3 Resources Get Students Interacting at Small Group

Two-people-talking-with-BubblesOne of the hardest things about leading student small groups is starting off on the right foot. Usually you have one or two students who are the life of the party. They feel comfortable talking and being the center of conversation. But then you have a few students that are shy or maybe they don’t feel comfortable enough with the group to join in the conversation. So how do you start your student small group off on the right foot in a way that makes all the students comfortable. Also, how do you get them interacting and listening to each other. A great way to do this is ask icebreaker questions. Questions that pull students out of their comfort zones and answering funny (or sometime serious) questions that usually helps the group laugh or interact with each other. I want to share with you three great resources that I have used to get my students interacting, laughing, and listening to each other during small groups.

Icebreaker Questions iPhone App. I ran across this app on the More Than Dodgeball blog. It’s a handy iPhone app that has tons of icebreaker questions for your students. It even has questions to use with kid and adult small groups. All you do is open the app, pick am age group (kids, students, or adults), and start asking the questions. The app cost $0.99 in the app store, but is worth it.

The Complete Book of Questions: 1001 Conversation Starts for Any Occasion. My campus pastor pulled this book out a few months ago before a staff meeting and since then I have used it with my middle school guys small group. This helpful book is packed with tons of questions that help start funny and serious conversations with your students. What I like about this book is it’s split up between starter, funny, serious, and spiritual questions. Out of the three resources in this blog this is the one I would recommend most. It’s a great book to have handy when you want to break the ice with your students at small group.

Throw and Tell Balls from Group. I purchased one of these balls a few years ago at SYMC and didn’t realize how much my students would enjoy it. Basically it’s a blow up, beach ball sized ball that has a ton of questions on it. You throw the ball around the group and make the students answer which ever question one of their fingers lands on (I usually say right pointer finger, but you can do whatever you want). Group has made two versions of this ball: icebreaker and storytellers. The icebreaker ball is covered with simple icebreaker questions and the storytellers ball is covered with questions that make the student answer in story mode.

I hope you find a few of these resources helpful when it comes to leading student small groups. If you have another resource that you find helpful please share it below in the comment section.

Teen’s iPhone Comes with Contract From Mom

iphone-face-down-blackIn today’s world most teens have cell phones. Not just cell phones, but most teens today are getting smart phones such as Apple’s iPhone. It is not uncommon anymore to see students in middle school, and lower, with their own smart phone. I’m sure some parents reading this have bought their teen a smart phone recently, maybe as a Christmas present. My fear is many parents don’t understand the freedom they are giving their teens when they hand them their very own smart phone. Does this mean I’m an advocate of teens not having smart phones? Not necessarily, but I do believe parents need to understand what they are allowing in their teens hand when they give them their own smart phone. So how should parents handle this? Should they buy their teen an old school phone that only sends text messages? Should they buy their teen a smart phone and hope they use it wisely? I’ll let each parent decide on their own, but I want to share with you what one parent did when she gave her son his very own iPhone.

Gregory Hofmann received an iPhone from his mother Janelle Burley Hofmann as a Christmas present, but along with the iPhone came an 18 point contract detailing how he should use the iPhone. Take a look at the contract she wrote him below:

Dear Gregory

Merry Christmas! You are now the proud owner of an iPhone. Hot Damn! You are a good and responsible 13-year-old boy and you deserve this gift. But with the acceptance of this present comes rules and regulations. Please read through the following contract. I hope that you understand it is my job to raise you into a well rounded, healthy young man that can function in the world and coexist with technology, not be ruled by it. Failure to comply with the following list will result in termination of your iPhone ownership.

I love you madly and look forward to sharing several million text messages with you in the days to come.

1. It is my phone. I bought it. I pay for it. I am loaning it to you. Aren’t I the greatest?

2. I will always know the password.

3. If it rings, answer it. It is a phone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call if the screen reads “Mom” or “Dad.” Not ever.

4. Hand the phone to one of your parents promptly at 7:30 p.m. every school night and every weekend night at 9:00 p.m. It will be shut off for the night and turned on again at 7:30 a.m. If you would not make a call to someone’s land line, wherein their parents may answer first, then do not call or text. Listen to those instincts and respect other families like we would like to be respected.

5. It does not go to school with you. Have a conversation with the people you text in person. It’s a life skill. *Half days, field trips and after school activities will require special consideration.

6. If it falls into the toilet, smashes on the ground, or vanishes into thin air, you are responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Mow a lawn, babysit, stash some birthday money. It will happen, you should be prepared.

7. Do not use this technology to lie, fool, or deceive another human being. Do not involve yourself in conversations that are hurtful to others. Be a good friend first or stay the hell out of the crossfire.

8. Do not text, email, or say anything through this device you would not say in person.

9. Do not text, email, or say anything to someone that you would not say out loud with their parents in the room. Censor yourself.

10. No porn. Search the web for information you would openly share with me. If you have a question about anything, ask a person — preferably me or your father.

11. Turn it off, silence it, put it away in public. Especially in a restaurant, at the movies, or while speaking with another human being. You are not a rude person; do not allow the iPhone to change that.

12. Do not send or receive pictures of your private parts or anyone else’s private parts. Don’t laugh. Someday you will be tempted to do this despite your high intelligence. It is risky and could ruin your teenage/college/adult life. It is always a bad idea. Cyberspace is vast and more powerful than you. And it is hard to make anything of this magnitude disappear — including a bad reputation.

13. Don’t take a zillion pictures and videos. There is no need to document everything. Live your experiences. They will be stored in your memory for eternity.

14. Leave your phone home sometimes and feel safe and secure in that decision. It is not alive or an extension of you. Learn to live without it. Be bigger and more powerful than FOMO (fear of missing out).

15. Download music that is new or classic or different than the millions of your peers that listen to the same exact stuff. Your generation has access to music like never before in history. Take advantage of that gift. Expand your horizons.

16. Play a game with words or puzzles or brain teasers every now and then.

17. Keep your eyes up. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Talk to a stranger. Wonder without googling.

18. You will mess up. I will take away your phone. We will sit down and talk about it. We will start over again. You and I, we are always learning. I am on your team. We are in this together.

It is my hope that you can agree to these terms. Most of the lessons listed here do not just apply to the iPhone, but to life. You are growing up in a fast and ever changing world. It is exciting and enticing. Keep it simple every chance you get. Trust your powerful mind and giant heart above any machine. I love you. I hope you enjoy your awesome new iPhone.


At first I didn’t know what to think about this “contract.” But the more I think about it the more I would have to say I support this mother’s actions. She did her research and knows the temptations that come with having a smart phone as a teen. She is giving her son freedom to enjoy things like an iPhone, but with boundaries to help him use it in an appropriate way.

My goal in writing this post and sharing this story is to start a much needed discussion on how parents can balance freedom and protection when it comes to giving their child an smart phone. Too many parents just give their teen a smart phone with complete freedom and act surprised when their teen is caught looking at porn, spending countless hours texting, and sending inappropriate text images (apps like Snapchat are making things like this much easier). Their has to be a balance and parents need to consider what that balance looks like for them when they give their teen a smart phone.

[Question] What’s your thoughts on this mother’s contract that came with her sons iPhone?

Top 5 Blog Posts From 2012

top-5I’m a few days late in posting this, but I wanted to share the top five blog posts that I wrote last year. These posts where all written last year and received the most views here on my blog. I’d encourage you to check a few of them out.

My Favorite iPhone Apps for Student Ministry. I use my iPhone for almost everything and when it comes to student ministry I use it a ton! In this post I share some of the apps I have on my iPhone that I use almost everyday when it comes to student ministry.

3 Leadership Lessons from Jeremiah. I love talking leadership and one of my favorite things to do is talk about leadership principles that come from Scripture. In this post I share three leadership principles I believe we can apply to our own leadership from the life of the prophet Jeremiah.

Teens, Movies, and SexThis was one of my favorite posts to write last year. I wrote this post in response to a news article I ran across online that said that research found that teens that are exposed to sex in movies are more likely to engage in sexual activity in their teen years. I shared my thoughts on that statement and gave some guiding principles for parents.

Tips for Preaching From an iPadWhen I preach, I preach from my iPad. This is becoming more and more popular among church leaders who teach and preach. In this post I share a few practical tips for preaching from an iPad.

3 Things Student Pastors MUST NOT Do. This post was kind of part two of a post I wrote a few months before it called 3 Things Every Student Pastors MUST Do. As the title suggests, I share three things I believe students pastors should not every do.

It’s a new year and there are many posts to be written, but I hope people still find these posts from last year helpful. Many of these posts come out of my passion for student ministry and leadership.

My Favorite iPhone Apps for Student Ministry

I’m always on the lookout for new apps to use in student ministry. There are a ton of apps out there, but there are some that are great for student pastors that will come in handy for your ministry. I wanted to share my favorite iPhone apps that I use regularly in my student ministry.

Youth Culture Report. One of the things I am always doing as a student pastor is keeping up with the current teen culture. I try to keep an eye on current trends as well as what is happening in the life of teenagers around the world. I do believe every student pastors need to be students of teen culture. This is why I love this app! On the Youth Culture Report app, you will find tons of links to blogs and articles about current teen culture. It’s simple and easy to use. This is an app every student pastor needs to have on their iPhone. By the way, they are relaunching this soon and it will be even better!

Group TextThe best way to send out reminders to students is via text messaging. Because of that, I use text messages to promote events, send out reminders, and to just connect with students. Most of the time I send out promo’s and reminders as a large group text using the app “Group Text.” This is a great app I was introduced to by my friend Josh Evans who uses it with his students. It allows you to create lists and then send out a mass text to whatever list you want. I have a list for my students, leaders, and parents.

DropboxI absolutely love Dropbox! Dropbox allows you to keep files in a cloud that can synced between all your devices. For example, the files in my Dropbox are synced between my iPhone, iPad, and Macbook. Awhile back I wrote a post about using Dropbox in ministry that will help you see how I use Dropbox in my ministry (Click here to view that post). It’s a nice app to have if you have important files you want at your fingertips at all times. I keep all my files for our student ministry in my Dropbox so I can access them whenever I want on what device is infront of me. This also allows me to back up those files and not have to worry about loosing them.

EvernoteEvernote works the same as Dropbox, but is notes instead of files. I use Evernote a lot when it comes to meetings and reminders. If I need to take quick notes during a meeting with my leaders, parents, or senior pastor, I can take them in Evernote on my iPad and open them up later on my iPhone or Macbook. What is so great about Evernote is that your notes can be text, audio, or even an image. There are some great posts about using Evernote in student ministry, but here is one I would recommend you taking a look at.

InstagramBy far one of the most popular iPhone apps out there is instagram. But instagram is a great app to have if you’re a student pastor! It’s a great way to take quick pictures of your students, events, and trips and post them to Twitter or Facebook so other students and parents can see them.

There are a few more apps such as Twitter and Facebook that are self-explanatory that I use daily in student ministry. The ones I mentioned are one you may have not heard of that I think are “must haves” for student pastors. What iPhone apps do you use most in student ministry?

Two Dangerous Pitfalls

For my Church Administration class here at PBC, Dr. White had us read Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby. Along with reading it we had to each pick a chapter to doing a paper and presentation on. I choose the chapter ten which deals with the leaders pitfalls. For my presentation I am using two videos by John Piper that describe two dangerous pitfalls Christian, especially Christians leaders, can fall into very easily. In the following short videos, John Piper describes how easy it is to be prideful and then the dangers of modern technology such as the iPhone.