I Gave Up and Was Better For It

This one was very difficult for me to do. This year I started over with a new group of Freshmen. Their parents were very cordial and involved, in a healthy way. Several of them offered to send desserts or help out in any way we needed.

I absolutely love making desserts. I actually have a philosophy on the subject. Nothing happens in my Life Group by accident, unless it’s a God-thing. I believe desserts should be amazing and homemade because it may be the only homemade dish a student gets in a week. It also shows a level of caring if it gets dished out into a students bowl by a leader. As the saying goes, “The way to a [student’s] heart is through his stomach.”

I very reluctantly took parents up on their offer. I even setup an online calendar they could sign up on for our weekly desserts… hoping they wouldn’t. They did. I haven’t provided any desserts this year.

One week a parent sent 5 glorious dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. All of them got eaten. My boys were bouncing off the walls. Sometimes a well-meaning mom will send store bought cookies. That’s not what I would prefer, but the benefit far outweighs the let down.

Here’s why this is the best thing ever: By allowing parents to have some ownership in Life Group, I have a greater opportunity to get to connect with them and know them better. Youth ministry done right includes not just the student, but the family connected to the student. Knowing the families better means I know the students better.


camp_photosI keep these camp pictures on my mantle to remind me of the great youth ministry memories made while doing summer camp. On this Thanksgiving Day, that’s what I’m thankful for: Youth Ministry, getting to impact young lives for Christ, and the relationships that come out of it.

Using Our Rights As Youth Workers

Doug Fields tells youth workers that as youth workers we have earned a place in students’ lives to hold them accountable and live up to expectations. That’s not a direct quote, but expresses the idea of what he shares. I not only agree with that sentiment, I’ve actually put that to good use.

A few years back I was with one of my students and I felt led to ask about his purity. I told him I needed to ask him a personal question. He said okay. I asked, “Do you struggle with porn and masturbation?”

He wasn’t shocked or scared by this question. Instead, a look of relief came across his face as he admitted he had been struggling with it for quite some time. He had been holding this secret in afraid of being found out and looked down on, or letting me down.

Asking this question opened a line of communication he could not bring himself to open himself, but desperately wanted help dealing with. As his respected youth leader, I have earned a place in his life to ask him difficult questions. If I didn’t get into his life and ask tough questions, our relationship would have stayed shallow and ineffective. As it stands a decade later, while we are not in each other’s lives on a daily basis, there is a level of respect, knowing each other and a close bond because I took Doug Fields’ challenge to ask tough questions of my students.

Since that day, I’ve never shied away from asking difficult questions in appropriate ways at the right time. If we are to impact students from their core, we must get to know them at the core… especially their hidden core. It gets easier once we do this once or twice because of the relief they get from finally being known… and they all want to be known. They just are scared or unequipped to do the sharing without us asking the tough questions.

Stoked About Stoked on Youth Ministry

I need to give a shout out to Stoked On Youth Ministry. I’ve been following them on Twitter for a while and like their resources. When you need a lesson or a game, go check them out. They “get it”. They want to help you win at impacting students for Christ.

When Youth Staff Isn’t Hanging Out With Students

Saw this blog post over at DownLoadYouthMinistry.com by Justin Knowles. He wrote a brilliant post about why you may see youth staff not hanging out with students. Strategic youth workers will do what he does. I’m posting an excerpt from the post below. Click here to read the whole post. You’ll have a better understanding of why that should be happening.

Looking back at my year I have spent a majority of my time with our leaders. Even if your ministry is at a point where you can hang out with all your students the way you want (that is awesome because it is a gift, I wish I had the capability to do that) but as you grow you will need to switch to this model quickly to be more effective. The Andy Stanley quote comes to mind as I have been wrestling with this whole thing: “Do for one for what you wish you can do for all. Continue reading…

Youth Worker Ragamuffin

The last few years God has been moving me in new directions. He’s been challenging my perspectives, priorities and approach to youth ministry. Yesterday a fellow youth worker, Kevin, gave me a movie to watch to see if I thought it would be good to show to his small group students.

I have, once again, been destroyed and challenged.

This movie is a few years old, but please take 2 hours of your time to watch the movie Ragamuffin. It’s the life story of Rich Mullins. In the movie, he encounters Brennan Manning, author of Rafamuffin Gospel a couple of times, thus the theme and title of the movie.

You will come away from this movie evaluating what’s really important in various areas of your life and impaled by the desire to focus on what really matters from an approach you probably won’t expect.


What Is God’s Will For My Life?

Got asked a twist on an age-old question today. A student asked, “Since we are supposed to follow God and surrender our lives to God why do Christian men tell people to follow there dreams and to have the job they want?”

That’s just another way of asking, “What is God’s will for my life?”

I chose to answer this using wisdom from Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven model of ministry. Here’s my response:

About following your dreams… that can be fully in line with God’s plans for us, but not necessarily always. God put us on earth to fulfill 5 purposes:

  • Fellowship (building relationships)
  • Discipleship (knowing God better)
  • Ministry (serving God by serving others)
  • Missions (reaching out to others beyond our immediate sphere of influence)
  • Worship (honoring God)

We fulfill those purposes through our S.H.A.P.E.

  • S – Spiritual gifts that we get when God’s Spirit fills us
  • H – Heart – what we’re passionate about
  • A – Abilities (what we’re naturally good at or choose to develop)
  • P – Personality (being an introvert or an extrovert)
  • E – Experiences we have (educational, work, circumstantial, painful, etc)

God uses all of our S.H.A.P.E. to serve him and others. Because he uses what we already love to do and are passionate about, when somebody says, “follow your dreams”, they can be telling you to do what God wants you to do. Those dreams you follow, though, need to also fulfill the 5 purposes he put you on earth to fulfill.

Foreword To The Book

I’m very thankful and honored Doug Fields wrote the foreword to my newly released book, Volunteer Youth Ministry, A Roadmap For Effective Leadership. I’m sharing it here to help my readers know what to expect when they download this ebook.


Dennis has been doing youth ministry for over 20 years, and for 10 of those years, I had the privilege of working alongside him and observing firsthand the principles you’ll soon read. I like Dennis a lot! He’s quirky, weird, loving, deep, playful, smart, and deeply caring for teenagers. He has been an amazing volunteer youth worker. His experience and passion for youth ministry presents itself throughout these pages in practical, easy-to-read wisdom. He has also filled this book with helpful bullet points that simplify how to put what he’s learned into action in your own setting. There’s some content that I couldn’t pull off because my personality is different than Dennis (and you might find that true for you too), but 90% of his ideas will work for anyone regardless of personality.

“Whether you’re a new volunteer or a seasoned veteran, you’ll learn something from Dennis’ words. I don’t write the foreword to many books, mostly because I don’t have the time to read them cover-to-cover… but this one grabbed me. I started to skim it but then caught myself saying, “Ohh, that’s good Dennis—that will be super helpful to the world of youth ministry.” I’m proud of the work he has done both in youth ministry and in writing this book. It made me excited to see what he releases next–keep your eye on this guy and open your heart to learn from someone who has been a great volunteer youth worker who has been dedicated to help others like you. You’ll be happy to have this helpful ebook in your library.

Keep learning and leading,
Doug Fields
Co-founder of Downloadyouthministry.com

Download the book here

Small Group Culture Legacy

This is a follow up to my last post about meeting with the new small group leader my recent high school graduates have. Their new leader has the same passion I do for seeing the boys grow spiritually. We even have some of the same personality traits. We’re both kinda shy until you get to know us. For that reason, they are having trouble connecting with the guys like I did over the course of 4 years.

Here’s what our conversation helped me realize. While I did a great job of loving the guys, teaching the boys the Bible and Christian living, I didn’t set them up well for what comes after they leave my group. I knew it would be a struggle whereever they went because they would never find exactly what we have. We have developed traditions, and a unique culture.

I emailed the boys after I met with their new leader. I gave them some tips on how to connect with them. During my meeting with their leader, I also gave him some ideas for how to replicate the connections I had with them, and even gave some insight on the personality of each of the boys.

This whole conversation made me realize something that I will do from now on. Instead of hoping my boys land in a good situation whereever they go after my group, I will teach them how to take the culture of our group with them. They will, rather than look for how they will be served by their new ministry, learn how to recreate what we have in our group in the new group they join after high school.

By doing this, they will be trainers that will help other leaders develop the relational skills and traits we develop in the 4 years they are with me. Here’s the benefit, by taking this approach I am not only teaching my boys how to love God and live for him, I’m also teaching how to take our culture with them and develop it in others. I am teaching them to be teachers of healthy small group culture. This will also greatly reduce the likelihood they will graduate from their faith when they graduate from my group.

I highly recommend my leaders do the same with your students. Think of the impact you’ll have on people you’ll never meet by teaching them to take your unique culture with them. That’s for sure leaving a legacy. After we’re gone from this earth, we can still make an impact that way. I love that potential.

To read about the culture I develop with my students, download Volunteer Youth Ministry, A Roadmap For Effective Leadership

Dennis, Can We Meet Up?

Got a text message this morning that really made my day.


My small group boys from last year are now in a college-age small group. Their leader contacted me today to meet up to talk about them. I love this for a few reasons:

– I love those boys and I’m stoked to help their new leader know them better
– I love that their leader cares enough about leading them to reach out to me to find out how to lead them more effectively

As leaders we do our students a huge favor when we serve them strategically. That’s what this leader is doing by setting up our meeting this afternoon. It makes me happy to know that my boys, who I poured into for 4 years, have a new leader who cares about leading them as much as I do.