Youth Specialties Blog

Trending This Week (Sept 5)

By Jacob Eckeberger on September 04 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include thoughts about students becoming leaders, "doing time" in youth ministry, a really encouraging TED talk, ways to support your pastor, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination.

Blogs From This Week

The videos from our Sticky Faith Family Google Hangout with Kara Powell and Brad Griffin are live and easy to share with your team! - CLICK TO VIEW

Matt Larkin (@MattwLarkin) wrote a GREAT post for youth workers at smaller churches: "Embracing Where You Are At" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Jason Sansbury (@JasonSansbury) wrote a great post about students becoming leaders: "Somtimes a Lost Sheep Becomes the Shepherd" - CLICK TO VIEW

Amy Jacober (@AmyJacober) shared some firm words about a calling to youth ministry: "Did My Time as a Youth Pastor" - CLICK TO VIEW

Elle Campbell (@ellllllllllle) gave us all some encouragement by passing along a great TED talk: "Every Kid Needs a Champion" - CLICK TO VIEW

Mike Tucker (@FFTMike) tweeted out a list of ways youth workers can support their pastors: "Ten Free Ways to Appreciate Your Pastor... Without Making it Awkard" - CLICK TO VIEW 

Kara Powell (@KPowellFYI) wrote a great post that you can forward on to the parents of your students: "You Get What You Are" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Run, Walter Run! - CLICK TO VIEW

Exiting a pick-up truck with some pizzazz - CLICK TO VIEW

Instructional videos for kids. This first one: “Changing the Toilet Paper” - CLICK TO VIEW 

A Dad pranks his son and it's glorious - CLICK TO VIEW

A “magic trick” that’s more annoying than magic - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on September 04 2014 | 0 Comments

Sticky Faith Hangout and Q&A with Kara Powell & Brad Griffin

By Youth Specialties on September 02 2014 | 1 Comments

We had such a great time in our Hangout with Kara Powell and Brad Griffin discussing the newest resource "The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family." To make it easier for you to share with your youth leaders, we split up the video into different segments that you can pass along to your team for a bit of encouragment and thoughtful discussion. 

And don't miss the 5-hour Intensive with Kara and Brad at NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta on "Sticky Faith: How to Help Teens Maintain Their Faith Long-Term." 

Here's the interview portion of the Sticky Faith Hangout:

Here's the Q&A portion of the Sticky Faith Hangout:

There were a couple questions that we didn't have time to get to so Kara and Brad graciously sent us their response to those questions as well:

There is a concept about parents "stepping off the pedestal" that I think relates to the idea of parents feeling intimidated.  It would be good to have Brad and Kara address this concept. 

All of us fear failure. Parents tend to wear it like a favorite sweater. We are so afraid to be wrong about our kids, and especially in front of our kids, that we trade honesty for a false perception of flawlessness. When our parenting gets called into question, we wrap our sweater tight in defense and do what we can to stay on the pedestal in front of the kids and whoever else might be in the conversation. Stepping down—or taking off the sweater, to stick with that metaphor—means being honest enough to admit to our kids that we were wrong, that we made a mistake, and to ask them or others for forgiveness and restoration. While it’s terrifying for most parents to do this, in our interviews we found that parents who regularly practice saying “I’m sorry” with their kids build surprising bridges to share more openly about other life and faith struggles, too.

I had a mom recently approach me with suspicion and concern that her kid's Youth Leaders know "all of these secrets about our kids" that we don't know. Unless it's a mandated thing to report, I typically keep struggles/challenges that kids are facing between myself and them. Should there be more partnering with parents in these situations, or should I be content that they "told somebody." Does this make sense? 

If a parent has a concern about secrets, it’s important to hear that parent out and determine where the source of those fears resides. What youth workers often fail to understand is that their relationships with kids often feel threatening to parents whose adolescent children are pulling away from them emotionally. A parent looks at the hip young small group leader with whom her daughter is suddenly spending more time, and perceives this as a threat to her own once-close relationship. That stirs up fear, resentment, and can easily lead to suspicion. Take some time to listen to the parent who raises those concerns, and use it as an opportunity to encourage them and reinforce that your hope is to complement, not compete with, their family relationships. 

On the other side of this question are the confidentiality issues. Just this weekend, we heard a youth pastor in Michigan share with his volunteer small group leaders a few helpful tips when it comes to confidentiality. First, if you hear something serious enough that you feel like a student is in real danger of doing harm to themselves or someone else, absolutely speak up and involve parents and professional help. Second, when a student shares something in confidence that is destructive but not imminently life-threatening, this takes some careful discernment to walk through. In these cases we still need not to leave parents in the dark, but rather to cue them that something is going on with their son or daughter that’s concerning. You want to respect your relationship with the student, but also uphold parents’ trust that you’re keeping the student’s and the family’s best interests in mind, and you’re ultimately not part of that family. Encouraging parents to have hard conversations is absolutely a feature of partnership.

Don't miss the 5-hour Sticky Faith Intensive on helping teens maintain their faith long-term at NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta

By Youth Specialties on September 02 2014 | 1 Comments

Embracing Where You Are At

By Youth Specialties on August 31 2014 | 2 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 from Great Beyond.

For most youth workers, at least part of your time this fall will be spent preparing for what’s ahead. You may already be looking toward Christmas programs, New Year’s Eve events, or even spring 2015. If you’re working in a small church, your enthusiasm for that preparation may already be suffering due to the all too familiar struggle of limitations. You may be recognizing that everything you want to do requires money, time, and people… three things you don’t have in excess.

If this describes you, you may already be discouraged, frustrated, and even ready to march into your church’s next board meeting and call everyone out. All of these responses are, perhaps, understandable. Sure, there’s a lot of frustration that can come with leading a small ministry. Sure, there’s a lot of frustration that comes with not having the time, money, and people to do all that you want to do. But embracing your size, and even embracing the limitations that come with that size, can help you to develop a great ministry schedule for the students God has entrusted to your care.

Here are a few keys to embracing your size when planning. 

Maximize what’s awesome about being small.

First, embrace and maximize what’s awesome about being small: RELATIONSHIPS! One of the toughest things about leading a large ministry is creating a setting with a “small feel” so that relationships can be built. However, if you’re leading in a small setting, you’ve already got that! So as you plan this fall, maximize that strength by organizing events that are designed to just spend time with your students, and for them to spend time with each other. That’s one way you can maximize your limited time with them, and maximize a key strength of a small ministry.

Find creative ways to utilize your church family.

If you’re in a small ministry setting, you may have a hard time finding any volunteers at all to work with you in the trenches week after week. So you may be, for the most part, going it alone. But there are some creative ways to connect the students in your ministry with the rest of the church family. Intergenerational ministry opportunities can always be valuable to your students, and there’s the added benefit that your senior pastor may then take part in some of the planning when you involve the rest of the church (relieving some burden from you). FYI: Sticky Faith’s resources provide lot of great ideas to help this along (

Make sure not to OVER plan.

More doesn’t always necessarily mean better. In fact, most of the time, it doesn’t. The reality is that the same limitations that you face are hurdles for your students and their families as well. Families are busy. Between sports, school activities, and work, most families feel stretched and overburdened. As a result, if you plan too much, your students are likely not going to show up anyway. And, if they do, you’re likely to become just one more thing they have to check off the list. So, you’re better off just trying to plan a smaller number of really good things. It will maximize your limited time, and each event will have more impact on your students, because they’ll be more inclined to see your event as a fun opportunity.

Utilize good resources.

Utilizing the good resources that are available to you can often save you time. If you don’t have time to come up with ideas for the coming months, there’s no shame in seeking out resources that provide great ideas for you. Actually, most of the best ideas I’ve ever had in youth ministry are the ones I’ve ripped off! There are tons of great resources available to you through Youth Specialties (, Fuller Youth Institute (www.fulleryouthinstitute), and other organizations that can save you from being creative when creativity’s just not coming. So, if you feel yourself lacking in the creative arena, why not seek out some of the great resources that are already available all around you?

Remember that you’re not alone.

The biggest thing to keep in mind as you prepare is that you’re not alone. Preparing for the future can be exciting, but it can also be discouraging for youth workers in any size ministry when they begin to see the limitations placed on them. Instead, recognize that God placed you where you are, and that the impact that you make in the coming year has very little to do with budget, people, and time—and it has everything to do with the one who created you to serve Him right where you are.

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 31 2014 | 2 Comments

Trending This Week (Aug 29)

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 28 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look at mutli-ethnic churches responding to racial injustice, lots of tips for structure, campus ministry, reconnecting with students, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination.

Blogs From This Week

Les Christie shares some great thoughts on caring for the students that are the most difficult to love: "Caustic Kids" - CLICK TO VIEW

Stephanie Caro (@StephanieCaro) joined us last week for an incredible Google Hangout on Small Church Youth Ministry, and here's the video - CLICK TO VIEW

The NNYM and YS have teamed up for the National Youth Ministry Networking Day on Oct 16th! Here are most of the details  - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Time posted a fascinating article on responses from multi-ethnic churches on racial injustice: "Multi-Ethnic Churches Lament America's Racial Injustice"  - CLICK TO VIEW

Chris Mucha wrote a great post about "6 Tips for Creating Structure and Boundaries in Ministry" - CLICK TO VIEW

Ben Trueblood (@BenTrueblood) shared another "6 tips..." post about effective campus ministry: "6 Ways to Win on the School Campus"  - CLICK TO VIEW

Andy Blanks (@AndyBlanks) wrote a great overview of different roles youth workers take: "5 Roles Youth Workers Play in the Lives of Teenagers" - CLICK TO VIEW 

AwanaYM (@AwanaYM) offered great ways to reconnect with students: "5 Tips for Reconnecting with Students" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Mark Matlock’s Ice Ice Baby Bucket Challenge - CLICK TO VIEW

Action movie Kid Part 2 - CLICK TO VIEW

A GOPRO on a high-speed jet ski in a canyon river - CLICK TO VIEW 

The Smell-Tasting Experiment - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 28 2014 | 0 Comments

Small Church Youth Ministry Hangout with Stephanie Caro

By Youth Specialties on August 26 2014 | 0 Comments

We had such a great time in our Hangout last week with small church youth ministry guru Stephanie Caro! A lot of the youth workers that participated mentioned that the Q&A portion was the most beneficial section for them, so we wanted to slice up the interview into sections that would make it easy to share with your youth leaders.

And don't miss Stephanie Caro's seminar "How to Create a Thriving Small Church Youth Ministry" at NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta!

Here's the Q&A portion of the Hangout:

Here are the questions that we didn't have enough time for in the Q&A and Stephanie's responses:

“How can I make small groups work in my small youth ministry?”

Really? In a lot of the same ways you do in a larger group. Quality questions and quality askers are important. You could begin and end in the larger group, and then break out into groups of just 2-3 people for the questions. This will still give the "small" group affect yet allow a feel a critical mass.  Maybe the 2-3 person groups are not adult led. Having an adult leader is more productive in a small group of 7-8 but can feel overwhelming in a group of 2-3. 

"How common is it for children's ministry responsibilities to be combine with youth ministry responsibilities? How do you address youth ministry for someone in a combined role?”

This is the norm for small churches (and something we're going to see more and more of as medium size churches become smaller). The combo staff person will spend more volunteer development time in the CM part of the work. Really, the combo job makes things easier. All the admin, foundational work involves all the same people/families and so you only have to do it all once.  

"So my question would be about leadership.  I am a full-time youth minister who doesn't have leaders who completely understand what it is that I do.  I am in a smaller church and it seems like to me that they just want someone to "babysit" the kids/youth so they can have "church".  How do I get the leadership to see the importance of a youth ministry and supporting it?”

Big question with multi-layer answers. The biggest piece? The YM vision has to come from the church people since they're the "architect" of the YM (creating the blueprints). Your role is to be the "general contractor" who sees the blueprints are lived out. The more the church is involved in creating where the ministry is to go in light of the church's DNA, the more church leadership will have buy-in and will understand what you do. After all, they'll have helped plan the work you're doing. Make sense?  Its a lot easier to support a group of people by nudging them from behind than it is to drag them along.

Here's the interview portion of the Hangout:

Here's the full Hangout with the interview and the Q&A:

Don't miss the Small Church Youth Ministry seminars with Stephanie Caro at NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta

By Youth Specialties on August 26 2014 | 0 Comments

Caustic Kids

By Youth Specialties on August 24 2014 | 0 Comments

We are excited to share this post from Les Christie and we're thrilled that he'll be at both NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta

Original photo by Montecruz Foto.

Like most other youth workers, I’ve been burned time and again by a certain kind of kid. These kids are difficult to love. They’ve got a calloused outer shell that’s difficult to penetrate. They don’t laugh or cry. They seem to have cut themselves off from all emotion. It’s hard to read what they are feeling at any specific moment. They’ve created a protective barrier around themselves, often because of emotional pain from past experiences.

I call such hardened kids “caustic kids.” The word caustic comes from the same root as the word cauterize, a medical term that means to burn until a wound is closed off. Caustic kids are those who have burned relationships with peers and those in authority to the point where almost all their relationships have been closed off.

Why Caustic Kids Are Tough to Work With

If you’re one who shies away from kids like this, I don’t blame you. They’re hard to interact with and it’s natural to distance yourself from them—they give you lots of reasons not to like them:

- They tend to be self-centered.
- They defy you at every step, refusing to cooperate.
- They can sabotage your ministry by talking bad about you to anyone who will listen—including their parents and other kids in the group.
- They tell magnetic stories about the parties they’ve gone to, movies they’ve seen, the classes they’ve skipped, the people they’ve hurt, the guns they own, and the joyrides they’ve taken in stolen cars.
- They bring the worst kind of music along in the church bus—and then they tune out everyone as they hide behind earbuds.  
- They sneak off to smoke cigarettes… or worse.
- They’re strong-willed (just like most youth leaders!).

Why We Need to Work with Caustic Kids

Though caustic kids offer us plenty of reasons to pull in the welcome mat, there are also a few compelling reasons we must minister to them:

  1. Jesus commands us to love the unlovable. He says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” (Matthew 5:46). The true test of love is loving people who don’t love back.
  2. Few adults have the maturity and perspective to love unlikable kids. Those who have this ability are rare and precious. They can literally turn a young person’s life around. We need to be those adults.
  3. Your ministry is the last hope for many caustic kids. This is the truth: Whoever values your kids most, and shows it, usually wins them over. Eugene Rivers, an inner-city pastor hoping to rescue a Boston neighborhood from drugs and poverty, tells the story of a conversation he had with a heroin dealer. The heroin dealer told Rivers his key to success was simply being there. Rivers asked, “Being there?” The drug dealer went on to explain, “When little Johnny goes to school—I am there. When little Johnny goes to the store for food, I’m there. I’m there—and you’re not. I’m there, so I win.”
  4. Beneath the hard exterior of most caustic kids is often enormous pain and frustration.
  5. Kids who love you, hug you, and hang on your every word make ministry fun. Tough kids keep you digging, praying, reading books, and sharing with other youth leaders. Basically, they keep you growing.
  6. Jesus said he came “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Caustic kids are as lost as they can be. Jesus once asked the scribes and Pharisees, “Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4).


Caustic youth require a long-term commitment and conditions might get worse before they get better. But, you really shouldn’t expect building relationships and communicating with these difficult students to be easy.

That’s why you also need the support of other adults to work successfully with caustic kids. When your efforts are continually frustrated, you may begin to lose your self-confidence and think that you’re a failure. You need people around you to show you that you’re not crazy and to encourage you in the truth that you can minister to these kids.

Finally, and most importantly, it’s essential to pray. In Mark 9:14-29, the disciples run into a situation that seems impossible. But in verse 29, Jesus reminds them that there is something they can do: “This kind can come out only by prayer.”

The hurt and hardness of caustic kids can be softened only by the tenderness of God’s Holy Spirit. And that comes by prayer. Pray that the kids in your group would experience the love and healing power of God.

Les Christie chairs the youth ministry department at William Jessup University and has spoken at each YS National Youth Workers Convention for the last 30 years. He’s also authored more than 15 books and you can hear Les speak at both NYWC Sacramento and NYWC Atlanta!



By Youth Specialties on August 24 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Aug 22)

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 21 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include quick advice for how not to name a youth group, what you wish you knew about teens and digital media, tips for male pastors interacting with girls, the church's barriers to loving others, and all the fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Jody Livingston (@JodyLivingston) shared a great guest post: "5 Kyes to Effective Campus Ministry" - CLICK TO VIEW

A new 1Q interview where 3 incredible youth workers respond to the question: "What practical ways do you balance family and ministry?" - CLICK TO VIEW

AFFIRM films is giving away a FREE discussion guide for the new film "The Remaining" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Tim Gough (@TimGoughUK) shares a great practical post: "How NOT to name your youth group" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fuller Youth Institute (@FullerFYI) had a great interview with Danah Boyd: "What you wish you knew about teens and digital media" - CLICK TO VIEW

Download Youth Ministry shared another great @DYMWebshow celebrating their 250th episode! - CLICK TO VIEW

Heather Campbell (@heatherlea17) wrote a post with good practical tips: "Tips for male pastors interacting with girls" - CLICK TO VIEW 

Relevant Magazine (@Relevantmag): "3 Barriers to the Church’s Ability to Love Others" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Turtle VS Toy Truck - CLICK TO VIEW

Back to school parody: "Baby Got Class" - CLICK TO VIEW

Gilbert Gottfried does the speech from independence day - CLICK TO VIEW 

Bill Cosby confronts Jimmy Fallon about imitating him - CLICK TO VIEW

This commercial is so bad that it’s good - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 21 2014 | 0 Comments

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