3 Secrets to Showing Volunteers You’re Really Thankful for them by Dale Hudson


Did you know that 65% of volunteers say they haven’t heard the words “thank you” in the last 12 months?  That’s sad, isn’t it?  When we don’t take the time to thank our volunteers, they end up feeling used and taken for granted.

Saying the words “thank you” is important, but if you really want to help your volunteers feel loved and appreciated, here are 3 secrets to bringing depth to those words.

Secret 1 – Thank them for who they are instead of for what they do.  What do we normally say?

“Thanks for all you do.”

And that’s okay.  But if you really want them to feel appreciated, thank them for who they are.  It will mean so much more to them.  Here are a few practical examples.

“Thank you for your heart for God and for the next generation.”

“Thank you for being a person full of compassion and kindness for kids who don’t seem to fit in with everyone else.”

“Thank you for being a person of character, integrity and faithfulness. 

See the difference?  This shows you value them as a person over what they do for the ministry.

Secret 2 – Thank them for something specific that you’ve seen them accomplish.  After you’ve thanked them for who they are, this is the next step.  Here are a few examples.

“It’s awesome how you made the new little boy feel welcome last week and helped him make some friends.” 

“I noticed last week how you captured the kids’ attention while you were teaching.  You are so gifted at communicating with kids.”

“You did an amazing job organizing the crafts for the preschool rooms last week.  The teachers loved it and it made the craft time flow so well for the kids.”

Secret 3 – Give them a personal gift.  Giving all your volunteers candy or another small gift with a note attached is a good thing.  In fact, here’s 50 ideas for this.

But…if you really want to show them how thankful you are for them…give volunteers a gift that is special to them.  Here’s how you can do this.  Have each volunteer fill out an information sheet that asks what their favorite food is, what their favorite candy is, what their favorite color is, what their favorite hobby is, etc.  Then go and purchase that unique item and give it to them with a personal, handwritten note.

Here’s an example.  You find out one of your volunteers loves Almond Joy candy bars.  So you go and buy him or her that candy bar and attached it to a personal note.  Bam!  The person will feel appreciated as an individual.

My friend, Frank Bealer, shared with me that he found out one of his volunteers loved a special kind of candy bar that couldn’t be found in stores in their area.  So he went online and ordered it for her.  It meant so much to her that he would go the second mile to show how much he appreciated her.  That is an awesome example of how to really thank a volunteer.

They say people don’t leave a job, they leave a manager.  In many, many cases that is true.  And I think the same could often be said for volunteers in the church world.  They stop volunteering because they feel used instead of valued.  Let’s go all out to show them how much we appreciate them.  Without them, there is no children’s ministry.  One of the most important things you will do as a leader this week is say the two words “Thank you.”

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  How do you express your gratitude to your volunteers?  What are some special things you’ve done for them?  Share your ideas and thoughts with everyone in the comment section below.


Youth Ministry Minute: The Mindful Youth Pastor by Rick Lawrence


The most stressed-out people in the world are sitting right there in your youth room every Wednesday night. Listen, and you’ll likely hear your teenagers complaining about their workload—homework, college apps, choir tryouts, after-school jobs, ACT/SAT prep, chaos at home… The list of woes is long. And they’re not blowing smoke. According to a 2014 American Psychological Association study, no demographic in contemporary culture is more stressed out than adolescents.

Gina Biegel, a psychotherapist and founder of Stressed Teens (stressedteens.com), studies teenagers who’ve sought counseling to help them with their stress. She’s noticed how unaware most kids are of their tech-saturated environment, and the almost-constant noise it produces in their lives. “…Teens are really never in silence,” she tells CNN’s digital correspondent Kelly Wallace. “They never have this moment just to be with their thoughts, be with who they are and actually what that feels like, to learn how to be comfortable by yourself.”

When Biegel helped these overwhelmed and burned-out teenagers to learn “mindfulness” techniques, they saw a profound reduction in anxiety, depression, obsessive symptoms, and interpersonal problems. Now, “mindfulness” is a New Age-y word I despised before I fully understood what it meant. But then I heard an interview with Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychologist and author of Mindfulness. She advocates a slow-down-and-pay-attention lifestyle that not only reduces stress, but helps us focus on what’s most important in our lives.

Langer says: “When you’re being mindful, you’re simply noticing new things. Mindfulness is what you’re doing when you’re at leisure. [For example] if you are on a vacation, you’re looking for new things. It’s enjoyable rather than taxing. It’s mostly energy-begetting, not energy-consuming.” Patrick Cook-Deegan, head of a mentoring organization that helps schools develop mindfulness programs, says: “A large part of being a human being is having social, emotional, and attention skills. And in the majority of schools I visit, we don’t actually teach kids how to pay attention or how to deal with their inner states in a healthy way.”

Mindfulness in our approach to helping students pursue Jesus can not only help them find mental and emotional space in their lives, but could be the key to finding intimacy in their relationship with him. The great English poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote:

Earth’s crammed with heaven.

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

The difference between paying attention to the stories and teachings of Jesus as if “every common bush” was “afire with God,” and spending our days “sitting round” them and “plucking blackberries,” hinges on curiosity—a core practice in mindfulness. Curiosity is the natural passion of children, and Jesus framed childlikeness as essential to our life with God. Mindfulness means we treat every detail of the things Jesus said and did as a wonder and a revelation and a portal into his heart.

When we’re helping our kids become more mindful, we’re teaching them to slow down and pay eccentric attention to the nuances of these stories about Jesus, and to the nudges of his Spirit, and then embrace their implications. This is what I call paying ridiculous attention to Jesus. It means we model and teach a passion for paying attention to the things he says and does instead of accepting the status quo—a kind of numbed disengagement. To use Langer’s definition, we simply help kids “notice new things” about him, even (and especially) in stories they’ve heard since they were children. The rhythm looks like this…

  • We show kids how to take a “vacation” perspective, treating everything they read about Jesus as if it’s the first time they’ve ever experienced it.
  • We show them how to read or listen to understand his heart, rather than copying down his “recipes.”
  • We ask far more “why” questions about him than we’d typically do.
  • We challenge them to never assume they already know what’s going on when Jesus is engaging someone. Instead, we show them how to come to everything with a child’s curiosity.
  • We help them recognize that beauty is in the details, so we are always helping them chew on the details that surround Jesus’ behavior—and we let those insights lead them to a deeper understanding of him.

When we show teenagers how to slow down and be more mindful of Jesus, their false beliefs about him are obliterated, making way for an intimate relationship with the real Jesus, whose massive gravitational pull will capture them in his orbit. The greatest stress-reliever in life is a deepening attachment to Jesus.


Surprising Secret to a Highly Effective Youth Ministry by Geg Stier


What’s the secret to a highly effective youth ministry? Rocks!

I love the Bible’s obsession with rocks. In GENESIS 28:18 Jacob used a rock as a pillow of sorts and then anointed it with oil as a memorial to his God-induced vision/dream the night before. Then there’s the pile of rocks that Joshua had the Israelites stack up in JOSHUA 4:19-24 as a commemoration of the crossing of the Jordan river into the Promised Land. And, of course, all of us remember that single, smooth rock hurled from the sling of David that took out a giant in 1 SAMUEL 17:50. God loves to use everyday, ordinary objects (like rocks) and everyday, ordinary people (like David) to accomplish extraordinary missions.But that’s not the point of this blog (although the Bible’s consistent allusions to stones and rocks as metaphors and illustrations are interesting to me.) No, the point of this blog is that rocks are the secret to a highly effective youth ministry.

Allow me to explain.

The late Dr. Stephen Covey gave a powerful illustration in his wildly successful book, THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE. And it had to do with, you guessed it, rocks!

Here is the illustration in his own words:

“One day this expert was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration I’m sure those students will never forget. After I share it with you, you’ll never forget it either.

As this man stood in front of the group of high-powered over-achievers he said, “Okay, time for a quiz.” Then he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed, mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What’s true of rocks in a jar is true of priorities in a youth ministry. If you want to make prayer a bigger priority in your youth ministry you must program it in first. It must be on your calendar and in your weekly youth ministry programming. The same is true with relational evangelism, student discipleship and leadership development.

Too often our youth ministries are full of the sand and gravel of goofy games, fun videos and massive pizza parties. As a result, we have little room left for the bigger rocks that can make a deeper impact. Don’t get me wrong pizza is fine and games are fun but without the big rocks programmed in first the weighty stuff of youth ministry can easily get left out of the programming jar.

Our proclaimed values are either true youth ministry priorities or empty platitudes depending on whether or not they get programmed. I’ve seen this with youth ministries across the country, especially in the area of evangelism.

While many youth leaders say that evangelism is a big priority, it’s often not reflected in their weekly programming. Perhaps they do a quarterly outreach meeting but our biggest priorities get programmed into our weekly meetings, not our quarterly ones. If I tell my wife that she is a priority, but only talk to her once a quarter, then she’s not a priority at all. If I say that evangelism is a priority, but I only push it once a quarter, then it’s not a priority at all.

If you’d like to learn how you can make evangelism (and 6 other rocks) a bigger priority in your weekly youth ministry programming then click HERE to download a free e-resource that will help you do just that. Also take time to download this free PDF filled with practical ideas from youth leaders across the country to help you advance the Gospel and put the big rocks in first!

Let’s start programming our biggest priorities into our weekly meetings!

Rock on!


Top 3 Questions to get Students Talking by Ricky Lewis


Our organization (TEEN LIFELINE) provides 8-week Support Groups that thrive on creating and sustaining conversation with students. The difference we try to create is conversations that equip, encourage and empower students to find the tools and resources that will help them navigate life better. Many times with students, discussions can feel like they aren’t going anywhere. If you are working with students often, this can become frustrating. But what if you had just a few questions that could help you keep the conversation moving and, even better, guide students to relationships and resources that are going to benefit them on their journey?

A key tip to using these questions is to be willing to share from your own experience (in a relevant, appropriate way). This level of vulnerability helps students build trust and be more open themselves.


This first question is important because it lets the students know that they get to decide what “significant” means. Something “significant” can be as small as eating a meal they love or as big as making the team or getting a new job. Using this question to start the conversation opens the door to follow up questions like these:

  • What makes that significant for you?
  • How were you able to do that this week?
  • Is this something you hope to do again?

As is the case with all of these questions, using the initial question to get to the follow-up and deeper questions can help you, as the leader, find ways to be helpful and point to resources that the students need.


This can be a tough question, but it is an important one. The big deal with this question is that you want to help the students recognize something positive that has helped them overcome trials in the past. It doesn’t have to be major, but it does need to be possible to replicate. For example, a significant relationship with someone who has died is not a legitimate resource any more. That being said, here are some examples for what could be great ideas:

  • A regular work out or team activity
  • An adult that is a good listener and great role model
  • Good decisions about schedule: school, sleep, eating, etc.
  • Healthy eating habits

All of these can contribute to students surviving the tough times they face in life. When asking this question, encourage students to take ownership of their ability to survive in the past. They have been through tough situations and have made it through – they are able to do the same thing again in the future!


The importance of this last question is to help the students choose something that is achievable. This is also a great place for you to model by choosing a goal that you will work toward over the next week as well. Some examples of achievable goals are:

  • Getting more sleep to better focus during the day
  • Studying more for the next test to get better grades
  • Identifying 1 friend that can be a good accountability partner
  • Getting closer to parents by helping with chores around the house

There are 2 main pieces at play in this question. As I already mentioned, you want the student to choose something that they can realistically accomplish and you can follow up with them about. Keep in mind though, while you want to encourage them to choose something that can actually be done, it is not the end of the world if they don’t complete it. It is more important to have follow-up discussion and walk them through how they succeeded or why they failed. If they did make some steps toward the goal, that is a great opportunity for you to encourage and praise them for their accomplishment. No matter what progress they made on their goal, help them explore what the next steps are to move them closer to where they want to be.

These questions continue to give me success in gaining ground with students. This means that it also leads me to better know what resources those students need, and knowing those resources allows me to point them in the right direction to help shape a positive perspective about their life.


U.S. Religion Worth $1.2 Trillion by Jim Denison

It’s not often that an academic report changes the conversation about religion in America, but one just did. Georgetown University professors Brian Grim and Melissa Grim of the Newseum Institute have unveiled their groundbreaking study: “The Socio-economic Contributions of Religion to American Society: An Empirical Analysis.” Here’s the summary:

•    Religion in the US contributes $1.2 trillion each year to our economy and society.
•    Despite declining religious affiliation in the American population, religious organizations have tripled the amount of money spent on social programs in the last fifteen years—to $9 billion.
•    Religion’s $1.2 trillion impact is more than the annual revenues of Apple, Amazon, and Google combined.

The study notes that congregations and religiously affiliated charity groups are responsible for:

•    130,000 alcohol and drug abuse recovery programs.
•    94,000 programs to support veterans and their families.
•    26,000 programs to prevent HIV/AIDS and to support those living with the disease.
•    121,000 programs to provide support or skills training for unemployed adults.

While religion contributes $1.2 trillion each year, religious tax-exemptions costthe US $71 billion. In other words, religion contributes seventeen times more to America than it costs.

This good news comes as we are facing unprecedented attacks on religious liberty and increasing skepticism regarding our contribution to the common good. For instance, 63 percent of atheists and agnostics believe that religious institutions contribute not much or nothing at all to solving social problems.

Other institutions face similar trust issues. FBI Director James Comey bemoaned this week the loss of public trust in government institutions like the one he leads. He lays much of the blame on social media: “Things like Twitter offer us the opportunity only to encounter views consistent with our own, 24 hours a day. There’s an opportunity to feed that monster of a bias, that confirmation bias, all the time. So it accelerates the fractionalizing of our society.”

Social media is undermining trust, but apparently conventional media isn’t helping. A just-published Gallup poll shows that only 32 percent of Americans either trust the media “a great deal” or “a fair amount.” That’s by far the lowest percentage in the forty-four years Gallup has asked this question. Seventy-two percent of Americans trusted the media in 1976, but less than a third of us do so today.

In a skeptical day, the best way to gain trust is to do what the culture values. Our society clearly values deeds over doctrines. People believe that our faith is real when they see that it is relevant.

Here’s an example: Acts 5 notes that “many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles” (v. 12). As a result, “The people held them in high esteem” (v. 13) and “more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women” (v. 14).

When skeptics claim that religion is irrelevant or even dangerous, we can cite the Grims’ study to show that they’re wrong. But we must not stop there. We demonstrate the personal value of our faith when it moves us to personal ministry: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

Do good today for God’s glory. This is the sum of life.

Note: For more on the Grims’ report, see Nick Pitts’s Religion Contributes $1.2 Trillion Each Year to US Economy.


7 Characteristics of Effective Small Groups by Brendt Blanks


I love the role I get to play in leading my 11th grade girls in a discipleship small group every Sunday night. (I’ve been with them since they were in 7th grade.) It’s been a blessing to see the girls growing so passionate about their faith life. Having run groups for years in a clinical setting as a licensed counselor, many of the characteristics of running a successful discipleship group are quite similar.

Yet, there are some that are unique to leading students in meaningful spiritual growth.

Here are seven characteristics of running an effective small group (I’d love to hear your thoughts on any characteristics you have found to be effective):


Trust is the foundation of any group. Trust means being comfortable enough to be vulnerable. As one of our girls once said, “trust is like the oil that keeps things running smoothly.” Early on as a group, we would actually take the time to state aloud the fact that we trusted each other. We would regularly remind each other that there should be no hesitation about sharing information within the boundaries of our group because we knew it will stay within the group. Of course, by now, trust is well established. But growing trust is essential for any group.


Commitment is key in effective small groups. This means a commitment to your stated goals, commitment to attend, both for you and for your students, as well as a commitment to keep up with any curriculum requirements. If trust is the foundation of small groups, commitment is the glue.


Good communication practices during the week can do as much to grow your group as just about anything. The girls in my group keep me updated on prayer requests, praises, or just information they want to share with me. We do this through texts, emails, and phone calls. As a leader, you can have a huge impact in keeping communication open during the week.

Scripture Memory

This is one we honestly sort of stumbled on, but that has been really great for us. As each year progresses, we choose a verse that we’d all commit to memorizing by the next week’s meeting. It has been great accountability. But, it’s also been cool to hear how the Holy Spirit brings the verse to each of our minds during the week, how we may have shared it with others, or how it brings comfort as individuals. We all agreed it has drawn us closer to the Lord as a group.

Helping Others Together

We make it a point to assist those in need, as Scripture commands. Over the years we’ve cleaned up the litter and debris in an especially underprivileged neighborhood, made visits to a local center that houses women (and their children) who’ve struggled with addiction, and planned a Summer fund raiser where we sold friendship bracelets the girls made themselves, taking the money to give to an organization that educates HIV/AIDS infected people in Africa. Working together on these projects has brought a deeper level of connection between all of us, and given our group deeper meaning.


We put a high premium on encouragement. The girls really have grown in this area. When one of the girls shares a problem, the other girls do such a good job of listening, asking questions, and sharing their perspectives. Even though not all the problems are “solved,” our group has done a great job of offering encouragement and support.

Respect The Rules

From the beginning, we established rules for our group. Many of our “spoken” rules come out of the characteristics I’ve already mentioned. Some of the unspoken rules are respecting me as their leader, listening to me when I talk, and just being kind and considerate to each other. Rules are important. But, it’s small group not boot camp. We have a good time. And believe it or not, respect for the rules actually helps this happen.

These aren’t the only characteristics of effective small groups, but they have worked for me.

What characteristics would you add to this list?


Let’s Stop Shaming Kids in the Name of Jesus by Children’s Ministry Magazine


There’s no children’s minister out there who intentionally attempts to evoke shame in kids. But when our words or communication is misguided or careless, shame is often the precise result. And sadly, many kids who experience something like this–especially when it’s a repeated or typical experience–walk away from faith because they want no part of a belief system that makes them feel so bad.

It was just one of those Sunday mornings where what happened in “big church” seemed to shed light on something that had happened in the children’s ministry earlier. The pastor said that so many adults deal with shame in their relationship with God and it takes years to peel back those layers to help them see God as the gracious, loving God that he is. “What causes this?” he wondered. And in my heart, I knew. At least, I knew where part of the shame comes from. Sadly, well-meaning folks in children’s ministry say things that negatively shape a child’s view of God. Shaming statements that are meant to direct kids’ behavior may lay a foundation of shame in the child’s theology that takes years to undo.

A case in point: In our 2-year-olds class that morning, one of the volunteers had said to the children who were fussing over a toy: “Jesus loves it when you share.” The message to these sweet little ones who are learning about Jesus for the first time? Then he must not love it-or me-when I don’t share! If we truly believe that we’re on the front end of developing children’s faith and that the first three years of their lives are the most formative, we must recognize and avoid words that move them away from-rather than toward-our loving God.

Let’s stop shaming kids in the name of Jesus.

Words Leave Their Mark

It’s vitally important for us to examine our language in our ministries. The most harmful thing we can do is use language as a weapon-subtly or blatantly. Language becomes a weapon when we use it to…

  • Make kids feel unworthy. “You should know better than to act that way.” “You should think of God first in everything you do.” “You shouldn’t pray with your eyes open.” Translation: You should be doing (insert random faithful activity)-but you’re probably not. Should is an especially shaming term because it means someone is duty-bound to do something, yet he or she is almost certainly failing in that duty out of ignorance or laziness.
  • Bully or scare kids into a faith commitment. “What’s wrong with you that you don’t want to follow Jesus?” “This is your opportunity, right here and now, to save your soul.” “How can you turn your back on God?” Translation: You’re horribly offensive to God, you aren’t worthy of his love, and you’ll never have another chance to win his forgiveness.
  • Manipulate kids into behaviors, attitudes, or actions. “Jesus loves you when you’re good.” “You make Jesus sad when you act that way.” “God doesn’t like it when you don’t bring an offering.” Translation: God’s love and grace is conditional. Jesus won’t like you when you’re not good or perfect-so you’ll never be good enough.
  • Elicit negative emotions as a way to verbally overpower kids. “I don’t know why I bother trying to teach you kids this.” “God loves everyone, even someone like you.” “This is a waste of my time; you’ll never figure it out.” “What’s wrong with you?” Translation: I don’t like you, and I can’t imagine that God likes you either.

When we use language like this, often the damage is irreparable. Shaming language breeds shame and guilt in kids. And kids will check out mentally (and maybe even physically) to defend against feeling this way. They’ll develop unhealthy and distorted views of God and their faith, too. Quite simply, a surefire formula for dismantling faith in kids is to use your words to shame and guilt them into action.

The volunteer who wanted kids to share meant no harm by what she said. Likewise, at some point, all of us are going to have our best intentions go awry. Maybe we don’t understand the age group well enough or we’re not aware of the impact our speech or delivery has on kids. To find yourself in error this way is to find yourself human.

The bright spot we can rely on is that God is here to take every mishap and help us make it into a ministry opportunity. Whether it’s changing a pattern that promotes shame or correcting an isolated incident where you sent the wrong message to kids, you can redirect your communication. There are practical and simple steps you can take to guard against some of the more common mistakes.

STEP 1: Use the Filter of Grace 

The most important thing you can do to avoid unintentionally shaming kids is to make a habit of infusing your thoughts and language with grace whenever you are working with kids. The children you teach today will continue to work out their relationship with Jesus throughout their lives. Faith is a journey with lessons and challenges for each stage of life and development. So there’s no better jumping off point for a child’s faith journey than with God’s overall message of love to us-and that must be your overall example to them. Love cultivates the beginning of a lifelong relationship with God; shame cultivates division from him. God’s love is a solid, biblically-central, and age-appropriate foundation in which kids can root their faith commitment. A focus on grace creates an environment where kids are safe to just be kids. Remember, God’s message for kids-and for each of us-through Jesus isn’t “Shame on you!”-it’s “Let me take this shame from you.”

STEP 2: Eliminate Negative Messages

“My decision to speak to my own family in a loving and uplifting manner spilled over into the way I talked to children and children’s volunteers in the church,” notes Dick Gruber, co-founder of Children’s Ministries University Online and a seasoned children’s minister. Dick urges people who work with kids to reform their ministry language to create a more positive message. “My entire ministry was transformed by this one conscious decision. Proverbs 16:21 says, ‘The wise are known for their understanding, and pleasant words are persuasive.’ Since those early days, I’ve approached classroom management with verbal kindness and blessing.

Rather than threaten children with punishment, I constantly encourage them with kind words. Leading with love is much more efficient than leading through shame.” It’s true: In all situations, highlighting and praising kids’ good behavior goes much further than calling out unruly behavior (and it goes further still when you tell parents or guardians about their child’s triumph). Through your example of praising the good you see in kids, you’ll effectively transform kids when they see that good behavior and acts of kindness earn positive attention that feels a million times better than negative feedback.

Your words of affirmation and praise become a living example of how God feels about kids-even though you both know they’re still capable of messing up. Let kids know you’re proud of their triumphs, and you give them reason and desire to repeat their actions. “Kids are constantly being told what they’re doing wrong,” adds Dale Hudson, director of children’s ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. “Rather than calling them out, let’s call them up to become all God desires them to be.”

STEP 3: Think Before You Communicate 

Your choice of words is critical. Whenever you focus on a child or a group of kids-even as an audience-first spend time and thought sculpting what you’ll say, because these experiences are incredibly impactful for kids. So if you’re going to point out how you saw little Abigail help a teacher clean up after class or you’re addressing the large group from stage, put forethought into it. Every interaction you have with kids needs to pass through the filters of value, respect, and love for those children as individuals. Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Value: How will I convey the value these children have in God’s eyes and in mine?
  • Respect: What words will I use to express respect? What words will I eliminate from my language because they don’t express respect?
  • Love: How will I ensure that kids feel my love and God’s love through my communication with them? STEP 4: Let Kids Practice Grace 

As you lead kids by example and infuse your words and interactions with grace, let kids practice what they’re learning about grace. This is key to cementing grace into their lives and helping them understand that shame and guilt aren’t what faith is about. “We work service projects into our weekly teaching strategy,” says Jonathan Cliff, next generations pastor at Trinity Church in Lubbock, Texas. “Each project brings the kids a need in our local community and gives them the chance to demonstrate to their families what they’ve learned [about grace].”

By providing various avenues for kids to serve each other, families, church, community, and others in the world, you’ll give them opportunities to be successful at loving others just because. When you let kids experience what it means to give grace, they understand better God’s grace for them. They inherently understand that their service isn’t about shaming the people they’re helping; it’s about loving those people to echo God’s love for us.

STEP 5: Look Within 

The previous steps are all practical ways you can infuse your ministry with a message of grace rather than shame. But there’s one underlying and monumentally important aspect to conquer to ensure you pour grace into your ministry. You yourself must be immersed in the concept of grace. Kids have profound detectors for the inauthentic. You can’t teach or model grace to your kids unless you believe it applies to you, too. Do you believe that even though you probably won’t ever fully understand why, God loves you despite your every infraction and flaw? Even though grace is a difficult thing to wrap your human head around, does your heart know and trust its promise? Have you learned to accept God’s grace for your flaws? Are you squirming yet?

The truth about grace is that wrestling to understand it and accept it can feel like trying to sprint in waist-deep water. You know the motions, yet there’s a force that keeps you from running freely. But working to increase your own understanding of grace, you’ll only enrich what you pour into your children’s ministry.

Brennan Manning, a long-time student of grace, says in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel, “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” Manning calls God’s grace “scandalous” because it’s so contrary to our understanding-and yet it’s the thing that saves us. Is your deepest belief about yourself that God loves you? That kind of belief takes childlike faith to trust God at his word simply because he said it. It seems kids have something to teach us, too. Allow grace–not shame–to own you, and you won’t be able to stop it from spreading throughout your ministry.


How to Keep Athletes from Collapsing Under Pressure by Time Elmore

growing leaders.com

Albert Einstein once insightfully wrote: “The last thing to collapse is the surface.” When I pause and reflect for a moment, I can see he’s right.

The surface collapses last in our day because we’re only aware of that surface. We’re consumed with how we look. It’s possible that we’ve never been as mindful of our image and appearance as we are today. Just watch young athletes, in almost any sport, and you’ll see they’re focused on how they’re seen, whether it’s on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Our athletes know they’re being watched and they’re all too ready to pose for the camera.

I recently wrote about a news story out of Australia where a young female escapee from a correctional institution saw her mug shot—the one that police had posted on Facebook. She asked them to post a better photo. She didn’t turn herself in; she just wanted a more appealing picture of herself. Then . . . she supplied it for them. That’s right. First she posted a comment about the original image of her mugshot, and then she attached an image that she preferred.

Why is the last thing to collapse the surface?

1. We are conditioned to believe our appearance equals our reputation.

Our culture, in and out of sports, conditions all of us to want to “look good.” Society screams: keep up your image. We’re consumed with what people think.

2. We hope that if we appear OK, it gives us time to recover inside.

Our preoccupation with the “surface” actually insures we give the impression everything’s fine, enabling us to work behind the scenes on what’s collapsing.

3. We clap for charisma and charm more than character.

Media flaunts the message that fame can come without an ounce of talent. Just ask the Kardashians. So, the result is our culture is fixated on beauty and appearances.

4. We know someone is going to capture and post our appearance.

Everything seems to find its way onto Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. They are constant reminders for us to focus on the surface and insure we’re ready for the camera.

So, it’s no wonder that appearances are the last item to collapse. We’re just too good at keeping up appearances. We stick to the surface when it comes to our image.

But consider what Einstein’s statement implies: everything rots from within.

Everything. People. Cultures. Civilizations. What’s sad is that we seem to lock into the story of a rotten core. It becomes a journalistic opportunity. It becomes reality TV.

Have you followed the latest chapter in Ryan Lochte’s story? With the Olympics now in the history books, no story received so much attention as Ryan’s gas station fiasco and subsequent lying and deception. When it was discovered he faked it all, Lochte lost four major sponsors, and was suspended from swimming competitions for 10 months. This sent him reeling; he needed to do something to regain his stature and reputation.

So, what did this young man decide to do?

I just saw an advertisement on television. Ryan Lochte is now a regular on ABC’s fall season of “Dancing with the Stars”.

Wow. What a great PR move.

I’m not suggesting this 32-year old can’t redeem himself, but redemption and reputation comes from displaying depth of character, not appearing on a TV show to try to prove that you can dance (and that still remains to be seen). Rewarding him for what he’s done displays exactly what our culture now celebrates. Fame is what we want, even if it’s a crime that puts you in the spotlight. Poor message. Shame on ABC for this decision.

Ryan Lochte may have collapsed from within—so it’s a good thing we don’t care in America as long as the surface doesn’t collapse. You just have to look good on TV.

Five Steps to Ensure Your Athletes Don’t Collapse from Within

Chances are, your athletes intuitively get this “surface” thing. After all, they’ve grown up in the “McCulture” we created for them—one that’s superficial, self-absorbed, and synthetic. We stick to the surface, we love our selfies and we want guarantees before we take any risks. I blame the adults for creating this world, not the athletes. So, let me offer some basic steps we can take to prevent athletes from collapsing inside:

1. Talk about what’s real and what’s artificial.

So much of what’s posted on social media—and media in general—is artificial. Educated people recognize the difference between real and plastic. Constantly discuss the difference.

2. Remind them that real athletic careers are about substance, not style.

People may follow an arrogant loud mouth on Twitter, but they build friendships and families with mature, steady people. It goes deeper than drinking buddies.

3. Show them the outcomes of Lance Armstrong, Pete Rose and Tiger Woods.

I don’t mean to discredit the fame of these three legends, but they’ve yet to recover from failed character displays. The surface was great, but they crumbled from within.

4. Clarify the difference between image and reputation. 

Image and popularity come and go within weeks. Reputation is the name you make for yourself through the decisions and discipline you demonstrate over years.

5. Illustrate with the weight room and the game.

Every athlete knows the hours they must invest in private to condition for the single hour of a game. So it is with life. A huge amount of private time supports the public time.

President Abraham Lincoln said it best: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”


Teens Follow The News Too Just Not The Same Way by Drew Berkowitz


When we think about how teens spend their time, a lot of us imagine them face down in their devices, vegging out on the couch, or, increasingly, a little bit of both. That image isn’t totally askew; after all, recent research shows that teens 13-18 spend almost 9 hours a day consuming media.

While we of other generations might assume that teens’ media time is dedicated to things like celebrity gossip, lip-syncing or funny videos, teens are, in reality, very engaged with news. In fact, in a poll by StageofLife.com, 84% of teens said they pay attention to current events. For news broadcasters and other content publishers challenged by the shift away from traditional media consumption models, this is great news. Here’s an audience that is critical for continued growth that is ready to engage. They’re just probably not engaging in the same places that you are.

Like nearly everyone these days, the digital native generation is following the events of the world through social channels. The difference is that, for most of us, Facebook is the dominant player in the news-content-delivery game. If you’re looking to connect with Gen Z, however, you should be looking to Twitter and Snapchat.

According to a Defy Media survey conducted for Variety, a whopping 30% of Snapchat users between ages 13 and 24 get all of their presidential election news exclusively from the app. Not only does Snapchat allow teens to feel tuned into whatever is happeningright now in the world around them, its central focus on video content plays right into their media consumption habits. Seventy-three percent of teens 14-17 are regularly accessing web content directly via video content distributors. It’s the format they want, and publishers should take heed.

While Gen Z also views Twitter as a primary source for breaking news content and constant updates because it offers the immediacy that they want, Snapchat remains teens’ most popular social platform. It’s also the fastest-growing network, and as it’s grown and embraced content from publishers, features like Discover and Live Story have emerged so that news organizations can push out stories and information on breaking events.

As viewership of traditional television news and readership of print media continue to decline, news broadcasters and publishers must engage the younger generation. They’re getting their news through social platforms and prefer it as video. This doesn’t mean written coverage is going to or should disappear, but it does mean that a video strategy is needed to capture a younger audience and build trust among them.

Creating that relationship is absolutely essential in cultivating lifelong viewers. Even established, respected outlets must create inroads with the teenage demographic if they hope to remain relevant as the nature of news media and its consumption continues to change. A video-first strategy will help open the door to the teenage demographic, which is the key to long-term success in this ever-shifting landscape.


YouTube Stars More Popular Than Mainstream Celebrities Among Teens by Tech2Staff


The digital age has seen an increase in content generation, be it commercial or solely for entertainment purpose, specifically in the video segment. YouTube has seen a massive increase in viewership and according to a couple of surveys the popularity of YouTube stars among the connected teenage generation has increased rapidly, even more than traditional celebrities.

One of the surveys done in Finland by an independent research company interviewed 500 Finnish teens aged 13-17 asking them to name 3-5 celebs that they follow regularly. The survey concluded three main outcomes:

  • Twelve of the top twenty celebrities they followed were online creators with their own YouTube channel.
  • The top three YouTubers clearly stood out. But after that, an extremely wide range of celebrities were mentioned.
  • Only three celebrities in the Finnish Top 20 list have a background in television and there are no Hollywood movie stars on the list.

According to another survey, 57 percent of 15-29 year old Finnish young adults follow YouTube on a daily basis and watch it for about one hour per day this translates that over half of the entire Finnish population views Youtube videos every week.

Another survey last year in the US compared 10 YouTube stars with the most subscribers against 10 traditional entertainment stars with the highest Q score among teens (a widely recognised measure of influence by advertisers and marketers). In this survey 1,500 people aged from 13-17 were asked what they thought about these 20 personalities in terms of approachability, authenticity and other aspects of their overall influence. Respondents’ answers were then translated to a 100-point scale.

YouTube stars creating content around video games had the highest ratings populating one-quarter of the top 20 list, including the top three influencers ­— KSI, PewDiePie and Vanoss Gaming. PewDiePie was also named the biggest star online in Variety’s#Famechangers ranking.