Show them health, not perfection

Posted by Jen Bradbury

Recently, my high school teens and I discussed God's gender.

During this discussion, small groups made a list of God's characteristics and classified them as masculine, feminine, or gender neutral. As we did this, my husband and I, who were leading separate small groups, both found ourselves explaining our classifications using examples from our marriage. 

Afterward, my husband commented how surprised he was by what teens had noticed about our relationship with one another.

For example, one student commented on my tendency to nag my husband over stuff related to our darling cat.

Now, I like to think that what teens notice about my marriage is how awesome it is; How it's based on mutuality, a relationship in which we both willingly serve one another out of love and respect; How we encourage, challenge, and affirm one another; And how we are the best of friends.

And don't get me wrong. Maybe youth do notice those things.

But during this recent conversation, it became crystal clear to both my husband and I that teens also notice other – much less flattering – things about our marriage as well.

At first, I felt a bit of shame regarding this.

After all, many of my teens come from broken homes.

Knowing this, I desperately want to model healthy marriage to them. I want teens to see and understand that not all marriages end in disaster.

And that's when I realized: That's precisely why it's good that youth see not just the beautiful parts of my marriage, but the less flattering ones as well.

After all, what I want to model to youth is a healthy marriage; Not a perfect one.

Because let's face it. As anyone who's been married longer than about 24 hours knows, no marriage is perfect.

Marriages are filled with both beautiful moments as well as – let's just say – less than beautiful moments like those when I nag my husband or when he lashes out at me in frustration.

Healthy marriages aren't conflict free. Instead, in healthy marriages, both parties are committed to working through conflict because they know that even though doing so is sometimes painful, it's well worth it.

Maybe that is actually the part of marriage that teens – especially those who come from broken homes - most need to see.

Maybe what teens need to see isn't another couple pretending to have it all together, but instead, a real-life couple who occasionally fights but then works together to resolve the conflict.

Maybe if teens saw us model that they'd begin to understand that conflict doesn't always mean a lack of love; That it doesn't always result in divorce.

So friends, may we have the courage to let our teens see not perfect marriages – but real, messy authentic ones rooted in the love of Christ. 

Wisdumb Series Arc at Saddleback Church High School Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

I'm excited about this month's new series in HSM called Wisdumb. It is a book study as we go through Proverbs and teach students about having true wisdom in Christ. Here's the series arc of where we're headed this month:

Week 1: What is Wisdom and How to Get it
Why is wisdom so important? What is the big deal? Well, wisdom is huge because every decision has a domino effect, every decision affects me now and the later and ultimately determines my future. If it is this important, we sure should be talking about it!

Week 2: How to Make Wise Decisions

Decisions are one of the biggest factors in who we become - so how do y ou make the right decisions? Be smart about the little choices in your life, because they'll have a big effect on who you become. This weekend should be a practical guide to helping students check their heart and check in with a mentor to help guide them.

Week 3: What is Wisdom and How to Get it

This week we're going after 3 of the big areas where people get tripped up the most. 1) Having the wrong kind of friends, 2) using my time wrong and 3) using my money all wrong. Don't be dumb, have wisdom!


HSM's Words of Wisdom Videos for the Wisdumb Series

Posted by Josh Griffin

This was a fun series of videos we did in HSM, lifted directly from Deep Thougts by Jack HAndy (old SNL bit). Fit perfectly with our new Wisdumb series this month!


YS IDEA LAB: The Best Ideas in Our Youth Ministry This Year

Posted by Josh Griffin

YS IDEA LAB is a video interview series filmed on location at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. Ths week's episode features Neely McQueen interviewing Josh Griffin, High School Pastor at Saddleback Church.

1) "Fact or Fiction" apologetics series with guest speakers in their entry level program that addresses tough questions about Christianity.

2) "You Own The Weekend" is a completely student led weekend of youth ministry services. Get the You Own the Weekend resource on DYM right here.

3) "Insta-Life" series that utilizes instagram and pulls out some key talking points that relate to our spirituality. Check out Instalife series and Instahack right here on DYM.

4 & 5) Have students buy pizza for the janitors in their high schools to show how important it is to serve others. "Post-It Note project" where students in your ministry write encouraging post-it notes for each student in their high school and stick them to their lockers. Check out student leadership resources right here.


Family Discussion Guide for Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day

Posted by Josh Griffin


I got a chance to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day yesterday with my 11-year old son and it was SUCH a great time. It is pure classic Disney brilliance that is a great family movie. While there's definitely a couple of "OK, we need to talk about that with my son after the movie is over" sort of moments, it is largely earns the far underutilized PG rating. 

I'll post more of an official review tomorrow but wanted to encourage you to download the Family Discussion Guide for the movie and go see the film this week. We all have bad days - this ia a great film to talk about them!

DOWNLOAD THE STUDY GUIDE HERE: Alexander Family Study Guide


Tell Young Women They Are Enough

Posted by Leneita Fix


Every once in awhile it seems like there is a resurrgence of the need for young ladies to have good "self esteem,"   according to media. It started a couple of years ago with the "Dove: Real Beauty Campaign," which continues to produce "mini movies" to support their cause exploring why women and girls struggle to think they are "beautiful."  Recently secular songs like, "Try" by Colbie Callait, "Secrets," by Mary Lambert and "All About That Base" by Meghan Trainor all celebrate women  "being themselves," (whether we like the lyrics or not.) Even American Eagle Outfitters and their partner store "Arie" has agreed to no longer photo shop their (still waif like) models with their own "Real Beauty" campaign.

 Of course while the songs, and videos are empowering it does not make a young girl's insecurity merely disappear.  I saw a documentary recently where a publisher claimed that almost 90% of pictures in any given celebrity magazine are altered in some way.  In the church we "know" our identity should be in Christ,  and yet still when surveyed most women would change at least "one" thing on our bodies if possible.

Yes, yes,  what a mother shows to her child effects her.  Yet, the answer seems to be to simply just tell young women all the time how much we love our bodies.  How can we do that when it's rarely true?

The time has come to honestly and openly deal with this self image issue in our young women. 


Voices DO Matter:

As much as the "American Eagle Real Beauty" campaign agrees to "not photoshop" it's models there is no denying they are still gorgeous, and near perfect at size 0.  Voices all around are saying to us girls (and guys btw) what "looking good" means.  There is a fine line between actual health and obsession with beauty.  The voices in their head  that they play over and again matters most.  Let's keep speaking truth into our girls. Give them PRACTICAL ways they can get the truth of what God thinks of them.  (Suggest putting sticky notes with  Bible verses on their mirrors from places like Pslam 139.)


Be Truthful:

When is the last time the encouragement, "Be better," was actually helpful in your own life?  I think part of the "undoing" of this issue lies in us being truthful of our own struggles while at the same time pointing to Christ.  All of us poke at something in the mirror.  Merely, "pretending" like we don't  have image issues does not make it go away.  Let's be honest with our struggles,  let's also keep looking to Christ for the "real" answers. (Talk to students about where your insecurities come from and HOW you rely on God in the midst of the struggle.)

Don't Embrace the Lies 

"They'll get over it," is what we like to say about teen girls.  Probably not.  I think more often we as women just come to terms with the fact that the media is going to tell us how "wrong"we are and we will always simply dislike something about ourselves.  We may have forgotten to look in the mirror and see ourseleves reflecting the image of God. (Take the time to stop and tell the young women in your life exactly WHAT God REALLY thinks about them.)

Let's celebrate our girls.  Let's tell them things we think are extraordinary about them, beyond the way they look. Celebrate their talents, gifts, and successes. They are always enough for the Lord.  The list of what He loves about them has no end.  Remember, it feels easiest to control our appearance, it's why we "go" there. . Pushing the thought that we aren't enough aside doesn't make it leave. Help them learn how to look in the mirror and see the Creator's created.  

How are you dealing with this issue?

4 Steps To Help You Work With Limits

Posted by Christopher Wesley

I dream of having my own youth space. It would be awesome not to have to move a couch or stack chairs each week. It would be great to spend that time connecting with teens. Unfortunately, that won't change in the near future. Our space has it's limits.

Your youth ministy has it's limits.  You as a leader have limits. They can be frustrating, annoying and even demoralizing. What you need to do is quit fighting them and embrace them.  To work with your limits you need to:


That means sharing the burden. Share the problem or situation with your volunteers, coworkers or pastor. Ask them to embrace it and offer up ideas.  When you bring others to the table you might find you are the cause to some of your own limitations.


Your limits might be caused by disorganization.  If you aren't keeping a schedule or a budget you cannot be confident that you are being a wise steward. 

For your schedule set an ideal work week. Measure how long meetings take. Protect the time you work on your most important initiatives. When you have a schedule it gives you a map on how to navigate through your week.

For your budget sit down with the experts. Maybe it's your financial pastor or someone who volunteers in your ministry. Let them give you tips on how to track expenses.  With structure comes confidence.


Limits can be temporary. The only way they'll keep you down is if you never dream beyond them. Share that dream with others and write it down. As you work within your limits with a goal in mind you'll be able to work towards the bigger picture. Make it a habit.


You might want more hours in the day, but the truth is God has given you enough. After you've crafted a schedule, budget and vision ask God to bless it.  He's the one who will guide you and give you the grace to accomplish the tasks. 

Embrace the limits and learn to work with them. Do not let them get you down. When you learn to work within your limits you'll not only grow your ministry but grow as a steward.

What's the most frustrating limit to your ministry?

Topics: organization, stewardship, limits

Being Bossy Is Easy, Moving People Forward Is Hard

Posted by Justin Knowles

You can be bossy. It’s actually easy to do. Telling people what to do is really easy. Do this. Do that. Send this. Edit that. Not saying this is a bad thing at all. Sometimes things need to get done and people need to do things. I think there is a point where our ministries will hit a glass ceiling of growth because our team of volunteers will just feel like they are completing tasks for the ministry. It can be a really easy way for someone to jump in the ministry and get acquainted with it. There comes a point where that volunteer or intern will want something more. They want more just just involvement, they want ownership.

Telling people what to do is easy. Inspiring people to catch the vision and move forward with passion is the ultimate goal of a leader.

When they ask for more, we miss a huge opportunity to move our ministries forward. At that moment we don’t gain an extra set of hands to accomplish tasks, but we gain another heart that bleeds for the ministry like we do. We get the opportunity to duplicate ourselves. Isn’t that the point of making disciples? Duplicating ourselves? When people catch the vision of your ministry, let them go. they want to make a lasting impact on the group, just like you do.

So how do you do that?

  • Don’t assume anything - They don’t want to do that. They won’t want to do that. Don’t say their no for them. If they have the vision, they want to do more and make a lasting kingdom impact. Don’t assume anything.
  • Ask them - Ask them how they are doing. Ask them if they are feeling utilized in what they are doing. Ask them what would get them excited and then actually give them room to run with it.
  • Set them up well - It’s one thing to talk with them about it. But meet with them and come up with a game plan. Help them flesh out whatever it is and give them the proper tools and people to help them carry it out.
  • Pray for them constantly - Let them know you are praying for them. Encourage them to pray for God’s blessing on it. Pray it hot. 
  • Follow up - Many people forget to follow up. I do. I’m really good at launching something but not good on the maintaining part. Follow up, talk about it and repeat all these steps.

    When volunteers/interns catch fire of the vision and they feel supported, they can do some great damage, in a good way. 

5 Ways to Partner with Parents

Posted by Josh Griffin

I’ve made a ton of mistakes in my first few years of youth ministry. I’ve totaled church buses and run over cats with the church van. I’ve gone over budget and over-hyped an event. I’ve left kids at gas stations and left leadership out of the loop as I did my own thing.

But one other, more subtle mistake I made was not partnering with parents. I didn't even try! I thought youth ministry was the “be all, end all” of spiritual discipleship for teenagers and decided to ignore these whining, argumentative, frustrating people. Why won’t they leave me alone and just let me disciple their children?

How stupid is that? So I’ve been a bonehead in youth ministry more times than I can imagine (and still do from time to time, argh) but partnering with parents is one as a seasoned veteran I’m not going to do anymore. Here are 5 words that I want to describe our partnership with parents as a youth ministry. 

This is the most basic function of a youth ministry’s relationship to parents. Keep them in the loop. Let them know what is planned and give overwhelming clarity and communication. This means that your email lists, text database and interpersonal skills have to be sharp. The DYM Parent Newsletter as part of the monthly membership might be a helpful tool as you do this. And remember that communication at the lowest level is AT parents, ideally it moves to a conversation.
Help parents understand what their teenager is going through. You may be surprised at how little most parents understand about adolescent development. They’re just intimidated by what they don’t know and don’t understand, so partnering with parents in education relieves the fear and pain.
You probably know some great parent resources to put in their hands – this is what a great parent partnering youth group does. They ight even do above and beyond and have a library of suggested resources or make things like DYM’s Parent Tips available in the foyer of the church.
Our big experiment the past two years has been a “blending” of our student ministry and adult church called Worship Together Weekend. We want our students to worship side-by-side with their parents and together as a church body. We love youth group, we want to continue to do specialized ministry to this age group.
I think this one is largely intangible, but as a youth worker, you have to really make sure you believe that this is the best way. I could have started with this one, but I like it at the end so it gives you some pause. It is easy to add a resource list or a parent newsletter, but at the very core you have to really want to have parents play a central role in the spiritual development of their teenager. Do you really believe it?

So, this week, we’ll both make some mistakes in our youth ministry. But be sure to not make the mistake of missing out on encouraging and partnering with the parents of the students in your ministry


POLL: How Long is Your Youth Group Sermon?

Posted by Josh Griffin

I was talking to a friend in a youth ministry network where many of her friends were teaching messages close to or beyond 60 monutes. It got me thinking about asking this week's poll question about how long people's sermons are on a tyical week. Vote now!


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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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