POLL: The Ups and Downs of Youth Ministry Attendance

Posted by Josh Griffin

Right now we're getting hit pretty hard in attendance in our youth groups because of back-to-back homecomings. Our services are on Saturday nights and that is when all of the schools host their big events/dance so we're in the down season right after a huge back to school month. Made me think to ask in this week's poll about the ups anddowns of youth groups attendance. Vote now!


You Groups, Apologetics and Young Atheists

Posted by Josh Griffin

CrossMap had a great post on young atheists and youth ministry that got me thinking this week - thought I would grab a clip of it here and send you there if you want to do the rest.

Taunton's findings are counter-intuitive. Much of what passes for youth ministry these days is driven by a morbid fear of boring our young charges. As a result, a lot of time is spent trying to devise ways to entertain them. The rest of the time is spent worrying about whether the Christian message will turn kids off.
But as Taunton found, young people, like the not-so-young, respect people with conviction-provided they know what they're talking about. Taunton talks about his experiences with the late Christopher Hitchens, who, in their debates, refrained from attacking him. When asked why, Hitchens replied, "Because you believe it." I don't know what that says about Hitchens' other Christian debate partners, but it is a potent reminder that playing down the truth claims of the Christian faith doesn't work.
People don't believe those they don't respect. Here's something that one of the students told Larry Taunton; he said, "Christianity is something that if youreally believed it, it would change your life and you would want to change [the lives] of others. I haven't seen too much of that."
Folks, that's pretty sobering. This puts the ball in our court. Are we living lives that show our children that we actually believe what we say we believe? And here's another question-do we actually believe it? I have to say, as a parent I'm taking this very seriously.


The 2 Killers Of Servant Leadership

Posted by Justin Knowles

This past weekend we had a leadership meeting with our college ministry leaders and we walked through what it looked like to be a servant leader by looking at the life of Jesus, the greatest leader of them all. We all know servant leadership has been modeled to us by Jesus. This is why He was so effective. As leaders of ministries and teams of volunteers, we need to be teaching servant leadership and what that means. I feel when we grasp this we will be able to break through whatever glass ceiling we are facing.

There are two things we need to watch out for in us and in our leaders that will kill any good that servant leadership brings:

Entitlement - the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges) will kill anything that breathes servant leadership. Weed this out of your leadership team and your own leadership style. It’s when the thoughts of, “I deserve this position” or “The church owes me this” is when we will find ourselves wondering what happened to our leadership.

Laziness - not liking to work hard or to be active. I have seen it all over Facebook. Lack of planning and last minute asks for help for a game, graphic, sermon whatever because we were too lazy to plan ahead and actually be prepared. Servant leadership is not lazy, it takes work but it’s most effective.

How do you combat these things? Jesus did both these things:

Lead with Humility- the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, or rank. Jesus was the master of this. We need to learn how to master this as well. The opposite of entitlement is humility.

Matthew 20:28 - For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Leading by Example – Again, Jesus was the master at his. We as leaders have the ability to demand but servant leaders are motivated by love and educate by example. We need lead out in doing what we want to see. The opposite of laziness is leading the way and doing what we want our leaders to be doing, not just telling them what to do.

John 13:14-15 - And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

Justin Knowles 


Topics: leadership, servant leadership, student ministry space

GUEST POST: Relevant Postmodern Communication with Teenagers

Posted by Josh Griffin

Postmodernism:  1) a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality.

In other words, instead of a “large umbrella” under which we all understand reality, postmodernism asserts the need for millions of individual “umbrellas” by which individuals understand reality.  It is a rejection of the meta-narrative.  

The sacrifice of the objective for the subjective, of the understanding of truth, implies that there is also a fracturing of how that truth is communicated.  Instead of students receiving information one way, they engage best by a variety, or a “gestalt”.  

Gestalt - a German word that is fun to say.  It also means “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.”  In communication with teenagers, we must utilize a variety of mediums in which to communicate. 

Your Media Gestalt

Social Media
If you are older or are not tech-savvy, this can feel intimidating. Better yet, the multiplicity of social media options are overwhelming. However, these tools are vitally important. I encourage you to look at your town as a mission field.  How are you going to reach them?  What language do they speak? The minute you use these tools, you are embodying Marshall McLuhan’s tried and true maxim of mass communications: “the medium is the message”.  Your very presence in these realms of communication immediately validates you in the eyes of teenagers.  Don’t underestimate the power of relevancy!  This is the current language teenagers speak.
Finding a cheap texting service is a direct (and relevant) way to communicate with your desired audience.  If your church cannot afford a texting service, sharing your cell phone number (and vice versa) is just as good, and more personal. (editor's note - be sure to check out DYM Text, free texting for DYM members
Physical Mail
As Doug Fields has correctly reiterated over the years, never underestimate the power of a personal postcard, letter, or birthday card.  As electronic communication continues to expand, physical mail still retains the quality of “special”, mainly because teenagers today get so few real letters in the mail.  Interestingly, it isn’t considered arcane or archaic just yet.  Huzzah! Now let’s pray the Postal Service doesn’t go bankrupt.
The history of Christian t-shirts is a long and tragic one, a road fraught with “This Blood’s For You” and “The Lord’s Gym”.  If and when you make youth group t-shirts, ensure the design, cut of the shirt, quality of the material and color scheme are such that your youth will want to wear it other places than just a “Youth Sunday”. Better yet, have a teenager help design it! 
Teenagers today check email more often than you would think.  We send a weekly email to parents and students each week.
Your Church Phone
Does a real person answer your church phone (better) as opposed to an automated machine?  Do you return phone calls or emails quickly?  Relevant communication goes both ways. Failure in this regard leads to weakened trust with those you are called to serve.

Our broad communications should have the goal of a teenager seeing, and that seeing leading to doing, and that doing to understanding.  More than ever, our mission field requires us to communicate in a broad and yet focused way, all with the goal of leading them to active discipleship.

What do you think?  What communication tools have you used to good success?  

Clark Chilton is a Student Ministries Pastor in Clemmons, NC.

GUEST POST: My 1st Crisis in Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

This weekend I experienced my first major crisis as a youth pastor. It was about 4pm on Friday afternoon, and I was at McDonald’s with a student. That’s when I got the phone call. The voice at the other end was shaky, and eventually went on to tell me one of our seniors had been in a very serious accident. As I drove up to the hospital a million thoughts were racing through my mind. What if he doesn’t make it? What do I tell his parents? What do I say to his sixth grade brother? What if I can’t keep it together? As my mind was racing, all I could say was, “God please be with me.” Walking into the hospital to meet parents who are upset, and fearing for their child’s life is never an easy circumstance. There were some things that I have learned throughout this process that will be staples for me in times of crisis…here are a few.

  1. God is in control. We can be mad, angry, sad, and speechless about the present situation, but we must always rest in the fact that God is in control. Hold on to the idea that God can use tough circumstances to bring Him glory, no matter how bad that situation looks (Genesis 50:20).
  2. Be there. Never underestimate the power of presence. This particular youth’s parents do not attend church, however they were so glad to be surrounded by their student’s youth pastor and small group leaders.
  3. Pray hard. When I arrived at the hospital, one of the very first things the mother said was, “Please pray.” This struck me because these people do not attend a church, or seem to have any interest in Christianity, however she definitely saw the power of prayer that day. About 5 or 6 of us from church showed up and began praying for our student. It was a powerful and emotional time of prayer.
  4. Help out with the family tasks. When a family is in a crisis, they don’t think about daily tasks. Go buy their family dinner for that night. Find out if you can set up a person to cook food for them for the rest of the week. Get a group of students together to take care of their yard work. Pick up their children from school. Whatever you do, help the family out with things that may not be on their radar, but need to be taken care of.
  5. Silence is OK. It’s not up to you to entertain the hurting family. I found myself wanting to fill the silence in the waiting room with conversation. This desire to fill the silence led me into meaningless conversation. I learned very quickly that in crazy times, silence can be best.
  6. Use this time as a witnessing opportunity. We have been reaching out to this student’s family. We brought our senior pastor up to the hospital, and he got to meet the family, and let them know how much we have been praying for them. That is one of many things we have done. Some things you can do are, invite the family to church, or have them over to your house. Don’t let this just be a circumstance, but use this as an opportunity for God to work on people’s hearts.

Those are some things I learned this weekend. What else would you add to this list?

Alex Wierda is the Youth Pastor at Central Christian Church.

Wisdumb Sermon Bumper Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Here's a simple and fun sermon bumper video our guys made for the Wisdum series. The whole stage/look has a cabin/outdoorsy vibe to it. So far so good!


Show them health, not perfection

Posted by Jen Bradbury

Recently, my high school teens and I discussed God's gender.

During this discussion, small groups made a list of God's characteristics and classified them as masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. As we did this, my husband and I, who were leading separate small groups, both found ourselves explaining our classifications using examples from our marriage. 

Afterward, my husband commented how surprised he was by what teens had noticed about our relationship with one another.

For example, one student commented on my tendency to nag my husband over stuff related to our darling cat.

Now, I like to think that what teens notice about my marriage is how awesome it is; How it's based on mutuality, a relationship in which we both willingly serve one another out of love and respect; How we encourage, challenge, and affirm one another; And how we are the best of friends.

And don't get me wrong. Maybe youth do notice those things.

But during this recent conversation, it became crystal clear to both my husband and I that teens also notice other – much less flattering – things about our marriage as well.

At first, I felt a bit of shame regarding this.

After all, many of my teens come from broken homes.

Knowing this, I desperately want to model healthy marriage to them. I want teens to see and understand that not all marriages end in disaster.

And that's when I realized: That's precisely why it's good that youth see not just the beautiful parts of my marriage, but the less flattering ones as well.

After all, what I want to model to youth is a healthy marriage; Not a perfect one.

Because let's face it. As anyone who's been married longer than about 24 hours knows, no marriage is perfect.

Marriages are filled with both beautiful moments as well as – let's just say – less than beautiful moments like those when I nag my husband or when he lashes out at me in frustration.

Healthy marriages aren't conflict free. Instead, in healthy marriages, both parties are committed to working through conflict because they know that even though doing so is sometimes painful, it's well worth it.

Maybe that is actually the part of marriage that teens – especially those who come from broken homes - most need to see.

Maybe what teens need to see isn't another couple pretending to have it all together, but instead, a real-life couple who occasionally fights but then works together to resolve the conflict.

Maybe if teens saw us model that they'd begin to understand that conflict doesn't always mean a lack of love; That it doesn't always result in divorce.

So friends, may we have the courage to let our teens see not perfect marriages – but real, messy authentic ones rooted in the love of Christ. 

Wisdumb Series Arc at Saddleback Church High School Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

I'm excited about this month's new series in HSM called Wisdumb. It is a book study as we go through Proverbs and teach students about having true wisdom in Christ. Here's the series arc of where we're headed this month:

Week 1: What is Wisdom and How to Get it
Why is wisdom so important? What is the big deal? Well, wisdom is huge because every decision has a domino effect, every decision affects me now and the later and ultimately determines my future. If it is this important, we sure should be talking about it!

Week 2: How to Make Wise Decisions

Decisions are one of the biggest factors in who we become - so how do y ou make the right decisions? Be smart about the little choices in your life, because they'll have a big effect on who you become. This weekend should be a practical guide to helping students check their heart and check in with a mentor to help guide them.

Week 3: What is Wisdom and How to Get it

This week we're going after 3 of the big areas where people get tripped up the most. 1) Having the wrong kind of friends, 2) using my time wrong and 3) using my money all wrong. Don't be dumb, have wisdom!


HSM's Words of Wisdom Videos for the Wisdumb Series

Posted by Josh Griffin

This was a fun series of videos we did in HSM, lifted directly from Deep Thougts by Jack HAndy (old SNL bit). Fit perfectly with our new Wisdumb series this month!


YS IDEA LAB: The Best Ideas in Our Youth Ministry This Year

Posted by Josh Griffin

YS IDEA LAB is a video interview series filmed on location at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. Ths week's episode features Neely McQueen interviewing Josh Griffin, High School Pastor at Saddleback Church.

1) "Fact or Fiction" apologetics series with guest speakers in their entry level program that addresses tough questions about Christianity.

2) "You Own The Weekend" is a completely student led weekend of youth ministry services. Get the You Own the Weekend resource on DYM right here.

3) "Insta-Life" series that utilizes instagram and pulls out some key talking points that relate to our spirituality. Check out Instalife series and Instahack right here on DYM.

4 & 5) Have students buy pizza for the janitors in their high schools to show how important it is to serve others. "Post-It Note project" where students in your ministry write encouraging post-it notes for each student in their high school and stick them to their lockers. Check out student leadership resources right here.


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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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