5 Things NOT to Say to Hurting Teens

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Pastoral conversations with teens require less skills than you might think. Listening really is the biggest skill you need.

But at some point you may feel it’s appropriate to say something, share some advice, or offer an encouragement. When you do, make sure what you say is helpful. While some empty clichés may not do too much harm, others can damage the trust and relationship. [Read more…]

Teens and Their Favorite Slang Word

As a non-American, slang sometimes puzzles me. I’ve had to google more than one expression to check its meaning.

Recently, I came across this wonderful video on the website of The Atlantic, where teens explain their favorite slang word. You gotta love teens…

Watch it and maybe even learn a slang word or two. Like bruh. Or barely.

And? Did you learn any new slang words?

Do You Need An Online Dry-Out?

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Every year, I go offline for at least two weeks. Usually in the summer, but I’ve been known to do it over Christmas break as well. I don’t make a big thing out of it, but I just close all social media for a while and spend time doing other things. Like reading, hanging out with the family, or projects that have been on my list.

It’s a great way to remind myself that being online isn’t the answer to anything. On the contrary, it can often cause more problems than it solves. I’ve found that consistent online dry-outs help me keep the right perspective. [Read more…]

Random Ideas for Youth Group: Flowers for Seniors

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I’m starting a new series on Youth Leaders Academy called Random Ideas for Youth Groups. In these short and sweet posts, I want to share ideas for your youth groups to show love in action.

Oftentimes we want to teach our students to love their neighbors, but we don’t know how. In this series, we’ll shows practical, simple ideas that you can execute with your students. Here’s the first: delivering flowers to seniors in nursing homes. [Read more…]

The Most Influential Teenager of All Time

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In the April 2015 edition of The Atlantic, the editors asked several well-known people this question: “Who is the most influential teenager of all time?” Here are some of their responses:

Emmett Till: a 14-year old African-American boy who was murdered in 1955 for whistling at a white woman. His death inspired others to fight racism.

Joan of Arc: the legendary French girl who led an army against the English in the Middle Ages. [Read more…]

What’s Keeping Teens from Being All-In for Jesus?

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I have the habit of keeping articles from magazines that somehow pique my interest. But there was quite a stack accumulating on my desk and so I decided to work my way through these again. One article I had saved was from the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Group Magazine, in which Rick Lawrence detailed some research about students and being ‘all-in’ for Jesus. [Read more…]

Are We Making Prayer Too Complicated?

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Over the years, I’ve read a lot of books on prayer. Every book seems to have a ‘magic’ approach to prayer that ‘guarantees’ results.

You have to pray standing.

You have to state everything as if it’s already happened instead of asking for it.

You have to pray with someone else.

You have to follow the format of the Lord’s Prayer.

You have to walk in circles.

You have to have a prayer corner.

You have to pray in Jesus’ name only.

You have to pray kneeling.

You have to pray at least once a day, but preferably continuously.

You have to spend as much time giving thanks as praying for your issues.

And when we teach about prayer we give much of the same advice. Do this. Don’t do that. Read your Bible and pray every day. We teach rules instead of a relationship. [Read more…]

What to Say to a Struggling Teen

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When I started out in youth ministry, I feared pastoral issues the most. I mean: what should I say to struggling teens? I was a afraid I wouldn’t have the profound wisdom they’d be looking for, or the spiritual nuggets they’d need to get through it.

As it turns out, struggling teens don’t need us to say all that much. Sure, there are times when they ask for concrete advice: Rachel, should I break up with my boyfriend or not? What do you think I should major in in college? Do you think I should stop being friends with her? And those times, I help them analyze the situation and come to the best advice. (A pro tip: ask them what they’d advise a friend in that situation…) [Read more…]

Youth Pastor Failures

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It’s not a topic we like to talk about: our disappointments, failures, and mistakes. As a youth pastor, we’re in the spotlight. We’re supposed to be a role model, to live a life above reproach, to be an example in everything we do.

Yet we’re also human.

We’re also sinners.

But how much space is there to be who we truly are, including our failures? [Read more…]