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Bonding Over Heartbreak, Bullying, and Poverty

One major mistake many speakers in youth ministry make, is that they focus on the content of their youth talks too much. They forget that youth won’t listen to you until they have decided you are worth listening to. And for teens to accept you as someone who is real and trustworthy, they have to see you as someone they have something in common with.

What you need is bonding. The good news is that bonding with teens is easy. The bad news is that it’s incredibly hard. Continue reading Bonding Over Heartbreak, Bullying, and Poverty

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Lay Off the Guilt

You should read the Bible every day, you know.

If you don’t invite your friends to this event, what does that say about you?

You really should come to youth group every week.

Let’s face it: if you only talk about Jesus in youth group, you may as well stop calling yourself a Christian.

Jesus doesn’t want your attention every Sunday evening. He wants your attention every day, every hour.

We’ve mastered the art of the guilt trip in youth ministry, haven’t we? We can package it like a ‘loving truth’ or ‘merely holding up a mirror’ or even a ‘Biblical confrontation’, but the fact is, that we’re dispensing guilt. And we’re really, really good at it. Continue reading Lay Off the Guilt

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How Teens Learn: Anchoring

Why do teens sometimes decide to tune out when we’re teaching? That’s a question that bugged me when I started doing youth ministry. I’m sure I’m not the only who has experienced being in front of a group and seeing teen’s attention wander, or actually noting certain students ‘switch off’. Why do they do that? Is it because we’re boding? Because they’re not interested in what we’re sharing?

Maybe. But maybe there’s more at play and to explain that, we need to learn a little about how teens learn. There’s one crucial factor in getting teens to listen to you that’s often overlooked. It’s called anchoring. Continue reading How Teens Learn: Anchoring

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20 Powerful Principles for Teaching Students

As youth leaders, we have much in common with teachers. We are both trying to get a message across the best way that we can.

The American Psychological Association has published a fascinating overview with 20 powerful principles from psychology  for teaching students from pre-K through 12 grade. As I read through them, I realized how many of these are applicable to youth ministry as well. Continue reading 20 Powerful Principles for Teaching Students

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Are We Making Prayer Too Complicated?

Over the years, I’ve read a lot of books on prayer. Every book seems to have a ‘magic’ approach to prayer that ‘guarantees’ results.

You have to pray standing.

You have to state everything as if it’s already happened instead of asking for it.

You have to pray with someone else.

You have to follow the format of the Lord’s Prayer.

You have to walk in circles.

You have to have a prayer corner.

You have to pray in Jesus’ name only.

You have to pray kneeling.

You have to pray at least once a day, but preferably continuously.

You have to spend as much time giving thanks as praying for your issues.

And when we teach about prayer we give much of the same advice. Do this. Don’t do that. Read your Bible and pray every day. We teach rules instead of a relationship. Continue reading Are We Making Prayer Too Complicated?

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How to Preach on Sex, Lust, and Porn

First off, I want to applaud you for wanting to tackle sensitive issues like sex, lust, and porn. They’re tough topics to talk about in private, let alone in a sermon. So kudos to you for being willing to face the fire.

Because these topics are so difficult to get right, especially with students, I’d like to share some advice with you. Continue reading How to Preach on Sex, Lust, and Porn

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Should you stop Saying ‘The Bible Says’?

In his book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, Andy Stanley makes the case that pastors should stop saying ‘the Bible says’ when quoting Scripture. His argument is not theological, but stems from evangelism as a goal. He states people have to believe Jesus as the Son of God before they have to believe the Bible is the Word of God. The phrase ‘The Bible says’ could make them tune out and prevent them from ‘meeting’ Jesus. In that sense, using that phrase could be a stumbling block for people to come to Christ.

It’s an interesting argument—and certainly a challenging one, considering the popularity of this particular phrase amongst pastors (a phrase that became widely popular because of Billy Graham’s use by the way). Understandably, Stanley’s plea has met fierce opposition and sparked a lively debate. Continue reading Should you stop Saying ‘The Bible Says’?

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How upspeak can ruin your credibility as speaker

Intonation – how you pitch your words – matters more than you may realize. When we listen to someone speak, we use intonation to distinguish between a question and a statement for instance (you can’t see the question marks after all). But we also determine the credibility and self confidence of a speaker by the intonation.

One growing trend is ‘upspeak’ or ‘uptalk’, a way of speaking where you end your sentences on a higher pitch or upward inflections, thus making it very similar to asking a question. In Australia, this is quite common and is known as AQI: Australian Question Intonation. But more and more people are using this way of speaking, especially teenagers. It makes everything they say sound like a question. Continue reading How upspeak can ruin your credibility as speaker

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How much time do youth pastors spend preparing a sermon? [Poll]

Thom Rainer recently did an ‘unscientific’ research (as he called it) into how much time pastors take to prepare one sermon. The results were fascinating, but I don’t want to reveal them just yet because they might influence the voting in the poll I’d like you to participate in first.

I am very interested in how much time youth pastors spent preparing one sermon. Now, you may prepare more than one sermon a week, or combine a sermon and a small group study, but I’d like you to give your honest, best educated guess into how much time you spend preparing one youth sermon. Continue reading How much time do youth pastors spend preparing a sermon? [Poll]

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Offering reliable and trustworthy information

There have been some serious floods in our area a few weeks ago due to heavy rainfall. Luckily the small village where we live is on a hill, so we escaped damage, but many towns around us have been flooded as rivers rose too high.

This weekend, we were confronted with an unexpected result of the flooding: our drink water has been contaminated as the sewer system couldn’t handle this much water. We can’t consume our water without boiling it first.

It’s a bit of a hassle that makes you appreciate the necessity of clean drinking water, that first and foremost. But it also made me ponder the importance of reliability.

I’ve always trusted our drinking water, trusted that it was safe, healthy and good for me. After this, that trust is somewhat damaged, although the water company did a great job in being open and honest and warning everyone about what’s going on.

Continue reading Offering reliable and trustworthy information