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’s Keeping Teens from Being All-In for Jesus?

teen in church

I have the habit of keeping articles from magazines that somehow pique my interest. But there was quite a stack accumulating on my desk and so I decided to work my way through these again. One article I had saved was from the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Group Magazine, in which Rick Lawrence detailed some research about students and being ‘all-in’ for Jesus. [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…]

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

ted talk

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.

[Read more…]

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

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…]