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Tag Archives | conversations

GUEST POST: Is Anyone Listening

It is 15 minutes before you are supposed to do something important and one of your students comes up to you and needs to talk. What kind of attention do you give them?
Another student is talking to you and another approaches and begins to talk, how do you deal with this situation?
Your attention is crucial to many more students than you would realize. You may be the most busy youth worker in the world, but the fact is your undivided attention needs to go to listening to a student at times.
This one has been a struggle for me at times. I am the type of person who multitasks. I can be writing an email and listening and engage in a conversation. I can often hold 2 or 3 conversations at once. I believe this has come from my childhood growing up between two different age groups in church and friendships. I wanted to fit in with both, and would often manage this in the same youth group night.
But the downside of this is even if I am listening to someone, I am often not giving them my undivided attention. Unfortunately, more often than I would like to admit I have not listened fully to someone. Most of the time it doesn’t make a big difference. The person goes off without realizing I didn’t listen and I don’t need to follow up.
BUT…. there have been times when I have missed the opportunity to talk to someone more in depth, or have had the individual walk away only to realize they were really hurting.
While listening isn’t always my best skill nor have I always worked on it. But it is one that I have realized I need to work on. I need to work on giving undivided attention. I need to work on going beyond the words the individual says, but listen to what they are really saying. I need to recognize when I can’t give attention and make sure I follow up with the individual and care for them in a way that suits them best.
What has your experience of listening been? What tips/tricks/skills do you utilize to be a better listener?
Kyle Corbin has been serving youth as a volunteer or pastor for over 10 years and blogs exclusively here on LoveGodLoveStudents.com. He is currently the youth pastor at the Bridge Church in North Vancouver B.C. Hit him up on Twitter @CorbinKyle

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Ask Open Questions

For the last month, I have been having meetings with my small group on our regular meeting nights just so they can get used to being back at school and making group a regular part of their week before our “official launch”. For the most part it has been really relaxed, tonight was the same but with one extra piece. I forgot the power of a simple question has that can turn into a meaningful conversation.

Tonight I asked the guys that were there, “Where is the one area in your life you want to see God move in a big way?

The answers were real, honest and open. Hearing the guys talk about how they want to be used by God or to become closer to God was inspiring and challenging.

As leaders we cannot forget the power of a simple, yet open-ended question. We cannot forget to be intentional in asking these questions, especially in relaxing settings of a hang out type of night. Guards are down, there are no real walls. Just openness and real life. It can be some great conversations with students.

Here are some other questions you can ask to maybe spark some conversations:

  • Where is the one area in your life you want to see God move in a big way?
  • What are you most excited about this year in group and why?
  • Who is one person you can be praying for? Why?
  • What are you most nervous about for this school year?
  • What is do yo want to dive into more this year?
  • What is one area in your faith in your you think you need to work on?

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Stop, Drop and Roll Conversations

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So I do not know about you, but there are sometimes some pretty rough situations that student’s in our ministries are going through. There are tough conversations being had all of the time. God is working on student’s hearts and they are wondering and working through some pretty intense things and they want us to talk to them about it. That is awesome!

But it can be scary. What if I don’t know what to say? Or do? Or know of what the Bible says about it? How do you put out this fire? Hopefully this can help a bit:

 Stop - When a student is going through something it is in our nature to want to fix it immediately. It’s the caring, nurturing side of us I think. Just stop, think and pray. Sometimes it is okay to pray with them and tell them, “Hey, I’m going to look this up and get back to you.” Or, “I’m not really sure, I would love to keep praying about that.” Let’s not give a half answer for the convenience of a “right away feel good” answer. Stop, think, pray and let’s make sure we give them a prayerful, biblical answer to help them in their time of need.

Drop - There are sometimes in ministry where the student is heated and obviously shaken up about a situation in their life and we try to let them talk about it with us but they do not want to. That’s just where we need to drop it and give it time. Right now might not be the best time for them, but from I noticed in the past, when they are ready and you make it obvious to them that you would love to talk with them, they come around and open up to you and then the Holy Spirit will guide you in that conversation.

Roll - You roll with it. They open up to you and words are rolling off their tongue. Go with it. Listen intently. Be a great listener. Don’t be distracted. Give them your full focus. Listen while praying, praying that the Holy Spirit will guide you in the right things to say to counsel the student who is finally having a break through. Avoid saying things like, “I know how you are feeling” unless you actually have been through what they are going through. Just stop, listen and celebrate that student is finally getting something off their chest and taking a step closer to Jesus.

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Camp Time!

330772_10150972377864790_982651022_oWe are away at high school camp this week! We head up to Canada…rent out some houseboats and have a week of great camp.

I love camp. We get more hours with students at camp than we do all year with our weekly programs…it is kind of a big deal.

3 ways we maximize camp:

Significant Conversations
We encourage all of our leaders to have at least one significant conversation with each student in their small groups. Find a moment during free time or after one of the services – whenever but just make it a priority to connect. Talk about life, what is happening in their home or where they are spiritually. These significant conversations are often more important than any message they may hear or song they may sing.

Memorable Moments
Memorable moments are included in our services or in our quiet times. We provide a physical challenge or an action that requires the student to physically move in a way that aligns with a spiritual commitment. For example, last year we had students cross a line about moving forward with their faith in Jesus. These moments give students visuals and words to remember and communicate their commitments. Students still talk about when they crossed the line. It’s simple and memorable.

271161_2228045025877_4406837_nClear Next Steps
What should a student do once they get home? Based on a student’s spiritual level, what does their commitment at camp mean for their life back home? The steps have to be clear. How do they continue forward in their spiritual growth? We want students to move from an outsider to a small group member. We want them to serve and give back. We want them to make a commitment to spiritual disciplines. Do our students know the steps? Do they have the tools to get connected to these steps. We try to provide all of them at camp before they get home.

I love camp and I do believe in what happens but I want it to matter for the long haul…beyond the week. That’s why we do these things, what do you do to make camp commitments stick?

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10 actions that children learn from their parents' marriage

[In a week where we're focusing on Marriage and promoting our "Refreshing Your Marriage" Conference, I thought I'd re-post my most popular post (which has blown-up thanks to Pinterest). Another marriage post that has recently gotten a lot of traction is, "Size Matters...25 ways to go small in marriage"]

When I speak on marriage, I’m always asked if I intentionally taught my kids about marriage.

The answer is yes… and, no.

Yes, there are times when we’ve talked specifically about marriage (either ours or ones that our kids have observed). But, for the most part, Cathy and I have been wise enough to know that our kids are constantly watching and learning from us without us having to do a lot of talking. Our actions (both good and bad) are always teaching them about marriage.

I would be thrilled if my kids had a similar type of marriage that Cathy and I share… it’s definitely not perfect, but we’re both very proud of what we’ve developed over 27+ years.

Here are 10 actions that I know my kids have observed from us over the year:

1. Affection: Cathy & I are very affectionate and I like having my kids see me holding their mom’s hand, hugging, kissing, cuddling, etc… as often as I can.

2. Saying “I’m sorry”: I want to be quick to use this phrase and I want my kids to hear me say it (and I have to say it a lot more than Cathy).

3. Affirmation: this is my primary love language so it’s easy for me to dish out encouraging words. My kids get a lot of verbal affirmation, but they also hear me directing it toward my wife (which is really easy).

4. Attraction: I think Cathy is hot… and, I make it known around our family. I’ll regularly say, “Isn’t your mom beautiful?”

5. Time: our kids know that we like to spend time together. When they see us steal time away to sit in the backyard and talk, or go in the hot tub, or go on a date night, or sneak away for the weekend…that’s a good message I want them to see.

6. Laughter: we laugh a lot in our house and my wife’s cute sense of humor cracks me up. I like having my kids see that my wife makes me laugh.

7. Respect: opening the door for Cathy, saying “thank you” and “please” and showing her simple signs of respect.

8. Faith conversations: we’re not always praying in front of our kids, but they hear and see our faith conversations and know that we’re always talking about Jesus and what it means to be a follower.

9. The value of friends: our house is well worn from the traffic of friends in/out of our house. We love having people over and the Fields’ house is a regular hangout for some incredible friends.

10. Servanthood: I know my kids have had a better example in Cathy than with me because she’s the ultimate servant. Always asking, “How can I help? What do you need to make life better?” Serving one another is seen in the daily, little things and there’s many opportunities to serve.

Kids are always watching their parent’s marriage and yet too many marriages underestimate the power of modeling! Children are taking daily recordings of what a marriage looks like and those recordings are definitely influencing and shaping their view of marriage.
Question: Do you have intentional actions that you’re modeling to your kids? Do you have some actions that are different from the ones I’ve listed? If so, share them here.

[Are you getting this daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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5 tips for a ‘first contact' with a teenager

GUEST POST by Jonathan McKee. Jonathan has become a regular guest blogger on this site! He is the author of numerous books including the brand new Candid Confessions of an Imperfect Parent, as well as youth ministry books like Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation. You can find his excellent blog here.

Six teenagers gather around a picnic table talking, laughing, and occasionally looking down at their phones to read a text.

Enter youth worker, stage left.

Now what?

Seriously. Think about this situation for a second. What is appropriate ‘protocol’ for this situation? Plop down and say, “Whaaassssuuup!”

Not likely.

If you minister to young people, you recognize the situation: a cluster of teenagers gathered on the bleachers, a mob of middle schoolers clumped together on the gym floor, a circle of hipsters holding coffee cups while nestled on overstuffed couches in the dark corner of a coffee shop. These are the front lines in the youth ministry world. These are the arenas where “first contact” is made.

If these situations terrify you, don’t worry… you’re not alone. They terrify me too!

But sadly, this fear keeps many of us from making necessary first contact. The majority of students roaming the halls of the campus down the street aren’t making it to church this Sunday. Who is going to reach out to them?

I don’t want to be a whiner and start throwing stones at youth ministries for not thinking beyond the church walls to contact young people. I’ll assume we all know that Jesus walked into the synagogues as well as out on the streets. He reached out to people both religious and notorious sinner… and so should we. I think the more pressing problem is HOW can we do this? In other words, if we do actually want to initiate first contact and have the guts say “hi” to a group of kids on campus, at the football game, or in the coffee shop… how do we actually approach this?

Rather than writing a whole book about what this looks like (I actually already did), let me just give you 5 Quick Tips For Making First Contact:

1.Become Familiar to the Culture
My friend who left to be a missionary in Korea studied the culture for an entire year. Most youth ministers don’t spend five minutes studying youth culture. Do you know any of the top 10 artists on iTunes today? Do you know what kids are watching on TV? Do you know where kids are spending time on the internet?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not telling you that you need to buy all of Lady Gaga’s CDs and start watching Jersey Shore each week. I just think we should be aware that most young people think of Gaga as a positive role model who cares about our world, and last week again, Jersey Shore was one of the top watched shows by young people. Do you have any idea why young people would watch this show? What do young people appreciate about Gaga? Are these possible springboards toward conversation?

At this point someone always proclaims, “You don’t need to know culture, you only need to know the Bible!” I’ll simply tell this person to take their own advice and open their Bible to Acts chapter 17. Because when Paul was in Athens the first thing he did was walk around and familiarize himself with the culture; that’s why his famous message at Mars Hill was filled with cultural references (even “pagan poet lyrics”) that helped him segue to the Gospel.

Don’t saturate yourself in youth culture, but become familiar with it. Read weekly articles on youth culture, glance at iTunes once in a while and Google some lyrics. When teenagers say “Snookie,” don’t be the only one around the table who thinks it’s a new type of cookie.

2.Be Yourself
Hanging with teenagers doesn’t mean we need to dress like them, talk like them… and try to be one of them. This will have quite the opposite desired effect. Just be yourself.

Seeking to understand teenagers reveals a true desire to listen and care. Seeking to look like them shows a lack of authenticity, and frankly, it demonstrates a narrow grasp of reality.

3.Expect Two Questions
Teenagers always notice an adult presence, and they aren’t afraid to confront it. If you’ve ever visited a school campus during lunch or wandered into any place where teenagers have ‘marked their territory,’ then you have probably heard two questions. The first is simply, “Who are you?!”

My tip might sound rather elementary, but here goes: be ready to answer that question. Yes, it’s that simple. If you visit a junior high campus tomorrow, I promise you that you will be asked, “Who are you?!”

How are you going to respond?

This might sound over-simplistic, but I’ve met myriads of youth workers who get stumped with this question. They overthink the answer. They worry about their “church” title or they try to think of something really creative.

Forget creativity… just say the truth: “I’m Jonathan, who are you?”

That’s when you’ll usually get the second question I always hear: “Why are you here?”

Again, tell them the truth. “Principal Lee asked me to be here.” And then do my next tip…

4.Change the Subject
“I’m starving. What’s actually worth buying at the snack bar?”

Teenagers don’t like awkward moments any more than you do. So become really good at changing the subject. One way to do that is to begin practicing my next tip…

5.Think 5 Minutes Ahead
Don’t walk into teenage territory without at least 10 questions in your pocket. No, not literally in your pocket, but within your mental grasp.

Maybe when you are doing my first tip and researching youth culture you’ll find some discussion springboards. Think of Paul in Acts 17:23 when he said,

“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD…”

Would it be out of line for us to refer to the number one show watched by young people last week and ask:

“As I was flipping through the channels the other day, I stumbled across the show The Voice. I don’t know much about those 4 celebs in those spinny chairs: Christina, Ceelo… and the other two. Who is your favorite?”

Chances are, you won’t have to say another word for the next 20 minutes. Just be ready to listen.

And that’s really where we want to be anyway… isn’t it? Getting them talking, so we can listen and learn more about them?

Isn’t it nice… once you break the ice?


Question: What about you? What are some of the tools you use to make first contact? What are some of the lessons you’ve learned? Share your thoughts here.

If you liked these 5 simple tips, then you’ll love Jonathan’s book, Connect, where he provides practical steps to connecting with the six types of kids we’ll encounter in our community. And check out his new free resources, Campus Ministry Corner, a new weekly post on the front page of TheSource4YM.com

[Are you getting Doug's daily blog in your email inbox?] If not, it’s real easy–go here.

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7 ideas for deeper conversation with teenagers


Yesterday I had a great breakfast meeting with a local youth worker! We had a great discussion on the spiritual condition of his youth ministry and how to build on the spiritual momentum that happed at summer camp. It got me thinking…

After all the summer fun and experiences, it would be a miss to not build on those memories and pursue opportunities to challenge teenagers toward greater spiritual depth.





Here are 7 ideas to engage in deeper conversation:

1. Stay normal: Deep conversations often begin by talking about normal stuff. Don’t jump straight into the deep end and ask them to dress like John the Baptist and memorize the Septuagint. Every conversation doesn’t have to be forced toward depth. Good conversations begin as normal conversations.

2. Draw them closer to Jesus: Avoid the temptation to become “the wise leader” who subtlety promotes loyalty to oneself rather than Jesus.

3. Allow the journey to be a journey: A common tendency in discipleship is to assume others will grow quickly (like they did at summer camp). Kids made decisions at camp to follow Jesus, but now that school has kicked in, their spiritual decisions might not be as quick or radical. Slow, incremental progress is expected. Show them grace on the journey.

4. Ask questions: The power of a question is that it puts the ball in the teenager’s court and allows him/her space to reflect. Don’t answer their questions too quickly, sometimes the best answer can be another question. Strong, definitive answers often mute the stirring in one’s heart.

5. Listen, listen, listen: It’s a gift of affirmation to a teenager when you pay full attention to them rather than preparing an answer and pretending to listen.

6. Let them finish: Bridle your passion and express a little self-control and you’ll see growth.

7. Plant seeds: Sometimes the best conversations happen the week following a good initial conversation. Text the student during the week and write something like, “Been thinking about our conversation. I’m excited about what God is doing in your life. Looking forward to more conversation next week.” We’re in this for the long-haul…what’s another week?

Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman shows us that caring conversation, simple questions, and truth can lead to life change.

You have the tools necessary for great conversations. Teenagers are waiting for a caring adult to say something more than, “How you doing?” They’re capable of going deeper…so are you.


Question: What did I miss? What else do you do to deepen conversations?

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FREE FRIDAY: Jim Burns' kitchen sink of books & 10 copies of his newest book FAITH CONVERSATIONS

I’ve surprised myself that for a 3rd week in a row that I’ve got some great stuff to give away. I was having lunch with Jim Burns (my good friend–and now co-worker at the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family @ Azusa Pacific University) and we were talking about his new book titled, “Faith Conversations for Families.” He gave me one and I was obviously grateful, but I said, “When I get free stuff I like to give one away to someone who left a comment on my blog, so can I get another one?” Jim laughed and said, “Would you like to give away more than one?” I said, “Sure! How about 10?” Now, I was really hoping for 5 when I said 10 (Jim was my youth pastor when I was in high school and I know he can be a little cheap). But, in typical Jim Burns’ fashion he said, “Absolutely!” GREAT! I thought I’d strike while he was in a giving mood and I asked him if I could give away the kitchen sink–(1 of everything he has written–or at least what he had on stock in his warehouse). Again, he said, “Absolutely!”

So, here’s what we’re doing, the kitchen sink goes to: Drew Peterson (thanks for leaving a comment this week)

Drew, you will get at least 15 Jim Burns’ books including: Partnering With Parents in Youth Ministry
Teenology: The Art of Raising Great Teenagers
The Youth Builder: Today’s Resource for Relational Youth Ministry
Closer: Devotions to Draw Couples Together
Creating an Intimate Marriage: Rekindle Romance Through Affection, Warmth and Encouragement …and at least 10 other books.

In addition to the kitchen sink winner, I will randomly pick 10 people who leave a comment on today’s post to get Jim’s newest book Faith Conversations for Families (I’ll alert you via email for your address).

When I got home and began to look over Jim’s book I got excited about the future of these types of helping-family resources. Most of us in youth ministry have finally figured out that helping families succeed is a vital part of working with teenagers, but we are in desperate need of resources. I wrote Jim and thanked him for his generosity and then asked him a few questions that I thought you might appreciate. Here’s a cut/paste of our email thread:

DF: I love the title!

JB: You are usually the one with the cool titles. But this one does work because it explains exactly what’s in the book.

DF: Why are you so passionate about helping families have faith conversations in the home?

JB: I’m not liking the statistic that everyone quotes these days about 80% of high school seniors leaving the church during their college age years. We are all looking for answers. A friend of mine recently came out with a study that said, “There is a 300% better chance for students to stay in the church after high school if their families have healthy faith conversations in the home.” That is HUGE! So since most parents in the church want their kids to thrive in their faith, but have little knowledge on what to do about it, I came up with some ways to stimulate faith conversations.

DF: Where did you pick the topics?

JB: From the topics that are familiar to youth workers. It’s the basic stuff like relationships, life of Christ, who Jesus is and why it matters, prayer, building a strong family, loving, serving others, etc… Except this time, I focused the topics toward family conversations as opposed to youth group.

DF: Do you think you moved away from youth ministry when you started writing/speaking on parenting and marriage issues?

JB: Not at all! I am looking for the most effective ways to reach this generation of kids and I figure I can help kids by helping their parents with practical God-honoring parenting and marriage principles. I also think I can best help youth workers by providing them resources to come alongside parents.

DF: Do you have to be bald to be a world-wide leader in youth ministry?

JB: Absolutely not…People like Kara Powell, Kenda Dean, Jeanne Mayo and Megan Hutchinson are world-wide leaders and have wonderful looking hair. By the way, your hair is not far behind mine.

DF: Uh, well…okay. Thanks for the books. By the way, I’ll try to find a photo that doesn’t accentuate your bald head.

Jim Burns will be speaking at our Student Leadership Conference on July 5-8. If you don’t know much about Jim, he’s a youth ministry legend and here’s the bio I cut from his website:

Jim Burns, Ph.D., is President of HomeWord and host of HomeWord’s 30 minute daily radio broadcast. Each weekday in cities across America, over a million people hear Jim through his radio ministry to families. His passion is communicating to adults and young people practical truths to help them live out their Christian lives. Jim is a three time award winning author and has written books for parents, youth workers, and students. His recent books include Teaching Your Children Healthy SexualityConfident Parenting, and Creating an Intimate Marriage. He speaks in-person to thousands of people each year around the world with a message of hope for families. Jim and his wife, Cathy, and their daughters Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi, live in Southern California.

If you missed the other FREE FRIDAYS, they are right here: Free Friday #1Free Friday #2

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