Raising Independent Kids (part 1)


It was a great combination of a play date for my son and a catch up with a friend for me as both our sons played with each other at McDonald’s. After an hour or so my son reported to me he was thirsty. So I gave him two dollars to buy a bottle of water at the counter. My friend looked at me in amazement. “You let him do that all by himself?”

To be honest, I never even thought about it. He’s seven by the way (my friend’s son is eight) and he didn’t hesitate going to the counting and buying that water. He brought back the change and all was well. Afterwards, my friend and I talked about this and she confessed she would not have let her son do that. I pointed out that we were in the same space (though divided by a glass wall) and that I trained my son to raise hell if someone would try to take him. She reluctantly agreed that she was maybe a bit overprotective. [Read more…]

Join the DYM Book Club


So here’s the thing: I started a book club over at the Download Youth Ministry blog over a year ago, the DYM Book Club. And even though I love reading and I devour books, I’ve been lousy at keeping that club going consistently. To give myself some extra accountability and because I really believe in inspiring each other to read great books, I’m promoting it here as well.

Every month we pick four books to read from different categories: young adult fiction, leadership, personal growth, and youth ministry. This are the choices for this month: [Read more…]

Relationships with Students are not a Job


Recently, I talked to a student who had been hurt by his youth pastor. You see, the student announced that he’d decided to attend a different church. And the youth pastor had severed all ties with him, almost instantly.

You know what the student said, how he had felt? Like a job.

He’d had a wonderful relationship with this youth pastor, which he needed because he was going through a rough period of his life. They had talked almost daily and the student had valued the help and the relationship. But theologically, there had been some issues that made him decide to switch churches. He never saw it coming, that changing churches would mean losing the relationship that meant so much to him. [Read more…]

The Benefits of Being Bored


There’s never a dull moment in youth ministry, right?

Actually, that may be truer than we realize…and also something we should not be so happy about. As it turns out, there are several benefits to being bored.

Teens nowadays have little time to be bored. I’m talking about good old-fashioned slumping on the couch, eyes glazing over, yawning while complaining at the same time…I’m soooo boooored!

We all know the culprit too: technology. Those long car rides that used to be THE surefire recipe for boredom are now spent playing games, checking phones, or watching dvd’s. Waiting rooms, airports, the hairdresser, rainy afternoons—they all used to guarantee getting bored, but not anymore.

And that’s not necessarily a good thing (though admittedly, traveling with kids has gotten a lot less stressful!). [Read more…]

Should you stop Saying ‘The Bible Says’?

Billy Graham

In his book Deep and Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend, Andy Stanley makes the case that pastors should stop saying ‘the Bible says’ when quoting Scripture. His argument is not theological, but stems from evangelism as a goal. He states people have to believe Jesus as the Son of God before they have to believe the Bible is the Word of God. The phrase ‘The Bible says’ could make them tune out and prevent them from ‘meeting’ Jesus. In that sense, using that phrase could be a stumbling block for people to come to Christ.

It’s an interesting argument—and certainly a challenging one, considering the popularity of this particular phrase amongst pastors (a phrase that became widely popular because of Billy Graham’s use by the way). Understandably, Stanley’s plea has met fierce opposition and sparked a lively debate. [Read more…]

Bullying: How many Students never Tell Anyone?

crying girl

Bullying has become a topic that’s being studied and discussed more and more. Rightly so, considering the devastating effects of bullying on the victims. We’ve sadly seen too many teen suicides the last few years caused by bullying.

I come across bullying statistics regularly and you know how it is with statistics: sometimes one numbers says more than a whole list of statistics, no matter how serious a truth they represent.

Here’s the statistic that struck me:

30% of girls and 51% of boys never tell anyone about being bullied

I came across this number in a short article in Group magazine on bullying.(1) The number struck me as really high, so I wanted to find out if it was a reliable statistic. [Read more…]

His name was Adriaan


His name was Adriaan.

The theory may be that all students are created equal, but the practice is that you grow closer to some than to others. We were close, my husband and I, to him and his brother. Their mom joked at some point they spent so much time at our place, she should start paying us rent—or at least meal compensation.

Adriaan was a singularly gifted musician. He played the saxophone and he could make it sing. I’ve got dozens of pictures, recordings and videos of him playing in youth services and worship events. He loved music and he loved God and it showed. [Read more…]

Distracted Conversations

distracted by phone

I came across this sobering bit of research this week:

62% of kids between 6 and 12 report their parents are distracted when the kids are trying to talk to them. 

You can make one educated guess what the biggest distraction was. Yup, cell phones (28%), followed by siblings (25%).

Here’s a quote that made me stop and wonder. When an 8-year old girl was asked what would happend if her parents lost their cell phones for a day, this is what she answered: “Freak out, but I’d be happy.” [Read more…]

1 in 3 Men Would Rape? Not Really

emma sulkowicz

Rape is getting a lot of attention lately, especially rape on colleges. That’s a good development in itself. But this serious topic does not benefit from false sensational reporting.

An example of that was a study that was being picked up by media with headlines like “A Third Of Male Students Say They’d Rape A Woman If There Were No Consequences, A Study Reveals”. Or: “Study: 1 in 3 men would rape if they wouldn’t get caught or face consequences.” Admittedly, we’re talking about Buzzfeed and Cosmopolitan respectively, but still. And even Christian organizations are tweeting these links or referring to them.

The problem is that this study is anything but scientific and the results don’t prove anything. Let’s look at the facts: [Read more…]

Honor your Youth Group’s History

group of girls

Maybe it’s because I majored in history in college, but I’m always very much aware of the people who have gone before me in my job, my organization, or my ministry. Even in my last church in The Netherlands where I was the first ‘formal’ youth pastor, I knew that the church has decades of history in youth ministry done by volunteers.

It’s tempting as a new youth pastor to want to start fresh, wipe the slate clean, and pretty much delete the past. That’s even more the case in churches with a difficult history, or where your predecessor(s) were fired. Still, it’s important to honor your youth group’s history. [Read more…]