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Things To Think Through When Planning Sermon Series, Camps & Curriculums

Posted by Justin Knowles

Sermon series, camps, devotionals, and information. I think we all can agree on how important these things are when it comes to planning out certain things in our ministries. Sermon series on the weekends or midweek, camp themes and speakers, small group curriculum and devotionals that go along with it. There is just a ton of information that needs to get to our students and it's important for us to get it to them. In a sense, it's part of our job to create this for our students. But not only thinking about just getting it to them, it's how we are getting it to them.

When it comes to our sermon series, camp themes and curriculum, we need to realize information does not lead to transformation. We need to be intentional and prayerful. I thought a lot of what we do as youth workers and how we are passionate about getting information about certain things to students. As we do we need to know not all students are at the same place. Some are more mature than others. Some or ready to go deeper. Some are not. I was just thinking a ton about the discipleship process and the journey we as pastors take our students on. This is not an exhaustive list, but just some thoughts as I was talking to my team about our fall planning meeting we have coming up and the launch of our small groups system:

  • I don't need to be the one to give them all of the information.
  • I do not need to give all the info in one sitting.
  • Take students on a journey. Start them off and then through a series think about where you want them to land.
  • My job is to set up our leaders so they can facilitate discussion with their groups of students. Even though I'm the one speaking to them, their leaders will be following up with them and doing the follow-up conversations. Set them up well.
  • I want students to know that being honest with God is okay. Make it clear to them because some of them don't know that's okay.
  • I want them to know that not having a mountaintop experience... is okay. Depending on where they are in their faith journey, it will happen sometimes and sometimes it won't.
  • I don't want them to feel in love with an experience but I want them to fall in love with God.
  • Silence is okay sometimes. Don't fight it. Sometime what comes up in the silence are not distractions, but the very things God wants to deal with in your life.
  • There is a difference between a retreat and an escape. Many students look at a retreat as an escape of what is going on at home and they need to get away from it and "recharge". A retreat is to retreat to God, not escape from home.
  • Sermons and topics should be guided and intentional. Am I doing it because I think it's cool? Or am I doing it because I really think this activity or lesson will cause great conversations later with leaders?
  • Don't Let a "cool" theme run the camp or service. Am I doing this because I think it's cool? Or have I really thought about it and prayed about how this is best for my students and their faith journey while they are listening to me teach or go through a camp I put on?

Anyways, my hope in sharing my thoughts on this would be you would get to thinking about how you go about discipleship as well. Are you just spouting out information or are you really being intentional with how and why you are doing the series you are doing, the theme of camp you are doing, the devotional you are doing? Whatever it is, I'm sure it's great and I would love to hear about what exciting things you have planned coming up.

Fell free to share below what you are most excited about in ministry right now when it comes to discipleship.





Look Back, Look Around & Look Forward in Your Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin


Retreat last week with my wife was incredibly fun. It was the 11th year we've stayed at the same hotel on the same week. I blogged last week about reflection and direction - as I was talking to another youth worker about it this morning I framed it this way, and thought I should write it down as well. Obviously, retreat is very important in my life, and I think it is too important to overlook. Here's why:

Look Back
Retreat is a powerful time to look back at the previous year. It isn't often enough we slow down to debrief, evaluate and reflect on the year behind you. Retreat gives you time to really look back. Don't use this time just for a cursory examination, but really dig into the highs, lows, pains and wins in the postseason.

Look Around
Retreat is also a perfect time to get an idea where you're at personally right now. What is the state of my ministry? How is my heart right now? How are MY kids (not the youth group kids)? How is my marriage? Am I called to this place, this ministry, this role? Retreat is a good time for some serious self-evaluation.

Look Forward
Retreat is the perfect place to think future. To really process what God has laid on your heart, what God is up to in your future and in the future of your ministry. To be honest, this is the weakest are of retreat for me ... but it is a critical part of the equation.

I don't look back too often, but retreat is a great place to slow down, get away from it all and go backward to go forward.


Youth Workers are in Perpetual Middle Management

Posted by Josh Griffin


Youth workers are in a perpetual state of middle management – you will never “arrive.” In fact, I’d say that if you can’t be a good #2, you wouldn’t be a good youth worker. We have to live in that constant tension of strong leadership and absolute humility. Here are a few thoughts about leading from beneath I’m feeling in my church right now:

Leading up is increasingly rare
Too many youth workers are finding it acceptable to just take care of their little slice of the ministry (called Youth Ministry Island) and leave big church to fend for itself. They hide behind leadership missives like “laser-focusing” on their area and having to say “no” to some things in order to be healthy. And while those are true, letting your church run aground while you’re onboard is a terrible misstep.

Leaders lead from wherever they are
I’ve worked with people who are waiting for the magical knighthood where they can now finally lead. If you are waiting for someone to tell you that you are a leader … it will be a super frustrating season of ministry for you. Lead! Push! Drive! Go! Genuine leaders, not posers who wait for status or position, lead from the middle, the behind, the front – wherever they find themselves at that moment. Leading up will cause tension, but healthy tension brings about better decision-making.

Leading up helps those above see a missing perspective
Here’s why you need to lead from the middle: your senior pastor isn’t seeing the full picture. He or she has blind spots in areas that your perspective let’s you see perfectly. How dare you let them fail while predicting the net failure quietly from the silent middle! I am fully aware of the problem of senior leaders who don’t listen to their people – they exist in every church and I’m guilty of it, too.

A few parting thoughts about leading from the middle:

  • It may be interpreted as insubordination at first. In fact, it probably will be
  • Some people will wish you would take a rowboat back to Youth Ministry Island and never come back
  • If you bring up problems, you better have some ideas that may work as solutions
  • Your church will be healthier when you lead up

Blessings as you lead from the middle today!


POLL: Youth Ministry Fundraisers

Posted by Josh Griffin

For many youth groups - fundraising is a key part of the financial mix of the ministry. Without fundraising, students don't get to go to camp or the missions projects get much smaller. But what percentage of your ministry budget comes from fundraising?


Vote now in today's poll - and find out the results as well!


Want To Grow As A Leader? Ask Yourself These Questions

Posted by Justin Knowles

As leaders of a ministry we are constantly challenging those we serve and serve with to grow closer and closer in their relationship with Jesus and in their leadership ability. Unless you are intentional about it, it can be really hard to be challenged as a leader to be pushed to grow in your own leadership abilities. If that is you, these questions are what this post is for…

To challenge you in your leadership this summer.

Who am I pouring into? – Do you want to really know if you are doing a good job at explaining and duplicating yourself? Get someone to pour into. This fall we are taking on two interns. Many people think interns will help make things easier and in many ways they do, but taking on an intern and pouring into them takes more work for you as the leader because you are training someone how to do what you do. It also will help you and push you to see if you know how to duplicate your leadership. It’s challenging but worth it.

Are you doing this thing just to do it? – Do you what kills creativity? Repetition. You want to challenge your leadership, what in your ministry is just something you do just to do it? What in your ministry is not intentional and maybe, just maybe, could be keeping your ministry from moving forward? What do you need to let go of?

Who is doing ministry at the next level in your area? – If you think you are too good to not go learn from someone who is at that next level, you need to humble yourself. One of the best way to open to your eyes to what maybe God has called you to do in your ministry is get in the sight of what your ministry can do in the next level. Now is not just numbers. It could be a ministry who has gained volunteers like crazy, or have great production or creativity within their services, or their small groups are killing it etc. Get out and learn from some other local pastors, take them out to lunch, strike a friendship and learn from them.

What is one big thing to try next year that is going to require God to show up so you don’t look foolish? – This one is the toughest, but maybe the most rewarding. Ask yourself this question to step out in faith. Pray that God reveals something that is going to be uncomfortable and maybe push you into your next level of leadership. Something that if God does not come through, you will look like a fool. Obviously, planning whatever that is very important, don’t just go all in gung-ho without planning, but push yourself to engage in something out of your comfort zone and watch God work because you don’t grow your ministry, God does.





GUEST POST: The Visitors

Posted by Josh Griffin


I’m a big fan of the Atlanta Braves, Pearl Jam, and Denzel Washington. I’m also a big fan of having a place for students who show up for the first time. 

When I was at North Point, when first timers showed up alone—or with a member of the opposite sex—we had a place for them after the service called On Deck. At the end of our large group environment, the speaker or host would say, “Hey, if you’re here for the first time, or you simply don’t know where to go next, come up to the front and I’ll let you know what to do.” As the crowd dispersed, we had a person or two that owned this process. They greeted the newcomers, asked them questions, and helped them feel comfortable.

Let’s say we had three new students at On Deck. The host would start the process by having a normal conversation with them. “What’s your name? Where do you go to school? What kinds of things are you interested in? What did you think of tonight?” It wasn’t a business meeting—it was more like a casual, welcoming chat. Then the host described the small group process: “So…this is how this whole thing works: Every week we have a program that was kind of like the one you just saw. There’s some fun stuff, some music, and someone shares a talk. Then our entire crowd disbands into small groups. We’d love to link you up with a group for several reasons. First, we think you’ll love your small group leader. Second, you’ll get to meet some new people. Third, you’ll get an opportunity to talk about what you just heard. It’s great. You’ll love it! If you don’t love it, we have dinner afterwards. So at least you get free food out of it.”

Then we asked each new student to fill out a profile, which is a fancy way of saying information sheet. This helped us determine which groups to place them in (our groups joined students that were same gender, grade, and area/school). In addition to gathering basic info, we asked students to list hobbies, interests, etc. Sometimes interests led to a better match than geographic region. Occasionally the best fit for a student was to not be with people from his or her school. Those were things we wanted to be aware of. And a profile, along with a conversation, helped. 

Finally, we communicated the next step. We let our new students know that when they came back next week, we’d have an awesome group for them to join.

Overall, the process bought us a week to discuss and pray about which group would be best for the new student, which was huge. It could be helpful for you, too. 

So what’s your one step? Create a place for first-timers.

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

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

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Posted by Josh Griffin



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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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