Small Groups: 3 Connections Students Need To Make

Posted by Justin Knowles

When it comes to small groups, I want connections to happen. Small group is all about connections. It is the easiest way in our ministry to get connected to a group of people really, really quickly. Our goal is to push every student into a group so they can make connections. What we hope are life-changing connections. There are times where students (if we are honest, ourselves too) tend to draw away into isolation. We know that God created us to be in community. We were made to make connections. This is where groups come in.

Here are 3 connections I hope our students make during the year:

Connections inside the group- Group is like a family. There is not one person speaking and all the rest learning, but everyone in the group is open and honest about speaking up what is going on in their life and the whole group learns and interacts with each other. They open up about their lives, struggles and triumphs. They give and receive together. When the group is not meeting, students find themselves wondering about how their friends in the group are doing and end up praying for them.

We take a break of small groups over the summer and I was talking to some of my small group boys and they were saying how much they missed the small group setting and cant wait to see all the guys at one time again. It’s a family. It’s a huge connection to make.

Connections with people outside the group- As students grow more connected and together within the group, it becomes a way of life. The group requires it. Experiencing relationships within a healthy group gives the students a model to relate to their friends and family. They become more relationally mature. Usually what is modeled within the group then translate outside of the group into their normal lives.

I have a guy who joined actually started to live in the way all talk about in the group and he himself says that people ask him all of the time what happened to him. That he is such a joy to be around and there is something different about him. It’s Jesus. A healthy group will spark the group to act in the way Jesus calls us to live outside the walls of the group and they will connect better with people outside of the group.

A closer connection with God- As students start to connect with people in their group and then with more people outside their group, there will be a natural connection with God. As strong relationships and connectedness develop with people and through their lives with other people, students start to see how God is actively moving in their lives. As friendships grow together, their faith grows together. This is the ultimate goal. As they experience trust and openness within the group they fill find that God is more real, personal and accessible more than ever.

What are ways in which we as student pastors can make sure these connections happen?



Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, inside, Small Groups, student ministry, with God, connections, outside, youth ministry

August is All About the Bullpen in Our Youth Group

Posted by Josh Griffin

I'm not teaching the entire month of August in our youth ministry. Crazy, right? Here's why:

I'm saving myself for the key times in our ministry
I am not an overflowing, limitless supply of energy and passion. I do run at high levels of both of those things - but only because I take time to stop and be refreshed. We just got back from a short vacation with friends and are about to do a little family road trip, too. I need to be gone and off so I can be even been when I'm here and on.

I want to develop other teaching voices
One of the most exciting parts about me NOT speaking is to give someone else the opportunity TO speak. Too many youth workers hold onto their platforms with white knuckles and are paranoid that losing the platform will cost them their position. Giving yourself a break gives you a chance to cheer them on from the front row and coach potential speakers to improve their serve.

Students learn differently
Two people can say the exact same thing and the impact on teenagers can be completely different. Styles matter, different ages and genders matter. Different perspectives will help your students learn and grow far beyond your perspective, too.

How can you adjust your plan to give others a chance to speak?


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, teaching, speaking, learning styles, Speaking To Teenagers, different voices, sermon preparation

Lone Rangers and the Lack of Accountability

Posted by Josh Griffin


I didn't know of Matt Pitt before his name hit the news this week - he was a relatively high profile youth worker/evangelist in the South who was arrested this week for impersonating a police officer. While the details of this sensational story are hard to resist, I found several excerpts of this All Alabama article stunning to read as a warning about some of the pitfalls in our profession. Lots of clarity here for each of us to consider in our own ministry lives. Not going to give it a lot of commentary, I think it kind of speaks for itself:

Another ex-board member who asked not to be named said of Pitt and his closest advisers, "They took their eyes off Jesus. I believe there were great possibilities. I believe people were helped. I never looked at Matt as a rock star. I saw an opportunity to win the lost. In the beginning Jesus was foremost... God is not going to be mocked."Dawson regrets that Pitt didn't have more guidance for his ministry.


"We need to make sure we have accountability in our lives," Dawson said. "No one's a Lone Ranger."

Dawson said he wished he could have helped Pitt. "I personally tried to reach out to him, and I couldn't get any response," Dawson said. "You have to be humble. You have to be accountable. In order to be accountable, you have to want to be accountable. We want it to be a microwave, but in spiritual growth it has to simmer awhile. No one should be smiling. We should all be brokenhearted."


Dawson said he hopes that Pitt can be restored as a person, if his platform for ministry is not. "This is a tragedy and we shouldn't throw stones," Dawson said. "There are millions of stars in the sky and the one that gets attention is the falling one."


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, ragedy, advisors, leadership, fall from grace, accountable, lone ranger, ministry failures, removed from ministry, accountability, matt pitt

Steve Argue on Starting an Intern Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

Thought this was a solid video from YS about internships - especially great if you're considering starting an intern program in your youth ministry. If you don't have a great resource to help get this started at you church, check out this best-selling tool as well!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, interns, steve argue, leadership, Youth Specialties, Seth Bartlette, ys idea lab, youth ministry internships, delegation, summer interns

HSM's Teaching Calendar: Fall 2013

Posted by Josh Griffin

Here are the topics and series we're covering in our high school ministry in the coming months. How's your teaching calendar coming for the fall and winter? Some of these will become series here on DYM, and if you're looking for a few teaching series you can check them out right here, too.

Worship Together Weekend
Go (fall kickoff weekend, the 3 times Jesus said "go")Go

Worship Together Weekend
For the Win (3 winning quality character traits)
For the Win
For the Win

Worship Together Weekend
Fact or Fiction? (apologetics series)
Fact or Fiction?
Fact or Fiction?
Armed and Dangerous (1-off on the armor of God)

Worship Together Weekend
Dunked (1-off on baptism)
Christmas Family Services (week 1)
New Year Family Services (week 2)


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, for the win, teaching calendar, saddleback church, baptism, saddleback hsm, #ftw, worship together weekend, calendar, high school ministry, GO

New Resource Tuesday: What? and The Call

Posted by Josh Griffin

Every Tuesday Download Youth Ministry releases several new resources into our ever-expanding collection of youth ministry tools. Up this week is a couple teaching series for you to consider as you plan the calendar this year!

QUESTIONS: Students can handle difficult theological issues. This 5-week series raises the bar and doesn’t look for easy answers to difficult questions. Full assurance of faith leads to spiritual maturity and this series helps students have a full grasp of some of the most challenging questions to Christianity.

THE CALL: This 3-week series talks about how there is no redo in life. Just one chance to get it right the way God intended for each of our lives. Unless our life is embedded in the mission of God, we miss our purpose and miniscule opportunity to align with God’s plan for eternity. God has uniquely called each of us to play a specific part in this world and for His Kingdom. This series gives principles for recognizing our place in history under the leadership of God’s call on our life.

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, recommended youth ministry resources, youth ministry resources, the call, matt lawson, questioning your faith, questions, doubt

The Benefits of a Guys-Only Summer Trip

Posted by Josh Griffin


I'm sitting in a Starbucks fresh off the church van from an amazing week up in the mountains with a bunch of teenage guys. It was absolutely incredible, we rented a huge lodge up in the woods and on the lake - in fact it was Angela Landsbury's old lake house that we discovered online. It even had it's own 10-seat movie theater!

We played some amazing rec games outside and in the lake, had tons of fun ranging from all-u-can-meat dinner and Halo tournaments over system linked Xboxes scattered through the downstairs. But the biggest win, the reason we even do the trip, is the life-changing conversations and relationships that are built over those 3 days. The conversations late at night with the kid who is on the outside of faith, church or friends and looking in. The focused challenge for that student who is at everything but is still an attender and nothing more. The comfort for the student who found on on the trip his parents marriage was falling apart or the student who's uncle was involved in a heart-breaking situation just a week ago.

We had fun ... let's be honest it was all guys so things got crazy... and God used it to significantly shape some young men for His Kingdom. Love, love, love it. Now you'll have to excuse me ... I need to go take a shower!


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, relationships, youth group trips, big bear, guys trip, relational ministry, youth pastor life, angela landsbury, all you can meat

6 Rolls Of a Small Group Leader

Posted by Justin Knowles

Small group leaders have huge roles in students lives. It is always very important to make sure clear rolls are laid out and what is expected of all of our leaders when it comes to leading a small group. This post is an excerpt from our leader manual we give to our leaders at the beginning of our year:

As a Life Group Leader you are ...

1. ...a Spiritual Leader

  • WALK WITH GOD: Active in your faith & a growing believer
  • IN COMMUNITY YOURSELF: Pursuing healthy, godly friendships & relationships in your life
  • FAITHFUL: Attend a regular church service
  • MODEL: Actively pursuing accountability in your life

2. ...a Youth Pastor

  • You are responsible for the spiritual guidance of your group!
  • Know WHO your students are – their name is their most valuable asset.
  • Know WHERE they are struggling – listen and get into their world.
  • Know WHAT truth they need to hear – discern and pray for God’s leading.
  • Know WHEN they need to be challenged – look for situations and opportunities to influence.
  • Know WHY someone missed life group, and follow up – be involved, care.

3. ...a Member of the HSM Team

  • Committed to HSM values & vision
  • Supportive of HSM leadership
  • Marketing HSM events and program.
  • Represent our entire ministry to parents and members

4. ...Administrative

  • Good Communication is key with parents, students and host homes
  • Weekly check-in with HSM staff through ChurchTeams.com
  • Create tools such as a calendar, weekly e-mail, etc. to keep in touch with your group
  • Develop detailed plans for small group outings/functions
  • Read the HSM weekly e-mail and the HSM blog (www.highschoolministry.com) for updates on the ministry

5. ...the Facilitator and Teacher

  • Prepare and teach the study in your small group
  • Provide opportunities for students to dive into God’s Word
  • Challenge students to take the next spiritual step
  • Allow students to talk, share and lead discussion

6. ...Relationally-Minded

  • Be an encourager
  • Follow-up when students are missing
  • Phone calls, letters, e-mails
  • Spend outside time with your students
  • Do group outings to build community in your group
  • Remember their birthday, their big test, their sports debut, their prom, etc.

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, leaders, manual, small group leaders, Small Groups, student ministry, 6 rolls, youth ministry, small group leadership

The 40 Year Old Youth Pastor

Posted by Neely McQueen


Looking back, I thought they were the golden years of youth ministry for me….I was close in age with the students and was often confused for being a teenager by parents. I thought this is it…it will never get better. I related to their world and I didn’t have to try hard to be cool…I was cool (notice the past tense.) Now as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday…I can’t help but feel that I am a better youth worker than I have ever been.

At least, mostly better. When we got back from summer camp this year, it took me a week or more to recover when before all I needed was one day to sleep in and “veg-out.” (Of course, I didn’t have kids myself so "sleeping in" was really sleeping all day.)

Or when I use to talk with students about their favorite movies or music…I would find that we liked very similar things. I could relate to their world. Now when we talk about movies or music a student is quick to say “Oh yeah, my mom likes them too.” Nice.

Besides it taking longer to recover from camp and being compared to their mom...I feel like I am in my sweet spot. I love being with students and with our leaders. I feel like I am just getting started. Instead of trying to be cool, I can focus all my energy on caring. I also find that rejection hurts less now the older I get...Don't get me wrong...it still hurts but I have learned to not take rejection so personally. It's not so bad being older.

This got me thinking about the trends of youth ministry and how long youth pastors stay at a church. Or the new trend of youth workers planting churches. Neither of those things is bad but I want to encourage my youth worker friends...that longevity is a gift and your best years may be ahead of you.

With that in mind:

If you are young, don’t give up….stick it out...you will find it only gets easier and more rewarding the longer you stay.

If you are in the middle, we’ve made it…keep going strong...it's just getting good.

If you are “older” than the average, thank you! Thank you for not seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone and for believing in teenagers. I look up to you. You are my heroes. And if you start to doubt yourself…know that teenagers need your love more now than ever due to the breakdown of the family unit. Don't believe the lie that you are too old for youth ministry.

Truthfully, I look forward to the day that a student says “oh yeah, my grandma likes them too.”

What about you? Where do you find yourself? Any "older" youth workers have some wisdom for the young-uns?


Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, youthmin, OLD, Summer Camp, student ministry, youth pastor, 40-year old, long-term, church, youth ministry, high school ministry

Stronger Ministry Leaders

Posted by Josh Griffin

In 2007 I hit a season of exhaustion. I had a lot going on professionally and I felt so alone in my ministry. I was able to squeeze some time away to go to a youth ministry conference and found myself venting to a few trusted ministry leaders. At the end of my rant one of them said to me, "Chris, we have no problem helping you out, just let us know what it is you want us to do?"

I came to a realization that I had not done a good job of building stronger volunteers. I had only been focused on recruiting help instead of building up the people who were around me.

One of the reasons youth ministers face burnout is because they carry the burden on their own. To thrive in youth ministry you don't need help, you need strong ministry leaders. You need men and women who are going to fill in the holes, take the reigns and push you to your limits. To build stronger ministry leaders you need to:

  • Define Their Roles: When someone knows what they need to do they'll focus. Stronger ministry leaders are ones that have a good sense of purpose and know what it is they are meant to do. All you have to do is write a basic job description full of roles and goals you have for them. Set an expectation and encourage them to fill it.
  • Give Them Ownership: Volunteers want to know that their involvement matters. That means allowing them to take risks, make decisions and own parts of the ministry. By sharing the burden you not only strengthen your ministry but give yourself margin. You have to remember it's not your ministry, it's a stewardship; therefore, lead it wisely.
  • Invest In Them Professionally: You benefit from blogs, conferences and resources make sure you are sharing these with your teams. When you invest in their development they'll see that you value them. When a volunteer feels valued they take advantage of the opportunity you've given them.
  • Protect Their Faith Journey: Whether you are a volunteer or paid youth worker ministry will be a grind. To make sure you do not burn out your volunteers encourage them to grow in their faith journey and give them seasons of rest. This means talking to them about boundaries and making sure you do not take advantage of their stewardship. Volunteers will grow stronger in leadership if they grow stronger in their faith.


Stronger volunteers means a stronger ministry. It gives you the ability to delegate your weaknesses so that you can exploit your strengths. Stronger volunteers enable you to create a Christ focused ministry because it won't all depend on you.

How do you invest in stronger ministry leaders?

Topics: Youth Ministry Posts, leaders, roles, job descriptions, investment, stronger leaders, ministry health

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Josh Griffin


Josh is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He’s the co- founder of DYM and is the father of 4 who speaks a little, writes a little, Twitters a bit, and blogs a lot.


Doug Fields

doug_fieldsDoug Fields is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran who is the Author of 50+ books, Founder of Simply Youth Ministry, Speaker, Pastor, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DYM.

Rachel Blom


Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has youth ministry experience in several countries, both as a volunteer and on staff.

Matt McGill


Blogging with eternal wisdom. Matt McGill is the visionary behind Download Youth Ministry. He convinced his 2 friends Josh and Doug to partner with him and create this whole place.

Justin Knowles


Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen. Pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees Jr. High, High School and College ministries at the church.

Colton Harker


Blogging about his First 2 Years in Youth Ministry. Colton is just starting out in youth ministry and blogs about what he is learning along the way.

Christopher Wesley


Blogging serving at a Catholic Church. Chris Wesley has been in youth ministry for over 9 years as the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Maryland.

Jen Bradbury

Jen-BradburyJen Bradbury has been in youth ministry for 11 years. She's the youth director at Faith Evangelical Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Her writing has appeared in YouthWorker Journal, The Christian Century, and Immerse. She also blogs regularly at ymJen.com

Neely McQueen

Jen-BradburyBlogging about girls' ministry. Neely McQueen has been working with students for over 15 years. She works in Student Ministries at Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA.

Laneita Fix

Jen-BradburyAuthor, Speaker, Director Ministry Development for Asian Youth Ministries. Love 22 years of working with youth and equipping others in the trenches in youth ministry.

Geoff Stewart

Jen-BradburyGeoff Stewart serves the Jr/Sr High School Pastor at Peace Portal Alliance Church in Surrey B.C. and doesn't appreciate the jokes about being Canadian (unless they are funny of course).

Kara Powell

Jen-BradburyDr. Kara E. Powell is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. A 20- year youth ministry veteran, she speaks regularly at youth ministry conferences and is author or co-author of a number of books and volunteers in student ministry at Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena, CA.

Walt Mueller

Jen-BradburyBlogging about youth culture and current events. Dr. Walt Mueller is the founder and President of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, a non-profit organization serving schools, churches, and community organizations across the U.S, Canada, and worldwide in their efforts to strengthen families.

Duffy Robbins

Jen-BradburyDuffy travels the world speaking to teenagers and people who care about teenagers. Both in the classroom and in camps, conferences and seminars, he's well known for his insights, inspiration and humor.

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