Selma Movie

Should you sever all ties when you leave your youth ministry?

Posted by Rachel Blom

This is a question I know many youth pastors who are leaving their youth ministry struggle with. Common wisdom seems to be that when you leave, you have to sever all ties with your former students. But does it really work that way?

If you ask me, it depends. It depends on how long you’ve been in that youth ministry. It depends on how you are leaving, if there’s a conflict for instance or if it was just time for you to move on. It depends on whether there is a successor in place already and how he/she feels about you and your role. And it also depends on you and your relationships with your students.

When I left my youth ministry in The Netherlands three years ago, I did not make a ‘clean break’. As a matter of fact, I’m still in touch with many of my former students. That’s because I didn’t have a permanent successor for almost three years, leaving the students with no one else to turn to. There were a few students with pastoral issues that I felt I couldn’t let go off because there was no one else to take care of them.

Me with my last small group in The Netherlands. I stayed in touch with a number of these students. Me with my last small group in The Netherlands. I stayed in touch with a number of these students.

But the main reason was that for me, that was never just a job. I invested in those young people for six years and I did it for four years as a volunteer before I came on staff. I wasn’t in it for the money or a career, I was in it because I loved them. It would have been hurtful to them (and to me!) if I had just severed all ties when I left. Don’t forget that it can send a powerful negative signal if we leave and never look back. It can make students wonder of we ever cared about them in the first place.

So I kept in touch, mainly through Facebook and emails. We even had quite a few of our former students come and stay with us in Germany and it was wonderful.

I’ve always been open about this, both towards the church and towards my (temporary) successors. I’ve also made it a policy to net get involved in the youth ministry itself. I wanted to keep it personal with the students, but I tried to stay out of the church politics.

There can be circumstances in which it’s perfectly fine to stay in touch with your former students. The important thing is that you’re open about it, especially towards the (senior) pastor and/or your successor. And stay out of the way, don’t give your opinion on changes that are being made, or developments that take place. That is not your place anymore.

Usually, the contacts with your students will fade away by themselves with a few exceptions. Those are the students that mattered to you most, or that you mattered most to. Staying in touch with them is fine and anyone who does not understand that, has no business being in youth ministry. After all, youth ministry is primarily about the relationships and not about a job title or description.

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, personal skills, youth ministry, leaving, relational youth ministry

SURVEY: Best Practices for Retaining Youth Group Students in the Local Church Post-High School

Posted by Josh Griffin

My friend Chris Dortch is doing some research for a seminary degree about youth ministry. Would you help him out? Here's some of the fine print (yawn) and we'll give you a freebie for participating, too! You can also check out Chris' resources on DYM right here:

A 2007 survey conducted by Lifeway revealed that 70% of 23-30 year olds dropped out of church for at least one year between the ages of 18-22. However, 35% of those who indicated they dropped out of church also returned to the church. The purpose of this research is to discover and present best practices for youth pastors in retaining students' involvement in a local church post-high school. Participants in the research should be seasoned youth workers with at least five years of experience working with youth in the local church setting.

Please CLICK HERE to take the survey.

CONSENT FORM | Best Practices for Retaining Youth Group Students in the Local Church Post-High School | Chris Dortch | Liberty University | Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary

You are invited to be in a research study of discovering best practices for retaining youth group students’ involvement in a local church after they have graduated high school. You were selected as a possible participant because you work with students in a local church setting. I ask that you read this form and ask any questions you may have before agreeing to be in the study.

This study is being conducted by Chris Dortch, D.Min. candidate at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.

Background Information: The purpose of this study is to discover from veteran youth pastors who have been working with students in a local church for at least five years the most successful practices for retaining students. Rather than focusing on how to bring students back to the church after they have left, this study focuses on observing discipleship processes that prevent students from leaving in the first place. It is believed that students whose faith has been nurtured by a biblical discipleship model will remain active while students whose faith has been limited to event-focused activities are more likely to leave the church. Participants should be limited to those who have been serving in vocational student ministry for at least a period of five years.

Procedures: If you agree to be in this study, I would ask you to do the following things: Review the ten questions in the survey and then answer them as thorough as possible. Keep in mind that paragraph answers are limited to approximately 2000 characters. This survey should take somewhere between 15-25 minutes to complete.

Risks and Benefits of being in the Study: The study has minimal risks: Anticipated risks are minimal and are no more than one would expect when taking part in normal, daily activities. Participants do not receive a direct benefit from their participation. The researcher believes the information gained through this research may benefit future youth pastors and churches in improving their discipleship strategy of youth group students.

Compensation: You will not receive payment for your participation in the survey. However, you will be given a free download from DownloadYouthMinistry.com. Once you have completed the survey, you will be given a promo code that will enable you to download “Making Announcements Awesome” by Chris Dortch as your free download. The promo code will be applied when you insert the code and select "apply coupon" from your cart on DownloadYouthMinistry.com.

Confidentiality: The records of this study will be kept private. In any sort of report I might publish, I will not include any information that will make it possible to identify a subject. Research records will be stored securely and only the researcher will have access to the records. All data will be kept on my personal MacBook, which is used for educational purposes only. No other party will have access to the file. No personal information, including your name, will be stored with your responses to this survey.

Voluntary Nature of the Study: Participation in this study is voluntary. Your decision whether or not to participate will not affect your current or future relations with Liberty University or DownloadYouthMinistry.com. If you decide to participate, you are free to not answer any question or withdraw at any time without affecting those relationships.

Contacts and Questions: The researcher conducting this study is Chris Dortch. You may ask any questions you have now. If you have questions later, you are encouraged to contact him atcdortch@liberty.edu. You may also reach the student’s advisor, Dr. Charles N. Davidson atcdavidson@liberty.edu.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this study and would like to talk to someone other than the researcher, you are encouraged to contact the Institutional Review Board, 1971 University Blvd, Suite 1837, Lynchburg, VA 24515 or email at irb@liberty.edu.

You are welcome to print a copy of this information to keep for your records.

Please CLICK HERE to take the survey! And like it said - once you have submitted the survey you will be given a promo code for your free copy of "Making Announcements Awesome" as a thank you from DYM!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, youth ministry survey, chris dortch, leaving the church, lifeway research, teens leaving the church, Lifeway

"Big Ask" Weekend

Posted by Neely McQueen



Today is Wednesday and I am still recovering from our BIG ASK weekend.

We decided to go big this past weekend.



Friday Night we turned our church into a huge Laser Tag Arena for Middle School students. It was crazy...and a blast!



Saturday Night we opened our doors to High Schoolers for a huge game of Capture the Flag. It was intense...and the best news was that we didn't have any broken bones this year. Did I say it was intense?

We ended the weekend with a Gospel focused service on Sunday. We encouraged students to make a big ask to bring their friends and we made the ultimate big ask on Sunday by sharing the good news.

What we learned:

  • All three events in one weekend was a lot like camp on us and our volunteers. We agreed it was a win but it was A LOT of work and required a lot from our team.
  • Students need coaching and easy teaching on "how-to" invite their friends. I spoke with a few students who didn't know how to bring up the topic of coming to church. While I sensed that there was fear - it seemed to me it was more that they were ill-prepared to ask. We need to be strategic about teaching on evangelism.
  • Middle Schoolers drink a lot of soda.

Since we don't do a lot of events I should have time to recover before the next one...hopefully.

Have you tried anything new lately? What did you learn?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts

Throwing Events Attached To Student Services

Posted by Justin Knowles


One thing that was added onto my plate this year was running our weekend events. For the past two months and going into December our ministry is putting on two weekend events a month. I was a little nervous, I won't lie to you. Now we are half way through the end of the year, half events are done and over while some are still coming up.

Why did we decide (I did not decide to do this, I was asked to do it) to throw these weekend events and what makes that so different from what we have done in the past?

In the past:

  • We have thrown 3-4 big events all year long on a Friday night and tons of kids would come. Especially first timers.
  • Tons of new students would come, but we would not really see them come back on the weekend.
  • The events would be huge and take up a ton of budget but with not the pay off that we wanted...returning new students.

What we have been trying:

  • Throwing smaller but more frequent events, twice a month.
  • We attached all of our events to after a service.
  • This gives the students an opportunity to invite their friends to church and then to the event after.
  • From what we have seen, new students are coming to church, sitting in service, going to the event after and then coming back the next week.
  • Just this week, Josh told me a story of a girl who came to our Halloween Homecoming last weekend who came to service because she was invited by a friend, stayed for the dance and had a blast and now is getting into a small group! So exciting.

This is something that is not ground breaking but it's different from what we have been doing and it seems to be working. Students are are inviting their friends and their friends are coming back to hear about Jesus. I think a big part of it is because we (HSM) are giving them great opportunities to invite a friend to a place that is fun but Jesus will be taught. I have met so many new students over the past few weeks and it's been awesome to see them connecting.

What are some of the after service events we have done so far and are planning to do?

  • Video game trucks, out door laser tag and photo booths.
  • 100 ft banana split
  • Pancake Breakfasts on Sundays. After our big homecoming weekends we promoted it as "bring your homecoming party to Sunday services and we will feed all of you." We did this because a majority of our students come on Saturdays.
  • Halloween Homecoming Dance (See picture above). We promoted it as "Come to services and get in for free otherwise it's $5 at the door. We had a great dance, snacks, a photo booth, pumpkin painting and had some food trucks come and serve dinner.
  • We have two movie nights coming with full on snack bar. One of the movies will be Elf and it will be food from the movie.
  • Killball, our version of dodgeball. Click here to see the rules.
  • Christmas production instead of Christmas services.

It's been fun to see students bringing friends, seeing that has been worth it and the reason in which I feel we made this simple but effective switch.

What are some events that you throw that you feel that have gotten new students connected and to come back to check out what church is all about?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, evangelism, event planning, hsm, saddleback hsm, events, student ministry, high school ministry

Join Us at YS Team Training This Spring!

Posted by Josh Griffin

We're excited to be a part of YS' Team Training events this Spring - great training for you and your volunteers at 10 locations across the US. I hope you'll join us and other youth ministry trainers and bring your team for laughs, training and team-building. It is going to be super - details right here!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, Duffy Robbins, team training, Youth Specialties, YS, brooklyn lindsey, volunteer training, Doug Fields, train my volunteers, megan hutchinson, Kara Powell, mark mattlock

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 229

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: For the Win (series finale, week 3 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Where are you headed - the wise way or the foolish path?
Service Length: 74 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we wrapped up the For the Win series in our high school ministry (you can actually purchase it here for $9 and teach it immediately in your youth group, too). The series was a great challenge to help students think about the character they are developing. This weekend we talked about wisdom, a departure from the character trait as much as it was about the path you are on. Instead of me just "talking" for the whole message, I divided up the talk into 4 scenarious and let students talk/debate each one before we looked at Scripture. It was really fun!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a fun game of "Let's Make a Deal" since everyone was coming to youth group in costumes. We had a magical gold curtain, lots of random prizes (my favorite being a stuffed sloth toy) and made everyone laugh and feel a part of the group. Lots of student greeters, and an overwhelming energy (read: students talking during my message) because of the fun activity planned after youth group.

Music Playlist: Dancing Generation, Jesus Lead On, Your Love is Enough, Learn to Love

Favorite Moment: We had a fun after-service activity called Halloween Homecoming. Basically it was a fun dance (no twerking allowed), a costume contest (nothing scary, skanky or scandalous allowed) with lots of food and a Photo Booth. It went great - had so much fun!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend: November

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, saddleback, for the win, saddleback church, saddleback hsm, WISDOM, Proverbs, wise, high school ministry, wise guy

For the Win Bumper Video: Wisdom

Posted by Josh Griffin

Here's the last video in the For the Win bumper video series. We used a different color each week for the character quality, it was a fun look/feel for the teaching!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, for the win, videos, WISDOM, bumper videos, Proverbs, wise

POLL: DYM's Annual Youth Worker Salary Survey

Posted by Josh Griffin

Time for Download Youth Ministry's total unscientific annual youth worker salary survey! Two polls this week, based on your status. If you're a full-time youth worker vote above, if you're part-time vote below.

Thanks for voting!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, polls, paid youth workers, cash, youth worker salary, part-time youth worker salary, poll, full-time youth worker salary, annual salary survey

My New Favorite Question To Ask

Posted by Justin Knowles

One of my favorite things to do before or after services is talk with students. There usually is about 45 minutes of students either coming or going and at times it can be a little crazy, but it's when I am intentional with slowing down to stop and talk with someone that always end up some of my favorite moments.

So I started to ask this question with new students that I meet and it has been amazing! I recommend you try it. It is such a simple question, but a powerful one. What is it? Ready?

What's your story?

That's it. I told you it was simple. It's amazing what you hear when you stop talking and ask a student about their story and actually listen. There are some amazing students in our ministry; in your ministry. There are some hurting students in our ministry; in your ministry. There are some stories of amazing in life change in our ministry; in your ministry.

There is power in story. We all know this as most of us teach our students with stories weekly. Jesus knew this because he taught this way. When students get a chance to share their story it is a powerful thing.

Everyone has a story. Every story is powerful. Every story is important to God.

Ask your students this question as you get the chance to sit down with them and sit back and listen, you will be amazed. I promise.

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, saddleback hsm, student ministry, sharing, youth ministry, high school ministry, new favorite question, what is your story?

Leaving your youth ministry the right way

Posted by Rachel Blom

I am once again saying goodbye to a youth ministry. Because of our move from Germany to the States, I have to say goodbye to the teens I ministered to as a volunteer. This is the fifth time I’m leaving a youth ministry and I’ve learned some lessons along the way.

No matter how long you’ve been someplace, no matter if you were a volunteer or on staff, no matter if you’re leaving by your own free will or were asked to leave: there’s a right way and a wrong way to leave your youth ministry. My advice can be summed up like this: do not burn your bridges.

First of all, that’s not how God wants it. Secondly, the Christian world is a small world and the world of youth ministry even smaller. Stupid things like leaving in anger, or leaving behind a big mess will get around. They’ll hurt your reputation and may make it hard for you to get another job, or to gain trust in another church.

The teen group I have to say goodbye to now. I'm in the front row right. The teen group I have to say goodbye to now. I'm in the front row right.

Here’s what leaving youth ministry the right way looks like:

1. Leave in peace

I mean this literally. Do not leave in anger or with fights as far as you can help it. Talk things out, or agree to disagree in love. Speak words of love and forgiveness before you go. But don’t leave with a big fight, you’ll regret it. It will cause bitterness in your heart and may become a stumbling block in your relationship with God.

Also, leaving is not the time to vent all your frustrations from the last years. I’ve heard of youth pastors who in their last days told the senior pastor what they thought of him, gave their honest opinion of the way the church functioned, etc. Leaving is not the right time for this, you’ll end up hurting people, making them angry and as a result, people will be glad to see you go. That’s not what you want.

2. Stay responsible till the end

You were responsible for certain tasks, make sure you transfer this responsibility to someone else when you leave. Don’t just drop everything you were doing and leave a mess behind. If there’s no one to take over, write down important info like names and addresses, passwords and how to’s. Do everything you can to make sure your knowledge is stored somewhere so people can easily pick up where you left off.

3. Support your successor

I cannot stress this enough: support your successor. You may have your doubts, you may not like him or her, but unless you have cold hard facts that he or she is unsuitable, don’t say anything. In fact, publicly support your successor, especially towards the parents and the teens.

4. Let go

This is the hardest part for some: letting go. Especially if there’s a successor in place, it’s important to let go and not stay involved in the youth ministry. There can be only one captain on a ship and if you’re leaving that’s not you. Gracefully surrender the leadership to someone else and step aside.

What would you add to these, what else is important when you want to leave your youth ministry the right way?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts

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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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