Important Youth Ministry Institute Update

"Passing the Baton" image of CYMT Executive Director and YMI Team Members

The Youth Ministry Institute’s mission has been to help youth and children’s ministers succeed. Why? Because it has always been about young people knowing God’s love and grace. When Youth and Children’s Ministers feel supported, confident, and prepared, then the young people they serve are more likely to have a meaningful and impactful experience with Jesus. And we know young people need loving, caring, and safe spaces to learn of God’s grace now, perhaps more than ever. We have always been about this mission.

As an organization deeply driven by our mission, we have always sought to make decisions based on that ethos. Over the past year, our team has been dreaming about what would help our mission excel in greater and wider avenues while ensuring its longevity. After long hours, many conversations, lots of prayers, and what we believe was a process guided by the Holy Spirit, our board has made an exciting decision.

Earlier this year, the YMI board approved passing portions of our institutional knowledge and talents to another non-profit organization, the Center for Youth Ministry Training (CYMT). The passing of this baton is about allowing the mission to live into the future in more extraordinary ways (2 Timothy 2:2). CYMT is an organization that holds similar values to YMI, has a similar timeline as YMI, and cares deeply for young people. We wholeheartedly believe that passing our hard-earned and proven processes to them will help our mission live into a future that is bright, brilliant, and filled with the Holy Spirit. While CYMT may do things differently with what we have handed them, we know they will do so to help young people know God’s grace.

As a team, we believe in CYMT and the many things they have to offer you. From certificate or graduate-level education to curriculum resources, staffing services, innovation support, and more! They are an organization ready to help the Church succeed in youth and children’s ministry.

(In the photo: Dietrich Kirk, Executive Director of CYMT; Kirsten Knox, and Brian Lawson)

On a practical level, Brian and Kirsten have begun working as CYMT staff members while Maresi is contracting with them. You will continue to see the Youth Ministry Institute organization working through the end of 2024. As an organization, it has been a wild ride (in the best kind of way)! Although it may look different in the future, we will be cheering you on as you help young people know the love God has for them.

Your dedication to YMI’s mission, combined with your love for Jesus and young people, has been a constant source of inspiration for us. We are deeply grateful for your support and the ways you have enriched our organization. Thank you!

Five-Minute Mentoring: First Step In Building Your Volunteer Team | Season 5: Episode 2

The Making Sense of Ministry podcast is on all major platforms, including SpotifyApple Podcast, and Audible.

Ready to create a stellar volunteer team for your ministry? 

Kirsten Knox will guide you through the process of choosing the best possible team for your ministry. We kickstart the discussion with an engaging debate about the greatest basketball players of all time, using this analogy to highlight the importance of selecting the best team for your ministry. 

Tune in to learn how to begin your recruitment process by considering the best. Discover why it’s crucial to maintain an open mind during the selection process and not prematurely dismiss potential volunteers. You’ll find out how prayer and the wisdom of Jim Collins on having the right people on the ‘bus’ can guide you toward success in youth or children’s ministries. Don’t miss out on your chance to assemble your All-Star team. Unearth more gems of wisdom on building success in youth or children’s ministries by visiting YMinstitutecom.

Support the show

Resources Mentioned
Subscribe To Content Filled Emails

Find the Youth Ministry Institute on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or Linkedin.
Find Brian on FacebookInstagramTwitter,Support the show

Show Transcript

Kirsten Knox: 0:00

Youth Ministry Institute Original Podcast. Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast, the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives and impact generations. I’m Kirsten Knox here with another five-minute mentoring episode.

Recently, I was having a conversation about who is the greatest basketball player of all times. I love having this conversation. Really, I just love talking about sports. If you were to look at my podcast library, what you would find is it is filled with sports talk shows. Oftentimes, I choose to listen to sports talk over music, and in this conversation, we were discussing who is the greatest of all times. Is it LeBron James? Is it Michael Jordan? Is it Kobe Bryant? Of course, I think there is a clear winner and that is Michael Jordan. However, not everyone agrees, but regardless of who the goat is, the same top people are in the topic of the conversation, because when we are discussing the greatest of all time, we will always consider the best of the group.

As you begin recruiting, you’re also our team of volunteers. The same holds true. If you’re planning to build something great, first consider the best. Some may say begin with what you need, take an inventory of your needs and find people who can help you with what you need. Others may say figure out why you’re doing something and begin with a clear understanding of the mission and vision. We say these steps are crucial and it will be important to know in what order they are done.

But first, even before you know the what and the why, start your list of who, who are the best people who will relate well with young people. Begin making a list and, as you are making a list, make this list of notable people in your church. Consider all ages and stations in life. If someone impresses you, add them to your list. If you find out that someone possesses a skill or is in a profession that might be helpful to your ministry, add them to your list. Also, interview other people, including your pastor, other staff members, your current volunteers and even the young people in your ministry. Ask them who they feel might be helpful to your ministry. Add the people they suggest to your list. Your list should be long. You want your list to be two to three times bigger than the actual number of people you need to volunteer.

At this point you haven’t evaluated your need. You are just adding people to your list. It is essential you write all the best people on your list without determining whether they will accept your offer to be involved in the ministry. In other words, don’t say they’re no for them. Give everyone an opportunity to say yes to being on your All-Star team. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes we make in recruiting our All-Star team, and I know for me, at times when I have made this mistake, I have said other people’s no for them in a way of protecting myself, because when someone says no, we can feel this sense of rejection. So don’t make my mistake. Give everyone the opportunity to say yes and then next pray over your list. Be sure to keep the people you are considering in front of you. Your continued familiarity with the people under consideration will help you become more intentional in your interactions with them. You want God to reveal which people will be a good fit for your ministry, so be sure to keep this list in a prominent place where you will see it daily.

Jim Collins, in analyzing successful businesses, uses the metaphor of a bus. Imagine the bus is your ministry and the people on the bus are the volunteers in your ministry. You’re all-star team. Colin says that it is more important to get the right people on the bus first, then after they are on the bus, you can figure out what role might fit them best their seat on the bus. So what are you waiting for? Start your list now and consider only the best for your all-star team. To learn more how we might guide you towards success in youth or children’s ministries, head over to YMinstitutecom.

Why You Can’t Reach Parents

Why Can't You Reach Parents

What would our ministry look like if we could truly partner with parents in the way that we would like? What would it look like to truly reach parents?

There are a lot of different pieces to the puzzle that is youth ministry, but the parent piece is one that is both confusing and frustrating to a lot of us. How do we get parents to fit into our ministry like we want them to? 

Some of us might settle for figuring out how to get parents to open our emails. While that would be a good start, we can do better. We have to change how we think about and view parents. 

Here are a few reasons why you may not be able to reach parents through your ministry right now. 

You only want parents to serve your ministry.

Youth pastors love the phrase “partnering with parents.” But what do we mean when we say that? If we were to really get into specifics, it would mostly include things like getting parents to chaperone events, financially support the youth ministry or just bring their kids to youth group more than once a month. 

And, I get it. You need parents to support your ministry. But parents are never going to have sustained enthusiasm about your ministry if you are only concerned with ways that they can help you pull off your next event. Giving parents opportunities to serve your ministry is not going to be enough to reach them. 

You’ve only built half of a bridge. 

When you started serving in youth ministry, your thought may have been that if you build a bridge half-way to the parents, they would build the other half. Then you would have this beautiful, thriving ministry relationship, and all your problems would be solved. That is reasonable, right? Halfway is pretty good. 

Parents are generally drowning in student homework, soccer practice, errands, their careers, birthday parties, and laundry. They honestly do not have time or the emotional energy to build the other half of your bridge. It’s not because they are not interested in supporting your ministry. Most of them are just too busy and tired. 

If you want your ministry to reach parents, you are going to have to build the entire bridge. I know that sounds difficult and maybe even a bit unfair, but doing everything you can on your end is going to free parents up to devote themselves to be the parent. 

Parents don’t know they need you yet. 

Parents may not always see the value in what you do in your ministry. But, if their teen is going through something really tough and will not talk to them about it, they will be very grateful that you are in their teenager’s life. In a time of crisis, parents tend to naturally move toward other adults who love their children. 

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

If you have been consistently making the effort to invest in their family, not just their teen, then it is going to be a lot easier for parents to trust you. And since you have built the whole bridge between your ministry and their family, not just half of it, they can get to you quickly and easily. You may not feel like the things you are doing right now are having an impact. But, you are building a relationship that parents will need when the time comes. 

So how do you reach parents? 

Here are a few practical ways to reach out to parents: 


When a student does something her parent would be proud of, send a short text or email to the parent and let them know. Or, here’s another one:  The next time you think to yourself, “____________ is amazing. I love the way she ____________”, ask yourself if you have ever told her parents. Parents are constantly struggling with their teenagers at home. It goes a long way when another adult lets them know they have a great kid and they are a good parent. 


Any time there is something significant going on in the life of a student, it is probably impacting the parents. So reach out to parents in times like the beginning of the school year, during testing, enrolling in a new school, during a big sports tournament, after a big performance in some extra-curricular activity, etc. Just a short email or text to let them know you saw that awesome performance or are praying for their new season can go a long way. 


You cannot give parents all the answers to their teens’ problems. But there is probably another parent in your church who has previously dealt with the situation. Do what you can to connect them to each other. They will minister to one another and it will require very little time from you. 


Spend some time finding good resources to help parents raise a middle or high school student. Whenever you find articles, books, speakers, share them with parents. 

Service Opportunities

Create ways for students and parents to serve together inside and outside of your church. This gives them opportunities to have conversations about spiritual things. They also observe active faith in one another. 


Before you do your schedule of events, think through how it would impact the typical family in your church. Bring to mind things like frequency, length, cost, time of day/week, etc. All of these things will impact the schedules of families in your church. 

As you move forward in ministry, keep in mind: parents are not your enemy. They are by far the biggest influencer in the lives of the students that you nurture and about whom you care. Love parents well. Because when parents win, everyone wins.

Skylar Jones serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in DeLand, FL. He has worked in many different capacities since he began serving the church nearly 20 years ago. Skylar is married and has a son. He met his wife at Berry College, in Rome, GA, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys sports, music, long walks on the beach, and anything made by Reese’s. Click the social links below to engage with Skylar.

Compassion Fatigue – Recognize the Signs

You love this job.

You love the people with whom you get to work, and you love the Lord! So why do you feel like you cannot muster the empathy and sympathy to care as deeply as you should right now? You’re exhausted. I don’t mean sleep-deprived, which is completely possible, but you’ve found that your compassion is exhausted. Can you recognize the signs?

“Compassion Fatigue is a condition characterized by emotional and physical exhaustion leading to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others.”


Signs and symptoms of Compassion Fatigue can mirror Depression and/or PTSD and can include any of the following: Feeling helpless, hopeless, or powerless; irritability; feeling angry, sad, or numb; feeling detached; and/or experiencing a decreased pleasure in usual activities.

You may be thinking, “Maybe I am just burned out. That seems more likely.”

How do we know the difference between Compassion Fatigue and Burnout?

According to Barbara Rubel at the Griefwork Center, Inc., here is how you can tell the difference between Compassion Fatigue and Burnout:
Burnout is typically situational, and only attributed to a stressful work environment; Compassion Fatigue is the result of the impact of helping others, most typically through their trauma. So, could you possibly be experiencing both, especially during a prolonged pandemic? Yes!

This is your reminder to be gentle with yourself and those around you! Many who are in the helping profession or in ministry are deeply feeling the burdens and trauma of others, and as a result you are so good at this job! But you must care for yourself before you can care for others – think of the oxygen mask on the airplane analogy for instance – who do you place the oxygen mask on first? YOU!

Some strategies to combat Compassion Fatigue:

Pay attention to when you feel the most fatigued. What you have you been doing at work prior to this feeling? Begin to identify what drains your battery so that you can then strategize how and when to complete those tasks. This may help you give your all to them without depleting your compassion bank.

Journal about the good, bad, and ugly. Journaling is a safe, effective way to articulate all your feelings and frustrations and to get them out of your head. And you don’t have to worry about how you say something or how it will be received. Be unfiltered!

Take vacation or a day off if you can! Stepping away from the everyday grind can really help you restore your energy and excitement for your work. You started this job for a reason – try to remember what that is!

Schedule time for you. Ministry is a 24/7 calling, but you cannot function for long in that way. Be sure to schedule time that you are not working, not on your phone or social media, and doing things that are life-giving and restorative to you.

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

Ask for Help! Tell a safe person, like a coach, friend or counselor, who is not a co-worker, how you are feeling. Ask them to help you see the bigger picture and greater good of the work you are doing. Ask them to keep you accountable in taking time out for yourself.

Actively and intentionally remind yourself of the good you are doing in this job and in this world!

And here’s what might be the hardest strategy:

Set Boundaries for your Compassion. Before there were cell phones and social media, we only knew about bad things happening to people if we watched/read the news, or the situation was happening inside of our family or social circle. We now have access to everyone’s hurts all the time via social media – we see the devastating stories of strangers who die too young from cancer or who have suffered catastrophic loss and need help. It is not wrong to feel for all these people and situations, or to even respond with help; but if you don’t know the person or the people surrounding that person, but sure to set boundaries for your compassion and empathy. Don’t spend all your energy on strangers when you know you need to pour more of yourself into your family, friends, and the people with whom you work every day.

The great news is that you can combat Compassion Fatigue and get back to feeling excited about your calling – but you must actively work towards this! Remember to be gentle with yourself and take time to restore your energy. Set boundaries for yourself and others and be intentional in your everyday actions. This world needs you, especially now!

YMI blog author and music therapist Mallory Even

Mallory Even, LPMT, MT-BC, is a Board-Certified and Licensed Professional Music Therapist. She earned her degree in Music Therapy at The Florida State University, and has owned her private practice, Metro Music Therapy, which is based in Peachtree Corners, GA (NE Atlanta), for over 12 years. Mallory has a heart for using music to serve others, both professionally and personally, and has been a worship leader at various churches in Florida and Georgia throughout the last 20 years.

You can contact Mallory by sending her an email.


“Can God create a rock so heavy that He can’t move it?”

If you’ve ever had a student ask you this question or a question like it, you might have dismissed it. It’s a bit of a silly question, and I’m betting it was probably a silly student who asked it.

But, if you were to linger on the questions for a bit, you might have had a harder time than you thought to formulate an answer that makes sense. 

Paradoxical questions are worth thinking about, but could you answer some serious, difficult questions? “If God created everything, who created God?” “How was the Bible made?” “Does God know everything we’re going to do?” Do any of these sound familiar? 

Those inquiries aren’t just for senior pastors. There are some significant reasons why you as a youth minister or children’s minister should get ready for tough questions.


Odds are, you know WHAT you believe. But do you know WHY you believe it? I know it’s not always easy or pleasant, but wrestling with why you believe what you believe will significantly enrich your faith. 

You’ll also find your relationship with God to be more vibrant when you start to see and believe that He’s not afraid of your questions and won’t send you away because you ask them.

Our God is a God who draws near to His people, even in their confusion or doubt. 

If you want to make it very far in ministry of any kind, you need an active, growing faith of your own. Over time, you’ll find that the muscles of our faith tend to atrophy if we don’t ever get ready to answer tough questions. 


If you haven’t had a student ask you a really tough question yet, I promise you it’s coming! These questions are sometimes theoretical and unemotional.

“How was Jesus God AND man?” “How was the Bible made?”

But they can also be deeply personal to students.

“If God is good AND all-powerful, why does He allow school shootings,” “Why would a loving God send anyone to Hell?” 

Youth Ministry Certification interest image

Students may only be aware of the question they’re asking but, there’s something else happening at the same time. They’re allowing you to earn their trust and respect.

When a student asks you a difficult question, and you have an answer for them, even if it’s only a partial answer, they learn that you have asked yourself these questions before. That means you can relate to them! 

They’re also going to feel like they can trust you. You just showed them you’re not scared of their questions, and you’re a safe person for them to ask.

If they asked you their question in front of all the other students, you’ve just become more relatable and trustworthy to everyone, not just the student asking the question.

That’s a win! 


It is such a beautiful thing that God has communicated so many things about Himself to His people. And, you should give a lot of time and energy to knowing what God has said and exploring how you can grow in it, both personally and in your ministry. 

But, you are doing your students a disservice if the God you expose them to is small enough for them to understand completely.

Your students need a God that is bigger than they can imagine. Let their minds be blown, at least from time to time, by how incomprehensible God is. 

Your students will never accurately understand God if they are never challenged to embrace mystery. It’s an essential part of our relationship with Him. 

As a youth pastor, you should want to foster a safe environment where students can wrestle with tough questions. But, you should also try to respond in ways that help build a sense of wonder. It’s in that tension where you’ll start to see faith come alive in your ministry. 

Skylar Jones serves as Youth and Family Minister at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in DeLand, FL. He has worked in many different capacities since he began serving the church nearly 20 years ago. Skylar is married and has a son. He met his wife at Berry College, in Rome, GA, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He enjoys sports, music, long walks on the beach, and anything made by Reese’s. Click the social links below to engage with Skylar.

Five Ways To Prepare For Next Year

Five Ways To Prepare For Next Year

It’s nearing the end of the calendar year. Some of us are overly busy in Advent and Christmas services, while others are winding down. Regardless of where you are, you can use the final few weeks of this year well. Because the truth is this, it is easy to bury our heads. It is easy not to use this time intentionally. Ultimately, we will be surprised by the following year- as if we didn’t know a new year was coming.

Using these weeks well can be the difference between a smooth transition into the next calendar year or a headache-riddled season of life.

To help you experience the joy of a smooth beginning to next year, here are five things you need to be doing in the next few weeks.

Five Ways To Prepare For Next Year

Intentional Study

I hope you will have some free time over the next few weeks. If you do, you have a choice. You can spend it binge-watching every new show, which honestly can be nice at times. Or, you can decide to use a piece of your newfound free time to invest.

Pick up a book and spend a portion of your time reading. Read something that challenges your faith, beliefs, or skills. Perhaps read about a craft outside of your normal scope. One such example, copywriting.

I know, you’re thinking copywriting? Isn’t that for marketers? And you’d be correct. However, at its core, copywriting is about communication. After studying the copywriting skill, you will increase your social media caption writing or even make writing those newsletters easier.

Coffee With A Mentor

When was the last time you met someone older or more experienced than you for coffee (or tea, or coke)? Or when was the last time you had a safe place to ask questions and get insights you will need in the new year?

Recently I was gifted with the opportunity to meet with a retired pastor that I respect. We now meet monthly. Even though I have experience in ministry and often coach others, I still greatly benefit from the insights of others. You are never too skilled or experienced to learn from others.

Reach out to someone, schedule a time to meet. Ask that person to make it a regular meeting with you. And if you need youth or children’s ministry mentoring, we have leadership coaching that would be highly beneficial for you.

Spend That Budget

Many churches look to cut budgets. And what will they cut first? The answer is ministries that did not spend their budget the year before.

Youth Ministry Certification interest image

Spending your budget before the end of the year is wise because it helps you keep the same budget level the following year. Spending it now can help ease pressure on the next year’s budget. So make deposits on trips. Explore continuing education opportunities. Invest in leaders or students.

Whatever you do, find a way to use that budget!

Invest In Family

You don’t have to be in ministry long to realize that it requires a lot of sacrifices. Yes, sacrifices on your part. But even more so, sacrifices by your family. 

Your kids may have missed time with you. Your spouse may need extra attention from you. Listen to them deeply or give extra foot rubs. Perhaps your parents could use a facetime call or visit.

It is easy to think we are the only ones making sacrifices. But in reality, your family also misses time with you while you are away on trips, concerts, or leading studies. An investment in your family will be good for you, but even more so will greatly benefit your relationship with some of the most significant people in your life.

Spiritual Formation

Our spiritual formation often falls flat when we are running through a busy season. Use this extra time to refocus your heart toward Christ. Spend time in prayer – whether this is free-form prayer, Lectio Divina, or using a resource like the book of common prayer (or this one).

Read scripture or explore the writings of great spiritual formation leaders. Do whatever you need to refill that spiritual tank of yours. We all know the next year is coming, and it will be busy – so prepare now.

The weeks at the end of the year can be a gift. You can use them well to prepare for the next year. So what will you do, and how will you be prepared to lead and love well next year?

Rev. Brian Lawson is the Director of Leadership Development and Client Services for YMI and has served in youth ministry since 2004. He also serves as a pastor in the Florida Conference of the UMC. Brian holds a Master of Ministry with a focus in organizational culture, team-based leadership, change, conflict, and peacemaking from Warner University. In addition to his degrees from Warner, he studied Christian Education at Asbury Theological Seminary. Click the social links below to engage with Brian.

Incorporating Youth Into Worship Leadership

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14 (KJV)

When I was younger, I was part of a church that was thriving in a growing community. The youth ministry had just launched. It was building sustainability every year as more and more students began to buy into what the church was doing in the community and through the youth ministry. The church was a young church, meeting in a Boys and Girls Club gymnasium. Students, including myself, were passionate about helping to serve.

Each weekend, a group of students would come together to set up the chairs, the stage, and the sound equipment. This was our way of being a part of the mission of our local church—to be disciples that make disciples.

Worship plays a vital role in the weekly service for many churches. We come together as one body to give praise and adoration to God for who He is and what He is doing. Churches all around plan their worship with intentionality by selecting songs that connect with the congregation and fit the pastor’s sermon for that day. There is purpose with the audio and visuals of the service—creating announcement videos, setting up short bumper videos before the sermon, determining what graphics should be used as backgrounds in the songs, and creating an atmosphere with lighting and stage design.

How about the people that are leading the congregation into worship? How often are we just as intentional with the people that we choose? Are we incorporating youth into the worship leadership?

Why aren’t youth in worship leadership?

You may relate, but churches, all-around, are struggling to figure out how to get young people plugged into the church. Though I don’t have all the answers, I do know it has to go beyond door prizes, fun games, and giving them free food. There is something that students want—they want to be known. They want to be loved. They want to belong.

Churches that want to pour into teens must show that teens belong, not just in youth ministry, but in the church. Their leadership, voice, talents, and gifts are valued and needed to help build Christ’s church.

How can we empower youth in worship leadership?

One of the most empowering things a church can do for teens is giving them a chance to lead worship on Sunday mornings. I know churches will have “youth services” once a quarter. Those are great. Services that show off your youth ministry and how God works through students’ lives are important for the rest of the church to see.

However, what would it be like to intentionally incorporate youth into worship leadership alongside adults weekly?

When students lead, whether by playing guitar, playing drums, or singing, alongside adults, it shows that your church values their talents and gifts. It shows that your church is about bridging the gap between generations.

Youth Ministry Certification interest image

It’s not about playing the most hype and newest Hillsong Young & Free song. It’s about creating a culture where youth belong in the church. The church that models 1 Corinthians 12:12–26, I believe, will reach young people and families the most because they are operating as one body.

The church is one body.

Too many youth ministries operate as separate entities from their churches. There is the “big” church, and there is the youth ministry. If you are like me, I have a lot of students that attend my student ministry but do not attend church service.

When I first came on staff at my current church eight years ago, the youth ministry met on Sunday mornings during service. It sounds like a good idea for a lot of churches. We had a great turnout of students, and maybe you do too. However, I felt convicted that something needed to change.

We are teaching students that youth ministry is separate, possibly implying that church is boring. So come have fun with us in our youth ministry. We are keeping them from experiencing and worshipping WITH the church body.

When students graduate from high school, they are looking for a church. What are they going to look for? You’re right, they will be looking for an experience and environment that resembles their student ministry. This is why it’s so important to make it our mission as youth pastors to get students involved in the whole church.

They need to be needed in the church. So, church leaders, give them a chance.

Allow them to lead. Worship is a beautiful way for students to be used because they have so much talent. They have so much to offer. Empower them to use their gifts and let them own them. Use this as an opportunity to disciple them. Teach them the importance of leading with humility and integrity. Encourage them to embrace the value of practice and teamwork in a worship setting. Teach them to own their gifts and use them to bring glory to Jesus.

Go beyond the stage to put youth in leadership.

Lastly, I will challenge you to go beyond the stage. We should be incorporating youth into all kinds of worship leadership roles if you are willing to train them and use them. They can be used in audio, video, lighting, livestream, as greeters, ushers, coffee team, parking team, and many more. Use them because they belong.

Chris has served at First Church Coral Springs as the Director of Student Ministries for 8 years. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary with his Masters in Christian Education and a Youth Ministry Institute Alumnus. He is passionate about discipling young people to become future leaders in the church.

When Rules Are Broken & Consequences Are Necessary

Rules Are Broken & Consequences Are Necessary

We’ve all had it happen.

You’re leading a group of teens on a weekend retreat. Let’s say you’ve got 25 teens and six adults (in addition to yourself) attending. You’ve been planning this trip for months. You have made reservations at a beach house, completed all the necessary background checks, filled out all the paperwork, and prepared all the necessary lessons. In a meeting prior to the retreat, you clearly state the rules and expectations for behavior for the young people and adults attending. In this meeting, you also make it clear what will happen when rules are broken and consequences are necessary.

Now, it’s finally the day! You get to the beach house, teens and adults find their rooms and you find yourself settling into the schedule. Your adults are where they are needed, and you have a moment of joy as things seem to be going well.

It’s time for lights out. You have settled into bed for some quiet reading when there is a knock at the door. You open it to find one of your adult leaders standing there with two teenagers. They’ve snuck out of their rooms and have been caught.

You know these teens. One of them is a well-behaved kid with great respect for the rules. The other, well, they have been known to get in trouble from time to time.

What do you do when rules are broken and consequences are necessary?

Disciplining our young people can be challenging, especially if you are like me and really hate hurting people’s feelings. But, as leaders of teens, we know consequences are a necessity.

We know discipline is needed to keep our young people safe, to help keep order in a world where things can easily run toward chaos, and to help teens feel loved.

When faced with disciplining our teens there are some things to keep in mind.


Accelerate your leadership and ministry through this 18-month program. We are launching our next cohort soon!

Were the rules clear?

Did the established rules cover the given scenario? Were the rules clearly communicated? Were consequences set and clear?

The first week of August was our first annual Youth Week. We had a week packed with events and service opportunities. To wrap up the week we had our annual lock-in. After all the young people arrived and before the games started, I made sure to sit everyone down and talk about the expectations for the evening.

I made it clear that our adult leaders were in charge, that their word was law, and I would not hesitate to call parents at 3:00 am to come to pick up their child if they could not respect the rules.

One of my high schoolers looked at me then and said, “Ms. Sarah, you always say that, but you never actually do it.”

I looked back at him and said, “That’s because you guys don’t make consequences necessary by breaking rules. Usually, the warning is enough. But if you feel the need to test it…”

Who are the Teens Involved in the Rule Breaking?

While you want to be clear that the rules are understood by the group at large, as leaders we can not ignore the individual. Maybe one teen has broken a rule for the first time. Maybe one teen is notorious for pushing the limit, for stepping out of bounds. Even if they acted together, and even if consequences were made clear, we should not ignore the individual circumstances.

Knowing the motivations behind the behavior can help us as leaders to know how to guide our young people with compassion and curiosity.

Motivations and Applying Necessary Consequences

That said, it can be hard to apply a blanket consequence when keeping the individuals in mind.

Take the above scenario and the two students who snuck out. Maybe one student, known for being a rule-breaker, is dealing with an issue at home. As much as we hope to know our youth well, we might be unaware of this issue. Maybe they have confided in their friend – the friend they snuck out with – the friend known to be a strict rule follower. This is why it is important to know your teens well- their lives, their personalities, their struggles, and their families.

Considering their actions individually is important and may impact the discipline given. However, it is important to apply necessary consequences when rules are broken for all parties to build trust among the group.

One Last Thing When Rules Are Broken

It is never okay to embarrass teens in front of their peers. Punishing a teen without knowing the full situation has the potential to backfire. Teens should never be publicly shamed or embarrassed because of something they have done.

Always discuss the behavior with a young person privately. And always include parents and guardians in these discussions as well. And ALWAYS allow room for God’s love and forgiveness (and yours) to shine through!

Sarah Taylor has been the youth director at Gulf Cove United Methodist Church in Port Charlotte, Florida, since 2017. She has a Master’s Degree in Youth Ministry from Wesley Seminary as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She loves books and writing, has a borderline obsession with Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, and loves Cherry Pepsi. She lives in North Port, Florida, with her 14-year-old cat, Milo.

Organization For The Overwhelmed

Organization for the Overwhelmed

Have you ever double-booked yourself? Or maybe had a complaint from the church finance team because you’ve lost receipts again? So many of us hope for some magical new dedication to being organized or that the problems would just disappear. Instead many of us are still lacking in organization and feel overwhelmed.

Why Is Organization Important?

Most of us believe that organization in ministry is important. And we have many reasons for believing so. But let me give a reason that we don’t always notice.

Think about a time when you were disorganized in your work. Maybe you lost track of time and forgot to submit that expense report before it was due, or maybe you missed a meeting with your boss because it wasn’t on your calendar, or maybe you hesitated too long to register your group for camp before all the spots filled up. Whether or not any of these events have happened to you, we have all been overwhelmed by similar situations.

All three of these potential catastrophes and so many more can be prevented (or at least minimized) when we are organized. But when we are not organized, chaos ensues. And when chaos ensues, blood pressure rises. Why? Because…

“Anxiety flourishes under disorganization.”

And take it from an anxiety expert, when anxiety flourishes you can become paralyzed to the need for organization. It becomes a nasty cycle—disorganization creates anxiety and anxiety prevents us from reorganizing our lives.

We need to break the cycle.

How can I become organized if I’m overwhelmed?

Breaking the cycle means pinpointing exactly where we need to be more organized and targeting that area so that anxiety is minimized. When you’re overwhelmed, the first question you should ask is, “Where am I most disorganized?” (If you already know disorganization is causing you anxiety, then another helpful question on pinpointing areas of disorganization could be, “What is causing me the most anxiety right now?”)


Accelerate your leadership and ministry through this 18-month program. We are launching our next cohort soon!

Cluttered workspace?

It could be that the most disorganized part of your life is staring you right in the face. Ask yourself, “How clean is my workspace?” If you have an office, is it clean or cluttered? Can you find things easily? Do you have a stack of papers sitting on top of your desk? You have probably heard the truism that a cluttered space is a cluttered mind (or something like that). Sometimes simply the practice of organization in our workspace can help us feel less overwhelmed.

List of tasks?

Maybe you’re not suffering from a cluttered office but from a disorganized task list. Each week you go to work searching for important tasks to do, but you never formally write down what it is you need to get done. Stop that! The time to write down the list of tasks you need to get done on a given week is at the end of the previous week. That way when you go into work at the start of the new week, you can immediately start on your tasks.

My method is to separate my tasks into primary and secondary lists. I have noticed that I’m most productive in the morning, so I plan to do my primary tasks first and save my secondary tasks for later in the day. Find a method that works for you and stick with it. Organization of our tasks can help manage the feelings of being overwhelmed.

Non-Existent Schedule?

Closely related to a list of tasks is the need for a written (or typed) schedule. Without a written schedule, you will be late or absent for one or more of your meetings and you will miss deadlines—I promise you that from personal experience. Do not fall for the trick you play on yourself when you say, “I don’t need to write this down, I’ll remember it.” Again, I promise, you will miss something.

Youth Ministry Coaching Ad

I have found it helpful to have two calendars. One of them is a personal calendar for all my meetings, appointments, etc. The second calendar is a schedule of all our ministry events—planned and potential—and due dates for long-term projects.

Maybe you can come up with a system that works best for you, but the point is that you are proactive about doing something.

Sometimes we need an outside look into our systems (or lack thereof!). Find a mentor – or even better, a YMI Coach – to guide you into discovering what organization habits can help. Feeling overwhelmed often leads to burnout which can harm you and your ministry.

Zack holds a Master of Divinity degree, a bachelor’s in Biblical and Theological Studies from Palm Beach Atlantic University, and he is also an alumnus of YMI. He has the pleasure of serving as the Director of Youth & Young Adults and the Website & Social Media Coordinator at Sanlando United Methodist Church in Longwood, FL. Zack loves spending time with his wife, Olivia, usually by soaking up the Florida sun at the beach together.

Helping Teens Keep Their Faith After High School

Help Teens Keep Their Faith After High School

What Can We Do?

Four years ago when I started in my position as youth minister at my current church, I was taken aback by the Sunday worship schedule.

During one of the worship services, the church offered kids’ church as well as youth Sunday school. So, for the 9:30 hour, I’d begin by meeting teens in the main church building. As service started, we would cross the parking lot to the youth room where we’d spend time together having a lesson and chatting. Most weeks we would be lucky to make it back to the service in time to participate in weekly communion.

Was this the best way to be helping teens keep their faith once they left high school and this church?

As an adult, I felt isolated from the church body. I grew up in a church where Sunday school took place the hour before worship. Adults and kids, alike, would attend their respective classes only to gather for worship after. To say the least, this new way of worshipping took some getting used to.

What Are We Missing?

At this point, I was deep into my training with the Youth Ministry Institute – reading Sticky Faith by Kara Powell – and I was struck by the idea that teens could get so much more out of their church experience by actually being a part of the church! I mean, hadn’t that been what I’d experienced myself?

As a result of talking with students, parents, and leadership, we did away with our youth Sunday school class.

As a youth minister, I want the teens with whom I work to equally value their time in worship.

I want them to experience the benefits of being part of the corporate body of worship. Sam Halverson, a United Methodist pastor in the North Georgia Conference, says in his book One Body: Integrating Teenagers into the Life of Your Church, “Statistics tell us that people whose teenage church experiences were limited to youth rooms and youth worship, lock-ins, and mission trips, fundraisers and spiritual retreats, and who never got to know the whole church in the form of corporate worship, nursery and music ministries, fellowship dinners and planning meetings – the time spent together as one body – will grow up continually searching for a church that is like their youth ministry experience. They won’t know what to look for in a church; they won’t have a faith that is nurtured by the stories and the lives of the whole body of Christ. Youth need to hear the stories, to be part of the body, to recognize how they fit into the community.”

Equip Teens To Keep Their Faith Early On

How should we be helping teens keep their faith after high school? Well, according to Powell and Halverson, we first allow them to be a part of the corporate church community. We give them opportunities to serve in leadership within the church and we invite them to attend worship – rather than separating them from the flock.

If we are called to be part of Christ’s body, that body should include every age group imaginable. And while it is not customary to allow young children to be part of committees, children should be equally considered full participants in worship. We demonstrate this value when we empower kids with an active role in weekly worship experiences.

As teens grow to be integrated members of Christ’s body, the Church, they will be better equipped as young adults to keep their faith after they leave high school and find their way within other bodies of worship.


Accelerate your leadership and ministry through this 18-month program. We are launching our next cohort soon!

Partner with Teens as they Prepare to Leave High School

Making our worship and leadership opportunities intergenerational doesn’t diminish the value of offering youth gatherings. It is within the youth group setting that teens can learn valuable social skills in preparing to enter college. It is within the youth ministry that teens learn to be accountable for their faith. There, they begin to learn what it means to practice their faith independently of their peers.

As teens prepare to graduate, it is my hope that they feel integrated into the greater church family. The results may be that they also desire to continue a lifetime of growth and keep their faith after high school.

As youth ministers we can help connect our teens to campus ministries across the country, helping teens make connections early. Had I had a similar influence in my life as I started college, maybe I would not have crumbled under my crippling social anxiety when trying to attend the Wesley Foundation for the first time at the University of Kentucky. I wish I’d had a youth minister help me reach out to the campus ministry before I graduated to make a connection. Instead, I found myself attending my home church every weekend as a freshman. Why? Because it was the place I knew I belonged and felt a part of.

What Else Can We Do To Be Helping Teens Keep Their Faith After High School?

We can provide our teens with resources for study – encouraging them to dive deeper into their study of Scripture. The ministry can dive into group Bible studies, challenging them to think for themselves about what they believe. We can provide them with opportunities to serve- in the church, the community, and the world. If they go away to school, we can help them find churches nearby with thriving young adult ministries. Most importantly, we can pray for them now as they take steps toward graduation and adulthood.

Sarah Taylor has been the youth director at Gulf Cove United Methodist Church in Port Charlotte, Florida, since 2017. She has a Master’s Degree in Youth Ministry from Wesley Seminary as well as a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. She loves books and writing, has a borderline obsession with Harry Potter and Gilmore Girls, and loves Cherry Pepsi. She lives in North Port, Florida, with her 14-year-old cat, Milo.