The GCYM Podcast, Episode 17: Listener Questions

HAPPY NEW YEAR FRIENDS! Sorry for the long delay. The offices of GCYM were invaded by armies of mutant sloths. They were fierce but we have prevailed in battle and we bring you the next installment of the critically acclaimed GCYM podcast!

In this episode, we answer some fantastic listener questions and find out that we’ve officially gone international!

You can subscribe to GCYM Audio on iTunes, where we’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. And as always, you can send any questions you want us to answer on the podcast to godcenteredyouthministry (at) gmail (dot) com.


GCYM episode 17

Gift Ideas for Pastors: 8 great biographies

Book_giftChristmas is coming!

  • End of the semester for undergrads and grad school.
  • Ministry slows down for youth ministry
  • Traveling to visit family.

This season can bring margin. What will you do with that space?

A while back Kyle wrote a great article about reading Christian Biographies. It’s clear that reading biographies can be engaging and life giving. Take a look at this list and consider putting one of these bios in the mix of holiday meals, call of duty and sleeping in.

Youth Leader looking for a free gift?

Share this link on your Facebook or Twitter. ( Chances are you have great people in your life that would love some help in getting you something awesome.

Looking for a gift for a Youth Leader?

Choose a book to help your friend/family rechargeDon’t ask for a book report, just know you’ve resourced this person that is important to you!

Preach Thoughtfully: The Danger of Right-Answer Theology

As youth pastors, we often spend too much time telling students what to do, and not enough time explaining why they should do it. The difference between what and why may seem subtle, but has a drastic affect on the faith of a high schooler. Understanding what God asks disciples to believe and do is imperative, so we can’t neglect that task. However, we must not only teach students what God asks of them, but also teach them why we ought to obey, and how Christians can grow in love and obedience.

Here are some of the thoughts that run through your students heads while you preach:

  • “Ok, so we are justified by faith. But why should I believe that simply because you said it, and how exactly does Jesus’ death 2000 years ago save us today.”
  • “So God is a Trinity? Well, why do we believe that if the word “trinity” isn’t in the Bible, and how exactly can God be three persons and one being? What does that even mean?”
  • “So your telling me I’m supposed to share my faith? But why does it really matter if I tell my friends about Jesus or not, and how could I learn to do that when I feel so scared?”

In light of these sorts of thoughts, we must teach “the why” and “the how” that lie beneath “the what”. Students do not merely need right answers, they need the rationale behind the right answers.

old-books-1This is the danger of teaching “Right-Answer Theology” (as one of my professors calls it) Teaching Right-Answer Theology means telling students what they ought to believe without helping them understand why they ought to believe it. We tell them all the right answers: God is Triune, we are saved by faith, and we are called to be disciple-makers. And then we expect them to be good to go. But there is a huge issue with this. While all of those doctrines are true and important, if you simply tell your students that they should believe in those doctrines, but neglect to explain why it is reasonable and right to believe in those doctrines, students will grow frustrated as faith seems illogical, shallow and arbitrary.

It is important that our students affirm true doctrine, but there must be thoughtfulness undergirding that belief to sustain and transform the life of a student. Right theology will save our students, but only thoughtful theology will stir deep devotion and ongoing faithfulness. So please, do not simply tell your students what they need to believe and do. Press on to teach “the why” and “the how”. When you preach about the Trinity, do not merely tell them that God is triune; instead, patiently explain why and how the church has come to affirm that doctrine. When you teach them that Christians are justified by faith, do not stop there; instead, labor to articulate the substitutionary nature of the atonement so that your students may understand why and how Christ’s sacrifice saves us. When you call them to make disciples, spend adequate time pastorally teaching them why it is important to live as a witness, and how they could grow increasingly faithful by cultivating love for God.

Failing to preach a thoughtful Christian faith will hurt our students in a number of ways. Some will abandon the pursuit of God because the Christian faith feels like an arbitrary list of rules. Others will become overwhelmingly frustrated, growing weary of a faith that seems shallow. Still others will become moralists; students who see “being good” as the ultimate end of life because obedience was never connected to worship.

As youth pastors, it is our call to disciple students into full-fledged followers of Jesus, who know God deeply, love Him earnestly, and serve Him faithfully. Thus, we must not teach Right-Answer Theology because it stops short of faithfully equipping students. You must certainly preach right doctrine, but preach it in such a way that students can understand why they believe what they believe. Thoughtful faith serves as fertile soil which can cultivate deep love for God and ultimately bear good fruit for His kingdom.

We must preach thoughtfully. Preaching a holistic Christian faith that explores all facets and angles of doctrine. Creating a safe space for students to ask questions. Do not merely articulate what is true, but press on to help your students understand why Christian truth is true, and how this truth can shape their lives. Above all, let your thoughtful preaching be backed up by thoughtful living, so that your students may imitate a life of faith that is rooted in relational love for God.

Our students cannot love who they do not know – so help them know God deeply and truly.

7 practical ways to be productive in your church office

Is this your strategy for church office hours?

Is this your strategy for church office hours?

I got an email from a buddy who just got a new youth pastor job. He asked a simple question. “I’m wondering if you have any nuggets of wisdom with how to be productive in a church office environment?” I sat down and rattled off a bunch of things that I do. Then I got to thinking, “Hey, I’m a blogger.” So I made a list and turned it into a blog post. As I made the list, I got to thinking… is this really GCYM stuff? This is not a post dripping in theology. I’d say it’s low on the “Book of Romans” scale but high on the “The Book of Proverbs” scale.

This kind of post can also feed some of our addictions to Strategizing and Success. With that said, there are a lot of us who are theologically grounded, our hearts are in the right spot, but our office hours are a hot mess. Maybe it’s an issue of our supervisors being hands off. (I think most of us have supervisors that trust us or are so overwhelmed with our own stuff that they are forced to trust us.) Perhaps it’s because we work with youth and have Xboxes in our offices.

If we think intentionally about our office hours, I believe we will be freed up do to the stuff that really fires us up. Hopefully these are 7 practical things we can do to be good stewards of time in a church office.

  1. Set up your Schedule:

I’m a big systems guy. Systems help me do the things that don’t come naturally to me. I am also a very relational guy, so sometimes my schedule suffers. What I’ve learned is that a system for my schedule is the key. I schedule what is important. There’s this strange pressure to just naturally think of things, but in all honesty I can easily forget. Prayer, time with people who are important to me, time to dream about what our ministry could look like; those things are IMPORTANT to me. Because they’re important habits, they’re on a habit calendar. I think about things in blocks of time. It’s important to get big picture and not become a slave to a system (McDonald has a great book called Ordering Your Private World that helps with big picture.) I don’t set appointments between 8am – 10am so that my morning is spent answering emails, and I’m available for someone on my team that needs to knock on my door. This is a new development for me, but I think it will build credibility with people in my office (especially people in an older generation). Ministry is highly relational and has a lot of freedom in most contexts. With the nature of my personality and with ministry schedules being vague I need to set up structure within unstructured ministry, or I will work myself into burnout.

  1. Develop Camaraderie:

At a new job it’s easy to isolate yourself. Wait, it’s actually always easy to isolate yourself. When I am highly relational with students and leaders but barely talk with other pastors or the church receptionist, I look like a jerk. Having an open door is good. Not just an open door policy but an actual open door. Play your music lower or buy headphones and face the door. For me, when I am on campus I’m there to be interrupted. If I’m in my office and the door is closed, people see the closed door and know to come back to me. Otherwise, the open door communicates that I’m accessible. I know this feels counterproductive, but THIS IS CRUCIAL! Be a team builder. Now, you can go too far and become a burden. Find a time to sense when people are hanging out for a bit and participate. Walk your hallways every few hours, even if you’ll only see admins. At the same time, if you find that you’ve been in someone’s office for 30 minutes and they’re avoiding eye contact and looking at their computer screen while you keep talking about sports/movie/facebook… you’ve gone too far. I think this will help us value other members of our church body and communicate value to people you already appreciate. This helps a church avoid being split up into factions. This can break down barriers that exist in our congregations. If we want intergenerational connections in our churches, we should start in our church offices.

  1. Carve Out Effective Study Time:

Here’s something that I’ve learned that ties in with having an open office. If I need to study, I go off campus. This enables me to be totally interruptible while I’m on campus; If I’m here then I am available. Off campus studying is great. I scan and make PDF’s of the sections in my commentaries that I am studying (and use Logos). Now, I get to create this culture at 1BL.  However, you’re not at 1BL, so see what your supervisor does and try his style. I read recently that Spurgeon would study in bed until 11am… so maybe suggest that model to your boss. (I am kidding, don’t do that. You need this job.) Jokes aside, I made mistakes at my last church thinking that I didn’t need to bother my boss with these details and assumed we were on the same page. That approach lead to frustration and confusion that I could have easily avoided. Set up the big picture with your boss (“I’m thinking I’ll peel off campus during these times for message prep every week”). Day to day, always communicate where you are during office hours to your office gatekeeper (i.e. receptionist, youth admin). My study prep time is always at the time of day when I am feeling my sharpest. Sermon prep will disappear, so carve out good study time. At the same time don’t over study because you want to avoid people. Find your best study time and place, plan a weekly time and then protect that time.

  1. Meetings have an End Time:

When I start a coffee meeting, I sit down and immediately set an alarm. I say “I’ve got to roll at “x” time and set the alarm right then and there. Then I fully focus on this individual, and when the alarm goes off it’s the alarm’s fault. I don’t spend the whole meeting trying to sneak a peek at my watch. I don’t out of nowhere say, “I must leave now”. I let the alarm communicate the boundary that I set up at the start.

  1. Find Rest:

Make rest a daily thing. I try and have something in the middle of each day that’s just fun and a bit of rest. Sometimes that’s reading the websites I like, or having some extrovert time (a good conversation not related to ministry). My wife is an introvert, so for her it’s walking at the park alone. Peel off to get coffee, power nap, update your fantasy baseball team, whatever. 10 minutes is all it takes, but a good pit stop makes me more effective.

  1. Get Stuff Done every day:

I know that sounds silly, but ministry is not the kind of job that ends; it’s ongoing. I use lists. I make a list for the day and just knock stuff off that list. Mondays in my context have a lot of meetings, (basically 10am – 5pm) so my list is very short on those days. The things on my list aren’t weekly tasks but things that I know I need to get done that day. I like to use iCloud Reminders. (I’m an iPhone guy so being able to use this app that has location features is PERFECT, but there are other great apps out there.) I am trying to move away from using my inbox as my “List” because that thing is never empty. If I want to do it, I put it on a list.

  1. Use apps and make a system to avoid forgetting:

If you’re like me, I am very forgetful. I need something to remind me of the important things. Here’s what I use, but you may find other apps or solutions that work better. The key is to find something you like and make it your thing.

  • Notes: I’ll take notes during a meeting and send myself an email. Then at the end of the day, I cut and paste that content into the right Google Doc for meeting notes.
  • Reminders: I take my notes and plug action points into one of my many iCloud Reminder lists.
  • Diary: I know it sounds lame, but I have a ministry diary. This isn’t a bedazzled book that is under my pillow with Ryan Gosling on the cover. This is a Google Doc that helps me track what I oversee. As a Middle School pastor that was “Program, Volunteers, Student Leaders, Teaching, Ideas, Prayer.” It let me evaluate and dream in a single document.
  • Calendar: The truth is If something isn’t on my calendar it doesn’t get done. Google Calendar is the brains, but iCal on my iPhone pulls from there. I’ve made different calendars on google calendar for family appointments, church appointments, personal appointments, personal habits, church habits, etc. This enables me to think of my time in blocks, which is helpful for me. After an impromptu meeting, I will take a second and enter it into my calendar and put POP as the first word, so I can look back and see if maybe I need to carve out some more regular time with someone.

Overall on this one, my point is to find some tools to help you remember all the important things that come with ministry. Be disciplined with this and you won’t be consistently apologizing for forgetting.


All this to say… I’m excited for you in this new gig. Being new provides a great time to consider priorities and let those define your time. Try stuff. Maybe journal a bit on it for the fall to see how productivity goes. Also, remember the first 3 months have a lot of things that pull for your time.  Once you’re in a rhythm those things won’t be as time intensive.

Since you’re in a new gig I’d read (or re-read) Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields. It helps give the big picture. Bill Hybles just released a book called Simplify. He said “I am still learning that my schedule is far less about what I want to get done and far more about who I want to become.” That hit me between the eyes.

Hope some of this helps. Excited for you to pastor these students!


Let us know what you do in your office to be productive? Comment below.

Call Us… Maybe?


God Centered Phone Number 323-484-GCYM

We are almost a year into our GCYM adventure. During this second year, we are committing to connecting more with our listeners and readers. To that end, we now have a phone number; 323-484-GCYM. That’s 323-484-4296 which allows you to call or text questions any time, 24/7.

As we hear from you through this phone number and in any way really (email, Twitter and Facebook) we will incorporate your questions and comments into our content. We are hopeful that our articles, podcasts and other new things we’re developing will be helpful to you.


Send us a message for an upcoming podcast devoted to your questions. 


The Only Alternative to Good Theology Is Bad Theology

A few weeks back, we spent some time talking about the importance of teaching theology to high school students. We focused on this because we believe that the Spirit uses theological truth to transform lives, cultivate faith, and spur worship. Teaching students about the attributes of God or the doctrine of justification is not simply filling their heads with facts; it is enabling and equipping them to know God, to love God, and to worship God.

But here is one more reason to teach robust theology to high school students:

We must teach good theology because the only alternative is teaching bad theology.

If that sounds oversimplified, well, maybe that’s because it really is a simple truth. Either we are teaching our students sound biblical truth or we are not. And if we are not, we are hurting our students.

82724-050-DE6C50B8Here is C.S Lewis’s take on this subject from Mere Christianity:

“If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ideas–bad, muddled, out of date ideas. For a great many of the ideas about God that are trotted out as novelties today, are simply the ones which real theologians tried centuries ago and rejected–to believe in these popular ideas is retrogression–like believing the earth is flat.”

Believing the earth is flat is pretty dumb, and could potentially be personally detrimental (you know, like, if you were a pirate or something). But believing false things or half-truths about God is far more detrimental. False beliefs hinder our students from following Jesus.

Of course, nobody intentionally sets out to teach theology poorly. It happens when we are thoughtless. So below are a few bad theological approaches we may be teaching our students, coupled with the damaging doctrinal results those approaches will produce.

1) Bad Theology – A Doctrine of False Precepts
Teaching false doctrine, distorting the character of God, and withholding truths. This can occur unknowingly, simply because we are not spending proper time preparing or evaluating our sermons. The result is equivalent to sending our students out to sea on a boat with massive holes in it while simultaneously heading in the wrong direction. A false perception of God obstructs genuine faith and keeps students from following God.

2) Shallow theology – A Doctrine of Half-Truths
Teaching weak theology and half-truths about God. This is often rooted in thinking that our students cannot intellectually handle deep doctrine, so we water Scripture down to make it more palatable. We dance around tough subjects, or allow our opinions (rather than Scripture) to shape sermons. The result is equivalent to sending our students out to sea on a tiny raft: they may be heading in the right direction, but they have not been properly equipped to weather storms and endure in faith.

3) Moralism – A Doctrine of Weariness
Teaching our students to be good. This happens when we make “being good” an end in itself, rather than teaching that obedience is a means of worship. Rarely unveiling the holiness of God, or focusing on the character of God, or proclaiming the beauty of the gospel, our sermons communicate that obedience is about earning God’s favor rather than a worshipful response to the favor He’s graciously given us. This is like sending our students out to sea in a row-boat: they will believe that survival is possible, but only if they work hard enough to keep the boat afloat on their own.

4) Nothing A Doctrine of the World
Teaching nothing of substance. We talk, we tell good stories, and we make people laugh, but at the end of the day, we didn’t really say anything. We didn’t help them know God; we didn’t help them love Jesus, and we didn’t teach the Bible. This is equivalent to sending our students out to sea without any boat at all: unguided by Scripture and the Church, the world will shape their perceptions to their detriment.

If we want our students to not only survive, but to thrive, as disciples of Jesus, there is no alternative to teaching good theology. High school can be a difficult world to navigate. It is socially intense and often skeptical of faith. So we must prepare them to endure well. Good theology is a well-built, well-equipped, sturdy ship, fully prepared to weather storms. Let’s help our students build a ship like that.

The GCYM Podcast, Episode 16.5: Why Is Kyle Still Single?

Last weekend, three of us (Kyle, Lindquist, and Faris) were all at a wedding together, and the festivities got us thinking: why the heck is Kyle still single? Rather than being left to wonder about that on our own, we decided to pull out Lindquist’s phone, press record, and hypothesize for a few minutes. And no: he no longer has the beard he had in that picture, so we couldn’t just blame it on that anymore.

Hopefully you enjoy the result.

You can subscribe to GCYM Audio on iTunes, where we’d also love it if you’d rate and review us (seriously, check out our other episodes, and please, don’t let this be the one that you base your rating on).

Also, we’re prepping to record Episode 17 later this week, and we’d love to hear from you before we do. So email us your questions at godcenteredyouthministry (at) gmail (dot) com and let us take a crack at them on that next episode.

Download: Episode 16.5: Why Is Kyle Still Single?


Names in Nehemiah

I sat down on my couch to spend time in Scripture. I fired up my Bible app and I opened in a simple prayer, “Lord, would you teach me during this time?” I was hopeful as I started, but that changed pretty quickly once I got reading. You know the feeling when you open your Bible to start reading but find yourself disappointed?

I was reading Nehemiah 3, which is about people who built specific parts of a wall in Jerusalem. I’m not big on building walls, and I don’t know these people, so I flew through it. But then I found myself reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16. So I prayed and asked for clarity and reiterated my desire to be taught. I reread slowly. I sat quietly for a while.

And I still got nothing.

I wasn’t going to be discouraged; reading the Bible is about faithfulness. Maybe this was a time where I just  wouldn’t be shaped by a small section of God’s word. The next day as I went to read Nehemiah 4, I found my eyes wandering to the previous chapter. It got me thinking about how listing names and giving credit to individuals has become counterintuitive to me. For the last decade God has been challenging me to have Christ-centered humility. Listing names seems at odds with humility.

Maybe you’re like me and you hold high the virtue of anonymity. The idea that “He must increase, but I must decrease” becomes a call for me to avoid any recognition. But this suddenly seemed incongruent with Nehemiah 3. While the passage at first seemed dry and irrelevant to me, by the next day I found myself looking at other “list of names” passages. David’s Mighty Men in 1 Chronicles. Paul’s lists of co-workers and friends. In each case, the text recognizes individuals for their faithfulness, and it does so by listing out their names.

The more I kept pulling back, the more I realized the Bible is filled with this stuff. For all its focus on his own glory, God’s redemptive story in Scripture constantly recognizes the faithfulness of individuals who play some part in that story. Some do so in huge, profound ways (e.g. by leading God’s people out of Israel or being brutally beaten while sharing the gospel throughout the Roman empire); others have seemingly simple contributions (e.g. names in a genealogy or in a list of people who built a wall). 

Let me pass along two things God taught me through a list of names of biblical construction workers:

1. We need to affirm individual ministry contributors, and we should probably do it publicly. I often fail to acknowledge the hard work of ministry volunteers. I have limited the opportunity to affirm others because of my own struggle with pride. This has caused me to miss out on a chance to commemorate great ministry that people are doing in my church. I don’t want to create a culture in my church where we’re all chasing personal recognition, but that doesn’t mean I can’t publicly say that I serve a great God alongside some passionate, talented and faithful people.

2. Give God time to teach you. God works on His timeline, not mine. If you’d told me these rather simple truths before my reading, I’d have said, “Oh yes, of course.” It took me getting in God’s Word, reading Nehemiah 3, and praying over it for two days before God did something with it. Be patient.

3. Give God time to teach your students, too. I’m sure you’ve had a student say something like, “I read the Bible like I know I’m supposed to, and I got nothing.” Sometimes our default response is to give them complex exegetical explanations. I’d suggest we consider pointing them to patience and faithfulness instead. Share with them a time when you experienced what I did. It may have a broader impact as opposed to that single nugget that you remember from your Bible classes. If we instill a value for patience in students, this will prepare them for years to come, when we will not be teaching weekly at our ministry meeting.

This whole thing started with me sitting on my couch and praying “Lord, would you teach me during this time?” Consider going and doing the same again today, and teach your students to do the same.

GCYM Conversations: Dr. Brent Bounds on Developmental Stages and Adolescent Spirituality

brentboundsDr. Brent Bounds is a clinical psychologist and the Director of Family Ministries and Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, serving alongside Tim Keller. Dr. Bounds is also two more things: (1) a workshop presenter at next month’s Rooted conference, and (2) our guest today on GCYM Conversations, in which he gives a snapshot/preview version of that very same workshop.

You can follow Dr. Bounds on twitter at @brentbounds, just as you can poke around his website for more info. Also, Dr. Bounds mentioned a 4 hour workshop he did on some of these same subjects, which you can get by going to this site.

This is the third podcast we’ve recorded in conjunction with the fine folks at Rooted to preview their conference, so if you missed our conversations with Cameron Cole (on the Rooted conference and the place of doctrine in youth ministry) or Mark Howard (on how to teach Revelation), go check those out. 

Don’t forget to send us your feedback at godcenteredyouthministry (at) gmail (dot) com or to subscribe to GCYM Audio on iTunes (where we’d also love it if you’d rate and review us).


Download: Dr. Brent Bounds on Developmental Stages and Adolescent Spirituality

The GCYM Podcast, Episode 16: Breaking the Addiction to Busyness

PhotoGrid_1411260680655Trent, Kyle, Lindquist, and Faris are back with Episode 16 of the GCYM Podcast! This is our third episode in our “Youth Ministry Addictions” series, this time on our addiction to busyness. If you missed the previous two, go check out our episodes on our addictions to strategizing and to success.

We mentioned two books this week that have helped us with issues related rest and discipline as pastors: Eugene Peterson’s The Contemplative Pastor and Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World. Go check those out, and also check out Lindquist’s recent sermon (which we also talked about) on the issue of rest.

You can subscribe to GCYM Audio on iTunes, where we’d also love it if you’d rate and review us. And as always, you can send any questions you want us to answer on the podcast to godcenteredyouthministry (at) gmail (dot) com.


Download: The GCYM Podcast, Episode 16: Breaking the Addiction to Busyness

If you like our bumper music, it’s called “Out of My Head” by the excellent Max and the Moon. Do yourself a favor and go listen to more of their music.