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…]

What to Say to a Struggling Teen

sad girl

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…]

Using Youth Ministry to Teach Independence to Students


We’ve been talking about independence and what we can do to raise independent kids and promote it in students. One obvious tool we can use as youth leaders, is our youth ministry.

We may complain about parents doing too much for their teens instead of letting students do it themselves, but as youth workers, we tend to make the same mistake. That’s because it’s much faster to clean up the youth room myself, than to supervise four students who take twice as long with not nearly as a good a result. Well, deal with it. The only way students can learn is by letting them do it, even if they don’t do it well at first. [Read more…]

The 10 TED Talks every youth leader should watch (1)

I love TED talks. They’re often inspiring, challenging and it’s a quick and easy way to get fresh perspectives and new ideas.

For youth leaders, TED talks are a brilliant resource. I’ve truly learned a lot by watching a few talks each month and in this post, I want to share my favorites with you. Here are the 10 TED talks that every youth leader should watch:

1. Brene Brown – The Power of Vulnerability

This is the ultimate TED talk in my opinion. It’s brilliant, it’s funny, it’s personal and it will completely change your perspective and paradigm. Literally life changing.

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How to tell your youth leader you’re pregnant


One of the things in my blog statistics I love looking at, are the search terms people used to find my site. Every now and then there are some interesting, funny, sad or shocking ones and I figured I’d share some of them with you while at the same time try to give answers.

This one appeared in my search terms this week: how to tell your youth leader you’re pregnant. This is one of those search terms that makes me kind of sad, because you can feel there’s a story here. Somewhere on this earth, there’s a pregnant teenage girl scared to death because she has to tell her youth leaders that she’s pregnant. Something that in most churches does not go over well.

I’ve written about handling a teenage pregnancy in your youth group, which is probably why this search term was successful in finding my blog. But let’s try and give some advice to a pregnant teen who is scared to tell her youth leader she’s pregnant. [Read more…]

Helping teens deal with difficult situations at home

sad girl

There’s no such thing as a perfect family, but some of our teens face a more difficult situation at home than others. Their parents are divorced, they’re growing up in a single parent family, they’re part of a complicated family structure with step- and half-siblings, you name it. Or they have to deal with unsupportive parents who are not doing a good job in raising them, who take their own frustrations out on their kids for instance.

How do we help our teens to deal with difficult situations like this with their parents? Is there anyway we can help them, equip them? Can we in some way compensate for what they miss out? Here are some of my thoughts. [Read more…]

5 messages teens need to hear


Words are of more importance than we often realize. Words can wound, maybe even kill, but they can also affirm and build up. What we as youth leaders tell our teens matters. The words we use can make a difference. Here are 5 messages teens need to hear from us as youth leaders:

1. God loves you, no matter what

This is the most important truth of them all and one that we should keep repeating every single time we talk to teens. No matter what you have done, no matter what you will do, God will always love you. He loves you even if you’re the biggest sinner that ever walked the face of the earth. He loves you when your depressed and cutting yourself, he loves you when you’re having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend, he loves you when you’re angry all the time, he loves you whether you’re gay or straight or confused…There is absolutely nothing you could ever do that would make God stop loving you. Let’s tell teens that and affirm them in God’s love for them again and again.


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Is it okay to mentor someone from the opposite sex?

If you decide to mentor someone from the opposite sex, always meet in a public place

A while back we had an interesting question going on with a group of youth workers on Twitter. One youth worker asked if we thought it was okay for her to mentor a male youth from her youth group. There was no one else available, yet her church had a problem with it. It was interesting to see everyone wrestle with this issue, because we all understood the risks, yet we also understood the urgency of him needing a mentor.

Is it okay to mentor someone from the opposite sex? It’s a hard question to answer, but here’s my answer: yes, it’s okay to mentor or coach someone from the opposite sex, but…And here come the ‘buts’ in the form of questions:

Is anyone else available?

I think we can all agree that same-sex mentoring or coaching is preferable. So if anyone else is available from the same sex and there are no pressing arguments why that person shouldn’t become mentor, that person should do it.

If you decide to mentor someone from the opposite sex, always meet in a public place

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What to do with a teen pregnancy in your youth group

teenage pregnancy

It’s a tough one this week, the question of the week. Last week I got into contact with a British youth worker who was wondering how to approach the situation of a teen in her youth group being pregnant. I figured it was a good topic to write a bit about, since unfortunately it’s something we can all encounter. What do you need do when a teen in our youth group is pregnant?

There are a few practical things to consider and then there’s the more emotional and pastoral stuff. Let’s start with a few practical guidelines you’ll need to remember when dealing with a teenage pregnancy in your youth group:

Know the law

It’s important first of all, to know your legal obligations. Unfortunately, not all teen pregnancies are caused by voluntary sexual relations between teens. That means your knowledge of the pregnancy can have legal ramifications. Are you obliged to report it if the pregnancy turns out to be caused by rape, incest, or from sex with an adult? Know the law so you can do the right thing and be honest about this with the teen(s) involved.

Don’t promise confidentiality

While confidentiality between youth workers and teens is crucial, a pregnancy is not something you should promise to keep a secret. Sure, you can give the teen a week or so before telling her parents because she may need some time to think about how to do this, but don’t ever promise to keep it confidential. You can’t and you shouldn’t, this is something the parents should know and be involved in.

Seek help

If you know you’re in over your head, seek help. There are people who deal with this on a professional basis and who can give you information, help, and support. Don’t feel like you have to do it all yourself, if it’s too much or too big for you, it’s in everyone’s interest that you seek help and/or let someone else handle it.

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Peer groups and peer influence: does it matter?

What influence do peer groups have on teens? How do we deal with this in youth ministry?

It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another round of the youth ministry question of the week. Do you have a question about youth ministry that you would like to see discussed? Leave a comment or send me an email!

This week’s question involves the issue of a peer group. This is what Jenni wrote about her teen group:

How much does peer group matter and can we overcome the ‘problem’ of not having a peer group within our small youth group? We have a group of about 6 or 7 from age 11-16 and none of them really relate very well to each other, despite most of them having been in the same church most of their lives!

What influence do peer groups have on teens? How do we deal with this in youth ministry?


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