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Tag Archives | prayer

3 ways to teach teens to wait


Last night, my train stopped shortly after it began moving due to a storm-related delay. Apparently, the power was out along the tracks, making it impossible for us to continue forward.

Immediately, commuters lashed out, complaining about the delays.

Unfortunately, I was one of them.

It was late. My clothes were soaked from the rain and I was tired. Like everyone else on the train, I, too, wanted to be home.

For the next hour, the conductor announced a perpetual stream of more delays. Each time he did, the grumbling intensified.

An hour after we left the train station, we pulled back into it, unable to continue on. Irate commuters streamed off the train.

Eventually, my husband and I hailed a cab and headed home. As we did, I found myself contemplating our reaction to the delay. I mean, it was nearly 11 pm. Where on earth were we in such a hurry to get to? Why, as a culture, are we so adverse to stillness and waiting?

Sometimes, I wonder what we miss because of this, especially in terms of our faith.

Though we’re adverse to stillness and waiting, God is not. The Psalms exhort us to “Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” (Psalm 37:7) Throughout Scripture, God shows up in the stillness. When people wait, God acts.

If this is true, then how can we teach teens to patiently wait on God, especially in a culture where adults get frustrated whenever they’re forced to wait, even if it’s 11 pm?

Try these three things.

1. Stop stressing about worship transitions. During Holy Week, my congregation holds evening prayer each night. This service is slow. Between each part, we wait. The first night, these transitions feel awkward; The last night, they don’t seem long enough. Try that same strategy with teens. Rather than rushing from one part of worship to the next, intentionally include three minutes of stillness between each worship element.

2. Deliberately stop. Several years ago during a retreat, we hurried back from an evening activity, eager to dig into our study. As we walked, I looked up and noticed the beautiful stars. So I stopped the group, made everyone lay down and look up. We didn’t talk. We just star gazed. At the end of the retreat, several students described this moment as the one in which they most profoundly encountered God on our retreat. Knowing this, do this more. Intentionally stop during camps, mission trips, and regular youth ministry events to be still and wait on God.

3. Pray. Nothing teaches teens to be still and wait on God like prayer. My pastor recently led our junior high students in Prayer Around the Cross, a quiet, meditative service that includes scripture reading, reflection, music, and an opportunity to kneel near a large cross, light a candle and engage in personal prayer in a corporate setting. Later, he reflected on how everyone – including the boys – responded to this, eagerly kneeling before the cross and reverently offering their prayers to God.

To be clear, teaching teens to wait on God isn’t actually about preparing them to be better commuters. It’s about teaching them an important spiritual practice that will allow them to encounter God and to discover for themselves that sometimes, God is moving even when we are not.

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We Can’t Change Students

I think one of the hardest things about a job as a youth worker/pastor is watching a student who used to be so involved not be anymore. A student who you have seen God made a complete 180 degree turn in go back to the ways they struggled with before and become more and more distant. It is heart breaking. It is even more heart-breaking when you need to console the mother of that student because she doesn’t know what to do anymore. What does one do with this? What can we possibly say in times like this? What can we actively do with this to move forward?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t know. It’s hard.

I have been working through this myself lately with some students and what I keep coming back to is this verse:

“How tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. That power is the same divine power which was demonstrated in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19b-20)

Something I have learned more this year than in my previous years in youth ministry is that we have the power to change no one. As much as we want to, we don’t have the power to do this. But we serve a God who can change the hearts and minds of those He created and loves. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power in which can cause someone to be open to listen to God, to others and take advice to turn their hearts around.

I don’t know if there are more steps to this, but this is what I have been doing this past year and I have seen God move in students who used to be far from Him to call them back and I am confident in prayer that He will do the same with those students right now that are far from Him as well.

Pray- Prayer is simple but it is not always easy. Patience is key to prayer. Pray God begins to soften their heart to be open to talking about what is happening.

Pursue- For students who are not coming like they used to because they know they are doing things that are not right, constantly pursue them. Let them know that you are thinking of them and praying for them and are there for them. Whether if they text back or not, they will know that you are still thinking about them.

Persist- We don’t know how long it will take, but we need to persist. I have seen in my own ministry, I have gotten a random text from a student months after them not being around but because they knew I was thinking about them weekly, when things got hard I would get a text to meet up with them because they knew I was wanting to meet with them for months.

Prepare - If they do reach out to you, be prepared for what is coming. Be prepared to listen. Listen well. Most of the time when I have these meetings I don’t say anything because I just want to hear what’s going on. I’m not quick to give advice unless asked. Usually this is the first of many meetings to follow.

God has the power to bring people back to Him. We do not. So pray, pursue, persist and prepare for those students who walk away. God can still move in huge ways and we get to be a vessel in bringing students back to Jesus. What an awesome job we have.

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Teenagers, Distractions and Prayer

I’ve been using this video as part of the YS Team Training session on teenagers, distractions and prayer – we made it 4 years ago here in HSM but think it still holds up really well today. Use it in your youth group if it fits with an upcoming talk for sure!


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When Students Make Bad Choices

Ever had a student that has made the choice to walk away from you, the group, the church or even the Lord?  If not yet, chances are there may come a time when it happens to you, and it hurts… a lot.   We invest, love, pray, hope and see the future plans of a student. Then they stop coming around.  Months later we may find out that they have made life-altering choices that they can’t “take back.”    Perhaps we find out they have run away from home and moved in with their boyfriend.   It could be you hear from another student they are pregnant.  They were headed for college and instead are now an addict.  Our first response is usually anger and (if we are honest) a little bit of an, “I told you this is what happens when you don’t follow Jesus.”  However, it is quickly followed by a deep sadness with a huge dose of, “I should have done more.”

So how DO we respond in these situations when students make these choices?

Remember You Are Not, Were Not, And Never Will Be The Savior
This sounds simple.  Yet, I firmly believe that the reason we go to this, “I could have/should have,” place is that we don’t believe God is big enough. We really think that we could have stopped them.  We must remember that while the Lord may use us in the life of a student, we are never ever the ones who do any “saving.”

We all have hopes for who our students will become. Often we see into the purpose and plan the Lord has for them.   When they walk away our heart hurts.  As long as you remember our first thought above, take the time to be sad.  Remember though that when God has a plan for us, His love is tenacious.  He keeps knocking, until we listen.

Keep Reaching Out
It might be a text or a simple direct message on FaceBook that says,  “Just was thinking about you.”  You may or may not get a response.  I once had a student tell me, “Following Jesus cost too much.”  Only for her to discover months later the stickiness of sin was crushing.   She needed to know I wouldn’t leave.

Let Them Know They Are Loved
Buried on the other side of their choices is a deep sense of guilt and even shame.  Whether they are able to say it out loud or not they feel the weight of these choices.  In the midst of their running away, they may need to hear they are loved no matter what.  It might be the words that help them know they aren’t “too far gone.”

Pray! Pray! Pray!
Don’t stop praying for your student.  We have all heard the stories of those who have prayed for 30 years for someone before they come back.  Keep praying for them.  It’s powerful.  Again God is at work.

The final thing we must remember is that we did have a part to play in the life of this student. Nothing we said or did was for naught.  We may or may not know in our time here on earth the ways God used us in their life.  All we can hope for is that they will be with us one day in heaven.

Leneita Fix co-founded Frontline Urban Resources to help equip, coach and speak into the lives of those working with families living in a “survival mode” mentality. They refer to this thinking as the “new urban.” You can see her resources on DYM right here.

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Is your prayer request legit?

Will you pray for me?

It’s a sentence that many of us have uttered at some point or another. Sharing your cares with others is after all the Christian thing to do, as is asking for prayer, isn’t it?

It depends.

I don’t know if you recognize this, but sometimes we spend more time sharing our cares with others, than sharing them with God. The Bible teaches us to cast all our cares upon Him, for He will support the righteous (Psalm 55:22). And 1 Peter 5:7 encourages us as well to cast all our anxieties on Him, because He cares for us.

Do you spend as much time talking about your problems with God as you do discussing them with others? I know that for me, it’s often the other way around. I’ve even been guilty of discussing them with others before I even talked to God about them.


The same goes for prayer requests. Of course it’s good to ask others to pray for you or for a specific situation that’s on your heart. I did just that this week when I asked people in my former church in The Netherlands to pray for something that’s been on my heart for weeks and that I’ve prayed a lot about myself.

But if your first reflex is to put out a prayer request instead of dropping on your knees and pray yourself, you may want to ask yourself why. Prayer requests can be a substitute for praying yourself, especially when you’re wrestling with an issue. It can also be a subtle way of asking for attention.

Be honest and check your heart before you put out a prayer request: is it legit, are you doing it for the right reason? Have you prayed earnestly yourself?

Don’t let others take the place in your life God deserves. Cast all your anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you!

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This is War

Before I got a job at a church, I worked at Starbucks for 6 years. While the life of a barista sure has its ups and downs, I really loved the job. What made Starbucks so great was the connections I got to make with my customers. Anyone that has worked at a coffee shop will tell you that there is something so special about your relationship with your “regulars” (the everyday customers). Over time, they become more than just a customer, they become a friend. One of these friends was a 25-year-old guy named Nick.

On the surface, Nick came off as outspoken, stubborn, and a little rude. But once you really got to know him, he was actually an incredibly caring, passionate, and hilarious person. Unfortunately, one of the things that he was most outspoken about was the Church. Being a gay man, Nick felt that the Church hated him and he wanted nothing to do with it or God. I spent a few lunch breaks talking to Nick about the lies that he had been told about how the Lord views him, but I never felt like I made a difference. Once I got a position on the high school team at my church, I quit Starbucks. After that, I would rarely run into him and didn’t really think about him at all.

Four days ago, Nick passed away.

This has rocked me ever since I heard about it. I’m not sure if Nick ever gave his life to Christ and that kills me. The Lord presented an opportunity to me over and over to share Christ with him and I didn’t do much with it. It has radically changed how I look at evangelism and ministry.

I have begun to constantly ask myself the questions that we should all be asking ourselves: “am I taking advantage of the opportunities that the Lord is providing?” It could be that friend you know is struggling but haven’t talked to yet. It could be that student that was sitting by themselves and you walked right past. This week, make it your prayer to see what the Lord is presenting to you and trust that He will give you the courage to follow through.

You guys, there is an enemy that is out to kill. The stakes are high. This is War.

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Contentment {I can do it}

Last week I got to attend the National Youth Workers Convention (NYWC) in San Diego and listen to some amazing speakers and artists. It was encouraging and inspiring. If you need some of that, I would recommend you check out the one coming in Nashville. {Details Here}

At any conference I think it is easy to be filled with discontentment and dissatisfaction. It’s an easy trap for us in ministry, right? We go somewhere to learn and we get stuck instead comparing ourselves to others. “If I had the resources they had…” “If he/she was my boss than ministry would be so different…”

One morning during a general session while we were worshipping, I was surprised by  a rare moment of contentment. We worshipped alongside Aubrey Assad, this was the first time I heard her and I am hooked,  and we sang her song “I shall not want.”

It brought me back to something I did last year with my senior girls, we set out to memorize Philippians 4:11-13 together.

“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” 

As we did this, it was the first time I noticed that the statement “I can do all things with Christ” was connected to Paul’s journey of contentment! He could live with plenty or with little and be content because Jesus gave him the strength.

Ministry can be a sort of journey in discontentment. We are always pushing and striving for the next thing. Trying to reach more students, creating better programs…go, go, go…do more and be more.

Contentment says right now is enough. It sees each moment and individual for its full worth. Contentment says God is more than enough…and surprisingly it says right now I am enough.

Contentment is peace. All of which comes from knowing that we aren’t alone, but we are with and in Christ who gives us strength…He is enough and today we are enough.

Praying for you.

Neely {@neelym}

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I Want To Want Those Things

I don’t feel like studying for my message.

I don’t want to do my quiet time.

I don’t want to hang out with students.

I don’t want to pray.

I don’t feel like seeking the Lord.

I do want to sleep.

I do want to go home.

I do want to have a “normal” job.

I am overwhelmed.

I don’t know if im truly making a difference in students lives.

All of the things above I have uttered in my mind or even out loud. Let’s just be honest, you probably have to. There are times in which I feel like I am in a dry spell and I have no desire to seek after God, read, study for a message, counsel a student, or pray. But I always WANT to want to do those things, even though I don’t feel like it.

You know what I am talking about?

I want to want to pray.

I want to want to study.

I want to want counsel another student.

I want to want to have a quiet time.

So I have to remind myself, it’s okay. Tell God how you are feeling. Ask Him to make you WANT to do those things and out of obedience to Him keep doing them… and I am telling you, your heart will begin to break out of whatever dry spell you are in.

Out of obedience of doing for God comes a passion that overflows from Him for what you have been called to do.

Recently I have been praying this simple prayer and listening to this David Crowder song from Passion 2013. It’s simple, but it has been helping me get through the dry spell I am in through obedience to who God is. The song simply says, “Here’s my heart Lord. Speak what is true.” I listen to it when I have been in my office over and over making it a prayer.

My prayer:

“God. I don’t feel like doing anything. But I want to do those things. I am going to pray (read, study, etc) out of obedience to you, but I pray you help me WANT to do those things so I can do what you have called me to do with a passion. Here’s my heart, Lord. Speak what is true.”

Some of us need to pray this right now. Make this your prayer and listen to this song and make it an anthem for this week.

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Metal Rock


I am not really a metal rock fan. In fact, until about 4 weeks ago I didn’t even know what it was. Well, I had an idea but I just imagined Metallica…and I am not sure that is correct.

Here is what I do know, there a few of the guys in my youth ministry who are REALLY into it and they want me to like it too. So, one day at camp I sat down with them and they gave me a lesson. It was rather impressive! Did you know there are several kinds of metal rock? Yeah, me neither. They played a variety of songs and types of metal rock. I tried to understand it…I even maybe tried to appreciate it…but it wasn’t going to happen. I asked lots of questions and I tried to sing like they do in metal rock. We laughed. We had kind of a cool moment. I am pretty sure for these guys,  I communicated more love than I had ever before because I sat and listened.

While there music sounded like clanging cymbal to me, it reminded me of what Paul said about love.

If I speak in tongues of  men and angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 

So, here’s a Monday morning thought…

It doesn’t matter how sweet my programs are, how great our worship is…or what kind of amazing youth room we have…or how gifted I am as a speaker…IF I don’t love my students then to them I sound like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I sound like Norwegian metal rock (yeah, there is such thing…I just found out!).

Somedays I forget to do just that…to love.

I am inviting you to start this Monday, this week, this season with love. Ask God to fill your heart with love for the students in your ministry, church and community. May his love for us overflow our hearts so that we might love our students better.

As we love our students may God’s love for them transform their lives. Because isn’t that why we do what we do?

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Silence is a Good Thing

Earlier this year, we took down the walls and cubicles in our kids and student ministries suite and created a large, open office. Now, instead of individual offices or workstations for each person, there is a common area with couches, tables, and desks— a shared workspace. It was a bummer losing my office, but I’ve really enjoyed the environment that’s been created. All of us – kids, middle school, and high school staff – are a family, and it’s now easier than ever for us to collaborate and work shoulder-to-shoulder.

Sometimes, though, the constant conversation exhausts me and I need to slip away to somewhere quieter. I’ll go to the room where our middle school services are, the conference room next door, or the secret office on the second floor that nobody ever uses. And when I’m off working by myself, it’s not uncommon that somebody will notice and ask, “Is everything alright?” To which I’ll reply, “Yeah, I’m good.” To which they’ll reply, “Are you sure?” To which I’ll reply, with a bit of an edge now, “Yes, I’m fine.”

“Silence is golden” is no longer a widely-accepted mantra. We’ve become so used to constant activity, constant background noise, and constant engagement of the senses that if we ever find ourselves in a situation that lacks these things we are like fish out of water. If we see somebody sitting alone, outside of the relentless movement of acceptable, fast-paced life, we assume there’s something wrong, and we think that by talking about it with that person, we can instantly fix their problem.

This troubles me. We follow a Savior who modeled extended moments of silent prayer. I can probably count on my finger the number of times that I have sat and prayed for longer than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. When I feel threatened or criticized, I always want to defend myself instantly instead of waiting, thinking, and praying for God to show me the wise response. I, too, have become addicted to the noise, and even when I have to escape it, it’s not long before I return.

I want to teach the students in my youth group that there is a different way to engage life. In small groups, I don’t panic when a leader asks a question that is met with silence. Actually, I find that the answers that follow silence are more genuine, thoughtful, and truthful than the ones that students spout off instantly. Even though I work with middle schoolers, maybe I’ll attempt doing one of those “let’s sit here for 2 minutes in silence” exercises some time soon. It may be a disaster. But I want my students to know that silence is a good thing.

Moses once told the Israelites, “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:14, ESV). Do we really believe that? Or do we constantly fight for ourselves by talking or by doing? It takes courage to do what’s right. But sometimes, it takes even more courage to sit silently and wait for God to reveal what’s right.

Taylor Bird is the Director of Middle School Ministry at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for just over four years.

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4 Ways to Prepare Yourself for Summer Camp

This week, we leave for our annual summer camp. It is by far one of my favorite things we do all year. This is going to be my 3rd summer camp and I can’t wait! Here are a couple things that I’m going to do to make the most out of this year’s camp:

  1. Get a deck of cards! Games build instant community. Try to find some games that you can carry with you in your backpack. Whenever you sit around a group of students at lunch or in the coffee shop, pull out a deck of cards. It is a great way for students to build a relationship with you and for students to build relationships with each other. The classic go-to is a deck of cards. If you decide to go that route, I suggest playing games like “Egyptian Rat Screw” or “Spoons.” Both of those games allow for a large amount of people to play so that anyone can join the party. I am also a personal fan of the game “Monopoly Deal.”
  2. SLEEP! Camp already kicks your butt, but doing it while you’re tired will be infinitely worse. Do whatever you can to sneak naps into your everyday schedule and make sure you get plenty of sleep every night. If you feel like you are getting sick, immediately drink some Emergen-C. Take good care of yourself before you get to camp and you’ll thank yourself for it later.
  3. Buy some snacks! If your camp allows it, grab some snacks. Nothing will bring people to you like a bag of chips. Food is one of the best ways to connect people together (i.e. Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.). Everyone always gravitates to the person with the food. Some of my best conversations at camp have come up because I brought chips and salsa. Worth every cent.
  4. Pray! Make a list of the things to pray for. Pray for health and safety. Pray for each student and volunteer by name. Pray for your own health, both physical and spiritual.  Camp is doing ministry 24 hours a day for however long your camp is. You will be pouring out a ton to students so make sure you have something to pour. Make sure you are taking care of your spiritual life.

What are ways you prepare yourself for camp?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Prayer Walk

With the school year coming to a close, we thought we would have one last big push for a campus outreach event. We decided to go out with a bang and do a multi-campus prayer walk, which is one of my favorite things we do! It is a completely student-lead prayer event that takes place on each school campus in our area at the same time. Here are a few reasons I’d push it for your ministry:

Student Leadership Opportunity! It is a great opportunity to give your students a chance to really own something. They are responsible for everything, from promoting it to programming it. The cool thing about programming it is that a prayer walk can be done in a ton of different ways. Some schools have their students walk around the entire campus praying for specific teachers, student groups, etc. Some schools have a worship session at the beginning, and some schools even split off by grades and pray for each other! Prayer walks allow student leaders to get creative with their events and experiment with some cool elements.

Adaptability! There are a ton of different occasions to put on a prayer walk. We did ours because the school year is coming to an end. We prayed for graduating seniors and incoming freshmen. You could hold the walk right before the school year starts, right before finals season, right after a school tragedy, etc. You get to alter the event to match what is happening in the students’ lives.

Fellowship! Prayer walks have proven to be a great bonding time for our schools. We have our students promote it through all of the school clubs and push it to any Christians they know. Because of that, students get to be joining in prayer and ministry with students from other churches. Because we have the prayer walks on Sundays, students usually go out and grab lunch together after and just hang out, allowing them to get to know each other outside of school hours.

Is your ministry doing any prayer events? How do you do them?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Happy people don’t send hate mail

Impersonal communication seems to bring out the worst in people.  I’m sure you know what I mean: those emails you get from church members, parents or others with a tone and message you know they would never use in a personal conversation or on the phone. Not all of them may be labeled hate mail, but I’ve had a few that came pretty close.

What’s important to remember when you receive and read this kind of hate mail, is that there’s always a story behind it. It’s easy to get very angry (been there), to send back an equally angry email (don’t!), to discuss it with others (usually also not a very good idea) or to directly report the offenders to the senior pastor (try to resist that urge).

I came across this picture on Jon Acuff’s site which explains exactly what I’m talking about. People who send angry mails, hate mails aren’t happy people. There is always something wrong in their lives and they’re taking it out on you.


Continue Reading →

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Lady Gaga’s prayer

This YouTube video of Lady Gaga praying is a fascinating study in contrasts. Here is this superstar, dressed in outrageous and sexy costumes and in the voice over she’s praying. Earnestly praying.

At first, I though of making a Bible study using this video, but I’m not sure I’d actually want students to watch this. Aside from the fact that she’s in various stages of being barely dressed, the prayer itself is very confusing. Lady Gaga is praying to God (‘Dear Lord’) and there’s gratefulness and a focus on others, but there are also a lot of confusing requests.


Continue Reading →

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Cancer: Jesus is "Greater Than"…

Recently I had the unbelievable privilege of sitting with a husband/wife who intellectually and practically live-out the reality that Jesus is GREATER THAN.

The husband has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. 46 years old with 3 teenage children. He told me he’s praying to make it to Thanksgiving and then he’ll beg God for Christmas. As I sat with this couple for a couple hours I saw their tears… I heard their sadness… and, I witnessed their love for one another.

Here’s what was so refreshing: In the midst of all of this… there was no question that Jesus is supreme in their life.

Cancer wasn’t their choice, but allowing Jesus to be supreme is their choice. They are so sad… they have an unbelievable marriage… they have amazing kids… there was an expression of deep/deep sadness. A lot of people talk about faith, this couple was living it.

• I witnessed a man say, “Jesus is greater than cancer.”

• I heard a wife say, “Jesus is greater than my uncertain future!”

• I know their 17 year-old son would say, “Jesus is greater than a some years without my dad.”

Jesus is not a cute, little supplement to these people—He is supreme and His supremacy has shaped their lives. It’s so rare to see people live a life that backs up their talk. What a gift they showed to me.

Question: What is Jesus “greater than” in your life? Consider sharing it here.

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

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