24 Apr 2023

5 Ways to Keep Volunteers in Your Youth Ministry

By |2023-04-24T03:58:55-07:00April 24th, 2023|Uncategorized|7 Comments

As a youth pastor, one of the most critical aspects of your ministry is retaining volunteer leaders from year to year. Volunteers play a vital role in the growth and development of your youth ministry, and their dedication and commitment can significantly impact your students’ lives.

However, retaining volunteer leaders can be challenging, especially if you don’t have a solid plan. In this blog post, we’ll explore some practical tips and strategies for retaining your volunteer leaders from year to year.

  1. Communicate regularly

Communication is key to building strong relationships with your volunteer leaders. Make sure to communicate regularly with them throughout the year. This can include regular meetings, phone calls, or emails to keep them up-to-date with the latest developments in the ministry. You can also use this time to ask for their feedback and input, which can help to make them feel valued and appreciated.

  1. Provide training and resources

Investing in your volunteer leaders’ training and development is crucial to retaining them from year to year. Regular training sessions and resources can help equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to be effective in their roles. This can include training on specific topics such as leadership, mentoring, or counseling.

  1. Recognize and appreciate their efforts

Volunteer leaders often put in a lot of time and effort into their roles, and it’s important to recognize and appreciate their efforts. Take the time to acknowledge their hard work, whether it’s through a simple thank-you note or a more formal recognition program. This can help to build a sense of loyalty and commitment to the ministry.

  1. Provide opportunities for growth

Volunteer leaders are often looking for opportunities to grow and develop their skills. Providing growth opportunities can help to retain them from year to year. This can include leadership roles, mentoring opportunities, or opportunities to lead small groups or events. You may benefit from creating a volunteer pipeline where volunteers can add responsibilities over time. By providing growth opportunities, you can show your volunteer leaders that you value their contributions and are invested in their development.

  1. Build a sense of community

Finally, building a sense of community among your volunteer leaders can help to retain them from year to year. Encourage them to build relationships with one another inside and outside the ministry. This can include social events, team-building activities, or simply creating opportunities for them to connect with one another.

In conclusion, retaining volunteer leaders from year to year is crucial to the success of your youth ministry. By communicating regularly, providing training and resources, recognizing and appreciating their efforts, providing growth opportunities, and building a sense of community, you can build a loyal and committed team of volunteer leaders who will help to take your ministry to the next level.

Want some help with your volunteers? Check out these resources from DYM!

101 Ideas on Recruiting and Keeping Youth Leaders

Have you ever needed more youth leaders? Have you ever had a struggle finding the right one? Well, this very practical ebook will help you be more effective with volunteers. These ideas are trench-tested and they work! They will work in all churches, regardless of size, location, and denomination. If you get one great idea… it’s worth the price, but you’ll find many that you can use to create a stronger volunteer youth ministry team. Read it here!

Encouragement Certificates

These certificates are a fun way to show some appreciation to a student or volunteer. You can either open the file and hit print with the ready to go certificates, or write your own custom message on our blank templates. All graphics are full print resolution for an 8.5 x 11. Grab them here!

10 Apr 2023

Top 10 Tips for Encouraging High School Seniors

By |2023-04-06T13:12:48-07:00April 10th, 2023|Uncategorized|5 Comments

As a youth pastor, you have seen your students grow and thrive throughout their high school years, and now they are approaching the exciting milestone of graduation. As your students prepare to embark on the next chapter of their lives, here are some tips on how to encourage them during their senior year of high school:

  1. Celebrate Achievements: Graduating from high school is a significant accomplishment, and it’s essential to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of your students. Recognize their academic successes, extracurricular involvements, and personal growth. Organize a special event or ceremony to honor their achievements and make them feel valued and appreciated.
  2. Provide Emotional Support: Senior year can be a rollercoaster of emotions for students as they navigate the challenges of transitioning to adulthood. Be there to provide emotional support and lend a listening ear. Encourage open and honest communication, and offer guidance and advice when needed. Let them know that you are there to support them through the ups and downs of their senior year.
  3. Encourage Goal Setting: Help your students set realistic and achievable goals for their senior year and beyond. Encourage them to reflect on their passions, interests, and values to guide their goal-setting process. Whether it’s applying to college, pursuing a trade, or entering the workforce, help them create a plan and take steps towards their aspirations.
  4. Foster Community: Senior year can also be a time of transitions and changes in social dynamics. Encourage your students to foster healthy relationships and build a supportive community around them. Emphasize the importance of maintaining positive friendships, cultivating mentorship, and seeking out healthy peer relationships.
  5. Provide Practical Guidance: Help your students navigate the practical aspects of transitioning to adulthood. Offer guidance on financial literacy, budgeting, job searching, and basic life skills such as cooking, laundry, and time management. Equipping them with practical skills will empower them to navigate the challenges of independent living.
  6. Promote Self-Care: Senior year can be overwhelming with academic pressures, college applications, and other responsibilities. Encourage your students to prioritize self-care and manage stress in healthy ways. Promote physical, emotional, and mental well-being by encouraging regular exercise, healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and self-reflection. Encourage them to seek support when needed and practice self-compassion.
  7. Foster Gratitude: Encourage your students to cultivate a mindset of gratitude as they approach graduation. Encourage them to reflect on the positive aspects of their high school experience, the lessons they’ve learned, and the people who have supported them along the way. Foster an attitude of gratitude and appreciation for the journey they’ve been on and the opportunities that lie ahead.
  8. Encourage Reflection: Senior year is a time for reflection and self-discovery. Encourage your students to reflect on their accomplishments, challenges, and personal growth during their high school years. Help them identify their strengths, passions, and areas for improvement. Encourage them to embrace their unique journey and use it as a foundation for their future endeavors.
  9. Foster a Sense of Purpose: Encourage your students to explore their sense of purpose and meaning in life. Help them reflect on their values, passions, and desires, and how they can align them with their future goals. Encourage them to seek out opportunities to serve and make a positive impact on others, whether it’s through volunteer work, leadership roles, or other means.
  10. Be Spiritual: As a youth pastor, offer your students your prayers and blessings as they graduate from high school. Pray for their safety, success, and well-being as they embark on the next chapter of their lives. Remind them that they are loved and supported by their church community and that you will continue to be there for them as they navigate their post-graduation journey.

In conclusion, the senior year of high school is a significant time of transition for students, and as a youth pastor, you play a crucial role in supporting and encouraging them during this exciting time. By celebrating their achievements, providing emotional support, encouraging goal setting, fostering community, providing practical guidance, promoting self-care, fostering gratitude, encouraging reflection, fostering a sense of purpose, and offering prayer and blessings, you can empower your students to thrive in their senior year and beyond.

Remember to be present, listen attentively, and provide guidance and support when needed. Encourage your students to embrace their unique journey and celebrate their accomplishments. Remind them of their strengths and capabilities, and instill in them a sense of purpose and meaning as they embark on their next chapter. Offer your prayers and blessings, and continue to be a source of support and inspiration as they graduate and move forward into their future endeavors.

Graduation is a time to celebrate the achievements of your students and to honor their growth and accomplishments. By providing encouragement, guidance, and support, you can help your students navigate the challenges and uncertainties of their senior year with confidence and grace. Congratulate your students on their achievements, offer your prayers and blessings, and continue to be a pillar of support as they take their next steps into the world beyond high school.

The Baton

Use this message the next time you are “in the box” for the adult weekend service. This lesson draws parallels between 2 Timothy 2:2 and the rules for a baton pass in a relay race to challenge parents, students and the church as a whole to see a faith be passed on from one phase of life or person to another.

College Courses: Real or Fake

College is the place where students will expand their horizons, make lifelong friends, prepare for a career, and learn underwater basket weaving?!? This screen game may leave you with some questions concerning our higher education system. Students guess if the college course is actually offered at the specified college or not. It’s a great game to play with a group of seniors before a talk on graduation.

15 Mar 2023

We’re back EVERY WEEK with a new Youth Ministry Download Podcast!

By |2023-03-15T00:51:24-07:00March 15th, 2023|Uncategorized|2 Comments

The Download Youth Ministry (DYM) podcast is a podcast focused on youth ministry and is hosted by a team of experienced youth workers who share their insights, experiences, and expertise on various topics related to youth ministry.

Here are some reasons why someone might want to subscribe to the DYM podcast:

  1. Learning and Growth: The podcast provides valuable insights, practical tips, and real-world examples that can help youth workers improve their skills and become better equipped to serve young people.
  2. Community and Support: The DYM podcast creates a sense of community among youth workers who share a common passion for serving young people. Listeners can connect with other youth workers, share ideas, and get support from the DYM community.
  3. Inspiration: The podcast features interviews with leading youth workers, authors, and experts in the field of youth ministry. These interviews can inspire listeners and provide fresh perspectives on important issues facing young people.
  4. Convenience: The podcast is easily accessible and can be listened to on the go. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast on their favorite platform and listen to it whenever and wherever they want.

Overall, the DYM podcast is a valuable resource for anyone involved in youth ministry who wants to grow, learn, connect, and be inspired. Go listen to a new weekly show today!

14 Mar 2023

Youth Ministry Snack Bracket Challenge!

By |2023-03-14T05:20:30-07:00March 14th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

It’s that time of the year again! No, not spring break or Easter, it’s March Madness! For those of you who are not familiar, March Madness is the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, where 68 teams compete to be crowned the national champions. But why should basketball players have all the fun? As a youth pastor, I believe that youth ministry deserves its own March Madness bracket. So, I’ve put together the ultimate showdown of youth ministry snacks. Let’s dive in!

The Bracket:

Round 1: The Salty Snacks Region

In the first region, we have the savory snacks that make your mouth water. These are the snacks that satisfy your cravings and keep you coming back for more. Here are the match-ups:

Popcorn vs. Pretzels
Chips and Salsa vs. Cheez-Its
Trail Mix vs. Goldfish Crackers
Beef Jerky vs. Chex Mix

Round 2: The Sweet Snacks Region

In the second region, we have the sugary snacks that make your taste buds dance. These are the snacks that give you a rush of energy and make you feel good. Here are the match-ups:

Candy Bar vs. Cookies
Brownies vs. Gummy Bears
Fruit Snacks vs. Donuts
M&M’s vs. Twizzlers

Round 3: The Healthy Snacks Region

In the third region, we have the snacks that are good for you. These are the snacks that give you the nutrients and vitamins you need to stay healthy. Here are the match-ups:

Granola Bars vs. Apple Slices
Carrot Sticks vs. Rice Cakes
Trail Mix vs. Yogurt Cups
Popcorn vs. Veggie Straws

Round 4: The International Snacks Region

In the fourth region, we have the snacks from around the world. These are the snacks that introduce you to new flavors and experiences. Here are the match-ups:

Pocky Sticks vs. Biscuits
Taco Chips vs. Pita Chips
Chocolate Croissants vs. Samosas
Falafel vs. Spring Rolls

After a tough competition, it’s time to decide who will come out on top as the ultimate youth ministry snack champion. Now it’s your turn to fill out the bracket and choose your favorite snacks! Maybe even print it out and use it with your students this week to see what snacks they like the most?

Check back to see who the ultimate winner is. Who will reign supreme as the snack of choice for youth ministry?

Need some bracket-themed youth group ideas? Check these great ones out from DYM!

Where’s the Ball? Volume 1

With this game, you’ll be asking your students to do something that sounds relatively simple, but ends up being a lot harder than it sounds. Just pick which of the basketballs is actually the real basketball.

You could easily do this as an upfront game, as a move around the room to vote-type game, or (for the super high-tech) you could even do a vote-by-text campaign. Tons of potential here.

Trashketball Trivia – Basketball Madness Edition

Trashketball Trivia is the ultimate March Madness game for students! In this high-energy screen game, students will test their knowledge of college basketball trivia while getting a chance to show off their shooting skills.

Here’s how it works: players will be asked a series of March Madness trivia questions. If they answer correctly, they’ll get the chance to shoot a paper ball into a trash can for points. Students can decide to shoot for 2 points or go long-range by shooting for 3 to score for their teams.

15 Feb 2023

Podcast Extra: Youth Ministry Calendar Spring 2023

By |2023-02-15T10:36:13-08:00February 15th, 2023|Uncategorized|1 Comment

In our most recent episode of the DYM Podcast, Doug & Josh talk about youth ministry calendars. They discuss a bunch of ideas why they’re important, how often you should make one, and what they say about your ministry. It’s a great conversation, and as promised, here’s a look at the Winter/Spring 2023 calendar as well (click to enlarge)!

You can find all sorts of calendars and templates on DYM as well!


23 Jan 2023

How To Communicate To Parents About “The Sex Series”

By |2023-01-23T14:57:17-08:00January 23rd, 2023|Uncategorized|4 Comments

As we hit the typical time to talk sex, dating, and relationships for youth ministry, there are a couple of good things to keep in mind when it comes to addressing these topics, both with students and with parents.

As a 16-year YM veteran, let me help you navigate this delicate topic better. We can avoid easy missteps, but at the same time go over and above in clarity and communication with parents about topics that are important to talk about in culture. We can also set up parents well.

For context, last year we did a series called SEX, BUT MAKE IT HOLY (you can watch it HERE) where we dove into dating, friendships, homosexuality, gender identity, porn, and why God cares about my sex life. These were pretty big topics and we wanted to ensure we set up parents well to let them know what we were diving into.

So below are what things we did AND a bunch of emails we sent out to leaders and parents. I hope these are things to keep in mind so that if/when you address hot topics, you can succeed. I can say we had ZERO major concerns or negative reactions from parents that got to me. Issues were addressed at a campus level because we were able to communicate in advance.

Things we kept in mind:

  • All teaching notes were written word for word for each topic and completed and turned in two weeks before the series started.
  • We had pastors on staff read through each lesson and check it theologically according to our church’s theology.
  • We had all the small group questions written and done two weeks before the series started.
  • We sent the content to all leaders and all parents two weeks before the series started so they could read through it beforehand and be prepared.
  • We sent it to all our campus pastors so they could view it and be prepped, because we knew parents would go to the boss man first and we didn’t want to catch them by surprise.
  • We sent the communication plan and content to our executive pastor and solicited his input and advice beforehand, so he was also in the know.

Lots of things to prep for this one series, but I can tell you it went a long way with our leadership, with our leaders who would be navigating through the content with groups, and with parents. Parents knew what we were talking about so they could be prepped for conversations as well.

Below are email communications you can copy and paste for your ministry if you find them helpful.

Email to youth leaders:

Hey leaders!

I wanted to shoot you an email about an upcoming series that SCY will be going through starting mid-March. The series is called “Sex, But Make It Holy,” starting on March 23rd. 

We will be diving into: 

  • Sex
  • Porn
  • Dating
  • Homosexuality
  • Gender

I know, but this is something MANY of our students are talking about. They know people who struggle with these issues, or they themselves are wondering about what this looks like while attending church. We know that probably even for some of your students in the groups you lead weekly, these are things that are being brought up frequently. I believe the church should be one of the safest places to talk about some of the toughest things. 

Our goal is to teach our students what Scripture says about these particular topics in a loving way. We want to engage and challenge our students to what Scripture has to say about these hot, but cultural topics for Gen Z. 

What does this mean for YOU?

We wanted to shoot you the package of all the teaching notes and small group material, because we want you to be as prepared as possible. We want you to know what is coming and start praying for conversations that are going to come from this. We understand that there might be different beliefs even amongst our leaders, but we want to let you know what is coming so we can create a unified front from a Sandals Church Youth perspective. These topics in our culture are already divisive, and the last thing we want is to bring that here. We want to create a SAFE space for students to wrestle with and talk through these topics in regard to their faith. 

We care about students taking a step closer to Jesus. We care for students who attend on Wednesdays, even if we disagree with them and they with us. 

We want to love them not just by words, but by how we interact and engage with them. So we want to set you up the best way possible. 

In the package you have:

  • All teaching notes for the series
  • Separate middle school questions and high school questions for this series 
  • A calendar of when the series is happening and the topics broken up by weeks. 
    • Keep in mind we might make minor adjustments as we get closer. The main themes should be the same, but wording might change a bit. 

Small group questions will be sent out as previews as soon as we finish them. 

Again, we want the church to be one of the safest places for our students to talk about anything regarding faith and struggles. Our hope and prayer is that students can get real about these things,  really be challenged and develop their faith by what Scripture says, and learn how they can respond in faith to what our culture says. 

If you have any questions, please let me know. I would love to help you be set up at your campus for this series. 

Your name

Email To Parents:

Hello parents!

I wanted to shoot you an email about an upcoming series that SCY will be going through starting mid-March. The series is called “Sex, But Make It Holy” and it begins March 23rd. 

We will be diving into:

  • Sex
  • Porn
  • Dating
  • Homosexuality
  • Gender

These are topics we know are talked about often, not only in our culture but amongst many of our students. Because of this, we believe the church should be one of the safest places to talk about some of the toughest things. 

Our goal is to teach our students what Scripture says about these particular topics in a loving way. We want to engage, and challenge our students to engage, about these hot cultural topics for Gen Z, and how it relates to their faith. As we teach students, our goal is to partner with you on how to have these conversations with your students as well. 

We wanted to give you all the content for this series way up front, so you can take a look at what we will be going through on Wednesdays in March and April, along with the small group questions we will be discussing. 

We understand the nature of these topics and that you might prefer to hold your child back from this series, or parts of it. This is why we are providing you with the content in advance. If we can be a resource to you in your conversations with your child on these topics, please let us know.

In the package you have:

  • All teaching notes for the series
  • Separate middle school questions and high school questions for this series 
  • A calendar of when the series is happening and the topics broken up by weeks. 
    • Keep in mind we might make minor adjustments as we get closer. The main themes should stay the same, though wording might change a bit. 

Small group questions will be sent out as previews as soon as we finish them. We at least wanted to get the teaching content out to you as soon as possible. 

Again, we want the church to be one of the safest places for our students to talk about anything regarding faith and struggles. Our hope and prayer is that students can get real about these things,  really be challenged and develop their faith by what Scripture says, and learn how they can respond in faith to what our culture says. 

If you have any questions about this, I would love to chat with you about it. Please let me know. I want to make myself available to you. 

Justin Knowles

Need a series on sex and dating? Check out this killer resource on DYM!

There are several key topics we need to walk through with students on a regular basis. One such topic is challenging students to navigate relationships and sexuality in a way that honors God. The reality is that the world around us is presenting (and even promoting) a message that you are defined by your relational and sexual pursuits. It’s something we HAVE TO be talking about at home and in the church. God, Guys & Girls is a four-week series that does just that.

19 Jan 2023

4 Tips to Create Event Hype!

By |2023-01-19T06:41:10-08:00January 19th, 2023|Uncategorized|3 Comments

We all know how hard it can be to get our students excited for upcoming events like retreats and dance parties and whatever else you might have on your calendar for the year. Whether it’s because there are a hundred other things on their calendar or they haven’t checked their email, social media, bulletin, or the youth room announcement board, students can sometimes lack the hype we’d love for them to have.

Here are a few tips to help get your students motivated and participating!

1. Get them involved in the planning process. Encourage your students to come up with ideas for the event. Have them help plan activities, pick a theme, and design promotional materials. To get them involved in the planning process, you could start by having a brainstorming session with your students. Let them come up with ideas for activities, themes, and promotional materials. You could also have a voting session where they can vote on the ideas they like best.

2. Create a “Countdown to the Event”. Have your students track the days leading up to the event and post photos or videos on social media. You could create a countdown calendar for your students to follow. You could also have them post pictures or videos on social media of them getting ready for the event with the hashtag #countdown2event.

3. Have fun and be creative with promoting the event. Have your students create fun videos or memes to share on social media and with their friends. To get your students excited about creating promotional materials, you could offer a prize for the best video or meme. You could also have them post the promotional materials on their own social media accounts to reach more people.

4. Share stories. Have your students share stories of past events and the experiences they had. Hearing stories of past events will help get your students excited for the upcoming event and give them something to look forward to. You can also ask your students to think of ways they can make the upcoming event even better than the last one.

We hope these tips help you get your students excited and ready to participate in your upcoming event. We can’t wait to hear how it goes!

Need to generate some hype right before an event? Check out this Dancing Beast Countdown from Matthew McNutt!

It’s a hairy beast dancing for five minutes to fun music. What more could you want in a countdown video?

Gold member’s got this for free this month! Want to check out what all you could get by going Gold? Click here to see all the great member perks INCLUDING some sweet new Co-Leader credits!

17 Jan 2023

3 Things Every Pastor Should Learn from MLK

By |2023-01-19T09:01:21-08:00January 17th, 2023|Uncategorized|4 Comments

It’s that time of year when everyone floods their feeds with recycled black and white photos of Martin Luther King Jr and includes one of the many one-liner quotes in their caption. Things like, “I have a dream,” or “That we will be judged, not by the color of our skin, but the content of our character” Or “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.” The list goes on. Now, these aren’t bad things. However, I fear in our quick recycling of social media posts to appear relevant, we are actually missing out on much deeper truths from his life. By not pausing and examining this figure, who was assassinated for his relentless pursuit of justice and reconciliation, we miss out on how his life can continue to impact us today beyond a holiday sale. While there are hundreds of lessons we could learn from this black pastor’s life, here are just three which apply to those of us who are in ministry.

He never dehumanized others.
We live in a new age of storytelling. If a news story gets popular or your post goes viral, it’s likely there is a hero or villain. The algorithms currently favor controversy and people favor drama. We all tend to view things very black and white. So, if we are the good guys, there must be villains. This is dangerous because villains can be demonized and dehumanized. However, we are interacting with other humans, other souls, other image-of-God bearers. So, when we dehumanize others to win an argument, we are actually losing.

Dr. King lived during a time when the evils of overt racism were normal, popular, and legal. “Jim Crow” laws across the United States legalized segregation under a “separate but equal” mindset. However, the accommodations for whites over their black counterparts were anything but equal. Black citizens were treated as second class and were often dehumanized at the hands of our white siblings thanks to culture and laws on the books. Dr. King reluctantly but firmly pushed against this in the name of Jesus. And he never demonized his white brothers and sisters in the process. Dr. King carried himself with honor and respect. He was sharp but slow to anger. He made cuttingly truthful observations but not in a “clap back” sense. Interview after interview, letter after letter, we see Dr. King appealing to reason and scripture. Not personally attacking those he disagreed with.

Friends, let’s follow Dr. King’s example and not the example that so many politicians these days make. While I respect leaders on both sides of the political aisle, too often their example is one that is purely appealing to their base. Let’s not be Christians who are so focused on winning an argument that we dehumanize and steamroll the very people Jesus has called us to reach. The broken, the lost, the sick, the poor, the children (teenagers), the widow, the immigrant, the prisoner, and the most overlooked parts of society.

Seeking common ground.
Dr. King sought out common ground. He toured the country having conversations with politicians, governors, and Presidents. He sat down and had conversations with white people who disagreed with him on national television. Through it all, not only did he not demonize, he used reason, wisdom, and at times scripture, to help different perspectives find common ground.

Fellow youth workers, we live during a time where there is no shortage of controversial topics or perspectives each of us could have. Some of us are Republicans, and some are democrats. Some of us support a traditional view of sexual relationships and some support an LGBTQ view. Some of us love the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) while others love the DCEU (Detective Comics Extended Universe). Some of us support traditional views of gender while others of us support a more fluid view. Some of us are iPhone users while others are Android users. Now, I bet most of us had powerful internal reactions to one or more topics I just mentioned. But here is the question I want you to ask yourself: when was the last time you had a deep conversation with someone with an opposing view? When was the last time you intentionally sought out common ground with that parent who is always criticizing you?

It is very easy for us to plant our flags in the ground and declare our stance and run over anyone who disagrees with us. But Dr. King didn’t change America by touring exclusively black churches and never talking to white people. He didn’t build a massive coalition consisting of black and white people by demonizing every white person in America. He did it through conversation and love. He did it through seeing each individual as an image bearer. He did it by finding common ground.

Controversial in his time, respected hero in ours.

Today it is easy to say we love Dr. King, and he is a hero. It’s easy to post a picture of him on social media on his day. It’s easy to think that if we had lived during his time, we would have been marching the streets of Selma right along with him. But let’s not forget he had enemies on both sides. He was hated by many. He was spied on by our government. There were some white people who thought he was rushing change too quickly and needed to slow down. There were some black people who thought his approach of non-violence wasn’t enacting change quickly enough and wanted to take the movement in a different direction. Ultimately, he was so controversial that an assassin’s bullet found its mark, ending Dr. King’s life. He knew the threats, he knew the dangers, he knew the risks in so many relationships. Yet he pressed on.

Fellow Christians, his work isn’t done. Our nation continues to pull off the Band-Aids of our racist past and discover that decisions made 50-100-400 years ago continue to affect all of us today. As a black pastor in Kansas City, Missouri, I see firsthand that the work isn’t done yet. When we hear someone complain of injustice, we must investigate. When we see an injustice, we must speak up. When we are complicit in injustice, we must reckon with whatever role we play and walk with those who are hurting, no matter how our friends may perceive our actions. Our students take notice of what we say and do, yes. They also take notice of what we don’t say and what we don’t do. Let’s give them an example to follow. We won’t always get it right, but thank God for His grace.

Theo Davis serves as the Multi-Site Youth Pastor at Restore Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri.  He has worked in youth ministry for 16 years in a variety of settings which include church plants, rural churches, and mega-churches on the East Coast and now Midwest. He received his degree in Youth Ministry from Eastern University in 2008 and has continued to leverage his education with real-world experience. He and his wife Malia are huge gamers and named their kids after video game characters — Zelda & Shepherd (from The Legend of Zelda and the Mass Effect Series).  Theo also loves action figures, and spends his spare time developing his musical and visual art talents.  Follow him on Instagram @theo_davis

12 Jan 2023

Healthy Leaders, Healthy Ministries

By |2023-01-04T12:06:29-08:00January 12th, 2023|Uncategorized|4 Comments

I remember sitting in a classroom in Bible College and watching a professor, write the letters, J – O – Y on the board. He said something like, “this acrostic is how you do ministry.” The letters stood for Jesus – Others – Yourself. I wrote it down and thought “that’s how I’m going to do ministry.” Three years later, I found myself serving as a senior pastor of a small church in western Pennsylvania (yes, I used the senior pastorate as a steppingstone into youth ministry) and I did my best to live out the JOY ministry model.

A few years later, on a flight to Atlanta, I remember the flight attendant going through the safety instructions. There was something about, exit doors and a flotation device if we have a watery crash, but the one instruction that stood out was about the air mask. I remember her telling us that if the plane loses cabin pressure, masks will fall from the ceiling. If you’ve been on the plane, you’ve heard the same speech and you know what you’re supposed to do – put your mask on before attempting to help someone else. I remember sitting there and thinking that goes against the JOY model.

I wish I could tell you that I got off the plane with a renewed outlook on ministry. I wish I could tell you that was the day I made taking care of my soul a higher priority. But I didn’t.

Learn To Cheat

It wasn’t until a few years later at a Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention, that I heard Andy Stanley speak on “Choosing To Cheat“. He said something like, ‘If you’re a youth pastor, chances are your church had a youth pastor before you got there, and I can almost guarantee they’ll find another youth pastor when you’re gone.’ He continued, “but your spouse only gets one of you, your kids only get one of you.” We all know there is always going to be more ministry to do, so you’re always going to cheat someone – you’ll either cheat your church, your family, or yourself.

That was a true ah-ha moment for me. His words made a significant impact on me, on my family and on my ministry. I would do my job well, but my family and myself would come before the ministry. It marked the beginning of my journey to healthier ministry, but I knew it was not a journey to go on alone.

Find A Guide

The path of healthy ministry has two very dangerous sides – narcissism and burn out. Veer too far to the left and you can easily become selfish and arrogant. Veer too far to the right and you can overwork yourself right out of a ministry or even worse out of your family. Over the years, I have found the best solution for staying on the path have been the guides who are ahead of me on the journey. Those who could speak into my life when they see me start to veer off the path. Those who can spot warning signs and lovingly point out my blind spots.

Be A Guide

Finally, let me encourage you to find a guide and to be a guide for others. It doesn’t mean you have all the answers, or even the most advice to give. But be willing to humbly share your wisdom, experiences and your mistakes with others.

My Final Thought

After 26 years in full-time ministry, I now get to be a full-time guide. It is an incredible privilege to be invited to help the navigate church hurt, burnout and more.

As I look back to that day that Bible College classroom. I don’t believe my professor was trying to set us up to fail, or hurt us in anyway. I truly believe his intentions were pure, but maybe a philosophy of ministry shouldn’t be reduced to an acrostic. So love God, love others, but make sure you also take care of yourself, because if you’re healthy, you can lead a healthy ministry.

Todd is an author who contributed to our January Gold Member’s Perk package! His resource, One Must Go: Event Bundle got delivered FREE to all our Gold Members! Want to get free stuff? Become a Gold Member today!

This One Must Go bundle includes a version for your Winter Retreat, Summer Camp, and Fall Retreat!! The game is best played on the last day of camp and there is a bonus devotional that challenges students to think about the fact that they must go home and fulfill their God-given mission.

Check out the resource here!

6 Dec 2022

How To Fire A Volunteer

By |2022-12-06T18:01:36-08:00December 6th, 2022|Uncategorized|3 Comments

Excerpt from Your First 2 Years In Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

How to Remove a Volunteer

Some people may criticize me for including this discussion, but the topic is one that may be most frequently referred to. During every seminar I teach on volunteers, someone sheepishly asks, “Uh … well .. .I have this one leader … and … well, she’s been there a long time … and … uh … well … ”

Since I’ve heard the same scenario a thousand times, I say, “And you want to get rid of her, but you don’t know how … right?” The crowd laughs awkwardly, and the person who’s asking sighs with relief when she finds out she’s not alone.

In my many years of youth ministry, I have had to ask people to step away from their leadership positions. A few times, the volunteer was relieved to go. Most of the time, I faced a sweaty-palms, intense, conflict-filled, difficult conversation. And every time, our ministry was healthier once this person was removed.

Consider these principles:

If God has called you to be the lead youth worker and the church has given you the mantle of leadership, then lead. You don’t have to be mean-spirited to lead; you just need to be willing to lead. Leaders have to make decisions and take actions that aren’t easy. Letting someone go is one of them. Your youth ministry is too important to lower your standards and overlook someone who is causing problems. Difficult leaders damage morale, hurt students, cause continual grief, and hinder your ministry from growing.

As the lead youth worker, it’s your responsibility to put a team together that’s going to pursue health and move in the right direction. Not everyone will go there with you. Remember what Paul and Barnabas fought about in Acts 15? They went their separate ways because Paul didn’t think John Mark had what it took to minister with him. You’re not the first leader in the history of Christianity to make a tough decision about leaders.

• It’s always easier to bring people onto the team than to remove them.

Remember that when you’re about to say yes to a potential volunteer who gives you an unsettling feeling. Trust your gut and say no.

Realize the difference between a person who’s a chronic problem and a person who needs immediate intervention (moral failure, a nonnegotiable rule broken, et cetera).

Volunteers who just aren’t cutting it are going to need more tenderness, grace, and chances than those who knew the consequences of their choices and chose poorly.

Removing a leader is your last resort, a step taken only after you’ve done everything you can to help this person succeed.

Before you remove the volunteer

• Have a conversation with your supervisor.

Tell him what you’re planning to tell the person. Ask for advice, coaching, and prayer. Don’t make important decisions in isolation. Get a second opinion. Supervisor support is crucial since backlash is likely.

• Be in prayer.

• Have strong evidence and anecdotal illustrations to support your decision.

• Confront a problem volunteer about specific issues before removing them.

(See Chapter 6 for help on this.)

It may be an issue related to attitude, performance, or team fit. Be honest. Tell the volunteer you need to see specific changes (note them!) or else you may ask him to step away from the ministry. Tell the leader you’ll give him a month to see changes.

During this time, check this person’s pulse regarding commitments. I’ve found that some will confess, “I’m just not into it any more.” Then give the leader the opportunity to step aside gracefully.

• Set a date to meet and review again in a month.

When you remove the volunteer

• Be tender but strong.

Grace and truth are needed when having this difficult conversation. Grace says, “I care about you.” Truth says, “You’re not working out in this ministry, and here’s why … ”

• Don’t beat around the bush. Be clear. “Sandy, things haven’t changed since our last meeting, and I would like to ask you to step away from the youth ministry for a season.” The season can be six months, a year, two years, the rest of the 21st century. It doesn’t need to be decided right away.

• Don’t ask the volunteer to stay until you find a replacement. Think through that ahead of time. Be ready to accept the responsibilities this person is leaving behind.

After you remove the volunteer

Immediately following the meeting, spend time alone. Review, reflect, and pray. Do some activity in which you can relax and express the emotions you have. I’m always so stressed before the meeting and so relieved after that my emotions are tender.

• Follow up with a letter. Tell people you’re thankful for their service and that you’re sorry things didn’t work out and that you’ll be praying for peace and reconciliation.

• Don’t avoid the person.

• If it’s appropriate, offer the person’s name to another ministry in the church.

• Expect some people to be angry.

This is natural, and it can take time to heal.

• Talk about the meeting with a trusted friend, your mentor, or another youth worker who can relate to what you’ve gone though.

• Don’t obsess over it.

You made the right decision. Move on. Lead your team. Hopefully, it will be a long time before you remove a leader again. Oh yeah … you will have to do it again … some day.

Two lifesavers

A signed commitment.

We establish standards by having leaders sign a commitment each year, myself included. Each leader agrees to attitude, direction, participation, unity, and certain lifestyle standards that go with the commitment. (This is done annually to give leaders an easy out if they don’t feel they can commit for another year.)

As we sign these commitments (during our first leader’s meeting of the new school year), I say something like, “My prayer is that everyone here will outlast me as a youth worker at this church. I want to be honest, though, and let you know that I will be candid with you if I feel like you’re not living up to your commitment, and I’ll ask you to make changes.”

The clearer your expectations are from the beginning, the easier the removal conversation will be.

Periodic reviews.

A few times a year, meet with leaders individually to discuss their attitudes, performances and fit with the team. When reviews are frequent, it’s easier to address potential trouble before it gets out of hand. If things are going well, the review is a great opportunity to affirm the leader.

When you form a youth ministry team, you invest in your ministry. Reflect on how each person you invite adds value to your ministry. Before you start building your team, you’ll also want to consider the obstacles you may face.


Read more about finding and keeping volunteers in  Your First 2 Years In Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

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