I wrote an article for a magazine called, Youth Worker Journal.  In the article I tried to give some helpful tips for navigating this complex world as parents.  YWJ also just recently posted my article on their website.  Here's the link to the article.  Hope you enjoy!

Recently I had coffee with a young youth pastor here in the DC area.  He had just started working at his church and he wanted to get off to a really good start.  He asked me this basic question, one that  I rarely hear asked anymore, "So what exactly should I be building so that our youth group is healthy?"  I just walked him through, what I believe, are some things to shoot for that will lead to a wholistic and healthy youth ministry Culture (excluding the obvious programmatic ones like: weekly meetings, retreats, missions, service, monthly activities ...) So here's my first priority -not exhaustive- list:

Build a Warm, Accepting and Loving Culture A new study is hot off of the presses right here concerning this,  but basically students who stay connected to church and faith, stay because they sense the adults really enjoy, like, and accept them - no matter what.  Now this seems like a no duh, but you wouldn't believe what I've heard come out of youth workers mouths about the students who struggle or who are somewhat difficult.  See, kids are asking us, "do you like me?" And ""Will you still like me when I mess up, when I question my faith, or question you?"  And our answer must be a resounding, "YES!"  
Now, I know this a a difficult one - especially for certain types of students - but this is why we rely on the Holy Spirit - not on our own abilities.  It's easy to like students when they like us, or when they "behave", or seem like they have a mature faith...  So the question is, are you building into your ministry culture (and it all starts with the adults) the enjoyment and the warmth of God? Every time a students runs into one of our adults, they must experience the warmth of God, through us.   

Build a Culture of Cared for and Well-Trained Youth Ministry Teams 
It all starts with leaders, both volunteer and paid.  Healthy well trained adults in the lives of students has to be a key priority and its why small groups ministries are so vital.  For our adult leaders, we have a rule that helps us - if an adult on our team is having a busy week and has to choose between attending youth group or a leader's meeting, we'd rather have you at the leaders meeting.  We have to be one, and healthy, and what we are wanting to see happen in our students lives must first begin in us.  I remember Chap Clark telling me years ago when I worked for him in California that any decent and respectable youth ministry volunteer team should have 2 meetings per month (short meetings before youth group do not count).  I know this is a hard one to accomplish in today's world, but I've made it a priority ever since. Here's my rule - don't waste adult volunteers' time - you better make those meetings amazing!  
Here are three goals I have at every meeting:
1. Grow closer to each other (we eat together, share our hearts, pray for each other, play together, etc...)
2. Grow closer to God (open the word, worship, prayer exercise, etc...)
3. Get some training (give them something that they can use that will benefit their ministry to students - think about giving them a binder where they can keep all of the notes your giving them and the information they need like calendars and rosters)

Build a Culture of Prayer
Don't skim over this one, because I want to challenge us for just a minute.  When I say a praying youth ministry, I mean constantly praying across the board.  Prayer is happening everywhere - yes - before a program, of course - at leader meetings, but also in the midst of our weekly regular youth group times.  I travel around the country and I see a lot of youth groups and I rarely have seen prayer taken seriously.  I have rarely seen a youth ministry truly teach students how to pray or encourage regular  prayer times, or even to come up front or whatever to receive prayer.  Kids today are more stressed out than ever before and they desperately need to experience God's life-giving presence.  Heck, one of the markers of the fruit of the Spirit is peace - they are desperate for peace, yet we rarely provide opportunities for them to pray with a leader or, even better, empower them to pray for each other.  Why? Because lets be honest, we don't value it (at least enough). 
The students in our youth group starting a thing called, Prayer Posse.  One kid would go pray for a friend, then the two of them would go pray for another friend and then on and on they'd go slowly growing this huge prayer posse.  I loved it and they would do it in the middle of worship or at the end of a talk because we left room and space for it in our regular programming. A healthy youth ministry is one in which students are regularly being taught how to listen, interact, and seek after God - and not just for themselves, but on behalf of others.

Build a Culture of Thinking Students 
What I've discovered is that kids thrive in certain environments - but be careful because it can be deceiving.  Let me explain.  At camp or on a mission trip the gospel resonates and makes sense to them.  They hear the gospel being preached and they see it being lived out and it all begins to sink in.  But when they leave that environment and are in a completely different environment, where people around them are cynical of the faith and are making intelligent and thoughtful arguments, well, that too clicks for them and can make a lot of sense.  Its one of the reason why students struggle in college.  What we have to be working on is teaching students how to think, not just what to think.  Now this requires trusting the Holy Spirit in their lives - but we must prepare them so that when they hear things that are challenging to the faith, they don't just immediately buy it (or reject it without a thought) - but we are preparing them to go through a process of finding the truth in whatever is being said and disregarding the lies.  This is a messy way to teach for sure, but what we've been doing is no longer working - maybe it never worked.  Question based teaching is key.  Want help for that?  Click here

Build a Thriving and Empowered Student Leadership Culture
This has become a lost art in youth ministry.  In fact, as I've traveled around the country I rarely see student leadership teams at all - and the ones I do see are really struggling. I get it, kids are super busy, we really don't know how to use them (besides worship band and tech teams), and often the "big church" does not support integrating them into their regular services.  
A couple of thoughts here though - youth ministry MUST be about developing and empowering students.  If we are not doing this, then we are failing!  Go to a local middle or high school - students are running the place.  Go watch a play, not a single adult is performing or running the sound or lights or...  This, I believe becomes the most important thing we can do - if there's no time for student leadership, then cancel youth group and just develop students.  Students are tired of siting and watching and if students don't see a need to be a part of the church - if they don't see a way that they can contribute or play a role- then they will soon discover (and many are) that there's really no reason to come to church at all.     If you have any questions about this, let me know - I'd love to help. 

Build a Parenting Ministry  Culture
Most youth pastors get out of and quit youth ministry before parents actually start listening to them.  You know, why would a parent listen to someone who has never raised a teenager before?  I've found that the sweetest part of my youth ministry has been in recent years because parents are actually showing up to parent meetings.  
YES!  It's the best!  
I remember my first parent meeting ever - 2 moms and me... ugh!   The most successful parent meetings have been training events done monthly during youth group.  This was a huge success - and parents wouldn't miss it.  I spoke but I would also bring in experts to speak on relevant topics.  This has to become a priority - we know that parents are the number one influence in a student's life - so let's help them.

A Serving Presence on Local School Campuses
I've written about this extensively in a chapter of my book, Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World.  So I'll be brief.  Don't try to get on campus to promote your youth group (under the guise of meeting your students' friends) or even to visit your students on their turf.  Just be a blessing and a serving presence.  Go to the office, fill out a volunteer application and start serving.  If you read my chapter on this you might discover that this very likely could open amazing doors for you.  It will also provide more roles for your students leaders to begin to serve at their schools.

Build Connectedness with the Larger Church Body
Just this past week a youth worker told me that they were going to start a high school meeting during the main service.  So the high school students are no longer going to be worshiping with the larger church family.  It's really too bad because it seems that study after study shows how vital it is that students are a part of an intergenerational group of people - that their identity comes from being a part of this diverse group who are being salt and light in the world together.  This particular church has really youth friendly church services, so I am not sure of the reasoning.  But the question is, how do we connect students to the larger church family? We have to answer this. 

Build a Culture of Continued support for Post High School Graduates
We know that students struggle when they go away to college 
- so here are a few things to  try:
1. Get a volunteer team to focus just on supporting and ministering to your graduates (this must be their sole focus, so that the ball doesn't drop).
2. Contact a college ministry that your students are attending and get them connected.
3. Have activities, services, and meetings for when they are home.
4. Involve them as youth leaders. 
5. Make sure that are serving somewhere.
6. make sure you do number one on this list =)  

OK, so here are just a few things that can help build the kind of culture that will create health in a wholistic way.  Please remember, this is a slow build - be patient with it and with yourself, because as they say, Rome wasn't built in a day :) 

By: Kelsey Morgan

I really enjoy where we are living in the DC Metro area. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve looked at Brock and marveled that this is our turf, our playground.  It has been such a pleasure to explore DC, which brings me to the realization that we have only been living here for one year. Wow! Time flies when you drop everything and invest your blood, sweat, tears, and finances into a crazy big dream! Believe me, it has been in incredible journey on every level: 
incredibly fulfilling 
incredibly scary
incredibly challenging
incredibly frustrating
incredibly faith filled
With all that “incredible” stuff taking place I have had moments when God has shown up in the midst, speaking my language and ushering me into a place of centeredness. 

Because, let’s face it, sometimes it’s really just about God showing up.  Like one of those 5 year olds playing soccer, it’s not really about winning so much as the people cheering you on from the sidelines.  People showing up, people you love and people you want there whether you win or lose the game.  I think that has sustained me over the past year, when God just showed up and spoke to me and I knew he was there with me, win or lose. Which brings me to a couple of stories of God just showing up when I needed him.

As a part of being a healthy human being, I have taken up riding my bike across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  The bridge connects Old Town Alexandria, VA with The National Harbor, where we currently live.  The path itself is really cool and takes you up and over the bridge to a park area on the Maryland side where you can look down at the traffic (yuck) and the lovely water way.  As you continue on the path you run parallel with the car traffic in a divided lane.  This path is almost always busy, with people from both sides of the water coming and going.

As I rode and prayed, I noticed a butterfly about 3 yards ahead of me aligned on the path.  As I drew close, the butterfly flitted up and ahead of me, always staying within the boundaries of the path.  Every so often it would land in front of me, but as soon as I thought I had caught up it would take off again.  Always staying within the walls of the path, it flew high and could have crossed over, but it wouldn't.  The path it made was erratic and yet always pressing forward, always leading out in front of me.Hmmm.  Could this be like the Holy Spirit in our lives?  The ways in which God works in our lives can sometimes seem sloppy, like the erratic path of the butterfly.  I, like so many of you, like things neat and tidy - planned out and linear.  And yet, the Spirit never departs from the path, the story, the objective.  There’s just a lot of space in there to move around, soar, zig zag.  The Holy Spirit will not be pinned down, will not stay put, will not be content to stop working all together.  Always leading, showing the way, encouraging us to follow, but never so far out in front that he disappears completely.

This reminded me of two things: First, I can trust the leading of God’s Spirit in my life even when it doesn't fit into the nice, neat paradigms I have invented to contain and make sense of my life.  Second, I can trust the Holy Spirit to work in other people’s lives even when it looks like they are a little bit, well, crazy. The Spirit might be zig zagging in their lives right now, and who am I to judge that? I have to accept the fact that I am neither the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. 

What I have discovered is that launching out and starting a new ministry has made me desperate for God - which leads me to this - our conference, The Amazing Next, is happening Sept. 23-24 in Oklahoma City.  We are so excited, but as you might guess also combating fear and doubt on a daily basis.  As the date looms closer, the desperate prayers for peace cry out of one’s soul.  I hopped on my bike again to make that stress work for me and to center myself on a particularly windy Saturday as the tropical storm Hermine made her way up along the coast.  The winds were anywhere between 15-25 mph, but I needed desperately to burn some rubber.  The trip over the bridge toward Alexandria was filled with prayers that sounded something like this, “Oh Jesus! Oh Jesus!  Help me Jesus!” That mixed with the tears that flowed freely down my face made me look like one crazy windblown lady on a bike. The wind at my back, I enjoyed the descent into Old Town, then turned to go up the hill and back over the bridge.

Oh. My. Word. The wind was now combative toward me, pelting me, making my ride incredibly difficult.  The pent up stress that had aided my ride so far had left me and now it was a mental battle to will my self forward.  As I shifted from 2nd into 1st gear, I was tempted to quit, give up, walk it.  This is just too hard! I heard myself think. Whoa. Right then is when God showed up. “What’s too hard? This is not too hard.  Sometimes you just have to stay the course, woman!”  Stay the course. Because life is hard, but you have to stay the course.  There will be payoff for your faithfulness, your perseverance even if you cannot see it now.

Our daughter had a discussion in her Psychology class last week about whether or not they would spare their children certain difficulties.  For instance, would you take a pill that would eradicate all cancer from your unborn children?  The teacher, obviously knowing what a thoughtful and amazing person Dancin is (a little brag there), called on her.  Her response was unresolved, she said, “Having pain and difficulty is part of growing up and developing character.  Why would you need God if you never suffered or had to walk through hard times?  You would never learn to depend on God and I want my children to know what it is like to depend on God.” She is a witness to the life well lived, even in the hard times, and she likes the fruit of that life and where her own suffering has taken her.  I love that life has become more gray for her, that it is not a pat answer which satisfies her.

And I love that God meets us where we are, responds when we call out, kicks our butts when we need it, and is palpably with us as we stay the course.   

When we launched Generation514, just over a year ago, we were jumping into the deep end of why students are walking away from church and faith.  

After praying our guts out we set up brainstorming groups, interviewed students, youth culture experts and youth workers around the world - from all of that we landed on a few initiatives (The Amazing Next Conference, Teaching Curriculum, A Gap Year Program, and more recently - Parenting Seminars, and a Generation514 Retreat - you can read more about all of that that here.)

Last October we gathered a group of thinkers, futurists, theologians, and writers and began the process of putting together teaching curriculum for youth groups around the world.  See, we all know that students are living in a very complex world and our teaching must rise to the occasion and help guide them through the maze of culture's complexities, to engage students in a new and deeper way.  

Well, so far we have put out a three months worth of teaching - each topic actually contains 5 full lessons - take a look at the different topics here.  

I'm super excited at the fact that this third one just came out - it is called, A Dismissed Faith.  It is our attempt for youth workers to have real authentic conversations with students about why many walk away from church and faith, but why the faith is worthy of giving your life to.  We couldn't be more excited about this super relevant topic!

If you have any questions about the teachings or about our conferences, please let us know by email us at info@generation514.com

Tomorrow we are driving our daughter and dropping her off at Lee University for her freshmen year of college.  Honestly, when I think about it, I'm a bit emotional (some of you who know me are thinking, "no duh Brock").  Man, we love that girl but it's a kind of love I never knew existed until she was born (parents, you know what I'm talking about).  But I remember 19 years ago when I became a father -> I had no earthly idea what to do... no seriously, not a clue!  You'd think I would know because I had wonderful parents -  but for whatever reason, when the doctor looked at Kelsey and I and said we could leave the hospital and take our newborn baby girl home, I immediately thought, "Oh #@#%!  I. Do. Not. Know. What. I'm. Doing.!!!"  But we put that little girl in the car seat and on the way home a peace-filled thought came over me. See, I had never been a dad before, but I had been a youth pastor for quite a few years.  And this thought came to my mind, "I could just be a youth pastor at home."

I mean think about it -  what do good youth pastors do?  They plan activities that cause the group to grow closer to each other?  They listen carefully.  The pray and dream and strategize and implement.  They create environments where everyone can experience God's warmth.  They plan retreats and missions that causes the group to become aware of God's overwhelming presence and for their heads and hearts to be lifted towards the needs of others.  This was a revelation to me, and so I drove the rest of that drive home with a sense of purpose and peace, knowing what the plan was: I'd be a youth pastor at home. 

Now being a youth pastor at home is no easy task.  Sometimes you just want to come home and let your hair down - just veg and do absolutely nothing except eat potato chips and watch Sports Center.  So one day I asked my father how he was able to come home after really long and hard days at work and give so much to us as a family - and honestly, he was a remarkable father!  He told me that he would pull the car over on the side of the road before coming home and just pray that God would empower him to love his family well, to speak his words, and to be his touch.  For me this was again, revolutionary, even though I had done this as a youth pastor.  Before I spoke or before youth group, I would pray that God's spirit would animate me and would use me to be his voice and his listening ear to the students around me.  Why didn't I think to do this at home?  So that's what I started doing: preparing my heart, mind, and soul to come home empowered by God to love my family well.

I think back on these years of being a dad and a youth pastor at home - it really has been my greatest joy!  And I think about each day living on purpose, coming home and being God's hands and feet to my wife and daughter - it has been the greatest challenge of my life and probably the biggest tool God has used in his sanctifying work in me. Because I know me, this stuff just doesn't come natural for me - but God...  Isn't that a great phrase in the Bible? But God.   There will always be circumstances, situations, or people who trip us up and make us grouchy, but God shows up and works, intervenes and transforms our lives, so that we are salt and light in spite of ourselves.  Even at home.  Wow, his grace and his calling has been amazing!  

Tonight we are having another ceremony for our daughter.  We've done these rights of passage moments throughout Dancin's life and so tonight will be another one.  A ceremony of blessing and sending and I can't wait!  See, she's ready to be commissioned - she's ready to be sent.  I've watched her closely and I see who she has become and while it's difficult to send her out - God has prepared her for this day!  Honestly, as a youth pastor I never knew how difficult this day was for parents.  I always knew it was hard for me to say goodbye to our graduates, but for a parent, it's a deeper and more profound experience.  Yesterday my wife and I were finishing up planning for this ceremony and we both just started crying.  We know full well that these years of have led to this point.  Now, it's not like parenting is ending - I gather from my parents that parenting adult children is actually much more difficult.  Sending her out and letting go isn't easy but, again, she's just so ready.  We believe in her.  We believe that she's ready to lead and lend a hand in bringing change to this world.  We believe that God's hand is upon her and his favor is with her.  We believe she's ready for hard and difficult times, ready for good times, and for anything that life throws at her because God has invested so much into her.  The cool thing that I've discovered is that God believes in her as well.  He has faith, in her.

So I apologize for the sappy family emotional stuff in this post but I really wanted to remind you that as a parent or a future parent, you play an amazing role and God is and is going to use you in mighty ways.  Just don't forget who you are - you are a shepherd, a priest, and a youth pastor at home.  

In recent years I've become really interested in the idea of the signet ring.  In fact, this summer I finally got one that I wear everywhere I go.  There is actually an amazing narrative around the concept of the signet ring that has become a huge theme in my life.  So bear with me as I kind of give some background and historical context, then we'll end in Ephesians.  

In Haggai 2:23 it says, “‘On that day,’ declares the LORD Almighty, ‘I will take you, my servant Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will make you like my signet ring, for I have chosen you.’” As I read this a while back I wondered what God really meant when He said Zerubbabel was His signet ring?

As many of us know, ancient kings used signet rings to demonstrate authority and honor.  A signet contained a symbol unique to a particular king and they would seal official documents with soft wax impressed with the king’s signet, kept on a ring on his finger. Such a seal certified the document as genuine and carrying the full weight of the office of the king. In 1 Kings 21:8, the evil Queen Jezebel took King Ahab’s signet ring and “wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal.” The ring’s stamp gave her letters the king’s full authority. Its talked about differently in Daniel 6:17 and we also see this in Genesis 41:41-43 and Esther 8:8 and in other places.

Now back to Haggai.  It's important to understand who Zerubbabel is. He is the governor of the rebuilt Jerusalem and is himself of royal blood, being a descendant of David and the grandson of Judah’s King Jehoiachin. Years earlier, Jehoiachin had lost his throne when he was deported to Babylon.  See, God pictured Jehoiachin as a signet ring being removed from God’s finger (Jeremiah 22:24). Now, God calls Zerubbabel the “signet ring,” but this time it won’t be taken off and removed.

Stay with me.
In Haggai’s prophecy, God is giving Zerubbabel a vision for how God see's him.  This gives Zerubbabel encouragement and hope.  As God’s signet ring, Zerubbabel is given a place of honor and authority. God is reinstating the Davidic line and renewing His covenant with David. Judah still has a future as they look forward to the coming Son of David, the Messiah, who would one day “overturn royal thrones and shatter the power of the foreign kingdoms” (Haggai 2:22).

Now, take a look at Ephesians in the Message (Man I love that Eugene Peterson!)
Ephesians 1:3-14 (MSG)   (dont skim this, its really good)
3-6 How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.

7-10 Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.

11-12 It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.

13-14 It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

It is amazing to me how the Scriptures never get old, stale, and boring (well, most of the time). But I'm always seeing new stuff in there.  And today this passage just screams out to me, and hopefully to you. 
Here it is: 
You are God's signet.  
You have his authority, his blessing, his favor  -and  he's honoring, empowering, and animating you by his indwelling Spirit.  So cool!  

I pray that we walk in this and we pass this on to the students we serve!  

So tomorrow morning when you wake up, don't just go through the motions, don't forget who you are.   You carry his signet.  You walk with the full weight of the office behind you!  God is with you and he is so proud of you, no matter how you feel.

May we walk in the reality of what God has really done in us.  That the good news is better news than we ever dreamed of.  I pray that we would live with this new revelation knowing that God picked us for the amazing task of representing him and the crazy thing is, is that he thinks we can actually do it! And may those we minister to come to fully understand who they really are.  That they have been chosen by God himself to do spectacular things in this world - and may we all walk in the reality that his favor is on us.  Amen!

I saw this video today and it really stirred up some unexpected emotions in me.  There is the whole, what it means to be a black man in this culture - which as a white male challenges me and fills me with humble respect - and then there's the whole thoughtfulness to what this leader does in the training of black boys and black men.  Take a look - what an amazing gift to have leaders like this speaking into the lives of boys and their fathers.  How are we as youth workers preparing our youth and their parents to navigate a very difficult cultural terrain?
It is still so amazing to us that we started this journey about a year ago, and now we are just 57 days away from experiencing what we've been dreaming about and praying for.  
On September 23, hundreds of teenagers will come together for the very first ever, Amazing Next Conference - and we just can't wait!  

This whole thing really began with some of us asking a few questions like, 
How can we be a part of seeing students today thrive in their faith rather than just slowly check-out, fizzle-out and drift-away from faith and church?  Is there a way to show students an intellectual faith that is big and broad, but also deeply spiritual and one that brings light to darkness?  Could we show students that God has initiated a movement that calls us to join Him in bringing goodness to the world?

This led us to develop a few things - one of which is a re-imagined conference that has a youth worker track, a student track, a years worth of follow-up curriculum, as well as strategies that we are praying will lead to a new thing in our nation - and it all begins in Oklahoma City, moves upward to Boston, and then around the nation - city by city.  Yes, we know, it's a bit audacious (actually, really audacious), but we like that and we are just giddy about maybe playing a small role in seeing this generation take their place in God's movement here on earth.

So, please be in prayer as we and our partners get ready in these last few weeks before the conference - there still is so much to be done.  If you live anywhere near Oklahoma City, register your group (spots are already going quickly), and then, if you are at all interested in bringing the conference to your region, please let us know.  We'd love to hear from you! 

Click here to email us.  

I am a part of some youth worker Facebook groups and recently I've been seeing quite a few youth pastors doing polls and surveys at youth group to gage what is working, what isn't, etc... When I started seeing this, it concerned me a bit and so I had and try and think through why it was bugging me.  So I just want to try and give something useful here and to think through this a bit with you.

We lived in the Los Angeles area for years.  One of the very cool benefits and perks of living there was getting to see pre-released movies for free - it was absolutely incredible!  The only catch was that after the movie, you would have to answer some questions so that the movie company could poll early feedback and possibly make changes before the movies release.  They would ask you questions around the characters, the music, the plot line, how the story made us feel, what was funny, what moved us, etc... The curious thing that I noticed was that answering those questions would put me in a kind of a critical mode - like I know anything about making movies, ya know? - but I would judge something that I really had no stake in and each time I'd answer their questions, I wondered if they'd actually listen to any of my uninformed and rather ignorant opinions. Occasionally I'd go back to see the movie when it was released to see if they made any of the changes I'd suggested, and just as I suspected, they never listen to a single idea I gave. =) How dare they!

When I see polls being conducted at church or at a youth ministry it immediately reminds me of the entertainment industry.  I've even heard churches call parishioners, patrons, call church members, clients, and view them not as fellow laborers, but as consumers.  This business/entertainment mindset that the church has is one of the reasons churches are losing people today. Why?  Because the shopper has found a better product.  

This whole philosophy of many churches really sticks in my craw - it bothers me - and I believe it should - which is why I've argued for us to move away from youth ministry to youth IN ministry.  Where the student doesn't just attend and watch us on stage, but are leading, contributing, using their gifts, and where they have a full stake and role in the movement. [Side-note: Most youth groups have moved to the "come and watch" model - and why I believe is one of the reasons why 70% of students, by the time they finish 10th grade leave youth group/church - they are tired of sitting, listening, and watching - they actually want to do something.  Along these lines, try going to your student's schools - students are running the place - using their gifts - they are the stars on the field, on the stage, in the band, behind the sound board, etc... They have a major role at school...]  

Surveys: Motivation is Key
Now I realize that this isn't completely fair, nor is it the full story.  There are good reasons to conduct a survey - like maybe around what students believe and how they might shape what topics we cover in our teaching.  Although, I've always used a different method than surveys to gather that information.  There are good reason to maybe conduct one - motivation is key.  But when a survey is around enjoyment or any kind or "does this entertain you," "will this make you come more," "how can we get you to invite your friends," "do you like the youth leader?" then I believe we are heading down the wrong path.  WARNING: I've seen these surveys used to get rid of youth staff.  

About two years ago I was talking with a fellow youth worker whose Executive Pastor had asked her to conduct a survey at youth group.  He made up the questions and handed them to her to pass out and have the students fill them out.  Some of the questions were quite loaded - really setting up the students to think and write very negative things. This student pastor walked away from that experience demoralized and shortly after was asked to step down from her position.  The crazy thing was that the students absolutely loved her - loved youth group - the youth group was actually growing, but these loaded questions gave the executive pastor the ammunition he had desired the whole time - a reason to get rid of her.  

I would just say, please be careful.  Don't contribute to the entertainment/business model of church.  Remember that the students who are at youth group are your teammates.  Do whatever you can to get them on the playing field and out of the stands.  If a survey will help you do that, then wonderful.  Otherwise, please be careful.  I realize there's much more to be said here, and maybe I'll do that in a future post - but here are my quick two-cents.