Hi! I am praying for you right now!

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com


Sometimes the interruption is the assignment. #furtick

As we work, God works. The more we surrender ourselves to him, the more we position ourselves to be used by him. #denison

Our nation and world will be changed. One person at a time. For the glory of His Name! #lotz

When you realize He sacrificed to give us life, you will start to say how can I sacrifice to give other people life? #keller


1. 13 Ways You Can Equip Parents to Lead Their Children Spiritually… http://childrensministry.com/articles/equipping-parents/?utm_source=internal_children’s_ministry_resource&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=

  1. When someone says Christianity is intolerant…https://beardeddisciple.com/2017/05/30/christianity-is-intolerant/?utm_content=buffer35802&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
  1. 10 Toxic Behaviors That Will Ruin Your Small Group… http://www.ibelieve.com/slideshows/10-toxic-behaviors-that-will-ruin-your-small-group.html
  1. 12 YouTube Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About (See below)

Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org

The #1 Surprising Thing Your Church Needs to Know About Gen Z by Ron Powell

Child Behavior: When Nothing Else Works, Consider These 7 Strategies by Gary Direnfeld (Has good insight about behavior in general!)

How to Correct a Student’s Negative Perception by Tim Elmore

Why Porn Might Bring Down This Generation of Young People and My Child Was Caught Viewing Porn! What Do I Do? by Jim Burns

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:



Here are 2 just for you:

How to Add Value to Others

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.” Matthew 4:23

When people think about you, do they say to themselves, “My life is better because of that person”?  Their response probably answers the question of whether you are adding value to them.  To succeed personally, you must try to help others.  That’s why Zig Ziglar says, “You can get everything in life you want if you help enough other people get what they want.” How do you do that? How can you turn your focus from yourself and start adding value to others? You can do it by:

  1. Putting others first in your thinking.
  2. Finding out what others need.
  3. Meeting that need with excellence and generosity.

Passing the Trust Test

“Among leaders who lack insight, abuse abounds, but for one who hates corruption, the future is bright.”  Proverbs 28:16 (The Message)

People today are desperate for leaders, but they want to be influenced by someone they can trust, a person of good character. If you want to become someone who can positively influence other people:

  1. Model consistency of character. Solid trust can only develop when people can trust you all the time
  2. Employ honest communication. To be trustworthy, you have to be like a good musical composition: your words and music must match.
  3. Value transparency. If you’re honest with people and admit your weaknesses, they appreciate your honesty. And they are able to relate to you better.
  4. Exemplify humility. People won’t trust you if they see that you are driven by ego, jealousy, or the belief that you are better than they are.
  5. Demonstrate your support of others. Nothing develops or displays your character better than your desire to put others first.
  6. Fulfill your promises. One of the fastest ways to break trust with others is in failing to fulfill your commitments.

12 YouTube Challenges Your Kid Already Knows About by Christine Elgersma


It’s a tale as old as time: We see a lot of people wearing/doing/saying something and we want to try it, too. Back in the day, it was saying “Bloody Mary” into a mirror at slumber parties. Today, it means viral social media stunts. Though adults get caught up, too, kids are especially susceptible to peer pressure and FOMO (fear of missing out). To them, what was once a double-dog dare is now a popular YouTuber eating a hot pepper just to see what happens.

Called “challenges,” these stunts range from harmless to horrifying: There are the silly ones (such as the Mannequin Challenge); the helpful ones (like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge); and the slightly risky ones (such as the Make Your Own Slime Challenge). But sometimes, challenges are downright dangerous, resulting in physical injury — and possibly even death. So what’s a parent to do?

Below are some of the hottest challenges that have swept social media; some fade and then make a comeback. In most cases, kids are watching these challenges on YouTube purely for entertainment, but some challenges inspire kids to try them out themselves. (In fact, the safe ones can be fun for families to try.) Others — like the Backpack Challenge — are often done with the goal of filming other kids and broadcasting the results online. While there could be a new one as soon as tomorrow, they do seem to fall into certain categories, and there’s some universal advice that parents can follow, no matter the challenge.


Try Not to Laugh Challenge. Popularized by YouTubers like Markiplier, this trend involves watching short, funny videos and trying not to laugh. It’s simple and harmless, though there’s often a lot of laughing at others’ expense.

Whisper Challenge. You may have seen this one on Jimmy Fallon: One person wears headphones playing loud music. The other person says a phrase out loud, and the one listening to music tries to read their lips and repeat the phrase. Hilarity ensues.

Mannequin Challenge. A group of people gets together, poses, and freezes in place, and someone with a camera walks around recording the scene while music plays. Even celebrities have gotten in on this one, including Michelle Obama, Ellen, and Adele.


Eat It or Wear It Challenge. This one takes some prep: Put some different foods in separate bags and number them. A player chooses a number, checks out the food, and decides to eat it or wear it. If they eat it, they can dump the remainder on another player’s head. If they choose to wear it … you can guess what happens. Other than a huge mess (and food allergies), this one is low-risk.

Hot-Pepper Challenge. You can probably guess: Eat a super hot pepper — like a habanero or a ghost pepper — while you film yourself suffering and chugging milk to try to stop the burning. Though most people get through it unscathed, there have been a few reports of people ending up at the hospital.

Cinnamon Challenge. Eat a spoonful of cinnamon, sputter and choke, and record the whole thing for others to enjoy. Again, though there may be some temporary discomfort, most kids won’t get hurt — but some have.


Bottle-Flipping Challenge. Partly fill a plastic water bottle and toss it in such a way that it lands right-side up. This one got so popular they made apps to replicate the experience!

Backpack Challenge. This one’s a little like running a gauntlet. One person runs between two rows of people who try to hit you with heavy backpacks. The goal is to make it to the end without falling down … but no one ever does. Of course, it’s easy for kids to get hurt doing this.

Kylie Lip Challenge. Oh, Kylie Jenner — and her lips. In an effort to replicate them, kids would put a shot glass over their mouths, suck in, and make their lips swell artificially. Not only can it cause damage, but it also can be an indicator of body insecurities and the emulation of impossible beauty standards.


Choking/Fainting/Pass-Out Challenge. To get high or faint, kids either choke other kids, press hard on their chests, or hyperventilate. Obviously, this is very risky, and it has resulted in death.

Salt and Ice Challenge. If you put salt and ice on your skin, it causes burns, so the purpose of this trend is to endure it for as long as possible.

Blue Whale Challenge. Of all these challenges, this one is the scariest and the most mysterious: Over the course of 50 days, an anonymous “administrator” assigns self-harm tasks, like cutting, until the 50th day, when the participant is supposed to commit suicide. It is rumored to have begun in Russia, and there were reports that suicides were tied to the trend, but those are unverified and likely not true. Apps related to the Blue Whale Challenge were said to appear and were then removed. The biggest concern is teens who are at risk and may be susceptible to trends and media about suicide because even if the challenge began as an isolated incident or hoax, it could become real.

What to Do

Talk about it. Though we can’t always be with our tweens and teens to prevent dangerous behavior, our words really can stay with them. Say, “If you ever want to do an internet challenge, check with me first.”

Get them to think. Help your kid think through the challenges and whether they’re safe or have potential risks. Say, “Walk through each step and figure out where things could go wrong.”

Acknowledge peer pressure. Today’s kids think of internet personalities as their peers, so seeing kids on YouTube doing a challenge could influence your kid. Say, “Why do you want to do this? Is this a video of yourself that you really want out in the world?”

Stay (somewhat) up to date. Ask your kid about what’s happening in their lives when they’re not distracted — even when it seems like they don’t want you to. Sometimes kids are more willing to talk about what’s going on with other kids than with themselves, so pose questions about friends, school, and trends. Once the conversation is open, you can get a sense of what your kid thinks about the latest craze — and if they’re safe. Keep an open mind and intervene if you’re concerned. Say, “Would you consider doing a viral stunt if someone asked you? Which ones would you do and not do?”

Model responsible online habits. Some parents are the ones recording their kids taking these challenges, so make sure your involvement sends the message you intend. Today it might be harmless, but tomorrow it might be more dangerous. Help your kids make the distinction so they can stay safe. Say, “Let’s do a funny challenge together, but we’ll only film it if you want to, and we’ll only share it with family.”

Blessings, Kendall


The #1 Surprising Thing Your Church Needs to Know About Gen Z by Ron Powell


Gen Z is upon us and if we confuse these students with Millennials we’re going to miss out on connecting with them and touching their hearts.

As James White tells us in Meet Generation Z, “If the heart of the Christian mission is to evangelize and transform culture through the centrality of the church, then understanding that culture is paramount.”

So sure, they have been brought up by the biggest generation of adults claiming no religious affiliation, and they are the first group considered post-Christian but what is the most surprising thing about this cohort of students?

The #1 Thing

We know also that they have grown up in a snapchat world of weekly terrorist attacks, gay marriage, and legalization of marijuana but what is at the heart of GenZ that needs to be understood and approached differently than previous generations? “They aren’t merely secularized. They’re not thinking about religion and rejecting it; they’re not thinking about it at all.”

That’s Right. The God Question isn’t Relevant. So what is? 

…The human condition. All research points out that in the absence of the God question, the human question is close to their hearts. How should we live on this planet (and Mars when we get there)?

In one way they aren’t waiting for God to solve world problems so they are looking at what can be done. Sadly, they will realize that they can do only so much without God. Also, they won’t have a solution for their own human failings.

Introduce them to the Jesus they Never Knew

With only the vaguest concept of God, GenZ can approach Jesus fresh. They can see him as someone who did something about human suffering and religious oppression. They don’t see him through the lens of boring church rituals or their parent’s God.

We need to let them know that, “When you see Jesus you’re looking at God. When you want to know what God is like, look at what Jesus did and said!”

Community Before Commitment, Service before Salvation

They are less concerned if God loves them that if you or I love them. Starved from genuine acceptance they want to be part of a small group of close friends that loves uncritically. Unsure they will be looking for constant affirmation. Only after standing that test will they be interested in the content of our faith.

A possible scenario is that we invite them to be part of a team building a house in Mexico before they have faith in Christ. We may have to change some of the screening criteria for our trips and other social justice initiatives. Groups that are constantly trying to prove that we can be Christians and still have fun won’t have much to offer Z.

A Reason for Hope

At the end of a retreat, a student asked me, “All weekend you have been telling me that Jesus died for my sin… How did he die?” His brother yelled at him, “It was a cross, stupid.” Every week I hear another story like this from youth workers and my students at Vanguard College.

Why does this give me hope? Maybe I’m too much of an optimist but I believe that when students have been loved by a group and they’re ready to hear about Jesus the power of the Gospel won’t be warped by years of negative religious experience. I’m excited to see Z will do with an encounter with the real Jesus instead of second-hand knowledge of a religious one.


6 Reasons Your Teen’s Life is More Stressful Than Your Own by John Nicholls

I am the father of four very patient teenagers, two still living at home. They indulge my stream of dad jokes with a wry, sympathetic smile. My unfavorable comparison of their music tastes to the golden age of late-’70s classic rock is generally tolerated, perhaps with the occasional eye roll. But one day, their patience finally snapped after I delivered a particularly eloquent rant on how easy their lives were compared with my stress-filled adult existence. I wanted to swap!My daughter and son staged what can only be described as an intervention. They sat me down at the dining table and explained just how stressful their lives were. It was an eye-opening experience.

Despite living with these young people and observing the ups and downs of their daily lives, I had still failed to grasp many of the sometimes subtle pressures — biological, social and psychological — that make being a 21st-century teenager so complicated. True, they may not have mortgages or dependents of their own, but that’s not to say their lives are always easy.

Teenage sleep deprivation is real. “Sending kids to school at 7 a.m. is the equivalent of sending an adult to work at 4 in the morning.” — William Dement, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University. According to a study carried out by Brown University School of Medicine, ninth- and tenth-grade students should get nine hours of sleep each night to maintain optimal alertness. However, after surveying 3,000 high school students, researchers found that, on average, students managed only about 7.5 hours of sleep on a school night. This sleep deprivation was even more pronounced in high school boys than in girls.

Part of the problem is that even if students try to achieve nine hours of sleep each night, their own bodies may be working against them. Studies show that teenage circadian rhythms run around two hours behind those of the average adult, turning them into night owls who struggle to wake in time for school each morning. For this reason, early school start times are associated with significant sleep deprivation in adolescents, which can lead to a decline in performance, memory lapses and mood swings, as well as behavioral problems.

Hormones, anxiety and depression are on the rise. I admit that teenage hormones (and the strong emotions they create) can be stressful for the adults in their life. However, imagine carrying around that bundle of emotions with you 24/7. It’s an exhausting prospect. And it’s not just the hormones: rapid growth spurts, periods, acne and unreliable vocal cords can all add to a feeling of being out of control, which can trigger a cycle of anxiety and depression in teens.

In a study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers found that the prevalence of major depressive episodes in adolescent children in America increased from 8.7 percent in 2005 to 11.3 percent in 2014. The study also notes that the risk of depression sharply rises as children transition into adolescence. Adolescent girls are more likely to suffer from depression than their male counterparts, with the prevalence rising from 13.1 percent to 17.3 percent over a 10-year period from 2004 to 2014.

Teens’ lives are not their own. In traditional schooling, many aspects of a student’s life are decided for them – from what subjects they study to what they wear at school and what schedules they follow. This lack of control can lead to stress. Adults have the autonomy to do as they please, but if teenagers try, it is called rebellion.

In a report published by the Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, researchers found that students tend to try harder and enjoy school more when they work toward their own ideals of perfectionism. In other words, when students set their own expectations for themselves and try to achieve them — effectively directing their own destiny — they are usually happier and more motivated.

You have one boss, your teenager has six. Imagine having six bosses, all with large amounts of power over your daily life and future. Each boss has different expectations, ways of working, levels of competency and degrees of emotional intelligence. And if you don’t satisfy each one, your career is on the line.

A teenager will typically have to deal with six different teachers who are effectively their “bosses” – not to mention parents or guardians. If an adult has a poor boss, they have the means and ability to move to another job. A typical teenager doesn’t have such options.

To complicate the issue further, researchers found last year that stress levels among teachers could contribute to student stress. After measuring cortisol levels in elementary school students, researchers learned that children showed higher levels of this so-called stress hormone when they were being taught by teachers experiencing burnout. Another survey by Gallup in 2016 found that 46 percent of teachers in America reported high daily stress levels, which means this problem could be more common than thought. What’s more, when teachers are stressed, students show lower levels of social adjustment and academic performance.

This, of course, isn’t to say that all teachers are terrible, stress-inducing people in our children’s lives. It is simply a reminder that a stressed-out teacher — or any adult in their lives — could be a source of much angst for your already hormonal teenager.

The dilemma of standing out while fitting in. The struggle for identity is hard. Teenagers like to be different, but at the same time they want to fit in. Because of this, they often face pressure from peers, parents and society to behave a certain way to feel accepted and valued by those around them.

The Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois discovered in a study of nearly 500 adolescents that peer-related stress contributes to depression in youths. Teachers have also observed that peer stress negatively affected students’ academic performance and overall emotional well-being. What’s more, when adolescents were unable to adapt to these external stressors, they ended up ruminating over the issue, which exacerbates the problem and increases their susceptibility to depression.

Examples of stressful events listed by the researchers included everything from a friend dying to physical fights to not being invited to a party — anything that could undermine their social security and identity. Girls tend to be more affected by these kinds of social setbacks than boys, as they put a greater emphasis on interpersonal connectedness and therefore are more sensitive to peer stress and negative self-evaluation.

The uncertain future of job security. For those of us who still remember a time before the Internet, being a teenager was a carefree time. Many of us weren’t as bogged down by worries about joblessness and a lack of financial security. It was expected that whatever we did, a fully-fledged career would be available for us when we grew up. I’m afraid that this is no longer the case. The global economic downturn, job automation, globalization and an increasingly competitive job market are causing great anxiety among young people. With the use of artificial intelligence imminent, teenagers find themselves caught in a transitional phase that is expected to uproot economies and labor markets around the world.

In fact, it is getting increasingly hard to predict which way their careers may go. In her book Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work and Learn, Cathy Davidson states that 65 percent of students currently entering grade school will end up in jobs that have not yet been invented. While there is perhaps something exciting about that prospect, it does make it hard to plan for the future — and that can be terrifying.

These are just a few of the typical teenage stressors that my daughter and son outlined that day. Overall, I am amazed at how resilient, “gritty” and good-humored they are, considering the pressures and uncertainties they juggle on a daily basis. If I were to revisit my offer to swap places, I’m now inclined to say, “No, thanks. My adult stresses are just fine.”


How to Undo Our Biggest Mistake in Leading Students by Tim Elmore


Today, we hear from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a next gen researcher, speaker, and author for Growing Leaders. 

I’ve been reading a lot about brains lately.

Did you know that our brains rewire themselves based on activity or inactivity? This can happen in a relatively short amount of time—just a few weeks, typically.

Did you know that “we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986?”

Did you know that, due to digital immersion, most of our brains don’t allow us to read from left to right? We skip around the page, looking for pertinent information.

Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University has been studying the traits of today’s typical brain and has found something pretty interesting. There are two “dominant modes of attention” according to Levitin. These modes are called the “task-positive network” and the “task-negative network.” The task-positive network is used “when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted.” It is something like what we would call “executive function.” The task-negative network is used “when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode.” These two networks act independently of one another and, in fact, cannot be active at the same time. They are “like a seesaw in the brain.”

Upon first glance, it would seem like our task-positive network would be the more helpful of the two, but this isn’t necessarily the case. While our task-positive network allows us to both stay on task and accomplish projects, it is our task-negative network that allows for creative thinking and problem-solving. In other words, when our minds are wandering we also find that our creative juices are flowing. Do all of your best ideas come to you in the bathroom? You now know why.

So what does this have to do with our students?

Stressed Out

Just the other week I sat down with a group of 9th grade students at a fairly large-sized school in the Midwest. During the focus group, I spoke with the students about the realities they are facing, the questions they are asking, and the problems they are seeing. When we got to the subject of stress level, I asked everyone to rate the level of stress they feel they are under by picking a number between 1 and 10. As I went around the room, only a couple were below a 6. Most were between 7 and 9, and in fact, one girl boldly diagnosed herself, “11!” Remember, these are 9th graders.

When I spoke with the students about the sources of their stress, the conversation always came back around to one problem: “I have a lot going on.” Many of these students skip school, to practice, to a social event only to get home at 9 or 10, without having even touched their homework.

To put this in Dr. Levitin’s terms: the requirements on a typical student’s time mean that they are often using task-positive brain function, but rarely, if ever, getting sustained periods of task-negative space for their minds to unwind. Instead, they get their task-negative time in short five-minute bursts as they check social media throughout the day.

Correcting Our Mistake

So, what is our biggest mistake? We’ve over-planned our student’s schedules. Our kids are doing too much.

Levitin’s research showed that the more often a person switches between these two modes in the brain, the more energy is being drained. “Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things.” Because we haven’t planned time for task-negative activity, our kids are stretched too thin. Should we be surprised to see that both stress and anxiety are on the rise?

Now before I go on, I understand that there is a problem with what I am saying. If you are a teacher and are held to standards beyond your control, then you may not have the luxury of deciding how much your students are doing. Maybe you can’t plan task-negative activities because you have too much to get done. If this is you, I encourage you to leverage whatever you have (even if it’s five minutes) to help with this problem. Don’t feel bad if you have to start small.

So, what can we do to right the ship? Levitin’s research suggests a few ideas:

  1. Schedule time for task-negative thinking. This is why having sustained periods of quiet throughout the day can be so helpful—especially for a student’s developing brain. Consider having intentional quiet time in your house for 30 minutes after your kids get home from school. Or set aside a period of time during the school day for quiet reflection.
  2. Organize their day into projects. The research shows that focusing on a single task for a sustained period of time, rather than jumping back and forth between tasks, can be very helpful. Maybe teachers can introduce a problem in the classroom on Monday and inform students that they will be working on this project all week during class. Perhaps parents could make sure their kids only have one primary focus each evening during the week. Parents might also plan a half-day on Saturday to focus on task-negative activity like hiking, swimming, or a going on a picnic.
  3. Let them listen to music. Many of our partners at schools across the nation say that students are constantly walking around with headphones. My guess is this is because their day is so stressful, they need an escape—something they can control. Music “turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.” Let them have a little time to unwind with their favorite song.
  4. Encourage them to take naps. While sleeping is frowned upon during the school day, the science behind naps is solid. Studies show that a “nap of even 10 minutes improved cognitive function and vigor, and decreased sleepiness and fatigue.” Parents, a nap right after school could be the difference between stress and peace for your kids. I met a teacher years ago who lets her students with difficult home lives take short naps in the morning, often because they didn’t sleep at all the night before. This might be a part of the wave of the future.

Tony Robbins once said, “One reason so few of us achieve what we truly want is that we never direct our focus; we never concentrate our power. Most people dabble their way through life, never deciding to master anything in particular.”

Let’s raise students who know how to direct their focus. We’ll need them to be focused adults in the future.


Hi! Happy June!! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send any prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
Preaching is not only explaining the text but also using it to engage the heart. #keller
God put you here to glorify Him. That is why you’re here. And there will come a point in your life when you will realize that life is more about significance than it is about success. #laurie
Someone will always have better coffee, music, facilities, and speaking. Showcase Christ and his gospel. No one can improve on that. #wilson

1. Connecting with college students over break: they’re bringing home more than their laundry…. https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/connecting-with-college-students?utm_source=E-Journal+%2F+Parent+Update&utm_campaign=19db082c32-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_05_26&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e88a54a953-19db082c32-312895925

2. Your kids actually want you to talk to them about sex… http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/24/health/sex-parents-talking-to-kids/index.html

3. What Screen Time and Screen Media Do To Your Child’s Brain and Sensory Processing Ability… https://handsonotrehab.com/screen-time-brain-sensory-processing/

Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
How to Teach Junior Highers Without Losing Your Mind by Kurt Johnston
Social Media Making Millennials Less Social by Uptin Saiidi
How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America by David Kinnaman
7 Deadly Sins of Student Ministry Volunteers by Chase Snyder

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

Here are 2 just for you:
Courage by Chuck Swindoll
Someone once wrote, “Sow a thought, reap an act. Sow an act, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap your character. Sow your character, reap your destiny.”

Standing tall when tested takes courage—constant, relentless, never-give-up courage! You can be sure that the old flesh will fight for its arousal and satisfaction. All it takes is a little rationalization—just a little. Just look the other way. Just shrug it off. Don’t sweat it. And before long you have a rattlesnake in your sleeping bag. 

First: Standing tall starts with the way we think. It has to do with the mind. As I’ve said so often, being a person of inner strength is really a mental factor. It has to do with the way we think about God, ourselves, and others. Then it grows into the way we think about business, the way we think about dating, the way we think about marriage and the family, the way we think about the system that is designed to destroy faith and bring us down to a lower standard. 

Second: Standing tall calls for strong discipline. This has to do with the will. Disciplining the eyes, the ears, the hands, the feet. Keeping moral tabs on ourselves, refusing to let down the standards. People of strength know how to turn right thinking into action—even when insistent feelings don’t agree. 

Third: Standing tall limits your choice of personal friends. This has to do with relationships. What appears harmless can prove to be dangerous. Perhaps this is as important as the other two factors combined. Cultivate wrong friendships and you’re a goner. This is why we are warned not to be deceived regarding the danger of wrong associations. Without realizing it, we could be playing with fire. 

Sow the wind and, for sure, you’ll reap the whirlwind. Eagles may be strong birds, but when the wind velocity gets fierce enough, it takes an enormous amount of strength to survive. Only the ultrapowerful can make it through the whirlwind.


The Five RE’s to Remembering names:

1. Repeat Names

Repetition builds memory. This is why your math teacher assigned you 50 of the same math problems for homework every night. The more you repeat a person’s name, the better chance you will have of remembering it later.

When you meet a person for the first time, say their name as much as possible. “Cool, Austin. Glad you are here, Austin. It was nice meeting you, Austin. Hope to see you next week, Austin.” The more you say it, the more it will stick.

2. Read Names

Read a person’s name in your mind. Visualize it. Spell it in your head. If you meet someone with an interesting name or a name that could be spelled multiple ways, ask them how they spell it. Then spell it in your head along with them. This may seem weird, but it works.

I can remember the names of hundreds of NFL athletes even though I have never met them or seen most of their faces without a helmet on. Why? Because I read their names every day on my favorite NFL news site.

3. Record Names

Keep a church database, or an app with people’s names on it. After the service, write new names down as soon as possible. Add little notes like “Natalie – married, two kids, husband Jeff, works at…”

Quickly review your notes once a week and picture the people in your mind. If you have a church database with people’s pictures, that is even better!

4. Relate Names

This is the most powerful memory tip on the list. When you hear a person’s name, find an image to relate it to.

In the fascinating book, Moonwalking With Einstein, Joshua Foer writes about his experience transforming in one year from an average guy who was bad at remembering names to winning the US Memory Championship. This is a competition where you have to do things like look at a list of hundreds of names and faces, then remember all the names of each face.

“The secret to success in the names-and-faces event—and to remembering people’s names in the real world—is simply to turn Bakers into bakers—or Foers into fours. Or Reagans into ray guns. It’s a simple trick, but highly effective.” ~Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein

Our brains remember images, not words. So turning a person’s name into an image is the best way to instantly recall it. The more vivid and bizarre the image, the better.

5. Remember to Remember Names

I know, “Thank you captain obvious!” Just hear me out.

Most often, the reason that we don’t remember names is simply because we do not consciously make an effort. We hear the name, but we are too busy thinking about what we are going to say next. Maybe we are preoccupied with the stress of the service or what we have to do later. Whatever the reason, we don’t intentionally listen to the name and make a conscious effort to store it away.

If you are intentional about remembering people’s names, you will remember them.

Hope these tips are helpful for you.




  • Beanboozled. Russian Roulette with candy. Maybe you will enjoy a peach-flavored jelly bean or maybe it will taste like barf. Yum.
  • KAP IT. Water bottle flipping game, but with objectives and boundaries!
  • HEADS OR TAILS. A coin flipping game where kids guess by putting their hands on the head or tail. Guess right and stay in, guess wrong and you’re out!
  • HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES, CUP! Follow the instructions and be the first person to grab the cup.
  • Minute to win it! Sixty seconds to complete takes using random items from around the house. HERE ARE 30 EXAMPLES.
  • Giant cup stack. Play the cup stack game but consider giant cups or buckets. Fastest stacker wins.
  • Mannequin challenge. Have the children freeze in place while you play a worship song and capture the video.


  • TRUE/FALSE CHAIR. Think musical chairs but with true and false questions!
  • Books of the Bible team challenge. Books are listed on craft sticks in baggies. one for OT one for NT. Challenge each team to put one set in order the fastest.
  • Globe beach balls. Pass the ball around and wherever your thumb lands, pray for them.
  • Tic tac toe review. Divide the class into 2 teams. Ask questions, team 1 tries to answer. If they are correct, they get the x, if wrong, the question goes to team 2. The first team to get 3 in a row wins.
  • Family feud. Play with whatever you were talking about in large group.
  • Review game or Bible trivia. Get bean bags that you toss and the kids race to pick up the bag and bring it back to you in order to answer the question.
  • Share missionary stories. Update the kids on what the church is doing overseas.
  • Bible drill.


  • Freeze dance. Play music while the kids dance and when the music pauses all the kids must freeze in place. If they take too long then they have to do 10 jumping jacks.
  • CHICKEN IN THE HEN HOUSE. Partners will make shapes using their body. Last to complete are out!
  • Impossible shot. Create a very challenging challenge for students to take turns trying.
  • SHIP SHORE. Very similar to Simon says but directionally focused.
  • Musical chairs.
  • Four corners. Use a mega dice or colors to switch things up!
  • Simon says / Jesus says. Follow the directions and the more the leader laughs the more fun this game will be for the kids.
  • Red light/green light or wax museum. Don’t let the game leader see you moving! 
  • Crows & cranes. The leader calls out either “Crows” or “Cranes.” This lets you know if you are the tagger or the person being tagged.
  • Indoor snowball fight. Either buy fake snowballs or wrinkle up paper and throw them at each other. Consider adding a twist like capture the flag or protect the president.
  • Hip hop to it! Have all the kids hop on one leg while playing Christian hip-hop. If they stop they are out, if they switch feet they are out. The winner is the last one hopping.


  • SILENT BALL. Leader counts down, “3, 2, 1, silent” and passes the ball to another person in the play area. Drop the ball, make a bad pass or make a sound and you’re out.
  • Guess the time. Choose a time like 60 seconds and everyone tries to guess how long that is. Start the timer and kids hop up when they think 60 seconds is over. Time doesn’t stop till last kid stands. Note time when first kid stands just to get reactions.
  • SLEEPING LIONS. The room of kids go to sleep and the lions try to get them to wake up by telling jokes or being silly. Anyone who wakes up becomes the lion.
  • DOGGIE, DOGGIE, WHO STOLE YOUR BONE. Similar to heads up seven up but with an object that the kids go get.
  • The Quiet Game. Teams have to sit absolutely still and quiet for a timed period. Anywhere from a minute to five minutes.



  • Pictionary.
  • Hangman.
  • Parachute games.
  • I spy.
  • Rock, paper, scissors and creative variations. Egg, chicken, eagle.
  • Relay Games.
  • Feather blowing competition. Kids try to blow one another’s feathers off a table using a straw.
  • Juggling contest.
  • Keep the balloon up.

Consider using lesson review words or phrases in these games.


How to Teach Junior Highers Without Losing Your Mind by Kurt Johnston


Junior highers are my people.

For most of  ministry career I’ve had the privilege (did I really just say junior high ministry is a PRIVILEGE?) of focusing exclusively on this age group, and even as my role has changed this wonderful little tribe has remained the closest to my heart!

So you’d think that after 26 years of teaching junior highers in virtually every setting imaginable I’d be an expert; that I’d be the Peyton Manning of teaching young teens. Hardly. But I have learned a few things over the years, and this month I’m going to share some of what I’ve discovered.  I don’t have a formula…just a boat load of tips, tricks and tidbits that you may find helpful in your efforts to teach junior highers without losing your mind, or your salvation, in the process.  Each week I’ll share three somewhat related thoughts.


One of the most important things any communicator can do is have a thorough understanding of his/her audience, and never is that principle more important than when preparing to teach a group of junior highers.  You need to know the stuff that is true for EVERY junior high audience such as having a good understanding of adolescent development and the universal junior high journey as well as a good understanding of YOUR junior high audience because it is unique and your students are different than mine.  Remember, junior highers are twelve to fourteen years old, and as such have completely different needs in a teaching setting than a room full of thirty year olds.

Practical Tip:  Knowing your audience starts with approaching your lesson prep with “what they want to hear”, not “what you want to say”.


What do you want your audience to walk away with? You don’t need a 5-point sermon. You don’t need creative nuance and elaborate illustrations. What you do need is a point! The best junior high lessons are those with a clearly articulate point or “goal” of the lesson; a “takeaway” that every student in the circle will understand. Don’t be so creative that you are no longer clear. Don’t worry about being impressive, concentrate on lessons that make an impression! Keep It Simple, Stupid. Tell them what you are going to tell them, then tell them…and then tell them what you just told them!

Practical Tip: Start with the end in mind, then build every piece of your learning experience in a way that points toward that ending.


How well do you know your church’s theology? Do you have a firm grasp on your Senior Pastor’s take on various subjects, social issues etc.? What subjects would be considered taboo or inappropriate for church? What type of jokes and language is “off limits” in your setting? A little understanding of your context will help prevent big headaches.

Practical Tip: Better safe than sorry. If you don’t know…ask!

Last week I had the joy to “preach” in our church’s weekly staff meeting. Somebody teaches every week; I hadn’t in a very long time. Afterwards, no fewer than a dozen people pulled me aside to share how much they appreciated what I had to say. But the truth is they didn’t really appreciate what I had to say as much as how I said it. My “delivery” helped make a message full of mediocre content memorable. All I did was utilize two of my favorite junior high teaching tips. You won’t think this stuff is profound until you make it part of your teaching routine.


I have an old saying when it comes to teaching: “It doesn’t have to be long to be good, but if it’s going to be long it has to be good!”  My staff meeting sermon was thirteen minutes long, and you’d be shocked at what I crammed into those thirteen minutes. Here are a few benefits of a short lesson:

  • Less opportunity for the audience to lose focus.
  • Forces me to cut out unnecessary content, stories, etc. I only include what’s most impactful.
  • Leaves the audience wanting more!

I’ve never heard anybody complain about a short sermon. Never. Anybody. Yet far too many youth workers (and junior high youth workers are no different) write lessons that are far too long for their young audiences.

Practical Tip: Put a time limit on your lessons (our limit is 20-minutes) and aim to always be 2-3 minutes short of that limit.


As part of my relationship with Group Publishing/Simply Youth Ministry I have attended many of their workshops and training events over the years. Something that they are famous for is an insistence on active learning. An insistence that used to bug the heck out of me has now become routine almost every time I teach. In my staff meeting sermon I spent about three of the thirteen minutes working the crowd through a very simple activity; so simple, in fact, that I almost scratched it beforehand. I’m glad I didn’t. People loved it and mentioned it over and over again. Here are a few benefits of including some sort of active learning in your lessons:

  • Keeps the audience engaged.
  • Makes the lesson tactile and memorable.
  • Provides an opportunity for movement.

Like I said earlier, there’s nothing profound here. The idea of keeping things short and active when teaching a room full of young teens is as old as the hills. Yet most junior high youth workers break the very same rules they say are so important! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lamented at the end of a weekend over the fact that my lesson seemed “too long and boring”.  Because it was both!

But I’ve never regretted providing a short and active lesson….and neither will you. More importantly: Neither will they!

Teaching junior highers; I’m not sure a higher calling exists! Churches often make the mistake of seeing junior high ministry as a place for young, or spiritually immature, leaders to cut their teeth and learn the ropes of ministry. This is a massive mistake, largely due to the fact that young teens are in an enormous season of  developmental change and it takes a mature leader to help junior highers navigate these changes well.

And one place immature leaders routinely mess up is in the teaching context.  While there’s no way to ensure a perfect lesson, I’ve developed a habit over the years that has helped me, and it may help you, too, whether you are a rookie or a seasoned pro.

When I’m done preparing a lesson, I like to run it through the following filter and make any adjustments necessary. I like to ask myself, “Does this lesson T.E.A.C.H.?”


Have I used scripture in context?
Have I considered the “whole of scripture”?|
Is God’s truth speaking more loudly than my opinions?


Does it motivate the audience toward some sort of action?
Does it do so in an encouraging manner?
Does it rely on the Holy Spirit to convict, not my delivery?


Does it involve some aspect of active learning?
Does it allow movement?


Does it make a clear, understandable, point?
Will my audience remember it tomorrow?
Could a junior higher recount some of it to mom and dad in car ride home?
Will they know what the heck I was talking about?


Is there an element of fun in the lesson?
Laughter helps the medicine go down; do I provide that opportunity?
Is the humor edifying and age-appropriate?
I’m not a comedian, but don’t take myself too seriously!


Social Media Making Millennials Less Social by Uptin Saiidi


It’s something everyone suspected, but now it’s official: The under-30 crowd is addicted to their cell phones.

Those are the findings of a new survey, which showed that as millennials spend more time engaged on social media platforms, it’s causing them to be less social in real life. The study, conducted by Flashgap, a photo-sharing application with more than 150,000 users, found that 87 percent of millennials admitted to missing out on a conversation because they were distracted by their phone. Meanwhile, 54 percent said they experience a fear of missing out if not checking social networks.

Nearly 3,000 participants were asked about how they felt about social media in social settings, and found that the guiltiest culprits are often females. The study found 76 percent of females check social media platforms at least 10 times when out with friends, compared with 54 percent of males.

The most commonly used apps mentioned in social settings among millennials were Snapchat, Tinder, Facebook, Messenger and Instagram.

Julian Kabab, co-founder of FlashGap said that people are too focused on looking at social media when they’re out at events, and it may be costing them in social interaction. “People miss out on parties because they want to see what’s going on, on social networks, take beautiful selfies and add filters to their pictures,” he told CNBC.

It especially becomes a problem when there is alcohol involved and regrets the next morning. The survey found that 71 percent of users regret posting a picture on a social network after more than three drinks.

FlashGap’s findings echo a similar study conducted in 2014, where research suggested that cell phones were increasingly undermining personal interactions. The widely circulated Virginia Tech University <http://www.psmag.com/books-and-culture/presence-smart-phone-lowers-quality-person-conversations-85805>report said that “the presence of mobile technologies has the potential to divert individuals from face-to-face exchanges, thereby undermining the character and depth of these connections.”

Concerns are growing that the practical impact of mobile device use is making humans more interested in their online lives, and less interested in each other. Yet Kebab told CNBC his intent for FlashGap was to help millenials make their experiences more relevant in real life.

In college, Kabab said he and his friends had strapped on GoPro cameras during parties and would gather the next day to watch one another’s footage. “The experience was so fun that I said that we had to scale this emotion with an app,” Kebab, whose company has 14 employees and is based in Paris.

“Discovering parts of your nights out you didn’t see at the same time as your friends felt exactly like the end scene of ‘The Hangover’ movie, and that’s when it clicked,” he said.

FlashGap is entering a hotly competitive space where any of the big players vying for millennials’ eyes already have a head start. The app was launched in France and recently raised $1.5 million in seed round funding to branch out to the United States.

The dominance of Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, all owned by Facebook, and Snapchat, valued <http://www.cnbc.com/2015/05/29/snapchat-in-process-of-raising-new-money-values-company-at-up-to-16b-sources.html> at $16 billion by some estimates, raising questions as to how easy it might be for new entrants to get into the space.

“Shifting behaviors in a core audience are certainly factors as we consider investments,” Ellie Wheeler, a venture capitalist at Greycroft, told CNBC. “We’re seeing a lot of interesting ways to deliver mobile-first content and how that content needs to change in order to be right for mobile behavior.”

Wheeler acknowledges that social sharing is still an increasingly important piece of a person’s online identity.

“It is something that a generation that has grown up with social from day one has to learn in a way that past generations have not,” Wheeler said.


Hi! I am praying for you right now! 

Daily Prayer Email: Please send ALL prayer requests for your class to: studentcbsprayer@gmail.com
What matters most is what others think of Jesus. And the world judges Christ by Christians. #denison
Whatever is in first place, if it isn’t Christ alone, it is in the wrong place. #swindoll
God not only sees where you are, He sees where you can be. #jesusgraces
Satan weaves; God reweaves. #lucado
1. Signs of Drug use is Teens and Tweens…https://www.heartlightministries.org/2017/05/signs-drug-use-teens-tweens/?utm_source=CC+Master+List&utm_campaign=121ace0f61-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_02_22&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_5926458580-121ace0f61-126726953
3. This article is very edgy but worth the read. The Real Reason Liberal Churches are Losing Members… http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/in-the-line-of-fire/44427-the-real-reason-liberal-churches-are-losing-members
4. Welcome to College (Book Q&A Below)
Here is what I just posted on the blogwww.studentcbsblog.org 
How the Last Five Generations Have Changed Us by Tim Elmore
Unreal by Marc Bain (Instagram is the most harmful social network for your mental health. Not surprising but now there are studies.)
American Say U.S. Moral Values at a Seven-Year Low by Suzanne Woolley
Netflix, TED and the Future of Preaching by Tiffany Delucca

Here are 2 video links I think you might like to see:

Here are 2 just for you:
Follow Jesus First 
When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Matthew 8:18-19
Good leaders are first good followers. Do you follow the orders of Jesus? When He asks you to do the uncomfortable, do you move out of your comfort zone with confidence? Compelling Christian leadership has focused “followship” on their Master, the Lord Jesus. Where is He asking you to go that requires sacrifice and unconditional commitment? His orders do not always make sense, but they are totally trustworthy and helpful. 
When He directs you to leave the noise of the crowds for the quietness of a few, do not delay. If you are obsessed by activity, you can easily lose your edge on energy and faith. When all my oomph is consumed by serving every request and answering every call, I have no time or concentration to hear from Christ. What is He saying? This is the most important inquiry I can make. What is Jesus telling me to do? So, when I listen, I learn.
You may be in the middle of a monster season of success, so make sure your achievements do not muffle the Lord’s message. It’s when we are fast and furious that our faith becomes perfunctory and predictable. Leadership requires time alone to retool and recalibrate our character. People follow when they know you’ve been with Jesus.
The most difficult part may be the transition from doing less, to listening and thinking more. If you, as the leader, are not planning ahead, who is? Who has the best interests of the enterprise in mind? Who is defending the mission and vision of the organization so there is not a drift into competing strategies? Follow Jesus first; then He frees you to see.
Where is the Lord leading you to go? Will you lag behind with excellent excuses, or will you make haste and move forward by faith? Go with God and He will direct you through the storms of change. He may seem silent at times, but remember, He led you to this place, and where He leads, He provides. Follow Jesus first, then go wherever He goes. You will lose people in the process, but you will gain better people for His next phase.
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matthew 16:24).
Prayer: Dear Lord, I commit to follow You first with my whole hearted devotion, in Jesus’ name, amen. 


Fear keeps us from lots of things – deeper relationships, meaningful conversations and implementing risky ideas. Fear is also what keeps most adults from volunteering to serve in the youth ministry and connecting with students. When I was I youth pastor, I chose to tackle these fears head on. I made a presentation to name the most common fears of my adult volunteers and then began conversations about each one. Here’s my list:

Top Ten Fears of Adult Volunteers
10. I’m too old.
9. I’m not hip.
8. I don’t speak their language.
7. I’m too smart for this.
6. I don’t know what to say.
5. I don’t look the part.
4. I don’t know enough about the Bible.
3. I don’t want to tell students what I did in the past.
2. I can’t relate.
1. Students won’t like me.

In my presentation, I would always put a funny picture next to each fear; it served to release tension and gave me an easy opening into a somewhat challenging discussion. Remember, these fears are powerful and gripping to youth ministry volunteers, and they won’t find our quick quips or silly stories incredibly helpful. Instead, we need to communicate our own fears and give adults a chance to see themselves as students actually see them. We can do this in four ways:

1. Take volunteers back to their high school days. Ask them to think about an adult who had influence in their lives and remind them of the power of this relationship. Challenge them to think of how it shaped and molded them, whether positively or negatively. Then connect the dots for them and encourage them to be a positive influence in a student’s life.

2. Describe how a student thinks. As adults, we tend to think that students see us as equals, but, for the most part, they don’t. Students see us as larger than life, as people who have all the answers and are worry free. (Little do they know.) But what this means is that a positive and upbeat adult will always attract students. They want to know what they think we know.

“A positive and upbeat adult will always attract students. They want to know what they think we know.” 

3. Bring in a ringer. Invite someone who has had success to tell their story. Consider asking a member of your current team or someone from the congregation to come and share one of their fears and how God helped them overcome it. These personal ministry stories can be powerful for people on the front lines of ministry.

4. Focus on the results. I often find that people who are in a fight to reach a mountain top don’t end up making it because they never look up. They see the problems, but they never see the results. Ask a student to share how a relationship with an adult has made a difference, or challenge a student to communicate how they view their adult leaders. You might even share results based on what you’ve seen and heard.

As you consider going about this process, here’s one final word of caution: people don’t like to talk about their fears. If you think this isn’t a problem for your volunteers because you have never heard them talk about it, think again. Try this model of teaching at your next staff meeting and watch your volunteers’ reactions and the discussion that follows. Don’t let your fear of doing something new or different keep them from confronting their fears about serving in the youth ministry.

Welcome to College (Book Q&A)

I recently had the opportunity to ask Jonathan a few questions about his book:

J. Warner:
“Why is it important to equip young Christians for college? What makes this group different than non-Christians?”

“The college years are critically important. If you get off course in high school or college, it can have life-altering consequences.

Here are clarifying questions I like to ask students, “What story do you want to tell about the college years? Someday you will walk across the graduation stage and be filled with either satisfaction or regret. Which one do you want? Eventually, you will summarize your college years in a few sentences. Why not go ahead and shape your future now?”

This final question will give students clarity. They also need to decide if they are serious about following Jesus or if they are going to drift into “playing Christian.” If they are serious about following Jesus, then they can set the destination they are pursuing early on, which will make all the difference. As Christians, we are called to more than just surviving—that’s the heart behind Welcome to College.”

J. Warner:
“What are some of the unique challenges facing young Christians when they go to college?”

“College isn’t what it used to be. And many students raised in the church are not ready. You may have noticed in the news that free speech and historic Christian beliefs and values are not exactly being celebrated on campus or in our culture today.  The tyranny of tolerance is alive and well.

Depending on the survey you look at, about half of Christian students will disengage from their faith / church after they graduate high school and head off to college. If you care about the next generation as I do then this should break your heart and serve as a wakeup call that “business as usual” is not working out so well.

As I have taught and worked with high school and college students over the past 12 years I have seen a lot of different scenarios play themselves out. Here is one of the most common pathways.

A student who has a primarily emotional / sentimental faith will find it wilting very quickly in the heat of real world challenges on campus. When a student moves from one group where their childhood beliefs were the majority view to a new group where they are now in the minority view, they face significant pressure to modify or reject those “outdated” beliefs. When they have left the bubble, will they stand?

That is why we must train our students to know why they believe what they believe. It’s not a matter of if but when the challenges will come.”

J. Warner:
“How does your book help accomplish the task of preparing young people for the university experience? What is unique about your book?”

Welcome to College is everything I wish I would have known during the college years. Young Christians are growing up in a culture that is deeply confused about what is right and what is true. It’s hard for them to break free from the riptide of relativism, but if you lose truth, then you lose Christianity. Period.

Students need to know how to understand, explain and defend objective truth. Without training, they will simply fall into the default settings of those around them. When the pressure is turned up and the tyranny of tolerance presses in, Christians tend to wilt if they do not have the confidence that only comes from knowing why they believe what they believe.

Essential areas they need to be ready to engage in during college: How do I know God really exists? Is truth relative? Who was Jesus, and did he rise from the dead? Can you trust the Bible in the 21st century? How do I have helpful spiritual conversations? How can Jesus be the only way to God? If God is good, then why is there so much evil? I cover these and other practical questions like dating, sex, dealing with doubt, and how to resolve conflict with roommates as well. Because Christianity is true, it applies to every area of life. So I try to cover all the main questions that students have to engage during college.

So you can read the book straight through or you can pick the topics that you are facing and start there. I have been so encouraged to hear that many youth pastors are buying copies of Welcome to College for all their high school graduates. And parents are buying the book and using the discussion questions in the back of the book to take their students through their junior and senior years of high school to get them ready.”

J. Warner:
“Where can people learn more about your work?”

“As they read Welcome to College, they can visit me online at JonathanMorrow.org for more resources, podcasts and videos to help them along the way. Also, parents can send their students to spend either 2-weeks during the summer at Immersion or 9-months at our Christian Gap Year building a biblical worldview and being trained to own their faith with us here at Impact 360 Institute where I teach.”

If you’ve got a young Christian who’s getting ready to enter college, or you’re just appropriately concerned about the future of young believers, you need to read Welcome to College: A Christ-Follower’s Guide for the Journey. I cannot recommend it more highly.


Netflix, TED and the Future of Preaching by Tiffany Delucca


I recently spoke with a church leader who shared some alarming statistics from research within his denomination. About 50% of all their lead pastors said they felt equipped in seminary to teach but not to lead. Their attrition rate for ministers was even higher, and growing.

I was surprised by one part of the research, and not by the other. That pastors feel like seminary fails to train them in how to practically lead a church towards growth and health… not surprising. But that these pastors felt secure in their teaching/preaching did surprise me a bit. Here’s why: Most churches still teach in decades-old formats that are increasingly abandoned by innovators in teaching methods. For instance,

  • A long lecture by one person on a stage to a crowd of passive listeners.
  • Messages, even when connected topically or by a single Scriptural text, that build one upon another, released one-week at a time at a certain time of day on a certain day of the week.
  • Few or no visuals, technological assets or other creative enhancements.
  • Lack of emphasis on captivating storytelling.

How equipped are pastors, really, to teach in our current culture?

I don’t ask this question to point fingers or assign blame. I just think there’s a lot of room for our churches to innovate, and perhaps, to better spread the message of the Gospel and better equip our people to take steps in their faith.

How do people learn today? A few things that immediately come to mind; you can probably think of others…

  • Podcasts
  • Online courses
  • TED Talks (live events, online videos and TED Radio Hour podcast)
  • YouTube tutorials
  • Netflix series
  • Hands-on lab work
  • Service learning/volunteering

Here are a few questions I’m wrestling with:

  • Is a church’s standard 40-minute sermon once a week the best way to help people gain knowledge or take a next step? If not, why can’t we break the mold?
    For example, what if pastors preached for 18 minutes on a Sunday and released a podcast episode or short video on Monday that offered deeper study into the topic? Could we at once be more compelling for the masses and more effective at offering on-demand ways for people to go deeper?
  • What if we made planning visuals and stories a key component of sermon prep?Jesus used visuals all around Him to teach key truths. What if we put a higher emphasis on telling a great a story every time we communicated? I recently heard Andy Stanley point out the fact that Jesus was constantly answering questions with stories. We have no better model.

    Think back to the best sermons you’ve ever heard. I bet you remember a story before a pithy statement or a specific Scripture verse.

  • What can we learn from popular “lecture-style” events like TED?People sign up in droves and pay money to sit through a full day of talks. (Shocking?) I’ve only been to a few events like this, but the best ones, kept me on my toes. A 10 minute talk followed by a 3 minute video. Then a 3-song set by an interesting musician, or a short comedy act, or another visual art performance of some kind. Then another 8 minute talk, etc.

    The exact format isn’t the point, but we have the ability to think outside our traditions. Jesus taught while walking down the road, hanging out by a lake and from a fishing boat. Why are we so stuck in our routines?

Where Do We Go from Here? 

I’m not saying we throw out Sunday morning teaching. Not in the least. But we can push ourselves to innovate.

I asked a creative lead pastor on The Unstuck Group’s team, Gabe Kolstad, to share some practical thoughts for how pastors could start thinking about the future of teaching and preaching. Here were his suggestions:

  1. Carve out more time to think and pray
    Senior leaders, no one can prioritize this for you. And you know from experience that people will push back and crises will always vie for your time. Great ideas start when you give yourself space to have them.
  2. Reevaluate how you structure your environment and your spaces for creativity.
    Where do you think best? Where do you feel most creative? If being at desk under fluorescent lights drains you, it’s not where you’re going to have your best ideas.
  3. Invite creative people in.
    Most churches have some highly skilled members who would be willing to volunteer to help make church content more engaging, if you cast vision and create the right systems.
  4. Invite wise people in.
    You most likely have people with wisdom who like to study Scripture or like to teach Bible Studies in your church. How could you engage them to support you in digging into topics for extra content and sermon prep?

As Peter McGowan recently wrote,

“Until the Industrial Revolution, the church was a cultural leader for centuries in the arts, technology, and science. The modern printing press that printed the Gutenberg Bible was an invention of the church. But we’ve allowed history to be rewritten. We’ve lost touch with our creativity and individuality. We have stopped intentionally and strategically thinking through our story and how it impacts our brand and culture.”

What if we could get our minds around the cultural implications of how content outside the Church is delivered – and most importantly, received? I think we’d find ourselves more willing to try something new. I look forward to seeing how the Church continues to innovate to advance the Gospel.


Two Worlds to Understand When Leading Generation Z by Tim Elmore

growing leaders.com

Insead Emerging Markets Research recently released a report on the multiple generations who are now consumers worldwide: Baby Boomers, and Generations X, Y and Z, using the most popular tags the last four generations have been assigned. In the report, Executive Director Vinika Rao writes:

Poised to enter the workplace soon, Generation Z was born into a tumultuous world, demonstrated to them in all its VUCA glory through a wide variety of screens.” Have you heard this term: VUCA? It represents descriptive words for the world our youngest students have grown up in:

  • Volatility
  • Uncertainty
  • Complexity
  • Ambiguity

They fear for the future of the planet, value their education, worry about their future careers and want to make the world a better place. They are completely digitally native in the sense of being quite helpless in a non-digital world.

A VUCA World

VUCA describes the filter in which our middle school and high school students make decisions about their life. For that matter, young college students use this filter too:

  • Their world is volatile—not steady.
  • Their world is uncertain—not secure or guaranteed.
  • Their world is complex—not simple.
  • Their world is ambiguous—not clear or even congruent at times.

Consider if your world was like that as a young teen. How would you have done?

Perhaps it was uncertain and complex. But for most of us from older generations, life was simpler and more secure than it is today. When students look around at our country, they do not see “united” states, they see divided ones. They see older generations pitted against younger ones. They’ve grown up with the constant ping of social media messages, but many have not learned to civilize this technology. We don’t yet know how to live well in the smart world that is emerging. A perfect case in point is a recent event that took place in Argentina. At the first ever “driverless car race” in Buenos Aires, only one car finished the race—and it did so at far lower speeds than human-controlled racers. It’s a picture. We have the technology to do certain things, but we’ve not yet mastered it.

The world is exhilarating yet frighteningly uncertain.

Technology introduces all sorts of ways to expand our world, yet we’re not sure if what it introduces is helpful or harmful morally. Migrating to this moral “edge” can become graphic. In some places in Europe, you can find a café where a robot can serve you a coffee and sexual favors. It’s crazy. Some argue this is a good thing and not immoral at all, because it does not represent cheating on your spouse. Others, of course, argue the opposite. Once again, it’s a VUCA world our kids are growing up in. Are we ready to equip our students to make good decisions in this “smart” world? Are we even ready to host that conversation?

Technology seems to be pushing us, rather than the other way around. In some ways we’ve allowed it to become our master not our servant.

A TGIF World

According to futurist, Dr. Leonard Sweet, TGIF no longer stands for “Thank God It’s Friday” but rather for:

  • Texting
  • Google
  • Instagram
  • Facebook

Social media is here to stay—but have we recognized both the helpful and harmful symptoms it has introduced into our culture? Researcher Dr. Jean Twenge (who will be speaking at our National Leadership Forum in June) says the rise of social media parallels precisely the rise in angst and depression among our nation’s students.

We will soon (in the next five years) be using Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in much of our business training courses, and perhaps, even in our formal education. Almost half of Americans say they’re not even sure what V.R. or A.R. is. Today’s Virtual Reality usually involves wearing goggles and experiencing something with your eyes that augments what you’re actually experiencing physically. In essence, it is a combination of a “virtual” world and a “real” world.

Leading Students in a TGIF and VUCA Culture

So, I am now pondering how I can better lead students in this day of change and uncertainty. So far, my directives are simple yet clear:

  1. Because their life is often VOLATILE, I must labor to offer steady and consistent leadership to them. Many do not have such role models who are solid.
  1. Because their life is often UNCERTAIN, I must enable them to be resilient and resourceful. These skills are the only sure-fire way to combat such a society.
  1. Because their life is often COMPLEX, I must equip them to practice mindfulness. To mono-task (focus on one simple goal) rather than multi-task, all the time.
  1. Because their life is often AMBIGUOUS, I must help them become clear on what they want in life and congruent in who they are. Clarity is a gift we must offer.

Here’s to meeting the needs of your students in a VUCA and TGIF world.