Youth Specialties Blog

Trending This Week (Dec 5)

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 04 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include prayer station ideas for advent, ideas for how you can care for volunteers that you inherit, a conversation on immigration, looking at how you have conscious conversations, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Stephen Ingram (@StephenLIngram) wrote about attracting and keeping adult volunteers - CLICK TO VIEW

Matt Larkin (@MattWLarkin) shared some great ideas for involving students in the advent experience - CLICK TO VIEW

We looked back at NYWC Atlanta and recapped 3 big ideas from the weekend - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Brian Kirk wrote some great ideas for Advent Prayer Stations - CLICK TO VIEW

Justin Knowles (@justinknowles3) shared from his experience of inheriting a volunteer team - CLICK TO VIEW

Art Bramford from Fuller Youth Institute (@FullerFYI) continued their Via Media discussion with "Responding to Pornography" - CLICK TO VIEW

Terry Linhart (@TerryLinhart) wrote a great post on "Immigration: The USA is Still The Land of Opportunity, Especially For Ministries" - CLICK TO VIEW 

Brooklyn Lindsey (@BrooklynLindsey) pointed us to Gordana Biernat's post with an incredible framework for what makes up "Conscious Conversations" - CLICK TO VIEW

Tim McKnight (@drtimmcknight) shared some good ideas in "Eight Steps to Managing Your Time in Youth Ministry" - CLICK TO VEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Jaden Smith tweets sung by an opera singer - CLICK TO VIEW

Ten Second Songs covers "All I Want For Christmas Is You” in 20 different styles - CLICK TO VIEW

If George Lucas had edited the new Star Wars trailer - CLICK TO VIEW

A sleeping puppy wakes up to sing along with Frozen’s “Let It Go” - CLICK TO VIEW

This company is taking the Ugly Christmas Sweater to the next level by making Ugle Christmas Suits… and it’s totally real - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on December 04 2014 | 0 Comments

Utilizing Youth Ministry’s Number One Treasure

By Youth Specialties on December 02 2014 | 1 Comments

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

Original photo by Barbara L. Slavin.

One of the most common ailments that I encounter in youth ministries across the country is the problem of attracting volunteers. No matter the denomination, region, size of church, or city, youth ministers have the common problem of meeting their volunteer quotas. While the problem is common, the surface reasons vary from church to church:

     - Parents don’t want to work with their youth

     - There aren’t enough young adults/college students

     - The few volunteers who do help are burned out—and no one is replacing them

     - Youth workers don’t want to pressure adults too much—they’re really busy

     - Or the adults will mess up what we’re doing, even if they want to help

     - Youth workers think they can do it themselves

More times than not, it’s a combination of many things, not usually the least of which is the general reluctance of the youth minister. Jesus talked directly about this. Do you remember when he talked about not casting pearls in front of swine? See, the problem in the parable is that pigs do not care about the intrinsic value of pearls. They disregard them and continue doing what they’re doing.

For so many years in youth ministry, I was a pig. There were parents who would volunteer, stick around late on a Wednesday, and even give very helpful suggestions.  So many times I would just take them for granted, think I knew more, and disregard them. I was a fool. I kicked aside one of the greatest treasures in youth ministry: parents and adults who care.

The lesson? Don’t be a pig. 

Three “Attractions” of Youth Ministry for Adults

Some of you might want to call me on this already. You’re thinking to yourself, “The only things I hear from parents are petty complaints and a lot of ‘never good enough.’”

You might be right and I do understand that—I used to hear my fair share of it too.  But, when I look back, I realize that some of that was my fault. I wasn’t making the ministry attractive. When I first started in youth ministry, I thought I was a purest. I believed that ministry should not have to be attractional and that people should just want to work with our students.

The reality is that everyone, including you and me, have a million things that are constantly pulling at us, askig for one more glance, one more dollar, one more second of attention. Each of us wants to invest ourselves in things that matter and things that are truly worth our time. Babysitting a bunch of unruly teenagers is not on the top of your or my bucket list, and I can guarantee that it’s also not on the top of the list of any adult in your church. 

What’s that you say? It’s more than baby-sitting? It’s an opportunity to pour into their lives? It’s as rewarding to you as it is to them? 

Great. Now you’re on the right track—and that’s attractional.


There are no adults who will get excited about just being a warm body in a room. If you want good quality adults, then you to have good quality jobs with real expectations. Adults are just as, if not more, nervous than the kids. It’s hard to step into a room with 30 junior highers and not know a single one of them. It makes it a lot easier to step into that room if you have a defined job that you can go and do, and then create and work on relationships within that structure.

We have to help adults understand themselves as co-ministers in the student ministries that we run. They have to realize that they have even more ownership and buy in than we as youth ministers do. It’s their church, their kids, and their ministry—we’re simply partners who get to come alongside the church to curate the ministry that God has called us to do.

So, help parents and adults understand the youth ministry and their place within it. Help empower them to own the ministries in which they are involved. Help them be exactly what God is calling them to be; mentors, leaders, disciples, and ministers. 

Enlisting in a Movement

As you’re engaging these adults, make sure they know what they’re getting involved with. We should never be asking our adults to be drivers, dinner server,s or small group leaders. Those are tasks. No one needs more tasks. We have to understand and make sure our adults understand that they’re not volunteering to do a task—they’re enlisting in a movement.

If you’re having a hard time getting others to come and co-minister with you, you might want to take a step back and figure out if you’re running a youth program or if you’re leading a movement. Movements exist to change, to push forward, and to create systemic footprints. Programs take up space.

Now please hear me: Even a movement requires organization and good communication to grow. So don’t use the idea of a movement to be sloppy.  A movement calls others to its purpose and encourages and empowers others to do their part and to lead in their own ways. Movements are exciting , fresh, and innovative. Jesus led a movement.

And your adults and students want to be a part of a movement, something that is bigger than themselves. So, enlist them and give them that opportunity.    

Stephen Ingram is the Director of Student Ministries at Canterbury United Methodist Church in Birmingham, AL, a coach with Youth Ministry Architects, and author of "Hollow Faith and [extra] Ordinary Time."

By Youth Specialties on December 02 2014 | 1 Comments

Involving Students in the Advent Experience

By Youth Specialties on December 01 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 Matt. 

Original photo by Mario Sormann.

One thing that’s awesome about being in a small church setting is that there are often a lot of opportunities to get your students involved with the broader ministry of the church. Because many small churches lack in manpower, there are holes to fill, and many small churches are more than willing to utilize the youth group.

Now, when I first started out in youth ministry, I saw this as a bit of a curse. But, as I’ve matured, I’ve come to recognize what a great opportunity this really presents. This is because, while youth group is awesome, students NEED opportunities to interact with and contribute to, the broader Body of Christ. It’s healthy, and its vital if you want to see your students grow into mature adult followers of Jesus.

The Opportunity of the Advent Season

The Advent season can sometimes be one of the best opportunities to engage your students, because churches are often looking for special ways to celebrate and observe this amazing event in human history.

Granted, many of the activities that churches have going on can be overwhelming and can make you and your students far too busy. But, if handled properly, the opportunity to participate in and contribute to the church’s Advent activities can be a great experience for your students. Here are a few ideas that may help you get the ball rolling as you work through these next few weeks.

Advent Readings

Many churches do Advent readings. We’ve all seen it. Someone from the congregation will get up and recite a Scripture passage or specially prepared reading, and will then light a candle in the Advent wreath. This could be a great opportunity for your students to participate in your church’s Advent experience. Very often, especially in small churches, it is impossible to find people to do the readings, and individuals are often picked (almost) on the spot.

If you’d like to take this one up a notch, you may even consider asking for the opportunity for each student who participates to share (if they are willing) a bit on what the week’s theme means to them. This will not only give your students a great opportunity to participate, but will also give some of the adults in your church the opportunity to see the hearts of your students on display. That can be a good thing.

Service Opportunities

Additionally, many churches look for different ways to serve the community around them in special ways during the Christmas season. This can be anything from delivering fruit baskets to the elderly, to serving at a homeless shelter. This type of service offers a great reminder of exactly why Jesus came in the first place, to serve us. He is after all, the one who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:7)

Getting your students involved will provide a great teaching opportunity for you as a youth worker, and will allow your students to see some older Christians in action, following the example of Jesus, as they serve alongside them. If your church doesn’t do something like this, perhaps you can help get it started.

Instead of doing a bunch of your own stuff, join your church in their stuff!

When you’re a one-man army, it can be hard not to get overwhelmed during the holiday season. So, rather than kill yourself planning a bunch of big stuff for your students that they may not have time to participate in anyway, why not use it as an opportunity to encourage your students to join the rest of your church in what they’re doing to observe this Advent season? Not only will it save you time you may not have, but it may also give your students an opportunity to contribute to the broader body of Christ. And, if you’re intentional about how you handle it, these opportunities may deepen your church’s Advent experience, as they have the opportunity to see the hearts of your students on display. Now really… how great would that be?

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 01 2014 | 0 Comments

NYWC Atlanta Recap

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 30 2014 | 0 Comments

We are so thankful to have spent a weekend with our incredible family of youth workers at NYWC Atlanta! When I think back over that time, there were tons of ideas but 3 seemed to stick out to me...

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.

Mark Matlock shared this as one of 5 reasons the church needs youth ministry during the opening Big Room session and helped me refocus my thoughts around the greater purpose of youth work. We know it's not easy to walk with students through the mental, social, and spiritual developements that come with adolescence. But youth ministry gives the church an opportunity to embrace that time when God is doing something special in the lives of teens. By walking with students through that process, youth ministry creates room for students to belong within the greater intergenerational faith community and empowers teens to act as a vital part of the mission of the church. 


The great joy of youth ministry comes in those moments when we get to see the miracle of Jesus illuminate the lives of students.

What a beautiful reminder from Chris Hill! All the lock-ins, the coffees, summer camps, the weekly (sometimes daily) emotional rollercoaster, the extra hours of work, and the constant care involved in youth ministry suddenly comes into perspective when Jesus illuminates the lives of our students. This became a huge theme in the conversations I had with youth workers throughout the weekend. We needed to remember those moments and to retell the stories of those students. It brought such encouragement and life into our conversations around ministry. 


If the church's picture of God isn't big enough... 
it just becomes a selfie.

Kenda Creasy Dean closed out the weekend with a powerful message about the labor pains that the church is currently feeling. The church is in the midst of some monumental changes and Kenda encouraged us to take it as an opportunity to reexamine our picture of God. Is it too small? Is our picture of God focused just on what we think we need or want? As youth workers, we have a unique opportunity to empower students to help create the new future that God has for the church. By investing in the lives of our students and drawing them into the intergenerational community of faith, they can be a vital part of expanding our picture of God.


Check out the Sunday Highlight video for more of a glimpse into the weekend:

Anytime we gather with our NYWC family, we know there are some youth workers that just aren't able to make it. So if you missed NYWC this year, mark your calendar for next year...

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 30 2014 | 0 Comments

Thank You Youth Leaders

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 26 2014 | 1 Comments

There couldn't have been a better way for us to start Thanksgiving week than with our NYWC family in Atlanta. It was such an incredible time connecting with each other, catching up on life, and finding encouragement and inspiration for the next year of ministry.

We were reminded once again how thankful we are for youth leaders. Every moment you spend caring for students makes a difference. The energy you pour into building relationships creates a safe place for God to speak to students and for them to respond. All the lock-ins, the retreats, late-night ice cream runs, sleepless weeks of camp, and the emotion-filled times of being with students in the most difficult moments of life are all a part of something amazing... God illuminating the hearts and minds of students who will change the world.

That's why youth leaders are our heroes. What you do matters and we can't thank you enough. 

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at YS!

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 26 2014 | 1 Comments

Stuff to Help You Catch Up

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 24 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Ginny

We had a BLAST with you at NYWC in Atlanta last week! Since you took the time to hang out with us, we asked our good friends at Download Youth Ministry if they had some resources that might help you get caught up this week. They put together over $50 worth of awesome stuff FREE for you to use! Check them out...

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 24 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending This Week (Nov 21)

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 20 2014 | 0 Comments

Every Friday we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a reminder to have real-life conversations with students, embracing our students' brokenness, addressing the pride in our ministry, thoughts on why you would stay at a church, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Mark Matlock (@MarkMatlock) shares a "Theological Understanding For Youth Ministry" - CLICK TO VIEW

Beth Slevcove talks about the importance of spiritual direction: "Why Spiritual Direction?" - CLICK TO VIEW

3 incredible youth workers share their Favorite Advent Ideas - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Amy Jacober (@AmyJacober) reminds us about building relationships in person: "Turn It Off and Have a Real Conversation" - CLICK TO VIEW

Andy Blanks (@AndyBlanks) wrote a great post on "Embracing Our Students' Brokenness" - CLICK TO VIEW

Joe Garrison (@JoeGGarrison) talked about "The Pride in our Ministry" CLICK TO VIEW 

Jen Bradbury (@ymjen) offers her thoughtful perspective on being committed to your church: "Why'd You Stay?" - CLICK TO VIEW

Brooklyn Lindsey (@BrooklynLindsey) shared a great post on "How Spiritual Formation Leads Teens To Christ Caues" - CLICK TO VEW

Hashtags To Follow

This week is the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta, GA. Catch up on all the youth ministry wisdom in a convenient 140 characters by following the hashtag #NYWC - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

It might be fake, but it’s still funny… Church band guitarist flips out during a song - CLICK TO VIEW

Kids get covered in paint and try to deny it - CLICK TO VIEW

A tiny hamster having a tiny Thanksgiving - CLICK TO VIEW

"I’m All About That Baste” a Thanksgiving parody - CLICK TO VIEW

How to not pronounce Worcestershire sauce - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on November 20 2014 | 0 Comments

Page 2 of 298 pages  < 1 2 3 4 >  Last ›