Building a Community

Ministry Question: Our group still feels really segregated and not like a family. What do you think we should do?

QUESTION: Our group still feels really segregated and not like a family. What d,o you think we should do?


There’s a lot of ways to tackle a question like this and but it can be hard to do without physically being in the room with the youth group in question each week. However, from a 10,000-foot view, there are some ways we can look at a situation like this.

#1 Personal View

The goal here is to look at your world through fresh eyes. Often we become blind over time to what’s going on around us. We miss the little things because we are to busy chasing other issues and people. As primary pastors and leaders are attention can be split, but if we take an intentional step back and see the whole picture, we can start to see with fresh eyes. However, it requires us to ask tough questions that can be personal because we’re often the architects of our environments and programs. Here are some questions to consider…

  • What does Youth Group look like through the eyes of a new/old student? What obstacles are in their way? Where could they use support?
  • Does the set-up of the room help or hurt the community? 
  • Where do the pockets of students spend their time? Think of physical location… 
  • What activities, tasks or set-up reinforces community or hurts community? 

#2 Programing View

Within most Youth Ministries, you can sum up most program elements into two main categories of time. The time spent IN and OUT of Small group.

  • IN – In Small Groups, you need to make sure leaders are actively working on mixing and matching students within their groups. They can mix kids for conversation, activities, prayer, snacks or whatever, but the goal is still the same, to actively try and pair different kids within the group together. This helps reinforce the values you’re trying to create on a smaller scale, but it has the potential to impact the whole group. This is also an excellent time to make sure leaders are spending time getting to know each student, not just select individuals within the group.
  • OUT – Out of Small Groups, you need to mix students in everything that you do and help them meet new people. This takes very intentional work and needs to be partnered with everything in this article. Games are a great way to mix kids, but so is something as simple as getting students to cross the room for a handshake and one-minute conversation. The secret is that it has to be intentional; it cannot be an afterthought. It needs to become part of the foundation of your group and reinforced over and over again. It will take time for this to take root, but once it does, it tends to grow on its own.
    • EXAMPLE: A great example of this are two former students Valerie and Karley. They had been going to Youth Ministry together for years and were even in the same grade. However, they had never really talked or connected at that time. Then they moved from Middle School into a High School program that was extremely intentional about mixing and mashing students together. The first event they attended was Color Wars, and in that one event, they became inseparable. They had been in Youth Ministry for years together but had not been in an environment that reinforced community in every aspect. One intentional night created a bond that has lasted, and both students can’t believe it didn’t happen earlier. 

#3 Leadership View

The first two views are important but without a Leadership Team that is fully on board with students becoming a community together, it’s always going to be an uphill battle.

  • ADULT TEAM – As a whole leadership team, you need to model and demonstrate what it means to “walk across the room” and connect with someone else. It needs to come from every leader every week. It doesn’t mean they need to connect with twenty kids, but they need to connect with one. This cannot be understated. You need leadership that will model the kind of community you want to build. If they don’t or can’t, you need to consider adding leaders who can.
  • STUDENTS – The other side of this is where Student Leadership comes in. I believe that “students are the best equipped to reach students for Jesus” because they can relationally do what I cannot. You have students who are influencers in your group because everyone influences someone. If you want to change the culture, you need to empower students to take ownership and equip them with the tools they need to be a “family.” They need to actively leave their group of friends and see out one “new to them” student every week. It’s hard and often messy, but if your student leaders can get hold of this vision, shifting the culture would be a 1000x easier, but it will always start from the bottom up and not just the top down.

The first two views are intended to help you understand your world and to learn to think critically about your Youth Ministry. However, the secret to not having a segregated Youth Ministry is Leadership, especially the student leadership element. Any ministry I have ever run that has been successful, has at its core, been a “family,” a place where everyone could belong. Did it work for everyone NO, were kids missed still YES… but ask anyone if they felt they could belong and I hope the answer was yes.


  • Step #1 – Take a look at your ministry with fresh eyes and be honest with yourself. Consider inviting some people into the process.
  • Step #2 Talk about the kind of community you want to build with your leadership team. Answer their questions and concerns and rally their support. Get them to brainstorm how they can mix and mash different kids together in their Small Group time. 
  • Step #3 Cast the vision with a small influential group of students in your ministry and challenge them with one goal. Each week have them connect with one new person and connect that new person with one other person. That’s it nothing crazy, just an intentional connection point each week. 
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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.


CSC Week #4

Welcome to the fourth week of the Creativity Spark Challenge and 2020 is the best time to start being creative.

After a few weeks of sickness and life just getting in the way I’m back and ready to spark some creativity. If you’re not sure what the Creativity Spark Challenge is or want a refresher on why I’ve launched this challenge go back and read the first post and check out last week’s post. 

PROGRAM CREATIVITY: One of the ways creativity can be sparked is through program CPR (Create, Plan and Redesign) and is an excellent tool to jumpstart creativity. This week I want you to focus on “Redesign”. Your challenge is to simply pick one thing in your ministry that you know could use a redesign. It could be something as simple as how you do announcements, organize your meeting space or take time to redesign a whole area of your program (years ago I redesigned my communication to include the creation of an app). Regardless of what chooses the goal is to just pick one thing, not everything just one thing. 

SPIRITUAL CREATIVITY: I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer as 2020 starts and it’s something I think we can all focus on this coming year. The challenge for most of us is that our prayer life can easily become routine. I think many of us are basically just “going through the motions”. It’s not to say that God’s not working but something about the passion of prayer seems to be missing. Creativity is all about tapping into one’s passions and for 2020 my challenge to you is to pray differently. Try one or all of the following options…

    • Google ways to pray and see what you find
    • Try writing your prayers out in a journal (or bullet journal)
    • One day a week draw/sketch out your prayers
    • Use prayer app like “Inner Room
    • Create a prayer group of friends you trust

PERSONAL CREATIVITY: This week’s challenge is to just go outside and spend time in God’s creation. January is often a cold, grey, snow/rain month and it’s easy to get sucked in the grey. Getting outside, feeling the wind, playing in the snow or jumping in a big puddle can help embrace the season and all that God has created. But remember the golden rule…NO WORK TALK 

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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.


Best Prayer App

I don’t know about you but over the years I have struggled to build a consistent prayer life… until now.

I don’t know about you but over the years I have struggled to build a consistent prayer life. I’ve never been one of those people who can just sit down and focus and pray for hours at a time. I’ve always enjoyed little moments of prayer throughout the day but if I’m 100% honest there are times/days when prayer really only happened around my dinner table.

Then last spring during a local missions opportunity we had a chance to go to a 24h Prayer Room in Vancouver, BC. It was an amazing experience but the biggest impact came from a short conversation about prayer tools. That day I discovered an app called “Inner Room” and it changed everything.

“Inner Room is an app from 24-7 Prayer that turns one of our biggest distractions – our mobile phones – into a portable prayer tool. Jesus said, “When you pray, go into your inner room…” (Matt:6:6). Inner Room is a prayer list app that equips, enables and inspires you to pray, each day.”

The app itself is extremely simple and easy to use. It allows you to create lists of prayer requests in several categories or you can even create your own. You add the title, some information about the request and can even add a picture. Once you’re done there are a few unique ways to pray through your list.

My favourite method is the “quick prayer” option. It grabs 3 of my prayer requests at random and gives me a series of prompts over three minutes to pray for those requests. What I love is that God seems to use these moments to bring three very specific requests to mind at that moment and anecdotally there seems to be a connection between my prayers and what’s going on for those people at that moment. I still like those quick prayer moments but now they feel more focused and when combined with notifications on my phone I’ve become significantly more consistent.

This is a fantastic app for anyone to check out but it would be an epic resource for any Pastor/Leader to promote with their students. The best part is that it’s 100% FREE.

DOWNLOAD: Apple or Android

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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.


Freebie Jan 2020

Hopefully, this FREE resource will help and inspire you to look inward as you enter 2020.

Years and years ago when I was in university as part of a Soul Care class we did a week-long retreat to a local camp. That week we did a spiritual exercise called a “Soul Dot”. Essentially we just drew a big circle on a piece of paper and were asked to pray and write/draw how we were doing on the inside. That was it, there were no real extra directions. The whole goal was to pause and take a moment to self reflect on how we were doing spiritually.

The exercise was impactful and has become part of my personal and ministry routine for the last 20 years. I regularly invited students and leaders to take time at Youth Group every few months and run through a similar exercise. I also encouraged them to keep a copy and compare them along the way. To use it as a physical reminder of what God’s been doing in their life.

So as 2020 kicks off I wanted to share this resource with you all and encourage you to give it a try every few months this year. I’ve refined it a bit over the years to help people be a bit more focused but feel free to adapt the concept to fit your needs.

If you have any questions reach out and enjoy this free resource.

FREE RESOUCE: Emotional Map Exercise

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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.


Happy New Resources

Take a moment to check out some of my favourite resources and see what’s new here at Fresh Ministry Consulting

The other day a new friend of mine and I got together for coffee and Youth Ministry shop talk. We got to talking about resources and leadership development and it was a great conversation. When we were done I promised him I would send an email of resources his way.

That email got me thinking that maybe more than one person might appreciate a resource list. So here is what I sent my buddy Dan and a few extras for you internet folks… enjoy.


  • LeaderTreks: Fantastic organization that is focused a lot on student leadership. This link is specific to their “Sweet Spot” resource.
  • Sonlife: This is a classic resource website and you will want to check out their “two X two” resources.
  • Growing Down: My buddy Ken Caster wrote an excellent book about how to build a Jesus centred faith. It’s a small but powerful resource.
  • YouthWorks: If you’re looking for missions opportunities for your students these guys are epic. But they have also created a ton of free resources you won’t want to miss.
  • 228 Publishers: Chase and Anne are epic and their ministry is 100% worth checking out. Not only do they help people (like me) get published. Chase is an excellent writer himself and has produced some fantastic resources.
  • The Source For Youth: For the last 10+ years this site has been the source for some of my favourite youth ministry games. Scroll down to the game search and enter what you’re looking for… you will take me later… trust me 😛


  • Journey Book Series: A new devotional book series designed to help a student/adult process what they are reading from the Bible. The Gospels are currently available and my goal is to have the whole Bible done by the end of 2020. Everything will be available at your local Amazon store.
  • Digital Bookstore: Over the last few years Fresh Ministry has published 6 digital ebooks. All of where are available at our bookstore or you can find them on DYM.


  • 3131 Worksheet Freebie: A few months back I put together this free worksheet for event planning. Free free to use and manipulate it to your heart’s content.
  • The Future Of Youth Ministry Manifesto: A while back I had some thoughts about the future of Youth Ministry. Maybe you’ll like what you read or maybe you won’t but my hope is that it will spark you to think.
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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.


A Year In Review

As 2019 comes to a close I just wanted to thank all of you that regularly read and track with what goes on here at Fresh Ministry Consulting.

By Jesse Criss

As 2019 comes to a close I just wanted to thank all of you that regularly read and track with what goes on here at Fresh Ministry Consulting. 2019 was a crazy year in a lot of ways, not just with Fresh Ministry but also personally as I transitioned careers in the summer. However, in the middle of everything going on I was also able to meet and exceed many of my hopes and dreams for 2019.

This year through Fresh Ministry Consulting and your support I was able to…

All of the above was only possible because of an amazing group of people who for the last several years have either been directly involved in Fresh Ministry Consulting or have been champions from the sidelines. So a special thank you goes out to the following amazing people.

  • CJ
  • Sophia
  • Sydney
  • Michelle
  • Brody
  • Ben
  • Kaylan
  • Jonathan 
  • Chris

An extra special thanks to 6 individuals who without there support none of this or what’s to come would have been possible.

As 2019 comes to a close there is much to celebrate but there is also much more to come.

  • The Journey Devotional Series is well underway. The gospels are done and plans are in the works to get the rest of the New Testament done by Spring 2020. You can find them all at your local Amazon store. 
  • The partnership between Fresh Ministry and LeaderTreks continues to grow and I’m excited about a few new projects starting up in 2020.
  • The “Creative Spark Challenge” will continue for the month of January.
  • I’m working on a plan to create a few new devotional style books and I’m hoping to finish my Top 10 Leadership Principles book that I started in the summer. 
  • There are a few more exciting projects that I can’t talk about yet but I’m hoping it will all come together in 2020.

In June of 2019, I was frustrated and life seemed uncertain. I wasn’t sure what the next step would be and many of you rallied around me and my family in prayer and support. Six months later I’m still not sure the future is any clearer but I know one thing is true… there is joy in my heart, family in my life and a saviour who refuses to let go of me. Regardless of what happens in 2020 my hope and prayer are that this time next year I can say that those three things remain true.

Love and Blessings

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If you would like to know more about this topic or learn how to implement this in your youth program feel free to contact me.