Recap It

 —  April 17, 2013 — Leave a comment

Got back on Sunday night from our mission trip to Dream Center. The trip was awesome! Our students were impacted and I believe we helped Dream Center accomplish their mission for the week.


Here is a few of my highlights from the week:

*Seeing Dream Center was the first highlight. They do amazing ministry and are transforming their community. As far as what you would hope for your students…Dream Center offered it. If you are looking for a place to go- check it out!

*I had one of my more embarrassing moments in youth ministry. One morning we had a few moments to spare before we started our various ministries. Rory (my co-worker/boss) and I decided to do a little inspirational interpretive dance…to Firework by Katy Perry. It was going well…until I fell from one of my sweet jump dance moves. I landed flat on the ground. It was hilarious and embarrassing.

*KELLY! One of my small groups who has been with me since she was 9th grade and is now a senior had a major moment on this trip. When Kelly joined my group she was an insecure girl who made lots of poor choices with the opposite sex. Over the years, I have watched her grow and struggle to figure out her faith. One day she was with the group that went to serve lunch on Skid Row. While there she painted a few finger nails of some of the ladies. At one point, a lady asked Kelly if she would consider painting her toe nails. The Dream Center staff told Kelly she didn’t need to say yes…but that it was all up to her. She thought about it for one moment. She looked at the lady and told her she would gladly paint them. Kelly washed the lady’s feet and painted her toe nails. As Kelly retold this story to me, we both had began to cry…I told Kelly that in that moment was she never more like Jesus…and I was so proud of her. This is WHY I do youth ministry!

*On the flight home…I got bumped to first class because of my MVP status. 38 students in back of the plane…me in front with my chicken salad. I felt slightly guilty for a minute…and the the minute was over! It was so nice!

That was my week! Loved it!

What do you do for your mission trip?



6 Go-To Books I Recommend to Girls

Below you will find a list of my go-to books that I recommend to high school and college girls along with some of their thoughts of the books.

Before I suggest a book to a girl, I read it. My goal is that the book will give us opportunity to engage in conversations, so I need to know the content, not just that it is a good book. I want my girls to wrestle with what they believe or have always been told with fresh perspective, so that in the end they will think for themselves and seek God’s word for truth.

Love Does by Bob Goff


Love Does is one of my new favorite books. In fact it is one that I read with my children. It is an easy, fun read. But more than that, Love Does inspires readers to love completely and unconditionally because of the impact it has on everyone around us! “sophomore in college

It [Love Does] inspired me to be more spontaneous in what I did! I enjoyed it because I loved reading about how amazing his [Bob Goff] life was. “senior in high school

enjoyed reading it because I got to see up close and personal how a one on one relationship with Jesus can affect not only ourselves, but the people we share this earth with. It inspires me to unlock the boundaries that I put on love and love with all my heart in every moment in all my actions, just like Jesus did! freshman in college

Crazy Love by Francis Chan


I love going through Crazy Love with girls. This book helps them to view their obedience to God is not as an obligation but in the way that demonstrates our love for Him. It is exciting to see girls eyes open to this love that God has for them and how they can respond to Him.

Crazy Love was a great recommendation because it made me realize that I need to take my relationship with God more seriously, not out of guilt but because I want to. It encouraged me by reminding me that I didn’t want to have an average life; I want to do something amazing for God.sophomore in high school


His Princess: Love Letters From Your King by Sheri Rose Shepherd


His Princess is a book I use a lot. It is full of love letters from God. There are so many letters that are great for so many seasons of the girl’s lives. Here is a thought from one of my girls about the letters in this book.

I like them because I feel like they are written specifically for me and no one else. They’re personal and written like how I imagine God to talk to me. They encourage me because it makes me realize that God really is that personal and loving, I’m just not diving deep enough to find out. They make me long to get to know Him and the other fantastic truths He is waiting to share with me. -senior in high school

I think the love letters help me see my relationship with God in a way that I always have trouble envisioning it. It’s hard for me to view God like a lover because the world has so distorted our views of love. The letters remind me of the way that love is supposed to be; the way God loves us. It reminds me that He is always there for me, has faith in me, and believes that I can do the things that everyone else says I can’t; because with my strength that I receive through Him, anything is possible. They remind me that God is the only one who can fill the holes in my heart. They remind me that He has a plan for me and He knows want I need, and He will provide for me. They show me the model for what the man I give my heart to should strive to be like. I like the letters because they remind me who God is for me. junior in high school


For Young Girls Only by Shaunti Feldhahn and Lisa A


I use For Young Girls Only in two ways. One as a resource for preparation of a boy talk I do at our girls retreat. The other is walking through it with mature girls who are ready for the information that this book has.

I thought that was a great book, it really solidified the fact that boys have WAY different brains than us, and gave me little tips for how to treat guys. Either in a romantic way or just friendship way. And I also loved how it was still centered around God and also gave tips to how to encourage them in their faith too. sophomore in college

Lies Young Girls Believe: And the Truth that Sets Them Free by Nancy Leigh DeMoss and Dannah Gresh


Lies Young Women Believe has been a good book to help girls process the lies they believe verses the truth of God’s Word. The conversations that have I have had from parts of this book have been life changing for some girls as the have realized the lies they were believing.

This book hit home with a lot of issues I was struggling with at the time and helped a bunch. freshman in high school

Kisses From Katie by Katie Davis


This past summer we had the blessing of leading a student missions trip to Uganda, Africa. I personally enjoyed reading this book as Katie was able to say so much of what I felt and experienced on that trip

I like it [Kisses From Katie] because I can relate so much from it. It encourages me to have more faith in God and trust Him in everything. sophomore in high school

Other Books Worth Mentioning: Captivating, And the Bride Wore White, Bad Girls of the Bible, and The Hiding Place.

I’m always looking for new books to share with my girls, what are some recommendations do you have?


Kim Bowers is an amazing youth worker who is married to a youth pastor in Southern California. She recently wrote some amazing curriculum about the women in the sure to check it out!

alpha-gamesIf you have not heard of the Youth Alpha course you might want to check it out, if you were at SYMC 2013 you may have seen their booth. Learn about Youth Alpha here.

While browns the web today I found a slew of games ideas on their site…YES, I SAID A SLEW! Click over to their games site and grab a digital slide of a game for your ministry this week!



Died laughing at this promo video students made for next week’s last weekend of You Own the Weekend. Made me laugh out loud -excited to see what the students of Tesoro High School come up with for the finale!


We’ve all heard the old adage about the “two dogs fighting.” The basic premise of the story is one represents living for the Lord and the other our “evil desires.” These dogs battle within and the one that wins is the one we feed.

In my own heart these warring dogs are “Success:” Christ’s design vs. the world’s. I thought I was “feeding” Christ’s definition. Then the Lord led my family into one of the hardest seasons we have ever been through, literally. Not one area of our lives has gone “smoothly:” Health, Finances, Relationships, Ministry, Marriage, and Location. We have even been through a “history making” hurricane and blizzard. It has been one of those times in life that borders on the ridiculous and causes you to question EVERYTHING. It’s when I had a revelation:

In my heart of hearts I believed I could “work” up the “Jesus” ladder the same way you do in business.

I was doing what I believe many of us do, I was focused on “getting ahead” in ministry, and calling this my relationship with the Lord. If you called me out on it I would have denied it. As Jesus led, I would move from a small ministry, to a grass-roots one, then leading one, then eventually I would be the “next big thing” in ministry. While I do believe Jesus can and will use me any way he wants I thought he OWED me this for journeying in relationship with him. DSC_0563

He showed me some of my “heroes” and the truth about them:

  • Noah spent over 100 years building an ark. During this time the hope was others would see and believe. In the end only his immediate family and their wives joined him in Salvation.
  • “Saul” was well educated, rich, religious, from a good family, had status and well respected. “Paul” was flogged, imprisoned, exposed to death, shipwrecked 3 times, lashed within an “inch of his life,” five times, beaten with rods three times, hungry, thirsty, cold, naked, and pelted with stones.
  • Moses spent at least 80 years of his life in the desert: 40 as a shepherd and 40 wandering with his nation. The majority of his life was spent fighting the enemies of Israel. He got to see the promised land,  but never enter it.

The world deemed NONE of these people successful while they were alive. They were considered crazy, zealots and wackos.

Here’s what I also saw:

  • Noah was saved due to his faithfulness to the Lord.
  • Paul wrote a majority of the new testament and spent his life in pursuit of “finishing the race and the task “of taking Christ into the world. He only wanted to be faithful to the Lord.
  • Moses was buried by God himself and there was no one else who “knew God the same way face to face.” He was rewarded for his faithfulness to the Lord.

In my flesh I want to be noticed. Jesus asks me to redefine success as being faithful to journeying with Him. All of these men were saved not of their own doing nor did their rewards come because of what they DID for Him. He said, “Come be my friend, in the end your reward is Me.” They messed up along the way, they could do nothing to “earn” the Lord’s love and he owed them nothing. However, he chose still to use them mightily.

Yes, I have two dogs in me. The truth is sometimes I feed the one in the world. It feels better with more accolades ringing in my ears. It feels like I AM DOING SOMETHING GREAT. However, the end game isn’t about that at all is it… it’s to hear, “Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant.” It’s not about faithful to what… it’s to who…

The question is: Am I willing to believe this is enough?

article.2013.04.09This week we’re going to take on the top 3 questions that we get when people come to visit our youth ministry. You’ll get mine (Josh) today and Kurt’s tomorrow. Here are 3 very frequently asked questions:

How can I start a youth ministry internship at my church?
We are very blessed to have some really incredible interns at our church and a program that doesn’t cost the church a ton of money that produces some pretty amazing youth workers. If you want to start one, you’ve got to answer some very basic but fundamental questions about the program:

  • Will we pay the interns?
  • Where are they going to live/eat/office?
  • What is the duration of the program?
  • What are we hoping to accomplish in both them and in our ministry?

If you can answer those basic questions, you are off to a great start! For starters, I would pay the interns a very small stipend, if possible, to help cover gas and a couple meals, and keep the duration short like a summer term. Map out the basics of what they will be doing and how you want to shape them and you’re well on your way.

While I don’t have space for much more, for extra credit here’s a roadmap of where to go next:

  • Look for margin where you can add managing interns to your regular workweek. The last thing interns need is an absent leader!
  • Create a required reading list during the internship.
  • Schedule a few times for them to interact with key leaders in the church.
  • As you plan their development, consider having them observe, follow then lead an event, youth service and volunteer from application to placement.

How many events do you guys do at your church?
We made a decision long ago that we weren’t going to build a ministry that was event-driven. But to be honest, we have to continually fight the advance of program creep. Program creep is where you continue to add more and more and not take anything away!

With that in mind, we have our weekly youth group on the weekend and small groups that meet in homes during the week, and then just occasional supplemental events from there. A serve project here, a Dodgeball tournament there. We consciously don’t do a ton of events to keep balance on the biblical purposes. Just so you know, in summer we do a TON more events, so things change with the seasons, too!

So do you teach every week at youth group?
I would guess I teach about 50% of the time in our youth ministry I love giving the platform away for so many reasons:

  • Students need to hear from different voices
  • Sometimes the same thing being said by someone else sticks.
  • Leaders need platforms to develop their speaking skills.
  • I need a break!

Don’t be afraid to give away your platform a little bit you might be surprised at how quickly you fall in love with the byproducts of it. Just keep in mind as the point person make sure you are speaking at the key times and visible and supportive when you’re not on stage.

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.

Switch It Up

 —  April 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in youth ministry and, it’s also very frustrating. When ministry is moving slow it feels like no one is engaged and everything is happening below your standards. There will be seasons in your ministry when you feel like your calling has just become a job.

If you feel like your ministry needs a pick me up, then look at switching things up. Change what you do, try something new and give your ministry new life. To get out of your rut you don’t need a major overhaul, just a few teaks. To change and shake things up in your ministry try giving:

  • Someone Else The Reigns: If you are constantly making the decisions, choosing and leading activities you’ll find your ministry limited. When you are limited you feel trapped and stuck. By delegating leadership and creative responsibilities to other volunteers you enable them to take the ministry where you could not. This does not mean they are better leaders than you it’s just giving it a different approach.
  • Groups Permission To Play: Your small group leaders need to know that they have ownership of their groups. This means allowing them to once in a while deviate from the plan by just sharing life, playing a game or addressing a different issue. Giving permission to play means allowing the group to grow organically.
  • Yourself A Break: The reason your ministry might feel tired is because you feel tired too. Give yourself a break by taking a vacation, building in more margin and working on your Sabbath. When your mind and soul are at rest they are more equipped to think outside the box. A creative mind is a rested one.


Switch it up by giving away the burdens and responsibilities that might wear you down. Give yourself room to breathe so that that you can think clearly on where you need to go. Your ministry needs you for the long haul which means tweaking and adjusting your routine from time to time. Don’t be afraid to switch it up.

How do you switch it up? 

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Theresa has become a friend over the last couple of months. Up until 2012 she served youth ministry in this way:

“Over a decade after saying yes to being a youth volunteer, I’ve served as youth director of a couple churches, and had the opportunity to launch a youth center. In 2009 I was honored to partner with and help Michael W. Smith realize his dream to expand his original vision of Rocketown, serving teens through culturally relevant programming, mentoring, and entertainment, with the opening of Rocketown Florida. Recognized by Michael as the heart of Rocketown, I performed every job from custodian to show promoter to pastor (all the while with the official title of Operations Director).”

This unique ministry served a litany of “survival mindset” or urban youth. It felt natural to ask her our questions and get her feed back!

How would you define urban youth or family?

I define an urban youth or family as one who often sees more of what life really is – an urban setting, by definition, is often less shielded from hurt, brokenness, poverty, and other harsh realities of life. However, I also define urban youth and families as seeking to be recognized and identified by who they are and not where they live, their ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.

In today’s shifting culture we are seeking to redefine urban. What would you say if we said the new urban youth is one living in a survival mindset?

There is a need to extend God’s love to youth through re-identification in Christ. Too many youth are ok with being identified by their circumstances. Through the love of Jesus, urban youth can begin to understand that current reality doesn’t have to define their dreams for tomorrow.

New Urban youth are catapulted out of survival mode when they are encouraged to dream and find identity in Christ and his immeasurable love for them. One student revealed to me her dreams of being the first in her family to graduate high school. Her transition from being identified by circumstances to being identified through Christ began in a conversation that started with a simple question. She then did become the first in her family to graduate high school. The conversation went like this:

Me: What do you dream about?

Student: Being the first person in my family to graduate high school.

Me: What can you do to make that dream come true?

Student: Study. Focus.

Me: How are you doing with the studying part?

Student: I need a little help.

Me: Well, let’s get some help then.

That simple exchange started her on a new path, a path that no one in her family had yet walked. And through her hard work and a little help from us, she was successful.

Do you have students living in survival mode in your youth group? (Or have you met families living in this mindset?)

Yes. A group of boys hanging out at our youth center were constantly starting fights on and around our property. They tried to explain to me why they were involved in so many fights. They fought for each other, they explained, because they had no one else who cared for them or protected them.

They were in survival mode. Fighting was there way of committing to each other and supporting each other in ways their family, friends, and community did not.

I asked them, Where will you be in 5 years?

They replied, Probably locked up.

I changed the question to, Where do you want to be? They started revealing their hopes and dreams to be a professional BMX’er, engineer, and film producer. In order to help each other’s dreams come true they had to find a new way to survive in the neighborhood, without fighting and being thrown in jail together.

The entire group made a commitment to stopping fighting. This commitment meant they were able to dream together, and support one another in a new way. They transitioned from surviving to striving for something bigger than they had previously thought was possible.

How would/do you approach them?

I approach every teen in three ways

1. New Identity = You are not your circumstances. Every person has dreams, purpose, worth, and is loved by Christ Jesus. Our circumstances do not define us.

2. Love As God Loves = I don’t love and serve from my being, resources, or ideas. I stay focus on God’s love, his desire, his care, and purpose for each individual.

3. No Friends, All Family = Every student becomes family. Family members respect one another, support one another, bear one another’s burdens, and dream together. No one is a project. Everyone is family.

These are great insights! Thank you Theresa! Look for posts like this from youth workers all over the country every Monday!!

T SpazzyMore about Theresa today:

In 2012 I moved to the beautiful state of Colorado. Through this winding path of God’s grace, I have found a new passion: To shape and serve teens by serving youth leaders, youth organizations, and parents of teens.


Here’s how I’m doing that.

1. Mentoring and coaching
2. Speaking and training3. Providing relevant written resources for today’s youth leader.

Find her at: or Twitter: @theresa_mazza