SUMMER CAMP GAMES: Protect the Orb

Posted by Josh Griffin



  1. 2 10 ft, 3 in wide PVC pipes
  2. 6 4ft lengths of rebar to hold up the pipes, (3 per PVC pipe, placed in the ground teepee style inside the PVC)
  3. 4 red buckets filled with water
  4. 2 Soccer Balls or similar 
  5. 2 100 ft lengths of Rope
  6. 100+ splash bombs
  7. 12 Nerf Swords/ or pool noodles with wooden dowels inside
Directions: (Block the opposing team's splash bombs from knocking off your softballs)
  1. Put the PVC pipes in the ground vertically, spaced 8 feet (or so) apart in a line. Then mark out a circle around the pipes with the rope. Do the same 20 feet away with the other pipes and rope. These are the "castles"
  2. Balance the soccer balls on top of the pipes. 
  3. Have each team select 6 defenders to be inside the oval. Their job is to block the splash bombs from hitting the softballs off the pipes.
  4. Blow the whistle, and each team has to try and knock off the softballs while the defenders block their shots.
  5. If anyone crosses the rope line, they instantly die a horrible death and must sit down.
  6. The game stops when all the soccer balls have been knocked down, or if all the balls are within the castle walls.
  7. Players may reach over the rope "wall" to grab splash bombs, but if they touch the grass inside the castle walls they die and must sit down.
  8. Dead players may not touch splash bombs.
  9. Defenders inside the rope MAY take splash bombs away from the edge, but only by using their swords
We made various modifications throughout the game, especially if the rounds ended to quickly. Feel free to change/add anything you want!

A Place to Belong

Posted by Jen Bradbury

I'm a strong believer that belonging precedes belief. This means that if we want teens to take ownership of their faith, we have to first help them belong.

To be clear, belonging doesn't happen accidentally. Helping teens belong takes time, intentionality, and the willingness to pay attention to details, over and over again.

Here are 10 things you can do to help teens belong:

1. Don't assume people know where things like the Youth Room are located. Instead, describe where you're meeting (2nd floor, to the left of the middle stair case) so teens can find you with ease.

2. Make your physical space as inviting as possible. Keep it clean. Arrange seating so as to encourage conversations. Decorate the walls with art made by the teens themselves.

3. Have the right amount of seating. Too few seats makes newcomers feel as though there's no place for them. Too many seats makes the room feel empty.

4. Personally invite people to attend events and regular youth gatherings. Ask core students to do the same.

5. Greet people by name as soon as they enter your space. If you don't know their name, be proactive about introducing yourself and finding their name out.

6. Through conversations with people, help connect likeminded teens with one another. When teens form friendships that extend beyond the walls of your youth room, they begin to feel a sense of belonging – both inside and outside the church.

7. Regularly tell teens, “Your voice matters here.” Then make space for all – introverts and extroverts alike – to participate in some way throughout the evening.

8. Establish confidentiality. Unless teens know that what they share won't be used against them later or shared as gossip, they'll never open up. Regularly ask teens in your ministry to agree to confidentiality standards – to keep what is said during youth group in youth group. As you do this, elaborate on when confidentiality must be broken and why: “Because of how much we love and care for you, sometimes we simply can't keep what you say confidential. If you or someone you know is being hurt in anyway, we'll need to involve more people in that conversation. But rest assured, you won't have to do that alone.”

9. Follow-up with teens who you haven't seen in a while. When you belong, your presence matters. That means that when you're not there, you're missed. Let teens know you missed them by telling them what they uniquely bring to your youth ministry's gathering.

10. Don't let someone leave your gathering anonymously. Instead, individually say good-bye to teens when they leave an event or gathering. Thank them for coming and tell them how much you hope to see them again at your next event.

Never underestimate the power of belonging.

Belonging gives us courage; It helps us know who we are; And in a church setting, it gives us a place and a people with whom to question, doubt, and wrestle our faith into being.

5 Things To Know Starting In Youth Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

I have interns now. People think having interns means you don’t have to work as hard but it’s actually the opposite. You have to work harder to make sure they know and understand what they are doing and why we do it that certain way. You have to teach and coach. Instead of just doing something like you normally would, you have to stop and explain why you are doing it. That could be a whole other post.

But I was talking to one of my interns about how to start well in youth ministry and came up with these 5 things:

Jump in - If you are excited, students will be excited. If you are “too cool” (by the way you are not) then they will think the same. Jump in the game, conversation, the service. Students will join you.

Be real - Students can sense fake-ness. It’s a gift they have. Be real with your life. Show them what healthy transparency and authenticity can do for a relationship with others and with Christ looks like.

Be consistent- True connection happens when we actually show up. It’s really hard to make a connection with someone who shows up once a month.

Be caring- Students want to know you can care. Expand your listening skills. When we listen we show them we care for what they have to say. 

Have fun- Ministry with students is fun! Don’t forget it! yes there are messy sides to it, but students are drawn to fun and we are allowed to have fun with them. Plus, fun breaks down walls and creates conversations. 

These are super simple ideas to keep in mind for those starting out in ministry but they are super effective and easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life and ministry. What else would you add to this list?

Youth Ministry And Operation Christmas Child

Posted by Josh Griffin

The world’s largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, uses gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. Every church I've served in has used Christmas as a chance to serve their community and give back - and this is a GREAT way to do just that this year in your youth group ... or better yet, get your whole church involved! Since 1993, the Samaritan’s Purse project Operation Christmas Child has collected and delivered more than 113 million gift-filled shoeboxes to children in over 150 countries. And they're off to a strong start already in 2014, hoping to collect enough shoebox gifts to reach another 10 million children.

If you don't know how it works shoeboxes filled with gifts and the gospel are collected in the United States (and many other countries) then uses thousands of volunteers in the collecting, shipping and distributing shoebox gifts. We've used them for years at our church (Saddleback) and even have our high school Life Groups help with the processing of the boxes in the past at a regional center. Such powerful, tangible ministry for students!

Well, if you want to do this soon you should jump on it - go to samaritanspurse.org and click on Operation Christmas Child to get the scoop on your youth ministry getting involved. It won't be long until National Collection Week (November 17-24)  where the team from Samaritan’s Purse will collect the gift-filled shoeboxes. My kids love it every year in our home, our students loved this project in the past, and it makes a HUGE impact for Christ. Join in on the fun!



DYM Author Spotlight: David Hughes

Posted by Josh Griffin

From time to time we're going to put the spotlight on the heroes behind DYM - the incrdible men and women that create the resources you've come to know and love on the site. We ask them some questions so you get to know them, understand their heart, laugh, and maybe be inspired enough to become an author on the site, too!

What’s your full name? David Michael Hughes

Where did you grow up? Orange County, California

Tell us about your church: name, location, website.
Village Church of Irvine. Small church located right between the two mega-churches in Orange County. I’ve been here for two years, and it’s been a great adventure. I grew up in a large church, so it’s been eye-opening to see things from a new perspective. There’s plenty of challenging days trying to get a youth ministry off the ground, but I’ve always felt like this is the church I would belong to even if there was no job and no money for me. I’m thinking maybe that’s the simple secret to longevity in youth ministry. I love my pastors and my church. 

And I want to be the best youth pastor in can be in this narrow window of time when teenagers still think my jokes are funny.  

What’s a nickname you’ve been given…but you hate. Why?
Little League. Nickname was turtle. You can figure that one out. 

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

How old were you when you first felt called to ministry?
I was 17 when I first served as a camp counselor for a jr. high summer camp. Thus began a 10 year journey of learning to hate rec games. 

Would you rather kick a puppy or make a baby cry?
Nobody wants to listen to a baby cry. This question has always just been too easy. Puppies are toys. 

What do you enjoy doing outside of youth ministry?
Surfing. Playing hockey. Waiting until the last minute to buy cheap tickets on stubhub to sporting events. I really love marketing strategies. 

What’s the worst injury that’s happened on one of your event/camp/retreat/missions trip/etc.?
Winter Camp 2014. 9th Grade student. Great kid. Arrived to camp at 4:00 PM. Free time. Skate park. Driving to the emergency room by 4:30 PM. Front tooth completely knocked out from a faceplant into the concrete.  

For myself personally, I jumped off the roof of a house we were building in Mexico in 7th grade. Forgot I was holding nails in my hand. Braced my fall when I realized the roof was a lot higher than I imagined. One of the nails went right through my left hand. 

What’s your position on infant baptism? Just kidding, nobody cares.
Way too mainstream. I’ve been pushing Prenatal baptism for years. Just wait. 

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)
I’ll take the spoon. But our church building is a 10 minute walk from Denny’s. We hop a couple fences (don’t worry about that part) and walk along the train tracks (shhhhh) at midnight to get some pancakes. It has a cool middle of America vibe. Not that I’ve been to the middle of America or anything. 

How good are you at keeping receipts? Does your church administrator love or hate you?
About a year ago I stopped keeping my receipts and downloaded a great app called OneReceipt that can keep track of everything for me. Next year I’m thinking about actually opening the app.  

If you had a pet sloth, what would you name him/her?
Vincent. I would name her Vincent. 

What is one of your irrational fears?
Scuba divers. I almost hit one while surfing a wave a few years ago. Terrifying. Aliens of the sea. They come to the surface out of nowhere, and we’re supposed to believe they are just returning from a little recreational dive? Nah nah nah. Somebody should be checking passports. 

What is your favorite lunch meat?


POLL: Out of Pocket Youth Ministry Expenses

Posted by Josh Griffin

I spend money out of pocket every month doing ministry (relational ministry like coffee & meals, resources, etc). I'm sure most of you do, too! I've never added it up, but know how much approximately I spend - thought this week's youth ministry poll would be interesting to see how much you spend, too!


How To Ask A Girl To Homecoming

Posted by Josh Griffin

Here's a fun video from this past weekend service focusing on the funny ways students as our girls to homecoming. It is SUCH a big deal in our student ministry, this might be one of the best crowd-response videos we've ever had. Nuts!


Here's to the Derek Jeters of youth ministry

Posted by Rachel Blom

I'm not a die hard Yankees fan. That would be kind of tough, considering I only moved to the US a year ago. But even fifteen years ago, when we first lived in the States, I was already fascinated by the rich history of the Yankees. So when I had to 'pick' a team to support after we moved to New York, the Yankees were the logical choice. In July, I went to a game in Yankee Stadium and it was an awesome experience.

These last months and especially the last few weeks, I've been following the news about Derek Jeter's retirement. What was interesting, were the comments and opinions about how good a player he really was. More than a few commenters argued that Jeter is a hype, that he really wasn't that brilliant of a player, that there are dozens of players far more talented than him. 


Another commenter responded to this criticism and it hit home. Here's the gist of his argument: it's true, Derek Jeter wasn't the most giften, or the most talented baseball player ever. There are many who played better and more consistent than him.

But for twenty years, he did nothing else but play baseball. He showed up, he played. His private life stayed scandal free, his public appearances were always full of respect for the fans and the press, his charity did great work. He never whined, he never blamed others when things didn't go well, he just showed up and played baseball to the best of his abilities.

That's what made Derek Jeter great. He showed up and he played. For twenty years, he lived and breathed his sport and that's what made him earn his stripes.

So here's to you, the Derek Jeters of youth ministry. Maybe you're not the most gifted speaker, maybe there are dozens with more creative ideas than you. Maybe your youth ministry hasn't grown as much as others' have. Maybe there are tons of other youth pastors who are better known than you, more popular, better paid. 

But you show up. You're there, year after year, maybe even twenty years long. You don't whine, you don't point to others, you just show up and you do what needs to be done. That's what makes you a great youth pastor, that's what makes you earn your stripes.

May God bless you for serving consistently and with love. Well done you faithful servant!

To Go Big, Start Small

Posted by Justin Knowles


I'm a pretty ambitious guy. I like to get things done and I love taking on a challenge of pushing an organization and people to the next level. It really is one of my favorite things. Over the past month in my new position I have slowly been casting some vision of where we as a ministry are going. I first sat down with my team and we chatted about the future and this past weekend we rolled out the vision with our volunteers at a BBQ at my house and then at Fall Kick Off with our students.

I'm a dreamer, I love to see how things can be. The hard part is getting to that point. We need to think big but start small. It's the only way we are going to be able to take the necessary steps to reach our vision. Here are some things I have been wrestling with with why it's important to start small instead of shooting for the moon right off the bat.

1. Gives you more confidence to move forward. Baby steps. When we can focus on the small things and get those dialed in, it creates instant wins and gives us the boost we need to take on the bigger things. The successful ministries around us are that way because they are lead by very dedicated and faithful people who consistantly take the next steps. A great way to get started to find out what problem everyone agrees needs to change and then offer to lead on taking it on. 

2. Gets you focused and priority setting. You cannot have seven key issues that you are focusing on and expect to execute it well. Starting small allows you to pick one and take it one. This year, we are laser focusing on our midweek programs to get them to the best possible spot I know they can be. We are still doing everything else, but we are working hard and focused on one thing and then when we feel it reached a point of success in our minds, we will move to the next thing.

3. Gives you the ability to create steps to get you where you need to be. Starting small gets us ready for the next steps. If you can't be trusted with a small amount of money, who's going to trust you with a lot of money? As leaders, we can see what things can and should be instead of just focusing on what is there now. But we can't reach where it can be until we know what the process is to get there. Start small and qualify yourself and your ministry for the next big step. 

What are the next small steps that you need to take in your ministry to reach your vision and goal? What are you doing this week to make sure you are completely the small steps first?

GUEST POST: Retaining High School Juniors & Seniors

Posted by Josh Griffin

One of the many challenges of student ministry is the eventual "exodus" of upperclassmen (people?) as they reach their junior and senior year of high school.  Licenses are obtained, cars of varying varieties are procured, and the stellar, most important 9th grade student leader you had is now sporadically seen at best.  
As someone working in a mainline (Methodist) church, this is an ongoing problem for many church youth groups. 
However, my wife recently made a good point regarding her own youth group experience as she got older in high school.  Her attendance also declined the older 
she became, and yet her love for her church and her youth group remained strong. 
As an adult, this notion seemed like a oxymoron: you do what's important to you.  If they aren't showing up anymore, then they must not care.  
Many youth ministers could be reminded that though they don't always attend, their love and appreciation for church is still strong.
But what to do about spotty junior and senior attendance?  If the statistics are to be believed  (and I believe they are), that over 70% of youth graduated youth group kids practice their faith in college/young adulthood, what to do?  If we are tasked to help seniors and their families graduate well, then this statistic must be changed.
For one, I believe that whatever system you have in place is getting you the results you are currently seeing.Change the system, change the results. 
Five years ago, this maxim shook my current ministry system to the core.  I had the traditional Sunday evening youth group meeting time, with little uppclassmen involvement.  Instead of wringing my hands or blaming them or their busy schedules, I decided to do something different.  
I decided to tap into their belief that they are already grown up.
Its true.  Juniors and seniors think they are adults.  <sarcasm> Its shocking, I know. </sarcasm>
 In working with this notion, I created a separate junior/senior fellowship/Bible study at my home on Monday nights in which they were told we would discuss grown up issues.  No worksheets, no hand holding, no explaining everything.  Real, life on life, no heavy programming.  We might talk about college fears, struggles at home, or even read through CS Lewis (I recommend the Great Divorce).
The results over these past nearly five years have been astounding.  Our retention of this age group went from 20% to nearly 90%.  We gave them their own space, let their voices be heard, and they have attended.  Likewise, they attend many other events and retreats throughout the year as well.  All it took was a shift of schedule.  Now many of our rising 9th and 10th graders look forward to joining this experience as well. 
This postmodern generation responds to a more a la carte (many options) approach, as opposed to the "y'all come to the one youth group meeting each week" approach that my generation (class of 1997) responded to so well.  This has also caused me to expand my notion of "what is youth group?" into a much larger umbrella and what therein necessitates involvement.  All upperclassmen might not attend, but they do want to feel grown up. They do still care about their relationship with God. The do want to feel that they are arriving into young adulthood, and that we are intentional about helping.  
Give them that space to do so. Empower this age group.  Work with your people, not against them.  We want them to graduate well.  God bless.
Clark Chilton is a student ministries pastor from Clemmons NC.

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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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