People shouldn’t be woken up by crazy people who wake up early to run.


Yeah… that’s a window view of a crew of youth workers and SYM/Group peeps getting ready to run a 5k.

(I joined in by exiting out the back of the building and running around to the finish line, all while eating a bowl of cereal)


Day Two of the Summit is a continuation of the first day, including some great teaching and brainstorming. The difference is some unique tweaks that are thrown in.


We headed out mid-day to “Sculpture in the Park.” This was to do nothing more than spend time with Jesus. Admittedly, I’m pretty amazed that instead of using the Summit to brainstorm around-the-clock there’s a lot of spiritual investment into this group of volunteers.


It only makes sense, though. Wouldn’t the people planning a conference for youth workers do a better job of joining God in that if they first joined with Him themselves?


It’s also quite cyclical. For example, a core of youth workers loved on a couple of Group staff members. Here are Jake Rasmussen and Scott Firestone getting prayed over and gifted with some items picked out just for them.

Of course, the day had it’s share of brainstorming for SYMC 2014…


as well as an amazing dinner…


followed by some incredible dessert at the home of Thom and Joanie Schultz (founders of Group).


We even watched a Lifetree Cafe video of Jana Snyder sharing about her adoption story.


Thom and Joani released an amazing book this week, too. We’ve had the chance to interact with its core truths – how four acts of love will make your church irresistible:

Radical Hospitality:

  • A lot of people stay away from church because they feel judged. What if they heard you’re welcome as you are?

Fearless Conversation:

  • If the average person doesn’t want to be lectured, how can we let them know their thoughts, questions and doubts are all welcome on the journey of discovering God?

Genuine Humility:

  • The stereotype is that Christians are a bunch of hypocrites… how can we take a posture that we’re all in this together – from my mess to His best?

Divine Anticipation:

  • When someone says, “Your God is irrelevant to my real life,” what does it mean to reveal “God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way. Are you open to that?”

These values (in addition to Group’s R.E.A.L. model) have become the bass line for us to wrestle over together.

Speaking of that, what do YOU think of all of this?

  • Does your brainstorming process in your church look like this – deep pouring in so there is deep pouring out?
  • Are the leaders in every direction of your youth group and congregation operating under the same values… and actually enjoy being around each other?
  • What’s your sense of the four “Acts of Love” Thom and Joani propose?

Join the conversation!


00Gungor. Cajun food. Brainstorming. Entering the Story.

(Hang on… I’m getting ahead of myself.)

You may not know this, but the Simply Youth Ministry Conference is largely planned by youth workers (and people who love youth workers).

Around this time every year in the fall, a group of youth workers get together for what’s called “The Summit” – a time when the “In The Trenches Team” (or IT3, for short) come out to Group‘s HQ for a few days of camaraderie, prayer, seeking God and a whole lot of brainstorming.

My journey began super early today, as did others who came out this way.

That isn’t to say the day wasn’t without its share of sermon illustrations in the making.


For example, I began to prepare to be around other youth workers as I walked off for my connecting flight in North Carolina and heard airport security paging a “Mr Freddy Krueger.”


There was also the woman who prepared me to think with innovation as she cleaned the moving stairway simply by standing on it while holding her mop to its sides.

When you finally do make it out to Group, you’re treated to a talking moose at the door and an assortment of healthy and sweet treats inside.



The real treat is getting around some great minds who know how to pull the best out of a swarm of random people. Rick Lawrence, Jason Ostrander and Mike Novelli led us through several key points in the day.


Simply Youth Ministry does a great job at loving on the IT3 team, from springing for dinner…


to springing Gungor on us during dinner.

Yeah… seriously, that just happened.

I was accidentally in the front row of a special Gungor concert. They’ll be anchoring Saturday night and Sunday night at SYMC 2014 with some amazing music they gave us a glimpse of tonight. It’s the kind of music that you need to go get right now, in fact.

So here’s the scoop… pretend you’re here.

  • What ideas would you offer for SYMC 2014?
  • How would you love to see some things continue?
  • Is there anything that should be changed, added or updated?

Yes – you can be a virtual IT3 member… chime in!

Simply Youth ministries biggest sale of the year is going on right now.  Up to 40% off some the absolute best resources for youth ministry out there.  If you have a small youth ministry budget, now is the time to get in on these deals.  Don’t miss out!


Making a Difference in the Bronx! A Webinar about the Big Day of Serving.

Join Jake Rasmussen Wednesday, February 20 for a LIVE CHAT about the Big Day of Serving in the Bronx.

Tune in to this Webinar and discover answers to all these questions and more:

  • What IS this event?
  • Why will your students LOVE it?
  • How do you SAVE big bucks when registering?

This is a fantastic opportunity to learn all about our work in the Bronx this spring!

Check in out Here.

New Things

 —  February 4, 2013 — Leave a comment

new thingsIt’s scary to start new things. They’re different. They might not work. They might actually work and grow and become bigger than you could’ve imagined or prepared for. Starting new things is hard…

And yet… don’t we need to? Jesus basically started new things every day for the years he was working publicly and developing his disciples. Everything was new. And it was excited. It was impossible to prepare for. It failed and succeeded in ways that no one involved could predict.

The scary process of starting new things is part of the history of Group Mission Trips. For almost 30 years we only did one kind of mission trip – our Workcamp program. And we new exactly how that worked. How to prepare and plan.  How to lead. Bu then several years ago we felt God leading us to start a new ministry. A new direction for us. A new way to serve those with needs. That’s how Week of Hope was born.

The crazy, fun thing is since the moment we chose to start something new (Week of Hope) we haven’t stopped. From that choice Lifetree Adventures, Leading Edge Outreach, and The Big Day of Serving have all come (and gone). One of those was a “failure” in the sense that it didn’t work for us and the churches we serve. But we still tried and there are even more new things on the horizon now.

What about your ministry? When the last time you dared to venture out and start something completely new? Change the night of your main youth group meeting? That’s crazy talk. Stop doing your favorite outreach program for something new? Impossible. Take your students on a mission trip far from home? Just too difficult. Or it it…

What “new thing” could God be calling you to if you listened?

simple truthOur friends at Simply Youth Ministry have created a great new resource for your students.  I wanted to share it with you.  Imagine empowering your students to spend just a few minutes each day discovering a life-shaping, thought-provoking, Jesus-centered truth that can transform them into the kind of people God crafted them to be.

Sounds like a worthwhile investment, doesn’t it?

The Simple Truth Bible features 366 daily devotionals—each one a tasty, bite-size morsel that powerfully reveals what it means to deeply love and trust God, to lead a Jesus-centered life, and to lean on Scripture for guidance and wisdom.

Teenagers will discover how to experience hope in the middle of tough times, how God deeply and passionately loves them, how to build an authentic friendship with Jesus, and how they were created to lead a life of impact in this world and for eternity.

Each devotion includes:

  • Thoughts on a specific passage of Scripture and how it relates to students’ lives
  • Insights to help teenagers turn their thoughts into prayers as they spend time with God
  • Ideas to follow if students want to spend more than a few minutes each day with God
  • Perspective on how that day’s passage fits into the big picture of the Bible


familyreunionLast week we gathered with youth leaders from around the country.  It was a great time of thinking, analyzing, and celebrating together our love of youth mission trips.  Sorta like a family reunion (but not like the cheesy family reunion photo I chose for this post).  I love times like that.  It was our second year of hosting this meeting and just like last year I learned new things.

Here’s some of my insights:

  • This group was pretty representative of youth ministry as a whole.  There were more volunteer youth leaders than paid.  There were just as many women as men.  And many of these leaders were responsible for more than just high school ministry at their church.
  • No surprise, but these leaders believed that involving youth in service was integral to their developing a healthy relationship with Jesus.
  • The relationship we have with these leaders means they are willing to share honest, real feedback with us.
  • These leaders want to grow and develop.  They do not think they have it all figured out.

When you read this list do you think of your team, your ministry?  We consider these leaders part of our team.  We create the mission experiences we create for them.  They are on our team.  My prayer and hope for you would be your ministry would be made up of these kinds of people.

  • People from every walk of life, age, level of involvement, levels of experience, both women and men.  All of them interested in working with you to help students grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  • People who understand that involving students in service is an integral part of their development.
  • People to give you honest, real feedback.
  • People who want to grow and develop.  Not happy with what they know or worse believe they have nothing to learn

If you already have a team like this, consider yourself blessed.  God is going to use you to change lives.



Simply Youth Ministry Conference is  a great event for relaxing, recharging, reconnecting with your passion for ministry.  It’s one of my favorite youth ministry events of the year.

  • There are over 190 hours of brand new training this year.  Check it out!
  • Lecrae, All Sons & Daughters, Shane & Shane, and Jordan Howerton Band will all be performing.

To take advantage of the early bird pricing please Register Here.  See you there!