My friends at ym360 have a great Thanksgiving resource for you. It’s a Thanksgiving page featuring three Thanksgiving lessons and a handful of Thanksgiving games. The best part? They’re all FREE! If you’re interested in downloading one or all of the Thanksgiving resources from ym360, simply head on over to  YM360 and as always if you have any questions or problems with the download, the ym360 team is standing by to help out.


One of our long-time HSM volunteers (like 15 years long) Dennis Beckner recently took a big step of faith to start his own T-shirt company to help youth groups print their own shirts. He started Mission Shirts and has been doing really well so far – we just recently started using him as well and I told him if we had a good experience I would make sure to mention him here on the blog (hhaha, no pressure there, right?).

He delivered so here’s my recommendation to you: when you print up shirts, I think he can come up with a good deal for your ministry. He also donates some of the proceeds of each order to sending students on mission trips, which is super cool. I asked him to give MTDB a special deal so he’ll throw in a free 1-color decal with every T-shirt you order. I love the decals – they look great on my office window, the back of the car, notebooks, etc. You can email Dennis to talk through what you’re looking for right away.

Note: This offer is exclusive to readers so it is not available on Mission Shirts’ website. Email Mission Shirts to get started!


I recently started putting together a project that I have wanted to do since June, care packages to our graduated student leaders! This was largely inspired by the Sticky Faith concept that we should continue our ministry into our student’s freshman year of college. We thought that a great way to show our continued support of them would be to send them some college essentials for them to keep going as they come in close to the end of their first semester. We wanted to send make sure we sent them some useful things, some “study break” things, and some random things. On our list:

On top of all of that, we are also giving them a handful of encouraging notes written by our Student Leadership Team. I believe that these cards are the real star of the whole package. Those encouragements are where the majority of the ministering is happening. Your first year of college can be crazy! You’re not just figuring out how college works academically, but socially as well. For many of them, this is the first time that they have lived on their own, thus beginning a huge self-discovery phase of their life. It is my hope that these cards will remind them that there is a community back home that loves them and is praying for them.

Care packages aren’t something that we have done before, but we believe that these will make a huge impact on our graduated students!

What is your ministry doing to minister to your newly graduated students? Take a moment today to pray for those students as they continue their transition into college!

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

I don’t own a GPS, one because I’m too prideful to admit that I might not know where I am going and two because my car does not possess and such fancy-pants technology . I may not have one, but my dad does and he loves it because it is really helpful to get him to where he wants to go, and even better it helps him to get back on track when he missed a turn or deviates from the course.

Its November and for many of us, we had high hopes of what the year was going to look like, grand plans for new initiatives and excitement about what God was going to do this year. If you are anything like me, I had some goals and initiatives that were going to happen this fall and while many of them of have taken flight, others have not. The good news is, its only November and there is plenty of time to make the changes necessary and this is why I am asking myself a few questions this week:

1 – What direction were we supposed to be heading? It seems obvious, that if you don’t know where you are headed, its hard to tell you are lost. Thinking back to the meetings we had with students and leaders in the summer,where did we say we were going and what did we say we were going to start? What elements, events, opportunities did we have on our list as action intems this year? Which of those have we started, which have we not? While evaluating that, its important to first consider where God is leading you 2 months in and perhaps He is leading you in a totally different direction and perhaps that idea we never got off the ground is best left on the shelf for the season.

2 – How did we get off course? It could have been a lack of time to implement all we had hoped to, a lack of resources or just too many great ideas. There are all sorts of reasons that an idea might not have happened, but the question is now is: Should it have? If the answer is yes, then its time to figure out how. Distractions are abound in ministry and sometimes well meaning youth workers often meander and stray from what they are called to do, luckily its still not too late. At this time you can take a moment and lament if you must, but its time to shift gears and get things moving.

3 – How do we get back?  By November you are probably starting to see who you shining star leaders are, and perhaps one of them could be the one to help you help you get back on course with where the year was supposed to be heading. Empowering leaders to take on part of the ministry is a game changer and getting back on track might mean giving responsibility and authority to a member of your team. Getting back on track also may require a re-statement of vision, helping your volunteers and if necessary, students to help them understand the purpose and mission of the group.

The year has only begun and its not too late to get things back on track, these mid-season adjustments are a part of the life of a youth pastor. So embrace this opportunity to remind yourself of what God is calling your ministry to do this school year.

Geoff (Twitter)

Princess Dreams

 —  November 6, 2012 — Leave a comment

I see fairy tales different now. I have a 7 year old daughter who loves them and dreams of being in one. On one hand, it’s adorable…and on the other it is scary.

I was reading to my daughter from her book of princess stories, reading the classic Cinderella. I found myself editing it as I read it to her…the language it used to describe the evil stepmother and sisters…the words to describe Cinderella’s beauty and words that showed why the prince noticed her. I was sadden.

First, my daughter doesn’t look like Cinderella and the words used to describe her fair skin and blonde hair would never be the ones to describe my daughter. And if she dreams of looking the part, she will be wounded over and over by her inability.

Second, this story written for young ears was already encouraging her to judge others and feel competition between the other sisters in the story. Why are we surprised by how much drama is in the life of a girl? She is taught to be dramatic.

Don’t get me started on the message about the role of the mother in a life of a girl…and the role of her father. Maybe this is the most honest part of this story, in how a broken family produces broken hearts. (But I’ve met great blended families – who must hate the sting of the word step-mother.)

And the Prince…where would poor Cinderella be without him. Hmph!

My daughter loves this story. And I will continue to read it to her…and continue to edit it until she can catch on that I am changing the words.

But I will teach her the pain and suffering that will come with princess dreams and I will point her to the truth and the power of being a daughter of the King.

I know that it’s just words but I think it is way more powerful and truthful to call our girls – daughters of the King rather than princesses.

Daughters of the King- belong in the family and function as a member of a family.

Princesses- are served and waited on.

We get frustrated by the drama and struggles that happen in the life of our girls…and I am sure merely adjusting the words wouldn’t change the story.

Words are a beginning of a bigger movement. A movement to raise a generation of girls who follow and serve their King. Girls who don’t find their identity in their physical bodies but instead find their identity in their Father.

Girls who don’t find distrust in their fellow “sisters” but instead find friends and partners in service of their King.

Girls who don’t define their future in the hurt of their family but find healing in the family of God.

Girls who don’t search for a prince to sweep them off their feet but who find joy in singleness or in marriage.

I don’t want to encourage princess dreams. I want to encourage us to live the story of daughters…daughters of the King.

It doesn’t end with words but it can start. Today I’ll tell my daughter of her perfect heavenly Father. Today I’ll tell the girls in my life about his perfect acceptance of them as his daughter. Tomorrow, we’ll work to live it out together.

Do our words matter? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Big Picture Ministry

 —  November 6, 2012 — Leave a comment

Youth workers need to have a holistic view of ministry—stay too focused on today and it can be hard to remember where you were headed. But if you’re always looking ahead, you risk not handling today well. Here are a few thoughts that may help you tackle today AND tomorrow effectively.

Right In Front Of You:
This Week
What needs to be accomplished right away this week? Go practical instead of tactical; make a “to do list” or use an app to help guide your time and projects with due dates this week. The “This Week” stuff is the nitty-gritty tasks you simply must accomplish. Put your head down, and work through the list you made at the beginning of your week.

The Small Picture:
The Next Season Ahead
 – This is where you move from the day-to-day tasks and make sure you’re tracking on the big-picture details of what’s next. This is making sure the discipleship retreat camp deposit is in the mail, but not necessarily programming the event itself. This is making sure you have a speaker lined up, but not necessarily knowing the menu that’s planned. [Side note: ALWAYS know what is on the menu. Words I (Josh) live by!]

The Big Picture:
This Coming Year
 – Occasionally, throughout the year, find some time to make sure the big-picture vision is in place. Check the pulse of your leaders; look back on goals you set from the year before; work through your vision statements and learnings from a recent book or seminar. Determine what’s broken and what’s doing well, lay out strategies to address the weak points in your discipleship process. This is a mix of practical (calendar planning) and tactical (is what we have planned truly helping us to accomplish our vision?).

The Lifetime Achievement:
Your Legacy
 – This is the biggest picture of all: what you will leave with your church when you leave, or the legacy you leave behind when God decides your time here is done. Don’t text and drive or it may be sooner rather than later. Too many youth workers live in the day-to-day world and never take a step back every few years and really wrestle with your calling again and see what God may be up to.

Consider planning your week with an appropriate amount of time given to each of these categories. Focus on the tasks of the week, be familiar with the season ahead, make sure you know where you are headed and every once in a while, and wrestle with your legacy for good measure, too.

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.

I remember the first time I ever went to a youth ministry conference – I had NO idea they even did things like that! 3,000 youth workers in the same room together? Incredible.

And although I haven’t developed an unhealthy addiction to conferences (like some have, you know who you are hahahaha) I do love getting together with like-minded youth workers who get where I live everyday and challenge me to be better. Here’s why I think you should attend a youth ministry conference in the coming year:

Hang with people who understand your calling
Many of the people in my life are amazed at what it takes to be a youth worker – I smile when someone says, “I don’t now how you do it” but love it when someone says, “I’m going to steal that idea to do with my kids.” Why go to a youth ministry conference? To be surrounded with called people just like you.

Be challenged by people who push us forward
I love reading someone’s book and then hearing them in person. I try to learn from people who I agree with, and be challenged by people who rub me the wrong way. When planning out the schedule, mix it up with some stuff you want and some stuff you need.

Have someone look into my soul and do a tune up
I have sins and secrets that as a pastor I simply can’t share in my context. But finding some Soul Care or pastoral counseling options at an event are important. Don’t just hit sessions and workshops, steal some time away for your deepest heart issues, too.

Get away from it all
Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. Get in a day early and see the sites or stay a day later and go into a youth ministry escape coma for the weekend. Make sure when you head out to a conference you plan some serious down time as well.

There are a ton of great youth worker events out there on the local and national scale – the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Indianapolis is right around the corner and if you register today or tomorrow, you can get in for $40 off and special gifts if you use the promo code MTDB on the last page of registration. See you there!


A parent complains about a recent youth group event; how do you respond? Easiest question in youth ministry history! Seriously?

The first thing you should do is ignore the parent as long as possible.
You are taking some well deserved time off after the world’s best overnighter in the history of the universe(TM). Here’s a handy rating scale to let you know how seriously you should take the criticism they are leveling at you:

If the complaint comes via a voicemail – listen carefully to the voice mail, then shake it off and go back to relaxing. A voicemail tells you that the person is 50+ years old, and to help them take a technology baby step you need to delay in returning their call for at least 48 hours. Unless, of course, they name drop a key elder, deacon or even hint they might go over your head to the senior pastor. Deduct 1 hour from the projected response time for each time they either cry or scream during the voicemail message.

If the complaint comes via a written letter – don’t even open it for a few days. Snail mail, really? Did some use a Portal gun and drop me back in 1974? After a few days, simply toss the letter in the trash then claim it must have been “lost in the mail” and when you see them across the pews just say you are so sorry you didn’t respond earlier but you had no idea.

If the complaint comes via text message – quickly reply with a short apology and promise to make everything right within 24 hours. This is to honor a parent that knows how to text, and is also savvy enough to spread some serious thumbs down on social media if you don’t jump into action.

Next, make sure you accept absolutely no responsibility for what happened.
Always make sure you have a scapegoat handy (a college-age hipster volunteer will typically do) and be ready with some key non-verbal signals to indicate that the situation was “out of your hands” and that “you are totally disappointed in them, too”. Here are a few quick excuses to have in your back pocket if you do end up finally actually meeting with a parent (you must have run into them at the Red Box kiosk – rookie):

“I wish I was made aware of this on the night of the event” – this clever redirection places the blame on the person who is bringing you the bad news only now, more than 48 hours after the event is over. “I’m sure that kid was a bully” or “I guess we’ll never know the truth now” are solid follow-up lines. The haze of overnighter memories after just a few days is a perfect cover to deflect responsibility.

“I’ll make sure those people are dealt immediately” – was it your choice to play the R-rated movie on the bus? Was if your call to duct tape her freshman son to the ceiling? Who knows … and this classic line makes sure that the parent will never know either. The straw-man tactic wins more than Jeremy Lin. The parents know someone is going to get hammered for this evil that the youth pastor sympathizes with. Who is that person? No one knows for sure.

Third, be sure to drive a wedge between the parent, their teenager and the ministry. Do you best to undermine the parent whenever possible. Roll your eyes when the dad isn’t looking. Exchange a knowing glance at the student to show how “out of touch” they are being right now. You know best, just pacify the parent long enough to get them off your back and you can move on to planning The Next Big Thing That Will Change The World Overnighter Extragaganza(TM) – and make sure you call it TNBTTWCTWOE for short.

Hopefully by now you get the idea … do the opposite of everything you read above and you’ll handle complaints well. They are inevitable, tough and necessary part of your growth of a leader and part of the process of raising teenagers. Jump in quick, take responsibility and repair the damage. Blessings on the journey.