Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The 9 Month Mission Trip - Episode 1

Students in western Pennsylvana are reaching their schools in some creative ways! Check it out here!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why We Work Together #10: Because Our Students Need Inspired and Equipped

I work for a youth ministry network - we facilitate churches working together to reach teenagers for Christ. We assume, hopefully correctly, that students are being discipled in their churches and so the emphasis of our network is on evangelism. We believe that there are two big things that church youth ministries need to do together -

1) equip, inspire, and challenge Christian teenagers to share their faith and
2) provide opportunities for them to do so.

On that first objective, eight youth pastors from various churches in Greensburg, Pennsylvania sponsored a student evangelism conference back on Saturday, August 21st, 2010. They gave students a choice of six out of eight twenty minutes workshops on various aspects of evangelism.

At our first planning meeting for this event, we went around the room and asked the question (inspired by The Nines), "If you could talk to students about one aspect of evangelism in one word, what would that be?" The words that came up were service, love, culture, identity, confidence, dialogue, work, and pary. And those themes became our workshops.

Another fun part of the day was our two Q & A sessions with the youth pastors who were the workshop presenters. We got some great questions like "What is your great witnessing failure/success story?" "How do you witness to a Muslim?" "How do you talk with someone who has been hurt by a church?"

We had students from five school districts come and we ended the day by commissioning them to be missionaries to their friends and schools. Once again, I was amazed to see what great things can happen when youth pastors bring what God has given them to the table. He takes a little and does a lot!

Friday, August 06, 2010

20 Years of Students Praying for Their Schools

In 1991, I participated in my first See You At The Pole - I didn't know it at the time, but that was the first nation-wide SYATP gathering. I was a junior in high school at the time and some friends and I had started a Christian club at our school the year before. Now 20 years later, See You At The Pole is ready for fresh restart with the launch of it's new website ( to inspire of new generation of teenagers to cry out to God on behalf of their friends, their schools, and their country. Revival has almost always come from young people called by God to do the extraordinary and I believe we have an exceptional generation of students today who are loving God and serving God like no generation before them. I am excited to see what God is going to do through them!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Why We Work Together #9: Because sometimes we need a good laugh!

Sometimes you just need a good laugh - there's no better place for a youth pastor to get that than when they are with a group of youth pastors who need to vent a little bit. Well, at our Murrysville/Monroeville Youth Network meeting today, Pastor Lu had us laughing our heads off. Unfortunately what happens at network meetings stays at network meetings! Just believe me when I say, youth pastors are funny guys!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why We Work Together #8: Because We Are One Body

Our last Fayette County Youth Network meeting was our largest one ever! And we had United Methodists, Baptists, Non-denominationals, Pentecostals, Free Methodists, and C&MA people all in the same room - but talking about one thing: helping teenagers know and grow in Jesus. This group is planning to do six or seven events together over the course of the upcoming school year. Why?

1) To help reinforce the spiritual truths that all of us want to hammer home to our students

2) To reach out to students with the Gospel in ways that no one church could do on their own

3) To help connect our students so that when they see each other at school there is encouragement and accountability

Although we have many theological and methodological differences, we all have the same ultimate goal - to see God transforming young people's lives and to see the body of Christ grow. We ARE one body and it is always exciting to see that spiritual truth actually happening. I'm looking forward to a great year with these great friends.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Why We Work Together #7: Because It Unleashes Creativity!

Pictured Above: The Greensburg Youth Network

For five years our Westmoreland County Youth Network has done a student evangelism conference each August to equip and inspire students to share Christ with their friends at school. This year's conference needed revamping on several levels, so we approached a different group of youth pastors in the area and asked them what they would want to see a conference of this type look like for their students. The part of the brainstorming that excited me the most was when we went around the room and asked, "If you could share one concept related to evangelism with students for 15 minutes, in one word what would that be?". The words that came out were: service, confidence, love, culture, individuality, dialogue, and party. So these words are going to be our workshop topics for this conference on August 21st - a few of them seem obviously important, but several of those are unclear enough that I think students' curiosity will get the best of them and they'll go just to find out "What's that all about?". The different youth pastors in the group contributed not only content ideas, but resources that I believe will make this one of the best student evangelism conferences we've ever had. I'm always amazed to see what comes about when God's people put their minds and hearts together!

Visit if you're interested in bringing students to this conference!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For all of you volunteer youth leaders...

Our friends at Youth Specialties have created a video in honor of those who volunteer in youth ministry. Thank you what you do for teenagers...

A new kind of structure for the church as a whole

Over the course of church history, we've tried the monolithic one-church-for-all structure and we've tried the every man (or every church) for himself structure. I think both have had serious shortcomings. Now pastors in Argentina are modeling a structure that I think could be the key to churches REALLY making a difference in the world, making the body of Christ relevant again.

'Something Better Than Revival' | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Monday, June 14, 2010

Women in Youth Ministry Working Together

Most of our youth ministry networks are made up of guys in full-time youth ministry. But our Fayette County Youth Network is a mixture of full-time, part-time, and volunteer youth leaders. And the group is made up of several couples. So it is a unique but really active group. Over this past school year they have done 8 events together (almost once a month) – a See You At The Pole concert, a rock-climbing day, a bus trip to a concert, two movie outreaches, a purity event, school assemblies, and a conference for teenage girls. In addition to our monthly network meetings, our ladies have Youth Pastors Wives Club meetings which they started a year or so ago. This group of ladies felt led by God to do a conference for teenage girls together – it took place back on Saturday, June 5th and it was an amazing event. The day included dramas, testimonies, a Christian version of “The View”, a q & a time with a panel made up of the ladies’ husbands, times of prayer ministry, worship, videos, and a concert by Francesca Battistelli. We had 250 girls from five counties come to the conference and we heard so many great comments afterwards such as what this mom said: “My daughter and I had a most blessed time. You hit home on so many things. I could see the Holy Spirit working in so many girls and moms, including myself! It was an eye opening, life changing experience. Thanks so much for all your efforts and obedience to the Lord.” Incredibly these ladies pulled off a $15,000 event and, by God’s grace, came out in the black. During the process of putting this conference together, we got the sense that there is a big need for gender specific events in youth ministry. To get 250 girls to an event that no one had ever been to before was an indication that there is a hunger for ministry with a focus on what girls deal with. We’re also thinking about what we can do specifically for our guys, but that’s a whole other blog post. I want to end by thanking Michelle Georgiana, Heather Rankin, Starla Beachy, Shelly Jenkins, Lauren Ellsworth, Joy Hertlein, Leigh Hudson, Denise Swenglish, and Melissa Toomey for making history by doing something that’s never been before in our area. You ladies most definitely rocked what you got!

You can visit to see pictures/video from the event.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A new resource for youth ministries in western Pennsylvania

A couple months ago, we totally revamped our website so that it would be more helpful and useful to youth pastors, parents, and students anywhere in western Pennsylvania. Now you'll find regional and national events on our front page with links to local areas and events, as well as resources that are specific to youth ministry in this area. Please let us know what you think!

YMBB on Twitter
YMBB on Facebook

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My Take on Youth Ministry 3.0

Last year, I read Mark Oestreichers ‘manifesto’, Youth Ministry 3.0, and I loved the concept of Youth Ministry 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 as a way to understand the history of youth ministry. It was like this book was an answer to Mark Senter’s book, “The Coming Revolution in Youth Ministry” (that’s for all you old youth ministry guys). And I think the book is timely – it seems like many in youth ministry are unsatisfied with where we are and are looking for a way forward.

Charting the Course

Something that I found very helpful was that in each section of the book, Marko (as he is known throughout the youth ministry world) builds a chart that lists and compares/contrasts various characteristics of the three different youth ministry eras (pages 49, 61, 78) including youth culture fixation, cultural influence on youth ministry, key themes, driver, and theme verse. By the time I got to the end of the book, I found myself wanting to add another characteristic to his chart, namely the ‘relationship of youth ministry to the church’.

A. Youth Ministry Outside the Local Church

Marko does talk about youth ministry’s relationship to the local church in Youth Ministry 1.0 and 2.0. On page 46, Marko says “So those early youth ministry pioneers who knew they had to be true to their calling found – in large measure – that they had to do youth ministry outside the context of the local church.” In other words, the primary context of youth ministry 1.0 was outside of local churches. Although this doesn’t appear in Marko’s chart, I think it’s an important enough observation that it could. As Marko points out, Youth Ministry 1.0 was the birth of groups like YFC, Young Life, FCA, etc. (parachurch youth ministries), but a shift happens in Youth Ministry 2.0.

B. Youth Ministry Inside the Local Church

On page 53, Marko says “Churches [in the late 70’s and 80’s] were finally waking up to the need for youth ministry and moving beyond offering only a ‘young persons’ Sunday School class. Youth groups sprang onto the church scene, and churches started hiring youth pastors left and right.” So the primary context of Youth Ministry 2.0 was inside local churches.

C. Youth Ministry Connecting Local Churches

When he gets to Youth Ministry 3.0, the context continues to be youth ministry inside local churches, but I found myself wondering – couldn’t the primary context of youth ministry (relationship to the local church) also be changing just as it had between YM 1.0 and 2.0? And Marko’s descriptions of Youth Ministry 3.0 actually hint at what I believe could be the next primary context of youth ministry – youth ministry connecting local churches.

On page 93, he says “But what might this look like, to have a youth ministry of the various youth subcultures in your church and community, acknowledging the uniqueness and value of each-including the styles and preferences of each-but moving toward a supra-cultural taste of the kingdom of God?” (emphasis mine).

Could we be heading into a time when youth ministry needs to break out from the four walls of the local church and spill over into the whole community including other local churches? To be more about the Kingdom of God than buildings, denominations or theological distinctives? I believe that this is the case, and I believe that Marko’s description of Youth Ministry 3.0’s characteristics support that.

1) To reach multiple cultures

For example, he says that in Youth Ministry 3.0, there should be multiple youth ministries to multiple subcultures – that could be done in a single church, but what if all the churches in a community recognized this need and different churches were strategically focusing on reaching those different subcultures. What if we had an attitude that we need other youth ministries in our community to reach the entire youth population of our community?

2) To be true to our context

Another characteristic is contextualized youth ministry – the context of the students in your community is important, but doesn’t that context include other churches and youth ministries? What affect do other churches have on each other and what effect should they have. Could some good come of acknowledging that ‘our church is not the only church in this town’?

3) To be free from being overwhelmed

Doing less and getting small is another characteristic of Youth Ministry 3.0 – imagine the freedom in realizing ‘Hey, I’m not the only person trying to reach teenagers in my community. There are others out there doing the same thing. I’m not alone.” I think that realization could take some of the pressure off of youth leaders and we could feel free to not feel bad about being small knowing that there are many groups out there doing the same thing. A whole lot of smalls make for something big!

4) To be communal and missional

The two key words that Marko gives for Youth Ministry 3.0 are communal and missional. I love that – what fresh ways of looking at what we do. But again, wouldn’t communal youth ministry also mean that the youth pastor needs a community of like-minded people? His community needs to be bigger than the students he/she ministers to – he or she needs a community of people who understand their passion, struggles, goals, etc. And nothing is quite as encouraging as knowing that the mission you are passionate about is shared by others.

In the early chapter of Youth Ministry 3.0, Marko describe the tasks of adolescence as identity, autonomy, and affinity. I think that church history has played itself out in this way, especially since the protestant reformation (the church’s rebellious years?). At first, the church struggled with a sense of identity: What is the church? What are we supposed to be about? And then for several centuries, the church has been all about autonomy — How are we unique and different from other churches? I think it’s about time the church started moving more toward affinity – What do we have in common? How can we connect?

In Youth Ministry 3.0, We Need Each Other

Youth Ministry 1.0 took place outside of local churches because churches hadn’t caught on. In Youth Ministry 2.0, churches took hold that responsibility they should’ve had all along and made it core to what they do. In Youth Ministry 3.0, I think that they overwhelming forces of culture, economics, media, technology, globalization, and spiritual decline are going to force churches to see that we need each other to successfully reach future generations for Christ (see Jason Pauli’s recent blog post). In fact, as my friend Nick Arnold recently reminded me, youth workers from parachurch ministries started in the 1.0 era and church youth pastors from the 2.0 era also need each other to reach this generation of young people. I’m excited about Youth Ministry 3.0 and I’m thankful to Mark Oestreicher for helping us see what this exciting new time can look like. My hope is that, more and more, we’ll make this new chapter of Youth Ministry something we do together.