Mark Matlock Talks The Importance of Youth Ministry

Mark Matlock Talks The Importance of Youth Ministry

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This episode, Chris and Karlie are joined by youth ministry expert, author, and national speaker, Mark Matlock. Join the conversation as Mark discusses the importance of youth ministry and how churches can reach teenagers. Whether or not you attend church, this is a great conversation about the importance of relationships and a place to belong in the life of a teenager.

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In this episode, you’ll find out…

  • Why youth ministry matters.
  • How to engage teenagers in the body of the church.
  • The importance of intergenerational relationships.
  • How youth group can impact a teenager as they move into adulthood.
Ask yourself…
  • Am I intentionally placing other adults in the lives of teenagers?
  • How can I better engage teenagers in the church body as a whole?
Go ask a teen…
  • Do you feel like you are a necessary part of the church body?
  • What is a problem you see with the church? How can we work together to solve that problem?

In this episode, we mentioned the following resources:

About Us:
Mark Matlock has been working with youth pastors, students, and parents for more than two decades. He is currently the president of WisdomWorks and is the former Executive Director for Youth Specialties (YS) and creator of the PlanetWisdom student conferences. Mark has written more than twenty books for teens and parents, including the Wisdom On… series, Living a Life That Matters, Smart Faith, Real World Parents, and Raising Wise Children. You can learn more at or
Chris Robey is the Program Director for Teen Lifeline, Inc. Earlier in his career while working as a youth minister, Chris earned a Masters Degree in Family Life Education from Lubbock Christian University to better equip his work with teenagers and families. Chris’ career and educational opportunities have exposed him to teenagers from a variety of backgrounds. Follow him on Twitter!
Karlie Duke started working as Teen Lifeline’s Communications Director after graduating from Abilene Christian University with a degree in Communications with a minor in Family Studies. Karlie has worked with teenagers for the past 5 years and is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram!
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If you have a question about something you heard or just want to give us some feedback, please leave us a comment below.  We would love to hear from you!
Teen Lifeline Summer Reading List

Teen Lifeline Summer Reading List

Summer is the perfect time to slow down and read a good book. Maybe you want to learn about something new, gain a new perspective or just need to laugh. As we get closer to the new school year, we hope that you’ll take advantage of the time you have left and stretch your mind! Below are a few of our book recommendations if you need a starting point.

For teenagers:

For Young Men Only by Jeff Feldhahn or For Young Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn

I actually read this book (the one for girls, obviously) when I was in High School. It is a light read but packed full of awesome and interesting information. Both of these books are written specifically for teenagers! Backed up with research and stories, this is a great resource for teens, especially as they begin to enter the dating world. They tackle questions like Why are boys so weird? Why can girls be so crazy sometimes? Why do boys want your respect more than your love? Why are good girls attracted to bad boys?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Disclaimer, this book releases on July 31, 2016 so I haven’t read this yet. However, it is a follow-up on the Harry Potter series, so it has to be good, right?! This “Script Book” follows Harry and his youngest son, Albus, as they try to overcome the past and the pressure of family legacy.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens by Sean Covey

What if there was a roadmap for how to not only survive adolescence but to thrive? This book by Sean Covey offers tools and tricks specifically for teenagers. He covers topics like responsibility, prioritizing, peer pressure and how to handle parental relationships. It is crucial for teenagers to develop healthy habits now – don’t wait and check out this book!


For parents:

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively by Gary Chapman

Do you feel like you just aren’t communicating well with your teenager? This adaptation of Dr. Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages, gives you the tools and resources to show love to your teenager in a way that best communicates to them! This book describes development, explains the teenage world and covers the 5 different love languages. Let’s learn to love teenagers more effectively!

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker

Hands down, this is the best book I read this year. While I’m sure men would find this book witty and charming, this one is mainly for the ladies. Jen Hatmaker will make you laugh until you cry as she covers marriage, parenting and important topics like yoga pants and coffee. In a world full of Pinterest and Instagram parents, Jen encourages women to break free of shame and impossible standards.

For Parents Only: Getting Inside the Head of Your Kid  by Shaunti Feldhahn

Written by the same person who wrote For Young Men/Women Only, this book uses a survey and interviews with teens and tweens to discuss things that parents don’t always understand about their children. This short book will cover topics such as their need for freedom, how the boundaries parents set impact teens, how to get teens to open up and talk to you, and ways to help them feel more secure and confident.


For youth ministers:

Lead Small: Five Big Ideas Every Small Group Leader Need to Know by Reggie Joiner

I read this book last fall and absolutely loved it! This book is great for small group (or Teen Lifeline Support Group) principles. By leading small, youth ministers, volunteers and small group leaders can have a tangible impact on teenagers’ lives. By investing, you can have a greater and more long-term relationship. This small books is a quick-read and will equip you to lead great small groups in your youth ministry.

Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill

It is not a secret, homosexuality is a no longer a topic that can be ignored by the church. Wesley Hill uses personal experience and scripture to discuss the question, Is there a place for “celibate, gay christians in the church?” I have loved the perspective and heart behind this book. It is not a book of judgement or condemnation but offers a message of hope and grace.


Have you read any other books lately that you would like to recommend? Please let us know your book suggestions and thoughts after you read some from our list! 

Karlie Duke was in one of Teen Lifeline’s original support groups and now is our Communications Director. She is passionate about encouraging students to live better stories.

Helping Students Lament

Helping Students Lament

This past week, I was on staff at a church camp and spent time teaching a Bible Class. Earlier in the Spring, they put out the class list for the teachers to choose a topic, and I guess I got there a little too late…One of the only topics left was on mourning. Yay! Or boo, I guess.

As I started preparing for this lesson, I was led to the various “laments” in the Old Testament of the Bible. In these laments, the authors would express their pain and grief in such a way to leave no doubt how they were feeling about things. Typically, the authors would speak in metaphors to describe the pain they were going through, and often the finger was pointed directly at God.

Being a former youth pastor, I thought I had taught it all. And having taught “church kids” most of that time, I assumed they have heard it all.

But not this time.

As we walked through some of the laments, you could see the students leaning forward in their chairs and paying extra-close attention to the words of the psalmists. They were captured by the metaphors and astonished by the words of those in pain.

Can they say that?” – was a common question as students explored passages like Psalm 88:3-7 and Lamentations 2:1-12.

You see, the structure and usage of lament functioned like therapy before there was anything like it. The ancient Jews had a relationship with God that allowed them to both praise and yell at God, depending on what was going on.

In other words, the ancient writers assumed something about the human condition: We have to tell the truth, somehow. 

And, we will end up telling the truth, somehow.

Laments are simply a healthy way for someone to mourn and grieve. They are a way to “tell the truth” about how they are feeling without fear of retribution. It’s an opportunity to lay everything on the table and take stock of what you have.

Because, the truth will come out at some point – but maybe not in the way we would think. We all are burdened with life and what can happen. Injustice, violence, loss, sorrow, and brokenness dance around us everyday. And with the advent of social media, we know more about human suffering than ever before.

We hold all of this stuff inside. The bad stuff of life can become a part of us if we don’t find a healthy way to “get it out”. If we don’t, it comes out in ways that are far less helpful. Anger, abuse, substance, self-harm, depression, anxiety, despair, and violence will “tell the truth” about how we are really feeling about things if we choose not to get things out in a heathy way.

Ultimately, we all tell the truth about what is going on inside of us. 

As someone who loves teenagers, I am worried about their ability to really deal with the hard stuff of life. Many assume venting over social media and texts is the way to go. For a lot of teenagers, there is no real safe place to go and “get it out” unless they go to a counselor or group.

Let’s create space and opportunity for our teenagers to lament. Whether it is at a church, in your home, or within the context of a loving relationship, maybe we can allow a student to speak about how they actually feel regarding the tough stuff of life.

It might sound confusing. It might not make sense. They might cuss. They might be disrespectful. They might point the finger at God. Or, you.

But, it is how they feel – and that is an incredible starting point for healing. Because, how they feel isn’t where they will end up on their journey through pain. Likely, it is just the starting point.

What do you think about this? Have you been around someone who is truly lamenting? Have you? How has it helped? 

Chris Robey, Teen Lifeline’s Program Director, has worked with teens for over a decade and strives to help students see the best in themselves.