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19 Dec 2023

And the Winner of the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest Is … Chosen Using Sidekick, of Course!

By |2023-12-19T08:25:06-08:00December 19th, 2023|Mariners Youth Ministry, Sidekick, Sidekick Hero Blog, Youth Ministry Hacks|0 Comments

Our Mariners Church Student Ministry Volunteer 🎄Christmas Party🎄 was last night (’tis the season), and the Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest is always SO fun … but choosing a winner has never felt quite right. Sure, there’s the “audience applause” gauge, the crowd favorite, and then there’s me—always biased to the Star Wars-themed holiday gear, naturally.

🤔 If only there were a way to have people cast their ballots so we get an actual popular vote of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Enter: Sidekick.

(click image to enlarge)

(click image to enlarge)


We picked our 6 finalists and had them hit the stage. Then everyone whipped out their phones for a serious and scientific showdown…

Some of the best parts about Sidekick Live Voting are:

  • You can only vote once (no cheating)
  • Voting is anonymous (no hating on people who voted differently than you)
  • You can choose whether or not to show voting results in real-time (you can build suspense)

For our event, here’s how we set up our Live Voting Presentation Settings:

We toggled the “Show Live Results” to OFF so we could gather all the votes in secret. And then, only after all the votes were cast did we dramatically reveal the winner.


It was close … but we all knew the real winner that night: Sidekick.

Just kidding… well sort of. Sidekick was the tool that helped us easily solve the annual debate of who won the ugly Christmas sweater contest. So in a way, because of Sidekick, we all won. Perfection!

How will you use Sidekick +Phones this week in your ministry?


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

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

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

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

11 Dec 2023

How a Silly Idea Called Llamabucks Changed Our Youth Group This Fall

By |2023-12-11T23:47:43-08:00December 11th, 2023|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources|6 Comments

Last week I had 11 students tell me last week’s memory verse from youth group.

Now, maybe that’s not the most incredible thing in your context, but I added a memory verse to our program over a year ago and this was exactly 8x the most we’ve ever had recite a verse from memory. Now, you could certainly chalk up part of that to poor leadership on my part for the past 365 days, and that’s certainly a contributing factor. But what accounted for the change?

Enter: llama bucks.

Back at Fall Kickoff we introduced a new currency in our youth group, playing off of a llama theme that has kinda taken over. No more prizes, just llama bucks. Serving? Get a llamabuck. Ask a great question in your small group time? Score a llamabuck.

SAY A MEMORY VERSE? Get a llamabuck.

And this thing has taken on a whole life of its own. Despite us having a really horrendous resume and zero experience in distributing an internatioal currency and inflation … we’ve given out thousands of llama bucks. And they can be used in two key ways:

  1. Use them in small amounts right away in the llama store outside the youth room to grab some Nerd Ropes or a Liquid Death (it’s just water people) or some JHM merch.
  2. Save up for the Llama-auction on January 13th, 2024. We have a big event planned with lots of fun, big items (most requested was an eBike, we’ll see, sounds expensive) but we’ll have fun items for students to bid on to use up their bucks.

Reward what you want to see happen in your youth ministry. Not a new idea, just our spin on it … and it’s crushing right now.


11 Sep 2023

Winning Youth Ministry: Training Volunteers

By |2023-09-11T14:32:47-07:00September 11th, 2023|Youth Ministry Hacks|3 Comments

Volunteers are the unsung heroes who invest their time and hearts into shaping the spiritual growth of the next generation. In the world of youth ministry, nothing is as crucial as ensuring your volunteers are well-trained and fully equipped for the incredible task they’ve taken on. Let’s dive into the significance of training volunteers, how it benefits them, strengthens your ministry, and impacts your church.

Empowering Your Volunteers

Let’s start with the heart of it all: your volunteers. These are the individuals who selflessly give their time and passion to nurture the faith of the youth in your church. So, why is training them so important?

Through training, your volunteers acquire the necessary skills to engage with and make a meaningful impact on the lives of young people. This includes honing their communication skills, mastering conflict resolution, and becoming experts in lesson planning. Training often includes personal spiritual development, which allows your volunteers to deepen their own faith as they guide others on their spiritual journeys. When volunteers receive thorough training, they gain the confidence they need to tackle the challenges that come their way. A confident volunteer is an enthusiastic and dedicated one.

Strengthening Your Ministry

Having a standardized training program ensures that all your volunteers are on the same page, delivering a consistent message and experience to the youth in your ministry. Proper training encourages your volunteers to bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches to your ministry, fostering creativity and adaptability. Volunteers who know their roles and responsibilities well are more efficient in planning and executing activities, ultimately lightening the load on youth pastors.

Impacting Your Church

The positive effects of volunteer training don’t stop at your youth ministry’s doorstep—they have a wider impact on your church community. A vibrant and well-organized youth ministry can attract more families to your church, contributing to overall church growth. Volunteers who feel valued, equipped, and confident are more likely to stay committed to your church for the long term. A thriving youth ministry has the potential to engage the broader community and draw new members to your church family.

Hey! This is a great time to talk about training your volunteers!

Sign up for National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training. This event is about to become your secret weapon for supercharging your volunteer training efforts and setting your youth ministry up for unprecedented success.

  • Date: September 23, 2023
  • Cost: Just $199 for your entire volunteer team
  • Location: Take your pick between hosting it at your church or attending one of our 300+ locations

Here’s the best part: the cost is per group, not per person. This means you can bring as many youth ministry volunteers as you can gather, making it the best deal in youth ministry.

On this special day, your volunteers will receive youth ministry-specific training from renowned speakers like Christine Caine, Albert Tate, Doug Fields, and more. It’s going to be a fun, helpful, and momentum-building experience that will leave your volunteers inspired and ready to make a profound impact on the lives of the youth in your community.

Don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to invest in your volunteers and, in turn, elevate your youth ministry and church. Mark your calendar for September 23, 2023, and get ready to equip your team for an amazing ministry year.

In conclusion, remember that your volunteers are the backbone of your youth ministry. By giving them the tools they need to succeed, you’re not only investing in their personal growth but also in the future of your ministry and church. So, gear up for the National Day of Volunteer Youth Ministry Training, and watch your volunteers soar to new heights.

Need something to start training your volunteers right now? Check these awesome resources out from DYM!

28 Aug 2023

4 Hacks to Communicate Better!

By |2023-08-28T09:20:48-07:00August 28th, 2023|Youth Ministry Hacks|5 Comments

Hey there, fellow youth ministry adventurers!

Picture this: You’re embarking on an exciting journey through uncharted territory. You have a map that guides you, but imagine if you were the only one with that map. You’d be navigating the twists and turns alone, right? Well, that’s where the power of communication comes in!
Don’t just hold your map close to your chest. Let others see the path and everything on it so you can get there together!

Connecting with Parents:
Parents are like your trusty co-pilots on this journey. They’re just as invested in the growth and well-being of their students as you are. When you communicate your youth ministry plans, goals, and activities with parents, you’re not just informing them – you’re inviting them to be active participants in their student’s spiritual journey. Imagine the impact when parents know what their students are learning, where they’re going, and how they can support the process.
Think of how you can regularly communicate to parents! Is it a weekly email? A blog? Social media groups? Whatever you plan to do, make it consistent and let parents know how you primarily communicate with them!

Guiding Your Leaders:
Your youth ministry leaders are the compass that helps steer the ship. When you communicate your plans and goals clearly with them, you’re aligning everyone’s efforts toward a common purpose. They can better prepare, engage, and lead when they have a clear understanding of the destination and the path you’re taking to get there.
If your group is small enough, a text thread might serve as the best way to communicate with leaders. If it’s a little larger, think of using email. Same with parents: be consistent!

Engaging Your Students:
Your youth ministry participants are the explorers on this journey. When you communicate what’s in store for them – from upcoming events to the heart behind the teachings – you’re fueling their excitement and curiosity. Clarity breeds enthusiasm, and when students are excited, they’re more likely to actively engage and participate.
You can do this from the stage just as easily as social media. Just make sure when you communicate to students, you’re telling leaders and parents the same information at the same time!

Involving the Whole Church:
Your church is the ultimate support system on this journey. When you communicate your youth ministry plans and activities with the larger congregation, you’re inviting everyone to rally behind the youth. Whether it’s through prayer, encouragement, or even participation, involving the whole church community strengthens the bonds within your church family.
Your church may have a weekly bulletin, or a website, or just lots of posters everywhere. However your church communicates, make sure you’re on the same page and giving them all of the information that they need!

Navigating the Adventure Together:
In a youth ministry, effective communication isn’t just a tool – it’s a lifeline. It’s the bridge that connects parents, leaders, students, and the church community. It transforms your journey from a solo expedition into a shared adventure, full of camaraderie, support, and growth.

So, fellow adventurers, let’s remember the power of communication as we navigate the uncharted territories of youth ministry. Share your plans, goals, and activities with everyone onboard. Let’s journey together, united by a common purpose, and create a lasting impact that echoes through the years.

Stay tuned for more insights and guidance on this incredible journey we’re all on. 🌟

Need some help letting everyone know the game plan? Grab this fully editable calendar from DYM and look like a pro!

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. 


20 Jul 2023

DYM Free for Fall!

By |2023-07-21T08:34:02-07:00July 20th, 2023|Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks|8 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!

27 Feb 2023

20 Questions on the Way to Your Mission Trip

By |2023-02-27T20:44:50-08:00February 27th, 2023|Youth Ministry Hacks, youth mission trips|13 Comments


As a youth pastor, I know that the time spent traveling to a mission trip can be long and tedious, especially if you’re stuck in a van with a group of teenagers. But fear not, this time can be used to your advantage! Use this time to help your students begin to think about the mission trip and the impact they can have.

Here are 20 questions to get the conversation started:

  1. What are you most excited about for this mission trip?
  2. What do you hope to gain from this experience?
  3. How do you think this mission trip will challenge you?
  4. What do you think will be the biggest obstacle you’ll face on this trip?
  5. How can we prepare ourselves spiritually for this mission trip?
  6. What do you think our biggest impact will be on the community we’re serving?
  7. What do you think we can learn from the people we’re serving?
  8. How can we build relationships with the people we’re serving?
  9. What do you think our team’s strengths are?
  10. What are some ways we can use our strengths to serve the community?
  11. How can we work together as a team to accomplish our mission?
  12. How do you think this mission trip will change you?
  13. What are some ways we can continue to serve after the mission trip is over?
  14. What are some things you’re nervous about for this trip?
  15. How can we support each other during challenging moments on the trip?
  16. What are some things we can do to be culturally sensitive to the community we’re serving?
  17. What are some things we can do to show God’s love to the people we’re serving?
  18. What are some things we can do to have fun and build relationships with each other on the trip?
  19. How can we stay motivated and focused on our mission throughout the trip?
  20. What are some practical ways we can make a difference in the community we’re serving?

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Twenty questions? That’s a lot of questions to ask teenagers!” But trust me, it’s better than listening to them argue over who gets to play DJ for the hundredth time.

In all seriousness, using this time to have meaningful conversations about the mission trip can help set the tone for the trip and get your students excited about serving. It also gives them a chance to process their thoughts and emotions before arriving at their destination.

So, next time you’re on a mission trip van ride, don’t waste the opportunity! Ask your students some of these questions and get the conversation started. Who knows, it might just make the van ride go by a little faster, and maybe even a little more enjoyable.


Need some help with your nest mission trip? Check out these great resources on DYM!

Are you taking your students on a long van ride or trying to find things to do to keep the kids occupied during hours of driving to the mission trip? Use these printable no-prep travel games to get your teens interacting, having fun together, and building memories! You get 18 games that can be printed and put in each vehicle! Guaranteed fun and laughs!

This includes 3, five-day student devotionals designed for mission trips. The 3 topics include Leading Like Jesus, Loving Like Jesus, and Serving Like Jesus.

Co-written with my wife for our ministry’s week-long mission trips, our students AND leaders LOVED these devotionals! Students raved that it was the perfect start to their day, and leaders even demanded more devotions when they returned home.

13 Feb 2023

4 Tips for Encouraging your Parents

By |2023-02-13T10:06:50-08:00February 13th, 2023|Parents, Youth Ministry Hacks|4 Comments

I need to share a big mistake I’ve made as a youth pastor. I’ve been in ministry now for 19 years, 17 of which have been fully dedicated to student ministry and raising up the next generation of Christ followers and leaders. Over that time, I’ve led almost 1000 youth services, 28 retreats, and seen hundreds of teens making recorded decisions to follow Jesus and be baptized. It’s been a fun ride full of ups and downs. However, I would say for the first half of my career, I made a huge mistake that I want to share for you to learn from. If I had identified this mistake sooner, I’m confident I would have seen more fruit in the ministries I was leading and better longevity for students after they left high school. Are you ready? The mistake I made was not being intentional with the parents under my care.

Now, I know some of you might be thinking, “Big deal Theo – we are a youth ministry, not a family ministry. It’s okay! I’m sure you did great during your first half.” But hear me out… Youth ministry IS a family ministry whether we like it or not. We have these students for 1-3 hours a week. Parents have the students significantly longer than that. In fact, it took me about half of my ministry career to realize that a parent’s influence will remain in a student’s life long after my time with their student is done. So, I began a shift to connect and encourage the parents within my ministry. As a result, I saw more engaged families within our ministry. I saw better collaboration between our small group leaders and families. And yes, I even saw some families skipping certain sports activities so their students could attend Mid-Week youth group or our weekend retreats/camps. The following ideas are some tips and tricks for how you can encourage your parents:

Don’t be afraid of parents.

When I first started in ministry at the age of 18, I was terrified of parents. Yes, I was in college learning about youth ministry, but I was barely out of high school. I didn’t know how to talk to adults. I thought if parents had a conversation with me, they would realize I was flying by the seat of my pants and never bring their kids back! What I didn’t realize at the time was that most parents of middle or high school students knew they needed a village to help raise their teens. So, they were actively looking for anyone to partner with. In my later years of youth ministry, instead of hiding from parents deep within the facility, I started standing by the front door to greet parents as they picked up their few and chatted with them. Parents are nothing to be afraid of. In fact, they are eager to talk with anyone who cares about their students.

Find low-effort ways to encourage parents.

This could be a monthly e-mail. A bi-weekly social media post. A newsletter you had out at the beginning of the quarter. The goal of this particular connection point ISN’T to tell them about upcoming events. It isn’t to tell them about the mission trip fundraiser or the camp deadline that just passed. It’s just to connect and encourage your parents. Acknowledge the difficulties of raising teenagers in our current culture. Acknowledge the difficulties of parenting students in the age of Tik Tok and Google searches. Acknowledge that they are currently parenting during one of the most difficult times in human history to parent teens. Then tell them it’s okay that they are tired, that they don’t have all the answers, and that they feel overwhelmed. Let them know you see them. Equip them with an article or two that can help them understand the culture their students are in better. Then encourage them with one action they can do to spiritually influence their teens. I opted for a quarterly newsletter which we mailed out and physically handed out to students to give to parents. Getting physical communication is so rare these days. I felt like it stands out when you do get something.

Create Yearly rhythms for your whole ministry to encourage parents.

In my ministry, we started a 6th and 9th-grade parent event after church (two different days.) We went to the local pizza/arcade (think Dave and Busters or Main Event, but a little more run down cause we’re on a budget!) and treated students and parents to pizza and games. After the food, we dismissed the teens to go have fun and me and my leaders spent some time vision casting to these parents who were nervous about their student entering the next phase of life. We always did this in early summer, so we weren’t competing with school activities. It was also a GREAT way of plating our ministry flag in the family at the beginning of this new phase of life before school activities had a chance to fill up the space.

Another thing we did was just have a parent night in the fall. If you’ve never run a parent night before, check out this resource I created for youth ministries on COLEADER. If you are interested, it has everything you need to pull off a great parent night that will feel fruitful and fun, and help kick-start parent engagement.

Train your team to be specific.

Don’t be a superhero. You likely have a team of other people with you who love students. Don’t take the weight of trying to encourage every parent. Instead, train your team to look for specific things in the students they oversee and then pass that encouragement on to a parent. Raising teenagers is one of the hardest jobs in the world, and most parents are just trying their hardest to work a full-time job, care for their own mental health, and raise kids. From experience, I would say most parents don’t feel like they aren’t doing enough or don’t even know where to start. So when they get positive feedback that their mini-human did something selfless, it’s the best news a parent can get!

Make it your mission to deliver this good news to parents as often as you can. If a leader notices a student do something positive worth sharing with a parent, help that leader connect with the parent. Find them after youth group. Search for their contact information on the church database and send them a letter, e-mail, or text (who calls anymore?). Getting specific positive feedback about a student can sustain a parent during the times they feel like they’re drowning in the uncharted sea of raising teenagers.

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

Need some resources to help encourage your parents? Check out these winners from DYM!

You probably didn’t go into youth ministry to focus on parents. In fact, sometimes we look at them as a hurdle to what we are trying to accomplish. Yet, there is no escaping the fact that they are an integral part of what we do and how we do it. Sometimes the best way to minister to your teens is by ministering to their parents. Allow these texts to serve as encouragement and coaching to them. Many of these are seasonal: first week of school, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mothers’ Day, etc… Like a great DYM-product… it’s done for you. This is a great deal!

Click here to check out this product!

Reflections for Parents is a prayer station experience designed specifically for parents. If you are looking for a way to connect with parents and earn their trust, provide a meaningful development opportunity, or an encouraging night out, this resource is for you.

Click here to check out this product!

30 Jan 2023

How to Be a Good Youth Pastor to a Pastor’s Kid

By |2023-01-31T11:58:44-08:00January 30th, 2023|Leadership, Youth Ministry Hacks|11 Comments

When I was a kid growing up in church, my dad was the worship leader, and one of my best friends, Josh, was the senior pastor’s kid. When we were in about 2nd or 3rd grade, a guest speaker came through our church and told a story I don’t remember about pastors’ kids. What I do remember is that he said with a smile, “The preacher’s kid is always the worst kid in town, right?” Josh and I turned to each other with raised eyebrows. We didn’t realize this was an expectation we were supposed to meet. We reorganized our priorities immediately. Mayhem ensued.

When I became a youth pastor, both my senior pastor’s daughters were in our youth group. They were lovely, brilliant, funny, wonderful people. Really, they were. But one of the things I look back on in 20 years of youth ministry with some uneasiness is the way I handled having the two of them in youth group.

They didn’t have it easy. We live in a small Missouri Ozarks town where everyone knew they were the pastor’s daughters. While our local church was fairly open and accepting of all kinds of people, our denomination was working its way painfully through emerging from a history of “Conservative Holiness Movement” legalism. My boss was known to some as the leader of “that church where they compromise to get bigger numbers,” or even less charitable criticism. His family’s speech, wardrobe choices, hair length, and sleeve length were commented on unflatteringly at times. Their every move was analyzed and criticized. Sometimes I even piled on with the criticism, not realizing how injurious it was (though my criticisms were more about their imperfect youth group attendance or their not volunteering for something).

I’ve thought several times that I’d do some things differently with them if I were granted a mulligan. But then when I think about it again, I decide I’d do it yet another way entirely. Then I decide all those ideas are terrible. So I got some help thinking it through.

I got input from a few friends of mine: PKs (pastors’ kids) who are now youth pastors or otherwise serve in church.

I’m going to have conversations with some other pastors’ kids on this, because I want to learn more from their stories. There’s an urgency here. Our new associate pastor has some kids in youth group this year. One of the above-mentioned senior pastor’s daughters now has her own son in our youth group. Next fall for the first time I’ll have one of my own in youth group: our daughter Laura. I really don’t want to mess this up. So I’ll keep learning.

In the meantime, I’d like to share what I’ve learned. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

From JayLee

I met JayLee at a DYM conference in the fall of 2022. We started talking about this topic while waiting in a food line, and I asked her if she could jot down a few thoughts. She went above and beyond, and gave me a wealth of insight. (You can catch JayLee’s popular TikTok Series “Things People Get Wrong About Christianity” at @jayjaysapphire)


  • PKs have abandonment issues. Be a consistent person in their life.
  • PKs are lonely. Many of them think their friends are only their friends because of who their parents are. Help them make connections.
  • Give them a space to vent or pour out. PKs are flooded with the drama, gossip, and secrets of others.
  • Be careful and kind with reprimanding.
  • Some PKs need a voice. Help them feel safe to express themselves and speak freely.
  • Help them find their own relationship with God.
  • Maybe give them something that they can use if they’re stuck spending tons of time at church. (My youth pastor gave me an adult coloring book).
  • MAKE INSIDE JOKES!! This connects the two of you, and also gives them something to look forward to.


  • Treat them too differently. Some like special treatment. Many don’t.
  • Only talk about life within the church.
  • Bring up their pastor parent too often.
  • Assume they have the exact same beliefs and worldview as their parents. (My parents and I are very different.)
  • Be surprised when they make a (possibly cutting) joke at your expense.
  • Take their jokes too seriously. (Some pastors can take a joke from literally everyone except their own kid.)

JayLee also mentioned that most PKs have some form of religious or family trauma. They are forced to be a part of a family and represent both the family and the church. They feel constantly watched and judged. Many PKs abandon the faith altogether. PKs need to feel safe, secure, heard, understood, and treated like their faith is their own (not just their parents’ faith).

From Seth

Seth is the son of Travis Sayler, one of my best friends in ministry. His dad was the pastor of their small church, and also the youth leader. Poor Seth and his brothers couldn’t escape their dad! They seem to have turned out okay in spite of it. Here’s what he had to say:

  • I think it’s important to help them establish their faith independently from their parents. They need to learn and read and discover for themselves just like everyone else.
  • It is important that they have a trusted confidant that they can confess to. Since my dad fulfilled the role of both pastor and youth pastor, as well as other leadership roles such as coach, I can attest to how difficult it can be to confess your shortcomings to such an important person in your life. It is important that pastors’ kids develop that kind of accountability relationship with other people.
  • Just make it known that you are available, but don’t be pushy.

From Deborah

Deborah Spooner is the student ministry director at Mariners Church in Huntington Beach, CA (another campus of the student ministry team that includes Doug Fields and Josh Griffin). She contributed these thoughts:

  • Don’t push PKs into leadership. If they’re interested, encourage and equip. But let them take the initiative.
  • Don’t share too much insider info. Let them just be youth group students who don’t feel pressured to protect the brand.

Deborah’s last thought here is so important. I’ve had terrible judgment in this area at times. Sometimes pastors are as guilty of the sin of gossip as anyone, especially when we’re around people we consider to be “on the inside.” Don’t sin against pastors’ kids by making them listen to your gossip. Also, don’t burden them unnecessarily with heavy issues – this can contribute to their becoming disillusioned and jaded with church life. They’ll see enough on their own.

From Ella

Ella Oliver is the daughter of my good friend Kevin Oliver, a DYM author and longtime youth pastor. Ella is now serving in youth ministry as well. I’m planning to creepily follow Kevin around and steal all his parent-pastoring secrets, because Ella is awesome. Ella agreed with several of the above tips, and added these:

  • Don’t expect them to serve, stay late, or offer a hand constantly! Every person should serve – we are called to be servants – but help them find their place. Don’t expect that because they’re at the church they are there to work. (Comment from another PK: they might just be stuck at the church because they can’t get their parents to take them home.)
  • Don’t make them feel bad for not being there for a week (but if missing church becomes consistent, check in and ask about their personal life (school, sports, friends, etc.))

From Rachel

Rachel Painter is one of my best friends in the world. We’ve worked together on a ton of ministry projects and played a lot of music together in a lot of places. Our kids call her “Auntie Rachel.” She’s a counselor who specializes in working with traumatized children and teens. I’ll share her thoughts here last.

I’ll start off by saying that I think that I’ve been fortunate not to have had some of the more harrowing (in the category of “religious trauma”) experiences that perhaps other PKs have had. I feel remarkably fortunate to have been raised in the family I was, with the parents I had. I was never made to feel that church/my dad’s work was more important than I was (or our family was).

In talking to other PKs/MKs (ed. note: MK=missionary’s kid), I know this wasn’t always their experience. I remember hearing a quote(s) from Billy Graham once, where he was giving advice to some young pastors/evangelists, and one thing he told them (essentially) was, “Don’t neglect your first ministry: your family.” I can’t tell you how beautiful and important this is. I’m fortunate to have been raised in a home where this was lived out.

Further, I didn’t have the experience that [the two senior pastor’s daughters mentioned at the beginning of this article] had of being raised in a more legalistic/works-based denomination and church. I see the effects of that mindset, pressure, and the need to perform or be “perfect” on many pastors’ kids.

I personally don’t recall that anything any of my youth leaders/pastors did was inappropriate or made me feel “other than.” But I would just say that IN GENERAL, people both in and out of the church do tend to treat you differently as a PK (or MK). You are placed on a pedestal and generally feel more watched – expectations are higher. You’re given the “goodie two-shoes” label, other kids treat you differently, and the loneliness is very real. So in general, I agree with your friends’ advice: treat them like any other kid who is inevitably going to have struggles (with faith or otherwise) and who also needs a safe place to just “be.” Let them develop their own authentic faith.

I will say that the loneliest part of being a PK was when we were going through church conflict, and I watched the character or competence of my dad challenged, and watched the deep pain of the way he was treated by persons in the church. My dad isn’t a fighter, so when accusations or mistreatment would come, he would take it and bow out, rather than cause further church splits and discord. The alienation you feel when you are suddenly separated from your worshiping body, and one of your primary forms of support – THIS was the hardest part of a being a PK for me. That didn’t have anything to do with how a youth pastor treated me/us. This was just a part of being in fellowship with sinful and flawed human beings (and the pain in general of ministry).

Rachel’s last phrase: “…the pain in general of ministry…” – too many pastors’ kids know exactly what that feels like. When they’re experiencing pain and stress due to the church, be a safe person for them. Keep their confidences, and don’t use them as leverage in any way whatsoever. Also, be very hesitant to “tell on them” to their minister parent. Do your best to patiently and lovingly deal with any issues yourself. They’re dealing with enough.

Let’s wrap up with some good news: if you mess it up, it doesn’t have to be final. Both the pastor’s daughters mentioned at the beginning of this article remain dear friends of ours today. Their kids and our kids are good buddies. Thank God there is grace for imperfect youth pastors!

So what would you add? Do you have comments on the above? Disagree with anything here? Let’s learn together how to serve PKs, and by extension how to serve our coworkers in ministry, and by further extension how to better serve the Body of Christ.

Jim Purtle is married to an incandescently radiant math teacher named Cindy. They have four small children. Those children occasionally make Jim and Cindy very proud, and sometimes make them pray fervently for the children’s future sanctification. Jim has been in full-time youth ministry at the same church in rural Missouri since 2002, and feels like he might be starting to figure out how to do it. He’s made a ton of mistakes, and is willing to tell anyone who will listen how not to do youth ministry! He’s really glad he doesn’t have Jesus’ job – but he’s also really glad Jesus called him to be part of His Kingdom.

26 Jan 2023

3 Signs You Need to Slow Down

By |2023-01-24T13:41:32-08:00January 26th, 2023|Help Me With..., Parents, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Pastor Life|2 Comments

As youth pastors, we often find ourselves in a whirlwind of activities and events. We’re planning the next sermon, scheduling meetings with volunteers, and running from one event to the next. It can be hard to pause and really take a moment to rest.

But rest is essential for our physical, mental and spiritual health. If we don’t take the time to rest, we won’t be able to give our best to the ministry. With that in mind, here are 3 signs that you need to slow down and rest once in a while:

1. When You Feel Overwhelmed – If you’re constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed, it’s a sign that you need to take a break. Feeling overwhelmed could be a sign that you’re taking on too much and need to re-evaluate your priorities. It’s important to take a step back, assess the situation, and find ways to reduce your stress. We can’t pour from an empty cup, so make sure to take time to fill it back up and rest. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

2. When You Feel Disconnected From God – When we’re too busy, it’s easy to become disconnected from God. If you’re feeling distant from God, it’s a sign that you need to slow down and give Him your full attention. Rest is a vital part of our spiritual walk, and it’s important to make time to spend with God. As Psalm 46:10 tells us, “Be still and know that I am God.” Taking the time to be still and rest in God’s presence will help us to reconnect with Him.

3. When You Can’t Focus – If you’re having trouble focusing, it’s a sign that you need to take a break. When we’re tired, our minds can’t focus, and we can’t do our best work. Take a break and use that time to pray, read Scripture, and rest in the presence of God. You can also take a walk, journal, or spend time with friends and family. All of these activities can help you to relax, refocus, and gain perspective.

By taking the time to slow down and rest, we can be better equipped to serve our ministry and glorify God. Remember, it’s ok to take a break and rest once in a while. Make sure to honor God by taking time to rest and recharge so that you can serve with a renewed spirit.

Need something to send to parent that sends the same message? We’ve got a great resource for you!

PARENT RESOURCE: 4 Signs You Need to Slow Down

We are all aware that life can be busy. Our calendar is jam-packed each week with work, kids, school, sports, and friends. Our culture moves quickly and keeping up can be so exhausting that it hurts us. This new year, you may need to slow down. Here are 4 signs your fast-paced life is killing you.

How to use:

1. Attach to your next parent newsletter

2. Print and have available at your next parent meeting

3. Create a resource hub in your space for grab and go parent resources

4. Create a monthly “parent equipping” (separate from newsletter) video explaining how to use the tool.

Gold members got this for free this month. Want to get free stuff? Become a Gold Member today!

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