Engaging Teens

Jeffrey Dean has based his life around serving a population that often gets a bad rap.  He’s got a heart for youth and for helping them learn the truth about God.

As a speaker, ordained pastor, counselor, and author, Jeffrey has spoken to more than 3 million people in a variety of settings.  He gets on their level and keeps them wanting more.  He launched Jeffrey Dean ministries in 1993 and has successfully been engaging teens in a journey towards truth ever since.

One of Jeffrey’s key methods is to be relational and to encourage healthy relationships.  Especially with God.  He shares:

“It’s impossible to know and grow with the Lord more if you’re not spending time with Him.  So we really challenge students and communities to get into the word.”

We’re so grateful and curious about his intuitive pulse on this generation and hope you’ll engage with what he has to share with us today.

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Michael Kelley

Brian Bennett

Bradley Hathaway

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

Finding Confidence in a Daunting Ministry

Do you often find yourself feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the ministerial tasks ahead of you?  Sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to keep up with the demands of the positions to which God has called us—making the option to give up look very desirable. Finding confidence in a daunting ministry is not always easy, but you might find it comforting to know you are not alone. 


Big World, Tiny Shoulders

When I was nine, I had a mid-childhood crisis.

I came home after school sobbing. It took my parents forty-five minutes to finally coax out of me what was wrong. Through my tears I explained how at lunch I threw away half of my jelly sandwich because I wasn’t hungry. My teacher witnessed this and told me that there were starving children in Africa who would love to eat my sandwich.

I don’t know how I made it through the rest of the school day. All I could think about were those less fortunate kids who just wanted a jelly sandwich. And here I was, with not only a jelly sandwich but also a fruit roll-up and a bag of carrots.

Once I made it home, I couldn’t even function. My parents tried to get me to play a board game or do a craft, but I went to my room crying. I immediately crawled under my bed because I decided I deserved to be in the dark.

It took some time for me to get over the fact that I was terribly selfish and ridiculously blessed. Once I had dried my tears, I was determined to help. But I was nine and didn’t know what to do about hungry children.

That one comment from my teacher still sticks with me and reminds me of how daunting this sin-tainted world is. Sometimes the thought of it still makes me want to crawl under my bed for a while.

twoCalled to a Life of Hardship

The prophet Jeremiah struggled with a lot more than just a misguided reprimand from an elementary school teacher. At a very young age, God told him to never marry or have children, and commanded him to preach to a tough crowd that had a penchant for false gods.

Despite their refusal to listen, Jeremiah cared deeply for the people of Judah. The lack of results paired with the difficulties he faced, caused Jeremiah to sink into a pit of doubt and despair. But through all of the troubles, God assured Jeremiah this was where he was meant to be.

Jeremiah was a prophet in Judah during times of war and conflict. Because of this violence, rulers had a hard time holding the throne and Jeremiah witnessed the reign of five kings. At times, Jeremiah was considered a friend of those ruling, but depending on the ruler, he often found himself persecuted.

Jeremiah was quite young when he was called into ministry. He was also timid by nature. There had to have been others in the community who were much more confidant, better speakers, and highly regarded; however, those weren’t the qualifications God was looking for. God knew the young prophet was frightened and intimidated and he still chose him to preach to the people.

“But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.” –Jeremiah 1:7–8 (NIV)

In chapter 12 of the book of Jeremiah, there is a series of verses detailing Jeremiah’s complaints. He is frustrated with the hypocrisy of the people around him. It drives him crazy to hear how people speak as if they are close to God, but the prophet knows God is far from their hearts.

“You are always righteous, Lord, when I bring a case before you. Yet I would speak with you about your justice: Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all the faithless live at ease?” –Jeremiah 12:1 (NIV)

The prophecies of pain and destruction discouraged Jeremiah, but God reaffirmed Jeremiah’s position as prophet and answered the weeping man’s complaints and calls. The situation was daunting, the message was frightening, and immediate results were lacking, but with God’s help, this unqualified young man furthered God’s plan and brought glory to God.

“This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.”  –Jeremiah 9:23–24 (NIV)

Even in the midst of hardship, Jeremiah trusted God and found a fullness of life. Through guidance from God, Jeremiah prophesied that power and wealth were nothing compared to the delight and joy found through a deeper understanding of God. Rather than overwhelming discouragement, Jeremiah found overwhelming peace in God.

6-7Finding Your Confidence

We all have days where we have to fight the urge to crawl under the bed and hide in the dark—whether it’s because we are daunted by the tasks ahead of us or perhaps embarrassed by our many blessings we know we don’t deserve. This can be especially difficult when we find ourselves in a position with the opportunity to lead others to Christ. It’s easy to get discouraged and our sinful nature fights our attempts to obey God. Rather than run and hide, spend those moments of hyperventilation in prayer.

When you are called to a position that is frightening, intimidating, or overwhelming, take some deep breaths and remember how God responded to Jeremiah when he cried out—with words of comfort and an affirmation of his calling.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” –Jeremiah 33:2–3 (NIV)

It’s easy to get discouraged in the midst of hardship, but even in the uncertainty of life there is certainty in Christ. In the same way Jeremiah was able to delight in God while in a challenging ministry, by trusting in the Lord and relying on Him, we, too, can find a new found joy in life—especially during times of discouragement.

For more information on the prophet Jeremiah, check out the book of the Bible named after him or this background information from  Biblica.com.


The Unqualifications of a Servant

Think you’re the only one feeling unqualified for where God has placed you?  There is a strong tendency in leadership and ministry to feel like we don’t measure up – like our resumes could be labeled:  The Unqualifications of a Servant.  You might be surprised to learn you’re not alone!  Our new staffer Haley would love to share her perspective and a few stories that might change your mind!

The Bible, history, and our world today are full of examples of unlikely people used by God for His purposes. It’s so easy to look at the incredible stories of those who have drastically changed lives and feel insignificant – to feel as though you’ve got the unqualifications of a servant. It’s equally easy to find yourself in a position to help or lead others and suddenly feel inadequate or out of place. I hope you will join me as I start a series exploring the stories of a few of the many unqualified servants of God who have impacted others in both big and small ways.

My Storypiano 

My mom is an amazing pianist. There isn’t a piece that’s too difficult for her and she even arranges and composes her own music. What’s even more impressive is how she finds time and opportunities to use her abilities to serve others. As I grew up, I watched her accompany others for talent shows, competitions, and church worship, play for weddings, funerals, and school functions, and teach a variety of students all at different skill levels.

But this story isn’t about my mom.

When I was in third grade, my elementary music teacher put together a student choir with the intention of performing Handel’s Messiah in December. I refused to join. My music classes had shown me I was a terrible singer, one of the worst in my grade. And after undressing in the hallway earlier in the semester (a story I’d rather not get into right now), I decided I had filled my quota of embarrassment for the year.

My mom was asked to accompany the choir—no surprise there. I also wasn’t surprised when she asked me to turn pages for her—something I had done regularly in the past. I refused. I don’t remember if I was secretly jealous of my fellow students’ angelic voices or just being your typical difficult eight year-old, but I wanted no part in that choir.

Usually my mom had been pretty cool about letting me make my own decisions, but not this time. She pushed and pushed until I finally relented. After all, I would only be turning pages.

The first day of practice was absolute chaos. I sat beside my mom on the piano bench and watched the music teacher struggle to organize twenty energetic students. Most of the kids were too busy talking or running around to bother taking their seats, and one student, the teacher called her Michelle, wouldn’t even leave the wall. She stood in the back of the room pouting, refusing to pick a chair. I didn’t recognize her and assumed she was new to the school.

It wasn’t until after I was sitting beside Michelle, among the other altos, that I realized what I had done. On the car ride home my mom commended me for befriending the shy girl and asking her if she wanted to sit by me, but lamented the fact that she needed a new page turner.

The Servant Girl’s Storybible

“Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.””–2 Kings 5:2–3 (NIV)

2 Kings 5 describes the story of a highly regarded army commander in the Aram army named Naaman. He was plagued with leprosy and sought out Elisha who instructed Naaman to wash in the Jordan River. When the commander emerged from the water, he found himself completely cleansed. This passage is often remembered as the story of how God healed a man through the prophet Elisha and “seven dips in a dirty river,” but recall how Naaman knew to seek out the prophet in the first place.

Verse two of 2 Kings 5 tells us about the young Israelite girl who was serving Naaman’s wife. She was the one who implored Naaman to speak with Elisha. Very little of this passage is dedicated to the girl, but we can still glean information from it. We know that the girl had been captured in a raid and taken from her home in Israel and she was young. She found herself in a foreign land forced to serve the people who had enslaved her.

“…for your servant [Naaman] will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord.” –2 Kings 5:17b (NIV)

What is so great about this young girl is, as far as we know, she did not have any prior experience with this sort of situation. There is no verse that says she was ready to witness to her captors and felt prepared. Chances are this unnamed girl did not want to be in Aram serving her enemies and she was very uncomfortable. However, something else we know about her is that she believed and trusted in God. When this moment, specifically planned by God arrived, she spoke with confidence, knowing God was with her.

Your Storycalledperson

We all find ourselves in uncomfortable positions, questioning if that is where we belong. Whether we are a church or small group leader, a one-on-one mentor, a Sunday school or catechism teacher, or someone simply striving to be a Christ-like example, we all feel the pressure to be perfect—say the perfect words, quote the perfect Bible verse, prove we are qualified. Helping others in their walk with Christ can be challenging and it’s easy to feel intimidated. The good news is we are not qualified and we do not have to be.

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”” –1 Corinthians 1:27–31 (NIV)

Even when we feel inadequate, unqualified, or outside of our comfort zone, God can still use us powerfully, just as He used the young servant girl.

I’m not saying I led Michelle to God or even cured her of her extreme shyness, but I’d like to think I took away some of her discomfort and later I learned that God doesn’t need His people to be perfectly prepared. I know Michelle and I enjoyed the remaining rehearsals, although I’m pretty sure it didn’t take long for her to regret sitting next to someone with the voice of a toad.

Visualize God’s Love

Psalm 34:8 says that we are to “Taste and see that the LORD is good.”

Ginny Owens has dedicated her life to helping others visualize God’s love.  She may not see the same as others do, but she certainly sees God’s love and shares it with others through timbre, lyrics, and devotion.

When asked why she does what she does, she replied:

“I really feel like my “why” is that I write music to communicate the gospels, to communicate the hope that I have in Christ, and to communicate to others that there is indeed hope. “

When it comes to Ginny’s music, there is always a reason behind the rhyme.  She speaks of encountering others who are at points of desperation and wanting to share a reminder and invitation to know the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus.

Thanks for tuning in to this beautiful story of hope!  You can listen to Ginny’s music and find updates on her latest album.

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

John Dominic Crossan

Steve Carter

Phyllis Tickle

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

4-Square & Ziplines & S’mores: Why Camp Changes Lives

Wouldn’t you love to have an office overlooking a lake?  Hearing the sounds of children laughing, campfire songs being sung, the zipline going through the woods, and boats driving by?  How about having s’mores every day for dessert?

We’ll today’s guest has landed the dream job.  Jeff Jacobs is the Executive Director of Camp Henry in Newaygo, Michigan.  Truth be told, he doesn’t like marshmallows, but he’ll gladly eat a s’more if you make him one!  Jacobs believes that camp changes lives and is the perfect environment to unplug from the outside world and plug into truth.

Camp Henry has been serving campers since 1937 and provides us with an outstanding model of positive life change, connection to nature, and growing in faith.  This unique year-round camping facility serves youth, families, school groups, youth groups, and much more.

We hope you’ll tune in to learn more about the Power of Camp!


The Arts Deliver Truth: Eric Samuel Timm Interview

We may have outdone ourselves this time!  Today, we’ve got a real live Jedi on the show.  That’s right, a Jedi!  Just like any other Jedi, he guards peace and justice – but he doesn’t stop there.  He also speaks through the noise and challenges his audience to do the same.

Eric Samuel Timm shares his heart in many mediums – be it paint, passion, speaking, writing, or teaching.  In addressing all modalities of learning, he sheds a new light and paints an image that speaks along with his vision of hope.

Eric believes that the arts deliver truth.  He shares, “People need truth … the arts are the best vehicle to deliver that truth.  I think that the arts are entrusted to us by God in a way that allows us to experiment and experience profound truth in a way that I don’t think you can otherwise.  With art, people can see what they could never hear, and without it, they may not hear it.”

We know you’ll experience truth as you tune in today!  Be sure to check out Eric’s latest book, Static Jedi, and to visit his ministry website , No One Underground.

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Doug Pagitt

Ginny Owens

John Dominic Crossan

And many more!

Have a guest idea?

Contact us:  ashleigh@goodberry.net


Discipleship #008: Together in Small Groups

The idea of small groups is not necessarily a novel one. It has been around since creation, conceived from the trinity, which is a triune community in itself, and it can be spotted throughout the Bible. For instance, Daniel and his three friends—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—who were exiled to Babylon were a small group, just as Jesus and his 12 disciples were.

The perpetual presence of small groups throughout time proves its necessity in the process of discipleship. They provide (or should provide) disciples with theological knowledge, practical guidance, and meet the human need for companionship.

However, there are several elements that must be brought together in order to have a successful small group. Structure and size, leadership roles, and strategies in addressing new and mature believers must be considered carefully.

Structure and size

Small groups are generally, as its name implies, small. But what counts for “small”? Starting from the smallest number, a pair may be considered a small group. Its advantage lies in its one-on-one approach that allows intimacy and depth in knowing each other. In addition, when in a pair, it is easier to keep accountable of each other and be vulnerable. However, it can also easily become a hierarchical relationship as one can become a mentor to the other, exerting pressure on the discipler, who finds him/herself alone in the position of guidance.

Triads and quads are what we call groups of three and four. These small groups are, according to Greg Oden in his book Discipleship Essentials, the ideal number for a small group. It allows depth in the relationship and a variety of perspectives in discussion.

Anything bigger than a quad is considered a large group. Even though it is formed for the sake of inclusiveness, it often ends up excluding people, as it allows less time for each member to participate and share. The number also makes keeping an account of each other harder.


In simple terms, the goal of the small group leader would be to “pass on” the faith to others. For this, the leader must be 5 things.

  • A Model: The model inspires behavior. People look up to and follow those who are faithful and genuine in their actions to what they teach. The leader becomes a bridge between the theological knowledge it is sharing and the practical guidance it is offering.Titus 1:7-14 admonishes, “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.”
  • A Mentor: The leader must fulfill a personal role. It must be ready to commit itself to a relationship where it must support, give counsel, and share its own experiences. According to Working Wisdom: Timeless Skills and Vanguard Strategies for Learning Organizations byBob Aubrey and Paul Cohen, five most commonly used techniques among mentors were: Accompanying (committing oneself), Sowing (being patient and offering guidance that may prove valuable in the mentee’s future), Catalyzing (urging change), showing (making something understandable), and Harvesting (creating awareness of what was learned).
  • A Facilitator: This is a group setting role. The leader provides direction and context by directing the small group like a watercourse. It helps the members to understand their goals and assists them in achieving them by spurring discussion. Some characteristics and skills required to be a good facilitator is the ability to make good usage of time, to plan beforehand and follow the plan, and yet know how to adapt and be flexible depending on the flow of conversation. It requires an awareness of individuals and group dynamics.
  • A Servant: the leader is selfless and humble. It knows that the small group does not exist for its own gain, to feed its pride, sense of accomplishment, or hunger for popularity. It knows the group exists for others and that God takes the high seat in it. The leader also does not control the group or puts the members down but persuades and values differences in opinions, without becoming itself lesser in value than those it serves.
  • Friend: This is the most important role a leader must know to take.Mahatma Gandhi once commented, “I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles; but today it means getting along with people.” A leader loves and because of that love is able to become honest, open, and caring.


Generally speaking, there will be two kinds of disciples present in any small group. New believers and mature believers. Naturally, both are subject to the Bible study, the discussions, and the fellowship the small group offers, but because of their differences in the level of their beliefs, they must be attended in different ways.

For new believers, to start, we should really break the image of pushy, condescending Christians that some of them have of us. We must respect and trust them, hold conversations with them and not lectures. Instead of thinking of them as science projects, it is better to be simply a genuine friend to them and invite them for lunch or coffee. According to Swimming Lessons: One-on-one Discipleship by Pastor Grant Edwards, “When people connect in discipling relationships, each new believer has a friend at church—one who’s actively investing in that new believer’s life. Those relationships are like glue; they cause new believers to stick. A Gallup study demonstrated that when someone has a best friend at church, that person is very likely to report high levels of satisfaction with their church. In fact, 87% of church members with a best friend at church gave their church two thumbs up—way up (as reported in the Group/Gallup resource, Creating a Culture of Connectivity In Your Church, 2005).”

For mature believers the focus lies on consistency and challenge. Mature believers are like Olympic athletes who have won a medal once but are looking forward to win more the coming years and better themselves. For this they need from their small group people who can keep them accountable on living as faithful Christians and who can encourage them to question what they already know, go deeper and further the “Jesus” answer to reach a more wholesome one. Finally, mature believers are those who are one step behind from becoming leaders themselves. They must be prepped to answer their callings in the world and to make new disciples by sharing their faith, joy, and love to others.

We have talked about different aspects of a small group, but what unites all of them is the idea of fellowship found in the small group, the idea of sharing beliefs and propping each other up like iron sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). For many reasons God made more than one of us. He delights in the act of love which requires at least two people and lets us know even in our loneliness, we have each other and Him. Acts 2:44-47 paints us a blessed picture of what a small group should be like: “44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”




Redefining Street Ministry

As the teaching pastor at Vanguard Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Elisha Young teaches how important unity is within our communities.

Through her work with Vanguard Street Ministry, she has been able to help people heal from rejection, and has been blessed herself by the process.

Join us as we talk with Elisha and learn about the radical transformation occurring where she serves.

Rhyme & Reason

What kind of rock star isn’t after increasing his own fame?

Jeff Edgel is more concerned about praise being vertical.  As the lead guitarist for the band Attaboy, he puts purpose behind pop and mixes reverence in his rhymes.

With an audience primarily made up of youth and adolescents, Attaboy’s music is powerfully changing lives and inspiring hope in a new generation.

We’re happily extending you a backstage pass to meet the band in today’s Church Growth Hacking podcast episode!

What’s coming up?

Be on the lookout for our upcoming episode releases from:

Jerry B. Jenkins

Andrew Farley

Rachel Olsen

Rochelle Frazier

Jenny Simmons

And many more!

Know someone you think would make a great guest?  Send ideas to:  ashleigh@goodberry.net

Coming Soon! Meetup Event: Process Design for Ministry

With the New Year right around the corner, we’re thrilled to share that we’re hosting another  Meetup Event!  We hope you’ll join us for a discussion on Process Design in Ministries and Churches.  What gets people in the door?  What does their journey look like from one point to another?  How do you ensure a good experience?  We’ll be covering these questions and many more.

We hope to share best practices for ministry leadership and discuss relevant tools and resources.   All are welcome, so please be sure to come check it out and share your knowledge (and enjoy free refreshments)!