Youth Specialties Blog

1Q intervew: Social Media Boundaries

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 29 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Andrew Fysh.

It’s easier than ever to connect with and encourage students through social media. There are so many benefits to using social media to reach students that it can be easy to forget the importance of having simple self-imposed boundaries that help protect youth workers and students. In this 1Q interview, we ask 3 incredible youth ministers to share their expertise in response to this question: 

What boundaries do you establish for yourself and your youth leaders on social media?

Heather Campbell is the Associate Director of Youth Ministry for Junior High at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, IN.

Our Youth Ministry team actually just adopted a social media policy to be established in the fall for all volunteers and staff.  We recognize that social media is the number one way of communicating directly with students, and don't want to discourage that!  In fact, Instagram has helped my relationships with my students grow, as I'm still relatively new to the church.  The main boundary that we have established is to make sure that all communication between adults and students is traceable--this means that social media like Facebook and Twitter are great, while Snapchat and Ask.FM are not so.  Another advisement that we have is that when texting, be cautious about autocorrect (which I fail miserably at), abbreviations (like LOL, JK, LMAO, etc!), and emoticons.  We also advise that you should always proof-read before you post, and if you think it has some way of being misconstrued, don't post it!  Best example: One time I accidentally texted a student back, "Sorry, I'm really busty today. :-*" Well, I added the kissy face to prove a point to you, and that point is: Use common sense and proof-read what you post!

Jackson Fong is the Student Ministry Pastor at First Baptist Church of Downey overseeing Middle School through College.

I believe that scripture provides great boundaries and guidelines for living today, including how we interact in social media.

1 Peter 4:11 says “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.” (NLT)

In light of this verse, I think that our Social Media interactions with students should be R.E.D. lettered.

  1. Rely on CHRIST – Social media tends to have a lot of ‘self’ focus. We should point to God and the students need to lean heaviest on HIM (1 Peter 4:11). We can’t always be there and we don’t have all the answers. (This also helps us to avoid a ton of other pitfalls.)
  2. Edify, Bless and Encourage – How will this help the student? How will our posts set us and them apart? Where in the post might they find Jesus?
  3. Dedicated interactions should be via other forums – Small groups, personal interactions, mentoring can use social media, but can’t replace it.

Stephen Ingram is the Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, a coach with Youth Ministry Architects, and author of "Hollow Faith and [extra] Ordinary Time."

I use three simple rules when determining how and what social media I use.

  1. Am I ethically ok with the basis of this social media platform? Facebook? Yes. Instagram? Yes. Snap Chat? No. Not only is it used and can be used for very unethical purposes several documents including details of its founding included in this great piece by Adam McLane make it very clear the founding and intent of snap chat is not something I would want to promote or support, especially in my student ministry. If this were not enough, the liability of not being able to control exactly what comes on my phone’s screen is also a huge problem. What a 13 year old boy thinks is funny can often be illegal. Seriously.
  2. Would I be happy if a students parent saw what I posted or commented? If there is even a hesitation, do not do it. It is not worth it and once it is on the internet you cannot take it back.
  3. Lastly, what purpose is this serving and can I do this more effectively in a more personal way? Social media has been a great tool for student ministry but it has also, in many ways, taken away much of our personal connections. We can communicate so efficiently through it and get so many details about each others lives that we often mistake that for a deeper more intimate interaction. It can be good but is not an apples to apples substitute for sitting across from a student breathing the same air.

Be wise as snakes and gentle as doves in the social media jungle and you will do well in student ministry!

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 29 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab: What You Need to Know About Ministering to Girls

By Youth Specialties on July 27 2014 | 0 Comments

With male youth workers far outnumbering female youth workers, it is more likely that a female student might feel out of place in a youth ministry than a male student. To help youth workers understand why female students might feel this way, Neely McQueen shares 5 lies that girls believe about themselves or the world in this great YS Idea Lab with Josh Griffin.

If you don't have time for the full video, here's a quick list of the 5 lies that Neely explains:  

  1. My body defines me
  2. The opposite sex defines me 
  3. Relationships are not a safe place for me
  4. I am more safe online than guys
  5. There is no place for me at church

Check out more YS Idea Labs on our YouTube channel HERE

By Youth Specialties on July 27 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (July 25)

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 24 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a conversation about supervision vs. surveillance with media, thoughts about getting ready for the fall, 7 things that are good to know when starting in ministry, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Mike King (@MDKing) shared about the dangers of fear-based tactics whn raising support for youth ministry: "Demonizing Teenagers" CLICK TO VIEW

Charles Rikard (@CharlesRikard) wrote a guest post about how easy it can be to create a self-focused ministry: "Are You Creating a Self-Serving Youth Ministry?" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Fuller (@FullerFYI) is continuing a great conversation on students and media: "My [Own] Space: Supervision vs. Surveillance" CLICK TO VIEW

Bill Nance (@BillNance79) reminds us about using summer to prep for fall ministry: "Getting Ready for the Fall" CLICK TO VIEW

The good folks at YouthMinistry360 (@YM360) wrote about ways to use the last remaining weeks of summer: "Summer is Winding Down... Are You Ready?" CLICK TO VIEW

Carey Nieuwhof (@Cnieuwhof) took a look back at his time in ministry and shared some great insights that all youth workers can learn from: "7 Things I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me Before Starting Ministry" CLICK TO VIEW 

The Huffington Post shared a great post that you could easily forward onto your students: "11 Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started High School" CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Sometimes you just gotta throw your walking sticks down and DANCE! "Opa! Grandpa!" CLICK TO VIEW

Weird Al continues his reign of hilarity with his song "Handy" (A cover of "Fancy"). CLICK TO VIEW

The SKITZY CHICKS shared a fun forwardable video to your parents: "All Mom Wants for Back to School": CLICK TO VIEW 

Jimmy Fallon and Dwayne Johnson make a workout video: CLICK TO VIEW

Rhett and Link remind us all that no matter how terrible a vacation can be, it's still vacation: "I'm on Vacation!" CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 24 2014 | 0 Comments

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 is the Student and College Pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Nacogdoches, TX. He's married to his awesome wife Malena and is expecting his first child. He is a coffee snob and a guitar snob.  For more information about Charles you can visit

By Youth Specialties on July 22 2014 | 0 Comments

Demonizing Teenagers

By Youth Specialties on July 20 2014 | 4 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 | 4 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

FREE Super Saver Shipping!

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By Youth Specialties on July 17 2014 | 0 Comments

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