Forty years ago, when GROUP Magazine was an infant, the “rules of evangelism” were well-known and commonly accepted.

Today, the cultural landscape is a harsh ecosystem for conventional ideas about evangelism. In youth ministry, it’s still high on the “to-do” list, but very few actually model or train students in how to do it.

We have to find a way forward—a path that will lead young people (and us!) to a mindset that frees us to engage others about the person and promise of Jesus. So long-time GROUP Magazine editor Rick Lawrence asked two friends who are passionate about Jesus and natural evangelists, Carl Medearis and Greg Stier, to discuss the future of evangelism. They come at this from very distinct vantage points…

You can watch their discussion! We’ve condensed and split the entire conversation into four video segments here. A complete article is available to read online or in print from the special edition 40th Anniversary issue of GROUP Magazine.




Then, JOIN the discussion on the future of evangelism. Greg Stier, Carl Medearis, and Rick Lawrence will be answering questions and sharing more thoughts during a LIVE Twitter Q & A on Tuesday, September 2 from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. (MDT).

Tweet your comments and questions to them at their usernames below:

Greg Stier – @gregstier

Carl Medearis – @carlmedearis

Rick Lawrence – @RickSkip

Don’t miss out on this and more excellent youth ministry-focused content! For a limited time only, a subscription to GROUP Magazine is only $9.99. Subscriptions include 6 bi-monthly issues each year in both print and digital format. SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

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Hey Simply Insiders!

Hope this back-to-school season means an influx of new students and the return of regulars for your youth ministry! It can be tough to keep track of who’s attending and who’s missing. So to help you through this busy time, we are doing a special FREE extended 45-day trial of the EVENTS tool from Simply Youth Ministry’s TOOLS!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!


Here’s how EVENTS can help you:

* Generate Revealing Reports on:

  • who’s missing
  • who’s new
  • who’s attending
  • and more!

* Administrative Events:

  • Add the what, when, and where details.
  • Send out event invitations.
  • Send emails or texts to all registered, attendees, absentees, etc.

* Track Attendance:

Check in students yourself or allow them to check in via

  • desktop
  • laptop
  • Android
  • iPad
  • or iPhone!

Start a trial by creating an account. Once you are in the system, you will be able to enter promo code FALL to get your special free 45-day trial of EVENTS!

Have questions about EVENTS or other Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS? Contact Jake Rasmussen at 520.661.9846 or jrasmussen@simplyyouthministry.com

Let us know how it helps you in your youth ministry!

Keep on keepin’ on,

Amber / @youthministry


Leveraging Chaos

 —  August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

chaosYouth ministry brings with it a built in level of uncertainty, disorder and chaos. While many youth workers feel the need to minimize these aspects (books have been written, seminars taught, and blog posts written to help), I think a better strategy is to leverage them to your advantage. Here are a few thoughts:

Leveraging Chaos

- Many people find that they are most creative in a crisis or under pressure. Use the most chaotic times in your ministry…when your brain is firing like crazy…to think of areas in your ministry that need an extra dose of creativity. When you are problem solving in one area, leverage that energy to problem solve in others, too!

- Make a change! Most people simply try to survive the chaotic seasons of ministry. But when there’s a lot going on, why not add one more thing…like a significant change or course correction. People like smooth sailing, which is why they dislike change. So, making a change when the water is already a little rough oftentimes is the most strategic time.

- Ask for more resources! Times of tangible chaos (high growth seasons, busy seasons, when your church is adding multi-site campuses, etc.) is a great time to ask for more help. Financial help, volunteer help, etc. It’s always good to be able to point to something obvious and tangible as a reason you are making an extra ask.

- Reassess. Use chaotic seasons to make a fresh assessment of things. What is causing the chaos? Is this chaos the good kind (the result of growth, God’s spirit moving in unexpected ways, etc.) or the bad kind (result of poor planning, trying to do too much, doing the wrong stuff, etc.)? Youth ministry is always going to be busy, but are you busy doing the right stuff, the stuff that matters to you, your church and the kingdom (and…do you, your church and the kingdom agree on what that stuff is!)?

Don’t fear Chaos; leverage it!

- Kurt / @kurtjohnston




Want to hear more on the topic of chaos in youth ministry from Kurt Johnston? Download his talk, Controlling Chaos here! 

For the record, I know this isn’t the first “ice bucket challenge” post on the internet.

(Check out Brandon Early’s great coverage here and here, and Rick Lawrence getting drenched here)

The spotlight all of it has provided for ALS has been outstanding. You can hear one man’s personal comments on it here (warning: some raw content).

Mark Zuckerberg took on the ice bucket challenge, calling out three others in his network to do the same.

Mark Zuckerberg took on the ice bucket challenge, calling out three others in his network to do the same.

I more want to bounce around some of your and my insights on this as it relates to how people view Christianity and church in general.

As Brandon explained:

The Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon involves dumping a bucket of ice cold water over your head and then challenging three other people to take the challenge within 24 hours. If those people you challenge do not want to accept, they are suppose to donate $100 to the ALS Association. These donations help the ALS Association fight Lou Gehrig’s disease.

According to an article at the Huffington Post, the ice bucket challenge itself involves “one part challenge, one part charity, sprinkle in some celebrity and cook on high with Facebook.” Many people are doing it because someone else tagged them to do so, most of whom aren’t actually donating money to ALS.

So what is the takeaway? Why is this so popular?

Please share your thoughts. Here are three of mine:

  • lewis-stacy-icebucket-640x360It’s quick. No one is being asked to go out and become “polar bear” swimmers. You won’t be under the cold water for more than a few seconds at most. People are more willing to try new things if it’s either a one-time thing or they have a quick out. To quote the Huffington article, “You can do something from your computer — or from your yard — that makes you feel good, but doesn’t actually do anything.”
  • It’s random. This activity asks and gives you the chance to answer the unconscious questions you ponder while seeing others do it. For example, “What would *I* look like under cold water?” or “Is this something ‘new’ I can try that is relatively safe?” If you’re tired of your daily routine of work/homework/housework, why not throw a bucket of ice cold water on your head?
  • It’s communal. Anyone can do it – young or old – and become locally (and possibly globally) famous if they post a video doing it. You can likewise tag others in an attempt to connect with people you actually know or form a connection with others you want to know (even if you don’t actually know them).

waterHere’s also one thought… on what it isn’t:

  • Legalistic. Want to only stand under a sprinkling can versus a downfall of ice water? Or how about involve beer and a shotgun? You decide. Don’t want to donate to the ALS fund, but want to make a funny video getting wet? There’s no law that says otherwise. While others may give you a hard time for your choices, you get to choose your experience… because it’s America, dang it.

So… that said…

it’s all fun, but…

(and please add your own insights)

How does or doesn’t this describe the average person’s faith?

Does this encompass what people seem to want from church?

i.e. “I have no problem doing this one-time thing because it’s fun… but if it involves a real commitment or actual financial sacrifice, I’m no so sure about that if I’m not ‘feeling it.’”

If a church doesn’t offer something that feels quick/random/communal, how does that affect its viral popularity? Could you build a church/student ministry “faster” if you did those things? Should you?

Do people really just want to stay at an “ice, ice baby” level of faith and commitment?

Is it all just fun… or is there any parallel to 2 Timothy 4:3?


Yesterday, Brandon Early challenged Rick Lawrence to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

He accepts…and challenges Andy Brazelton, Bono, and Mark Burnett.

Who else has participated in the challenge? What’s the favorite video you have seen?

- Amber / @youthministry


goodbetterbestI have a bias regarding the content I’m about to share with you.

The truth is that you do, too.

My bias isn’t that I write for this blog, which in turn tracks back to Simply Youth Ministry and Group Publishing. It would lame for me to just tell you what I think I’m supposed to write here versus what I really think about anything. I’d hoped by now you’d see that coming and know better from me and any of the other diligent writers here. We’re here to encourage and serve you through thoughts, questions, stories and more.

youthgroupMy bias… is that I want what’s best for the students our church serves.
My bias… is that I want our youth workers to feel equipped with content so they can be more relationally freed up to invest into students.

With me so far?

Ready to own a bias of your own?

It’s why I’m telling you to go check out Simply Youth Group right now.

SYGLogoI first dove into the content in the spring after picking up a free DVD at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. It was in beta-mode at the time, and yet still was a fine product that we immediately took advantage of in our church. The games and videos all complemented each other well, which further drove home whatever point we were trying to glean that day.

That’s just it, though – there was more than one fixed idea we hoped the students would grasp. While Simply Youth Group competently offers a biblical takeaway with each lesson (which addresses at least one of nine essential faith questions), its main offering is the “inquiry-based learning” approach. In short, it’s your personal on-ramp to Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry as you pose questions to your students just like Christ did.

Again, let me confess one more bias.

I write curriculum throughout the year, be it in-house for our church’s ministries or for publication. Not only do I have a critical eye for what we’ll use with our tweens and teens, but I’m likewise aware of my own limitations as a writer/creator. The resources provided in Simply Youth Group (for about $10 a week) are beyond what I can produce on my own. I’d guess you might feel likewise, even if you have the skills but prep time always seems to be an issue each week for you or your adult volunteers.

sygCurious? Interested? Try the free trial for a month.

Disagree? Have questions? Feel free to share your comments.

While you’re at it, feel free to share your bias and what you’re looking for to serve your students and leaders.

Happy Thursday, Insiders!

This week marked the launch of a brand new program called Simply Youth Group with weekly, ready-to-go videos and lessons for ministering to teenagers. (Learn more about Simply Youth Group here.) Since it’s brand new, I thought it would be fun to do a Q & A with one of the thought leaders behind this innovative resource, Rick Lawrence.

What is your role in the production of Simply Youth Group?


I’ve been part of the team that envisioned and crafted Simply Youth Group from the beginning, and I oversee and help drive the “content quality” on an ongoing basis. Most of the great invention stories lead back to somebody’s garage, so let’s just say we created Simply Youth Group in Andy Brazelton’s garage (we had to clear space in there by relocating his sweatshop sewing machines).


ThomWhen was the idea for Simply Youth Group born?

We’ve spent more than a year working on this idea. In the beginning, Thom Schultz (CEO of Group) envisioned a resource that would appeal to the hundreds of thousands of youth workers who don’t have the time, bandwidth, and resources to create a highly engaging, Jesus-centered “program” for their teenagers week-in and week-out. Most of the youth ministry happening around the world is driven by people who do what they do in the margins of their life. We want to help them.

Who is Simply Youth Group for?RichardSimmons

It’s for anyone in youth ministry who wants a highly engaging, story-based way to get their kids talking about the intersection of life and their relationship with Jesus. It’s for people who want a simple-to-lead, simple-to-prepare resource that does all of the prep work for them, leaving them time to do what they do best—build redemptive relationships with students. It’s not for crash-landed Martian aliens, bronc-busting cowboys, or Richard Simmons.

WhatisTruthWhat are you personally most excited about in the launch of Simply Youth Group?

Well, I’ve already been using the prototype version of Simply Youth Group for four months or so in a small group for senior highers that my wife and I lead in our home, so I already know how this thing fuels incredible conversations. My heart and passion is to help the kids in that group grapple with the real Jesus, not the milquetoast Jesus most of them have grown up hearing about. Simply Youth Group lessons are unforgettable and magnetic—I know from firsthand experience how well they launch great conversations about the “essential questions” kids have about life and their faith. The launch of Simply Youth Group also means we’ve moved our production headquarters from Andy’s garage—I guess I’m most excited about that.


RickLA little more about Rick: 

Rick (rlawrence@group.com and @RickSkip on Twitter) has been editor of GROUP Magazine for 26 years. He’s author of the just-released book Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry (simplyyouthministry.com). He wrote the books Sifted (www.siftedbook.com) and Shrewd (www.shrewdbook.com) and the upcoming Skin In the Game (2015) as an excuse to immerse himself in the presence of Jesus.


 Start your FREE 30-DAY Simply Youth Group trial!

- Amber / @youthministry


Simply Insiders!

We are thrilled to introduce you to our newest youth ministry program today. Meet Simply Youth Group!WhatisTruth

Simply Youth Group lives up to its name—it’s an easy-to-use resource that captures students’ attention while fueling a deeper commitment to Jesus.

Based on a proven growth strategy called “inquiry-based learning,” Simply Youth Group engages teenagers with everyday topics and compelling stories, then builds bridges for them to get closer to Jesus.

Every week you get a new digitally-delivered program, each one connected to one of nine “essential questions” that matter most to teenagers. We never explore the same question twice in one month.

This resource maximizes your spiritual influence in students’ lives, and sets you up as the architect for a rich environment of growth. Watch the video below to learn more!

Simply Youth Group Explanation Video from Simply Youth Group on Vimeo.


It’s truly so simple. But don’t just take our word for it. Start your FREE 30-day Trial now!

- Amber and the SYM Team



P.S. – We want your feedback!! Start your trial and let us know what you think by emailing Matty McCage at matt@simplyyouthministry.com and tweeting us at @youthministry.