The Download Youth Ministry Blog/
24 Jun 2024

Help! The Parents Won’t Let Go!

By |2024-06-17T13:25:14-07:00June 24th, 2024|Leadership|0 Comments

Are you struggling with parents who won’t let their students attend youth group? Are you dealing with parents who insist on attending EVERY event and program meeting with their students? How can you minister to this family better? Here are some tips!

Meet with the parents

The very first thing I like to do is meet with new parents! You can always offer to take them out to Coffey or have them come to your office to chat for a little bit.

Parents who know more about your reason for ministry and your program and procedures are more likely to trust you. It might still be tough for them to let their baby attend, but meeting with them helps them get to know you better. The more they know you in the ministry, the more likely they will allow their student to participate.

Give them two weeks

I know that parents are the reason we have any children in the ministry in the first place. I always told parents they had two free weeks of observing and checking out the ministry without needing to do anything else. They are their kids, after all! Sometimes, giving them two weeks to observe lets them see everything they need to know about the ministry to let their son or daughter take part.

Remind them of the volunteer process

If a parent wants to continue hanging around after two weeks, I remind them of the volunteer process. Again, helping parents remember that we don’t allow anyone to hang out is a safety issue.

Having a formal volunteer interview process reminds parents that you formally vet every volunteer who comes into the ministry. This could include a background check, an interview with you, two references outside of the church, and an interview with their own teenagers.

I remember one volunteer who passed on everything I asked them to do until I met with their kids. They told me under no circumstances should their parent via youth ministry volunteer! I was floored, But it was one of my hard and fast rules.

You don’t have to let a parent know which part they pass on, but they should know that you are the ministry’s leader and can determine who hangs around students.

Challenge their beliefs

Why do they feel the need to be around their students 24/7? Youth group, at best, is two hours long. Letting their students have a little bit of independence and freedom might be good for them! I might help them grow and their faith on their own. It’s not taking away any personal discipleship, Student. You’re just asking for two hours a week. 

Maybe the parents feel they need to be in constant control, make sure their students make the right kind of friends, and ensure their students are safe all the time.

These things can come from a good place, but they can also be unhealthy.

Challenge parents’ beliefs!

Let them make the call

We can’t change how parents disciple their kids. If they decide that youth ministry is not the best for their student, then that’s the parent’s decision!

As pastors, we have a unique role of coming alongside parents and helping them disciple their students. We’re not supposed to be the primary disciples, which means the final to the parent. The parent doesn’t have to dictate how your ministry works, but they can decide if their student will participate.

Did I miss anything? Could you add anything? I’d love to hear it!


17 Jun 2024

Youth Ministry in the Summer!

By |2024-06-17T11:52:14-07:00June 17th, 2024|Youth Ministry Ideas|1 Comment

What do you do in the summer?

Summer is a wild time! Student ministry aside, families take vacations, kids attend all types of summer camps, and who knows what Summer sports are happening! When it comes to work and the regular, you will more than likely feel a little disrupted!

What’s your plan for the summer?


Maybe you have fewer students around. It’s a great time to try things out! If you want to change up your programming schedule or a new teaching method, it could be a great time to try it out!

See if it works with a few or during the summer season, and then you’ll know if it’s good to try in the fall!

Take a break

Maybe it’s a good time to take a week or two off! If you’re going on a trip and taking half of your group, consider having the group take a break.

You’ll want to clear this with leadership first, but it may be a good time to try it out if it’s not your normal. Make sure you communicate to everyone that a break is happening!

Or maybe you can take a longer break! Maybe August is a great month to let families and students recover from the summer and get back into the glove before the youth group starts back!

Have some fun

If your group is not normally one to play games or have a fun outing, summer is a great time to see if that might be something you can add to your group!

It can be as easy as meeting up at a coffee shop or having a board game night or as complicated as arranging a trip to a nearby amusement park or planning a giant scavenger hunt!

Summer is a time when the sun is expected, so if you’ve been looking to experiment, go crazy!

Keep it going

Maybe all the churches in your area decide to lay off for the summer. They all take breaks, and your church is the only one around that keeps the regularly scheduled programming. Maybe that’s the best thing for you and your ministry! The rhythm can help students look forward to the summer break when they don’t go to school and see their friends.

If you go this route, just make sure to still take some time for a personal vacation. It’s really important to rest and recover during the summer months!

What do YOU do?

Is there anything on this list that I missed that you like to do during the summer? I would love to hear it! Sound off below in the comments!

Need a summer game to make things a little wild? Try this one out from DYM!

10 Jun 2024

Oh No It’s Youth Movie Night!

By |2024-06-10T09:08:40-07:00June 10th, 2024|Youth Ministry Ideas|4 Comments

I’ve seen it a lot.

It’s the summer. You’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re scrambling to add just one more event to the calendar. Or you have intentionally planned a chill event after a week-long mission trip.

What’s easier than putting on a movie and microwaving popcorn for your students?

Very little!

But let’s be real, sometimes a harmless movie night can turn into A LOT of angry emails. Especially if you’ve got hypervigilant parents who think Veggie Tales is a little too mainstream.

So, what to do?

Well, first, check out this movie list. It’s not conclusive, but it can get you started! Picking the right movie is KEY!

Pick a Movie

Are you doing a faith-based movie? An animated sing-a-long? An action or sci-fi flick? Great! Have fun with it! Then, I go check out a website I use to see what’s in a movie. Common Sense Media is my go-to, but you can search just about any movie by putting it into Google with “how many cuss words does _____” It will get you far and save you a lot of trouble.

Watch it First

I know, you’re busy. But if you want to put students before a movie, you will want to watch it first. Don’t slack here. Put it on while you catch up on emails or clean the youth room. If something DOES come up, you want to be able to say, “Yes, I watched the movie and prepared students for that.”

Plan it Out

Does the movie push the boundaries? Send an email. Tell parents WHY you want to watch that movie. Explain what difficult scene their students will see. Tie it into your teaching for the month. Prepare and communicate. That way, you’ve got parents sorted, and no one is surprised. Besides, an extra 30 minutes of work can make you look like a rockstar who totally didn’t just put a movie night on the calendar to have an easy week.

Have Some Games!

DYM is full of resources you can use for your movie night. There are tons of movie-themed games in the DYM store. Go see them all! And with a little bit of effort, your low-key event turns into a great hang with your students!

Get a License

Ugh. LEGAL STUFF!? Yeah, I know. Most youth pastors think you can just watch a movie and pray for forgiveness. But you actually DO have to get a license to show a movie. Unless you know the owner of the movie’s copyright. Just where are you doing youth ministry anyway? Head to this website to grab a license. Put it in your budget. The lawyer, a deacon, and the head of the youth committee will thank you.

Any other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

3 Jun 2024

Summer Camp Leader Survival Bag

By |2024-06-03T06:34:29-07:00June 3rd, 2024|Youth Ministry Ideas, youth mission trips|0 Comments

Summer is upon us!

Which means camp is probably here soon (or next week!). You’ve got leaders ready to go with you on the trip. They aren’t your normal adults. They’re the ones who have a week of vacation they’re willing to burn, or they’re stay-at-home moms or retired seniors who like students enough to spend a week with them. But is there a way you can show them that you care about them and want to thrive during the week of summer camp?

I present to you: the Camp Leader Survival Bag.

What a great way to let leaders know you love them, are thankful for them and want them to have a great week of camp! It doesn’t have to be big, but it can have a big impact. Here some ideas of what you can put inside!

Earplugs – Needs no explanation.

Sleep mask – Do the cabins have blinds? NO? Cool.

Favorite snack and drink – text them and ask or have them fill out a quick Google form survey

Clorox wipes – You don’t know where that student has been

OTC Pain Reliever – We’re not young anymore. That’s why we’re CHAPERONES!

Leader Journal – They’ll have thoughts. Good and bad. Give them a place to write them out!

Sunscreen – It’s hot out there

Bugspray – Mosquitos are evidence of the fall. I’m sure of it.

Electrolytes – For adding to your water bottle that you definitely remembered.

Gum – You endeavor to brush your teeth, but camp happens.

Icy Hot Patches – You know. You know, you know.

Put all of it in a swag bag with your student ministry logo and look like a rockstar! Got any other ideas? I’d love to hear them!

Do YOU need a summer survival kit? DYM has got you covered! Grab this kit to get started right! Click this to find out more!

Need some ideas and resources to help you with summer programming? We’ve got you covered! Need help to prepare your leaders for summer camp? Check. It’s in here. Wondering what series to teach? Not to worry! This pack has got it all and more!

  • Summer Events Canva Graphics 6-Pack: Help plan your summer with ease using this event graphics 6-Pack which includes slides, Instagram Story & grid posts that you can customize on Canva!
  • Known: Discovering Our Identity in Christ: A 4-week series on our identity, value, and purpose in Christ.
  • Summer Camp Counselor Toolkit: If you run a summer camp or even just attend one and want some sweet pre-made resources for your counselors, then this is the tool kit for you.
  • Total Event Prep Kit: A resource to help leaders plan, execute & evaluate an event
30 May 2024

All the FREE Games in Sidekick!

By |2024-05-30T08:07:12-07:00May 30th, 2024|Sidekick Hero Blog, Sidekick: What's New|2 Comments

Obviously, we all know that Sidekick is the best thing to happen to youth ministry since that one guy wrote that one book… but did you know that Sidekick keeps getting better every single week? That’s right, each week, we release a new FREE resource that’s available exclusively to Sidekick users. And all you have to do is click the little button in the tool bar that looks like this:

And here’s what’s even better… as of May 30, 2024 (the date I’m writing this post), there are currently TWELVE premium games that are absolutely FREE in Sidekick. All you have to do is go get ’em!

And if you want to get an idea of what’s available, just scroll through the media gallery below:

And don’t forget that we’re adding new FREE content in Sidekick every single week, so be sure to check back often to see what’s new!

If you’re using Sidekick and you run into any issues, or if you just have a question, please feel free to reach out to our support team at: [email protected]. Or you can check out other helpful articles and walkthroughs at the Sidekick Help Desk by visiting

Finally, if you choose to use the new Sidekick… let us know how you do it and what types of polls you do because we want to highlight you. Our goal is to highlight a youth worker every week with different ways they’ve used Sidekick to help their students engage. If you’re interested in being recognized as a Sidekick Hero, just click the big red button below:

If you’re using Sidekick and you run into any issues, or if you just have a question, please feel free to reach out to our support team at: [email protected]. Or you can check out other helpful articles and walkthroughs at the Sidekick Help Desk by visiting

Finally, if you choose to use the new Sidekick… let us know how you do it and what types of polls you do because we want to highlight you. Our goal is to highlight a youth worker every week with different ways they’ve used Sidekick to help their students engage. If you’re interested in being recognized as a Sidekick Hero, just click the big red button below:

27 May 2024

Navigating Youth Ministry with Your Own Kids

By |2024-05-27T06:04:00-07:00May 27th, 2024|Parents, Youth Pastor Life|0 Comments

There’s a post that’s getting some great attention in the incredible community at the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group. And it rang true with me, having two of my kids come through the middle school ministry while I was the youth pastor there.

How do you minister to your own kids when they come into youth group?

I’ve collected invaluable advice from seasoned youth pastors who chimed in with answers. Here’s a compilation of their wisdom on how to effectively minister to your own children when they join your youth ministry. And, if I can add anything, give yourself grace! You’re new at this (probably) and just like any thing you’re doing for the first time, don’t expect to nail it right away. Give both you and your now YOUTH GROUP STUDENT a chance to learn and grow together.

Maintain the Element of Surprise

One insightful piece of advice comes from a youth pastor whose own children were part of their ministry. They emphasized the importance of keeping upcoming youth events a surprise for your kids, just like for the other students. This approach ensures that your children experience the same excitement and anticipation as their peers. Additionally, although they might naturally end up helping with setup and cleanup, try to limit their involvement to when it’s absolutely necessary. This helps them enjoy the youth experience more fully without feeling like unpaid staff.

Balance Involvement and Independence

Navigating your children’s involvement in youth activities requires a delicate balance. Make sure they understand that certain norms, like seating arrangements, apply to everyone equally, and rotate seating to avoid any sense of favoritism. It’s crucial to engage them in discussions and activities without making them feel singled out. This involves calling on them for answers in group discussions without putting them on the spot, striking a balance between inclusion and pressure.

Prioritize Family Time

Youth ministry can be all-consuming, but it’s vital to remember that your children’s lives don’t revolve around it the way yours does. Dedicate at least one Saturday a month to family time, completely unrelated to ministry activities. This time is crucial for maintaining a strong, personal connection with your children outside the church context. Furthermore, when faced with scheduling conflicts between youth ministry and your children’s events, open and honest communication is key. Plan and discuss these situations in advance to manage expectations and foster understanding.

Respect Their Space and Autonomy

As one pastor who recently saw their children graduate from their youth ministry advised, it’s important to give your kids space. Avoid using them as sermon illustrations and let them initiate interactions. Recognize that they spend more time at church than other kids, so occasionally offering them special opportunities can be a positive way to acknowledge their extra commitment.

Involve and Empower Your Leaders

Bringing your youth ministry leaders into the conversation about your children’s involvement can be incredibly beneficial. Encourage leaders to take your kids under their wing, allowing them to experience the youth group as any other member would. This also means letting other leaders handle disciplinary issues and provide pastoral care, so your child doesn’t always see you as both parent and pastor. This approach can help your children feel more integrated and less singled out.

Maintain Clear Boundaries

Lastly, advice from Katie Edwards highlights the importance of treating your children like any other youth group member. Avoid placing additional expectations on them simply because they are your kids. Allow them to build their own relationships with small group leaders and respect their privacy. Each of your children may want different levels of interaction with you during youth activities, and it’s important to honor their preferences. Sometimes, having a clear conversation about when you are in “youth pastor mode” versus “parent mode” can help set these boundaries. Even allowing your kids to call you by your first name during youth events can lighten the atmosphere and reinforce these distinctions.

These insights from the Download Youth Ministry Facebook Group have been incredibly helpful in my journey as both a parent and a youth pastor. This community is a fantastic resource for anyone involved in youth ministry, offering support, advice, and a wealth of shared experiences. Remember, while the journey may be challenging, it’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of ministry. Blessings on your path as you navigate these unique dynamics in your own youth group!

20 May 2024

Launching Youth Ministry Seniors

By |2024-05-20T06:17:19-07:00May 20th, 2024|Leadership|6 Comments

May is a big season for youth ministries! Your seniors are graduating, and it can be a wild ride. These may be the students you’ve ministered to and spent time with over the last six or seven years. And you may be trying to figure out how to honor them and launch them into the next season.

And you’re also figuring out how to do that without making anyone upset or leaving anyone out!

What can you do?

Here are some ideas for honoring your seniors and even having them speak into the lives of the students who are coming behind them.

Have Seniors Speak at Youth Group

While not every senior can deliver a 30-minute message, you might be able to ask a senior to give the group following them some life advice. The high school pastor I worked with would do this regularly. He would schedule 3 to 4 seniors during a youth group program and have them offer advice to the next class. It was usually great to hear what the seniors would come up with and how they would take the lessons they learned in youth group and pass them down to the students following them.

Recognize Them on a Sunday Morning

On a particular Sunday morning, call up students who are graduating and have them stand on stage. It’s always a great moment to recognize them in front of the whole church! You can either hand them a microphone and have them go down the line saying their name, where they are from, and what their next season of life holds for them. Make sure you communicate in advance what this will be so that students and parents are prepared for it!

Get Them a Gift

Try to get students something to mark the occasion. Maybe it’s a Bible where their family and friends have highlighted verses to take them into the next season. Maybe it’s a devotional aimed at seniors so that they can enter this next season walking with God. Maybe it’s exclusive Youth Ministry swag that only graduates get. Whatever you do, think about how a student might look at this gift and remember their time in Youth Ministry fondly.

Set Them Up for What’s Next

Do your new seniors know how to look for a church? Do they know how to ask and get plugged into a new ministry? I know a youth pastor who would take his seniors to a couple of different churches during their summer after high school. He would have them learn everything they could about the new church on one visit and ask how to get plugged in. I love this idea because the youth pastor would go with them and help coach them through it! What a great idea to help students look for a new church since most of our seniors might be moving on to their next chapter in a new city and not know how to find a new community of believers!

How would you help launch seniors into the next season?

Want some help with having seniors tell their stories? Check out this resource!

17 May 2024

The National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry SIZZLE Reel

By |2024-05-17T14:14:33-07:00May 17th, 2024|Youth Ministry Ideas|4 Comments

Let’s go!!! JOIN US THIS FALL … full customizable 1/2 of volunteer training – host it for others at your church, or just for your volunteers. The National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training will have over 20,000 youth workers this Fall, the BIGGEST training event of the year. JOIN US!

Get all of the details at

13 May 2024

Following Up With Visitors and New Students

By |2024-05-13T11:43:29-07:00May 13th, 2024|Youth Ministry Hacks|4 Comments

When you get a chance to hang out with new students, do you have a process of making sure you can follow up with them? Do you follow up with them?

If you don’t have a process, you won’t follow up with students.

Here’s my suggestion to you and it’s in three parts:

Get Their Info

Every time you meet a new student, get their information. You need four things:

First and Last Name



Contact Info

What contact info do you need? That depends on you. What are you more likely to use to follow up with a student? Their phone number? Email? Street address?

Whatever you use, get the same thing each time. And determine HOW to get that info as well. Is it a card students fill out? Is it an online form they scan with a QR code?

In our ministry, I had students fill out a card and they got a big candy bar from me when they turned it in. You may want to give them a cool t-shirt or even a gift box, but that’s totally up to you!

Whatever you do, do the same thing each time because of step two.

Have a Plan for Follow-Up

Do you text every student after they come to youth group? Do you send them an email with links to next steps? Do you send them something in them mail?

Whatever you do, have a plan! It’d be best if you had students know that you are glad they showed up and let them know they’re welcome back anytime!

It’s totally fine to have a prewritten text or email or letter to send out to students. You can make it personalized with a few extra words or not. That’s up to you!

Put Follow-Up on Your Weekly To Do

Following up with students SHOULD be important. But if it’s not on your weekly list of things to do, it won’t get done.

Make it happen at the same time each week. Like every Thursday after youth group night. Or every Monday after Sunday is over with. Whatever you do, make sure it happens each week at the same time.

That will help you recognize when you have visitors and when you don’t. Knowing that will let you see if your group is inviting in friends or if they aren’t.

And if they aren’t, then you can learn what you can do about it!

Any extra thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

6 May 2024

How to Change Your Culture to Something You Desire

By |2024-05-06T03:50:50-07:00May 6th, 2024|Leadership|5 Comments

I have been in my current position for a few years now. Recently, during a conversation with one of our youth leaders, he remarked, “It’s like we have a whole new group of people and values.” Indeed, the atmosphere has shifted significantly compared to four years ago, and this transformation has been intentional. Throughout the year, we have diligently worked towards altering the culture of our Wednesday nights to one that actively seeks Jesus, embraces committed leadership, and fosters a spirit of enjoyment. Our efforts are beginning to yield results.

So, how did we achieve this? Reflecting on the steps our team took to implement change within our group, I’d like to share them.

  1. Prayer: Our team dedicated time to prayer together. We gathered to envision and articulate our values and aspirations for our ministries, surrendering them to God. While individuals can influence culture to a certain extent, the profound change we sought for our students could only be realized through divine intervention.
  2. Observation: Initially, I spent four to six months simply observing. I meticulously took notes, scrutinizing every aspect from technological setups and stage arrangements to program content, volunteer engagement, and job roles. After gaining insights into our existing systems and their outcomes, we systematically addressed areas for improvement.
  3. Gradual Implementation: We began by making superficial adjustments to enhance the flow and aesthetics of our services. These changes involved aspects such as graphics, social media presence, sermon illustrations, music selection, and recreational activities. Changing culture is not a hasty process; it requires grace and patience as people naturally resist change. Once we achieved the desired service environment and struck a balance, we progressed to addressing personnel matters.
  4. Volunteers: Recognizing that people differ from programs, we consistently communicated our vision from the outset. Some individuals naturally aligned with our vision, while others required candid discussions to reassess their involvement. Reiteration of the vision is crucial; when you feel fatigued from repeating it, your volunteers are just beginning to grasp it. While adjusting the vision for existing volunteers is possible, recruiting new leaders who resonate with the new direction proves invaluable. These leaders, fully immersed in the envisioned culture, serve as conduits for its transmission to students.
  5. Relationships: Empowered by our shared vision and understanding of success, our leaders engage with students in purposeful relational activities. Events such as park outings, beach trips, and summer camps, led by vision-aligned leaders, have cemented relationships within our core student group. With this foundation, we are poised to establish small groups and expand our outreach to students seeking spiritual fulfillment.

The journey to reshape your group’s culture may entail various strategies, tailored to its unique dynamics. Nonetheless, I have found that prayerful, gradual, and intentional efforts can foster a culture where leaders inspire, collaborate, and empower others.

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