Selma Movie

Book Review: The Jesus Gap

Posted by Rachel Blom

Jesus Gap coverIn the last few years, there have been a few books that changed the game for me; a few books that gave me a wake up call or a new vision. The Jesus Gap by Jen Bradbury will be one of those books.

In this book, youth pastor Jen Bradbury details her research into what teens really believe about Jesus specifically. Anyone who has paid attention (or read Almost Christian) over the last decade or so, will have a suspicion of the results she discusses. I know I did—but the reality was more complex than I imagined.

Jen shows for instance how teens believe Jesus was the Son of God, yet at the same time don’t believe He was divine. She details how few teens still believe Jesus was without sin, and how many believe you can be a Christian without believing in Jesus.

But the book doesn’t just bring ‘bad news’ about the sad state of teens’ beliefs in Jesus. It also gives many, many practical suggestions on how to put Jesus front and center in your youth ministry. Jen speaks from her own experience of course, which makes this book a far cry from a theoretical discussion of Christology, but way more of an inspiring how-to on teaching Jesus.

I’ll be re-reading The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus a few times to get the max out of it, that’s for sure and I advise you to do the same.

We Only Sing 25 Worship Songs a Year at Youth Group

Posted by Josh Griffin


We only have 25 different songs we play each year in our student ministry. That usually freaks people out a bit - but it is strategic to help both our students learn the songs and also for our student band to develop skills enough to play them well each week. They are know as the "Cluster of Students 25" and are the songs for Wildside and High School Ministry of Saddleback Church. 

Once people get over the shock that we only play 25 songs, they ask, well, what are they? Here you go - enjoy the list! We do auditions in May, and the list comes out in early summer every year, with new songs being introduced at summer camp each year then into the mainstream of youth group through the fall. Enjoy:


1) Learn to Love (COS)

2) You Hold Me (Liberty University)

3) Sinking Deep (Young and Free)

4) Love Came Down (Bethel)

5) Christ is enough (Hillsong)


6) Tear Down the Walls (Hillsong)

7) Oceans (United Radio Version)

8) Burning Ones (Jesus Culture)

9) With Everything (Hillsong)

10) We can change the world (Matt Redman)


11) Your Great Name (Eagle and Child Version)

12) This is Amazing Grace (Phil Wickham)

13) Divine and Holy (COS) 

14) Forever Reign (United)

15) Savior of the World (Ben Cantelon)  


16) He is Alive (COS)

17) Wake (Young and Free)

18) Let it be known (Worship Central)

19) We are the free (Matt Redman)

20) We shine (Steve Fee)

21) Go (Hillsong United)

22) Take it all (Hillsong United)

23) You Are (David Crowder)

24) Sing and Shout (Matt Redman)

25) Give us a Passion (COS)


Student Leadership Team Basics: Creating a Culture of Welcome

Posted by Jen Bradbury


Once you have a student leadership team, the question is, what do you do with it? What jobs can & should student leaders fulfill?

To be honest, I cringe a little bit at the notion of jobs for student leaders. Jobs are something that can be easily quit. They're something that are limited. It's far too easy to say you're done once you've completed a specific job or task. Rather than complete a job, I want student leaders to embrace their role as part of their identity – not just as something they do a few days or hours a week.

For that reason, the primary role of every person on my student leadership team is to establish a culture of welcome.

To be clear, establishing a culture of welcome involves so much more than being a greeter. Being greeters is a job that starts 15 minutes before an event and ends 10 minute after it begins. It involves a few teens standing at the door, shaking hands with people as they arrive, handing out name tags, and maybe, if you're lucky, awkwardly making small talk with people.

In contrast, establishing a culture of welcome is a role that never ends. As people tasked with this important responsibility, student leaders know it's their job to make every single person who walks into our youth ministry feel welcome, regardless of what grade they're in, what school they go to, how popular they are, or often they've come.

Establishing a culture of welcome means that at every event or gathering we have, student leaders are responsible for

  • Knowing people's names

  • Being the first to initiate a conversation with someone – even someone they don't know

  • Leaving a conversation with their close friends in order to hang out with someone who's alone

  • Inviting people to join a conversation or activity

  • Connecting people with those they might have something in common with.

Being responsible for creating a culture of welcome means that student leaders aren't finished with their job when the discussion starts. Instead, student leaders are responsible for

  • Sitting with people who they don't know to help make sure no one feels alone

  • Asking questions to help people see that it's a safe environment to do so

  • Participating in the discussion to encourage others to do the same

  • Monitoring their own participation in a discussion to ensure that rather than dominating it, there's room for others to participate in it as well.

Student leaders know that creating a culture of welcome extends beyond the walls of a youth room. To that end, student leaders are responsible for

  • Finding other high school students in worship, connecting with them, and inviting them to attend youth group

  • Noticing who's missing and following up with them via text, Facebook, and Instagram to check in on them and let them know they've been missed

  • Affirming and encouraging those who aren't student leaders – through prayer, in life, and in their faith journeys.

In more than a decade of youth ministry, I've learned the hard way that creating a welcoming environment with a bunch of high schoolers doesn't happen naturally, nor can my adult leaders and I create such a place. However, with a dedicated group of student leaders who know and understand their role in creating such a place, it's entirely possible.

The result?

A ministry that will be welcoming to the geeks and the jocks, to the popular kids and the misfits. A ministry in which teens continually and tangibly see God's love – not just in the adults, but in their peers.

Other posts in this series:

Student Leadership Team Basics: The Interview 

Student Leadership Team Basics: How many leaders should you have? 

Student Leadership Team Basics: 3 Ways Not to Describe Student Leadership 

Student Leadership Team Basics: Why?

Student Leadership Team Basics: How to Choose Student Leaders

Student Leadership Team Basics: 6 things to look for in student for in student leaders 

Image Credit: http://www.thelivingleader.com/wp-content/uploads/leadership.jpg






Sweet Recap Overview Of Our Church

Posted by Justin Knowles


Easter was an incredibale time for our church! 106 first time decisions for Christ and 236 baptisms, praise God! Before our services we had this video play to give an insight of what our church is all about. I loved it so much I had to share. Honored to serve here and loved how God moved for our Easter services.

4 Questions To Ask About Your Ministry Program

Posted by Justin Knowles

Things are rolling in this season of our ministry. Both the student ministry and the college ministry of Christ’s Church of the Valley are moving forward and by the grace of God, we have not ran it into the ground yet. A few weeks ago we went out for a team planning day. We all had lunch, coffee, sat around and talked about what is to come in the next season. Needless to say I am stoked! But as we have been planning here are some great questions we had to answer in order for us to move forward effectively:

Why are we doing this? – We don’t want to do something just to do it. As tempting or cool as something might be, we want to have a purpose or reason why we are doing a certain series or event. When we answer this, we then can help get everyone on board, get our volunteers excited and everyone knows what the goal is. When you know where you are going, you can actually get there.

Is this the best we can do? – When we decide what we want to do and why, the question is, “Is this the best way possible to do it?” Am I able to give this my best? Is the best use of our resources? Can we do something else that is more effective? I stole this event process from Josh Griffin and it’s “best idea wins”. What is the best way to pull this off to make it awesome.

What are we doing that is not working? – This one is a little tougher. This is going to have you and the team look at what your ministry is doing right now and evaluate it. We might have started something a while ago but it has lost its touch, effectiveness, and spark. This will lead you to the last question, which is…

What needs to die? – When something needs to die, it needs to die. I know that everything you do in your ministry right now at one time solved a problem at one time. The question is, “Is that problem already solved and are we still doing that thing?” If the answer is “yes” then it is time to look at that thing and kill it. It points you back to the first question of “Why are we doing this?” If you can’t answer it, kill it. If the answer to “Is this the best we can do?” is “No”, then kill it. If you determine it’s not working as well as it once used to, then kill it. You will see how much more momentum you will gain when you don’t have that dead wait.

I know these questions have helped out team move forward, and maybe it can help you and your ministry move forward as well.





DYM's Big Game Bundle - 9 Games for $19!

Posted by Josh Griffin

Today is a fun day - we're got 11 new games and resources in the DYM Store today, including this 9-game bundle for just $19 as well! Includes a TON of great games, ready to use this week! Click the image above to check it out!

POLL: High School Students Serving in Junior High Ministry

Posted by Josh Griffin

I benefit every week from having a high school student co-leading my son's small group. While he has an adult leader in the group as well, I'm thrilled to have a 17 or 18-year old senior doing life with him, too. This isn't the case in every youth ministry - and I certainly don't think that someone's age should be the only indicator of maturity. So this week's poll question is about high school students serving in junior high ministry - curious if you do it that way, too. Vote now!


GUEST POST: Middle School Gatherings - Part 3

Posted by Josh Griffin

Read Part 1 of this series here!

Read Part 2 of the series here!

I underestimated how concrete middle school students think when I started. Now I have a better handle on it. I can't just say "Well, glad we learned that. Now off to big church!" and hope the lesson sticks. I give my students something to do, touch, say or whatever that helps solidify the "So What?" of the lesson. For example, this last Sunday students walked around the room and wrote out on a poster board how they would step out in faith and show love to someone. Then they signed their name to it. Super simple, but allowed the lesson to end with some concrete application that they came up with all on their own (Okay, so I gave some examples along the way too).

(AKA, talk and pray time) At 10:30 am the students head home or to big church and I hang around in the room until it clears out. I talk with the new students, pray with any who need, and generally am present until the students are gone.

Some obvious things I see writing this out I ask a lot of questions when I teach
We have a large enough group so that answers can vary but small enough that we don't have to run a mic around the room to hear answers. If we were larger I'd have students discuss in their rows or at tables. We have a TON of moving parts. Stand. Sit. Play. Watch. Sing. Stand. Sit. It can seem like a lot is going on with our service but I've been in the same room with the same kids doing less stuff and have had to watch the middle school riots begin. Having a lot to do helps wiggly kids not be so wiggly and get out their energy in a positive way. It's more planning on my end, but I love the results! I've written a few activity and question heavy curriculum for DYM if this sounds like something that would benefit your group. Check out Gray, Awkward, Fresh and Killing the Clique. I feel like these lean heavy on movement but also help get the truths your teaching across as well!

A couple things I wish we did better Student greeters
I really want a dedicated group of students being the "main door holder/greeters" but haven't nail that down yet. I need to get on it! Follow-up for new kids: We do great when a student gets to our ministry, but I want to do a better job of connecting with them AND their parents right after the service too. Maybe another student led team can do this?

Adult presence
Students running everything is great. Students never seeing other parents involved in the Sunday MS Service, not so awesome. I'm trying to recruit parents to be in the room with us helping me and loving on kids. I have one right now. I want a few more for reinforcements! Student sharing/teaching: I don't ask students to get on stage often and teach. They come and play games or lead worship, but hardly ever talk. Maybe it's because I ask questions a lot that I don't do this. I want to see more students sharing from the stage, though.

So that's our service. Controlled chaos? Most definitely. Completely rewarding? You bet!

What does your middle school time look like?

Ronald Long is a youth pastor and Downoad Youth MInistry author - check out his resources right here!

GUEST POST:: 5 Things Student Ministry Interns Want

Posted by Josh Griffin

Student ministry internships are great things. For starters, you have an extra staff member that can get stuff done without draining your budget. Also, you get the opportunity to invest in the next generation of church leaders. I know we’d all agree that if we have a student ministry internship program, we want it to be as effective as possible, and we want people to be excited to come work for us!

There are all sorts of great ideas out there about what makes an internship effective. But have you ever stopped and wondered, What do the interns want? What do those of us that are actually in the position really think?

Here are five important things I have learned in my time(s) as an intern that I believe would make an internship program extremely worthwhile. 

  1. Lead The Way: Typically, the expectations for interns are that they will grow spiritually and grow as leaders. I’m convinced that this is nearly impossible to do without influence from the people around us. Want us to be great leaders someday? Show us what being a great leader looks like. Want us to set clear boundaries? Show us how you set clear boundaries. We’re looking at you, so lead the way.
  1. Give Us Ownership: Please, whatever you do, don’t just give us busy work. Show us that we have value in the organization by giving us projects that are worthwhile. Don’t just make us buy game supplies; let us host and lead the games. Don’t just tell us how to be great communicators; give us opportunities to speak. Let us run point on important projects. Allow us to be champions of the work that we are doing. 
  1. Set the Bar High: I truly believe that because we serve an excellent God, we must do excellent work in ministry. Don’t be afraid to challenge us, and don’t be afraid to help us make things better. Show us what it takes to do incredible work in student ministry.

  2. Don’t Shelter Us: The temptation for pastors is to shield young people from the difficult things that people in ministry deal with. The problem with this is that one day, your interns will likely have their own jobs in the church, and they won’t have the first clue how to pastor people through the difficulties of life. If we’re sheltered from the messiness of life, we will be absolutely useless as pastors someday. Bring your interns into those difficult conversations. You don’t have to let them be a part of private meetings, but you can still give them teachable moments. Debrief them about the situation. Ask your interns what they might have done differently or how they would respond.
  1. Encourage Collaboration: One of the best things that I have done in my internships was to spend time with other environments in our church. Encourage your interns to learn more about the other people that are a part of your church. Have them spend time with your lead pastor, your children’s pastor, or the people who have influence within your church’s leadership and culture. The healthiest organizations are typically ones whose environments work in sync with each other. Teach us to collaborate early on.

Mitch Blankenship is currently the High School Ministry Intern at Buckhead Church in Atlanta, GA.

GUEST POST: Middle School Gatherings - Part 2

Posted by Josh Griffin

Read Part 1 of this series here!

Bumper Video
I teach in series and will typically create some short 30 second to one minute long bumper video to go here so the band can get back to their chairs and we can transition anything if needed. Purposeful time to let students know we're changing gears.

Teaching Time
We only have thirty minutes left in our hour before we dismiss and let kids go. Now if I were doing high school ministry I might teach for the whole time and then have one more song at the end for a response time. But this is middle school ministry and I want these students to come back next week. So what I do is I break up my teaching into roughly ten minute segments. Something happens at the end of those ten minutes to help give students a break before we dive back in.

Typically that means the first ten minutes is:

  • Explain main point of the lesson Ask questions/take answers.
  • Read Bible.
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and play a game.

Confession: sometimes that game is an awesome illustration that helps tie in lesson beautifully. Sometimes, however, that lesson has zero to do with the truth being taught and is solely used to help break up the time and give the sixth grade boys a chance to let out their wiggles. End confession.

The second ten minutes then is:

  • Read Bible. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Unpack truths. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and tell a story that helps relate to the main point.
  • Again, this is a time when I allow for silly adlib and helping the students see that this is the time to unwind for a minute. This could easily be a video that helps relate the truth of the lesson to students also.

Sometimes I see we're running late at this point because of good conversation and so we drop a video, game, or story so we can spend more time on the next round.

The last ten minutes usually flows like this:

  • Read Bible or revisit main point
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Begin application.


Ronald Long is a youth pastor and Downoad Youth MInistry author - check out his resources right here!

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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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