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.

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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.

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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?”)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Discover & Focus On Key Ministry Pieces In 2022 | Season 3: Episode 1

Making Sense of Ministry Podcast season 3 - episode 1

You can find the Making Sense of Ministry podcast on all major platforms including Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Audible.


In this episode of the Making Sense of Ministry podcast, Brian and Kirsten discuss the few essential elements they would focus on in 2022. Join us as we discuss discovering and focusing on the things that will make the most significant difference in your ministry this year.

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Brian Lawson: 0:14

Welcome to the Making Sense of ministry podcast. This is the podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry transform lives and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson back here again with the sports expert Kiersten Knox.

Kirsten Knox: 0:28

Hey everyone. Good to be here. Kiersten This is our first episode of season three. Wow. Yeah. So it’s been a little while since we’ve recorded so it’s good to be back. We’ve missed everybody. And season three. I love it. Yeah. And it was just a dream of having a podcast and having a podcast. That’s right. That’s right.

Brian Lawson: 0:52

And for those who don’t know, Kirsten is a sports aficionado and listens all the all the sports talk radio and all that. So if I ever need an update, I go to her and she tells me what’s going off some good sports. I know. Yeah.

Kirsten Knox: 1:07

The other day I was with some students and they’re like, What song do you want to put on the playlist? And I’m like, Listen, I don’t listen to a lot of music. But if you asked me about a sports talk show to on, I would tell you. Yes, positives and negatives. I’m like, listen, when I’m in the car, I’m usually listening to sports, not music.

Brian Lawson: 1:27

Kirsten. So I don’t know about you. But one of the hardest challenges that I face. And I think youth and children’s ministers faith base is the playlist.

Kirsten Knox: 1:35

I dread it.

Brian Lawson: 1:36

Do you see people asking all the times in all the groups, I need a height playlist, I need a playlist for laser tag, I need a playlist for this. I need a playlist for Parents Night.

Kirsten Knox: 1:45

I read that and I’m like, I feel your pain. And I think for you.

Brian Lawson: 1:51

Yes. So Spotify was my best friend. That’s where I had it personally. And I would always have my student leaders like, tell me hey, like, here’s the songs you need to play right now. Of course, you have to screen them because there’s one or two times I did not string them well enough.

Kirsten Knox: 2:06

Yeah, selective. You have to be very careful. I did that. This last Monday night, we had student ministry and I’m like, Listen, you want to put together that a student was there early. And I’m like playlists, you like, Oh, why have you I got this. I’m like, good. I’m like, listen, it’s either that we’re gonna listen to Lauren, which I always say her last name wrong. What’s the Lauren Diego. That’s not how you say it. Daigo I think I don’t even know. I don’t know. Sorry. Lauren is always like here’s an exam. Well, you knew who I meant. But yes, I always mispronounce her listening or Toby Mac. I’m like, This is what I got. So oh, now you’re showing your age.

Brian Lawson: 2:44

Now you’re showing your age? Yes. So the play the dreaded playlist. We feel your pain on that if you’re suffering through that right now. We’re all with you.

Kirsten Knox: 2:57

Before we dive into today’s topic, we know that many of you are looking for ways to grow in your leadership. One of the best ways we have found is through focus ministry leadership coaching. At the youth ministry Institute, we offer leadership coaching that we have developed and refined over the last 17 years. In addition to the incredible coaching, you’re going to receive our proprietary Developmental Profile that will highlight your strengths and opportunities for development. If you’re interested in growing as a leader, head on over to our website. YMinstitute.com/coaching We offer coaching for youth and children’s ministers for our podcast listeners only, you’ll receive $100 off your coaching. Just let us know that you heard it right here on the Making Sense of ministry podcast.

Brian Lawson: 3:47

And there’s a free $100 for you. You’re welcome pro score. Love it. Kirsten, you know, so our listeners know, we actually just wanted to get together and get the season started. And that’s really kind of what we decided to do. We have some great interviews this season already already have done some recording, and had the others lined up. And it’s it’s gonna be so much helpful information and insights and things to think through. But we wanted to get started with just Kirsten and I talking with you friends, and sharing some thoughts that we have. But it’s primarily around this idea, Kirsten I don’t know if you’ve heard this quote from Andy Stanley and, and I read it this morning, and it really hit me differently, I think than before. And this is what this is what the quote said, the ability to identify and focus on the few necessary things is a hallmark of great leadership. So we’ll read that one more time. The ability to identify and focus on the few necessary things is a hallmark of great leadership. And we’re done. We can just stop the episode right that that’s, that’s rich. That’s really

Kirsten Knox: 4:59

it seems simple, right? Just two or three things and yet, I think so profound. He’s absolutely right. And simple and challenging at the same time.

Brian Lawson: 5:11

Yeah, I was in a cohort this morning with some other leaders sharing and, and they were just talking about all the things that they have to pull together and people are looking to them to sort of have the answer. Like they feel the weight of I have to have all of this figured out and know where we’re going and have this grand vision. And this person was saying, Well, I’m not, that’s not me, I’m not a grand vision person. I just care about people. That’s why I signed up. And so when I was holding up that quote, I had read this morning, you know, beside what she was saying. I felt like that’s what she needed to hear. She was trying to pull all these big ideas together. And he’s grand things into this big unified vision that was fantastic. And, you know, could be plastered everywhere. When really, perhaps, for her, this is what she needed. The few things what are the few things?

Kirsten Knox: 6:07

Because when you think about it that way, there is a sense of relief that happens. Yeah, I think that’s true. As ministry leaders, we look at all the different areas and the variety of skill sets that it demands. And it’s very easy to be overwhelmed. And oftentimes feel like I just don’t have what it takes to do all of this. I’m really good in some areas. All right. But there’s such a variety, and there’s so much demand. We talked to a lot of children’s and youth ministers who wanted their questions. Oftentimes, it’s where do I start? Right? Like, yeah, all of this? And it all seems important? Yeah. What do I do with that?

Brian Lawson: 6:45

Everything’s everything seems and feels important, right? And then and then to other people’s agendas to come along. And they seem just as important to them. And you have to balance all that. Yeah, out. Absolutely. And, you know, I think it’s made even worse by what the season we’ve been in. Because some people have started in person programming, some started and then stopped. And then some people have just been going in personal time. And it’s just been all over the place. But for many people, the programs have not been functioning fully to what they were pre pandemic. And so there’s this sort of desire and need to get back to that point or rush back to that point. And I was, we were talking before we hit record, you know, recently, there’s been this push for innovation. And innovation is good. And it’s important, and it has its place. But it almost feels like this desire for innovation is really a reach for something else. Like, this desire for innovation is really us crying out to pre pandemic, like we want it like before, we want more people like before in our churches, or in our youth groups or in our children’s ministry. And so we’re gonna innovate quickly to try to figure that out. That’s what it feels like. I’m not saying that is it? But that’s what it feels like sometimes. And so I I’m a firm believer in innovation, I think there’s a good way to go about doing it. But I wonder if right now. It would take the weight off. People say, Hey, you don’t have to innovate right now. Perhaps you focus on a few things that you know are important.

Kirsten Knox: 8:18

Yeah. There just seems to be this panic. Yeah. Right. This fear, which we’ve, wherever you are, and gathering back in person, but people aren’t gathering the way they used to, or the numbers aren’t the same. We’ve got to get back to that. And so there’s this fear that what if we never do? What if it’s never we never have the people we had? What if they never come back? So I’m not panicked? And then I’m holding on to things tightly to try to move versus I wonder, can we take some space from that panic, which I think that’s part of what Andy’s quote is saying, right? Take some space, and then look at it from a bird’s eye view, right? Because we’re in the weeds, and we’re panicked. And we’re looking at all this stuff at all the stuff that’s competing for my attention, and I feel like I have to do to get people back. And to step back and look at it from a bird’s eye view and say, to move us forward, what are the two or three things that needs my attention? And that is what I can do. And then maybe if we do that, that it provides some relief of that panic. The hard part is we’re also navigating not only our own internal panic, but the panic of others have control over their panic and anxiety. So I mean, like, that’s not a perfect, you know, space. But I wonder if stepping back helps us to be able to do that in this season.

Brian Lawson: 9:47

Absolutely. And I think innovation is not overnight. I think for some people, we think innovation is I wake up or I take a shower and have this brilliant idea. And I’m innovative and But innovation is not innovation is a long process. It’s a long step process. I think that most people just maybe intentionally or maybe unintentionally stumble across often. And so it’s if we would just instead of being so caught up with needing to do that, if we would instead say, I’m going to focus on a few things faithfully, and we’re going to move that way. And then in time, perhaps a space opens up that we get creative and come come across something new or seek out something new.

Kirsten Knox: 10:34

Yeah, I wonder, yeah, it’s a long haul. It’s the long game, not the short game. Yep. And the truth is, sometimes I’m looking for the quick fix, right? What’s gonna, what’s gonna fix it for this week’s program? What’s going to fix it to get me where I want to? And if I can find it, it never seems to work out the way I would like, but it doesn’t change my desire for it. Right? Like, yeah, and

Brian Lawson: 10:55

Bobody listening has ever been looking for a quick fix. And nobody listening has ever been scrambling looking for the game, or the volunteer to teach at night. The lesson go, they don’t have it ready. None of us have ever done that.

Kirsten Knox: 11:11

As we all resonate with, right, yeah. How do I know what I need to focus on? If that’s true? Right, if great leadership is gonna come from me being able to focus on those two or three things? How do I even begin to understand what that is? Which is probably the million dollar question. Right? Like, how do I know that in my context, what that is?

Brian Lawson: 11:34

So as we think what what would be if it was the the Kirsten Knox, lead youth children’s ministry? Or the Brian Lawson, lead youth or children’s ministry? What would be one or two things? Or perhaps three, I mean, maybe you could push three that we would focus on in 2022. I think for me, at the very at the very foundation, I would spend a lot of extra time investing in the key people who I see are I would call them leaders, but they may not always be official leaders, right? The key people who, who others look to. The key people who motivate others, and I would spend extra time with them. And I would check in with them and see how they’re doing. Personally, not ministry, just them personally. Because I think if if I could check in on them, show my care and concern for them. And perhaps, perhaps inspire them to keep serving or to lead or do something that I think they can help me nudge the ball forward with others, that perhaps then they can go in and check on people. That would be one area I would probably start with. Because the people, right, the people are important.

Kirsten Knox: 13:06

Well, yeah. And then you’re saying wares are already people who already have influence and motivate people naturally. So I’m not creating all of this on my own. I’m kind of also being intentional about what our exists, and how do I tap into that, right? But not just for ministry, but as people How do I care about those people? For who they are? And then how does that then help me lead and where I focus? I think, I think that’s really smart. When we were talking about this, I was thinking, you know, first part for me to answer that would be to look at where do I feel if I was to sit back and say, at the end of this year? I wish this was true. About my ministry. I wish this was true about I thought about it personally, at the end of this year, what do I wish will be true about me, right, like, and how do I want to navigate that? So I think that helps me with where to start? What do I wish was true. And I think mine was similar when you said that I was like, well, he’s taken my thing. I adult leaders is part of that. For me. I know, we say that a lot so far is like we’re focusing on that. But how to identify those people. And maybe some of its even searching of finding people who I really want to be on my team, and helping ministering to students and families so that we can have a greater reach. So I recognize that if I can do that invest in leaders, and then our reach is greater than just my reach. So yeah, I think to move forward, that would be one of the things that I would think about, Who are those people? How do I do that? How I care about them? How do I invest in them? How do we move that now that doesn’t always you don’t always see that. So I think that’s the challenging part. And I would also say probably going to your supervisor and talking about that conversation or even to people who are already in the ministry. But the key about this is some of those things I think you’re not going to see next week. You’re not going to see the impact of right it’s it’s foundational, it’s long term. It’s about building something. And so can the people that you were ministering with? Or even that are your supervisor give you that permission in that time, or probably more need to know that that’s the plan, or else it just looks like on some level, like nothing’s happening. I think sometimes maybe we give them a bad rap. We’re like, I don’t have permission to build, right, because they want something. But I think someone’s probably just communication. They don’t know what’s happening. Right? That kind of conversation, I think would be pivotal.

Brian Lawson: 15:42

Yeah, and letting your supervisor know that you’re investing in people for this strategic reason, I think is completely acceptable. And if you’re, if your supervisor had that vision and understood why you were moving in that way, I think they’d be fully supportive. And I love that you said that it’s, it’s about long term. And that’s really what we’re talking about today. And I think that’s at the core is a good leader knows to look at a few things that make a long term difference, and also take a long time to pan out completely. And those in those investments are, aren’t important and significant. And I think one of the most fundamental things that a youth or children’s Minister needs to learn is that they’re there to mobilize and move people not do it themselves. Yeah. And I think if we can remember that, then that automatically tells us one of the first things we need to focus in on are the people, the people who are there, whether that be parents or adult volunteers, or student leaders, whatever that looks like, we need to invest in those relationships. Again, and again. And again.

Kirsten Knox: 16:50

That’s probably one like, I feel like we say that a lot. But I think because it never ends. That is always true about building strong ministries, and creating systems of how I do that. Yep. So how refining that system? Um, because I think investing in leaders is intimidating on some level, because it involves an ask and a risk of rejection. And I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I still sometimes that ask is hard, right? You’re like, so I think maybe having a system and knowing how you’re moving through it gives you motivation to move through that. That can be helpful. Yeah.

Brian Lawson: 17:32

Recently on our blog, we had Sarah Taylor, one of our graduates and authors wrote, it’s the relationships we build with our teens and their families. And I would say children as well. The best define and support our role. Relationships are the very foundation on which most of our ministry stand. And the deeper those relationships grow, the better we can minister to the, to the needs of those teens, children and their families. So I mean, I think we’re all on that same page, that those that those relationships are, are key. And important.

Kirsten Knox: 18:04

They are key and thinking intentionally about it, right? I think if we’re not careful, we just do what’s ever right in front of us, right? Because next week, there’s a program, there’s an event, right, like, I can fill up my whole week, just doing what’s right in front of me.

Brian Lawson: 18:19

So how do we do that? How do we then intentionally make sure that we’re not just focusing on the tasks, because I’ll make my task list of things I’ve got to knock out and get done. And I know, like, I would sit in the office, I’ve got Wednesday, I’ve got Sunday coming up. I’ve got to get these things done. Do you have anything Kirsten that you’ve done? I know I do. I’ll share man, I didn’t know if you had any, anything that you did that sort of refocus you to make sure that you weren’t all task, but also your people as well.

Kirsten Knox: 18:47

Well, I probably at times, can, I feel like I could go either way. But if I’m not careful, sometimes I can spend all my time with people and kind of in the middle of that space. Could do okay. But I would say like for me, I love I love sticky notes, and I love whiteboards. Or, I use the sticky note sheet. But just been some time in my best time of thinking. So during the time of day where I am fresh, and being able just to write I think that question what what do I wish was true? And then a year what do I hope is true? And kind of listing some of that out and then identifying two or three of them, like what would be my two or three goals? Because here’s what I want to get to the end of the year. And did I win? Right? Like did we move forward? Did I meet my goals? And sometimes here’s just real honest, sometimes goals can be intimidating to me because I have a fear of failure. And so if it’s kind of unclear then you don’t have to feel the failure. So I do have to talk myself through that. So I do say that sometimes for me I’ve had to learn to do that and but to write those goals and then think about okay, if I want these two or three things to be true, then just spend some time with that one goal and write it out on a sheet of paper and then write what are things that have to happen to get me there, right, what are supporting steps, those and that then so then I know like on a monthly basis, maybe I have, maybe I put those in different months. So then I know like, here’s what I’m focusing on, that helps give me focus of the program as a whole, not just what’s in front of me the next. Like, what’s the next program? I think the other thing that’s been helpful to me is, I don’t always do as well, but carving out time where I’m developing myself as a leader, like, if that’s reading, or whatever I need to do, because if I fill that up, then it just overflows. If I’m not careful, then I fill that up with the urgent things that seem to be on my to do list. Yeah.

Brian Lawson: 20:54

So for me, I think I’m the opposite. I’m like, I’m gonna put my tasks. And I’m going to focus on those all day long and get those done. If I want to do them, right, sometimes we just don’t want to do it. But I’m going to focus on those tasks and get those done. So I had to force myself to make a list like, here’s, like, I’m going to put three lines. And by the end of the day, I have to connect with three different people. You know, now what now that connection can vary. And we don’t want to like set strict rules for ourselves. But it could be a phone call, could be a text message. It could be a lunch, or coffee, whatever that looks like. But I had to force myself to say, hey, this week, each day, I’m going to connect with three people. And I have to actually write their names on my lines once I’ve done it. Or there were some seasons where I said, Okay, this week is just seven over the course the week, whatever that looks like. But I had to actually be intentional about making a spot for me have to write in their name that I actually reached out and connected to them. So whether you’re like Kirsten, you’re all people and yet figure out how to manage it make your task priority, or you’re like me, where I’m all tasks, and I have to make sure I make people priority. I think that we you know, we’ve got to find that rhythm and that, that tool to make that happen. So next thing, one more, yet one more thing that you would really focus on this year.

Kirsten Knox: 22:18

I’m not sure. The only thing I would say is I want to control my schedule, not my schedule control me. And I think that’s part of focusing on those things helps me to be able to do that. But there are seasons when I feel like my schedule controls me. And then I recognize in that time, I just those days, I feel like I’m just spinning my wheels, not that I haven’t gotten some things done. But it doesn’t move me in where I really, you know, like when we’re talking about moving an organization or the ministry forward. And so I thinking about how do I own my time? And sometimes for me, that has meant and you know, because I’m trying to focus more on task is when do I want what time of day do I want to do what tasks? Yeah, because I know, come three o’clock. I’m not if you want me to do deep thinking at three o’clock in the afternoon, that’s going to be difficult. You’re not going to get the best of me, right? I can reply to emails all day long at three o’clock. But what I find is when I come in the office, I feel an urgency to do it right then. And then it derailed me from being productive, and spending time on those two or three things that I need to spend time on. So that has helped me thinking about where I put stuff in my schedule in time. And that I get to determine that. Yeah, yeah, that’s excellent.

Brian Lawson: 23:34

For me, I think the other piece I’d focus on would be I want to get back to the mission. I’m tired of being distracted. I’m tired of being distracted by by the loudest voice, or by, you know, do we have children’s ministry or not? Do we have youth group or not? Are we inside or outside? You know, and I know those things have to be talked about. And we have to make those decisions. And that’s not you know, that’s just part of leading right now. But I would like to get to a point where we’ve refocused on the mission, say, are we accomplishing our mission? And if not, what part of it? Are we not accomplishing? Like, which piece is the weakest? And how do we how do we rebuild into that area? And I think that if we if we do that, and try to let the outside noise, not have all of our attention, that perhaps we can accomplish a lot this year. So I think that’s where I would go. So I don’t know, maybe this is helpful. Maybe this is not. But but there’s some thoughts. Kirsten anything else you want to add before?

Kirsten Knox: 24:43

I think that’s a wise I think, when we when I know I’m not being focused on mission, I have a lack of motivation, Mission motivates me and inspires me. That’s probably Brian, when you said that, that really resonated. When I think about times when I feel unmotivated, I usually have to then think about how much have I allowed the loudest voice to dictate what I’m doing and sometimes that’s the loudest internal voice and sometimes that’s the loudest external voice versus being very focused on mission. So I think there’s, there’s a lot of power there of getting back and, and also brings life to us because we got in this right, we got into ministry because we believe in the mission of ministry. Yeah. How do we do that? And how do we stay focused in the midst when distractions are everywhere?

Brian Lawson: 25:34

I have a, I have a list of questions that I was writing down when I was thinking about this quote that I just share with our listeners and, and they’ll do what they want with it. And friends, if this isn’t helpful, I apologize in advance. So just some questions. I was jotting down what would help our students or our children developing their faith right now? What would help them to open their faith? What would give families adult leaders or student leaders a greater sense of ownership? What would give us momentum? And if we have a clearly defined mission, what best fulfills that mission in this season? And then the opposite side of the questions to maybe, maybe important ask, you know, what do we need to let go of? What ministry did we have before? Or perhaps what ministry did we pick up in the middle of COVID that it’s time to let go of? And then the other one is what what ultimately distracts us from our mission? So asking some of those questions, perhaps is helpful, can help somebody land on what their few things are, they need to focus on. I think what we share Kirsten is where we would lean and land and we would probably recommend, but I don’t think they’re the only things. I think there may be some other things and different contexts that are important.

Kirsten Knox: 26:54

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, we say all the time that you can, you can do two or three things well, right and your ministry. So be just don’t let those happen. See where movement and motivation is. But also be intention tensional, about leveraging that and putting energy in that. And those two or three things, I think can give you freedom. And also, there’s a simplicity and a challenge in there at the same time.

Brian Lawson: 27:24

Absolutely. Well, friends, that’s all we have for you today. Do know that at the Youth Ministry Institute and Kirsten I at the Making Sense Ministry podcast, we believe in you, we believe you’re called the ministry and we know that there’s so much this probably brought you down or major this season difficult, but just keep going. God is faithful. And and God is working through you. So so keep up the great work. Hey, and if you’re looking for free resources, maybe you’re in a job transition and you’re looking for a new role. Or maybe you’re looking for leadership development through coaching or certification, whatever that might be. Know that we are here to help you and you can find all of that information at YMinstitute.com. And until next time, friends, I hope we’ve helped you make sense of this thing we call ministry.

Is It Ok To Struggle With Your Faith?

Is It Ok To Struggle With Your Faith?

Short answer, yes.


It is perfectly normal to struggle with some doubts about your faith.

The more thoughtful answer is… maybe. Sometimes? No. Wait. Yes. It’s definitely fine. At least I think it is, on the whole.

Hello. My name is Josh and I love to overthink things. Any kind of thing really… faith, dinner plans, email introductions, fantasy football lineups, blogs… You name it and I will become the living embodiment of first confidence, and next, second-guessing. I have a lot of moments of absolutely knowing that I 100% know absolutely nothing – or too much. It’s a lot like recognizing the grass is really green on both sides but consequently thinking the fence offers the most comfortable viewing angle. And it is exhausting.

So, when it comes to matters of faith, I have managed to find a way to struggle with the struggle of struggling with my faith. Yet I wasn’t always like this.

It’s The Way We Do Things

As a child, there was an unspoken expectation of just accepting how life was – without questions, without doubts, without too much of a fuss. We do it this way because this is the way we’ve always done it. Here is your faith, go and enjoy it, my son!

“This is the way” does not always hit my ears as the credo of The Mandalorian, but rather as an ultra-vague reason behind family traditions, behaviors, and beliefs. For a long time, I believed it was best to do things [this way] because this is the way we do things.

And then I – similar to a side story in a galaxy far, far, away – became more complex over time. The old ways did not always make sense.

The reasons for doing, thinking, or behaving seemed outdated and no longer good enough for how I wanted to experience life in the present.

Over time I began to naturally experience a deeper curiosity for my faith and developed a deeper understanding of who Jesus was and just how personal that relationship could become. It was weird, confusing, and – dare I say – felt a bit rebellious.

Questions Led To The Truth About My Struggle With Faith

I started to ask questions. A lot of them. I still do.

Questions provoked research, conversation, and critical thought. All those things led to one thing: truth.

As an adult, I can look back at those seemingly rebellious moments and not be crippled by shame but embrace a feeling of pride. I felt in my heart a desire for more: more knowledge, more emotion, more connection, more everything.

And the only way to get there was to ask questions, to explore, and to be OK with having some doubts. Once you accept that it’s OK to have both faith and questions (doubts), I honestly think it unlocks a whole new world of connection to an infinite God. Your faith in God does not make God real. Our faith is the response to a real God that wants to be known to us.

Doubt & Curiosity Are Biblical!

If we think of doubters in the Bible, Thomas must be at the top of everyone’s list, right? I mean… “Doubting Thomas” was literally his nickname.

I consider this kid an absolute legend.

And “kid” is not an insult, we know he was very young. What we sometimes overlook is how brave he was. A young man willing to ask questions seek deeper meanings, and who very clearly wanted to experience a risen Christ for himself.

When Jesus appeared to Thomas and the Disciples (John 20), he did not come to prove a point or to embarrass Thomas for having doubts. But instead, Jesus honored Thomas’s questions by showing him the scars, the wounds, and giving Thomas what he needed to believe.

Jesus Welcomes Our Faith Struggle

Jesus did not walk away from Thomas and his doubts, but instead literally stretched out his hands to Thomas so he could believe!

We have an example of Jesus welcoming moments of doubt and curiosity with compassion to those who ask! How different would the story of Jesus have been if he just laughed at the kid and sarcastically looked at Peter like, “Would you believe this guy?!? LOL! Now BEAT IT, NERD! The grown-ups have Resurrection business!”

That’s not who Jesus is.

Where To Start First When We Struggle With Faith

So, if you are struggling with matters of faith, here’s where I would start…

Pray.

Yes, I know, this first one is a total Sunday school answer, but it is still the best place to start! We don’t have the benefit of living, breathing, human flesh version of Jesus to share a coffee and ask a few questions. But prayer is the direct line to God, so… do it! To put it another way, I have yet to find a topic so big and complicated God was unwilling to hear.

Be curious.

What is the issue giving you moments of doubt or grief? How can you be curious about that topic? Is this from an outside source? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Does this doubt or lack of faith prevent you from being a true version of yourself? Being curious is not at all like a police interrogation. It can be as simple as showing enough grace to yourself to simply ask, “Where is this feeling coming from?” (If you’re interested, I was a guest on the Making Sense of Ministry Podcast and talked a lot about Compassion and Curiosity.

Find someone who regularly challenges your faith.

I have a few people in my life that are living life or talking about issues or loving their communities in ways that make me stop and stare – in a good way. What is it about them that causes me to stand still for a moment and consider what I’m doing? We should be pursuing people that think differently than we do and who will then challenge us to learn more about ourselves, our world, and God.

Be vulnerable about your faith and your questions.

Despite my best efforts, I have yet to resolve all my issues and answer my questions all alone. And while there were some significant pride hurdles to get over, I’ve found vulnerability with others to be super helpful. Not only does it allow me to get to know people in better ways, but I’ve discovered I’m not alone. I’m not crazy. I’m not a terrible Christian because I have questions. And I was not the first to ask these questions either. Trusting others with my doubts has only led to stronger relationships and a deeper longing for experiencing Jesus.

And this is the counterintuitive part for many ministry leaders:

Openly sharing struggles with the students we are leading, makes you a better leader. I’m not suggesting you start a message with, “Well gang, you were right all along, I don’t know what I’m doing. BUT I BROUGHT PIZZA!” Don’t do that. What I am recommending is that we never exclude ourselves from the Biblical truths we are trying to share.

Sometimes I think there is a belief residing deep in the back of our brains that “If I show people I’m weak, they will refuse to follow”. And that just isn’t true. When we assume the response is going to be “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU,” we will never allow space for the more common reply of “Yeah, me too.” Sharing a struggle is not proving you are a failure. It reveals you are a human. And most students prefer relationships with real people, not robots. It’s not our job to be sinless, just to point to the one who is.

I hope we are a people that are not afraid to ask questions. We can know that our doubts will not decrease the size of our God, but rather reveal the depth of God’s love for us.


Josh is originally from Sevierville, TN and now lives in Knoxville where he serves as Director of Students at Cokesbury Church. Josh has been in Student Ministry for more than a decade. On par with loving students is his desire to see student workers succeed and be equipped for the joys and challenges of Student Ministry. Josh is married to Ginny and dad to Mattie and Beau. Outside of church work, he loves golf, Tennessee Volunteers football (naturally), and Kansas Jayhawks basketball (unnaturally, but it feels right). 


Isolation & Loneliness in Teenagers, Part 2

Isolation & Loneliness In Teenagers Part 2

We Need To Be Prepared


In Part 1 of Isolation and Loneliness in Teenagers, we shared normal stressors in the lives of teens, how to engage our youth now, and warning signs that isolation has become too much.

While we all hope to never be in a situation where we are on the front line of helping a teen through clinical or situational depression, we must be prepared that it is always a possibility – especially now as the world opens back up from the global pandemic. Here are some ways you can monitor signs of depression and action steps you can take when you see these signs.

Signs Of Depression/Suicidal Ideation Or Thoughts

Withdrawing
This may be hard to monitor if not in-person, but if a teen is withdrawing from activities that usually bring them pleasure, this could be a sign of depression.

Verbal Signs
Teens may tell you or a loved one:

“I just don’t think I can live like this anymore”
“I don’t want to live like this anymore”
“My family/this world will be better without me”
“Everything would be easier if I were gone/dead”
“I just can’t see a future anymore”

Physical Symptoms
Bags/dark circles under eyes
Lack of sleep // sleeping too much // unusual sleep patterns
Cutting marks on arms/wrists
Inability to focus
Rapid weight loss or gain // Loss of appetite

Giving Possessions Away
If a teen begins giving away their favorite possessions, they may be looking for ways to have their friends and family be reminded of them after they are gone.

What If It’s MORE Than Isolation or Loneliness In Teenagers

The following information is taken from the community-version of the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating scale (C-SSRS). If a teen says or does anything that makes you think they are actively suicidal, act quickly and calmly:

DON’T BE AFRAID to ask the following:

1. Have you wished you were dead or wished you could go to sleep and not wake up?

2. Have you actually had any thoughts about killing yourself?

If the loved one answers “yes” to question 2, ask questions 3, 4, 5 and 6. If the person answers “no” to question 2, go directly to question 6.

3. Have you thought about how you might do this?

4. Have you had any intention of acting on these thoughts of killing yourself? OR, You have the thoughts, but you definitely would not act on them?

5. Have you started to work out or worked out the details of how to kill yourself? Do you intend to carry out this plan?

Always ask question 6: In the past three months, have you done anything, started to do anything, or prepared to do anything to end your life?

REMEMBER

In these crucial scenarios, SAFETY outweighs CONFIDENTIALITY; depending on the state in which you practice youth ministry, you may be a mandated reporter.

First, ASK the teen to tell their parent/guardian, or state that you would now like to tell their parent/guardian – but between the two of you, someone must tell them.

Additionally, BE PREPARED – Always have the home address(es) of each youth easily accessible in case you must be the one to call 9-1-1.



ENCOURAGE them to seek the help and advice of a counselor, therapist, or a supportive stranger by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). If a traditional talk therapist sounds intimidating to them, try Music Therapy, Art Therapy, or any other Creative Arts Therapy – research has proven these modalities to be effective for teens who are reluctant to attend talk therapy.

Other Ways To Care For Teenagers Experiencing Loneliness, Isolation, Anxiety, or Depression

CHECK-IN

Weekly or even daily personalized and individualized check-ins with at-risk and/or all youth (in-person, phone calls, texts, email, zoom calls – whatever is THEIR preference is best).

GET TOGETHER

Offer get-togethers as often as you can for your youth. If they are struggling, they may not attend each one; but knowing they frequently will have the option might help them not to feel alone.

CARE PACKAGES

Snail mail, 3rd party delivery (Uber Eats, Door Dash, Amazon etc.), or even front-door drop-off. Leave encouraging messages, a Bible if they don’t have one, snacks, whatever you think would make them feel loved.

ENCOURAGE COMMUNICATION

Not only with you, but with their friends, family, and others in the youth group. The more that teens can feel connected and not alone, the better!

GO OUTSIDE

Encourage your youth to go outside and get some fresh air and Vitamin D whenever they can! This change of scenery and the physical benefits of being outside and getting exercise can help all of us take a much-needed break and even change our thinking and perspective!

MUSIC & ARTS

Encourage active engagement in music listening and music-making, creating, and enjoying art – this can emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically benefit our brains and bodies!

As youth ministers, we can and MUST be helpful in the lives of our teenagers who are experiencing loneliness and isolation. It’s the best way to help them experience the love of Christ!


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.


Relationships With Teens & Families

Benefits & Dangers of Relationships With Teens & Their Families

When I look back on my different ministry experiences, I don’t think about the books I read, or the conferences I attended, or the lessons I planned. I think about the relationships I developed with the teens with whom I worked. I think about what worked well because of the benefits of the relationships built, or what could have gone better if I had time to build better ones.

While I find relationships to be crucial to a thriving ministry, I wonder if there is a point where knowing my teens and their families can become too much. So, what are the benefits and dangers of knowing the young people with whom we work? Can we really know too much?

Defining the Benefits and Dangers


Benefits of Relationships With Teens

There are several facets to the job we do as youth ministers. We can be friends, counselors, teachers, referees, coaches, etc. I think we can all agree we wear multiple hats in our positions within the church.

But in all we do, it’s the relationships we build with our teens and their families that best define and support our role. Relationships are the very foundation on which most of our ministries stand. And the deeper those relationships grow, the better we can minister to the needs of those teens and their families.

What The Benefits Might Look Like

I can think of one teen with whom I work. I know him on a deep level. This teen attends most events, calls on non-youth group days, shows up to church early just to hang out. This teen tends to be transparent in sharing about life, sharing the highs and lows, struggles and achievements. It is not unusual for me to receive a text after he receives an award at school, or wants to celebrate a new skill.

Later, when he started experimenting with marijuana and stepped away from church activities, I felt comfortable talking with him about it. Subsequently, he was open and honest with me, as were the teen’s parents in sharing their concerns and expectations moving forward.

I credit this to my own tendencies toward transparency with my teens. Only when I trust them with some personal stories can they also begin to trust me with their personal stories.

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Another teen in my group has shared about a struggle she’s faced concerning self-mutilation and cutting. We’ve talked about issues that may trigger episodes. We’ve talked about coping strategies, and about finding a counselor with whom she could talk.

I have shared my heart with this teen, shared about my own struggles with self-doubt, depression, and loneliness. We have shared common ground in wanting to be enough and struggling to feel how we compare to others around us.

On one hand, knowing what my teens are facing allows me to help in deeper, more meaningful ways. It allows me to help where I can and to help provide resources for professionals that can help where I cannot.

Dangers of Relationships With Teens

On the other hand, knowing so much about my teens can be a heavy burden to bear. Especially when I want to fix every issue and know I cannot.

While I love the relationships I’ve developed with my teens, I find myself being careful. I don’t want lines to be crossed. When lines get crossed, I put myself and the teens at risk. That simply cannot happen within the church.

Teens need to know they have found a safe place. They need to experience the love of God in deep, meaningful ways. Then they can show that love to others.

I can remember my senior year in college. With graduation around the corner, I was coming to the end of my senior youth ministry internship. I remember meeting with my supervisor after an outing I had taken with some girls from my youth group. We talked about the benefits of being friends with the teens, but he also warned me about getting too close. Not in the sense that I can know too much, but that my authority may be in jeopardy as a teacher and disciplinarian.

It’s great to be a friend and pal to the teens – up to a point. But lines can get blurred quickly, my supervisor warned me, if I focus too much on the friendship. I quickly learned the difficulty I could face. It could be hard to switch gears from just being one of the kids to being the adult leader. Especially if I switched gears too soon or too late.

Even now, 16 years later, I must remind myself to keep the line in sight. I have to balance being the adult and making sure kids stay safe with being the teacher and friend to whom they will speak freely.

Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Own Well-Being

My heart aches for the young people with whom I work – for the teens growing up without their parents, for the teens struggling to feel like they are worth something. And sometimes, knowing the struggles they face is enough to make me question how long I can keep going in this career. Sometimes the burden just feels too heavy.

But I don’t carry that burden alone. I won’t be afraid to seek counseling if and when I need it. Having a professional sounding board to share my concerns, to help give me perspective when I feel like I’m losing it could very well be the difference between burning out early and carrying on in ministry for a lifetime. And while I do not currently have a professional counselor, I do have friends and family outside of my career that help me keep my eyes on Jesus. And thank God for Jesus – who promises to take our burdens and trade them for rest.


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.


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.

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.

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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?


Brian 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.



Should We Hold Teens Accountable To Their Faith

Holding Teens Accountable

Not Just Okay – It’s Necessary

Whether we realize it or not, it’s not just okay, but necessary to hold teens accountable to their faith. I remember when I was in high school, my youth minister laid out a daily reading plan for me. There was a certain number of chapters from the Old Testament, chapters from the New Testament, a Psalm, and Proverb every day.

We met together once a week to talk about what we were reading. I’d have time to ask questions about the stories – why things happened the way they did, or why God did things the way He did. And I remember once asking my youth minister if it was okay to listen to music while I read the Bible. Twenty-some years later, I still remember his thoughtful response.

He asked me if the music distracted me from the Scripture text. Did I find myself paying more attention to the music than the words I was reading?

It’s Not Easy To Be Held Accountable

See, as a teen, it wasn’t exactly an easy thing for me to stick to. Sitting in the quiet of my room, with just my Teen Study Bible was…well, it was boring. Yes, I wanted to grow in my knowledge and faith. But to sit down every day and read Scripture…I almost felt like it was asking too much.

But I also remember this – because of the decision I had recently made to follow Christ – my youth minister expected more of me.

Being a Christ follower was about more than just saying the words, it was about more than simply saying “I believe.”

It was about letting my actions speak out as well. It was about wanting to know Christ fully and using my life to actively speak and portray Christ’s love to others.

My youth minister knew this! And I know this now as I sit with teens in my youth group.

I want to hold the teens in my group accountable to a higher standard. I want them to know that following Christ is about so much more than attending youth group on Sunday afternoons. It’s about more than coming to Wednesday night Bible study.

Those things are good, don’t get me wrong. But having a full-on relationship with Christ is about more than that, right?

It’s about letting my life speak, diving deep into Scripture to discover God more fully, worshipping the Creator daily, and praying constantly.

We’re Called To Accountability

Being a Christ-follower is about holding each other accountable when we step from the path – when things get messy. Paul writes this to the churches in Galatia when he says, “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important” (Galatians 6:1-3 NLT).

As a youth minister, this kind of hits me to the core. You are not that important. Ouch!

We Have A Job To Do

Our students need to know that being a Christ-follower means sharing the responsibility of being a Christ-follower with others. It means being able to recognize that missteps happen. It means understanding how to lovingly bring fellow Christ-followers back onto the path.

It’s not about pointing fingers and passing blame, but about taking responsibility for the times we mess up. It’s about repenting of one’s sins and moving forward in a loving community.

See, as youth ministers, we are called to help train and equip the teens in our youth groups for life after youth group. Are we giving our young people the tools they need to continue growing in their faith once they graduate from high school?

INTERESTED IN A YOUTH OR Children’s MINISTRY CERTIFICATION?

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The Bible study I started with my youth minister as a high schooler helped instill within me the discipline of daily reading – Scripture, devotions, etc. But maybe that’s not a feasible thing for you to do as a youth minister. Daily praying for your teens, weekly reminders, and encouragement for them to stick to their reading plans, even offering a simple daily post on social media may be enough to push your young people toward a discipline of daily faith practices.

Online Content – An Important Way To Help Hold Teens Accountable

Speaking of social media, maybe you’re like me and you follow your teens on social media. Many of my teens love sharing stories on Snapchat. They love making videos and sharing them on TikTok and taking photos and posting them to Instagram.

As their youth minister, I love seeing their creativity, goofiness, and style come through in what they post. But I’m also quick to reach out when I see posts that I find questionable or concerning.

I’ve had multiple conversations with teens about what they post and the impression that leaves on others. If what they’re posting calls into question their character as a Christ-follower, maybe they need to reconsider posting it.

The key here is gentle and respectful conversation.

Living Our Own Accountability

I’m not perfect in my faith. I need a faith community to walk alongside me and let me know when I need to do better. I, just like the youth people in my youth group, need to know that I’m accepted and loved when I mess up.

But as a youth minister, I also need to take responsibility for my own actions. I cannot expect to hold the teens in my youth group accountable to standards I do not hold to myself.

When on social media, I always keep my audience in mind – knowing that many of the young people in my group follow me on various accounts. I try not to post or share anything that could call my character as a Christ-follower into question. 

As a teen, I needed someone to call me out on my faith. I needed someone to challenge me and help me keep the path of Christ in focus. As a youth minister, I want to do the same thing for the young people in my church- when we hold teens accountable, we give them faith tools to equip them for life after high school.


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.