Youth Worker

Ministry progression: Thoughts from the spring.

The following are my speaking notes from a one-day conference we hold at The Peoples Church called Reaching High. This past year we broke up the main session and split it into three and covered the life of a child that would go through a ministry from birth to college. The goal was to equip and encourage the Life Group leaders by teaching them that what they do matters in the life of our kids and families. We tracked the child from children’s ministry and into a jr. High ministry and finally into youth ministry. We as presenters focused on three main questions:

  1. Children’s Ministry – What do I believe?
  2. Jr. High Ministry – Who do I believe I am?
  3. Youth Ministry –    Why do I believe what I believe? and How do I show it?

Each child asks these questions in their respected ministries, but the interesting thing about kids in ministry is that each child is at a different place in their spiritual understanding. You could have a new believer in youth ministry that is asking the basic question “What do I believe to be true?” We placed that question as the defining question in children’s ministry because we would like our grade 6 students that leave our ministry to know what the Bible says is true and to understand God’s plan of restoration. However any new believer will start by asking the same question, “What do I believe?” We decided that if we looked at the progression of ministries as a straight line it would mean that without knowing it we saw spiritual growth as having an end point. A line eventually has to end.

Ministry Graph 1

As you can see children’s ministry has a child for about 11-12 years followed by two years of jr. high and another 4-5 years of high school and then they are done. A linear perspective also speaks to the fact that the leaders in each of these areas is finished when the child passes into the next ministry. This leadership is what causes students to fall through the cracks.

We proposed a different type of ministry model. A more circular look at a child’s life from beginning to end. This is where I will let me notes take over. Enjoy!

Ministry Graph 2

Let’s start with how many church’s view birth to college ministries. One linear line and you are lucky if the children’s pastor and the youth pastor even agree with 80% of what they do. What is even more dangerous is that if we view spiritual progression as one straight line from birth to college we are doing our students a huge injustice.


So let’s talk about how we want to move forward.


I don’t think that all of the circles are ever entirely separated. They all lead in and out of each other. However, our focus changes. For example when a child is heading out of children’s ministry and heading into Jr. High the question shifts to what does the gospel teach us about Jesus to what does the gospel tell me about my role in God’s plan.


The key question for Jr. High will be that of identity.


How do I identify my life within God’s ultimate plan of restoration. We need to give these kids the opportunity to experience a God that is huge while they feel super small.


Part of the Jr. High dilemma is that these students need to be told what God sees in them. What God sees in them becomes visible when we take the time to use affirming words that showcase God given talent within them.


As students begin to navigate out of the What do I believe phase we need to capture their attention through a compelling story of a God that is present in their lives. If a student enters Jr. High looking at who they are without knowing who God is our world is way to loud for them to make clear and correct decisions.


In Jr. High social media has produced a mentality that they have to create moments in their lives to generate likes on their social media sites. There is a pressure to perform and out do peers in those moments. (We will talk more about that in my session)


When we have done our job in Jr. High and showed the students how to experience a God that is alive in their life through engaging stories we can start to move them towards the next question – How do I use these gifts to live out the gospel message in my life outside these walls. I am not saying that students don’t ask this question earlier, I am  simply saying that as they round out their Jr. High years they will enter into this. Faith becomes their responsibility.

The end goal of this model was that the child would work their way through our ministries asking the questions that are relevant to their exact needs. Our goal as leaders would be to allow these students the opportunity to ask these questions and we would help guide them to the sweet spot where all our ministries intersect. That would be the home. Our goal is that the students begin to act out their faith at home, in their school and into their adult years.

Ministry Graph 3


Book Review – Parenting Beyond Your Capacity by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Parenting Beyond Your Capacity

by Reggie Joiner and Carey Nieuwhof

Oftentimes, parenting can be a struggle full of love. Rather than being another “how-to be a better parent” book, Parenting Beyond Your Capacity focuses on how parents can fortify their parenting capacity by engaging their family in God’s story to the world. Parenting Beyond Your Capacity also has a wealth of helpful insights for those who are hoping to be parents one day, those who are preparing to soon be parents, for grand-parents, those who work with parents, have friends that are parents, or for those that are influencers in children’s lives.

The core of the book is divided into five key family values.

1)      Widen the circle

2)      Imagine the end

3)      Fight for the heart

4)      Create a rhythm

5)      Make it personal

Biblically based from Deuteronomy 6, the values and verses work hand-in-hand. Moses discusses in Deuteronomy 6 that God intended for family and faith-community alike that it takes a village mentality to raise spiritually-healthy children. Through this partnership of family and community mentors, God’s bigger story begins to unfold:

“Your children one day will seek affirmation and approval from adults other than you. Either you can become intentional about enlisting other trusted adults to influence your kids, or you can depend only on your limited capacity. You can leave them alone to discover random influences who will shape their character and faith, or you can help them protectively pursue strategic relationships for their lives.”

If our kids engage Christ with genuine and excited hearts, there is an even better chance that the family relationship can be used to witness to other friends and family – to a world that yearns to be restored. Honorable mention: There is no guilt trip regarding your parenting skills. The authors’ hope is to share the concept that the goal of parenting is not to impress others with your amazing parenting skills, but it is to instill within your children the love and nature of God.

Are You Growing?

I am currently reading Master Leaders by George Barna and it has me hooked after the first few chapters. If you are in a leadership position in any capacity you should read this book. It is a conversation with 30 top leaders covering sixteen keys that suggest successful leadership throughout your team. I am usually skeptical regarding “steps to leadership” material, but this reads more like a straight up conversation jumping back and forth between each leaders thoughts on each topic. Anyways, I will post a review once it is done but for now I am re-posting a couple of old articles that got deleted when I switched from Mobile Me to WordPress a couple of months ago. These posts are from this past year’s Leadership Summit.

“When a leader stops learning they should stop leading” – Bill Hybels 

This statement summed up the main goal behind these two days for me: What can I learn and implement into my life and ministry roles to grow my leadership qualities? The two day long Global Leadership Summit was quite possible the best two days of teaching that I have ever got out of any conference that I have attended. The blending of practical leadership strategies, challenges to creative thought processes and spiritual enrichment with a blending of encouragement is what set these two days apart.

The first session was a practical leadership assessment talk from Bill Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. I think the quote above cannot be more true for today’s leaders. As a leader it is our responsibility to always be on the lookout for ways to make our ministries more dynamic, more efficient towards our vision and always seeking relevance. My favorite way to do this is by reading and learning from those that challenge, encourage and sometimes I disagree with. I was extremely challenged when I visited Willow in the summer and sat in their Jr. HIgh auditorium and just took in the space. However, when I returned I felt more energetic and driven to give more to Jr. High Ministry. Do I want to copy what Willow does in their Elevate Ministry? No, that isn’t possible in my context, but I learned what I could do with space and ideas for small group breakdowns. I learned from a ministry that challenges me ministry wise. Leaders lose touch with their tribe (see Seth Godin’s book Tribes), when they stop learning. Meaning, that leaders lose track of the vision, goals and relevance of the ministries they are leading if they stop learning. How can you lead a tribe if you lose track of changes in culture, context and the creative possibilities that are available for your ministry. The only way to keep up to speed is to be continually learning, reading about how to grow as a leader.

I have included my notes and questions from Bill Hybels’ opening address at this years #GLSCDN (This link will take you to the Twitter feed from the event and it stands for Global Leadership Summit Canada).

1) What is your current leadership challenge level at work?

a) Under Challenged

b) Dangerously Over-Challenged

c) Appropriately Challenged

If you are under challenged, what can you add that gets you into the “Optimized Zone?” 

If you are “Dangerously Over-Challenged” what can you take away to get you into the “Optimized Zone?”

 The “Optimized Zone” is found slightly above “Appropriately Challenged,” but below “Dangerously Over-Challenged.” 

The Discipline of Replenishment 

What are you doing to replenish your leadership bucket?

How are you growing as a leader?

Who do you look to for mentorship, or advice to grow your ministry?

Are you revisiting your vision statement?

We must take our leadership positions and replenish our tired visions and goals and replenish them when we feel burned out. How do you replenish yourself when you get burned out?

What are you doing to find out where your departments see themselves on the chart?

What do under-challenged people do?

       They leave. 

2) What is your plan for dealing with challenging people in your organization?

– how do you figure out who your challenging people are?

The line exercise

– put the people in order on a line of who you would keep

– the people at the end of the line – are they pulling their weight

Are we avoiding tough questions and conversations with the people at the end of the line?

Field and develop a team of fantastic people to serve a fantastic God

     You need to attract and develop these people. 

Types of Challenging People

Fantastic Fred – pain

   Lost his joy and is spreading his displeasure

   How long would you give them in your organization? – 30 days (Bill Hybels’ Suggestion)

“Your first bad day is your last day.” – Interesting concept

How hard is it to personally pull yourself away from that pain without being coached through it?

Start the conversation with your team member when you see a habit forming.

How do you handle under-performers?

Are they worth their hire?

Start the conversation at the beginning of the pattern

3 month conversation

Agony – Growth of the organization requires someone greater in that department for growth. They don’t have the talent elasticity for the growth.

No one challenges anyone over a values decision.

With this challenging person the perception of change by outside people becomes even more of a challenge. They aren’t bad people they just can’t grow into the leadership role you need them to take.

6-12 month conversation (move departments is a possibility)

If you don’t deal with people with challenges you drag down the rest of the team. 

Challenging people are deep down not happy people. 

How do you foster good culture in your workplace?

3) Are you naming, facing, and resolving the problems that your organization is facing?

Nothing rocks forever.”

Acts 2-4 – Are we open to changing our ways after evaluating our current state?

Peter said, “Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.” (Acts 2:38-39 The Message)

Now it’s time to change your ways! Turn to face God so he can wipe away your sins, pour out showers of blessing to refresh you, and send you the Messiah he prepared for you, namely, Jesus. For the time being he must remain out of sight in heaven until everything is restored to order again just the way God, through the preaching of his holy prophets of old, said it would be. Moses, for instance, said, ‘Your God will raise up for you a prophet just like me from your family. Listen to every word he speaks to you. Every last living soul who refuses to listen to that prophet will be wiped out from the people.’ (Acts 3:19-23)

If you are evaluating your ministry to see if it is rocking, or tanking try to put the following ministry areas on the following image?




Student Ministry?



Justice and Social Issues?


Where would those topics end up on your ministry chart?

What can you do to get these in a better lifecycle position?

What other ministry areas can you put into the chart?

4) When was the last time you re-examined the core of the ministry?

The churches core is changing people towards a biblical worldview.

They are in the business of Human Transformation.

This is a great way to evaluate your ministry vision. This will also work as a way to see how your team sees the vision of the ministry you are involved in.


Draw a circle and in the circle write five words that represent the core of your ministry. There can be no hyphenated words either.


What best describes the good news of Jesus Christ?

What best describes the core of your ministry, or organization?


These are the examples for representing the Gospel.

i) love

ii) evil – it’s easy to discern evil out there,but what about in your heart?

iii) rescue

iv) choice

v) restore


5)Have you had your leadership bell rung recently?


Leaders usually don’t read, or learn without having their world rocked. 

Are you making excuses instead of moving forward. 

“I need my boldness back.”

Do you want your next five years to be your best years?

    Our group had a great talk on this idea of the five years. What if you did this for other areas of your life?


Raising our children, etc.

What would our lives look like if we always strived for the best five years of our life?


Social Media As Our Third Place.

I have started to read Onward by Howard Shultz and I am loving it. I think I am two chapters in and I have about four posts already to go. So, here is the first.

It all started with a question.

How much is too much when it comes to social media?

When teenagers can access Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr wherever they go, does it at some point overtake some key relational moments in their life?

If home is the primary or “first place” where a person connects with others, and if work is a person’s “second place,” then a public space such as a coffeehouse – such as Starbucks – is what I have always referred to as the “third place.” A social yet personal environment between one’s house and job, where people can connect with others and reconnect with themselves. From the beginning, Starbucks set out to provide just such an invaluable opportunity. … the Starbucks Experience – personal connection – is an affordable necessity. We are all hungry for community. – Onward pg. 13

Before I go on to the connection between this passage from Onward and social media, I would like to point out that the church can fill that “third place” when community building becomes an intentional focus point between the church, the families and the individuals that meet there each week. However, coffeehouses have become the stronger “third place” because people meet there more than once a week.

Okay, so back to social media.

We have the “first place” which is our homes. Here, is where families eat together, laugh together and grow together.

Next, our work place, or “second place.” Community is built between yourself and co-workers. This is where we typically spend the majority of the work week, our 9-5 if you will. For students, their school becomes their “second place.”

Our “third place” is any place that is not your home, or work. Where do you go to unwind? It could be the library, church, coffeehouse, etc. Their needs to be some kind of community happening here, but this is where renewal needs to happen.

This is the balance between home, work, or school and our reconnecting point. Each one provides us with an unique community opportunity and each “place” provides us with a renewal of self.

However, we are now finding community outside of these three “places.” Our relationships are now being formed and acted out without the aid of any of these “places.” Social Networks like Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are now pushing the boundaries on how we build and act within our communities.

The question we need to ask ourselves is, how much is too much?

Can true community be built through social media?

We have to figure out how to use social media within community, so that it does not take over or take the place of one of these places. If social media becomes the focal point, then it encompasses all three areas. Social media defines our relationships and dictates how we interact with everyone.

Too much social media in our life replaces connection and replaces it with words. Actions are replaced with tweets and meetings are replaced with status updates. Social media can also take over as our third place.

Where does your renewal happen if you remove your “third place?”

Think of all the times that Jesus just needed a couple of minutes alone so that He could reconnect with God and spend a few moments in silence and solitude. Our “third place” is what gives us the opportunity for time just like that. It is a renewal of mind, body and soul. Jesus would remove Himself from His disciples, remove Himself from the synagogue and public squares where He addressed the people, so that He could enter into another relationship and speak with God.

While it was still night, way before dawn, he got up and went out to a secluded spot and prayed. (Mark 1:35 MSG)

When Jesus got the news, he slipped away by boat to an out-of-the-way place by himself. But unsuccessfully—someone saw him and the word got around. Soon a lot of people from the nearby villages walked around the lake to where he was. (Matthew 14:13 MSG)

With the crowd dispersed, he climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night. (Matthew 14:23 MSG)

36Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane and told his disciples, “Stay here while I go over there and pray.” 37Taking along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he plunged into an agonizing sorrow. 38Then he said, “This sorrow is crushing my life out. Stay here and keep vigil with me.”

39Going a little ahead, he fell on his face, praying, “My Father, if there is any way, get me out of this. But please, not what I want. You, what do you want?” (Matthew 26:36-39 MSG)

At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him. (Mark 1:12-13 MSG)

This is only a small sampling of the times Jesus would go off for a little alone time to refresh Himself.

I have begun to ask some bigger questions about social media and how it may change how we define and understand true community.

If Facebook becomes our “third” community, what are the consequences?

If Facebook is how we build community, do we really hear and feel the hurt of the hurting?

If social media becomes our “third place,” do we ever get below the surface level of our lives?

Social media has its role in all three “places” in our lives, but it should not overtake any of them. It can help grow the family place as we share pictures, connect with kids away at university, and share what we are up to. However, it does not take the place of family movie nights, family dinners and family vacations. Those are the community moments that will be forever remembered.

Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are all set up to share info in a community-like setting because we all want to connect with someone. We long for relationships because that is what we were created to do. Adam needed Eve and from that point on, humanity lived in relationship with one another. How much social media is too much? Too much is when community and relationships are neglected and replaced with social media. Social media sites are not a community in and of themselves, but they help you maintain and stay connected with the communities to which you belong.

One.Day Underestimated for Youth Workers

I am very excited to be sharing the next big event for Underestimated. We have partnered with Doxa and Youth Unlimited to bring in Chris Tompkins from Muskoka Woods to lead a discussion on the developmental processes of jr. high and high school students. You can RSVP to the event here.

The day will be a four hour intensive on Youth Ministry for only $10. This will be a great day for training youth workers (jr.high/high school workers), as well as a great opportunity for your whole student ministries team to learn together as well as break down what you discuss in the facilitated groups that are specified to jr. high and high school workers.

Come experience One.Day of encouragement and practical youth ministry training together while discovering the basic tools needed to wrap up your ministry year.

Understanding Youth Development: by Chris Tompkins

Guiding us through the “ages & stages” of Youth Development. Exploring the body, mind, emotions and social dynamics of youth and how they each can change like a whirl wind.

Adolescence is a period of time marked by significant growth and development.  The body, mind, emotions, and social dynamics of young people are going through a whirlwind of change.  As youth workers, we get this as we see it happen on a weekly basis.  Some nights it even feels like puberty is happening right in front of our eyes.  Have you ever shown up to run an event and not recognized a youth because they have grown two feet since the last youth night?    

How much do we really know about the human development of 12-18 year old students?  Does our programming  work against the power of nature or are we using our knowledge of “ages and stages” to accomplish our ministry goals?  Do we have unrealistic expectations of our young people?  Do we “underestimate” what is possible because we think they are “too young”?  In this session, we investigate a number of developmental realities for today’s young people and wrestle with the implications for our ministry programs and outcomes.

Facilitated Break Out Groups: how to program effectively based on youth developmental realties, how to communicate messy spirituality, how to integrate “ages & stages” into your overall ministry goals and outcomes.

If you would like to pre-purchase your tickets for your ministry team you can do so through EventBrite by clicking the logo below.

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