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4 Jan 2023

5 Youth Ministry New Years Resolutions

By |2023-01-04T10:02:07-08:00January 4th, 2023|Leadership, Youth Pastor Life|5 Comments

As we come to the end of the year, it’s time to start thinking about our resolutions for the coming year. As a youth pastor, I thought I’d share some resolutions that I think all of us in youth ministry should work toward.

1. Cut down on the pizza and soda at youth events: We all know that pizza and soda are staples of the youth ministry diet, but it’s time to start making healthier choices. Let’s try to offer healthier snacks and drinks to our youth, and maybe even incorporate some physical activity into our events!

2. Take more risks: When we’re trying to reach young people, it’s easy to fall into a rut and stick with the same old activities. Let’s challenge ourselves to try something new and take some risks. It might be scary, but it’s often the only way to reach the teenagers who really need us.

3. Get out of the building: We all know the importance of building relationships with our youth, but sometimes it’s easy to get stuck in the youth room. Let’s try to get out of the building more often and meet our teenagers in their environment. Whether it’s going to a sporting event or just hanging out at a local park, let’s make an effort to meet our students where they are.

4. Listen more: It’s easy to get caught up in our own ideas, but if we want to really make a difference in the lives of our youth, we need to be willing to listen. Let’s strive to listen more and really get to know our youth on a deeper level.

5. Have more fun: Youth ministry can often be a serious business, but let’s not forget to have some fun. Whether it’s playing a game or just goofing off, let’s make sure that our youth know that we care about them and that we want to have fun with them too.

These are just a few of the resolutions that I think we should all be striving for. With a little effort and dedication, I’m sure we can make this an even better year than the last. What would you add? Happy New Year everyone!


17 Nov 2022

It’s Time to Quit

By |2022-11-17T12:36:40-08:00November 17th, 2022|Youth Pastor Life|0 Comments

  1. It’s time to quit striving to save students. “No one comes to the Father unless the Holy Spirit draws them.” Your overtime hours, answering emails and texts at night won’t be the extra edge needed for students to say yes to Jesus. Do what God has called you to do “with all of your heart and not for men,” but God is doing all the heavy lifting to save students. You are not God. God’s going to get done what He wants done. You only need to be faithful.
  2. It’s time to quit putting ministry before your family, your personal fellowship, and your health. Your family are your most important disciples. Date nights, tucking in your kids, exercising or time in nature, and being in a small group for yourself are your priority. If you aren’t married, although you have more free time to say yes, you still need to practice saying “no” above your 40 hours because your personal and spiritual health depends on personal time with Jesus, your family relationships, sleeping 8 hours, and your friendships.
  3. It’s time to quit hustling. In our chaotic culture, you often must do something radical to get your life back from the algorithms. We all know the adage, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” Don’t be afraid of what people will think of the pastor going to personal or marriage counseling.  Delete social media—yeah, it can be a helpful tool, but (unpopular opinion here) it’s not necessary to disciple teenagers. Get Covenant Eyes because pornography is destroying lives and families and disqualifying too many pastors from ministry. Work only 40 hours. Don’t check emails or texts at night. Take a weekly sabbath. Don’t go into debt. Make a budget, and live with less, so you don’t need to have a side hustle to pay your bills. Say a holy “no” to good things so you can have greater things—like more peace and quiet, healthier relationships, and the gift of being fully present.
  4. It’s time to quit doing it all and release more to others. Moses’ father-in-law told him to do the same thing. The sermon, game, youth room, or event being your version of perfect won’t save more kids. Craig Groeschel says, “If someone can do it 50% as good as you with potential for growth—delegate it to them.”
  5. It’s time to quit seeking the spotlight and following people in the spotlight. Our culture is obsessed with celebrities, and the Church in America has become similar. I think in most instances, we need to avoid the spotlight, simply be faithful to disciple one more teenager, listen to the Holy Spirit, and tell no one about our accomplishments. Our “well done good and faithful servant” will be so much more satisfying.
  6. It’s time to quit thinking the grass is greener at another church. Have a conversation with your senior pastor about what your priorities should be if you are getting burned out and need to reorient. Unless it’s a clear call from God and you’ve tried to make it work from several different angles, don’t quit.

This month, DYM Gold Member’s got Sabrina’s resource, “The Cross at Christmas: 25-Day Devotional” for free with their membership!

This 25-day Christmas devotional will get your students connected to Jesus over this Christmas season by taking them through almost all of the parables of Jesus. Each day explains the parable, explicitly connects it to the gospel, challenges students with practical application for the holidays, and gives them space to journal what God is speaking to them.

Each day is laid out in an easily accessible format with: Read, Where is Christmas, Reflect, Pray, Apply. The “Where is Christmas?” portion is where we can see the good news in the parable.

Whether you have students who are completely unchurched or have been Christians forever, this resource is a great tool to challenge them, help them understand some of Jesus’ most difficult teachings, and give them some next steps in their relationship with Jesus.

Check it out below:

31 Oct 2022

The Spookiest Youth Ministry Things Ever

By |2022-10-31T13:46:11-07:00October 31st, 2022|Youth Pastor Life|4 Comments


Let’s face it. Youth ministry is NOT for the faint of heart. Here are some of the scariest things that have happened to real youth pastors.* Reader beware!

  • Scheduling Wednesday night at the roller rink, only to discover it’s adult night. 
  • Hearing that song come on over the Spotify playlist. The unedited version. 
  • A midnight phone call. From a seventh grade student. Who just wants to know if you play Smash Bros. 
  • Saying something from stage you didn’t know was a brand-new innuendo.
  • Your senior pastor sending you an email that says, “We need to talk.” And nothing else.
  • Showing up dressed for the youth group costume party, only to realize you have a speaking part at the memorial taking place that morning.  
  • Tagging who you thought was your guest speaker for your retreat in a social media post, only to discover it’s a really inappropriate comedian. 
  • Scheduling your lock-in to end at 11 AM.
  • Calling a student by the wrong name.
  • Asking a student who attended your youth group for five years if it’s their first time visiting.
  • Your accountant asking if you can explain the receipts. From the mission trip. Two years ago.
  • Realizing you butt-dialed your associate pastor while out to dinner with your spouse. 
  • Telling yourself the game won’t make anyone throw up. Regretting your decision to not bring a trash can on stage five seconds in. 
  • Tapping a student with the church van because you didn’t know he was crouched in front of it.
  • Hearing the next summer camp announced from the main stage. That you didn’t plan. Or budget for. 
  • Finding three couches donated to the youth room. You’re pretty sure they came from the 50s. No one claims responsibility.
  • Missing two students after playing sardines. You vaguely remember someone saying they were dating. 
  • Attending a homeschool sporting event.
  • Accidentally sending your lead pastor swear words, because talk-to-text translated your heart instead of your words.
  • Having a student say an inappropriate joke in front of you that you find funny, but no, you can’t laugh or even smile at it.
  • Being called by the bookkeeper and asked to explain your purchase of that super sexy pack.
  • 20 minutes after youth group, you get a phone call from the parents of the last student to be picked up. They’re an hour away. 
  • After having the same spring break week for the last 30 years, the school district decides to change it only after you bought tickets for the international mission trip.
  • Senior graduation recommendation letter season.
  • Getting invited to a junior high band recital.
  • Having a deacon or elder invite you into a “serving opportunity for our young people.”
  • A homeschool family inviting you to their boys’ Manhood Ceremony.
  • Opening your desk drawer, and finding a check that is a six-month-old registration payment for camp for a student.
  • Budget season (interesting how it often coincides with Halloween).
  • Having a 15-year-old student introduce you to her 19-year-old “fiancé”.
  • Having an 18-year-old student pitch you on their multi-level marketing scheme.


Happy Halloween! Or Happy Harvest Festival Day. Whatever works for your context.

*Names hidden to protect the funny circumstances and prevent senior pastor emails.

8 Sep 2022

I Just Dropped off My Son at College, and I Love Youth Ministry More Than Ever!

By |2022-09-07T10:02:31-07:00September 8th, 2022|Youth Pastor Life|7 Comments

Last week my wife Heather and I drove away from the university campus we had just left our second son at, tears on both our faces, making the long drive home. Weren’t we just changing his diapers? Our football lineman was once so small.

I’m so thankful to be a youth pastor. My wife and I jumped into full time ministry 21 years ago as newlyweds. We had our first of four sons three days before our first anniversary. The youth group called him “Cletus the Fetus.” Heather wasn’t as impressed as I was with their baby naming skills. Having my own children move through our student ministry has been an eye-opening and perspective changing experience for me. For a brief moment, all four of them were in our youth group at the same time – now we’re down to just two as the older two have graduated and moved on. Here a just a few reasons I love student ministry as a father and why I think it was so critical for my son we just left at a college too far away:

  1. My son loves the church. I couldn’t say the same when I was a teen. In fact, it was right around his age that I swore off faith altogether. I was a pastor’s kid who hated what I had seen and experienced. My wife and I have always had as one of our barometers for health whether our kids like our church – not just the children’s ministry or the student ministry, but the church as a whole.
  2. My son has a crew of loving Christian adults in his life. Mama Lin (Willie), Ed, and Figgy (Mike) spent the last seven years as his small group leader, showing up to events, visiting him at his job, and listening to all his stories. Those three men created an environment that built trust, loyalty, and incredible spiritual growth with a group of – what seemed at first to be challenging – Christian young men. There’s Kim, Carl, Melissa, and so many more who also serve in our student ministry. The best part? I got to choose them. I’m the youth pastor. Why do I put so much care into who is a part of our student ministry? How often do we get the opportunity to choose the adults who influence our children?
  3. My son knows how to serve, to lead, to study scripture, to have accountability, to find other believers. He’s not perfect. I’m sure there are going to be moments in his college experience I would rather not know about. But I got to plan the seven years of his student ministry; it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and staying in one place for all these years meant I got to see it through from beginning to end. I have seen my son lead worship, I’ve launched him off the blob, I’ve done street evangelism with him in Costa Rica, we’ve fed the homeless together on the border with Mexico, I’ve wrestled and beat him many times … and been beaten by him a few times in recent months.

Youth ministry is a gift. We get to be present during the most transformative time in peoples’ lives. Everything is bigger, everything is exploding, everything is new. And we get to be there. We get to see children go from concrete thinkers emulating their parents to teens processing and making their faith their own. My house is quieter than I would like now, but I feel good about where my son is at, literally and figuratively. I couldn’t imagine not having been his youth pastor!

Matthew and Heather McNutt have been in full time youth ministry for twenty years. He is also a speaker, author, and ministry coach. They have four sons ranging from 13 to 20 years old, which means the majority of their time is spent buying food and replacing broken furniture. You can find more of Matthew’s resources on DYM here!


If you’re a Gold Member, you got Matthew’s newest teaching resource: Wash Your Hands for free this month! Why check out his other stuff on DYM too?

14 Oct 2021

Students, Pastors, and Cell Phones

By |2021-10-14T13:23:12-07:00October 14th, 2021|Leadership, Youth Ministry Hacks, Youth Pastor Life|5 Comments

Students have cell phones. If they don’t yet, they probably will by Christmas. It can be a great way to communicate with them directly, but it can also be an overwhelming tide of communication. 3 am memes, anyone?

Setting some ground rules and boundaries for how you reach out to students is a great way to put safeguards around yourself and the students you communicate with! Here are some suggestions:

  1. Have designated “off” time! Set a 9 am to 9 pm boundary for replies. Did they text at 11 pm? Unless it’s a BIG emergency, it can wait until the morning.
  2. No more than a few texts. Use only as a way to briefly check-in or ask about something. If the thread is turning into something they want to have a conversation about, find a time to meet in person to talk about it. See if they can come early or stay a little later after your usual meeting.
  3. Avoid phone calls. Having a written record equates to the “have more than one person in the room while interacting” rule. It also helps to make sure you prioritize conversations for in-person times.
  4. Make sure your phone number is accessible to everyone, not just a few. Be willing to give it out to anyone. Be clear with rule number one from the get-go.
  5. Ask students for their numbers. If you need the student’s number but can’t find a good time to ask them, ask their parent so that they are in the loop. Parents should know that you are contacting the student! Another way is asking if another student can text a student about something. This could be a great way to serve!

Do you have any boundaries or ideas for contacting students? Let us know!

Kayla Feil

Kayla is the Director of Children, Youth and Family Ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL. Along with her role, she is currently attending Luther Seminary to get her MA in Children, Youth and Family Ministry. When she isn’t at church or writing papers, you can find her practicing yoga, running, or adventuring around Chicago!

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|5 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|9 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|7 Comments

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)

7 Sep 2021

Mariners JHM Weekend in Review: Volume 5

By |2021-09-06T19:12:05-07:00September 7th, 2021|josh griffin, junior high, junior high ministry, Mariners Youth Ministry, Teaching, Teaching/Programming, Youth Ministry Ideas, Youth Ministry Resources, Youth Pastor Life|0 Comments

Weekend Teaching Series: What I Wish I Knew in Junior High (week 5 of 6)

Sermon Synopsis: This weekend Mandy spoke about her junior high years and focused in on identity. She talked about all of the things she valued and didn’t value, and how she also felt sometimes that way about herself. She had a TON of ways to engage students, had some funny pictures of her as a junior high student (always a win). She works hard to create  lots of touch points and self-deprecating humor in her message, and could become a regular on the list of people who speak. So fun!

  • Service Length: 62 minutes
  • Key Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we played a SUPER game called Olym-Pics – where you are shown a picture and have to determine if the sport was/is really in the Olympics. They were just plausible enough to really fool a bunch of students and this was the hit game of the weekend. Perfect for the Olympic season and serious fun/chatter had by all. We also played a few quick rounds of 4 Corners Olympics Trivia which was good as well, got kids moving and in the Olympic spirit.

Student Involvement: This week we had 3 student greeters! Yeah, progress!! As always we also 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].

Favorite Moment: I’m a sucker for the Matt McGill sports instructional videos – they’re 3-4m of awkward fun – people think they were made recently and given this amazing late 90s vibe … but they’re actually FROM the late 90s and preserved perfectly. Stupid fun, and I’m here for it.

Up next: What I Wish I Knew in JH (series finale, Spooner speaking)

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