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Tailoring your message to youth’s spiritual journey

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. In prepping your message for youth, it’s essential to spend some time tailoring it to where your students are at, spiritually speaking. If you don’t, you may end up with a beautiful, well-written message that completely misses its purpose because your audience doesn’t recognize it’s spiritual ‘level’ in what you’re saying.

Spiritual journey

A beautiful way of looking at these spiritual ‘levels’ is to see it as a spiritual journey (1). As we all know, becoming a Christian isn’t a matter of one decision, it’s a longer road filled with several smaller steps and decisions, and sometimes also roadblocks and wrong turns. The spiritual journey of youth then, is the route they take from being spiritually dead (unbeliever) to spiritually fully alive (believer and disciple).

Everyone we meet, including our youth, is at a certain point in his or her spiritual journey. Some may be at the start, barely acknowledging the possibility that there is a God. Some may be at the point where it all starts to make sense and they’re almost ready to commit. And some may be at the point where they’ve decided to follow Christ, but struggle with putting that into practice.

Tailoring your message to your youth’s spiritual journey is crucial if you want it to have impact

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Applying the 80/20 rule to youth ministry

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. In an earlier post I discussed the 80/20 rule and how this rule can help you set priorities in your youth ministry. Today I want to delve a little bit deeper into how this rule can be applied in youth ministry. But first, let’s recap what the 80/20 rule is about.

Shortly put, the 80/20 rule (also known as the Pareto principle) states that there is often a 80/20 connection between input and output, between efforts and results. In short, in many cases 80% of the results come from only 20% of the efforts. But it works the other way around as well, 80% of the problems you face in youth ministry come from only 20% of the students/parents/church members.

Now let’s see how we can apply to 80/20 rule to your youth ministry by asking a whole bunch of questions. I’d advise you to take some time to work these through, you’ll be amazed at the insights you’ll gain.

1. Identify biggest results

What does ‘success’ look like in your youth ministry? In other words: what’s the 80% of results you want to strive for? You can describe success in youth ministry in different measurable parameters, for instance:

  • Number of baptisms amongst youth
  • Attendance in youth services
  • Number of students involved in small groups

But there are also many indicators of ‘success’ in youth ministry that aren’t so easy to measure, like spiritual growth, a good relationship with each student, growth in unity, etc. However you define success in your youth ministry, make sure you do somehow define it. Otherwise you’ll never know how you’re doing.

The number of baptisms can be a way to define sucess in youth ministry, but there are many non-measurable parameters as well

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Six powerful ways to end your sermon

This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. As stated in an earlier post, ending a sermon well can be quite a challenge. Even if you have managed to keep the youth’s attention all through your sermon, you’ll need to work hard to keep it right till the last words. But the beautiful thing is that with the right ending, you can not only hold their attention, but bring home your key message in a powerful way. Here are six ways to do that:

How you end your sermon is crucial if you want your sermon to have impact

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Creating to do lists that work

This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry. I’ve always been a list-loving type of person. And color me stupid, but I love my to do list best of all. You wanna know why? Because my to do list reduces my stress, is a wonderful tool for setting priorities and gives me a daily sense of accomplishment. But in order for a to do list to accomplish that, you need to set it up the right way. Here’s my advice, which is by the way heavily based on an awesome book called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.

Create an inbox

The first thing you have to do is to create an inbox where you collect everything you have to do something with. I have a simple paper tray as physical inbox and I use Evernote as digital inbox. You can read more about the concept of an inbox in a previous post called Getting things done in Youth Ministry.

You can use simple paper trays to create a physical inbox

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How to end your sermon well

This post is part of the series on Preaching for Youth. In my experience, ending a sermon well is almost as hard as finding the right introduction. I’ve seen many a preacher stumble through fifteen minutes of trying to end their sermon, with me cringing in the audience.

As George Sweazy (former preaching professor at Princeton Theological Seminary) once wrote: “The conclusion of the sermon is burdened with two handicaps. The minister prepares it when he is the most tired and the congregation hears it when they are the most tired.”(1)

Considering young people and their somewhat shorter attention span, keeping their attention right till the very end is a challenge. But it can be done. Here’s my advice on how to end your sermon well.

Some sermon ends are like a never ending road...every time you think the speaker is finished, he or she just keeps on going

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Time management in youth ministry: setting priorities

This post is part of the Time management in youth ministry series. In youth ministry, there’s always more to do than we have time for. If your to do list is anything like mine, it can become quite a challenge to determine what gets priority and what will have to wait. I use very two effective ways to determine my priorities that I’d like to share with you. In another post, I describe the INO system, which is a third way of determining priorities.

In youth ministry it’s essential to set the right priorities. We can’t do it all.

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Time management in youth ministry: keeping the Sabbath

This post is part of the Time Management in Youth Ministry series. If there’s one thing you need to do when you’re extremely busy, it’s to take one day a week off: keeping a Sabbath. It may seem like a stupid thing to do when your to do list is bigger than ever, but it’s the best investment you can make.

God gave the command to keep the Sabbath for a reason (even though the Ten Commandments have a different meaning for us than they did for the Israelites). We need this day of rest for our bodies, our minds, and our souls.

Keeping the Sabbath is an investment in our health, our family, our relationship with God and with others. If you just keep on running, you’re gonna find yourself run out, run down and overrun at some point. Continue reading Time management in youth ministry: keeping the Sabbath

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Why your youth ministry needs a mission statement

Does your youth ministry or youth group have a mission statement? By mission statement I mean a short (two sentences max) statement of what your youth ministry is about, what the reason for its existence is. If you have a mission statement, is it still current and does everybody who’s involved know it? I believe a good, current, well-communicated mission statement is essential to each youth ministry. Here’s 5 reasons why. Continue reading Why your youth ministry needs a mission statement

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Preaching for youth: the purpose of an introduction

This post is part of the Preaching for youth series. The first five to ten minutes of a sermon are crucial. At least, that’s what everyone says. But do you know why? Do you have a clear vision of what you need to accomplish in the introduction of your sermon, in those first few minutes? And do you write your introduction accordingly? Here’s the scoop.

In the first few minutes of your sermon, also known as your introduction (or intro) you need to accomplish three things:

  1. get the audience to like you
  2. get the audience to care about what you’re saying
  3. get the audience to listen

This is especially important when you’re addressing a new audience. They don’t know who you are, they don’t know if they like you, they don’t know if they care about what you’re saying. And you have about five minutes before they make up their mind either way. That means starting great is not just a bonus, it’s essential if you want your sermon to have impact.  So how do you accomplish this?

How do you make your audience listen to what you're saying? (photo: Kevin Coleman)

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How to create unity in your youth small group

When we want our small groups to thrive, unity within the group is essential. If our small group members are aloof, combative or indifferent, realizing growth will be hard. But what can you do as a small group leader to promote unity? Here’s my advice, based on my own experience as a youth small group leader.

What can you do to create unity in your youth small group? (Photo: Stephen Eastop)

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