Intentional Time

I often get asked about the most important ways to be successful when you are a small group leader of students. At the top of my list is building community (I’ll blog about that another time) and the other way is by spending intentional time with students. Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I’ve found that even high school guys who come from homes where a father spends a lot of time with them, that student still wants and needs another adult male to speak into their life.

When you spend time with students, put your cell phone away and make the time about them, not you. Be intentional. Find out what’s going on in their life, be interested in what they are interested in. I hate basketball but two of my high school guys not only love it they play on teams. So before I hang out with them I check the Lakers and Clippers stats and know how they are doing. I’m not fake about it, they know I’m not a fan of basketball but they know I care enough to be able to be conversational with them about basketball.

The honest truth is that students will often times talk to a small group leader about things they are uncomfortable talking to their parents about. I once had a parent tell me they were jealous of the conversations I was able to have with their son but they were really thankful he had someone else in his life he could open up with.

If your church is like most, there are just not enough hours in the day for high school ministry paid staff to spend with each student in their ministry. My church is a mega church and our high school ministry is bigger than the average size of most churches. Our high school ministry staff is amazing and they make our students feel loved and do a great job teaching and showing the love of Jesus to students. With the size of the ministry, however, there is no way possible for them to spend individual time each week with each student.

My 16 small group guys spend about an hour a week with our high school paid staff during a church service. I spend about 4-5 hours a week with them as a group. This week I spent another 2 hours with them individually between lunches, Starbucks runs, texting them and going to their school events. I have two students who suffer from extreme depression so I’ve spent about 5-6 hours of intentional time with them this week. That doesn’t count endless text messages and phone calls with their parents. All of this was on top of working 55 hours this week.

I’m not complaining, I love my ministry and my small group guys are very important to me. My only goal with this post is to show how important it is to have volunteers in student ministry; good, well trained volunteers being intentional about the time they spend with students.

Side note for paid youth workers: For every hour a staff member pours into one volunteer, that volunteer, in turn, multiplies that investment exponentially. Your volunteers can spend time ministering to students in ways the paid staff doesn’t have time to. For every training event that you send your volunteers to or host at your church, your ministry will reap the benefits. Sounds like a good investment to me.

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.

When Youth Staff Isn’t Hanging Out With Students

Saw this blog post over at 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…


Here’s a great example of how I use a little light-hearted humor and knife-in-the-heart guilt to keep the bar raised high for my Life Group boys. I definitely don’t beat them down, but I want them to know that, even if they can’t attend church, that doesn’t mean I lower my expectations of them.


Freshmen Again


My Life Group students all graduated last year. This year I’m back to teaching Freshmen. This week we went to the park for our lesson. Afterward, they ran around the field pushing each other over and being very rough. All of it was in fun, but I’m so not used to that anymore. Kind of took me by surprise. I’m also finding that I need to learn how to teach to this age group again.

I love how each age has unique needs that require me as a leader to grow or relearn skills I haven’t used for a long time. It keeps me fresh and requires me to rethink strategies. As youth workers, we can become like old wine skins that can break with changes like this. I find myself reminding myself I need to be renewed, rather than expecting students to adjust to my “get off my lawn” stage of life and what I’m used to having with my seniors from last year.

Coulda, But Didn’t


I’m kind of kicking myself this morning. I’m in Dallas visiting family. The other day I noticed President Bush would be signing books at Barnes & Noble. I was there early, but didn’t get a ticket because I was in the wrong place when they handed them out.

I’m not too bummed, but I am a little. I got to see him interviewed at my church a few years ago and got an autographed book then, but didn’t get to meet him.

To salvage the situation, I thought I’d compare that to my youth ministry. I care more about my students than I do about getting an autographed book from the president. However, I’m sure there are many opportunities I miss because I’m in the wrong place when the good stuff is happening. The good stuff can even bad stuff, but it’s made better by sharing the experience.

Since I’m on vacation, some of my students taught the Bible study last night in my high school small group. I’m actually more bummed I missed that than meeting the president.

Taking these losses as an opportunity to evaluate my level of involvement with my students will help me hopefully be a better youth worker, but also, because of what I gain by the way I respond to those losses remove the sting a little and give me good illustrations for when I train youth workers and teach students.

After all, all things work for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purposes, right?