Archive for category: Youth Ministry

The United We Stand Tour recap

17 Oct
October 17, 2013


“Woah. Matthew. I need you to understand that this concert is on a whole different level.”

Words from the tour manager on the phone with me the day before they arrived at my church … and he wasn’t kidding! I was downplaying something as not being a big deal based on the concert events I’ve hosted in the past – I needed a wake up call to what I had booked! The United We Stand tour with Building 429, The Afters, Hawk Nelson & Finding Favour is a full fledged concert event!

The tour was amazing. They did things in our sanctuary with staging, lights, smoke and cryo effects I never would have thought could happen there! They showed up with a semi truck FULL from top to bottom, front to back, with equipment – my heart literally stopped when they popped open the doors and it was 100% full. The sound was so loud, the bass so powerful, it literally vibrated three lights out of their sockets! And under every light fixture there was a small pile of sheet rock dust that had been shaken out of the building!

I still can’t believe the crowd we had for a Tuesday night concert! I’m even more amazed with the 50+ volunteers that gave up their time throughout the day to make the thing happen! I love these kinds of events – it’s part of what makes our youth group the place to be for teens in North Wilmington!

Check out this little video highlight from the end of the night … when they started firing off the smoke jets (directly into the ceiling fire alarms!), my heart literally skipped a couple beats. I had three simultaneous thoughts: (1) I can’t believe they’re going to blow the fire alarms now after making it through the whole day, (2) this is the coolest thing I have ever seen in this room, and (3) seriously, that’s where Pastor Bo normally stands!

And no, even with the smoke machines going steadily from early afternoon until 10pm, and the cryo smoke jets shooting off every few seconds during the Building 429 performance, the fire alarms never went off!

Cell phones on mission trips?

09 Oct
October 9, 2013

phones on mission trips

So I made the above post to my Facebook on the way back from our mission trip to Nicaragua this past summer … and was totally caught off guard by the response to it! It created a lot of conversation, so I’ve been meaning to write out my actual thoughts on our policy of banning devices on trips. But first …

As some noted, I was Facebooking about my frustration about people Facebooking! Caught in the act! I actually lived with the rule I required of the students; during the mission trip I only updated our student Facebook page with mission team updates, and was the only team member with internet access so I could keep parents in the loop on what was happening. And then I broke; when we touched down in Houston, it looked like for a couple hours that we would miss our connecting flight. Customs was completely overwhelmed and understaffed with a room with countless travelers waiting in an eternal line to get through … just so we could get to a similar sized line for rechecking our luggage, and then another similar sized line for security. All I kept thinking was ‘how in the world am I going to rebook 23 flights and get these kids back home to their parents???’ My frustration level was HIGH. I was irritable. Tired from an amazing, but exhausting mission trip. And really, I just wanted to get home to my wife and kids and I was starting to be convinced it wasn’t going to happen as soon as I had expected. In the end, we made the flight, literally with only a few seconds to spare – they were shutting the doors as we ran up to them!

So in the midst of all that chaos, in my irritated state, I was looking around at all these other mission teams (they had matching shirts to prove it) with every member of their teams staring at their phones, iPods, iPads, game devices, etc., and honestly, I was a little shocked – I couldn’t imagine going through all the work to prep a mission trip and then allowing the devices along! They’re such a distraction! And that’s when I broke my own rule and posted my self righteous, snarky update.

Here’s why we do it, though:

We have a two fold purpose to our mission trips; the first is to accomplish a meaningful and valuable service/outreach. The second, which is equally important, is to challenge our group to deeper spiritual growth. Towards that end we intentionally schedule the trip to allow for study, reflection, and group debriefing of the scriptures we’re working through. We also intentionally get rid of any unnecessary distractions. When young people (really anyone) unplug from their normal routine and life they become much more open to growth, development, change – you name it. Something about stepping out of our normal life just creates opportunities for self reflection and life change – it’s why youth ministries across the nation love service trips, mission trips, retreats, camps, etc.

But when someone still has their device, when they’re still in constant contact with the life back home, when they’re getting texts every few minutes, Facebook notifications, Instagram alerts, Twitter updates, Snapchat photos, and more … it’s very easy to spend their whole time away thinking about what’s going on back home and interacting with their friends there instead of being fully present on this trip that we have spent half a year preparing for, raised tens of thousands of dollars to pull off, and will remember for the rest of our lives. Ultimately, those devices do significant damage to that second purpose behind our mission trips … so we don’t allow them.

Does that mean we won’t let a child call home? Absolutely not. We constantly remind kids to ask a leader if they want to call home, if a parent messages us that they need to call their child – for whatever reason – we will get them on the phone as soon as we can.

The amazing thing is, over the years I’ve heard so many teens – who were mortified at the thought of giving up their phone for ten days – come home from the trip and say they were glad it wasn’t there. That it was good for them to just ‘be’ with the group and not be distracted.

Get my new book for 85% off!!!

05 Oct
October 5, 2013

book banner 2

 This weekend Simply Youth Ministry is doing a massive sale on their digital books … including MINE! If you act fast you can get it for less than two bucks. That’s crazy. It’s a youth ministry book, but honestly, I wrote it for everyone with some specific illustrations that relate to ministry workers. Here’s the description the marketing people came up with for my labor of love …

When it comes to your health, God wants you to be selfish.

Crazy idea, right? But it’s totally true.

Far too many of us in church ministry choose to sacrifice our personal health because we’re deeply dedicated to our family, our ministry, or other people’s needs. But if we don’t make our health a priority, no one else will.

Veteran youth pastor Matthew McNutt knows what it’s like to be “too busy” for a healthy lifestyle—but he also knows the rewards of changing course and practicing this good kind of selfishness. A former contestant on The Biggest Loser, he’s ready to help you discover some powerful lessons about spiritual and physical health—and what it all means for those of us called to student ministry.

Scripture speaks of our bodies as the holy and sacred dwelling place of God—the temple of the Holy Spirit. That’s why a healthy you honors God. Plus, a healthy you benefits your family and close friends. And a healthy you guides teenagers toward a God-honoring perspective on food and exercise.

Your ministry will survive if you give time to yourself—in fact, over time it’ll be stronger because of it. And you will have modeled something powerful to the people you’re leading.

You can buy it here – but act fast, the price goes back up after the weekend!


Getting Teens in the Worship Service

02 Sep
September 2, 2013

teens in church

I took the above picture the other week during our third worship hour, one typically that sees so few teens I can generally count them on one hand. The picture isn’t all the teens in the room; there were actually many more – I was struck that four of them are filming/photographing Thomas while he shared with the congregation about his experiences in Nicaragua.

Here’s the thing, youth ministry is a great investment in a teen’s present faith. But getting them into the corporate worship service is a massive investment in their spiritual future. But the challenge is in getting them there. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but there are a couple things that I think are vital to bringing teens in:

One is using language throughout the worship hour that includes them. Too often the language is from up front communicates that the intended audience is adults. Referencing application to school, sports and friends, in addition to work, home, community, is one way to change the language. Finding illustrations young people can identify with is important as well.

But the biggest way to get teens into a worship service? Get them on stage. Reading scripture, sharing a testimony, doing a solo, participating in worship, doing a drama. Whatever it is, get them on stage. Because once a kid is on stage, their friends come to see them. Drawing one kid up front lands five to ten teens in the pews. Getting a group of teens up front? The other month when students led worship, I was shocked at the turnout of teens in all three services, but particularly the traditional hour – there were 30 or so in the room when normally there are only a few. On our missions report Sunday? We had two different teens each of our three hours, and a room full of teen all three hours. Some of them sat through multiple worship services to support their different friends, and I learned of at least one teen who left her family at the beach to support her friend!

It’s a big deal to be in front of large groups of people, and adolescents are excited when they or their friends are invited to do so. Getting a teen up front isn’t just connecting that young person (and their family – it’s a huge win for parents when their child is allowed to shine in front of the church), it connects their entire circle of influence. I firmly believe that a church that has a habit of involving young people in the worship service in different capacities is a church that sends a loud message to adolescents that they are very much a valued and desired part of the church.

Student Missions Highlights Video

30 Aug
August 30, 2013

This is a short video I put together to use in our main church services as part of a report on our student mission trips. It’s also a way to have the congregation hear from a much larger number of students than they would have otherwise. I love making these videos; they are useful when we report, and then again in January when we’re recruiting for the next season of short term missions.

I used Corel Video Studio Pro to edit the video. I recorded the audio during our full length reports (happened when the teams came back for friends, family and supporters) using a Tascam DR-05 portable digital recorder. It’s incredibly handy, user friendly, and a snap to import to my computer with – it’s the same one I use to podcast our Student teachings and events with. I used an older version of Adobe Audition to edit the audio soundbites. And the music is actually a performance track I downloaded off iTunes; that way I could find a song I liked, get the performance track without vocals, and have it as a simple background to add energy to the video.

It takes a chunk of time to manipulate all the different elements – I think I spent about ten hours total on it, but to me it’s worth it as a tool to shape our congregation’s perception of the youth in our church in a positive way.

Nicaragua mission trip video

16 Jul
July 16, 2013

I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to post this to my blog! This is a video/slideshow I put together on the flight back from Nicaragua. I actually used iMovie on an iPad mini, which was a first for me – but crazy easy. It was the first time I’ve led a mission trip without a laptop with me, but between my iPhone 4S and the iPad mini, I never missed it. I ended up taking all the photos with my phone, and then using an app to transfer them to the iPad. From there, I created the video! Very easy, and I loved getting off the plane with my report slideshow ready – since we presented it to the church the next morning!

Student reports from summer missions!

16 Jul
July 16, 2013

I love it when students post their reflections on summer mission trips! If you want to hear the audio from the three mission trip reports, check out our podcast. Here are a few blog posts from a couple of the guys who were on the Nicaragua trip:

Mission Trip Summary: Nicaragua 2013, by Zach Hayes

Nicaragua 2013 Report, by Brady Friedkin

Nicaragua 2013 Reflections, by Brady Friedkin



Can faith prevent teen pregnancy?

05 Jul
July 5, 2013

I saw this article a while back and found it interesting. In general, teen pregnancy rates have really declined over the last couple decades, which is a good thing. What was fascinating to me was to see the Washington Post attributing some of that decline to faith – usually all the credit goes to better sex education and more accessibility to safe sex resources. Check out this snippet (you can read the full article here):

It may be even more surprising for adults to ponder the role that faith and individual morals and values have played. Among those teens who haven’t had sex, the primary reason they give for…well…not doing it is that having sex at this point in their lives is against their religion or morals, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Research makes clear that religion, faith, and a strong moral sense play vital roles in protecting teens from too-early sexual activity and teen pregnancy. In particular, being connected to a religious community has been linked with a decreased risk for teen pregnancy. Moreover, a survey we released this week suggests that the majority of Americans want more from religious groups rather than less. Some 52 percent of adults and 57 percent of teens think religious leaders and groups should be doing more to help prevent teen pregnancy.

All that to say, parents need to continue making regular involvement in church/faith communities a priority for their families, as well as ongoing conversations at home. At the same time, churches need to make talking about sex a priority – for all generations. Let’s face it, our congregations are being bombarded with messages about sex everywhere else; there needs to be some conversation feeding into that from the Guy that invented it.

First graders blessing the high school

31 May
May 31, 2013

first grade

Last Sunday was a special morning in our student ministry hour; the first graders came to visit! As part of their lessons they have been studying missions and as a class raised enough money to donate towards the Nicaragua team to cover the costs of four Nicaraguan children coming to the camp we’ll be leading and to pay for the end of the camp party pinata! What a great, tangible learning tool for the first graders … and a great way to bless the older students who are normally the ones helping them! When they came to present it to the group they were a little overwhelmed, but still managed to get in front of all the students, recite their memory verses and give us the above card with the money they raised! What a great group of kids – can’t wait to have them in youth group in five years!

Youth Ministry moment that made my day

23 May
May 23, 2013


My wife, Heather, told me I needed to get on Facebook the other day and see what one the students from our church had posted. I have to confess, I tensed up, logged on … and it absolutely made my day! I love being part of a team of amazing leaders that impact kids in this way and make church a place they love to be – even to the point of blasting it out on their social media for all to see!