As we’ve already discussed, summer is a chance to change up your student program; why not let it be a chance to change up how you care for your leaders as well. This summer we’re trying some new things, and bringing back some time-tested classic ways to encourage and care for our leaders. Here are a few of both!

Kick it off with a BBQ.
Nothing says “You’re important to me” like a double cheeseburger fresh off the grill….unless  you have ribs, too. By now your summer is in full swing, so take an evening to relax, eat some tasty food, and love on your volunteer team. They’ll need the encouragement to make it through the rest of the summer schedule!

Think about a ball game.
A while back we did a big tailgate party with our leaders and bought them tickets to a baseball game. Pick a great night (with fireworks) and if you’ve got the chance, spring for tickets for their whole family as well. Everyone makes sacrifices when a parent serves in youth group—give them all a ballpark dog and a seat in the upper deck to say thanks.

Host a coffee drop-in.
As you care for leaders in the summer, consider this one: Drive-By Coffee. You bring your MacBook and work from Starbucks for the bulk of the afternoon and let all your leaders know if they drop by you’ll buy them a drink. In our experience most will stay for maybe 10-15 minutes, so you can get in a ton of relational time as well as crank on a few emails in between. Of course, you need to be prepared for the awkward leader who decides to hang around for the majority of the afternoon!

Have some end of summer beach/pool fun.
Summer has been incredible, so why not pull everyone together for a little fun poolside? Maybe break out the grill again or just do s’mores at the firepit. Forget any formal program; just circle everyone up at the end of the night to share highlights, favorite moments, and stories that are destined to become legendary in your ministry for years to come.

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.

When you read this … I’ll be on a plane with a group of amazing students headed to the country of Rwanda. The blog will be filled with guest posts and plenty of other articles from my friend Geoff Stewart who will be handling things while I’m away.

Thought I would post our prayer guide here on the blog as well, if you would take some time to pray for our safety and for lives to be changed for Christ on this trip, it’d be great!


Rwanda Prayer Guide
Please pray for health, strength, and safe travel for the team

Day ONE & TWO: Travel to Rwanda
Pray for a smooth airport check-in. Pray for safe travel to Rwanda. Pray for rest and the preparation of our hearts for ministry. Pray that all goes smoothly with the logistics of traveling with a group our size.

Day THREE: Community Work Day, Genocide Memorial
Pray for our team, that we would be able to connect with people in the community and serve them well. Pray that our students would be excited on their first full day of ministry, loving the people whom they are serving. Pray for safe travels to *********.

Day FOUR: Church and meeting with pastors
Pray for the people of Rwanda, that their hearts would be open to the Word of God as it is preached today in churches. Pray for great conversations as we meet with the pastors of local churches. Pray that we would be able to accomplish much with them in preparation for the week of ministry ahead.

Day FIVE: PEACE activity with local church and Reach for Life groups
Pray for your student today. Pray that each student leads boldly and courageously as they lead their Reach for Life groups for the first day. Pray for energy and excitement as each van gets to know their Reach for Life groups.

Day SIX: Youth Ministry Conference and Reach for Life groups
Pray that we would be an encouragement to the pastors and their children as they come to the youth ministry conference. Pray that we can love on and train pastors well. Pray for endurance for a long day of ministry.

Day SEVEN, EIGHT & NINE: PEACE activity with local church and Reach for Life groups
Pray that Rwandan students would continue to return to the Reach for Life groups day after day. Pray that our team connects with each Rwandan student making them feel loved and cared for. Pray for friendships to be built among Rwandan and Saddleback students.

Day TEN: Youth Rally and travel
Pray for your student today as they put on a youth rally for Rwandan students. Pray that the message and rally elements would draw students closer to Christ and challenge them. Pray for safe travels and rest as we return to **********.

Day ELEVEN: Church & Dinner with Rwandan families
Pray for our last day of ministry. Pray that we would stay focused as team and that fatigue would not set in. Pray that we would make the most of our time as we visit the homes of Rwandan families. Pray that we would love and encourage them.

Day TWELVE: City Tour & Team Debrief
Pray that, as we conclude our time in Rwanda, we would be able to reflect on what God has taught us and encourage one another with stories of God’s work. Pray for your student today.

Pray for safe travel back to America. Pray that we adjust well spiritually emotionally, and physically. Pray that God would continue to work in our hearts after we return. Pray that we would continue to remember and reflect our journey in Rwanda. Pray for protection from sickness and fatigue.

Our friends at Simply Youth Ministry have a great deal going today.

TWO SIDES: Finding what fits your youth ministry – by Darren Sutton

Here’s the reality of youth ministry: Gray often is the dominant color, differing opinions abound, and the way forward isn’t always clear or certain. But just like a wise sage, Two Sides: Finding What Fits Your Ministry will help you through the journey of discovering the right, best answers for your ministry.

Darren is a friend of our ministry and serves in youth ministry in Texas.  This is a book written by a person in youth ministry for other people in youth ministry.

I already posted about why reports about your summer mission trips is important. This is a ditto plug for VBS and what your youth are doing.

I’m thinking there are two schools of thought about YM and VBS. The official word is “Our youth LOVE helping at VBS.” Street-level reality? You’re either a “VBS Eye-roller” or  a “VBS I’m on it!” kinda youth worker.

If you’re the first, too bad for you and especially too bad for your youth. A bad attitude about VBS costs you and your student ministry PRIME summer coverage.

Here’s reasons and ways to make VBS a “first priority” week in your summer planning:

1) Kill two birds with one stone…so to speak. You and your youth will be coming anyway; so why not add some “youth only” pieces to the week, leaving more room on your calendar other weeks. VBS week can be the time you do the new 6th graders welcome pool party, a special summer Bible study based on the VBS themes, or a youth only breakfast before the VBS day begins (or for you night VBS people, nightly youth VBS helper-only ice cream cone at McD’s).

2) Small Church VBS is Inter-generational Ministry at its best!  So don’t let the youth get stuck doing just the grunt work in places that others don’t w

ant to do. Guard your kids to make sure there’s a good mixing of age levels. Be pro-active in making sure youth are at the training events; all part of the age-levels mixing. At the same time, make it clear that during VBS week, you’re just one of the team. If there are youth helper issues, the VBS chain of command deals with the transgressors.

3) The Rumor is True: A small church can’t pull off a VBS without the youth. So if you’re reluctant, you may be putting a small church’s key summer outreach event in jeopardy.

4) So post the pictures! Let’s folks know what your kids are up. Hit up your church’s website with them because people want to see a church where the generations are integrated.



Yesterday’s post got me thinking.  Why are some projects on a mission trip so hard and others seem to be so “popular”?  I’ve heard the same thoughts and fears and reluctance from students and adults over the years.  In our mission trip context it’s things like…

“I don’t want to ‘just’ paint a house.”

“I don’t want to serve at a nursing home.”

“Why can’t my project have ‘harder’ work.”

“All we did today was sit and play games with kids.  I was hoping for ‘real’ work.”

So often by the end of the trip, those comments have turned 180 degrees.  People see the human side to the “work”.  It often takes time for some people to recognize the true ministry and needs that are met by just interacting with another human being.  When you live in a senior center or are a widow who lives all alone, having the chance to have an extended conversation with another person over the course of several days can be life-changing.  It is one person ministering to another.  A task might not get “done”.  Or a project checked off the list.  But a person communicating the love of Jesus simply by talking with them does happen.

And that’s what is supposed to take place on a mission trip.  God works.  We are a part of that work.  We are there to be used by God to accomplish His purpose.  God’s purpose may be to so some landscaping and beautify the grounds of a nursing hone in real need or God’s purpose could be to be there with that widow playing games for 4 or 5 days.  Either way.  God has you exactly where you are supposed to be.

Darren Sutton’s Everyday youth ministry book Two Sides is on sale for 40% off today only! Here’s a little bit of the product description:

Imagine a world where everything in youth ministry is black-or-white, where simple solutions are always evident, and where one size truly fits all.

Would you like a unicorn with that?

Here’s the reality of youth ministry: Gray often is the dominant color, differing opinions abound, and the way forward isn’t always clear or certain. But just like a wise sage, Two Sides: Finding What Fits Your Ministry will help you through the journey of discovering the right, best answers for your ministry.

You’ll gain insights from veteran youth workers who have wrestled with these debatable gray areas. For example, should we write our own curriculum, or used pre-written material? Should small groups be separated by gender, or combined into co-ed groups? Should I be accountable for regular office hours, or follow an adaptable schedule because of youth ministry’s crazy hours?


I’m sorry, I just love these so much (from Southeast Christian Church in KY) … had to post the other two. Got a great summer camp promo video, too? Leave a link in the comments!



It has taken me longer than usual this month … too much real-life/youth ministry getting in the way of my videogaming, but my Xbox360 gamerscore is now up over 55,000 points. The 1,000+ increase over the last update was due to some serious and not-so-serious gaming:

  • 007: Blood Stone (B+) – fun James Bond game, run and gun the whole thing
  • Air Conflicts: Secret Wars (D-) – completely unplayable. Bummed I even paid $16 for it.
  • Kinect Sports: Season 2 (B+) – fun for the whole family, really really fun.
  • Madagascar 3 (C+) – kids loved this one, we never did see the movie!