My wife, daughter and I have just returned from Atlanta where we, along with 60,000 young adults, attended the 2013 Passion Conference. We have been volunteering at Passion since 2005 and it is so exciting to see so many young men and women  passionately worshipping God with a desire to serve Him on their campus and in their churches. Experiencing all of this at Passion, I long for my youth back home to also have this kind of passion for Christ

January 28, 2013 0 0 comments

We all feared them when the broke the scene, but now cannot live without their convenience or instant gratification. Sometimes they’re slim and sexy, other times their robust and powerful. But most importantly, they’ve become integrated into our daily routine: smartphones, tablets, computers.... Devices.

January 21, 2013 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

On Thursday, January 24 at 7pm, Brookside CRC (Grand Rapids, MI) will be hosting an evening of conversation with youth ministry expert Chap Clark.  This is a great opportunity for youth workers and parents in West Michigan to hear one of the premier minds in youth ministry talk about how to help...

January 14, 2013 0 0 comments

I remember it so clearly, that moment of enlightenment. I was sitting in a local cafe with someone from our congregation and was sharing my sense of wandering with him. I was confiding in him and trying to identify the direction in which I should go with something I was struggling through. Then he suddenly stopped me and said, “You just need to get out there and do something.” 

January 8, 2013 0 2 comments

In practice, I and other youth leaders that I work with, often do all the leading ourselves. It is less complicated, isn’t as messy, and takes less time. In the rush of our week, with work, family and other obligations, who has time to involve the youth in actually leading youth group on a Wednesday night. It is just easier to do it yourself.

December 28, 2012 0 3 comments

In a time when our society is devastated by the actions of a single broken human being, it’s good for all areas of a system to bind together and aim for reconciliation and consonance for the families of the victims of Newtown, Connecticut.

December 18, 2012 0 0 comments

One of the things I fear this generation is leaving behind (and my generation alike) is the idea of traditions. If I'm starkly honest about myself, I'm personally not the biggest fan of traditions. But, I think I'm more frightened by the word than by the practice in an of itself.

December 11, 2012 0 1 comments

We talk about losing youth in our congregations.  We talk about having less and less people wanting to be part of council.  I wonder - why don't we start talking about youth on council. How young is too young?

December 10, 2012 0 11 comments
Discussion Topic

For those of you who are looking for quality Reformed materials for your youth ministry library, now is a good time to stock up on many of the great titles that Faith Alive Christian Resources offers. Whether you’re looking for resources on teaching the Heidelberg Catechism or preparing your...

December 6, 2012 0 1 comments

I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I couldn't believe the island I had found myself on, and the lack of awareness for where I was spiritually. The well was dry, and the rains had come. Yet, someone had forgotten to remove the roof which was redirecting all the water. I had failed to communicate.

December 1, 2012 0 1 comments

No class, no advice, and no mentor could have prepared us for what lay around the corner. There’s comes a point in all our lives where we become so comfortable with what is, that we can’t imagine alternatives from reality. And when that alternative reality strikes, it’s with a force of venom that rivals the strength of a Cobra.

November 15, 2012 0 2 comments

The problem of bullying is not a topic that has surfaced over the past 3–5 years. But with the inclusion of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and Four Square, the subject matter has taken an entirely new angle, one that has many leaders, counselors, and parents scratching their heads, wondering where to even begin.

November 7, 2012 0 0 comments

Maybe it’s late Friday morn, and you find yourself disheveled. You have a group of parents coming tonight to join you, and you know that you must present your best impression. Your problem: time.

October 30, 2012 0 0 comments
Resource, Webinar Recording

This webinar was recorded on: Wed, 10/24/2012 While going on a trip is certainly a valid method for cultivating a mission heart, every Christian student should be able to answer the question, “How are you involved in missions?” Every church should be able to answer the question, “How do you involve students in missions?”

October 24, 2012 0 0 comments

I once read that “our youth will not raise their hands in praise to God, any higher than their leaders do”. We all know that the best way to lead in anything, is by being an example. This is how we need to lead our youth. We need to “be a player”.

October 23, 2012 0 2 comments

Does anyone have a resource available for commissioning a youth director?

October 22, 2012 0 5 comments
Discussion Topic

I'm currently in the process of becoming the new youth ministry guide for the youth ministry network. 

I'd like to put it out there to the greater community any topics you may want addressed, or questions you may have in your local settings. I will be addressing topics such as Bullying,...

October 18, 2012 0 0 comments

I believe that burnout is a good thing. I’m convinced that burnout leads to a re-centering of the self. When we approach the cliff of wits end, the very questions which root and define our ministry boil up: What am I doing this for? How am I doing this? Why am I doing this? or most importantly – Who am I doing this for?

October 16, 2012 0 0 comments

One of my favorite aspects of summer is the evenings spent by the campfire. Fire is absolutely mesmerizing to me. In full honesty, I would say that I’ve stared into a fire without moving for over half hour periods at a time. That’s saying a lot considering I’m both a busy body and a pyromaniac. Besides, who doesn’t love sticky hands and golden brown marshmallows?

October 9, 2012 0 0 comments

There is pressure to keep students “engaged” long enough to teach them something, or equip them with some sort of practical application of faith for their livelihood. However, I’ve found that the material of Scripture isn’t something to be reduced, but is actually something which compliments an ever changing culture of entertainment. 

October 2, 2012 0 3 comments

I’ve only been in this industry for a mere three years. But those of us who work here can quickly understand how much will change in three years. In fact, I often share with people that the turn over of my high school program is four years: a statistic not often considered by those who aren’t encompassed in the work.

September 25, 2012 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

This week's post is by Amy Frankruyter, a member of Bethel CRC (Newmarket) and a grade 12 student at Toronto District Christian High School.  Amy is a gifted young leader who hopes to study journalism at university next year.

During the month of July, Calvin Seminary hosted a program...

September 3, 2012 0 1 comments
Resource, Article

I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter.  Her favorite question is “why?”  No matter what is being discussed, she will always respond with the same inquiry.  When she first started doing this, it was endearing; however, at this point, I’ll admit, it can be more than a little annoying.


August 27, 2012 0 4 comments
Resource, Article

My name is Jason Postma.  It is a blessing to serve as your new Youth Ministry Guide on the Network.

When I’m not hanging-out online, I serve as the Director of Youth and Family Ministry at Bethel Christian Reformed Church in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.

I’ve been married to Natalie,...

August 20, 2012 0 2 comments

It was early 2011 when I was approached with the offer to be a guide for the Youth Network. I love youth ministry and I love communication tools like social media, so I jumped at the opportunity. As I wrap up my time as guide...

August 13, 2012 0 5 comments



I only know what you wrote - "the most important or even critical members in most of our congregations".  I'm glad that is not what you meant.

Or is it? "You can make honoring  age and tradition the focal point in your church, and I suspect you'll be doing so in a shrinking congregation with fewer and fewer youth..."  In other words, we should surrender to the youth culture, the American fascination with novelty and inexperience or we will be that most dreaded of all things [portentous music here] - irrelevant.

Mind you, I've nothing against reaching out to young people, both in and out of the church (though you said "members...of our congregations", not simply "youth").  I've nothing against accommodating, at least to some extent, the different tastes in music or style.  Far from it.  Nor would I say I'd make age and tradition the focal points of the church, though I think we could do far more to honor it than we do.  I am no hide-bound traditionalist.

But what are we reaching out to youth with?  It is an ancient truth, a gospel now over 2,000 years old, and the experience of the Church over those centuries as it has faced persecution, hardship, sacrifice, prosperity, temptation, and all the other vicissitudes of life.  And one of the key lessons the Church has learned is that humility is appropriate, even necessary.

Telling teenagers they're the most critical, most important members (and you said "members", not objects of our ministry) is not going to teach humility.  It is also a mindset that begins to think that the gospel must be alterred for this present age.  You might not, yourself, have gotten to that point yet but the Church as a whole has long since trod down that path in its adulation of youth culture - and the further we go down that path, the more irrelevant and pointless we will be.

If you want a better notion of what I'm getting at, see this Craig Ferguson clip:

Although, I understand what Eric is trying to get at and many times it is true, I don't think this is what anyone (at least I hope not) is trying to say. There is a lot of wisdom in what Eric is saying, but that probably is an entirely different subject. I already see Paul and John have responded - appropriately - so I don't need to beat a dead bush... :>)

PS The importance is that this age group seems to be in our age the most needful of the Gospel message or it may fall on deaf ears, more apt to tune the message out due to many other "distractions/temptations".... the most crucial age group that we have a responsibility to be sure that they hear it over and over again.

I love this idea John.  The question you raise at the end of your post should drive our process far more than the secular school year.

(And thanks for the well-written, graceful response on the previous post regarding the importance of youth ministry.)

posted in: Late Winter Blues

I sometimes wonder if our biggest fallacy is constraining our "programs" on the basis of the secular school year?   Why don't we rather consider taking a few weeks break in winter, and continuing our programs in the summer, perhaps with changes in location and context?   Does the dictates of state mandates for public school education become the determing factor for the spiritual growth of our children?   Maybe the summer time is our prime time for evangelistic opportunities and spiritual growth of our youth? 

posted in: Late Winter Blues

I rather agree with Paul Boice on this, although I understand Eric's concern.  Paying attention to the youth does not mean pandering to them;  it means treating them as a gift and responsibility from God.   God is not a special God of the youth, just like He is not a special god to the poor.   God is special to everyone.   But God gives the elders, olders, and more mature a responsibility to ensure that they are providing the education and instruction and welcome and respect for the youth and youngers who are God's treasure, loved by God.  We must allow these children of whatever age, to come to Christ and sit on his lap, and receive His love.  This should be part of the wisdom of the elders and the tradition we create.  If we do not do that, then we do not deserve the respect for either the elders, nor for the traditions.  

It is not that the youth are more important than the elders.  But they are not less important either, to Christ.  

Wow, you completely misread my blog.  The critical point is that the individuals who are most open to the Gospel and the population that most urgently needs to hear it are between the ages of 4-18.  That includes children within and OUTSIDE the church.  It has absolutely nothing to do with telling 15 year-olds that they are more important than their parents or grandparents.  That's absurd. You can make honoring  age and tradition the focal point in your church, and I suspect you'll be doing so in a shrinking congregation with fewer and fewer youth and very little significance to those outside your walls.

While it's fair to ask why youth are leaving the church, and it's certainly appropriate to minister to them in focused ways, I cannot agree that they are "the most important or even critical members in most of our congregations".  They aren't.  Nor should we continue to encourage the overweening narcissism to which our young people are so frequently tempted.

When we spend so much energy telling 15 year olds they're so much more important than the parents and grandparents who pay the bills, sacrifice for the Church and for them, and pray so diligently for them, we also encourage contempt for age and the hard-won wisdom of years lived, and thus consign them to learn through their own pain what they could have learned through the pain of their elders.

We are told not to exasperate our children or provoke them, but to bring them up in the discipline of the Lord.  We are not told to idolize them or grant to them a status they have not yet earned.  The Church, American society in general, and our youth would be better off if we honored age and tradition a bit more and youth and novelty a bit less.

I think the urgency of this issue is certainly lost in most churches - definitely not in my church - but the result is the obvious and staggering statistic that 72% of youth leave the church after university/college. The problem with most churches is 1) they don't realize the urgency & importance and 2) when they do realize it, they're asking it in the form of the quesetion that I hear repeated excessively, "Why are they leaving?" and "What can we do about it?" It's almost too late at that point. As you know, I'm a huge proponent for Christian Education and the biggest statistic there that touches on this topic is the amount of knowledge acquired in the 1st  7 years of a child's life, will take to the age of 40 to learn, if it isn't taught to the child in those 1st seven years.  Churches should chew on that statistic for a while and once they do, they'll realize it's a "no brainer" how urgent it really is to teach those important foundations. Those are the things the youth fall back on in times of trouble, pain or brokeness....once you're out of the boat and scared you always go back to where it is safe and comfortable.....those early foundations....

While God can use people of all ages to serve in his kingdom, and in his church, it would not be appropriate or beneficial to have teenagers or very new christians to lead and rule if older (elder) christians are available to do so.   It is quite possible for many teenagers to do deaconal work without being ordained as ruling deacons, since every church member ought to engage to some extent in deaconal activites, such as caring for the less fortunate.  But the idea that the youngers should be elders runs counter and contrary to the notion that learning and experience and wisdom in the Christian life are gained through time.  It runs contrary to the whole idea of the title of 'elders" as well.   Sometimes, if older people are younger christians, then they too would not be good candidates for eldership, even while they would still have lots of opportunity for service.   On the other hand, I agree that qualifications for eldership should be based primarily on spiritual maturity, not on chronological age. 

Thank you Jonathan! We loved all the ideas on your Facebook page!  :)

We've done a Maundy Thursday Seder Dinner/Meal. The food gets the kids interested, and before they know it, they are swept into the's certainly memorable even if you only do it once....

Marc: Although I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at - maybe that it's best to have a regional/Classical YM in place B4 we hire a denominational coordinator - but YM is quite a different ball of wax than pastoral ministry. The pastors 99% of the time have beyond excellent educational practicum. The average Youth Leader/Durector if they have a degree have VERY little experience. They need leadership; they need resources; they need ideas to jumpstart programs; they need stories of success to get motivated, at times. Although, it's more cost effective to do it by region/Classis in the short-term, in the Long-term vision, if the the programs are universal and flexible (each youth group is unique) I think the best way to get everyone on board is through a denominational coordinator. Starting small, simple and things that have a proven record.


(that's our pastor's vehicle)

While I appreciate the desire and need to enhance our own "in-house" networking, communication and support for our youth leaders, I am not yet convinced of a few things.  First is throwing out all of YU and all that they bring to our youth ministry table. It is truly unfortunate that YU has had to let go of both the personnel and opportunity to offer leadership development opportuntities, but YU can, and still does, offer a lot to Canadian youth leaders.  

Second, while I love the idea of developing a "Canadian Youth Worker Director" position, I'm pretty sure that there are many many steps between the average youth worker and a potential Canadian YM director that are just plain missing.  Within the denomination, there are many steps of communication between Synod through to the local pastor.  But I would assume that few pastors have direct access to the Directors of the denomination.  There is a solid method of communication and support through Synod, regional classes, to the pastor and church council.  I would daresay that the levels between the volunteer youth leader, or even the paid youth pastor, up to a Denominational or Canadian Youth Ministry Director are almost nonexistant.  While many of our classes do have a classis youth ministry team of sorts, there is no uniformity from one Classis to another as to the vision of Classis youth ministry or how this body functions.  Many classes do not have a regional youth ministry coordinator or consultant, something that was strongly encouraged by Synod (of late '70's or early '80's) that each classis consider.  Without these structures and positions in place, it would seem unreasonable that a Canadian Youth Ministry Director would be dealing with every local youth pastor or youth leader in all of the denomination or Canada.  

There is no doubt - we are slowly getting closer.  The Ontario Youth Ministry Team, while only about 5 years old or so, is barely cutting its' teeth, but is makings its' way to developing strategies for assisting in what is so sorely needed for the local youth leader - support, communication, vision. 

Before we start talking denominational, perhaps our efforts are best served for now focusing on regional support, developing our classis youth ministry and regional (provincial, perhaps, like the OYMT) levels of support and communication.  

@annmpea  We also posted your question on the CRCNA Facebook page.  Check it out over the weekend for some other ideas.




You mentioned earlier a possible Youth Ministry Summer Summit, to help in tackling this problem

Please keep me informed and updated as to what they will focus will be and if it is going to happen.

If I can fit it into my schedule, I would like to possibly be a part of that if it could benefit all of Canada's Youth Ministry Scope.


Thanks, Ron, for that clarification. I stand corrected. Dynamic Youth Ministries oversees Cadets, GEMS and Youth Unlimited.

It is listed in the CRC Yearbook as a "denominationally related or affiliated ministry", much like Friendship Ministries, Diaconal Ministries Canada, Partners Worldwide and Partners Worldwide Canada.

It is both interesting and tragic that fully one-third of our total CRC membership -- children, young people and young adults -- have no denominational board or office that provides leadership, resources or oversight of their spiritual development beyond the formal church school program.

The March issue of The Banner points out cultural differences, and otherwise, between American and Canadian churches. Because the 'tough economic times' have hit YU, this may be an appropriate time for the denomination -- and the Canadian side of the denomination in particular -- to re-examine and perhaps re-invent the nature of youth ministry. 

I think some of your comments are incorrect. YU does not oversee Gems and Cadets, rather they are all part of DYM (Dynamic Youth Ministries). Also, YU is really only a Junior and Senior High directed ministry with elements of conversations tied to other areas of ministry through tools like Compass 21. I believe that this may be important to the conversation. We certainly do not want to mislead anyone.

I was going to say after reading the 1st sentence that whether we admit it or not, ALL leaders started as followers, to some degree. I believe followers are extremely important and I think it is preached from the pulpit if you are preaching discipleship. Isn't that essentially what discipleship is? However, where I would disagree strongly is that all Christians should - no, are commanded - to strive to become leaders (Kuperian model - because we are reaching for the stars in everything we do), but are totally content with whatever stage God has prepared for us. Then even if we are only followers, we are still prepared as leaders, even if that will not be our particular calling in life. Man, not only does that set the bar so much higher, but we are engaging in leadership building our entire lives. What a sight that would be for a community, eh?

posted in: Followership

Brother Struik! Thanks for the suggestion! I'll explore that option!

posted in: Books to Study

I like your post here a lot!  I thnk it should be preached from our pulpits!!  It's very Biblical! 

posted in: Followership



King's Cross by Tim Keller is one that we used for a Bible Study recently with group of students and it was well received.  It is a relatively easy read, but quite challenging.  It walks through the book of Mark and challenges us to really see who Jesus is and apply it to our lives.  Also, many things by Eugene Peterson would be wonderful as well.  Glad to hear that you have some students craving for more!


posted in: Books to Study

I would be opposed to the notion of an apprenticeship program for young elders and deacons ... where they kinda serve and kinda don't; where they have some authority; where they need to be reminded of the importance of confidentiality because, you know, you just can't trust em.

I am, however, delighted at the prospect of being able to fully install young elders and young deacons because they reflect the gifts for office. All of our newly elected elders and deacons -- especially those who haven't served before -- are paired up with a more experienced mentor. One might call it an apprenticeship program or a mentoring one, but it is being carried out among officebearers who are peers -- regardless of age.

As to the confidentiality question, I know of seasoned veteran elders and deacons who struggle with that. While wisdom tends to come with age, it is not exclusive to age. Some of our best elders and deacons are young, godly men and women who regularly serve as spiritual examples to those who are much older.

In short, 'members in good standing' shouldn't discriminate because of age or gender. To introduce an apprenticeship program for young people or young adults sends a strong message that, while they may have leadership potential, they can't quite be trusted to make the right decisions or to keep their mouths shut.

I love this idea!!

posted in: March Madness


I really appreciate your comments - you've spelled out very well the issues we are wrestling with.  I realize that what we are trying to do is in many ways a first.

I agree that we don't want to fall into the trap of either age segregation or tokenism.  In my opinion, "youth councils" and  "youth advisors" are not the way to go - indeed, they are symptomatic of many of the issues related to youth and young adutls that our denomination is currently facing.

I think a few clarifying remarks on my part will help move the conversation forward.

The young women being considered for this position are professing members who definitely display gifts in the areas in which we are considering them.  They are spiritually mature and of strong character.  Our council is comprised of deacons, administrative elders, and pastoral elders.  They are being considered for the role of deacon and admin elder, respectively.

It would be great if we could includ them as full members - it would be bold.  However, the process we use in selecting council members is a) approval of names by council b) congregational approval of names via ballot c) casting of lots.  While the girls have certainly passed the first step, as this is a new thing we are trying, they probably woulnd't get past step 2.  Another complication is that they will be in grade 12 this fall and they will be heading to university in fall 2013.  This means serving for 3 years is out of the question.

This is also something we are hoping to do only if/when suitable youth candidates are available.  In other words, we don't want to create a standing position that needs to be filled year after year by a youth.  This is not about getting warm bodies to fill an empty position.

I understand the confidentiality issue.  However, I think that they understand it too - I think every teenager understands what it means to be entrusted with sensitive information - isn't that an important part of any friendship?  I also think back on my experience as a co-op student in the Ontario Provincial Police when I was 17.  I had to sign a confidentiality agreeement and I took it very seriously, much to the chagirn of my friends who were always itching for a good "cop story".  I was exposed to a number of situations that many 17 year olds wouldn't face on a regular basis, but this did open my eyes to the realities of our world.  I suppose the difference in a church setting is that the girls would know the members who are being discussed.  But, again, I think that if they are given the responsibilities of a regular council member and receive appropriate mentoring and training that they will be up to the task.  In those situations where it may be deemed appropriate for them to be excused from a discussion, that would be the most prudent thing to do, but I wonder, how often would this really happen, keeping in mind that they are not serving in roles of direct pastoral care (i.e. as pastoral elders).

Did I just say "great move" and then "not a great move"?  Apparently I am not a man of words.

This is a great move Jason!  While we haven't done this here, there are a few things that I think are worth considering.  Not trying to crush, just ensuring all the angles are covered.

I'm not sure about having "junior members" or "members in training" is a good move.  One reason why I hesitate is confidentiality.  Council can at times deal with sensitive issues, and I would hate to have our apprentices be asked to step out while the "really important" stuff gets talked about.   I'm all for giving opportunity, but I think that this may send a mixed message about the competence of the individual.  And I'll bet that your apprentice can handle the sensitive info in a mature fashion, if given the opportunity.

I am also not convinced about having "youth advisors" on any committee, for the simple reason that, in my experience, they are addressed only when youth input is needed, or when they are looking to gain insight on a situation from a youth.  I think some of our youth are able to sit at the table and offer insight based on their own ideas, not just because they are a young person or have a youth perspective.

Stay with me though.

I wonder if you recognize a competent young individual, whether they should be considered and voted on as a full member.  I know, that's pretty bold.  Just as our primary qualification for someone to be on the worship team is that they are musical and have a passion to lead others in worship through music, I would hope that our primary qualification for someone to be on council (or any other committee or team) is that they are gifted (or show potential) in leadership abilities.  I cannot stand when we segregate adult and youth praise teams. Similarly it bothers me when competent young people are dismissed from leadership simply based on age.

I know, that brings in a whole other set of issues.  Can they serve for 2 or 3 years? Are they really that competent?  And what exactly are the "minimum requirements" for someone to serve on council?


There are many things that we need to be careful of when using social media as part of our interactions with youth but I personally see it as an excellent way to stay connected with them. Now, I am still a little new at the current church I am at but at the one i used to attend, we didn't have any 'written on stone' policy but here's what we did. 

We used Facebook to stay connected with the youth. The church is in the city so almost all the youth are on facebook so we created a group that was specifically for the youth and leaders only. Parents were not allowed to join the group as we felt it was the youth's page. As leaders, we had the freedom to sensor everything and created groups, events, etc. and all the youth were connected with what was happening within the ministry. 

Some people are very nervous about posting pictures online. I can understand this and we only posted pictures online within our group. And if anyone didn't want their picture online, we took off any that they were on. 

I also know other Leaders that have a blog and keep everyone posted with what's happening via their blog. I like the idea and wish I could 'blog' better myself. I do it once in a while but not as often as I wish.

The other thing I enforced which some of the youth didn't like at the beginning was a 'no cell phone, no mp3 players' at youth group. I find that they get distracted and lost with having them around and the social part of youth group goes down the drain. They didn't like it at first but slowly got used to it. They could have it on them but NOT use it unless they had to call home. 

Well, I hope this helps a little bit, I'd also would love to hear what anyone else has done. 

Dan Ponsen

I like this concept a great deal but to still keep the one on one with the pastor is important too. But this approach really makes it a more community-minded process....

I'd like to pursue for our church this if there is a resource for questions to discuss while in mentoring sessions.

I think that would go a long way to coaching the mentors and making them feel comfortable  with it.

I can't even belive this... Come on GR... come on Burlington... Get your head in the game.

Youth Pastors are crying out for accoutability and connectivity to our demomination.

I'm sorry YU is in this place where this is the decision they had to make.

It's time to make the CRC - YU connection a working partnership rather than simply a "Communication Agreement".

Or as Kieth suggests for CRC Canada to step out on its own and offer a Canadian CRC Support System...


It is unfortunate that this had to happen.  I (personally, and our youth ministry) have strongly benefittied from YU consultant, and have helped turn our ministry into a more healthy and sustainable one.

Keith (and Jason), I share your frustration.  What is most unfortunate is that those of us who are in "frontline" youth ministry, both paid and volunteer, directly feel the effects when youth ministry support staff are removed from the picture.  There isi no doubt in my mind that our youth leaders need training and support, and it is frustrating to  continue moving forward when the rug keeps getting pulled from under us.

Keith, you raise some excellent questions. What are we doing as a denomination to assist those "in the trenches?"

Officially, I would argue, not much.  YU (under Dynamic Youth Ministries) is not officially affiliated with the CRC.  And while the CRC almost exclusively use their resources, we are not financially responsible to ensure those resources continue to be in place for us.

I agree that we need to pick up the ball, somehow.  Our youth leaders desparately need the support. But I'm not sure that reinventing the wheel, either at a denominational level, or Canadian level, would be beneficial.  There are other elements that YU has brought to the Canadian table, namely, SERVE projects, that simply cannot be tossed out and replaced with a CRC-funded equivalent.  SERVE has taken on a life of its own within CRC youth circles.  And I for one would be disappointed if YU loses this corner of their ministry and drops out of the CRC youth ministry support staff map through the loss of this position.

That being said, we ought to be working at many levels to ensure that those doing ministry at a local level get the information, encouragement, and advocacy that is needed for them to do the best possible work they can.  I know in our classis, we are making progress to redevelop this, and it is always at the forefront of the Ontario Youth Ministry Team.   

Hopefully this will help us ask some important questions as a denoomination, and especially north of the border.  Are we providing the best support for our children's program volunteers and staff?  Do we get them on board and leave them in their corner (as Jason suggests) without full integration into the life of the church?  How can we best ensure that they are given the best resources and support that we can offer to continue in their calling to children's ministry?  Is outsourcing a good option?


As YUs newest "Leadership Consultant" for the GTA, the news of the layoffs was a huge blow, not only to those who were layed-off, but also to every youth worker with connections to YU.  This was obviously not an easy decision for the leadership at YU and it is very unfortunate that this has to happen.

Yes, part of the problem could be chalked up to a marketing problem (when I tell my non-CRC colleagues about my role at Youth Unlimited, they are confused to hear that there is another YU).  And economics certainly does play a part in this.

But I think the larger issue has to do with denominational support of highschool youth ministry on all levels (congregational, classis, denomination).  

Certainly at a congregational level, support for youth ministry is obvious in many CRCs (to be clear, support for youth minsitry has nothing to do with having a paid youth worker on staff.  I'm blessed to work with many churches whose youth ministries are tirelessly run by the blood, sweat, and tears of volunteers.  All I can say to them is "wow and thank-you!".  But in my experience, too often youth ministries are run as spaces to let youth "do their own thing" without interfering with the rest of the church (the idea of the youth service is a case in point - give the youth a Sunday night once and a while to make all the nosie they want but don't let them do this on a Sunday morning and definitely don't invite them to become equal and activie pariticipants in planning and leading worship alongside the adults lest they upset the applecart).

Even at the Classis level, many CRCs have taken steps to become more intentional about focusing on youth ministry - this can range from acknowledging that such a thing as youth ministry exists to having a classis invite its youth leaders and pastors to give a presentation on the state of youth ministry in their area (Classis Toronto invited its youth leaders and pastors to present at their May 2012 meeting).

At the denominational level, advances such as young adult delegates to Synod and the creation of YALT are great steps in the direction of acknowleding and including youth/young adults in the life of the CRC.

But is this enough to sustain youth ministry and does it underline youth ministry as a prioriy for our denomination, the awesome work of YU notwithstanding?

This is why the question you raise about creating a "made-in-Canada youth minsitry support system" is very provocative indeed as is your suggestion to find ways for the denomination to financially support youth ministry.  What would this look like?  Who knows, but I think the time is right to start having these discussions.

For a good resource, read "the orphaned generation" by Scott Wilcher. (Subtitle, "The Father's heart for connecting youth and young adults to your church)


Alot of it has to do with geographics, demigraphics, building solid relationships and staying connected with what their passions are.....and they change every 5 years. Geogrphics you can't choose; young adults going away to college these days are going to be practical and find the best job in the best location (that means just about anywhere these days). Demigraphics you can't choose either; if the economy is bad, young people are not going to stay or come back to work. A lot of time thi is tied in with the responsibliity of raising a family in the present or the near future. Relationships play a small part. If you've built a grea repore they may come back to continue and nurture that friendship; but that could be negative also, if that's not the best choice for their future. Those who are staying around, coming back for positive've got to develop their passions; whatever, they may be. One HUGE statistics, nowadays, is that today's generation is super service oriented. They are looking desperately to be useful in service projects. If the CRC (or any church) fails to realize this and doesn't incorporate it in some way, while they are still in high school, they will not nurture that desire and the youth will leave in droves to attend a church that is service-minded. I always have to be creative, because they are kids and need to be doing something different, but even Youth Unlimited could do a better job of coming up with resources of service projects that are fun and challenges their competency. (See Winter Equip and see what we did with our Fall Scavenger Hunt in PEI)....these are the kids of things we have to be prepared to do at least once a month!!!

Thanks.  I have a church planter friend who has brought fasting into his congregation and they have been blessed in so many ways.  I've never led a fasting exercise, but I've participated in some and always find a very defined focus on/with God as I experience the fasting.

I know many believers and congregations that start each year with a fast.   It is amazing the difference this "discipline"  can make in "listening" to God and being sensitive to His leading throughout the year.   I would encourage anyone who might be sensing the LORD putting this on their heart or who desire a deeper relationship with Him to look into it further.  I will simply say after the LORD put fasting on my heart a few years ago, it has now become a lifestyle. 


Great post.  Very applicable to any ministry....stop and listen to God!  Psalm 46:10

Great response Jason.  I like it!

Thanks Rebecca.  I think you are right on point!

I read this post last week and have been thinking about it off and on since then. Not only do I think you are right about this in terms of youth ministry, but I think there is wisdom here for ALL ministry: be present, invest in relationships (as Albert said), and provide a safe place where people are accepted as they are.

Great advice Albert.  Thanks for sending along these suggestions.  I think you are right on point.

I text with my kids, and think it's absolutely a useful tool, but you have to be careful on many different levels;

1) Stalking (for the receiver and sender)

- if it's done/received excessively, the youth thinks you are watching him too closely... like a parent.

2) Perception

- things txted are taken out of context...sometimes positively but also negatively.

3) Generational Gap;

- Sometimes, it depends on the age of the leader and how the kids respond to that leader as to whether it works or not.

TIP: If you're going to use Txting, then you MUST teach Texting ediquette also. Every group is different; some don't allow cells, some have specific rules, some are lax.....but whatever the guidelines are, they MUST be enforced and the leaders MUST adhere to them also.

Amen and Amen!


Thanks, Paul.  Your post reminds us that Numbers is a book in the Bible, not a Fruit of the Spirit...

That's because Youth Ministry is a long-term "investment". Whenever I hear stories of success of youth ministry being measured by performance, you can always look right around the corner and see people in charge that are looking for short term results. Until you accept the fact that Youth ministry is a long-term venture, and start evaluating the success of the program by the quality of relationships that are being established, your youth group will never, ever, in a million years grow. ALL the youth groups that I have seen flourish have those two goals as their foundational core. Whenever those goals are applied (along with some other smaller add'l elements) the youth groups almost ALWAYS explode immediately.

OK, so I suppose, I'm the black sheep of the bunch because I plan most of my entire year in September, and I have no time, ever....because knowing what I am going to do allows me to be involved in many other activities, as well. (lol) I still only give it to my kids piecemeal, which allows me the flexibility to change the schedule as the year goes on, as other people want to speak to the kids and as other "brilliant" ideas that come to me throughout the year, but planning ahead even in a skeleton outline is so much easier to tackle and drive the group in a focused direction.....OK....wrong topic - maybe another great topic for the future...back to what the issue is...Sorry :>}

.Yes, I think materialism is actually a VERY easy topic to talk about for many reasons. If you've experienced poverty, REAL poverty, the first thing that becomes cemented in your brain is HOW MUCH WE HAVE THAT WE DON'T NEED! Let me say that again, with a little less emotion, , how much we have that we don't need! We squirrel our stuff away, we save double for "just in case", we constantly waste the resources we have and on and on and on! Two simple things to incorporate: Teach by example! show them where they are falling into the trap of having so many things (starting with clothes) and they will soon get the hint. I noticed it with my kids without even trying. I started to here them saying things I was saying without even knowing I was saying it. ALSO: Don't give up on the service projects in your community; the higher awareness and exposure they have to what reality is around them, the more it will be on their mind. How can we share to those who actually NEED it more than us....ultimately downsizing our addiction to having, MORE, More More......

Another thing that my wife has had success with, is being the English/British Literature professor she is, She has a "Grinch Who Stole Christmas" PowerPoint presentation that she shows to various groups every year (Schools, churches, youth groups....whoever will listen) She emphasizes the Christian parallels to the story and it is her way to honor the true meaning of Christmas, to ward off the ever-growing monster of materialism that can jade our senses to real joy.

I don't know if this helps, but I think if you are truly honest with yourself and understand how big a problem this really is, that it will be quite easy to tackle this topic, not only during this time of year, not only as a 1-time, 1-night devotion topic, but to be challenged to uphold this ideal to ward off this cultural humanistic - and essentially rooted in the sinful nature of man - addiction throughout our lives; plant seeds that twill flourish and they can use long after they have left youth group; probably there will be some who will even go away empowered to do something about it....Merry Christmas :>)

Visiting the elderly has always been a positive experience. I don't think anyone has ever given the indication that it was a dreary exercise. It's exciting to hear the stories and the wealth of knowledge they have from years past and living through historical tragedies. I like it on a number of levels. One is that the kids find out that it isn't quite as bad as they thought it might have been, and sometimes even fun. The kids learn a human, tangible side of Senior-ness and that connection is what sparks relational activities on a new and different level, immediately, as well as, much later in life.  Also, I love to see the elderly peoples face light up when they are entertaining the youth. Yes, you read that right....they are doing the entertaining! I have made a special effort this year to include Senior in numerous activities, such as, service project, crafts, games, good-will in an effort to realistically and practically attempt to make the Seniors feel that they still have something to contribute....that's really where the rubber hits the road, isn't it? Seniors, who many times, have spent most of their time involved in every aspect of church life, now feel useless; no refund, no return. And they no longer feel connected. It's extremely important and necessary that we spur on these interactions with the elderly that will carry them through this period in their life, while they are waiting for their eternal resting place, and treasure.

I have to agree wholeheartedly with Ty....thanks for clarifying this for everyone....Another defining issue is thinking with Kuyperian Leadership theology....capturing every sphere of our lives for the Lord. Integrating our spheres of life into our faith and NOT trying to squeeze our faith - as an afterthought - into our spheres of life....that's like trying to put a circular peg into a square hole! and, re-emphasizing again what Ty was articulating very well, to transforming and reclaiming, every square inch of our society around as as God's....God restores society through our works of service and obedience.

I think you can start out small and work your way to a bigger picture when it comes to incorporating our reformed heritage and theology in youth ministry.

The best way I can put it, borrowing from other better thinkers, is to look at youth ministry through the lenses of our reformed heritage and develop a world view that is both biblical and reformed.

Here is what I mean...

As we do youth ministry, are we passing along biblical lenses to help our students view the world from a bibilcal and reformed perspective?

That the world was created good by God, that in it's fallen state things aren't the way they should be [turned upside down by Satan and sin] and that we have the ability with the power of God to turn things back around to the way God intended them.

If all things are created good, then our part in God's redemptive [to buy back] plan is the make things good again.  So music, media, liturature, vocations, sports, and all other human pursuits have in them good, but have been distorted by sin.  So how do we as reformed Christians set things right again?  That is our endevor.  We can help God's kingdom reclaim and restore them!  Music is a good thing, but has been warped by the messages of sex, drugs, greed, etc.  So how do we point out music, in any genre, that is worthy, good, and has messages that are in line with God's biblical message.  Not sacred versus secular, but seeing all music can have either the power to uplift or the power to tear down.  The power to point to God's truth or lead us away from it. This can be done with anything, even a house.  Houses are good and offer shelter, abondoned houses are not what God intended and so we can redeem and restore houses so that people who can't afford homes may have a place to live.  Like what Habitat and other groups do.

So it's a matter of lenses and working to restore God's intentions to the world. 

Another facet can be looking at our creeds and confessions to see what God's word teaches us and how it helps us to live out our calling in the world.  We are currently helping kids discover/rediscover some of the beauty and calling that come from the Apostles Creed and Heidelberg Catechism.  Not dry and stuff, but wonderful and affirming.  How do we live grateful and serving lives out of the thankfulness that God saved us from our sin?  How do we see the world as God's creation and that our mandate is to love and serve all?  How do we stay connected to God so that he is the source of our strength and ability to live our lives each day?  And on and on and on.

And this is all just scratching the surface, but it's a start.

Our reformed heritage and biblical theology give us the rocks, the foundation to be able to lead and teach our students in the truth of God's plan for us in his world.  There are some great thinkers and youth ministry resources that are out there but from reformed perspective you might have dig deeper and come up with some of your own.  One person who can help a ton on the idea of biblical and reformed worldview is Walt Mueller at the Center for Parent Youth Understanding.  Walt is great!  Also Sparkhouse has some great short videos that address some cool biblical truths and even some of the reformed perspective of the faith.

I hope this is a start. Blessings!

Ty Hogue

Youth Pastor • Harderwyk Ministries, Holland, MI

I have read two blogs now that have directed me to be more reformed, or to support a reformed view of youth ministry.  Working within the Christian Reformed Church, I am sure that this must be a big deal for me - however, could someone paint what that might look like?  Reformed youth minsitry has to be more than working with YU or ordering curriculum from Faith Alive...doesn't it?  Recently I am having conversations with my planning / advisory team who have identified one of the core focus points of our ministry should be to have a reformed perspective within our youth ministry.  I asked them to define that, and it was like watching a large semi run over a small squarral.   What is reformed Youth Ministry?  How is it to be defined and then maybe it can be transfered to our students?

Well said.  They are seeking the most available source to fill who they are. It's time to realize kids today are nothing like 50 yrs. ago. If we don't meet them there are multitude of options that many of older generation have no idea. Applying traditional methods is like trying to light a match in a monsoon.