Youth Specialties Blog

What do I say when a student asks a tough question?

By Youth Specialties on March 11 2014 | 1 Comments

You know the one.

The question that catches you off guard in the hallway just as you’re stepping into youth group. The one that comes by text around 11PM just as you’re shutting down your phone to collapse in bed. Or the question right at the end of Bible study when you really don’t have time or energy to entertain it.

The good news is that these questions are actually voiced. In our Sticky Faith research, we learned that about seventy percent of students in ministries like yours have big questions about God and faith. Unfortunately, only about a quarter of them say anything to anyone. That means a lot of big questions remain quiet.

And as it turns out, our data suggests it’s not doubt that’s toxic to faith. It’s silence.

So take heart when you get that hard question. You’re a trusted safe place for a teenager to share something real. Our research also shows that those who feel safe to share in their youth ministries tend to have stronger faith after high school.

With that in mind, here are three things you can say to that student before you even respond to the question itself:

  1. First, other teenagers and adults ask these kinds of questions all the time.
  2. Second, it’s not only okay to ask hard questions, but it’s actually important—some say essential—for your faith journey.
  3. And finally, God can handle it. God isn’t anxious about your questions, struggles, or doubt. I don’t think you should be either. So thanks for asking.

When you’re caught off guard, sometimes you need to defer a response until later. But if you can affirm the student with those three points, they’re going to feel heard and cared for, and that can buy you some time to think (and maybe study and pray) through a more specific response when you follow up.

At the Fuller Youth Institute, we’ve partnered with our friend Jim Candy to create a small group curriculum called Can I Ask That? Born out of a desire to help kids express and explore their tough questions about God and faith, it’s a field-tested 8-session series that you can use with high school students. In Can I Ask That? we tackle hard questions about homosexuality, women in leadership, and violence in the Bible without giving pat answers.  

We wrote this curriculum in response to leaders like you, who have the courage to have conversations like this:

Can I Ask That? Hard Questions about God and Faith from Fuller Youth Institute on Vimeo.

Whether you get hard questions all the time or your students tend to clam up and keep their doubts silent, we hope this resource can spark helpful dialogue around tough issues.

Find Out More

To purchase the Student Guide Click HERE

To purchase the Leader Guide Click HERE

Join the conversation on Twitter: #CanIAskThat?

By Youth Specialties on March 11 2014 | 1 Comments

What You Don’t Know Will Kill You

By Josh Griffin on March 07 2014 | 4 Comments

What You Don't Know Will Kill You - Josh Griffin

If you don't know your priorities, other people will control your schedule.

If you don’t know your boundaries, people will take everything they can get.

If you don’t know your limits, you’ll burn yourself out.

If you don’t know why, you’ll do more and more accomplishing little.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, get some training.

If you don’t know your people, they’ll abandon you when they get hurt.

If you don’t know how to say no, you’ll end up doing everything … and quite poorly, I might add.

If you don’t know your students, they won’t trust you.

If you don’t know your strengths, everyone will know your weaknesses.

If you don’t know your weaknesses, you’re stupid.

If you don’t know your purpose, other people will help you theirs.

If you don’t know your vision, neither will anyone else.

If you don’t know your gifting, you’re missing an opportunity to grow.

If you don’t know your blind spots, you need more honest people around you.

If you don’t know your senior pastor, you’re headed for trouble.

If you don’t know the last time you opened your Bible, you’re in the wrong profession.

If you don’t know your anniversary, you only have to forget it once to remember it the rest of your life.

If you don’t know, ask somebody who does.


Add another in the comments!

Josh Griffin is the co-founder of Download Youth Ministry and the one of the leading voices of youth ministry online. He’s written a few books but cares mostly about resourcing youth workers. Check out much more at Love God, Love Students blog at and on his Twitter @joshuagriffin.

By Josh Griffin on March 07 2014 | 4 Comments

Trending Links: Posts on Social Justice, Highly Creative People, and stuff about Lent

By Youth Specialties on March 05 2014 | 0 Comments

Whether you’re a parent or a leader, what do you want kids to know about Lent? - READ MORE


Inside The Brothels

New York Times reporter, Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof), has collected seven unforgettable stories in the battle against sex trafficking, collected over two decades of his work in journalism. These stories are what Kristof calls, "a highlight reel of inspiration and heartbreak at once"




How The End of Poverty Comes With The End of Violence

Gary Haugen - International Justice MissionGary Haugen (@garyhaugen) serves as the President and CEO of International Justice Mission. IJM is a human rights agency that secures justice for victims of violent oppression. In this post, Gary shares his perspective on how we can actually end poverty in this world:

"Over the years, I have sat with many poor mothers and fathers as they have shared their stories of surviving genocide, slavery, and abuse. The pain they describe is unfathomable—and I’m tempted to imagine that the people who endure it are somehow different from me. Maybe, somehow, they just don’t feel things like I do..."


Djibouti JonesDon’t Send Your Used Shoes to Africa. Or Maybe Do Send Them.

"You have a pile of used clothes and old running shoes or sandals and purses and hats from last season. What do you do with it? Donate seems like the best answer, right? Is it? Is it the best practice for wealthy, developed nations to send their used items to Africa?"

Find out what some research tells us about us sending our things overseas.


18 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently

"Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. Creative thinking is a stable, defining characteristic in some personalities, but it may also change based on situation and context..."

As youth workers - we're either very creative ourselves, have ourselves surrounded with other creatives, or are trying to build relationships with creative students. Carolyn Gregoire (@carolyn_greg) writes this post for The Huffington Post about how creatives think, how they process things, and why they do things just a little bit differently than others. It's a wonderful read with some great insight!


By Youth Specialties on March 05 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab: Brooklyn Lindsey - Leading Students To Justice

By Youth Specialties on March 05 2014 | 1 Comments

Social justice has really become a hot topic in the recent years – but with good reason. Jesus reminds us of great words from the Prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   - Luke 4:18-19

In today's world, we work to build relationships with students, trying to help them live to their full potential of who the Lord has created them to be. When we start to talk about social justice, what we are really talking about is trying to help understand ourselves better, help understand how God created us, and then finding ways to invest into and make a difference in the lives of those around us. Social justice is the ability people have to realize their potential in the society where they live - and then to do something about it.

How do you engage your students with issues of justice and poverty? Brooklyn Lindsey, a great friend of YS, At NYWC she shared some thoughts, stories, and experiences about effectively empowering and emboldening students to take steps toward engaging justice issues - take a look here at what she has to share.

We've also gathered some great resources that can help you out as you seek to help bring this idea of social justice to your students and ministry. If there's something that you are looking for that you cannot seem to find – give us a call and we'll help you out!


By Youth Specialties on March 05 2014 | 1 Comments

Trending Links: Mission Trips, New Fun Games, Cell Phone Productivity, Cheap Church Communication

By Youth Specialties on February 26 2014 | 0 Comments


What would you do if you discovered an incredible experience that opened eyes, softened hearts, empowered service and changed lives?

When a youth pastor saw how mission trips had drawn his students to others and toward Jesus, he asked himself that question. His answer was starting YouthWorks, an organization that now invites over 30,000 students and leaders on mission trips each summer.

For over 20 years, we have seen mission trips play a crucial role in the lives of countless teenagers, and we continue to believe every teenager should experience a mission trip....


5 Ways to do Church Communication on the Cheap

“If I had an unlimited communications budget, then I would _______.”

I would make a pretty confident bet that no church has dedicated an unlimited amount of funds to communications. In fact, most of us operate on what we consider a limited budget. This means we have to get creative about communicating with excellence. Here are the five ways that I have been able to make my limited budget go as far as possible...


2 Really Great New Youth Group Games!

This week in our YS Update, we highighted different ways to have fun, ideas for games, and reminded you about all of the great resources available in our Ideas Library. Well, we weren't the only ones with games on our minds – our friends at DYM released two new games this week that your group will love! 

Lamentations of Taylor Swift Lyrics: Volume 2
This is the sequel to what is far and away the most popular game we’ve ever had on Download Youth Ministry. Students have to guess if the statement on the screen is from the Bible or from a Taylor Swift song lyric. Incredible. Incredibly funny.

Biblical King or Prescription Drug
Another insanely funny game where students have to guess if the name shown is either a king from the Bible or a prescription drug. Now that I type that out I guess it is pretty self-explanatory.


Top 10 Qualities That Make A Great Leader

What 10 qualities make a good leader, whether you're in corporate America or the rec room of your church basement? We are reminded about those that really make a difference in the lives of others through an article on Forbes goes through ten simple qualities that are often found within great leaders, and we think that they are also what can make great pastors too! Take a read and check out their list. What things do you think are missing from the list? What would your top 10 list look like?


Smartphones Make You Tired and Unproductive, Study Says

Copyright Getty Images

Do you find yourself running out of energy by the afternoon and heading to the nearest coffee shop for that mid-afternoon pick-me-up? Wall Street Journal just released the findings of a new study on cell phone usage, and our inability to "turn off" work when we are at home. WSJ says, "Reading and sending work email on a smartphone late into the evening doesn’t just make it harder to get a decent night’s sleep. New research findings show it also exhausts workers by morning and leaves them disengaged by the next afternoon." What's the solution? Well - simply shut it off. Sure, it's easier said than done, but you'd be doing yourself, your family, and your ministry a big favor by doing so.


By Youth Specialties on February 26 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab: Les Christie - Fun Games Using Bicycle Inner Tube & Pipe Insulation

By Youth Specialties on February 25 2014 | 0 Comments

Were you at NYWC this past fall? It was a great weekend as we talked about ideas, challenged each other to make a difference in the lives of our students and volunteers, and left with the charge to go Onward! However, we cannot think about all the great things that make up NYWC without thinking about the one thing that we all enjoy so much - the fun!

This week, we want to highlight a session from the Idea Lab from the youth ministry veteran who knows everything there is about fun. Join Les Christie as he shares a few of his favorite games using inexpensive and unexpected props like bicycle inner tubes and pipe insulation.

By Youth Specialties on February 25 2014 | 0 Comments

Repeat, Repeat… Then Repeat Again

By Josh Griffin on February 25 2014 | 0 Comments

I get fatigued easily.

And not just because going up a flight of stairs and weighing 287 pounds gets me out of breath (former football player here, on the Youth Pastor Diet). I get fatigued hearing myself speak. You see, I say the same things over and over and over again.

What am I repeating? Glad you asked (though, just for the record, it was coming either way):

The MISSION of our student ministry

Simply put, this is the WHY we exist. Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish?

The VISION of our student ministry

This is HOW we’re going to get there. It takes our mission and puts it into bite-sized goals. It is what we believe it’s going to take to accomplish our mission.

The VALUES of our student ministry

This is our style, our feel, and the way we minister. These describe the type of people who I believe God will lead to our ministry. These are the type of people who I believe are in our volunteer meetings. And if they’re not, either they aren’t a fit or they’re on their way to be … or they’re out all together.


OK, I feel a bit guilty. All this business-speak and tactical stuff made me convicted for just a minute. What we want to repeat over and over again that this ministry is all about Jesus. All about the life-change only He can bring. I can never get fatigued about this one … repeat, repeat, and then repeat again the story of our amazing Jesus.

Whew! Sorry for the Jesus juke at the end there. Wasn’t my plan when I outlined the blog post. Needed that for my own heart … hope it hits you where you need it, too!

What else are you repeating? Share another one now!

Josh Griffin is the co-founder of Download Youth Ministry and the one of the leading voices of youth ministry online. He’s written a few books but cares mostly about resourcing youth workers. Check out much more at Love God, Love Students blog at and on his Twitter @joshuagriffin.

By Josh Griffin on February 25 2014 | 0 Comments

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