Breaking The Mental Rut

I’ve heard people say to be the student of just one book. The idea is to find an author or a few authors who you feel challenged by and try to master the message they teach, rather than chasing after every train of thought that becomes popular. There’s a lot to be said for that. However, that can also create a mental rut. Sometimes we need to purposefully take a stroll and see what others are putting out there. It keeps us fresh and challenged.

Today I came across this video called, Learn How To Do Apologetics in the Twenty-First Century with Ravi Zacharias. I recommend giving it a watch. The reason I like it is students are looking for meaning in life. Ravi’s teaching will help us think through this from a Christian perspective and churn up some questions we may not have considered since we were the age of our students. In this video he is speaking at Saddleback Church, where I serve in youth ministry.

Guest Post: 3 Characteristics of a Jesus-like Leader

First of all, I believe one of the best leaders of all time was Jesus. Shocker right? But I believe it. His ability to lead in the time he was here on earth and the lasting effect He had is not comparable to anyone else. I look at the people around me who are phenomenal leaders and I begin to wonder, “What in the world makes them good leaders? Why do people follow them? Why are they thriving?” Here is the realization:

They all have the leadership characteristics of Jesus. Humility. Kindness. Grace.

If you want to lead well, these things need to be present in you, in your ministry leaders and those you take care of. This is why students flocked to these leaders. This is why any leader is respected, followed and leads well. It is because they are like Jesus. The question is, “Do you leak these things?” Chances are that if you as the leader of leaders and of students, if you don’t, the people you lead don’t either.


I mean think about humility for a second. Have you ever walked out of a meeting with a humble leader and thought, “That was a waste of time.” Probably not. In fact, probably the opposite, I always walk away feeling refreshed. When someone is prideful, they leave a bad taste in your mouth. When someone leads with humility, someone who doesn’t grasp power, someone who listens intently and knows when they are wrong and can admit it to help others, people will flock to it.

I remember my first ministry job. I was not humble. I was the opposite. Do you know what the opposite of humility is? Pride. Pride is something I struggled with all of my life. I don’t know if it was because I was a late bloomer in the leading department but the moment I realized people followed me, it became a struggle for me. I see why now Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the desert with power. It can be addictive if you are not careful. It took a hard conversation from Josh to help me realize where my state of mind was and how unhealthy it really was for me and the people around me. 

Humility might be something people desire from a leader but pride will for sure kill anything the Spirit is doing in you.

Granted, Jesus lived a perfect life, but He was the epitome of humility. Just read through Philippians 2. I believe this is why Jesus was a fantastic leader and this is why some of your leaders are fantastic as well.


Has someone ever said something to you that maybe you know you needed to hear but the way that they said it was hurtful? Yes, you might of needed to hear what they had to say but they was they said it made it to the point you didn’t even hear the constructive criticism to make you better because you were hurt on their tone.

What you have to say could build someone up but how you say it to them could tear them down twice as fast.

This is why having a kind leader is so necessary. Sometimes when you hear the word “kind” you hear “push-over”. This is not the case at all. Some people don’t have kindness at all. Jesus had it. In every encounter he had with people (except the Pharisees) as he was doing ministry, he treated them well. He asked them questions. He healed people. He had compassion on them. He interacted with kindness. The leaders who show genuine kindness to your students are the ones you need to praise and lift up and make examples of because this is why students flock to them. This is why they are great leaders.


I always tell our leaders, when a student opens up to you we need to be sure we watch our reactions to whatever it is they are telling us. We need to respond with grace. The leaders who are killing it during our midweek services are the ones who show students the most grace but are correcting in doing so. Students mess up. We mess up. Mature leaders realize the grace to the grace we have been given and proof their realization when they can show and express grace to the students they interact with. Jesus was the master at this is. This is why he is such a great leader.

These are the characteristics all great leaders have. So I have to ask the question, “Do you have these things?” I want to lead like Jesus. These are the things He did and showed us and if you look at your own great leaders (and hopefully yourself) you will see these three characteristics.



About the Guest Author

Justin Knowles has been a pastor for the last 8 years and is the Lead Student Ministries Pastor at Christ’s Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees 7th-12th grade and has an amazing team that put on midweek services for junior high and high school students. He is passionate about reaching all kinds of students for Jesus, leading teams and writing about his learnings in ministry on the blog

Follow Justin on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebookor visit

Reflect or Prep

I just finished my morning devotions, or did I just finish lesson prep? Being a youth worker, it’s so hard to have my quiet time with God and not turn it into lesson prep for my Life Group students. If I’m not careful, and I’m often not careful, God’s word doesn’t transform me, it inspires a lesson I write to teach others.

Maybe this is what Paul was talking about when he asked, “Who will rescue me from this body of death? I do what I don’t want to do, but I don’t want to do what I ought to do?” Both the misapplication of that verse and the paraphrase of it are my fault. Sorry. In this scenario, that’s how I feel, though. I really want to soak in God’s word and let it transform me. However, I have a lesson to teach on Wednesday and this is really good stuff… but it needs to be about me and God in this moment.

Do you see what I mean, though? I’m asking myself how (or if) I soak in God’s word, rather than just pass it on. I’m writing this blog post because if I’m asking myself this question, I’m guessing a lot of other ministry leaders need to do themselves this question, too.

Rather than posting 5 bullet points for how to do this, you may have already got what you needed by reading this far. I’m done. Soak it in. Thanks for reading.

Where Do I Start Reading The Bible?

A youth ministry friend of mine sent this text message to me today:

Hi Dennis
I have a teen that’s asking me if there is a better order to read the Bible cover to cover and I wondered if you had a suggestion?

This is one of my favorite questions to get as a youth worker. It shows that a student genuinely wants to digest God’s love letter to us.

Here’s how I always answer that question:

I love that question about how to read the Bible other than in the order it’s written. I’ve answered it several times for others over the years. Here’s what I always tell students:

To know what to read in the Bible, it helps to know what’s in it and how it’s organized. It also helps to use your own interests and curiosities.

The Bible has some basic sections:

I intentionally do not reference every book. Typically, a person who asks this question is just looking for a place to start. What I share, then, is enough information to pique their curiosity and give them some places to consider starting and enough information to help them decide what comes next.

I suggest listening to the Bible, rather than reading it. They may want to follow along. The reason I suggest listening to it is their minds can imagine what they are hearing and picture it, rather than focusing on reading the words only. For me, this is a better way. For others, they may prefer to read or read along as they listen to it.

I also recommend using the New Living Translation because it’s easier to understand. That’s not a knock against any other translation or an endorsement of the NLT, it’s just my personal preference.

History of how everything got started: Genesis – Deuteronomy
– How the world began
– Where many of our basic beliefs as Christians (Jews) originated
– Where many of the instructions God gives us for living originate

– If you really want some solid wisdom for life, check out Proverbs

How God guides us back to himself to be used for his purposes
– Jonah

Worshipping God through good times and bad
– Psalms (you’re not alone)

Women in God’s plan
– Ruth, Esther

What’s the real story about Jesus
– Look at the prophesy about him – Isaiah
– Read his life story from 4 different perspectives – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the very beginning of Acts

How did the church begin? Why do we have it? What role does it serve?
– Acts

How do I live out the Christian life?
– Romans (Chapters 1-3 go together – read all three together, then go at your own pace for the rest of the book)
– James

Being a young leader in the church, letting the Bible be a mentor
– 1 & 2 Timothy

The 4 Elements of a Great Volunteer Team

Saw this post over at Cory Lebovitz’s Blog about building a great volunteer youth ministry team. He’s got some tips that all youth ministries would do well to implement. I’m going to post a small snippet below. Head over to his blog to read the whole post.

The 4 Elements of a Great Volunteer Team are:

  • Investment in One-Another (Care) – When people feel known, cared for and appreciated they are freed up to accomplish great things together. Healthy care for your team is a responsibility for all, not just the leader. Do not just serve with the people on your team; get to know them. Learn the names of their spouse and kids; find out the pressures and passions they have outside of the team. When a team member misses a meeting or a service time, reach out and let them know you missed them. When people care for one another they will fight for one another.

Head over to his blog to read the whole post.