Thought Factory Podcast #306 || 10 Ways to Help Parents Win

How can we help parents win with their students?  As youth leaders, do we really know what parents need from us?  Is the way we are doing youth ministry helping or hindering them as parents?  What is the #1 thing we can do to affirm parents?  Will our efforts be felt by only the student or the entire family?  In […]

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A Christian Response: What if I Don’t Know What to Say?

Part two in a four-part series.  Read Part 1 here. BUT WHAT IF I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY?  Disagreements are hard to talk about. It can be intimidating to talk with someone who believes differently than you. What if the conversation leads to frustration, tension, and division? What if it is just really awkward? […]

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A Christian Response: All Paths Lead to God

Apologetics is defined as reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.  In this series, we want to look at the reasons we believe but also look at some main arguments against faith in Jesus and in God.  By looking at these arguments, we want to also discuss what a […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #305 || The Risk of Ignoring Students

Are students leaving the church?  In this episode, hosts Jeff Eckart and Jayson Brewer discuss what can happen to a church if the students are ignored.  Ignored in the budget, ignored in their involvement, ignored in allowing their voice to be heard.   Special guest interview with Darren Campbell, a part-time pastor, full-time business owner discusses […]

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Student Ownership

I wanted to share with you guys what I’ve been learning about ownership among students in youth group.  Meaning that the students have a sense that this is their group; they’re bought into the mission.  The mission is to live, love, and tell people about Jesus.  So, how do we develop the students that we […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #304 || Help Young People Love The Church: Kara Powell Interview

Churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage.  In this episode, we interview Kara Powell, who is the executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary.  Kara co-authored Growing Young, which is about 6 essential strategies to help young people discover and love your church.  Growing […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #303 || Students Vacating Church & Losing Faith

Are students leaving the church? Fifty percent of students drift from their faith after graduating high school.  Of those who drift, 80% did not plan to drift from their faith when they went to college or went into the workforce.  Are we losing the battle with students or is there a reason to have hope […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #302 || A Dream Fulfilled

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream over 54 years ago, but was that dream merely poetry or was it prophecy?  This is a story about two grown men pursuing their connection to the past which caused them to face injustice and racial reconciliation that went beyond their imagination.  The personal dreams of Will Ford & Matt […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #301 || Anthem Protests & Hope for Healing: Students & Race

The recent protests against the National Anthem are more than just about taking a knee, but they are another symptom of the growing division we are experiencing in America in regards to race.  It seems like we have gone backward instead of forward in the progress of race relations.  The protests have even extended to high school football […]

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NTS Camp 2017 Recap

The theme for this year was WITNESS. We looked at the expansive life of Paul and how God worked through him, from the time he was named Saul to his last days under house arrest. He was a witness to all people of what he had seen and heard. We are each called to be […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #210 || Faith & Reason Part 2: Six Foundational Questions to Ask Students

Is there evidence for a Creator?  Where does my truth come from?  What do I believe about Jesus?  Can I doubt the resurrection and still be a Christian?  If God is so good then why is my world so bad?  Am I committed to Godly sexuality?  In this two-part episode, Michelle Rewa, with a background in […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #209 || Faith & Reason Part 1: Six Foundational Questions to Ask Students

Is there evidence for a Creator?  Where does my truth come from?  What do I believe about Jesus?  Can I doubt the resurrection and still be a Christian?  If God is so good then why is my world so bad?  Am I committed to Godly sexuality? In this two-part episode, Michelle Rewa, with a background in […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #208 || Porn & Tech Guinea Pigs

Why do good students fall prey to pornography?  How do you feel when you receive 100 likes on Instagram?  Why are students…ok, the majority of users addicted to their smartphone?  In this episode, we discuss how porn, tech, and social media companies are preying on the neurological development of students’ brains to hold our attention […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #207 || Engage & Redeem Technology

How long could you go without your phone?  Less than an hour?  We are talking more about the digital nemesis that the majority of us have accepted into our lives, the smartphone.  In today’s episode, we hear from high school students about their attachment to this device.  We also provide suggested guidelines for youth ministry […]

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Creating A Healthy Volunteer Staff Culture

Let me start with this:  We cannot do it alone.  We can not do it without our volunteer staff.   They are a huge reason we as student pastors, directors, the person in charge; can even do our job.  We need loving adults to pour into our students.  People that will sacrifice their time to invest […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #206 || Verbally Solving America’s Greatest Issues

Are we going in the right direction as a country? What do students think? Today we’re talking about what students say are the most important issues facing America.  Issues that include terrorism, race relations, sexual identity, and abortion.  Are students better off spiritually today than 20 years ago? In today’s episode, we discuss these issues […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #205 || The Crisis Moment for Students

Hosts Jeff Eckart and Jayson Brewer interview Charlie Alcock, a youth ministry professor at Indiana Wesleyan University.  Charlie has been a youth leader/youth pastor for 28 years and now raises up the next generation of youth leaders who sense God’s call into ministry.  We discuss many aspects of students’ life, but more specifically the time […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #204 || The Future is Further Than it Appears

It seems more and more that students are growing up too fast in our society. But something else has been trending, these kids aren’t growing up. And no matter who you are, parent, youth worker, etc., you need to be aware of this trend.  This trend continues to change our society as we know it. […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #203 || The Most Influential Environment in Society: Interview with Chuck Klein

What is the most influential environment in society?  In today’s episode, we discuss the topic of the most influential environment in society.  Chuck is the Director of Campus Alliance, a coalition of over 60 ministries and denominations coming together to see an impact happen on every one of the 67,000 school campuses (25-26 million students) […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #202 || They Are Certainly Unsure at School

Based on our research of nearly 3000 students from around the country, students shared what the toughest thing is about being a Christian at school.  Students deal with the fear of what others think, fear of offending people with their beliefs, but that was not their top answer, where 45% of students said the same […]

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Thought Factory Podcast #201 || Going Beyond the Fear of Lunchroom Ovations & Tall Middle School Girls

In today’s episode, we discuss the topic of fear in students’ lives.  Fear surrounds us and our culture is driven by fear.  There is a lot of money in fear.  And some fears are real and justified that go beyond our understanding and personal experience. But fear can also be apparent and rampant in the minds […]

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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 the […]

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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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