13-week curriculum + 4-week sermon series $5.99 TODAY ONLY (save $45.99)

Core Truth: The Trinity (13-week curriculum)

+ He Did What? (4-week sermon series)


Regular Price $55.98 — SAVE $45.99!

We’ve combined 2 of our favorite Jesus-Centered resources into 1 powerful downloadable bundle. TODAY ONLY these two resources are available at the amazing price of $9.99.

You want your teenagers to be rooted strong in their faith. Core Truth: The Trinity is the curriculum to help you accomplish that every week! Here’s a snapshot of what’s included:

The Nature of God Jesus Christ
  • The Triune God
  • God’s Mercy
  • God’s Righteousness
  • God’s Awesomeness
  • Jesus’ Birth
  • More Than Mr. Nice Guy
  • Jesus’ Suffering and Death
  • The Resurrection
  • The Ascension
The Holy Spirit
  • I Believe in the Holy Spirit
  • You’re Empowered to Live a Holy Life
  • You’re Never Alone
  • You’re Guided by the Holy Spirit

He Did What? by Doug Fields will take your students through four of the most instructive miracles in Jesus’ ministry and the lasting impact those lessons still have for today. He Did What? is an inspiring, time-saving message series that will bring your students face-to-face with the miraculous power of Jesus—a Savior who still calls them to follow him.

4 Miracles of Jesus
  • Week 1 – John 9: Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind
  • Week 2 – Mark 2: Jesus Heals a Paralytic
  • Week 3 – John 5: The Healing at the Pool
  • Week 4 – Mark 5: Jesus Heals a Sick Woman

READ SAMPLE CHAPTER . . . . . . . . . . . . BUY NOW

Offer expires at 11:59pm mdt on March 31, 2014.

Thanks for loving students!

Jake Rasmussen and the SYM Team

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions

Random Randomness

 —  March 27, 2014 — 3 Comments


A variety of Randomness!

* What is the best book/tool/resource you’ve come across clearly explaining and helping teenagers articulate and share the Gospel?

* Saw Divergent last night. Although it wasn’t completely true to the book (movies rarely are…isn’t that true, Noah?), it managed to “feel” like the book, to me. Watching it pretty much felt like I imagined things to feel when I was reading the series.

* So many lessons to be learned from the World Vision happenings the last few days. Chief among them is how quickly news, opinion and commentary travel in today’s small world.

* By Mid-summer, Saddleback will have launched youth ministry in three of our international churches (Buenos Aires, Manilla and Hong Kong). Exciting stuff! Challenging stuff! Good times ahead!

* The two youth ministry books I’m most excited about right now:
Jesus Centered Youth Ministry by Rick Lawrence
- Can I Ask That? by Jim Candy, Brad Griffin and Kara Powell (actually more of a curriculum than a book…)

* Tonight I have the joy of attending the first ever parent gathering for parents at one of our smaller campuses. Lalo, our new Youth Pastor in Huntington Beach, is an amazing young leader who has made the wise decision to make ministry to parents one of his early goals. Can’t wait to be a fly on the wall tonight!

What Defines Your Youth Ministry? Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry


Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry

Moving from Jesus-Plus to Jesus-Only

by Rick Lawrence

There’s a surging hunger among teenagers for Jesus. In fact, that desire is so deep, it’s #1 on their “wish list” for what they’d like to talk about at church. So what would a youth ministry look like if it shifted toward a passionate, persistent, and permeating focus on drawing students into a closer orbit around Jesus? Inside the pages of Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, you’ll discover the foundation for a ministry that is Jesus-centered, along with the bricks for building it. You’ll discover that not only is it possible to create this kind of ministry, it’s also essential that you pursue this path.

READ CHAPTER 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . BUY NOW

Thanks for loving students!

Jake Rasmussen and the SYM Team

Call Jake at 866.9.simply with questions


If I ask you why you care students are in your youth ministry, you will probably say something about helping them growing in “their faith.”  I inquire, “Okay, who do you want them to be?” You say something about them being fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Yet, if we are honest when we take a step back and look at how we RUN our ministries, it is not always with the end “result” in mind. We plan a calendar, take trips, run small groups, and do activities. Some of us will say our focus needs to be helping parents disciple their children, others say we need to build student leaders, outreach, share the Gospel, or simply pour into our youth. However, I would contend there are two questions that should drive everything we do in our ministries.

1.  When a student leaves us, what will they look like?

I, of course, am not talking about their voice and body changing into an adult. Let’s say a family enters your church and has a baby. This baby grows up in the church through all the ministries and then graduates, leaves home, and heads out into the “real world.” Who is that young adult? A fully devoted follower of Christ? What does that mean? Do they read their Bible everyday, tell others about Christ,  pray often, and enter the mission field?  What is it? How is everyone in your church working together to see this happen?  The time of the “siloh” between nursery, children, youth and adults needs to be over. What are we doing to work together to grow our children?  Let’s stop “starting over” every time our kids enter a new phase of life, and instead see each of us as part of their journey into their lives as a someone taking the world for Christ.

2.  How does what we are doing “influence” who they are becoming?

The second question has to do with our programming and approach. There was a time where I would say the main question we needed to ask before embarking on anything was, “How does this build a relationship?” That is still vital, and it’s a great filter. Yet, still we have a tendency to make plans based on who is standing in front of us today,  not in the future. When we plan this way, we run everything we do through a sieve of purpose. It helps us know what not to take on, and what might need readjusting. So you take students on a missions trip yearly. Why? How is this part of the journey in the Lord? What do you need to do to get them ready or to follow up with them afterwards? Are you teaching them about service and why that matters when they are 8 or 9-years-old and again and again before the trip ever happens? This helps with equipping parents and growing the body of Christ as a whole.

These are not questions we can ask once, but often. I contend they should be asked anytime the church does anything. At least quarterly, sit down as a full staff and see how you are working together. It doesn’t really matter if a student jumps in when they are 5 or 15-years-old.  When we do ministry this way we are all about moving with Jesus all the time.

Are you asking these questions?



When Kayla was born, Rachel and I made an immediate decision that has fundamentally shaped our approach to raising kids. It was a decision based on a reality: Our kids didn’t choose to be born into a pastor’s family! My wife and I together choose the way of ministry, of our own free will. It was forced upon Kayla and Cole from the moment they entered the world.

And so we determined to raise our kids not in a “Pastor’s home,” but in a “Two parents who follow Jesus” home. Obviously, ministry and church life have saturated the fabric of our family. Kayla and Cole have been raised as Pastor’s kids and we wouldn’t have it any other way. But we strived to, and mostly succeeded at, letting our faith in Christ dictate how we raise our kids instead of the expectations, pressures and spotlight of being a Pastor.

Here are a few super practical examples:

- We have never (I truly believe, NEVER) expected anything more from our children because of my position than we would if I were, say, a Christian dad who fixes cars for a living.

- “What happens in youth group stays in youth group”. Here’s what I mean by that: I rarely share with parents about their kid’s minor youth ministry infractions. When a kid is rowdy during the lesson, we deal with it in youth group and move on…his/her parents would almost never even know it happened. So Rachel and I determined we would treat our kids the same way. When one of our kids goofed up or misbehaved in youth group, it was dealt with just like any other student….and then left in the youth room, just like any other student.

- We have ruthlessly defended their right to be normal kids. Our kids deserve the “right” to go through all the normal adolescent stuff: awkward dating breakups, ditching small group to see a movie, making a poor decision or two…or three. When people have raised a “Kurt’s kids should be above this” eyebrow, we have been quick to defend our kids and protect them from the goofy pressure that members of the congregation put on PK’s.

- We gave them very few “perks”. Entitled PK’s drive me nuts. The Pastor’s kid who doesn’t think the rules apply to her. The Pastor’s Kid who knows the rules don’t apply to him, because he has been allowed to fudge on the rules over and over again. Our kids had some perks (attending most of our camps and events when they were little), but not many.

Anybody out there want to share one or two ways you’ve tried to “normalize” the childhood of your ministry children?

Hey Simply Insiders!

There are a million and one theories, strategies, and methods out there for how to approach youth ministry. In Rick Lawrence’s new book, Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, all those tactics are sliced through to get back to the core of who youth ministry is truly about- Jesus. It’s all about moving from Jesus-plus to Jesus-only in a life-altering and ministry-changing way. The book was originally written 8 years ago, but this edition has 75% fresh content derived from what Rick has learned since its first print.

Check out the video below to hear Rick share about his heart behind Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry, and be sure to click here to learn more and purchase your copies!

Want to win a copy of Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry for each person on your youth team?

Share a photo on Instagram of your youth team with the caption “All of us at [insert church or ministry name here] can’t wait to read the new Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry by Rick Lawrence! #ymnation @simplyyouthministry”

*Don’t forget to tag us! Winner will be announced tomorrow (3.20.14). This is an Instagram only contest!


“All of us at SYM can’t wait to read the new “Jesus-Centered Youth Ministry” by Rick Lawrence! #ymnation @simplyyouthministry”

Happy ‘Gramming Insiders,



It seems like everywhere I turn these past weeks I have had conversations with those in ministry as to whether or not I will be taking students (or friends, or anyone) to see the “Son Of God” or “Noah, ” movies that are both sonofGodbeing released this month.

In the Christian community we have many thoughts on movies “like this.”  On the one hand they are big budget movies with a wide national release.  We love the movies like, “Facing the Giants,” but these are different.  They  are “top tier” movies that give us the ability to show our “unchurched” friends that these “stories” from the Bible are powerful and relevant.   However, I also have seen some annoyance at the continued portrayal of Jesus with perfectly white teeth and obviously blow dried hair.  In Noah, I have heard moans at the fact that Russell Crowe is playing a man from the Middle East.

noah_movie_poster_1It’s easy to either over or under emphasize movies like this. Churches are buying out entire theaters to encourage their patrons to attend and take friends. They want to show “Hollywood” that indeed those of us in the “Christian community” will make the time to see something like this. In contrast, I have friends who have declared they will not “give money to more misrepresentation of the Bible.”

I admit it, when “The Passion of the Christ” was released we took over 200 students to see it on the big screen. It is still a movie that shows a powerful representation of the days leading up to and the crucifixion of Jesus. While we all love to see Charlton Heston play Moses, (even decades later) there are some things we need to keep in mind when it comes to the Bible based movie and our students.

Personally,  I am not sure if I would take “ALL” of the students and their families to see these films, but I would (and probably will) take some. What do we do to prepare?


Take the time to go through the actual Bible passages with those in your programs and tell them what might be coming. We know that Jesus didn’t “stand out” based on his ugly or gorgeous appearance. It was dusty and people walked everywhere, there wasn’t “Crest” to perfect the smile. Noah and his family did not have British accents (Can someone explain to me why this is the go to accent for all movies in history?). No, Hermione was not Noah’s daughter in law. What might they encounter that IS and IS NOT in the actual Word?

It’s A Movie:

There is a cool scene from the Noah trailer that shows the flood springing up from the ground and the sky. This is the first time I have ever seen anyone acknowledge that it may not have been just a lot of rain that brought water over the earth. No matter how awesome it is,  WE WILL NEVER REALLY KNOW what everything looked like. Someone told me recently how wonderful it was to see the way Jesus walked around on earth and interacted with people. Let’s remember, this is one person’s interpretation of that.

Great Conversation Starters:

Don’t throw the “baby out with the bathwater” as they say. These movies are great conversation starters, and people are interested. I think many of us are intrigued to whether or not the “stories” of the Bible could be fascinating on the “big screen”.  If nothing else they are epic stories. Go to the movie with some students and talk about it afterwards. Even if they don’t care what was “really” in the Bible, what are the concepts about faith and trust and God that you can use to get a conversation rolling?

Personally, I will take some students to see these movies. Actually, we had a great time in one of my small groups recently walking through the story of Noah, line by line. One of my Seniors actually declared, “I hope they show it took over 100 years for him to build that monster in the middle of a desert!”  It was a great time to discuss what “poetic license” is.  We don’t know any conversations Noah had with anyone outside of God during the building of the ark. We do know he was the ONLY person on earth listening to or caring about a relationship with God. We also know that God told him to do this crazy thing and he did it. Finishing up, I asked them, “Could you have faith like Noah?”  We talked about having a relationship with the Lord that is SO close you will do ANYTHING. It was fun and inviting, and they can’t wait to see it. We will go together. Then after we see it., we will make a “day of it” to go out and talk about it.  What a great way to really tell them what we think about the Lord and what a relationship with Him looks like. We get an inside scoop to hear their thoughts as well.

How about you?  How are you using these movies for the Lord?



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.