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Contribution > Consumption

There is an old familiar phrase, “Give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime.” 

The point is simple, yet profound. By doing something FOR someone, you can meet immediate needs, but by helping them do it for themselves, or participate in the solution, you set them up for a lifetime of fulfilment. 

Often in ministry, our goal is to make things simple for our students. We want to remove any barriers to entry and provide the easiest road forward, the clearest teaching, and safeguard against anything that might be inconvenient. While our intentions are good, sometimes this is why some traditional models of youth ministry no longer seem to be working. 

Culture has shifted and students no longer want to simply consume. They long to contribute.

If we are able to provide opportunities for leadership—real, genuine leadership as opposed to empty titles or limited responsibility—we are tapping into an authentic felt need and allowing our students to serve using their God-given gifts.

As Dr. Len Kageler said, “…a youth ministry that empowers students will also be one where the gospel is as much caught as taught and where youth themselves feel they matter to God and the work of his kingdom.”  (The Youth Ministry Survival Guide)

When students feel a sense of ownership, they will reach out into their world, but this process starts with influence. A student needs to believe they can have an influence in their world. In order for them to see and understand that, we need to put students into actual positions of influence. 

One way to do this is to be creative about the roles that they can fill—people over position! Let them dream, rather than fill a spot on a spreadsheet.

This will shift your ministry from being something that you are hosting for them to bring their friends to, into something that you are helping them host for their friends. The slight reordering of words makes a significant difference!

The potential of this opportunity is profound because you will quickly see that what they learn through this process will have a direct impact on your group.


For the next 3 weeks, make a list of everything that happens in your youth program each week. List all of the details, events, opportunities and roles that make up your world. Then I want you to ask 2 simple questions for each of them.

  1. When was the last time I asked a student how this was going?

  2. What elements can students take ownership in this area?


Gather a group of influential students in your program and ask them to plan the next OUTREACH event from top to bottom. Do your best to coach and guide the conversation and direction but DO NOT take over. Let them plan, run and try the event and see how it goes.


If you’re the kind of person that thinks about the big questions as they relate to your ministry, then you are exactly the kind of person who will benefit from the Youth Ministry Online Summit.

Two events. One for youth ministry staff. One for youth ministry volunteers.

The most thoughtful and strategic speakers we know are presenting to Canadian youth ministry staff on August 19. Here are a few of them you won’t want to miss…

Kristen Ivy from Orange Vince Parker from Life.Church Mark Matlock, coauthor of Faith for Exiles

On September 12, there will be practical training that will unite and inspire your whole youth ministry team, covering topics like: How do we help teenagers in crisis? How do we lead a small group? How do we model spiritual disciplines? How do we become healthy Youth Workers?

Both events will cover the most important things pertaining to ministry this fall.

To find out more, click on the banner below.

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