GUEST POST Navigating the Teenage Years

Posted by Josh Griffin


High School is tough. One of the realities though, is how much harder it can be for parents to navigate these often difficult times with their students regardless of which side of the fence they find themselves.
This is an infographic that we created for the parents of our 11th grade students. In our commitment to partnering with parents, we wanted to be clear and honest about many of the issues that our students (especially 11th graders) are facing. We walked our parents through this infographic and discussed some best practices when it comes to helping students navigate these difficult years.
As you can see from the infographic, the amount of pressure that students feel builds in their high school years. In turn, the amount of “good air” that is pumped into students by parents, church and positive adult relationships is lacking if not nonexistent. Thus, we often see a major “release” resulting in negative and dangerous behaviors by the students. Both churches and families have to do a better job of creating the space for “good air” to be pumped back into our students lives. We hope that this infographic can be a great resource and teaching tool for families and other student ministries!
David Thompson is the Youth Pastor Trinity at UMC in Birmingham, AL and is the creator of 

Bring a Friend to Youth Group? You Both Get a Shirt

Posted by Josh Griffin

We're trying out a new idea this whole month long - if you bring a friend to youth group for the first time, we'l give you a free T-shirt. They get one, too! We did shirts for each of the major high schools in our ministry and printed them in school colors (small runs are expensive so we did 1-color print on a colored shirt to get 2 of the school colors). The results have been incredible! 
Not ony do people want the shirt because they're cool - but they're bringing their friends to hear about Jesus, too! Wins all around ... now I just wish we had printed some in XXL. Argh.

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 260

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: ICON (fall kickoff, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: 
Service Length: 79 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we continued the ICON series about the "I am" statements of Jesus. This week we were in John 6 talking about the Bread of Life. This talk didn't have the normal schedule prep time (because of D6 conference) but spent a lot of time wherever I could prepping the message. In 20 years of youth ministry - I've never taught this passage! It was fun to have it come alive to me and work hard for students to understand the nourishment and necessity of God's Word in our lives. We pulled it all together with communion at the end for a powerful weekend and followup with our kickoff week last weekend.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We went for a waaaaaay different service than normal, and the huge risk also had a huge payout. We couldn't outdo last week's back to school kickoff games and prizes, so we decide to do a "Late Night" television show complete with a short opening monologue, funny interview and Shock Collar Karaoke. It was incredible, creative and fun.

Music Playlist: Wake, Forever Reign, Scandal of Grace, This is Amazing Grace, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I had a great conversation with a student who was there for the 2nd time ever. She was so thrilled to be joining this community, growing so much, and even brought her mom with her this week. It was SO fun watching this girl who normally sits on the outside go all in! She signed up for a ministry and a 

Up next: ICON (week 3 of 3)

Why Do You Do That?

Posted by Geoff Stewart

We are only a few weeks in to the school year and we have already begun tweaking things and refining our processes. One of the things that we should being doing regularly is a honest evaluation of every element of your program, start to finish. Being thoughtful about why an element is included or why not, is vital routine diagnostic work and here are a three reasons why you need to be able to answer the question: Why Do You Do That?

For God: Our first job is to point young people to Jesus and create mission/vision/value around that. If you don't know why you are doing it, it needs to go and if some element does not point back to the mission of your ministry then why do you do it? First and for most we are accountable to God for what we do, and doing something “just because” is not good enough if you ask me.

For Students: Modelling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important and the same should be true of youth nights. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at Journey and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask about our rationale behind a decision. Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it and from start to finish our goal is create space for students to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs (hard to believe I know) sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents it is wise to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?

-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?

-Why do you allow Christian and Searching students in the same small groups? (Actual question)

-We never had small groups on the same night when I was in youth!

-Why don’t you play more games? My kid just wants to have fun.

- Are V-Necks that deep even legal?

It is pretty easy to disarm a concerned parent when you have an articulated thought out reason for doing what you do. If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand and that will give you a place to start a conversation. 

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

-Geoff Stewart @geoffcstewart 

HSM Sports Minute: Episode 7

Posted by Josh Griffin

This was another simple, silly fun video continuing in our Sports Minute series in the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. Travis and Colton have so much fun with this series - makes me laugh every time.


Are you going to NYWC in Sacramento or Atlanta?

Posted by Josh Griffin


Want to help us at the DYM booth?
If you're going to one of YS’ NYWC’s in either Sacramento or Atlanta… would you consider helping us? Last year, it was member testimonies that most influenced others to join the DYM team! We’d love for you to join the "DYM Team" and help other youth workers win at NWYC! If you’re slightly interested… read on:

What will I be doing?
It's easy! Just pick a time slot (or multiple time slots) and hang out in the DYM booth. When someone asks, "So what is DYM?" you simply go to town and show them how you use the membership and why it's the "Greatest Deal in the History of Youth Ministry."

What's in it for me?
We promise you* (1) eternal security, (2) God will love you more, (3) an awesome T-shirt (see above), (4) get to hang out with the DYM team, and experience the joy of helping other youth workers jump on board the DYM Membership train! [*Only two of the four can be verified.]

Leveraging the Spiritual Influence of Grandparents

Posted by Rachel Blom

Aside from my parents, my maternal grandparents have been the single most important spiritual influence in my life. They lived next door to us until I was 8 years old or so, and then they moved to the street my elementary school was in. I often stayed there for lunch or after school. And in the summer there were long sleepovers, sometimes for weeks as my parents visited missionaries for a missionary organization they were a part of.

My grandparents didn’t just talk about Jesus with me. Their faith was visible for me in everything they did, even when I was a kid. They prayed for me, prayed with me, read the Bible, and constantly shared God’s love.

In the last years there’s been a positive development towards family ministry; a style of doing ministry where we don’t just reach the teens, but encourage parents in their primary role as spiritual examples. But families are more than just parents and siblings. Families include other family members as well, especially grandparents.


For many kids, grandparents hold a special place in their hearts. And there are few grandparents who are not proud of their grandkids. There’s power to this special relationship. I know that my grandparents were sometimes able to say things to me, I would have never accepted from my parents. Advice on dating for instance. My grandma often stressed the importance of dating a Christian guy. From her, I took this way more seriously than I did when my mom said the same thing.

In youth ministry, we need to leverage the spiritual influence of grandparents. They are in a unique position to reach out to their grandkids about faith. They are also potential supporters of our youth ministry, both in prayer and practically. Here are some questions to help you think about this further:

  • What is your youth ministry doing to encourage and equip grandparents to further the spiritual development of their grandkids?
  • If you’re not doing anything right now, what are some small steps you could take to make grandparents aware of the role they could play in their grandkids’ faith?
  • How could you help grandparents whose kids are in the same church?
  • What would grandparents need whose kids are in another church?
  • A big worry (and heartbreak) for grandparents is to see their grandkids lose faith. How can we encourage these folks?
  • Are the grandparents in your church aware of the issues their grandkids are facing? Do they know the signs of possible trouble (depression for instance, or bullying)?
  • Grandparents are often prayer warriors (mine sure are!), or have the potential to be since they have more time. How could you encourage them to pray for their grandkids, or for (your) youth ministry?
  • Do you have roles in your ministry where grandparents would shine? I know that I once had an amazing team of two grandparents who led a small group!

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 259

Posted by Josh Griffin


Weekend Teaching Series: ICON (fall kickoff, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Jesus is the way to a full life, a forgiven life and an eternal life.
Service Length: 90 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was FALL KICKOFF! I know, way later than the rest of the United States when it comes to going back to school. We're a post-Labor Day culture here and with Worship Together Weekend taking the first weekend of the month we just had our giant back to school weekend and it was SO fun! I kicked off the talk explaining what makes someone iconic and showed how remarkable it was that we were still taking about Jesus 2,000 years after his life. Specifically we talked about John 14 where Jesus says He is the way to heaven. Great teaching time sharing the Gospel of Jesus, forgiveness, eternal life and the path that God wants us to follow as we live here on earth.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had the most epic weekend every - Back to School weekend is a big deal in our youth group, so everyone went all out. We gave everyone a laser pointer for a screen game called Laser Quest (hopefully we can get something like it on DYM soon, it was unreal) and had a couple of great videos and had some huge prizes. We also played a new game called Anything Can Happen. Where ... as you guessed ... anything can happen!

Music Playlist: Shake It Off (Taylor Swift cover), Take It All, Savior of the World, Your Great Name, Love Came Down

Favorite Moment: Laser Hero was INCREDIBLE. It was so fun! Wow.

Up next: ICON (week 2 of 4)

How much should we invest in those who don't come?

Posted by Jen Bradbury

My first year in ministry, I was haunted by a girl I never met.

Her name was Laura and she never attended anything.

She didn't come to our weekly youth ministry gatherings.

She didn't come to our special events – regardless of whether they were social or service in nature.

She didn't come on our summer mission trip.

What's more, her family rarely attended church.

Yet, every single time I met with the youth board - a group of lay people who, for all intents and purposes, functioned as my boss - I was asked, “Has Laura come to youth group?”

When I'd answer no, inevitably the follow-up question would come: “What have you done to reach out to Laura?”

I'd then diligently recount the steps I'd taken in the last month to reach out to Laura.

  • I called and personally invited her to attend.

  • I sent her a handwritten note saying how much she was missed.

  • I scoured the pews on Sunday mornings in search of her family, hoping for the opportunity to say Hi.

To my board, these steps were never enough so we'd spend the next 30 minutes brainstorming additional ways I could reach out to Laura.

None of these attempts ever worked. Yet, every month for the year I served at this church, I had the same conversation with my youth board.

Rather than focus on the kids we had, we obsessed over those we didn't - despite the fact that this was a fragile youth ministry still in its infancy. Prior to my arrival, it was a ministry centered around a lone summer trip. It lacked a weekly gathering and content of any kind.

Much to my surprise, the launch of our weekly, Jesus-centered gathering was met with enthusiasm. A small, but faithful group of teens regularly attended.

In retrospect, those were the teens we should have been investing in; Not Laura, an almost mythical creature who we had no real hope of reaching.

Had my adult leaders and I spent the same time and energy following up with the students who actually came that we did with Laura, our relationships with them would have grown deeper. Those relationships would have then led to both spiritual and numerical growth within our ministry.

Now maybe this sounds contrary to Scripture.

After all, the shepherd leaves his whole flock in search of the one sheep who wandered off.

And Jesus came to seek and save the lost.

But here's the reality.

There are lost teens in our churches; Even within our churched teens, there exists a gap between what we think they know about Jesus and what they actually know about Jesus.

There are also broken teens in our churches – teens who need to know we care as much about them as we do about the kids who never come.

So why not start focusing on the teens who already come to our ministries; The ones who God has already entrusted to our care? Why not strengthen their foundation before then chasing after those who are less likely to give our ministries a chance?

To me, such an investment not only makes sense, it also seems far more likely to bear longterm fruit.  

Get Some "Ups" In Ministry

Posted by Justin Knowles

Ministry is a whole bunch of ups and downs. There are certain things we need to keep in mind when it comes to working in ministry, working or volunteering in a church, speaking with students, staff or parents and much more. Sometimes I feel like it is really hard to keep my mind straight when things are coming at all sides. There are certain situations in which certain leadership action need to take place. 

All of these can be applied to any situation in ministry if we truly evaluate it. Each of these "ups" will hoping keep you a leg up on leadership in ministry.

Step Up- A goal is given to you but not clear direction. Sometimes we just need to take it and run with it. Step up into it and make it awesome. Make it effective. Someone dropped the ball on something, step up and own it. It shows your team you can take some heat for them and then you can go back with them and walk them through to help avoid it again. You see a student sitting by themselves but your busy. Don't let the excuse of, "Surely someone else will talk to them." Step up and be a pastor and care for your flock.

Back Up- Sometimes we just need to back up and evaluate the situation before we rush in and try to fix it. This is my tendency. I want to just get it done. Back up and see what the big picture is and then try again. Sometimes we want teenagers and parents to figure it out. We have the urge to just tell them what you see. Back up, let them work it out. Come alongside them. You are not the students parents, they are. You are not a super hero. We wish. Sometimes we need to realize we cannot do somethings by ourselves, we need to back up, swallow our pride and get help.

Speak Up- This tends to be one of the harder ones for me. I am a people pleaser. Sometimes when I have a great idea I let it go because I was not asked. I have been trying to speak up more. Same with when I see something that went wrong or is not a good thing, I have been trying to speak up more. Sometimes it will better the organization. Speak up in someones life when you see something, in a loving way of course. Sometimes I rather the person not be mad at me instead of being their pastor and help them with sin in their life and walk them through a difficult situation.

Shut Up- I need to work on this too. Sometimes I say things when I shouldn't. Or somethings could have been said but could have been said later, in private, to that person and not in front of everyone. Something I have been working on even more is just shutting up and listening. I am finding the best counseling sessions I have done have been the ones in which I barely said anything and just listened. Instead of jumping in right away with my thoughts on how they should fix it, just shut up and listen and then ask if they want your input.

Show Up- Sometimes we don't need to say anything at all. Just show up. Just like Jobs friends when he was in pain, they didn't say a word and just sat there with him. Show up to that football game or play. Our presence means more to students than we will ever know. 

Pray Up- We sometimes forget this. We are never doing anything by ourselves when we are in ministry unless we make it that way. Pray it up. Every situation, conversation, action or decision, give it God. The Holy Spirit will guide us in our decisions, actions, words and thoughts if we let Him. This one is the most important.

Topics: UPS, prayer, learning, ministry to students, shut up

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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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