Science & Faith

As a young adult studying biology at a Christian college, it didn’t take me long to sense a rub between science and faith. I will admit, I’m no expert in either area; my journey of exploring the two fields only spans ten years. I’ve spent time reading books, articles, lectures, and interviews concerning the tension […]

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Ideas To Retain Students in Your Ministry

I first started gathering data, to try and get ideas for our own ministry, but then decided that this was good information to share with everyone! I asked a handful of current and former student ministry pastors, directors, coordinators, etc. how they retained students in their ministry.  That question then unfolded to how do they […]

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How To Build Community In Your Group

I see community being one of the glues that can hold a youth group together.  Students doing life together and learning about Jesus.  But, how do we have community when natural divisions happen in our group?   I’ve worked in all sorts of scenarios of youth groups.  My youth group growing up consisted of kids […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #108 || Star Wars & Stolen Property

Does Star Wars matter to students?  Do they even care about something that started nearly 40 years ago? In a world that is so splintered, how does something that has crossed the generational lines have an impact on students today?  Hosts Jeff Eckart and Jayson Brewer discuss Star Wars’s staying power that has shaped student […]

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10 Ways To Invest In Your Students

But, that can mean a lot of different things in one student’s life.  Here’s a list of ways to show up in your students’ life.  And then some other random ways to invest in their life as well.   1. Show up to their sporting event, musical, play, band performance, art show, black belt showcase, speech, […]

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Pause for People

“Slow Down”, flashed the speed limit detector, as I sped by on the road.  I was taking it too fast, not noticing how fast I was going.  I was thinking of where I had to be and what I had just come from and probably what I was going to do the next day; that […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #107 || Social Media Part 4: Guidelines for This Social Game

In episode #107, we discussed how social media can be a guessing game when it comes to parents and their children’s use or youth worker and their students in a ministry context.  At times it can feel like we are at battle with each other, taking shots from opposing sides instead of playing this game […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #106 || Social Media Part 3: Digital Discipleship

In episode #106, hosts Jeff Eckart and Jayson Brewer interview Dr. Craig Detweiler.  Craig is a media professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA, filmmaker, and author of iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives. What does it mean to hand over a smartphone, a very powerful device, to an adolescent when there […]

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Don’t Waste the Wait

Have you ever desired something so badly it hurt? Have you ever prayed the same prayer a hundred, maybe even a thousand times, and still nothing? Have you ever needed God to show his hand, and no matter how many weeks, months, or years passed it still wasn’t visible? Have you ever been in a […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #105 || Social Media Part 2: Takes More Than Give

Episode #105 we interview Phil Joel from Zealand Worship.  Phil is the former bassist for the band Newsboys and he talks about his personal approach to social media as well as his current band’s approach to social media.  The automatic assumption these days is that if you’re going to have any presence in the world, […]

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Spiritual Health > Safety

A few months back, my team and I talked about this statement, “We provide programming that is physical, emotional, and spiritually safe without making it experientially safe.” What chords does it strike you? I simply want to get you thinking on this topic and share a bit of what we talked about as a team. […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #104 || Social Media Part 1: Symptoms on Display

In episode #104, we discussed social media affects all of us whether we like it or not. It’s not a fad or a trend, that will eventually go away like acid-washed jeans and jelly shoes.  What if we could get inside the minds of students to hear directly from them about what they think of […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #103 || Theology of Pizza & Hummus

In episode #103, we discuss the lack of discussion on the topic of physical health in the circles of youth ministry and the church in general.  Is food a key component to our obedience to God? Should food have more of a central role in our relationship with Jesus?  Are we adequately addressing the issue of […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #102 || Students, Politics, & Civility

In episode #102, we asked thousands of students questions about the topic of politics to see if it’s important to them and where their level of interest is about the current political environment.  We also interviewed a number of students from around the country about their views and opinions in regards to politics, so we […]

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Five Things Students Should Know About Their Adult Leaders

I am about to finish my 16th year of student ministries. Things like music has changed many times from Michael W. Smith and Jeremy Camp to Lecrae and Hillsong. From event driven youth groups to discipleship being a draw. I have loved all the changes, even though I do miss some of the old school […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #101 || They Don’t Know Where to Start

  What is Thought Factory? Thought Factory is dedicated to learning from students for students to better our ministry practice with students. Based on our own national research with 3000 students and 500 youth workers, we break down what we are hearing from middle school and high school students from across America. We also discuss […]

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Let Your Yes be Yes and… [Your Longevity Yes be Yes]

“Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one.”  Matthew 5:37 (CEB) We tend to forget about our “long-term yes’s” in terms of commitments we make.  It can seem like a “one time yes” in the moment, but when we commit to saying yes to […]

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NTS Camp 2016 Review

God created the world to be a fabric woven together, and he invites us to be interwoven in relationships. Relationships with God, with each other, and with the world. To join what He is already doing. This summer we dove into the narrative of Joseph in Genesis, and how God’s story is threaded through his […]

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Set Up Your Year up to Win

I have spent a lot of time in ministry spinning my wheels.  I don’t know if you can relate, but there have been seasons where it felt like I couldn’t work any harder, pray any longer, but the results were just not happening.  Now I know some people will frown because I just used the […]

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How to Move Students Into a Deeper Relationship With Jesus

Sometimes I think we think it’s only about the physical stuff we need to do with our students or for our students in order to move them into a deeper relationship with Jesus.  When, really, I think the initial step starts with us, as their small group leader, peer, or friend. Building that trusting, open, […]

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Posture 5: Life With God

Over the last month or so we have been looking into Skye Jethani’s teachings on how we as the Church are presenting the Gospel and the ramifications of misrepresenting the truth.  The main objective of Skye’s teaching is to talk about why young people are leaving the Church in what seems to be a mass […]

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Encouragement from Skye Jethani

For those who have followed our series on Faith Postures, based off of Skye Jethani’s teachings about the gospel and young people, we’ve reached out to Skye recently, asking him to provide a statement of encouragement to youth leaders who are leading students on a weekly basis.  Skye was gracious enough to do just that. […]

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Add Grit to Your Ministry

One of my favorite passages is from 2 Kings 3. At this time the Kings of Israel, Judah and Edom have tried to do everything on their own to lead their armies to attack Moab. As they realize they don’t have any options left and will not likely be able to win, they desperately ask […]

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Posture Four: Life For God

In John 21:15, Jesus presented Simon Peter with a series of three questions in quick succession, questioning his true love for Jesus.  Each time Jesus asked, “Do you truly love me?” Peter responds with, “You know I love you” as if to say, “Don’t be ridiculous Jesus.”  But Jesus follows Peter’s response by instructing him […]

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Posture Three: Life From God

Growing up my dentist was my cousin (he’s much older than me) which was great financially for our family. There was a problem though: he lived an hour and a half away. I had a lot of intense dental work done when I was a kid and also had braces, which meant many painful trips. […]

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Five Tips to Remembering Students’ Names

Before my daughter was born, I remember considering the implications of bringing her in to this world.  I would be responsible for providing her basic needs.  I would be accountable to raise her up with Christian principles in a home that reflects the love of Jesus.  As her mom, I would do my best to […]

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She inspired us, now we must pray. We have to.

Back then we barely knew each other; I knew about her powerful story, but I didn’t know her. Out of the blue I sent her a Facebook message. “Joanna, I work for an organization that puts on camps for middle school and high school students in the summer. Our theme this year is Word, based […]

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Posture Two: Life Over God

As some of you know, we are in a short blog series where we are discussing Skye Jenthani’s Faith Postures.  Which takes a good hard look at with young people are growing up and leaving the church they’ve been raised in.  There are four postures that Skye says the church uses to teach its people […]

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Are “Religious Rights” Dead In Schools Today?

Perhaps you’ve heard of Joe Kennedy, the Bremerton, Washington high school football coach who prayed after games. He privately prayed on the field and players, on their own volition, joined him. He was suspended in the fall of 2015 from his job for this public act of faith on school grounds. Is this right? Is […]

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Posture One: Life Under God

In reference to Jeff Eckart’s blog post that started this series off, I grew up thinking the lack of calcium was the reason for my small bones. My mom always purchased ½% milk from the store.  Since milk is supposed to be a great source of calcium (right Jeff!?), drinking one half of a percent […]

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The Student Leaders of Today

Students need to be involved in your youth group. Young or old. Experienced or inexperienced. Boys and girls. Seniors and freshmen. Middle school and high school.  As their leaders, we need to teach them how to take our positions. If we believe in this generation as the Church of today that will be leading the […]

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Are We Forever Losing Students Because of How We Present God and His Gospel?

It was a shocking discovery. What if you discovered on your 30th birthday that something you were raised to believe wasn’t true? For example, what if you were told that the calcium from milk actually caused your bones to become weaker, and not stronger like you were told growing up. You saw a report that […]

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Minister Within the Mess

Every week following our youth programming, I clean up a mess.  Papers, candy wrappers, pens, and pen pieces are scattered on the floor all over our worship area.  Chairs that depict the creative artistry of some of our students are pulled aside for additional cleaning. About a month ago, the morning following our youth programming, […]

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Six Insights When Approaching Adult Volunteers

I have had the great opportunity to serve under some great youth pastors for 15 years. I have learned a lot from them. I have met so many new, young youth pastors over the years and, if I could, I would love to share a little insight with you with regards to your adult leaders. […]

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Muddy Funds

Have you ever run a 5K?  Have you run a fun run?  How about a mud run?  The chances are pretty good in 2016 most of us have either run one of the above races or at least been strongly tempted to.  Runs and races seem to be everywhere we look.  There’s something for everyone […]

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Three Reasons for NTS Camp’s 2016 THREADS Theme

When we came together as a team to decide what the theme would be for NTS Camp 2016, we had already known we wanted to teach on the life of Joseph (Genesis 37-49) for the evening sessions.  This will be our 2nd year into our 5-year vision for NTS Camp’s teaching plans.  Last year we wanted […]

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Overpowering the Influence of the 2 Lies Media Promotes to Students

If you are in the business of working with students in youth ministry, you typically get (if you are lucky) 1% of their time in a typical week. And yet students are spending hours taking in media PER DAY. We are drastically outnumbered when it comes to the time that we have. And time is […]

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Behind The Scenes of Big Things

Students want to do big things; they just need the support. It was my senior year of high school that my faith became serious to me. Action was necessary to see my relationship with Jesus grow. The closer I grew to God, the more I wanted to do for His kingdom. Something I felt God […]

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Two Proven Ways To Engage Both Genders in #YouthMin

As with most of us, when I get talking, the things that I love most begin to spill out.  I am a sports fan.  I love to watch, talk, read, and play sports!  That means I’ll find some way of coming back to sports in a conversation.  I’m sure if you thought about it, you […]

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The Secret Sauce of Ministry

It seems like everyone is looking for the next big thing, particularly in ministry circles; chasing that “secret sauce” that will take them to the magical next level. My inbox fills up with emails all promising a new strategy, available in a new book or online course at a bargain introductory price, but only for […]

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Programming for Mountain Top Experiences

I love mountain climbing.  Living in Colorado for a summer opened my heart up to that love for the first time when I was in college. The entire summer I was surrounded by peaks that pierced the clouds in the sky.  I remember the first day I arrived in Estes Park, CO with my best […]

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Four Lessons Learned Over 15 Years

I have been honored to be involved in youth ministry for over fifteen years. I have been a small group leader, a speaker, as well as a chaplain at local schools. As I have gotten older, I have learned that I learn new things daily with regards to students and youth ministry. LESSON ONE The […]

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How Does Local Culture Affect Youth Ministry?

This has been something that I’ve been pondering for awhile and had to learn how to adapt in different youth ministry positions.  Whether those were in college, in Indiana, doing internships in Colorado or New York, or doing ministry where I’m currently at in the central valley of Northern California. Each place lends to different […]

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The Absolute Most Effective Way to Meet Your Goal

Would you like to achieve something great in this season of your life? I’m assuming you said “Yes” to this question. Maybe you want to be a better leader, parent, or see something change or improve in your life. If this is you…read on. I’d like to share with you the #1 most effective way […]

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Chasing Truth – Surrendering Sexuality

Read Part 1: The Creator Conflict Read Part 2: Backing Up The Bible Read Part 3: Why Jesus Read Part 4: The Reality of the Resurrection Read Part 5: Explaining Evil   *Be advised, this article takes a conservative approach to the topic of human sexuality.*   “As long as you are happy does it matter […]

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How To Simplify Social Media Part 3

If you missed Part 1, read it here. If you missed Part 2, read it here.   Happy New Year!   The start of 2016 brings our social media calendar year to about a quarter done. That means at this point we should be able to evaluate what we’ve been doing and see if the plan […]

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Chasing Truth – Explaining Evil

Read Part 1: The Creator Conflict Read Part 2: Backing Up The Bible Read Part 3: Why Jesus Read Part 4: The Reality of the Resurrection I have two children, a nine year old and a seven year old.  When we are riding in the car together listening to the radio, I often turn it down […]

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Chasing Truth – The Reality of the Resurrection

Read Part 1: The Creator Conflict Read Part 2: Backing Up The Bible Read Part 3: Why Jesus   Christmas and Easter – the two major “go to church” holidays. I think it’s probably a safe bet that with Christmas, the actual meaning, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, is widely agreed upon as an […]

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