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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.

GUEST POST Navigating the Teenage Years

Posted by Josh Griffin


High School is tough. One of the realities though, is how much harder it can be for parents to navigate these often difficult times with their students regardless of which side of the fence they find themselves.
This is an infographic that we created for the parents of our 11th grade students. In our commitment to partnering with parents, we wanted to be clear and honest about many of the issues that our students (especially 11th graders) are facing. We walked our parents through this infographic and discussed some best practices when it comes to helping students navigate these difficult years.
As you can see from the infographic, the amount of pressure that students feel builds in their high school years. In turn, the amount of “good air” that is pumped into students by parents, church and positive adult relationships is lacking if not nonexistent. Thus, we often see a major “release” resulting in negative and dangerous behaviors by the students. Both churches and families have to do a better job of creating the space for “good air” to be pumped back into our students lives. We hope that this infographic can be a great resource and teaching tool for families and other student ministries!
David Thompson is the Youth Pastor Trinity at UMC in Birmingham, AL and is the creator of 

Bring a Friend to Youth Group? You Both Get a Shirt

Posted by Josh Griffin

We're trying out a new idea this whole month long - if you bring a friend to youth group for the first time, we'l give you a free T-shirt. They get one, too! We did shirts for each of the major high schools in our ministry and printed them in school colors (small runs are expensive so we did 1-color print on a colored shirt to get 2 of the school colors). The results have been incredible! 
Not ony do people want the shirt because they're cool - but they're bringing their friends to hear about Jesus, too! Wins all around ... now I just wish we had printed some in XXL. Argh.

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 260

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: ICON (fall kickoff, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: 
Service Length: 79 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we continued the ICON series about the "I am" statements of Jesus. This week we were in John 6 talking about the Bread of Life. This talk didn't have the normal schedule prep time (because of D6 conference) but spent a lot of time wherever I could prepping the message. In 20 years of youth ministry - I've never taught this passage! It was fun to have it come alive to me and work hard for students to understand the nourishment and necessity of God's Word in our lives. We pulled it all together with communion at the end for a powerful weekend and followup with our kickoff week last weekend.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We went for a waaaaaay different service than normal, and the huge risk also had a huge payout. We couldn't outdo last week's back to school kickoff games and prizes, so we decide to do a "Late Night" television show complete with a short opening monologue, funny interview and Shock Collar Karaoke. It was incredible, creative and fun.

Music Playlist: Wake, Forever Reign, Scandal of Grace, This is Amazing Grace, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I had a great conversation with a student who was there for the 2nd time ever. She was so thrilled to be joining this community, growing so much, and even brought her mom with her this week. It was SO fun watching this girl who normally sits on the outside go all in! She signed up for a ministry and a 

Up next: ICON (week 3 of 3)

Why Do You Do That?

Posted by Geoff Stewart

We are only a few weeks in to the school year and we have already begun tweaking things and refining our processes. One of the things that we should being doing regularly is a honest evaluation of every element of your program, start to finish. Being thoughtful about why an element is included or why not, is vital routine diagnostic work and here are a three reasons why you need to be able to answer the question: Why Do You Do That?

For God: Our first job is to point young people to Jesus and create mission/vision/value around that. If you don't know why you are doing it, it needs to go and if some element does not point back to the mission of your ministry then why do you do it? First and for most we are accountable to God for what we do, and doing something “just because” is not good enough if you ask me.

For Students: Modelling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important and the same should be true of youth nights. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at Journey and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask about our rationale behind a decision. Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it and from start to finish our goal is create space for students to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs (hard to believe I know) sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents it is wise to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?

-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?

-Why do you allow Christian and Searching students in the same small groups? (Actual question)

-We never had small groups on the same night when I was in youth!

-Why don’t you play more games? My kid just wants to have fun.

- Are V-Necks that deep even legal?

It is pretty easy to disarm a concerned parent when you have an articulated thought out reason for doing what you do. If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand and that will give you a place to start a conversation. 

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

-Geoff Stewart @geoffcstewart 

HSM Sports Minute: Episode 7

Posted by Josh Griffin

This was another simple, silly fun video continuing in our Sports Minute series in the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. Travis and Colton have so much fun with this series - makes me laugh every time.


Are you going to NYWC in Sacramento or Atlanta?

Posted by Josh Griffin


Want to help us at the DYM booth?
If you're going to one of YS’ NYWC’s in either Sacramento or Atlanta… would you consider helping us? Last year, it was member testimonies that most influenced others to join the DYM team! We’d love for you to join the "DYM Team" and help other youth workers win at NWYC! If you’re slightly interested… read on:

What will I be doing?
It's easy! Just pick a time slot (or multiple time slots) and hang out in the DYM booth. When someone asks, "So what is DYM?" you simply go to town and show them how you use the membership and why it's the "Greatest Deal in the History of Youth Ministry."

What's in it for me?
We promise you* (1) eternal security, (2) God will love you more, (3) an awesome T-shirt (see above), (4) get to hang out with the DYM team, and experience the joy of helping other youth workers jump on board the DYM Membership train! [*Only two of the four can be verified.]

Leveraging the Spiritual Influence of Grandparents

Posted by Rachel Blom

Aside from my parents, my maternal grandparents have been the single most important spiritual influence in my life. They lived next door to us until I was 8 years old or so, and then they moved to the street my elementary school was in. I often stayed there for lunch or after school. And in the summer there were long sleepovers, sometimes for weeks as my parents visited missionaries for a missionary organization they were a part of.

My grandparents didn’t just talk about Jesus with me. Their faith was visible for me in everything they did, even when I was a kid. They prayed for me, prayed with me, read the Bible, and constantly shared God’s love.

In the last years there’s been a positive development towards family ministry; a style of doing ministry where we don’t just reach the teens, but encourage parents in their primary role as spiritual examples. But families are more than just parents and siblings. Families include other family members as well, especially grandparents.


For many kids, grandparents hold a special place in their hearts. And there are few grandparents who are not proud of their grandkids. There’s power to this special relationship. I know that my grandparents were sometimes able to say things to me, I would have never accepted from my parents. Advice on dating for instance. My grandma often stressed the importance of dating a Christian guy. From her, I took this way more seriously than I did when my mom said the same thing.

In youth ministry, we need to leverage the spiritual influence of grandparents. They are in a unique position to reach out to their grandkids about faith. They are also potential supporters of our youth ministry, both in prayer and practically. Here are some questions to help you think about this further:

  • What is your youth ministry doing to encourage and equip grandparents to further the spiritual development of their grandkids?
  • If you’re not doing anything right now, what are some small steps you could take to make grandparents aware of the role they could play in their grandkids’ faith?
  • How could you help grandparents whose kids are in the same church?
  • What would grandparents need whose kids are in another church?
  • A big worry (and heartbreak) for grandparents is to see their grandkids lose faith. How can we encourage these folks?
  • Are the grandparents in your church aware of the issues their grandkids are facing? Do they know the signs of possible trouble (depression for instance, or bullying)?
  • Grandparents are often prayer warriors (mine sure are!), or have the potential to be since they have more time. How could you encourage them to pray for their grandkids, or for (your) youth ministry?
  • Do you have roles in your ministry where grandparents would shine? I know that I once had an amazing team of two grandparents who led a small group!

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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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