Archives For Youth Ministry

Why Youth Stay in Church

January 10, 2015


I had a conversation about youth ministry a few weeks ago with a friend. Jennifer and I started working in youth ministry almost 19 years ago, and we have been blessed to teach and mentor hundreds of youth over that time.

During my conversation, I started sharing success stories of the youth who have gone into ministry and mission work, and those who have succesful careers and are serving in their churches. But I was also quick to point out that we have former youth who have struggled. Some have struggled with drugs and alcohol, some are even in jail, some are already divorced, some have fallen away from church, and some are even now atheists. Here’s my point. In ministry, we do what we can, but ultimately, each person is responsible for living their life. I was reminded of what the Apostle Paul shared to the Corinthian church.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7 NLTAfter all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.

If we take credit for the success, then we are also the ones to blame when bad things happen. In youth ministry, we really only have a small window of opportunity to make an impact on the lives of teens. I have seen God change lives in a dramatic fashion, and I have also seen youth repeatadly reject the Gospel. Again, our responsibility is to be faithful and obedient, and to not give up. I love what John Wesley once said.

Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.

– John Wesley

At our January First Sunday at Cornerstone, Jennifer shared from this article three traits of youth who stay in church once they reach adulthood. Read this and really think about the importance of living out the Gospel in the context of family.

  1. They are converted.
  2. They have been equipped, not entertained.
  3. Their parents preached the Gospel to them.

I love how the article wraps up and sums up my thoughts.

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God’s work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children; our work depends on you.

I once heard the saying that truth taught in the context of relationships changes lives, and I couldn’t agree more. Our teens don’t need more pizza parties and concerts, they need relationships where the Gospel can be demonstrated and taught. They need opportunities to put their faith in action, and they need to realize that church is not something you attend, it’s belonging to the Body of Christ. If we pass that on, we are doing more than entertaining them, we are actually discipling them to live as followers of Christ.

Last week, we took 18 of our older youth to the Wayfarer Beach Camp by 3DM.  It was our second year in attendance and we had an incredible experience. I love how the camp emphasizes both discipleship and mission. It really connects with our philosophy as a church and youth ministry.

Our youth spent the week learning more about the six facets of the Lord’s Prayer and how it impacts our identity and relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our youth grew closer to each other and closer to God throughout the week. I appreciate the fact that Wayfarer strives to train and equip youth leaders to minister and lead their teenagers in Spiritual Growth. I’m already looking forward to next year. Click here to view a camp highlight video. If you look closely, you’ll see several of our Cornerstone teens.

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Here is more about the camp from their website


At camp, we focused on these three statements: Heaven is bending toward earth, earth is reaching toward Heaven, and that the Collision is coming. We dove into the lifestyle of prayer Jesus models for us with The Lord’s Prayer to see these collisions happen.

The breakthrough and collisions that we saw can only be attributed to The Lord and how he works. Students were experiencing the Father in unique ways, seeing his Kingdom, recognizing his Provision and then began being the provision for others. Then we saw students start to experience the realness of being forgiven and forgiving, the peace of God guiding us, and the strength of knowing that God delivers us.

We had an amazing week with Ben Hardman, Dave Rhodes, and Courtney Reichley as they walked us through each section of the Lord’s Prayer. David Walker created an amazing Spirit – filled environment by leading worship for us this week.

Since the beginning of Cornerstone, we have been blessed with talented youth who have served in our worship ministry. I love the fact that youth have a place to serve and get involved and develop their talents and gifts. Four of our Cornerstone youth, including my son Luke, participated in a music competition today called Voices of the New River. They won the competition and now get the opportunity to spend time in the recording studio working on a CD.

It’s exciting to see teens find purpose and grow in their faith. And seeing my own son, who just turned 14, develop into a great musician is very humbling. I’m excited about the future of our youth ministry. Here are a few videos showing their talents. Hannah has an incredible voice, and Luke, Philip and David are awesome. But I’m most proud of their strong faith in Christ.

Here is a recent Church Service where our youth team led worship at Cornerstone


For two more days, you can take advantage of a great deal on youth ministry resources. is a website that shares great deals for ministry resources for only 144 hours. The current deal is winding down, but it’s a great bargain.

Here are the deal details

-This deal ends at NOON (eastern) on Thursday, March 13, 2014 and only lasts 144 hours.

-This deal includes $1,246+ worth of Youth Ministry Curriculum, more than a year’s worth, from Wayfarer. We’ve listed each series that’s included below.  Each 4-week series’ is biblically based, relevant, creatively fresh, and designed to engage the heads, hearts, and hands of your students.  These are perfect for any youth-ministry setting.  Sweeeet!

-Instant download (no shipping required)

We love Wayfarer, which is part of the 3DM organization. Last year, we even took our youth group to the Wayfarer Camp at Myrtle Beach. They have a huge focus on missional discipleship, and I feel they do an incredible job of connecting with students. Their videos and graphics are a little quirky and have a steampunk feel, but they are a lot of fun.

This deal is for 14 different youth series that are each four weeks long! That’s over a year’s worth of curriculum. Each series includes

  • Teaching Guides
  • Leader Guides
  • Series Intro Video
  • Countdown Video
  • Poster Art
  • Screen Slides
  • Page Headers
  • T-Shirt Art

Check out for this great deal, but do it before March 13 at noon.


Wayfarer Camp 2013

July 15, 2013 — 2 Comments



Last week, we took a group of our Cornerstone youth to the Wayfarer Beach Camp in Myrtle Beach.  We really didn’t know what to expect, but I’m so glad we decided to go. Over the past 17 years, I have been to numerous youth camps, conferences, mission trips and concerts, but Wayfarer was one of the best events we have ever participated in. It was truly a life-changing event for our youth, and we are already planning on taking a much larger group next year. It was the first time that two of my children went as part of the youth, so I had to work hard throughout the week not to embarrass them :-) Here is what made this such a successful week for our ministry.



Wayfarer Camp is built around the ministry philosophy of the group 3DM. They strongly believe in building a discipleship culture in the local church. I have participated in workshops by 3DM, and I have read many of the missional and discipleship books by Mike Breen of 3DM. We had numerous times to meet together with our students to unpack and discuss what they were learning. Throughout the week we asked our youth the questions”What is God saying?” and “What are you going to do about it?”  The camp leaders said that their goal was for students to have a spiritual experience based not in a room, but with a group. The large group teaching flowed naturally into our group times, and I appreciate the camp trusting the local church leaders to disciple and lead their students. Our youth had many spiritual breakthroughs during the week and I am continually amazed to see God at work.

Large Group Teaching

Dave Rhodes and Chris Brooks were the two lead speakers for the week. Both did an incredible job of teaching and leading students through our theme of faith, hope, and love. So many youth speakers fall into the trap of guilt and manipulation, and I loved the fact that this camp focused on God’s redemptive power. The students learned that their obedience flows out of their identity in Christ, and they were deeply moved by what they learned from Scripture throughout the week. By having two different teachers, the message was not tied to a personality. Both speakers also engaged and talked with the students instead of preaching at the students. You could tell both had a huge heart for ministry and discipleship. They also provided several great experiential responses to the messages, so that the students could participate and learn through different learning styles.


David Walker led worship for the week of camp and did a phenomenal job. Seeing almost 400 youth together praising God is an awe-inspiring. From the first day, he engaged the students. He shared from Scripture, he shared his heart for worship, and he demonstrated how to listen to and respond to the Holy Spirit during worship. Our students kept talking about how much they enjoyed the worship times. They liked the authenticity of the the worship and they liked that it didn’t feel like a performance. The music was loud and powerful, and the students responded with passion.

Service Projects

One of the things that made us consider this camp was their emphasis on serving. While there, we were able to participate in two service projects. We worked with Barefoot Church painting, landscaping, and cleaning up, and then we cooked dinner for a local soup kitchen. A huge part of our mission at Cornerstone is engaging our culture, and this camp reinforced what we have been teaching. I love seeing students serve others, and it helps them realize that camp is about much more than fun and games.

Youth Worker Training

Each day, the Wayfarer team poured into training our youth leaders. We were blessed to be able to take Chris and Brandy with us, and Jennifer did a great job leading the trip for us. For me, it was a great week of getting to know our students better. I have not been as involved with youth ministry over the past couple of years, but this week was refreshing on so many levels. I enjoyed getting to know the other youth pastors, and it was great hearing stories of how God was moving in the lives of students throughout the week.


wayfarer-cornerstone-group worship


Jennifer and I started serving in Youth Ministry way back in 1996. We’ve talked about the many changes in society and in ministry over the last seventeen years, and I wanted to share some of the lessons we have learned. Quite frankly, the way we do ministry must change if we want to be effective. The methods can and should be adapted to the youth we are trying to reach, while the message must stay the same. I see many churches that are still trying to use methods that were effective in the 80’s and the 90’s (and some even from the 50’s)  and they don’t understand why they are struggling reaching the youth of today.

Many of the changes can be traced to the shift in the millennial generation towards postmodernism. We have witnessed the changing attitudes of teenagers, and there is a difference in how they think. The internet has given today’s youth a gateway to the rest of the world. No longer are teens in rural areas sheltered from the influence of society and culture. Some of the changes are good, and some concern me. Teens are no longer content to be entertained. They want to make a difference. But they are also not as concerned with truth as found in the Bible. What I want to see is a return to a youth ministry model that teaches, equips, and empowers students to have a solid Gospel-centered worldview. We have been blessed at Cornerstone to see a majority of our youth stand firm in their faith after high school. Here are some of the reasons why.

Here are Five Shifts That Need to Take Place in Youth Ministry

Shift from an Event to a Movement

We used to have the mentality that if you plan it, they will come. We had great evangelistic events with free prizes, crazy games, and fun activities, and the youth would show up and bring their friends. Over the years, the youth were not as excited when we planned events. What we quickly learned is that youth want to be empowered, not entertained. When you give them permission to do great things for God, they do it! Today’s youth want to make a difference, but it is our job to point them in the right direction, help them discover their gifts, and model for them how to serve, teach, and reach their friends. When a movement starts, youth will be drawn to your ministry and the events become secondary. You can still have events, but they aren’t your primary source of outreach and evangelism. I think one of the reasons so many youth leave the church after graduation is they were simply attending a youth group, instead of being part of a movement of teenagers serving Christ.

Shift from Inviting to Sending

The goal of youth ministry is not how many people you can get to attend your meeting. This is a difficult truth for many churches to understand. Your success is simply not based on the number in attendance. We must learn to change the scorecard of success. What if our success as a youth ministry was based on how many students we send out as missionaries to their schools and community? What if our success was based on the number of students who learn how to reach their friends and then disciple them? Instead of a ministry built around the personality of the youth pastor, we need a ministry based around the power of Christ.

Shift from Separate to Integrated

I’m tired of seeing a church within a church. For many churches, it is easier to create a separate church within their church just for youth. They have separate Sunday morning services, they have separate opportunities to serve, and even separate mission trips. In essence, the youth are told they can only be part of the larger church when they grow up. I see this as a huge problem with why youth leave the church. Don’t create a consumer mentality within youth ministry where everything is centered around catering to their comfort. I believe that the youth are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today! Let’s give them opportunity to serve and make a difference now. At Cornerstone, we don’t have a separate service because our teens are serving with the adults. They are teaching in children’s ministry, they are playing in the worship band, and they are helping with technology.They are part of a larger church, so that when they graduate, nothing really changes. They are already integrated within the church.

Shift from Reaching to Making

We all want to see students saved, so the importance of evangelism cannot be diminished. But our goal should be far more than just to get a student to repeat a prayer and join the church. If that is the end goal, you will just move on to the next student as soon as they accept Christ. It is great to see a renewed focus on making disciples within the church in America. Discipleship is investing, mentoring, and spending time with them, helping them learn and grow, so the focus is not just on the activity, it’s on the relationship. Our students will be challenged by a culture that is becoming more hostile to Christianity, and the only way they will stand firm, is if they have been given a solid foundation. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, not converts, so let’s emphasize the importance of discipleship, and not just evangelism. This is the hardest step, but it’s also where leaders are formed.

Shift from Informing to Equipping

As a teacher, I like to share information. I like to read and I like to pass on lessons that I learn. While that can be a good thing, the goal in youth ministry is not just the transfer of information. Gaining knowledge is important, but what are your students going to do with what they learn. We want to give students the tools and opportunities they need to change the world. So in addition to teaching, we give them opportunities to serve. We provide real life opportunities to engage their community and share the Gospel and the love of Christ. Currently, our youth meet for four to six weeks working through a teaching series. After that, they spend a week doing some type of service within our community or church. And they finish with a night of worship to process what they are learning. It’s not a perfect system, but we are seeing our youth grow and continue to serve after they graduate high school.

What would you add to the list? What are you seeing in Youth Ministry Today?

I am seeing a transformation take place in our society, and it scares me. I’ve noticed it primarily among our nation’s youth and college students, although it is taking place among people of all ages. The problem is a postmodern shift in how we view truth and tolerance.

Over the last few days, I’ve seen and heard numerous statements to the effect

I know what’s true for me, but who am I to tell someone else how to live their life. Just because it’s right for me doesn’t mean it’s right for them.

You don’t have to do a scientific study to show that youth and college age students are now more accepting of “alternative lifestyles”, drugs, cohabiting before marriage, same-sex marriages, and more. The reason is that society has taught us that we can’t speak truth into other peoples lives, and that just because something is right or wrong for us, it doesn’t mean it is right or wrong for others. Society wants us to believe that truth is relative, that is is based on our circumstances, traditions, and background.

Today’s definition of “tolerance” differs radically from the traditional dictionary definition. Tolerance used to mean showing respect to someone, even if you disagree. It meant enduring with something, such as a person’s behavior, attitudes or beliefs, without necessarily agreeing with them. In other words, love the sinner, hate the sin. However, today you are labeled intolerant and bigoted if you disagree with someone. Today’s definition of tolerance states that a person’s behavior, beliefs and attitudes are inseparable from who he or she is. Therefore, any attack on behaviors, beliefs or attitudes is seen as a personal attack.

In today’s society, each person’s idea of truth is based on their unique culture, and because all people are created equally, the new tolerance decrees that no one person can claim to possess a superior truth, or a truth that is “more true” than other people’s truths. Rather, all truth claims are equally valid.

Here is why this is so important. I have seen so many strong Christian young people refuse to take a stand for truth. Instead, in the name of tolerance, they are afraid to speak the truth in love as Ephesians 4:15 instructs us. The Bible is more than a guide book, it’s the divine story of a God who has provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him. It’s the Good News that God loved you so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to rescue you from your sin. We can and should address sinful lifestyles and behaviors. Jesus is the perfect example for us. John 4 is a just one example of how he confronted a woman living in a sinful lifestyle. He extended tolerance, love, respect, and grace to her, but he still shared with her a better way of life. We have reached the point where many Christians celebrate sinful behaviors while condemning other Christians who hold to their convictions based on the Bible. I think our church does a great job of standing firm in truth, while extending love to those who don’t know Christ. We have been accused of being a friend of sinners, and I’m perfectly fine with that, because we are in good company. But we also preach and teach that there is a better way to live, by allowing the truth of the Gospel to transform our hearts and minds to be more like Christ.

Isn’t it amazing how those who claim their mission is tolerance are so quick to judge and condemn Christians who disagree with them. Do you see the irony in this? As Christians, we should show grace, love, and compassion, but we can’t be afraid to take a stand for truth. In John 14:6, Jesus tells us that truth is not just a concept, truth is a person. So take a stand for Jesus, and don’t give in to the culture we live in. Don’t be ashamed of the Gospel!

Live Bible for Teens

I’ve seen a lot of teen Bibles over the years, but the Live Bible by Group Publishing has to be one of my favorites. My two oldest children are now in youth group and are spending a lot of time reading their Bibles. We bought them each a copy of this Bible, and they both love it. I grabbed their Bibles and took a quick picture with my cell phone. Not only do they look cool for a teen, but they truly have helped my children get in God’s Word.

My thirteen year old daughter just finished reading through the entire Bible, and my eleven year old son has finished the New Testament and is working through the Old Testament. The graphic design is contemporary, the content is applicable, and the translation is the easy to read NLT. If you are looking for a good Bible for your teen, then click here for more information from the Publisher.  You can click here to purchase from my amazon estore.

I’m recommending this because I’ve seen how it has helped my own children. I love seeing teenagers develop a hunger to read and learn from God’s Word.

From the Publisher,

Most youth Bibles are just teen versions of adult Bibles. Live takes an all-new, teen-centered approach. It includes a wealth of experiences and activities that help teens discover surprising things about God, see God involved in their lives, and express their faith creatively. Teens will see how God works in the lives of other teens and be encouraged to express their faith, too.

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