Youth Specialties Blog

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

Discussion Guide for “The Remaining”

By Youth Specialties on August 20 2014 | 0 Comments

AFFIRM films is giving away a FREE discussion guide for the new movie The Remaining­—an action-packed supernatural thriller that addresses questions of life, love, and belief against an apocalyptic backdrop. This movie is an incredible opportunity to spark conversations with the students you’re discipling. It is slated as a horror film and engaging with the film’s content requires caution, wisdom, and discernment as you mine the depths of the film’s content. Here’s a peek at the storyline:

A group of close friends gather for a wedding, but the celebration is shattered by a series of cataclysmic events and enemies foretold by biblical end-times prophecies. The survivors face a horrifying, uncertain future as they scramble for safety, but as their world collapses around them in chaos and terror, will they choose real life through faith, or just try to survive?

You can watch the official trailer HERE.  

To go along with the film, the team behind The Remaining has put together this great discussion guidethat is exclusive to our youth workers. This FREE discussion guide includes group activities, questions about the movie storyline and characters, as well as a strong list of deeper questions that will help your students think about the application for their lives.
You can download the FREE discussion guide HERE.

By Youth Specialties on August 20 2014 | 0 Comments

1Q interview: Balancing Family & Ministry

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 19 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by HomespotHQ.

More and more I hear youth workers struggling with a rhythm of life that allows them to balance their family and the needs of ministry. In this 1Q interview, I asked 3 incredible youth workers to offer some practical insight by responding to this question:

"What practical ways do you balance family and ministry?"


Brandi Manes is the Director of Youth Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Dallas, TX. 

I think balance in ministry is a difficult thing to define. When my daughter was a baby, I was constantly worried about balance and I drove myself crazy! I felt guilty at work because I wasn’t with her, and I felt guilty at home because I needed to be working. I spent so much time worrying about balance that I wasn’t giving my best to any of my roles. Ministry ebbs and flows with the seasons, the days, the minutes. Family and personal time does, too. So instead of worrying about balance (and essentially adding it as one more thing on my to-do list) I have found that the key is to be fully present where I am, wherever that may be. When I’m on a mission trip with a bunch of middle school students, I am all in with the hammers and the drama and the midnight snacks. When I’m with my daughter playing the chef/superhero/swimming game she made up that day, I enthusiastically wear the hat and the cape and the flippers. Some days will be heavy on the ministry side and some days will be heavy on the family side, so in the midst of all of it I try to give myself some grace. I won’t do it perfectly. But I know that it’s good for my ministry when my personal time is fulfilling, and I know it’s good for my family for me to do a job I’m passionate about.

Matt Fogle is the Student Ministry Pastor at Eastview Christian Church in Normal, IL.

I asked a older/wiser/better looking believer that very question this past month and he said, "Balance?!? Are you kidding me? I'm just trying to keep it between the ditches!" I personally "keep it between the ditches" by setting firm sabbath days and daily habits with my family and then allow ministry to fill in the gaps. Fridays and Saturdays are my days off and my wife Jen and I call those our Fogle Family Fun days. We go with our two kids and massive dog to parks, splash pads, meals with friends, museums, etc. Playing together weekly is important to us in our rhythm as a family. One of our holy habits as a family is set bed time routines. We read the Bible, tell stories, laugh together, and then my wife and I pray before we fall asleep together. I say "no" to a lot of ministry opportunities in order to say "yes" to my family and I know looking back decades from now I won't regret that!  

Brian Aaby is the Director of YS Search and YS Coaching for Youth Specialties. 

Oh the irony of being asked this question, this week…

The question: “What practical ways do you balance family and ministry?” The confession: I thought I knew. I had the answers. I was wrong!

Just this week my wife and I had the 10 p.m. until 12:30 a.m. conversation about this very subject. In reality, the discussion itself is the answer.  We just were not on the same page… I think ministry had distracted us just enough to accidentally grab two different playbooks. Communication, which is a strong-suit in the Aaby home had become the Achilles’ heel. So, we got back to the basics, and here’s where I’ll get practical for anyone reading.

- We do a “check-in” on Sunday night. We compare schedules, talk strategies with our kids and most importantly pray together as a couple.
- Make dates a priority. I love having stuff to look forward to on the schedule, well, so do my wife and kids. So I schedule dates with each of them individually (and often).
- Where you are, be there. In order to do this (and especially for protecting family time as family time) I deleted Facebook from my iPhone, we don’t have our phones at the dinner table, etc.

Thanks for the ironically timed wake-up call. My family appreciates it! 

By Jacob Eckeberger on August 19 2014 | 0 Comments

5 Keys to Effective Campus Ministry

By Youth Specialties on August 17 2014 | 3 Comments

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

Original photo by Kevin Dooley.

Ah, the school campus. It is the ultimate aspiration of Youth Ministry.

Funny isn’t it? We spend the whole time we are in school counting the days until we get out, and now you would do almost anything to get in.

The fact is however, there is no single greater concentration of lost students anywhere other than the campus. This only helps to magnify the importance of effective campus ministry in your community.

So, how do you really do campus ministry effectively? Where do you start? Here are five keys to effective campus ministry:

Find the gatekeeper

Every School has a gatekeeper.  Generally speaking it is the first person you see when you walk into the school office. The gatekeeper controls who gets where and what goes where. You must really work to build a relationship with the gatekeeper or you will never make it past the office. Every time I go, I take something for them (Dropping of donuts, a Starbucks gift card, Pizza, etc.). It doesn’t have to be something big. Just something that says, “thank you for all you do here at this school and in this community.”

Be... dare I say professional

This should go without saying, but I see so many Youth Pastors who do not do this. Walking in arrogantly, playing the part of the “cool Youth Pastor,” in cargo shorts and a dirty t-shirt, doesn’t really say “you can trust me.”

Look like a bum, and you will be treated like a bum. I am not saying you need to go in a three piece suit either. Just brush your hair (if you have hair) and dress how you want to be treated. I also stay clear of Youth Ministry branded t-shirts, polo shirts, etc.

Be a Servant not a Salesman

Seek to serve first. And genuinely serve. Look for opportunities to serve and help. Offer to do the things no one wants to do. Do so without expectations or a sales pitch for your ministry. Every school has opportunities for you to serve. Sometimes you just have to get creative.

Many people will be somewhat skeptical and defensive toward you. Acting from a posture of humility and genuineness goes a long way in earning trust as well.

Never, ever say “no”

When the school asks for help with something, do your very best to find a way to make it happen. Those moments may be few and far between, especially in the beginning stages of your campus ministry. Allowing the school to see you meet a need, and that you are able to be trusted to actually follow through and help, goes further than you can realize.

Be consistent

Stay at it! Continue to look for opportunities to serve. Continue to build the relationship with the gatekeeper. When the Lord opens a door for other relationships, be aware and continue to build on those as well. Effective campus ministry takes a long time to build. Most Youth Pastors fail at it, because they give up too early.

What about you? What things are keeping you from doing campus ministry effectively? I would love to hear how you are doing it well also.


 Jody Livingston is the Youth Pastor at Kennesaw First Baptist Church in Kennesaw, Georgia where he oversees Middle School and High School ministries. He has been married to his lovely life for 14 years, has four kids and drives a pretty sweet 1972 VW Beetle.  He blogs at and can be found on twitter @jodylivingston.

By Youth Specialties on August 17 2014 | 3 Comments

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