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5 Reasons To Include Volunteers In Planning

Posted by Justin Knowles

We are about to enter into a few crazy weeks of camp. I’m pumped! Right after though, we will be talking through the fall and what that looks like. We are going to do a little 24 hour get away and plan. This year, we are bringing some volunteers with us. Why? It is a simple brain storming meetings asking for their thoughts on the direction we should be going, what they think their students need to hear, and what was missed in the material we provided for them this year. I figured, who would have a better pulse on our students than the ones who spent the most time with them?

Here are some benefits for asking for volunteer's inputs:

They feel/are valued - In general, when people are included in something, they feel valued. In instances like this, they are valued greatly. What they bring to the table is the best weapon for prepping for next year.

They feel they have a voice - When volunteers have an input in direction of anything, they feel like we actually listen to them. It's not as easy to be given something and be passionate about it as it is to have your hand in something and be passionate about it. Curriculum and structure won't be something ordered rather than something they helped create.

They feel ownership - When you have a say in something you feel like you own it. You're proud of the end result. Therefore, you are excited about it and want to get others in on it. This is exactly what involving volunteers in brainstorming meetings does. Especially if you are going to change things up a little bit (which we are next year), it's important they feel like they have a part in it.

They have the inside scoop - Leaders are in the trenches like we are. Yes, we might be paid for it (or not even) but they are the ones who are talking with, hanging out with, spending time with the students in your ministry. They know what topics are right on and they know what topics are missing; lean into that.

We have a ton to learn from them - We have so many leaders who are just total studs. Leaders in which I get to hang out with and I end up walking away challenged and encouraged because of the ministry they are doing. There is a ton of great things to be learned when it comes to leading groups from some leaders. When we get all of our leaders together, they get a chance to share their wisdom and experiences with each other and they walk away feeling heard, inspired and challenged.

Moral of the story? Get your leaders involved; it will only make you better.


The Power of Retreat for Youth Workers

Posted by Josh Griffin


I'm sitting in the same room in the same hotel we've stayed in for the same week for the past 10 years. It is a powerful time of rest, relaxation and fun. Crazy to think we were here a year ago already ... and 10 years ago already. Wow.

Retreat is a powerful tool for reflection and direction.

Each year we spend some time talking about the year that has past, reflecting on the highs and lows of our family, ministry and marriage. It is usually filled with lots of laughter, some tears and a renewed passion for all 3 areas. We also spend time moving ahead into the next stage - thinking about what is next for our kids, where our youth ministry needs to go and how to continue to build a healthy marriage. 

I'm so thankful for this time of retreat. All of it, even the painful parts. When was the last time you got away from it all for a little while? Plan a retreat soon.


4 Common Struggles To Delegating Effectively.

Posted by Christopher Wesley

An overcrowded plate is something every youth ministry deals with.  It’s why we get overwhelmed and burned out.  When this happens we tell ourselves, “I need someone to bail me out.”


That’s where delegation comes in.  To have someone take an item off our plate would be huge.  But delegating isn’t as saying, “Here, please take this.” The reality is we face several obstacles because we:


Just because you like doing something doesn’t mean you should be doing it.  In fact there are items on your to-do list that would be better given to others. To delegate not only takes finding the right person, but embracing a little humility.

To help you figure out what to let go of make a list of things that you not only enjoy doing, but only you in your role can do. Ask other people to help you create that list and even take them away.


You might be clear on what needs to be delegated; the problem is you don’t know whom to trust.  This can be paralyzing and even dangerous to your ministry. To build trust you need to invest in people personally and professionally. 

Investment takes risk and if you aren’t ready to leap in start with something small.  Work on clarifying your instructions and if they mess up use it as a teaching moment.  When you trust others you can deepen your leadership.


There are several leadership lies we buy, like:

  • Leaders need to do everything.
  • Leaders need to focus only on improving weaknesses.
  • Leaders have to be busy and available to everyone

The truth is that leaders are focused, trusting, and humble individuals who care more about the success of the organization than their own status.


One of the reasons you can’t or won’t delegate is because you feel like you do not have the time.  But, taking the time to delegate is something you cannot afford to miss. While you might lose some time you will gain back immense amounts of productivity.

Part of your responsibility as a leader is finding men and women who are going to extend your capacity.  You need to look at creating more disciple makers and investors in the next generation.

Before you say, “I don’t have time to delegate.” Think about how much time, energy and emotion you’ll save by building a team of people who will help your ministry grow. You will gain margin, lose stress and enjoy more of what God is calling you to do.

Which obstacle do you struggle to overcome the most?

Topics: delegate

Download Youth Ministry $1 Game Grab!

Posted by Josh Griffin



Can Your Students Talk To You?

Posted by Justin Knowles

So I don’t know if you have noticed yet, maybe you don’t have a TV or any form of social media, but there is a TON of things happening around us. People are flooding to social media putting up opinions for all to see (which is not a bad thing, everyone has that right). My mind goes to the question, “What does this mean for my ministry and my students?” because I don’t doubt they are seeing a bunch of different articles being posted left and right about a whole bunch of things and they will have a ton to process and a ton of questions. Where can they do this safely? My hope is in your ministry. One of the safest places on the planet to talk through life, faith and culture should be their student ministry.

Developmentally, most don’t have the ability to fully process everything they are hearing, reading and seeing. What does this mean for us youth pastors? It means we need to provide an atmosphere for students to discuss, bring up, and have conversations about what is going through their heads. When students are talking about stuff, it helps them process their thoughts, and when they are processing their thoughts they are growing and learning.

One of the best things we can do for our student ministries is to make sure we create a safe place for students to think, bring up doubts and confusions without fear of judgment or fear of ridicule from their pastor and volunteers to begin to walk through some great questions on faith, culture and the doubts and questions that come along with it. If it’s life transformation we are all after in the lives of students it starts with learning about the heart, the desires, the thoughts, the lives of those who are in our care and pointing them back to Jesus. Your service, program, room (whatever you do) should be a safe place for students to talk and process through and we are there to help, guide, pray with them through it all. Side note: All of that could be squashed in two seconds by a “not really thought through” post on social media. They are watching to see how you respond to whatever is big at the time.

Jesus was the best at asking questions. Read the through the Gospels and you will see. Questions start conversations and dig into lives and lets people know you care for them and the same goes with students in our youth ministry. Asking our students questions shows we care about what they have to say and we can begin these conversations.

Do your students feel like they can approach you with their thoughts, feelings, doubts and struggles? Do you create a space where conversations can happen?


Posted by Josh Griffin

live_freeI grew up in church my entire life, and I felt like I constantly heard the same two things over and over: read your Bible and pray. And while I most definitely agree that these are two huge parts of having an active relationship with God, as a 15-year-old, these concepts were intimidating. How was I supposed to pray? What exactly was I supposed to be reading? The Bible is a complicated book. When I opened the Bible as a teenager, it felt similar to when I opened my Geometry book in high school. I thought, I don’t get it. Other people get it. I must be stupid. (As a side, I took Geometry as a senior. The class consisted of 90% freshmen. That should shine some light on my Math fatuity.)

Simply put: I needed a little help.

A “Getting Started” Guide
It wasn’t until I was out of high school that I bought my first devotional journal. It changed the game for me. Sure it was basic, but it opened the door for me to finally understand what it meant to spend time with God. That journal (along with many others after it) served as a guide to help me learn how to read the Bible and talk to God on my own.

That was the motivation behind writing Live Free, a five-week devotional journal for students centered on the concept of grace and the life of Paul. The goal is to give students that same kind of guide to a better understanding of God, His teachings on grace and forgiveness, and the way these things directly impact their lives.

I spent a lot of time talking with Jared Jones, a student pastor who co-wrote Live Free with me. We feel like we encounter so many students who simply feel like they’re not measuring up. There’s a lot of pressure for them to live a certain way, and they feel like they’re constantly falling short. Without an understanding of grace, they start to see themselves as failures in response to all the stuff the church tells them to do. And worse than that, they start to see God as someone who’s just angry or disappointed in them. If we neglect talking about grace to our students, we run the risk of them walking away saying, “God is love” with their mouths, but carrying in their hearts a picture of a God who doesn’t like them very much. They lack a basic understanding of God’s grace.

A Radical Story
So as we sat down to try and give them a guide to grace, we thought, “Who better to illustrate the concept of God’s grace than Paul?” I mean, talk about a guy who pretty quickly became aware of how he didn’t measure up. He started his career by trying to kill people who were passionate about loving other people and connecting them to Jesus. That’s a really bad entry into Christianity! But as soon as he had his dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus, he realized how wrong he had been. And because of God’s grace in His life, he ultimately became the greatest missionary the world has ever seen. His story shines a spotlight on God’s grace and how it can radically change a life.

A Free Pass
People ask me, “Are you worried that teaching grace will give students a free pass to do whatever they want?” I say, “When you read the teachings of Paul, do you come away thinking you’ve got a free pass to do whatever you want?” Not at all.

Let me put it another way: remember when Oprah used to have her “Favorite Things” shows? You know the shows where she’s giving away cars and tropical vacations to everyone in her audience—just for showing up! Do you think those people left those shows bigger fans of Oprah than they were before? Of course they did!

When you understand that you’ve been given a gift in full measure that you couldn’t earn or didn’t deserve, you become a fan of the person who gave it to you. The more you understand grace, the more you get to know Jesus. And soon, the question isn’t, “What can I get away with?” The question is, “God, what role do you have for me in Your incredible story?”

A Confidence Boost
Our hope is that students who pick up Live Free, whether it’s the first devotional journal they’ve ever encountered or not, will walk away having taken a step closer to Jesus. And that step will give them confidence and motivation to take another step. Not because they have to, but because His love and grace makes them want to.

Ben Crawshaw is a youth worker and author of the new book Live Free, available now on Amazon!

College Ministry Summer Retreat: Night One

Posted by Colton Harker


This sumer, our ministry is trying a brand new approach to "summer camp." 

We thought since our college students work so hard throughout the year, juggling school, work, and personal lives, that we would give them a time to rest and recconnect. What we landed on was a discipleship/fellowship retreat called, "reTreat Yo Self." We decided to take a group of college students, put them up in a fancy hotel, give them a devotional book/adventure book and let them run free! The only commitment they have is to eat dinner with us at 5pm and to be at night session at 7pm (in one of their giant hotel conference rooms)! 

The fun/scary thing is that, to cut costs/acknowledge their adult freedom, we are having them carpool down... making it so that they can drive around the area all day long until they spend time with us. The former high school pastor in me is freaking out about it, but the college pastor in me is trying to remain calm and remember that they are adults and are looking to have some freedom!

We decided that it was only fitting to themed the retreat based off of the idea of "Rest" (using Matt 11:28-30 as the primary scripture).

I am writing this as in bed as we are finishing up the prep work of "early crew." Praying that this new experimental trip will be life-changing and a tradition in our ministry. Here is the bumper we put together for the first night session!



Do you work with college-age students? What does your church do for a summer retreat?


Topics: college ministry

Download Youth Ministry Webshow: Episode 272

Posted by Josh Griffin

Another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Webshow - hope you're off to a strong start with summer and will enjoy this break with the team! Thanks as always to our sponsors - ORANGE, YM360, Azusa and Leadertreks!


Student Leadership Basics: Don't grandfather leaders in

Posted by Jen Bradbury


One question I'm commonly asked in regard to student leadership teams is, “Are people grandfathered in?” In other words, once someone is on your student leadership team, should they remain on it indefinitely?

My answer is an emphatic “No!”

No one is grandfathered onto my student leadership team, nor is anyone expected to remain on it until they graduate. Instead, my student leaders serve for clearly delineated terms. In my ministry, a “term” on the student leadership team is June through May of the next school year. This allows teens to participate in the training we do over the summer months and serve as a student leader for one academic year.

At the end of that academic year, should they wish to remain on student leadership team for another year, teens must reapply. To do so, they must go through the same application process we use with newbies. They must complete an application (which is actually longer for them than for newbies since I want veteran leaders to reflect upon the time they've already spent on leadership team) and go through our interview process again.

Doing so forces returning team members to reevaluate their schedules and priorities and ensure that remaining on our student leadership team is something they genuinely want to do and not just something they feel obligated to do. It also gives teens an easy way out. Should they decide for whatever reason that they don't want to remain on our leadership team, they simply don't have to fill out another application. This makes it hard to get on our student leadership team and easy to get off of it.

To give student leaders another opportunity to evaluate their fit on the team, you might also consider conducting mid-year interviews. During these interviews, check-in with each of your team members. Ask them to reflect on how the year has gone thus far and to review the covenant. Doing so gives you an opportunity to address problems before they become serious. As part of this interview, directly ask each student whether or not they want to remain on the leadership team and why.

If student leaders choose NOT to remain on your team, don't try to convince them to stay. Instead, affirm what they've brought to the team and graciously let them leave. Doing so is never easy but it is always good. It saves face for teens and allows them to exit gracefully without harming the team or feeling as though they're shirking their responsibilities. As a result, teens are much more likely to remain involved in your ministry on their terms, without the responsibility that comes with being a student leader, especially if, as part of this conversation, you affirm their ongoing place in your ministry.

Ultimately, the best student leadership teams are made up of teens who are deeply invested in your ministry. For that to happen, you never want a teen to feel stuck on your team. Strategically checking in with team members and making everyone reapply to be on your student leadership team on a yearly basis is an easy way to prevent teens from feeling stuck and to instead choose to keep investing in your ministry.

Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: Establishing Spiritual Goals 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Celebrating Birthdays

Student Leadership Team Basics: Popsicle Stick Prayers

Student Leadership Team Basics: What to do at your regular meetings

Student Leadership Team Basics: Evaluating

Student Leadership Team Basics: Blogging

Student Leadership Team Basics: Training Your Leaders by Reading

Student Leadership Team Basics: The Interview 

Student Leadership Team Basics: How many leaders should you have? 

Student Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Student Leadership Team Basics: 6 things to look for in student for in student leaders 

Image Credit: http://www.thelivingleader.com/wp-content/uploads/leadership.jpg






Why Fun Is A Must In Student Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

I had someone ask me why we plan such big events sometimes and what the philosophy behind it is. The person was saying they are more drawn to "deeper" more theolgical discussion based philosophy of ministry, which is great, there is nothing wrong with it, I like it too. I like it because I'm almost 30 and although some students like and are capible to think this too, fun is the universal languge of students. The philosphy of having fun events is pretty simple really.

Students enjoy having fun, so we are going to plan fun things.

I don't believe church should be boring (even for adults). Sometimes we can get caught in the trap of planning events we (as pastors) think are fun not what we think students actually think is fun. This is why we do the lock-ins. This is why we do the over-nighters. This is why we do the crazy things we do because even though we don't think they are fun, our students do, and we can joy in seeing our students have fun...and sometimes we end up having more fun than our students!

Fun events should always be a part of our programs and here is why:

Fun breaks down walls. When students have fun, they usually are not thinking of the things they are holding them down. When we as leaders get to have fun with our students, in the down times of the event there are some great conversations that happen that normally wouldn't if you were just sitting at coffee. Fun allows students to be who they are at the core. Kids.

Students are drawn to it. I feel like in many places, fun is discouraged. At school, work (for some), at home even. Fun is the universal language of students and when we plan things in which they are excited about, they are drawn to it like moths to a flame. It is our goal to provide an atmosphere where students are allowed to have fun while they are with us a few hours a week.

They talk to each other. Next event you have, just take a second and look at the interaction going on. Fun opens up opportunities for students who do not usually interact to actually interact. The big jock talks to the timid kid. The upper classmen talk to the new freshmen. It is awesome. It is what we want.

Their friends like to have fun. When students have fun, they want their friends to join them. I don't know if you know this (and I'm guessing you do) but students tend to travel in packs. You know you are planning the right type of events when they are willing to invite a friend from the outside to come in.

When leaders have fun, students notice. We don't think they notice, but they do. Students can see if the staff and volunteers like each other and when they see us having fun with each other their energy immediately goes up. Fun is contagious.





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Josh Griffin


Josh is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co- founder of DYM and is the father of 4 who speaks a little, writes a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot.


Doug Fields

doug_fieldsDoug Fields is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran who is the Author of 50+ books, Founder of Simply Youth Ministry, Speaker, Pastor, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DYM.

Rachel Blom


Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has youth ministry experience in several countries, both as a volunteer and on staff.

Justin Knowles


Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen. Pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees Jr. High, High School and College ministries at the church.

Colton Harker

Colton Harker

Colton Harker serves college-age students at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He loves Jesus, people, life change, and Netflix.

Christopher Wesley


Blogging serving at a Catholic Church. Chris Wesley has been in youth ministry for over 9 years as the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Maryland.

Jen Bradbury

Jen-BradburyJen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus and her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. She also blogs regularly at www.YMJen.com

Neely McQueen

Jen-BradburyBlogging about girls' ministry. Neely McQueen has been working with students for over 15 years. She works in Student Ministries at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA.

Laneita Fix

Jen-BradburyAuthor, Speaker, Director Ministry Development for Asian Youth Ministries. Love 22 years of working with youth and equipping others in the trenches in youth ministry.

Geoff Stewart

Jen-BradburyGeoff Stewart serves the Jr/Sr High School Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. and doesn't appreciate the jokes about being Canadian (unless they are funny of course).

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