INSTANT GIVEAWAY: 2 Switchfoot/Gungor Tickets in LA Area Tonight!

Posted by Josh Griffin


We love our relationship with Azusa Pacific University - they have produced some incredible alumni (Matt McGill) and have some great professors in their youth ministry department (Doug Fields, Jim Burns, etc). If you haven't checked out their youth ministry degree program, you might be surprised at how affordable and little travel it would take to make that happen! In addition to all of that they have been a faithful podcast sponsor for years.

And now, they're hosting a big giveaway for TONIGHT'S Switchfoot/Gungor Concert on their campus. 2 free tickets, for the 1st person to comment on this blog post. HURRY! The concert is tonight here in the Greater LA area (Azusa, CA). Thanks, Azusa!


Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 263

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: Wisdumb (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: The path of wisdom is marked by many choices. Make wise ones!
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: I got to jump back in the teaching saddle after a week off to help move along the Wisdumb series by teaching on making wise(r) choices while on the path to wisdom. It was fun reflecting on the choices I made, good and bad, during my teenage years and had a chance to explain the importance of wise choices and how they affect our future. We discussed the Biblical process for decision-making, including slowing down a big decision, talking to trusted advisors, and making sure you have all of the facts before you make the call. Super basic but hyer practical message for students about to enter a crucial decision-making life stage.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played one of the most clever games we've made in a long time - Movie Mashups where we had fake movie posters mashing up two complete movies together. Students had to guess from a mashedup synopsis as well. Aboslutley hilarious game for a couple constestants on stage as well as the stdents watching the game. Brilliant and perfectly executed.

Music Playlist: We Shine Your Great Name, You Hold Me, Love Came Down

Favorite Moment: This was another double homecoming week so attendance was down. That's never fun - but to help draw students back on Sunday morning we had a fun extreme pancake breakfast between morning services. It was so fun and delicious - our volunteers are superheroes who ran the whole thing from start to finish!

Up next: Wisdumb (series finale, week 3 of 3)

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 262

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: Wisdumb (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: What is wisdom, why is it important and how do we get it?
Service Length: 72 minutes

Understandable Message: This week the college pastor, Mike Brook, took students on a journey through the first week of the Wisdumb series. His goal was the help students understand what wisdom is, how it is different than just making wise choices, and where we can get it. All of the Scripture used this month was from the book of Proverbs and we even created a 30-day texting campaign to help students as they worked through the entire book, 1 chapter a day. Great message, and great kickoff message to the series!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had some fun videos spoofed after the Jack Handy Deep Thoughts from SNL forever ago. They were a huge hit. We also had a ton of student greeters, students running lights, cameras and the control room, despite it being the first weekend of homecoming season. The guys also played a fun version of Password, which is actually an older game but felt fresh and new to students who had never heard of it. All in all a solid weekend!

Music Playlist: Wake, Let It Be Known, Forever Reign, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I really like it when someone else gets a chance to speak in our ministry - I love the stage and love to teach but understaad how important it is for differnet vocies to be there and how their styles and stories relate differently to people. Mike did a great job sharing with our students this weekend, and love that they get a glimpse of how college ministry looks in the future, too. Wins all around!

Up next: Wisdumb (week 2 of 3)

A 4-week experiment

Posted by Jen Bradbury


This year in my youth ministry, I wanted to try utilizing student-led small groups.

Notice the operative word there: TRY.

In theory, I believe that student-led small groups are a good idea.

Yet, in reality, I feared they would prove disastrous.

Leaders might not take preparing for them seriously.

They could also foster harmful social dynamics between teens.

Knowing this, I wanted to make it clear that a willingness to try student-led small groups in no way meant a permanent attachment to them.

The key to this has been intentionally talking about our foray into student-led small groups as an experiment.

You see, despite how resistant to long-term change people are, they are, I've found, generally willing to experiment with something for a limited time period.


  1. Experiments are temporary. Most people figure they can handle something – even something they hate – if it's only for a limited duration. In the case of our student-led small groups, my student leaders and I agreed to a four-week experiment, after which, we'll evaluate before deciding whether or not to continue using student-led small groups in the future. Four-weeks – or the length of one entire series – gives us enough time to “test” the effectiveness of these student-led small groups. It also makes it a manageable time commitment for those now leading small groups.
  2. Experiments are about improvement. You don't experiment with something that's not broken. Publicly talking about experimenting with something communicates a willingness to make things better. That, in turn, communicates care. In our case, our desire to experiment with student-led small groups came from rapid growth in our youth ministry. That growth led to small groups so large that teens were no longer feeling known and cared for in them. Our willingness to experiment with small groups has communicated our commitment to them, and our desire to ensure that in their small group, every teen is not only a consumer, but a contributor whose voice matters deeply.
  3. Experiments invite participation from others. As people get involved in an experiment – as leaders, participants, or evaluators – they begin to realize that the experiment's success or failure depends on them. This, in turn, gives them increased ownership. In the case of our student-led small groups, we've seen increased ownership in both those leading the small groups and those participating in the student-led ones. Those who are leading the discussions “own” them by faithfully praying and studying Scripture in preparation for them. Those participating in student-led small groups are more attentive than those in adult-led small groups. They feel far more like their voice matters in a conversation between peers than in one with an adult.

Our four-week student-led small group experiment ends tonight.

I don't yet know whether or not we'll continue using these in the future. After all, we have not yet assessed the success of our experiment.

What I do know is this: People have responded incredibly well to this four-week experiment.

So much so that I'm confident more experiments await us in the future... Some of which will certainly usher in lasting change. 

HSM's How to Halloween Costumes Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Here's another in the series of "How To" videos from our friend Hannah Rich. This time she takes on Halloween costumes. Fun!


Is Innocence So Bad?

Posted by Leneita Fix



When I was in HS my nickname was, the "Goody. Goody." I hated it. It made me feel small and like I just wasn’t part of the in crowd. If you have no idea what that phrase means then you were not the one in your own High School who was categorized as an “innocent." We are the ones in High School who don't seem up on the newest song, youtube video, video game, television show or movie. This of course is not true. We have many favorites in all sorts of categories but we may have fallen into that group of kids who aren't allowed to read certain book series about magic or vampires. The reality is on the outside looking in we just don't appear very edgy which of course means we also are not thought of as a cool kid. Now this may be the student of which every youth pastor and parent dreams, but somehow you feel like an outcast when a bunch of peers give you the title.

Recently, several cases have made the news of teens sending nude photos to each other and basically collecting and trading them like a form of baseball card. In the past week I have talked with two youth pastors from different areas of the country (and not in the states that made the news) where this is happening as well. There are a rash of youtube videos called, "Shrek is Love Shrek is Life," that students think are funny in which the idea alone, much less the visuals will make your stomach turn. Let's suffice it to say, it's not the Shrek of Dreamworks. These sound like extreme cases but I talk to church leaders often locally and globally who are wondering how to deal with these topics. This doesn't even touch on the popularity of graphically violent and sexual television shows, crazy movies and lyrics to songs which make you go, "HUH?"

We youth leaders have a tendency to believe the more wholesome a student, the more they will get pummeled out in the real world. At the same time we are asking them to stand out and be different from those who don’t know Christ. Really which is it? I think it’s time to actually encourage the pure of heart to stay that way.

How do we encourage the innocent it’s a good thing (and the rest it's not so bad):

Encourage Them

It stinks to get made fun of. I know one girl who will tell me, “I have chosen to sort of live under a rock. I don’t need to see or do things that are inappropriate. It also doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with that.” The tension is about fitting in. Many students who make the choices to look or engage in these sorts of things just want to be able to follow the conversations of the hallways. YET, the question is one of the heart. Who does it really belong to? If it’s the Lords it may mean you know about what’s going on but don’t engage in it. Let them know that’s actually a good thing.

There Are Always Consequences

Those students in the news are currently in court cases exploring whether they will be charged with felonies including possession of nude pictures of a minor. If this happens they will potentially become registered sex offenders, yes as teens. When we make a choice to explore the “naughty” there is always a consequence. Once you read something inappropriate or see the movie, those images are stuck in your head. You can reclaim your heart but you don’t have to lose it in the first place.

Give Them An Outlet

Let them have a place where they are allowed to be oblivious of pop culture sometimes. In an effort to connect, we like to discuss the latest and greatest in youth programming. I am not talking about ignoring culture. Just maybe it’s ok to let them have spaces where they are allowed to just be free and innocence is embraced. So for example before you have an ice breaker this week asking, “What’s your favorite horror movie?” think about the fact some of your students may have never or choose never to see one.

It’s a fine line to walk on being aware of the world and staying naive to the details. We talk a lot in our group on how to navigate all that is bombarding us, choices and accountability. Jesus was entirely aware of the culture around Him, but he had no desire to be undone by it. He wasn’t ever one of the “cool kids.” It wasn’t easy, but I am so glad that He maintained His lack of sin. It changed everything. If this is who we are teaching them to follow, then why are we so reticent to let them be exactly like Him? Let’s help them learn to navigate this world, but they don’t have to be part of it. Not really.

Innocence Good or Bad?

The newest troubling social network: Yik Yak

Posted by Rachel Blom

There's a new social network that's already been called troubling by many schools and colleges. It's called Yik Yak and it's basically an anonymous local messaging app, kind of like a bulletin board. Yik Yak uses GPS to determine locations and lets users within a 1.5 mile radius read your 'yaks' (updates). Kind of like a local Twitter - only anonymous.

It's that anonimity that causes the problems. Users can post whatever they want about whomever they want, completely anonymous. Well, as far as true anonymity still exists these days anyways. Obviously users can be traced when necessary, but it's not easy.


That's why many schools have already had issues with Yik Yak, because it's perfect for cyber bullying. Oficially, the app is aimed at college students but that doesn't mean younger kids can't find it or use it. I received an email from my son's elementary school this week that they'd had problems with Yik Yak in 5th grade classes. 

It's why more and more schools have decided to ban Yik Yak. And they can fortunately; so called geofences make it possible to block the app in certain areas, like middle schools and high schools. There have also been colleges who have blocked the app. That's not the perfect solution obviously, as students can still use it outside of school grounds. 

It's one more example of why it is so important to be in a constant conversation with students about their online behavior and lives. And as youth leaders, we should stay on top of developments like this so we can educate parents and students about the dangers and risks of social networks. 

Leadership Can Be Lonely

Posted by Justin Knowles

Leadership is a pretty lonely place. This is my first position where I am the lead of the ministry, a staff team, two separate ministries and a full volunteer staff. Even though you are surrounded by people all of the time it still is a very lonely place. No one else knows the conversations you have with the leadership of the church. No one else gets the phone calls of upset parents. No one else gets to deal with volunteers who drive you crazy. You get to do all of that. 

Whether you have a team or not, I'm sure there are times where you have felt alone as the lead of the ministry. So what can you do? How can you get people around you?

Find someone who has the same "status" in the church - At Christ's Church of the Valley, I am considered to be on senior leadership of the church; all of the department heads. One of my best friends is on senior leadership as well and we use each other as sounding boards. We both lead a team and when we feel like we have no one to bounce off conversations or ideas, we go to each other. It really is helpful.

Find someone who does what you do at another church - Having a third party who is outside the church is extremely refreshing. They get it. They understand you ministry. You can surround yourself with a network of other youth pastors who can come along side you and support you, encourage you, and pray for you. I go to Josh Griffin (DYM guy here) for my stuff. It's nice to know he will be there for me and tell me what I need to hear when I need to hear it.

Find someone a step above you - I know this one might be harder, but having someone in leadership above you to chat with is a gift. My supervisor has an open door policy where I know I can come in and chat, brainstorm, run things by him, complain, whatever. It's really refreshing and he makes me feel like he has my back, which he does. Makes it feel less lonely.

I'm sure there are more ways, but these are the ways I tend to cope with the loneliness of leadership. What do you do? How do you combat that?

Youth group as a place of rest

Posted by Rachel Blom

After having lived in the US for almost a year now, there's one observation that I'd like to share: the pace of life is so much higher than it is in Europe.

My son is in first grade and I am amazed at the schedule he's almost forced into. Spelling homework four days a week plus extra math homework on the other days. We're supposed to read with him every day. Then there's sports, music lessons, school activities, you name it. If I want to schedule a play date for him, we have to book it weeks in advance. I can only imagine what it's like for teens, how hectic and crazy busy their lives must be. 

Is youth group competing with all the other activities? And if so, is youth group one more thing students have to do, where to have to be active? 

Maybe we should consider making youth group as a place of rest, a place where teens can exhale, relax, leave the hectic pace of their lives behind them. 

Maybe youth groups should be 'slow clubs' where the pace is leisurely and students can reconnect with their souls again.


Maybe if we did that, students would make coming to youth group a priority instead of another activity they have to do. 

What do you think?


Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 261

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: ICON (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: JESUS is the Light of the World, let Him shine through us.
Service Length: 79 minutes

Understandable Message: This was the series finale for the ICON series this past month. It was a great series completely focused on the Life of Christ - Jesus is the way, the bread and the light. This weekend we challenged students to a) accept the light of Jesus in their hearts, and if they have already to b) shine bright for Jesus into the world around them. We talked about how light is attractive like a bug zapper), how light guides us (like a flashlight), and how light protects us (like a lighthouse). We talked about how each of these qualities are 

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Lots of students involved in the youth services these days - very proud of them and our program was strong as well. Great music and a fun game called Pictionary Showdown where we had 2 teams compete against each other on IPads trying to draw funny objects and phrases. So classic, and so fun. We also have a couple of great videos, including the "How to Ask Someone to Homecoming" which was an immediate hit with our students as well.

Music Playlist: You Are, Give Us a Passion, Go

Favorite Moment: I really liked this series - and there's something special about the Fall before we get hit with all the homecmoings of the next month and the pressures of school start to pile up before the holidays. I got to teach all 3 weeks of this series as well, so fun!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend - October

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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.

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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