Author Tim Barnett
Published on 05/02/2023
Tactics and Tools

How to TRAIN Youth: Require More From Students

Tim Barnett reminds us that entertaining students should not be our goal. Instead, we should “throw the ball so they jump for it.”


We’re going to test our students, but we’ve got to go beyond that. I want to require more from our students.

Consider what an average youth group meeting looks like. We might have pizza parties. We might do laser tag, paintball, gym night—all this fun that we do. And I’m not against fun, but it becomes just about entertainment and not about education. We think, “Man, if we don’t entertain our kids, then they’re going to leave.” But here’s the thing. If all you’re doing is entertaining your kids, they’re already gone. They were never there to begin with, because you know what? They’re going to leave your youth group, and they’re going to go off somewhere else. They’re going to find other entertainment. So, we need to be challenging our kids, and that’s what we do at our Reality Student Apologetic Conference. In fact, when I give a talk, I give the same talk to adults that I give to high schoolers or junior highers. Why? Because they can handle it. I’m requiring more of them.

In a video clip of a Toronto Blue Jays player, Kevin Pillar jumps to catch the ball. He’s parallel with the earth as he jumps. That’s cool. And he’s actually Superman right there. Now, here’s the thing. Here’s the take-home. We need to, I think, throw the ball so that students have to jump for it. Look, Kevin Pillar is an amazing outfielder. In fact, that year, he was all kind of highlight reel catches, but you would never know how skilled Kevin Pillar is as an outfielder if every single ball was hit directly at him. It’s only when the ball is just out of reach where we get to see this guy really perform, and what I want to challenge us to do is require more from our students. Set the bar real high so they’ve got to jump.

They’ve got to jump to catch that ball, and they can handle it. It’s a mindset change. Again, don’t just think about our kids surviving. My mom would tell you, when I went to university and studied physics, she was nervous. I went to a secular school, and her mentality was, if Tim would just survive, if he would just maintain the faith that he has without losing it, that would be a win. I don’t want you to have that mindset. I want you to have the mindset when we send our kids off to school that they’re not just surviving; they’re thriving. They come out with an even stronger faith. How does that happen? So, we want to change our mentality there.