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…]

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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Your greatest path of influence with teens


As youth workers, we are striving to make an impact on the life of teens. Ultimately, out goal is to make them into devoted followers of Jesus. But how do we get them there?


Bible studies?



Small groups?

I think these all have their place. But sometimes we focus so much on these, that we forget our greatest path of influence with teens: love. Unconditional, selfless, Christ-like love. [Read more…]

The 7 regrets of youth pastors (2)


Looking back isn’t always easy. Many of us have regrets when we look back on our life and ‘career’ as a youth pastor. We’ve listed four regrets so far in our first post on the 7 regrets of youth pastors: avoiding conflicts, not communicating the vision enough, settling for a low salary and not training a successor. Here are three more regrets many youth pastors have:

5. Not taking care of yourself

As youth pastors, we seem wired to put ourselves last. We take care of everyone else, but we forget to take care of ourselves. Our own physical health, our spiritual health, they don’t get the attention they need to stay healthy. As youth pastor Jason Sansbury tweeted to me: [Read more…]

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…]

Are you showing or telling your students?

puppet show

There’s an old adagio for writers, a golden rule if you wish. It’s this:

Show, don’t tell.

It’s about the difference between telling a reader what he should know, conclude, feel and showing him the situation, allowing for room for his or her own interpretation and emotions.

As a writer (while my main activity is non-fiction writing, I’m very much in love with fiction writing as well), this rule is very familiar to me. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to execute. [Read more…]

Helping teens deal with difficult situations at home

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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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Spiritual pathways: one size does not fit all

There is no one-size-fits-all spiritual pathway to grow closer to God

When it comes to spirituality, to growing closer to God, one size does not fit all. Yet often we not only try the ‘standard’ pathways ourselves, but we also only teach them to our students. If our students ask us (or to put it more correctly: of we want our students to know) how to grow in their faith, what do we tell them? I’m guessing it’ll be something along these lines: do quiet time, read your Bible and pray. Oh, and go to church every Sunday obviously.

We seem to prescribe one general one-size-fits-all spiritual pathway for everyone, even though we know very well people are very different from each other. Just look at the sixteen basic personality temperaments according to the Myers-Briggs test: introvert/extravert, sensing/intuitive, thinking/feeling and judging/perceptive. I’m an extravert, sensing, feeling, judging type, whereas my husband is an extravert, intuitive, thinking, perceptive type (yes, we are the classic example of ‘opposites attract’!).

How is it possible that we would both be able to find ourselves in one single pathway to God? We’re different on all accounts!

There is no one-size-fits-all spiritual pathway to grow closer to God

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