Last week we talked about debriefing your summer calendar, and we got a great response from it (largely asking the question, “how?”) and thought it might be good to devote a whole article on the topic. So today we’re going to list 20 questions to help you begin to evaluate your summer youth ministry calendar:

  • What did we plan that was a success?
  • What surprised us that was totally awesome?
  • Where did we get blindsided?
  • Was there a good balance of evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry and worship?
  • Did we lose/gain momentum at any time this summer?
  • What was an epic fail?
  • Where were the wins with parents?
  • Is there an event we need to move to a different place in the calendar?
  • Was the format of our website/Facebook/blog/printed calendar clear?
  • Was there enough promotion for our events? How could we make it better?
  • Is there a sacred cow we need to shoot?
  • Where were our leaders unprepared?
  • Are there opportunities to integrate our students into the church body we should consider next year?
  • What event should we never do again?
  • Were there any surprising turnouts in numbers?
  • Where did we communicate poorly?
  • In what circumstances did parents contact us?
  • Who is a key volunteer we need to circle back with now that summer is over?
  • Was it easy for parents to find out information/download forms/get a registration packet?
  • Were entry level — core students challenged this summer?
  • What was so great we need to consider making it an annual tradition?
  • Which volunteer was incredible and needs to be challenged to be a small group leader this school year?
  • What events seemed best to invite friends to?
  • Where did I as the leader have the most fun relationally hanging with students?
  • Where did we see the most decisions made for Christ?

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.

Last night I got together with some girls to watch Soul Surfer. The girls LOVE(d) the movie. If you haven’t seen it with your girls- you really should! It was better the second time around- it seemed to me that they fixed some of the surfing shots and they look a lot better. Carrie Underwood was a little rough but it didn’t take away from the movie.

I let one of my small group girls dye my hair pink…just one stripe. The whole time she was putting the color in my hair I couldn’t help think of a joke by Doug Fields. He teases youth workers for trying too hard to be cool even after they are 30 and so clearly not cool. Yep, that was me…past 30 and trying to be cool.

Me with my hair stylist. “Staying hip to reach the young people!”

Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Accountability will make you uncomfortable but is critically important in the life of a believer … and join a Life Group this school year in HSM!

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres taught the second weekend in our LAUNCH back to school series. Every year about this time we want to intentionally move students toward life groups, so we intentionally plan a weekend to encourage students to go beyond the weekend service and jump into a group. Jessica taught specifically about the accountability aspect of groups and had great stories about the influence of both peers and adults in her formative years. She did a great job teaching these principles from Scripture.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we’re wrapping up summer and headed into Labor Day holiday and back to school next week. The atmosphere was great – we had a new student on lights who did an incredible job with the energy before the service and the team made a couple of great videos to point students toward Life Groups and to become a part of HSM. Lots of student greeters, too!

Music Playlist: Go, You’ll Come, Majesty, Let My Words Be Few

Favorite Moment: One of our students, Connor Kim, shared his testimony about the impact accountability and his Life Group have made on his high school years. He’s such a stud, it was awesome for students to see a real-life example of what Jessica was teaching from the stage. Between her heart and his experience, I know tons of students will take this next step in our discipleship process. Strong.

Up next: LAUNCH (series finale, week 3 of 3)

Had a convo? with a close friend yesterday that reminded me of a lesson-learned back in…well, never mind. I had several new college freshman hanging around my youth group. They were freshly minted into their new academic world, going to school locally and we were a few weeks into the new school year. That also meant? we had brand-spankin’ new 6th graders, too.

I didn’t know any better so I thought,? “What could it hurt to let the older ones hang on?” (Now, I know you’re probably gonna mock me for the details of the next part of the story but keep in mind: this was cool and common at the time.) We had a guy come into to do some puppet-clown ministry stuff for us. Our middle-schoolers had a ministry in that area of their own so he was there to get the new 6th graders excited.

After the evening was done, we’d had a great time, and said excitement levels had been raised in the 6th graders, I was cleaning up when the three college freshman approached me. “Tonight TOTALLY was lame. It didn’t meet our spiritual needs at all. It was so childish.”

I was caught by surprise because really, in context at that time, it had been a successful night. No police calls, nothing broken in the youth room and my guitar stayed in tune. We’d all laughed and cried at the appropriate times with our guest’s presentation.

“We’re college freshman now and a clown/puppet ministry doesn’t meet our needs.” And that was when I realized these freshman had to go. Goodbye. So long. It had not really occurred to me before then that by letting them hang on, I was really hurting the growth of the whole group: 1) The 6th graders were even more intimidated? 2) the new batch of seniors needed to be allowed to be the “oldest and wisest” and 3) The college kids needed to find their own path in an age-appropriate ministry…which our church didn’t have but that wasn’t my problem to solve.

So, long story short: We found them several options for other college ministies in the area, enacted a policy that college students step away from the program for at least a year and then only come back as adult volunteers, held to all the same standards as? any other of the team’s volunteers.?

It all comes down to this: Your ministry can’t be all things to all people so do what you were hired to do.?


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.