Just a Youth Ministry Geek!

Conversations about modern youth ministry

The Coming American Church Transition April 2, 2009

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I don’t claim to to know the future.  I’m not a prophet or psychic or anything like that.  But I think there are several murmurs throughout the American church that we need to pay attention to and what it means for us as believers here in America and especially those involved with ministry.

There is an undeniable trend today for churches to “go smaller”.

Small Groups
“House Church”
Church plants
Multi-site, etc…
In my eyes, we are in transition (and the rest of the ministry world says “duh!”)  But what are we in transition to?  Smaller churches.

I think we’re going to start seeing a lot less of the megachurch model in the next 10 to 20 years and a lot more churches under 400, maybe even smaller.

We’re going to see a lot more “lay-ministers”.  Professional ministry will start to be on the decline and people stepping up to fill leadership roles will increase.

Youth ministry will be drastically different.  Right now, youth ministry tends to be it’s own animal.  People in church know theres a youth ministry in their church, but don’t know much about it.  “It’s what they do in their youth area…” will be a thing of the past and youth ministries will start to move towards multigenerational ministry.  We HAVE to!

People are searching for community.  A place to belong.  A place where they feel like they make a difference and matter to the people around them.  Welcome to the smaller church.


Crisis Counseling part 3 January 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 5:08 pm
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For the final installment of the Crisis Counseling series, I want to talk about the most common type of counseling that youth workers encounter.  We’ll call this Counseling in the Youth Room – the times when those students approach you after the lesson or while you’re in your office or just after church on Sunday.

When students approach you with an issue, or question concerning something they’re going through, first of all take the time to thank them for coming to you.  It takes a lot of guts for a teenager to approach an adult about an issue.  AND they choose you to talk to you about it.  So that shows they trust you.

Oftentimes, the questions they ask may be the symptoms of a much larger question that they are hesitant to talk about.  So ask questions to figure out what they really want.  Try to dig deeper.  For example, they may approach you about “What to do when you’re feeling depressed…” when really, they may be struggling with self-mutilation.  You could follow up their question of “Well, what do you do when you’re feeling depressed?”  This helps steer the conversation into deeper territories.

Help guide them to do their own thinking.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it is so critical that they do the majority of the talking.  Allow them to find the answers on their own.  They may ask you a direct question, but redirecting the question to them helps them search it out and discover the answer–which in the long run makes for much more effective learning and problem solving.

Use the Bible! Scripture is full of wonderful scriptures and examples of people who need help like we do.  Point to those examples and communicate it in a way that they can understand and how it relates to them.

Give them homework, some kind of assignment that helps work through the situation. For example, a student is struggling with anger towards another student at school.  A great assignment would be for your student to write out a prayer for that particular student every day for the next week and bring it back to you.  The purpose of this is 2 fold: 1) They are living out the command of Jesus to pray for our enemies and 2) they are following through with their issues to help get them resolved.  And then you have a measuring marker to see progress!

Finally, and probably most importantly: Follow up. Either set a date to meet or make a point to ask your student the next time you see them how they are doing.  Make sure you don’t just send your students off to the wolves after a talk.  We need to make sure we follow up with them to make sure they are still on track.


The Perfect Youth Pastor December 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 4:29 pm
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Today I have the top 10 ways to be the “Perfect Youth Pastor”!

No.  I don’t.  In fact, if I was to make a top 10 list like that–it would more likely be “The Top 10 Things NOT to do”!  But I came across this great post this morning about the myth of the perfect youth pastor.  You have to give churches credit: They want to do their very best in reaching their young people.  But often times they get the wrong idea about who they want to hire for the position.

Well over at Random Thoughts from a Random Man, I came across this great entry about the myth of the perfect youth pastor.  Take some time and check it out.


Most Popular of 2008! December 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 6:01 pm
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Here are the entries that made the top 5 for 2008 here at Just a Youth Ministry Geek:

#5. The Grass Is Always Greener…I wrote this post in the midst of overcoming youth group envy!  We’ve all felt it, that time when you saw that particular church or youth group and wished you were in similar circumstances.  Don’t!

#4.  Youth Ministry on a Tight Budget. Churches today are starting to cut budgets in the face of our economic problems.  So what do you do when your budget is cut and you need resources?  Here are some suggestions.

#3.  Book Review: Youth Ministry 3.0. Mark Oestricher’s book on where youth ministry has been and where it’s going (or needs to go).  If you haven’t read it, get on it!
#2.  What’s the Big Deal About Twilight? Lots of different people have lots of different opinions when it comes to the Twilight series.  It’s a series that we will continue to have parents come and ask questions about.

#1.  Reaching Gamers Part 1. The first installment of my unfinished series.  I still plan on finishing the series!  I promise!  Gamers are a large percentage within students today.  What’s interesting is that it is made of many different tribes.  Here I give an introduction to the whole subject.

That’s the top posts for 2008!

What would you like to see for 2009?


Are You S.A.D.? December 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 3:23 pm
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SAD or seasonal affective disorder is something that I had never even heard of until I moved to Indiana. But it’s a mood disorder that affects 9% of those living in the Northern US.

SAD, according to Wikipedia: “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also known as winter depression or winter blues, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer,[1] repeatedly, year after year. The US National Library of Medicine notes that “some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and crave sweets and starchy foods. They may also feel depressed. Though symptoms can be severe, they usually clear up.”

How is it caused? Most believe by the lack of sunlight exposure. In the winter time, it’s cold, we bundle up, completely cover ourselves and move outside where there are a lot of clouds. Sunlight does a lot of things to the body chemically, and when the body lacks sunlight–we are affected.

What does this have to do with ministry?

If you’re living in the northern US, chances are there some in your congregation that have SAD. So bear these thoughts in mind as you go through the next several months of ministry and things start to creep up. Maybe there is an unusual amount of criticism. Maybe the mood of your students aren’t as “peppy” as normal. Maybe church events aren’t as attended as you had hoped. There are many other effects that SAD can have on a ministry. Don’t take it personally.

For more information on Seasonal Affective Disorder, check out some of these sites:




Less is More November 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 3:53 pm
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I’ve been greatly inspired recently by the words of Mike Yaconelli.  Wow did he have a heart for young people and youth workers!  He’s one of those guys that I wish I had the opportunity to just go and spend time with him and just talk.  To soak up the passion that he had for Jesus.

I picked up the book Getting Fired for the Glory of God, which is a collection of articles that he had written throughout the years.  There is also a DVD with some video of his closing talks from the NYWC and other audio talks.  I read it in about 2 hours and continue to go back and thumb through it to take some extra time to soak it all up.

I can’t find a single phrase that I disagree with in anything that he says.  That’s rare for me.

But it’s not my point to go on about Yaconelli, but rather to talk about the aspect of his words that impacted me the most.  Here is a quote:

“Obviously evangelism is an important goal and calling of the church.  But evangelism is not a justification for busyness, exhaustion, burnout, or the destruction of families.  Many evangelistic missionary organizations have a reputation for leaders who’ve burned themselves out on the altar of evangelism.  And then–when these charismatic , driven leaders collapse under the weight of their maddening schedules–they’re tossed aside for the next leaders who’ll also self-destruct.

Youth workers, you haven’t been called to crazy, maddening schedules.  You haven’t been called to reach every student for Christ.  You haven’t been called to fix all the kids in your youth groups.  The weight of your youth group isn’t on your shoulders.  Your calling is to be faithful to Christ and to your families–and to reach those you can.  Growth is not the gospel.  More and bigger are not fruits of the Spirit.”

It’s so easy to get all tangled up in the web of busyness and “success”.  We look around and see what other youth groups are doing and we go: “Wow!  That youth worker must have something I don’t…” and we play that comparison game and we instantly try to emulate that kind of busyness into our own ministries.

Bigger is not better!
Bigger does not equal success!
More is not better!
More does not equal success!

There is nothing wrong with a small group.  There is nothing wrong with having very little to “do” on a calendar.  Of course our churches will tell us otherwise, but who are we to aim to please in life?  The board or Jesus?  Given the choice between the 2, we should choose Jesus every single time.

If you’re struggling because you only have 2 or 3 show up to your group, be encouraged!  You have those 2 or 3 to work!  There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact you have more time and more energy to devote to those 3!  I would much rather spend my time developing 3 committed believers than managing 20 students who may or may not even want to be there.

It’s time that we called out those who demand numbers and results and started focusing on who we are in Jesus.  When we do that, everything else will fall into place.


Photo Editing on a Budget November 17, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dj @ 4:20 pm
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So you’re back from your week long mission trip in Mexico and you have 200 different pictures that you’ve taken throughout the week and you need to touch them up a little bit.  You could go and spend $500 on a photoshop program, or you could look for a much cheaper solution.  I found the following programs to be a great alternative to pricey programs that work just as well!

For those of you that are Photoshop friendly and understand how to manage layers and brushes and other things like that, try Gimp.  It’s free and has lots of add-ons and tools and brushes that are freely available for you to use!

For those of you that aren’t as knowledgeable about programs like Photoshop but want an easy way to touch up and edit your photos, check out Picnik!  Picnik is web-based so you can upload your photos and edit them from where ever you are.  You can add some really nifty effects to your pictures and it integrates with Facebook!

Both are great alternatives to expensive programs!  Check them out!