How To: Christian School Kids

Have you ever wondered what to do with Christian School kids in your group? Why don’t you let a Christian School kid give you some tips.

Written by Kaylan Mah (a Christian School kid) 

Series Intro: There is a ton of things that happen in ministry that are just never really thought at Bible School. Being a Pastor involves a lot of on the ground training. This series is designed to help you with those “How To…” moments

Author Info: Kaylan is a Grade 12 students from Vancouver Canada. She attends a local Christian School and is a fantastic writer. She uses her blog no2paths to help impact her world and she is making huge waves for Jesus.

DOWNLOAD PDF: How to minister to Christian School kids

I’ve always wondered what my life and faith would be like if I hadn’t grown up in a Christian home, going to first a Christian elementary school and then a Christian high school. It’s really easy to start taking faith for granted when you’re surrounded by it. It becomes almost like background noise that you acknowledge but don’t engage with because it’s just there. However, I’ve found that church, especially youth group, is a really unique place to learn more about God. Unlike school, most people are there because they want to be, even if it’s just to hang out with friends. That means our minds and hearts are open to learn or experience something. 

 I think there’s a lot of expectation that Christian school kids are the ones with strong faiths, and maybe they don’t need to be reached out to as much at church. That’s not true. Christian education might offer a faith-based perspective to the world, but Christianity is about more than the facts and stories. It’s also a relational faith, and teachers can’t reach out to every single student.

 At this point in life teens are kind of at a crossroads, where they’ll either keep pursuing their faith or they’ll get bored of it and leave the church. This is why it’s so important for you as youth pastors and leaders to be intentional in your interactions with us. Speaking for myself, I want to go deeper. I want to learn from Christians older and more mature than me about how to live out my faith. I want to be empowered and equipped with the tools and wisdom I’ll need in my life.

 Here are 8 things that I think youth pastors and leaders need to know about ministry to Christian school kids. 

 1) Dive into the Bible with us; teach us how to read Scripture. 

As a Christian school kid I’ve grown up with all the head knowledge: I can recite the Bible stories, I can tell you about the resurrection of Jesus and I could even share the Gospel with you. But it was only recently that I actually started reading the Bible in bigger chunks, rather than just specially-chosen passages that tell me what I want to hear. It wasn’t because of anything anybody told me, it was because I felt a personal need to get to know God that way. I wish I had started earlier because I’m learning so much about the nature of God, our role as Christians in the world, and the life of Jesus.

At church I think it’s great to do different series about practical topics that teens should know about, but I want to use my Bible more than just pulling up the app during a sermon. Small groups are an amazing opportunity to connect with others and grow together spiritually, and at least some of this time together should be utilized for Bible study. While answers to different faith-related questions can be helpful, my desire is more to be equipped to find these answers in Scripture for myself. Teach us how to read the Bible and understand it, how to think critically about the world in light of God’s word and how to interact with an unbelieving society.

 2) Find angles to familiar stories and topics that are unique, AND hit us with unfamiliar passages.

Growing up Christian, you end up hearing the same inspirational verses and passages over and over. It kind of desensitizes us to them. Yes it is important to still teach about them, but find unique angles and relate them to our current situations. Try to go beyond the surface level of any given passage. Dig deeper into context with us. Share how this passage impacted your own life. I personally feel like I take the most away from a lesson when throughout the sermon, or at the end, there are practical points – ways we can live out what we learned. 

On top of that, utilize less familiar passages because sometimes hearing something for the first time is what really makes a certain lesson stick. 

3) Teach us how to engage with the world.

Growing up going to Christian schools and churches can actually be harmful if we memorize all the typical Christian answers to life questions, but then go out into the world, get hit with what other people believe about life, and realize that our Sunday school answers aren’t going to cut it. It can make us question our own beliefs.

Our world is becoming more and more “secular,” and we need to know how to engage with the different topics out there. Discuss things like science, politics and entertainment; what we believe about them as Christians, and how we should deal with them in our lives.

For example, discuss questions like:

    • How do we follow Jesus’ example when interacting with those in the LGBTQ and Liberal communities?
    • Are science and Christianity mutually exclusive? 
    • Is it okay to watch violent movies? Support entertainment with sexual content?

4) Expect maturity from teens.

Don’t talk down to us. Go as deep with your teaching as you would with adults, but use illustrations and applications that make sense for teens.

Christian school kids especially can often see through fluff in a message. We decide that we’ve heard this before, that there’s no meat and nothing new you have to offer to us, and we get bored and tune out of the sermon. Give us something we can chew on and even struggle through, and let us know that you’re there to discuss anything and answer questions. This leads into the next point.

5) Emphasize the importance of a relationship with God.

Many of the people around me have been in Christian schools for much of their lives. Yet I see them go through so many struggles, and I don’t think their faith supports them because it’s not real to them. I’ve heard and seen so much evidence that people have the information about God in their head but don’t actually put it into practice. We need to understand the importance of knowing God personally, encouraged to pursue a walk with him, and then taught how we can do that. I think it all comes back to equipping us to pursue God through time in the Word and in prayer.

6) We need intentional mentoring and discipling.

Discipleship and mentorship is a huge thing that is often overlooked. I think many people (of any age) have a need for someone to come alongside them in their faith journey, but they don’t realize it or don’t know how to move forward finding someone who can help them. 

In the Great Commission, Jesus told his disciples (and us) to “Make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19) and he goes on to instruct them to teach everyone to obey all he has commanded. The Great Commission is often used in the context of Christians telling unbelievers about God, but the word “disciples” is used here. Jesus’ own disciples had a mentor: Jesus himself. The discipleship he models is important to follow in the church, and I think there is so much benefit in starting young. 

As teens we’re going through changes and hard things in life, and yes we can turn to God, but sometimes what really helps is talking to someone older and more mature who has gone through similar things, or someone who can just guide you through it and keep you accountable and on track with your faith. It’s different from small groups, where the leader can only engage so much with each member. One-on-one mentoring or smaller groups for regular discipleship are something I think people like me could really benefit from. 

Sometimes it’s hard for a student to reach out to a leader or someone older. Maybe they feel a need for guidance but aren’t quite sure exactly what they need. That’s where intentionality comes in. They need someone reaching out to them. It can be as simple as someone asking how they are, and then taking time to engage in a deeper conversation.  

Sometimes students put up this “I want to talk, but it takes time” wall. How do you push through it? First of all, show you care about us. Ask questions, not to be nosy, but to show interest in our lives. My youth pastor has this thing where he asks about our love, life and faith.  

It’s usually hard to bring up hard topics, even if there’s something we want to share, whether it’s to get advice or just get the words out. In conversations, show us that you’re willing to talk about things that go beyond surface level. When a student sees a leader being vulnerable, sharing their own stories and struggles, it makes it easier to open up about ourselves.  

I know that youth leaders or anyone older can’t be expected to know intuitively how to mentor someone. I think it should be something that’s talked about more, and my church took a big step in the right direction with a conference on discipleship. It can be really beneficial to have practical training sessions on how to be a mentor and speak into the lives of others walking with Christ. 

7) Remind us that doubt is okay.

I think there are many people out there who have doubts about Christianity. But they see those around them owning their faith and think “why don’t I have it together like them?” It makes them think that they don’t belong, that they’re not “real” Christians. 

We need to be told that it’s okay to have doubts and questions. It doesn’t mean that we’re not believers or that our faith is somehow less than everyone else’s. That’s why it’s so important for youth group to be a safe community, a place where it’s okay to be vulnerable and admit that we don’t know or understand everything, whether or not we’ve grown up with Christianity. Create a space where it is okay for us to ask questions, even basic ones that “you should know already.”

I also think that many people leave the church because they’ve heard the same things over and over and it becomes boring or unmeaningful. But don’t worry that we’ll end up questioning our faith. You don’t have to tailor your sermons or lessons to be nice and pretty, so that nobody will feel convicted or challenged or confused at the end. The important thing to remember is that God is a big God and he’s big enough to be questioned. Let that happen.

8) Challenge us.

This connects to several of the points above. It’s true that many people who go to youth group are there to have fun with friends, but there are also those who desire a deeper relationship with God and need direction with that. Challenge them to grow deeper in Christ. While it’s important to be drawing in non-believers with events where people can just hang out, eat food and play games, I think youth pastors and leaders should make an effort to seek out the kids who are truly serious about their faith and focus on challenging them. 

It can go beyond this too. There are students out there who not only want to grow their own faith, but care about reaching others. Whether or not our friends are Christian, we’ve all been placed by God in a unique situation, able to reach a unique group of people. As my pastor likes to say, students are the best equipped to reach students. This is why student leadership is important. Guide us in the best ways we can influence others through our words and actions. 

Start Small

Maybe the points I mentioned above seem totally overwhelming to you, or maybe you feel like you’re doing great at all of them already. I encourage you to think and pray about all of these things, because there is always room for growth. And as youth group kids we’re not just statistics or projects, we’re people.

I think the first step and perhaps the most important way to reach us Christian school kids, or anyone else, is by being intentional about relationship. I’m going back to the point about mentorship for a moment. It can seem like a big intimidating thing. But mentorship really is about engaging with us on a personal level, not just “hi I’m your small group leader, let’s read the Bible together” but caring about our lives and our growth as people and Christians. We’re relational beings, so I think the most important place to start is by showing us that we’re loved, and then going from there. 

DNA: Year Long Planner

Creating a Year Long Planner is extremely important but something everyone has done. This DNA Guide will help you craft your very own planner.

Written by Jesse Criss (Update Aug 2019)


DNA Guides/Videos are designed specifically to bring in Pastors, Leaders, and Experts to provide the foundation (DNA) blocks for you to craft your own program component. The goal is not to sell our method but use practical examples to drive home the foundations. 

When I talk to other Youth Pastors and Leaders, a topic that seems to come up a lot is Planning. Specifically, how to break out of the month to month cycle most people are stuck in. For most of us, it is in the early days of our ministry when we know very little, don’t yet have a rhythm or core events that we run month to month, (at least that’s what it was like for me when I started out all those years ago.)

We produced a month-long bulletin and newsletter for the church and it would be due a few days before the next month started. My habit at the time was to spend a few days (or the day it was due) scrambling to get information together. There was no dreaming, vision casting, planning or concern about what came the month after. The goal was to get it out ASAP, and it worked … for a while.

Eventually, during my second year as a part-time pastor and a few years later when I went into full-time ministry, the whole thing caught up to me. Often there were mistakes and double bookings. Once I had an all-nighter in only one room of the church because of a funeral set up and a DEAD BODY (100% TRUTH) being in the other room. I hadn’t bothered to look at what the church was planning so when I made my event FOR THE NEXT WEEK I ran into problems.

After that, I knew that it was time to sit down and make a plan. But the administration was not my skillset at the time and I struggled hard to get my head around a whole years’ worth of programming. Fast forward 18 years and things have definitely changed. I know most of my major events a year in advance and work anywhere from 6-9 months ahead. For the most part, the year is planned but I run our program all year round so there is no real END, just the start of the next set of ideas.

DISCLAIMER: Below is a step-by-step guide to how I plan a calendar. This is my method but I have done my best to stick to the principles of the DNA series. The goal is to offer the fundamental elements so that you can craft your own plan. If you would like a more in-depth guide check out our Digital Bookstore  specifically the “Planning Events” and “Developing Series” ebooks. Both would be a huge asset to anyone looking to do year-long planning. 

1) Get A Calendar

Print off 12 months’ worth of calendar sheets. You can easily do this in outlook and can print them blank. Eventually, things will go digital, but I always start with a paper copy because I find it easier to see everything at once and can better mark up the paper.

2) Church Admin / Room Booker

Now you need to contact your Church Administrator or whoever books the church as a whole. Ask them a series of questions….

  • What major bookings do you have this year (not just on your night)
  • What are regular things that get booked but are not in the system yet
  • What is being rumored to be booked but has not yet been finalized.

3) School Calendars 

Go online and download your local school district calendar. You want to take down all the important dates that relate to your students.

  • Any Pro-D (Professional Development Day) where kids are off school
  • Mark the start of School, Christmas, Easter and Spring Break
  • If you’re a High School Pastor mark down any Grad related dates

4) Annual Youth Events

In every ministry, there are annual events that need to stay annual. Think through some of these possibilities

  • Retreats (Fall, Winter, Spring)
  • Christmas Party
  • Grad Events
  • Nights youth is canceled
  • Kick-Off Nights
  • Anything that you do that is a MUST.

NOTE: Once you have all this together with you now can plug in your program basics. For the most part, every group contains one or all of these elements.

  • Worship Nights
  • Service Opportunities
  • Big Events
  • Retreat
  • Teaching Weeks
  • Small Groups
  • Leadership Development

Now must of us don’t do all these things every week or even every term/semester. What you need to do is figure out how many of each of these nights you want and how close you want them together.

5) Now the Program BASICS

Now you need to plug in all the event elements into your calendar. How this happens is really up to you. This is how I fill my calendar, remember the details are not as important right now as the date and BASIC program element.

  • Worship Nights – 4 per year (1 a term)
  • Service Opportunities – 3 per year
  • Big Events – 1 Event a month (12 events total)
  • Retreat – 3 a year (Fall, Winter, and Grad)
  • Teaching Weeks/Small Groups – We mix them together and they make up most of the weeks. Our one rule is that it’s always at least 2 weeks back to back so we can build some continuity with teaching/groups.
  • Leadership Development – 3 times a year (Sept, Jan, Spring Break)

5) Filling in the details

Now that you have a full year plan you need to fill in the details. What I love about this method is that it gives you and your leaders, kids and parents dates to save. Your space gets booked in advance and you have something to work towards. The hard part is now over, the fun part is getting to fill in the details. Here are a few things to remember.

  • Still trying to plan your details at least a term (fall, winter, spring, summer) at a time.
  • Look for the opportunities that other things like Pro-D days provide
  • Plan out the cost of your ministry to spread out the expensive events
  • Plan your events around the BIG stuff. So, when you come back from a retreat make sure it’s a lighter week or a guest teacher.
  • Take into account your Vision/Mission and make sure your event details line up.

ALWAYS REMEMBER: We are responsible for the students God has put into our care. Our goal and mission should always be lead kids to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and the mission that he has called them to. But don’t forget that we are also the architects of the program. That means we are responsible for events either honoring or ignoring Jesus. It’s why I believe that planning a yearlong calendar is so important. It forces me to STOP and ask tough questions.

BONUS: Always write in pencil… because things will change and that is OK.

Jesse Email Tag
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.

HMM: Difficult Small Groups

Small Group Leadership can be both a deeply rewarding and fruitful journey, and a trying and difficult season.

Written by Michelle Murray-Schlitt

Series Intro: There are often Hard Ministry Moments (HMM). These moments require you to dig deeper, trust God harder and often step up and take leadership in an area. They often weigh heavy on the soul and are moments you will always remember.

DOWNLOAD PDF: HMM Difficult Small Groups

Small Group Leadership can be both a deeply rewarding and fruitful journey, and a trying and difficult season. Depending on your church culture, group size, group composition and personality styles, small groups can range widely in style. Regardless of these factors, the core function of a Small Group should always remain the same: 

To build deep relationships with kids based on conversation, fun and long-term investment, in order to provide guidance and direction in their walk with Jesus. 

This is a simple definition, and as stated above, manifests quickly in multiple different ways depending on where you are and who you are with, and that’s okay! There is no one perfect way to run a small group, but lots of different and equally awesome ways that you can influence kids for Jesus. 

In this short article, let’s take a look specifically at what happens when we are in a position of leadership over what we could characterize as a difficult small group. These groups are ones that either don’t organically get along, are not interested in participating in church grounded discussions, or are simply there only to hang out with friends and be a little rowdy. An important point to make here is that even though a group may be difficult to lead or be exasperating at times, the value and purpose of the group remains the same, as does the value of each individual in your group. It is still your job to point your kids in the direction of Jesus and build community and friendship with them – it will just look a little different than how you might have imagined.

When I became a Small Group Leader, I was coming out of 6 years of great small group leadership with strong groups that had helped me grow in so many ways in my walk with the Lord. As a middle schooler, and even as a high schooler, I saw my leaders as the coolest of the cool and loved hanging out with them. I loved hearing about their walk with Jesus, and through their guidance I came to want to walk with him too. When I graduated I was excited about giving back to a new generation of girls what had been given to me. I wasn’t necessarily prepared to deal with the dynamics of my current small group as they have come together.

I’ve learned a lot since then and looking back I can see where Jesus has worked in our ‘difficult’ group. To give you some context: I am currently leading a group of 15-20 girls by myself, the vast majority of whom do not have any previous church experience, and many who remain uninterested in having one. They have rapidly fluctuating friendship dynamics and from week to week someone will be mad at someone else. Though our small group times don’t look like how I imagined they would when I first started leading, I’ve found a lot of joy and reward in spending time with these girls. Here are three things that I’ve learned about leading through leading this group. Whatever your ‘difficult’ group might look like, I hope that they can help you in finding peace and direction in your context:

Set Different Goals 

As I touched on above, every group has a different way in which they walk towards Jesus together, and there is no one perfect way. Even though we know this in our heads, it is easy to feel frustrated or disappointed when we feel that we’re not making progress, when our kids aren’t asking the questions or having the conversations we want them to have, or when we spend a whole small group time talking about boys. (It happens more often than I’d like to admit!) The goalposts we set unconsciously for ourselves actually don’t have to be there. It’s important to think about the bigger picture and reframe ourselves within it. There is so much value in having silly conversations and building relationships. Instead of looking for immediate results, we can play the long game and create spaces where our kids feel comfortable, and where eventually the conversations we are hoping for can take place. There is value in every moment, don’t underestimate the value of spending time growing in friendship with your kids! When one of my girls comes running in excited to tell me about their new crush or seeks me out to tell me a story – that is a reward for me and tells me that the time we have spent together is not wasted at all, but that I am building into something. 

Keep in mind as you plant seeds that you might not be the one to reap the harvest, each individual has their own story and timeline of when they will come to know Jesus. Your role might just be to make church a place where they had fun once or create some good memories. “People will forget what you said and did but will always remember how you made them feel.” If our goal can be to create a space in a church context that kids are comfortable in and have fun in, that’s a victory. Look at things through heavens eyes and count the small victories as big steps towards Jesus!

Be Clear about Expectations 

While you want to create an open and fun space for your kids, it’s equally important to make sure that it is still a space that honours Jesus. This point is important as well because if your kids aren’t coming from a church background, they actually might not know what is expected of them! Without proper communication, you will just grow frustrated when they don’t follow the ‘rules,’ which they might not even be aware of in the first place. This is an easy fix: be clear that while having fun and hanging out is a part of what we’re doing here, so is listening to sermons and engaging in conversation together. If you are clear and straightforward from the beginning, you have that conversation to fall back on if you do need to disciple your kids a little bit, and they understand the reason why you’re shushing them! Of course, it’s crucial to always be graceful and kind, but don’t shy away from being a leader as well as a friend.


Finally, don’t stress it. If your group is messy and crazy, take heart because Jesus works best in the messy and crazy. He is there in the volleyball games, in the hugs, in the drama and in the long-winded stories about that one friend who did that hilarious thing at school that one time. He is taking what little we give as leaders to create a lot of beauty. Have grace for your group as he has grace for you. Trust him and lighten up, Jesus is a better small group leader than you anyways!