My Youth Work Survival Kit!

 Ever had to do a last minute session on the fly? Me too – and it can be a real knock to your youth work ego and savvy when you’re fumbling around trying to make a point from a can of tinned carrots and run a game using your own rolled up sock!

Therefore I keep in my car at all times a ‘youth work survival kit.’ This includes a few Bibles (obvs!) but a few other things as well:

– Deck of cards
– A set of story cubes
– Gaffer tape
– Pens & Paper
– A ball of string
– Pegs
– Post It Notes
– Mini frisbee
– A copy of ‘name your top three’
– An inflatable beach ball / ice-breaker ball
– Blu Tac
– A power extension lead
– A bluetooth speaker
– A ping pong ball
– A packet of straws
– A couple of tealights & matches

This all fits in a shoe box under my driver seat – right next to my first aid kit! – and it has saved my youthy bacon on several occasions!

I’d love to know what you keep in yours, so post a comment and let me know!

Responding to tricky characters in your youth group (Small Group Dynamics part 2)

Responding to those tricky characters in your youth cell group.

Part 2 of a 3 part podcast on ‘Small Group Dynamics.’


You can find part 1 here:

& Part 3 here:

You can find a transcript and sources on my blog here:

Youth Bible Study Techniques

There are Bible studies and there are ‘Bible studies’, the former are awesome – and the latter, perhaps not so much.

It looks to me pursuing the shelves of my local Christian bookstores, that the vast majority of youth Bible study resources on the market today are the prefabricated and pre-answered formulaic type. You don’t necessarily study any Bible! Instead you study somebody else’s thoughts on studying the Bible. Does anyone else feel cheated and cheesed by this? If we don’t it’s possible that we too were reared on these ‘prefab Bible studies.’

Tell me, does this excerpt look familiar?

Title: David, Giant Slayer!
Aim: To show that even the smallest person can knock down their giants with a little faith.
Read: 1 Samuel 17:31-50
Ask: Do you think David was afraid to face goliath? Why not?
Say: David had faith that God would fight for him!
Ask: A giant doesn’t have to be a real giant. A giant could be a school test or a bully. What giants do you face at home and at school?
Ask: How do you think having faith like David’s would help you face those giants?


There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this short excerpt, but it’s not really a Bible study is it? It’s a thematic, application-driven chat bouncing around a couple of verses in a passage without cracking them open and getting to the goo-of-awesomeness inside.

How about approaching a question set like this instead:

Read: 1 Samuel 17:48 (in context of vv.31-50)

– What did you notice in the verse – Anything at all?

– If you we’re leading, what questions would you ask from this verse?

– Who was ‘The Philistine’ and how did he compare with David?
– What is ‘the Battle line’ and why were only two of them on it?
– How did both of them approach each other?
– Why do you think Goliath first arose, then came, and then drew near? Why three stages?
– Why do you think David ‘ran quickly’?

– What or who was running with David? (Look back at v.47)

– What do you think this verse teaches us about God? (Don’t be satisfied with one answer).
– How does it teach us about people who follow God and people who hate God?
– What does it teach us about size?

– How about fear?

– When you face obstacles, how do you approach them?
– What things in your world mock God like Goliath did – how do you think David would respond to them?
– What ‘David qualities’ from this verse would you like to add to your identity?

– What Goliath qualities could you do without?

There’s some key differences in this approach:

First, the verse itself is dictating what questions should be asked.

Most people you work with are not going to be Bible scholars. Every other word is going to create complications and confusion. So why not let that be the way into reading the passage?

Second, the questions begin observationally, move onto interpretation and end with the application and reflection.
The train is led by what you see, how you read the passage then follows, which informs how you act on the passage. This is often the exact opposite to the approach demonstrated earlier.
Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 14.20.08
Third, this is question-driven not formula-driven.

Question-driven relies off who, what, when, where, why and how – whereas formula-driven relies on seeking exact answers to set up the teaching point that you (or your handy resource book!) need to make. Prefabricated studies are like knock knock jokes; the person hearing the joke needs to understand the joke formula or the punchline will fail!

Forth, the application flows directly from the passage it doesn’t have to be shoehorned in.

You might end up in a similar place application wise, but the grounding for it is much more secure.

Fifth, this teaches a method of reading the Bible that doesn’t rely on you – it relies on the text.

You and me – we’re fallible; shock, horror. The Bible? Not so much! Young people will be able to use this Bible reading technique on their own, carry it with them to university and help them spot Bible loving churches throughout their life.

Sixth, the Holy Spirit has more room.

The Holy Spirit is never divorced from the Bible itself, so you are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak more clearly because you are allowing the Word to speak more clearly. You also trusting conversation and discussion to the Holy Spirit for guidance and quality.

Seventh, the young people are directing the discussion.

Particularly in the early and late questions. This allows you to know much more about the young people that you’re working with, it helps them feel like they’re being heard and it develops you as a family, a team and a community.

 Youth Bible Study Techniques

11 of the Most Common Small Groups Personalities

11 of the Most Common Small Groups Personalities

Part 1 of a 3 part podcast on ‘Small Group Dynamics.’

11 negative traits of personalities that you are likely to meet in your youth work’s small group.


find Part 2 on responding to these tricky characters here:

& Part 3 here:


You can find a transcript and sources on my blog here:

(sorry about the peaking microphone – I will get that fixed!!)


A Youth Work Sabbatical on the Blog

11285432175_6e540a3ddd_oSome of you have noticed that I disappeared for a while. I haven’t had a terrible accident, I’m not training to be a ninja and I’ve not discovered the joys of being a hermit.

I have been taking a blogging sabbatical.

This might just be a clever sounding way of saying ‘I’ve not been online for a wee bit,’ but it has been a healthy, albeit spontaneous online choice.



I’ve been blogging for about 10 years in various forms, but it was only in the last two that it started to make any traction. I was getting hits, subscribers and discussions going on social media, as well as having posts feature on bigger blogs around the world.

With all that extra attention came an unease with the shape and direction of my heart.

Time off from this allowed me to take perspective on who’s glory, who’s wisdom and who’s heart needs to be most clearly seen online.

Jesus tells Peter in Matthew 16:18 that HE will build His church. He would use Peter and even build on Peter, but Jesus is the master builder – not Peter.

I needed to make sure that my vision for the blog was to build his kingdom and not my empire.

I believe that coming back into my blog now – with the time behind me to take on that inventory – will allow Him to send me the readers that He wants whoever and how many that might be.

What Did I Do While ‘AFK’?


I didn’t really do anything different to what I normally would do. I carried on in my youth work job, developing my charity, training the team, ministering to and disciplining young people and seeking God generally.

I spent time with my wife, I ate good food, I went to events, spoke a at a few and I moved house. I also had three months of counseling – but that’s for another post!

What I didn’t do however was contribute to online discussion on matters of theology or youth ministry. I stayed off my blog. I occasionally came on to clear the spam and respond to messages, but that’s it.

How Did It Feel?


There were times when I was freaked out. The lack of spam filter meant that I became a coat rack for every single knock off Oakley’s glasses, Ugg boots and Justin Bieber supported product.

There were times reading other blogs and wanting to comment, wanting to add my own thoughts to the discussion. There were big things happening in the Christian world and the UK election but I was gagging to share on.

However generally it was an absolute head reboot. My thinking cleared, my time grew, and my space became a little bit more compartmentalised in the right ways. I was able to bring myself before God and take stock on who my identity is and how that matches up with my online identity.

That has been priceless.

So what now?


Well I’m back! I’m going to blog and write articles and continue where I left off. I might not publish three-five times a week (which was my pattern), but I will shoot for at least two. I will pray over every post I write, and seek God’s Holy Spirit to speak though me and to me in my approach the online arena. A few ideologies I will try to develop are:

– Writing more theologically, which is where my background, training and experience lies.
– Creating more resources that free and downloadable.
– Seeking more guest bloggers to write and be interviewed to broaden the net of experience and keep the conversation going.
– Transcribing training seminars and events that I’ve given over the last ten years to be in post format.

– Seeking more topics that encourage inclusivity, unity and networking.

What I’d like from you


Please keep me accountable! I want my heart to be God’s heart and build his kingdom rather than my empire. Please comment on posts, send messages, suggest topics and ask to be a guest blogger. I’d love for this blog experience to become less about me more about people with a heart for young people.

Thanks for taking the ride with me!