Youth Specialties Blog

Trending This Week (Jan 3)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

Each week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look back at 2014, some encouragement as you think about the next year, the only question that matters, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

After 45 years of NYWC, we STILL know why you do what you do... - CLICK TO VIEW

We found some great New Year's perspective out of the YS Vault from Mike Yaconelli: "Where's Jesus?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fred Oduyoye (@FredOduyoye) gave us "4 Disciplines for a New Year" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Walt Mueller gives a thought provoking post on @CPYU: “Eavesdropping, Marriage, and the Age of Decadence…” - CLICK TO VIEW

A little encouragement from Josh Griffin (@JoshuaGriffin): “The Dry Wasteland of Youth Ministry” - CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) talks shares his favorite leadership books from 2014 - CLICK TO VIEW

“Taking Time To Remember and Reflect” from @NxtGenJournal - CLICK TO VIEW

A great post from Leader Treks (@LeaderTreks): “The Only Question in Youth Ministry that Matters” - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Taylor Swift gives Christmas presents to her fans, winning 2014 by making all of us cry - CLICK TO VIEW

Amazing break dance moves - CLICK TO VIEW

Some days you just can’t remember which side of the car the gas cap is on - CLICK TO VIEW

The cutest toddler in the world tries to teach her dog how to hula hoop - CLICK TO VIEW

Some extra fireworks for you with a super cut of epic movie explosions - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 03 2015 | 0 Comments

4 Disciplines for a New Year

By Youth Specialties on December 31 2014 | 4 Comments

Original pic by Jose.

Upon the onset of a new year, we tend to focus on efforts to start, improve, or make some changes towards a better upcoming season.  

What if you, the youth worker, the leader, the representative of Christ, committed yourself to just 4 disciplines to help shape your life and the lives of your students into looking more like Christ? 

As youth workers, we must realize that in order to effectively lead students to find and follow Jesus Christ, we have to collectively create training models that will reproduce themselves year after year. The best models are not the written ones, but the living ones. Students will look to you as a model, learning from the choices you make and soaking in the disciplines that you choose to live out. If we can disciple a generation of youth to recover the cultural misses that have permeated thus far, then we can change a nation that is in need of cultural cohesiveness. That’s why this is your year! Start this year focusing on just 4 good disciplines. If you practice them privately, then it makes it easier to model it publicly. Our students want the real deal. So let’s give it to them!

1.     Love People, Love God.

No matter their background, their situation, or the circumstances, it’s what God expects from us! – “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”  (John 3:16)

2.     Don’t Forget to Bring The Bread.

Your experiences with God are the bread that you bring to share with your students. So commit to reading your Bible with some sort of consistency and not just when you have to. This will help feed God’s spirit on the inside, so that you can trust the outcomes of where you serve, who you serve, and how you serve. Remember, the Bread of Life is always with you. – “The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat.”  (Mark 8:14)

3.     Pray in the Spirit.

Don’t forget to talk with God! We can get so busy doing all the good things of ministry that we forget to care for our own souls. Talking with God on a daily basis is a key way we can do that. Take time to be still, pray for students surrounding your ministry, and the cultural connection within your community.  – “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”  (2 Chronicles 7:14)

4.     Beyond anything else, just allow God to be God. 

In other words, trust that nothing happens without God knowing about it. Your ability to “train up a child” and witness a great societal shift will happen, because you want the best of God and the most for people. And all of us at YS want the most for you!

I believe God has a special place in HIS heart for the youth worker, as HE has designed you to be equipped to have your presence positioned across multiple generations. Through the strength of Christ Jesus, you are helping guide the church to reach those it might have missed. So I want to leave you with some encouragement from the Apostle Paul: 

“My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master, now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught.”  (Colossians 2:6-7a; MSG)

Fred Oduyoye is the Director of Networks at YS and a long time veteran of urban youth ministry. When he's not caring for youth workers through the YS Networks, you can find him spending time with is lovely family and coaching soccer.

By Youth Specialties on December 31 2014 | 4 Comments

Where’s Jesus?

By Youth Specialties on December 29 2014 | 0 Comments

The following is a repost of an article pulled out of the YS Vault and was previously published here.

Original Photo by Ricardo Alarcon.

By the twenty-first chapter of John's Gospel, the risen Jesus has appeared to his disciples on two occasions. But here, seven of his followers are in a quandary. (They still don’t get it—encouraging, huh?) Frustrated and discouraged, they decide to do the typical "guy thing."

They go fishing.

It’s what they know best. It’s what’s familiar. Better yet—it’s seemingly a total waste of time. Just a group of buddies hanging out all night, telling fish stories, reminiscing about when Jesus was around, talking about what they’re going to do now. (Luckily there wasn’t a church board there to evaluate how they were spending their time.)

But it isn’t all goofing around. A couple of the guys on the boat are still good fishermen. They know this lake like the back of their hands—where the fish are, all the primo spots. So they stay out the entire night, and what do they catch?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

What a bunch of losers.

Or were they?

While they’re still in the boat, a voice breaks the morning silence: "Hey there! Haven’t you any fish?" A man is standing on the shore, directly in front of the sun, his silhouette dark, his features difficult to discern. Not understanding why, the disciples respond in tense unison, "No!"

Without hesitation the man yells back, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some!" Within seconds their net fills with a truckload of fish.

John knows what’s going on. The full net of fish has Jesus written all over it. "It is the Lord!" he yells.

Peter, in very Peter-like fashion, jumps in the water and swims for the beach. The rest of the disciples row like crazy to be with Jesus. Why? Because they all realize at that moment that boats don’t matter, nets don’t matter, and fish don’t matter.

You know what did matter? Nothing.

That’s right. Nothing.

Turns out that catching no fish, getting no results, and wasting hours of time was exactly what the disciples needed to recognize Jesus. They had been frustrated, confused, angry, exhausted, and unable to get in touch with what they needed. They had been lonely, afraid, and disillusioned. But this night of "nothing" had prepared the disciples for the "something" (or the Someone) they needed. Now they were ready to receive what Jesus wanted to give them—more time with him.

Jesus didn’t care about the big catch of fish—he cared about the guys on the boat. Jesus didn’t want to teach his disciples more stuff—he wanted to spend more time with them. He didn’t say to his disciples, "Go!"—he said, "Come and have breakfast with me."

Jesus just wanted to have breakfast with his friends, one more time. He just wanted to tell stories together, one more time. Jesus loved his disciples. Loved spending time with them. You see, Jesus understood then—and he understands now—how easy it is to substitute programs, results, and ministry for him.

When our ministries are going well, and when they are going poorly, the question should always be the same... 

Where’s Jesus?

I was recently hit with that very question during a meeting with a well-known evangelist. After an hour and a half of his very organized presentation on a new, nationwide program for spreading the gospel, he stopped and asked some of us to respond.

I started to speak, but the words caught in my throat. My tears ambushed me, and I was unable to respond. Taken by surprise, I wondered what my tears were all about. Instantly I saw the following mental picture: A man was leaning against the wall a few feet from us. He seemed lonely and sad, like a wallflower at a dance. One look at his eyes, and I could tell he desperately wanted us to notice him, to pay attention to him, to talk to him—but we just went on with our business and ignored him.

That man was Jesus, of course. There he stood in the midst of our long conversation about strategies, programs, and target markets, and we didn’t even notice the very reason why we have these meetings in the first place!

I believe that in much of modern youth ministry, the question "Where’s Jesus?" has been replaced with "Who needs Jesus?" I’m really worried that youth ministry itself is drowning out Jesus’ constant invitation to us to come have breakfast with him.

I honestly believe that Jesus would love to see nothing happening in youth groups across the country. I honestly believe Jesus would love to hear youth workers all over saying to their pastors, parents, and board members, "Oh, sorry! I can’t hear about your new program right now—I never miss my breakfast with Jesus."

He’s on the shore right now. Just waiting.

By Youth Specialties on December 29 2014 | 0 Comments

We STILL Know Why You Do What You Do…

By Youth Specialties on December 29 2014 | 1 Comments

After serving youth workers through the National Youth Workers Convention for 45 years, we know some things never change. We know why you give so much to students, why you care about their families, why you spend every ounce of energy you have leading students to find and follow Jesus. This video might be more than a decade old, but the reasons why youth workers do all that they do haven't changed. As we look forward to 2015 and celebrate all that God has done in and through the community around YS over the years, it means the world that we can continue to stand alongside youth workers like you. We can't wait to see all that God does through NYWC over the next 45 years.

By Youth Specialties on December 29 2014 | 1 Comments

Trending This Week (Dec 26)

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 26 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include some encouragement for stressed out youth workers this Christmas, a look at how the church might be better off if students were leading small groups, what to do when your holiday traditions flop, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination.

Blogs From This Week

We gathered some great New Year's Ideas in a new 1Q interviewCLICK TO VIEW

A special Christmas message from our team to you - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

A great post from the folks at YM360 (@YM360): "Peace For The Stressed Out Youth Worker This Christmas" - CLICK TO VIEW

Jen Bradbury (@ymjen) takes a look at how much better the church might be if it were to inherit teens that have grown up leading small groups - CLICK TO VIEW

Brooklyn Lindsey (@brooklynlindsey) shares some encouragement from Charlie Brown about being yourself - CLICK TO VIEW

Some great thoughts this Christmas from Awana Youth Ministry (@AwanaYM): "Is There Room at the Inn?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Kara Powell (@KPowellFYI) passed along more encouragement with this post: "What To Do When Your Holiday Family Tradition Flops" - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Santa Clause Press Conference spoofs Lebron James - CLICK TO VIEW

Christmas with BaneCat - CLICK TO VIEW

Animals of YouTube sing “Up on the Housetop” - CLICK TO VIEW

Metal Drummer gets into the Christmas spirit - CLICK TO VIEW

Jimmy Fallon, One Direction & The Roots use classroom instruments to cover “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 26 2014 | 0 Comments

Merry Christmas!

By Youth Specialties on December 22 2014 | 0 Comments

As we think about the birth of Christ, it's an incredible reminder of why we stand alongside youth workers who are leading students to find and follow Jesus. So we want to share a special Christmas message from our team to you...


By Youth Specialties on December 22 2014 | 0 Comments

1Q interview: New Year’s Ideas

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 22 2014 | 0 Comments

1Q interviews are when we ask multiple youth pastors the same question and share their response. This particular 1Q interview is all about New Year's ideas.

Original photo by Michael Pchelnikov.

If you're in a panic because you haven't finalized New Year's plans for your youth group yet, here are some great ideas from 3 incredible youth workers:


Matt Larkin serves as the Coordinator of Student & Kids’ Ministries for the Advent Christian General Conference (

One thing I’ve always said is that my best ideas in youth ministry are the ones I stole from someone else. And this is no different! One of my favorite New Year’s activities with students is something I actually, originally, witnessed at a fall youth retreat I was a part of. But it seemed like a great idea for a New Year’s celebration. The premise of the activity is basically this… letting go of whatever junk we may be harboring that is hindering us from our walk with God.

After talking about this concept with the students, each student receives a helium filled balloon (ideally, one that has an internal light). Each student is then given a sharpie, so they can write 1 or more things they want to let go of. This could be a personal hurt, some area of sin in their lives, or something else entirely. The idea is simply that it is something they want to let go of so they can walk more closely with God. After they finish writing, we take the group outside and release the lit balloons into the night sky. It is a powerful visual and a great New Year’s activity. It really helps encourage students to start the New Year fresh, as they seek to walk more closely with God. 


Stephanie Riebe is one of the student ministries directors at Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.

My co-director will roll his eyes when he reads this sentence but I love a good ol’ New Years Eve lock-in/party with our students. We’ve had different opportunities for our teens on New Years Eve over the past couple of years—sometimes a parent pick up after watching the ball drop and sometimes the all nighter filled with cleaning up spilled 2 liters of soda in the carpet and 3am rounds of the game underground church. There’s just something that resonates with my sentimental side as a full time youth director that loves starting a new year looking around a room filled with teenagers. Watching their faces as they kick off a new year together and praying for the Lord’s direction, vision and protection over these precious students and the ones God will lead into the doors of our ministry in the year to come. So…call me cheesy, I’ll claim the title when it comes to kicking off a new year with a New Years Eve lock-in. It’s always a win with the parents too…as long as I’m not calling them to chaperone.


Shawn Breeden is the Youth and Worship Pastor at South Main Church in Roswell, NM. 

I love New Years Eve because it is one of the rare occasions students are naturally thinking (a little) into their futures.  Without over-reaching, I try to capitalize on this by having a time for students to respond to the question, "what do you hope happens in your life this year?"  This is surrounded by the usual New Years Activities, be that a party or lock-in or whatever.  I try to find creative methods for students to express their answers too.  A few years ago we used black-light paint on a black canvass and allowed students to share their hopes throughout the night.  This canvass was framed and hung on the wall in the youth room for the year - simply looking like an all black painting - and we came back to it about once a quarter with a black-light and talked about our hopes and what God was doing in our lives.  It was a powerful image of how God often restores hope in our lives when everything seems dark.  I love the holiday breaks from school as they provide so much time to be with students.  New Years is one of those moments.

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 22 2014 | 0 Comments

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