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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 269

Posted by Josh Griffin

Weekend Teaching Series: What If (week 2 of 3)

Sermon Synopsis: This weekend I got to teach on David and Goliath based on the question, "What if I didn't care what people thought about me" and how David boldly stood alone for Christ in the face of extreme challenge. The talk is included in full above, or you can get it in teachable outline form for $3 on DYM.

Service Length: 63 minutes

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played the now classic Jimmy Fallon game Box of Lies live on stage - to be honest it always plays a bit better on TV than it does in youth group. Still though, a fun game we'll probably do again in the next few months. We also heavily promoted the upcoming HSM Talent Show as well. Good, quick service this weekend!

Music Playlist: We Shine, Let it Be Known, Oceans, Forever Reign

Favorite Moment: It was weird being there and also being the teacher on video, but I have to admit it allowed me a ton of time to just be reelational and not concentrate on the talk so much. A nice change of pace!

Up next: What If (series finale, week 3 of 3)

Special Spotify Playlist for Anchored Youth Group Service

Posted by Josh Griffin


Here's a simple, and I think fresh idea!

We did a 1-off message called Anchored a few weeks ago and thought it might be a good idea to point our students toward some good music to encourage them to put into practice the message and mindset of the talk. A few people got together and put together a free spotify playlist for our students to discover and listen to. How great is that!? Steal this idea for your next series!


You Are God's Masterpiece Sermon Bumper Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

I have no idea what magic our students used to make this simple, clever little sermon bumper video, but I LOVED it. Very cool, very clear message, so awesome! 


Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 268

Posted by Josh Griffin

Weekend Teaching Series: What If (series premiere, week 1 of 3)

Sermon Synopsis: This weekend we kicked off a 3-week video series asking the question What If? The first lesson was taught by one of our regional campus youth pastors, Donnie Peters, and he walked through a message on making change that matters and sticks in a culture of New Years resolutions that quickly fade. I've included the whole video talk above, so enjoy if you want to take it all in!

Service Length: 62 minutes

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played Movie Mashup 2 (you can get the original one here on DYM, this sequel to be released soon) and the game was a huge hit. It is one of those games that plays well for the contestant but also is fun for the whole crowd to watch as well. It was awesome! We also had a few students share their testimony at the end of the service to help encourage other students to sign up for a family mission trip to the Navajo nation later this summer!

Music Playlist: We Are the Free, Amazing Grace, Sinking Deep, We Can Change the World

Favorite Moment: I liked that we tried something new. A video series was a lot of work for us, trying to keep it fun and interesting while obviously still respecting the source material. 

Up next: What If (week 2 of 3)

You Own the Weekend Kicks Off in Our Youth Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin


We just had one of the most amazing weeks of the year this past week in youth group - the kickoff of You Own the Weekend! If you're unfamiliar with the concept - for the past 7 years we've found the most amazing Spring evangelistic program: the one where you never take the stage for a whole month and students do everything.

Basically it is the greatest series of all time! This past weekend Trabuco Hills High School kicked things off in a big way - and more than just creating a great program (which they did) they also capture the essence of YOTW, which is that "every student from every school gets an invitation to church." the place was packed! The Gospel was presented. It was AWESOME!

I hope you'll think about doing a series like this. People have riffed on it in all sorts of ways: freshman own the weekend, guys own the weekend, etc. How awesome! And if you want check out the resource I've created about the series - download it right here for $5!


Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Posted by Jen Bradbury


There are typically three ways to choose your youth ministry's student leaders.

  1. Vote. Similar to student council elections at school, peers elect those teens they want to be student leaders.

  2. Select. The youth pastor or a team of people selects who they want to be student leaders and specifically asks those teens to serve in this role.

  3. Apply. Applications are made available to everyone. Teens then complete an application. The youth pastor or a team of people then selects student leaders from that pool of applicants.

I've learned the hard way to avoid options 1 and 2. Here's why.

Too often, using a peer vote to select your ministry's student leaders leads to a popularity contest. As a result, you often end up with only one type of teen on your leadership team – extroverted cool kids. When this happens, leadership teams often become a clique unaware and unconcerned with those who aren't their friends. This leaves teens in your ministry who don't consider themselves extroverted or cool questioning whether or not they belong.

The opposite end of that spectrum – where youth pastors select their student leaders – is also flawed. As with peer votes, when youth pastors select their student leaders, they often end up with only one type of teen on their leadership team: Those who think and act like them. This not only leads to leadership team cliques but it also has the potential to turn into a personality cult – with you at the center of it. Additionally, it leads to the perception of favoritism. Those who aren't student leaders assume that your favorite teens are those who are. This, in turn, can make teens who aren't on your leadership team feel isolated or marginalized.

Because of those pitfalls, I use applications to select my student leaders.

Making applications available to anyone in your youth ministry who qualifies for leadership (more on that next week) invites all types of teens to become part of your leadership team. Often, those who apply to be student leaders will surprise you. My best student leaders are usually those who NEVER would have won a popularity vote. Sometimes they're also teens who have flown under my radar and as a result, if left solely up to me, would likely not have been selected for leadership.

Leadership team applications also allow for self-selection. Being a student leader is both a privilege and a responsibility. Not every teen in your ministry is ready (or willing) to make the commitment leadership requires. To help ferret out those who aren't yet ready for leadership, I ask short-answer questions on our ministry's student leadership applications knowing that doing so will take teens time. Teens not yet ready for formal leadership roles will self-select out of this process because they're unwilling to take the time or energy to complete the application. This often saves you from having to “cut” people from your leadership team while at the same time allowing you to see glimpses of teens' hearts and potential. That, in turn, allows you to figure out how to use each person on your team well.

To be clear, choosing student leaders for your youth ministry isn't easy.

Then again, maybe it shouldn't be. After all, leadership isn't easy, 

But take it from me, using leadership team applications to select your student leaders is your best option for choosing leaders. Such a process will enable you to get to know applicants, choose leaders wisely, and create a team that's not only serious about leadership, but that also more accurately reflects all the different types of students in your ministry.

Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why? 

Image Credit: http://www.thelivingleader.com/wp-content/uploads/leadership.jpg







Youth Ministry & Family Adjusting Conversations

Posted by Josh Griffin


Sometimes you just have to have one of those "come to Jesus" moments in your life. Maybe an event triggers it, maybe your spouse pulls you aside and has that look on his or her face. Maybe you're feeling the final birth pangs of burnout and you know something has to change or you're done for.

Well, we had one of those tonight. 

Some adjustments to our life, our kids education, our house, our ministry, our roles, our routines - all of it was on the table tonight just me and my wife at Olive Garden (I go classy, people). And it was awesome, long overdue and incredibly hopeful.

From time to time we can get so head down in ministry, raising kids and doing God's work we get buried. Things pile up and people pile on until you're simply overwhelmed. Hence the big conversation tonight. We made some tough calls, cut some things, added some things, changed up the priorities of our family and life. And we're going to be better parents, ministers and have a better marriage because of it.

I'm thankful for this time tonight over unlimited soup and salad. It was important to stop, talk, pray and make adjustments as you go through life, that is especially true if you're in ministry. I hope you will have those type of conversations from time to time in your home as well ... they are so important!


The Answer Every Churched Teen Knows

Posted by Leneita Fix




Over the last few weeks I have felt a stirring in my heart about my small group of Junior High girls. All of the girls in my little posse of ten have grown up not only in church, but in addition they have either been homeschooled or attended a Christian school their whole lives. They are sweet girls with the regular fears of early teens who try to avoid Middle School drama. Then a couple of weeks ago I asked them about their faith in the Lord. They could quote scripture and talk about the Lord's redemption from sin. It led me to wondering if they understood the true nature of a relationship with Jesus.

This week I asked the question: "How do you know you belong to Christ?" Each had an answer on the tip of their tongue. They quoted memory verses and shared the scenario of Jesus' death and resurrection. What they did not realize was they did not answer my question. I tried to rephrase it, I attempted to reapproach it, but I was not looking for the answer they have learned in class, Awana or Sunday School. I wanted to know what a relationship with Jesus meant to them.

Only one could really tell me.

Now I read an article once saying there is a danger in using the phrase, "Personal Relationship with Jesus." These words are not mentioned in the Bible, yet we use them to help explain the nature of being close to Christ. The problem, the author said, is that we use the word "personal" as if it means as long as we alone are "good for eternity" then we don't have to share the good news. In other words it unwittingly undermines our call to make disciples and share the Gospel. I agree. However, in my little band of sisters I am starting to see that while they can fill in the blanks on their church service notes, they can not tell me why THEY have a relationship with the Lord and what this means for them. They don't understand the personal, one on one, nature of their relationship with Jesus and why this would give them a desire to tell others they can have the same.

You see there are certain answers every churched teen knows, but I am not sure if they truly grasp why this matters? This is not about learning the right answers to get a good grade. Are they compelled to not only talk the talk or walk a walk but draw close to Jesus and let this be transformational? In other words, they aren't getting that as Beth Moore says, "Knowing Christ is different than knowing about HIm."

I love the story of a preschooler who is sitting in Vacation Bible School. The teacher is showing the class some pictures. Holding up a flash card of a squirrel the leader asks, "What is this?" The child responds, "Well, it looks like a squirrel but this is church so the answer must be Jesus."

This defines the nature of our churched kids. The answer to every question must be: Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father, Bible, prayer, church or a synonym to any of these. Specifially there are two questions we ask that are always answered the same way.

We Ask: How Do You Know You Have A Relationship With Jesus?

They Say: I have prayed to ask Jesus into my heart. I believe He was the perfect son of God who died on the cross to take all of my sin and came back to life on the third day this means I can live with Him forever in eternity.

This is not a relationship. This is a text book answer. You have not told me what a relationship looks like with Jesus. You have not shared your heart, your passion or how you know what it means to be close to the Lord. You have not even been honest with, "I don't know."

New question: What does it look like for you to belong to Jesus? How do you know Jesus is in charge of your life? What does that look like?

The point is to move away from asking the question they have heard a million times and find out how they know that they know Jesus (and He knows them.) Don't settle for the "right" answer. Keep asking until they share their true heart. Let's dig deeper, not being satisfied alone with students who are going to heaven. This is vital, but living stagnant until eternity hits is not what Christ asks of us. We need to press in and help them know what being a disciple looks like.

We Ask: How do you know you are living for the Lord? or What do you do to know you are following Jesus?

They Answer: Go to church, read my Bible, pray, live right The trouble here is our emphasis is on WHAT DO YOU DO in action to live for God.

This lets them set up a check list of "Do's and Don'ts" on their Christian living list. I had a young woman tell me once, "I don't listen to devil music." This same girl caused a lot of issues with her gossip in our group. She may not have listened to the "wrong music" but it did not mean her heart was sold out for Jesus.

New Question: What does your relationship with Jesus look like on a daily basis? or How are you getting closer to the Lord? Are you His disciple?

In these questions we are shifting to who they are, rather than what they do. However you ask the question the point is to ensure they are getting closer to the Lord, and how this is happening. It's great to say, "Jesus is my best friend." Alright, so what does that mean? How do you know that? Are you willing to give it all to Jesus and let Him be in charge of your life? Usually when students tell me the pat answers, I follow up asking, "Can you honestly say Jesus is in charge of your life?" Most will answer, "No."

Our churched kids have learned long ago how to illicit the correct response from their leaders. They know when we like what they are saying. Then they go out and live a different life all together. They become spiritually schizophrenic. Around church people and Christians they are one way and around others they are something different. It's like when we find out our student leaders secretly have the mouth of a sailor, are addicted to porn or party like it's 1999 every weekend. Should we be shocked?

My real question is not will we change the questions as much as will we press for meaningful answers? Can we be brave enough to say, "Stop giving me the answer you think I want to hear, tell me your heart even if there is doubt, confusion or a mess involved."

We forget that many of our church kids basically came out of the womb hearing about Christ. They prayed the infamous prayer at 5 or 6. They were baptized somewhere befween infanthood and eight years old. Perhaps they are in a tradition that involves a confirmation around these Junior High years. They have been to church, MOPS, Sunday School, Awana, Upward sports, and VBS as long as they can remember. They are learning all the foundational pieces of their faith and this is a good thing. Those memory verses serve as landing points when they forget who Christ is. Yet, it is their faith they need to come to understand. It is that our God has a love that draws us near and changes us. It is that He wants us close and when we can grab hold of what belonging to Him means we can do nothing else than tell others about how magnificent His love is. They will be compelled to be His and go make disciples of all the nations. Their relationship with Jesus will become extremely intimate as they clamor to share the good news that others can have the same thing.

Isn't that what we are really looking for?  

What do you think?


How Far Out Do You Plan?

Posted by Justin Knowles


I truly believe there are tons of ways to go about ministry. I am weary when I hear, “Hear is the best way to do student ministry” and they go on to explain what they are doing. There is always a ton of different ways to do ministry and what works here in Southern California might not work in Texas and what works in Texas might not work in North Carolina. It all depends on context. Ministry is ministry yes, but context changes. So when I say why I plan the way I plan, I realize it has to do with my leadership style and context of the church I am at.

I’m lucky to be serving at a great church that truly trusts my leadership and how I run my team because they really do trust us to do what we feel we need to do and we are allowed to plan the way we feel like we need to plan. I honestly have extreme freedom to do what I feel like the Lord is calling us to do in our junior high, high school, and college ministry.

For the most part our team plans in quarters. We plan 3 months at a time when it comes to sermon series and events. Camps are planned at least 6 months in advance but a majority of the ministry is planned in 3-month periods. As of today our team was already planned until Easter, but we met to talk about April to June.

I thought I would write down some thoughts on why I like the quarter system and our team planning get always:

  • I plan in quarters because every time I plan past it I always end up changing the sermon series or events based on what I feel our students are going through and I don’t want to be stuck on an idea I don’t feel will work anymore.
  • The quarter system allows us to be flexible with series and events and truly read what we feel where the Holy Spirit is leading us to go with our students.
  • It prevents me from making and announcing a calendar I am not going to stick to.
  • Our team met over coffee to talk this weeks services, went to lunch as a team and then went to another coffee place to talk through sermon series and events. We love our coffee and food.
  • I gave our team an outline of events so they can come to the meeting prepared with ideas. Nothing worse than coming to an idea meeting cold and not prepared.
  • I am always ready to announce the end goal. “We will know today’s meeting will be a success when we have the general sermon series ideas (not a working title) and events for each ministry on the calendar.”
  • If you can, pay for your teams coffee and/or lunch. Nothing says awesome, high energy than free snacks.
  • When we hit our goal, the day is done. I let our team go home when we finish (even if we finish early) because planning, communicating, debating over what will work best is draining and they should be rewarded for having a great meeting.
  • Follow up with key. Email out the selected dates and the next steps when it comes to planning the details of the 10,000-foot level of planning you just did. If there is no follow up of expectations, your meeting was a waste.

Again, I’m not saying this system works the best, but I know it works for me and for my team in actually following up with what we have planned. It allows me to be flexible and still be able to read our ministry and not be stuck in doing something that when we finally get to it we regret it.

How do you plan? What works for you?

5 Steps To Help You Bond With Your Pastor

Posted by Christopher Wesley


5160198862_f9530d4cc0My pastor and I are very different. And it’s not because he’s a priest and I’m married with two kids.  We differ because:

  • I’m an extrovert and he’s an introvert.
  • We don’t find the same things funny.
  • I think out loud he processes them internally.
  • I’m from North Jersey and he is from South Jersey.

We’re different but we do get along. While I feel that God placed me in the right place, our relationship has taken work. 

If you want a healthy bond with your pastor you need to know it takes work.  5 steps you can work on to increase the bond with your pastor are:


Tension will form by a lack of communication. Usually this happens when: 

  • You get too busy to sit down and chat.
  • You mess up and are afraid of the consequences.
  • He wants to critique you but is afraid of causing tension.
  • Assumptions about the other’s behavior have been made.

The less you communicate the more tension will build. Constantly communicate so that you are not only on the same page but that you can solidify your bond. 


There are many ways he should invest in you (i.e. sending you to conferences). Regardless you need to invest in him. You can do that by: 

  • Educating him on the world of youth ministry.
  • Giving him resources that are helping you grow as a leader.
  • Help him get to know the members of the church that he might not run into. 

When he sees the investment he’ll return the favor. When people invest in one another they are able o grow.


While you should pray for your pastor you should also try praying with Him.  It invites God to be a part of the conversation.  When you have God as a part of the relationship He will bless both of you in your work. 


You don’t have to be best friends, but you should get to know one another.  Find out what he likes and enjoys. Introduce your family to him and get to know his as well.

Take time to get to know what he likes. Share with him your hobbies. This will take time, but in the end it’s worth it. 


If there isn’t trust there isn’t any chance of a healthy relationship.  Trust comes from constant communication but also being transparent with what’s going on. 

If you are struggling with something in your job bring it to your pastor.  If you are curious about something ask and don’t assume. Build up communication and don’t try to hide anything.

The relationship with your pastor does not have to be difficult. While you might not have the same interests you can have the same vision.  Trust that God is working through you both.

Where do you best connect with your pastor? Why?

Topics: pastor

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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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