GIFTOk, so you did not get the shopping done that you wanted to, Christmas is around the corner and you are stuck indoors because of some blizzard in the midwest (for you West Costers a blizzard is like frozen ocean falling form the sky…but not as salty…hey, if we could get it to snow salt water that would help with all this shoveling).  Well, here are 5 gifts that you can purchase from the confort of your home and have them by Christmas.

  • AMAZON – If you hurry and get an Amazon Prime membership you could have stuff here by Monday (Christmas Eve). That is an $80 gift to self that gives all year long.  Make sure what you are buying is from a “Prime” seller and BOOOM! You can pay an extra $3.99 and get it in one day.  Not going to be with that special someone, they will ship the gift directly to them…Duh!
  • Ok, too late to ship something?  GIFT CARDS!!!  Gift cards can be dumb but if they are to the right place it can be a huge win!  iPhone user? iTunes gift card.  Shopper? Find their favorit store.  Don’t know?  Amazon gift card…I think you can print the gift card out and give it out!
  • SOFTWARE – A gift like Logos Bible software can be paid for and downloaded online! If people are still looking to buy you something this may be the best gift ever!
  • MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTION – Ok, I know 100% of you subscribe to Group Magazine but you could buy a subscription for your team members or another youth worker in town.  What a blessing that would be if your church could buy a subscription for a few churches.
  • APPS – Yes, check the iTunes gift store (and maybe android), you can gift apps now.

WINNING!  What are some other great downloadable gifts you are giving or getting this year?


Was reflecting on this past year of ministry and how I’m so privileged to serve in our church and have a great group of people I work with on our church staff and amazing volunteer team. Probably lots of similar things have been written about building a winning team – but it has been fun and challenging to do these things in our youth ministry:

Genuinely love your people. You can fake it for a while, but it eventually comes out that it is all about you. Make it all about them and all about Jesus and you win.

The team that laughs together, stays together. Ministry is draining, challenging, and inspiring. Make sure you laugh along the way – it’ll double the life expectancy of your people.

Make sure they KNOW they are loved. Make sure it is obvious you are thinking about them, promoting them, speaking highly of them. You shouldn’t have to say anything, they should just feel it. Typically when there is doubt in this area, they feel undervalued, ignored, under-appreciated, worthless.

Give your people real, audacious projects. Trust them with critical situations. Give them the ministry while you’re away on vacation, and don’t take it back when you return. Belief goes a long way when building people.

Would love to know what you do to build your team, too!


POSTED by Katie Edwards

A few months back I started meeting with a group of my students to plan our weekend junior high church service. We meet once a month for an hour in my office to share ideas and plan. I try to get a good mix of gender, grades, schools, personalities etc. and it is typically never the same group twice. It’s a super low key/no frills meeting, but it has become one of my favorite times of the month.

How the meeting is structured:

- We start with snacks.  (An essential for any brainstorm session with students)

- Then we go to the whiteboard. (A second essential for a good brainstorm sesh)

- I throw the series theme/topic on the whiteboard, along with some basic service elements. “Elements” such as music, message, games, etc.

- Then we just start talking and sharing ideas.

- I ask questions like, “Would you bring a friend to this?”, “Do you think this is funny?”, “Will others students like this?” ,“How could you grow in your walk with Jesus from this?” and so on.

- At the end of our time together our students feel a sense of ownership in our ministry and I walk away with tons of ideas and a more relevant picture of what my students like/want/need.

Brainstorm Sesh

I know it’s tough to put one more meeting on the calendar, but this type of touch base with your students could be totally worth your time. Honestly, I walk away after each meeting feeling totally inspired and more in love with students.


Facebook (FB) has been a great way to connect with students in recent years. It is a way of touching base on their turf in their time.  Here are 10 ways youth workers are using facebook in their ministry setting. Leave a note in the comments if you are using it in a way not shared here.

  • GROUPS - Scott Tinman is utilizing the “Groups” feature for his Student Ministry. He posts events, activities, and reminders for Student Ministry nights. He has separate groups for students and parents that are open (anyone can join). He also has a “private” group to use with his adult leaders, this protects the post from hitting the News Feed. He also said, “SYM Tools has a way to post directly to Groups now that makes this easy.” He says he still has a Student Ministry Page and post there as well but with the way FB is changing many posts are not getting to everybody’s News Feed so he uses Groups more.
  • ANNOUNCE IT - Several youth workers said they use FB to posts announce (written and video), new series (with graphics), and asking students to use their FB status after a Student Ministry night to rebroadcast  with their friends what they are learning (Bible vs, catch phase, series title…use your group to spread the word). This is a good tool for teens to share their faith or get into spiritual conversations at school. Darren Sutton added that announcing and upcoming talk or series, “not always, but a few times has generated some pretty great discussion on the topic before we even started!”
  • REMINDERS - Gary Anderson says, “We use it all the time for ministry invites, reminding students to bring $, sweatshirt, old clothes, etc.” Creating a FB event and getting students to reply can help you know how many plan to show up.
  • DISTRIBUTE MEDIA - Gary added, “It’s the best way to distribute a trip promo video, photo album, or post trip highlight video.” Kerensa Huffman posts pics of what’s going on at events and regular youth group meetings through her iPhone.  Before and after a gathering is great but in today’s culture the “immediate” in a huge win.
  • CONTESTS - Darren Sutton has used FB for ‘add the caption’ contests on photos to get kids tagging each other. In the summer Geoff Stewart does a Photo Contest where students try and get their youth group name in a picture somewhere awesome or with someone famous. Last year two girls got their pic with the Prime Minister of Canada.
  • POINTING AND SHARING - FB does not have to be your main place to land, Geoff Stewart is using FB to point people back to their website as well as sharing devotional content, good music, and sermon series.
  • WHAT’S TRENDING – One youth worker said, “I use it to learn about this current generation. (Also known as FB stalking.)”
  • VIDEO DEVOTIONS - When Paul Spittka’s group is not meeting (due to holidays and such), he video tapes or video chats a short devotional and posts it on his FB page and lets students respond to it. It is good to monitor the conversion, not only to give your youth worker perspective on the topic but also to keep things appropriate.
  • ENCOURAGEMENT - Jon Batch strikes with subtle ninja encouraging posts, chats, and comments.  He says, “I look especially for those who are struggling with the little things in life and send a quick word of encouragement.” (P.S. It is true, out of no where I have been hit by Jon’s sherkin of kind words on FB).
  • PRIZE PICTURE – As a prize (what a let down) I have taken a picture with a student and placed it as my FB profile pic for a week.  On one hand it is totally lame and a letdown if they were expecting a CD, candy, or something tangible, on the other hand students like to be in the spotlight.

There are endless facebook ideas, what are you doing that is unique and different from what you see here?

Why Small Groups Last

 —  December 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

As my small group of high school guys entered into their junior year of high school I remember feeling a little anxiety.  Typically this is the year that small groups are tested because of the amount of distractions and obstacles the students face.  Teens are beginning to think about college, and classes are more intense.  For many of them they are making the varsity team which means a different commitment.  Some of them are looking to get their driver’s license, which means they have a little more freedom and a little less accountability to show up from their parents.  As the teens get older, their commitment to the group is tested.

But, there are those groups that last.  There are those groups that not only stay strong; but, withstand the transitions of seasons.  Why is that?  Is it the leader? The teens?  While those are huge factors there are a few steps every leader should take to ensure their small groups last through the years.  Those steps are:

Communicating Consistently – Your group needs to hear your voice more than just at the weekly gatherings.  Check-in with them during the week.  Talk with their parents.  Make your relationship with them consistent.  Communicating consistently helps you become a regular voice in their life.  Whether it’s an invitation to join group each week or a shout out on Twitter, letting them know you’re invested will go far.

Meeting Outside The Usual – On top of your weekly gatherings try to get together for a mission project or fellowship gathering.  It’s easy to forget how hard it is for these teens to find healthy social opportunities.  By getting them together outside of the small group you turn it from a “church” thing into a life group.

Connecting One On One – It might be a challenge, but when you can meet one on one with your teens you begin to understand the dynamics of the group.  This helps you lead discussions in your group in a way that promotes depth.  The teens will feel like you know them personally because of your private conversations.  It will encourage them to open up in ways they couldn’t have before.

Setting Goals And Vision – Every church needs goals and vision.  Doesn’t matter if it’s thousands of people or half a dozen, without vision the people will perish.  Your small group needs goals and vision to grow and go deeper.  It allows the group to go from a social hour into something lasting.

Leading a small group is an investment.  It will be tested; however, by getting to know each individual and challenging them with different opportunities, the group will strengthen.

How do you strengthen your small groups?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Every now and then we take a break from the normal routine to interview a friend, author, ministry leader or youth worker we think would have something to share with the youth worker nation. Today we talk to Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share (, which is a ministry dedicated to equipping students to share their faith. Greg is a long-time friend of Simply Youth Ministry and will be speaking in a general session at the upcoming SYMC Conference in March.

1. Dude, many of our readers haven’t met you before—tell us about yourself!
For 10 years I was a church planter and pastor of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado. Although I loved this amazing church, God used the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 as a wake-up call for me to focus full-time on reaching the next generation for Christ. I resigned my post as pastor and began to mobilize teens for evangelism through Dare 2 Share.

I’ve been married for 21 years to the love of my life, Debbie. We have two great kids who, unfortunately for my wife, have my spastic genes. We couldn’t have kids for 10 years and wondered if God would ever bless us with children. We were so thrilled that he did! Being a husband and daddy has taught me more theology than any Bible class I’ve ever sat through. It’s humbling and exhilarating all at the same time!

When I’m not traveling the nation equipping youth leaders and teens for evangelism, I’m hanging out with the fam. We live in the great state of Colorado and love to hike together. This summer my son and I had the opportunity to climb our first two “14ers” (mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation). It was great fun…even though I thought my lungs were going to burst. One more thing…I’m a movie freak.

2. How did you become so passionate about student evangelism?
I was raised in a family of body-building, tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking thugs (and that’s just the women!). Seriously, my family was bad to the bone. The Denver “mafia” knew my five fighting uncles as “the crazy brothers.” So when the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional you have some serious issues.

But this church from the suburbs reached out to the city and, as a result, my entire family came to Christ. As a kid I witnessed the spiritual transformation of every one my family members from violent troublemaker to passionate Christ follower. This church also had a killer youth ministry who discipled us—that is, had us growing deep in our relationship with Christ and understanding theology, as well as training and expecting us to share our faith. They also had high expectations when it came to leadership and they gave teenagers significant responsibilities in leading the youth ministry, which I think is critical. There’s no way I’d be doing Dare 2 Share if I hadn’t seen it modeled in this amazing youth ministry setting first. Bottom line as to why I’m so passionate about student evangelism? I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teenagers!

3. Yesterday we talked about producing evangelistic students; what is the biggest key in your mind for students to “get it”?
They have to have their hearts broken for their friends who don’t know Jesus. They need to get their “Jesus eyes” on.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor challenged me to go to a local shopping mall and do some people watching for 30 minutes. He told me to put an imaginary tag on people’s foreheads as they walked by which read, “Bound for Hell.” I did just that. For 30 minutes I thought about the hell they were headed to and the hell they were going through apart from Jesus. By the time it was over I was crying. For the first time I saw people through the eyes of Christ and my heart has been broken ever since. As we put our teens in situations to interact with unreached people (mission trips, local outreaches, etc), we will have the opportunity to teach them to put their Jesus eyes on. Then, as their hearts begin to break for the lost, evangelism becomes much more natural.

4. Tell us about a time you were rejected after sharing your faith. How can leaders prepare students for the adversity they face in times like that?
There have been many times I’ve been rejected. The hardest was my Uncle Richard. He was the one holdout of my uncles who refused to believe in Jesus. It took 12 years of sharing and being rejected by him before he finally succumbed to Jesus (just before succumbing to cancer).

I think youth leaders can prepare their students by helping them realize that rejection is part of the discipleship process. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

At Dare 2 Share we do a thing called “Persecution University.” If a teen gets rejected for sharing Jesus, they become a PU grad and get a standing ovation from the thousands of teens in the auditorium. Of course some Christians get persecuted, not for sharing their faith, but for the way they are sharing their faith. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping teens to humbly share the good news and then realize that, if their friends reject them, they are entering a fraternity of persecution that’s 2,000 years old. I find that teens who truly realize this have their faith steeled and sealed deep inside their souls.

5. You are an excitable guy! What are you most excited about at Dare 2 Share!
We are seeing teenagers truly share their faith, and youth groups are growing in maturity and in numbers as a result!  We are witnessing how evangelism accelerates the discipleship process in ways no traditional model can emulate. It’s great fun to watch the exciting messiness of a youth group growing with new and raw teen disciples.

I’m also excited about the way the Lord has opened up the door for this movement to be scalable outside of our Dare 2 Share events. From training curriculum to our free online training material to webinars to an upcoming Dare 2 Share mobile app (coming soon) we are pumped up to see that God is moving beyond our training conferences to accelerate teen evangelism training. Of course, the Dare 2 Share conferences are as exciting as ever and we are adding more and more new cities to the tour. I love what God does through these catalytic training events!

But what excites me most is that I believe we could witness a true revival in this nation within my lifetime. And I’m fully convinced teenagers and youth leaders will be on the leading edge of this next great awakening. I’m a student of past revivals and, to be honest, I’m tired of reading about revivals—I want to be a part of one!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

devotionalI am always looking for great devotional resources for my students.  We are launching the New Year with Simply’s H.A.B.I.T.S. sermon series, this super series contains loads of freely reproducible resources like devotionals for guys, girls, and students in general.  I LOVE the idea of having unlimited resources at my finger tips but I think I will be adding a few of these new devotionals Simply is releasing called The Simple Truth Bible.  Check them out by downloding 20 ABSOLUTELY FREE! And if you like them, buy in bulk, you can get a deeper discount.  Click here for The Simple Truth Bible devotionals.


Guess who’s going to be in Boston in February 2013?!… Simply Youth Ministry is one of the sponsors of
Open Boston this February. We encourage you to check out their website and see all the good things they are doing for youth workers around the nation! Oh yeah, Jason O. and Nadim will be there, too!

**Here’s a little note from Jake Kircher and Adam McLane- Two of the guys who make Open possible**

Jake and I are really excited about this news for a lot of reasons. For me, I’m excited about adding Simply because they are such great friends of The Youth Cartel who really get what we are trying to do with Open. A few months ago Marko and I were in their offices in Colorado and I had the opportunity to share the heart behind the Open movement and the idea of flipping the typical youth ministry event on its head. When I talked about intentionally creating a place where front-line youth workers can present what they are learning, how they are innovating in their context, and exploring what may be transferable… that connected with their team right away.

For Jake, he’s been friends with Simply for a long-time, participating in a wide array of stuff with them. So having them as a sponsor at Open is natural and fun. It just makes sense.

Meet Jason & Nadim at Open Boston

Another awesome part of having Simply on board for Open Boston is that Jason Ostrander and Nadim Najm will be in Boston to hang out with us for the day and help out. So if you’ve ever wanted to get to know them, this is a great opportunity!

Registration is currently open. We hope to see you there on February 2nd.

Check it out!