Youth Specialties Blog

5 Keys to Effective Campus Ministry

By Youth Specialties on August 17 2014 | 2 Comments

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

Original photo by Kevin Dooley.

Ah, the school campus. It is the ultimate aspiration of Youth Ministry.

Funny isn’t it? We spend the whole time we are in school counting the days until we get out, and now you would do almost anything to get in.

The fact is however, there is no single greater concentration of lost students anywhere other than the campus. This only helps to magnify the importance of effective campus ministry in your community.

So, how do you really do campus ministry effectively? Where do you start? Here are five keys to effective campus ministry:

Find the gatekeeper

Every School has a gatekeeper.  Generally speaking it is the first person you see when you walk into the school office. The gatekeeper controls who gets where and what goes where. You must really work to build a relationship with the gatekeeper or you will never make it past the office. Every time I go, I take something for them (Dropping of donuts, a Starbucks gift card, Pizza, etc.). It doesn’t have to be something big. Just something that says, “thank you for all you do here at this school and in this community.”

Be... dare I say professional

This should go without saying, but I see so many Youth Pastors who do not do this. Walking in arrogantly, playing the part of the “cool Youth Pastor,” in cargo shorts and a dirty t-shirt, doesn’t really say “you can trust me.”

Look like a bum, and you will be treated like a bum. I am not saying you need to go in a three piece suit either. Just brush your hair (if you have hair) and dress how you want to be treated. I also stay clear of Youth Ministry branded t-shirts, polo shirts, etc.

Be a Servant not a Salesman

Seek to serve first. And genuinely serve. Look for opportunities to serve and help. Offer to do the things no one wants to do. Do so without expectations or a sales pitch for your ministry. Every school has opportunities for you to serve. Sometimes you just have to get creative.

Many people will be somewhat skeptical and defensive toward you. Acting from a posture of humility and genuineness goes a long way in earning trust as well.

Never, ever say “no”

When the school asks for help with something, do your very best to find a way to make it happen. Those moments may be few and far between, especially in the beginning stages of your campus ministry. Allowing the school to see you meet a need, and that you are able to be trusted to actually follow through and help, goes further than you can realize.

Be consistent

Stay at it! Continue to look for opportunities to serve. Continue to build the relationship with the gatekeeper. When the Lord opens a door for other relationships, be aware and continue to build on those as well. Effective campus ministry takes a long time to build. Most Youth Pastors fail at it, because they give up too early.

What about you? What things are keeping you from doing campus ministry effectively? I would love to hear how you are doing it well also.


 Jody Livingston is the Youth Pastor at Kennesaw First Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia where he oversees Middle School and High School ministries. He has been married to his lovely life for 14 years, has four kids and drives a pretty sweet 1972 VW Beetle.  He blogs at and can be found on twitter @jodylivingston.

By Youth Specialties on August 17 2014 | 2 Comments

Trending This Week (Aug 15)

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 14 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include back to school prep, a discussion about how marketing shapes kids, another DYM Webshow, tips for recruiting volunteers, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Tic Long discusses leadership and how Christ encourages us to lead differently: "How to Lead Well" CLICK TO VIEW

Matt Larking (@MattWLarkin) reminds us all that we should be good stewards of our time and energy: "What you are doing is NOT good!" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Jason Sansbury (@JasonSansbury) wrote a great post with practical ways to start the school year well: "Back to School Prep" CLICK TO VIEW

Walt Mueller continues the CPYU (@CPYU) series on how marketing shapes kids: "Youth Culture Today" CLICK TO VIEW

Another great DYM Webshow (@DYMWebshow) this week: "Episode 249" CLICK TO VIEW

Awana Youth Ministry (@AwanaYM) shared a great short video with some ideas for recruiting volunteers: "Recruiting Volunteers" - CLICK TO VIEW 

Jason Carr (@MyLegacyNow) put together a short practical list for when small group doesn't go as planned: "The Recovery" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Pained Faces Of Soloing Rockstars Make A Lot More Sense With Giant Slugs: CLICK TO VIEW

The Muppets cover Beastie Boys (sorta) and it's amazing: CLICK TO VIEW

You apparently turn into The Rock when you drink a gallon of milk: CLICK TO VIEW 

A Turkish farmer invented a robot to keep bears away from his crops... and it will haunt your dreams: CLICK TO VIEW

"Apparently" Kid get's songified: CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 14 2014 | 0 Comments

What you are doing is not good!

By Youth Specialties on August 12 2014 | 0 Comments

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

Original photo by Steve Day.

Years ago, I stumbled upon a verse in Exodus that impacted me more than I could have ever imagined. The verse is Exodus 18:17, when Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, says to Moses: “What you are doing is not good.” 

A little context
At this point in Israel’s history, part of Moses’s leadership of the people included sitting to judge every dispute, major or minor, that the people had. Moses was essentially everything from the Supreme Court to small claims court for the Israelite people—until Jethro showed up on the scene. Jethro, as an onlooker, could see just how unhealthy this was for Moses, and how thin it was spreading him.

As we know, leading the people through the wilderness was no easy task. Also, the Israelites weren’t always the most agreeable folks, so there’s no telling how many disputes the people actually had. All we know is that as verse 13 tells us, “Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening.”

Moses was trying to do it all. 

My Moses Experience
I was in my second year of youth ministry when I read this account, and I realized how clearly this described my situation. As a new youth worker, I believed I knew it all. I thought I was the only one in the church who knew how to connect with students, and I relished the idea of being the go-to guy in that area. I was also in a small church without a lot of volunteers to help out, and the few who would have been willing were probably turned off by my delusions of grandeur. What’s more, I had built up a pretty large and involved ministry that was quickly outgrowing my ability to run it on my own.

It was at that point in my life that I read this account and realized that what I was doing was not good. I was trying to do it all. Doing it all was way too much. The way too much was hurting me physically, mentally, and spiritually. And, it was hurting my ministry. 

Here’s the deal
You are not God. You are limited in what you can do.

You may be finding yourself in a similar situation to me. You may have delusions of grandeur, or you may simply not know when to say “no.” Or, maybe there’s something else entirely that’s driving you to the point where you’re stretched too thin. Either way, there are a couple of things that may help you get beyond your “what you are doing is not good” moment. 

1. Recognize that you need other people around you.

You may or may not be in a situation where you can get regular help in your youth ministry. But, either way, your students need other people. Also, YOU need other people! Every ministry needs input from more than one person to thrive. So, seek out others to work alongside you.

If you can’t find people to do that, seek out input from others around you. Look for ways to create intergenerational opportunities for mentoring, teaching, and fellowship. Finally, recognize the important role that parents play with their kids. It doesn’t do you or your ministry any good to try to be a one man/woman army.

2. If you don’t have enough help around you, slow down.

I know this seems almost counter-biblical. But the reality is that trying to run a ministry that’s too big for you to manage by yourself is going to put you on the fast track to burnout. And that’s not really going to help anyone—least of all, your students.

So, if you don’t have the manpower to manage the ministry you’ve built, slow down a bit. You don’t have to personally lead a lock-in every month or five Bible studies a week, to serve your students well! In fact, a lock-in every month or five Bible studies a week likely won’t serve anyone well anyway. Instead, slow down. 

The Big Lesson
Perhaps the biggest lesson of the Moses/Jethro interaction in Exodus 18 is one of stewardship. Moses was not being a good steward of the time that God had given him. It didn’t mean that what he was doing wasn’t necessary; it didn’t even mean that what was being done was bad. But it was not the best use of his time.

So, as you look at another school year, ask yourself:

Are you set up to be a good steward of the time God has given you? Or, is what you’re doing “not good”? 


Matt Larkin serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference ( In that role, he serves as a resource and consultant to youth workers and college students all around the United States and globally. You can connect with Matt on Twitter via @MattWLarkin.  


By Youth Specialties on August 12 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab: How To Lead Well

By Youth Specialties on August 10 2014 | 0 Comments

Tic Long shares thoughts on how to lead well and what difference Christ makes in us as leaders.

If you don’t have time to watch the full video, here is a quick look at the 2 main ideas that Tic expands on in the video:

- Christ makes a difference in how you are leading people. You have to lead people in a way that is consistent with who Jesus has called us to be. That means there’s no place for manipulation, bullying, or treating people poorly. We have to lead in a way that empowers others in their life and in their walk with God. 

- Christ makes a difference in where you are leading people. You have to lead people into building the Kingdom of God. That mean’s we lead people into the purposes of God, not just the purposes of our own vision.

Check out more YS Idea Lab videos HERE.

By Youth Specialties on August 10 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Aug 8)

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 07 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a great letter from a parent, a look at the newest Sticky Faith resource from FYI, how to keep perspective with all the craziness at the beginning of the school year, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Josh Griffin (@JoshuaGriffin) shared some great practical ideas: "Forgot to prep for small group? 7 Helpful Ideas" CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) interviewd Chad Meister (@ChadvMeister) in a YS Roundtable discussing "How to help teens who don't believe in God" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Katie Edwards wrote a great email to her team on "Inside the Mind of an Incoming Freshman Parent" CLICK TO VIEW

A great new resource from Fuller Youth Institute (@FullerFYI) to forward on to your parents: "Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family" - CLICK TO VIEW

Interlinc (@Interlinc) shared a great post on keeping perspective at the start of a new school year: “The Long View” CLICK TO VIEW

Linda Jacobs (@DC4KLinda) wrote a great piece reflecting on “The Importance of Replacing Rituals for the Child of Divorce” -  CLICK TO VIEW 

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

When your plumbing breaks, you could be furious or you could make music with it: CLICK TO VIEW

Jeff Goldblum made an appearance in this couple’s wedding photo and then turned it into a scene from Jurassic Park: CLICK TO VIEW

The loneliest dog in the world: CLICK TO VIEW 

I've always wanted to be carried by monks: CLICK TO VIEW

"Apparently" this kid is awesome and steals the show during an interview: CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 07 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Roundtable: How to help teens who don’t believe in God

By Youth Specialties on August 05 2014 | 0 Comments

In this YS Roundtable, Terry Linhart interviews Chad Meister, Professor of Philosophy at Bethel College in Indiana to discuss how youth workers can help teens who don’t believe in God.

If you don't have time to watch the full video, here are some great highlights:

- Approach the conversation as a dialogue where we are willing to share, listen, and even learn from a student's experiences. 

- We have to be real. We don't know all the answers and we can't pretend to. 

- We can't shy away from sharing our story and pointing to our experiences with God as evidence that God exists.

- We have to approach the conversation intelligently which requires us to study elements of science and philosophy.  

- We should keep to the essential issues of faith and resist submitting to traditions for the sake of the traditions themselves. It will give us more freedom for God to lead us into all understanding, even if it looks different than we thought it would. 

Check out more YS Roundtable videos HERE

By Youth Specialties on August 05 2014 | 0 Comments

Forgot to prep for small group? 7 Helpful Ideas

By Josh Griffin on August 03 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Jah.

It’s the night your small group is meeting and the day has gotten away from you. You didn’t have time to prepare anything. You can’t just walk in turn it into a game night because students come to small group to learn right? What do you do?

Here are 7 things you can always keep in your back pocket when you didn’t have time to prepare a lesson. These should have appropriate boundaries, and as always we need to be careful with what we share.

Share your testimony

I’m convinced there are very few things that are more powerful than your story. Hopefully, you are honest and able to share your life with your students. Tell them what life was like before you met Christ, tell them the transformation Christ has made in you, and tell them what your life is like today. One of the greatest things about being open and vulnerable with your group is it can show them it is OK to be open and vulnerable with you. Encourage them to think about their story and have them share it with the group at some point in the year.

Share your love story

Girls love, love. Guys won’t admit it, but many of them want to have good relationships and will be focused in, too! If you are dating or married, share your love story with them. How did you meet? What did you do? How did you propose? How does that person make you happy? What are difficult things? How does Jesus play a role in your lives? It can easily open up the conversation about love/sex/dating/God and could be a powerful night.

Share an authentic struggle

Everyone struggles. You as a leader, struggle with temptations, sins and pains. If you don’t have something prepared, go in sharing something you genuinely struggle with in your life. Be open. Be honest. Be bold. Then talk about how you are working through it, how God is working in you and areas in your life where you have accountability. It could be a great night to talk about accountability partners and to pray for others who are struggling with certain things as well. Remember this isn’t YOUR small group, you are leading them, but there’s nothing wrong with being honest about life. #realtalk

Share your favorite verse

As we grow in our relationship with God there are certain verses in Scripture that stick out to you more than others. Go into the group and share your favorite verse with them and tell them the story in which why this verse means so much to you. Then ask if anyone else has a go to verse and why. It could be a great way to spend the night at group!

Share Your High School Experience

Now my high school experience wasn’t all that dramatic – but there were some ups and downs that students can relate to. And no matter your story, that doesn’t mean sharing won’t be effective. You going through high school means you have felt like they have felt on some level. You know what its like to have friend groups, teachers, homework, sports and get a chance to share how you handled it all. Good or bad! So share your experience and see what the students in your group think, feel, agree or disagree with. It could be a great insight on what is happening in your student’s schools, too!

Share what you see in them

This type of night can be super powerful. What student does not want their leader to tell them what they see in them and how proud they are of them? I know my own life was changed because a leader looked me in the eyes and told me the future he saw in me. It changed the direction of my life and God was able to work through it. Do the same with your small group!

Have a prayer night

A night of prayer should never be back up plan, obviously. But having a night where you have nothing prepped could be an opportunity for you to talk about prayer and open it up to the group to talk about prayer requests. Who knows, maybe it would open a door to which they see the need for prayer and they will want it a bigger part of the group? Having a night where students are praying for each other never is a bad thing. Allow God to move.

Thoughts? Push back?

Josh Griffin is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church and is a co-founder of, a place to get trench-tested, inexpensive, downloadable youth ministry resources. Follow him @joshuagriffin.

By Josh Griffin on August 03 2014 | 0 Comments

Page 1 of 289 pages  1 2 3 >  Last ›