The Desperate Need for Life-Changing Youth Ministries  by Ron Powell


Whether you work in a church, on campus, a drop in center or a camp ministry to teens, you are needed like never before!

You may think that I am being over dramatic but when you consider these three pressings needs of youth, you will be convinced that the work you do is vital and that you need more help to do it well. Continue reading


5 Ways to Excel in Your Ministry and Leadership by Rick Warren


God is more concerned with your progress than your perfect performance. The very nature of discipleship is progressive. God’s purpose is that you become more and more like His Son, Jesus, and He will use your entire life to work that process out. As ministry leaders, we are not exceptions. We are examples. If we aren’t growing and challenging ourselves to move to the next level, personally and professionally, we can’t lead a congregation or a team to do so.

Excellence, in and of itself, isn’t a core value at our church. We’d rather launch things imperfectly than wait for perfect conditions, which never really arrive. Having said that, excelling or growing and improving is another matter. While we don’t have to have reached perfection to serve God, we must be willing to grow. Some Pastors and leaders excel and grow, while others don’t. What makes the difference? The Bible mentions at least five factors that cause us to excel… Continue reading


Stop Preaching and Start Communicating by Tony Gentilucci


“The day of the preacher is over; the day of the communicator is here.”

I remember I couldn’t write that phrase down fast enough when I first heard it, afraid that I would not write it out exactly as Haddon Robinson said it. Ever been there? That phrase so gripped me because I so believed it to be true that it became the basis for the title of my book, Stop Preaching & Start Communicating.

I’m often asked what I mean by “stop preaching and start communicating.” Isn’t preaching communicating? The short answer is no, it’s not. The answer Haddon gave me to his quote may help you understand what I mean by my book title. Haddon put it this way, “When I make that comparison, it’s not a put-down. There are people who preach within their tradition, and they do very well. I think the communicator is somebody who is aware of the wider audience and the wider culture, and so therefore he doesn’t really think of himself as preaching a message as much as communicating a message. It’s an attitude as well as a style. I think that communicators are the ones that are needed today to bridge the gap to a secular society.” Not sure how you feel about that answer, but I fully agree with Haddon 100%.

Today’s audiences have absolutely nothing in common with yesterdays. If you think they do, then you may want to take a closer look at what’s going on around you. The fact is it’s a completely different world. If you’re sort of an old-style preacher, the old-fashioned way, that approaches the platform or your pulpit with your famous three points and a poem, if your structures sound like, “My first point is … my second point is … the first reason to do so and so is … the second reason is,” those structures sound like a preacher talking and in this highly technical iPhone carrying, YouTube watching, hyper-texting digital generation that’s not what people are used to. More importantly, it’s not what they’re looking for. They’re driven by a wide variety of social and conventional media. And today’s media doesn’t sound like a preacher talking. Continue reading


Boost Your Students’ Self-Confidence by Danielle Rhodes


Every youth group has one of two students—or both. The first craves attention. He rolls his eyes at videos you find moving, interrupts your talks with rude jokes, and corrects other student’s answers with his “profound” insight. The other student sits in the back. She avoids eye contact, shrinks off to the bathroom during participatory activities, and refuses to talk in small groups. At first glance, these two students couldn’t be more different. But in truth, they are both dealing with the same issue: lack of confidence.

These days, bold and high-energy individuals appear self-assured, while quieter people are labeled as insecure or incompetent. But this has more to do with personality type than confidence level. As you can see from the students above, lack of confidence can show up as a nonstop need for peer validation or a stubborn refusal to participate.

Confidence is a realistic belief in one’s power and abilities. It is found in quiet assurance, in a peaceful demeanor, and in a listening ear. Truly confident people don’t seek the spotlight—they don’t need to. They’re just as comfortable leading as they are following. A truly confident leader is, above all, humble.

Developmental theorists agree that the most pivotal period of confidence development lasts from birth to around age 12. That’s unfortunate for youth workers—our influence in students’ lives begins towards the end of this formation period or later. So how, after these first 12 years, can we help our students build confidence? Continue reading


Raising Grateful Teens in Entitled Times  by Ron Powell


“Just what I NEVER wanted!”

I blurted out the words . My older brothers and sisters were shocked and appalled at my blatant ingratitude directed toward my mother.

I think that I was 8. I am still ashamed of my response. -Maybe that’s why raising grateful teens is so important to me. I was surprised to find study after study that proved that: people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.”

Here are 3 effective ways to nurture gratitude and defeat a sense of entitlement in teens.

Before I get into what parents are doing to build gratitude look at the big benefits for our kids!

Growing Up Grateful Gives Teens Multiple Mental Health Benefits, New Research Shows

Those who became more grateful also:

  • gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
  • become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
  • become 17 percent more happy and more hopeful about their lives;
  • experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.

And in general:

“people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.” To look at the study click here. Continue reading


The Cult of Culture – How to Get Out of This World  by Kenny Luck


Watch out for the world. It’s after you. It wants you in its cult following, wooing you with pleasures and power, fame and fortune, the nexus of excess. The cult of our culture provides the perfect distraction from what’s really important, and lures us with empty lusts, beliefs and religions.

It may not seem like an organized cult, but behind the apparent chaos and disorder is an enemy pulling the strings to entangle our mind, body and soul. It’s easy to overlook that we are targeted and marketed with endless desires to capture your time, energy and money. The world wants your worship, so you don’t worship the one who deserves it.

This cult of culture uses tangible ploys to steal our hearts. To get out of this world,God’s men have to acknowledge we are in a battle of unseen forces. It’s a war made of daily, even minute by minute, spiritual battles.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:12

Which side are you on? Are you buying the ticket to the cult of culture, or do you want to get out of this world? We need to be aware of the tug-of-war being played right now. On one end is the world, and on the other is God. Guess who’s in between being tugged? Continue reading


6 Ways to Earn the Right to Lead People  by Rick Warren


You’ll never have to earn God’s favor. God loves you and is pleased with you completely because of grace and not because of your performance. People, on the other hand, are a little different. If you want to lead people, you must establish credibility and earn the respect and the right to lead them.

Leadership is influence. The way you can tell you’re a leader is to look over your shoulder. If somebody’s following, then you’re the leader. If nobody’s following, you’re not the leader. The moment you have to say to the people in your ministry, “I’m the leader!” you are no longer the leader. Leadership is something that is earned. You earn the right to lead through six character qualities in your life.

1 Timothy 3:1, 7 says, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task… He also must have a good reputation with outsiders so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

If you set your heart on being an overseer, that’s a good ambition. It’s okay to have an ambition to be a leader. But if you’re going to be leader, you’ve got to have a good reputation. The key to a good reputation can be summed up in the word “character” – your inner attitudes, your values, and your actions. There’s a difference between reputation and character. Reputation is what people think you are. Character is what you actually are. D.L. Moody said, “Character is what you are in the dark.” Character is what you are when nobody’s around. Character is what you have left when you’ve lost your reputation. It’s what’s left over. The key to a good reputation is having good character. The problem is, we’re more concerned about image than character.

If leadership is influence, then influence is earned by respect. If you don’t have the respect of people, you’re not a leader. There are six character qualities, all in Proverbs that establish the respect we need to lead. Continue reading


Why I Changed The Way I Talk To Teenagers About Reading Their Bible                by Andy Blanks


Like most of you reading this, a large percentage of the time I spend discipling teenagers is devoted to encouraging them to develop the spiritual practices that form the foundation of a Christ-centered life. Chief among these practices is spending daily time with God in His is Word. And like you, I imagine, I’ve found this to be one of the more challenging areas to see fruit in. And it’s always been this way. You see, I’ve long challenged my teenagers to find set-aside time to meet with God each day through Bible reading and prayer. I’ve challenged them to do this at night before they go to bed, if they had to, but most often I’ve challenged them to find a half hour or so before school to start their day with prayer and Bible reading. I’ve done this for years. I bet you have too.

It occurred to me recently that I don’t speak to teenagers about this in the same way I used to. I have adapted my message.  Continue reading


How to Avoid a Moral Failure In Ministry and Leadership  by Rick Warren


One of my gravest concerns about the witness of the church to our current culture is the threat to our evangelistic integrity caused by moral failures among ministry leaders. Every time a leader falls, we all suffer with that leader and his family and friends. And our collective witness to God’s truth suffers as well. For Jesus’ sake, for the gospel’s sake, for your sake and your family’s sake, decide daily that you’re going to live with integrity by God’s grace.

I Corinthians 10:13 in the Living Bible says, “The wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistibleGod will show you how to escape.” I find this verse incredibly reassuring. First, it says everybody faces temptation. It’s man’s oldest problem, since Adam and Eve. We’ve all had problems with temptation. I’m tempted, you’re tempted. It’s not a sin to be tempted. It is a sin to give in to temptation. And God will provide a way out, a way of escape.

Here are six ways to take that escape, to avoid fatal attractions… Continue reading


What Likes Mean to Teens  by Ron Powell


Daniella: In my imagination, I see myself standing in front of a crowd, in front of thousands of people…

Teens share these same sentiments in a recent PBS Frontlines special, Generation Like, where Doug Rushkoff explores friends, follows and fame associated with the face book generation.

Maybe Likes matter little to you as an adult but according to these interviews Likes take on an entirely different meaning for teens in at least 4 surprising ways…


According to Rushkoff,  “Likes, follows, friends, retweets— they’re the social currency of this generation, Generation Like. The more likes you have, the better you feel.”

Will, a student in the documentary explains, “You can’t wait to find out whether people like you or not, so you need likes and stuff like that, instant gratification.

Not only teens see it this way. Seth Godin, author and blogger explains,

“Why on earth would someone spend all those hours to make a YouTube video of them doing something absolutely stupid and insane? They’re only going to get a check for $3 for doing it. But money isn’t the only currency.”

And this is the key. In a celebrity crazed culture, where YouTube is enough to make you a star, the likes a student receives on their cover photo or their face book profile, help them to evaluate their net worth.

Sadly, for students who go unnoticed at the high school, this also carries over to their digital life. The bigger risk here is that everyone can count how few friends that they have and few likes their profile gets.

As Rushkoff points about likes,  “You get them, you give them, and everyone knows how many you’ve earned. The number is right there for anyone to see.”

Further, since Instagram and Pinterest are also connected to Face Book, a student’s activity in these areas is either liked or ignored by others. Facebook either affirms or destroys a student’s social status.

Psychologist B.F. Skinner, who pioneered studies in Behavior Modification would have a hay-day with this social experiment. Every time a student gets a like on their image they are rewarded, the way Skinner’s mice would be rewarded with cheese for completing a task. This would reinforce the behavior as certainly as winning at a Vegas slot machine. The only difference for teens is that likes reinforce the behavior much more powerfully! It takes no time at all for teens to get hooked on these powerful instant rewards.

The PBS documentary considers the question “… the likes you get— are they about you, or are they about the profile picture?” Daisy, one of the girls interviewed responds: “That’s what you sit in front of your computer for an hour trying to figure out. It’s cryptic.”


Adolescence is a time of identity formation and nothing messes with identity more than consumer marketing. Media and marketing sell more than products to students, they sell them the false promise of acceptance, celebrity, success and romance.

Enter the digital social networking era and students aren’t only finding their identity in what they wear, they find it in everything they like or share.

“And when a kid likes something on line — a product or a brand or a celebrity — it becomes part of the identity that they broadcast to the world, the way a T-shirt or a bedroom poster defined me when I was a teen. For kids today, you are what you like.” A sober faced Rushkoff shares in Generation Like.

Even more sinister is that the marketing companies actually bank on this. They couldn’t buy such powerful endorsements of their products and services. And they feel absolutely no responsibility for what this kind of public devotion may do to teens. Rather than finding their identity internally they are a patchwork of books, bands, movies and merchandise that they post, share or like in their profile.


Teens are developing, for the first time, the ability to read what others think of them. Social scientists call this social cognition. This growing awareness is one of the reasons that some teens seem obsessed with how others think of them. Face Book amplifies this profoundly. It gets teens thinking that they may be able to by-pass traditional ladder-climbing routes to success by investing in their online persona.

Rushkoff explains that,  “It used to be that if a kid didn’t have good connections, hard work and talent was the only path to fame, and even that was no guarantee. But today, there’s another route, build and leverage a social network.”

Danah Boyd, Ph.D., author of It’s Complicated notes that, “Young people want attention. They want validation. And that’s actually not new. It’s just that now the possible stage on which you can operate on is much bigger. At the same time, the ability to get attention in a place where there’s tons of information, when there are tons of people competing for attention, is also harder.”

This same them is echoed by Seth Godin: “And when you can see that you have 5,000 followers on Twitter, or when someone recognizes you as that kid who did that stupid stunt on a mountain bike and broke your arm, suddenly, your arm doesn’t hurt because you know you’re famous.”

In the documentary this is confirmed again and again. Here are just a few comments from the students interviewed:

BOY: Everybody desires to be famous.

BOY: Facebook famous.

GIRL: Instagram famous.

GIRL: The most popular person on YouTube.

GIRL: It’s way easier to become famous for something outrageous.

GIRL: Girls will post, like, half-naked pictures.

BOY: Make a video and get, like, a million views.

BOY: Get as many friends, as many likes as possible.

GIRL: You want to be liked.

GIRL: Will this get likes?

GIRL: It’s all about likes.


Social networking has empowered every student with the tools to become a potential public figure with an international fan base. You Tube has provided them their own personal web show with a channel and subscribers. The more popular ones even receive a little bit of ad revenue. Twitter allows them to accumulate devoted followers. Can teens handle the pressures of building and servicing their followers? Or is it just too much for their fragile egos? What happens when the likes stop?

In a weird way, friends and family play into all of this. We feel the need to jump on board and affirm our friends and our relatives.

One Mom may have gone too far. Manuela Gutierrez admits that she pushed her daughter Daniella into it!

Instagram is what she uses, and so I’ve noticed, because I’m also the one that takes the pictures on that— I said, “Wear this, wear this, and I will take the picture. I will tell you how many likes. You’re going to get over 150.” And she does. I hate to say it, but if I have a full body picture, she will get tons of likes. And that’s just the reality. I mean—

So what do likes mean to a teen? Douglas Rushkoff comments: “In the end, that’s how the game of likes is played. It feels empowering and it feels like a social community, but ultimately, kids are out there alone, trying to live and survive.”