5 Things NOT to Say to Hurting Teens


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…]

10 preaching tips from Tony Campolo


When I saw Tony Campolo was leading a preaching master class on the early day of the Youth Work Summit, I immediately booked this stream. He’s a brilliant communicator and I was pretty stoked to be able to spend a whole day learning from him. And I have to say: he didn’t disappoint. He was funny, sharp, and wise and I could have listened to him for hours more. Let me share some of the highlights of what he taught that day: 10 preaching tips from Tony Campolo himself.

1. Make sure you have the gift

Speaking, preaching, teaching, whatever you want to call it: it’s a gift. You need to have this gift if you want to have an impact. Churches are dying because their pastors don’t have the gift of teaching, so make sure you have a call and a gift to preach.

2. Prepare physically

This is something Tony Campolo could speak on with authority, considering he’s in his seventies and still going strong. He stressed the need to be physically fit, to eat well and keep yourself in shape to be able to keep going.

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Rules: it’s the ‘how’ that matters to teens


Contrary to what you may think, teens don’t have a problem with rules. But they may have an issue with how you bring them. How you communicate rules as a youth leader or a parent is a huge factor in teen’s decisions whether or not to stick to these rules.

The University of Gent (Belgium) has come to these conclusions after multiple researches amongst young people. Their conclusion is that you shouldn’t avoid rules with teens, but how you introduce them is important.

If you introduce rules in an authoritative and forceful way, teens will feel threatened in their freedom and will likely act out the opposite of the rules. This phenomenon is known as psychological reactance and it’s been well documented in several researches.

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Presenting my first book: Beyond Small Talk

Beyond Small Talk - DownloadI am very proud and honored to announce the publication of my very first book: Beyond Small Talk: Connecting with Teenagers through Conversations that Matter. It’s published by Simply Youth Ministry, in the Everyday Youth Ministry series.

We talk a lot with teens as youth workers and youth leaders, but it’s not always easy to have conversations that go beyond small talk. But if we want to make a difference in the lives of our students, it’s imperative that we do get teenagers to talk to us, to open up to us. In this book I share my ‘secrets’ for getting students to talk to you. There’s loads of practical advice on listening, building trust, asking the right questions, responding the right way and also on what not to say. [Read more…]

Using your voice effectively to captivate your audience


[This post is part of our series on Preaching for Youth]. We’re talking about using your voice effectively to captivate your audience when you preach. Yesterday we discussed the importance of being natural, finding your own natural rhythm and speaking clearly. Today we’ll give three more tips to use your voice effectively.

4. Use (some) dramatic tactics

When I was a kid I had a Sunday school teacher who could tell stories like no one else. When she did the Bible story, everyone was captivated and you could hear a pin drop. My own mom also was a great storyteller, she often told made up stories at night when we were on vacation and my sister and I hung on every word.

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Captivating your audience by using your voice effectively


[This post is part of our series on Preaching for Youth]. I have listened to sermons that were interesting in content, but so boring to listen to that I had to force myself to keep listening. I’ve also sat through quite a few sermons that weren’t spectacularly deep or rich, but kept my attention nonetheless. The difference often has to do with how speakers use their voice.

You can write the best sermon there is, with a great key message and a solid structure, but if you can’t captivate your audience while delivering it, it will be in vain. How you use your voice is a crucial element in your sermon presentation. The good news is: it’s also an aspect you can learn, practice and improve. Here are three tips to captivate your audience with your voice: [Read more…]

Presenting the gospel in a five minute time slot

sand timer

I’ve heard it when I was studying for my teacher’s degree (which was 15 years ago) and I’ve been hearing it ever since and in ever increasing intensity: young people can’t concentrate and if you want to reach them with your message, you have to do it in segments of five minutes, ten at the max.


Kate John, one of the speakers at the Youth Work Summit in 2012, stated it as well. She said that the ‘standard’ for presenting the gospel to young people was by showing scenes from the Jesus movie accompanied by sad music, followed by a ten minute sermon on penal substitution. Obviously, that doesn’t work any more. Or so Kate John stated.

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Dealing with disruptions during your talk

barbie dolls

[This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth]. Teens aren’t exactly the easiest audience for a speaker. Disruptions during a talk are fairly common as a matter of fact. Teen whisper with each other, or even talk out loud. They giggle, look at their cell phones, show pictures to each other. All the while, you’re standing there trying to give a talk. So how do you deal with these disruptions in an effective, yet loving way?

Ignore when possible

When it’s just a couple of teens talking a bit too loud with each other and the rest is still listening, ignore it. Usually, they’ll stop after a bit. [Read more…]

The 7 habits of effective meetings


[This post is part of the series on Time Management in Youth Ministry]. Meetings have gotten a bit of a bad reputation. That’s because a lot of them are bad. They’re too long, unfocused, have way too many attendees and afterwards no one really knows what the point was. For many people, meetings feel like a complete waste of time.

But when meetings are done the right way, they cannot only become effective, they can actually become something to look forward to. Meetings are actually a very practical and good way of getting things done, especially in youth ministry where it’s always about people first. So how do you transform meetings into effective, something your leaders actually look forward to? [Read more…]

Dealing with nerves when giving a talk


[This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth]. Being nervous before or during a talk or sermon is completely normal. It’s not something to worry about or feel ashamed about.

But your nerves can hinder you from speaking freely and with conviction. So here are some tips on dealing with nerves while speaking to youth. There are four things you can do before hand and four tips for dealing with nerves while talking.

What you can do beforehand to minimize the changes of getting really nervous for a talk or sermon:

Know your stuff

When you’re prone to nerves, make sure you know your stuff. That means preparing your talk well and making sure you know it by heart. There should be no doubt in your mind that you have done everything you can in prepping your sermon, so that cannot cause extra nerves. You should be able to focus on your delivery because you have the content down to a t.

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