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14 Nov 2022

7 Ways to Engage Students in Worship

By |2022-11-15T12:34:15-08:00November 14th, 2022|Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas|9 Comments

We want to draw our students into a closer relationship with God! And one of the ways we can do that is by helping them to worship the God who created them and sent Jesus.

But let’s be real, sometimes it looks like our students are falling asleep in worship.

Or, at least, they are more interested in their phones than in worshipping Jesus.

So how can we help students be more engaged in worship? Here are seven things to think about to help students engage in worship during youth group!

Let Them Be A Part of the Planning

Are students helping to plan the worship experience? If not, give them a seat at the table! Help them to see how the night is put together. Let them choose the songs. Give them the reins to whatever worship experience you would like to happen.

When students take leadership roles, they engage far more than when they are solely participating.

Take a Step Back

Are you up front and leading the moment? Take a step back and let students do it. They are more than capable of praying, singing, teaching, and leading. See how their peers engage when it’s not the “adults” in the room who are in charge, but the others who are on the same page as they are!

Encourage Them to Pray

Remind students that we get to talk to God! Let them pray beforehand as you plan. Let them pray as you set up. Help them lead in prayer during the actual worship service. Lead them in a prayer of thanks afterward. Help them cover the entire worship experience in prayer so they feel more engaged in worship and with their creator!

Worship in a Different Space

Are you in the same room every time you have a worship service? Think about being in a different space! As it gets colder, consider having an outdoor bonfire experience. Or maybe a different room in your building. Get students out of what they are used to to help them focus on what is in front of them.

Keep An Eye on the Clock

I remember a friend of mine was in a band that did a lot of youth retreats. LOTS of youth pastors asked them to do an hour-long worship set. It sounded great. In theory. But the reality was that students checked out a long time before the hour was up. Longer doesn’t mean a more worshipful experience. Plan things on purpose. And remember that a shorter service can be just as engaging.

Help Them Process

Sometimes, students can have a hard time understanding what they feel or think during a worship service. Help them walk through it by making observations and asking questions like, “I see you’re really quiet. Are you trying to think about what we just did?” or, “You were crying during the worship service. Was there any one thought or thing that you really connected with?”

Let Them Journal

I love a journal. Mostly because I can look back on the thoughts I had in a really emotional or connected moment and reflect on them better. Encourage students to write down their thoughts so they can think about them after the moment has passed. It’ll serve as a great reminder when they need it!

What are some other ways you may think to have students worship?

If you’re looking for an idea for your next worship night, check out these resources below!


22 Sep 2022

Youth Ministry Doesn’t Have to Mean Chaos

By |2022-09-21T11:04:04-07:00September 22nd, 2022|Leadership, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Ministry Ideas|2 Comments

Maybe you’ve heard, but youth pastors have a bit of a reputation for being disorganized and for flying by the seats of our collective pants.

In short, structure is generally not our greatest strength.

Although it’s not easy, when we work to provide structure to our ministries, we are doing our students, our volunteers, and ourselves a huge favor.


Although it may sound cliché, our students need structure.

  1. STRUCTURE PROVIDES SAFETY– Many students come from homes that aren’t super stable. So, when we can provide a few hours each week where students exist in a familiar environment, see familiar faces, and experience a familiar flow to the evening, we’re often giving our students a gift that they didn’t even know they needed.
  2. STRUCTURE MAKES INVITING FRIENDS A LOT EASIER– For students, inviting someone to youth group is a huge risk, and I’ve realized that students are WAY more likely to invite their friends to something when they generally know what to expect. Adding a bit of structure to your weekly program helps students have an answer when their friends ask them, “what are we going to do while we’re there?”
  3. STRUCTURE HELPS STUDENTS KNOW WHAT’S EXPECTED OF THEM– Are you having difficulty getting students to quiet down during the teaching time? Or maybe your students keep arriving later and later? I’d suggest setting a schedule and sticking to it. After a while, they’ll start getting used to the idea that “we start at 7pm” or “after worship, it’s time to find a seat and engage the lesson.” Remember, students can’t meet your expectations if they don’t know what they are. And structure just helps make those expectations a bit clearer.


Recently, I was talking to a potential volunteer when they asked, “If I volunteer on Wednesday night, what time will I be able to head home?” The only problem was that I couldn’t answer the question because we hadn’t ever set a firm time that youth group officially ended. Honestly, we’d just wait until all of our students left, and then the adults would lock up and head home, usually somewhere between 10:00pm and 10:30pm (though sometimes as early as 9:15pm or as late as 11:00pm).

We have always operated under the thought that “we’d rather them hang out here than get into trouble somewhere else.” The only problem is that without a structured end on Wednesday nights, we were burning out our current volunteers and making it more difficult to recruit new ones.

Although we haven’t quite solved it yet, we have started taking steps in the right direction. Our volunteer clean-up crew now starts cleaning up at 9:15pm, and we ask any students who are still hanging around to help. Our goal is to get to a point where we can tell our volunteers (and potential volunteers) that on a “typical” Wednesday, they can expect to leave around 9:30pm. In the long run, I’m hopeful that establishing structure at the end of the night will be more honoring to our current volunteers and the volunteers we hope to recruit in the future.


Structure helps you avoid the trap of feeling like every week needs to be bigger, louder, more creative, funnier, and messier than the last.

Let me explain. Every week, we use the same basic template for our services. I know a lot of people (I used to be one of them) that would argue against this because it tends to become monotonous or boring. But I’d argue that following the same structure for each service can actually help boost creativity if you let it.

If you’re creating every service from scratch every week, you’re always developing new structure and new content at the same time. If you spend some time getting the structure nailed down, then each week, you can put more energy toward being creative with the content. Yes, you still must choose to take advantage of that opportunity, but at least you have the choice.


Plus, there’s an added bonus for you as the leader. Providing reliable structure to your services causes each service to be less dependent on you being there to hold it all together. When everyone has a clear idea of how things should start, flow, and end, they’ll start feeling empowered to lead in your absence.

One of the best feelings was the first time I called a volunteer at the last minute and said, “I have a family emergency, and I’m not going to be able to make it tonight,” and they said, “Don’t worry. We’ve got it under control.”

Structure helped make that possible.

Josh is the Campus Student Pastor at the Chapel in Grayslake, Illinois. He’s been serving in youth ministry for over half of his life, and he is finally trying to put into practice all the things he learned when he read “Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry” in 2002. In the meantime, he’s been making games, countdowns, and social media content for DYM because that’s the kind of stuff he wishes he had back when he was first getting started.


This month, DYM Gold members got Josh’s resource, Five 60-Second Countdowns: Super-Frantic HURRY!! Edition, for free! You can check it out by clicking the picture below OR become a Gold Member and get TONS of free stuff each month!

12 Sep 2022

We Don’t Have Youth On The Weekends

By |2022-09-07T19:44:05-07:00September 12th, 2022|Parents, Volunteers, Youth Ministry Ideas|4 Comments

We don’t have a program for youth on the weekend… intentionally. I understand this is just our context, and many churches do have weekend programs, and there is nothing wrong with it (maybe). For our context, that is not just some random decision, but it fits within our vision and strategy for the young people of our church. 

My question to you would be, do YOU have one?

We want our youth leads to be hyper-focused on pouring into and connecting with their leaders on the weekend. During weekends (for the most part), leads are there to be available and connect and perform campus needs. Leads can use this time for having intentional coffee and catch-ups before, between, and after services. We also run a youth section in our main auditoriums to connect with new families and students and help make our youth seem present on campuses. 


  • Leaders are already there, and this allows them to not be out another night a week. 
  • Touch-ins allow you to be their pastor, allows you to gauge where they are at, get feedback, and keep accountable with DYMU/correcting convos. 
  • For part-time leads, it’s a better use of your time to pour into leaders and students. 
  • Allow for connections for recruiting new leaders to join as group leaders. 
  • The result is better, more communicated, and cared for leaders. 

For students on the weekends, we have two options we want them to be a part of. 

  1. We want to sit with their families who come or in our youth section of the auditorium. Our lead pastor is their pastor. We get to serve students during their time in our ministry, but what happens when they graduate high school and they are not familiar with the lead pastor of our church? When they graduate high school, they graduate from our youth group and church. We want them to know our lead pastor. 
  2. We want students serving. The long-term strategy to keep students engaged in church post-graduation should be getting them on Sandals Church Teams to help them be a part of something bigger than themselves with the goal of Attending a service, Serving a service. Why? When they serve, they are rubbing shoulders with other adult believers who are pouring into them, students are a part of something outside of our youth ministry, connecting them to the church overall, and they are growing in their faith by serving the church. 

Again for you, it might be a thing. And that’s ok. What I don’t think is okay is doing it “because it’s always what we have done” so therefore, you just keep it. If it’s thought out, strategic, and intentional, I can get behind most things.

My hope is this might just get you thinking about what weekends can be for you.

If you want to listen to the Youth Ministry Podcast episode on how to build community amounts leaders, like mentioned above for the weekends, you can CLICK HERE to listen


Need some resources to hand to families and students to use during the week or when you aren’t meeting? Check out these great devotionals on DYM!


29 Aug 2022

Setting Up Small Groups to Win!

By |2022-09-02T07:00:54-07:00August 29th, 2022|Small Groups, Uncategorized, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Ministry Ideas|19 Comments

It’s the kick-off season for ministry! You’ve spent the summer assembling your team, ensuring each group has the right leader, and now it’s time to get these leaders with their new students. Here are some quick tips for making sure your leaders have what they need to be the best small group leaders they can be!

Get Leaders Curriculum Quickly!

If the main thing you want leaders to do is telling their students the truths about Jesus, then make sure they have the curriculum in their hands as soon as possible!

Remember that you have recruited teachers and engineers and stay-at-home moms, and other busy adults. Make sure you aren’t getting them things at the last minute so that they can be totally prepared when they walk into a small group!

Communication is Key!

Have a rhythm of communicating with your small group leaders. Whether that means you email them once a week or have an ongoing text message thread, make sure your leaders know you are thinking about them and are available!

Practical Tips help leaders win!

It may be old hat to you, but All of the tips and tricks that you have learned over the years as a youth pastor are golden nuggets to share with your small group leaders!

Make a list of five or seven and send them out one at a time in your regular communication. Think of small bite-size tips like “Make a note on your phone about each student, where they go to school, and their favorite candy.”

Putting practical tips in your volunteers’ hands can help them win!

Small Group Your Small Group Leaders!

We want our small group leaders to be in the lives of their students. We want them to take them out for coffee and to go to their sporting events, and text them throughout the week to let them know they are praying for them.

What if you did that for your small group leaders? What if you invited them out to coffee regularly and sent them a text every so often just to let them know that you are grateful they were on the team and that you are praying for them specifically?

If you treat your volunteers like your own personal small group, they will see what it’s like to lead. Your example will show them how they can in turn minister to their own students. And the biggest win of all is your small group leaders feel loved and ministered to!

What else?

If you were going to add one more tip to this list, what would it be? How would you help your small group leaders win? We’re always looking for great ideas!

18 Jul 2022

Recruiting Youth Ministry Volunteers

By |2022-07-18T13:26:16-07:00July 18th, 2022|Volunteers, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Ministry Ideas|3 Comments

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say, “I can’t get any volunteers. I put it in the bulletin. I put it in the newsletter. We’ve asked from the pulpit. No one cares about working with our youth.”

The truth is that many people just don’t feel equipped to work with youth. I’ve always found this perplexing since I’ve always loved working with teenagers, but the average churchgoer feels either intimidated or not cool enough or young enough to work with middle or high school students.

The good news is I feel that some simple but effective tactics can yield really amazing volunteers for your ministry. Here are some simple but proven effective tips for volunteer recruitment:

 Ask your current volunteers to recruit.

I’ve even gone so far as to ask everyone at a volunteer meeting to come back the next month with at least one person they are willing to personally recruit for youth ministry. A personal ask is always better than a broad plea, and people love to serve with their friends.  Plus, your current volunteers will love to have some influence on who they’ll be working with!

Ask your senior pastor or minister to adults for names.

It is my humble opinion that the pastors who are ministering to adults should be the best people to identify adults in your congregation who may be willing to serve in your ministry.  This can also help to coordinate with other ministries and make sure that you’re not asking the same 10% of adults to do 100% of the volunteer work in your church.

Ask parents.

Not everyone agrees that parents should be volunteers, but honestly, research tells us that students who see their parents practice their faith are more likely to become faithful adults. My guess is your ministry has loads of jobs you could use help with, from administrative to logistics to more student-facing roles.  The parents of your ministry have incredible gifts and you should be using them.

Ask early.

In my experience, people are more likely to say yes in the winter and spring for the following school year. The summer is almost impossible to communicate with folks, and fall is too late!  This also allows you to snag commitments before another ministry poaches all your prospects.  Mostly, it gives the potential volunteer time to pray and discern whether youth ministry is the right fit!

Offer training!

The National Day of Volunteer Training is Sept 24, 2022 and is a super affordable way to train all your volunteers in one day. Your church can host or sign up to attend at another church.  Your local denomination probably offers something annually or can offer you a list of local experts who will come to your church to offer training. Sometimes local seminaries will offer a training series.  Create your own training program with some of your veteran volunteers.  Your volunteers will feel empowered and will be more excited to serve with you when they feel confident and prepared. 

Ansley has served in youth ministry for two decades and holds a certificate of Youth and Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary. She loves the relational aspect of youth ministry as well as helping equip adults and students to lead. Ansley lives on her family’s beef cattle farm in Virginia with her husband and two young sons (and, sadly, no llamas).

See more from this DYM author here.


18 Feb 2022

Preparing Students’ Hearts For Easter: Why Lent is Important in Youth Ministry

By |2022-02-22T09:41:32-08:00February 18th, 2022|Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources|3 Comments

By DYM Author:
Sabrina Hadro

First, I have to say that I didn’t grow up in a church that celebrated Lent. Actually, in 14 years of doing youth ministry, I have never worked at a church that officially participated in Lent. So why am I writing this blog post? I don’t think your church has to “officially” celebrate Lent for you and your student ministry to appreciate and participate in this ancient season leading up to Easter.

Over the last 10 years I have come to realize that we all need resurrection. I appreciate Lent because it provides a space for us as youth workers and for our students to see our need for resurrection and find hope that Jesus can actually give it to us.

Here are 3 practical reasons celebrating Lent could be just what your student ministry needs right now:

  1. Seasons are a natural chance for catalytic growth.

Now more than ever, we need creative ways to re-engage students after the pandemic has created a new normal. We all love holidays and seasons. They are a natural break in the monotony of life. They reinvigorate our passion and our hope. We can harness this anticipation of a new season by participating in Lent with our students. Since things are more distant now, how do we meet them where they are at (social media) and prayerfully challenge them to take a step towards Jesus? If your ministry is struggling to gain traction or if students are bogged down with the hustle and grind of over-programmed schedules, this could be the spark that is a catalyst for growth in your students—whether Lent has always been sacred in your youth ministry, or if you’ve never incorporated it at all. The Holy Spirit can use the most out-of-the box means to draw students to Himself.

  1. We are an addicted and deeply distracted people that need discipline.

Youth pastors, parents, and students alike are legitimately addicted to screens! This can greatly hinder our ability to connect with God and His Word. This is where Lent provides a natural space for repentance which includes not only giving up unhealthy habits but taking up a new way of living and thinking. Participating in the 40-day Lenten journey can be an opportunity for students to adopt spiritual disciplines together like fasting, prayer, Bible meditation, silence and solitude, and journaling so they can learn to “feed themselves” the Bible for a lifetime! When we deny ourselves and replace habits that are subtly destroying us, we will hear from God in a way that we never have before. God wants our undivided attention! Lent is a perfect reminder of that truth and a chance to actually give it to Him.

  1. We desperately need accountability.

God did not create man to be alone. Yet, we all drift into following Jesus alone at times. Lent is a built in, “let’s do this together!” It is an opportunity to create some shared experiences that develop community in our youth ministries and in the families in our churches. When everyone is going through a study or giving something up together, it’s unforced accountability. Students and parents can renew each other’s faith because they are on this journey as a unit. I want to do everything short of sin to incentivize and make memorable and accessible the Good News that we will be celebrating at Easter.

Winter is almost over. Resurrection is coming. Easter is coming. Growth is coming. Let’s help prepare our students and their families for it during this Lenten season!

Get Sabrina’s latest Lent resource, Lent: Grow On Your Own Challenge, Jesus’ Last Moves, for 50% off on Tuesday, February 22 ONLY. Use code: LENT50

Whether your church annually practices the observance of Lent or this is the first time you and your youth ministry are considering it, check out some great resources to stir-up life-change in the hearts of your students and revival in your ministry: Lent Resources.


Sabrina Hadro

7 Oct 2021

Mariners JHM Weekend in Review: Volume 9

By |2021-10-05T01:13:08-07:00October 7th, 2021|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|2 Comments

Weekend Teaching Series: Fact or Fiction (series kickoff, week 3 of 5, Josh speaking)

Sermon Synopsis: This week I went after the FACT that friends are a BIG deal. Also, I got to assign the topics to everyone, so I definitely may have given “Is the Bible true?” to Tammy last week and next week’s “Is Hell real?” to Mandy. Hey, I was tired from a long summer! BUT, friends are super important and a topic we cover regularly for sure. This week we talked through the power of friends, the caliber of your friends and the quantity of friends needed to be successful in junior high.Kids always respond to this talk because it always seems to be a felt need!

Service Length: 65 minutes

  • Key Scripture: Proverbs 18:24

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we played a member-only mega hit game, the Fiesta Olympics. It was SO fun – in my review of the product I left some feedback to improve how we ran it this weekend, but it was STILL super super fun. A big departure from our normal screen games (which our kids love) it was more contestant on a game show type experience. SO great,

Student Involvement: We had a student helping lead/host the game this week, which was super fun. As always a robust team working the tech booth (this is a huge highlight in our ministry right now) and had a TON of cleanup this week. The game was more than a little messy … and amazing!

Favorite Moment: The Fiesta Olympics were SO fun! Burritos flying everywhere. SO SO good.

Up next: Fact or Fiction (week 4 of 6, Matt Mullins speaking)

5 Oct 2021

Mariners JHM Weekend in Review: Volume 8

By |2021-10-05T01:04:33-07:00October 5th, 2021|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|7 Comments

Weekend Teaching Series: Fact or Fiction (series kickoff, week 2 of 5, Tammy speaking)

Sermon Synopsis: This week Tammy went after the topic of if the Bible can be trusted or not. As Christians we center our lives and worldview around this book – so how do we know it’s true and where did it all come from? Those are some big questions that our junior highers will ask (honestly most of them aren’t right now) but want to build and apologetic-based view of the Scriptures as a foundation for the questions and doubts that will arise in the future.

Service Length: 65 minutes

  • Key Scripture: 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we played two DYM games – one was a huge hit – the Marvelous Marvel Emoji Hunt is an easy winner and really had some clever questions. I was a fan … and all of our students love Marvel movies for sure! And the other game was fine (I should have taken it to the next level) called Whatchu Know About Watermelons? game that worked but didn’t have the same pop of some other games we’ve played. If I had given it more thought, I would have had some free watermelon for everyone, or given a giant watermelon as a prize for the winner. THAT would have been hilarious. Next time!

Student Involvement: This week we continued to see students run the tech booth, lights, sound and even had a couple students greeting. Also, turning the room between services is presenting an opportunity to have other students serve getting their hands dirty as well. Man, junior highers sure can leave a mess behind!

Favorite Moment: I was off this weekend … so that was my highlight. Honestly, being able to trust someone else with the stage is so refreshing in and of itself. It isn’t easy being gone, but knowing a solid communicator is there and the heart of youth group is fully present makes me confident I can be away and get some time for myself, too!

Up next: Fact or Fiction (week 3 of 6, Josh speaking)

14 Sep 2021

Mariners JHM Weekend in Review: Volume 7

By |2021-09-14T09:22:34-07:00September 14th, 2021|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|1 Comment

Weekend Teaching Series: Fact or Fiction (series kickoff, week 1 of 5)

Sermon Synopsis: This week was our summer camp reunion service, so it was packed and it was fun. We played the full summer camp video and had an absolute blast swapping stories and checking out the cast of the kid that broke his arm. Doh! We also had baptisms for the first time in 2 years, so the message this week was on baptism, why we do it and why it is important. We haven’t had any type of baptism class in a while, so I just decided to bring to the weekend to start our new series. It was incredible – 40 students got baptized this weekend. NUTS! Felt like literally years worth of baptisms in one evening … my heart is full!

Service Length: 64 minutes + baptisms

  • Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2:17

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had some FUN this week – it was our week after summer camp so pushed all in with SEQUELS weekend! We played the super popular Ancient Artifacts Volume 3, which is now become a hilarious way for leaders and students to connect over long lost technology questions, and after a round of Impossible Shots for the new students visiting for the first time, played another great game that ends a trilogy. Copycats 3 is a hilarious game where students have to try to best reenact the silly cat .gif on the screen in front of them – the crowd votes for the best one. The game isn’t QUITE as good as the originals, but still did super well with our junior highers and would highly recommend!

Student Involvement: This week we had a full compliment of student greeters, the student band and kids moderating the online chat and running streaming. They’re doing an amazing job!

Favorite Moment: This week we had our highest attendance post-covid (or maybe it’s mid-covid, who knows at this point). GREAT seeing students come back, the momentum from summer camp and summer, we’re off and running again. YEAH!

Up next: Fact or Fiction (week 2 of 6, Tammy speaking)

8 Sep 2021

Mariners JHM Weekend in Review: Volume 6

By |2021-09-06T23:52:50-07:00September 8th, 2021|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|2 Comments

You can download the weekend program
here to see if how we do it is helpful for you or
inspires you when you create something for your students!

Weekend Teaching Series: What I Wish I Knew in Junior High (series finale, week 6 of 6)

Sermon Synopsis: This week was the conclusion of our big summer series and the week before Summer Camp. It was a great weekend, lots of momentum and excitement for the week ahead of camp. Spooner taught on her junior high experience, capping off a great series that may become and annual event. She talked about the core of who we are on the inside – using the analogy of the earth’s crust, the core, etc. She had a ton of stories about her life in junior high, and it was a solid finale for our summer series!

  • Service Length: 62 minutes
  • Key Scripture: Philippians 4:5-9

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Say What You See was a fun game we played this week, kinda of a puzzle game that kids seemed to really like. We played it “king of the hill” style so one contestant gets a chance to answer the screen first, if they get it wrong or don’t know, the audience gets a shot. Very fun, kids loved it. Our second game we played Name That Burger, which is a super simple game where it shows a burger on the screen and you have to identify where it came. Sounds simple … but it was pretty hard. See my review on the product page for more info on how I would improve the game if you want to play it in your youth ministry, too.

Student Involvement: This week we had a full tech team of junior high students and they ran Sidekick.TV for both the Pick Me [to pick random a student who checked in for the service] and Wheel of Destiny [to select their prize]. They also ran the live stream service completely with students on camera, lights, sound and the switcher. SO proud of them!

Favorite Moment: This week was our new Huntington Beach youth pastor got to share on stage for the first time. Spooner has been working with our JHM team this summer to get the “Mariners Youth Ministry DNA” before heading to HB to lead their youth ministry. This will be the pattern moving forward as new congregations (some churches called them campuses) and Spooner CRUSHED this summer and set the bar super high for future youth ministry leaders at our new congregations!

Up next: Fact or Fiction (series kickoff, Josh speaking)

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