Archives For Youth Ministry

Divided the Movie: a Youth Ministry Documentary Film

Kent Shaffer —  August 12, 2011

Is modern youth ministry contrary to scripture?

That is the core question of Divided the movie, an hour long youth ministry documentary film by Philip and Chris Leclerc. It is backed by The National Center for Family-Integrated Churches, so naturally the film is biased towards youth being integrated into a church service rather than in silos of age segregated classrooms.

Divided the movie leads with George Barna’s 2002 research that around two thirds of young people are going to leave the church.

We’re losing about 40% of them by the end of middle school and another 45% by the end of high school. In other words, we are losing them way before college.
- Ken Ham

For now, you can watch the free documentary online at If you are a pastor, youth minister, or children’s minister, I recommend watching it regardless of your theological stance or methodology. It presents some very good thoughts that run cross current against the mainstream Western church system of how to disciple youth.

With that said, Divided the movie has also received its fair share of controversy and criticism, specifically that it is too one-sided. So watch the documentary then balance it out with a few key thought leaders that have already weighed in on the discussion:

Mark Oestreicher // The Youth Cartel:

>> Let’s start with that straw man thing. If you’re not familiar with the phrase, the idea is that it’s easy to tear down an idea or set of ideas if you construct a fake version of the idea in the first place. That approach is employed throughout the film.

>> Throughout the entire film, the “experts” (who are all from an extremely right wing edge of the church; there’s not even a moderate interviewed) are there to offer soundbite, emotionally packed, fear-tinged, support of the film’s points.

>>  There was no genuine journalism. What there seems to have been is a well-funded donor with a pre-determined set of agenda items.

>> I want us all to talk about this stuff, because I think it’s massively important. I applaud the filmmakers for taking a risk.

Walt Mueller // Center for Parent/Youth Understanding

>> My feeling about the film after one initial viewing – that this is an extremely biased film that was not made as a result of Philip Leclerc’s stated desire to embark on a fact-finding journey, but rather that the film was conceived and made with a bias and agenda that existed long before the first clip was ever shot.

>> Divided is a not so much a documentary as it is a promotional piece for the National Center for Family Integrated Churches.

>> Divided is a film that asks some very good questions and addresses some issues in youth ministry and the church that must be addressed. There are things we need to repent of in youth ministry.

>> Viewers need to remember that what they are seeing and hearing in the film is mediated. Sadly, it’s mediated in an imbalanced manner.

>> I believe that the film asks good questions about age-segregation in worship. It just shouldn’t happen. I’ve been trumpeting that for years and so have many others in the youth ministry community. But again, there are times when we can separate from each other to be nurtured in age-appropriate ways.

Tim Challies

>> What Leclerc does is what so many documentarians do: he chooses his representatives very, very carefully. He chooses the intellectuals of the FIC to represent his view and chooses the young and foolish to represent the other side. It’s hardly subtle and not at all fair. He builds his case on a cliche.

>> I think we need to see it for what it is. This is a movie that heavily promotes a very obvious agenda. It does not take long for us to learn that Leclerc is a member of a Family Integrated Church and that he has been for many years. This then casts doubt on this journey he is taking. Is it a true journey to learn a better way to do church? Or were the questions answered long before the film shoot even began?

>> Perhaps my biggest disappointment with the film, then, is it lumps all non-integrated churches together.

>> It majors on the minors, making family integration the pivotal and central doctrine for the church. It identifies a genuine problem but attempts to solve it in a way that elevates methodology instead of the gospel message.

Personally, I think it is a great documentary because it covers unchartered ground. It challenges status quo thinking and gets viewers to ask questions.

Yes, it is very biased, but what documentary isn’t? (rhetorical sarcasm) I’d rather have the bias be blatant than a cleverly subtle approach that hoodwinks my worldview. I, too, wish it had a balanced panel of experts. But as with any documentary, it is the viewers’ responsibility to balance it out by researching other facts and perspectives.

What’s your opinion?

Twitter’s Popular Hashtags for Ministry and Churches

Kent Shaffer —  July 22, 2011

As Twitter has risen in popularity, so has its use among ministers to discuss ministry ideas, dogmas, and methodologies. Each ministry niche centers around a Twitter hashtag.

By definition, a hashtag is when the # symbol is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.

But before you can join in the discussion, you first need to figure out what are Twitter’s popular hashtags for ministry and churches. Here are some common ministry hashtags:

Children’s Ministry: #cmconnect // #kidmin

RT @jeffmcclung: Ministry doesn’t just happen in a office. It happens where people are. #kidmin #fammin #stumin #cmconnect

It all goes back to teaching the Word in a way that children can grasp & start being doers of the Word now. – @jimwideman #theClub #kidmin

Church: #church // #churches

Ministry Dream Team Attributes: Character (who we are), Knowledge (what we know), & Skills (what a person is able to do). #Church #Ministry

In the USA, there are approximately 400,000 #churches and 6,000 first-run theaters. Which do you think affects our #culture more?

College Ministry: #collegemin // #umin

#collegemin RT @chronicle Community college students who take online courses more likely to drop out new study finds

It’s earning season in the business world. What would your earnings look like in ministry? #thinkorange #stumin #umin

Creative Arts: #churchmedia // #crtvmin

FREE colorful background loops at #worshiploopwednesday #churchmedia

Don’t make announcements, tell stories. Very few respond to announcements but stories connect with everyone. #crtvmin

Family Ministry: #fammin

The more designer our lives, the more generic our kids seem to be!! #kidmin #stumin #fammin

Ministry: #ministry

“A life of prayer is the connective tissue between holy day proclamation and weekday discipleship.” – Eugene Peterson on #ministry #fb

Missions: #missions

Hands-on missions projects for children. Click link for a list of missionaries & their wish lists. #kidmin #missions

Pastoral: #pastor // #pastors

#PASTOR you spend so much time encouraging ur flock & destroy urself in the office thinking “how bad u did”… Get free of that devil!

Unless #God moves in my heart, He will never get the best of my time, talent, and wallet. And I’ll never get the best of Him. #Pastors

Special Needs Ministry: #spnmin

Celebrate when your church ministers to families affected by disability but don’t turn them into mascot stories #SpNMin #kidmin

Technology: #churchtech // #citrt

Government shutting down hundreds of data centers via @cnet #churchtech #citrt #digitaldisciples

Server rack temps much more even after rack relocation & we’ve added no cooling into the space #citrt

Worship: #worship // #sundaysetlist

Abba doesn’t care about sound systems, lighting, or instruments. He cares about your heart. #worship #fb

I get to lead tmrw. Lord reign in me, We are Saved (new), Lord I give u my heart, Joy will come #Sundaysetlist

Youth Ministry: #stumin // #uthmin // #youthmin // #youthministry

“Average” should never describe your ministry or what happens in it. #stumin #aylacog #ayla11

“Quick to listen. Slow to speak.” (James 1:19). How would this verse applied change #uthmin? Please wade in! #stumin #uthdoingmin

Parenting tip #46: Encourage compassion over competition, especially between siblings. #parenting #kidmin #youthmin #familymin

Realizing more and more how we model the kind of people our children and students will become #youthministry

What ministry hashtags do you use that aren’t mentioned?

How Youth Ministry Has Changed in 10 Years

Kent Shaffer —  December 29, 2010

Earlier this month, I met with my good friend Tim Schmoyer to catch up and discuss student ministry. Tim is a youth ministry blogger and the author of a new book, Life in Student Ministry. Tim asked my thoughts on how youth ministry has changed in 10 years and was kind enough to put together a quick video of my answer.

The quick version is I say the rate of cultural change is increasing and we need to understand the science behind what works.  In order to adapt to the changing culture, it is important that youth ministries are balanced with (1) relationships, (2) solid Scriptural teaching, (3) structure & discipline, and then (4) a creative WOW factor.

For Discussion:
- How do you think youth ministry has changed in 10 years?

Free Church Resources by Church on the Move

Kent Shaffer —  June 27, 2010

Like free church resources? Church on the Move (Tulsa, OK) is now offering free creative resources to download from their new site, Seeds.

The church resources include artwork, motion graphics, background music, promo videos, opener videos, mini-movies, drama scripts, slides, banners, worship guides, sermon series kits, and more. There’s something for kid’s ministry, student ministry, and plenty for regular worship services, too!

Best of all, the production quality is outstanding. Church on the Move has been winning ADDY Awards and producing mainstream quality content for years. Now you can have that same quality for free! Samples include:


Please Turn Off Your Phone – Slide

Free Church Resources

Communion Instructions – Slide

Free Church Resources

FREE VIDEOS (RSS readers must visit post to see videos)

Dad Life – Father’s Day Video

Why Worry – Drama Skit

Mommy Rhapsody – Mother’s Day Performance

FREE SERMON SERIES (RSS readers must visit post to see videos)

This or That – Student Ministries Sermon Series Artwork

Free Sermon Series

I Love My Bible – Kidmin Sermon Series Artwork

Free Sermon Series

To start downloading free church resources, visit

Related Reading:
Free Church Graphics and Resources Toolbox

Top 100 Kids’ Online Search Words for 2009

Kent Shaffer —  December 30, 2009

Earlier this month, Symantec published a list of the top 100 kids’ online search words for 2009 (ages 18 & under). The data comes from a free search monitoring service for parents called OnlineFamily.Norton.

As expected with a sample group including teenagers, some of the online search words are anything but innocent. However, what is shocking is that “porn” is the 4th most popular search word among kids ages 7 and younger.

Amusingly, “Norton Safety Minder” is the 46th most searched for phrase among kids 18 and under. Search results include instructions on how to temporarily disable OnlineFamily.Norton.

by boys and girls (ages 18 & under)

#4 – Sex (#4 for boys & #5 for girls)
#5 – Porn (#5 for boys & #24 for girls)
#32 – Boobs (#17 for boys)
#82 – Pussy

segmented by age groups

Top 25 Kids' Online Search Words for 2009

You can learn a lot about someone by what they search for online. These top search results paint a pretty clear psychographic picture of the priorities, preferences, and habits of online youth.

Kids and teens are obviously learning and experimenting with adult content much sooner than many parents, kids’ ministries, and youth ministries realize. As Time magazine reported early this month, 40% of adolescents have intercourse before ever talking to their parents about safe sex, birth control, or sexually transmitted diseases. Parents often dread giving their kids the sex talk(s), but studies show that kids want to learn from their parents. Instead, many kids learn about sex through friends, the Internet, and experimentation.

Parents sometimes say things more vaguely because they are uncomfortable and they think they’ve addressed something, but the kids don’t hear the topic at all.
- Dr. Karen Soren :: New York Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital

From a children’s ministry perspective, it is important to realize that statistically quite a few 7-year-olds in your class are searching for porn and exposing themselves to things much more serious than what traditional lessons cover. Obviously, children’s ministries cannot be straightforward about sex, but being too vague doesn’t work either.

Perhaps there are subtle ways to layer lessons with mature spiritual principles. Ideally, children’s ministry lessons should clearly yet subtly word things in a way that trains, helps, and ministers to the kids who are hurting and/or have picked up bad habits while simultaneously “going over the heads” and still teaching the kids who still have their innocence. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.

For Discussion:
- What do you think about these online trends?
- How can churches help?

(via Mashable & CNET)

The Social Contrasts of Teen Boys and Girls

Kent Shaffer —  July 21, 2009

Boys are different than girls. As previously discussed, boys prefer a dramatically different learning environment and style than how girls prefer to learn.

The social preferences of boys and girls are also sharply contrasted according to new brain scan research from the National Institute of Mental Health. TIME summarizes the research nicely. Essentially, girls want one-on-one close friendships, and boys prefer to interact in groups.

As girls progress from early puberty to late adolescence, certain regions of their brains become more active when they face a potential social interaction. Specifically, when an older girl anticipates meeting someone new — someone she believes will be interested in her — her nucleus accumbens (which is associated with reward and motivation), hypothalamus (associated with hormone secretion), hippocampus (associated with social learning) and insula (associated with subjective feelings) all become more active. By contrast, boys in the same situation show no such increase in activity in these areas. In fact, the activity in their insula actually declines.

This research combined with our knowledge of gender learning preferences, gives insight into how we can create youth ministries that maximize both a teen’s learning and social enjoyment.

For Boys:

So when teaching boys, keep the group large but controllable (i.e., 12-24 boys) and in even numbers for team competition. Stand and move around while speaking forcefully and realistically. Allow the boys to occasionally move and keep the room at 69 degrees Fahrenheit. Use cooler colors in your environment and teaching. Play sports and competitive games, so the boys can naturally bond via social competition.

For Girls:

So when teaching girls, keep the group very small and intimate and allow for one-on-one interaction or even mentoring. Sit in a circle with the girls and speak descriptively and in a nurturing tone. Keep the room at 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Use lots of colors, particularly warmer colors, and use visual and/or tactile textures. Create a secure yet stimulating environment where they can feel comfortable in taking risks that you encourage them to take.

For Discussion:
- If you teach kids and youth, what has your experience taught you about their preferences?

Sunday School Lessons are Failing

Kent Shaffer —  June 30, 2009

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis commissioned America’s Research Group to investigate why young people leave the church. The findings are published in Ken Ham’s new book Already Gone. Some insights include:

Among 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals

  • 95% attended church regularly during elementary school
  • 95% attended church regularly during middle school
    >> 40%
    first had doubts about the Bible in middle school
  • 55% attended church regularly during high school
    >> 43.7% first had doubts about the Bible in high school
  • 11% attended church regularly during college
    >> 10% first had doubts about the Bible in college

Oddly, the study discovered that those who attended Sunday school (61%) are actually more likely than non-attendees (39%):

  • to not believe that all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true
  • to doubt the Bible because it was written by men
  • to defend keeping abortion legal
  • to accept the legalization of gay marriage
  • to believe in evolution
  • to believe that good people don’t need to go to church

Clearly, most children’s ministries are failing at producing long-term disciples. So what will it take to change this?

On the one hand, I believe that every children’s ministry can absolutely improve what they do. There is always room for improvement, but I also think these failed children’s ministries are the byproduct of failed churches.

If you want to reach and disciple children, you must reach and disciple their parents. Church going kids spend only 1% of their time at church, 20% at school, 30% sleeping, and much of the rest watching TV and playing. Children’s ministers can determine the 1%, but it is the parents who have the power to decide what reaches their kids during the other 99%. If you disciple the parents, you disciple the kids.

For Discussion:
- How can children’s ministries better disciple kids in the Sunday school classroom?
- How can churches better train parents to disciple their kids during the rest of the week?


Environmental Design for Church (planes and tanks edition)

Kent Shaffer —  May 29, 2009

Environmental design for churches has changed drastically over the last two decades (at least on the fringes). It has become much more than church interior design. It has evolved into creating entire worlds and environments.

For example, when Cornerstone Harvest Church (Lima, OH) recently revamped their Heir Force youth ministry, they hired Little Mountain Productions to develop the environmental design. The result was a youth ministry design that featured a lifesize M-1 Abrams tank and 40 foot wing span plane coming out of the walls.

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

To complement these installations, Little Mountain Productions also added acoustic panel military graphics to the room.

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

In case you are wondering how they did it, here are some production shots.

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions

Environmental Design by Little Mountain Productions