Super excited about this new powerful spoken word video Sincerely Freedom by Nick Vitellaro. Good stuff about the powerful addiction of pornography. Love Craig Gross over at XXXChurch for putting this one out. Excellent.



Parker had a new idea this year to help us promote summer camp. We are taking a donated camp scholarship registration and we’re giving it away! We’re having a contest for the best summer camp promotional video:

Are you awesome at shooting and editing videos? Want to use your skills to not only get your stuff on the big screen during the weekends, but to also be shown at all of our regional campuses? This is your opportunity be creative and create THE BEST HSM 2013 Summer Camp promotional video! The official rules are listed in the graphic above. The grand prize for the best video? You get to send one of your friends to Summer Camp for FREE! That’s basically $400 for a friend who normally wouldn’t go to camp. So get your camera and start shooting! All videos are due by May 10th at Midnight!

All the details and a FAQ are available on the official site here.


Have you ever had a conversation with a student telling you “how bad off” another “kid” is? Perhaps, they are letting you know life circumstances or even trouble they get into. At the same time, the one speaking may have different “issues” while getting into similar “trouble?” On the outside looking in you can see the heart is in the same place: survival.

At the same time it is as if some are more “stuck” in this mindset than others. Really the best way to understand this is whether they are able to look beyond todayat all.  Our experience shows the manifestation of surviving can vary based on some key factors. This is why we created an idea of “Levels of Urban.” This way youth workers can stop comparing their students and situations.


Here are the basics:

Level 1:

In a Level 1 urban student, survival shows its ugly head in a unique way. We might think they are just a little much. They may appear clingy or needy. From the outside looking in, you may not even be able to see the need. They show up and their physical needs appear met. These students are especially good at appearing like everything is fine in the family. 

Then one day you sit down and have a conversation asking basic questions about their life, and some information you’d never suspected comes to light. These students believe they can make it on their own, so they have a really hard time admitting they need help. It is possible that they are told that they should never admit to anyone what is going on at home. This is the least obvious of the survival students. 


Level 2:

A Level 2 student is often the most difficult to work with. Level 1 students are too proud to admit their issues. You can see them, but it’s hard to put a finger on why they are that way. However, a Level 2 student almost always wears their need to survive out in the open. As a matter of fact, many times the whole family does. This is the student who tells you the fights they get into at school and wear them like a badge of honor. At the same time there can be an ingrained idea of entitlement. If you give a scholarship to one student for a missions trip, the attitude is almost, “Where’s mine?”


Level 3

When a Level 3 student tells you about their life, you have a hard time holding back both tears and amazement. However, while a Level 2 student will paint a similarly horrible picture of their life to get a response, a Level 3 student is simply telling you facts. The lack of emotion with which they inform you is shocking; it is simply an answer to a question. These students have no idea how to dream; they may have when they were little, but that seems like a lifetime ago.

These students are broken. There is no other way to put it. Every breath is about survival. Helping them to even realize that a future isn’t a fairy tale is a challenge.

You should never look into the eyes of a teenager and say to yourself, Well, you’re just a Level 2, so that’s why you are this way. Instead, this information is meant to be a tool to aid you in understanding is the student in the room with you. This is meant to be a tool to aid you in knowing where to begin thinking about your students. Many of us have a mix of different students, some not living in survival at all. The first step is understanding who is there. The truth is some students seem to have more of a wall around their ability to hope than others. This begins with Christ.

(*All italicized portions come from our book, “Everybody’s Urban: Understanding the Survival Mindset of the Next Generation.” This is also where you can find a more in depth explanation of this idea of “levels” of urban.)


This weekend was the conclusion of our You Own the Weekend series and it really went out with a bang! They had great stage design, great music, and most importantly, great speakers. One of the speakers was talking about man in crisis. He said that everyone is either about to be in crisis, already is in crisis, or just getting out of crisis. I thought this is a really interesting way to look at it.

As youth pastors, we often see students (and adults) in the middle of a crisis. At this point, they are in survival mode. We have to focus of damage control and how to get through it. Luckily, we often get to lead students to the last part of the process, getting out of crisis. It is here that we get to reflect on what the Lord has done because of the situation and students get to learn about themselves and God incredible!

But I don’t think that we put nearly as much effort into the first part. We hardly acknowledge the fact that our summer will eventually turn into a winter. Because of this, we don’t really prepare before hand for the upcoming crisis, leaving us vulnerable and, ultimately, forced into damage control.

This is something I brought up to our student leaders. I told them that crisis doesn’t always mean that parents are getting divorced or siblings are sick, crisis can be those problems that we run into while we are leading a project. Like when the girl that you delegated a huge portion of the event to didn’t pull through. Or when your principal continually shuts down any event your Christian club tries to throw. While those might not be what most people would call a crisis, I think that those can lead to a crisis of the heart. Those situations can easily cause someone to react sinfully in their mind, hearts, words, or actions (or all four!). So how do we prepare for these crises?

The answer is prayer. Praying that you are prepared with what it takes to handle the situation that you are going to be going through. This weekend, we had our student leaders read Galatians 5 and talk through the fruits of the spirit. We had them think about each word, talk about what scripture has to say about it, and find out why it is an important characteristic of a leader. We then hung up a sign for each fruit around the room and gave them time to walk around and stop at each one, praying that God blesses them with a better understanding of the fruit and that He allows them to live it out.

I think it is a great lesson for leaders in general (not just student leaders). This worked really well with our student leadership team and I think it could be a win with others as well! Hope it helps!

Colton [Email||Twitter]

article.2013.04.16Graduation! Your amazing students whom you have loved and cared for the past few years are heading out to the great unknown of college, the work force, their parents basement, or a strange combination of all three! But because moving away to college is such a big deal, those are the students we are going to focus on this week.

As students leave your ministry the temptation is to completely set them free and while this is the typical model in most churches, what would it look like if you extended your influence in their lives to cover this challenging transition? Here are a few practical ideas how.

Help them find a church.
For students who move away, the number one in a new city and starting a new life is finding a church home. Oftentimes the struggle is I just can’t find a church like ours, which is flattering, but a dangerous position for a student to be in their freshman year. So help! Google the churches within a couple miles of the campus and see which one would feel familiar to them. Visit their Web site, or give them a call and ask a few questions, and pass the information along to your student.

Here’s an idea: Find out where your seniors are heading for college, and ask a key volunteer to do a little bit of church research for each community and, as a graduation gift, give an Awesome churches near your school packet to each graduate!

Give them a resource.
Help them in this transition with a devotional resource or a letter a day from a member of your church with a verse to encourage them. Okay, we have never seen that one done, either, but how cool would it be! Don’t let students dangle in limbo spiritually; challenge them to continue in the spiritual disciplines and increase their faith in God even when they are in an environment where it will be challenged daily.

Check in periodically.
Being remembered is huge. Too often students leave for school and leave their mentors, parents, and youth workers behind. That is by design, and one of the catalysts that force students to think for themselves as they barrel into adulthood, but it also leaves them vulnerable to attack.

A quick Skype call, a phone call on the weekend, even a weekend trip to see them could be huge. You never know the power of a simple text; it would probably mean the world to your students 400 miles from home.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Is your ministry messy? Are your students in the midst of messy stuff right now? Please say yes…so I don’t feel so alone right now.

I am not really sure why it has gotten more messy lately or if we are just finally willing to really step into the mess and embrace it. Nonetheless…it is messy.

Girls struggling with identity issues, lack of confidence and sexual pressures…but dig deeper and we have girls struggling with sexual identity, self-injury, broken families, drug addiction and pregnancies. Heavy…painful…messy.

Today I had a moment of clarity.

I need to face my mess…We need to face our own personal messes. (That includes you…)

Have I taken the steps needed in my life to work through my own mess? Have I done the hard work to overcome habits and hang-ups in my life?

Students in pain or in the midst of mess can trigger our pain and mess. The key is will we recognize our own triggers…either we’ll get hurt or get healing.

Now it’s not that my life is free of mess but I have had to at least be willing to address my mess and start the process of healing before I can really step into our student’s pain.

It will be impossible for me or my leaders to help students find healing if we haven’t done the work in our own lives. We have all heard it said before…we can’t take students where we haven’t been or…in this case, help them find healing when we are stuck in our mess.

So, how to do we embrace our mess?

Get help for ourselves.

Read. Connect with others. Seek professional help. (One or all of them.)

Here are a few books that have helped me with my mess:


Changes That Heal



Listening to Your Life

wounded healer


The Wounded Healer

jesus i never knew

The Jesus I Never Knew

What are books that have been helpful to you during difficult times?



Love this new resource that is the discount of the week over at Simply Youth Ministry. 99 Thoughts on Marriage & Ministry - a book that looks to help young couples as they navigate these challenging waters. From the back of the book:

Ministry is such a rewarding experience, but why does it create so much strain on marriages? Jake and Melissa Kircher have learned some valuable lessons (often the hard way!) about building a healthy marriage amid the demands of ministry. They aren’t perfect, but they’ve matured individually and as a couple because of each mess, problem, heartache, and obstacle they’ve encountered. They understand your struggles and frustrations, because they’re their struggles and frustrations, too.

Today only – 58% off – just $2.50 each!


I love visting other youth groups and seeing the different ways that each of them approaches ministry and seeing the different cliques and types of students that each group attracts. In the city I work, the diversity between each of the different ministries is pretty surprising but something I love to see, that students can find a place that speaks their language, with a community they belong to and feel safe in. Each group is a reflection of the the values and style of each leader and fulfilling the purpose of reaching different students.

When I visit a new group I am always on the look out for one thing, the awkward kids. The ones that don’t fit in a lot of places, the ones that maybe don’t have tons of friends and that might look and act very differently than other students. I am not looking for the jocks, the hipsters, or any sort of “cool” kid, in fact I think most youth groups have their fair share of those students, I am looking for the complete opposite. Show me your kids that like to use the coat rack as a light saber, show me your Zacchaeus’s, those are the students to help point to a healthy community.

It’s easy to create a space where social students can be social, but creating an environment where students that don’t fit in can fit in is what it’s all about. You show me a ministry that has no awkward kids, I would be able to argue pretty quickly that, that group is not a safe place. There are students that are reminded often at school that they are different and they don’t fit in, but there is no way that the same should be said of youth group. You belong here, you are safe here, you are one of us here, you are accepted here.

Awkward kids are a sign of health, a sign of a culture of grace for students of all kinds, where young people can feel that they belong, they are safe and are accepted when in many other areas of their life they don’t experience that reality. A group that is diverse, is a group that is experiencing authentic community and youth group is a great place for that to happen.

-Geoff @geoffcstewart