The Teen Choice Awards always seem to be a quick window into what students are watching and listening to and I am firm believer that we should be aware. You can see the complete list of the 2012 nominees here.

As I glance over the list I am surprised to see a significant amount of the list be very ADULT. Let me explain, besides the movie choices, I would say a majority of the favorites were not only student favorites but adult favorites. For example, in the drama movie category, We Bought A Zoo…which was a great movie but I am certain the target audience was adults. Or   in drama television category, Revenge…which is an adult nighttime soap opera.

So, what does this mean?

I think this means one thing:

Students are talking about and being exposed to more adult themes and topics on a daily basis. While they may not be mature enough yet to understand the themes…they are being exposed to them. We are naive to think that they aren’t taking in messages and making them personal despite the fact they may not even be the target for the message.

Think about your girls- how many watch The Bachelor? Or how many listen to Rihanna? I am not making a statement about either of them but rather about their content. It’s mature adult content but I would guess that a good amount of them are watching and listening to them.

So, what are we doing?

Hopefully, we’re talking about the themes that they are watching and listening to…the messages about their appearance, relationships, sex and about God’s best for them. I believe the best we can do is through relationships communicate a better way. A better way that includes God’s plans and purposes for them. A way that is BIGGER and so much BETTER than the ways of the world.

Our girls are world changers! Don’t let them miss that because they get caught up in the world’s lies.

What do you think?


Operation Slow-Down

 —  May 22, 2012 — 1 Comment

It’s time for youth group to start, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, finishing last-second details. (Sound familiar?) Deep inside, I know I’m telling every young person, “I don’t have time for you.” But my to-do list beckons.

If someone naïvely dares to stop me, I nervously fidget and struggle to maintain eye contact because I’m worried about dropping the ball on the looming program. I peer over this mere mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown to start time nears zero. I pacify the person who caused this momentary diversion with a shallow promise to connect later in the week. Although I know that probably won’t happen, I desperately need to return to the important task at hand. Just to make sure I’m not stopped again, I take out my phone, participate in a ghost call, and resume my pace.

Ouch! Enough confessional time. Here’s my new plan to conduct Operation Slow-Down:

• I will ease my pace. Walk. More. Slowly. Resist the urge to end conversations quickly and move on to the next project. I want the pace of leisure to be my default and attentiveness to be my act of generosity.

• I will dial-in the program in advance. Work hard during the week so the youth service or meeting goes off without a hitch. Don’t save last-minute details for when people are arriving. Make it a goal to be standing around, with nothing to do, 10 minutes before the first young person walks through the door. That way, you’ll be ready to fully engage with kids.

• I will care about people and the program. I’m a program person all the way. Nothing’s more exciting to me than sharing the timeless message of Christ in creative ways. Tension will always exist between presenting a top-notch service or meeting and spending time with people. But final details and adjustments shouldn’t crowd out expressions of love. Care about the program, care about the creative elements, be proud of your innovative message or creative mini-movie that you spent several late nights sweating over. But be keenly aware of the people who might need you beforehand.

Trying to outdo yourself can become a vicious cycle. So stop walking around with such urgency. Instead, overflow with love for the listeners. After all, that’s who you’re trying to reach.

Originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

I am the thirteenth worst administrative person I know. Being self-aware, I have added some tools to my life to bridge the gap. Tools like a smart phone, iPad, laptop, paper, pen, post-it notes, reminder apps, calendar apps, phone reminders, and Evernote. (If you have no idea what Evernote is click here to learn more.)

Evernote is a dynamic note taking system that lives in the cloud and it is FREE. Evernote can help you keep all the conversations you are having organized. For example; if you have applied to 15 different churches it’s a good idea to know which churches you have contacted, where you are in the process, and if that process ends with a rejection letter you do not accidentally reapply later.

Create a notebook called “JOB HUNT” and add a new note, naming it with a specific churches’ names. In each notebook keep a timeline, critical connection information (contact person, other people you have spoken to, phone number, address, city, state, phone number, email addresses, etc)

Something like (click for larger image)…


You do not have to use Evernote but I think it is a better system than a spreadsheet or a word processor document or a folder with a bunch of word processor documents. Regardless, this should be a huge help in your communication with churches and in your sanity. In addition it will help make sure you do not duplicate what you have done, it is also a good way to know when to contact a church that has not spoken to you for an extended period of time. Bottom line here…write down everything.

How else do you see this helpful?
What else would you add to make this more helpful?

Record, record, record!!!  This is one of those near impossible things to do when you are looking for a job with a job.  If you have no teens to speak to how will you be able to teach in front of teens? If you are recently unemployed your church probably will not let you come back to teach.  So…record, record, record…record multiple talks! If I am hiring you I want to know you have more than one talk and because you have more than one talk you might think the “one” recording you have is not as good as it could be.  If you record for a month or two you will hopefully get a couple talks you are excited to share.

Record Video…
I have not been asked for a CD in about 5 years, so I recommend recording video.  If you want audio you can always pull it from the video, but if you only have the audio of a killer talk you can’t fabricate video.

Find a Host…
You can put your best videos on DVD but you will be better off uploading them to a site like youtube or vimeo. Vimeo has a “Plus” membership for $59.95 a year (see all the perks you receive). Videos hosted on these sites can be easily sent and instantly received, no waiting on mail delivery. If you want to keep you videos private you can lock them, look at what I did here with this message.  It is private and needs a password for viewing.  I have clips live on my website ( for churches and camps to view so they see me in action before they choose to hire me for a week/weekend.  But I also have a few full message available under lock and key…why?  I don’t know…probably just because I can.  CD’s and DVD’s are good but Video and MP3′s are better…do both hard copies and downloadable.

Side Note…
I have clips of me on my site, those are helpful to show I’m a storyteller when teaching but for a job hunt send/have available full-length messages. This is a better way to show a potential employer who you are.


Thought we would take a quick look this week at ways to communicate with students—ways that are Hot or Not. Here’s our take; feel free to offer your opinion in the comments as well:

HOT: Facebook
This is where our money is at right now—the highlight of the tools we’re using to communicate with students. The only downside is that a youth ministry page requires constant updates and management to really be effective. And there’s a desire to spend time on our OWN pages instead of building up the church site. Facebook is where it’s at, so get on board to get it mastered just in time for your students to move on to something else.

NOTE: Our junior high ministry uses Facebook, but not as strategically as high school. We walk a fine line due to the reality that Facebook has age restrictions, but most junior highers are still there.

NOT: Email
When you’re communicating to parents, email is as hot as can be. The older people get the more possessive/stagnant they become with technology. Students on the other hand are quick to jump on what is next, usually before adults have even heard of it. If you are emailing students and it is working, realize that it is a miracle of God and won’t last very long. Email is out.

HOT: Texting
Probably right up there with Facebook is texting—it comes in two flavors: individual and mass, and both work incredibly well. Use a service like Simply Text or Duffled to build a list of everyone, and don’t discount the power of a personal text from their small group leader or youth pastor. Texting is where it is at right now for sure.

NOT: Paper
You’ve gotten very good at Publisher 2003. I get it. You like clip art and flyers made on the church photocopier. We do too, but those days have past. Sorry to be the one to break it to you.

HOT: Facebook event pages
Different from your main Facebook page are the event pages you create for service projects, mission trips, or special events. These are usually syncing with many students’ phones now, so you get calendar reminders as well as triggers built into to social media. A classic win-win-win situation.

HOT: Calendars
Calendars, if they make it home, have a tremendous return. Put a magnet on the back and you might get on the refrigerator for 2-3 months!

NOT: mass postcards in the mail
The shelf life is just too short for a postcard for a series and the cost is typically prohibitive, too. I love these and am sad to see them already fading out, but unless you’ve got cash to spare or a cheap printer to crank them out this one is dropping quickly.

HOT: individualized postcards from small group leaders
This one will never go out of style. Try it out this week: Pick up some postage-paid postcards and scribble out a few handwritten notes this week and see if it works. Or just trust us…no technology will ever replace the power of a handwritten note!

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.

On Sunday we made a big push for our students to bring friends- students lead the service and the Gospel message was given. There were a load of highlights:

  • A load of fresh faces!
  • Students sharing their stories
  • One of my small group girls opening the service with a cover song!!
  • Our amazing care team stepping up to care for the first timers.
  • And this amazing video by Jacob (on our team)- PREPARE YOURSELF…You might want a kleenax!

How was your weekend?


Excited to point you toward the official website of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2013 – one of my absolutely favorite weeks of the year. This time we’re back in Indianapolis, and it is going to be excellent with Lacrae, Shane & Shane, Greg Stier, Skit Guys and much more coming soon. Check out the site and I hope to see you there, too!


Summer time  brings weird scheduling challenges to small churches. Since small churches don’t have a large staff (thus no automatic subs), there are those days where something needs to be planned ‘cuz folks are gonna show up…but regular leadership might not.

Here’s an idea for something to sizzle your small church summer. I borrowed it from myself from an article I wrote for Group about five years ago; I’ve freshened it up, adding in more multi-sensory touches.

 Summer Prayer Stations: Set these stations up around your Sanctuary. Print up Scripture readings to happen at each station. Of course a great (but softly played) sound track always adds to the mood.  Setup the prayer time by  explaining each station, then give folks at least 20-30 minutes to fully participate.

1) SUMMER FLOWERS: As they pick a fragrant flower, have participants thank God for the beautiful things in their life. Make sure there’s something there to give off a flower scent (like a Glades plug in) to involve another sense.  Have them makes a list on flower printed paper.

2) SUMMER SUN: Shine a light behind a picture of a sun to make it glow and have people pray for others to know the Son. Have participants write those names on the picture of the sun or use sun shaped post-its to create an “after the event” prayer reminder.

3) SUMMER BREEZE: Place a fan on low and let it oscillate. As they feel the fan blow, have them think of the times they’ve felt the fresh wind of the Spirit. Attach white streamers or ribbons overhead and allow people to take one to tie onto their car a/c vent as a reminder.

4) SUMMER RAIN: Use a table water fountain and a nature sound machine. As people listen to the sound of the babbling brook or summer rain, have them pray for God to wash away the sins in their lives. If you want to go ALL out, Google rain machines. There are plans online for making it “rain.”

5) SUMMER SAND: When you think of the beach, you think of a refreshing vacation. Place sand in a large low open container. Have people write a sin or struggle in the sand, read the story or the woman caught in adultery and then have them erase their sin. As people touch the sand, ask them to pray for friends who need to be refreshed and restored. Add to the senses by having beach sounds with seagulls softly playing.

6) SUMMER FRUIT: Provide pieces of summer fruit; for ease, look in the frozen section. As each person eats a piece of the tasty fruit, have them pray for God to increase the Fruit of the Spirit in their life. Use lots of fruit and vines as additional visual presentation. Add a fruity scent-sation for smell.

I hope this gives you a spark or two of your own. Be sure to let me know how this works for your group.