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5 Things NOT to Say to Hurting Teens

Pastoral conversations with teens require less skills than you might think. Listening really is the biggest skill you need.

But at some point you may feel it’s appropriate to say something, share some advice, or offer an encouragement. When you do, make sure what you say is helpful. While some empty clichés may not do too much harm, others can damage the trust and relationship. Continue reading 5 Things NOT to Say to Hurting Teens

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Helping youth thrive

It’s not often that you encounter people with the passion for youth of Peter Benson. His whole TED Talk titled ‘How youth thrive’ shows his love for young people and it encouraged me.

Peter Benson is not a youth pastor however; he’s a psychologist who does research amongst young people on their ‘spark’. By ‘spark’ he means a skill, a cause or a quality that makes people thrive, that makes them happy and whole.

In his talk, he shares some interesting statistics. Right now, there are 80 million young people aged 8-18 in the US. But only 25% of these 80 million are on a pathway to human thriving (meaning being happy, connected, kind, contributing, etc.) and the rest has fallen behind. They are lost, confused, medicated and alone. Those statistics should give anyone involved in youth work food for thought. Continue reading Helping youth thrive

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Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens

Contrary to what you may think, teens don’t have a problem with rules. But they may have an issue with how you bring them. How you communicate rules as a youth leader or a parent is a huge factor in teen’s decisions whether or not to stick to these rules.

The University of Gent (Belgium) has come to these conclusions after multiple researches amongst young people. Their conclusion is that you shouldn’t avoid rules with teens, but how you introduce them is important.

If you introduce rules in an authoritative and forceful way, teens will feel threatened in their freedom and will likely act out the opposite of the rules. This phenomenon is known as psychological reactance and it’s been well documented in several researches.

Continue reading Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens

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Bullying brings status: an anti-bullying policy for youth ministry

Bullying is gaining more and more attention from researchers, school, parents, lawmakers and others and rightly so. In the last few years, there have been several heartbreaking stories of the effects of bullying and it’s a serious problem we need to address as youth leaders as well.

We can’t pretend bullying doesn’t happen in youth ministry. I should know, I left the teen ministry of my own church as a teen because I was bullied and the leaders did little or nothing to stop it. I still attended my ‘home church’, but I was involved in another church’s youth ministry (one that was way less radical in its message I might add!) because I was accepted there and felt safe.

We need to stop any and all bullying in our youth ministries. But what does an affective anti-bullying policy look like?

Continue reading Bullying brings status: an anti-bullying policy for youth ministry

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The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

I’ve been in youth ministry for about fourteen years in one capacity or another. Looking back, I sure wish I would have done some things differently. I’m fairly sure many of us feel that way.

Now I personally think regrets are a waste of time but ‘7 things many youth pastors wish they’d done differently in hindsight’ didn’t sound quite as catchy for a title…

So here, we go with 7 things many youth pastors wished they had done differently aka the 7 regrets of youth pastors:

1. Avoiding conflicts

As Christians, we’re supposed to be loving, kind and forgiving. The problem is that this often results in an avoidance of conflict at all costs. I’ve let certain situations continue for too long because I wanted to avoid a conflict. Well, the conflict happened anyway and it was much nastier than it would have been if I had faced it head on.

Continue reading The 7 regrets of youth pastors (1)

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How to create support for your ideas and plans

You can have the best ideas ever and create strategic plans for your youth ministry ‘till you’re blue in the face, but unless others support you, you’ll never get anywhere. It’s very important to have vision, but it’s equally important to have people support your vision. So how do you do that? How do you create support for your ideas and plans and get people to cheer you on? It’s all about the three R’s:




Research your plans

The first thing that’s important is that your plans for your youth ministry are well researched and well developed. You need to know what you’re talking about and be able to back it up with numbers, statistics and facts. Many plans are grand in scope, but very sketchy on the details and no one will support those. People need to see your vision is  grounded in reality. Continue reading How to create support for your ideas and plans

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Why reading fiction is good for you

I love reading.

Not a day goes by when I don’t pick up a book and read a few pages…or a whole book. Obviously, I read a lot about youth ministry, leadership, and related topics. But I also read a lot of fiction. Reading fiction is one of those things that really fills up my tank and prevents me from running on empty.

Yet I’ve often felt guilty about reading fiction because it feels like such a waste of time. Sure, it’s relaxing and everything, but not very useful…or is it? Continue reading Why reading fiction is good for you

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How to motivate your volunteers for youth ministry training

We’re doing a blog series on how to train your youth ministry volunteers and we’ve been looking at creating a youth ministry training plan. But what if your volunteers aren’t motivated for training?

Is it really lack of motivation?

The first question you have to ask yourself is if the issue really is a lack of motivation, or if there are other problems. In my experience, lack of time is often the biggest cause for volunteers to not be interested in training. It doesn’t mean they’re not motivated, it means they have no time for the training. And who can blame them when they’re trying to fit in their family, jobs and their youth ministry related activities into their schedule.

Continue reading How to motivate your volunteers for youth ministry training

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Why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules

My almost four-year old son is in the why-phase. Whenever I say something, his standard reaction is ‘Why?’. Why do I need to be in the car seat? Why do I need to to go to bed? Why does daddy get five meat balls and I only get two? Why can’t I take rabbit (his favorite stuffed animal) to Kindergarten? Why won’t you buy me that toy?

It’s sometimes annoying, it’s requires patience, but it’s also incredibly challenging. He has managed to make me think about the ‘why’ of things more than I have ever done before. And the funny thing is that when I take the time to explain the ‘why’ of things to him in a way that he can understand, he is often satisfied with the answer. He accepts rules much easier if we explain the ‘why’ of the rule to him. Continue reading Why you need to explain the ‘why’ of rules

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Peer groups and peer influence: does it matter?

A youth ministry friend of mine wrote me with the following question:

How much does peer group matter and can we overcome the ‘problem’ of not having a peer group within our small youth group? We have a group of about 6 or 7 from age 11-16 and none of them really relate very well to each other, despite most of them having been in the same church most of their lives!

It’s a good question, so let’s look at peer groups and peer influence and how important this is to teens.

Continue reading Peer groups and peer influence: does it matter?