Yep, its a bar. Not a fancy bar; just a typical East Texas place where the locals hang out. Actually, its name is now Southland due to an owner change…but the older locals still call it Mr. Jim’s.

Get a picture in your mind: inside is the sit-at bar, games, a karaoke setup, a wall where people sign their name to make their mark. Outside is a big deck area and a playground so that people can bring their kids and dogs. White lightbulbs are strung across the yard. There’s a little wooden stage in the corner of the lot. Nothing fancy.

Its a rare weekend that I’m home but being Labor Day, I’m off the road. I had taken my dog to the dog park so she could walk me when I got this text from Sis: “Want to come up to Mr. Jim’s? I’m up here with “so” and “so.” “But I’ve got the dog,” I said. “Bring her, too. No one will care.” So I went.

People, it was fascinating and as a newbie, I did a lot of watching and listening. My sister is loved there. She is accepted for who she is when other “faith communities” don’t easily embrace her. She has deep “family-like” relationships. People hug each other. Introductions are made when strangers come in. No one cares how you’re dressed or if your dog is tied up out on the deck. When you sing karaoke, people cheer you on whether you were good or not (She was fabulous. I wasn’t). Folks ask after one another, especially after those that are missing. People celebrate holidays and other special moments together. At Mr. Jim’s, hot topics are discussed and yes, things can get heated…but they’re usually forgotten the next time the local pro-team scores.

When Sis was going through breast cancer last year, her community had pink shirts made and wore them (guys, too) to encourage her on. She got numerous cards, flowers, chocolates, etc. She had lots of visitors, calls, posts, etc., all from a community where she’s deeply rooted. 

And God is discussed. People on the fringe about their beliefs aren’t scared to mention and question because their $10 on the bar brings a sense of equal rights. Opinions are encouraged, cruelty isn’t tolerated, and life is lived.

I wish my small church was more like this.


Forty years ago, when GROUP Magazine was an infant, the “rules of evangelism” were well-known and commonly accepted.

Today, the cultural landscape is a harsh ecosystem for conventional ideas about evangelism. In youth ministry, it’s still high on the “to-do” list, but very few actually model or train students in how to do it.

We have to find a way forward—a path that will lead young people (and us!) to a mindset that frees us to engage others about the person and promise of Jesus. So long-time GROUP Magazine editor Rick Lawrence asked two friends who are passionate about Jesus and natural evangelists, Carl Medearis and Greg Stier, to discuss the future of evangelism. They come at this from very distinct vantage points…

You can watch their discussion! We’ve condensed and split the entire conversation into four video segments here. A complete article is available to read online or in print from the special edition 40th Anniversary issue of GROUP Magazine.




Then, JOIN the discussion on the future of evangelism. Greg Stier, Carl Medearis, and Rick Lawrence will be answering questions and sharing more thoughts during a LIVE Twitter Q & A on Tuesday, September 2 from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. (MDT).

Tweet your comments and questions to them at their usernames below:

Greg Stier – @gregstier

Carl Medearis – @carlmedearis

Rick Lawrence – @RickSkip

Don’t miss out on this and more excellent youth ministry-focused content! For a limited time only, a subscription to GROUP Magazine is only $9.99. Subscriptions include 6 bi-monthly issues each year in both print and digital format. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

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rickwarrenlornemichaelsDo you identify more with Lorne Michaels… or Rick Warren?

The former is the long-tenured producer and mind behind Saturday Night Live. For almost forty years, Lorne Michaels has not just kept his up-and-down-in-the-ratings variety show on the air, but has more recently found much of the creative talent for late night TV. Clearly, he knows when he’s doing – even when he hasn’t known what he’s doing.

The latter is the well-known megachurch pastor, ministry coach, global activist and best-selling author. Rick Warren has connected with the average person in need of purpose and given ministers a strategy that has turned many congregations (and youth groups) around. He’s led a church where his staff and volunteers can grow into their S.H.A.P.E. for ministry.

So… which one of them is right when it comes to dealing with creative people?

In her best-selling book “Bossypants,” Tina Fey spoke about how Lorne Michaels taught her that “Producing is about discouraging creativity”:


“A TV show comprises many departments — Costumes, Props, Talent, Graphics, Set Dressing, Transportation. Everyone in every department wants to show off their skills and contribute creatively to the show, which is a blessing. You’re grateful to work with people who are talented and enthusiastic about their jobs.

You would think that as a producer, your job would be to churn up creativity, but mostly your job is to police enthusiasm. You may have an occasion where the script calls for a bran muffin on a white plate and the Props Department shows up with a bran cake in the shape of Santa Claus sitting on a silver platter that says “Welcome to Denmark.”

“We just thought it would be funny.”

And you have to find a polite way to explain that the character is Jewish, so her eating Santa’s face might have negative connotations, and the silver tray, while beautiful, is giving a weird glare on camera and maybe let’s go with the bran muffin on the white plate.

And then sometimes Actors have what they call “ideas.” Usually it involves them talking more, or, in the case of more experienced actors, sitting more. When Actors have ideas it’s very important to get to the core reason behind their idea. Is there something you’re asking them to do that is making them uncomfortable… is there someone in the room the actor is trying to impress?”

Rick Warren, on the other hand, has explained that we should delegate to creative people even if we fear the wildfire:


The key to motivating creative people to lead ministry effectively is granting ownership. At Saddleback, as much as possible, each ministry makes its own decisions without a lot of oversight from the staff. We believe that the implementers should be the decision makers. When everything has to be passed by a committee or board, we tend to ask “why?” about every decision. But our initial response to the ideas of creative people should actually be “why not?”

Warren adds that the three things to focus on include:

  • Give them a challenge: Jesus took a dozen average guys and challenged them to go tell the gospel to the entire world… something they could do over time as the church expanded under their leadership.
  • Give them control: Growth happens in an atmosphere of freedom where leaders are encouraged to dream, to try, to experiment, and even to fail and move forward. Burnout happens when we squash every new idea with a skeptical attitude.
  • Give them credit: Affirm and encourage those who serve. Point out successes, provide guidance and comfort through failure, and remind people of their calling and giftedness in Christ.

brain_gears_iStock_000013485370Small1Who do you identify with more?

Which one is your style?

Which style are you serving under?

What have you learned along the way?

In my last post I discussed three relational shifts needed if we are to actually disciple younger generations.

Here, I want to discuss some bigger picture perspective shifts that are necessary. Now, to be clear, these are shifts from what might be known as a “traditional” understanding of discipleship.  In other words, here are three shifts of how we think about it:

  1. From Inside To Including Outside. Traditionally we have separated discipleship from evangelism. We have done this in our programs, in our language and many churches have even done so in their values. But in Matthew 28 Jesus clearly is not defining “making disciples” as Christian to Christian relationships. He is clearly not telling them to go and disciple each other. There is nothing in their experience that would’ve led them to believe that was what Jesus was saying. This shift is no longer allowing ourselves to believe that discipleship is just an “inside” thing.
  2. From Content To Living Example. When we think of discipleship we usually think from the context of a program…or if not, from the premise of content where we begin by thinking about specific doctrines or truths or books that we would want to help someone understand better. However, younger people are not necessarily looking for more content. They certainly want to learn, but the inward desire is to learn from exposure to someone’s living example. The disciples would not have left the conversation with Jesus in Matthew 28 and thought they should meet with someone once a week and go through some content. They would’ve left thinking they needed to go do what they’ve seen done…someone living out what he knew. This of course included content, but it stemmed from experience in life.
  3. From Country to People. In Matthew 28 Jesus says to make disciples of all ethnos - which is where we get our word ethnicity. Somehow we have thought about this as countries. I know it’s mostly translated as nations but it’s really people groups. And, to the first point above, this was radical because it was all people outside of their religious relational circles. This is a critical shift if we want to engage younger generations!

Chuck / @chuckbomar

* Check out great discipleship materials that Simply Youth Ministry has to offer. 

Hey Simply Insiders!

Hope this back-to-school season means an influx of new students and the return of regulars for your youth ministry! It can be tough to keep track of who’s attending and who’s missing. So to help you through this busy time, we are doing a special FREE extended 45-day trial of the EVENTS tool from Simply Youth Ministry’s TOOLS!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!


Here’s how EVENTS can help you:

* Generate Revealing Reports on:

  • who’s missing
  • who’s new
  • who’s attending
  • and more!

* Administrative Events:

  • Add the what, when, and where details.
  • Send out event invitations.
  • Send emails or texts to all registered, attendees, absentees, etc.

* Track Attendance:

Check in students yourself or allow them to check in via

  • desktop
  • laptop
  • Android
  • iPad
  • or iPhone!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!

Have questions about EVENTS or other Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS? Contact Jake Rasmussen at 520.661.9846 or

Let us know how it helps you in your youth ministry!

Keep on keepin’ on,

Amber / @youthministry




“I can run a ministry alone,” said no youth worker ever. We simply can not do everything ourselves. Yet, so many times we recruit volunteers in a way that acts like it.

Having been on both sides as a volunteer and recruiter I am more convinced than ever that there are some key ways we can shake a really great unpaid team member. (Notice… large doses of sarcasm ahead.)

Never Communicate Expectations or Just Don’t Communicate Anything Ever

This is super simple. Never tell your volunteers what you want from them, don’t reach out to them regularly and merely avoid being clear on much of anything. Along these lines, use the excuse that you are “too busy” or that you “just aren’t administrative,” when they ask simple questions about logistics. Bring them curriculum they should use the day you want them to teach it, without allowing any space for preparation. Run around like a crazed lunatic all the time without directing anyone. They can figure it out as they go, this is a great learning opportunity for them.

Never Ask Anyone Where They WANT to Volunteer

You have ministry needs. If someone shows up to help, just put them wherever there is a gap, without asking them if they are all right with that. Just don’t bother to empower them or give them ownership of anything in the ministry. Make assumptions based on obvious skill sets that this is exactly where someone wants to give their time. In addition make sure to either raise the bar too high, or too low. It is really helpful to treat someone who is giving their time for “free” as if this is the only activity they participate in. You can also create an environment where everyone sort of stands around with no direction. As a matter of fact just give your volunteers a funky name like “Servants” and then you can treat them like this is the only thing they ever do.

Complain That “No One” Is Helping

Ignore the key team members who always show up, drive, go on trips, or generally pour their hearts out. I mean we are all “doing this for Jesus,” so those that are coming don’t really need encouragement. At the end of the year throw a half-hearted gift at them, and hope they feel like they have done something worthwhile. Better yet just send a mass email saying, “Thank You,” with no personalization. Nope, do nothing. This is best. Make sure you spend all of your time whining how you are “doing this by yourself,” then put an “ad” for more help in the bulletin and keep grumbling that the masses don’t come.

Don’t Bother Offering Training- At ALL- Ever

You can’t get anyone to come to meetings, so why would you want to bother to help your team know how to reach teens better? Chances are they are going to do everything their own way, no matter what you say. Never send them an article, suggest a book or video or take them to any sort of conference (one day, local or in house included.) I mean you have heard it said that those who volunteer believe they are there to support the youth pastor, as opposed to loving teens. You have also heard something about most people who “give” their time really don’t intuitively “understand” youth ministry. Ignore these thoughts. Avoid being creative, or brainstorming with your team ways they would like to be better equipped.

I have done all of these. I have had the tables turned and seen just how frustrating it is when they happen to you. Over the years I have come to learn the quality of volunteers matters more than the quantity. It is possible to keep a team member for a long time. The key is to treat them like the precious jewel they are. Stop making it easy for them to walk away. And remember this one thought: most of the time they will feel guilty telling you why they go, because they do see how hard you are trying so they will make an excuse or better yet- just stop coming and never tell you why.

How do you lose volunteers?

- Leneita

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Giveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsGiveaway-EventsHere’s a quick post about something I’ve been thinking about and trying to do in as many areas as possible concerning student leadership. And that something is give away as much of student leadership as possible. In our high school and Jr high ministry we’ve tried to give away as much of the ministry as possible. If you came to our youth service you will see students leading worship, greeting, running cameras, audio, lights, directing cameras, running pro-presenter and sometimes leading a game, sharing a testimony and even speaking.

The benefits of students leading has completely out weighed the adults leading by a ton. Here’s a few of those benefits.

  • The ministry feels more student friendly.
  • Its an easy way to get students plugged in.
  • It brings the “If they can do it, I do it to” attitude.
  • And many more!!

Here is a promo idea my students created:

When launching student leadership I wanted to do just the same. So I asked the question “how much of student leadership can I give away?” I do believe that the answer is different for every ministry, but I also believe that there are areas which are universal. Here are two:

  • Conduct – How students will treat one another in student leadership. I allowed the students to process and come up with a code of conduct that they all would up hold and follow. Now, that doesn’t mean I won’t have to guide and facilitate, but what it does mean is that the students now have some skin in the game. I explained that it’s not up to me to make sure you all treat each other right. It’s up to each individual person in student leadership.
  • Areas To Serve – I want to allow the students to lead and implement in this area. If the program, event or project is super awesome it will be because of them and if it fails it will be on them. The outcome either way holds immeasurable value in their growth as leaders.

Giving student leadership away does three things:

  1. Raises the value of the program with students, because of the hands on experience they will receive.
  2. It gives students ownership. They get to leave a legacy and create some traditions within the ministry.
  3. It creates an environment where motives can be aligned. So if you joined for status you will quickly have to align or you wont make it.

Now, I just used student leadership as an example, but this really could be applied to many other areas within your youth group. It could even be applied to the youth group itself. Giving ministry away is never easy, because then you have to trust someone other than yourself to pull it off. I can truly say it’s worth it. In my experience you are able to do more, and even better ministry when you invite students to lead, create, serve, brainstorm and take ownership of the ministry.

Hope it helps,


plagarismI just invented a new word: plagiarism.

(Actually, I didn’t. Someone else did. I didn’t even write that joke. I saw it on Twitter. I’m horrible. Forgive me. Hold me. Love me.)

You know how there are some things you’re sorry for because they’re wrong, and other things you apologize for because you get caught?

How does that flesh out with your teaching?

A friend of mine was busted on this and recently shared a raw confession about being a lazy preacher.

I should have seen it coming but I didn’t.

Just that morning I had stood in front of the church and I preached my guts out.

I pointed to the road ahead.

I called the people to live with a different mindset.

I unpacked the text.

I invited them to love God more.

I was eloquent. I was funny. I was motivating.

There was just one problem. One extremely large problem.

It wasn’t my sermon…

And then something happened that stopped me in my tracks. I got called on it.

(You can, and should, read the rest of his post here)

teachingCan you relate to this – whether you’re getting away with it or getting called out on it?

It’s common in ministry to use curriculum and sermons that someone else wrote to share what you feel should be said. It’s another thing to make it sound like your own and not give credit to your own journey. To use my friend Chad’s description of it – we take part in a sort of “homiletical karaoke” when we’re stealing someone else’s sermon.

Then again, couldn’t you use another person’s material and make it your own somehow? Musicians often cover each other’s material – can people in ministry do the same thing?

What’s your spin on this?

When is it okay?

When does it cross a line?