It’s back to school season – and for us that means we pour a ton of effort into our fall kickoff weekend, our first big series and the launch of small groups. Thought I might make some recommendations for some great youth ministry resources that might help you as you head into the start of another year.

Small Groups
Must have: Small Groups from Start to Finish by Doug Fields & Matt McGill
Solid: Small Group Strategies by Laurie Povich
Worth the price: LIVE curriculum

Fall Kickoff Weekend
Must have: 1 Minute Bible by Doug Fields
Solid: Spin That Wheel from Digital Stache
Good video: FAITH by Youth Ministry 360

The 1st Teaching Series of the Year
Must have: 1 Month to Live by Doug Fields
Solid: All My Belongings by Jeff McGuire
Worth the $10: Exposed! God’s Plan for Sex by Kurt Johnston

For your volunteers
Looks great, never read it: How to Volunteer Like a Pro by Jim Hancock
Shameless plug: 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders by me! Told you it was shameless
Worth the price: TOOLS: Team from Simply Youth Ministry

For your own personal growth
Must have: What Matters Most by Doug Fields
Solid: Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries
Worth the price: the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Louisville, KY March 2012


Read most of Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them by Ed Stetzer a while back and thought it had some good insights into the spiritual mind of the next generation of students/young adults. It felt like another in the series of books that is hoping to reveal, motivate and train the current church how to reach the next group coming through right now that is spiritually lost. It is based on significant data and extensive research at Lifeway – clearly Ed’s thing if you read his books or blog – so if you read UnChristian, The Slow Fade, Essential Church? you’ll know the drill. Honestly the book felt familiar but definitely worth reading at least for sure the chapter summaries and the conclusions at the end.

1. Creating Deeper Community. Churches that are effective connect young adults into a healthy small group system.

2. Making a Difference through Service. Churches that are transforming young adults value leading people to serve through volunteerism. They want to be a part of something bigger.

3. Experiencing Worship. Churches that are engaging young adults are providing worship environments that reflect their culture while revering and revealing God. They want a vertical experience with God.

4. Conversing the Content. Churches that are lead by authentic communicators are drawing young adults into the message.

5. Leveraging Technology. Churches that are reaching young adults are willing to communicate in a language of technology familiar to young adults.

6. Building Cross-Generational Relationships. Churches that are linking young adults with older, mature adults are challenging young adults to move on to maturity through friendship, wisdom, and support.

7. Moving towards Authenticity. Young adults are looking for and connecting to churches where they see leaders that are authentic, transparent, and on a learning journey.

8. Leading by Transparency. Churches with incarnational leaders, those who express a personal sense of humanity and vulnerability, are influencing young adults.

9. Leading by Team. They see ministry not as a solo enterprise but a team sport.


There’s a great new app I just downloaded that was created by a youth pastor for youth pastors. RJ is a middle school youth pastor who has come up with a great way to use his iPhone for ministry. He’s the creator of YS’ MyGuitar app and just released Clips, an app with you in mind. I got a chance to talk with him about this project and future stuff he’s got cooking for us next:

Can you give everyone a 15-second description of Clips?
My new app (check it out right here on iTunes) is all about helping people engage with the Bible by using scenes from great films. It’s an app for pastors, small group leaders, youth workers, and parents. Clips tells you what scenes to use, what topics you could teach, the verses you could use, and even some potential discussion questions.

Where did you get the idea for CLIPS?
I always love when I can use movie scenes in my message. The Videos that Teach books have been one of my most used and most given away resource. I use it; our small group leaders use it. With the iPhone, I thought that an app like this could actually be even more helpful because leaders could have it with them wherever they go.

You’re a youth pastor. Tell us how someone might use the app in the trenches of their youth work?
This fall our middle school ministry is doing a series called “Now Showing:” where we take movies and teach through big ideas from the scripture using movie scenes. I often use the app when I’m writing a message and feel like it needs something else to help illustrate a point. In the next school year, many of our small group leaders will have the resource as an option for curriculum leading their small groups. I’ve even had one student leader use it in his school-led bible study groups to help with the discussion. Pastors, volunteers, and students can all find use from the app. I’m also hoping to see parents begin using the app as a tool for discussions with their families while they watch movies.

You can’t actually watch the videos from the device with a simple touch which is the only part I didn’t love about it. Is that a feature that is coming by chance? What other kind of updates are you working on in the future?
Unfortunately due to licensing, I can’t actually have the videos on the device. I’m working on figuring out some creative solutions to that problem, but at this point it’s still trial and error.

The updates that I’m working on right now … for sure the movie library needs to grow so I’m working on building that app as much as possible and we’ll be adding a “suggest a clip” feature so users can help me generate ideas. In one of the next versions Scripture readings will be built into the app, too.

As for updates that are further down the road I for sure want to find a solution for watching the movie scenes right on the device and also making Clips a universal app for iPhone and iPad.

That’d be awesome – I’m iPad2 all the way so universal is a must. So it costs a couple bucks to get Clips – any chance you’ll give me a few free codes to giveaway on iTunes to whoever reads this first?

Yes. It’d be cool if youth pastors gave the codes away to their volunteers. First come first serve on these: FMF9N9JP7KK3 and T99RT3MHJ7RH

*codes expire after 28 days or as soon as Clips gets updated

Thanks for that, man! I’ll save one for Twitter randomly this afternoon, too. So Clips is incredible, what’s next for you? Got another cool one cooking?
I’ve been trying to focus on ministry-related apps since its a niche that my code skills intersect with my passion for youth ministry. At this moment, I’m focusing on some of the bigger updates that I’d like to see happen in Clips so that it can become one of the go-to resources on the iPhone. There are also some cool apps that may be coming for potential clients, but I’ve been asked to not share those. I try to primarily do my iPhone stuff on days off from church-work so between updating Clips and client work, I haven’t worried much about turning my other ideas into apps.

Shameless plug: I also blog (

Dude, I’ll subscribe to you right now. Thanks for your time!


I love hanging out at camp and want these students to feel like this is a special place where they are free from expectations, peer pressure, or distractions (Xbox or cell phones). But while I want them to feel free to do a lot of fun and amazing things, I think a couple of times the volunteers and myself need to stand up and say no. Here are three that happened at middle school camp that I have shared with my volunteers:

Don’t Cut Girls Hair
Since we keep different cabins for the boys and girls, after 9PM I have little control over what happens in their cabin. So I received a surprise when the girls came up and each had a new haircut. At the time I chalked it up to crazy girl time that I did not understand, but when the parents saw it after we got home, I received an ear full. Apparently one of the girl’s felt pressured to do it and hated the results. At that point, it did not matter that she rededicated her life or really made some amazing connections.

Make Sure They Eat
It was not reported to us that one girl was anorexic, but at the beginning of camp she was not eating much of her meals. After sitting down with her and having he promise to eat, it did not become a problem the rest of the year. It really was not a big deal until her parents talked with us after camp. Apparently, our encouragement and non-judgmental attitudes completely removed her doubt of self-worth. Those few days back, she ate more at family meals without putting up a fight than she had in years.

Support The Parents
A lot of junk comes out at camp, in cabin time and one-on-one’s. Some of the time, those conversations lead to how much they do not feel loved by their parents or that they wish thy were around more. This is not the time to give false hope, but we want to support an uphold the family. Reminding them of good memories, love even in busyness, and sharing in what could be after camp is a perfect way to honor the parents.

Jeremy Smith is a 26-year old youth pastor at the Air Force Academy chapel, working for Club Beyond, and attending Denver Seminary for his Master”s of Arts in Counseling Ministries. He has been involved in Youth for Christ for eight years — check out his blog at Seventy8Productions.

 —  August 27, 2011 — 1 Comment

Kara Powell, Chap Clark and Brad Griffin (no relation) have kicked off – a new website and book designed to help youth leaders and parents disciple their kids with a faith that lasts. I just got a copy of the book last week and am hoping to read it soon – until then I’ve been jumping around the new site a bit and found a great article on what new college freshman need to hear from their youth pastors:

Head there to check out the site and read the rest of the article, too!

Students’ biggest priority during the first two weeks of college is to establish friendships and figure out where they fit in. Across the board, the freshmen we interviewed indicated that these first two weeks are absolutely critical for creating a social life. The primary–and most accepted–way to do this in college is to engage in the party scene. All too quickly, partying becomes a regular part of the weekly routine for many freshmen.

Often, kids who come out of youth groups have been told over and over what “not to do.” We’re usually pretty good at giving them a list of temptations to avoid, but perhaps not as helpful in equipping students with healthier strategies for other real-life needs like finding friends. Our research affirms that the first few months of college can be incredibly lonely for students who are away from family and life-long friends for the first time, and who may show up not knowing a single other person on campus. Desperate to begin to build new relationships, students go where those from their immediate living situation (roommate, floor-mates) go to find friends. The last thing they want is to be “left behind” on a weekend night. And once they’ve tried the party scene they feel hypocritical if they then add commitments to Christian groups, simply layering “Christian” onto their new identity. Others intentionally decide to shelve their faith and “do the college thing,” intending to pick faith up again later after they’ve enjoyed the party scene guilt-free for a while.

In The First Year Out: Understanding American Teens after High School, sociologist Tim Clydesdale describes this freshman phenomenon as an “identity lockbox”. Students recognize that faith is “good for them” in some way as part of an adult lifestyle, but see it as something to put on hold in order to attend to the more immediate needs of their college lifestyle.


Look Somewhere New!

 —  August 26, 2011 — 2 Comments

Posted by Scott Rubin

So I’ve recently taught my sons how to golf. (which is a bit challenging, because it’s tough to teach something you’re not so good at. But that’s another post) All 3 of my sons love it … but one of them is equally excited about finding other people’s lost golf balls. Especially since we got him one of those extendo-golf-ball-retriever things.

He’s actually gotten really good at it, too. (finding the golf balls… not so much golfing yet.) The last couple times we’ve played 9 holes, he’s found 15 or 20 — and it hasn’t taken him long at all. (Mostly because I’m constantly saying “We can’t make the group behind us wait for us!!)

See, when we go from one green to the next tee, there’s usually a path that everyone takes… and then there’s a whole bunch of overgrown vegetation all around. But my son never takes the path. And that’s where he hits the jackpot.

Where am I going with this?

Well — at this time of year, we’re always looking for new, great small group leaders. And most times there’s a “usual path” for that.

–Make an announcement in the adult church service. Put an “ad” in the bulletin. At least for us… that usually doesn’t help that much.

We’ve always had the best luck by leaving the path. Looking somewhere new.

- Like asking all our current volunteers & asking who they know who’d be crazy & cool enough to hang out with junior highers. And then calling them.

- Like setting up a table outside the room where we have our middle school services, with a highlight video rolling, and an extraverted volunteer standing next to it to see which adults are drawn to watch.

- Like targeting our 20-something ministry and shamelessly inviting people to come check out our middle school service just one time.

- Like asking everyone & anyone we know for recommendations for new volunteers … and then giving them our best vision pitch.

- Like other, more creative ideas than this that you can think of, if you spend a minute!

Inviting people into the adventure of middle school ministry can be a challenge … but slowly & surely we’re finding the volunteers we need to point these students towards Jesus! PS — We still need a few more … you have any awesome Jesus-following friends in Chicagoland who want to help us? :)

You might not have noticed yet that Slant33 has been relaunched recently but the premise remains the same: 1 topic, 3 perspectives. I got a chance to jump in on the question How Far Do You Plan Out Your Youth Ministry Calendar? What’s Your Process? Why? Here’s part of my thoughts on the topic, click through for the complete thought and to get the other 2 takes from Brian Berry and Lars Rood, too:

I love Google Maps. When you load the homepage, the default view is zoomed way out, showing you the whole United States. Type in an address and it zooms in quickly to show you a specific region. Click “street view” and BAM! you’re looking at things as if you were literally walking through the neighborhood on foot. Kinda creepy, since this means Google is stalking us, but kinda awesome at the same time. And a great example of how we typically plan our youth ministry calendar.

We first take a look at the big picture of our ministry then zoom in on the season ahead and finally get a street view all the way down to the current teaching series and events.

It is a wise idea to get away for the day and get a big picture of your ministry. Take a break from the pace of ministry and the distractions of email, voicemail, and the persistent nagging of Google Plus and wrestle with an overview of your youth group. August is the perfect time for this!

For some, this is a simple task because they live in the world of ideas and vision. For others, it will be challenging to stick your head up over it all and get a glimpse of the whole.

Key questions to ask yourself at this big-picture stage:

  • Where do you think God wants to take students in the next year?
  • What worked well last year, and will it work again?
  • What annual events would be effective again this year?
  • What needs to get the ax?
  • Have you blocked out your week of vacation?
  • Where are we strong, and where are we weak?
  • Is there a good balance of God’s eternal purposes for our ministry (evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, worship)?


Heard this brilliant nugget of ministry wisdom on my drive to the airport this morning. Here’s how it translated in my mind for smaller church youth ministry:

1) You can’t have trained, resourced volunteers if you don’t provide, well – training and resources. (Brilliant, huh? I got a million of ‘em.)

2) You can’t get students into worship if your worship doesn’t “get” students.

3) You can’t get your senior pastor to understand your needs if you don’t see the need to understand his/hers.

4) You can’t open your heart to that irritating student if you close that student out.

5) You can’t have a growing class or study if you’re not providing ways to grow.

That’s all for now. You get the idea. Simple thoughts? Yes, but sometimes we miss the simplest things in our ministry efforts.