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YS IDEA LAB: Wayne Rice on Intergenerational Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

Wayne Rice knows youth ministry - and in this Youth Specialties Idea Lab training series, hosted by Neely McQueen, he shares his insights on connecting students and adults in the church. Great insight and youth ministry training today!


Interview with William Vanderbloemen on His Latest Book, Next

Posted by Josh Griffin

next_succession_churchWilliam Vanderbloemen is the President and Founder at The Vanderbloemen Search Group and specializes in recruiting and matching leaders with faith-based organizations. We've met several times before and jumped at the opportunity to talk to him about hisinsightful book on church leadership succession, Next. Here's the interview, enjoy and be sure to pick up a copy today:

You seem uniquely positioned to write a book like this. Tell us about the inspiration for the project.

William: It really comes down to one sentence: Every pastor is an interim pastor.

Why? Because unless you plan on pastoring your church after Jesus returns, every church will have to face the reality of a leadership transition. Most pastors and church leaders don’t have a plan for what would happen if the pastor couldn’t lead their church this Sunday. Many church leaders equate succession planning to retirement planning. However, smart church leaders realize that succession planning is much more than that. We hope that this book will be a conversation starter and a guide for pastors and church boards as they look to the inevitable reality of transition.

Why are churches so resistant to leadership challenges like succession? 

William: Succession has been a bit of a taboo topic for far too long. What we found in our research for Next is that no career ties identity to job more than the pastorate. What other job coincides with more key parts of life? Who else performs their daughter’s wedding at work? Who else buries longtime friends as part of their job? What other career ties personal spiritual formation to career performance? It is a difficult job to leave because our identity as a pastor is tied to our church, but this is why focusing on leaving a legacy through a healthy succession plan from day one in the pastorate matters so much.

Pastors who talk about their departure ahead of time have been mistaken for pastors who are on their way out or considering a move. Part of the reason I teamed up with Warren Bird to write this book was to facilitate and normalize that conversation between pastors and church boards.

What’s the biggest mistake you see as pastors transition? And the biggest mistake churches make at the same time? 

William: The biggest mistake both pastors and churches make regarding succession is not talking about it soon enough. One golden rule of succession planning is that it’s never too early to start. I would be thrilled if pastors in their 30’s bought this book and began planning now. When I was a young pastor, John Maxwell told me, “William, spend your younger years creating options for your later years.” I believe that more than ever now. My dream is to see pastors, leadership teams, and board members read this book together and answer the guiding questions.

Another mistake pastors make is not talking about (and planning for) finances soon enough. Honestly, churches ought to be paying pastors more, and should be providing more long term financial planning for pastors so that retirement is a viable option. Too often, the pastor just cannot afford to retire, and that leads to staying in the pulpit too long.

Finally, a critical error we noticed is pastors staying in the pulpit too long. Too often pastors stay at a church not because they’re thriving but because they don’t have anything else to put their passion into. Having a plan for how you will spend your energy after you leave your church is crucial to a healthy succession. Chapter 4 of Next helps pastors frame when it’s time to move on from your present place of service, but the more fundamental issue is figuring out what you should do next in God’s big picture for your life.

One of the most significant trends we saw was how much of a good succession rises and falls on the outgoing pastor’s spouse. There are a number of great stories in the book that highlight this. Smart churches will pay attention to that dynamic and find ways to address it as they face transitions.

For those that will be moving up into that position in the future, what are some gaps in leadership or experience many leaders in the church are missing today?

William: I think two characteristics that are key to anyone in leadership, but especially those in the pastorate are agility and emotional intelligence.

We talk a lot about agility at Vanderbloemen Search Group and look for this characteristic in candidates we interview. Whether you’re on staff at a growing megachurch or on staff at a small rural church, you’re going to have to wear a lot of hats. There will always be more to do in ministry than manpower, time, and money allow. A great leader must be versatile, since ministry often calls for he or she to act outside of their job description. 

Emotional intelligence is another key characteristic that we interview for when we’re considering candidates for our clients. Great leaders must be hyper aware of their own emotional health as well as have the relational intelligence to anticipate their teams’ emotional health.

Tell us about what’s next for you! (get it … next! Hahahaha)

William: Hilarious! I’ll be speaking at several conferences this fall including Collyde Conference in NJ and Exponential West in Southern California. I’ll also begin working on my next book (get it?) this fall. And of course, we’ll always be 100% focused on helping our clients find great staff.

Thanks for your time, William! Check out the book's official site right here!


Eyewitness Exclusive: Jonah Switch Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Fun little video for the Jonah week of the Switch series last month. Just trying to have some fun with the classic story before the speaker came on stage. If you're looking for a Jonah series, this one has been really popular on the site! JG

Topics: youth ministry videos

Trust In God And Not The Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

Ok, I'm going to be very transparent with you. I love successful stuff. I love being a part of things that are well ran, doing well, and energy is high. This is why I loved being a part of Saddleback HSM. It is crazy the amount of ministry they do and how well they do it. When I first got hired there, I put all my eggs in the basket, I was all in and there was no turning back. Now, when the prompting from the Lord came for me to move on to another ministry, I shrugged it off. I thought, "Why on earth would I leave this? This is everything I have ever wanted to do!" I left HSM on a great note and didn't start my new position for another month so I had some time to think. Here is what came to mind:

Sometimes we put our trust in our ministry not God. 

When I look back on my transition, there were times where I determined my worth based on how an event went or how many students I got to sign up for a small group. My faith was in the numbers and when numbers were up, I was good to go. When numbers were down I was stressed. I'm pretty sure many youth workers can relate and admit they fall into this trap as well. It can be a dangerous place if we are not aware we are in it. 

Sometimes I think we think God's version of success is our version of success. That is putting God in a pretty small box. God is far less interested in our success but far more interested in making us more like Jesus. Jesus was faithful. We need to put our trust in our ministry, but God who gave us these great students to minister to.

Sometimes we try to build our own ego, our own ministry, and our own little kingdom (youth group). Putting our trust in the Lord will let everything else fall into place. Keep trusting God, not your ministry, and you will keep showing Jesus to students where ever you are at.

Matthew 6:31-33

31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.


Topics: student ministry, youth ministry wins

The Famous Last Words of the Church

Posted by Josh Griffin

Pastor Rick said this at church this weekend ... it has just stuck with me. Wow. JG

The 3 Jobs of Great Leaders in the Church

Posted by Josh Griffin

Just got this from Pastor Rick Warren over staff email ... too good not to share!
The #1 job of great leaders is to love.   “If I have not love, I am nothing” The #2 job is to find and recruit other great leaders.    “Find faithful men who will be able to teach others also” The #3 job is to say "Thank you."   “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s Will for you.”

When Your Vision Becomes Theirs

Posted by Jen Bradbury








Two years ago, during our Youth Room makeover, we set aside an area of the room to use as a dedicated prayer space. To differentiate it as such, students painted several verses about prayer on the wall in that section of the room.

For two years, I hoped teens would use this area to pray before and after youth group.

No one ever did.

In retrospect, I think the problem was this was my vision, not theirs.

But then, three months ago, my teens participated in a summer mission trip. During it, they served at an inner city facility that had a dedicated prayer room. Upon arriving there, teens were told,

We want one of you praying in the prayer room at all times. Prayer is the most important thing we do here.” 

Student after student went into the prayer room skeptical.

But then student after student came out talking about the encounter they'd had with God while in the prayer room.

One student in particular kept asking to return to the prayer room.

After she did, she told me, “We should have one of those in our youth room at home!”

I, of course, thought to myself, “WE DO!”

Instead, I told her, “Absolutely! We should! Would you like to help create it?”

She eagerly said yes.

Upon returning home, she texted me, once a week for several consecutive weeks, saying “When are we going to work on the prayer room?”

Schedule conflicts made it impossible for me to do so. And yet she kept asking... And asking... And asking... Like the persistent widow in Luke 18.

Our schedules finally aligned last week and together we shopped for supplies for the prayer space. Afterward, we went back to the Youth Room and created it.

The prayer space we created two years ago served as the foundation we built upon. To that, we added a variety of art supplies, music, and wall hangings, all designed to give students the chance to meet and interact with God in a variety of ways, before, during, and after our youth ministry gathers.

It's simple... But fabulous.

It's also far better than I ever imagined it could be.


Because my student poured her heart and soul into this project and in the process, made it something more.

And even though it's too soon to tell for sure, my hunch is that this time around, this space will not remain empty.

Instead, I suspect it will be well-used.

After all, several teens in my ministry now have experience using a prayer room.

And because of that, the vision for this prayer space is no longer mine alone.

It's theirs.

The New Download Youth Ministry Resource Store

Posted by Josh Griffin


Yeah! We're excited to soft-launch a killer new website that is going to be really great - it'll give everyone a better shopping experience, faster browsing, lightening fast download speed and a full mobile shopping version to order right from your iPhone.

We're thrilled about the update ... and just like Apple's keynote yesterday we're having a few problems here and there. Thanks for your patience while we launch this thing - after this week it'll return to being completely drama-free and fun youth ministry store experience. Yeah!

Everything works and you can immediately download what you need for youth group tonight - so go shopping now!


Topics: announcements, store news

Switch Youth Group Series Bumper Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Travis made this simple and super sweet bumped video for our series last month, Switch. Loved it!


YOUTH MINISTRY POLL: Do you have Sunday School at your church?

Posted by Josh Griffin

Was talking to a youth worker this week who has Sunday School at their church - and it is ROCKING! Inspired me for this week's youth ministry poll question. I grew up with Sunday School but for sure the concept has had a significant decrease with the surge of small groups in churches across the country. So let us know if you have Sunday School, if it is working or you miss it!  JG

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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, Adviser to Youth Specialties, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in

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

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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