POLL: How often do you teach youth group?

Posted by Josh Griffin

This week's poll question was inspired by my teaching calendar this fall - I taught all of September and some in October - but am taking November off. How about you? Letting others speak in your youth ministry this season? Vote today telling us about how often you teach youth group. Vote now!


5 Things They Don't Tell You About Small Groups

Posted by Justin Knowles

We are in the very begginning staging of launching a smalll group program. The grand scheme will not come out until fall next year, but the process has bugun. As I have been thinking about groups, here is what people do not really tell you about groups:

  1. They are messy. Everyone tends to think that a person’s spiritual growth is a straight line up. In reality, it’s finger painting. They are messy. Small groups are messy because people are messy. Small groups are difficult because people are difficult. God tends to show up and work best in the messy parts of life. Be prepared for it.
  2. Not every will be your biggest fan. When we put together groups for the year, there are some decisions that needed to be made that not everyone will like or agree with. They are not easy decisions, but they have to happen. Trust me, parents will let you know when they do not agree with your decision. I had a few times this year where I stood there and had people tell me they were not their biggest fan in their own…special…way.
  3. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. For me, small groups launch is a crazy time. There is months of prepping coming up to it, a month of insanity, then for the rest of the year is pretty relaxed as far as running groups goes. Something I have noticed is that it can be really easy to take advantage of this time. If I do nothing, nothing will happen. Things can always be tweaked and looked at and reevaluated and things can always be better. Don’t be complacent. Don’t be content. Always be doing something and something more will happen. Know that if you don’t do anything in the down times, nobody else will.
  4. You have to have the skills of a college football recruiter. One of the biggest needs in order to expanding and making sure small groups are successful is making sure you have enough leaders to lead the groups. Pretty sure that is all ministries have this problem. But if you want to recruit (which you do) you always need to be on. Recruiting can happen anywhere, anytime. You better be good at it or you will have to learn how to be.
  5. This is the best job ever. It’s messy, yes. It can be difficult, yes. But when it comes down to it, you are providing students with a community in which they can be pursuing an Almighty God who is passionately pursuing them. We get to place amazing volunteers with students we love in hopes they take one step closer to Jesus while they take on life together as a group. What a great thing to be a part of isn’t it?




GUEST POST: Don't Do Youth Ministry Alone

Posted by Josh Griffin

NBC might have a new hit show on it’s hands. Being a comic fan growing up, when I heard there was a TV version of Constantine coming on I had to tune in. If you’re not familiar with the show, John Constantine (the main character) is a exorcist, magician, and dabbler in the dark arts. While the themes in the show may not line up with my theology, it’s still good TV. One thing that stands out about John Constantine is his panache for going it alone. When working in a team, it is usually begrudgingly.

Youth ministers can be a lot like John Constantine, going through this crazy life of ministry alone. Even though we preach to our students that we are all made for community, we have a tendency to go it through our lives alone. So what are some practical ways we can connect to other youth ministers and go through life together?

  1. Networks 

Check out YS Networks and NNYM for networks in your area. If you don’t find any listed for your area ask around, some local networks are not registered with either YS or NNYM. If there is not a network in your area contact NNYM about getting one started. Networks are great places for youth ministers to come together, pray for each other, collaborate, and do life together.

  1. Online Groups

Check Facebook for Youth Ministry Groups. Make sure to check the reputation of the group but there are some great groups out there! Youthmin.org has a great group. If you are Southern Baptist and live in the state of Kentucky, we have an awesome group on Facebook as well. For some people this is a great option, it gives you the opportunity to live life with other youth ministers and share in real time with them.

  1. Conferences

Next week I will be attending NYWC in Atlanta, and I’m pumped! Why am I excited? The connections you can make at a national conference like this can be irreplaceable. I’ve met some great youth workers from across the country at conferences that have really poured into my life.

  1. Find your Paul

Who is your mentor? I’ve got a few. People that I look up to, that I get tips, and advice from. Find a mentor that helps you along your journey. It may not have to be a person who has done youth ministry for 20 years, but it should be someone who has more experience than you do.

Don’t be the loner. You see the thing about loners, when something happens, by definition they are alone and have to deal with that something alone. Surround your self with a strong support system and you will thrive in youth ministry! 

Kevin Patterson is the Associate Pastor/Minister of Youth at Spring Bayou Baptist Church in Kevil KY and a DYM member. He is a 5-year veteran in youth ministry; ranging from volunteer and part time to full time. You can catch more from Kevin at his blog http://www.lifeintheymfishbowl.blogspot.com and on Twitter @PastorKev_SBBC.

GUEST POST: Why You Should Document Youth Ministry Accidents and How to Do It

Posted by Josh Griffin

In my first blog entry, I used the example of “Mark,” a hypothetical student who breaks his arm at a lock-in. This entry will discuss why you should document accidents like this, and how to document.

Obviously, the first priority in handling an accident is to take care of the student. But once Mark’s parents have taken him off to the hospital, are you done? No! As soon as is humanly possible, you need to document what happened in writing.

Why should you do this? Because the legal process moves very slowly. The “statute of limitations” (how long a person has to file a lawsuit) on a personal injury lawsuit varies from state to state, but is often three years or more. And that’s just the time limit to start the lawsuit. The actual lawsuit could take one to three years more. This means that if Mark’s parents do decide to sue your church, it could very easily be three to five years after the accident before you and the other witnesses are testifying.

Will you still be at your church in three to five years? Will your volunteers? And if you are, will you remember what happened that much later? I don’t know about you, but I have trouble remembering what I ate for lunch yesterday. Would you be able to remember, as one example, which adults were supervising the dodgeball game when Mark broke his arm, three to five years after it happened? No? That’s why you document.

Documenting helps in two main ways. First, if either the youth pastor or volunteers have left the church when the lawsuit finally happens, it lets the new guy or gal know what happened so they can help the church’s lawyer. Secondly, the memo(s) will refresh the memory of the witnesses.

Here are some basic guidelines on how to document:

1)    Do it as soon as possible. Memories fade. Don’t wait for someone to type up what they saw and email it to you next week. Have the witnesses write it down now, right there, on the spot right after the accident. Pass out paper and pens and take care of it.

2)    Just the facts. Tell the witnesses not to speculate or guess – just write what they know and saw. Do include, though, any medical treatment provided at the scene of the accident, how the student go to the hospital, and similar details.

3)    Each person does their own. Don’t try to make a “master memo.” Have each witness/participant write their own.

4)    No legalese. Don’t get fancy. Just use regular English and try to make it easy to understand and follow.

5)    Write your own memo, even if you weren’t there. As the youth pastor, you are the person in charge. So, even if you weren’t there, write something like: “Mark Jones broke his arm in a dodgeball game supervised bv volunteers Jane Doe and John Smith. I was supervising capture the flag on the lawn at the time.”

6)    Sign and date it. Self-explanatory, but each person should sign and date their memo.

That’s it! Put the memos in your filing cabinet, or scan them onto your computer, and forget them. More than likely, they’ll never see the light of day. But in the unlikely event there is a lawsuit years later, you’ll be very glad they are there!

This is the latest in a series of blog posts by Bill McKinnon, a long-serving youth volunteer, church elder, and lawyer which covers some common legal issues in youth ministry - email him questions you would like to see answered in his posts right here: youthminlawyer@comporium.net. His blog post is general commentary on the law and is not intended to be legal advice to any person or organization. Check out DYM's Incident Reports you can download for $3 right here!

5 Phrases to Include in Every Youth Group Message

Posted by Josh Griffin

My friend Matt pointed out this great article from Gospel Coalition about 5 phrases for ever youth group talk. Here is the first couple of them, head there for the rest:

1. If you’re not a Christian . . .'
More so than any other demographic, students are in the midst of a fluid, dynamic journey. Because of the way they rapidly progress through different developmental phases, teenagers are constantly facing questions related to their identity and place in the world. They are trying to figure out whether or not they will follow Jesus. No matter how “Christian” a youth group may appear, one must always acknowledge students who do not identify themselves as Christians just yet, or kids who are “closet agnostics.” By acknowledging non-Christians in the audience, you are communicating that they are welcomed in the group. You are saying that they are allowed to carefully and patiently think things through with God. You also give yourself an opportunity to address questions that they may have but do not ask. I usually ask these type questions by saying, “If you’re not a Christian, one thing you may be wondering is . . .” When we do not make this statement at some point, we risk alienating non-Christian kids and creating an atmosphere where they may feel the need to fake it to feel included.

2. 'What this word means is . . .'
Have you ever read a legal contract? Did you understand any of the words? Did you feel helpless and stupid because you were agreeing to something, when in reality you had no idea what you were signing off on? People often use jargon as a way to create an “insider culture” that makes others feel on the outside. Often, Christian leaders use this same practice when they use biblical and theological terminology without explaining their terms. Students need to boost their Christian vocabulary; it’s helpful for them to know words like justification, sanctification, sin, and faith. At the same time, while we use Christian lingo, we also need to explain what it means for two reasons. First, this prevents us from alienating students without a long church history who have no idea what we’re talking about. Second, it helps these powerful words stay fresh, rather than trite.


Introducing Slothvember ... Again!

Posted by Josh Griffin

Last November we decided to give all of our youth ministry games and prizes a decidedly "slothly" feel. To be honest it was fun ... maybe clever even ... but didn't catch on hardly at all. 

But we've never let that stand in the way of trying it again! So we're back again this year with the month of the sloth yet again - Slothvember. Silly youth ministry fun. 


Which is better: Breadth or Depth?

Posted by Jen Bradbury


This fall in my youth ministry, we did a series on the attributes of God based on words that teens use to describe God that may or may not actually be accurate.

The last week of this series we discussed how, if at all, God resembles a genie. Doing so gave us the perfect opportunity to discuss prayer, something we talk about surprisingly little in our youth ministry.

All too aware of this, during this particular lesson, in order to try give teens an overview of prayer, I chose breadth rather than depth. As a result, we explored at least a dozen different Scripture passages on prayer, doing brief fly-bys over each, designed simply to acquaint teens with what the Bible says about prayer.

Afterward, as my adult leaders and I processed the night, a few expressed their frustration over the lack of depth in our conversation. You see, by skimming the surface of lots of passages, we were unable to dig deeply into any of them.

Of course, I made that choice intentionally.

Nevertheless, it came with at least two costs. The first was, of course, depth. As one of my adult leaders said, if we'd dug deeply into each of the passages I'd chosen, we'd have had a 12-week series on prayer ready to go.

The second cost was engagement. In general,  we've found high school teens have an easier time focusing and participating in conversation when we zero in on one topic and really wrestle with it. Perhaps doing so gives them an opportunity to ask their questions about a particular topic.

So given it's price, is it still worth teaching broadly rather than deeply?

I think so.

After all, as callous as this may sound, during a school year (which is what our programming year runs), as much as I might like to, I don't have 12-weeks to spend on prayer in my high school youth ministry. There are simply too many other topics important to the faith formation of our teens that I also want to address. Breadth is perfect for instances like these – when I want to really expose teens to a vast array of Scripture or ideas in a short-amount of time.

To be clear, I don't think we should favor breadth over depth every week. To me, such a tendency would result in superficial, rather than deep, faith.

Even so, I know my own tendency to favor depth over breadth sometimes means we ignore topics we don't have time to dig deeply into. Even a broad overview has got to be better than that. What's more, sometimes I think a broad overview is enough to get teens thinking and acting or in this case, praying.

If that's the case, maybe not every single youth ministry gathering needs to be deep to be valuable.

What do you think? When is it better to teach broadly than deeply and vice versa?   

Image Credit: http://cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com/2011/06/on-breadth-vs-depth-in-tasting.html

POLL: Youth Ministry Training Frequency

Posted by Josh Griffin

We've trained volunteers about every way posible it seems over the years. Right now, we train our volunteers heavy in the fall and then occasionally througout the school year. How about you? How often do you train your volunteers? 


PS: When you do train your volunteers, use the DYM Members training videos

WINNERS: TobyMac Remix Album!

Posted by Josh Griffin

Excited today to anounce the winners of the TobyMac contest the other day here on the blog. Congrats to these winners who score his new album today:

  • Tom Meara (for the 1st comment)
  • David Shearer (for the random comment)
  • Srheaume(for the Tweet)

Congrats to all and go pick up the album today!


Celebrating Like DreamWorks

Posted by Leneita Fix



October is pastor's appreciation month according the Hallmark cards calendar.  Recently, I ended up in a very interesting conversation with a bunch of youth workers on the topic.  A question was posed in a private FaceBook group, "So who was thanked for pastor's appreciation month?"  It was meant as a tongue in cheek comment with laughter at the end to recognize it just doesn't happen.  Some were acknowledged, others talked about Christmas being a time when this happens, but the majority chortled at the very idea of recognition.

Yes, one could argue that to receive and accolade today discounts heavenly gain.  Aren't we just supposed to be working for the glory of the Lord?  Yet, what happens too often is that we forget to truly Love each other and spur each other along.  What discourages us is the system.

My cousin works for DreamWorks as an animator (yes she is one of the coolest people I know).  She has worked there for a little over a year transferring from Nickolodean. (Did I mention you have indeed heard of all of the projects she has worked on for television?)  I love to hear about all of the fun things they do at the studio to celebrate families.  When she had a baby (her second may I add) this past year corporate left a gift for her, as she came back from maternity leave.  On her one year anniversary they gave her an award in celebration. (It was a trophy with Shrek on top of it.)  Are you seeing the trend here?  They have celebrated the part she plays in making DreamWorks great.  It isn't because she holds the highest position in the studio or for her outstanding work.  There will be times to revel in her talent as well.  Yet, the little celebrations help her keep moving forward to more.  She is applauded often for being her and that makes this company better.

I think we can learn a lot from this company.  It isn't that the focus is on the tippy top OR the very bottom in saying thank you.  There aren't awards merely for a job well done, sometimes it's about showing up and trying hard.  Other times it's just whooping it up for a milestone.  Each person who is there is shown gratitude for the part they play in making Dreamworks become better. 

Now don't misread I am not bedgrudging the month that just passed of overt affection to our pastors.  I do know a couple of youth pastors who were showered with some love as well.  Yet, I think we need to start taking it upon ourselves to see the people in service around us everyday.  I think we can remedy the situation by changing the system a little.  

Let's start celebrating all those who make our ministry a better place:

  • Leave a thank you note for the guy who cleans the floors.
  • Bring some chocolates in for those who are in administration in the church. 
  • Do something special and out of the blue for your volunteers

Christmas is coming and I know you have plans to thank people with some gifts then. Thanksgiving makes us think in a thankful direction.   Yes, yes, acknowledge everyone then.  Yet, in mid February when the school year is back in full swing and Spring Break seems like it will come in another century, what will you do?  Would it be so bad to give a medal to everyone who sticks it out with us for a year?

We can't control who notices us.  I believe that is where we need to be reminded we aren't in this because it is "very rewarding." Instead, we are in ministry because we love Jesus and this is how we express our love.  The times the head pastor is given a vacation smarts because we feel passed over.  Those are the times we need to ask the Lord to remind our hearts of what He thinks about us.

My point in all of this:  

Stop saying thank you to those who serve only at certain times of year.  Do it often.  Be creative.  Remember sometimes showing up consistenly is what matters.  Don't forget others just because you feel forgotten.  Maybe invest in some actual trophies.

What do you do to thank your volunteers and others who serve?



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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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