Team. Many thoughts and images come to mind when I think of "team" and also many questions.

  • what are the key ingredients of a team?
  • how big or small should a team be?
  • what personalities/experiences/spiritual gifts are required for that team?
Watch this video and think of all the elements of team that you see. This video is of a barn being built by the Amish from the foundation to completion. It is a 10 hour job time-lapsed in to a 3:30min video.

Here is what I see:

  1. they have the right resources for the project.
  2. they have the right materials to accomplish the project. Foresight: someone organized the materials and the workers to be there for that day
  3. they even take a meal break showing there are other people working behind the scenes to assist the build team. The team is much bigger than shown.
  4. they picked the right day to accomplish this project.
  5. they finished the project. 
Share what others things you saw about team from this video in the comments. 

Many Hands Make Light Work: Amazing what can be accomplished in a 10 hour day.everyone knows what they are to do on this project. 

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Is Your Youth Ministry Ready to Grow?

One of the most important decisions any youth ministry needs to face is how to plan for growth. Let’s
be honest, It’s a nice problem to have, but you need to temper any excitement by making sure that you have well laid plans.

You might be a sole youth worker and you’re ready to make your first hires. Or you’re a solid, established youth ministry team thinking about adding a new on sight or off sight location. No matter your size or ambitions, here are a few tips to help you plan to expand.

Ensure God Wants You Grow
Expansion is not only a matter of growth, it’s also a matter of stamina, time, commitment. If you’ve got the fortitude – just like when you were starting out, you’ll be in for some long days – then you need to ensure that you and your youth ministry are ready to grow. It starts with you being honest before God. “It’s not about you. It’s about God!” - Rick Warren. Before you embark on a new journey, you need to know exactly what kind of shape you and your youth ministry is in. Essentially, you need to develop an entire ministry plan with full SWOT analysis in order to successfully chart your new path. That takes time, will, and, most importantly, a healthy balance sheet that is both spiritual and physical.

Be Prepared to Spend
We all know it’s true that you have to spend money to make money. But you have to spend your budget smartly. Consider consolidating your budget resources: spiritual gifts of your ministry team,volunteers, finances, recruitment, students, parents, and the church leadership team. That way you can track all of the resource categories that you can expect to surge as you start to walk this new journey.

A Few Good People
It can be the hardest and also the most rewarding part of ministry – hiring and managing your team. (Yes, you do hire volunteers) But the people who come on board with you are key to your success, especially as you grow. You will need to have processes and policies for dealing with mundane stuff such as vulnerable protection, volunteer role descriptions, expectations and benchmarks. You don’t want to spend your valuable time on these details, but they are very important to your people. Also, software solutions are easily accessible; Evernote, Google Drive, Google Calendar, are great places to start keeping your team organized.

Making Your Move
Do you need a bigger space, either for an office, lounge or gathering room? This may be the most formidable part of your expansion plan, and will entail a lot of site visits around your facility, negotiation with others staff/program leaders. Especially if you’re considering expanding to another part of your facility. Remember that you need to choose the best location based on the needs of your ministry, not just your wants. Off sight might even be something to consider. Creativity is your greatest asset in making your move. Surround yourself with 2-3 creative people and 2-3 people who have the spiritual gift of faith and see what happens. 

If your youth ministry is growing, it’s a sign that God is using you and those on your team – and feeling positive, even celebratory, is perfectly natural. But it’s also important to understand that growth is a disruptive force. A period of significant growth will impact every single aspect of youth ministry – which is why you need to adopt a strategic mindset. Ask youself, “Is my youth ministry ready to grow?” If so, the time to plan is now.

coordinator of community initiatives - scarborough

youth unlimited (tyfc) 

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3 words you should never say to our sons

What three words have the potential to result in long term, psychological damage and stress for our sons? What three words should you avoid saying at all costs?
In an up and coming film from The Representation Project (from the team who also brought us the confronting Miss Representation), you’ll see what’s happening in today’s society that is threatening the emotional wellbeing of our boys – and even our girls.
What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments box below. Also, check out our awesome article for mothers: 5 Guidelines For Mothers Of Sons.


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I was sitting across the table having a one on one conversation with one of my students. He was stuck. He didn't know what to do and he had just told me another version of so many stories I've heard before. I knew I needed to say something as he looked at me with awkward glances.

During our conversation I was listening, taking mental notes, but most importantly I was asking Jesus to give me the words to say to this young man. I think I was begging with Jesus for the right words to say because my initial thought was to say, "suck it up buttercup."

As I took a deep breath about to impart my amazing words of wisdom to this young man he broke the silence by saying, "I'm sorry to bore you with this but I just don't know what to do." I quickly responded with the first word that came to my mind, "Wow!" I thought to myself, "did I say that out loud?" This young man had just poured his heart out to me for the past 15 minutes, asking for my advice and I started my response with 'Wow'. What was I thinking?

Yet, what I didn't realize was that one word would be the hinge that opened the door to our conversation. We continued our conversation for 90 minutes and it sparked other conversations down the road and our interactions went deeper then I could have ever imagined.

This conversation reminded me of some of things I love about youth ministry:
Shepherding students is messy: when I enter the lives of students I must allow them to enter my life. The pain, hurt discomfort and unsettling frustration that they have going on in their lives is when I share with them my stories of pain, hurt, discomfort and unsettling frustration. if teenagers rooms are messy, so are their lives. the one thing that I have to remind myself is that my life is also messy.

Process with students: life is full of things we like and don't like. when you and your students experience one of those things, process with them, but don't allow your emotions to dictate your response with your students. if something was challenging, process with them on how they can learn from it, wether you liked it or not. the big thing about processing with students is that it is a long journey. You cannot expect things to be wrapped up like a teaching session or telling them to read this passage or to just pray about it.

Resource your students: have follow-up resources on file and ready to help your students process through circumstances. if you don't have the answers, don't pretend you do. get resources from other youth workers or experts in specific fields. this is a really pretty way of delegating. you can say to your students, "you know I'm not really sure about that but I know someone who does. let me get you some information about that and after you've checked it out, let's talk some more." students understand it when adults tell them that they don't know something. what they don't understand is when adults claims they know everything. if you have resource file, keep adding to it. if you dot have one, start to put one together.

These are three things that I've found that help me as a youth worker. What would you add to this list?

Here are four resources to add to your resource list or to help you start your first one:

X3Watch: online accountability and integrity. FREE
CovenantEyes: online filter and accountability software.
Pam Stenzel: speaker and resources on biblical sex and sexuality
Dr. Karyn Gordon: canadian, family and relationship expert, her products are excellent.


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The Letter

The letter was one page and hand written. It was filled with Encouragement. Hopes. Dreams. Goals. Direction. Questions.

As I read this letter the penmanship was familiar but I could not place it at first. It was a very personal letter as it asked very detailed questions that obviously had intimate knowledge of my life.

It was an encouraging letter in my work with Toronto Youth for Christ, my leadership, vision and direction moving forward into a new year. Was my staff feeling encouraged and valued in not only their work but in their lives.

It then moved into asking me how my commitment to my wife as her husband and best friend or even how I am setting an example to my son as a man, husband and father.

The challenge came when it asked me about specific books that I had just read and they knew the books on my "too read" shelf. Had I been challenged, provoked to action or action from what I read?

At this point I knew who had authored this letter.

This was a letter that I had written to myself 5-months earlier.

This was a fun exercise and allowed me to refocus, remember, challenge and encourage myself based on intimate knowledge of my life.

Even if you actively journal throughout your year, to receive a letter from yourself is like having the image in the mirror talk back to you about your life.

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Anatomy of Effectively Planning Ahead

Planing ahead at the end of June is always hard. Who wants to start thinking or even planning strategically about September through June for next school year when the summer this year has only just begun?

Effectively Planning Ahead can be broken down by using a simple template. I've used this template for years and each year I tweak it a little bit more or a little bit less based on the upcoming year. Get you calendar out for 2014-15 and lets get going.

My planning template consists of six components.

  1. Non-negotiable: weekly programs and seasonal events that always happen every year go right into your calendar without any hesitation (e.g. winter retreat, mission trip car wash fundraiser in May, fall kick off event, Friday night you or Sunday school). Make sure you have the church calendar for the next year so you don't double book stuff on missions weekend etc...
  2. Curriculum: you need to be praying about this and writing notes down about where God what you to go with curriculum and then evaluate the curriculums to get the right one. This can be done by yourself or in a group setting with your leadership team.
  3. Journalling: through out your past year, you must be taking notes about everything. Key questions parents have asked, how can we prevent someone from breaking their arm in our pillow fight night, what worked well at your Christmas banquet, what failed when kids got on the roof and the a neighbour called the cops. These are then applied or thoughtfully consider for the next year. 
  4. Next Steps: what are those next steps that you need to provide for your students or volunteer leaders to challenge them to go to that next level? Do you need to start a student leadership team or recruit more volunteers? Do you need to focus on Spiritual gifts this year or plan an overseas mission trip?
  5. Share the Plan: after you have everything planned out you need to go through several beta tests (3-4) with three groups of people; 2-3 key volunteers and students from your leadership team, church staff, 2-3 key parents.
  6. Publish: send out a basic 2014-15 calendar that only marks out key dates ad has no details. You don't need to list your Friday night theme from September through June but you should have you Friday nights in the calendar.
Two key things you should have on every basic calendar is this: 1) youth ministry schedule subject to change without notice. 2) Friday night youth will not be on these four dates: ____, ____, ____, _____.


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Change of Mind

What Steve Saint talks about in this video is oh so true about youth ministry today. Actually, it could be applied across the board in many churches.

We need to think different about youth ministry today than we did yesterday. What are your thoughts?


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ReStart in Youth Ministry

if you are serious about reaching preteens, you need to be serious about providing them with a
picture from LifeWay preteen
space where they feel comfortable. i've seen preteen ministries setup in small rooms, large rooms, medium room and even hallways. they key to opening the door of connection into the church for any preteen ministry is relationships, but don't under estimate the power of decor.

preteens love bright funky colours along with the soothing glow of hd tv's with great sound and video game systems. others love loud physical activity like mini sticks, ping-pong or air hockey. you also need a quieter place to hang out and chat, read or drink a cup of tea.

if i was to start a preteen ministry from scratch, i would set aside a portion of my budget on creating a new, exciting, and inviting spot for preteens.

since budgets are becoming tighter and tighter these days and we being asked to to more with less, here are some creative ways to design and build a preteen room on a tight budget.

  • find the largest unused space in your church and ask your leadership for it. a larger space is better for a preteen room so you can have an active and quiet area.
  • paint your ceiling tiles or hang old camp t-shirts if you have rafters.
  • add unique lighting and furniture ideas throughout the room. ikea is a great option if you have one near you. if not, try a second hand thrift store and go retro in your design.
  • ask for old game systems and computers so you can have a technology section.
  • scapbook paper and picture design is very powerful and allows preteens to add to the decor of their room.
  • collect board games and music for them to pick and choose for their ambience. itunes lets attenders choose their music from a play list if you have wifi access for your kids.
  • buy a flat screen tv and show music videos on it or home made ministry event videos.

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Youth Ministry #FAIL

the definition of insanity is this: "doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results".
many youth workers today are insane, and not in a good way. let me tell you about one of the biggest secrets about youth ministry that really depends on how right or wrong you think about about it.

we must think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our heart. the blood flows ceaselessly, and our breathing continues ceaselessly. none of us are conscious of it, but it's always going on. we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect union with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is.

"Pray without ceasing," keep the childlike attitude of always asking questions of God, always sharing with him your hearts thoughts and feelings all the time.

"Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer, He had the boundless certainty that prayer is always answered. have we by the Spirit the unspeakable certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when God does not seem to have answered our prayers? Every one that asks will receive. We say - "But...but..." Do we expect God to answer prayer? The danger is that we water down the things that Jesus says and make them mean something that correlates with our common sense. The things Jesus says about prayer are supernatural revelations." Oswald Smith - My Utmost for His Highest
Do you expect God to answer your prayers for the students and their families in the youth ministry you have been entrusted to oversee?

Are you giving 10% of your weekly time to prayer?


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Parent Ministry Resources

One of the most forgotten elements of youth ministry is the focus on parents as it was the focus of last week's post, parent ministry.

Connecting church and home is a very difficult and daunting task for youth workers.

If you are like me, you need a parent ministry plan that will set you on the right course. Other youth workers can design their own plan based and use various resources for support.

Need a Parent Ministry Plan
This is a great service that allows your kids ministry through youth ministry keep the same branding, messaging and resourcing. Cost: $25 per month.
What you get:

  • one video, two emails, and 10 tweets/texts that you customize and send out to the parents in your youth ministry each month.
  • give parents resources on a right of passage each year from grade 6 through grade 12.
  • parenting toolbox that gives you the resources to build an effective parent ministry.
  • event kits on creating impactful parenting events.
  • community resources that connects you to other youth workers ministering to parents.
Need Resources for your Parent Ministry Plan
Youth Cartel.com

Knowing my weakness in parent ministry I would set aside $25 per month from the youth ministry budget and recruit a communication team to run this for me.

What is your parent ministry plan and what resources do you currently use?
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Parent Ministry

Let me be honest, parent ministry was not on my radar as a youth worker. It might be on a whiteboard in my office or a notebook as a dream or something that would be a good idea if I had time but I never have time or energy for it. I have good intentions for a parent ministry. Until I make parent ministry an intentional priority, I will always have good intentions about it.

Here is why parent ministry is such a struggle for me:

it's holistic
i move from focusing on a student to an adult(s) and their family dynamics.

the adult me
i need to be an adult when i speak to other adults. i need to face real world adult problems if i get involved in their lives.

extra help
i would potentially get extra help in resources for youth ministry. (parent drivers, event volunteers, material resources, extra help...) why would I ever want that!

i need to build relationships with parents, not just inform them about upcoming youth events by updated Facebook or sending out tweets or an email.

what ideas, tips or resources have worked for you in your parent ministry?

Jeff Smyth

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Book Review: I Am Second

I love stories. Especially when you hear about a life that was transformed or changed through an experience that they went through (good or bad). I love when my spirit is bubbling up inside me as I listen to a story and when it gets to the end I can boldly say to the story-teller, "That's the God I know!"

As I sat down to read this book over a few days, I was excited because I had used several of the videos from I AM SECOND in various youth ministry contexts. Each video is visually simple yet powerful, verbally thought provoking, and very inspiring. (I used three "V" words there, cool!). I am also a person who loves things visual, seeing a person share their own personal story, seeing their facial expressions of joy or pain is very powerful. Yet when I read, I love to visualize what I'm reading.

As I began the book I kept having this sense of confusion come over me because it wasn't clear to me who was telling each of the stories I was reading. Every story, through out the whole book, kept switching from first person to third person. I then jumped ahead to a story I had seen on video that impacted me personally and started reading with expectation. I was let down because as a reader I wasn't sure who was telling the story. I was left confused.

There are many ways to tell a redemptive story and I know that the redemption that God offers to each one of us is mind blowing. The big problem I had with the book was that the redemptive story of God seemed hidden, missed, not communicated well, I'm not sure what. When someone has a life changing encounter with the living God it is usually very clear to everyone through two ways: 1) their life changes (behaviour, decisions, attitude, thoughts, language, body language, etc…), 2) the reason for the change is clear, they tell you that it was because of their life intersecting with the living God and his son Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Some of the stories in the book I AM SECOND seem to lack a depth of the redemptive story and the life change that each person went through when they encountered God through Jesus Christ. I'm not sure if that's because the authors wanted it that way or if the person telling the story was not coached on how to tell the story of the redemptive work of God in their life.

Overall, if you are looking for a book to read about how various people go through a rough/rock-bottom experience and they emerge on the other side without drowning and discover God, then this is a book you will enjoy. If you are looking for a book that is very well written and explains in detail the redemptive work of Jesus in the life of various people, then this is not the book for you.

My recommendation is to watch the I AM SECOND videos for free. The book is not a must have on my book shelves. Stick with the videos.

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Urban Mission Experience: REMIX

I have been involved with REMIX for many years as a youth pastor and now on the teaching team. This is a weeklong urban mission experience that could help you in one of these ways:
1) summer camp staff training
2) students experience reaching out for the first time (Jerusalem, Judea... Acts 1:8)
3) overseas mission team prep and training before you leave.

June 29th - July 4th in Toronto!
  • 20 Years
  • 5000+ Teens
  • 350 Youth Groups
  • Local Focus - Global Impact
This should be your missions trip in 2014!

REMIX is a week-long interactive and hands-on urban mission experience designed to equip, train and inspire young people to 'centre their lives within the mission and message of Jesus'. Each REMIX participant will receive in-depth training each day, be engaged in afternoon mission opportunities throughout Toronto and be a part of large group celebration gatherings each evening.
The following is the outline and flow of our week at REMIX:
  • DAY 01: ENCOUNTERING God's Love
  • DAY 02: MEETING people through Jesus' eyes
  • DAY 03: CARE through listening and learning
  • DAY 04: CONNECT with God's community
  • DAY 05: SHARE God's truth
  • DAY 06: FOLLOW Jesus' Mission


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Today before walking to the bus I played catch with my 7yr. We had an extra few minutes before we had to leave so we were both talking about it being opening day across major league baseball today. The Smyth family are huge Toronto Blue Jays fans and after a disastrous 2013 season we are now on the verge of a new season which brings hope. Hope for a better season, better pitching, actually better everything over last year.

Once you choose hope, anything is possible!

So my five minutes before our walk to the bus brought up many memories for me. You see, I grew up without a father so actually playing catch with my son is very special for me. He is experiencing something that I was never able to experience. He is talking about hope with dad, he is making crazy throws and diving for catches and we are both laughing together because when you play catch with your dad, anything is possible.

Now in your own life, when you are alone and it is just you and God, do you have hope? When you are with your family at mealtime, doing homework or playing, do you have hope? As you prepare and plan for your youth ministry for today, this week, this month, this season, do you have hope? Anything is possible in any area of your life!

Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.
-  1 Chronicles 29:15 

Jeff loves Jesus, his wife and family. He has been married for 12 years and he has one of the most energetic boys in the world. Jeff is also a life long fan of the Toronto Blue Jays & Montreal Canadiens. You can connect with Jeff online: Jeff Smyth BlogTwitterFacebook, LinkedInGoogle+


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The History of Saint Patrick - a Short Story


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Oscars 2014: 3 Things I Learned

The 2014 edition of The Oscars was last night. If you were like me and you had your winning picks for all the various categories,  the one thing that was evident was that there was something very different about this annual award show by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

It was a visually stunning show and everyone looked stunning regardless of who will win and lose your best dressed, speeches, musical performances and this years host Ellen DeGeneres.

Here are 5 Things I Learned from watching the Oscars last night:

Three big fun moments were when host Ellen DeGeneres ordered pizza, took a selfie that broke Twitter and then appeared in a Wizard of Oz good witch outfit. The Oscars are stressful on so many levels for the nominees. It was great to see them relax, be spontaneous, enjoy the many moments of the night and the show.

Are you having fun in your youth ministry role?

I love when you see and hear an acceptance speech that is genuine. My favourite speech were from Lupita Nyong’s and it set the tone for the night and it seemed that almost every winner was genuine, humble and truly thankful for the honour of receiving and Oscar.

Do you celebrate the God moments in the lives of students?

One night out of the year where many were celebrated focusing on the hard work, dedication and results that has allowed these movies, actors and the behind the scenes people to rise to top of their craft. I’m sure that being nominated for an Oscar and not winning would be heart breaking, yet they were strong enough to celebrate for their colleague who won the Oscar.

When and how do you celebrate the students and youth workers around you in your local church and youth ministry?

Jeff Smyth has been in youth ministry for 15 years and is now working with Youth Unlimited (Toronto YFC) in Scarborough. Jeff focuses on developing community initiatives with local organizations and local churches reaching out to numerous high priority neighbourhood youth and families.  Jeff is an alumnus from Liberty University/Theological Seminary and Arrow Leadership. Jeff has been married to Heather for 12 years and they have one of the most energetic boys in the world, Nathan. Jeff is also a life long fan of the Toronto Blue Jays & Montreal Canadiens.
You can connect with Jeff online: Jeff Smyth BlogTwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+

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Seeing Through the Fog: Book Review

Has your world ever fallen apart? On more than one occasion mine has fallen apart. My wife Heather has journeyed through the last 15 years of her life with leukaemia + a bone marrow transplant. You can read her story here: www.smythfamily.wordpress.com
That's why I was so intrigued to read Ed Dobson's new book, Seeing Through the Fog: Hope When Your World Falls Apart.
Ed has written one of his best books about his own eleven year struggle with ALS. He shares his heart, struggle and emotions from the point of his diagnosis + physical deterioration + seeking forgiveness + spiritual journey + thinking of the after life.
We ask for forgiveness. And we forgive others who ask us. In that way, we can experience healing, healing in our souls. - Ed Dobson
Regardless of how your world might be falling apart right now, Ed's book is MUST READ!
You can purchase Ed's book through Amazon below.

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One of Canada's Best Youth Ministry Family Gatherings

Today's Teens Conference
I have been attending #TTC for over 10 years and it keeps getting better every year. What I love about it; it's a one day conference that provides a Friday night for parents, the next day brings a full Saturday with specific tracks designed for students and youth workers. All of this happens within a 24hr period. It's a day that is affordable, it's one of Canada's largest youth ministry family gatherings. The only downside is that it's only location is Toronto.

I have been involved with TTC as a workshop presenter and attender and it is one of the best conferences that I have ever been a part of. If you live within a 2-3 hours drive Today's Teens which is scheduled for Feb. 21-22, you need to make this a priority to attend.


Main Speakers:
Parents night and Youth Worker Track: Mark Devries
Student Track: Mike Gordon

You can follow this event on Facebook and Twitter

Today's Teens Promo Downloads:
- Brochure
- Poster

TTC Registration

Today's Teens: Feb 22, 2014


1600 Attended last year

This one-day experience is an affordable conference that is able to bring together worldwide recognized speakers, many local youth ministry leaders, an interactive learning experience, a host of free resources and access to more of the newest supplies.  This is more than just a conference, it is an annual experience that has been partnering with youth ministries across Ontario to see more youth effectively engaging and living out the message of Jesus.
The TODAY’S TEENS CONFERENCE has been one of the leading youth ministry conference for the last 29 years.  As the times have changed, so has this one-day experience.  This year we will continue to have specifically designed programs for youth workers and students while providing an additional special parent’s night on the Friday.  It is amazing to think that in one weekend there can be one conference that caters to so many needs - why give up an extra weekends, when you can get everyone equipped together in one place.  So we want to work with you this year to be able to make it a whole weekend experience for your ministry. 
The future of young people is our passion at Youth Unlimited.....  We see their unlimited possibilities and want to help them by addressing their personal, material, and spiritual needs.  We know that as a youth worker you share the same passion.  It is our goal to assist you with high quality training that will help you take your youth to a higher level of commitment.  We have a great line up of speakers and music that we believe will go a long way to helping you do the best job possible of reaching young people for Christ.

  We've spent months preparing with your team in mind—from volunteers to veterans, from novices to know-it-alls.  After 29 years of being committed to equipping and resourcing the needs of youth ministry across Ontario, we are just as committed and passionate to partner with local ministries as they dream to impact their communities for Jesus. 

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Shutting Down Your Youth Ministry

Have you ever thought about doing this? I’m not talking about shutting it down, closing the doors and never opening them again. What I’m talking about is shutting down your youth ministry over Christmas break, march/spring break, easter weekend, or over the summer.

I’m seeing this more and more and as I speak to youth workers, this is not just denominational specific. This is
Design this, you have time to plan for your youth group.
happening right across denominational lines.

The reasons for this epidemic of shutting our youth ministry down are from paid  and volunteer youth workers:
  • i don’t have the resources
  • i’m not a paid youth worker
  • i have a family
  • i have vacation
  • we are giving the kids a break
  • we give pour volunteers a break
  • most of our students go away at this time
  • what's your reason?
My response:
  • your kids don’t care about resources, they care about you in their life.
  • you have not been a paid your worker the rest of the year.
  • did you have a family the rest of the year?
  • take your vacation. enjoy and rest. let someone else take the lead for the youth ministry.
  • kids and youth workers take breaks all the time when they can’t make it out during the rest of the year.
  • most of your students going away is not ALL. You need to get over the numbers game your playing and address this with God. It’s not about most but about one.
The one thing I know about youth workers, paid or volunteer, is that you are creative enough to over come obstacles. Just because the school calendar tells us that their is no school does not give us the right to say to our students that God has entrusted to us that their is no youth group scheduled.

There are many reason why youth workers honestly cancel youth group and here are three I have seen:
  • insecurity
  • control
  • greed
Surprise your kids and church by not cancelling your youth group over break. Create a new plan and involve your students to help you accomplish it. They will surprise you, guaranteed! 

Pray and ask God:
Do what ever it takes in me
for your kingdom
for my freedom
so that others may see Jesus
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Manic Monday


Moses raised another objection to GOD: "Master, please, I don't talk well. I've never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer."

GOD said, "And who do you think made the human mouth? And who makes some mute, some deaf, some sighted, some blind? Isn't it I, GOD ? So, get going. I'll be right there with you—with your mouth! I'll be right there to teach you what to say.” - Exodus 4:10-12 (The Message)

Do you ever wonder why God chose you to work with teenagers? Have you questioned whether you have what it takes, whether or not you’re relevant enough to relate to them? By yourself, you’re not. With God, you are.

God wants the grace, love, and truth he poured into your life to overflow into their lives. On your own you are not
enough; with God’s grace you have way more than enough. With God’s help, Moses, who was not very good with words and who got tongue-tied, confronted Pharaoh and led the Israelites out of Egypt. If God can do all that, he can use you to share the great news of God’s love with teenagers.

Life Coaching
What concerns do you have about your ability to relate to teenagers?

How has God shown himself faithful to be more than enough fo your needs and the needs of your students?

Lord, you made me and you know me better than I know myself. Fill me up until your love, your power, your grace, your truth, and your presence overflow through my life into the lives of students I work with. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Jeff Smyth was a youth pastor from 1996 - 2009 and is now working with Youth Unlimited (Toronto YFC). Jeff is married to Heather and they one of the most energetic boys in the world. Jeff is also a loyal fan cheering on the Blue Jays & Canadiens.
You can connect with Jeff online: Jeff Smyth BlogTwitterFacebookLinkedIn, Google+


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“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he
created them.” Genesis 1:27

The Creator and Master of the universe left his finger prints on you, his child. He made you to resemble him, putting qualities of himself - including creativity - in you. You might not be an artist or musician or designer or writer, but you are creative because you were made by a creative God who made you in his image.

Life Coaching

  1. What is a creative dream you have but don’t think is possible?
  2. Where, in your life and your ministry, does it excite you to be creative?
  3. Where, in your life and ministry, is it challenging to be creative?
forget all the sentences that begin with “yes, but…” and journal for a few minutes about what that dream would look like if you risked pursuing it.

Prayer: God, who created the heaven and the earth and everything in them, thank you for making me in your image. Thank you for the privilege it is to be like you. Thank you for making me creative. Please put in my heart and mind the passion and wisdom and courage to pursue the creative dreams you have given me in life and in youth ministry. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Youth Room: Part 2

Last weeks blog post (here) I asked a money question: If money was not an obstacle, what would be in your youth room?

That is a great conversation starter with other youth workers when you first meet them or even try it with your fellow youth worker team members. It is bound to start a great discussion with almost Christmas twinkle in their eyes.

As I thought about this question and even started asking other youth workers. Some of them laughed, some them had blank stares not heir faces, while others just shook their heads and said, “where to start?”

If money was not an obstacle for me, I would have just “ONE" thing in my youth room.

Youth workers.

That’s it! I would have the best available recruitment, training, and equipping system for youth workers anywhere. We would be a family of youth workers that ministered to the youth and the whole families.

Jeff Smyth is the worst youth worker. He has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for more than 15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.
Jeff online: TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+

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The Youth Room - Part 1

If money was not an option, what would be in your youth room?

A few youth workers gave me their dream ideas:
  • multiple game systems
  • lounge/living room area (new not cast offs)
  • ping-pong table
  • foosball
  • air hockey
  • snack & beverage area
  • lighting system
  • sound system
  • HD projector
  • multiple HD flat screen tv’s
  • open wifi
  • stage
  • seating around small round tables.
  • mirrored disco ball
  • full sized gym

What's would you add to this list?

Share your youth room photos here and I will post them next week for part 2 of The Youth Room.

Jeff Smyth is a youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for  15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.
Jeff is online: TwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+

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Inner City Experience for Students

How are you teaching or modelling a lifestyle of mission for your youth? There are a lot of
programs and opportunities for youth to be involved in 'service' type projects. Are these valuable?- Yes! 

So what sets REMIX apart?,

REMIX is a week-long mission experience that is uniquely designed to provide an in-depth theological foundation for living on mission. The afternoon experiences in Toronto and the evening gatherings complement the training and equipping that takes place by qualified and experienced trainers every morning.  REMIX is a proven missionary experience that has equipped and trained thousands of young people and youth groups over the last 20+ years! We provide a healthy balance of teaching and training with hands-on serving and sharing experiences. REMIX has always been deeply committed to the priorities of Jesus by inspiring young people to 'centre their lives within the mission and message of Jesus'

We would love for you to be a part of REMIX 2013. Check out all the details at www.torontoremix.com

Any questions?  Drop me an email calvin@youthunlimitedgta.com

Calvin Russell is the DOXA Director: With over  25 years of youth ministry experience (as a Pastor, YU worker and director of a youth program), Calvin brings experience and passion to his role as Doxa Director. He continues to give leadership to the overall ministry of DOXA and to growing team.  He is deeply committed to seeing youth attain their full life potential and equipping youth leaders with the necessary tools to create healthy and vibrant youth ministries. 

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Volunteers 2.0

The Art of the Volunteers Process
As a I mentioned in my blog about Developing Volunteers I have struggled in the past of being a lone ranger even when I have a great volunteer team. I've come to figure that they probably tolerated me because they loved doing youth ministry so much.

The volunteer process is an art form and it is up to you to make this a beautiful piece of art or a an ugly one. Once your volunteers have committed to the youth ministry and you have done your do-diligence  with the paperwork, checking references, vulnerable sector police check has been collected and your interviews have been finalized. You volunteers are now placed in the right roles but then what do you do with them? How many times should you meet together during the year? What should you talk about when you get together. Should your volunteer gatherings be formal or informal?

Training is an important part of building a confident, competent, and committed team. But don't make the mistake of assuming that a well trained team is automatically a good team. Our advice? Focus on building chemistry more than on training skills. The 9 Best Practices for Youth Ministry by Kurt Johnston & Tim Levert

A youth ministry cohort I lead, we have been going through the above book and the following points about volunteers really stuck out to our cohort from the chapter entitled Developing Volunteer Leaders.

Youth Ministry Overview: you need to clearly and regularly communicate with your volunteers the ministry programs, goals, vision, values and direction. This will keep your youth workers invested in the youth ministry by knowing these details. Your volunteers  have expectations for you and you must balance that when you are communicating an over view of the ministry you are also showing them your expectations for them.

Youth Culture Understanding: Regularly send out links to great websites to your volunteer team to some great sites. Some websites and speakers I would recommend are; Center for Parent/Youth Understanding by Walt Mueller, Digital Kids Initiative by cpyu.org, PluggedIn by Focus on the Family, (our cohort adapted this).

Counseling Students: Help your adults filter through what is and is not appropriate to counsel.

Putting Yourself in Their Shoes: Work your leaders through an exercise that takes them back in time to their own teenage years. As teenagers, what were their struggles, fears, hopes, parental issues, and other big issues?

Preparing a Bible study: Often the things we take for granted are the things most needed by our volunteer team. I (Jeff) have struggles with this for years. I would have conversations with volunteers and when they explained a struggle they were having I would think in my head, "REALLY!?! That is basic youth ministry knowledge and practice." I found this thought occurring in my head many times before I started to help my volunteers. They were telling me some important things, I just wasn't listening.

Social Networking with Students: The single most powerful thing an adult can give students is their presence - at sporting events, recitals, concerts, family gatherings, and so on - but social networking allows them unprecedented connection points with students that should be utilized. Jeff: But be careful is you are a jr, high volunteer because social networking could be uncomfortable for parents and organizations.

Jeff Smyth is a youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for more than 15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.


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Volunteers 1.0

How to develop committed, competent volunteers.
I need to confess something to you that I'm not proud of but unfortunately it's a fact in my youth ministry experience. I struggle with being a "Lone Ranger".

I went through years of youth ministry doing it on my own, with the help of many volunteers around me, yet still doing it by myself.
I've come to realize that developing leaders is an art form. I had no idea that it requires a lot of work and commitment from me as the lead youth worker.
Here are a couple of steps I've learned about volunteerism  and building my volunteer teams with wisdom:
  1. You are not desperate for the wrong volunteers.
  2. It's easier to say "no" to a potential volunteer than it is to remove them later.
  3. Don't answer for them. (ask them and let them say "no" before you answer for them).
  4. ASK. If you don't have volunteers, you are not asking or making needs known.
Next Week: Volunteer Process

Jeff Smyth is a youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for more than 15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.Connect with Jeff online: ThinkYouthMinistry.comTwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+


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The Science of Productivity


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Untouchable in Youth Ministry

There are many topics that we cover over the years of our youth ministry careers. Topics that bring hope, challenge, truth, salvation, theology, belief, social justice, and so many more.

I have come to realize that those of us in youth ministry also have topics that we will not touch. Oh we might brush over them or mention them but we not get deep down and research them enough to make them a topic or series for our kids. Topics like:
  • homosexuality
  • abortion
  • bullying
  • disability
  • prejudice
  • finances
  • gluttony
  • cutting
  • etc…
We must embrace all topics from a biblical standpoint, yet we must tell the truth in love. If we tell the truth without love, the truth becomes irrelevant.

We must be willing to tackle these and other topics that our youth are talking about, hearing about, experiencing, and wrestling with so that you can teach them to see love in action from a biblical perspective.

Tackling any one of these issues will take great courage. You will need to be well researched, submit it to prayer and God's leading, as well as having others praying for you. You are heading in to uncharted waters.

The one thing I beg of you is this; if you cannot talk truthfully about any of these topics without love, please don't. We have had too many others that have spoken about these topics without love and they have made us all embarrassed that they are claiming to represent the rest of us by calling themselves Christians.

What untouchable topics have you opened up in your youth ministry?
What topics or research are you currently doing on and untouchable?
What questions do you have about these untouchable topics?
Comments (2)

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Things that make you go, "hmmm".

I was meeting with a group of youth workers this week. We are doing a 6 month cohort together and we had our first all day meeting together.

We were all discussing the theme of how we maintain our own spiritual vitality/growth. Realizing that we plan bible studies, review and use curriculum, plan events, etc...

We spoke of sabbath, rest and how most of the time we use ministry bible study as our own personal study time with God. Kind of a 2 for 1 bible study.

One of our cohort members asked a profound question that caused everyone in the room to stop and think because of the truth that the question revealed.

If you were not in paid ministry would your spiritual walk with God look any different?

I'm still chewing on this question. What do you think?

Jeff Smyth is a youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for more than 15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.
Jeff online: ThinkYouthMinistry.com, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+

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REMIX Toronto 2013

I’ve never really been good at math and I know that I’ll have to probably get a math tutor for my son at some point, but when I look at the math associated with REMIX it is hard to deny that it makes sense and it’s clear that this is not your typical trip to Toronto.
Student Leadership is the heart of REMIX. They help students focus on the mission and message of Jesus through learning every morning and then experiential learning every the afternoon with a celebration gathering each night. Basically students learn, do, celebrate. 
5000 students + 300 youth groups = 16 years
Local Focus = Global Impact
REMIX is an inner-city mission trip and this should be your mission trip.
Churches are using REMIX as the beginning training ground for their students to get the basics before they go out on an overseas mission trip. This is an excellent way for you and your students do life together before you take that them overseas. Chris Folmsbee loves REMIX and what they have going on in Toronto each year.
This is one mission trip that should be on your youth ministry radar. Student Leadership training that is learning, experiencing and celebrating. Students will discover how to...
live out the mission and message of Jesus.
By figuring it out locally so they can have a global impact in the future.
This is one mission trip I highly recommend and that’s why I have been personally involved with it for the past four years.

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Book Review: I Am Second

I love stories. Especially when you hear about a life that was transformed or changed through an experience that they went through (good or bad). I love when my spirit is bubbling up inside me as I listen to a story and when it gets to the end I can boldly say to the story-teller, “That’s the God I know!”
As I sat down to read this book over a few days, I was excited because I had used several of the videos from I AM SECOND in various youth ministry contexts. Each video is visually simple yet powerful, verbally thought provoking, and very inspiring. (I used three “V” words there, cool!). I am also a person who loves things visual, seeing a person share their own personal story, seeing their facial expressions of joy or pain is very powerful. Yet when I read, I love to visualize what I’m reading.
As I began the book I kept having this sense of confusion come over me because it wasn’t clear to me who was telling each of the stories I was reading. Every story, through out the whole book, kept switching from first person to third person. I then jumped ahead to a story I had seen on video that impacted me personally and started reading with expectation. I was let down because as a reader I wasn’t sure who was telling the story. I was left...
(read the rest of my review at thinkyouthministry.com)

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YouthWorker, Who Are You?

In the recent January/February 2013 YOUTHWORKER Journal the title caught my eye and almost compelled me to read it right away.

Who Am I? How youth workers can help kids develop a healthy identity.

After reading a few of the articles and thoughts written through out the journal by well respected professional youth workers, I was struck by a thought that has me completely perplexed.

How can youth workers help kids develop a healthy identity when youth workers themselves don't even know their own identity in Christ?
I work with multiple youth workers from numerous denominations here in Toronto and the GTA (greater toronto area). One of the top issues I hear from youth workers is their sense of being lost. Lostness brings doubt and insecurity to anyone but when you are leading a youth ministry and this lostness sets in you start to question everything and you begin to doubt who you are or even worse, you forget who you are.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
Do you feel lost? Has doubt or insecurity begun to consume your thoughts and the way you live? Maybe you need someone around you to remind you of who you are!

In the 1991 movie Hook, Peter, played by Robin Williams, has forgotten his true identity that he is really Peter Pan but all grown up.

Jeff Smyth is a youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada for more than 15 years. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan.
Jeff online: ThinkYouthMinistry.comTwitterFacebookLinkedInGoogle+

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Back to the Future

As another year is wrapped up and pushed into the dark recesses of our minds, we look forward to a new year in 2013.

What are your highlights for 2012? In our family we talk each night before bed by asking "what was your favourite part of today that you are thankful for?" This helps us review the day and giving us a time to celebrate as a family those things through out the day that we are thankful for. Yet as you review 2012, what are those things that you are thankful for? Personally, youth ministry, family, personal development, etc?

What are the highlights that you are looking forward to this new year? What is your purpose and direction behind those things that you are laying the plans down in your life or ministry to accomplish this year? What has God given you a passion and drive to move forward on this new year? Are you scared? If it's truly a vision from God for you , your family, your ministry, your neighbourhood you need to rest in the faith that God is going to grow in and through you.

Colossians 1:3-5Our prayers for you are always spilling over into thanksgivings. We can't quit thanking God our Father and Jesus our Messiah for you! We keep getting reports on your steady faith in Christ, our Jesus, and the love you continuously extend to all Christians. The lines of purpose in your lives never grow slack, tightly tied as they are to your future in heaven, kept taut by hope.
6-8The Message is as true among you today as when you first heard it. It doesn't diminish or weaken over time. It's the same all over the world. The Message bears fruit and gets larger and stronger, just as it has in you. From the very first day you heard and recognized the truth of what God is doing, you've been hungry for more. It's as vigorous in you now as when you learned it from our friend and close associate Epaphras. He is one reliable worker for Christ! I could always depend on him. He's the one who told us how thoroughly love had been worked into your lives by the Spirit.

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Three Ways to Connect with Teenagers During Christmas Break

Let’s face it, Christmas break brings an entirely new and short menu of ministry venues: Christmas Eve services, family trips, New Years Eve parties and regular late nights. Even during this short break there are plenty of opportunities for ministry during these two weeks.

But what are some of the best arenas where teenagers actually open up and talk during the Christmas break? And what are some tools we can give our adult leaders to seek out these times?

Here’s two ways that we can connect with teenagers during these Christmas break:

3) Scheduled: have your small group or a small group of students and other youth workers over to your house. This can be a relaxing time to eat all your chocolates and cookies while watching a Christmas movie or to play a group board game together. This time should be relaxed and fun. No agenda or Bible study, just a time to hang out and enjoy your time together.

2) Non-Scheduled Scheduled: post that your family is going to a public event (skating/mall shopping/McDonalds for lunch/etc…) and say that youth are welcome to join you there. This is a low key time together where they will see you with your family and where you will not have any responsibilities for a youth group event. Make sure they know that they are responsible for their own costs.

1) You Fill In the Blank: … yeah… I left this blank on purpose because you all probably have the best ideas! Use the comments below to let us in on your #1 tip for connecting with young people this Christmas Break!

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Chocolate Advent Calendar

Do you remember opening a chocolate advent calendar when you were a kid? I do. I loved getting that calendar each year. Today, many of my friends are giving their kids the much desired "Lindt Advent Calendar".

Yet the Advent story is still missed by many families in our churches. Our family this year is going through a story for Advent each day. We are making this an intentional priority for our family. We are going to be setting aside 20 minutes each day, beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas, to light candles, read a devotional for that day, and pray together.

Advent. Adventus. Ecce advenit Dominatus. Behold, the Lord, the Ruler, is come. Reaching back two millennia to the birth of the Christ child and forward to his reign on earth, the tradition of Advent is a threefold celebration of the birth of Jesus, his eventual second coming to earth, and his continued presence in our lives here and now. God in our past, God in our future, God in our present.

History of Advent. 
It started with people going hungry to purifyl themselves and prepare themselves for holy living. A fast, we call it, and such a fast was ordered by the Council of Saragosa in A.D. 381. For three weeks before Epiphany (a feast in January celebrating the divine revelation of Jesus to the gentile Magi), the people were to prepare themselves by fasting and praying. The tradition spread to France in 581 by decree of the Council of Macon, and to Rome and beyond thereafter. Gregory the First refined the season to its present form in about 600 when he declared that it should start the fourth Sunday before Christmas.

Fasting is no longer a part of Advent in most homes and churches (though it wouldn't be a bad idea for some). For us, Advent means taking time each day, for the three or four weeks before Christmas, to centre our thoughts on Truth Incarnate lying in a feeding trough in Bethlehem. It's a time of worship, a time of reflection, a time of focus, and time of of family communion. In the midst of December's commotion and stress. Advent is a few moments to stop, catch your breath, and renew your strength from the only One who can provide true strength.

What advent traditions do you remember or do now with your family or ministry?

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Online data is being collected from kids

Federal Trade Commission: Let parents control who can collect data from their kids

Petition by Joy Spencer

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is currently the only legislative tool available that keeps parents in control of what data and personal information companies can collect about children under 13 while they are online. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed rule changes that will update the law and keep parents in control even in this new digital era of social media networks, mobile apps, gaming sites and tracking that goes on while kids are web browsing. There is already mounting industry opposition to these rule changes which will provide parents with another tool to stay in control. Parents must make their voices heard so that the FTC knows that we support these important rule changes that keep parents in charge.

Dear Canadian Youth Workers,

Would you consider signing my petition, "Federal Trade Commission: Let parents control who can collect data from their kids" on Change.org.

It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link:

Thanks again -- together we're making change happen,


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There are many things that we can focus on in our lives at any given moment. I can focus on my 6 year old's soccer match and become fully immersed in the game not letting anything distract me. You can see focus in the eyes of someone when you look at them or when the camera zooms in on them. Focus is hard for some and easy for others.

Youth workers have been labelled recently as people who cannot focus. When you look at the hemorrhaging faith of students over the last number of years, who's getting blamed? Youth workers are getting blamed. Children's workers are not getting blamed, just youth workers. Mainly because we cannot/will not/have trouble focusing. How many things do you do as a youth worker through out the week? Small group, event planning, program planning, social media, website design, reading, parents, emails, lesson planning, worship, graphics, etc... (not a complete list).

What do you focus on when it comes down to the youth ministry that God has placed you right now?

I believe that the biggest failure in youth ministry is that we are focusing a majority of our efforts on the students we have or attend our events. We are not going to where the students are.

When was the last time you walked the halls of your local school? Do you know the names of your local high school administration? Better yet, do they know your name?

I get it, honestly I do. You feel safer being in "your own atmosphere" it's more climate controlled for you.

I used to be a youth worker like this, safe in my own program and environment that I had created. What I discovered is that I was missing the untamed climate of relationships that God want me to have with students "where they are" not asking them to come to my thing.

When you focus at all the things that you do in youth ministry, is it really about you or them?

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Twitter for Youth Ministry 2

Today, we’ll discuss how to use the limited time you have as a youth worker to work on this, and other social media tools, most effectively. You can also see my previous post: Twitter for Youth Ministry
Following the steps below will help you get the most out of each minute you have to work on your various social media accounts. 
  1. Perhaps the most important: use your tweets to give something to your followers. Your tweets should only rarely (maybe 1 out of 20) answer the question “what are you doing right now?” and the rest of the time, should be focused on providing information or inspiration to your followers. You might tweet a link to an interesting website or blog, offer an inspiring quote from a book your reading, or invite them into conversation by asking a question. As a youth worker, you should use your website to give away books occasionally, and definitely advertise your church and youth ministry activities via Twitter.
  2. Link your Twitter account to your Facebook account so that when you tweet, it automatically shows up on your Facebook page. However, you can produce #FAIL posts on Facebook by using hashtags in your posts. Hashtags are meaningless in Facebook, save your hashtags for twitter only.
  3. Link your blog to Twitter so that when you post something on your blog, a notification and link are sent out via your Twitter account. You can link your blog to Facebook through Networked Blogs
  4. Use hashtags. For example, a tweet about an event might include a hashtag with the category, such as #guysnightout or #c4ignite. Hashtags make your tweets more searchable—and Twitter continues to evolve into a place where people search for information.
  5. Use hashtags to search for tweets about the topics you write about. Then join the conversation by posting tweets about your youth ministries content with the same hashtag.
  6. Craft tweets with provocative quotes from books you read including the Bible, followed by a link to a site that sells that book or has the bible online. It’s easiest to sit down and create perhaps 20 or so of these, linking to various sites (amazon, chapters/indigo, youversion, etc.), and post one per day. Or use a scheduling tool to set that up (see next point).
  7. Try out a tweet scheduling site such as hootsuite.com, and socialoomph.com, which allow you to schedule a variety of posts across media. Hootsuite and SocialOomph both have free and paid programs. Each has a variety of capabilities. Experiment to see what works for you.
  8. When someone else mentions you in a positive way, don’t just tweet back “thanks!” In addition, retweet! Especially if it’s a link to something they said about you, your youth ministry, or some sort of praise for your work.

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Top 5: Internet Accountability Software Part 2

Last time we covered the Top 5 Internet filtering/accountability software solutions for Internet capable devices (computers, mobile devices).  You can view that posting on  ThinkYouthMinistry.com.  

Depending on the platform (mobile device, computer), operating system, Mac/PC/Android/Blackberry, there are different checks and balances to ensure the software does what it is designed to do.  This may get a little on the “techy” side of things, unfortunately.  It cannot get too far, though, as I am not that techy myself…

1. Type of User – before we get too carried away, we need to consider the user of the device being protected.  If the user struggles with an addiction to pornography, the filtering software/accountability options must be firmer and more difficult to bypass.  For a 10-year-old child who we wish to protect from accidently accessing questionable material, the approach will be different.  This will depend on the 10-year-old, unfortunately.  The point here is to provide filter/accountability software that is appropriate for the user…

2. Embedded Web Browser Removal – All Internet ready devices, computer or mobile, come equipped with a search engine allowing you to navigate the Internet.  Some of these products allow for these search engines to be uninstalled (computers – Mac and PC; iPhone/iPad/iPod), while others do not allow for this (Android and Blackberry).

Computers (PC/Mac); iPhone/iPad/iPod – you are able to install software that filters Internet content and sends accountability reports.  This covers all bases, making it very difficult for the user to access restricted material.  If they do happen to access restricted material, accountability reports will be sent out as a result.

Android – software can be installed that filters Internet content, but you must use the search engine that comes with the software and NOT the imbedded search engine that cannot be uninstalled from the device (Google).  If you use Google and not the search engine provided by the software, nothing will be filtered.  Accountability reports will be sent out regardless of the search engine used on the device.  X3watch (www.xxxchurch.com) offers site blocking, but only for computers, not for mobile devices.  Covenant Eyes and Net Nanny only offer accountability.  This is great, but does have limitations.  Those caught in the throws of pornography addiction will use whatever means they have to access the pornography, and deal with the consequences later.  This sounds extreme, but this is my experience working with those struggling with a porn addiction.  The men I have worked with over the past number of years who struggle with this do so for considerably longer, even when in treatment, if they still have access to pornography – accountability software or not.  Full blocking of access to material provides the best results when embarking on a journey toward freedom from pornography addiction.
Blackberry – no accountability or filtering software is currently available.  I suspect software developers are hesitant to pour resources in to the development of applications specific to Blackberry, as it appears the company is on a steep decline.

3. Restrictions – in order to ensure the user of a computer/mobile device does not simply bypass all filtering/accountability software by simply uninstalling the software, then reinstalling it after viewing questionable material, all devices must be password protected.  Some accountability software will provide notification if a program is uninstalled, but by the time you receive this notification the material you are trying to limit has likely been accessed.  If you are unfamiliar with how to password protect the devices you are installing filtering and accountability software on, consult a techy friend or search for a tutorial online.

4. Apps – To make things even more difficult, many apps have embedded web browsers (facebook, twitter, etc.).  This feature allows users to access the Internet through the app, thus bypassing ALL filtering and accountability software.  As a result, consider restricting the ability to add apps to mobile devices.

5. Know the limitations… – unfortunately there are no perfect solutions as far as filtering/accountability software goes.  The point of having it installed on devices your kids may use is to protect them until they are able to make their own good decisions about what they access online.  The most important thing you can do is work as hard as you can to keep open communication with your kids.  Be approachable – your kids will speak about what’s going on in their lives if you give them the space to do so, as long as they feel safe and secure.  You know, just like the Internet devices you provide them withJ.

Take care,
Andy Lundy
Andy Lundy is a psychotherapist working in private practice (www.junipertree.ca) in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.  He can be reached via email at andrew.lundy@junipertree.ca.  Please send him your questionsJ…

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This Weeks Must Reads....

Top 5 Internet Accountability/Filter Software. Biggest surprise FAIL: one mobile device has no accountability/filter solutions offered.

8 Tips for Designing Events that Transform Students Lives.  Guiding principles and good reminders of event basics.

How I changed my Mind. Marko shares how he had a soul detox.

The Tale of Three Kings. Gene Edwards gives a great look on leading from the second chair and know when to step aside through the life of David.

Jeff Smyth is a veteran canadian youth worker who has been involved in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada. He is a partner with DOXA Toronto, providing resources, training and coaching for local churches. Jeff lives in Toronto with his wife Heather and son Nathan. Jeff's blog ThinkYouthMinistry.com

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There comes a point that a youth worker will have a concerned parent(s) ask one of the toughest questions they will ever be asked in youth ministry. The first time I was asked this question I was still cutting my teeth in youth ministry and I was completely unprepared. Luckily I was asked this question when a parent called me at the office so they didn't see the blank stare on my face. I said I would get back to them as before the day was out because I was working on something else. I lied! My entire agenda for that day got thrown out and finding the answer for this parent and more importantly for myself was my only aim. The question was this: what teenager treatment centre would I recommend as youth pastor?

Questions could continue about which centres are the best ones, and eventually the cost of various treatment centres will come up. Parents are willing to do whatever it takes for their kids.

I was recently challenged on this when I watched a CBC special on a teenage treatment centre in Calgary.

The Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre, based in Calgary, claims an 80 per cent success rate. The Calgary facility that is supposed to help teens overcome addictions is the subject of some abuse allegations, a CBC investigation has found. [CBC Article Here]

This got me thinking, what do I really know about teenage treatment centres? I've had personal contact with only 2-3 centres, yet I know there are more. I have never  been on any of their properties and I certainly don't know what material they cover in their respective programs.

Some questions I have thought through:
  1. What treatment centre would I recommend without hesitation? 
  2. What do I really know about these treatment centres? If I need to research and even take a road trip, then I should do that. (This could also be part of #3&4 as well.)
  3. Does your organization have any policies about what treatment centre(s) they would support or recommend?
  4. If there is no policy in place, you might be a catalyst to get one established and a clear process that even the other staff and youth workers will know what to do if they are asked the same question.
  5. Does your church financially support a teenage treatment centre through their budget.
Jeff Smyth is husband to Heather, who blogs here. Jeff has been involved youth ministry leadership for 15 years in both the local church and non-profit areas of Canada. He has been serving for the past 3 years as the coordinator of community initiatives with DOXAToronto.com the Scarborough arm of Youth Unlimited (Toronto YFC). Learn more about him by visiting ThinkYouthMinistry.com or follow him @jeffsmyth

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please help brett ullman

I was a fan of Brett Ullman before i was friend with him. but for years now, i’ve been both.
I remember hearing about Brett and what he was doing the topics he was speaking about, I was finally introduced to him at a Swiss Chalet (kind of fitting) while he was eating with his family. I made a quick observation that as I was talking with him I was looking at him eye to eye, while he was sitting and I was standing, I quickly realized that he was one tall fella. After making some arrangements I organized to have Brett come and speak to the youth and parents of our church. I remember watching him navigate many sensitive issues with provocative thought and integrity, I was convinced that he was in this thing for the long haul. Since that Swiss Chalet introduction I have come to respect Brett and the ministry he leads.
But somewhere along the line, Brett became a good friend of mine. Brett’s family and mine started to hang out at various times throughout the year and we eventually became part of a family care group together. Brett and I would meet for a sub or Swiss Chalet meal and talk life, family life and all facets of ministry strategies. I even worked for a bit of time with him in his ministry, and my time with Brett has shaped me in deep ways.
Brett and I have spent time together more than what seems normal, and have sparred or found common ground on more ministry and theological subjects than i can remember.
And i still love his speaking and resource ministry.
It shocked me when i found out recently that Brett — who, in the last handful of years, finished Arrow and a Masters degree — had just been diagnosed with anxiety depression, and was heading into a season of pause.
And, as you might expect, this puts his family into a bit of jeopardy, since most of his income is tied to speaking.
Brett was set to speak at his highest recorded number of dates this year plus have some additional resources produced. And if he can get these things out, he might be able to weather this. While a Brett Ullman resource is filled with great insights and helps for youth workers, students and parents, the live experience of his talk is what really sets him apart.
Brett Ullman needs our help. this isn’t just a guy trying to get fans to help fund something. This is a guy — a family, really — trying to find a way forward. even if you’ve never heard of Brett Ullman before, i’d encourage you to help purchase one of Brett's many resources through his store. The worst that could happen is that you get some resources you don’t really care about, but help a family who have given to youth workers for so many years bridge a difficult gap. And the best that could happen is that you’ll do that and love the resources.
CLICK HERE for the Brett Ullman store.
and, watch these little videos:


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Day of Silence

The Day of Silence is something that is misunderstood in youth ministries today. There are many questions that surround it and with each question more are brought up by others trying to understand what it is.

Here are two posts I would recommend you read to gain a better understanding of what your students will experience during the Day of Silence at their school today.

Day of Silence by Think Youth Ministry

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Ages & Stages

We all know the "ages & stages" realities of youth today. Marko even wrote a new book about it called, "Understanding Your Young Teen".

Three quick questions about your approach to ministering to the young people in your current ministry:
  1. How do you program effectively based on youth developmental stages?
  2. How do you teach the spirituality of messiness and disciplines in the ages and stages?
  3. How do you integrate the realties in to the golas and outcomes of your overall ministry?
Do or do not. There is no try.

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CYW does not necessarily endorse the views shared on this forum. This site was developed to allow people to think through a variety of issues that are youth ministry related.