Everyone has an opinion on Halloween… and its alternatives.

candycornOn one hand, I completely appreciate opportunities to remember that Halloween is really a degradation of “All Saint’s Day.” Everything belongs to God, including whatever has been corrupted or changed over the years to reflect something else. It’s why my family is a huge fan of how this season can be a time to sip apple cider and eat pumpkin pie while the leaves change. We don’t do the ghoul/ghost thing, but we do let our kids get dressed up in a fun costume and make the rounds for candy while we bond with our neighbors. That seems kind of important to God,doesn’t it?

On the other hand, I also appreciate the efforts of Christians who believe we should “have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” That word “nothing” is rather powerful, isn’t it?

Churches have tried to come up with alternatives that try to ride the tension between those two thoughts. Sometimes we forget how this comes across, though. Here’s a great one-liner from “Angry Youth Pastor

Harvest Festivals are like substitute cuss words…God and everyone else still knows what you mean. #holyghostweanieroast


Meanwhile, Greg Stier offers 13 ways not to share your faith this Halloween. Here’s a slice:

  • Insert Testamints into marshmallows covered in chocolate and blessed by a priest.
  • Tell the kids who come to your door that Halloween is the Devil’s birthday party (Like my son used to believe.)
  • Give away apples with John 3:16 carved into them. John 3:16 is great but apples? Seriously? Don’t be that house.
  • Go as a zombie with a sign around your neck that reads, “Dead in my sins

Jesus PumpkinPerhaps a more comprehensive summary is what Darren Sutton hits on regarding how Halloween outreach efforts often fall flat.

Somewhere, we decided that Halloween was bad – and we were going to offer an ‘alternative’ (that strangely looks just like Halloween huddled up on our parking lot.) And then we heartily pat ourselves on the back because 700 people show up for free candy and a dunking booth. We don’t get their names, We don’t REALLY meet them, because this time they’re actually wearing real ‘masks’. And somehow we think we have accomplished ministry. And we’ll do the same thing for our Christmas program, Easter pageant, and July 4th celebration.

So… what’s your perspective on all of this?

Darren Sutton is a youth worker and author of the new book, Everyone is Called to Youth Ministry. It released this week from LeaderTreks and is designed to help youth workers recruit, train and encourage a youth ministry team.

1 – you’re on a book writing roll right now! Tell us about your latest project!
Dude, I am so stoked!!  This book is coming out of LeaderTreks.  And when I talk about it, I feel like those geeky scientists who get way too passionate about their inanimate inventions!  :)  I basically bled my youth ministry volunteer philosophy on the page.  I believe every single person in the church has a place in your youth ministry – they just don’t know it yet.  This book tells you how to find them, what to do with them, and how Jesus can rock your YM world through adults walking alongside you in ministry.

2 – great so we’ve gotten the shameless plug out of the way – now tell other youth pastors a funny story from your time in the trenches:
Oh my gosh….they’re like Lays potato chips….you can never stop with just one!!  I serve in a beach community – most all my students are fit and health conscious…they won the anti-lotto when they got me!  One night on a mission trip, we were playing hacky sack…and i was dying to prove how limber and awesome fat guys could be!!  So I went for the rockin’ roundhouse over-the-head, triple gainer, heel-back-toe smash…and fell flat on my back…so hard it literally shook the concrete slab we were playing on and the basketball backboards in the gym we were playing in.  Those kids remember nothing else from that mission trip – and never miss an opportunity to remind me of it!  There’s also the time I mistyped a link address in a note I sent to our church e-mail list on behalf of my pastor…and it ended up linking to porn…and looked like it came from him.  Good times….good times.

3 – what are you most passionate about?
hacky sack….not really.  This is a trick question – because we all know we’re supposed to say Jesus.  But I will answer honestly….my family.  My wife and kids –  I am so out of my league and blessed beyond measure.  (I also like teenagers pretty well…and ice cream rounds out the trifecta.)

4 – you have the eyes of a ton of youth workers – what would you say to them?
STOP STARING!!  What I would really say is don’t give up. You might walk away from church work.  You might dump teenagers.  You might even throw in the towel on yourself.  But don’t give up on Jesus.  He’s the only thing worth going to the mat for….or the concrete slab….

5 – will you dedicate your next book to me?
I don’t know – will you write it with me?


Just finished reading a pre-release copy of Darren Sutton’s new book, Everyone is Called to Youth Ministry (releases tomorrow). It is a great book with a simple premise that in reality is a great resource to challenge you to think creatively how to attract, recruit, train and encourage volunteers in your youth ministry. Excited for you to check out this new resource from LeadersTreks!

If you’re a full time youth worker, you have a lot on your plate. Parent meetings, planning a calendar, budgets, teaching, big events, small groups, keeping your senior pastor in the loop, and oh yeah, building relationships with students. Even if you had multiple people teaming up to take on all the responsibilities of the youth ministry, you still would not be able to get everything done. You need a team, but often building that team seems impossible.

In this bold new look at recruiting and training quality adult staff and volunteers, Darren Sutton challenges our thinking on who is called to serve in the youth ministry. Hint: it’s everyone. Darren’s humor will draw you in, and his wisdom and experience in youth ministry will challenge your perspectives on who to recruit and how to train them. This book will help you look everywhere for adults who can passionately serve in youth ministry. After all, everyone’s called to youth ministry…they just don’t know it yet.


Darren Sutton’s Everyday youth ministry book Two Sides is on sale for 40% off today only! Here’s a little bit of the product description:

Imagine a world where everything in youth ministry is black-or-white, where simple solutions are always evident, and where one size truly fits all.

Would you like a unicorn with that?

Here’s the reality of youth ministry: Gray often is the dominant color, differing opinions abound, and the way forward isn’t always clear or certain. But just like a wise sage, Two Sides: Finding What Fits Your Ministry will help you through the journey of discovering the right, best answers for your ministry.

You’ll gain insights from veteran youth workers who have wrestled with these debatable gray areas. For example, should we write our own curriculum, or used pre-written material? Should small groups be separated by gender, or combined into co-ed groups? Should I be accountable for regular office hours, or follow an adaptable schedule because of youth ministry’s crazy hours?


Darren Sutton is a youth worker and more recently a published author under Simply Youth Ministry’s Everyday Youth Ministry brand. He’ll be at this year’s Simply Youth Ministry Conference and blogs all of the time at http://everyonescalledtoyouthministry.com/

1) tell us about the story behind your new book, Two Sides: Finding What Fits in Your Youth Ministry!
Youth ministry is rarely cut & dried. Don’t get me wrong, there are some definite rights and wrongs in working with students – but most of it isn’t. So I asked some of my veteran youth ministry buddies to weigh in with their takes on those ‘gray areas’. No right or wrong answers – just personal philosophies accompanied with some direction that might help youth workers find their own place to land of some issues that might not have such a clear-cut answer.

2) what was the process like getting published for the first time?
In all honesty, it wasn’t the grueling, heartless prospect I had heard it could be. It took a little longer than expected to get the project off the ground – but the actual process was relatively painless. I submitted a couple of different ideas to the publishing team – they landed on this one pretty quickly and I began to assemble a stellar group of amazing, experienced youth workers to do the heavy lifting of writing down those philosophies we’ve always debated over Starbucks and Sack Chairs.

3) any great stories that didn’t make the cut in the book?
The best stories are in the book! But we did have a few gray areas that will have to remain in the gray, at least for now, because we just didn’t have enough pages to cover them all!

4) prove that you’re human. Give us a classic failure story!
Wow. Where to start? I’ve always been a pretty black and white kind of guy – so if you had told me ten years ago I’d be writing a book an ‘gray areas’ of youth ministry – I probably would have laughed in your face. I’ve always held some pretty serious philosophy on student ministry – but as I read through the segments my friends wrote, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me question some of my well-thought-out ministry plans. One of my biggest failures (which I have worked hard to correct) has been thinking I know it all and my way is always right!! There’s so much veteran-wisdom in this book – my friends have honored and humbled me by agreeing to be part of the project!

5) what would you tell other youth workers hoping to get published?
Publishing isn’t about the author – it’s about the message. Never confuse the two.

Get his new book in eFormat or print-on-demand right here!


The worst part of summer camp? The crash! You squirrel kids away for a week, take away all their technology, and pump them full of nothing but Jesus and they conclude that week connected, hopeful, and holy.

A few weeks later….the camp-drug has been filtered out of their systems and the camp high is crash landing.

Conferences for youth workers can sometimes have the same aftermath. We attend; we spend a week away from ‘normal’. We take the wise counsel offered by Kurt, Josh, and other trusted youth workers to glean the most from our week ‘in the bubble.’ We go home. And after a few weeks of board meetings, parent confrontations, and pastoral smack-downs, our camp high has waned.

How do we make the conference experience more than a camp high?

1. Reflect. Journal. Blog. As God reveals truths to you, write them down. On days when you question His existence, those notes will be important to you!
2. Buy a CD or DVD from the sessions that impacted you most. On dark days, pull those out and revisit what was most inspiring to you.
3. Grab some downloads of sessions you wanted to catch, but had to miss because of scheduling (or napping!) Consider this your ‘nicotine patch’. Schedule some time every month to listen to a new session. Not only do you get continuing education year round, it’s sure to remind you what was best about the conference you attended as it sharpens you personally and professionally.
4. Continue the relationships you built through that week. (Yes, you should be building relationships throughout the week.) We’ve all watched those camp friendships go by the wayside a few weeks after camp has concluded. But with so many ways to stay connected, there’s no longer excuse for that. Maintain those relationships — maintain community.

I’ll confess. I’ve been in youth ministry for 23 years. (Yes….old.) I’ve been to at least 23 conferences. No one — NO ONE — does it like Simply Youth Ministry Conference. They embrace core values that really set them apart from every other educational experience I’ve ever had as a youth worker. That’s probably because they so skillfully intertwine education with relationship. I left that conference feeling valued, known, and understood. I left with ideas, tips, and truths that I am still applying today (3 years later.) I left with friendships that are deep and life-changing for me. I had never known a true connection with other youth workers until SYMC. (I’m going to blog some of those stories over the next two months!) After two decades of bouncing from conference to conference based largely on the quality of the brochure, I left with a commitment to return to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference annually.

Conferences no longer should be solely about playing a better game or building a better Bible study. You can get more than that. You can grab a year-long lifeline that pushes amazing education and training while embracing you, friending you, knowing you, and loving you. Go register….right now!

Darren is a veteran youth pastor (that’s code for old and in it for a long time) and co-founder of Millennial Influence – a resource for parents & youth pastors, including Mi Podcast – a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers. Check out his blog at http://everyonescalledtoyouthministry.com/

Group Magazine Live
Topic: Youth Leaders at Rick
Hosts: Rick Lawrence & Toby Rowe
Guests: Andy Brazelton, Leneita Fix, Darren Sutton, PLUS tons of special surprise guests
When: Monday September 12th @12:30pm MST
Where: http://www.simplyyouthministry.tv/

GML’s second episode will discuss “Youth Leaders at Risk”. We will dive into the what, when, where, why, how a youth worker is to care for students, family, oh yeah and themselves! Guests will include cross-fit expert and 100 mile marathon veteran Andy Brazelton, Leneita Fix (founder of http://www.blueskygreensky.com/), and Darren Sutton (an in the trenches Youth Worker & Biggest Loser Applicant). Rick Lawrence (Editor of Group Magazine) will host, & Toby Rowe (of Group WorkCamps) will co-host. Together they’ll expand on the topic of “Youth Leaders at Risk”, and how to combat the struggles of ministry, life, and health in order to personally draw nearer to Jesus.


Loved Darren’s post over on Everyone’s Called to Youth Ministry about what to do … and what not to do when youth ministry gets tough. Good stuff in here, here’s an excerpt:

So admit it — there are days when ministry isn’t all you thought it would be. I was gonna list some of the ‘less than pleasant’ points of ministry…but if you’re in ministry, you know, because it’s probably happened to you along the way.

So how to deal with disappointment in ministry….

Yell at your wife. That’s what I do. She doesn’t appreciate it and I usually feel like a jerk afterward — but, hey, it’s the way of the Testosterone.

Pout. Suck your thumb. Complain that life isn’t fair. That way, everyone around you will know how hard your job is…just in case there was ever any doubt.