Youth Specialties Blog

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

Unlearning God’s Plan For Pain

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 08 2014 | 2 Comments

Original photo by Fayez.

One of the most meaningful bits of youth ministry advice I’ve received is to make sure I don’t say or teach things that students will have to “unlearn.” This becomes so much more difficult when students are in the midst of tough life situations. Sometimes those situations are brought on by their own mistakes, and sometimes terrible things just happen to students. In those moments, it can be so easy to say something like, “God has a bigger plan and we have to trust it.” But that can’t be our best answer.

We have to look at what our students learn from the subtext of that kind of comment. When we only talk about God having a bigger plan, we are recognizing that God knows something we don’t but the subtext of our words says that God might have wanted us to experience pain, or even that God planned to harm us.

I can’t tell a student that God planned to harm her or that God wanted him to experience the weight of his sin. There has to be a better way to say it.

In his book, Things Hidden, Richard Rohr describes what he calls God’s “economy of grace.” It is the way in which God fills in the gaps, using every life experience, all of our pain, and even all of our mistakes, to show us again and again that God is with us and that God loves us. Rohr says it like this:

“In God, everything is used and nothing is wasted, not even sin.” - Richard Rohr
(click it to tweet it)

This is a much better answer to a student in the midst of life’s troubles. It points to a God that is among us, suffering with us, and willing to walk alongside us even as we experience the consequences of our own mistakes. Also, the subtext of this idea points to an even deeper understanding of God’s love for us. This is truly a message of the gospel, describing a God who is active in the ongoing work of our redemption.

If you’re well-versed in church vocabulary like me, then it may be more difficult to move away from the language of “God’s plan” when talking about our pain. But again, the goal is to make sure that students don’t have to one day unlearn what we’ve taught through what we say and the subtext that comes with it. And isn’t it much more life-giving for students to know a God who wants to sit with us in our turmoil, transforming our pain into something beautiful?  

Jacob Eckeberger is the content and community manager at, an itinerant worship leader, the husband of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. You can find him at @jacobeck.

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 08 2014 | 2 Comments

5 Reasons The Church Needs Youth Ministry

By Youth Specialties on July 06 2014 | 0 Comments

Mark Matlock shares his heart behind why youth ministry is vital to the body of Christ in "5 Reasons The Church Needs Youth Ministry." 

If you don't have time to watch the full video, here's a quick snapshot:

  1. Youth ministry is vital to helping teens integrate into the larger intergenerational community of the church.
  2. Youth ministry resists the status quo, helping a church stay relevant in a changing culture.
  3. Youth ministry focuses on inviting those who are not already part of the church into the deeper narrative of God's plan for humankind.
  4. Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church, restoring life on earth as it is in heaven.
  5. Youth ministry helps the church focus on the way of Jesus, which goes beyond tradition, dogma, and ritual.



Here's a handy image with all 5 broken down if you'd like to share it with your youth leaders:

By Youth Specialties on July 06 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (July 4)

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 03 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a great "to-do" list for youth workers every Sunday, the dangers of allowing our performace in youth ministry to determine our identity, a series of posts about High School service trips, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 


Blogs From This Week

Neely McQueen (@NeelyM) interviews Chap Clark (@ChapClark) in a new YS Idea Lab about "The Goal of Youth Ministry" CLICK TO VIEW

Coby Cagle (@CobyCagle) wrote a great piece entitled "Fight for Sustainable Ministries, Not Self-preservation" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Christopher Wesley (@ChrisrWesley) shared a great "to-do" list for youth workers: "7 Actions You Must Take Every Sunday" CLICK TO VIEW

A great post from Lars Rood (@LarsRood) on the dangers of allowing performance to determine identity: "Facing our Broken Ontology" CLICK TO VIEW

Pete Wilson (@PWilson) wrote a really encouraging post this week: "What You Miss When You're Afraid Of Messing Up" CLICK TO VIEW

Youthworker Journal (@YWJournal) shared a great post about students pushing the envelope for the church: "We Don't Want a Bible Study" CLICK TO VIEW

Our good friends over at Fuller Youth Institute (@FullerFYI) released a series of really great posts about High School service trips. Here's the 1st: "Navigating transitions from one experience to another" CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

I wish my trash naturally looked this beautiful: "Random Pile of Trash is a Stunning Portrait" CLICK TO VIEW

If you want the universe to blow your mind, check out the "Space Photo of the Day" CLICK TO VIEW

It’s actually 2 year’s old, but it’s still hilarious: "German man misinterprets the term 'party pooper'" CLICK TO VIEW

Someone changed the Wikipedia entry for U.S. Secretary of Defense to 'Tim Howard'. CLICK TO VIEW

I have no idea what he is saying or why you would need string made from plastic bottles, but I know youth workers will figure out a use for it: CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on July 03 2014 | 0 Comments

Fight for Sustainable Ministries, Not Self-Preservation

By Youth Specialties on July 01 2014 | 1 Comments

We are so fortunate to know youth workers like Coby Cagle that are doing great work in youth ministry. This is a post Coby originally shared on his blog.  

Original photo by Wolfgang Staudt.

There is a difference between striving to have a sustainable ministry and fighting to stay alive. When you act out of self-preservation you ask the wrong set of questions. At best, these are questions that are inwardly focused and shortsighted. Although longevity is not bad, your main goal should not be to help your church stay alive. Your main goal should be to be faithful to the Gospel and to join God as God ushers in God's kingdom.

What does this mean? Here are a few possibilities:

  • This may mean that you build a new church building. This may mean that you sell your church building.
  • This may mean that you hire more staff. This may mean that you cut staff.
  • This may mean that you stop pouring money into expanding your empire and start sending funds to an under-resourced church.
  • This may mean that you give away all of your resources to an emerging church so that a new ministry can flourish.*

Are you following me? Being faithful to the Gospel and joining God's mission does not mean that you last forever. It simply means you go where God calls you to go. 

While we shouldn't focus on self-preservation, we SHOULD focus on sustainability and health. Sustainable ministries don't drain the energy and resources out of our organizations and our people. I think sustainable ministries are simply good stewards of the gifts that God has given the church.

Here are a few ways to help you start thinking about building healthy ministries and not ministries that are fighting for self-preservation. This is not an exhaustive list. Comment below if you have more ideas.

Sustainable ministries emphasize health.
 Self-preservation ministries emphasize numbers.

Sustainable ministries regularly evaluate the relational, spiritual, and emotional health of their group. Ministry leaders are regularly gauging the health of the congregation. Health and numbers are not mutually exclusive. I am a part of a healthy church that is bursting at the seams. Yet, our pastors, deacons, elders, and small group leaders are engaged with almost everybody who attends the church. We spend most of our time in staff meetings either doing spiritual check-ins with one another or praying for congregants by name. It's been a blessing to spend so much time focusing on spiritual formation and health. This doesn't mean we neglect our daily tasks. We simply don't let our daily tasks consume our focus.

Sustainable ministries look to empower others.
 Self-preservation ministries try to hold on to power.

Believe it or not, you and I are not big deals. Sure, we can do some things well. But our ministries will be better if we find what is unique to our calling, do that well, and empower people to do the rest. I was recently talking with a successful lead pastor who is in his 40's. He said 10 years ago he wasn't comfortable enough in his skin to hire people who were better than him at things. Now, he proudly admits that he isn't the best speaker or administrator on staff. Not only is that good leadership, it creates space for new ideas and fresh approaches.

The reality is, none of us got to where we are because of our own power. We all stand on the backs of others who sacrificed, poured into us, loved us, mentored us, and created space for us. Now, go and do likewise.

Sustainable ministries emphasize how volunteers are doing.
 Self-preservation ministries emphasize what volunteers are doing.

Today I interviewed a high quality candidate for a youth ministry intern position. Like all people that I supervise, I told him that I am more concerned with how he is doing as a follower of Jesus, a friend, and a son than what he can do for me and "my" church. People aren't tools for you to use to build your kingdom. They are gifts that God entrusts to you to love, serve, build up, and empower. When they leave, you want them to leave better people than when they arrived.

One side effect of this kind of support and care for your employees is that they tend to feel more at ease in their position which enables them to function out of their strengths. It gives them courage to dream big and take risks. And when they fail, they know that you have their back.

Sustainable ministries think about the entire organization.
 Self-preservation ministries tend to only think about those with power.

I once served at an upper income church that was surrounded by neighborhoods that were very poor. On separate occasions I had two elders tell me that I wasn't hired to minister to "those kind of kids." They hired me to minister to "our kids." Wow! Too often I see pastors that only pursue deep relationships with people who have power and money in the church. Pastors let the bottom line sway them away from making decisions with Biblical integrity. It is wrong and unjust.

If you spend more time talking about getting better attendance to events than thinking about the needs of your community, you are fighting for self-preservation.

CLICK to visit Coby's blog and read the rest of his great post.

Coby Cagle lives with his wife and two kids in Seattle, WA. He is the Youth Pastor at Quest Church and is the Co-founder of The College Consensus. You can follow his meanderings on faith, family, and life at

By Youth Specialties on July 01 2014 | 1 Comments

The Goal of Youth Ministry

By Youth Specialties on June 30 2014 | 2 Comments

With all the changes that have taken place in youth ministry over the years, we have to continue to ask the question: What is the goal of our youth ministry and how does it affect the global Church? Neely McQueen sits down with Chap Clark in this YS Idea Lab to talk over the history of youth ministry and keeping our focus on helping students find their place in the church long after we are gone.  

If you don't have time to watch the entire YS Idea Lab, here is a quick list to give you just that top layer of goodness: 

Youth ministry emerged out of an idea that we were losing our kids and they needed a personal connection to faith within the church. Our goals become focused around them as individuals liking our programs, coming to events, and personally exhibiting an interest in faith. 


We thought that if they enjoyed what we did in our youth ministries, that it would automatically translate to them finding a place in the larger Church body. 


It created the idea that they as an individual can have the full experience of the Christian faith within their youth ministry. 


The problem became that we were so focused on the singular that students had individualistic faith experience with no connection to the rest of the church. Our focus has to shift from being just about the singular to finding a balance that also guides students into the plural, connecting their faith with the body of Christ outside of youth ministry. 


The danger of youth ministry is that we think we can create Christian community within a single demographic instead of thinking about a larger family of God, both local and historical, across all human history.


Our goal has to be leading students to find their individual faith through the process of discovering their place in that larger Christian community. Students should have that personal response within an understanding that Christianity is much bigger than them.


Are we leading students to connect their faith with both the historical and local expression of God’s people on the earth? Is our goal to get students to be Christians within our little group or are we calling students to be a part of the larger body of Christ?


But this has to be something that the entire Church takes on. It is easy for students to feel like they are cast aside and that the only way they can be a part of the bigger Church community is to assimilate, which implies that they are the ones that must change to belong. Our call as the larger Church isn't to assimilate students but to adopt students into community, which changes who we are to receive students as they are. 


If students understand that Christ wants them to be a part of His family, then they'll find a place within the body of Christ that isn't dependent on a youth worker's personal relationship with them and their faith will last long after we are gone. 

See more YS Idea Lab's in our Idea Lab List on YouTube.

By Youth Specialties on June 30 2014 | 2 Comments

Trending This Week (June 27)

By Jacob Eckeberger on June 26 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look at 5 ways to get your students talking in Bible study, how to be inclusive when new comers show up at youth group, ways to self-care on a mission trip, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. Enjoy!

Blogs From This Week

Stephanie Riebe (@StephRiebe) shares some encouragement for those days when you feel overwhelmed with worry in youth ministry: "One of those days" CLICK TO VIEW

Fred Oduyoye (@FredOduyoye) has another great addition to the #YSRealTalk series with Efrem Smith (@EfremSmith) and Dean Borgman discussing: "The Urban Ministry Shift" CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Our good friends The Skit Guys (@SkitGuys) shared another incredible video that's worth sharing with your students: "July 4th Explained" CLICK TO VIEW

Andy Blanks (@AndyBlanks) put together a great list of ideas to spark conversations with students: "5 Thoughts On What To Do When Teenagers Won’t Respond In Your Bible Study" CLICK TO VIEW

Leneita Fix (@LeneitaFix) wrote a great piece on: "Including 'New-bies' In Your Group" CLICK TO VIEW

The YouthWorks team (@YWMissions) wrote a great post that is worth forwarding on to your adult volunteers: "Put Your Oxygen Mask On First: Self-care on a mission trip" CLICK TO VIEW 

Nate Stratman (@NateStratman) started a conversation good and worthwhile conversation about developing leaders in ministry: "Cherry Picking in Youth Ministry" CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

What would it look like if a football coach coached soccer? "Meet Coach Tedd Lasso" CLICK TO VIEW

Totally normal slip n slide… off a huge cliff: CLICK TO VIEW

A guy inserts his incredible dog Wally into a clip of Jurassic Park and it's just... magic: CLICK TO VIEW 

A guy convinces strangers to read fake player names from the World Cup that are actually Nicholas Cage movies: CLICK TO VIEW

This is how you recover from a bad day: "Umpire takes a foul ball to the chest... and flexes" CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on June 26 2014 | 0 Comments

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