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Call out the gold!

Dave's note: I heard this idea from one of my youth team who attended an event led by Scott. After the event, Scott led the feedback by calling out the gold. It was such a simple yet challenging idea, I wanted Scott to share it more widely. Here's his guest blog:

Several years before I was full-time in youth ministry, I remember volunteering for a local youth event. Whilst there were many fruitful conversations throughout the evening, there were also several unfortunate incidents . When it came to debriefing with the team afterwards, the amount of negativity in the room was overwhelming. Volunteers were discouraged and deflated; the event leader must have felt distraught; and who knows how the regular church-going young people were left feeling? I must admit, I was rather taken aback that not one person could draw an encouragement from the night. This really spoke to me about team dynamics and group culture.

Call out the gold is a wonderful phrase I have adopted with my own youth team. I open my debriefs with this phrase every week. I do this for three very intentional reasons.

1. It moulds culture

Culture is arguably the biggest thing in any youth group. Culture can take years to shape and days to break. Culture should be prioritised and protected and should influence everything you do. You will look like your culture. Your team will look like your culture. The activities you place emphasis on will look like your culture. Your attitude towards God’s Word will look like your culture.

Here’s the thing: young people absorb culture like osmosis. It happens subtly and constantly. Therefore, we need to make every effort to shape our culture carefully and intentionally. Your culture should reflect your core values. This culture will be modelled from the top but implemented across the floor. This means if you are the Youth Pastor at your church, you need to model the desired culture. Your youth team should understand what this culture looks like and be onboard with presenting it to young people. Over time, young people will pick up this culture and will continue to model it to their friends.

Hebrews 13:7 says:

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

What will your young people remember about you after you’re gone? I imagine both your young people and your team will remember what you are passionate and intentional about. If you’re passionate and intentional about something, you won’t stop talking about it! Not only that, but they will imitate those passions. Be passionate and intentional about moulding culture. A culture that prioritises the faithful teaching of God’s Word; a culture that encourages the commitment of church family; a culture that cherishes one another above themselves.

2. It exercises a spiritual gift

In the context of using our gifts for the body of Christ, Paul says in Romans 12.8:

If your gift… is to encourage, then give encouragement.

It is my bold opinion that encouragement is possibly the most neglected spiritual gift in the church today. This is perhaps because it is not seen or highlighted as a powerful tool of engagement. Encouraging someone can change their worldview. Encouraging someone could give them hope when they feel like giving up. Encouraging someone imitates the humility of Christ by thinking of others before yourself. And encouraging someone moulds culture.

Spiritual gifts are like muscles; the more we gently use them the stronger and easier to use they become. Part of ‘call out the gold’, is to give your team opportunity to exercise encouragement. The ‘gold’ might be encouraging another team member for the way they led an activity. The ‘gold’ might be highlighting an encouraging moment with a young person that is worth celebrating. By encouraging your team to ‘call out the gold’, you are encouraging within them the gift of encouraging others, which in turn, moulds culture.

3. It focuses on the positives

Finally, and very obviously, ‘calling out the gold’ focuses on the positives of the event. This doesn’t mean that the negative or difficult pieces of feedback should be supressed, but rather places the priority on celebrating the highlights. Constructive criticism and feedback are important and should be done respectfully.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Our words are powerful. Using our words to build one another up is important. This builds team morale, it keeps up team motivation, it exercises the spiritual gift of encouragement, and of course, it moulds culture.

‘Call out the gold’ is a brilliant and simple tool when debriefing with team members. It contributes to moulding the culture on your team, which, in time, will impact your young people; it pursues the understated gift of encouragement, and it focuses on the positives. It will mean your leaders go home remembering all that was GOOD about the event and thank God for it. Why not give it a go? Remember, culture could take 3 years to build and 3 days to break. Any phrase you say weekly, over time, seriously impacts your youth culture.

This is a guest blog by Scott Rushby, Youth Pastor at Testwood Baptist Church, Southampton, UK.

Additional photos (from top) by: Jingming Pan on Unsplash, Daniel Fazio on Unsplash, Karolina Grabowska on Pexels and Adrian on Pixabay.


If you want to think more about this, read the chapter 'A healthy team' in my book, 'Raising the Bar: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry' which you can buy here. In it, you'll find other ideas about finding, training and growing leaders in your groups. You can find out what other youth leaders think about the book and read a couple of free chapters.

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1 Comment

Brilliant to know if you want to be someone who makes a difference in a youth group when your older thankyou so much for taking the time to write this and teach us how to be a brilliant youth leader



Get more ideas and support for your youth ministry with my book: "RAISING THE BAR: Nearly Everything You Need to Know about Christian Youth Ministry."

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