Are you afraid of Middle School Students?

Help! My Volunteers are Afraid of Students

Doug Franklin’s blog speaks of a key factor for any Student Ministry, and it is something that I know works… RELATIIONSHIPS

Check out the post here

By Doug Franklin March 9, 2017

The key to speaking into students’ lives is to build relationships with them. I tell our staff all the time, “Be a leader worth following.” Leaders worth following build relationships based on one goal: seeing a student grow closer to the Lord. Relationships can start out fun and crazy, but they need to have a goal, a point when the youth worker asks the student to make changes in his or her life based on God’s word. The students will be willing to only if youth workers have taken the time to invest in them.

Relationship building comes easy for many youth workers—it’s why we got into the ministry. We have a passion for students. But your volunteers may not come by it as easily as you do. Training volunteers is tough. Many of them have a heart for service but are afraid of students. Here are some of the techniques I teach my own staff.

Make Time

Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts. Find out what they like to do and do it with them. It’s best if you can find an activity that you both enjoy. Sit where students sit. Be around them, hang out in their world, and they will want to know why you are there.

“Students have to get your time if you’re going to get their hearts.”

Discover a Student

Students are just waiting to be discovered. They want someone to unmask them and bring them out. When you discover them, they’ll give you their heart. At LeaderTreks our staff play a game called 100 questions. Whenever they spend time with students working, doing dishes, or just hanging out, they ask students questions designed to uncover who they are. The game is simple. You start by asking a question about the clothes they are wearing and continue to ask questions based on their answers. The idea is to catch them off guard. They are always willing to talk about clothes or school, but before they know it, they are answering questions about their parents and their relationship with Jesus Christ. The 100 questions game is not a flashy or new idea, but it will do the job of discovering a student.

Write Notes

Writing notes is the most powerful way of making a shallow relationship deeper. When I was a youth pastor, I would try to write six notes a day. Sounds like a lot, but I could do it in 15 minutes. I kept the body of the note the same and changed words to fit the student. Every letter started with “I was praying for you today.” Then I would tell the student what I prayed. If I had seen them in a game or a play, I would mention that. But each letter was short. The power of the note is in how it’s delivered. Many times I would put notes in their cars or on their windshields. If I could, I would find a way to get the notes in their lockers. The best way to deliver a letter is in a place where it is least expected. I have a youth pastor buddy who would take sick bags from planes and write notes on them and put them in the mail. He would often write, “I was sick about you missing youth group.” The postman would always deliver them!

Have a Purpose for the Relationship

Once you have developed a relationship with a student, never lose sight of the mission. Always use your conversations to challenge students to grow. Move the discussion to points of decisions. Ask students to make changes in their lives. Ask them if you can hold them accountable. Never lose your focus on growing the student.

The biggest mistake I see youth workers making is they think they know a student because they know the student’s other siblings or the student’s family. Don’t fall into this trap. Make sure you have spent the time to know each student with whom you have influence. You will demonstrate to them that the program is not about you but about them. Once you have their hearts you will be able to challenge them with whatever God puts in your heart.

Doug Franklin

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have a dog that thinks he is their only child. Diesel is a 70-pound Weimaraner  who never leaves their side. Doug grew […]

Why Did Jesus Wash Feet???

Exerpt from the Article – The Creator On His Knees (Maundy Thursday)

Article by

The Passage We Are Munching On this Week


Why Did Jesus Wash Feet???

We are asking that question due to the fact that Jesus literally washed feet.  If we are to literally follow in His footsteps, we might have the grand idea to start some sort of Mani-Pedi business for the Glory of God!  However, any educated person will soon realize that the act of washing the feet is an example. Jesus clearly wanted his Disciples within the account of John 13 and now the Disciples in our present time to take away more than just the act of washing stinky feet of those that didn’t really want to have their feet washed by the TEACHER.

AHHHHH, TEACHER!  Now, that sounds like a verbal cue that we can work with!  That is why we keep coming back to the Word of God and keep learning.  We know that Jesus is still teaching us today and had way deeper implications to his actions than the common, literal approach.

I really like what Tom Reinke’s Article says about the connection between Slaves and Foot Washing that ties in a deeper understanding that Jesus may have been teaching by His actions, leading to the Cross. (read Tom Reinke’s full article here)

Slaves and Foot Washing

For the sandal-wearing disciples, washing feet was a common cultural practice. It was proper hospitality to offer your guests a basin of water for their feet. But guests were usually expected to wash their own feet. Washing the dirt off someone else’s feet was a task reserved for only the lowest ranking Gentile servants, and Jewish slaves were often exempted from this duty. In a household without slaves, everyone washed his or her own feet.1

Yet Jesus willingly dropped to his knees in the position of this extra-lowly slave to wash the disciples’ feet in John 13:1–20. The disciples were immediately shocked, and it seems, embarrassed by this act of humility. But their surprise should be no surprise to us. “There is no instance in either Jewish or Greco-Roman sources of a superior washing the feet of an inferior.”2 And this was the Creator of the universe on his knees washing the dirt from the callused feet of his followers!

When Simon Peter refused to have his feet washed, Jesus said, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand” (John 13:7). Whatever the meaning of the foot washing, it was not immediately evident to the disciples. The washing provided an example of love towards one another (John 13:12–17), but it also forecasted something.

Hold that thought for one moment.

Slaves and Crucifixion

If foot washing was the task of the lowest slave, public crucifixion was a unique threat to the slave class. With few exceptions, Roman citizens and the upper classes were spared from crucifixion. Slaves were especially vulnerable.

Crucifixion was a public tool to discourage dishonesty, retaliation, and rebellion among the slave class.3 In 71 B.C., after a slave rebellion was suppressed in Spartacus, over 6,000 slaves were crucified together along the Via Appia between Capua and Rome.4 In other instances, if one slave was caught breaking the law, the entire slave community within a single household could be rounded up and crucified together, irrespective of individual guilt.5

So while the brutal punishment of crucifixion was used for dangerous criminals and for political insurrectionists (of which Jesus was accused), it was especially used to intimidate the slave class. Public crucifixions kept slaves in line. So much so that crucifixion eventually became known by a convenient circumlocution, “the slaves’ punishment.”

Slavery and crucifixion merged in the social consciousness, writes one author:

It is hardly an accident that crucifixion, the most dishonorable form of public humiliation that socially conscious Roman elites could employ in their efforts to punish and discourage rebellion among the lower classes, was so closely associated with slavery, the lowest class in the stratified social world of Roman antiquity. The juxtaposition of the two ideas — σταυρός [cross] and δούλος [slave] — served to compound the social stigma associated with both slavery and crucifixion in the ancient world and thereby to reinforce in the public arena the social hierarchy that served the interests of the dominant culture.6

Think Deeper and Look broader

Taking this view, we can look at what we are munching on and think with a broader view.

If Jesus, our Lord and Savior, has stepped down to the lowest place as that of a slave or servant, then we ought to step down to the lowest place as a slave or servant to Jesus Christ and serve others. 

This is is the challenge in our own lives.  As Jesus asked His Disciples to follow His example in John 13, He also calls us to do the same.  Why did Jesus wash feet?  To show us how to live a life that invites the Kingdom of God to come in our own lives and let the Father’s will be done in our present time.

IS the NextGen More Cautious online??? – 7 GenZ statistics Every Adult Should Know

Here is the first statistic…
1. Social Media Preferences
Statistic: “Generation Z prefers social networks like
Snapchat, Secret and Whisper, and a quarter of 13-
to 17-year-olds left Facebook in 2014”
Generation Z’s social media habits have shifted in the wake of a Millennial-infused culture. Whereas Millennials posted everything about their lives with little regard to the consequences, Genera-
tion Z is much more cautious. Generation Z is moving away quickly from social media platforms with “Timelines” like Facebook and Twitter, and headed toward platforms that are more associated with what’s happening now.
Platforms like Snapchat, Secret, and Whisper, allow them to share without being tracked, and tell their story—without worrying about being judged (or not hired) by anything other than their
most recent posts. The greatest irony is that the things young members of Generation Z post on these newer platforms have not evaporated. Everything on the internet still leaves a trail.
Question to Consider
  • How can you best use social media to connect with Generation Z?
  • What can this statistic tell you about what your Generation Z students value in an online experience?
“This Gen Z Infographic Can Help Marketers Get Wise to
the Future” by Adweek (

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Leading Teens

Five Questions to Ask Yourself About Leading Teens

This past month, I was encouraged and entertained by teenagers who symbolized two completely different perspectives on life. I thought you’d enjoy them too, and perhaps learn what they teach us about adolescents today. I offer these two case studies below. Fasten your seatbelt.

Case Study One: Can You Post a Better Photo?


photo credit: 16.01.09 :: Haaaaaaa via photopin (license)

An 18-year-old girl who had escaped from an Australian correctional center responded to police after her mug shot was posted on Facebook. Did she turn herself in? Did she confess to what she’d done? Was she ready to come clean?

Nope. She simply wanted them to use a better photo of her on-line.

Yep, she did. She asked them to please use a prettier picture of her and even provided one for them to use. When Amy Sharp had escaped from Surry Hills Corrective Services Cell Complex on August 19th, police immediately posted mug shots of her, so people in the community could be on the lookout for her. That’s when Amy saw the photos and felt she didn’t look good enough. It wasn’t the kind of representation she was hoping for. So . . . she sent them a better picture. Perhaps it was a selfie, who knows?

Amy Priorities?

Too often, Amy represents a population of teens who’ve bought into society’s values: style over substance. I’m sorry, Amy, but isn’t the mug shot the least of your worries? When did image become more important than integrity? Our culture unwittingly tells us: looking good is more important than doing good.

Case Study Two: Can We Have a Job?

Four young teens approached Zsa Zsa Heard, who works at the La Grange Housing Authority (in Georgia), and asked if she knew of any jobs they could do this summer. When Ms. Heard asked them why they wanted to work, she assumed they wanted to make a few extra bucks. They told her, however, that gang members were approaching them all the time, wanting them to join. They knew that would lead to trouble. So, they wanted to find work—to keep them out of trouble.

She hired all four of them on the spot.

The four teens, Dennis, Dylik, Jalen and Deion began working in construction, helping in the community garden, passing out mail and tending the chicken coup. And it’s paid off. Not only have they done what they’ve been asked to do, they’re now catching a vision for their future careers, after learning about construction and livestock.

The Young Men’s Priorities? 

They want to do something that matters. They need opportunities and guidance, but they actually want to serve our community. What they need are adults (like Ms. Heard) who immediately spot their craving for meaning and productivity and satisfy it. She didn’t “give them something for nothing,” but she offered an opportunity to earn money as they used their gifts, time and energy.

Where do they get these perspectives?

Our Report Card: Five Test Questions

Where do our young adults pick up their attitudes and paradigms? You already know, don’t you? It’s from the world around them. Amy Sharp was conditioned to be consumed with improving her social media presence, instead of correcting her behavior. Dennis, Dylik, Jalen and Deion somehow understood that gang membership is a dead end street, but job experience is a path that leads to a goal. At their fork in the road, they talked each other into stepping into the Housing Authority and seeking out jobs.

Let me suggest five questions we should ask ourselves as educators and parents:

After Observing Your Students:

  1. What societal message do you see they’ve bought into?
  1. What opportunities could satisfy their need for growth and maturity?
  1. What incentives can you offer them to help them move in a healthy direction?
  1. What direction and wisdom will you provide for them?
  1. What one small step could send them in the right trajectory?

I love the story of the vacationers who visited an old village in Austria years ago. Upon meeting a local, the guests asked if any famous people had been born there. The local resident smiled and replied, “Nope, only babies.”

He was right. Every kid begins as a clean slate. They are soft clay with which to be molded by artists. What they become has a lot to do with the perspective we have offered them growing up. Let’s get this right.

Click the here for more articles from Tim Elmore

Why We Can’t Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History

Why We Can’t Ignore the Lowest Birthrates in US History

Do you know the current birth rate in America today? The U.S. fertility rate fell to the lowest point since record keeping started more than a century ago, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s almost unbelievable.

In 1909, the government began keeping track of what’s called the fertility rate. The general fertility rate is the number of births out of 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44. The U.S. birth rate dipped in 2011 to the lowest ever recorded, led by a plunge in births to immigrant women since the onset of the Great Recession. According to CNN, the first three months of 2016 saw fertility rate in the U.S. fall to its lowest level; 59.8 births per 1,000 women.

While this trend is intriguing, I just read the latest statistic, which stopped me in my tracks.

As of last month, August 2016, America had the lowest birth rate of any point in recorded history. Lower than the Seniors, the Builder Generation, the Baby Boomers, Generation X or the Millennials. Women are choosing something other than raising children as a path to the life they want.

What Does This Mean?


There has been a real shift in our view of children and parenting over the last decade. The Millennial Generation is the largest generation in U.S. history, at 80 million strong. (They’re young adults today). Right in the middle of their generation, more children were born in America in 1991 than any other year in recorded history. Today, however, we’ve swung to our lowest fertility and birth rates—just as the largest generation in history steps into the typical age of parenting.

So, why are we not having kids?

1. Women are choosing careers over kids.

Millions of families now believe they cannot enjoy the standard of living they want without two incomes in the home. Additionally, many women would say they enjoy a career more than they’d enjoy raising a child—and it’s tough to do both.

2. The economy often restricts couples from having children.

Sometimes the choice not to have children (or to have less children) is not just about the desire for an affluent standard of living. Some couples would say they simply cannot afford to bring another person into their family and provide for them.

3. Many are choosing a single life, instead of a family.

I’ve written before on the growing number of people living and dining alone. While this may lead to lots of new realities, one certain reality is the difficulty of having a child in the home with no caring adult to raise it. Hence, fewer kids.

4. Parenting children is, perhaps, the most taxing task an adult can do.

Parenting is not for the faint of heart. It requires patience and resilience, strength and emotional intelligence—at least if you want to do it well. In today’s world, that’s a trade off many don’t want to make. It’s just hard work.

Can we ponder the various outcomes of this reality?

What This Means to Us . . .

Study the nations around the world that are not replacing the adult population, and you can see trouble ahead. For years, many of us have watched Japan’s birth rate drop—and lead to fears over whether they’ll be enough young people to fund the millions who are retiring, much less the economy’s need to produce. Japan sells more adult diapers than baby diapers. Last year, Germany passed up Japan as the nation with the lowest birth rate. A study, reported by the BBC, says Germany’s birth rate has slumped to the lowest in the world, prompting fears that labor market shortages will damage the economy. Not far behind are Portugal and Italy.

Is America heading in this direction, with a sagging economy already?

In our nation, we are experiencing “two hills and two valleys.” In other words, two generations are very large, while two generations are much smaller. The retiring generation (Boomers) are 76 million strong. They are retiring at a rate of 10,000 a day. Generation X is smaller in size. (This generation started with the birth control pill). Next, the Millennials number 80 million in size, currently the largest generation in American history. But today, Generation Z is much smaller again, numbering about 59 million, depending on what year you believe their generation began.

Globally, the nations that have the highest birth rates are developing nations. Most of them can be found in Africa, with Niger at the top of the list. So, countries that are economically developed are not having as many babies. But the poorest seem to be having the most babies—89.7% of people under 30 live in developing economies, particularly in the Middle East and Africa. This could be trouble for our world economy as well as our ability to educate and prepare them to compete in the marketplace.

Our “To Do” List

  1. Let’s be intentional about parenting and educating the children we currently have.
  1. Let’s find ways to help educate and mentor children and families in poor nations.
  1. Let’s find ways (if possible) to live on less and raise larger families very well.
  1. Let’s explore adopting children who need good homes and families.
  1. Let’s see the big picture and make the most of every young person around us.

To be clear, just because the fertility rate is decreasing, it doesn’t necessarily mean the US population is going to shrink. The rate of growth may be slower, but the population is still expected to increase, according to CNN. I am certain, however, that our future depends on how well we parent and educate our children today.


Youth Ministry 101 Middle School Leader Training


Looking forward to seeing you Saturday, Setpember 10!

Hey Middle School Leaders!  We are flying in Dan Colwin from Leader Treks to speak into our lives Saturday, September 10.  Please make an effort to be a part of this interactive leader training.

Four Sessions 9am to 3pm, including Lunch:

9am Navigating the Minefield: Youth ministry can sometimes feel like a minefield; everywhere students turn, another danger lies in front of them waiting to cause great damage. It’s our job to help them navigate the minefield. But do we go about it effectively. Through an interactive experience, we’ll help your staff realize the value they have in students’ lives.

10:30am Transactional vs Transformational Youth Ministry: Youth ministry is more than just fun and games. Youth ministries need a clear structure and programs, but real transformation goes beyond programming. Through interactive assessments, adult staff will understand their sweet spot in ministry and how being transformational starts with understanding how they are wired.

12:00 How to Have Lunch with Middle School Leaders

1:00pm Building a Transformational Youth Ministry: Relationships are the key to transformation. This session will focus on key skills and practices that can help adults build transformational relationships with students.

2:30pm Developing Students: Students have amazing potential and as youth workers, we have the ability to help them realize their potential. In this final session we’ll examine how recognizing and using key teachable moments can be key in developing students.

Why Fun Environments Matter for a Middle Schooler’s Faith | Uthmin

Why Fun Environments Matter for a Middle Schooler’s Faith | Uthmin.


If you know anything about me or Kenny, you probably already know that we are big fans of having tons of fun. From the time our middle schoolers walk through the doors of our church, to the time they leave, we really want them to enjoy being there.

For our ministry, having fun isn’t just an afterthought. It’s a priority and a strategy.

But you know what? Sometimes I come across people who really don’t like this idea. As Reggie Joiner said recently, “I am shocked at how many people are bothered by children and student ministries having fun.”

I’m shocked too. And I’m also a little sad. Because when we fail to prioritize having fun at churchI’m convinced we miss out on something vital to the development of a middle schooler’s faith. 

Yeah, it’s that serious.

Here’s why.


Having fun is a powerful expression and working-out of the joy and freedom and abundant life we find in Jesus. So having fun with our students isn’t trivial or irreverent or a waste of time. It’s sacred and holy and it makes Jesus smile. We’ve got to model this for our middle schoolers. As we create environments that are jam-packed with Jesus and amazing, hilarious, super fun memories… we’re teaching them that God is the God of whimsy and smiles and laughter and all things good, and that it’s a joy to follow Him. I don’t know about you, but I find that pretty compelling.


We all know how important it is for middle schoolers to feel they belong. If we want to help middle schoolers build a strong community with their peers and trusted adults, then laughing, playing, sharing jokes, and making memories together are vital. So when our middle schoolers are sticking their feet in Jell-O, launching giant Angry Birds from a volleyball net together, or helping their blindfolded friend guess what mystery ingredient we put in their bowl of cereal… well, in the words of J.K. Rowling, “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other.”


Middle school has to be the most awkward time in all of human existence. Our students are plagued by insecurities and the need to be liked and accepted. But is it possible to simultaneously be having an insane amount of fun and also feel awkward and self-conscious? No. No, it’s not. When we manage to coax middle schoolers into having fun, we’re also coaxing them into letting down their defenses and forgetting, even if it’s just for a moment, about their insecurities and fears. It’s good for their hearts.


Trying to create fun environments for middle schoolers can be an interesting social experiment. Our middle school friends are cute little bundles of insecurity and immaturity. And, because of that, sometimes our super fun plans go up in smoke and the awesome environments we’ve tried to create… well, implode. Someone gets an attitude. A guy gets too aggressive. A girl gets insecure. Someone gets teased. A joke goes too far. It happens. Conflict happens. But you know what? That’s ok. Because when things get messy, we get the opportunity to coach them through it. We shouldn’t run from creating fun environments because we fear the conflict that might happen as a result. Let’s run toward the messiness, embrace it, and then leverage those moments for discipleship.

What do you think? How have you seen fun environments make a difference in the life and faith of a middle schooler?

Elle Campbell

About Elle Campbell

Elle is doing Middle School Ministry at The Chapel at CrossPoint in Buffalo, New York, where she focuses mostly on creating great small group environments and leading volunteers. She blogs about youth ministry stuff at and creates and shares original youth ministry resources at She is married to Kenny and loves coffee and making things and reading as many books as possible. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.