chess club.

This goes back to culture–what reaches your students?  Maybe that senior girl doesn’t come to Wednesdays because she hates messy games and has no alternative.  Maybe that middle school boy doesn’t come because there are too many girls and he needs a small group of other guys.  You may have to consider that what you have going on isn’t pulling students in, and you may have to be courageous enough to do things differently.

I’m not saying to be “seeker friendly.”  I’m saying be “culturally appropriate.”  Jesus used parables in order to relate the Gospel in a way for people to understand it…and even that went over their heads.  So while you’re not always going to get it right, at least you tried to consider your students and reach them where they’re at.

Now, I get it:  There will be teens to do put up some pretty lame excuses as to why they can’t come. Love on them anyway.

What are some ways that you’ve encouraged your teens to do extracurriculars, but still maintained a healthy youth group presence?

Do You Believe in Soulmates?

girls ministry, women, youth ministry

In May, I posted this post that explains a little bit of what I have been wrestling with, in regards to how we talk to our teenagers about sex, specifically teenage girls. We have played the shame game for long enough, and I want to redirect youth ministry to a more loving and honest approach to the “sex talk.”

One of my friends that I grew up with posted on my personal Facebook page this article: My Husband Is Not My Soul Mate

This article is one I have read before and orates really well the myth behind having a “soul mate.” Too often we tell our teenage girls to just “Wait for God to put that perfect man in your life” (which I already ranted about) or to “Pray for your future soulmate.”

We say these things with good intentions, and I think there are good principles here; but what are we implying?

  • That they WILL get married. Not necessarily true
  • That there is ONE person out there for them. What a tiring search!
  • That their self-worth is found in a man. Absolutely not.

So what are a a few ways things we can do?

If it happens, it happens.

I think that teaching our teenagers (especially girls) that relationships are beautiful and that if they happen, they happen, that’s wonderful. But not necessarily promised.

First Love isn’t the Only Love

I think we need to teach them that the first person they date is not the one; in fact, there are many potential possibilities of the one! There have been men in my life who I honestly could have lived a good, long life with. But that doesn’t mean they are my “soul mate.” And:

There are other fish in the sea.

If you pass up a “good opportunity” in pursuit of something (or someone) else, that opportunity is not lost forever. Of course, popular music and movies would teach you different.  Like I said, I have passed up some opportunities because:

God may still be preparing you. 

I think it’s funny that we pray, “And God, I pray for my future husband that you are preparing for me.  One day I realized: Maybe it’s me God is preparing for him. Why do we assume it’s the other person who God is working on?  It’s pretty audacious for me to think that I’m the one waiting, when in reality there may be a guy who God has in mind to run into my path soon, but I’m the one who’s not prepared.  Just. Saying.

Re-define “the perfect mate.”

Bust the bubbles of reality. I used to make lists of what my future husband should be like. I wish I could find the Bible Journal from middle (even high) school that had a points system, including:

  • If he loves Jesus +25 points.
  • Attends church every Sunday +25
  • Nice face +10 points.
  • Nice body +10 points.
  • Abs +10 points
  • Taller than me +15
  • Has a sense of humor +15 points.
  • Plays guitar +10 points.
  • Thinks my parents are stupid too +10 points.
  • Smokes -50 points
  • Does drugs -100 points
  • Must have 90 points in order to date me.

I’m not even kidding.

But as I get older— do I really care that he’s not the best at writing with perfect grammar? Okay, let’s skip that one. But does he HAVE to be over six feet tall? I’m pretty short as it is. Why do I care about things that don’t honestly matter?  What do perfect abs have to do with anything; we’re all gonna get fat when we get old anyway.

All I’m sayin’ is:

Let’s be realistic and honest with our teenagers. Let’s not shame them into thinking that they HAVE to date or have relationships with the opposite sex in one, concrete way. Live life with them, let them experience what marriage is like by having married couples invest in them, and let them see that singleness is not for ugly people and creepers who are miserable.

If this stuff isn’t true, then I am one sad, miserable, 23 year old and I should invest in some cats, liposuction, and therapy.

Teenagers are…

youth ministry

I started reading Fahrenheit 451 last week, and I ran across this quote and had to laugh:

Teenagers:  They’re peculiar, aggravating, yet easy to forgive. They’re so much more, too–they’re creative, ambitious, crazy, sassy, yet more intelligent than adults are sometimes.

I love it.

What are teenagers to you?

Videos for Student Ministry

fun video, lessons, media, music, youth ministry,


I would love to tell you about a NEW RESOURCE for STUDENT MINISTRY!

I can’t tell you how many times people in our YouthMin.Org private Facebook Community post the day of youth group, “Hey, does anybody have a video for ______?”

I usually hit up Google and give half-serious, half-kidding, but all-terrible videos for them.  I can’t blame them–how many times have I been an hour before youth group and gone, “I’m gonna need to fill an extra five minutes” or “I bet Francis Chan could explain this wayyy better than me” or “I need something funny to connect this truth to my students.”

That is where VideosForStudentMinistry.Com comes in!

There are many different categories. I’ll share some of my favorites for you!


Stuff Christian Singles Hear. I’ve heard 100% of these. :)

Sermon Jams

Jesus is the Victorious Ever Present God by Judah Smith. Can’t help but scream AMEN!

Music Videos

“Tell the World” by Lecrae. This is my current favorite song.

Spoken Word.

“GOSPEL” by Propeganda. 100% of youth groups need to watch this. Even white brothers gotta shout.

Clips that teach.

I am Second (Yo Soy Segundo) by Albert Pujols. I had to rep my man, even if he quit repping my city. BONUS: en español!


Go to the site, browse, and suggest videos you know! This new site is all a part of the NEW YouthMin.Org that will be launching VERY VERY SOON.  My friend Frank Gil has been working hard on this!

Discipling Girls: A @youth_min Roundtable with Neely, Elle, and Bekah

girls ministry, women, youth ministry,

Today I had the privilege of hosting a hangout with Elle Campbell, Neely McQueen, and Bekah Miller!



Go watch and interact. I’m telling you, these women make me look like a genius for having them on this Roundtable! These ladies are L.E.G.I.T.

Fitness Goals are like Ministry Goals

youth ministry

This is a shoutout to all my friends over at YouthPastorDiet.Com, and all youth pastors everywhere who are struggling with their goals for weight…and their ministry.

Here I am at 9 years old, about to run to first base. Good luck, little chunky Heather.

Here I am at 9 years old, about to run to first base. Good luck, little chunky Heather. Yes, I still run with my pants that high.

I have struggled with my weight all my life: I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb with a pear shape. In January, I decided that I wanted to begin running.  Now, understand how ridiculous and hilarious this is: I have never been able to run. Like, ever. Even when I played softball for 6 years, I was terrible at running. Terrible! My mom used to make fun of me and tell me that I looked like I was running with a piano on my back.

So why did I decide to run? Stink if I know. I think it’s because I knew that I wanted to exercise more and get fit.  I also have issues with migraines, and at my January doctor’s appointment I was told I’m healthy as a clam, yet my BMI is bad, like really bad.  I think it’s because I was too poor for a gym membership, and I can’t fit an exercise machine in my little car.  Running is free.  Well, after you drop $150 on a good pair of shoes, some running shorts, a good sports bra (not just for women), and a running shirt. Cool running sunglasses optional. They’re on my list.

A few months later, my miles are 3 minutes shorter; in fact, just this morning I beat my records. I’m achieving goals, setting records, yet I’m discontent because I’m not seeing it on the scale.  I thought I’d be skinnier?  I mean, let’s be honest: Wasn’t that really my goal all along?

But I’m forgetting all the little goals: That my migraines aren’t every day anymore. That before, I couldn’t exercise 2 days in a row…this week I did FIVE days in a row. FIVE!!! Yes, it hurts like you-know-what… but I’ve had worse. I’m faster, stronger, I feel better. And my confidence is great.  Those are all goals to be celebrated.

I think back to ministry (because I always ministry-juke myself):

We set goals for ministry, typically growth: And even though our existing students may be getting stronger, may be getting over bumps of junk in their life, may be becoming just brave enough to invite people… we are only focused on the quantitative growth.  And what a shame that is!

Shouldn’t we be celebrating all the little victories!  Who cares if I’m not losing inches where I want to–it’s happening!   Who cares if teens’ friends aren’t coming–at least they have the guts to ask them now!

AND–maybe we need to reevaluate our methodology.  So I’m running…what about that Chinese food I ate the other day?

But we use excuses for those things: Well, we always do Taco Tuesdays (order a Taco Salad, brosky). I have to go support their bake sale.  Well, we’re at the baseball game, so beer and frank it is.  And ladies: It’s “that time.” Yeah, well a few times I’ve beat my time on “my time” if you get my drift.

That sounds like that one excuse every youth worker loathes: “This is the way we have always done it.”

Did I make you feel bad yet?


I think I might have to go for another jog.

5 Reasons Your Ministry Needs Women Leaders @youth_min

Contributions, leadership, women, youth ministry,

Youth Ministry girl leaders

This post originally appeared here:

Your youth ministry needs women leaders.  Before we start arguing the theology of women in ministry, I want you to hear me out:  The purpose of this post is not to advocate for ordained women, or women pastors, or to argue the Pauline view of women.

The purpose of this post is to convince you why you need more women in roles of discipleship, worship, and (yes) teaching.  We need to have a spread of leaders who represent the spread of the audience in gender, color, and background.  So if your youth group is 60% female and 40% male, you should have about that amount of male/female leaders.  I empathize that it may never be perfectly that way, but you should strive for that representation.

Girls need women leaders.

Seems like a no-brainer, yes?  Young girls need to have examples of women who are leading. If we are teaching our young ladies that they need to advance the gospel, then we need to have examples of women who are actively advancing the gospel in their lives personally.  Additionally, girls desperately need to hear from a variety of women.  Girls need to see a picture of themselves in these roles so that they can do it, too.

Boys need women leaders.

For so long, we’ve been doing ministry so that boys can only lead boys, and girls can only lead girls.  However, there are wonderful things that boys need from both men and women, just as girls need both in their development.  When I began my first youth ministry position, a mother came to me and told me that her son was going to be my toughest case, because he doesn’t respect women, and that included his mother.  I remember that first night of youth group–this eighth grader challenged me with every “tough question” he could muster on women, homosexuality, and president Obama.  When I left two years later, that same mother said to me that her son not only respected women, but valued their leadership in his life.  He became more sensitive, more respectful, and even more affectionate towards his own mother.  Boys need men to mentor them, yes; yet having women as leaders will lead them to holding greater value of women.

Male leaders need women leaders.

Men and women compliment each other.  You have a variety of leaders who are more playful, some more disciplinary, some more empathetic, some more protective, some more approachable, and others more on a pedestal; not to mention the variety of skills: building sets, making snacks, teaching, discipling, etc.  Put people in their sweet spots, and play off their strengths. I serve in a ministry where the co-directors are an unrelated male and female, and it’s beautiful watching how the strengths play off of each other, and where one is weak another fills in strong.  Think about it: why does God give children both a mother and a father?  Both are beautiful and have roles that are necessary in leadership.

Women leaders need women leaders.

I will be the first to admit that I need support.  I need examples of strong women in ministry so that I can do ministry, and I definitely see the effects as I begin mentoring women in ministry.  We need discipleship and community, especially as a part of our female identity.  Personally, it can be difficult as a female in a male-dominated profession, and I crave interaction with other ladies.  So ladies, step it up! And… let’s be friends.

God needs women leaders.

God uses women for multiple tasks in the Bible, and in Acts it is said that God will use both sons and daughters to prophesy in his name.  God uses some of the most random people to accomplish His tasks, so never discredit a potential leader based on their gender, age, race, or background.  From Abel to Moses to Deborah to David to Esther to John the Baptizer to Jesus to the Woman at the Well to Paul… (anyone else out of breath?)… God has a knack of loving and using people who just don’t fit the standard mold.

Advice for Insecure Youth Workers @smarterYM

Contributions, depression, identity, leadership, smarterym, youth ministry


My latest article is on what I would redo in my first year of ministry if given the chance….. and truthfully, what I struggle with each and every day of my life.  I see a lot of youth workers within the YouthMin.Org Facebook Community struggling with this, and it has caused me to get vocal about calling out youth workers and getting them to be more secure with their selves and their ministries.

So here is my post over at SmarterYM.Com!  Read, share, and comment on it! And show Aaron some love…he’s a Cubs fan :(

Apathy is not the Problem

christianity, church, leadership, unchurched, youth ministry

Teenagers do well if they want to.  This is a “fact;” there have been many resources trying to help parents, leaders, and youth workers get their teenagers to be less apathetic.  I’ve read some of these, and agree that apathy is certainly a problem.  So, we spend week after week at the pulpits trying to inspire teenagers to commit to change.  We pour into their lives with discipleship, trying to get them to see that someone cares about them, and therefore they should care too.  Yet at the end of the day, we leaders can feel extremely empty and dry.  I know personally that I can pour out everything that I have into students and often times it dries me up emotionally, physically, spiritually.  I read articles that tell me how to motivate, but I feel like I’m doing my best job!  I’m sure everyone who reads this relates to this frustration.

So what if apathy isn’t the problem?

It’s certainly a problem; I mean, if it’s not our teenagers’ lack of motivation, what is stopping them from growing in faith?  Instead of simply trying to inspire them, what if we looked at what they’re apathetic about and encourage change in action and not in behavior?  The mentality is no longer “Teens do well if they want to,” but “Teens do well if the’re able to.”

This model was first described in the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene.  Watch him explain more about this idea in this video.  I attended a training session on this idea this last month, and wanted to share what I learned with the youth ministry community.

Under the mentality of “Teenagers do well if they’re able to,” it’s no longer about if they want to or not.  Some teenagers want to advance the gospel but still can’t because all they’re being told is “do it” but they don’t know how.  Some teenagers want to quit a particular sin, but don’t have the tools to stop.  They want to, but can’t.  If you give them the tools, they’ll be able to.  And for those teenagers who don’t want to, even Martin Luther King couldn’t inspire that teen; but if you teach them the tools, they might change without even wanting to.  It’s like a teenager who doesn’t want to go to school–the underlying problem is they think they are stupid.  If you educate them, they can succeed anyway, even if they never wanted to. Ha! Tricksy!

This changes our roles as youth leaders drastically:  We are no longer a motivator, but an equipper.  Greene says that with the old model, our job greatly narrows what the teenager can do in their life–making them want  to do something and nothing more.  Under this new model, pastoring is not as much about transferring our desire for the gospel, but our knowledge of the gospel.  Pastoring isn’t about motivating teenagers with the best fluff and feel-good stuff you got, but about giving them the tools.  Sure, apathy is a problem.  Yes, we should definitely try to inspire and motivate our students to share the same passion as us.  Of course, there will be some teens that don’t change; this model is not the answer to all of your youth ministry problems.  If you give them the tools and they still aren’t changing, then you shouldn’t feel dry as you may have before; you’ve done your best job as a youth pastor.

What do you guys think about this model?  How do you think this may impact the way that you do ministry? I’d love to hear your thoughts!