One of the books that I have been recommending a lot to students recently is “Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods” by… Rick Warren. In the book, Rick gives 12 different ways for us to dig into scripture. It is the perfect book for a student who wants to switch things up with their time in the Bible. The methods are:

1. Devotional- Meditate on a short piece of scripture and then find a personal life application for it.

2. Chapter Summary- Read a chapter of the Bible at least five times and then write down your thoughts about it.

3. Character Quality- Pick a character trait that you would like to have/grow in, then look at and study what the Bible says about it. Find out how you can apply that to your life!

4. Thematic- This is one of my favorites! Start by picking some theme of the Bible and write down a few questions you have about them and try to answer them by looking up the theme in various areas of the Bible.

5. Biographical- Choose a character from the Bible and read all that you can about them. Take notes about their traits and character and see how you can apply them to your own life.

6. Topical- Organize a list of scripture about a certain topic. Put it into an outline from that you’d be able to share with another person.

7. Word Study- Choose an important word from the Bible and see how it is used and how many times it comes up. Go and find out what the original meaning of the word is!

8. Book Background- With the use of Bible reference books, study the historical context of a book of the Bible to understand how the history affected the meaning.

9. Book Survey- Read an entire book of the Bible several times to get a good idea on what the book is about and then study the background of the book and take notes.

10. Chapter Analysis- Take a careful look at one particular chapter of the Bible. Take it apart word-by-word, verse-by-verse.

11. Book Synthesis- After you’ve used the Book Survey Method and the Chapter Analysis Method on every chapter of the book, summarize the contents and the main themes of a book.

12. Verse Analysis- Select a passage of Scripture and examine it in detail by asking questions, finding cross-references, and paraphrasing each verse. Record a possible application of each verse you study

I love this book because there is really something in here for everyone, no matter if they are in high school or seminary! Each method is unique in its approach and in its complexity. The methods are organized from simple to complex, so I usually advise that students start in the front and work their way back. So far, students have loved this book! It has helped many of them get out of their quiet time “slumps” because it shakes up the way that they have gotten used to looking at scripture. It is perfect for a student that is looking at taking their time in the Bible to the next level!

Some people that often hit “slumps” are college freshmen. This could be a really great gift for some of your recent graduates!

What is a resource that you have been giving your students recently?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Director at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.


Today we’re simply pointing you to great tools that will help students grow on their own. Check them out in consideration of something that would work in your ministry context as well:

1-Minute Bible by Doug Fields
You’ve committed yourself to more Bible reading plans than you care to admit, and you’re 187 chapters behind in your latest attempt. If this sounds familiar, then the One Minute Bible for Students is what you need to get back and stay on track. Do the math. There are 1400 minutes in a day. It will take you One Minute to read a passage of Scripture. “Hey, that’s doable!” Additionally, veteran youth pastor Doug Fields has contributed some great insights to help you apply these short, one-minute Scripture readings to your every day life.

Student Leaders Start Here by LeaderTreks
Student Leaders Start Here is a practical, interactive workbook, to help students grow in leadership. It focuses on three topics that are crucial for developing as a leader, and gives students a personal leadership profile for their strengths and growth areas in each topic. Give this book to the individual student who is growing in leadership, or use it in your student leadership team and small groups when you follow the bonus pages for small group facilitators.

Stripped Clean by Jeff Storm

Give your teenagers a guilt-free, up-close look at materialism—one that strips away the overwhelming messages of a consumer society. You’ll see authentic changes in readers as they tear out pages to use in Jesus-centered activities.

Case for Christ Student Edition by Lee Strobel
Who Was Jesus? A good man? A lunatic? God? There’s little question that he actually lived. But miracles? Rising from the dead? Some of the stories you hear about him sound like just that—stories. A reasonable person would never believe them, let alone the claim that he’s the only way to God! But a reasonable person would also make sure that he or she understood the facts before jumping to conclusions. That’s why Lee Strobel—an award-winning legal journalist with a knack for asking tough questions—decided to investigate Jesus for himself.

Live Large. Be Different. Shine Bright. By Josh Griffin and Doug Fields
In Live Large. Be Different. Shine Bright., Doug Fields and Joshua Griffin share about some important character qualities that will help teenagers live large, be different, and shine bright. A lot of what Doug and Joshua write about doesn’t seem to get much sermon time, but these topics are definitely worthy of consideration and experimentation—topics like competition, laughter, cliques, encouragement and several others will help teenagers in the process of being a more vibrant follower of Jesus.

More Than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
With almost 10 million copies in print, More Than a Carpenter continues to be the most powerful evangelism tool worldwide. Josh McDowell’s timeless examination of the true nature of Christ and his impact on our lives is one of the best-selling Christian books ever. Written by a former skeptic of Christianity, it is a hard-hitting book for those who doubt Jesus’ deity and his purpose.

Your Own Jesus by Mark Hall
A true storyteller and a teacher with a heart for ministry, Mark Hall traces the downward spiral caused by spiritual compromise with the world, and then charts the upward road to wholeness and restoration that comes when we claim our very own Jesus. When that happens, believers experience authentic fellowship with the one living God. Through fascinating personal stories, scriptural insights, and discussion questions for practical interactive study, Your Own Jesus: Student Edition will set readers free to live without compromise with the Jesus they come to know intimately and love fully.

ETHIX: Being Bold in a Whatever World
High school and college students are bombarded today with mixed media messages of moral relativism. ethiX: Being Bold in a Whatever World helps young adults better understand how to make Bible-informed ethical decisions on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, marriage and divorce, the morality of war, cloning, euthanasia, capital punishment, sexuality, and more.

Middle School Survival Series by Kurt Johnston, Mark Oestreicher, and Scott Rubin
There are six books in this series: My Faith, My Family, My Friends, My School, My Changes and My Future. Each book consists of 72 easy-to-read mini chapters written specifically for young teens.

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Got this picture mail of a freshman student’s spiritual whiteboard this week – made my day. Just wanted to share it (sorry the pic is so small)!


A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam’s Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.


This week we started a new experiment with our small groups – Life Group discipleship classes as an option for groups to attend together.

Now, we love what is happening in homes and relationally with leaders, but as we thought about areas where we’re hoping to improve, the topic of foundational doctrine and theology showed up pretty strong. HSM has been moving toward balanced health for several years now, and discipleship has always been on our radar but we thought we might be entering a phase were we needed to give it an extra emphasis. We don’t typically offer a ton of classes, we depend on the weekend service, small groups (we use the LIVE curriculum) and encourage students to grow on their own with all sorts of Bible studies, books and tools.

Ryanne had the idea to offer up some discipleship classes specifally for Life Groups. They attend with their adult volunteer leader and sit around tables listening to a master-teacher (for this 4-week session we asked our adult teaching pastor Tom Holladay) to teach the lesson. He teaches for 45minutes to an hour on a particular subject like the authority of the Bible or End Tiems, then leaves them to have a time of guided questions and discussion.

  • We thought it would help groups who are strong relationally but need help on the teaching side
  • We desire for all of our students to be firmly grounded in their faith
  • It would also make for a geat change of pace this time of year

So, this Tuesday/Wednesday night (both of the nights we offer Life Groups we wanted to offer these classes) were the first of our 4-week experiment to see if there would be interest. We had an incredible turnout … might be on to something here.


Like many of you, when I signed up to be a youth pastor, I signed up to help students do life with God. I also believed then, and still do today, that there is no shortcut. It simply takes time. I also know that there is no greater way to spend big chunks of quantity time with students than the retreat setting.

So far, so good.

But what I didn’t know was that in order to do those retreats, I’d have to sign contracts that would cause me countless nights of stress leading up to them. I had no idea that 12 months out I’d be asking my church to leverage thousands of dollar on the belief that students will eventually express interest and sign up. And for me, times have been a changin’…

  • Gone are the days where if a student went last year, had a great time, and even connected with God on the trip that they’d automatically sign up and bring a friend next year.
  • Gone are the days where families could afford to send students to special retreats and functions with relative ease.
  • Gone are the days where I am willing to roll the dice and sign random contracts based on faith and my “guesstimations”.

So what am I to do?

I still believe the same basic premises that started this post. I still believe in retreats and life change. But I no longer believe that camp contracts (or even doing contract-free retreats) is the only way, and certainly not the best way to get this done. I’d like to propose that youth ministries can learn a lesson from places like coupon based websites. If you’re unfamiliar, coupon websites that offers services that become active once a minimum number of people buy in. For example, someone offers a deal on tourist attraction or something for 50% off. If you’re interested, you sign up and give your credit card and then once 15 people buy it, the “coupon” is on and they charge your card.

So, in youth ministry, this might look like:

  • Summer camp brochure is made months earlier than normal. We promote the trip and encourage students in the same ways we always have.
  • But now, students are told 2 things. #1. The cost for the first “x” number people is “$$$”. Maybe we could offer some kinda early buy in discount. All prices could be refundable and the trip is tentative until we have ______ people going. Once we have ______ people going and maybe by a certain date, then the trip is on and a deposit of “$$” is non-refundable, but is transferable.
  • Here, if you need a minimum of 10 to do the trip, the onus is on the participant to invite friends and push the retreat. They want to go, so they’ll encourage friends that if they don’t go, he or she can’t go either.
  • As a youth pastor, I don’t have to pay now, and pray like crazy later. Or at least I can do way less of that.
  • I can spend more time encouraging students and less time being a travel agent.

Brian is a youth ministry veteran of 16 years, currently the student ministries pastor at Journey Community Church near San Diego, CA. And he blogs!

The weekend I was gone to Winter Camp Taffy spoke and challenged students with the word “devotion”. He talked about being a disciple, detective and doer. He just posted a handout he made for students that weekend called How to Read God’s Love Letter to Us. Thought you might want to grab it and/or subscribe to his blog, especially if you’re into music, worship or creative arts.


This weekend I talked through the 5 things we’re doing this Winter/Spring for extended discipleship in our youth ministry. These is in addition to weekend services, Life Groups and the regular stuff we do. Some of these are very new, some of these are very old. Either way, we’re really pushing students to grow this next season:

  • Winter Camp – our spiritual growth retreat happens next weekend – there will be plenty of snow, student-taught workshops and main session teaching by some fantastic adult speakers.
  • Examine the Evidence – in a week our adult ministry is putting on a class in The Refinery for seekers, doubters and believers. The topic for the night is the Four Crucial Questions About Christianity. I’m excited to promote an opportunity for our students to grow in an adult environment, plus it is zero work and potentially a huge return for us.
  • Apologetics Series – In 2 weeks we start a new series called “Q” with one of the world’s-leading apologetics teachers Sean McDowell. He’ll be teaching us in our weekend services for 3 weeks.
  • The Grow Booth — this ongoing effort in HSM is packed with Bibles, studies, books and journals to help students grow on their own. We’ve given more stuff away this year than we have in a long time – Life Group leaders also have a “Grow on the Go” tub as well (more details on that here) so as they identify students who should take another step they have a resource to give them immediately.
  • Life Group Workshops – In March we’re launching a brand new idea for Life Groups, offering a series of workshops on topics you can attend only with your small group. One of our adult teaching pastors is teaching a 4-week study on the End Times, and one of our Life Group leaders will teach another set of classes on cults and other religions a few weeks later.

What are you doing to help students grow this Winter/Spring?