20 May 2024

Launching Youth Ministry Seniors

By |2024-05-20T06:17:19-07:00May 20th, 2024|Leadership|1 Comment

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!

6 May 2024

How to Change Your Culture to Something You Desire

By |2024-05-06T03:50:50-07:00May 6th, 2024|Leadership|3 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.

29 Apr 2024

Gradutation and Moving Up Gifts

By |2024-04-29T05:44:39-07:00April 29th, 2024|Leadership|2 Comments

May is just around the corner! That means seniors are moving on, 7th-grade students are going into high school, and 5th or 6th-grade students are getting ready to enter youth group!

With all this change? What should you get each grade or class to help them mark the occasion?

Bibles for Seniors

I love gifting Bibles to students moving out of the youth group and into the next season of life. Even better, though, is giving them a Bible with highlighted verses and notes written from the important people in their lives. You can do this all in one go at a Senior focused youth group night or hand the Bible to parents to have them run it around to family. Whichever direction you take, write your own note and highlight a few verses.

Those can be treasured Bibles that can help guide them to their next season! Just make sure you reach out to the seniors on your list and ask if they will be around for it. It never hurts to have a couple extra on hand, just in case.

T-Shirts for Incoming Students

Every student could use a Bible when coming into the youth group. So don’t hear me say DON’T get an incoming student a Bible. However, I love to help new students feel a part of the group and special at the same time. I would usually get a t-shirt made up special for the students coming into the ministry. It would be our logo on a t-shirt that ONLY the new incoming students get. That way they get some cool youth group branded stuff AND feel some connection to the other students moving in with them.

It’s been cool to watch students keep wearing those shirts over the years too. A little bit of class pride, yeah?

A Plant

Go with me here. Moving from middle school to high school is difficult. It can be one of the toughest moves a student makes. We don’t often recognize that in our ministries, which should change! I love getting my students something that symbolizes growing into the next season of life.

A succulent (read: a plant that doesn’t die very easily) can be a neat gift to show students you see them and remind they that they are still growing! It’s a little reminder that can encourage them to continue to make their faith their own AND, hopefully, encourage them to continue to grow in grace and love.

You can probably think of a few other things you could grab for a student moving from one season to the next. Celebrate the moves and the changes! Whatever you do, acknowledge that God is at work in their lives and that you’re excited about what He has in store for them!

23 Apr 2024

Encourage Your Volunteers!

By |2024-04-23T10:36:35-07:00April 23rd, 2024|Leadership, Volunteers|3 Comments

Springtime might be tough for a Youth Pastor, but it can also be difficult for a Youth Ministry volunteer! These are the people we rely on to help make ministry happen. We can’t do this thing by ourselves! So, how can you show volunteers appreciation and ensure they feel valued as a part of your team? I’ve got three quick ideas!

  1. Send them a text

Sending a quick text message to a volunteer is a great way to show them you appreciate them! Normally, we text volunteers when we need supplies for a game or for them to put out a fire in the youth room. But if you spent the next 10 minutes texting your volunteer team, you could show them that you were thinking about them, appreciate their support, and give them a small encouragement that might carry them through the week! Something like:

“Hey Susan! Thanks so much for being on the team. I saw you having a great conversation with Samantha last night. I’m glad you’re doing Youth Ministry!”

“Hey Scott! It’s always great to see you throwing football and chatting it up with the dudes. Glad you’re on the Youth Ministry team!”

  1. Grab Them a Snack

Ask your volunteers what their favorite snack is. And then next time you meet, have it ready for them. We do this with students all the time. Why shouldn’t we do this for our volunteers? It’s a great way to show them that we know them, we love them, and we were thinking about them. It doesn’t even have to be in the Youth Ministry budget for you to show this type of appreciation! Once you know their favorite snack, you can get it for them again! Think right before the retreat happens or at the end of the school year. You can show your volunteers appreciation just by running to the store real quick.

  1. Sing Their Praises

Maybe not literally singing, but think of it this way: every time you get a microphone, it’s a chance for you to talk about how great your volunteers are. Maybe it’s when you’re making an announcement at church in service or before you break up for small groups. Make sure you tell your volunteers you appreciate them in front of people! It’s definitely not the only way to show people that you appreciate them, but it’s a great way to remind them that you are on their team and you are thankful for them! The next time somebody hands you a microphone, take 30 seconds to talk about how great your Youth Ministry volunteers are!

Did I miss anything? Is there anything you would add to the list? I’d love to hear about it!

26 Mar 2024

Exciting New Updates to This Year’s National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training

By |2024-03-26T00:10:31-07:00March 26th, 2024|Leadership, Training, Volunteers|1 Comment

This video-driven, fun, and momentum-building event, with practical youth ministry training for your volunteers, is back for it’s 6th year! And we’ve made some exciting updates to ensure it’s tailored perfectly for you and your team.

  1. NEW: You get to CHOOSE the training date!
    We’ll deliver the training to you on August 1st, 2024!
  2. NEW: Customize the training how you want the day to go.
    The training will be hosted on Coleader, which means you can customize it however you’d like! Lots of flexibility… you can choose to make it shorter or longer.
  3. NEW: Gold/Gold+ Members get 35% off!
    Only $161 to own exclusively for your church or $259 to host (before April 1)! Learn more about Gold and Gold+.
  4. NEW: Gift it to your community or CHARGE for admission!
    Those who host can charge whatever they want. You’re in control of the pricing. Use it as a fundraiser or invite people to come for FREE.
  5. NEW: Platinum Members get the training included in their membership! Learn more about Platinum.
  6. NEW: Training topics & NEW speakers just announced!

Doug Fields
Author, Speaker and co-founder of Download Youth Ministry

Kristen Lascola
Junior High Pastor, North Coast Church and creator/host of “The Ministry Coach” podcast

Josh Griffin
Junior High Pastor at Mariners Church, Speaker and co-founder of Download Youth Ministry

Oza Jones
Director of African American Ministries for The Texas Baptists Convention

Zach Luben
Director of Chapel, Seaver College, Pepperdine University

Brock Morgan
Associate Pastor of The Bridge Chino, Speaker and Author of 20 books including The Anxious Teen

Jessica Sanchez
Youth Worker, Spiritual Director and part of the Download Youth Ministry team

Sean McDowell
Author, Speaker and Biola University Christian Apologetics Professor



Why your Youth Pastor NEEDS your Teamwork

5 Secrets of a Veteran Volunteer

Effective Up-close Discipleship

The Power of Asking Questions

Navigating Youth Group Drama

Faith Formation to the iPhone Generation

When Interruptions Become Ministry Opportunities

The Anxious Teen: Ministry That Builds Resilience and Connection to God


Prices increase on April 1st, sign up now to save $50!

Have questions?

Reach out to our team [email protected] – we’d love to connect with you!

12 Feb 2024

Surviving the Spring Slump

By |2024-02-12T07:52:10-08:00February 12th, 2024|Leadership|3 Comments

Springtime is usually tough for youth pastors and student ministry. Somewhere in between the hectic schedule of spring sports and seniors getting ready to graduate, it seems like showing up for youth group becomes less and less of a priority.

So, as a Youth Pastor, how can you get through the slump and stay encouraged? I’ve got four tips!

Focus on who is there.

A big pet peeve of mine is hearing students ask “where is everybody?” or even worse, “nobody’s here!” Both of those statements signal that everyone who made the time to actually show up and be invested in youth group today isn’t worthwhile. I know that’s probably not how you feel as the pastor, but it’s an important thing to remember. The students who showed up are there! Minister to the students you have!

I would have small group leaders who only had three kids show up for a meeting. Instead of moaning that their regulars couldn’t come, they loaded up the car and went to Sonic! What a great way to encourage the students who made the effort to come!

Stay in touch!

Just because a student isn’t there doesn’t mean that they don’t wish they could be. Getting reminders from you or messages of encouragement for the big game they’ve got coming up can be really helpful. Make sure you stay in contact with students even when they’re not there. This way, you can let them know that they matter to you even when they don’t show up to youth group. It’ll give you something great to talk about when you do finally get to connect with them in person again!

Ask them for their sports schedule and put their games on your calendar so you can send them a text the day of and let them know you’re praying for them. It can be a really game-changing opportunity!

Go to where they are.

If students are really focused on getting ready for the spring musical, then you can show them how much they mean to you by going to watch their play. We ask students to come hang out with us at church all the time. If, in the spring, they find themselves really busy with their extracurricular activities, we can return the favor and go to where they are! When you show up at the student sport event or band concert, you let them know how much they mean to you! It’ll go a long way in the future.

Take care of yourself.

The spring can be a really tough time. You can feel discouraged and beat down. Take a moment to plan some self-care into your spring routine. Schedule a day where you get away from the office and pray for your students and your next season of ministry. Invite your leaders out for coffee and hang out. Spend some time cleaning out the youth room so you’ll be ready for the wild Summer months. Take some moments to read scripture and reflect on what God has done in your own life. Spring can be tough! But, if you work on these four things, by the grace of God, you’ll make it through!

Need an easy win for youth group this spring? Check out these games:

5 Feb 2024

How Do I Recruit Volunteers?

By |2024-02-05T08:34:06-08:00February 5th, 2024|Leadership, Volunteers|2 Comments

We can’t do this ministry by ourselves! While it might be possible to take a group of students on a trip in the church van alone, there’s always a high likelihood that you misplaced a receipt, got lost on the way, or somehow lost a kid!

And I know I’m not the only one who really wishes there were someone else in the audience to help keep students focused and on task when I’m teaching a message or leading a game. For crowd control and to prevent receiving as many angry parent emails, volunteers are an integral part of any Youth Ministry! So how do you get them? Speaking from the Sunday morning pulpit might not be your best bet. Instead, try these four tips:

  1. Ask parents to help make student ministry better: Some youth pastors don’t like asking parents to serve in ministry. Maybe it’s because they feel like students can’t be themselves if mom or dad is hanging around. Sometimes it’s because a Youth Pastor might feel intimidated by parents. Odds are, they’re older than you, and it might feel weird having volunteers around who are twice your age or could legitimately be your parent.The real reality is that they are invested in Youth Ministry going well! These are their kids we’re talking about! Parents can make the best volunteers because they have an inside track on what’s going on in their students’ lives, and they want the ministry to thrive.
  2. Ask students who want to help lead the youth group: You might be surprised about how perceptive students are. Or maybe you know that students can tell who they would like to be around. If you were to ask a couple of students in your youth group who they would like to see volunteering in the student ministry, odds are that they have some names from your church.They may not be the people you would’ve chosen first, but if you ask them to serve because students mentioned them by name, you might find yourself a really helpful ally in your ministry journey!
  3. See who naturally hangs around: When you have a youth group, is there somebody who is hanging out with the kids throwing a football in the parking lot? Is there someone who pops in just to help set up chairs or ask if you need any more snacks? Are there people who ask to be involved in Youth Ministry? This might seem like an easy win, but the reality is people might not volunteer if they’re not asked.When you see people at church naturally gravitating towards students, they might be worth getting to know a little bit better, and seeing if they would be a good fit for serving in the student ministry! Make sure to watch out for older church members as well who take time out of their day to stop and talk to students. Don’t ever discount a volunteer because they might be too old! If they love Jesus and like kids, they might be a great volunteer!
  4. Ask those already serving: Does your church have people who already like to help, maybe they cook in the kitchen or hand out coffee or open doors before service. People who like to serve usually are looking for more ways to serve! There might be some church members who do too much and need to take a break, but don’t discount people or try to be the Holy Spirit for them. Ask if they would be willing to serve in student ministry and let them pray about it!

Have I missed any ways that you’ve recruited volunteers at your church? I’d love to hear them!

And need some resources getting these new volunteers on board? Check these out:

22 Jan 2024

Nurturing Health in Youth Ministry Teams

By |2024-01-22T14:51:25-08:00January 22nd, 2024|Leadership|2 Comments

In the dynamic world of youth ministry, volunteers are the heartbeat that keeps the mission alive. It’s not merely about filling roles; it’s about finding the right individuals for specific roles, about how people “feel” when serving on our teams, and if they feel like they know what they are doing when they show up. The journey towards a vibrant and impactful ministry team starts with pursuing clarity before pursuing people.

1. Pursue Clarity Before Pursuing People

Effective leadership begins with a clear vision. Before diving into recruitment, take the time to define your mission, goals, and the specific needs of your youth ministry. When you have a crystal-clear vision you can make crystal-clear asks. You can identify the right volunteers who align with your objectives.

The adage “Leaders who know how to win, win” holds in youth ministry. Set clear targets for your team, outlining specific roles and responsibilities. This clarity not only guides your volunteers but also enhances the impact of your ministry.

2. Creating a Vibrant Team Culture

Beyond simply filling volunteer spots, creating a vibrant team culture is essential. It’s about fostering connections and building a sense of community among your volunteers. They become more committed and engaged when they feel connected to the mission and each other.

Host regular team-building activities, both within and outside of service hours. Encourage open communication and celebrate successes, big or small. A team that shares a strong sense of community is more likely to weather challenges and stay dedicated to the cause.

Here is an example of what I like to do:

  • Connect Weekly: Instead of trying to touch base with everyone every week, I encourage setting up weekly one-on-one sessions with leaders. Aim to connect with your crew individually every 4-6 weeks, fostering deeper relationships.

  • Gather Monthly: Designate a consistent date, perhaps the last Wednesday of the month, for a casual get-together. It could be a trip to In-N-Out or a similar outing after services. Initially, it may start slow, but as leaders engage, it will naturally grow into a valuable time for bonding. Informal ministry discussions are likely to occur in this relaxed setting.

  • Train Quarterly: Dedicate intentional quarterly sessions for training that focus on collective improvement. This includes team-building activities, learning sessions, and, of course, enjoying some good food together. Striking a balance between training and fun ensures growth and camaraderie within the team.

3. Effective Leadership: Being Available When It Counts

Leadership isn’t just about showing up; it’s about being available when it truly counts. Delegation and purpose are the cornerstones that empower leaders to be fully present during crucial moments. As a youth pastor, setting up your team for success is part of your leadership responsibility.

Delegate tasks based on individual strengths and skills. When your team feels equipped and confident in their roles, it frees you to be available for mentorship, guidance, and support during key moments. Successful leaders know how to empower their team, allowing everyone to contribute their best.

4. The Vital Elements of Health in Ministry Teams

In the pursuit of a thriving ministry team, focus on nurturing four vital elements: clarity, defined wins, community among leaders, and effective delegation.

Clarity: Clearly define your mission and communicate it consistently. This clarity guides your team’s efforts and fosters a shared sense of purpose.

Defined Wins: Establish clear goals and celebrate victories. Recognizing and appreciating your team’s accomplishments reinforces their commitment to the ministry.

Community Among Leaders: Build a supportive community among your leadership team. Encourage collaboration, open communication, and a sense of belonging.

Effective Delegation: Delegate tasks strategically, ensuring each team member plays to their strengths. This not only maximizes efficiency but also fosters a culture of trust and empowerment.

Youth pastors, remember that your volunteers are not just contributors; they are valuable partners in the ministry journey. By prioritizing clarity, building a vibrant team culture, and being available when it counts, you set the stage for a healthy and impactful ministry. Focus on these vital elements, and watch your youth ministry team thrive!

– Justin

12 Jan 2024

Casting a Vision: Empowering Volunteers to Transform Young Lives

By |2024-01-08T08:41:30-08:00January 12th, 2024|Leadership|0 Comments

Casting vision for recruiting volunteers isn’t just about filling roles; it’s about painting a compelling picture of how their involvement can shape the destiny of young hearts. Often, younger leaders find themselves seeking guidance on how to effectively communicate this vision. Here are some practical strategies to cast a vision that inspires, empowers, and transforms within youth ministry:

Storytelling: Narrating Impact and Transformation

Stories resonate deeply. Sharing instances where volunteers impacted a young person’s life amplifies the tangible outcomes of their service. These stories bridge the present to a future where volunteers become catalysts for lasting change.

On weekends, as I engage in conversations with people, I make it a point to have a few ‘back pocket’ stories of leaders who have experienced life changes by serving themselves. These stories serve to help other adults realize the impact God can have on them as they endeavor to influence others. They’re quick anecdotes I can share amidst conversations.

Clarity of Purpose: Defining Goals and Objectives

A clear vision breeds commitment. Articulate the ministry’s purpose, goals, and the role of volunteers in realizing these objectives. Define how each individual contributes to the larger narrative of transformation.

One of the most significant mistakes we can make when addressing potential leaders is to say, ‘Just show up on Wednesday, and we’ll immediately get you involved.’ Unfortunately, I often witness this approach, and it’s truly alarming to me. It’s a disservice to those considering leadership roles. It’s crucial to properly prepare them, providing a clear understanding of what they’re committing to rather than throwing them in without guidance.

Vision Casting Events: Shaping the Bigger Picture

Events propel vision. Host gatherings solely dedicated to casting vision. Illustrate the impact of volunteering and showcase the opportunities available for those interested in joining.

One of our ministry practices involves hosting leader training nights wherein we cancel the ‘youth group’ session, giving the youth the night off. However, we extend invitations to all our leaders to join us for an evening of enjoyable activities, training sessions, and casting visions for the upcoming season. I appreciate this approach because it doesn’t add another night out for our leaders; it aligns with a night they’re already accustomed to attending.

Consistent Communication: Enabling Connection

Communication maintains enthusiasm. Regularly update volunteers on wins, challenges, and ongoing needs. Sharing success stories fosters motivation and a sense of belonging.

Involve Them in the Vision: Collaborative Leadership

Collaboration fosters ownership. Encourage volunteers to share their ideas and feedback. Involving them in decision-making processes strengthens their commitment. You can effectively address two needs by allocating time during leaders’ gatherings to plan for ongoing activities in your youth ministry, seeking their insights, and involving them in the planning process while they are all present.

Consistent Follow-Up: Sustaining Commitment

Consistency affirms dedication. After recruitment, maintain regular contact. Celebrate achievements, address concerns, and offer continuous support.

By integrating these strategies, youth leaders can effectively cast a vision that not only inspires volunteers but mobilizes them to actively engage in transforming young lives. It’s about creating a narrative where every volunteer becomes an integral part of the discipleship journey, influencing and changing eternity, one young heart at a time.

8 Jan 2024

What to Do When Facing a Tough Meeting

By |2024-01-08T08:19:20-08:00January 8th, 2024|Leadership|0 Comments

We’ve all been there. Or we’re going to be there very soon. A situation comes up that we know will require a really tough meeting. Or we get the dreaded email to report to the pastor’s office without any context or warning. How do you deal with difficult meetings?


If you know that a tough meeting is coming up, spend some dedicated time in prayer about it. God knows our anxieties. He cares about them. He wants us to tell him what we’re anxious about because he cares for us. I find that to be incredibly comforting. Especially if I know I’m about to walk into a difficult meeting.

Focus on facts 

With really tough meetings, there can be a lot of emotions. Anger. Sadness. Confusion. Frustration. It can be really easy to get into the moment’s emotions and forget what is going on or what the meeting is about.

Do your best to focus on the facts of the meeting and refer back to them if you feel like you get off track. 

Listen more than you talk

Whether or not you called the meeting or are the subject of the meeting, it will be really important to listen. Even though it’s important to focus on facts, listening to the emotions and recognizing them will help you ensure the other party knows you are Listening to them and that you care for them.

If you are the source of the meeting, it can be tempting to defend yourself. Do your best to ask questions that show you are listening and want to understand what is happening.

Be clear

Don’t allow yourself to think that being vague will soften the blow of any tough news. It will only add to hurt feelings if you do not communicate clearly. Be concise and be very clear about what is happening. Asked to make sure you understand and are understood.

Make a plan

At the end of the meeting, make sure you create a concrete plan for moving forward or understand the plan. Repeat it back and write it down. Make sure everyone understands what the next steps are. If you leave tough meetings without knowing what’s next, it can create confusion.

If you write it down, you can send it in an email to everyone at the meeting to ensure there’s no confusion and that everyone knows what the next proper steps are.

Pray again

Meetings like these are always really tough. Invite God into every single moment! Thank him for the chance that you get to minister when things are tough and that he cares for you when ministry is really hard.

We’re praying for you here at DYM! Thank you for all that you do.

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