POLL: Love Gift / Christmas Bonus for Youth Workers

Posted by Josh Griffin

We're getting to the end of the year and it is a time of giving, receiving and Christmas fun. I was talking to a youth worker this year who was lamenting that he doesn't get a year end bonus or love gift - and I told him I don't either! I've served in 2 churches the first one did and this one doesn't. Made me think it might be a good question to toss out to you - do you get some sort of love gift at the end of the year? Share more in the comments if you would like, too!




Youth Worker: Stick With It

Posted by Justin Knowles

Do you ever have weeks where you think, “What on earth am I doing?” Yes? Oh good, I’m glad I’m not the only one. There are some days where I feel there are so many fires to put out and the best way to handle my time is to figure out which fire to put out first before it got too big that it burned everything down.

Then I read this:

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Right now, with any sort of transition of leadership, we have had a lot of leaders transition out of volunteering for our student ministry. There has been leaders who were moving for school, leaders who have had family things, or leaders we have asked to step down, but from what I understand this is the smallest our volunteer team has ever been. This scares me. We need a lot of manpower to do the type of relational ministry we would like to do. I was getting down on myself as a leader.

But when I read this verse the other day, something spoke to me. I know I was called to this ministry. I know God is faithful and if I am doing what I truly feel God is calling me to do with the direction of the ministry, He is faithful to come through. In that instant, I realized the leaders that stuck around are incredible. They are relational giants and they did a majority of the work anyways. They are the glue to what we do. It was just a change in the thought process. Then later that day, I got 4 emails of 4 brand new people (solid people) who want to get involved in the student ministry. Praise God! He really does provide you with everything you need to do what you do.

If anything, this post is one of encouragement. “Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Hold fast onto the Lord because He has called you to where you are, to those students, to that church. He is faithful and fruit will come from it. Keep going.

Honored to be in the trenches of youth ministry with you!





Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 267

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: Christmastime (1-off)

Sermon in a Sentence: This weekend it was fun to be back teaching after taking some time off in November. This weekend I spoke about Christmas time with a message called Christmas Is a Time For (which you can check out in the DYM store) ... and had fun talking about what I love about Christmas, and how important Christmas is for families, forgiveness andour faith. I love helping students navigate through some of the challengins aspects of adolescence - family and holidays is certainly one of them. And LOVE teaching the Christmas story as well - we ended with a special candlelight service as welll that set the mode and the traditional reading of teh Christmas story off just right. Great weekend!

Service Length: 62 minutes

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a really fun weekend - we played Chrsitmas Pictionary, had a hialrious Chrsitmas rap and lots of laughs and fun with Christmas songs. We had lots of student greeters and great energy - we only get 2 Christmas weekends a year, this one and next week's Christmas play, so it is always fun togo all in with Christmas!

Music Playlist: Angels We Have Heard on High, Noel (Hillsong Y&F version), Silent Night, O Come Let Us Adore Him

Favorite Moment: I loved the new version of Noel we sang this weekend. Love it!

Up next: HSM's 2nd Annual Christmas Program (1-off)


YM360's Free Youth Ministry Christmas Vault

Posted by Josh Griffin


Each year at Christmas, our friends at youthministry360 turn their website into a youth worker's one-stop-shop for Christmas content. Get free Bible study lessons, devotions for you and your students, game ideas and much more! To download these free resources today, head on over to YM360's Christmas Vault.


This is What We Did Last Night

Posted by Josh Griffin

I liked this simple video from Frank Gil about "What We Did Last Night" at youth group - and I also loved that he used 3 DYM games. Good stuff!




How to brainstorm with teens

Posted by Jen Bradbury

Over the Christmas holiday, I've got an entire day blocked out in my schedule in order to figure out our ministry's spring calendar. The dates of our major events (like retreats) were announced months ago, but things like trip meetings and events to honor our graduating seniors still need to be scheduled. As part of this calendaring process, I'll also create the spring teaching calendar for both our Sunday morning and Wednesday evening gatherings.

To do so, I'll refer back to my student leadership's brainstorming board.


As part of our summer planning, I walk student leaders through an elaborate brainstorming process. During it, they brainstorm social and service events as well as the topics they'd like to discuss throughout the year. Occasionally, I'll give them opportunities to add to this brainstorming board throughout the year.

Here's how this brainstorming process works:
  1. Distribute a stack of post-it notes to each student.

  2. Instruct students to write down events they'd like your youth ministry to do throughout the year along with topics they'd like to discuss on the post-it notes, one idea per post-it. Remind them NOT to filter their ideas. In brainstorming, no idea is bad. Even the most off-the-wall idea can prompt other ideas.

  3. As students finish brainstorming, sort their post-its into sections: Social events, service events, or topics. Stick repeated ideas on top of one another. Group similar ideas together.

  4. Read each idea aloud. Invite the student who came up with it to explain it in 20 seconds or less. (Feel free to make additional notes on the post-it that will help you remember the idea later on). Give teens time to ask clarifying questions but NOT to criticize ideas. (Since criticism kills the creative process faster than anything else, immediately shut down any criticism you hear and remind teens of this rule.) 

  5. Once every idea has been explained, conduct visual voting, a silent means of voting that helps eliminate peer pressure and gives teens more of an opportunity to reflect their genuine interests and desires. To do this, hand each student a sheet of small stickers. (Give teens 1 sticker for every 8-10 ideas in a particular category). Instruct teens that this is a SILENT activity and that anyone who violates this rule will lose their right to vote. (Make sure you enforce this rule.) Allow teens to use all their votes on one idea if they feel really strongly about it.

Once done, keep your finished brainstorming wall in tact, somewhere you can refer to it often. (Mine's in my office). Throughout the year, as you utilize various ideas, remove them from the wall. Arrange connected ideas into tentative teaching series. 

When it's time to plan your calendar, refer to and use the ideas from your brainstorming board. Remember that those ideas with the most stickers are the ones teens are most interested in doing. 

Utilizing ideas from your brainstorming board will enable you to come up with a more creative calendar. Additionally, in doing so, your calendar will reflect not just the needs or interests you assume your teens have, but their actual ones. 




Download Youth Ministry WebShow #258

Posted by Josh Griffin

Another week, another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Show!

If you're new to the show, we talk about youth ministry for 45 minutes every week or two, your questions answered every time! Join Doug Fields, Katie Edwards, Josh Griffin and Matt McGill around our roundtable.This week Cathy is sitting in for Katie - good times! Just enough youth ministry so you don’t feel guilty for listening. As always, thanks to our amazing sponsors who help with incredible giveaways and keep the servers and the lights on each week:

Send in your questions to webshow@downloadyouthministry.com to be answered on a future show, too!



First 2 Years: 4 Best Lessons I Learned As An Intern

Posted by Colton Harker


I love interns! The fire and passion that they (hopefully) bring to a team is so life giving to me. I am endlessly grateful for everything that I was taught by my first mentors at my internship. With every new intern that works under me, I always make sure I try to teach the four of the best things that I learned during my time in their shoes:

Tasks Are Never Just Tasks. For such a long time, I heard “People always come before tasks.” And in thought that makes sense.. but the reality of ministry is that all tasks are about people. Everything we do from creating budgets, to shopping for events, to counseling students is all in the name of serving people. Tasks are not meaningless. They are never just tasks.

Draw Boundaries. Honestly, this is still one that I am working on today… but the lesson I appreciated was being aware of the problem in general. Too often youth pastors draw poor boundaries or have no boundaries at all when it comes to ministry and life. Sure, we will all go through heavy seasons where it will be impossible for there to be a healthy balance and light seasons where it seems effortless. But when your light seasons look too much like heavy seasons, you have a problem. Burn out is sure to be right around the corner.

Grow Your Strengths, Know Your Weaknesses.  You cannot be an effective leader if you don’t know your strengths and weaknesses. Don’t work on making your weaknesses your strengths, but instead grow your strengths and make them great. See where you fall short and build a team around you that can compliment you 

Work Hard. One of my favorite things that was instilled in me from the beginning of my ministry career is the value of working hard. Maybe I should further define “working hard.” I would say that working hard would mean making the most of your time. Making the most of your time in the office and making the most of your time with people. I will always appreciate how my first mentors taught me how to do that.

What were some of the best things you learned during your time as an intern?



Topics: interns, First 2 Years

Youth Ministry Q&A: When should I split junior high and high school?

Posted by Josh Griffin

YOUTH MINISTRY Q&A: When should I split my students into separate junior high and high school ministries? Maybe we should just stay together?

Splitting up is common practice in youth ministry today – and in most cases, I would recommend it. It allows you the opportunity to challenge high school students and speak to specific needs of that age group.

Split as soon as you can. The when is based on your time, your health and your resources, but it’s not appropriate to have 11 year olds hanging out with 18 year olds. It’s healthier when there are separate Jr. High and High School environments and leaders. I would try to split when everything is in place, but obviously the sooner, they better. You can still do some events together, (like a praise and worship celebration) but now you’ve got a chance to make sure events are more age specific. It helps with the maturity of your younger students and keeps your older students around because they feel like they are being valued. I've seen it work other ways for sure, but genuinely feel this is best!

One final thought: if at all possible I'd also make sure you hold both of the services on the same night so that you don’t have leaders or parents out on multiple nights of the week.



How To Be Relevant And Traditional At The Same Time

Posted by Christopher Wesley

My faith is like a relationship and my religion (Catholicism) is rich in tradition.  Both have their positives and to live those out personally can be tough.  

The tension between traditional and relevant youth ministry can be equally exhausting.  Anytime you try something new you are going to get pushback.  People will say:

  • You are focused too much on entertainment.
  • You are forgetting about tradition.
  • Teens need to know Truth.

When you move to be more traditional people will say:

  • You are being too closed-minded.
  • You aren’t addressing people’s needs.
  • The church needs to change.

It’s finding the balance between growth and maintaining a firm identity. We go through it as individuals and our youth ministries face this challenge as well.

No matter your church’s background there is a tension between the traditional and staying relevant.  To embrace that tension you need to recognize the benefits of both.  That means:

  • Recognizing The Journey: When you embrace tradition you recognize the sacrifice and hard work it took to get where you are today.
  • Embracing The Timelessness: There are parts of our faith that have transcended trials and tribulation.
  • Embarking On New Challenges: The world around us is constantly changing and the church needs to face those challenges. 
  • Focusing On Growth: As new challenges and obstacles approach us so does the way we approach them.

In the end your ministry’s health depends on TRUSTING God and the vision that He’s given you.

God is going to ask you to change when you need to change. And, He’s going t ask you to stay firm when you need to stay firm.  Knowing when your ministry moves and rests is all a part of knowing your vision.  

Live in the tension.  Spend time in prayer and listen to where God is leading you.

What the biggest challenge you face between traditional and relevant youth ministry? 



Topics: healthy youth ministry

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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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