When we started raising our kids, it seemed like Rachel and I had an obvious decision to make: Follow somebody’s prescribed “steps to raising Godly children” or figure it out on our own with scripture, prayer, the wisdom of others, and our own common sense leading the way. We opted for option #2. We’ve never followed a pre-determined plan. We’ve made small tweaks and massive adjustments along the way. We’ve treated our two children very similarly in some ways and completely different in others. It’s been quite a journey, we’re not finished yet…but there is a sort of “finish line” in sight.

But we didn’t use a completely “off the hip” approach to parenting. Even though we knew we were going to take it day-by-day, we did have a goal in mind. In essence, we started our parenting journey with the end in mind. We knew what we hoped for our kids, even though we weren’t sure how (or if) we would see it come to fruition.

Our goal: To help Kayla and Cole become independent, life-long followers of Jesus.

Independent: We don’t want them living in our spare bedroom when they are 30.
Life-long followers of Jesus: Jesus. Not “god”. Not a denomination. Not a certain tradition. Not a denomination. JESUS.

College? We’d like it (Kayla is currently in her second year) but not a goal.
Marriage? Sure. If they marry somebody else who is a life-long follower of Jesus.
Financial Security? Beyond being able to provide for themselves and family? Nice, but not a goal.
Servants? Leaders? Contributors to Society? Integrity? Generous? We’re hoping being a life-long follower of Jesus will sort that all out for them.

I’m sure as you read this some are resonating with the simplicity while others are shouting at their computer screen, “Come on Johnstons, rais the freakin’ bar!”

Here’s some homework between now and my next parenting post (not sure when that will be…it’s not the only thing I’ll post about): Get together with your spouse and write a little “parenting purpose statement”, or one or two sentences that describe what your ultimate goal(s) are for your children. Yours may be much more detailed than ours, which is probably an okay thing! I think this exercise is important because even though there isn’t a perfectly prescribed parenting plan out there, you don’t want to shoot blindly in the dark, either.

Parenting 101: Start with the end in mind.


Kurt / @kurtjohnston

P.S.- Here is a great new resource on parenting! Check out Bold Parenting by Lars Rood to learn more about raising your children to be more than just rule-keepers but have a deep faith of their own.

My daughter, Kayla, is 19 and a sophomore in college. She has become a big fan of the writing and speaking ministry of Bill Hybels’ daughter, Shauna Niequist. So I really wasn’t surprised to see her mention and link to one of her recent blog posts. But I have to admit, I was a little surprised, and almost instantly started sobbing like a little baby, to see which blog post she linked to, and her comment about it.

Screen shot 2014-03-12 at 8.52.31 AM

Raising children in church ministry is tough, and there is no perfect formula. But there is hope! Your church isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your parenting style and skill set isn’t perfect and neither is mine, but there is hope! Your children aren’t perfect and neither are mine, but there is hope!

For years, people have asked Rachel and I for insight into raising kids in a ministry setting, and for years we’ve been having little coffee shop conversations with couples here and there but hesitant to do much more than that. But with your permission, which includes an understanding that there is no prescription to healthy parenting and our way is only that….our way…and that our kids our still wrestling through what it means to follow Jesus as young adults, I’ll begin from time to time to post a few things we’ve learned over the years that may serve as some hope and help for you as you attempt to raise your children while ministering in a local church setting.

Introducing Micro-trainings, happening in the Resource Center on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at #SYMC 2014!

Don’t miss out on these times below! There are 2 options for every 30-minute time slot.SYM sunday 1_15

Here’s the breakdown of the times, and then find the descriptions of each micro-training underneath:


4:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.     - Fundraising for the Big Event with Toby Rowe

- Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter  with Jake Rasmussen

4:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.    – Life Long DiscplesThrough Short Term Missions with Brent Bromstrup

- LIVE Curriculum Demo with Matty McCage



8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. –   Fundraising for the Big Event with Toby Rowe

- Tips for Developing and Deploying Student Leaders by Jeff Wallace

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  -  Domestic Missions with Brent Bromstrup

-  Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter with Jake Rasmussen

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  -   Go Big, Go International: Making Overseas Trips Happen with Students with Jobe Lewis

-  Simply Youth Group Q&A with Toby Rowe

4:45 p.m. –  5:15 p.m.  - One Day Missions with Jeff Thompson

- Engaging Conversation with Jeff Wallace

5:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.  - Convincing Parents That Mission Matter with Jake Rasmussen and Tony Myles

- Simply Youth Group Full Demo with Toby Rowe



8:15 a.m. – 8:45 a.m. -   Domestic Missions with Brent Bromstrup

- Maximizing the iPad (in your Ministry) with Brandon Early

1:15 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.  -  Go Big, Go International with Jobe Lewis 

- Maximizing Your Time: How to Be More Productive Without Pulling Your Hair Out or Dropping the Ball with Melissa Rau

1:45 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.  -  Using Service to Create a Servants’ Hearts with Toby Rowe

Tech Tips Every Youth Worker Needs to Know with Brandon Early

4:45 p.m. –  5:15 p.m.  - Transform Your Community: Host a Mission Event with Jeff Thompson

- Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Team with Jake Rasmussen

5:15 p.m. – 5:45 p.m.  - Designing Epic Mystery Trips with Tony Myles

- Establishing a Youth Ministry Teaching Calendar: Create a Plan for Long-term Impact with Melissa Rau

Micro-training Descriptions:

  • Quick Connect on Domestic Missions, with Brent Bromstrup and Workcamps and Week of Hope (Brent, 30 minutes)

Join this quick, informative conversation and learn how your youth group can change lives and impact communities across the US. You?l hear about options, details, best-practices in preparing, and have time for Q&A. Featuring the ministries of Workcamps and Week of Hope.

  • Quick Connect on International Missions, with Jobe Lewis and Lifetree Adventures (Jobe, 30 minutes)

Considering heading outside the US on a mission trip? Bring your questions, concerns, and curiosities to the resident experts on international mission adventures. You?l leave this time with the information and excitement you need to experience the mission adventure of a lifetime with your students.

  • Quick Connect on One Day Mission Events, with Jeff Thompson and The Big Day of Serving (JT, 30 minutes)

Is there an area of your town or city in need of desperate help? Or a recent disaster that is more than your church can handle? Come and learn how the Big Day of Serving can come along side your church or community to rally hundreds of people to be the hands and feet of Jesus and grow in their relationship with him at the same time.

  • Convincing Parents that Missions Matter (Tony and Jake, 30 minutes)

Struggling to get your parents as excited about missions as you and even your students are? Stop in to learn the best strategies, tips, and answers to overcome even the most stubbornly opposed parent. And we? l talk about the big prize becoming parents?partners in pointing their teens toward Jesus.

  • Fundraising for the Big Event (Toby, 30 minutes)

Don’t let the fear of fundraising keep your group from going someplace big! Come and discover successful fundraising strategies for large trips that will put your checkbook in the black. We?l share our best ideas for raising money from sources outside your congregation, learn how to create a fundraising plan, and more.

  • Making Lifelong Disciples through Short Term Missions (Brent, 30 minutes)

Your next short term mission trip can be the beginning of a lifetime of following Jesus. In 30 minutes, you?l learn how to make that happen through careful planning, intentional times of reflection, and effective follow up.

  • Go Big, Go International: Making Overseas Trips Happen with Students (Jobe and Robin, 30 minutes)

Feeling like you want to take your kids on an international mission trip, but don’t? have the know-how or expertise to get it done? Your students and the people you? l serve will thank you for spending these intensive 30 minutes learning the best practices and preparation for leading a trip beyond our borders.

  • Using Service to Create a Servant’s Heart (Toby, 30 minutes)

Discover ways to transform the hearts of your students through immersing them in service. Together, we?l explore ways to shape a Jesus-focused and others-centric youth ministry. The result a youth ministry that has the heartbeat of Jesus as it changes the world.

  • Transform Your Community: Host a Mission Event (JT, 30 minutes)

Have you ever thought about bringing the impact and influence of a mission trip to your hometown? Stop in to learn what it would take to host a mission event, from one day to a full week, or more. You can begin the process of transforming your community with this one conversation.

  • Simply Youth Group – How-to and Q&A (Toby and Matty, 30 minutes)

Learn how Simply Youth Group can help you have an awesome youth ministry while freeing you to spend time with your students. We’ll cover what it is, what it does, what to expect, and how to best use it. Q&A time included.

  •  LIVE Curriculum Demo (Matty, 30 minutes)

Want a conversational curriculum that guides teenagers toward a Jesus-centered life? Then come check out LIVE a workable, adjustable framework that can be adjusted to the unique characteristics of your church.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Overview: Helping You Work Smarter (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to use TOOLS to free you up so you can spend time doing what matters most. You?l get the big picture of how all the TOOLS resources fit together and how they can benefit you and your ministry.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Communicate: Ensuring Your Message is Always Heard (Jake, 30 minutes)

You need volunteers right now – to fill in the gaps in your youth ministry. We?l help you with the process of gathering, screening and training a stellar team. Includes a TOOLS Team demo. Discover how to best use the current avenues of communication to get your message to students, parents, volunteers and more. Includes a TOOLS Communicate demo.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Team: Discover Amazing Ways to Recruit, Screen, and Train Volunteers (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to let TOOLS keep track of who? attending and who? missing, so you know who to follow up with this week. Includes a TOOLS Events demo.

  • Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS Events: Don? Let Students Slip Through the Cracks (Jake, 30 minutes)

Learn how to let TOOLS keep track of who? attending and who? missing, so you know who to follow up with this week. Includes a TOOLS Events demo.

  • Simply Youth Group Full Demo and Talk Back (Toby and Matty, 60 minutes on Sunday)

Walk through an entire program of Simply Youth Group. Experience the fun, the thought provoking content, and the deep, Jesus-centered discussions that can be delivered to you every week. And give us your feedback that will help shape future SYG programs.

  • Tech Tips Every Youth Worker Needs to Know (Brandon Early, 30 minutes)

With new tech gadgets, apps, and tricks coming out faster than anyone can keep up, how is a youth worker supposed to know which to implement and which to ignore. Stop in to learn the essential and most effective tech tips that will keep you and your students connected and moving forward in ministry. Time for Q&A and how-to.

  • Engaging Conversation and Great Questions: The Keys to Limitless Spiritual Growth (Jeff Wallace, 30 minutes)

Your students (and probably your entire church) have moved past the days of hoping for another great 45 minute message. But leading open discussions is hard, and every time you ask your teens a question, they just sit there! Come and learn the skills of how to guide your students to a deep connection with Christ through conversations and questions.

  •  Establishing a Youth Ministry Teaching Calendar: Create a Plan for Long-term Impact (Melissa Rau, 30 minutes)

Give your students the best shot at growing closer to Jesus while making the greatest impact through your teaching and content. How? By learning the art of creating a teaching calendar. Join us to see how a daunting task can be made simple in a few easy steps, and propel your kids into a deeper faith.

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Thanks for loving students!

Team SYM

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions


Thanks for Loving Students!





In two short days I’ll be heading to Simply Youth Ministry Conference (SYMC), which I believe to be the VERY best gathering of youth workers on the planet. Or to say it another way, it’s a gathering of the very best youth workers on the planet! So today I offer some SYMC randomness.

Concerning Workshops: I like to break my workshop selections into thirds: 1/3 of the workshops I attend are led by people I already know and like, talking about stuff I probably already agree with and “get”. 1/3 of the workshops I attend are led by people I tend to disagree with on many things, and will stretch my thinking. 1/3 of the workshops I attend are led by people I don’t know at all, speaking about stuff I’ve never really thought about, so I will be exposed to new voices and new topics.

Concerning Schedule. I tell my team, “It’s not a conference unless you ditch something!” So I always (translation: ALWAYS) ditch out on a general session, a workshop, etc. in order to have an extended meal with friends, catch a movie, take a tour of the city, etc.

Concerning Atmosphere. I think the best way to approach SYMC is with the mentality that it’s like camp…for youth workers! It’s gonna be loud, fun, challenging, faith stretching, and more. And like we often say to our students before camp; “God might just show up and do something powerful in your life…If you let him.”

Concerning Networking. I’m one of the folks that doesn’t like the word “networking” because it makes meeting new people and making new connections sound so shallow and agenda-driven. But hey…use the conference to meet new people and make new connections!

Concerning Youthworkerdiscounts.com. This fun little venture is officially launching at SYMC. If you promise to wear it at the conference, we will give you a free YWD T-shirt while supplies last! Somebody from YWD will be hanging out in the Christ in Youth booth most of the time. Come say hello! P.S. All YWD members now got 30% discounts at simplyyouthministry.com! Join the club, save lots of money and help give free resources to small youth groups!

Hey Simply Insiders!

As many of you know, Jake Rasmussen, our SYM sales guy with the mostest, loves him some bright pants.

They are so fantastic that they have a personality of their own (@jakeorangepants anyone?!).


Awkward Day in the Life of Orange Pants


Orange Pants with his Besties Jeremiah & Sarah Isley



Because #YMNation is a democratic group of youth workers, we want to keep the responsibility of all important decisions with the people. So what color pants should Jake bring to #SYMC this year? Vote below! Be on the lookout for the winning color running around at #SYMC (just 7 days y’all!)


What new color of pants should Jake wear this year at #SYMC?
electric blue
hot pink
neon yellow
sea foam green

Poll Maker



Orange Pants Selling Books at SYMC

Orange Pants and Stitch out on the town.

Orange Pants and Stitch out on the town.





Thanks for voting!! 


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Students are bombarded daily with messages about sex, about their own sexuality, and little of it borders on Truth. Rather than try and stifle their natural curiosity with a simple “Wait until marriage,” this series digs in deep to reframe sex in light of God’s design and purpose.

The topics for this four-week series are:

Week 1 – Created In God’s Image

Week 2 – God’s Word On Sex

Week 3 – Sex Is So Much Bigger Than I Thought!

Week 4 – Messing Up To Making Up

TODAY’S PRICE:  $4.00  (regularly $27.99)  SAVE 85.7%.


Thanks for loving students!

Team SYM

While supplies last and/or expires at 11:59pm mst on 02.28.2014.

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions



Top #SYMC News!

 —  February 27, 2014 — 1 Comment

1. The official 2014 SYMC app for your phone and tablet is now available for download!

Go to your favorite app store and search “Simply Youth Ministry Conference.” Download the FREE app and get started using all of its awesome features like scoping out dining options by price, see what’s happening now, get connected with all of the conference social media, and much more!


Click here to download for Android


Click here to download for iPhone


2. The 2014 SYMC Participant Booklet is now available for you online here.

You can also access the book to flip through in the official SYMC 2014 app under the Conference Details icon!



3. FUN FACT: Sean Little, an energetic hip-hop/rap performer from Indiana, and The Bryan Drake Show, a Jesus-centered illusionist, are going to be performing live from the Group Magazine Stage at SYMC!

What What! These guys are pretty great. In fact, you can watch Sean Little’s I AM SECOND story here to learn more about his passion for what he does and why. Then go check out the sweet tricks/illusions Bryan Drake can do on his promo video here!


Sean Little – I AM SECOND


Bryan Drake Show Promo


Only 8 Days Left Until Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2014 is finally here! It’s still not too late to sign-up and join other youth workers for this meaningful experience!