Excited to get my hands on Kurt Johnston’s newest book The 9: Best Practices for Youth Ministry. A couple of the chapter titles feel right/expected – starting with soul care and listening to God’s Spirit. I love the emphasis on evangelism and volunteer development, which comes naturally for my gifting. But I’m excited to dig more into valuing families and contextualized programs and events (honestly, I’m not even quite sure what that means). Congrats on the new book, Kurt, there’s a lot to think about from the chapter titles alone:

  1. Nurture Your Own Soul
  2. Build an Awareness of God’s Active Presence
  3. Encourage Personal Spiritual Growth
  4. Foster a Sense of Evangelistic Urgency
  5. Increase the Congregation’s Appreciation of Students
  6. Provide Opportunities for Relationships
  7. Develop Confident, Competent, and Committed Adult Leaders
  8. Consistently Value Families
  9. Create Contextualized Programs & Events


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend: Trabuco Hills HS (series premiere: week 1 of 5)

Sermon in a Sentence: Christ calls us to a live a life unified together for His glory.
Service Length: 71 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we kicked off the completely-student-run series You Own the Weekend. We debuted the series last year after a student threw out the idea to me after a weekend service – it turned into the largest series of 2009. It is back this year, and Trabuco HS student leaders set the bar high as the series kicked off. The message this week focused on unity, and the power of people banded together for one cause. The clear challenge was for Christians to be unified, and it gave a clear invitation for non-believers to become a part of God’s family. A student taught the message broken up in a few parts with 3 testimonies sprinkled throughout.

Volunteer/Student Involvement: The weekend was completely run by students – from the early planning stages through execution. Aside from one adult adviser to the group, all of the adults were there in a purely relational capacity. Really incredible to see – students have been involved in lots of “day of” opportunities to serve – greeters, camera, band, etc but the real work of You Own the Weekend happens in the weeks before – as students invite their friends to attend the service. The goal was that every student would get an invitation to the weekend service.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Students chose to play Party in the USA and Fireflies during the countdown video, and opened with a Trabuco Hills Rap – it was really creatively done – I don’t remember us ever opening with a live rap before. So fun, so much school pride, they even made a slideshow to run behind the music, lots of picture of their school and students. They also brought in the school mascots to dance around, and used www.polleverywhere.com to put up a few interactive cell phone polls.

Music Playlist: THHS Alma Mater Rap, Tear Down the Walls, another song I forgot

Favorite Moment: This weekend was filled with great moments – the biggest of them all is the continued reminder of the connection between student involvement and evangelism. And that students are capable of SO much when given a chance.

Up Next: YOTW: El Toro HS (week 2 of 5)

No leader enjoys the notion of failure. In the split categories of good and evil, failure is considered evil, success is considered good. Just thinking about certain failures in my own life brings back emotions that stir the depths of my being. Why? Because failure in front of those we live, play, and work with is embarrassing. It just plain hurts.

But we all fail. And some of us are persistent failures. It happens, it is how humans learn, and how we deal with it makes all the difference.

A while back I was not a Youth Director, but rather, I was a Youth Ministry Assistant. In gradations of youth ministry scales, that is just above an intern, and just below a director. You’re supposed to know a few things about youth ministry because you’ve already been an intern and now you are set loose to discover freedom with a few oodles of responsibility.

Upon being hired and oriented, I was given the reigns to a very important ministry in the youth group: the Friday night outreach program. The youth director told me that I had the freedom to brainstorm, propose, and implement the program with hopes that I would be successful in creating a space that community youth would like to come. The guidelines were that it would involve food, music, fun, and some form of evangelism.

Given freedom, I was terrified. When someone is in charge of you and gives you orders, you can always blame the orders or the one giving the orders for failure. Freedom changes that. I had to take responsibility for what would be implemented and I would be making a culture all by myself. In charge of the programs destiny, I began to worry. What if my ideas were not received well?

I tossed and turned during the nights, and wrote up drafts and proposals for the program and presented what I had come up with. It was very practical. We had been moving into a new building with a gym, a game room with pool tables and ping pong, and we had a stage in a gathering area with a nice sound board. So I decided that each week I would bring in a local band. We would start the night off with a big game in the gym that would bring everyone together, and those who didn’t want to listen to the band could hang out in the game room. It seemed simple, and so I presented the whole shebang with schedule from band load in to sound check to a quick devotion and the night would end. The presentation was well received and I was given the go.

And I was terrified.

As I thought through my simple plan I realized that there were many moving parts. (1) I had to bring a team of volunteers along to get used to a new building and a new program culture. (2) I would have to email and call and MySpace about 15 bands in order to fill in every Friday night for a season. (3) I would need a sound tech to work with several servant oriented people to help get the bands in and ready. (4) Amidst the hubbub, I would be giving a short devotion, a reflection, or a scripture verse. And (5) I would have to build relationships as the host to all the students coming through the doors and ensure that they were connected to each other and to leaders in a positive way. Lastly (6) I would have to get the gym game up and running. Oh, and I forgot to mention (7) I would be self conscious of my evaluation from my director.

Thinking through all the moving parts made me more nervous than ever, and as the first date got closer I became somewhat paralyzed. There was a point while I was searching for bands, in which I did not know if I wanted to move forward. I knew I would, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to. But I thought about how I felt and the notion of failure continued to weigh on me.

In passing with my director I decided to let him know how I felt. I told him that there was a lot to get going and I wasn’t sure of the excellence of everything that needed to come together. Time was going by and not all the t’s were crossed, nor all the i’s dotted.

I’ll always remember how he responded. He said, “Don’t be afraid to fail.” It was simple. He told me that I was allowed to try, and if it failed, then it failed. What was I going to do? Permission to fail! I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly I felt much better. Being a perfectionist that often falls short of my own expectations, I realized that the possibility of failure should not stop someone from doing something that needs to be done. So I went ahead and booted up the program.

After four years with spits and spurts of growth pains, and with the perspective and help of a new Youth Pastor to work with midstream, I would say that the program got to where I wanted it to be. But it took many failures and people still believing in me to get it right. In the end, students were getting connected, leaders were doing relationship evangelism, student leaders had developed, I scrapped the band every night idea (allowing it to be special when a band did come) and added video games and music from an iPod set list, and the gym games continued to be popular. The program grew, and new elements added either failed or succeeded. Even after leaving, that program continues to minister to students.

If only I had listened to Christ’s words on the Mount:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? -Matthew 6:25-27

All ministries are a risky venture. Many of us will fail, but the weight is not squarely on our shoulders. The spirit of God is looking out for us when we are trying to do good for Him. Trusting, obeying, and in that, not worrying too much about failure is a part of serving God. He is greater than us and takes us to places and builds things we cannot imagine. Fear and trembling at anything other than God will paralyze you and you cannot do the work you are called to do in a state of paralysis. Just start doing what God is calling you to do. Persevere, and you will find something valuable at the end of the road.

Daniel Griswold is the Director of Youth at St. Andrew By-The-Sea UMC in Hilton Head Island, SC. Check out his blog at http://danielgriswold.wordpress.com or on Twitter.

As a youth minister, I usually have one or two activities each month. I am usually good at planning great events. I make sure that each event has a purpose (evangelism, equipping, encouraging). I work hard at doing good things for the right reason.

Unfortunately, I sometimes miss the most important aspect — inviting God into the planning, action, and follow up of my event planning. Sure, I’ll pray that events go well, I’ll pray during them (especially lockins! You need prayer during lockins!) And occasionally I pray afterwards, usually when things go wrong and I am mad at God for letting all MY great planning go to waste.

From talking with youth ministers that I know, this is a common problem. Its nothing malicious or devious, its just that we…forget. We get so caught up in our great plans, our great devices, that we forget to check if this is on God’s agenda. So when things go right, we did a great job. When things go wrong, God messed up. Really? I don’t think so…

Here is how I believe we should approach praying for our events and activities -

1. Preplanning — Event planning often goes back 6 months to a year. Before you even sit down to plan your calendar, you should kneel down and ask God for guidance on what He wants HIS youth ministry to be doing in the next year. As you pray, reflect on the students you have, pray for them and ask that God gives you the wisdom on how to minister to that student. Think about the students in your community, and pray that what you do will reach them this year. As you think through the calendar, pray about each individual event, asking God to bless it and do more than you can even imagine. Finally, when you’re done, pray again over the whole year (or six months or three months) and ask God to work throughout this year in you, your ministry, and your students.

2. Preparation – Sometimes events are quick to get ready for. Sometimes they take hours and hours of time and energy. As we get ready for events, the first action we should do is pray for the event. Pray over the steps of preparation. Gather together with your leaders (students and/or adults) and pray for it. Some events like a trip to Kings Island or Laser Tag won’t require tons of prayer. But don’t neglect the power of the “fun event” because those times of relationship building are often more valuable than a big evangelistic outreach. Ask God that your students will be open to talk with and that your words will reach them in some way.

3. During an event – If you don’t have a prayer team, I encourage you to recruit 3 or 4 adults (or more if you have them!) to pray for your teens. Give them a list of stuff to pray for during an event. BE SPECIFIC! Don’t just say, “Pray for life change”. If you know a student is struggling, say, “Pray that Bobby will give up his drug habit” or “Pray that Suzie will overcome her eating disorder.” I would be careful of giving out names in certain situations, for obvious reasons. After all, God knows who those students are. But we need to be praying for specifics, not just generalities.

4. Following an event – Do you pray after an event? Its sometimes weeks or months later that something might hit a student, so we need to be following up in prayer that what went on will positively affect a teen.

I wish I could say I was faithful in doing all these things all the time. I am striving to do all these, but its hard moving from self-reliance to God-reliance, even in ministry. Yet I know that if you do these things your ministry will be blessed, as will you.

What do you do to invite God into your ministry events?

Bill Nance blogs at http://billnance.org.

I walked into Fields’ pre conference session right as he was teaching about the purposes: evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry. It was great and it never gets old. I’ve heard it a million times, and I still love it.

I first heard this teaching when I was a sophomore in college. I came down to hang out with Doug and a conference was happening at saddleback. Rick said something definitive like, “this is what the church must do.” I remember thinking in response, “Is that ALL that the church is supposed to do? There’s got to be something else.” I spent a year thinking a lot about the church. It was on my mind every time I read scripture or heard something in class or at church. At the end, I came to the conclusion that I liked his five words, I felt like they were a great way to explain God’s will for the church.

I like the words, but it’s not about the words themselves. Ministry is about doing God’s will, in the way that he’s called me to lead. I think every ministry needs two things

Every ministry ought to have a biblical foundation. (duh) It’s too easy to get caught up in results or flash or feelings or opinions or, worst of all, tradition and history. (ouch) A ministry doesn’t need to be “purpose driven” but it does need to reflect God’s will, and we need to be able to articulate that clearly. (oh yea)

Every ministry ought to have leaders to act out of their spiritual convictions. It’s not enough to have great programs and happy people. Ministry is personal, at least it ought to be. God work through people because he needs us, he’s not limited to our efforts. He’s working through us to transform us to become more like him. Transformation comes when we act from the convictions God has given us.

There’s nothing extra special about the words: evangelism, worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry.

There’s something extraordinary about the leader who loves God and others enough to do ministry God’s way according to personal conviction.


Derwin Gray is teaching right now at SYMC … he’s really good! You may know him from a few years back as the “Evangelism Linebacker.” Be sure to check out the video (embedded above) if you haven’t ever seen it or could use a laugh – good stuff. Derwin is a former NFL player, now a junior high volunteer and communicator.


Last year, one of our very biggest series was called You Own the Weekend. A student and I were talking about student involvement, and he asked what I thought about giving each of the local high schools a chance to create their own weekend from start to finish. At the end of our conversation, a great idea was born. You Own the Weekend went on to be an incredible series (we actually did 2 of them last year, for a total of 6 weeks) with many changed lives. We just announced Sunday that it is coming back!

The idea is simple:

1) students do everything

2) we believe there is a strong connection between friendship evangelism and student involvement/investment

3) it is more than creating a program, the idea is that EVERYONE from your school gets an invitation to come to a service.

You can read more about it in the archives if you want, I’ll post lots more about it in the coming weeks!


Shared a few learnings about social media in the youth ministry track of Radicalis. Doug asked me to talk a little bit about getting community students into our crowd program, here’s some of what I jotted down in my Moleskin before jumping on stage:

Start to text your students immediately (SMS)
One of the very first moves I made when I became the High School Pastor at Saddleback was to move us quickly to texting. Email is dead to a teen. There are a ton of great texting services out there, we use SimplyTxt but you can check out Tatango, Duffled and more. Move to SMS right now, and please know it won’t be long before Facebook (and whatever’s next – ha!) ruins SMS as we know it, too.

Encourage students to update Facebook about their church experiences/decisions (Facebook)
I love it when a student updates their Facebook status with something about faith or church. We encourage it on a weekly basis – you can grab this promo slide and add it to your rotation this weekend, too. Their friendship circles extend far beyond yours, they have acquaintances that will see what they post and hopefully respond.

Don’t let your best stuff sit on a hard drive (YouTube)
Too often we work hard to create a powerful video or skit, play it for our students, then let it die a sad death in the corner of an old hard drive. Never again! Think about the latest video you created as an opportunity for social media marketing. When someone from your community searches Google or YouTube about your student ministry – what will they find? If you’re serious about taking some good first steps in social media for your student ministry, upload every video you can and let the community stumble on them and get in on the conversation.