18 Jan 2019

Why I’m Hosting The National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training

By |2019-01-18T13:51:38-08:00January 18th, 2019|Leadership, Training, Uncategorized, Volunteers|3 Comments

On September 21, 2019, thousands of youth ministry volunteers will be better equipped to care for the students in ministries across North America—in a single morning—thanks to the over 175 churches who are opening their doors to host the National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry! What a cool result of our DYM community working together.
We asked each of them why they chose to host this event… here are some of their responses:

I chose to be a host site because we are a small community, but many of our youth groups are very connected. We often have to go to the bigger cities around us to have access to these kinds of resources. I wanted to bring it into our town, so our kids that we can do things here, we don’t have to be big, to be used by God. I want to show the leaders that we care about them and value their time. I don’t want them to have to drive 30-40 minutes away to be poured into and empowered to be better. Before I committed to the cost of hosting, I did reach out to a few of the local youth pastors and asked them if I hosted would they be interested in joining us. Once they said yes, then I hit “submit”. Financially, I could have taken the cheaper route, but my leaders and our community are worth the investment. Looking forward to hosting and I hope we get to connect with other churches/leaders that we do not know yet. To increase our ability to network, connect, and encourage pastors/volunteers. United as one body, not a bunch of churches.  — Cory | Vancouver, WA

I’m hoping to make Sacramento a Hub for warm, healthy and vibrant youth ministry for years to come. — Benji | Sacramento, CA

I chose to be a host site because it’s just not feasible to bring my whole youth ministry team with me to an event like NYWC.  I hope this will be a great opportunity to get some practical training for my leaders as well as youth workers in our vicinity.  — Josh | Jackson, MI

I decided to become a host site because training volunteers is a passion of mine. I believe the better equipped our youth workers are the greater the impact we can make on our students and communities. The more we can help youth workers go from a mentality of chaperone to mentor or mini youth pastor the greater impact we will have on the depth of that student’s faith and the greater reach our ministry will have in the community.   I also wanted to host because I’m new to the area I serve and was hoping to use the National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training to get to know some of the other churches in the area and hopefully develop a local youth network. — Adam | Allentown, PA

I’m hoping to have this day, not just train volunteers, but to help them realize how much they matter and how significant they are in the Kingdom of Jesus. We’re going to go out of our way to honor and affirm them for their commitment to love Jesus and love students. And as a bonus, we get a great day of training! We have so much confidence in the DYM team’s ability to help us train and build leaders. We’re grateful for the privilege to be a part of this. — Jim | El Dorado Springs, MO

It can cause major challenges to get our team trained and all on the same page. If we were to go somewhere, we would be fighting with conflicting schedules, travel plans, and not to mention cost. This day will give us a chance to have open conversations with our leaders and this will help us improve. We expect all of our leaders to be there (36 in all)! The opportunity is great, and if we have other churches join us, even better but even if we don’t we believe the hosting cost is worth pouring into our leadership team! — Zachery | Galesburg, IL

The students I serve have been entrusted to my care by God. If I’m going to entrust them to another adult, I’m going to take God’s trusting me with them seriously enough to make sure those adults are well trained and qualified, too. – Jeff | Kalamazoo, MI


See more about the National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training, sign-up to host, and/or be notified when registration opens at https://trainmyvolunteers.com/ 

19 Aug 2018

Help Me With… Small Groups

By |2018-08-20T11:37:45-07:00August 19th, 2018|Help Me With..., Small Groups, Training, Volunteers|0 Comments

There is no end to the list of the way God can use a small group leader in the life of a student. If you grew up in youth ministry and were to name a leader who impacted your life and your relationship with Jesus, chances are, that relationship was fostered in the context of a small group.

We’re given such a unique opportunity to walk alongside teenagers as they begin their faith journey, and we hope to steward that time and authority well.

Our DYM Team searched through thousands of resources, blog posts, and podcast episodes to bring you only the best to help you train and equip your small group leaders to succeed in this new school year.

Leader Training

Leader Tools

Kick-Off Curriculum 

Blog posts to help you with all things small groups…

We combed through our blog to find the posts that we thought would be most helpful.

Podcasts to help you with all things small groups…

We combed through the podcasts in our network to find the episodes that would be most helpful.

From Youth Ministry Hacks:

From The DYM Podcast:

Videos to Help Train Your Leaders…

The DYM Leader Training Library is full of 10-15 minute videos designed to help you train and equip your volunteers as they care for the students entrusted to them. Here are a few we think might help as you prepare your leaders for another year of small groups:

Students spend their days trying to fit into their group, class, culture or school… and in doing so they try to push down or stifle the uniqueness God has put in them. Imagine if we, as shepherds, we’re able to know and call out that uniqueness in each teenager. Heather Flies gives 4 easy-to-remember steps to help each of us identify and call out a student’s individual gifting so we might better help each student discover and embrace who God created them to be.

Doug Fields teaches leaders to consider 3 very important questions as they disciple, lead small groups and mentor teenagers. Do you care about me? Can I trust you? Do you know what you’re talking about? The answers to these questions are essential for all caring adults.

We all want to grow ministries and students that are rooted in God’s Word. In this short, 10-minute training video, author and professor Crystal Kirgiss, offers three levels at which students can engage with the Bible and easy steps leaders can take to help them dive deeper.

Click HERE to see more from the Help Me With series!

20 Apr 2018

The Michiana Meet Up by Allison Williams

By |2018-04-20T12:01:46-07:00April 20th, 2018|Leadership, Training, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|0 Comments

A couple of weeks back, 50ish of us gathered for the DYM Michiana Meet Up.  It was the brainchild of Derry Prenkert, John Keim, and Jeff Selph.  Those guys did an incredible job organizing, advertising, and structuring the day.  Any good event needs people at the helm and we had some of the best running this one.

We started the day out with coffee, bagels, and introductions.  There were people there with their team, others that drove in with pieces of their network, and some that came solo.  Regardless of your situation, every minister needs friends outside of their context that understand the pressures and joys of church work.  As we were going around the room introducing ourselves, you could almost feel everyone breathe deeper — it was obvious early on that we were surrounded by our tribe.

There were six DYM Ambassadors present for this gathering.  That might not feel like a lot, but I think there are only 15ish nationally, so it was a pretty large representation.  Peppered through our time together, the ambassadors all spoke briefly to the group about the piece of DYM that we love the most: Membership, resources, DYMU, the Student Leadership Conference, Podcast Network, and Facebook community group.  The underlying current of those mini commercials was trying to convey how DYM wants to be behind us, prompting and encouraging the kingdom work in our context.

We also spent time in open-source sharing.  If you’ve never experienced that before, those are facilitated conversations that hopefully everyone in the group contributes to.  We had two timeslots with six conversations going at tables around the room covering a gambit of topics.  Seriously, there was something for everyone.  I wish I could have pulled up a chair to all 12 conversations throughout our time together.  There were practical ministry ideas, new strategies, and an emphasis on rest, balance, and self-care.  Our time together was both personally restorative, fostered new networking connections, and gave us some ideas to roll around in our brains.

We ended the meeting portion of the event with Doug Fields.  If you’ve never had the opportunity to spend time with Doug, just know that his heartbeat in ministry is encouraging and edifying youth workers.  That’s what he did as he spoke for a few minutes to close out our time together and continued to do at the lunch we headed to after.  I actually had to send the waitress after his order because he was wandering around the restaurant making sure every youth worker felt known and valued.  He’s a class act (blogmaster, don’t let DF delete this paragraph).

I can’t speak for the room because we were at random tables, but lunch was my favorite part of the day.  I got to sit with old and newer friends and talk about life and ministry.  We even dreamed up a few ideas for ministry and future DYM resources.  On a personal note, I got some very wise counsel from people that know youth ministry and understand how I think.  Moments like that can be rare, so when they come around, we should pay close attention.

It was such a valuable day.  Whether it’s a DYM Meet Up or another kind of network gathering, prioritize getting connected to the larger youth worker community.  You are not alone (and this is coming from a female youth pastor with a church next to cornfields)!  Meet our tribe.  Jump into our Facebook community.  Grab coffee with the person at the next church over.  Organize an event.  People that stay in our profession for the long haul prioritize a youth worker family mentality.  Your future tribe might just be waiting on you to invite them to a conversation.

[Just as a note, Doug didn’t fly in for our morning network meeting.  We timed it around an event that he was already in town for that evening.  If you are looking to host a DYM Meet Up, the DYM team will happily try to help you where they can, but will not be able to be present unless the schedule lines up perfectly.]

2 Feb 2018

Favored Leaders

By |2018-02-02T07:08:11-08:00February 2nd, 2018|Leadership, Training, Volunteers|3 Comments

I love my youth ministry’s adult leaders. They’re the backbone of my youth ministry. They’re people I’ve recruited, equipped, and mentored. Some have served with me for almost a decade. I take caring for them seriously.

In my context, adult leaders commit to serving in one specific area of ministry – typically one of our two weekly programs. After that, they’re always welcome, but never obligated to attend our events. Thankfully, because adult leaders feel called to their ministry with students, most willingly commit to serve during extra events.

Because youth ministry is relational and my regular adult leaders already have relationships with our students, they’re the first people I ask to go on major events like our winter retreat and summer mission trip. It’s only when I can’t get enough of our regular adult leaders to serve during these events that we ask other congregational leaders or parents to go.

For some, this approach to leadership is controversial. It looks like favoritism. After all, they wonder, isn’t the goal of ministry to get as many people involved in it as possible?

Sure, I’d say. A congregation’s goal should be for every one of its parishioners to be involved in ministry. But not every one of your congregation’s parishioners are called to serve in youth ministry.

Having good leaders in your youth ministry doesn’t require you to have the largest number of volunteers in your church. It requires you to have the RIGHT leaders: People who love Jesus, adore teenagers, want to grow in their own faith, and are good at working with teens.

Getting the right people to serve in your ministry requires carefully recruiting leaders. It means making it hard for leaders to get in and easy for them to get out. It also means faithfully equipping them to serve in your ministry for the long-haul, not the short-term, so that they can build relationships with teens.

Ephesians 4:11-12 explains how the role of pastors and teachers is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” Equipping the saints for the work of ministry requires intentionality. It requires pouring into a select few who have committed to serve faithfully in your ministry.

So, sure, some may call that favoritism.

But I’m okay with that.

After all, what some call favoritism, Jesus calls discipleship.




17 Jan 2018

What Voices Are You Allowing To Speak Into You?

By |2018-01-17T17:21:13-08:00January 17th, 2018|Leadership, Training, Youth Ministry Hacks|1 Comment

If your ministry setting is anything like my ministry setting, you have a lot of people telling you what they need from you and your ministry. There are so many voices speaking into how you should lead, what decisions to make and then when you do make a decision some people get mad at you and then when you decide to not do something other people get mad. Sometimes students think they know how to do your job because they think service should be this way for these people and the elders think it should be this for these people.


So who do you listen to? What voices do you allow to speak into you and allow to influence your decisions?

In order to keep on our vision for our ministry and make sure I allow the right people to influence my decision-making I ask myself three questions. Now I will be honest, I heard this somewhere but I cannot remember where I heard this (so if you know, let me know so I can give credit) but it has changed how I lead and move forward.

The three questions are:

  1. Does the person speaking into me love Jesus? Are they actively pursuing a life that honors Jesus? The life they live is characterized as a fully devoted follower of Jesus and it shows. I am trying to follow Jesus and if someone I know is giving me advice and they are better at following Jesus than I am, I would be wise to listen.
  2. Does this person love me? This is not a romantic love, but a respect kind of love. Do they care for my well-being and healthiness in decision-making or are they wanting something out of me to benefit themselves or their own agenda? Are they trying to gain something out of me for them and not for the benefit of me as a person or leader? Lots of people have an opinion on what I should do but they don’t care if it’s going to kill me and cause me to burn out. They have plenty of things they ask me to add because it’s “better” which it might make the ministry better, but it would make me bitter to work there. Does this person care about me as a person?
  3. Do they love my church/ministry as their own? They are not pushing something they need for their ministry or their benefit, but they legitimately want to see your ministry thrive like you want to see it thrive.Do they see the vision I have laid out and they want to see it come to life. Lots of people have their vision and version of the ministry in which you lead and they want to see their vision over your vision.

Now if the answer is “NO” to any of these questions, my response is, “Thank you so much for your input, I’ll for sure think about it.” If it’s something worth it, I’ll really think about it and if not, it’s done.

If the answer is “YES” to all these questions, then I would be wise to allow this person to speak into me and what is happening. It would be a good and beneficial thing.

I know there are a lot of opinions, but not all of them should hold equal weight. I have heard enough youth workers crumble underneath the many voices and people pleasing tendencies and this could be a way to combat some of this.

Hope this is helpful!




18 Oct 2017

A new metric

By |2017-10-18T05:14:02-07:00October 18th, 2017|Training, Volunteers|0 Comments

During a recent organizational assessment I did through Arbor Research Group, I asked one of the ministry’s leaders how critical it was for his staff to recruit and equip adult leaders. In response, he said, “When they get their job description, it’s not built into what success looks like.”

Inwardly I cringed. How could recruiting and equipping adult leaders NOT be built into the job descriptions of a staff who wholeheartedly depends on adult leaders to do ministry?

Yet, even as I inwardly cringed, I feared this happens more than I want to believe.

Many churches still believe that the paid youth pastor is the person responsible for discipling youth. Far too many churches are also still built on the personality of one leader.

That’s dangerous.

When ministries are built on one person, you run the risk of quickly burning that person out.

When ministries are built on one person’s personality, you marginalize students who find it difficult to connect with that personality.

When ministries are built on one person, you limit the capacity of that ministry, ensuring that it will never grow in size or maturity.

When ministries are built on one person, you create dependency. So often in person-centered ministries, students’ faith becomes dependent on the leader, not Jesus. As a result, when the leader leaves, a student’s faith suffers.

Ministries built on one leader can never be healthy.

In contrast, when youth pastors prioritize recruiting and training adult leaders, their ministries can thrive. Adult leaders make it possible to minister to multiple types of students; to make large groups feel small; and to ensure that every student in your ministry is known, loved, and cared for individually. A team of adult leaders helps students connect with Jesus in different ways, which creates less dependency on any one person. A team of adult leaders also ensures continuity in your ministry. If the paid youth pastor leaves, goes on maternity leave, is injured, or transitions to a different role in your congregation, having a team of adult leaders ensures your youth ministry will continue.

That sounds great, right?

Here’s the catch. Adult leaders won’t magically appear. Unless you’re intentional about recruiting and equipping them, you won’t have effective adult leaders.

That’s why recruiting and equipping adult leaders should be a priority in every youth pastor’s work. It should be an explicit part of your job description. I might even argue that it should be a metric by which the success of your ministry is judged.

What if, rather than simply counting the number of students who attend our ministries, our effectiveness was also measured by the number of adult leaders who faithfully serve in those ministries?

What if we were judged not just on whether we could get 300 students to an event but also on whether we could build a team of 75 leaders to effectively disciple those 300 students? Or what if our effectiveness was determined by whether we had 5 adult leaders continually pouring into the 20 students who regularly attend our ministry?

If the number of adult leaders faithfully serving in our ministry was part of how our job performance was assessed, you better believe we’d take recruiting and training adult leaders more seriously.

And if we did that, our youth ministries would be healthier than most are now. How could they not be if they were filled with teens who were being discipled by caring and committed adult leaders?

10 Oct 2017

I Just Graduated from DYMU!

By |2017-10-10T15:01:08-07:00October 10th, 2017|Training|0 Comments


In my time as a student ministry intern at Church at the Mall, I’ ve been blessed by my overseers with quite a few awesome resources and opportunities for spiritual learning in ministry.. But I have to say,, the absolute greatest resource I received was free access to the Download Youth Ministry University 101 – 401 content.. From the most basic lessons like remembering students’ names to practical advice on some of the most difficult parts of ministry – these courses definitely lived up to my expectations!!

The timing was perfect too!! I actually received access to DYMU’s 101 – 401 only a week or so after I was tasked with leading a small group of our new 6th grade students. Crazy enough, the biggest hurdle I was struggling with was precisely the topic of one of the first few lessons – remembering names.. It didn’ t take long for me to run through the rest of the course after that,, gathering as much wisdom as I could on some pretty real stuff youth workers face in ministry. Some of the lessons that impacted me the most where the ones on pastoral care, social media use, and the role of supporting – leaders in the preaching of God’s Word to teenagers..

It was very encouraging to see the excitement and genuine passion for ministry these speakers had in this course. As someone who hopes to one day become a youth pastor, it ’ s such a blessing to be able to receive real-world insight from people who’ ve been doing what I want to do for literally longer than I’ve been alive!! It’s not very common for a speaker to be both engaging and insightful. These guys at DYMU are of those few who are incredible at it!

God is so good!! He used this ministry of DYMU to help strengthen my ministry and in turn grow some of our students in their personal walks with the Lord. I can’t wait to see how the Lord uses these students to make a huge impact on the world, just like Josh and Doug are impacting me here at Download Youth Ministry. Please do yourself a favor and get this for your team!

Trent Blake is in the 2017 class of Download Youth Ministry University! Find out more about this incredible tool for your interns and volunteers from DYM. #trainyourteam

3 Oct 2017

Say what you mean to say

By |2017-10-03T04:59:54-07:00October 3rd, 2017|Teaching/Programming, Training, Uncategorized|1 Comment

I recently asked my student leaders to evaluate who our ministry talks about most: God the Creator, Jesus the Savior, or the Holy Spirit.

My student leaders waffled between God the Creator and Jesus the Savior before one eventually suggested, “I think we talk about God more but you emphasize Jesus most.”

When I asked this student leader to explain what she meant, she described how whenever I ask a question, she and her peers almost always answer it with a statement about God. I then turn that “God-language” into either a question or statement about Jesus.

She’s right. With annoying frequency, I turn God-language into Jesus-language.  Why?

Because in my research about what teens believe about Jesus (published in The Jesus Gap), I found that one thing that contributes to a poor Christology is when we talk about God when we really mean Jesus.

As youth workers, we do this a LOT. Since we know that Jesus is God, we use the two names interchangeably.

However, this is confusing for students. For them, it makes no sense that Jesus can be both fully human and fully God. To them, that belief seems to defy the laws of both biology and reason.

To help teens understand this better, it’s important to address Jesus’ humanity and his divinity rather than to emphasize one over the other. It’s also important to talk about Jesus – and not just God – when we mean Jesus.

After all, Jesus is what Christianity is based upon. Jesus is the heart of our faith. Jesus is also what distinguishes the Christian faith from all other religions.

Because he is, Jesus is also the hardest part of the Trinity for students to talk about. They fear that in doing so, they’ll stand out, be made fun of, or be labeled intolerant. Since teens are far more likely to talk about God than Jesus outside our church buildings, unless we’re careful, this God-language will make its way inside our youth rooms as well. And when it does, that can be dangerous.

Because even though it sounds good, when students talk about God, they don’t necessarily mean Jesus, which is problematic since Christianity rises and falls on Jesus.

As youth workers, it’s our job to help students understand who Jesus is, what he did, and why he matters – not just to their faiths but to their lives.

You cannot do that unless you actually talk about Jesus. And you cannot talk about Jesus by just talking about God.

So, youth workers, don’t replace Jesus with generic God-language. Be intentional about talking about Jesus. Then challenge your students to do the same.

Doing so will enable teens to better understand Jesus.

And when teens know and understand Jesus better, lives change. Both their own and others.


To help your students better understand Jesus, check out Jen’s student devotional, The Real Jesus, which includes 50 short devotionals that address the gaps found in the research published in The Jesus Gap. 


26 Sep 2017

5 Skills That Every Youth Minister Needs To Develop If They Want To Continue To Grow

By |2017-09-20T07:07:22-07:00September 26th, 2017|Training|1 Comment

I’ve never been a fan of the Duties Assigned By The Pastor blurb that appears on most youth ministry job descriptions. It’s just a reminder that youth ministers are expected to do everything.

There is nothing wrong with being a team player, but a line like that perpetuates the problem most youth ministers have, which is (more…)

15 May 2017

How To Have Tough Conversations Where Students Still Want To Come Back

By |2017-05-15T12:12:05-07:00May 15th, 2017|Leadership, Training, Volunteers, Youth Ministry Ideas|1 Comment

How well do you want to be known by the students in your area for having tough but needed conversations?

I think where a lot of ministries (not just youth ministries) who struggle with having having deep, real, raw, confrontational conversations about things of this culture, beliefs that are different from what we believe and people whom are different from us. I tend to hear from students who don’t “do church” I meet at schools that church handles things one of two ways (broad generalization I know) of:

  • Don’t talk about it
  • Talk about it, but way too harsh

It’s our goal as leaders to have the tough conversations, speak truth in love and graciousness, and still have those students feel like they want to come back after that conversation is done; to make them want to come back and have them still invite us into their lives to pursue Jesus.

If that is not our goal, what are we doing? If we speak the truth with no love we are just jerks and it’s not the Gospel. We we speak just love and no truth, we are just nice people and it’s not the Gospel.

I don’t think we in our ministry have this down yet but we are working our way towards it. I want our ministry to be a place where any student feels like this is “home” to them but they know what we believe, why we believe it and will challenge them on what they believe as well. Does every student we have agree with what we believe and teach? Heck no. Do they feel like they can have open and hard conversations about it? I think they can because it’s happened.

I know because I have talked to the gay students in our ministry. I have talked to students who are transgender and trying to figure this whole Jesus thing out. I have talked to the students who are doing things in relationships and don’t see anything wrong with it. I have talked to students who were invited by a friend who practice another religion at home or on the weekends. The last thing I want to do (and believe Jesus modeled this) would run them off with aggressiveness of what He believed or not challenge them to follow Him and leave their life of sin. He entered into conversations.

So as I have been processing all of this, here are thoughts in my hope to either challenge how we all have tough conversations about tough things or it is just a good reminder and refresher for you and your team:

You can’t change anyone. You don’t have that power. I don’t have that power. The Holy Spirit has that power. I think we just need to remember that before we even enter into any conversation. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God — truly righteous and holy.” (Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT)

Blankets are great for sleeping, not for statements. Don’t use blanket statements. It is really hard to make general statements about a topic or people group when you talk to an individual. I think we are first and foremost called to love and everything else is a conversation. Each student has a story. Their story is not like the others who believe or think the same way as them. We should know and think through tough conversations and have a certain thought process to respond with, but… when you are staring at a student knee-to-knee eye-to-eye you might think about your approach differently. So have that conversation and keep it to that person.

Listen more than you speak. Every student has a story, we need to listen to it. I have experienced many a times where people are not listening to me because they are just thinking of what to say next. In order to have students who believe different, or behave different, we want to make them feel like they belong. How do you do that? By listening. Make them feel like a person, not a project. Students, regardless of who they are, want to know they can be heard and known and listening to their stories and getting to know them personally will then give you the ability and permission to speak into their lives.

Challenge them to know why they believe what they believe. We know what we believe and why we believe it. Most students know what they believe but don’t know why. Most students base belief on what they feel, not what they know what is truth. I tell students who don’t believe what I believe, “We can disagree, that is great, but I won’t let you not know why. If you are a Jesus follower, why do you believe _______ is okay and true?” It just creates more great conversations and allows you t listen more and engage in more great, real, open conversations.

You can disagree and still like each other. We live in a culture where people think where if we disagree with certain beliefs, we cannot be friends. I hate that. We need to teach our students we can agree to disagree, challenge them on their beliefs and actions and it does not detour them from knowing they are loved and welcomed in our group in order to keep on pursuing Jesus. I love what Andy Stanley says about Jesus. “People who were nothing like Jesus liked Jesus.” Do people who are nothing like you, believe like you, like you? Can you be friends?

If your ministry is anything like mine, you don’t want to shy away from the questions students are asking and talking about the things they want to know. I think it’s our responsibility to address those things but address them in a way where the students who do not believe, or even disagree with what we teach to… actually want to come back when we teach because they know they are known and loved by the people their first who want to help them follow Jesus and be there for them when they have questions when Jesus contradicts what they believe themselves.

Let our ministries be one of the safest places for students to have real, honest, raw, spiritual conversations about Jesus.



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