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…]

Youth Ministry and the 5 Whys

girls asks why

Car manufacturer Toyota has become known for a question-asking technique used to come to the root cause of a problem. It’s as simple as asking why until you have come to the bottom of an issue. The term ‘5 whys’ refers to the number of times you usually have to ask ‘why’ before you have found the real problem, cause or reason.

Let’s illustrate with an example. One of the most popular events in a Dutch church was the autumn retreat. This took place at the end of October and usually at least 60 students would sign up. When a new youth pastor came, he changed the date to September because he wanted to use it as a team-building kick-off event for the season. Suddenly only 20 students showed up for the retreat. What had happened? [Read more…]

One Sober Friend is All it Takes


It’s tough for teens to abstain from drinking if all their friends do liquor up. We’ve all heard stories of ‘he-would-never-do-that’ or ‘she’s-not-the-type’ teens who got drunk at a party. How can we help teens stay strong amongst peer pressure when it comes to drinking? [Read more…]

Email like you could be hacked


A recent hack has left Sony Pictures Entertainment scrambling to apologize after emails were leaked. In these emails, executives trashed actors and made racially insensitive jokes about President Obama. Now, they’re left trying to backpedal and explain and apologize to everyone they discussed.

It’s not the first hacking scandal (think of many pictures of celebrities that were hacked from a cloud storage a while ago) and it won’t be the last. You’d think that leaders on that level would learn to be more careful, but evidently not.

Yet there’s a bigger picture here. If these emails had never been made public, the remarks about for instance the president would still not have been okay. They would have still been racially insensitive—and I’m using a much more politically correct expression here than they deserve. [Read more…]

How upspeak can ruin your credibility as speaker


Intonation – how you pitch your words – matters more than you may realize. When we listen to someone speak, we use intonation to distinguish between a question and a statement for instance (you can’t see the question marks after all). But we also determine the credibility and self confidence of a speaker by the intonation.

One growing trend is ‘upspeak’ or ‘uptalk’, a way of speaking where you end your sentences on a higher pitch or upward inflections, thus making it very similar to asking a question. In Australia, this is quite common and is known as AQI: Australian Question Intonation. But more and more people are using this way of speaking, especially teenagers. It makes everything they say sound like a question. [Read more…]

Make better long term decisions with this simple tip


In the last year we have had to make a lot of decisions.

Do we accept the job and move from Germany to New York?

Do we put our son in public or private school?

What car do we buy?

Should we rent or buy a house?

The list of decisions seemed endles. Some had big consequences, some were on a much smaller scale. Some had emotional value, like the decision to attend my grandparents’ 65th weding anniversary or not, at the cost of one very expensive airplane ticket to The Netherlands.

The more emotional the decision, the harder it is to get the right perspective. Imagine having to choose between attending a funeral or making an important presentation at work that may get you the promotion at your job you’ve been working for for years. Which do you choose? [Read more…]

Youth Sermon Idea: Why does God Allow Evil?

youth sermon topics

It’s one of the questions that keeps popping up in conversations with teens: why does God allow evil? If He is all powerful, if He loves us, why does He allow bad things to happen to us? And why don’t Christians do any ‘better’ in this department than non-Christians?

While this is not a topic that can be dealt with to everyone’s satisfaction in a 20 or even 30-minute sermon, it is good to address it. You could do a follow up in the small groups with the sermon as a starting point.

I’ve picked the person of Job here as a basis to discuss this difficult question, as his story helps us to find answers. Because his story is important to understand the advice his friends give him, you may need to either read several passages from the Book of Job, or explain them yourself in a narrative way. [Read more…]