Download Youth Ministry | Blog

Some Things You Just Can't Do Alone ... LIFE is One of Them

Posted by Josh Griffin

Saw and LOVED this simple little video from NewSpring Church about joining one of their student Life Groups. Love it! Some things you just can't do alone ... LIFE is one of them. Join a small group this week!


Stop the Stress Before it Stops You

Posted by Josh Griffin

I was talking to one of my good friends tonight who was overwhelmed. Comepletely overcome with a new schedule, the new school year, some big shifts in life and ministry and was already dangeroulsy close to burnout. As we comiserated together a little bit, I said, "You've got to stop the stress before it stops you!"

And while I realize the cheese factor is high in a pithy statement like that - it makes some sense, doesn't it? You've got to figure it out quick, because stress is a ticking time bomb that will eventually take you out altogether. Consider your options:

Ruthessly prioritize your life. Start to say no. Undo some of the "yeses" you've already made that you now have to embarsisingly back out of. Cut things. Ask people to help share the load. Endgame: you had to make some tough calls, but you'll be around for the long haul and a whole lot healthier, too.
Continue doing the same. Hope you can survive the season. Continue to place stress on your family, your health and your ministry. Watch it fall apart. Glue it back together again. Endgame: you burn out and leave ministry for a season and/or permanently. Youth ministry loses another good youth worker to the chaos of ministry stress. 

Stop the stress before it stops you!


Fall Is Prime Time For Events

Posted by Justin Knowles

Our team sat down the other day and came up with our fall calendar. This year we are laser focusing on getting our midweek services the best they can be and having one big event a month attached to those services in hopes of creating an invite culture for our students. I'm pretty pumped for the fall schedule and thought I would share some of our ideas. I would love to hear what you all have going on as well!


  • Goodbye Summer, Hello Fall - This is our fall kick off for the year. We have a shortened service talking about the values of our ministry and then we are dismissing everyone to the party. We have a DJ, free Taco Man (unlimited tacos), a raffle which the grand prize is a Hershel backpack with an iPad mini inside, a talent show and fun instagram photo stations. This will be a great lunch to this new school year.


  • Let's Make a Deal - The week of Halloween we are doing a Let's Make a Deal game show after services. We will have everyone come dressed up (just like how they already do for the show and it's Halloween so it works perfect) and have a 10 round game show set up in another room after services. We will have some great prizes and some not so great ones for the greedy. 


  • Fall Flannel Formal - This is something the ministry has done since before I got here but it's a huge hit. Everyone comes dressed in their best flannels and there is a dance party and BBQ after services. Easy, simple, effective.


  • Christmas Party - It's just like it sounds but we change up the ngight a little bit. We do service with round tables taking over the whole room, enjoy some great stories and some great food. As always, fun photo booths and delicious food will be involved. 

I'm excited for the fall. So much momentum builds over the next few months that will help carry over for the rest of the year. What are some of the events you have planned?

How To Turn Your Volunteers Into Leaders

Posted by Christopher Wesley

You can have dozens of volunteers and still feel like you are DOING IT ALL on your own. It's a frustrating situation. You see the people and you know what needs to be done, but it feels like ministry is being done by the seat of your pants.

Courtesy of Dan4th/Creative Commons License

The problem is you don't have leaders. While volunteers give you man power you need something more. You need people to help you expand your capacity, share the burden and lead the charge.  

Some leaders will naturally pop up in your life and some you have to cultivate.  To grow leaders in your ministry you need to look at the volunteers you have and:


The first step to helping a volunteer a leader is by giving them ownership. This means letting go and giving them control over an aspect of your ministry.  Start out small (i.e. putting out materials) and then build on it (i.e. planning an activity) until you trust them to lead others.

If they fail make it a teaching moment. If they succeed give them positive feedback. Give them direction so that you can continue to build on what they are owning.


Delegating and handing over responsibility is the easy part. Letting go and allowing someone else to lead is a challenge. You might feel:

No one can do it as well as ME.

I don want them to fail and then leave the ministry.

I need to make sure it gets done.

You have to allow for a learning curve. While someone might not get it right the first time you will see them improve. In fact you might find them take it to a level you could not.


They might be volunteers but sometimes you need to treat them like employees. If trainings come your way invite them to join you. If you come across an incredible resource buy it for them. Spend time mentoring and sharing your wisdom.

When volunteers see you invest in them they'll return the investment. They'll start looking at what they do as a priveledge.  And they'll take what they are doing more seriously.


If you don't expect much from your volunteers you won't get much.  Do not be afraid to have high (but realistic) expectations. Preach and cast vision. 

If a volunteer starts to mess up or becomes misaligned with the vision give them the opportunity to correct it. If they respond positively you'll know they are someone you can count on to become a leader.


Leaders grow other leaders. Ask them to invest in others by giving them the responsibility to manage others. It might feel odd at first, but a great leader will embrace the opportunity. To set them up for a success place them in an opportunity where they can thrive. Give them clear direction and check in with them constantly.

Volunteers are valuable, but leaders are what you need to grow your ministry.  Leaders will expand your capacity and help you plan for the future.

Who are the volunteers you can invest in? What are you doing to turn volunteers into leaders?

Topics: Investing, leadership, volunteers, investing in leaders

Christ + Me + Sin Forgiveness Illustration / Object Lesson

Posted by Josh Griffin

My friend AC recreated an object lesson we did on stage last week for our Icon Jesus series. It is simple effect to help illustrate our forgivenes in Jesus Christ. He is using iodline, water and bleach. It has been making the rounds on Facebook, we took the idea and ran with it. Yeah!


Why Fun Is So Important

Posted by Justin Knowles

I had someone ask me why we plan such big events sometimes (we just planned one big event a month until Christmas for both student and college ministry) 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 though, 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 I'm 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.

Dealing With Defense Mechanisms

Posted by Leneita Fix


We love a great comedian.  Why?  They usually can spit and recite life experiences we can relate to.  The wittier the better.  It's not uncommon for us to discover this same person had a difficult life they used humor to conquer. 

It's the same way with:

  • The beautiful actress we discover was bullied for being "ugly" and "fat."
  • The world famous athlete who some coach told was horrible and should give up on the sport.
  • The slew of youtube videos of XFactor, Idol and America's Got Talent auditions who are stunning singers, dancers & talents that were told they were stupid.

We feel like these people were underdogs just like us who conquered the unthinkable to get "ahead" in life.  So why is it we are shocked to discover these same people deal with insidious bouts of :

  • Depression
  • "Self-Medicating" through addictions of drugs and alcohol
  • Anger issues
  • Insecurity 

I think what we fail to see is that at some point all of these people developed a "defense mechanism" to get through life and feel like they weren't so "bad."  Think about it:

  • The awkward kid who trips over himself.... becomes the class clown.
  • The dramatic kid with the "over the top" personality can hide by being someone else on stage.
  • The too loud kid tries to say a couple of things and gets shut down so they protect themselves behind a hobby.
  • The insecure kid can control the amount of food that goes into their body,  the number of hours they work out, and the way they look.

You and I did it at some point.  We lost our innocence and started to "hide" our true selves, the same way Adam and Eve did in the Garden after their choice to rebel.  We were wounded by someone or something that told us we were "too much" or "not enough" and we decided to figure out how to get around this.  Maybe it was "positive" and we decided to throw our whole selves into learning an activity or getting better at something.  It could have been negative.  Personally, I learned how to build protective walls around my heart.  I was a compassionate kid.  This also meant I was sensitive and I cried a lot when frustrated.  I was called names because of it.  One day in 5th grade I walked into a bathroom stall and vowed I would never cry in front of another person outside my home.  I kept that promise until the Lord took hold of my life at 20.  To this day it is really easy for me to tell you an overabundance of facts about my life,  while still hiding how I truly feel about any of them.  It is one of  the many defense mechanisms I created.

The student who "drives you crazy" by taking over the conversation (every time) or being a little too intense could just be on the cusp of learning to create their own  alternate persona.  Wouldn't it be really awesome if we help students come out of these years a little less  "scathed?"  

The schools are trying with workshops about being "Uniquely You," and rallies that stress the anti-bullying campaign.  However,  when someone tells you something about you is "wrong" it weasels it's way in to your mind and heart.  It becomes the  catchy song on the radio that gets stuck in your head and you have no idea why.  You know all the lyrics and yet don't care to.  You begin to compare yourself to others and believe they are "better."  The lie that you should hide the "true you"  becomes all that rings in your ears.

Unfortunately there are side effects from these wounds that carry with us and effect us deeper than we realize.  The famous "conquered their past"  many times by becoming the best at pretending. 

Let's do these 3 quick things to actively help our students fight defenses:

1. Teach Offensive Strategies  

They don't always have to wait until someone says they're not worthy to deal with their insecurities.  Teach students how to take God's word to heart.  Help them know that God really does have a tremendous plan for them.  They need to learn how to look in the mirror and see God's reflection.

2.  Learn The Difference Between Failures And Attacks:

It is true that adveristy and failures are necessary. They teach us how to readjust and push forward. I took up distance running because I was told as an asthmatic it was a bad idea. You tell me what I "can't" do I am IN, ALL THE WAY to prove you wrong. When someone comes in to hurt you this is an attack.  This is not their fault. They need to learn the difference.

3.  Don't Go Changing

I think there has to be a way to help our students not become another version of themselves.  God comes in to mold us and make us more into His likeness. However,  CELEBRATE who God has made them to be.  Don't be vague when you tell them about what is wonderful about them.  BE SPECIFIC.  They can figure out the ways they are "too much."  They know how their rough edges annoy those around them.  What is amazing about who they are? Tell them, constantly. 

I think being aware of the defensive mechanisms we have created can help as well.  Let's remember that you don't "have to just deal" through the teen years.  You can STAND OUT not just stand aside.  Jesus wants more for all of us.  He certainly wants more for them.

How do you actively combat your students building defenses?  

What do your social media posts say about you?

Posted by Rachel Blom

I am friends with a lot of youth leaders from all over the world, the result of having done youth ministry in several countries. And it pains me to say it, but while many are a great addition to my news feed on social media sites, some posts make me go 'did you really just post that?'.

Just this week, I saw some social media updates from Christians that made me gasp. One youth pastor stated that if you objected to the free U2 album, surely you voted for Obama. I'm not sure what one has to do with the other, but can we agree that this is not wise? Yes, you have to right to your opinion, God bless the first amendment, but you do need to be aware of how this will come across. Is it really worth it to alienate people over politics?

Another Christian reposted something from a Facebook Page that had a lot of questionable content. Yes, this one post was non-offensive, but the rest sure was. And I've seen a whole bunch of peole share content from a openly anti-Christian page. Check the source of what you're liking or sharing to make sure you're not promoting stuff you don't want to be associated with.


A constant barrage of negative posts, that's something else I noticed. We all have our bad days, but if you can't share anything else but frustration and anger, it may be wise to take a social media time out.

I could go on, but I don't want to turn this into a rant. Let me mention one more thing. As youth leaders, our faith should be the number one thing in our life, right? Does your social media reflect this? I'm not saying you should only tweet Bible verses, or share inspirational memes. But if Jesus is all but absent in what you post, that does make me wonder where He really stands in your priorities...

Let me ask you a question. If I didn't know you and I were to collect everything you have posted on social media, how would you be perceived? What would I conclude about your character? Your priorities? Your faith? Just something to think about...

First 2 Years: Four Characteristics of Great Community

Posted by Colton Harker


Something I’ve really been reflecting on and thinking about recently is community, specifically, my community and what I really value about it. I came up with the top 4 things I need from community that are so important to me staying sane in ministry and in life!

Encouragement: In life and in ministry, we need someone to lift us up. We need people that know us well enough to help speak life into the parts of us that need it most. Whether it is celebrating our victories with us, or reminding us that we aren’t all that bad, we need our community to encourage us and pray for us.

Challenge: I don’t know about you guys, but I need a real kick in the butt… pretty often! One of the big perks to having intimate community is that they can see past a lot of the junk we present and know the right questions to ask… whether we want to be asked them or not! They know the goals we are setting, see the potential in us, and push us to reach it.

Empathy: When things are really going south, sometimes we need someone to just be there with us and say, “yeah, that does suck.” Having people in our lives that aren’t quick to solve, but quick to be there with us when we get that harsh parent phone email or get out of the crummy meeting your head pastor, is key. Empathy can be something that can be hard to find, but is well worth the search!

Fun: This is perhaps the least talked about trait in healthy community, yet it is so important. We need people we can laugh with, be light-hearted with, and people to goof off with. We NEED it. Without fun, we drown. The phrase, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” has gotten a weird reputation since The Shining but it is so true! If we are all work, we become dull and ineffective. We need time to recharge, regroup, and clown around. 

What are characteristics that you value in community?

Topics: First Two Years

When I Was in High School Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

This was a fun, clever video we made for HSM Fall Kickoff services this weekend. Easily my favorite video from services as we started the school year togather. The best!


Subscribe to Email Updates

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.

Operation Christmas Child
Azusa Pacific University Youth Ministry
Download Youth Ministry Membership

Follow DYM!