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Be AWARE Of Labels

Posted by Leneita Fix



Expressions-16As youth people we are interacting with all different types of students all of the time.  All we know is what we encounter when they show up.  There are portions of their stories they share, which are small snippets and views into their lives.  Yet,  I am struck with how little we actually get to truly see into the heart of a student. 

This hit me recently on three occasions. 

  1. Interacting with a student I had never met who shared her whole story with me at a church picnic.
  2. Spending a weekend with a small group of JH students who gave me insights into their thoughts on life.
  3. My own child struggling with some relationships.

It hit me in each scenario that there was a layer of the students I hadn't seen previously upon just "seeing" students.  

Let me work backwards in each of these scenarios.

My child:

What's REALLY going on:

The last 7 months have been REALLY hard on her.  It began when my husband had to move states without us to start a new ministry job and we had to finish out the school year apart from her Dad.  When we "finally" were all together we had to move houses three times until we were able to find a place of our "own,"  two weeks after school started. The current house has had a lot of issues so we are  still not fully "in."  We moved back to an area we had lived in 2 1/2 years ago.  This should make it smooth right?    No.  Upon returning a "friend" told her that when she left the first time,  "A lot of people were really glad you left because they didn't like you. But, I'm glad you're back."  She never knew that people didn't like her.  She doesn't feel like the people on her sports team like her now.  She is having a hard time navigating new teachers with different expectations from her last school.  On top of all of that our new house?  We serve in an inner city neighborhood with a lot of "struggles" of it's own.  She doesn't feel like there is really anyone to talk to about how she really feels about the reality of where we live being different from friends who live in the suburbs.

What others SEE:

A JH age student who is barreling through life.  She is clinging too tightly to friends who knew her.  So much so they feel smothered right now.  So much so they are moving on and asking for space.  She has become selfish and wants her way most of the time.  At home her emotions are all over the place and this is coming out in some settings where she feels "safe" like sports practices and youth group.


Small group of girls:

What I learned:

In spending time with the JH girls group I learned they are struggling with not wanting to  grow up and feeling lonely.  Some come from blended families and are navigating how to "feel like they all belong together."

What I saw?

A group of girls who were silly, brash and wanting to all "have their own way."  We had to figure on more than one occasion how to get everyone to work together.


Girl I just met:

What I learned:

She has had a horrendous year being diagnosed with a chronic illness, moving states,  and the death of a parent.  It didn't take long for her to spill her story of loss and disappointment.  I also learned as her remaining family moved in with grandparents,  her living parent is ill,  and this is the first time in her life she recalls living in a house.   At some points her family has been so poor they have lived five of them in one motel room.

What We See:

A really dramatic young woman who might have been a little too at "ease" with sharing difficult details of her life. She was obviously hungry for attention and trusted adults more than her peers.  She was desperately afraid of being made fun of.  


Are you catching the pattern here?  It's so easy to dismiss our students with a label based on the presentation of themselves they give us.  I could easily call any of these students,  "dramatic,"  "emotional" or even "difficult."   What I am wondering is how often we are willing to stop and get to know what's going on beyond the surface.  Could it be "more" than "just their age?"   It takes A LOT of work to look beyond the surface and ask others to do the same.  Could we be coaching them to navigate life a little better than they are? I'm not saying they are reacting well,  but perhaps they (and their parents) could use some help? Their peers don't know to stop and say,  "Hey,  is something else going on here?"  I do wonder what friendships would look  like among teens if we taught them to be supportive instead of focused on self preservation?

We are only a month or less into the school year.  Let's make sure we aren't just dismissing students based on the behavior we see.  Instead let's make sure to get beyond what we "see."  Let's help them learn to navigate life a  little better.

How do you dig deeper with students?







Topics: student mnistry

How to Take Sick Pics with Colton and Matt

Posted by Josh Griffin

Just a fun video to celebrate the end of summer and have a little fun.


HSM Teaching Series Fall 2014

Posted by Josh Griffin


This Fall in our high school ministry we're taking on some great new topics and passages of Scripture. Here is what we're teaching on at Saddleback Church this Fall:

A 3-week Jesus series to start the school year
Worship Together Weekend
HSM Fall Kickoff & ICON series (week 1 of 3)
ICON series (week 2 of 3)
ICON series (week 3 of 3)
A 3-week series on making wise choices: friends, decisions & words
Worship Together Weekend
Wisdumb (week 1 of 3)
Wisdumb (week 2 of 3)
Wisdumb (week 3 of 3)
Worship Together Weekend
Shortcuts (week 1 of 3)
Shortcuts (week 2 of 3)
Shortcuts (week 3 of 3)
Christmas (1-off)
HSM's 2nd Annual Christmas Program


DYM Book Club: 10 Most Influential Books

Posted by Rachel Blom

It's been eerily quiet in the DYM Book Club these last summer months, but we're back!

As anyone who is on Facebook may have noticed, there's a post that keeps popping up where people share 10 books that have been most influential to them. I'm usually not a fan of being 'forced' to do anything (I can be grateful for three things every day without people telling me to, thank you very much!), but I love this idea. It's given me interesting insights into the kind of books that have touched my Facebook friends, influenced them. 

And I'm not the only one who thought this was interesting, as Mashable shared some fascinating data compiled from all these top 10 of most influential books Facebook update. OK, so Harry Potter makes it to the top spot, which may anger some Christians. But God's Word still makes it to number 6, which suprised me in a good way. Plus the top 25 or so contain some true classics.


I thought it would be great to share some of our own most influential books here as well. They can be fiction or non-fiction, Christian or not, youth ministry related or completely something else. The only criterium is that these books have influenced you in a big way, have touched you, or have stayed with you affter reading them.

So here's my Top 10 of most influential books in random order (I'm excluding the Bible though, since I consider that to be in a class on its own! I've also excluded fiction because I could make a top 10 of that all on its own, I love books so much...)) and I hope you'll share yours in the comments or in the DYM Book Club Facebook Group!

  1. The Power of Focus  - Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Les Hewitt
  2. Contemplative Youth Ministry - Mark Yaconelli
  3. Building a Discipling Culture - Mike Breen
  4. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die- Chip and Dan Heath
  5. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work- Chip and Dan Heath
  6. The Grace Awakening- Charles Swindoll
  7. Conspiracy of Kindness- Steve Sjogren
  8. The Ragamuffin Gospel- Brendan Manning
  9. Heaven- Randy Alcorn
  10. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels- N.T. Wright

I could have easily listed 10 more books that have impacted me, but let's keep it at this for now. I'd love to see your lists!

(Photo Credit: Kate ter Haar)

POLL: Does Youth Church Leadership Support the Youth Ministry?

Posted by Josh Griffin

I get a chance to talk to youth workers all of the time, and one of the recurring themes of some of my recent conversations is the support of the church. This is a struggle for all youth workers at some point in their ministry, there's often so many iniatives or ministries that youth inistry can feel left behind. How is your current situation? Vote now!


7 Tips Before Having A Hard Conversation

Posted by Justin Knowles

Sometimes hard conversations have to happen. It is part of being a leader. It is a part of leading a ministry with both students and volunteers. Tough conversations when handled correctly can help people grow. I think sometimes people think that because you are in ministry it means you can't be confrontational but when I look at Jesus and how He lead, there were plenty of times in which He confronted both the disciples and Pharisees. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind the next time you have to have a tough conversation:

  • Pray before- Seems obvious but if I do forget to one thing the most, it’s this one. It’s so easily overlooked but it really is the most important. There is nothing better than going into what can be a very difficult conversation than going in knowing that you went before the King and gave Him the situation before you even began with the student or leader. I pray that He gives me the correct words to say in ministering to the student and discernment when counseling them.
  • Ask - Ask yourself, "Does this need to be even brought up? Does it need to be handled right now? Am I thinking about this too much? Does it really matter? Does something even need to be said?" Going through some of these things can help you process what is about to happen.
  • Be up front- There is no use to dancing around the situation. I would always try to “warm them up” before actually getting to the meat. As soon as they sit down, I lovingly let them know that I want to talk about something that can be hard to hear but it important because I love and care for them, then I go into it.
  • Be on their side- Confrontation is exactly that when two people are going head to head. If you can’t confront someone with love and with a positive end in mind for them (redemption, restoration, growth), you shouldn’t be confronting them in the first place. Remind them of this as well—that you’re on their side—and that you want to see this issue resolved in a way that everyone learns and grows through it.
  • Go in private- Go in private according to Matthew 18:15. A one-on-one conversation. If you cannot overlook the issue then attempt to resolve the conflict or misunderstanding by applying God’s principle of going one on one whenever possible. There is no benefit in calling them out in front of their friends after service or small group about something they have been doing (Finish reading Matthew 18 if one-on-one doesn’t get through).
  • When it gets heated, slow down -When things get heated it can be really easy to get revved up with them. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and just go for it. Slow down, get collected. Take a few breaths and think about what happened. The art of holding your tongue is hard and the art of confrontation with a calm demeanor is harder. Not going off and slowing yourself down before speaking will always be beneficial.
  • Point Them To Jesus- Overall, you are to point them to Jesus. As ministers that is what we are supposed to do. We need to use these times of confrontation as teaching and learning for our students and leaders and for us as pastors as well. If we can leave the conversation with the students leaning on Jesus more, than it is a success.

Topics: student ministry, hard conversations, youth ministry wins

YS IDEA LAB: Wayne Rice on Intergenerational Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

Wayne Rice knows youth ministry - and in this Youth Specialties Idea Lab training series, hosted by Neely McQueen, he shares his insights on connecting students and adults in the church. Great insight and youth ministry training today!


Interview with William Vanderbloemen on His Latest Book, Next

Posted by Josh Griffin

next_succession_churchWilliam Vanderbloemen is the President and Founder at The Vanderbloemen Search Group and specializes in recruiting and matching leaders with faith-based organizations. We've met several times before and jumped at the opportunity to talk to him about hisinsightful book on church leadership succession, Next. Here's the interview, enjoy and be sure to pick up a copy today:

You seem uniquely positioned to write a book like this. Tell us about the inspiration for the project.

William: It really comes down to one sentence: Every pastor is an interim pastor.

Why? Because unless you plan on pastoring your church after Jesus returns, every church will have to face the reality of a leadership transition. Most pastors and church leaders don’t have a plan for what would happen if the pastor couldn’t lead their church this Sunday. Many church leaders equate succession planning to retirement planning. However, smart church leaders realize that succession planning is much more than that. We hope that this book will be a conversation starter and a guide for pastors and church boards as they look to the inevitable reality of transition.

Why are churches so resistant to leadership challenges like succession? 

William: Succession has been a bit of a taboo topic for far too long. What we found in our research for Next is that no career ties identity to job more than the pastorate. What other job coincides with more key parts of life? Who else performs their daughter’s wedding at work? Who else buries longtime friends as part of their job? What other career ties personal spiritual formation to career performance? It is a difficult job to leave because our identity as a pastor is tied to our church, but this is why focusing on leaving a legacy through a healthy succession plan from day one in the pastorate matters so much.

Pastors who talk about their departure ahead of time have been mistaken for pastors who are on their way out or considering a move. Part of the reason I teamed up with Warren Bird to write this book was to facilitate and normalize that conversation between pastors and church boards.

What’s the biggest mistake you see as pastors transition? And the biggest mistake churches make at the same time? 

William: The biggest mistake both pastors and churches make regarding succession is not talking about it soon enough. One golden rule of succession planning is that it’s never too early to start. I would be thrilled if pastors in their 30’s bought this book and began planning now. When I was a young pastor, John Maxwell told me, “William, spend your younger years creating options for your later years.” I believe that more than ever now. My dream is to see pastors, leadership teams, and board members read this book together and answer the guiding questions.

Another mistake pastors make is not talking about (and planning for) finances soon enough. Honestly, churches ought to be paying pastors more, and should be providing more long term financial planning for pastors so that retirement is a viable option. Too often, the pastor just cannot afford to retire, and that leads to staying in the pulpit too long.

Finally, a critical error we noticed is pastors staying in the pulpit too long. Too often pastors stay at a church not because they’re thriving but because they don’t have anything else to put their passion into. Having a plan for how you will spend your energy after you leave your church is crucial to a healthy succession. Chapter 4 of Next helps pastors frame when it’s time to move on from your present place of service, but the more fundamental issue is figuring out what you should do next in God’s big picture for your life.

One of the most significant trends we saw was how much of a good succession rises and falls on the outgoing pastor’s spouse. There are a number of great stories in the book that highlight this. Smart churches will pay attention to that dynamic and find ways to address it as they face transitions.

For those that will be moving up into that position in the future, what are some gaps in leadership or experience many leaders in the church are missing today?

William: I think two characteristics that are key to anyone in leadership, but especially those in the pastorate are agility and emotional intelligence.

We talk a lot about agility at Vanderbloemen Search Group and look for this characteristic in candidates we interview. Whether you’re on staff at a growing megachurch or on staff at a small rural church, you’re going to have to wear a lot of hats. There will always be more to do in ministry than manpower, time, and money allow. A great leader must be versatile, since ministry often calls for he or she to act outside of their job description. 

Emotional intelligence is another key characteristic that we interview for when we’re considering candidates for our clients. Great leaders must be hyper aware of their own emotional health as well as have the relational intelligence to anticipate their teams’ emotional health.

Tell us about what’s next for you! (get it … next! Hahahaha)

William: Hilarious! I’ll be speaking at several conferences this fall including Collyde Conference in NJ and Exponential West in Southern California. I’ll also begin working on my next book (get it?) this fall. And of course, we’ll always be 100% focused on helping our clients find great staff.

Thanks for your time, William! Check out the book's official site right here!


Eyewitness Exclusive: Jonah Switch Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Fun little video for the Jonah week of the Switch series last month. Just trying to have some fun with the classic story before the speaker came on stage. If you're looking for a Jonah series, this one has been really popular on the site! JG

Topics: youth ministry videos

Trust In God And Not The Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

Ok, I'm going to be very transparent with you. I love successful stuff. I love being a part of things that are well ran, doing well, and energy is high. This is why I loved being a part of Saddleback HSM. It is crazy the amount of ministry they do and how well they do it. When I first got hired there, I put all my eggs in the basket, I was all in and there was no turning back. Now, when the prompting from the Lord came for me to move on to another ministry, I shrugged it off. I thought, "Why on earth would I leave this? This is everything I have ever wanted to do!" I left HSM on a great note and didn't start my new position for another month so I had some time to think. Here is what came to mind:

Sometimes we put our trust in our ministry not God. 

When I look back on my transition, there were times where I determined my worth based on how an event went or how many students I got to sign up for a small group. My faith was in the numbers and when numbers were up, I was good to go. When numbers were down I was stressed. I'm pretty sure many youth workers can relate and admit they fall into this trap as well. It can be a dangerous place if we are not aware we are in it. 

Sometimes I think we think God's version of success is our version of success. That is putting God in a pretty small box. God is far less interested in our success but far more interested in making us more like Jesus. Jesus was faithful. We need to put our trust in our ministry, but God who gave us these great students to minister to.

Sometimes we try to build our own ego, our own ministry, and our own little kingdom (youth group). Putting our trust in the Lord will let everything else fall into place. Keep trusting God, not your ministry, and you will keep showing Jesus to students where ever you are at.

Matthew 6:31-33

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.


Topics: student ministry, youth ministry wins

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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, Adviser to Youth Specialties, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DownloadYouthMinistry.com.

Rachel Blom


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

Matt McGill


Blogging with eternal wisdom. Matt McGill is the visionary behind Download Youth Ministry. He convinced his 2 friends Josh and Doug to partner with him and create this whole place.

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


Blogging about his First 2 Years in Youth Ministry. Colton is just starting out in youth ministry and blogs about what he is learning along the way.

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 Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She's the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She also blogs regularly at 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).

Kara Powell

Jen-BradburyDr. Kara E. Powell is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. A 20- year youth ministry veteran, she speaks regularly at youth ministry conferences and is author or co-author of a number of books and volunteers in student ministry at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA.

Walt Mueller

Jen-BradburyBlogging about youth culture and current events. Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organization serving schools, churches, and community organizations across the U.S, Canada, and worldwide in their efforts to strengthen families.

Duffy Robbins

Jen-BradburyDuffy travels the world speaking to teenagers and people who care about teenagers. Both in the classroom and in camps, conferences and seminars, he's well known for his insights, inspiration and humor.

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