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6 Steps To Increase Your Margin

Posted by Christopher Wesley

Youth ministry is a marathon filled with a thousand sprints.  Whether it’s getting ready for the fall or jumping from camp to camp over the summer you can get wiped out easily.  If only you had some margin.


Margin is one of the biggest tools a youth minister can use to grow a youth ministry.  The problem is we lose it quickly and never increase it.  If you feel like your ministry is moving too fast and you want that margin you are going to have to:


It might sound impossible to just stop what you are doing, but it’s essential to getting margin back.  Even if you can just give yourself one hour to work out a calendar, schedule or to-do list it’s worth it.


If your week feels like a rollercoaster it’s because you don’t have your priorities in order.  Granted life might happen, but if you are set with what needs to be done you can get back on track quickly.

When you get a moment to breathe list out what you do. And start asking yourself the question, “What has to be done?” Keep working at the list till you have an order. If it’s not 100% keep working at it.


Sometimes you need to say, “No” to good opportunities in order to make time for great ones.  It feels like a rejection, but it’s really a protection of your time and priorities.


Distractions are the biggest enemies to our margin. They use it up quickly and will totally override us if not careful.  Cut down on distractions by making people aware of your schedule.

Let your volunteers know when you are going home and not to disturb you unless it’s an emergency.  Communicate with coworkers when you need to spend time on your message so there is complete focus.  Communicate your time and people will be able to respect it.


One of the reasons you don’t have margin is because you aren’t intentional about it.  Put it in your calendar.  Give yourself an extra 5 minutes to transition to a meeting.  Put in 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat. Make margin a part of your day.


Living with margin takes discipline. It takes intentionality and definitely accountability. Find someone who knows your schedule and will help you keep it.  Give them permission to call you out.

If you can hold to your schedule and allow margin to be a part of it you will not only find rest but also see your leadership grow. You will have a clearer mind to make better decisions because you will now have the time to think.

Where do you see your margin slipping?

Topics: margin, time management

5 Signs Your Volunteers Are Bought In

Posted by Justin Knowles

Don’t you just love your volunteers? Honestly though. We would not be able to do what we do without them. They are the backbone of any ministry. Every ministry at some point wonders if their volunteers “get it” and if they are excited about what they are doing. As I was thinking about this this week I can say most of volunteers are bought in to what we are doing. That is an exciting place to be.

Here are some signs that your volunteers are bought in to your ministry:

A majority of them show up to meetings – Let’s be honest, no really LOVES meetings. But when you call a volunteer meeting and most of them show up to be a part of it, it’s a really good indicator they love what they are doing. We just had one this last weekend where we had training, prayer and some fun and 90% of our leaders made it and they had a blast.

They hang out with students outside your normal meeting times – I’m pretty sure there are few pastors out there who tell their people they don’t want them to hang out with students outside the normal service times. I feel like this is a call of all youth pastors to volunteers. A good sign your volunteers are bought in is when they actually do this and you see they are engaging with and pouring into students outside of service.

They recruit others to be a part of it – When people are excited about something they want others to come join and be a part of it too. When your leaders are excited about your ministry they will help recruit friends, family and strangers who seem interested in youth ministry and get them to be a part of it.

They post about it on social media – This one goes with the previous one, but when people are excited about something they post it on whatever social media they have. No one really posts the bummer parts of life but they do post what they are excited about and like. A good sign your volunteers are bought into your ministry is when they share with all their people who follow them on social media about what is happening in your ministry.

They tell you they are – This one is simple but it is the best one. What a great chance for you as the pastor to encourage them and let them know how great they are doing and you want them to keep doing what they are doing.

Now I’m sure there are many other signs that volunteers are bought in but these were a few I have seen in the last few months and it is so fun to see when your volunteer are loving what they are doing.



Download Volunteer Starter Pack

POLL: Ups and Downs of Youth Group Attendance in the Spring

Posted by Josh Griffin

We experience what I would imagine is a pretty typical swing in attendance in the Spring - our ministry loses some students in the Spring for all sorts of reasons. The newness of the school year has worn off, school is in the home stretch, drama in a Life Group, sports seasons, senioritis and more. Made me wonder this weekend if most youth ministries experienced the same thing - thought a poll on the subject was the right course of action. Vote now!


GUEST POST: That One Kid in Your Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin


I remember this one kid from student ministry.

He came pretty frequently on Sunday. During his junior and senior year he helped by playing bass in the praise band. He went on most of the trips and special events, and even helped out with some Bible studies at his high school.

But that kid could get flaky.

We didn't have a big Wednesday night program like other churches in our area. Sometimes he would come, eat with his friends, and then leave for the bigger church down the road. The other church had the lights, the worship, and the high octane youth pastor. We had some volunteers leading a Bible study. Low octane for sure.

I had to pull him aside a few times when he did show for Wednesday night stuff.

He and some of the other kids had a habit of trying to get out of the Bible study by hiding in the resource closet or playing out on the playground and no coming in when it was time to get started.

As far as relationships, I saw him bring several girls to the church every so often. But then he would disappear to whatever church they went to as well.

I felt like I was losing him to his girlfriends or the bigger churches down the road.

We talked about changing some of the things we did at our church, but I knew it wasn't the time to change. We were doing what we were good at with our ministry. Even though he talked about it several times, we just couldn't make it happen.

He was an alright kid, I just wish he had been a little more committed to his own youth group rather than going to church all over town, chasing girls or the flashiest new ministry. I heard he became a youth pastor. And actually, he is me.* Hey youth workers: sometimes you won't have kids attend your church because they're attending someone else's service. Are you going to be mad and frustrated, or are you going to be thankful that they are continuing their journey with Christ?

Sometimes, the students you think aren't all that committed to your ministry might turn out to be committed followers of Jesus in their adult life. Don't think what you see from a student in your ministry is their whole story. God is still at work in them.

And some of them might even become youth workers themselves.

Questions for you as a youth pastor:

  • What are you doing to teach the students you have when you have them?
  • Are you allowing yourself to become bitter and distracted when "your" kids aren't around because they're attending another church?
  • How are you encouraging your students to walk with God, even if it means they aren't walking with you?

*Disclaimer - These are thoughts I know my youth pastor didn't necessarily have about me. We've talked about my flakiness during my high school career and we're cool. Well, she's cool. I'm still trying to be.

Ronald Long is a youth pastor with lots of great resources on DYM. You can read an interview about him here and check out his resources on DYM over here as well!

Download Two-Faced

InstaLife Bumper Video

Posted by Justin Knowles

We just finished going through InstaLife with our students. It was incredible. It is a such a great series and our students responded enormously to it. Emma Aungst, our service programmer, made this sweet bumber video that would be a nice addition to your service if you end up using it too.

6 Teaching Tips for Multiple Youth Group Services

Posted by Josh Griffin


My buddy was reading me a blog post he read on the subject of teaching multiple services this week and suggested I share a few thoughts on the subject as well. I speak at 4 high school ministry services here at Saddleback on a regular basis - 2 on Saturday night and 2 on Sunday morning. And while I'm not sure this will be that helpful to most youth ministries since few have multiple identical services, I think there's enough here to potentially be helpful if you teach every weekend, multiple times a weekend or just every once in a while:

Write out a full manuscript
The best way to make sure your delivery is on point every time is to script your message out completely. You'll never forget where you are in your bullet points or whether or not you've told that story this service (oh man that's painful) because you have a script. Manuscript also honors the art of preparation, and allows you to know exactly where you're taking the students in the talk. Of course, the script is meant to be a guide, not a performance.

Capture the ad libs
Give a trusted volunteer a copy of your manuscript message and ask them to jot down any thoughts you added during the message. You're skills are going to advance very quickly since you get to repeat the message a second time, and your new jokes, funny mannerisms, etc need to be added for the next delivery. There are times when someone ad libbed just cant be duplicated - and that's OK, too. You just have to let those go.

Debrief the first delivery
This is a very humbling experience the first time, I won't pretend that it doesn't hurt. But if you want to improve the next delivery, you have to talk about this one. Circle up your trusted friends and let them tell you the good, bad and ugly about the message. Accept criticism, don't be defensive and take what you believe God has for you in that time. Humility always wins.

Eat, drink and be merry
There's a certain bilogical preparation that needs to happen to deliver the same content multiple times - the most important one is to make sure you eat protein. And be hydrated. This all sounds kinda silly typing it all out, but I've spoken a 3rd service on just pop tarts and a caramel macchiato and it wasn't pretty. Treat your body right for a demanding speaking sequence.

Tell stories with the same energy of the first time
This one is tough - you've got to keep your energy up for the stories - the audience hasn't seen that powerful illustration or heard that great fail of yours, even if this is your fourth time telling it. Deliver stories with the same intensity as the first time. If you've done good preparation by manscripting, you should know just how to tell the story each and every time.

Trust God's Spirit to guide you
Every service isn't simply a carbon copy of the previous one - God will urge you and move you differently during each talk so don't be a robot when you get up there. Be filled with the Spirit! Lean into what He has for you to say to the students that are gathered there. 

What other speaking tips would you add to the list?


Download Making Your Life Count

5 Thoughts On Making Changes In Your Youth Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

So you want to make a change in your ministry? Get ready! There is a ton of things that come a long with changing something in your ministry, some great things and some challenging things. We have just gone through a huge shift in our ministry, for the better, and just wanted to share some thoughts:

It’s an uphill battle. If there is a certain culture or thing that has been going on in your ministry and you want to change it, know that it is going to be an uphill battle. Programs can be easy to kill but a culture dies slow and fights hard. People get comfortable with status quo and change ruffles feathers. Just know it will be a fight.

Just because you are passionate doesn’t mean others will be. There have been things in life where I get really excited about certain things and when I tell others they are not nearly as excited, as I want them to be. If you want to lead a shift, you need to get others passionate about your version and start to help them see it like you do. You have to be a passionate leader who lays clear vision so others can effectively see the direction you want them to go.

You have to a broken record. Some of the greatest advice I have ever heard when it comes to casting a vision for change was: “When you start tot feel like a broken record because you repeat the vision over and over is probably the moment when your team is just now beginning to process the vision in general.” We have to be willing to be vocal and be consistent at it. A culture shift will take time.

We can’t change people. Only Jesus can. If we feel God is leading our ministry one way and we are seeking after Him and wanting to do what we feel he is calling us to do, the best first step is prayer. Pray for clear vision. Pray for clear communication. Pray for your team and their hearts. Pray for your ministry and your student’s hearts. If it is where God wants you to go He will begin to change the hearts of the people. Warning: this could take time.

It’s worth it. The uphill battle, the vision casting, sounding like a broken record, the hard work, the sacrifice, the constant conversations, the struggles, the fights, the hard conversations, the yelling, the praying, the struggle is all worth it if it is going to produce better disciples of Jesus in the end. 


Download Making Your Life Count

Get 50% Off These ELITE 8 Youth Ministry Resources from DYM!

Posted by Josh Griffin


We're super excited about these Elite 8 resources we've put on sale for 50% off this week only in a continuatio n of te March Madness DYM Sale. This week only you can pick up these bad boys super cheap:


Elite 8 Sales - Half Price This Week Only

Southeast Christian Awaken Worship

Posted by Josh Griffin

My friends over at Southeast Christian Church had an amazing album release party tonight - their Awaken Worship just hit iTunes today and it is fantastic! You can see more on their official site, including guitar tabs, lyric sheets and more if you want to add these songs/arrangements to your youth group, too!


Student Leadership Team Basics: How many leaders should you have?

Posted by Jen Bradbury



One common question I get when it comes to Student Leadership Teams is, “How many teens should be on your student leadership team?”

My answer often frustrates people.

It depends. 

You see, when it comes to my student leadership team, I don't have a set number of positions.

This is an intentional decision on my part. When you have a set number of positions you risk having to fill them with someone – even if that person isn't necessarily ready for student leadership.

Instead of having to fill a specific number of slots, I instead want to be able to have the freedom to put together the best team possible. There have been years when this has meant having a leadership team of 5 students and other years where this has meant having a team of 10.

Having said that, there are a few general principles I use to guide my decision about the size of the team.

You (or other adult leaders) need to be able to disciple those on your team. If student leadership is really an avenue for discipleship, then it's size has to be conducive to that. And let's be honest, as much as we'd like to be able to disciple an infinite number of students well, we just can't. So follow Jesus' guideline: There should be no more than 12 students for every one adult leader you have involved in the team.

Small isn't bad. My student leadership team will shrink at the end of this school year. Despite the fact that we tend to measure our success in terms of numbers, I'm not ashamed to say that. We have a big class of seniors graduating this year. This means that our outgoing class of senior student leaders is greater than our incoming number of applicants. That's OK. It might even be good. Discipleship can often happen on a deeper level in smaller teams. Additionally, it's often easier to focus smaller groups of teens than larger ones. For that reason, some of my smallest leadership teams have been ones that have actually accomplished the most.

Your leadership team should be proportional to the size of your ministry. If you have a ministry of 10 kids, you probably don't want to have a leadership team of 8. You never want your team to be so big that those who aren't a part of it feel like the odd man out at youth ministry events.

So think about the size of your ministry. Then decide for yourself how big your leadership team should be. Ultimately, whether you have a team of 3 or 20, invest in the teens on your team, trusting that you as do, their faith and ministry will grow.

Download Leaders Need Mentors


Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Student Leadership Team Basics: 6 things to look for in student for in student leaders 

Image Credit: http://www.thelivingleader.com/wp-content/uploads/leadership.jpg


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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 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).

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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