Youth Specialties Blog

Helping Teenagers with Racial Tension

By Brooklyn Lindsey on December 16 2014 | 0 Comments

The following is a post that Brooklyn originally shared on her own blog here.

Original photo by The All-Nite Images.

If you’re a youth leader or parent of teenagers, you probably have had a few opportunities to talk (or not talk) about the racial tensions that have surfaced since the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Let me just say, that I don’t have many words. My heart aches and is disoriented with you.

Love begs for it’s place in the world and we want to join in the plea.

But I want to talk about how we do that, with teenagers specifically. Where do we start?

How do we help teenagers out of the woods of confusion, grief, doubt, dizzying disorientation that comes with racial tensions in our country and in our world?

It seems as if many of us are afraid to talk about much of it because we aren’t sure who is safe and who we can trust with our broken hearts, doubts, questions, fears, hopes, dreams, and vision for the future. We’re not sure if we’re in the clear yet, if it’s safe to go toward making things right in our own ways.

Teenagers are feeling the same and asking the same.

They’re wanting to know that we’re with them and for them as they do their best to sort all of this out. Not only is this a crisis for them, it’s a crisis during their unique crisis (a.k.a their adolescent journey).

I’m asking God to help us and give us new eyes and abilities. Because how we work this out (or ignore it) will say a lot to our kids about who we think God is and what we think love looks like.

I’m hoping that we would exercise our faith in ways that require more of it. And in this case I mean that I hope we would begin to have conversations,  listen and support in ways that say “I grieve with you” and “I care about whatever woods you are wandering in and will wait with you until you come out of it.” We can support them by giving them to ability to grieve life’s losses.

·       We can teach them how to grieve when people are hurting.

·       We can teach them how to grieve when they are hurting.

·       We can teach them how to grieve when things happen that we can’t control or explain.

·       We can create safe and intentional environments that cultivate the holy ground of vulnerability.

I began thinking about this after I had slipped into a youth ministry seminar at the National Youth Workers Convention this fall. I’ve wanted to learn from Beth Slevcove for years, and finally found a moment to learn from her. She teaches on the spirituality of grief and loss.

Not only did I begin a journey into my own grief and loss, but I also saw a picture of how we can help teenagers.

Beth helped me to see the fear of the abyss as it might exist when we open up places of grief. Teens fear that they won’t have what it takes to get through whatever happens once they’ve named it and faced it. They may feel like talking about racial tensions will be too overwhelming or too costly.

That’s why we need to help them begin to process. Beth explained in a way that resonated deeply with me. All of us need grief muscles. We need prayer practices. We need options if we are to help teenagers heal. Especially if it’s our hope that they would become people of peace and reconciliation in the world. Here are a few things we can do to help students begin to grieve what they are seeing, hearing, and experiencing.

·       Be humanly present – Sometimes this means sitting in silence. Sometimes it means sitting in places that are symbolic together.

·       Help them name the loss – When it’s the right time to talk about a loss, ask them to name it. We have no control over the things that will hurt us or others. But we do have the ability to name those hurts without judging ourselves, judging others, or minimizing the problem.

·       Be creative – Beth said, “some people need to have grief vacations.” This is so true. To paint the picture, imagine the effect of holding a baby or petting a new puppy. Art, music, animals, play…these are things that give us a break from the stress of grief.

·       Affirm the person who is hurting – Grief can make us feel paralyzed or even irrational. We can show immense amounts of support simply by offering gracious and loving words to the one who is hurting or who is confused by what is happening in the world around them.

·       Teach and practice prayer – Help teenagers hold the tension. We live for a kingdom of God that is both here and now but not yet. There is no reason why we should only look to heaven for our source of relief. Relief can be felt now, even in the reality of our world and lives, which are not yet whole again. There are a few different ways we can teach teenagers to pray...


Continue reading the rest of this post at

Brooklyn Lindsey is a youth worker, 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 December 16 2014 | 0 Comments

Reclaiming Your Christmas Focus

By Youth Specialties on December 14 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 him. 

Original photo from Jeff Weese.

Christmas can be an insanely busy time. Between Christmas parties, Advent readings, and the obligatory youth Christmas program, youth workers are spread pretty thin. None more so than the youth leader in a small church because you’re often actually the one who’s charged with planning and executing all of those different things! And unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, that level of busyness can very quickly suck the joy right out of the Christmas season.

It’s hard. It really is hard juggling everything that comes with being a small church youth worker around Christmas time. Despite the fact that all of these activities are meant to draw people toward Jesus, they often do the opposite, at least for the one who’s charged with making it all happen. When you’ve got a youth Christmas program to direct, a series of Advent readings to deal out, a youth Christmas party to plan, AND your regular youth ministry activities to worry about, it can be very hard to focus back on Jesus. And Jesus, the coming of Emmanuel, God with us, IS supposed to be our focus during this season… right?

Take Time to Reflect

Now I recognize that there’s no easy fix for this problem. If there was an easy fix, it would probably be to drop some things. But, I realize that it’s not always possible, especially during this time of the year. To do so, in many churches, may mean that you are fighting against decades of tradition. So, to do so, may lead to a very difficult and contentious January board meeting (or worse).

So, what I say to you instead is to make sure that no matter how many different things you may be responsible for this Christmas season, take time to reflect. Remember the words of the biblical authors and remember what it is they are saying to us.

Remember Isaiah

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV)

Remember John

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, ESV)

Remember Luke

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7, ESV)

As you remember these words, take the time to reflect on the immensity of what this season actually means. This season is meant to celebrate the coming of he who had been prophesied about centuries before. It is meant to celebrate the coming of the word, Emmanuel, God with us.

Make Sure You AND Your Students are focused on Jesus

As you reflect on these things, take time to make sure that you AND your students are focused on the immensity of all of this. Take time to make sure that you AND your students are focused on Jesus. Because, just as you’re busy, so your students. There’s a good chance they’re involved with a lot of what you’re involved with, and there’s also a chance they’re involved with plenty of other things as well.  

So, not only do you need to maintain your focus as a leader, but it’s equally important that you help to refocus the students who God has entrusted to your care.  Make sure that both you AND your students have opportunities, through all of the busyness, to reflect on the immensity of what this season means. Because the immensity of what happened 2,000 years ago, in a manger in Bethlehem, is a major key to unlocking the immensity of God’s love. 

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 December 14 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Dec 13)

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 13 2014 | 0 Comments

Better late than never! This week's TRENDING post is just a day later than usual but it's still full of some fantastic stuff. You'll find some encouragement from advent's family tree, advice on how to invest in students without rescuing them from their pain, ideas on creating good questions, looking at the meaning of Christmas, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Brooklyn Lindsey (@BrooklynLindsey) shared a great post about mentoring across genders - CLICK TO VIEW

Kelly Sayle (@Barkley33) wrote from her perspective of being a single woman in youth ministry - CLICK TO VIEW

We kicked off our own YS 12 Days of Christmas with some very special FREE gifts just for you! CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence offered some encouragement in "Advent's Knotty Family Tree" - CLICK TO VIEW

Mary Glen shared why we can't try to save students from their pain: "Investing Without Rescuing - CLICK TO VIEW 

Jen Bradbury (@ymjen) passed along some great ideas on developing good questions: "What Constitutes a Good Question?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Heather Campbell (@HeatherLea17) wrote about "Navigating the Meaning of Christmas in Your Youth Group" - CLICK TO VIEW 

Stephen Ingram (@StephenLIngram) started some great conversations with his blog: "The Heresy of 'Keeping Christ in Christmas'" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

The Avengers Sing Christmas Carols - CLICK TO VIEW

Kids React to Power Rangers - CLICK TO VIEW

The police in Lowell County pull folks over and surprise them with some Christmas gifts - CLICK TO VIEW

What the holidays would look like if kids were in charge - CLICK TO VIEW

A song about one man’s love of watermelon - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 13 2014 | 0 Comments

YS 12 Days of Christmas

By Youth Specialties on December 12 2014 | 0 Comments

We're getting in the Christmas spirit with our own YS 12 Days of Christmas! For these 12 days, we're unwrapping a new gift each day just for you. But before we get to the gifts, we've got 3 special surprises that will run throughout the entire 12 days...

Get 10% off every purchase from the YS Store by entering the discount code "12Days" at checkout

Get a FREE Bag O Fun with every physical purchase from the YS Store

Get a FREE copy of "Getting Fired For The Glory Of God" with every physical purchase over $25

That's just setting the stage! 

Here's the final gift....

Day 12

CLICK HERE to download Kenda Creasy Dean's Big Room Session at NYWC Atlanta 2014 for FREE! Check out all the other great seminars and big room downloads from NYWC online HERE.


Don't forget about the gifts we've already opened!

Here's a recap of what you can still get:

Day 1

Every physical purchase from the YS Store gets FREE Super Saver Shipping! That means you can grab all those resources in the YS Store that you've been thinking about with that 10% Off Coupon Code "12Days" and have it ship for FREE with Super Saver Shipping. WOOHOO!!

Day 2

CLICK HERE to download the game "Christmas IQ Test" for FREE! It's a great ice breaker game with tons of Christmas themed trivia for your next youth group. Find more great game ideas in our resource Holiday Ideas in the YS Store!

Day 3

CLICK HERE to download Walt Mueller's NYWC Seminar "5 Pressing Trends in Youth Culture" for FREE! In his seminar, Walt looks at 5 cultural trends that are shaping the worldview of our students and he unpacks how youth workers can respond to each of them. While you're soaking up all the wisdom from Walt in his seminar, be sure to check out all the other NYWC media online HERE.

Day 4

CLICK HERE to download the lesson "Jackson's Hole" for FREE from More 10-Minute Talks. This ready-to-use 10-minute lesson tackles the idea that the momentary troubles and discomforts of this life are but a blip on the radar of eternity. Once you get a chance to use it with your crew, check out more great lesson options in the 10-Minute Talks series from Jonathan McKee online HERE.

Day 5

CLICK HERE to get a FREE Christmas Madlib Game: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. After you have fun with that madlib, check out more great holiday game options in "Holiday Ideas" from The Idea Library for Youth Groups online HERE.

Day 6

CLICK HERE to download the NYWC Seminar on "Sustainable Youth Ministry" with Mark DeVries. Check out all the other great seminars and big room downloads from NYWC online HERE.

Day 7 

CLICK HERE to download the NYWC Seminar "When Disciples Disciple Disciples" with Fred Lynch. Check out all the other great seminars and big room downloads from NYWC online HERE.

Day 8 

CLICK HERE to download the game "Christmas Confusion" for FREE! This game is one of the many great options out of the "Holiday Ideas" book covering Christmas, Easter, Lent, Valentine's Day, and more! Check it out online HERE.

Day 9

CLICK HERE to download Mike Work and Ginny Olson's NYWC Seminar "Youth Ministry Management Tools" from NYWC Atlanta! Check out all the other great seminars and big room downloads from NYWC online HERE.

Day 10 

CLICK HERE to download Heather Flies' NYWC Seminar "Celebrating Chaos and Implementing Structure: Effective Programming for Middle School Ministry" from NYWC Atlanta! Check out all the other great seminars and big room downloads from NYWC online HERE.

Day 11 

CLICK HERE to download the lesson "Keeping The Goal In Sight..." for FREE from More 10-Minute Talks! This ready-to-use 10-minute lesson shares about trying to stay focus on the goal even when you can't see it. Once you get a chance to use it with your youth group, check out more great lesson options in the 10-Minute Talks series from Jonathan McKee online HERE.

By Youth Specialties on December 12 2014 | 0 Comments

Grab a NYWC 2015 registration for only $239!

By Youth Specialties on December 09 2014 | 0 Comments

Register for NYWC 2015 for just $239!

Make the most out of your end of the year budget by registering before December 31st and snagging a HUGE discount on NYWC 2015! This discount is so good we can only offer it for the rest of December. So if you're thinking about joining us in either San Diego, CA or Louisville, KY, then don't miss it!

Here's all the info for both cities...

San Diego, CA  |  October 8-11, 2015

NYWC will be back where it all began, in sunny San Diego! We know God will be up to somoething amazing there with youth workers from around the country (and the world) coming together. Request info online HERE

Louisville, KY  |  November 19-22, 2015

Join us at NYWC in Louisville for the first time in November 2015! We're excited to see what this city has to offer and what God will do in the lives of youth workers there. Request info online HERE

Revisit NYWC 2014 with this year's Sunday Highlight Video!

Take a look back at all the ways God moved in the lives of youth workers at NYWC. Watch the video online HERE.

Be sure to snag that $239 registration before it disappears on December 31st! Register online HERE. 

Got Questions?

We're here to help! Shoot us an email at or give us a call at 888.346.4179.

By Youth Specialties on December 09 2014 | 0 Comments

All The Single Ladies

By Youth Specialties on December 09 2014 | 6 Comments

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

Original photo from Eddy Van 3000.

Maybe I just missed it somewhere between all the systematics and hermeneutics classes, but I think the one course I never learned in seminary was how to be a single female leader in the ministry. They should really offer that. I’ve spent the last 35 years on this journey of being a single woman, and within that, the past eight years of being a single woman leader in ministry. My conclusion? It’s hard!

So, are we all supposed to head for hills and call it quits? I sure hope not. Then what’s a single lady leader to do? Whether you get paid for your leadership position or not, here are two things I would encourage you to start embracing.

The best thing you can do is to deal with you!

One of the wisest statements I received in seminary was, “The best thing you can do for the people you minister to is to be a healthy you.” A counseling professor shared this with me, and of course, he was referring to emotional health. I wasn’t sure how true that statement was until I found myself in year two of my first full-time church staff position. Boy, how I wish I would have dealt with some of my baggage back then!

If we, as female leaders, are unwilling to “go there” and deal with our baggage and our secrets, then how in the world do we have the right to look a student, who is cutting themselves or having pre-marital sex, and tell them to deal with theirs? A bit hypocritical, isn’t it? Yet it’s so easy to do, and we do it all the time.

Ladies, do whatever it takes to be healthy and free, emotionally. Get counseling. Get in an accountability group. Whatever you need to be free, for the sake of the next generation following us, get free!

Know your role.

You’re not their best friend. But you’re not their “super woman” either. So what are you? You’re the adult who has an amazing opportunity to step into the life of a student and be a voice of wisdom for Christ and his word!

This is where it gets really tricky for us, especially single leaders. Let’s be honest: Teenagers can be mean! When they are mean, they get nasty and cruel, even to the adults who are trying to serve them. Single leaders, we must guard our insecurities, because it’s so easy to back off of wisdom that students need to hear because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of being made fun of or falling to last place in the “popular leader club” that we sometimes secretly have in our midst. 

I heard a youth leader say once, “If you’re always popular and you never have a student mad or frustrated with something you’ve said, then you’re not doing your job!” I chuckle every time I hear that now, because I didn’t realize how true that statement was at the time.

Ladies, let’s know our roles and play them well!

Kelly Sayle is proud to be a born and raised Mississippi Delta girl who loves all things Ole Miss! She currently lives in Chattanooga, TN and is a Middle School Minister at Silverdale Baptist Church where she loves to speak hope and purpose over the next generation!

By Youth Specialties on December 09 2014 | 6 Comments


By Brooklyn Lindsey on December 07 2014 | 0 Comments

The following is a post that Brooklyn originally shared on her own blog here.

Original photo by Collin Key.

Let’s think about MENTORING.

What does it mean for us to champion and mentor each other in ministry?

Specifically, what does it mean for us to champion and mentor each other across gender in life and in ministry?

Recently, I spent some time with some seminary presidents (all female) and dozens of female senior pastors at a preaching conference. We spent time talking about the person who mentored us most as we developed into leaders and preachers. Most of us had named a man as our most significant mentor. In fact, for the last seven years, I have sat in Dave Ramsey’s office being mentored by him. He has changed and elevated my leadership and abilities in pastoral ministry. (Btw: Dave Rasmey is our executive pastor, not the Financial Peace person)

The boundaries have always been clear and they work as we have grown to TRUST. The level of respect and honor displayed in this relationship is PROOF and it is FUEL. Because there are some (and sadly I was once “some”) who are AFRAID to have a conversation with a leader of the opposite gender in public in FEAR of what anyone might think. The truth: people will always think “something” for as long as we hide the healthy and appropriate relationships that exist.

I believe cross gender mentoring can overcome taboo with the voices of MANY who are able to have relationships with GRACE and TRUST and a track record of FAITHFULNESS. Why not do our best to protect each other, honor each other, fight for each other?

I’m not saying that compromise can’t happen. We all know that it can and that it does. I still would LOVE to obliterate the idea that pastors and leaders have to be only one of two things in cross gender relationships- fearful/paralyzed or arrogant/careless.

There is a TRUSTING/ FAITHFUL/ PERCEPTIVE/ INTUITIVE/ WHOLE-HEARTED/HONORING way. I pray that we could be brave to trust God’s promises. That God is able to do in us so much more, than we could ever ask or think. It’s a relief to know that it’s not our power that changes the game. But God’s.

God empowers:

  • Women to Mentor Women

Most in the group named a male as their most significant mentor/ champion in ministry. That’s good! That is not bad.  Echoes of #HeForShe have been bursting through the soil and continue to push through for us. I am more than grateful for them. At the same time, the lack of same-gender mentoring relationships has limited our abilities to imagine them at all. Women can’t be afraid of each other, intimidated by each other, or feel like they are getting less-than leadership when a women is our mentor. It says something when we can’t believe in each other. I hope that his continues to change.

  • Women To Mentor Men & Men to Mentor Women
  • Men & Women to Create Safe Places Where Cross Gender Mentoring Can Thrive

It was nothing for everyone in our circle to say that a male mentored us and championed us. None of us thought it weird, awkward, or questionable. For some it is our sacrificial and heroic husbands. For others it is seminary professors and college educators. Some have coaches and government leaders to thank. These empowering men gave of themselves in healthy within boundaries ways that shaped all of our lives. Can we be bold enough to believe that our voice and influence matters in the lives of men too? Our minds need to be re-wired to be able to imagine this on the flip side. For women to mentor men. And for men to mentor women. It needs to feel normal, because IT IS NORMAL and GOOD.

Participation is our greatest act of belonging. I pray for and support the full participation of both in mentoring relationships. I pray that the church would lead the way in gender empowerment and equality.

In the places where it’s still an issue to support these types of relationships, we step into them full of grace and trust, we don’t hate or ignore or despise differences. We can lean into them with loving communication and motivation to be more about each other than we are about ourselves.

We step into these places with more LISTENING and attentiveness than we ever have before. We ask important questions. We become allies—even in our differences. We don’t deny our brothers and sisters their voice. We respect different places and phases of the journey. At the same time, we reach out for the reality that can be when we begin to SEE. To really see–newly–in transformed and renewed ways.

  • What men and women are mentoring you?
  • What women and men are you mentoring?
  • Have you set up safe spaces for this to be possible?

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 December 07 2014 | 0 Comments

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