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27 Nov 2023

Take Some Time Off to Plan Your Youth Ministry

By |2023-11-27T07:43:34-08:00November 27th, 2023|Uncategorized|8 Comments

It’s (almost nearly) Christmas!

I know that means a lot of your ministries are going nuts. There are parties galore and lots of desserts being passed around. But January 1 is coming.

Do you know what next year holds for you and your youth group?

If you’re not yet planned out for the next year, consider taking some time off this month to plan. I don’t mean take a vacation day to plan your youth ministry. I mean, take a day off of what you would normally do and use it to schedule out what next year is going to look like.

Go find a coffee shop or fast food place nearby, put in your headphones, and really focus down on getting the next year planned out. Bring along your team if you’ve got one.

If this isn’t a part of your normal routine, consider adding it in this year. This is what it could look like.

Grab Every Calendar You Can

Take advantage of all the calendars that are available to you. Your church calendar with the men’s retreat and the women’s overnight trip. The local school calendars should be out too, so you can plan around spring break, fall break, when school starts and when it finishes.

If you plan with these calendars in mind, you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache knowing that your weekend trip isn’t the same as homecoming.

Tent Pole Events

You know what these are already. You may even have them on your calendar. Summer camp. Your big Disciple Now in-town retreat. A big conference in the spring.

These are the events that your youth group always does and ones that, frankly, take up a lot of time on your calendar. Plan these out first so you know NOT to plan a massive all-night lock-in in three weeks before you go on a week mission trip. When you start with your big events, you can plan margin in intentionally.

Small Events

These are the things that might not take up as much time but are still good to have on the calendar. Maybe you have a big kick-off night for your small group Bible studies. Or maybe you always take a group to go play minigolf on the day after school gets out. Place these on the calendar for your sake and so that you can let parents know as far in advance if something is coming.

Teaching

Now that you know your big and little events, you can plan out your teaching calendar to help supplement what you already have on the calendar. Maybe you know your theme for summer camp, so you can teach with it in mind the month before and help break it down the month afterward. February is probably a good month to do a relationship series, and Christmas will usually be Christmas.

Then you can take a good look at what your teaching calendar has on it and what it’s missing. That way you’re not trying to figure out what to teach next week, because you’ve already got it planned. Or, you could use Co-leader’s Roadmap to help you!

Leader Training

Since you’ve got fantastic leaders helping you along the way, why not go ahead and plan times for you to get together with them and train them? You can make these happen right before a youth group meeting or right after church on Sunday. As long as you include lunch of course! DYM is getting ready for it’s National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training this year. AND, big news, you can have it on whatever day works for you! Check it out here and put it on the calendar now.

Parent Meetings

Sprinkle these in. I usually had three a year: one in the fall, one in January, and one right before summer. That way parents are always a step ahead and know important dates. I would also pitch resources and whatever big student ministry news I had at the moment. If you have these consistently, you’ll develop clout with parents and help them stay on top of youth group!

Everything else!

There are a lot of things you can plan out ahead of time: social media, emails, when volunteers are going to teach for you, your vacation, and a whole lot more. The more you have a plan, the less you’ll have to stress out at the last minute. Save yourself some pressure and take some time to plan now!

Struggle to plan? Check out these great resources from DYM!

2 Oct 2023

4 Tips for Working with a Church Staff

By |2023-10-02T03:33:00-07:00October 2nd, 2023|Uncategorized|9 Comments

October is Pastor Appreciation Month! This may mean your church celebrates you, or it might mean that the senior pastor is celebrated while you’re not. Either way, we’re so glad you’re a part of the Download Youth Ministry community. We recognize that you probably work with staff almost daily, whether it’s just you and the senior pastor or you and a whole team of pastors striving to reach the lost and equip the saints. Regardless, you still need to relate to these people!

Here are four tips for thriving on staff with other pastors:

  1. Avoid Gossip

    Do your best not to speak ill of anyone on staff to other pastors or, even worse, to someone in your congregation, even if it’s true. We constantly encourage our students to avoid gossip, and this principle applies to us when interacting with our co-workers. If you have an issue with someone on staff, do the right thing and talk to them directly about it. Even if it creates discomfort or awkwardness, you’ll know you did the right thing and avoided office gossip.

  2. Offer Encouragement

    If you notice a staff member doing something great, ensure they know it! Give compliments freely and encourage your fellow staff members when you see them doing something exceptional, especially tasks that others in your congregation might not recognize as unique. For example, if your associate pastor did an excellent job with announcements on Sunday, acknowledge it. As a children’s pastor, if someone delivers an inspiring staff devotion, follow up and express how much they bless you. Encouragement can be the driving force that keeps someone going when they’re ministering from an empty cup!

  3. Lend a Helping Hand

    Whenever someone on the staff needs assistance with a task, and you can help, be as supportive as possible. For instance, if the children’s ministry needs pool noodles and you have some leftovers from last summer, offer them up. Yes, I understand they didn’t come from their budget line item, but you’re all on the same team, right? If a pastor asks you to visit someone in the hospital whom you don’t have a relationship with, go ahead and make the visit. You might be doing your pastor a significant favor. Be known as a staff member willing to lend a helping hand whenever possible.

  4. Be Reliable

    Submit your work on time. When you commit to attending an event, ensure you show up. If you’ve promised the older members that the Youth Ministry will help with a big sale, put in the effort required to be there. Youth Pastors can sometimes get a bad reputation for being chaotic and juvenile. Wouldn’t it be better if we were known as the responsible and dependable people on staff? Keep your promises and appointments. Strive to be the most reliable person on staff, showing up and delivering on time.

October can be challenging, especially if others get recognized, and you feel left out. Don’t worry about it. We don’t do this for the paycheck or the recognition anyway. Be the best coworker you can be this month. I promise it will benefit you later!

Want to be the type of encouragement you want to see? Start with your own leaders! Use these thank-you cards to encourage your volunteers and keep them around!

24 Jul 2023

Ministering to Students Who Aren’t Showing Up

By |2023-07-13T13:16:16-07:00July 24th, 2023|Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks|9 Comments

We just recorded a podcast for Youth Ministry Hacks (CLICK HERE to listen) about the importance of following up in youth ministry. Follow up is such an important aspect of ministry but something easily overlooked because it’s easy to miss to move on to bigger and better things. 

One of the things I get asked the most about in youth ministry is what is the exact system we have set up in order to make sure student don’t fall through the cracks? Below is what we have set up right now. Does it work? If I am honest, we don;t know yet. We only really started the whole process in all phases about 2 months ago. It seems to be doing it’s job. I do know we will be looking at it and adjusting  it as we go, but it seems to at least fill some holes we had noticed over the past two years of having lots of news students but not being at “sticky” as we have been wanting. 

We are in a season where we have the ability to track who is coming to our campuses and we want to make sure we are effectively following up with every student who walks through our doors throughout the year. 

We will run a weekly (new students), a monthly (this month vs last month) and a quarterly (CCB roster scrub) report. 

The following is how we need to be following up with each group of students that we can run reports on:

1st Time Student Follow Up:

When a new student comes to SCY for the first time they fill out a QR code with their info. The info gets put into a list where the youth network team will then create a new student profile and put it in a queue for the youth lead to follow up with.

Here is how the process is set up in CCB:

  • Thursday
    • “Glad you came” postcards get written up (cards have been provided) and addressed with a note and put in the mail. 
    • Follow up text from the lead. 
    • Follow up text from the group leader they were placed with the previous night. 
    • Parent email, introducing the lead and the ministry
  • Tuesday
    • Queue will prompt a follow up invite with a text from the youth lead to invite back to groups the following night. 
  • Thursday
    • Youth lead will check to see if that student came back to groups. 
      • If student did, connect with them and let them know they are so glad they got to come back and will help them get more connected in the ministry 
      • If the student did not, they will keep them in the queue and invite them back the following week for 3 weeks. 

Monthly CCB Report – Students who checked in last month but not this month

We have the ability now to run a monthly report of every student who checked into a group the previous month who has not come back the current month. This is a good way to follow up with kids we have not seen in a bit and a good way to see if any of the first time students have been plugged in. 

Follow up should look like the following:

  • All follow up should happen within two weeks of receiving the roster by campus. 
  • A “We miss you” postcard addressed with a note from the lead be sent in the mail. 
  • A call or text to the student
    • “Hey! We have noticed you have not been here in a few weeks. Just letting you know we miss seeing you! We hope you are good. Is there anything that we can be praying for you about or do for you and your family? We hope to see you soon!
    • Something along those lines. 
  • An email to the parent with a very similar text. 
  • If the CP knows the family, they can reach out to the parents. 

Quarterly CCB Report – Students who have checked in this year, but who have not come this quarter

We have the ability to run a report to see students who we have not checked in at youth for 3 months. This is a great opportunity to reach out to youth and parents to let them know we notice, to check in and invite back. 

Follow up should look like the following:

  • A “We miss you” postcard addressed with a note from the lead be sent in the mail. 
  • A call or text to the student
    • “Hey! We have noticed you have not been here in a few weeks. Just letting you know we miss seeing you! We hope you are good. Is there anything that we can be praying for you about or do for you and your family? We hope to see you soon!
    • Something along those lines. 
  • An email to the parent with a very similar text. 
  • If the CP knows the family, they can reach out to the parents. 
  • That student should be removed from any CCB group roster so we can have accurate information in regards to youth rosters as they are a leading indicator for the success of youth at Sandals. 

Whatever church management system you have, it really doesn’t matter, you can take this process and apply it. If your group is small or if it’s massive, the important part is being intentional with the process of follow up to make sure you are covering all bases and making connections with students. 

Hope this is helpful. 

@justinknowles3

20 Jul 2023

DYM Free for Fall!

By |2023-07-21T08:34:02-07:00July 20th, 2023|Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks|9 Comments


We know the fall is a crazy time for youth pastors! You’re getting ready for a new semester of ministry. You’re trying to get excited about your students going back to school and you’ve probably got several things already on the calendar.

That’s why DYM wants to make your fall. Amazing with a three day event called free for fall.

We’re giving away $200 worth of resources to every single youth pastor, who registers for it. Just for putting your name on the list, you’ll get a free editable full calendar for you to use so you can already look like a hero to your parents.

After that, we’ve got three days of crazy awesome resources for you to use in your ministry right away!

We want you to have the best fall you possibly can and we can’t think of a better way than to be giving away free resources to jumpstart your ministry. Click this link to sign up and get excited for August 1st through the 3rd and DYM‘s free for fall!

3 Jul 2023

Navigating Crisis When Your Senior Pastor is Away

By |2023-06-29T14:00:27-07:00July 3rd, 2023|Uncategorized|4 Comments

In the life of a church, there are moments of deep sorrow and challenging counseling situations that can arise unexpectedly. These times can be particularly difficult when your senior pastor, who usually provides guidance and support, is away. As a youth pastor or church leader, it’s essential to be prepared to handle these crises with compassion, wisdom, and organizational skills. In this blog post, we will explore practical steps and principles to help you navigate through such challenging times of loss and counseling needs when your senior pastor is unavailable.

  1. Pray: In times of crisis, prayer is the foundation of our strength and guidance. Begin by seeking God’s wisdom and comfort through prayer. Humbly ask for His guidance, discernment, and peace as you navigate the challenging situation. Pray for the grieving family and those facing counseling needs, asking for healing, comfort, and wisdom to minister effectively.
  2. Inform the Necessary Parties: When a church member passes away or a counseling issue arises, it is crucial to inform the appropriate individuals promptly. Notify the staff, church leadership, and relevant ministry team members, ensuring that the church community is aware of the situation. Respect the privacy of those involved while making sure that essential people are informed and prepared to offer support.
  3. Enlist Help from Volunteers: Recognize that you cannot handle the crisis alone. Reach out to trusted volunteers within the church community who have experience in counseling, pastoral care, or have a heart for serving others. Form a crisis response team or assign specific individuals to assist in providing practical support, prayer, and emotional care to those affected. Utilize the strengths and gifts of your volunteers to ensure a comprehensive and compassionate response.
  4. Document Key Information for the Senior Pastor’s Return: While your senior pastor is away, it’s important to keep a record of significant details regarding the crisis. Document the chronology of events, any actions taken, and the current state of affairs. This information will provide a comprehensive overview for your senior pastor when they return and enable them to offer appropriate follow-up and support. Include any insights, lessons learned, or areas that require further attention in the future.
  5. Develop a Crisis Management Plan for the Future: Learn from the current crisis and use it as an opportunity to establish a crisis management plan for the future. Reflect on what worked well and identify areas for improvement. Document the key steps and protocols to follow in different types of crises, including bereavement and counseling needs. This plan will serve as a valuable resource for the church community, ensuring a more effective and coordinated response in times of need.
  6. Offer Pastoral Care and Support: In times of bereavement or counseling needs, individuals require compassionate and empathetic pastoral care. Reach out to the grieving family, offering support, comfort, and prayer. Provide resources for grief counseling, counseling referrals, or other appropriate support services. Arrange memorial services or prayer gatherings to honor the deceased and facilitate healing within the congregation.
  7. Seek External Support and Resources: Recognize that there are limitations to your own capabilities, especially in handling complex counseling situations. Reach out to professional counselors, therapists, or pastoral care networks within your community for additional support and guidance. Collaborate with these external resources to ensure the best possible care for those in need.

Conclusion: When a crisis occurs, such as the death of a church member or counseling issues, and your senior pastor is away, the responsibility falls on you as a church leader. By following these practical steps, rooted in prayer and guided by compassion, you can provide the support and care necessary for those facing loss and counseling needs. Remember to create a crisis management plan for future situations, fostering preparedness and enhancing the church

26 Jun 2023

Helping parents have spiritual conversations over the summer

By |2023-06-26T09:45:43-07:00June 26th, 2023|Uncategorized|4 Comments

As the summer unfolds, it’s the perfect opportunity for parents to engage in meaningful conversations with their students. While vacations and outdoor activities dominate the season, it’s essential not to overlook the importance of fostering spiritual growth in your family. In this post, we will explore practical tips and ideas to help parents have enriching spiritual conversations with their students throughout the summer.

  1. Create Dedicated Family Time: One of the key ingredients in nurturing spiritual conversations is setting aside regular family time. Establish a routine where everyone gathers together, free from distractions. This could be during meals, before bedtime, or even a designated family night. Use this time to engage in discussions about faith, spirituality, and personal experiences.
  2. Connect with Nature: Summer offers an abundance of natural beauty and opportunities to connect with God’s creation. Encourage your children to explore the outdoors, whether it’s going for hikes, visiting parks, or spending time at the beach. Use these moments to discuss the wonders of nature, pointing out how God’s handiwork is evident in everything around us.
  3. Engage in Daily Devotions: Integrate daily devotions into your family’s summer routine. Choose age-appropriate devotionals that resonate with your children’s interests. Read and discuss the messages together, encouraging everyone to share their thoughts and reflections. This practice not only strengthens your family’s spiritual bond but also helps children develop a habit of seeking God’s presence daily.
  4. Utilize Media and Technology: Incorporate technology in a positive way by utilizing faith-based resources available online. Many apps, websites, and podcasts offer excellent content for children and teenagers to explore faith-related topics. Watch engaging videos, listen to uplifting podcasts, or read articles together. These resources can spark meaningful discussions and provide different perspectives on spiritual matters.
  5. Encourage Questions and Open Dialogue: Create a safe space where your children feel comfortable asking questions about faith and spirituality. Encourage them to express their doubts, share their thoughts, and engage in open dialogue. Emphasize that everyone’s spiritual journey is unique, and it’s natural to have questions. By fostering an atmosphere of curiosity and exploration, you can help your children develop a deeper understanding of their faith.
  6. Serve Others as a Family: Summer offers numerous opportunities for families to engage in acts of service and generosity. Volunteer together at a local charity, participate in a mission trip, or organize community projects. Through these experiences, children witness firsthand the importance of living out their faith and serving others. Use these occasions to discuss how acts of kindness and compassion reflect the teachings of Jesus.
  7. Share Personal Stories: Nothing resonates more powerfully with children than authentic personal stories. Share your own experiences of faith, both successes, and struggles. Talk about how God has been present in your life and the impact it has had on your journey. By opening up and being vulnerable, you create an environment that encourages your children to do the same.

Summer is a season filled with opportunities for parents to have meaningful spiritual conversations with their children. By setting aside dedicated family time, exploring nature, engaging in daily devotions, utilizing technology, encouraging questions, serving others, and sharing personal stories, you can nurture your children’s faith and create lasting memories. Remember, it’s not about having all the answers but about fostering an environment where your children feel comfortable exploring their spirituality. May this summer be a time of growth, connection, and deepening faith for your entire family

19 Jun 2023

How to Take a Vacation

By |2023-06-19T07:39:49-07:00June 19th, 2023|Uncategorized|9 Comments

As a youth pastor, you pour your heart and soul into guiding and supporting the students at your church. However, it’s crucial to remember that taking care of yourself is equally important. In this fast-paced world, the concept of a personal vacation and truly unplugging from ministry may seem daunting. Nevertheless, this blog post will explore the significance of taking a break and offer practical tips to help you unwind and recharge.

Ministry can be demanding, both emotionally and mentally. Without proper rest and rejuvenation, burnout becomes all too real. By taking regular personal vacations, you prioritize your well-being, allowing yourself to return to your ministry with renewed passion and energy. Recognizing the importance of personal vacations sets the foundation for understanding why unplugging from the ministry is vital.

Unplugging from ministry means intentionally disconnecting from the daily responsibilities, demands, and pressures of your pastoral role. This deliberate separation allows you to distance yourself from the busyness and immerse yourself in rest, relaxation, and self-care. Planning ahead is crucial for a successful vacation. Block out dedicated vacation time on your calendar, inform your church leadership, team members, and congregation well in advance, and ensure a smooth transition during your absence.

Delegate responsibilities to capable individuals while you’re away, empowering your team and volunteers with clear instructions and guidance. Trust their abilities and allow them to flourish in their roles, knowing that the ministry is in capable hands. Setting boundaries is essential during your vacation period. Communicate your unavailability and resist constantly checking emails or responding to ministry-related messages. Let people know you are taking time off for self-care and will only respond to urgent matters. Also, recognize that some things may feel urgent to others, but are not emergencies you need to respond to.

Additionally, consider disconnecting digitally by temporarily turning off push notifications and taking a break from social media platforms. Create space for uninterrupted moments of solitude and relaxation. During your vacation, prioritize activities that bring you joy, peace, and rest. Engaging in self-care practices will help you recharge and reconnect with yourself.

Pursue hobbies you enjoy, such as reading, painting, hiking, playing a musical instrument, video games, or writing. These activities can be therapeutic and a source of personal fulfillment. Explore nature outdoors, taking walks, going on hikes, or finding a peaceful spot to enjoy the tranquility and fresh air. Make sleep a priority, allowing your body and mind to recover fully. Take naps, practice meditation, or indulge in activities that promote relaxation. Plan intentional unplanned time to just rest.

Furthermore, spend quality time with loved ones, friends, or fellow pastors who understand and support your journey. Meaningful connections and conversations can bring comfort, encouragement, and community. Cultivating relationships during your vacation can contribute to your overall well-being.

Taking a personal vacation and intentionally unplugging from ministry may initially feel challenging or selfish. However, it is essential for your well-being and the longevity of your ministry. By embracing the power of rest, relaxation, and self-care, you set a healthy example for your congregation and create space for personal growth. Remember, you deserve time to recharge, replenish, and return to your ministry with a renewed spirit, ready to pour into the lives of others.

Ronald

5 Jun 2023

Nailing the Transition into Youth Ministry

By |2023-06-05T06:21:49-07:00June 5th, 2023|Uncategorized|6 Comments

As youth pastors, we have the incredible opportunity to help students transition smoothly into the youth ministry. By implementing effective strategies, we can create an environment where students feel welcomed, supported, and empowered. In this blog, we will explore five essential tips to facilitate seamless transitions and ensure a thriving youth ministry experience for every student.

  1. Make it an Event: Transitioning into the youth ministry is a significant milestone for students. Make it a memorable event that celebrates their growth and marks the beginning of an exciting journey. Consider organizing a special welcome event or service specifically tailored for transitioning students. This can include games, worship, testimonies, and a warm introduction to the youth ministry from previous students and leaders. By making the transition an event, you communicate the importance of this transition and create a positive atmosphere for new students.
  2. Give Parents Support and Information: A successful transition involves not only the students but also their parents or guardians. Provide support and valuable information to parents about the youth ministry and what their children can expect. Host a parents’ orientation session where you can introduce the youth ministry team, explain the vision and values, and address any concerns or questions parents may have. By involving parents in the process, you foster a sense of partnership and collaboration.
  3. Coordinate with Kids Ministry: To ensure a seamless transition, it is essential to coordinate efforts with the kids ministry. Collaborate with the leaders of the kids ministry to facilitate a smooth handover process. Share information about the transitioning students, their strengths, areas of growth, and any specific needs. This collaboration allows for a continuity of care, ensuring that students feel supported as they move from the kids ministry to the youth ministry.
  4. Share the Vision: Help transitioning students understand the vision and purpose of the youth ministry. Clearly communicate the goals, values, and mission of the ministry to inspire and motivate them. Share stories of transformed lives, testimonies, and the impact of the youth ministry on the broader community. When students grasp the vision, they become more engaged and motivated to actively participate in the ministry’s activities and initiatives.
  5. Involve Other Students: Encourage existing youth group students to play an active role in welcoming and integrating transitioning students. Assign a buddy or mentor to each new student, creating an immediate connection and providing a support system within the youth ministry. Plan icebreaker activities and team-building exercises that facilitate interaction between new and existing students. By involving other students, you foster a sense of belonging and community, making the transition more enjoyable and meaningful.

Conclusion: Guiding students through the transition into the youth ministry is an important responsibility for youth pastors. By implementing these five key strategies – making it an event, giving parents support and information, coordinating with the kids ministry, sharing the vision, and involving other students – we can create a seamless transition process that nurtures students’ spiritual growth and fosters a sense of belonging within the youth ministry. Let’s embrace this opportunity to guide and inspire the next generation, helping them discover their purpose in Christ and empowering them to impact the world around them!

  • Ronald
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