I’m pumped to be invited to this year’s D6 Conference this September in Dallas. Here’s their latest video, really convicting stuff. For more on d6, hit up this link.


I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Middle School Ministry Campference coming this fall (October 14-16, 2011) – it is a brand new event designed specifically for junior high/middle school youth workers, and it is a conference…and camp! So normal stuff like general sessions, workshops and great music – but also free-time activities like zip lines, paintball, ropes course etc. Sounds like fun … here’s a quick 3-question interview with Mark Oestreicher, one of the minds behind it:

1) Tell me about your observations about junior high ministry that led you to create this atmosphere for junior high youth workers to get recharged, trained and encouraged?
We junior high youth workers tend to have a paradoxical combination of total passion for what we do combined with an inferiority complex. In so many churches (and at so many youth ministry events), young teen ministry is seen as the youth ministry equivalent of that strange little homeschool kid you just wish someone else would deal with. But, man, we know. We know how critical and powerful this ministry is. We’ve seen how formative these middle school years are, and how students often choose a path for life. At the end of the day, being in a room with a bunch of people who share my strange and unique calling — who get me — is my happy place. A tribal gathering of junior high peeps sounds like a slice o’ heaven to me.

2) Sounds fun! What makes this more camp and less conference? And why wasn’t I invited?
You weren’t invited because you’re a high school sell-out, dude. Good luck with that “corrective ministry” while we kick it in our “preventive ministry.” (Actually, you – and other HS youth workers – would be more than welcome. Someone doesn’t have to be a full-time junior high person to join us — they just have to want to learn and contribute, and be with this awesome tribe.)

We thought about having a more traditional conference. But Kurt Johnston and I were chatting about it, and we thought we needed to do something unique. We decided that ‘camp for junior high youth workers’ was just the ticket. We’ll combine some of the best aspects of a conference (fantastic main sessions and seminars) with some things we couldn’t do elsewhere (experiential learning, for example) and the vibe of a camp (all our meals together, tons of wicked-awesome fun stuff to do that you can never fully enjoy when you’re responsible for a group of 12 year-olds).

3) Tell me a great, quick story that junior high youth workers out there would appreciate. Preferably something gross and/or silly.
Two quick ones:
1. My 8th grade guys small group was recently putting together our own “creed” — things we knew to be true. It was full of pithy statements like “Respect is earned” and “Maturity takes time.” But they insisted on including a very important final statement of what our small group collectively believes: “Farting is best done outside.”
2. I was standing in the baptismal, interviewing Blake in front of the congregation (just remembered this story the other day). I asked him, “Blake, tell us what difference your faith made when your dad died.” He responded, “Well, it made it suck less.” Ah, junior highers — gotta love that truth-telling, baby.


Yesterday I posted the first half of the frequently asked questions about our large group program at Saddleback Student Ministries. We’ve been assembling them for the Radicalis Conference here on campus this week – our student ministries track is jammed packed with info and thought I would share some here on the blog as well. Here’s the other half of the questions, hopefully these will be helpful to you in some way, too:


6. How often do you (as the primary leader of the ministry) teach?
a. Wildside — although he is our Student Ministries Pastor, Kurt teaches 50% of the time in Wildside and the remaining 50% are split up amongst the Wildside team
b. HSM — I speak a little over half of the time, we spread out the rest over guest speakers (mostly internal) and students during You Own the Weekend.
c. Crave – Pastor Brad speaks about 35 weeks a year

7. What roles do volunteers play in your service?
a. Wildside — volunteers lead our music, run games, give announcements, lead grade groups, host sections, run audio/video, etc.
b. HSM – volunteers greet, work crowd, keep order, do announcements, etc. We use student leaders equally or perhaps even more than adults at this level program.
c. Crave – message research, worship leaders, greeters, tear-down/setup, ushers, A / V, 1st time attender’s party and more.

8. What percentage of the service is made up of music?
a. Wildside — approximately 20% of our service is worship through music
b. HSM — we usually have 3-5 songs each service.
c. Crave – approximately 30%

9. Do you use secular music at all? And if so, how?
a. Wildside — Yes. We use appropriate secular music as opening songs, videos, music videos, background music, games, etc.
b. HSM — we use it every weekend during the countdown, often for opening cover songs, sometimes behind games/announcements, etc.
c. Crave – Rarely; we sometimes play it before and after the service just so non-believers hear something familiar.

10. What is your follow-up strategy for connecting with students after the service?
a. Wildside — We aren’t great at follow-up, mostly because we don’t do check-in/out, and thus have a tough time getting accurate contact info on our students. We do encourage our leaders to take note of grade group attendance as best they can, but with four services that gets tough.
b. HSM — our large group time is totally anonymous, if a student gives us their information on a response card we take it very seriously. If a student trusts Christ, we send out a new believer’s packet. If a student checks the “first time” box we send out a little card. Those are the pulse of our ministry, response cards are like gold to this level service.
c. Crave – We email, Facebook and sometimes call those who’ve made commitments or are seeking greater involvement.


If you were at the youth track today at Radicalis you heard about a ton of links and resources to help you with small groups. Here’s a little cheat list to get quick access to the things we love and stuff we use every day. Enjoy!


Live Different by Youth Ministry 360 Now Available

If you were at the youth ministry track today at Radicalis, I promised that most everything I shared was on the blog. Here’s a quick rundown to get it quickly – and if you weren’t there some stuff from the archives that might interest you, too:


It won’t be long before the Simply Youth Ministry Conference sells out … in fact, tomorrow’s advance registration deadline discount may push it over the edge. Either way, I hope you’ll consider attending what I consider my favorite youth ministry training event of the year. Jake and I will be doing another music video, hosting all of the general sessions, hanging out in the geek/technology room and chilling with youth workers like yourself. You in?


This fall our whole team read through Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone – a book that focuses on relationships, networking and giving/receiving an infinite supply of gifts and favors to help you be successful in life. The book was specifically written from a person in the entertainment industry but can easily be translated to a church setting. I found the chapter on conferences the most helpful – I happened to be reading it on my way to a conference so put a ton of it into practice. Keith is a master networker, and dances on the thin line of using people to get where he wants to go. I think he would fully dispute that charge, suggesting that we are all symbiotic to each other, and he would just as quickly cash in a favor for someone else as he would expect it to be done for him. Good stuff to get you thinking about where you’re going in your career and how other people are the key to the journey as well as the destination. Might give you a fresh perspective on relational ministry, too. A


We’ve held a Purpose Driven Youth Ministry (PDYM) Student Leadership Conference here at Saddleback Church the past several years, and right now we’re taking a little break from it in the current season. I imagine it’ll come back again soon, details of it’s return will be here first, but what are other great options for your core students to get some training. Google is sending a lot of searchers to my site looking for the answer – so here are some thoughts on great student leadership events coming soon:

  • Student Leadership University (official website) – I’ve been to a couple of Jay Strack’s Student Leadership events with students and had a total blast. He has a unique and memorable teaching style and each event is set in a unique location. Lots of tracks available, including some advanced international stuff. Not something for a ton of students, if you’ve got some hungry kids looking for workshops, community and challenge, this might be some good stuff.
  • Converge 2011 (official website) – I’ve never been before, but love the lineup for this event in Indiana. I was privileged to record a “digital presentation” for the event. Sounds like a really great program they’ve got planned with some serious names teaching.
  • Dare 2 Share (official website) – I really like Greg Stier – he’s a one message kinda guy, but he’ll challenge your core students to reach out to their non-believing friends with the Gospel. High energy, conference-like event, with a ton of locations all over the US. Not something I would necessarily go to every year, but could be a solid challenge for your students.

What other great student-leadership/core-kid event, training or conference isn’t on my radar? Post it, promo it, plug it in the comments!