Do you ever feel like your ideas are confined by the size of the devise or space available to write or draw them out?  Something that is important for ministry is to stretch the imagination and allow God to use the creativity He gave us for His glory.  I am very excited to share about a new product that creates not only the atmosphere, but the space to hold any idea or picture someone in your ministry can dish out.  IdeaPaint is a paint-on dry erase board that can go on any surface imaginable.

What are the perks? 

  • Imagine a space in your ministry that allows the freedom to express and respond to God outwardly.   The idea of creating an environment for a student to freely respond to God through writing or drawing should get you excited.
  •  IdeaPaint doesn’t have to stop in your classroom. Imagine brainstorming with your co-workers on an office wall, and posting quotes of fun things kids say.
  • Greatly priced, there are two products; one with a 10 year warranty and a second backed with a lifetime warranty.
  • The IdeaPaint WRITE dry-erase ink (Markers) offer bold color and is certified AP Nontoxic and conforms to ASTM D4236” (this means anyone with allergies won’t have a problem with it)

Does this pique your curiosity? Check out IdeaPaint’s website yourself.  Their site is very user friendly and will open your eyes to even more ideas of what you could do with it.

Below is a short video of how the product is used in a classroom

John Jensen is currently an intern in Children’s and Family Ministry at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  He is also in his senior year at Moody Bible Institute, majoring in Children’s Ministry. Read more posts from John at

It is always a bonus to have a series bundle (logo, presentation slides, video bumper, colors, theme, etc).  You might want to do it yourself, but do not have killer Photoshop skills (TIP: Can’t afford Photoshop? Try GIMP or one of these other FREE Photoshop alternatives).  You don’t need to be a great designer, you just need a little creativity.  Here are three approaches to coming up with and building a teaching series bundle.

The Moderate DIY:
Maybe you have some Photoshop and After Effects skills and want to create your own series bundle.  It would be irresponsible of me to try and give you design advice.  Everything I know I have learned from YouTube tutorials, pstuts, aetuts, and videocopilot.  If you don’t know how do do something, just Google it.

What I can offer you are a few sites I use for inspiration:
•  I buy several templates a year from videohive.  If you have basic After Effects knowledge, this site will make your work look great and it will help you regain a lot of lost time doing motion graphics.
•  Flickr-storm – I find this search site pulls the best flickr images.  There are even some useful search options.
•  Creationswap
•  Church Marketing Lab Beta

The Novice DIY:
•  Use similar colors. Have a common thread running through all your elements.
•  Buy backgrounds, like Back Packs Vol. 6 from Simply Youth Ministry, and use these for your series, then add your own images and/or text. (Click the link below to get 20% off any of the backgrounds at Simply Youth Ministry!)
•  Go to dafont or fontspace and download a font that is series specific (one more common thread). Use it in all your handouts and slides.

The No Skills DIY (Download It Yourself):
I am not ashamed to use other’s graphics.  This makes our series look good, it saves a ton of time, and there are great sites that are offering their resources for FREE. Download quality series graphics from…
•  Elevation Church

PLAN IN ACTION: For our current series I went to and downloaded this font.  The font is our logo for this series. Then I went to and purchased this After Effects (AE) project file, added the words I wanted, and changed their font to the font I downloaded.  You can see the video bumper and font in action below.  Feel free to download the video directly from Vimeo’s website and this Photoshop file.  It contains the title slides, blank slides, and an interactive element (I cannot give you the AE file since I purchased it but I created the Photoshop file).

This is all part of my series development process.  It is clearly not the only way to do it, but I hope this helps you or maybe creates some space for you to spark some of your own ideas.

Before I get to my message prep, I need to plan out a series. If you need help there, check out yesterday’s post.  When I teach, I try to be humorous and practical, but most of all I make sure my messages are grounded in God’s word.

I follow a super short flow:
…make a point
…biblically based
…illustrate it
…make it practical

Go get a sandwich, bring it back to your office, find a pen and paper, and watch this episode of “The Simply Youth Ministry Podcast.”  Kurt and Jake talk lesson prep with Josh Griffin, High School Pastor at Saddleback Church and blogger at

I do not have lesson prep or the planning of a series down to a science.  A lesson or series often bubbles up from my time in God’s word, from something I am reading, conversations with students, comments from staff, etc.  Our youth staff take time in the summer to map out what the year will look like but we keep that teaching calendar firmly flexible.  I will stick to it unless another need pops up.

Here is an Excel spread sheet you can download and use as a template. It is pretty plain but maybe it will spark some ideas.  If you don’t have Excel you can still view the file by uploading it to Google Docs or you can install the free office suite Open Office and view/edit it there.

I came across a series of posts on calendar planning from Scott Hodge, a pastor in the Chicago suburbs. I appreciate the strategy and intentionality behind these post. I hope you find them as use as I did.

Teaching Calendar Planning Part 1
Teaching Calendar Planning Part 2
Teaching Calendar Planning Part 3

A few advantages of knowing in advance your teaching calendar is you:

  • have the ability to gather better illustrations.
  • can pull together some students and staff and form a “Creative Team” to work on series elements weeks out (drama, video clips, music, etc).
  • can find guest teachers well in advance (this helps me plan vacation time away too).
  • are better prepared to inform parents and staff about upcoming topics.
  • feel better being prepared.

If I don’t plan time to plan, it just won’t happen.  Schedule time away…a day or a weekend.  Create space to pray, reflect on your group, and your group’s needs.  Come back tomorrow to pick up some lesson prep tips, insight, and ideas.


PLAN IN ACTION: Here is the arc of our current series “re:” put together by my wife Keri.

Psalm 51:12  Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Week 1 RE:STORE (Series Title)
-This would be an intro to the series. We started out perfect in the garden, but are now fallen. Although we will never get back to that perfect state this side of heaven, God in his grace allows us to start over again and again. There is a process modeled throughout the Old Testament (including Ezra and Nehemiah) of how we can restore our lives and our hearts when we have fallen away from God.

-Vive means life. When we are living with sin in our lives it leaves us feeling dead inside. David describes it well in the Psalm 32 as “wasting away” when we keep silent and don’t confess our sins. We are all sinners, we need to confess our sins to God. He is faithful and just to forgive our sins when we ask.

Week 3 Re:Purpose SUBMISSION
-Are we willing to let God use us in any way He sees fit? Do we trust that even now He is preparing us for good works which he has already prepared for us to do? We often feel the desire to make a name for ourselves or manipulate circumstances to go our way. We need to rest in knowing that God has a purpose and plan for us and that every detail of our life will be used for His glory if we allow Him full control.

Week 4 Re:Group SEPARATION
-Regroup is defined as being reorganized to make a fresh start. When we have been revived through confession and repurposed through submission we need to complete the restoration process by breaking ties with the world. Are there people, place or things in your life that are influencing you away from a right relationship with the Lord? We come to God through sacrifice, but we walk with God through separation.

Coaching Your Volunteers

 —  October 25, 2011 — 1 Comment

Ah, the fall. High School Football. You can see your breath. You’re eating overpriced nachos from the under-staffed school booster club concession stand. There’s nothing better than the crack of the football helmets hitting together. The cheerleaders in the background, the coach barking commands to his team. The team listens then works together in perfect unison to score a touchdown.

The difference between the picture we just painted and your role as a youth worker? You’re not in the stands in the youth ministry game, my friend. You are a coach. Here are some thoughts about coaching your volunteer team in the seasons ahead.

PRESEASON (late summer)
A coach in this season is focused on making sure his team is ready to perform at the highest level. Training and conditioning are the key. Preparation is essential for success on the field. In your ministry pre-season (July/August) make sure your team is trained and ready for the challenges of the season ahead.

INSEASON (school year)
A coach in this season is focused on winning games. Watching game films, evaluation and adjustments are key here. A youth ministry coach needs to constantly be evaluating services, programs and people to make sure each are working effectively. You can make changes at this point, but they have to be the right ones because the game is on the line.

OFFSEASON (summer)
This season is hardly “off” right? We recently looked back on this past summer and it felt busier than another other season this past year. So forgive us where the analogy breaks down a bit — but a coach in the off season becomes a strategist. They change up the playbook. They toss out what wasn’t working and experiment with something new. They take advantage of the lull and focus on recruiting new talent for their team. They plan ahead and make sure they are ready for when the team is assembled in the preseason once again.

Go get ‘em, coach!

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 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 summer was incredible so this summer we’re hoping to build on what we learned and have another great break. Here is a little insight behind what HSM has planned for this summer. If you haven’t seen the calendar and list of events yet, you can check it out here:

All about relationships
The summer is all about hanging with students. We embrace the beauty of time off from school and the different pace around the church office. Summer = relational ministry goldmine.

Free, free, free
Summer camp is the signature event to kickoff the summer and the only one that costs money – after that every event is totally free. In the past we have had events that each charge admission, and over time these add up to frustrated parents and limiting participation.

Low prep time
The events on the summer calendar are meant to be low-prep time events. They are basically excuses to do relational ministry. Prep for Free Coke Friday? Grab some frisbees and a cooler of Gatorade. Done!

Regular recurring events
Want to remember the summer schedule? Every event happens 7 times this summer. 7 Midweeks, 7 Free Coke Fridays, 7 Bagels & Bibles. If you come to one, you can figure out the schedule for the summer. If you’re free on a Friday, you know what we’re up to that day.

Lots of Bible time
One of the big emphasis of our summer is plenty of time in the Word. One of the advantages of no small groups and no high school classes is that we have blocks of time and regular opportunities to pull off our own classes fr spiritual growth.

What should we try next summer that is working for you?


I might not be the best person to take time management advice from – I perpetually run about 15 minutes late to everything. So I don’t have it all together but have found a few ways to squeeze a little extra productivity out of the work week. Here are a few of the ones I like the most:

Get a 10-minute jump start on your day the night before
This one might not be the best one for everyone in case it would upset your restful sleep – but for me I can get a ton of work started if I do a quick check in right before bed. Once the family is set for the night and the house is quiet, I like to steal 10 minutes on webmail to set the day tomorrow. Maybe a quick scan of the calendar, a short reply, or an awareness of tomorrow’s challenges help me prepare mentally for the next day.

Turn off work on your day(s) off
When it is time to be off – be off! I realize that many church cell phones are also your personal phone, but you’ve got to shut them down. If you play hard, it’ll help you focus on work when it is time to work. Religiously take a day off, and make sure you’re really off.

Ditch TV unless you’re exercising or being productive
A great way to make sure you get both exercise and entertainment in during the week is to combine them. If you find yourself killing too much time on the couch, limit the amount of TV you watch by time on the treadmill. You might be surprised by what you could do (start a blog, write a book) if you force yourself to be productive at the same time or drop TV altogether.

Cut the distractions in the office
Turn off your email alerts. Disable Facebook’s constant stream of interruptions. Make sure Twitter isn’t always stealing your focus and concentration. Close your door if you have to. When you give yourself wholly to a task or complete it, reward yourself with a social media break or walk around the church office.

Lump similar tasks together
Let’s say you have to make 5 phone calls, write 15 cards, return 16 emails and work on budgets with multiple people. By putting these tasks into chunks of time you’ll be able to knock them out more quickly. Get in a rhythm, crank out the calls or projects all at once.

How do you squeeze more work into your work week?