free-stuffI am contractually obligated to tell you that the 8 hours of SYMC workshops I am teaching will be SICK! (That’s a good thing)

I am NOT a programmer. I am NOT a developer. I am a resource person. I am a Goggling machine! I find stuff and think…Hmmmm, how can I leverage that for my ministry. I have a couple thousand dollars worth of giveaways that I will be spreading out among those 8 hours. Stuff that works in my youth ministry and I think will work in yours.

My goal is to deliver practical, affordable, and doable content that will help youth workers engage students and connect them with Jesus. If you are a tech guru I trust you will come out with a few nuggets. And if you want to use tech more in your ministry but just don’t know where to begin, let me assure you, these workshops will not be over your head.

In addition to these training sessions I will be powering through 2 Brand New 30 minute micro-trainings in the resource center on Sunday. Check out “Maximizing the iPad for Youth Ministry” at 8:15 am and “Basic Tech Tips” at 1:45 pm.

The tech workshops begin at 1:15 Saturday afternoon with a peer panel called “The Best Tech Games in the Universe.” You wont want to miss it!.

Send this post out via Twitter and Facebook (click below) with #SYMC and #SYMCTECHSTUFF. Saturday around noon I will randomly choose one winner who will receive a $125 games prize pack from

Brandon Early


Love and relationships are always hot topics, but especially in February.

To top it off, the Olympics are on TV right now.

Mash those two together, and you have a prime opportunity to deepen your students’ understanding of what love is.

Here’s a lesson you can utilize or tweak however you’d like.

Hope it serves you – thank you for loving students!



Explain that you’re going to begin your lesson by encouraging them to try to listen to God through two popular songs you’re going to play back to back. The goal for this time is not that they sing along or be entertained by something they may have heard on the radio, but that they try to consider the two different types of commitment being shared here. Dim the lights to minimize distraction, and play these two songs:

  • “Say Something” by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

[ Option: Combine these two into a video that guides them during this time: ]


Talk with the students about what they gained from that time.

  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’ve seen modeled growing up in our community or culture?
  • Which of those two songs symbolizes the type of love you’d like to experience or give another person?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the first song?
  • What do you think it takes from someone to say something that the lyrics in the second song?

[ Download this Power Point slideshow for the following ]


Ask students to read the following Bible verses out loud and pause after each one to brainstorm the role that truth might play in a committed relationship, such as marriage.

  • Psalm 34:18
  • Hebrews 12:15
  • Philippians 4:12


Use the Power Point slides to cycle through these points as you share them.

Say something like:

[slide]  “The Olympics may have started recently, but reporters, athletes and tourists from around the world began checking into the Sochi hotels even before that.

[slide]  Many began describing appalling conditions in the housing there. Hotels are still under construction. Water, if it’s running, isn’t drinkable. This has spilled over into some of the conditions the athletes are enduring, too.

One person said it this way: ‘Almost every room is missing something: light bulbs, TVs, lamps, chairs, curtains, WiFi, heat, hot water. Shower curtains are a valuable piece of the future black market here. (One American photographer was simply told, “You will not get a shower curtain.”) In one hotel, the elevator is broken and the stairway is unlit, with stairs of varying and unpredictable heights. Outside another hotel, there is a bag of concrete in a palm tree, leaking grey down the trunk. Inside, some of the electrical outlets are just plates screwed into drywall.’

[slide]  One famous picture is of a sign outside a toilet… the person who posted it said, “People have asked me what surprised me the most here in Sochi. It’s this. Without question… it’s… THIS.” A sign that says “Please do not flush toilet paper down the toilet. Put it in the bin provided.”

[slide] One person spoke about his experience with the hotel lobby… which was non-existent.

“OK, so my hotel doesn’t have a lobby yet.”
“For those of you asking, when there’s no lobby in your hotel, you go to the owner’s bedroom to check in.”

[slide] One woman wrote, “My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

[slide] She later updated, adding, “Water restored, sorta. On the bright side, I now know what very dangerous face water looks like.”

[slide] Another woman warned, “What your step #Sochi2014 – I’ve noticed on walkway and on sidewalks that not all man holes are covered.”

[slide] A man observed, “Spa and Fitness Center at Gorki Grand Hotel… you get in shape by putting it together?”

[slide] Another guy said, “Good news. I have internet. Bad news. It’s dangling from the ceiling in my room.”

[slide] Other pictures showing the unique conditions the athletes are staying in have also been made popular.
This is certainly not the standard many people would expect of the Olympics, let alone your basic Holiday Inn Express.

[slide] So let me ask an obvious question… why would an athlete, journalist or even a visitor stick this out?

You know the answer, don’t you? It’s the Olympics… even in harsh conditions, it’s the Olympics.

Sure, things are hard. People are experiencing circumstances that would make them want to leave. Yet they aren’t leaving. They’re still there – the athletes, the reporters and the tourists.

Now… how about an honest question – how many of the marriages you know about in your family or extended family… your friend’s moms and dads… your neighbors… how many have approached their marriage realizing that they’re in an Olympic level relationship? That things may not be ideal, but there is a more important Story worth hanging in there on to enjoy?

How many of you realize what’s on the line one day if you get married… that there will be times you will say, “Yeah, these circumstances are less than ideal, but I’m in this for the gold.”

[slide] It reminds me of one more passage of Scripture: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (read it)

BRAINSTORM: This is a passage about what it means to live life as a Christian, but there are some great principles here about relationships. What from this passage could you apply into what a God-honoring, Olympic-level love kind of marriage could look like?

(let students come up with ideas – affirm them, and then share this summary)

[slide] You all had great ideas. Let me sum up what I see in this passage:

  • Understand you are in a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Push yourself past your perceived limits.
  • Run toward a real goal – no “Wii” running
  • Cross the actual finish line.

Wrap Up:

Remind them of the songs from earlier, and ask them to identify how these ideals either do or don’t play into each song. Ask them to identify what (in their opinion) is the number one quality they need to actually live this out. Let them struggle with this a bit, and then guide them to the realization that they won’t be motivated to love this way until they’ve experienced love this way. This is the kind of love Jesus offers us. He sings the second song over us each day, and models what we see in 1 Corinthians.

Reread the three Bible verses from earlier. Ask students to consider how God is with us at every step of our journey in knowing His love and in how we love others. Invite students to respond to the grace and love of Jesus Christ – this is a great opportunity to help them make a decision to receive Him as Savior/Lord.

If you have time (and if it makes sense to your group), dare them right then and there pray for the relationships now and the potential future marriage they might have one day. Encourage them to even pray for their future spouse – that God would strengthen and love on that person even now.


SYMC is around the corner and I am super exited.  I was browsing around the SYMC website and found some cool downloadable freebies. Check out these free Devotionals and MP3 from Simply Youth Ministry Conference.  If you are not signed up and want to learn more click here!  Hope to see you in Indy!

My friends at ym360 have a great Thanksgiving resource for you. It’s a Thanksgiving page featuring three Thanksgiving lessons and a handful of Thanksgiving games. The best part? They’re all FREE! If you’re interested in downloading one or all of the Thanksgiving resources from ym360, simply head on over to  YM360 and as always if you have any questions or problems with the download, the ym360 team is standing by to help out.


Youth Ministry 360 has a new free Easter lesson available for free this week – if you’ve used any of their stuff before (and be sure to check out their store of great resources as well) you’ll know this is probably a solid lesson for you to use in the season around Easter. Check it out if you’re looking for something for this season!


The team over at Youth Ministry 360 has posted a great free resource you may want to use this Christmas season in your youth ministry. You can grab it right here and here’s a description of the freebie:

The Christmas story is one that is probably very familiar to your students. We have to make sure that this type of familiarity doesn’t lead them to miss the wonderful truths contained in the account of Jesus’ birth. Through this lesson, your students will look closer at the details of the Christmas account, but will also see the various approaches to Jesus represented by the specific people mentioned in the story: the shepherds, the magi, and King Herod. Your students will be challenged to examine how they see each of these different “reactions” represented in the world in which they live.

And be sure to check out their resource store as well if you like the stuff they provide for free.


There are plenty of websites that promise to help you do one thing or another in your ministry. Below are seven categories of resources that I hope you will find helpful:

Curriculum Resources

  1. — Bible studies ranging for those for individuals to church-wide studies
  2. — Doug Fields site full of Bible studies, videos and small group resources.
  3. — A website dedicated to youth ministry. Full of free resources and articles that tackle the hard topics.
  4. — Simply Youth Ministry small group curriculum. I personally use this.
  5. — A website full of free resources. I’ve spent a few hours looking around the site and don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface.
  6. StuffICanUse — Another website that is full of free resources.
  7. XP3 — A subscription based website that allows you to download messages.
  8. MyGrapple — An online community that allows students to go online to complete challenges to complete the lesson from Sunday School.
  9. EyeOnYouth — CE National’s own Biblical-based studies

Printing Media

  1. NextDayFlyers — Cheap printing. Get your orders in early and save even more!
  2. LogoDogz — Custom embroidery, screen printing and promotional products
  3. Powerpoint Sermons — Subscription packages of jpeg stills and motion backgrounds
  4. GetPaint - Free Photoshop style program for download
  5. — Free photo exchange
  6. Shutterstock — Subscription based photo downloads


  1. Wing Clips — Inspirational Movie clips
  2. Worshiphouse Media — site full of mini-videos, videos, stills and software
  3. SermonSpice — Website full of videos and countdowns to use before you start teaching
  4. BlueFishTV — Full of full-length videos, clips and stills to use throughout your services
  5. Deidox — Testimonial videos featuring real people
  6. I am Second — Professional athletes, celebrities and others share the importance of Jesus in their lives
  7. Animoto — Turn videos and pictures into amazing slideshows


  1. Planning Center — Get your service organized using this great website. I personally use this as well!
  2. Here to Lead — The official blog of Michael Lukaszewski
  3. Dial 2 Do — Create reminders for yourself for free. Other features do cost $3.99/month or $39.99/year.

Purchasing Resources

  1. Dealnews — Find the best deal on pretty much anything
  2. Musicians Friend — Great deals on musical instruments and audio equipment.

Parent Resources

  1. Plugged In Online — Want to know what the new pop album says? What the new hit movie is about? Check out Plugged In for an honest review.
  2. The Center for Parent Youth Understanding — Understand today’s culture and how to impact it

Other Resources

  1. Monergism — Great articles from many of the fathers of our faith
  2. CARM — Apologetics
  3. x3 Watch — Free Accountability Software
  4. Safe Eyes — Internet filtering software
  5. SimplyTxt — Text all of your youth group kids at once using this awesome program
  6. Poll Everywhere — Text message polling software. Free for the first 30 users, price increases from there
  7. Covenant Eyes — Another great accountability and filtering software
  8. Grooveshark — Great music streaming service
  9. Big Huge Labs — Do funny things with your photos
  10. Open Resources — More free church media
  11. YouVersion — Interactive Bible
  12. TokBox — Free video chatting
  13. SurveyMonkey — Create free surveys
  14. Zamzar — Convert files online for free

Did I miss any services that you use? If so, let me know in the comments.

Zach Younkin helps out wherever needed in the Delaware Grace Brethren Youth Ministry. You can follow him on Twitter at @zachyounkin and check him out on his blog.

WorshipHouse Media

As we head into the Life Group season full-swing, one of the big questions we have to answer is about curriculum for our small groups. Our answer is the LIVE curriculum from Simply Youth Ministry, with it’s 4-year teaching plan and great technology behind it. Whatever you choose for your ministry, you would be served well by following the criteria Youth Ministry 360 lays out – here’s 3 of the 9 principles they shared on their site today:

How “teachable” is the resource? There some great looking resources out there that are written or laid-out in such a way that makes them difficult for a teacher to actually teach. So, lesson teachability is a huge factor. The Internet has made purchasing curriculum a breeze. These days, I can’t imagine buying a resource without viewing a sample lesson. Any reputable (and some who aren’t) resource provider will offer a downloadable sample of the resource. Take the time to download and really check it out. Read for theological accuracy, teaching style, and overall comfort. It’s like trying on clothes: you know when it fits.

Free Is Great, But . . .Lots and lots of folks offer free lessons.
We do it (and you can check our free stuff out here). And most of the major curriculum providers do, too. Free lessons are great for individual use, or to get a feel for a specific provider’s overall curriculum strategy. But, you’ll never be effective if your youth ministry relies on free lessons for the majority of your teaching time. It’s a shotgun approach that is tough to be very strategic with. Here’s one thing I have learned: there are a million people offering free lessons online. All you need is a blog, and Microsoft Word, and you can create and distribute resources. Not all of it is good, accurate, reliable, or usable. By all means, take advantage of free resources. Take advantage of ours and the many other great ones available. But, don’t become too dependent on them. Honestly, you are better off writing your own curriculum than having a steady diet of free lessons where you can’t control the direction.

There Is No Perfect Curriculum
The best curriculum in the world is still just a starting point. You know your students better than the men and women who create the curriculum. It’s a good idea to know that you will always have to make tweaks to lessons to make sure they fit your students’ personalities and level of spiritual development. You know you’ve chosen the right curriculum when you find that the tweaks are relatively minor, and that for the most part, you are not having to make them week-in, and week-out.