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“Forget the growth hormones! Stephen Ingram calls everyone who cares for young people to get our hands dirty in the organic soil of student ministry. Drawing on years of experience in ministry and consulting, Stephen will help you asses the particularities of your ministry context and determine what to plant and what to prune in order to promote long-term growth and sustainability. This book is required reading for anyone seeking fresh visions for youth ministry.” —Dave Csinos, Author, Speaker, and founding President of Faith Forward


“The keen mind of Stephen Ingram permeates this book. Organic Student Ministry is chock-full of smart, savvy youth ministry wisdom. You won’t find quick, shot-in-the-arm fixes for programming. Instead, you should read each chapter like it’s a treasure chest: with a yellow highlighter ready to put each gem into pragmatic practice.” —Stephanie Caro, Author, Speaker, Senior Consultant for Ministry Architects


“Youth ministry will only be effective in our post-Christendom culture if it is contextual. Cookie cutter ministry models no longer work—if they ever did. Rooted in years of experience as a youth worker and consultant, Stephen Ingram has assembled a collection of best practices and attitude adjustments that will nurture relational and adaptive youth ministry in whatever context you serve. If you want to cultivate a dynamic and holistic ministry with young people and adults, this book is for you.” —John W. Vest, visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism at Union Presbyterian Seminary, Cofounder of the Progressive Youth Ministry Conference


“Finally a student ministry book written by an honest youth minister! Stephen not only captures the beautiful and hectic mess of adolescence, but lets the minister off the performance and production hook and invites them to get down and into the students’ lives. Organic Student Ministry is the book I wish I read 15 years ago … but at least I can share it now.”- Tripp Fuller, Cofounder of Homebrewed Christianity podcast


“After reading an early draft, I knew Stephen was onto something profound.  I could see immediately the authentic ring of ideas proven in the crucible of actually doing ministry week in and week out with young people. Though Stephen has already contributed quite a number of books to the youth ministry conversation, Organic Student Ministry introduces clearly and provocatively Stephen’s innovative, signature vision for ministry.  I am thrilled that, at last, Stephen’s timely and distinct approach will be added to the vocabulary of those seeking to do faithful work with a new generation.” —Mark DeVries, Founder of Ministry Architects and Author of Sustainable Youth Ministry

Continue Reading…

By now most if not all of us have seen the horrific picture of this beautiful baby boy lying dead and face down on a Turkish beach. At first glance he almost looks like he is peacefully napping after a long morning of dipping his toes in and out of the water, testing it for the first time, giggling and running in from the tide.


It almost looks like a family day at the beach until the tide he should have been running from washes in over his lifeless body rocking it gently from side to side as the water rushes in, and out, in and out.

No one there to pick him up, no one there to dust the sand off of his feet, just him, alone.

This image haunts us, and it should.

It, much like the 1993 picture of the Sudanese baby and approaching vultures picture, will become a part of our collective consciousness.  It will become a part of our understanding, out memory and in someways our DNA as a human race.

It will shape us and many others for generations to come.

But will it change anything?

You see, we have a problem in this country.

We like a good cry. Continue Reading…

The Tight Rope

You can almost feel the collective excitement in the air.  Summer is ending, school is beginning and our students are back.  This is an incredibly important time in student ministries all across the country.  It is a time to make first impressions and often times 2nd first impressions with out students.  It is a time of new beginnings, new programs and new relationships.  If you are like me you have planned some pretty exciting programs and ministry opportunities to being the year.  Just last night we had our big youth group kick off night for the fall and had a ton of kids show up, it felt great and was a lot of fun. The welcome back programs, the hospitality and the special food for nights like this are all great.  It is always around this time of year that I find myself walking a very thin tight rope in my student ministry.  It is a tight rope balanced between two notions of ministry, relevant ministry and suitcase packing ministry.

Both are good and neither are bad, but where one dominates the other cannot survive (I think that is also true of Voldemort and Harry Potter, but I digress)

Here is the problem: I am finding that so many student ministries around the country are imagining, developing and implementing really meaningful and relevant series and messages for their students and I believe that it is harming our students long term faith.   Not only is relevant ministry harming their long term faith I believe it is also destroying their ability to interpret the faith in relevant and meaningful ways in their own lives.

Let me explain. Continue Reading…

If you follow any sort of news about social media and its effects on the modern life you will know that there has been a pretty intense discussion/fight over the app Tinder.  Tinder, a social media, dating app is designed to allow users to view other users profile in a streamlined and efficient way.  It then allows the user to “swipe” left of right to either “accept” the profile or “reject” it.  Up until last week there was not a lot of talk about tinder besides it being a hot app on the dating and club scene.

Then the Vanity Fair article, “Tinder and the Dawn of the Dating Apocalypse” exploded onto the scene and hit a nerve, that apparently had been resting just below the surface of society.  It immediately went viral.  The article’s accusations said that Tinder was causing a dating apocalypse because it was creating, or feeding into, a rampant “hook up” culture going on in today’s young adult and college social scene. Since the article there has been a bit of a firestorm about this topic.  There is even a local author where I live who has written a mini book about “hook up” culture, and people are very concerned.

Here is the problem with the Vanity Fair article and this local book:

Both are focusing on, blaming and ultimately demonizing a symptom or outcome and not dealing with the real problem.

If you are worried because you are at the point where you believe your kids are going to have sex then you are too late to begin this conversation and truthfully if you are worrying about sex then you would have the wrong conversation to begin with.

I do not think that there is a sex problem in America. Continue Reading…

It is interesting how collective subconscious forms within organizations and people groups.  Without people ever really talking about a subject much detail they can often begin to collect around a given topic, adopt a common set of vocabulary and then ultimately become a substantive force to be reckoned with.  It is very interesting that while there is often a common vocabulary as to the problem there is rarely a commonly understood and agreed upon meaning. This seems to find exceptional root in organizations like the church.  I have observed this effect in many churches across the country.  In youth ministry this collective consciousness seems to, in recent years, center around two words:



I have seen youth ministers struggle and rack themselves hours upon hours to try to develop the right alchemy in their ministry to achieve that perfect balance of Deep and Fun.  While some do find temporary success it is often short lived and they find themselves answering to the same charges again that the youth ministry needs to be more “deep” or more “fun.”

Here is the problem:

These are illusive and almost mythical terms. Continue Reading…

The Fall is a great time to institute change in your student ministry.  It is a new beginning, people are excited and are looking for something fresh which gives you the capitol to improve the student ministry.  Here are 10 simple changes that can make a world of difference.

1. Advocate for Weekly Student Involvement in Worship-  Let’s get our kids out of the student ministry ghetto and into the practice of serving in the primary worship space with the rest of the church family.  It is long past time for there to be an equal representation in worship from children and youth.  We know that there is great theological and developmental value for our students as well.  So email your pastor or worship leader today and be your youth’s biggest advocate! Continue Reading…