Posted on 1 Comment

My Youth Ministry Projections

When I get asked about the future of youth ministry (as I have often been asked in these last weeks), I usually start by acknowledging, “I am not a futurist.” I’m actually not all that gifted at prediction. But I’m pretty good at observing current trends. And with that in mind, I’m going to make a few projections. Sure, maybe that’s semantics. But I’m calling these projections (of what I’m currently observing) rather than predictions. And I could be completely wrong.

Continue reading My Youth Ministry Projections
Posted on Leave a comment

The Power of Story

power of storyHave you ever wondering where stories come from and why they are so powerful?

The origin of story is found in something we lovingly refer to as oral tradition. From the dawn of time, human beings gathered together to share in story – story of life’s origin, story of purpose, story of definition and story of hope. Every human culture that has ever existed has elevated story to be the capstone of their existence. We are immersed in story.

Story is in the sinew that binds the human narrative together.

One of my favourite things to do as a parent is to tell stories to my children. Sometimes these stories are about my own childhood memories; sometimes the stories I tell are focused on producing some sort of desired response; and at other times stories are simply about celebrating something.

Stories are powerful because they matter to us. Here are three ways the power of story is revealed.

Story inspires. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ve gotta great story to tell?” They proceed to dive into a great tale of some triumph or failure, evoking emotion, engagement and wonder as a result. Great stories are ones that inspire us in some way. Inspiration is a fickle thing. At times it demands an active response, and at others it invokes a pensive state. In all its forms, great story-telling catapults the listener into an emotively saturated climate called inspiration.

Story celebrates. The best stories told through image or words are those that seek to elevate a cause, an individual or a dilemma that is worth celebrating. While Hollywood has done society a great disservice is many regards, what Hollywood does do well is celebrate great stories. Historical turning points, social awareness issues and personal triumphs have been captivated in print or on-screen in ways that have allowed millions of people to be influenced in some way. Awards shows like the Grammys & Emmys provide a platform through which the telling of story is honoured, and the stories themselves may gain the recognition and joy they deserve.

Story breathes. Stories are alive. Don’t believe me? Try telling someone a story and see what happens. Stories evoke question, wonder & hope at the drop of a hat. What we say, how we say it, and how we choose to live in response to what we’ve experienced are signs of life…life that is wrought into existence by the power of story.

One of my goals as a leader is to learn to harness the power of story in my own life – knowing that what I say and what I do are stitching together a narrative that influences the world around me. More importantly, knowing that my life as story exists within the context of a greater unfolding story known as human existence, which has been authored by a creator God in a loving and determined fashion.

It’s this story that all of human kind finds itself immersed in. Which leaves me to ponder how we are engaging the power of story in all its forms to inspire, celebrate & breathe in present reality and the not so distant future? What do you think?

Posted on Leave a comment

Best Practices in Activating Young People Around Causes They Care About

Marah’s talk at The Summit was one which caused a lot of people to take notice. is a relatively new, relatively small organization which directly engages and activates more than a million teenagers. (With a goal of 10,000,000)

They do that mostly through social networking and text messaging and mostly without adult involvement. 

A Challenge

Watch this video with your student ministry team and spend some time reflecting on what is doing to activate teenagers around causes they care about. We’ve provided some sample questions, but don’t be limited to these questions. Run with it and let us know what you come up with in the comments.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What are your rules for getting students involved? Are your rule inhibiting anyone from getting involved?
  2. Do you know the top causes for the teenagers in your life?
  3. How are you making volunteering social?
  4. What’s your organizations text messaging strategy for activating teenagers?
  5. Marah talks about impregnating students phones to get students to talk about being a teen pregnancy, what’s a call to action you want to activate students to think about?
  6. If students don’t want to be in the spotlight, how does that impact your student leadership philosophy?
  7. What’s an incentive that could help motivate your students?

Follow Marah on Twitter

Register for The Summit 2013

Posted on 1 Comment

Smoking Alcohol?

An individual can pour alcohol over dry ice and inhale it directly or with a straw, or make a DIY vaporizing kit using bike pumps. The alcohol of choice is poured into a bottle, the bottle is corked, and the bicycle pump needle is poked through the top of the cork. Air is pumped into the bottle to vaporize the alcohol, and the user inhales.


3528320881_9656db9fdfFor those of us who have hung out with students for a while, there seems to be no end to the experimental ways people will try to get high or drunk. I remember people inhaling carbon dioxide, others huffing aerosol sprays, and others experimenting with crack because someone told them it was like cocaine but a lot safer, and of course the ever-growing abuse/acceptance of marijuana all across the country right now.

As the doctor in the video points out, inhaling hard alcohol directly into the lungs is a really, really bad idea physiologically. But that alone has never stopped anyone before.


  1. Fess up. Have you tried this? What’s the draw? What are the drawbacks? The video above mentions it as a way to get drunk without the calories. Seems like a strange justification to me. 
  2. Are students in your area really doing this? It’s hard to tell if this is a real trend or if this is just something that is being reported, which is thus making it a real trend. After all, TIME is the same magazine who brought us butt chugging
  3. What else would you need to know about this before educating students about it? Of course, you don’t want to teach them about something in order to combat it. But if it’s really a trend, it seems like you’d need more to go on.

Photo by Chi (in oz) via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Posted on 5 Comments

What I’m learning about doing youth ministry better by overseeing kids ministry

DSC01951This last year I made a big shift in my career. I went from being a Student Ministries Pastor overseeing mostly Middle and High School to shifting part of my focus all the way down to birth. And I’ve become a better Youth Pastor because of it.

The reality is that for 15+ years I pretty much did youth ministry one way. It was my team and students as the primary relationships and any interaction with parents was a secondary thing.

Now that I work as a “family pastor” and interact with a wide age of children/students over an extended amount of time I’ve realized just how important interacting with and ministering to parents and the whole family really is.

In youth ministry, parents often drop students off without getting out of the car. Our interaction with them is very quick and often without depth or significance. In Children’s ministry it is very different. Parents are involved in programs, in the rooms with their kids, engaged with each other and generally much more present. Consequently, I have the opportunity to spend  more time with them. (Even as I write this I’m watching several moms walk by who have pre-school age kids.) I know that those families will be a part of ministries I lead for the next 18 years of their lives. That’s a big chunk of time and an investment I take seriously.

As I think about those 18 years I envision that a big part of what I need to be doing is to be resourcing those parents and families. In youth ministry, parents often have the mindset that it’s time for them to back away and allow other leaders to be involved in leading their students in the faith journey. That’s not at all how it happens in Children’s ministry. We partner in all things with the families.

Parents are always asking for advice and sharing stories with me about their kids. Together, we walk through major milestones. As I reflect, I think in youth ministry we forget to celebrate these types of milestones with the family.

One last area that I think I’ve learned from working more with children is the reminder of how important the relationships the children’s staffing
team is when considering the whole family, youth ministry included. My advice is to regularly talk to the children’s staff before transitioning students each year.
Ask about what parents will be huge helpers and which ones might be a little bit of a pain. See what they’ve done over the years to maximize relationships and teaching time with specific students. Are there special needs that you need to know about as youth minister? How can you leverage the relationships that have already been built without simply starting them over?

The children’s ministry isn’t your completion. It isn’t something that has screwed up kids either. It should be a big resource for you as you co-labor to minister to families. 

Posted on Leave a comment

Sticky (Muslim) Faith

Last night I watched a beautiful film, Le Grande Voyage. It’s the story of a Muslim man making his pilgrimage from France to Mecca by car.

About half way through it really hit me that this was a film about a father’s attempt to win his son’s heart. While the beliefs are very foreign to me as a Christian father, the story itself was one I totally identified with. We have a shared value of passing along our faith and each wrestle with the pain that doing so is a choice.

If you’re like me, trying to figure out practical ways to develop Sticky Faith in your kids lives, I think this movie is worth watching. Sometimes great lessons are learned when we look outside of our own traditions/beliefs to see how the same task is carried out.

(Fair warning on some mild language. Over all, the movie was pretty clean. I’d say PG-13 even though it’s officially unrated)