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Youth Ministry Timeline Art Project

Posted by Josh Griffin


This past week I took some of my team out for our annual "State of HSM" day where we talk about the past year and look forward to the year ahead. Over the years here at our church it has become one of my favorite days of the year. We take pictures, eat Christmas goodies, talk, laugh and cry about all that God did in the past year since we were together in the same spot around the Christmas tree. This year we had a special surprise for them to do while we were all together - a youth ministry timeline art project!

I have been inspired over the past week to talk about My Youth Ministry Timeline and The Story of My Life … in Youth Ministry and we thought it might be fun to take those exercises and visualize them as a sort of crafty art project together. As we reflected on youth ministry past it gave us a sense of all we had learned, where God was so present and an expectation of the future we would have together, too.

It was super meaningful! A fantastic day, with a fun cork board of memories to mount on the wall of the office now, too! Here are a couple examples of how their near-finished and very unique projects turned out:

timeline_1 timeline_3 timeline_4

Might be a fun project to do with your team, too!



Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, experiences, youth ministry history, Memories, youth ministry timeline, story of my life, art project

5 Conversation Starters from 2013 for Girls (Part 1)

Posted by Neely McQueen

Want to start a conversation with a group of girls in your ministry?

Here is the deal...it's real easy. In fact, 2013 provide many viral video moments to get girls talking.

I want to share you with my favorite 5 videos from 2013. Plus I'll provide a few questions to kickstart the dialogue.

5. The Sexy Lie




1. Why is "sexy" not empowering?

2. She talked about how much time girls spend thinking about our bodies, why do you think we (or girls) do that?

3. What were the action steps she mentioned?


4. Labels Against Women





1. What do you think about the labels in this commercial?

2. Do you ever feel like people treat you differently because you are a girl?

3. Does our church/student ministry ever make you feel this way?



Tune in tomorrow for more simple video ideas to get the ladies talking in your ministry!




Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, youthmin, videos, girls, student ministry, conversation starters, youth ministry

Join Us in Orange County or 9 Other Locations for YS Team Training!

Posted by Josh Griffin


What’s close enough for you to drive to and valuable enough that you want to bring your whole youth ministry team? YS Team Training!

There's 10 locations all over the US … but the first one kicks off just down the street from us here in Orange County. Join us January 24-25, 2014 at Mariners Church in Irvine, CA, for practical training, worship, time to bond with your team, and lots of fun. Register before December 13, 2013, to get the SUPER EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT and $100 off for your team of 15 (or $20 off per individual!).

Like a mini-retreat for your team, YS Team Training at any location will give you the time away to connect and grow together. We’ll bring you informative, powerful sessions like:

  • Adolescent Development Essentials
  • Helping Teens Follow Jesus in a World That Doesn’t
  • Reaching Beyond Your Church Walls, and more!

Hope to see you there!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, take your team, team training, Youth Specialties, teamwork, mariners church, volunteers, YSPalooza, volunteer training, youth ministry conferences, training, youth ministry training

Stop Sweating The Numbers

Posted by Geoff Stewart

Since the beginning of time, or at least when youth pastors came onto the scene, there has been lead pastors, elders board members, and lets face it, ourselves, sweating the attendance at youth group. Growth is celebrated, decline is lamented and steady attendance is questioned. Numbers are a funny thing and one of the only quantifiable metrics we have.

Before I came to work as a Pastor I had a great job managing an Auto Collision repair facility. Every night at 8pm I would get a report emailed to me with the day's numbers. Every aspect of the business was dissected and summarized to show where my opportunities were and where I needed to improve to reach the goals set for my location. For years I felt the anxiousness of opening the report each day, seeing where I needed to do better and constantly feeling like what I was doing wasn't good enough.

I was two years in before I had an epiphany and changed my approach to managing my staff and store. I decided I wasn't going to look at the numbers anymore, each night the email would show up and I would delete it as fast as it came in. I decided that I had been doing it all backwards and switched my approach. Instead of focussing on the numbers, I focussed on people. I told my team that I would only let them know how we did at the end of the month and our focus was strictly on people and nothing else.


I switched my focus to making sure that everyone who came in the door was taken care of, followed up with, and had all their needs known and subsequently met. I knew their concerns, learned about their families and jobs and took an interest in them as a person more than a customer. I focussed on all the parts I could control and it was a game changer and within months we were setting records for same store sales month after month.


This is a principle that I have applied to how we do ministry and here is 4 ways to stop sweating the numbers:


1 - Focus on the ones you have: At the shop, we made it a priority to take the best care possible of every person that walked through the door. The same is true at youth, our goal is to take care of each and every student, know their name, know their story and know why they showed up. Instead of doing a head count, we commit to pastoring everyone who walks in the door.


2 - Don't sweat the ones that don't show: I am sure we have all be here, looking around the room and wondering where some of the students are and running all kinds of scenarios as to where they might be. When we do this, we cause ourselves undue stress and anxiety and more than anything miss the opportunity to engage the students that did show up. Don't allow the ones that didn't attend to lessen the experience of those that do.


3 - Control the things you can: There are many pieces of the youth night that we have some control over like ambiance, games and organization to name a few. There are things that you can do, and things you can't; we need to do everything within our power to make the youth night the best possible. God is going to do what He is going to do, students are going to perceive what they will and the Holy Spirit is going to teach and convict. Our job is to help facilitate and create spaces where students can encounter God and be challenged to think about what they believe.


4 - Don't play the numbers game: I may not be popular for saying this, but do your students, leaders and fellow youth pastors a favour and please don't tweet your attendance. Firstly because it is not a true indicator of health; it is an indicator that students showed up. Secondly I am not sure it's great for the Kingdom. Seeing record attendance is exciting, but I rarely hear about record low attendance, or "50% of my students went to a football game instead of coming to youth tonight". We brag about the highs; but rarely in context, and almost none of us boast of poor attendance. I am convinced that publicly announcing attendance does more harm than good for other youth workers and does more to discourage than build up. Students are less concerned about record attendance, than showing up and having their name known and having an adult leaders who care for them and pray for them.


-Did you have a great night at youth? Tweet about it!

-Did students give their lives to Christ? Tweet about it!

-Did you have record attendance? Keep that one to your team?


When we live and die by attendance numbers we allow something other than the Love of God to determine our value.


It was remarkable to watch how the numbers seemed to take care of themselves when we stopped focussing on them and just took care of people. In the context of our youth ministry, we have seen the health of the ministry and spiritual growth increase when we stopped living and dying by how many people we could get through the doors each week. Instead we focussed on the spiritual health of our student because things that are healthy grow.


Do yourself and your stress level a favour and stop sweating the numbers.


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, PRIDE, leadership, elders, senior pastor, attendance, Geoff Stewart, social media, authentic leadership, twitter, GROWTH, suck, Big picture, First Two Years

Helpful Sites To Keep Track of Leaders, Students and Forms

Posted by Justin Knowles

When it comes to running small for me (or any ministry really) administration is key to making it run smoothly. unfortunately for me, administration is not my strong suit. I can come up with ideas and creative stuff for things not a problem, just actually doing the logistics for them is what slows me down. There are some great websites out there in which help me run things and they are extremely helpful. I thought I would dedicate this post to explaining some of them and how we use them and how they have helped.

Church Teams- Church teams is what we use to register all of our students in life groups. We have all of our students and leaders info in this site (dumped in from an excel sheet from jotform which I'll talk about in a second). We are able to separate all the students into each group and have all the info for each small group ready and available (small group leaders, who is in the group, group info, where they meet, contacts for all students and parents info). It is just a really easy way to find info about a certain group or person right away. Also, this is how we keep track of students coming to group. Each week the group leaders get an email asking about their group, they check the ones who were not there and can right any notes about the group (anything they feel we need to know about a student etc.) and it gets sent to me so I can keep note of it. We also have the ability to run different reports of all of the groups to see an arrangement of different things that help us plan: group averages, by grade, attendance during certain times of the year, etc. It is a great tool.

JotForms- JotForms is a website where you can make an easy online form. If you go to HSMLifeGroups.com you can see the form we made for our small groups. It is really easy to walk through and then post on your website. Each form you can make exactly they way you want it with all of the info you want, with confirmation emails, drop downs, options and you even can set up a payment system on there. We use this for registering for small groups and summer camp. It's incredible. All the info it collects exports nicely into an excel sheet or instant organization.

Highrise- Highrise for us is how our team keep track of our volunteers. It basically opens up like a Facebook page and all of the staff can see and record conversations they have had with volunteers so the rest of the team knows what is going on with them so if they were to run into them, they can ask about the group or certain situation. It allows us to be in the know of what's happening in our leaders lives in a way they feel like we truly know and care for them as a team. So if Chip had a difficult situation in his group and we talked it through, I would write it in under Chip's name, then rest of our team can see it, and then if they run into Chip at the grocery store, they can ask him how that student is in the group and care for him right then and there. If you don't have the volunteer mass to do this, I know ministries who use this for students and all the leaders can do the same for it. It keeps track of who has not been contacted in a while, you can create tasks for people to do. It's a great tool to keep tabs on a mass of people.

There you have it. These three sites help make my life a little easier. Maybe they can do the same for you.

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, church teams, leadership, administrative, Small Groups, help, highrise, helpful sites, jotform

The Greatest Deal in the History of Youth Ministry … Just Got Better!

Posted by Josh Griffin

header3_transparentWe're beyond excited to introduce the Greatest Deal in Youth Ministry … that is getting even better for a limited time.

If you haven't heard about the Download Youth Ministry Membership, our goal is to help you win by giving you just about everything you'll need for your youth ministry for $19.99/month: volunteer training videos, games, student leadership resources, store credit to buy what you want and more. Lots of our friends jumped on the annual membership and got 12 months for the price of 11, too. We think we're really on to something here.

Then this Christmas we decided to go on a membership blitz, where you get all of the goodness of the annual membership ….

plusWe've got over $1000 of bonus downloads you get absolutely for FREE when you become an annual member of Download Youth Ministry. See the complete list here, and join in on the fun.


PS: If you're already a monthly member, upgrade your account today to get everything!

PSS: If you're already an annual member you don't have to do anything! Of course you get it all free on Christmas Day, too!

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, recommended youth ministry resources, volunteers, training videos, youth ministry resources, DYM, download youth ministry membership, youth ministry membership

Get Off the Phone Music Video

Posted by Josh Griffin

Fantastic video from Rhett and Link called "Get Off Your Phone" - perfect to open up your next parent meeting!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, smash my kids phone, parents, get off the phone, videos, parent ministry, rhett and link

Saddleback HSM Weekend In Review: Volume 234

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: Baptism Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: Baptism is a beautiful symbol of being welcomed into God's family!
Service Length: 55 minutes

Understandable Message: The weekend in youth group I tried to tell the Christmas story and weave in the teachings about baptism for a special 1-off before our 1st annual Christmas play. I talked about how the story of Jesus coming to earth at Christmas wasn't just about Him being welcomed into Mary and Joseph's family, but that it was about a larger narrative of everyone being welcomed into God's family through salvation in Him. It was great fun to share the Gospel with our students and also have baptisms at the end of the service, too!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We did an "announcement" like we haven't done in a while: we called it Storytime with Justin where he read a fake Children's story that had lots of info about our upcoming Winter Retreat in it. Kinda hard to explain but a fun creative way to do announcements. Made everyone laugh, especially seeing Justin in front of a LED screen fireplace and in an adult onesie. We also played a fun round of Sit Down If and students were involved in every part of the service, greeting, promoting the Christmas Toy Drive and more!

Music Playlist: Carol of the Bells (a cappella), Go/Joy to the World Medley, We Are the Free, O Come All Ye Faithful

Favorite Moment: Baptisms are my absolute favorite part of ministry! Fun even doing them out in the cold, and hearing everyone cheer as the students came up out of the water. Never get tired of it!

Up next: Christmas in Space (1-off, 1st annual HSM Christmas production)

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, Christmas, baptism weekend, saddleback church, baptism, saddleback hsm, high school ministry

What She Said (the art of listening to a girl)

Posted by Neely McQueen

Have you ever been in an argument where you noticed that you weren't really listening to the other side because you were too busy thinking of your rebuttal? Or have you ever had a girl corner you in the youth room...she is crying and you can't understand a word she is saying, which leaves you thinking of way to make it stop. I know I have. I have also noticed in several of my conversations I am busy forming a solid reason for why a student should do "something", that I don't always even hear what they really are saying. You know...solving their situation so we can move on to the next task.

But, I have found, especially with girls, that you have to really hear what they are saying to understand them. (I mean that in both a literal and figural way)

Generally in youth ministry we need to start by...

1. Make room for LISTENING. Maybe this is just me but if I am not ready to really listen than it won't matter what technic I use to hear. For example, if I am in the youth room and there are other students around I can't hear anything but words. I am ADHD in the youth room especially if it is before a program or service. I see people sitting alone or notice someone who hasn't been in awhile...I am easily distracted. One Christmas party, a student walked into the room right to me and was crying. SHE WAS CRYING AND TALKING at me...and in all honesty all I could think was we are suppose to start the santa relay game right now. Luckily, she said something about her parents that triggered my attention back to her. I asked another volunteer to run the game and took the student out of the room to talk. Finding a quiet place with no people is huge for me when it comes to really listening. Included in finding a good location is forgetting about the other locations and focusing just on this one student in this moment. I need to make room for listening.

Now, more specifically when it comes to listening to girls...

2. Notice the "feeling" statments. Try to get pass the details of the situation and listen for statements that indicate their feelings. Girls (myself included) can get lost in the details of a story- because we assume that if you know the details you will understand the feelings but that just isn't the case. Don't be afraid to stop a story and ask the girl what she is feeling. "How do you feel about that?" It might sound funny coming out of your mouth but it helps them focus away from ALL the details to the heart of the issue.

3. Listen for your role. Excuse my overgeneralized gender statements...but sometimes girls just need to vent and they don't nessecary need a game plan for dealing with the situation. And sometimes guys just need to come up with a game plan instead of listening to all the details! They may need more from you than a safe place to vent BUT listen first to see if they already know the help they need. All they may need from you is a confirmation of a decision or intervention for a friend. Likely, they have come to you because they need you...but don't assume you know exactly what they need without really hearing them speak.

I am still trying to learn to be a better listener, I have a long way to go... What tips do you use when listening to students, especially girls?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, youthmin, ymin, communication skills, social skills, student ministry, youth ministry

Meeting With Parents (and enjoying it)

Posted by Josh Griffin

Courtesy of Congressman George Miller/Creative Commons License Courtesy of Congressman George Miller/Creative Commons License

I used to hate meeting with parents because it meant another night away from home dealing with people I didn't understand. When I became a parent I saw the importance; but the annoyance was still there. That's because my experience of parent meetings were miserable. They were filled with lecturing, and were highly disorganized. Then I realized parent meetings didn't need to stink. They can be engaging and should be approached as a big opportunity.

Communicating with parents is essential to what you do. There will be times when you need to connect with one and then other times with all of them. Instead of reluctantly gathering parents together on a weeknight when no one wants to be there, turn it into one of your greatest features as a youth ministry. The topic might not matter, all you need to do is make it a worth while experience. Which means you need to:

  • Give Plenty Of Notice: Parent's might not come to your meetings because you are throwing the event on them last minute. If the topic is engaging (i.e. How to talk to my kid about sex and dating) it might not matter. If it's something slightly less attractive (i.e. Mission trip logistics meeting) you need plenty of time to inform, remind and compel them to come. Plus the more notice you give them, the more time you have to prepare.
  • Have Someone At The Door: Make your meeting an experience where everyone is welcomed by standing at the door as parents come in. You don't know what their day is like and having someone greet them with love and show them where to go is key. They might be anxious, nervous or reluctant to go. Starting the evening with hospitality will combat any negative feelings and show that you are hospitable.
  • Keep To The Time: Start on time and end on time. It not only shows you are organized but conscious of other people's schedules. Set an agenda and find someone to hold you accountable. People will appreciate you more when you do not waste their time.
  • Cast Vision: You might be discussing policy in the student ministry; however, this is also a great time to share why you exist. Parent's might not get to hear the vision of your ministry in other capacities. Make sure you do not miss out on this time to let them know how your ministry is more than babysitting teens.
  • Leave Room For Connecting: Make sure you give yourself time at the end of the meeting to hang around and chat with parents. They might have been anticipating this as a moment to speak with you about their teen. This gives you the opportunity to recruit, and grow more leaders and advocates for the ministry.

If you can create effective and engaging parent meetings then you will build community with parents. If you value the relationship you have with parents they'll trust you with their child that much more. Do not waste the opportunity of a meeting, embrace it and be intentional.

How do you make parent meetings worth your while and theirs?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, relationships, preparation, organized, meetings, parents, hospitality, partnering, systems

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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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