5 Ways You Can Bomb A Sermon   by Adam Ramsay 

Finding your own voice, style, and rhythm as a communicator of God’s Word is a journey that takes a lifetime. However, you can get a head start by learning to avoid these common mistakes preachers make.

When I sat down after preaching my first sermon, I felt like I had done a pretty decent job. In reality it was about as smooth as a circle of white guys on the dance floor during happy hour.

Preaching is a high calling and hard work. I started preaching weekly to a group of high-school students when I was just 20 years old. Like me, a huge percentage of preachers learn the ropes and discover their voice while teaching young people in some form of student ministry. And unless you’re some sort of prodigy (you’re probably not), the brutal truth is you will likely look back on your first couple hundred sermons as something comparable to the earnest delusion of most American Idol auditions.

If you are still in your first five years as a preacher, don’t give up! God has this wonderful way of drawing straight lines with crooked sticks. Fortunately he not only works through us, but in spite of us.

I am of little use in the pulpit if I am proclaiming the gospel without relying on it.

I know we are addicted to instant results and naturally gravitate toward the easy path of least resistance. I know the temptation to settle for mimicking your favorite preacher that online podcasting has provided us. But finding your own voice, style, and rhythm as a communicator of God’s Word is a journey that takes a lifetime. And it’s better to know one thing up front: there are no shortcuts.

As we have pioneered student ministry at Mars Hill Church over the past year, I have been preaching on average 4–5 times a week and have enjoyed the opportunity to talk to lots of young preachers like myself. What follows are five of the most common ways I’ve personally bombed a sermon to students (or seen others in youth ministry do likewise), along with some helpful instruction from some of the greatest preachers of all time. Continue reading


College Stress: What Parents Should Know About Student Depression                  by Derek Melleby

“Maybe you are depressed.” That was the last thing I expected to hear from a doctor my senior year of college. Depressed? I was doing well academically, was surrounded by a good group of friends and was a student leader for Athletes in Action, a sport’s ministry on campus. Why would I be depressed? But the symptoms were there. I was staying up most nights and sleeping during the day. I found myself getting tired without much physical activity. There were also small panic attacks combined with shortness of breath that would strike at random times. My self-diagnosis was a relapse of mononucleosis. After a series of negative tests, the campus physician suggested depression.

My story is not unique, of course. For the past decade, student mental health issues have increased at an alarming rate, leaving many college counseling centers strained. In 2004, Harvard University psychiatrist Richard Kadison’s groundbreaking book, College of the Overwhelmed: The Campus Mental Health Crisis and What to Do About It (Jossey-Bass) became a rallying cry for campuses to be equipped with better mental health services. A recent book by psychiatrist David Leibow, What to Do When College is Not the Best Time of Your Life (Columbia University Press) reminds those who care about college students that mental health issues are not going away.

From my experience working in campus ministry, I think parents and church leaders have a significant role to play in helping young college students navigate these challenges. What follows are five things parents and church leaders should know about the mental health of college students along with a few suggestions of how to respond: Continue reading


6 Questions Every Youth Ministry Should Ask Itself   by Doug Franklin

I believe that evaluation is important; it’s the way to growth. Evaluation is also very simple, we can do it be just asking, “is there a better way?” When we ask ourselves this question we are just checking to see if a new idea, system or program will help us be more effective.

Reasons not to evaluate: (youth workers have made all these statements to me in training seminars or workshops).
-“We like the status quote, things are going well and we don’t need to make changes.”
-“We reject the idea that ministries need to get better. We like not competing with others, in-fact we think it’s more spiritual.”
-We just love students and in this culture we feel like that is all you can do. Acceptance, low expectations and love are the way to minister to students.
-Students are under so much pressure and have so many distractions why try and get them to do more stuff.

We often succumb to the above reasons, because evaluation stirs something inside of us. It makes us feel not good enough, and no ones wants to feel like that. In my opinion, it’s what turns many people off to leadership and I think it’s why confidence plays such a big role in being a leader. Challenge yourself; is evaluation truly unhealthy or have you rejected the idea of evaluation because of how it makes you feel? The question is not designed to point blame but to give you a chance to really explore your heart.

If you want to evaluate your ministry try these 6 questions. Continue reading


Don’t Forget to Land the Plane – 3 Ways to End Your Sermon                                  by Michael Lukaszewsky

The landing is one of the most important parts of any flight. In this moment, there is more potential for error and danger than any other time.

This is true of sermons, too.

Too many times, we create great outlines and deliver great content, but suffer a crash landing. Without a clear conclusion, great content often falls flat.

Before I give you a few practical suggestions on how you can end your sermon, let me share with you two biblical examples.

Example #1: Nehemiah.

In the Old Testament book, Nehemiah told his story and then clearly asked the people to join him in building the wall. His call to action wasn’t “think about it,” but “build it.” Nobody had any doubt about what Nehemiah wanted. The end of his message was super clear.

Example #2: Peter.

In Acts 2, Peter preached one of the greatest messages of all time. He told the story of Jesus and accused people of killing Jesus. At the end of the message, Peter clearly said, “Repent and be baptized.” There was no doubt what Peter wanted people to do. Peter was crystal clear.

Here are three ways you can clearly land the plane in your message. Continue reading


The Five Loves   by Chris Schaffner

“Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”
Proverbs 4:23, NASB

“The call of God to minister the gospel is a high honor and a noble challenge. It carries with it unique opportunities as well as special burdens and dangers for members of the clergy as well as their families. These burdens can be fruitfully born and the dangers triumphantly overcome. But that will not happen unless the minister’s “inner person” (2 Cor. 4:16) is constantly renewed by accessing the riches of God and His kingdom in the inner person.”  – From: Dallas Willard, The Pastors Guide to Effective Ministry, Beacon Hill Press, 2002

The Proverb above tells us “watching” over our hearts requires diligence.  Diligence won’t happen on accident.  It requires intentional and purposeful effort.  Many of us live as if we hope soul care is something that will happen to us through osmosis.  We often sprinkle some Jesus on the things we do and have our obligatory quiet times so we can check it off our list of things to do.  But how many of us actually intentionally set aside time to simply be with Jesus in a way the increases our ability to love.  Love is what draws people into the kingdom and you cannot transmit something you don’t have.

When we spend time with the Savior the fruit should be an increase in our capacity for love.  My Spiritual Director (Father Terry) often tells me that if the spiritual habits I practice don’t lead to an increased ability to love then it is a fruitless and worthless endeavor.  He talks about the five loves of the Christian life; God, others, self, creation, and our enemies.  He reminds me regularly that when my cup is full then I don’t need anything from others and am freed up to simply love them like Jesus.  But, when my cup is depleted or empty then I become a consumer of those I was created and called to love.

Years ago Father Terry (or Padre as I tend to call him) provided me with reflection questions regarding the five loves and encourages me to start my days off contemplating them and asking Jesus to guide to throughout the day to come and to end my nights by reflecting on my (Spirit enabled) ability to love throughout the day past. One quick reminder before you look at the list, Padre is quick to tell me I will fail in this mission, but that grace is there to meet me when I do. We practice progress not perfection.

The Five Loves: Continue reading


Technology: Friend or Foe?   by Kurt Johnston

I don’t know much about technology.

I rely heavily on my teenage children and the younger members of our youth ministry team to help me navigate the world of technology. And it has become a “World of Technology” hasn’t it?! My hunch is that if you were to take a snap shot of your daily routine from a decade ago and compare it to today, you would be shocked by the influence the rapidly growing world of technology has had on your personal life and ministry.

I’ve heard people (usually older folks) bemoan technology; that it’s robbing us of our interpersonal skills, ruining our eyes, and ushering in the end of the world. And I’ve heard people (usually younger folks) talk about how they can’t imagine a world without it; a world unconnected wouldn’t be worth living in, would it?

So is technology our friend, or is it a foe?  Well, maybe it’s both!  For instance:

FRIEND: You make a dinner reservation on your cell phone.

FOE: You can’t make it through dinner without checking your phone multiple times.

FRIEND: You can instantly share pictures of airplane wings and coffee mugs.

FOE: People actually share pictures of airplane wings and coffee mugs.

FRIEND: You can play a Youtube video during your lesson with one click.

FOE: You begin to think most important part of your lesson is a Youtube video.

FRIEND: For $10 per month you have tons of television shows on demand.

FOE: You spend 10 hours on a Friday night watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Twenty years ago while attending a workshop on creativity the presenter said, “Use television to get creative ideas, but don’t let television use you. Don’t become enslaved to something that you should have mastery of.”

Hmm … maybe that same principal still works all these years later. Technology is a wonderful tool, but it’s ONLY A TOOL! Technology should enhance our life and our ministry, not dictate it. Technology should be something we learn to master, but we can’t let ourselves become enslaved to it.

Practical question:

  • Take a look at your life and your youth ministry, and the role technology plays, and ask yourself an honest question: Is technology your friend or have you allowed it to become your foe?


Developing A Strong Volunteer Team   by Doug Franklin

LeaderTreks uses a five step process for developing transformational adult volunteers.

Step one: Recruiting the right people
If you blow a dog whistle you know that only dogs hear the call. The same is true when we call for people who will want to be heart to heart with students, so we need to learn how to attract the right volunteers. So often we feel like we are intruding in someone’s life if we ask them to mentor a student – why? This may be the greatest calling in a person’s life; especially if God wired them for deep spiritual mentoring.

It is important to avoid giving volunteers the perception that the youth ministry is in trouble and desperately needs their help. Who wants to help a ministry that is failing? People who are natural leaders want to be part of a team that is successful. Offer a positive view of the ministry and talk about how students are moving to the next level. Make it clear that people with the special gift of mentoring are needed to help students develop strong relationships with Jesus. This approach keeps people from feeling guilty or that they are helping you and not students. Keep the focus on students. Be sure that the volunteers understand their role is to help students develop spiritually. Tell them how you’re going to train and support them through the journey. Invite those that are interested to an orientation meeting.

Step two: Vision casting – Orientation  Continue reading


Owning Their Mistake Can Teach Students Valuable Lesson  by Jennifer Seibert


It happens to everyone. Every student makes a mistake or an error in judgment at some point. Missing homework, a low test grade, a forgotten lunch, a snippy attitude, a touch of laziness — it happens to everyone. But how we respond as parents and educators is what matters most. The key is not to panic. As a mom, I understand the magnitude of some of the mistakes our children make. But we must do our best to stay calm, no matter what. Our children need this the most. They get their strength from us.

Over the years, I have watched students, including my own, forget homework and then watched as parents rush home and then back to the school to get it turned in on time. I have done this myself and regretted it. What if we didn’t do that; what if we didn’t rescue our children from every little mistake? What if our children had to own their mistake? Would that be the end of the world? Or would it teach our children valuable lessons about making mistakes and the world not ending, about communication with adults and about responsibility on them rather than on their parents. These are valuable lessons that should make a valuable impression.

Taking a backseat and letting our children fall or fail at small tasks might in the end save them from falling or failing in a major way. Of course, this makes us crazy as parents, but what makes us crazy when they are young will most certainly save us when they are older.

Continue reading


Strength in the Lord  by Wisdom Hunters

“I will strengthen them in the Lord and in his name they will walk,’ declares the Lord.” Zechariah 10:12

The Lord is strength for the journey of life. Fatigue and discouragement can assault us like a bandit on a deserted dirt road. Life is constantly swinging its bruising punches. Before long we can become beaten down with no energy to continue. We know in our heads we are children of the King, but our hearts feel no royal resilience. Fatigue requires faith.

Weariness is an opportunity for the Lord to strengthen you. He uses His people to energize and encourage one another. We are all needy and it is just a matter of time before we all have to learn how to receive. The Lord wraps His strength around the gift of a prayer warrior—someone who storms heaven on your behalf is a strength giver.

Do not let divorce, death or disappointment exclude you from the Lord’s strength. Work will get you down. People will let you down. Failure will knock you down. Your greatest fears may cause you to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. Fight fear with fear. Let the fear of God strengthen you as it fortifies your faith in Him. Continue reading


3 Common Traits of Students That Don’t Leave The Church   by Jon Nielson


“What do we do about our kids?” The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I’m a high school pastor, but for once, they weren’t talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying. Each had a story to tell about a “good Christian” child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church’s youth program, gone on short-term mission trips, and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn’t want anything to do with it anymore. And, somehow, these mothers’ ideas for our church to send college students “care packages” during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn’t strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches? In our youth ministries?

It’s hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. And there is no one easy solution for bringing all of those “lost” kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids whostay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry. Continue reading