Youth Specialties Blog

Are You Creating a Self-Serving Youth Ministry?

By Youth Specialties on July 22 2014 | 0 Comments

We are fortunate to know so many incredible youth workers that are far wiser than we are and Charles Rikard is one of them. We're excited to share this guest post from Charles

Original photo by Dermot McElduff.

Hi, my name is Charles Rikard and I’m selfish.

For years, I tried making ministry about myself and my personal achievements. My life’s value was dependent on how many students or adults showed up and how spiritually connected I could get them. In turn, I neglected important relationships and overlooked important spiritual leaders.

And honestly, there have been moments over the past 10 years where a Wednesday night or Sunday morning has left me dismayed because it did not achieve for me the satisfaction of looking in the mirror and saying, “You’re doing a great job!! God is truly working.”

But over the past year, I’ve discovered that the success of the ministries I oversee has less to do with me, and more to do with what I’m asking God to do in my church and community. In order to do this, I have to be centered in a deep relationship with Christ, placing my prayers at the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

It’s hard to confess these things… but why? All of us at some point struggle with our own identity in ministry because of the different circumstances we encounter. Throughout seminary and beyond, I discovered that most pastors go through a season where they struggle with their role in ministry. When we encounter these struggles, we begin to change things about who we are in order to adapt to what we think might work.

And on top of that, we attend conferences where we second-guess our efforts because of the success of others we know in ministry. We try to emulate these leaders, implementing their small group ideas, youth Wednesday nights, college bible studies, and church fellowships. But for some reason, our dynamics are much different.

We know there are many factors that contribute to the success of certain ministry programs and we know that the flourishing of a program has less to do with programming and more to do with environment or cultural climate, but the personal heart struggles are still the same.

Over the past few years, there are some verses that I’ve clung on to that help keep me grounded when I try to take the ministry of my church in a selfish direction. For the rest of this “confession,” I’ll focus on one section: Acts 1:12-14.

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” – Acts 1:12-14

There are many life lessons I have gathered from these verses; let me share a few thoughts that God’s word has shown me about myself that I need to address and affirm on a daily basis.

  1. Go to where Christ is leading you. In Acts 1:1-11, Christ appears before the disciples and spends time with them. While with them, he orders them to return back to Jerusalem and wait. I’ve asked myself the question before, would God have impressed on them the Holy Spirit if they had decided to go in a direction other than Jerusalem? Would the church have had as great an impact? Personally, am I going in a different direction than what God is ordering me to go? My ministry can only be as effective as the direction I am going. By pursuing the direction God is calling me too, I can trust that is where He will decide to move.
  2. Pray and wait there together. Once the disciples returned to Jerusalem, they met together, prayed, and waited for God to move just as Christ had instructed them. In order for God to be successful in your ministry, your prayer and your patience have to be front and center. You cannot expect God to move in area when you are not asking of Him to move at all. More specifically, are you praying for something of selfish intent? Are you praying for something that will make you or your team feel better about the work you are doing? Instead, pray as the disciples did. Pray for the Holy Spirit to begin moving in your ministry.
  3. Be of one accord. As the leader of your ministry, ask your team to pray in one direction and in one spirit. This may require that you have a volunteer meeting centralized on prayer and the how-tos. If the apostles had to ask how, then why do we think we’re above understanding how to pray individually and as a collective? Instead, lead your people to pray specifically in the direction God is calling you to go. And spend time with them to make sure that they are seeking personal time in devotion with God.


I hope that this helps you as you begin to see that you are not the only one who deals with heartache in ministry. Rather than sitting in silence, let’s be bold enough to open up the conversation of ministry ups and downs, without fear of condemnation from our peers and colleagues. If we find ways to work and pray together, than we get the privilege to reap the rewards and celebrate together. In honor of my former college professor Dr. Robert Foster, “Peace be with you.”

Charles Rikard lives with his wife Malena in Nacogdoches TX, where he serves as the Student and College Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church. Follow him at @CharlesRikard.

By Youth Specialties on July 22 2014 | 0 Comments

Demonizing Teenagers

By Youth Specialties on July 20 2014 | 3 Comments

Every so often we find great older posts from friends of YS that are worth reposting. This is a great example of that from Mike King, originally posted at his blog HERE.

Original photo from Nicki Varkevisser.

Unfortunately, one of the most successful strategies for funding youth ministry involves demonizing young people. This process involves painting a picture using statistics, stories and alarmist scare tactics in order to convince adults to give money to help reach the youth culture because “it’s never been worse.”

This strategy works for fundraising but I don’t think this posture of viewing teenagers as the most evil demographic group, creates an environment that results in genuine salvation and the biblical Christian formation of young people as disciples of Jesus Christ. These fear-based tactics create a fear-based environment. 

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18

I am not saying that today’s young people don’t have problems. Teenagers are facing significant developmental and cultural issues today that weren’t as complex as those faced by previous generations. “Lost and sinful” is a correct description of today’s generation of teenagers. Let me give you a current example.

"Sex-ting" is the act of sharing nude or partially nude photos via cell phone text message.

According to MSNBC, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported in December 2008 that a survey of 1,280 teens and young adults found that 20 percent of the teens said they had sent or posted nude or semi nude photos or videos of themselves. That number was slightly higher for teenage girls — 22 percent — vs. boys — 18 percent.

High profile cases in Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin, Alabama, New York, Washington, and Michigan have resulted in teenagers being charged with felony for child pornography in these “sex-ting” incidents. This is a very serious problem. I have counseled parents of teenagers in the last several weeks that are scared to death about this issue and are desperately seeking help. “Sex-ting,” along with a host of other issues, is the kinds of things our staff at Youthfront deal with all of the time in youth ministry. We have seen about everything. It would not be difficult to engage in telling some very scary stories and use “teen bashing” to convince you to write a big check to help us save these kids.

Here is my problem with this... 

Today’s teenagers are no more sinful than today’s adults. 

We are all broken. We all need a Saviour. Jesus Christ is the only answer for the restoration of all sinful and broken people, regardless of their age.

American sociologist, Mike A. Males is senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice. Several years ago, Males wrote a book entitled Framing Youth: The Media War Against Kids. Males debunked the myths that today’s teenagers are more violent, commit more crime and abuse more drugs and alcohol than their parents’ generation. Nor are teenagers test scores lower than their parents’ scores were. The author presents convincing data to show how the media manipulates statistics to portray a distorted view of adolescent culture.

Unfortunately, the stories of today’s youth who are doing amazing things don't get a lot of press. They are proportionately much more engaged in community development, volunteerism, and global issues than their parents’ generation. I am thrilled to see increasing numbers of young people embracing a compelling vision to co-operate with our Triune God’s mission in the world.

It is actually the Baby Boom generation which is experiencing death rates related to drug abuse that is nearly triple that of today’s youth. I am a Baby Boomer. In so many ways, the adult population has failed to pass on a healthy environment to our young people to grow up in. This is true also for the church. If our Christian young people are apathetic about their faith and do not embrace the importance of living Holy and Godly lives, shouldn’t adults accept a lot of the blame? I think we must accept responsibility for living the kind of Christian lives that fuel the kinds of problems we see in our kids.

So, how should we respond? I suggest that we cease any form of “teen bashing” and do a better job of celebrating Christian young people who are attempting to live out their faith. I suggest that we take seriously our role in the salvation of young people AND their Christian formation. 

We are all broken, youth and adults alike. We can only be made whole by the work of God in our lives. We all desperately need each other in order to truly be the faithful people of God.

 Mike King serves as the President of Youthfront. Mike and his wife, Vicki, live in Blue Springs, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City. They have two sons, a daughter, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.

By Youth Specialties on July 20 2014 | 3 Comments

Trending This Week (July 18)

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 17 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a study from the TIMES about teen sexting, a look at students and foster care, leadership techniques to push through difficult issues, an encouragement for women in pastoral ministry, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Josh Griffin (@JoshuaGriffin) shares his exit interview for summer interns: "10-Question Exit Interview for Summer Interns" CLICK TO VIEW

Brooklyn Lindsey (@BrooklynLindsey) writes some encouragement for women in pastoral ministry, taken from Bob Marley: "No Woman, No Cry" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Gavin Richardson (@gavoweb) pointed out this must-read article in the TIMES for any youth worker - "Study Finds Most Teens Sext Before They're 18" CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) shared a great article about students and foster care: "Across Borders, Foster Care Youth Ask: What's Missing?" CLICK TO VIEW

NPR had a fascinating post about how a teen's personality might offer tell-tale signs of whether they would be prone to binge drinking: "Can We Predict Which Teens Are Likely To Binge Drink? Maybe." CLICK TO VIEW

Dan Rockwell (@LeadershipFreak) posted a great read for anyone working with volunteers or staff: "7 Ways to Push Through Thorny Issues" CLICK TO VIEW 

Kara Powell (@KPowellFYI) found this great read for all you exhausted youth workers and how you can make the most out of your vacation: "The Right Way to Unplug When You're on Vacation" CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

A Dad's hilarious/awesome response to the song "RUDE" by MAGIC! CLICK TO VIEW

Weird Al has been on an amazing streak this week releasing video after video and my favorite so far is "Word Crimes." CLICK TO VIEW

What if everything we did had crazy sound effects: CLICK TO VIEW 

Watch out for the deadly super rainbow! CLICK TO VIEW

A deoderant review gone wrong: CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 17 2014 | 0 Comments

FREE Super Saver Shipping this week!

By Youth Specialties on July 17 2014 | 0 Comments

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By Youth Specialties on July 17 2014 | 0 Comments

No Woman, No Cry

By Brooklyn Lindsey on July 15 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Monosnaps

Bob Marley knew what would resonate in the souls of many.

No woman, no cry.

He sang about a great future–something he could see by faith and imagination. For him, fear becomes courage. He responded in song to  a deep human need for “ok-ness”–for significance. The words paint a picture of comfort. Even though you may be crying, wipe your tears because help is on the way.

I like that he doesn’t sing to the woman who sits looking for her next meal as if he were distant from her. He sang to her, as one on her side.

“Then we would cook cornmeal porridge, say,
Of which I’ll share with you, yeah!”

No woman, no cry began as a gospel record. A song of good news, that the way things currently work aren’t going to be the way things will always be. Prophetic in hope. Rich in solidarity. I like to think that this is how things are going for us more often as women in ministry.

The forecast in my heart is that there are a lot of men and women who are with us–saying, I’ll suffer with you, I’ll share with you, and I’ll walk out of this pain to a safer place with you, I’ll celebrate you, I’ll lift you up. The truth of the matter is that God is for the redemption of humanity and gave us Jesus to lead the way.

I’ve been a pastor in evangelical churches in the US for the last 15 years. I will say that I am blessed–to have the opportunity to be educated and ordained as a pastor in God’s beautiful yet imperfect church. It hasn’t always been easy. I have faced some discouraging days. But there have always been a few people, men and woman, who remind me that everything is going to be OK. With their words and their actions, they tell me that sometimes “our feet are our carriage” and that it’s good for me to keep on keeping on, in Jesus’ name.

I wrote a blog post a few years ago that I never published about some of my questions about “why” and “why not” and “what if things were different” for women in ministry. I think I’m ready to share parts of that post. So that those who are wondering about their worth in ministry would be encouraged. Where there are questions about the validity and authority of your call-that you would be lifted up. That those who honestly aren’t trying to limit or oppress us would see that they play a subtle-and-very-changeable role in our limitations, that they could see themselves anew as brothers and sisters of freedom in Christ. Where there are men and women championing each other in Christ-that they would continue with renewed passion.

Some of my original thoughts were written in more raw places. Because, sometimes, that is where we are, in the raw places. These same writings I have reflected after the rawness became less irritated–in that place where you have compassion for yourself and for those you have been discouraged by. I’ve found a place that isn’t as interested in focusing on who is wrong or who is right, but on what is the most loving way. All of these places are important for us to consider.

I believe that our minds can be renewed. I believe that all of us can be changed. It is the point of the Scripture. It is the point of writing. It is the point of our preaching. That we would consider how Christ might change our minds and our hearts to become like his. To become aware of the possibility of peace.

Grace should be the place where our conversations always start. 

Grace should be the place where they rest and wait too.

So no, woman, no cry;
No, woman, no cry.
I seh, O little – O little darlin’, don’t shed no tears;
No, woman, no cry, eh.

There is a great future for us all.

What are your thoughts about Bob Marley’s song "No woman, no cry"? Do his words resonate with you? As a male in ministry? As a female? As someone who has faced or is facing difficult days? How have your ideas of women in pastoral ministry been shaped? Are you willing to learn some new things?

Brooklyn Lindsey is a youth pastor, writer, and communicator who lives in Florida with her husband and daughters. You can learn more about her ministry, resources, events, and connect socially on her website.

By Brooklyn Lindsey on July 15 2014 | 0 Comments

10-Question Exit Interview for Summer Interns

By Youth Specialties on July 13 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Wee Sen Gho

Summer interns are an incredibly valuable asset for any youth pastor. They are eager to serve and learn from you, but you don't want to miss an opportunity to learn from their experience as well. Josh Griffin shares a 10-question exit interview that you can use to learn from your interns and possibly uncover ways that your ministry can grow. 

  1. Describe our team dynamic in 10 words or less
  2. You have fresh eyes. What do you see that you think I might not be seeing? How would we improve?
  3. What was your favorite experience or memory from your internship?
  4. What was your least favorite experience?
  5. What expectations were/weren’t met?
  6. If you took over for me tomorrow, what would be the first thing you would change?
  7. Of the 4 purposes that our ministry has (Reach, Connect, Grow, Discover, Honor), which are out of balance in our ministry?
  8. What will be the memory that will mark the summer of 2009 for you?
  9. What did you learn?
  10. What experience did you not get to do, you think we should add to the process?

Josh Griffin is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church and co-founded Download Youth Ministry with friends Matt McGill and Doug Fields. Use the promo code letitgo for 10% off an order on this month!

By Youth Specialties on July 13 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (July 11)

By Youth Specialties on July 10 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look at 3 important social skills, signs of an emotionally healthy church, a great conversation about how social media is affecting teens' concept of friendship, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Mark Matlcok (@MarkMatlock) shares his heart about why youth ministry is vital to the body of Christ: "5 Reasons The Church Needs Youth Ministry" CLICK TO VIEW

Jacob Eckeberger (@JacobEck) addresses how we talk about God's plan for our pain in: "Unlearning God's Plan For Pain" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) wrote a great post about "3 Social Skills That Leave Others Hungry For More" CLICK TO VIEW

Paul Williams at Outreach Magazine takes a look at the health of congregations: "8 Signs of an Emotionally Healthy Church" CLICK TO VIEW

Josh Griffin (@JoshuaGriffin) shared a great fun game: "Slip-n-Slide Kickball" CLICK TO VIEW

Danny Bowers (@DannyBowers) wrote a solid post entitled "Driven Leaders and Selfish Ambition" CLICK TO VIEW 

Echo The Story (@EchoTheStory) linked us to a great article: "Social Media Affecting Teens' Concept of Friendship, Intimacy" CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

A challenge is extended… we need the best youth ministry parody of this. Although, forgive the 1 “not-so-nice” word (rhymes with “dell”): "Skip Skip Slide" CLICK TO VIEW

A guy has a brilliant idea of flying a throne through fireworks and it's magical: CLICK TO VIEW

Totally realistic interpretation of what happens when the WIFI goes down: CLICK TO VIEW 

Sports Nation posted the best face swap of all time: CLICK TO VIEW

Kids reacting to a game boy: CLICK TO VIEW

By Youth Specialties on July 10 2014 | 0 Comments

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