Youth Ministry 101: Relational Ministry - Part 2

Posted by Josh Griffin

How To Build Stronger Biblical Fellowship... part 2

Avoid Causing Guilt
If a student hasn’t been around for a few weeks or months, NEVER, EVER, EVER say, “Where have you been?” This puts a person on the spot and creates guilt. Instead say, “It’s great you are here.” Work hard to show unconditional acceptance. We don’t need to make people feel guilty, we all accomplish this fine on our own without any “help” from others.

Share personal stories
Don’t make yourself the star of the conversation, but you also don’t want it to be one sided. Be transparent and share about your life. You aren’t interrogating your students, you are having a two-way conversation.

Follow up
When a student tells you about something that’s coming up next week, ask them about it a week later. Imagine the impact you’ll have when you cared enough to remember an important detail about their life.

Spend time one on one
Great ministry happens outside of youth ministry programs. Show up to a game or take them to lunch. Life is busy and while it may not be possible to spend time with a student every week, but if you can make it a goal to meet with a student once a month, your relationships will go deeper. Remember to only spend one on one time wisely—stick with your gender! A guy leader should NEVER spend time along with a female student...and vise versa.

Pray consistently and specifically
God cares more about our ministry than we do—we’re just stewards of the students entrusted to us. Make the time to talk to Jesus about the your students. He will tell you how to minister to them.

Remember that building friendships take time
There’s no such thing as a microwave for relationships. They take time—a lot of it. I wish there was a formula for instant intimacy, but there isn’t. Make a commitment to last for the long haul. Significant relationships don’t happen overnight.

Know that your conversations make a difference
It may not seem like it at first, but when you engage students on a personal level you are making an investment that does have benefits—even if you don’t see them. Over the years, I’ve had countless parents say, “Thank for taking the time to talk with Chris!” Meanwhile, I’ll replay the conversation with Chris in my head and I would have sworn he was in a coma. Students will appreciate the fact that you are authentically engaging them.

What’s missing from this list? What are some ways you have deepened your relationships with others? There’s a lot here ... pick one or two and put them into practice for a month. Once you feel like you hit a plateau, return to this list and work on a few others. Healthy leaders are learners. As soon as you stop learning, you stop leading.

Matt McGill is one of the cofoudners of Download Youth Ministry and is now the family pastor of a church in Pismo Beach, CA.

Youth Ministry 101: Relational Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

How To Build Stronger Biblical Fellowship...

Learn Names
A name is a person’s most valuable possession and nothing communicates care like remembering a student’s name. It’s easy to say, “I’m not good at names.” Resist the temptation to rest on this excuse! It takes hard work to remember names. When you learn a new name, try to use it immediately in the conversation. Make a mental association and create a visual image and attach it to their name. These may be funny (so don’t share them!). After the conversation, write the name down so you can look it up later. Review your list before you show up to a youth ministry program. 

Show Genuine Interest
Everyone wants to know known because we were created with a need to be understood by others. Care about the details about their life. Your interest must be real, if it’s fake, everyone can tell that it’s just an act. A great way to show interest is to ask questions.

Show up with a question or two
Making small talk is tough for most of us. Holidays can make questions easier, but still work to get creative. “What did you do over Christmas?” isn’t a bad question, but it’ll get over-used. Try something different like, “Does your family have any Christmas traditions?” or “Did anyone throw up because they drank too much eggnog?” Personally, I’m a little silly, so sometimes I’ll ask, “did you punch anyone in the face this week? ...No? That’s good... did you feel like punching anyone in the face?” Sometimes a silly approach can move into a more serious conversation.

Have Fun
Everyone likes to have fun, but sometimes we think the best ministry happens when we are always serious. You don’t have to be the ultimate extrovert, but you should strive to create a warm, comfortable and inviting atmosphere. 

Affirm like crazy
Be looking for ways to encourage and praise students. Avoid the over-use of superficial encouragements (that’s a nice shirt), but start there if you must. The more you know about a student’s life, the easier this becomes. A student might be bummed on a bad grade, you could affirm them by saying, “At least you care about your grades, that’s a good thing!” Catch students doing something right and tell them how good it is.

Look for the unconnected
Cliques are ugly! You know this because you’ve been on the outside. No one want’s to be an outsider, so constantly looking for students on the edges. It’s difficult to be inclusive, we naturally fall into comfortable patterns of talking to the same students. Consistency is great, but not when it blinds us to new comers who feel like an outsider.

Be Involved
Lead by example. Students are watching, and will take their cues from what you are doing. Sing worship songs, actively listen to the message, and jump in and be involved with the games, and speak up during the discussion. It’s not only possible for you to worship during a youth ministry program, it’s also great leadership.

Spread out
Healthy youth ministries have adult leaders who spend time with students—not other leaders. I get it! It’s fun (and easier) to spend time with other leaders during a youth ministry program. Do this at another time! When all the leaders are bunched up together, it sends the wrong message to students.

We'll be back with part 2 tomorrow!

Matt McGill is one of the cofoudners of Download Youth Ministry and is now the family pastor of a church in Pismo Beach, CA.

Download Youth Ministry WebShow #259

Posted by Josh Griffin

We had so much fun with the Skut Guys at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta, GA and laughed our way through a 30-minute show together. Join in on the fun! Episode 259, ready to go! Thanks for our sponsors: Leadertreks, YM360, Azusa Pacific University & Youth Specialties


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!



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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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