RYM 009: When To Leverage (And Not Leverage) Culture

What’s happening in culture should be important to every youth leader. Why? Because culture reflects the world our students are part of every single day. In this episode, join ministry leaders for a conversation about the tensions youth leaders are facing when it comes to leveraging culture in their ministry environments. Through their discussion you’ll discover when to leverage culture and when not to, and how you can begin to prepare students for culture instead of protecting them from it.

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Why is it important to include culture in the youth ministry conversation? (3:00)

“When we are talking about students, we are primarily talking about pop culture.” – Steve (3:45)

“If you want to be relevant to an outside student, you have to consider what they like to see, watch, and listen to.” – Shef (4:30)

“If you are not culturally relevant, you are missing out on what could be.” – Sarah (5:00)

How do relevance and depth coexist in student ministry? (6:15)

“When you speak to students, you have to understand the culture of the students you are speaking to.” – Crystal (8:30)

“Playing relevant music in your environment is a great way to make an outsider feel comfortable and welcome.” – Steve (10:00)

Where does the idea that “culture is bad” come from? (15:00)

What tensions are youth pastors feeling when it comes to creating a culture for students to experience church? (18:15)

“Student communication has moved “underground,” and toward one-on-one and disappearing communication.” – Crystal (19:00)

“Leveraging culture is a huge opportunity to partner with parents.” – Sarah (22:00)

“Your age does not disqualify you from being relevant to culture; your interest in it does.” – Sarah (23:00)

If you’re not engaged in culture, find people who are plugged into it. Tap into them to learn what is relevant right now. (25:00)

“The ways in which you leverage culture depend on your own environment.” – Steve (27:00)

Always be aware of culture and make it part of your talks. (27:30)

“Are we preparing them for the culture or are we protecting them from the culture?” – Shef (28:00)

“Students know when you are leveraging culture just to leverage it.” – Crystal (29:00)

“What you say, do, and play from stage should be different from small group discussions or one-on-one conversations.” – Crystal (30:00)

Culture is inconsistent. (31:15)

“Pop culture mirrors what is going in on the world and in student culture.” – Steve (37:30)

“Any time there is tension between culture and students and their parents, there is an opportunity for the church to engage.” – Shef (38:00) ”





Sarah is a writer and communicator who has been involved in ministry since 2003. In 2007, she joined the XP3 high school team where she now works as a lead writer and content creator. She also a contributing writer to the Parent Cue blog. Sarah lives in Roswell, Georgia, and is a big fan of her husband, her two boys, Asher and Pace, and, in her weaker moments, McDonald’s french fries.



Tom Shefchunas is the Executive Director of Student Strategy at Orange. In this role, he leads the development and strategy for XP3 Middle School and High School curriculum. Previously, Tom was North Point Ministries’ Multi-Campus Director of Transit, their middle school ministry, for 12 years. And before that, he spent 10 years as a high school teacher, coach, and principal. Additionally, he is the co-author of Lead Small with Reggie Joiner. Tom and his wife, Julie, live in Cumming, Georgia, with their three children, Mac, Joey, and Cooper.



Crystal currently leads the XP3 High School initiative at Orange. Before that, she spent 10 years as a high school teacher and student ministry leader, doing everything from leading small groups to speaking to curriculum design. Crystal and her husband, Tom, live in Alpharetta, GA with an ill-tempered chihuahua named Javier.



Steve is the director of video and media for XP3 High School at Orange. With a background experience in the music industry as well as with Disney, Steve understands how to create media and artwork that connects with high school students in a variety of environments. Steve and his wife, Julie, live in Alpharetta, Georgia with their two sons.

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Orange Conference 2018