Book review: You(th) Ministry

Posted by Rachel Blom

Book coverYou(th) Ministry, written by Brandon Miraflor and Adam Shaw, is not your typical how-to guide. It’s much more of a personal approach that focuses on (as the authors put it( the driving force of youth ministry: you. Its aim is not to teach you how to’s on ministry, but to help you develop healthy habits that will change you, and through you your ministry.

The book consists of 29 challenges, dealing with various issues like vision, prayer, living with less, influencing others, music, trust, delegating, etc. If this feels like a broad range of topics, you’re right. They are a bit random and all over the place and aren’t really logically structured in any way.

Every chapter deals with an issue by describing it succinctly, followed by a challenge aimed at getting to the core of this particular issue. I love this concept and the thought behind it, that is that most of our actions are rooted in habits. When we change our habits. We change ourselves.

That being said, one challenge one day on an issue does not form a new habit. The last chapter of the book says to repeat all challenges (which makes sense for some, but not for all) but even then. Habits take many days to form. In my opinion,. The authors would have been wiser to focus on less issues and create more challenges to really for habits.

Some of the challenges are great, like writing a snail mail card to students, or looking for people to counsel you (‘rabbi’s, peers, and disciples’). Others are too broad or vague (‘listen to your students’) or too specific (‘book a date for your senior pastor to speak at your youth service’ – that’s assuming 1. you have a senior pastor, 2. who is willing to speak, and 3. you have youth services)

You(th) Ministry is a short book, an easy read, though carrying out the challenges will obviously take more time. Yet while many books are too long, here there were chapters where I wished for more info, more description.

All in all this book is a great starting point for any youth pastor willing and wanting to work on himself or herself.

Leaders Have The Tough Conversations

Posted by Justin Knowles

As leaders we get to be a part of a lot of awesome different things. We get to hang out our volunteers, get to hear stories of life change and put on services. As leaders we have to do a lot of things we don't enjoy as much. One of those things is having hard conversations. Whether it is with other staff members, students or volunteers, leaders need to conduct healthy but tough conversations to help push things forward. 

Here is what I noticed:

You have to have them - If you want to follow what the Bible has to say, read Matthew 18 and what it says about having conflict. It's amazing to me how many people just want to skip this whole process. Jesus did not shy away from uncomfortable conversations.

You have to do them well - Jesus also handled them well. Too many hard conversations are not handled well. As leaders we are needing not only to have hard conversations with people, but we are called to handle them well. A great leader can walk though tough situations with authority, love and grace all at the same time.

You have to follow up - Yes, you had the talk. Awesome. Now follow up and circle back around and smooth over any rough edges it may have caused. The end goal should always be reconciliation.

Having these conversations are not fun, but when handled well, everyone wins.




New Teammates Should Compliment and Threaten the Culture of Youth Ministry at Your Church

Posted by Josh Griffin

When you're recruiting new leaders to your ministry it is easy to focus on gifting and fit. But as I look for people I'm also looking for one other thing - the threat. Someone who fits but is also willing to challenge some assumptions and upset the apple cart. Here’s what I hope happens when someone sharp joins the team:

They fit – obviously, there is a culture and legacy that we have on our High School team that is important to us and the church. I hope to some degree is a natural part of the new staff’s lives, that they respect that legacy and endeavor to write the next chapter in it. Obviously, fit is also a huge part of job satisfaction and performance. If they have the “it” factor where someone just sticks, after a couple of months people assume you’ve been at the job for years. I’ve been praying for this, and watching for it with everyone we’ve talked to in the process.

They threaten – at the same time, I’d love to see this happen as well. Not threaten the current team’s jobs or roles, or compromise their own fit – but threaten us in good ways. Threaten the insider eyes we’ve grown accustomed to doing week-in week-out ministry. Threaten us with the outside culture they bring to the office. Threaten us with new ideas that would push us ahead. Threaten us with passion and work ethic we’ve forgotten in the comfort of tenure. I’m praying for someone who fits, but brings some of the outside with them to the table.

Finding this has proven to be no easy task. But totally worth waiting for the right one.


3 Ways To Kill A Small Group

Posted by Leneita Fix



For the last several years the  youth min world has been moving more and more into the sphere of "small groups."  It makes sense.  Our students get more time to wrestle with issues and really talk about what they are thinking.  This is FINALLY a place where they don't have to simply absorb information, they get to talk it through.

Recently my daughter had the chance to "visit" a small group at a different church than we normally attend.  She came home and said,  "Sometimes I just think small groups are a waste of time."  I was shocked so I asked, "Would you rather just have someone talk up front?"   "Not all the time, but when the small group is horrible than yeah,"  was her response.  Of course this caused me to dig into what makes a "bad" small group.  As she spoke I thought of ways I have committed the sins which annoyed her.   It also made me realize that to just "have" small groups at church or in a program is not enough.  They need to actually be effective.  

After my conversation with my daughter, I realized there are some ways to "kill" a small group.

 Here are my top three:


Just Read:

We think the "point" of small groups are to get through the curriculum.  There is so much information and maybe even a game we should play in under an hour.  What if we say something wrong?  Therefore, our eyes are glued to the page as we move down the bullet pointed, "questions to ask,"  like a check list.  If you would like your students to get bored, disinterested and leave remembering little of what you talked about, then follow this method of teaching.    


Talk At Students:

This time is  not meant to be a "mini sermon," platform or soap box.  We don't need to to hear the sound of our voice.  Get comfortable with awkward silence.  We don't have to fill every space with talking and "personal stories." (These are great but too many actually equals babbling.)  Give them space to be heard.  Take cues from body language.  Talk less and listen more.  Get them involved.  No one needs to hear a talk from "up front" and then a follow up "talk" as to our thoughts on what was said. In this category also falls, "ignore the hard questions and just gloss over them."  We don't have all the answers. We can always say,  "I'll get back to you on that one."  Unless of course you were hoping that this would be one more place teens feel like they are getting lectured.  Then just keep doing what you are doing.


Let the "One" Take Over:

We are not in a one on one conversation here.  There is always "that" student who answers everything.   There is also often one who wants to make every group about them alone.  Sometimes the quiet kids have profound things to offer.  Their personality just doesn't lend itself to talk over anyone.  It's hard to say, "Thanks for all of your great insights, now we are going to hear from someone else."  It can also feel heartless to say,  "Could we chat more about your issues at the end of group today?"  This of course may happen from time to time when an emergency takes over and someone NEEDS the extra attention.  But be aware of the student who is really looking to have small group about them.


Bonus Killer:

If we are "in charge"  of our youth programming never train the teaching team or give them clear expectations. Small group leaders are often volunteers who just want to help some kids.  They need training in HOW to make a discussion time interactive.  If they don't know "how" or what you are really looking for, then they think their small group is always a failure.


I guess we need to know the goal of "small groups."  Are they a mechanism to help students get to know the Lord more and be transformed by HIm or are they a time to just give out more information?

I have a long list,  but what are some other small group "killers" in your opinion?


GIVEAWAY: Chris Tomlin's Love Ran Red

Posted by Josh Griffin


Want to get Chris Tomlin's new upcoming album Love Ran Red? It isn't in store for another 2 weeks, but you can get your hands on it right away with DYM's giveaway here on the site. Just leave a comment on this post and we'll pick 3 winners over the weekend. Enter now, and you can preorder it here, too!


2 Ways To Guarantee Success in Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

I like guarantees. I’ve got nothing to lose! And a guarantee of success? Total win. When I reflect on 20+ years of youth ministry experience and counting I think I can pinpoint two areas in which all success in any ministry points to. And crazy enough, they’re found in the Bible too!

In every event, in every conversation, every camp, every sermon, in every service we can look at the two greatest commandments that we find in Mark 12. Ready for them?

Love God. Love others. Any ministry success we will ever have will come back to these two things. Here’s what we need to do: 

If we are trying to help student love God themselves, loving God better be something we as youth workers should be doing in our own lives. We know that we do not have the power to change anybody. Only the Lord has this power. You are only as effective in ministry as you are allowing God to continually transform your life. When we are leading by example in our quiet times, our prayer time, our worship, and life styles by making it a daily effort to love our God… it shows. When we are in touch with God, it shows up in our ministry, in our relationships, and in our conversations with students across the board. When we are loving God, and teaching students how to love God, ministry is a success. 

Events are great. Services are always fun. Camps are incredible. But relationships rule all. In everything we do the goal should be relationships. This is how teenagers, volunteers, and co-workers know that God is working through you and it’s by how you love and interact with them. An event might be great, but 99% of the time a student will come back because of a loving conversation with a staff member or volunteer. Loving is contagious. When we are loving on our volunteers and students, they naturally will go out and repeat the process to those around them. Our ministry wants to be known for loving others well.

That’s it! That’s how you succeed in ministry. Success doesn’t mean a huge burst in attendance or even changed lives. Success is being faithful to the callings on Jesus to love God and love others. Focus on those two things and success is guaranteed!


Jesus Loves Me by Chris Tomlin

Posted by Josh Griffin

I'm excited to pick up the new Chris Tomlin album landing next Tuesday - here's his first single called Jesus Loves Me. Look for an album giveaway from DYM tomorrow, too! You can preorder the album here.


My Secret Life: I'm A Cat Intro Video

Posted by Justin Knowles


For some odd reason our team has been on a cat-kick. Seems like everything we have been doing for fun involves something from the feline nature. I'm okay with it because students seem to be loving it. To play off of this, we made the above video that went over really well.

To continue it even more, we will be playing the new game this week from DYM called "Fluffy's Revenge" all about cat trivia. Here is the description:

Did you know that cats can make the same noise that the Predator makes when hunting? Another fun fact: if you were drowning, a cat would probably pour a bottle of water on top of you to speed up the process!

Fluffy's Revenge is a game of weird cat trivia. If you win, you will be embraced into a herd of cats and showered with lonely people glitter (cat hair). Decide for the loser their punishment, whether it be eating a can of cat food, or bobbing for tootsie rolls in kitty litter. 

Many will play… but only few will escape Fluffy's Revenge...


Justin Knowles


3 Youth Ministry Reminders for Today

Posted by Josh Griffin

Been thinking about this subject personally a little on and off, it came to a head in a conversation with my wife last night. Here are 3 “simple” reminders us as youth workers need to remember every day:

God is doing a work in your ministry. Why He’s chosen you and I in this time and place is His to know. You have less to do with the success of your ministry than you probably think. Be faithful and work hard, but know that it is God that brings in the increase and it is all about Him. When you start to think you’re something, you’ve taken a step backward.

It’s not about numbers. Success in youth ministry is about more than numbers. Some well-meaning people around you might thing otherwise, but they’re wrong. You can tell them that. Good youth ministry is what matters most – caring relational youth workers loving students and pointing them to Jesus.

It’s not about arriving. I’m afraid too often we think that someday we’ll arrive and we will … when we arrive in Heaven. Until then, be a learner and a humble servant of God.



Posted by Doug Fields


Where did you grow up? Detroit, MI… but not actually Detroit, more of the suburbs outside of Detroit.

Tell us about your church: name, location, website.  Faith Lutheran, Troy, MI… www.faithtroy.org.  And my own website is www.rjgrune.com.

What’s a nick name you’ve been given…but you hate. Why?   I had being called “buddy.”  I take it as an insult; I might call kids “buddy,” but I don’t like it for myself. 

What’s your favorite TV show from the 80’s? (If you are too young to remember the 80’s, pick A.L.F.)  I do actually remember A.L.F..

Computer or TV? Computer.

How old were you when you first felt called to ministry?  Senior in High School when I started volunteering with the Middle School Ministry. 

Would you rather kick a puppy or make a baby cry?  Kick a puppy.  I only like living things with souls. 

What’s a recent EPIC youth ministry mistake?  When a girl came out of the bathroom I jokingly pretended it stunk… apparently it was that time of the month and she was really embarrassed. 

Have you ever left a kid on an event/camp/retreat/missions trip/etc.? Have you ever wanted to?  No.  And absolutely, yes. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of youth ministry?   Family stuff, beer, and fantasy football. 

Are you a good dancer?  No. 

What color shoes are you wearing?  Gray converse. 

What’s the worst injury that’s happened on one of your event/camp/retreat/missions trip/etc.?  Nothing crazy, just broken bones. 

What’s your position on infant baptism? Just kidding, nobody cares.   Just what the Bible teaches… (note: this is sarcastic since that’s what we all think about our positions)

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you hate ALL NIGHTERS? (1 = stab me in the eye and 10 = stab me in the eye with a spoon)   With a spoon?  10 because I think that is the worst.  We don’t ever do them. 

How good are you at keeping receipts? Does your church administrator love or hate you?   Awful at it. I wish all receipts were digital.  What would you do if you could be invisible for one day?  If I told you I would have to kill you. 

Mac or PC?   Mac. 

What is one of your irrational fears?  Squirrels. 

What is your favorite lunch meat?  Salami. 

AWesome! You can check out RJ's resources right here in the DYM Store


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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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