Our Picks: 10 Must-Follow Twitter Accounts

Today we are starting a series that will show up periodically called: Our Picks. This series is designed to look at resources and tools to help youth workers succeed. Part of what we want to do here at Kalos is encourage and equip other youth workers by getting the best possible resources into your hands.

This post will look at my (Nick’s) must-follow Twitter accounts. These aren’t exhaustive, and trust me I may post more about this later because picking just ten is incredibly difficult! But I do believe these accounts will be advantageous to anyone who utilizes them, their resources, and the people who curate them.

1. @CPYU – CPYU stands for the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding and is run by Walt Mueller. Walt and his team have been investing in the lives of families for over 30 years, and they produce quality resources. Their mission is to work with churches, schools, and community organizations to build stronger relationships between young people and those charged with helping them grow into healthy adulthood.

One of the benefits of CPYU is that many of their resources are free and easily accessible. They deal with cultural trends, family dynamics, youth ministry resources, and difficult topics like self-harm, eating disorders, LGBTQ+, and many others. One of the best resources they have is their podcast, Youth Culture Matters, which I would highly recommend listening to; it is one of the best out there.

2. @HomeWordCenter – HomeWord is the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacifica University and is curated by Dr. Jim Burns (see below), Doug Fields, and Jim Liebelt. They put out quality resources and their mission is “Helping Families Succeed.” This website contains Dr. Burn’s blog which will deal with marriage, families, relationships, and much more; free resources on cultural trends, devotionals, help for leaders, and advice; and there is an online store to purchase additional materials.

3. @drjimburns – Jim Burns is one of the founders and creators of HomeWord and contributes to the HomeWord website and resources. He has been instrumental in helping parents, marriages, families, and children in understanding key developmental aspects in their relationships, and providing insight and knowledge into helping to shape and grow families.

4. @christopheryuan – Dr. Yuan is a professor, author, and speaker who specializes in helping people understand biblical sexuality and identity. His content is Biblically sound, theologically thought out, and easy to understand. He gives insight that church leaders can easily use in a variety of contexts and and is always willing to look to the heart and Gospel rather than just issue blanket statements. Dr. Yuan writes often on various topics and these can be found on his website.

5. @JackieHillPerry – Jackie Hill Perry is an author, speaker, spoken word artist, and very active on her social media accounts. Jackie wrote a book called “Gay Girl, Good God” which looks at her life as a gay woman and how the Gospel radically changed her life. Jackie is very honest, real, and thoughtful in her approach to homosexuality and any topic she discusses. Be prepared to laugh, be challenged, and think through a variety of topics should you follow her.

6. @DianeLangberg – Diane Langberg, PhD, is a noted psychologist for trauma survivors and clergy, an international speaker, author, and consultant. Diane has her own podcast, resources, and articles where she helps survivors process through what happened, talks through ways to move through pain and grief, examines the church’s role in counseling, and equips ministers of the Gospel to helps others.

7. @PrestonSprinkle – Preston Sprinkle, PhD, is an author, speaker, professor, and avid blogger. Preston speaks on a variety of topics that churches have often shied away from. He approaches topics like sexuality, identity, hell, violence, and much more. Sprinkle always looks to make you think, to challenge the status quo, and to help you process through a thoughtful and Biblical response to how we engage with culture. His website has his blog, resources, his podcast, and much more.

8. @timothyeldred – Tim is an author, speaker, pastor, and a great friend. Tim has a heart for students and you see this often in the content he puts out. He is also the author of “Alone Sucks;” the founder of YouEquip, which helps to set youth workers in the proper role while moving them toward greater success; and the founder of WAVES, which is a worldwide program designed to help young people grow, recognize their potential, put their faith into action, and change the world.

9. @stuffyoucanuse – Stuff You Can Use is a great resource for any youth worker or for a pastor who oversees a youth worker or youth ministry. They put out great resources (many of which are free), develop and offer curriculum, host online forums and Facebook groups, and are actively engaged in helping and coaching youth workers. This is a community resource and a place to be grown, challenged, resourced, and equipped.

10. @fullerFYI – Fuller Youth Institute is a great resource that looks at handling everything student- and family-oriented and is a must-follow. They are constantly researching, posting new content, offering resources, and hosting interviews and podcasts. This is an invaluable resource for anyone in any ministry position as it will offer you great insight and understanding in how to minister to the families in your church.

I hope you give all of these resources a follow and that they benefit your ministry and you as you serve. I would love to hear of some of your favorite Twitter accounts and can’t wait to check them out as well!

5 Thoughts for New Ministry Leaders

I have been in ministry for over a decade and since then I have learned a lot about stepping into new roles and what to do and not do. If I were being completely honest, I failed in more ways than I care to admit when it came to stepping into a new role. I was often rash, too direct, quick to assert my ideas over another person’s, and way too aggressive.

Looking back I could make the argument that all of those characteristics were done with good intentions, but how I went about sharing ideas, vision, and implementation could have been handled in much better ways. What I want to share with you in this post are 5 key tips to remember as you step into a new ministry. These are not exhaustive, but I think if we remember them they will help anyone stepping into a new ministry position or role within a church.

1. Take change slowly. I remember my first paid ministry gig. I was a 24 year old senior pastor where the median age at the church was 55+. I was hired in to fill the pulpit, but very quickly asserted myself and began to take over other ministry roles held by leaders in the church because I saw how to “do it better.” My intention wasn’t to alienate anyone or to push people aside. In fact, in my heart I truly was doing it all for the kingdom of heaven, but in running so hard after the success and mission, I missed the people.

So many people had gone before me. They had put blood, sweat, and many tears into the ministry. They had great ideas. But when I started I thought I knew better. I had the experience, the ministry degree, the calling. But I missed the people and the reasons they had done things.

So here is my challenge to you: when you start fresh somewhere make sure to slow down, to listen, to bring people in, to build a team, and take your time making changes. A good rule of thumb is to wait 6 months to make big changes and to bring people in as you make small and large changes.

2. Make sure to build relationships and cast vision well. Often times it is easy to come and make changes because you believe and know it is the right thing to do. But if you don’t bring people in and share that with them, then more often than not, that change will fail. Before you even begin to make changes, build relationships.

Our ministry philosophy should never be program over people, but instead should be rooted in relational ministry as we mirror the philosophy of Christ. When you build relationships you are intentionally growing your team and helping them to see and believe in the vision. Change then becomes natural and part of the ministry DNA. Instead of making changes and trying to catch people up, build into people and let the vision flow through the relationship, then see people move the vision with you.

3. Always be willing to adapt. I am a Jersey Boy born and raised, but I went to school in the Midwest and did ministry there for over 5 years. What I learned very quickly is the Midwest is very different from the East Coast. The way of life, the pace at which things are done, the interactions between people, and even the way religion and faith are viewed were all very different.

What this meant for me when I stepped into a new ministry role is that I had to be willing to adapt my methodology, philosophy, and strategies toward my ministry setting. I wasn’t compromising my beliefs, values, or plans but instead was assessing my new ministry setting and working within the culture and respecting the people I was serving. Doing this will allow for more intentional interactions, rapid building of rapport and trust, and demonstrate to your people that you are there to minister to them not to be the center of the ministry (people over programs).

4. Take time to invest in the community. Depending on where you live and the size of the church you serve in, it can become easy to only be focused on the church family. Meaning, sometimes it is hard to see outside the walls you serve and work in.

My first paid ministry position was with a church that had 10 people including me. We met in the back room of an American Legion Hall and no one knew where or who we were. I began branding the church, looking for a new space, and developing our leaders. All great things in the big process, but I missed caring for and stepping into the community we served. Only when I physically moved into the community did I begin to see the needs and understand how to holistically serve our church and the community together. Then we saw not only growth in the church, but healing and hope come into a very broken area.

When you invest in the community more options are presented for the Gospel to go forth, people begin to see the church as the Bride of Christ, change begins to happen, and healing comes in amazing ways. So go to school games, check out community events, go to PTO meetings, bring donuts to various organizations or community groups, shop local, and look to give back. When you look outside the walls and understand your community, you are able to better invest in your ministry as a whole and this will naturally bring people in.

5. Finally, find a mentor. This is something I would highly recommend to anyone regardless of age, ministry experience, length of time at a ministry location, or level of education. Mentors help in so many ways from bouncing ideas and implementation strategies off of them, to having an empathetic and sympathetic person to lean into, and in many ways having someone to tell you when you have done a great job and when you need to shape up. A mentor is an advocate and a friend, and if I were honest with you sometimes both of those are hard to come by in a ministry setting.

I would encourage you to find someone outside of your church, someone who has been in ministry or served in a church in some capacity, is more seasoned than you are, and is willing to pour into you and speak truth into your life. This will allow for you to be open and honest without fear of reprisal and also help you to grow as a ministry leader. Be willing to listen to encouragement and criticism, process through difficult moments, to be grown and stretched, and to invest relationally. This will be one of the best decisions you could ever make to enhance your own spiritual walk and the ministry you serve in.

These 5 thoughts cannot guarantee a rapidly growing ministry or a church of thousands. But it can create a place where people are loved and valued, where the Gospel goes forth in powerful ways, and growth and development happen in your own life. These thoughts will help you to generate a ministry that puts people before the program, and allows for lives to be impacted and changed. Be an ambassador for the kingdom, and let God work through you, as you model the life of a selfless servant and see what can happen!

The Trust Factor: Why Building Student Trust Matters

If there’s one thing you should know about students, it’s this: they don’t trust easily. Students today have learned to be guarded, reserved, closed-off, and withdrawn from anyone they see as an authority figure. They often don’t trust people older than they are because that trust has been broken too many times to count and they don’t want to be hurt again.

Our students need us, as their leaders and mentors, to be trustworthy. This is the first thing youth leaders must realize. Students see this so clearly in everything we do and say. If we say we’re going to do something, be somewhere, take them out, show up at their school, or anything else, we have to stick by it. Students today have been so lied to, strung along, hurt, and misdirected that they’re just waiting for us to break our promises.

Think about this for a moment: Were you ever lied to as a student? Did someone tell you they would be there for you and they weren’t? Did you ever feel as if someone let you down? The answer is yes. We’ve all had this experience. But the truth is that over time this reality has gotten worse. Students today have come to accept this as the norm. Our word no longer means anything. Telling someone you’re there for them has no meaning for them. Students no longer trust us. We need to earn their trust by showing them we’re invested in their lives, their futures, and in them personally and spiritually.

As believers, we’re told to stick by our word. Matthew 5:33-37 points this out very clearly for us. We’re told to let our answers be honest and true. We’re told that our relationship with Christ is based upon trust and faith. And if we can’t model this to our students, then why should they listen to what we have to say?

Trust will change our students’ lives. Could you imagine what would happen to just one student if someone kept their word to them 100% of the time? Can you see them beginning to trust that person? Can you see the relationship that could be built? In order for us to reach them with the gospel, we first need to establish that we can be trusted. If we’re not being truthful, then why should they trust what we have to say? There’s no reason for them to believe if they can’t trust those who are teaching them about belief.

As leaders, we have a high calling to lead younger generations toward the saving grace of Christ. This can only be accomplished by first building a framework founded upon trust in the power of the cross.

An Approach to Discussing Modesty with Young Women

Growing up in a Christian context, I was privy to many a “modesty talk,” article, or lecture–even through college. Discussions about young women’s choices in dress and young men’s responses seemed to come up frequently, more often than many other equally important conversations. At times I could appreciate and resonate with what was being shared, and at others I felt like a lot was being hung on my shoulders. I eventually had to reach my own conclusions, because there often seemed to be two extremes, and with neither of which could I ever fully align.

The topic of modesty is part of a bigger conversation, one with many layers. And now as an adult youth leader, I want to encourage other youth leaders by sharing what I feel can be a helpful approach. I think this conversation is fluid, and can look different depending on the context, but can begin at the same starting point.

Where to begin

If you read nothing else, read this: When starting conversations about modesty (or really any topic in a young woman’s life) we first and foremost must be primarily concerned with the heart, mind, and soul of the woman. Clothing (and life) choices are always going to be a byproduct of the thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of young women–how they think about themselves and God, their worth and value, how they have been influenced by family and culture, and how they’ve grown up viewing their bodies.

To jump right to the issue of dress is to bypass the most important parts of a woman–her heart, soul, and mind–to go to what is truthfully the least important part–her appearance. While the rest of the world looks first at a woman’s appearance when determining things about her, the church is one place that should not. We should know better.

We must actively seek to build relationships with the young women in our churches. This will mean taking the time to get to know her thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, which will most likely be shaped at least in part by her life experiences and relationships with family and friends. Only after getting to know her can you understand the “why” behind what she does and speak to that.

I beg my fellow youth leaders, do not reduce the ladies in your church and in your youth ministry to a body. To do so is to do a great disservice not only to women, but to the entire church. It reduces a woman’s value and importance, and often leads to focusing on symptoms rather than causes. Women are vital to the work of discipleship within the local church and they need to know that; they need to understand their importance and value first (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 4:8). They need to be built up in order to live out their calling. (See Romans 16:1-16 where Paul lists numerous women important to the work of the early church.)

Our first priority

There are many layers to the modesty conversation. In my experience, I have most often heard the layer that focuses on men’s responses to immodestly dressed women. This is an important aspect as caring for each other is part of church body life (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). But I would also suggest that it is not the most important layer to the conversation. In fact, I would argue that the most important–and most basic–layer is the young woman’s relationship with Jesus.

For a believer in Christ, all things must build from our understanding of and relationship with God (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 10:31). It is what should ultimately determine and dictate all our choices, actions, and beliefs. Do the young people in your church know this? Do they operate from this place? Do the young women look to Christ when deciding how they will dress, conduct themselves, and interact with the opposite gender? In fact, do they even have a personal relationship with Him?

As youth leaders, our primary concern should be this: do the young people in our ministries truly know Jesus? And if so, do they know that every single aspect of their life should build on and reflect Him? This is where the conversation must start. This should be our first priority in all things, including the modesty conversation. Once a young woman has an understanding of Jesus’ love for her, she should be encouraged to live out her love for Him in all she does.

Attire does matter

I want to be clear on this: I think modesty and clothing choices are important, particularly for the believer. I realized and decided this was important to me when I was in my late teens/early 20s, in response to my relationship with Jesus. I want to display my relationship with Him in my conduct and clothing, with the hope of giving Him glory and honoring the people around me (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

I also want my clothing choices to reflect the sense of self-worth and dignity that I have as a result of Christ. I’m not ashamed of my body, it was made by God and I reflect His image (Genesis 1:26-27). I want to clothe it in such a way that shows my love for Him, and my respect for myself.

From that place, a natural byproduct is the desire to dress in a way that won’t contradict my beliefs, or encourage someone to stumble. I say “encourage” because I cannot control what another person will think or do when they see me. But I can try my best to listen to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and respond willingly to Him. If I feel like an outfit is questionable, I choose something else, or modify it with another clothing layer.

I share my personal convictions to show my heart for this topic, as well as to explain that I didn’t always feel this way. It took time for me to reach this understanding on my own because, as I stated before, the modesty conversations I heard typically focused on members of the opposite sex and their responses. Shifting the focus to Jesus and my relationship with Him turned modesty into a worshipful response instead of a frustrating duty.

Attire isn’t everything

When approaching conversations about modesty and male-female relationships, I believe it is vital not to hang all responsibility on the woman. Blaming her for a man’s actions, thoughts, and responses is wrong. We are each responsible for our own actions (Romans 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Psalm 1), and we are all sinful beings (Romans 3:23; 5:12). This needs to be made clear during conversations with both genders. At the same time, it is each believer’s responsibility not to intentionally lead others into sin or to influence them to stumble (Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1-2; Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). In short, our choices in all things matter and are important.

That being said, I want to be clear: choices in clothing do not always influence responses, or protect against unwanted responses. A woman can dress completely modestly and still experience assault. And a woman dressed immodestly does not deserve assault or invite it by her clothing choices.

Growing up my parents were heavily involved in my clothing choices–they determined what was modest, and as believers in Christ, had a good and honorable understanding of this area. All my clothing purchases were approved by both my mom and dad. During my junior year of high school, I experienced multiple instances of verbal and physical sexual harassment by male classmates. Never was this behavior invited in any way–by my behavior toward them, or my clothing choices–and yet it still happened. I remember exactly what I was wearing on several of these occasions, and I was more covered than many female classmates typically were. My attire had no bearing on the incidents and did not protect me from unwanted words and actions.

The truth is, modesty will not protect young women. Simultaneously, a lack of modesty (real or perceived) must never be used to dismiss wrongful behavior toward them. We must be sensitive to this truth when we approach the conversation of modesty. And we must be clear with both genders–we are each responsible before God for our choices. Therefore, our choices in clothing, how we treat each other, how we view each other and how we speak, matter. May we all encourage the students in our ministries to treat each other as Christ has treated us.

Practical tips 

Along with taking the time to build relationships and have thoughtful conversations, there are some practical things you might find helpful when approaching the topic of modesty.

  1. Create a dress code or attire policy for your student ministry, and don’t leave out the young men. Make sure your guidelines are clear, direct, and provide a “why.” Students want to know why rules are in place, and articulating the “why” will show your heart behind your guidelines. Most often youth ministries provide dress codes around swimwear, but depending on your context, you may find it helpful to outline expectations for normal attire as well.
  2. In all things, give grace. Whether it involves your dress code, addressing a student directly, or speaking with the group at large, please season your words with grace. Discussions around modesty and the human body can carry such weight, and often times shame. I still remember many of the comments others have made about my body over the years. Whether the student is new to your ministry, or someone who you feel like “should know better,” remember that your goal is to point them back to Jesus and represent Him well in your interactions.
  3. Include parents. If you have attire expectations, explain these to the parents of each incoming group, or any time your guidelines change. Not all parents will have the same guidelines for their children, and some may not care at all, but they have more oversight into what is purchased than you will. If parents know your expectations and reasons for them, they can help ensure their students are following the rules.
  4. Don’t forget the leaders. If you have a dress code, the leaders should be the first ones to know it and model it for the students. They should also know the proper channels for handling issues that may arise. Make sure your leaders are equipped to serve well in all areas, including this one.

Remember this is an ongoing conversation, one that isn’t limited to just student ministry, clothing, or male-female relationships. The needs, beliefs, and values of a woman go beyond simple surface-level judgments. In order to best care for each other, we need to have open, Jesus-centered conversations. We need to have respect for each other. And above all, we need to do everything in love (Philippians 2:1-11; Matthew 22:35-40).