Author Archives: Stephen C. James

About Stephen C. James

I spent a large portion of my life seeing myself as a normal Christian. I wanted to be good kid. A prayer here, a participation in a Christian event there, but not much in the way of true sacrifice. Everything changed when I went on a high school mission trip, where I realized there was nothing normal about being a Christian. I changed the way I approached life. I graduated from Columbia International University in 2005, and from Grace Theological Seminary in 2011. I now challenge teens to put Jesus first as pastor of student ministries at Wawasee Community Bible Church. I live with my wife, Sherry, and my dog, Chewey, in Milford, IN.

Youth Ministry Focus: How to Minister with Introverted Teens

Introverts are said to make up a third of the U.S. population, so there’s a good chance a handful are in your group. Their unique personalities bring a lot of value to a student ministry. They’re sensitive to the needs of others. They’re observant. They’re sponges for knowledge.  They’re aware of other’s needs that are otherwise unnoticed. They perceive the true atmosphere of your group. And if given the opportunity,  they could probably blow away your whole group with a profound answer.

Here are 15 tips for doing ministry with introverted teens.

1) If possible, allow them to enter a space first. Let them have some time in the room alone to adjust before others enter. This way it becomes “their space” that others are entering.

2) If you’re the person there they know best, stay close by. If you have to go somewhere or do something, invite them to go with you or help you. If they came with a friend, try not to separate them.

3) Prepare something for them to do. We try to always have a project set up as people arrive for youth group that allows everyone to express themselves through creativity or activity. This gives introverts a non-threatening environment that invites them to interact once they’re ready. This is a lot more effective than having unstructured hang time as people arrive, which puts pressure on people to rely on their social skills (or lack thereof) to interact.

4) Give them space. Let them adjust to their surroundings before approaching them. Let them retreat if they need space. Give them an “out.” In other words, if they start shifting around uncomfortably as you’re speaking to them, find a reason to excuse yourself kindly, or direct their attention towards something they could engage in.

5) Avoid trying to engage them in small talk. Small talk may seem meaningless to an introvert. This doesn’t mean they’re rude. It means they would prefer to build a relationship and then talk about something that’s really important to either you, or them, or both.

6) Find out what they’re really interested in and try to experience it with them. Take the time to find out what their interests and hobbies are. This may require a conversation with a parent or friend. Once you know what they’re into, find some time out of a church setting to participate in it with them.

7) Help them communicate what they’re thinking or feeling. Give them time to process what they’re thinking.  Provide outlets of expression through journaling, art, and activity.

8) Initiate conversations with them, and be prepared to carry the conversation. I know this seems the opposite of #5, but no two introverts are the same. Some introverts would never dream of striking up a conversation with someone they didn’t know well, but they’d still appreciate talking with someone. Many introverts are excellent conversationalists as long as they’re not the one carrying the conversation or thinking of all the questions.

9) Understand that they may feel really uncomfortable just being around a lot of people. Some introverts struggle with social anxiety or shyness. This may reveal itself in socially awkward behavior when you seek out interaction with them. Try not to draw attention to the fact that you notice it, or take their awkwardness towards you personally.

10) Arrange to connect with them 1-on-1.  Try to find some time with them when a big group isn’t around. Invite them out on an errand, fast food run, or for coffee (but not to “just talk” bring some cards, or something else to do).

11)  Teach them strategies for handling conflict. Introverts have trouble processing tense social interactions as they’re happening. Remember how you often think of a great comeback to an argument a few hours after it happened? That’s the life of an introvert! They’re often the targets of bullies because they’re easy targets, shyness is stigmatized, they’re non-assertive, and they’re not quick-thinkers in stressful situations.  Be quick to pick up on the signs they’re being bullied, and teach them strategies for handling conflict in advance.

12) Give conflicts and emotional situations time to resolve. Introverts need a lot of time to process an argument or stressful situation after it happens before they’re ready to talk through it. Let them collect their thoughts before debriefing a situation or mediating reconciliation.

13) Don’t call them shy.  Try to avoid bringing attention to the fact they’re quiet or reserved. This includes asking questions about it or making observations about their personality. Sometimes we think we’re diffusing the awkwardness by trying to bring humor to the situation by saying something like, “You’re a shy one, aren’t you!?” Instead it just makes them feel like they’re being made fun of.

14) Don’t try to “fix” an introvert. Sometimes extroverts feel a need to break introverts out of their shells. But introversion is part of the actual brain make-up, and often can’t be changed. In other words, that’s the way God made them, and introverts don’t need to change. Society and the church needs introverts. Although many introverts may need to develop their people skills to keep from being misunderstood, eventually they’ll learn do be comfortable in their own skin (and student ministries need to help them in that process).

15) Accept them for who they are. I know what you’re thinking, “Duh, I’m a youth worker, that’s kind of what I do – accept people where they are.” But we often mistake shy or introverted teens as being moody, stand-offish, aloof, brooding, or rude. Make sure you’re not misunderstanding an introverted teen for a rude teen. Take the extra effort to understand the the perspectives and intentions of the heart. Love them for who they are and who they’re becoming.


How to Make a Mini Marshmallow Shooter using 1/2″ PVC Pipe (step by step directions with pictures!)

You can make an awesome mini marshmallow blowgun in just a few minutes, and with only a couple dollars worth of supplies. Here’s how:

Step 1: Head to the closest hardware store and get the needed supplies.

You’ll need:

  • At least 24″ length of 1/2″ diameter PVC pipe
  • (1) 1/2″ diamater PVC “tee” connector
  • (1) 1/2″ diameter PVC end cap
  • (2) 1/2″ diameter PVC 90-degree elbows
  • a bag of mini mallows

photo (1)

Step 2: Measure and mark your PVC pipe.

  • Lay your section of PVC on a flat surface.
  • Use a measuring tape and a Sharpie to clearly and accurately mark the pipe at 6″, 11″, 16″, 20″, and 24″.




Step 3: Cut your PVC pipe.

  • Use a hacksaw or mitre saw to cut on the lines you made.
  • Sand or file the cut edges to remove any burs and make them nice and smooth.
  • When you’re done, you should have 5 sections of pipe:
    • (1) 6″ section
    • (2) 5″ sections
    • (2) 4″ sections






Step 4: Assemble your mini mallow blowgun.

  • Gather your 5 sections of pipe and the 4 PVC connector parts your bought at the hardware store.
  • Assemble the 9 pieces following the pattern in the example below:






Step 5: Take your new mini mallow blowgun for a test run.

  • Load a mini mallow in the back of the blowgun.
  • Use both hands on the two handles, bring the blowgun to your mouth, take aim, and using a forced “P” sound blow the mallow through your blowgun into your target.
  • Go find your friends and family members and use them for mallow target practice.

Be sure to use proper and safe technique while using your mini mallow blowgun. Dry mallows work best, so don’t slobber all over them or they will get stuck and gunk up the inside of your blowgun. Do not breath in on your gun once the mallow is loaded, as you could choke. Don’t run with the blowgun in your mouth. And avoid shooting people in the head and face.

Have fun!

Are You An “Individual” Abuser?

We’ve all been in that position before. We have to make a speech or write something official, and we’re tempted to make ourselves sound smarter than we really are. You know what I’m talking about. We change the word order of our sentences and replace small words with bigger words. This leads to quite a bit of thesaurus abuse, and style that no one would use in a normal conversation. Take a look at these two examples from the subbreddit /r/iamverysmart.

This one is from a cover letter on a resume. Continue reading

The Five Steps of Spiritual Maturity in Student Ministry

Encouraging, equipping, and motivating students to grow in their intimacy with Jesus is one of the greatest responsibilities and joys for youth workers. Spiritual maturity happens when we focus our lives more and more on Jesus, and become like him. A key to helping teens develop in Christian maturity is to identify where they are in their walk with Jesus, then help them take the next step. The five steps of spiritual maturity look like this: Continue reading

In the beginning

The earth was created first. There was nothing else but the earth and a giant empty universe.

Light comes next. Light comes from the sun, but the sun doesn’t come until three days later. So, this light comes from where? God?  And there’s a day/night cycle, so the earth is spinning, and this light comes from one direction. Or does the light circle around the earth?

In these primal days, God is alone with earth, spinning, dancing, before the drama of humanity begins.

The earth is the oldest thing in the universe.

Once Naked, Now Clothed (or the profound tragedy of Genesis 3)

Man has not resembled his first design
since the Honest Garden was lost to him.
He took God’s warning words as breath benign
leaving his naked nature to sin’s whim.
God’s first design gave something else to us –
a pristine pattern for our human role –
A want for union unadulterous
with God, to bare the organs of the soul
that drive the blood, not hind’ring nakedness
of either spirit or skin with our dress.
In that Honest Place, man was pronounced “good”
where heaven met with blood and meat of mud.
But haste he made to taste the nuding fruit.
And now our pattern is the fig leaf suit.

Apology, Poverty and the Evangelical

It’s Wednesday and I have the day off. I led a youth retreat this weekend called Fall Forward. One girl put her faith and trust in Jesus for the first time. That’s why I do what I do. It was a great weekend, but retreats always exhaust me. On Sunday afternoon, after we returned, I lay down at 4:30 to “take a nap.” The next time I woke up was 3:00 AM the next day. A long weekend, that’s why I have the day off.

I spent part of the day watching the movie Blue Like Jazz about Donald Miller, the author of a book with the same title as the movie. Continue reading