Here are the top 10 most popular blog posts from August 2010 here on More Than Dodgeball:


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 1 of 5, series premiere)
Sermon in a Sentence: Getting ready to go back to school starts with a check of your heart and forming habits that will get you through the year.
Service Length: 70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend I asked Ryanne Witt to teach while I was away at a wedding. She’s been on the HSM team longer than me and been at the church literally forever (even came through HSM), and works as the coordinator of our volunteer team. She plays a great role in training, coaching and caring for them and this is one of only a couple times she’s spoken at our entry-level program. She made it look effortless and was completely comfortable, even though I know the time, preparation and prayer that she put into it as well. I have long-realized the importance of multiple voices to our students, and loved having her teach this weekend. The message centered on loving God and preparing our hearts for what God was going to teach us in the year ahead. She had a GREAT application – that as of today we’re 30 days from school starting, and how it takes 28 days to form a habit. She encouraged students to choose a spiritual discipline (and suggested 1 of 6 choices on the back of the outline/program) that would help them be ready for re-entry.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The program was super simple – there was a simple opening element of fun that involved a target, a water balloon slingshot and Fun Size candy bars. Simple and clean summer program getting the students to think about LAUNCH. The collective groan of students when we started talking about going back to school was awesome, too.

Music Playlist: The Time Has Come, How He Loves, You Hold Me Now, Let My Words Be Few, So I Look to You

Favorite Moment: Two this week – 1) Ryanne teaching was awesome, and 2) one of our volunteers made some simple “rockets” to use as stage decoration – when the countdown hit “zero” they launched one of them by pulling a string and it flew into the air. Hilarious.

Up Next: LAUNCH week 2

I suppose there are a jillion ways to communicate to students in your youth ministry these days – more than ever there are a plethora of choices through traditional channels (like handouts and announcements) and new media (YouTube, Facebook and SMS). Then there’s the stuff that was critically important a few years ago and is still hanging around (an actual website).

In the past few years, we’ve fully embraced SMS as our primary method of communicating with students. By the time they get to high school, most all have phones and a overwhelming percentage have texting plans. We recently made a significant shift in text message providers, and thought that if either one of these might fit your needs you should check them out:

For the last 2 years, we’ve used Simply Text. Simply Text is a powerful tool to help you communicate using SMS. Here’s a rundown of the pluses and minuses after using it for a long time.

+Super easy to use
The interface is easy, you can literally go from nothing to sending out texts in minutes. The free trial lets you see it all and make sure you are technical enough to figure it out. Easy, easy.

+You can read replies
A new feature added as we used the system allowed you to see the “message stream” or the replies that come into your account. You can easily reply to individual texts.

+Dirt cheap
The average youth ministry will be spending $10 a month on the system, which is pretty nominal considering what you’re getting. Quick, slick, cheap.

-Fairly reliable
The system works well – you can literally push send and your phone will light up in 10 seconds with your mass message. In the backend, it actually is sending an email that comes through your phone as a text. It works in most cases, but if you have the carrier wrong it fails. For the most part, it works as advertised, as long as your data has integrity.

+/-Difficult to subscribe/unsubscribe
One of the downsides is that you have to a) manually add people, b) get them to manually add themselves on a website, and c) monitor the message stream for unsubscribe requests. UPDATE: The system has been upgraded over the past few months and it is now much easier to remove yourself from a list.

A few months back, we began to outgrow the Simply Text system and as texting became more and more primary (and eventually one of the only ways we communicate with students) we needed a tool that would grow with us and be highly reliable. After a ton of research, we went with Here’s what they offer in a nutshell:

+Subscribe by texting
This is a HUGE game-changer. See the message on a poster, on a handout or on the screen and you can pull out your phone and immediately subscribe. We get new subscribers without doing a thing. Boom. Same thing – when a kid graduates – they remove themselves. If a parent wants in – simple.

+Students can send in keywords and get automatic replies
This is a big upgrade, too – when a student wants more information on something they text 39970 with “hsm baptism” or “hsm serve” and get specific instructions, dates, times or directions. We set up unlimited keywords, with whatever information we want to be sent out by SMS robot. Brilliant!

+Guaranteed delivery
Duffled is actually sending an SMS text message – so arrival is pristine and quick. It costs more for the system to do this, but it is highly reliable and stable platform to communicate with confidence.

-Decent interface
The actual user-interface with Duffled is completely functional, but doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles. If they overhauled the face of it, it would be a huge improvement. Still though, it gets the job done but sure isn’t sexy.

-It costs for each text you send out
The big downside is that in this case you get what you pay for – which means a better system costs more money. We are biting the bullet and paying a significant amount more each month.

Either way it might be a good idea to think about all of the methods of communication available between you and students, and decide as a team which one(s) you’re going to get behind.

UPDATE: After a ton of feedback on this post (Tweets and RTs, too – thanks, all!) I thought a summary might be helpful:

For the bang for your buck, Simply TXT simply can’t be beat. Cheap, simple, straightforward and solid. For 99% of youth ministries, this is an essential tool to communicate with your students. It doesn’t have all the higher-end specs you might find from other platforms, but is consistently improving and is more than adequate for most uses. If you’re larger ministry and/or looking to really leverage texting, Duffled might be your answer. The ability to send automatic replies opens up a lot of possibilities, and the system while requiring a significant investment, is solid.

Either way, I hope this post helps you ask some good questions about communicating to your students and gives you some good options to consider as you head toward your student ministry’s fall kickoff weekend.


Weekend Teaching Series: 5 Ways to Be Awesome: A study through the book of James
Sermon in a Sentence: Our lives should be lived in submission and humility to Christ. James 4
Service Length: 82 minutes

Understandable Message: Robby Boyd from the HSM team taught the services this weekend – he normally heads up our counseling and pastoral care emphasis. Robby led students on a journey through the verses of James 4, covering each verse in a survey of the chapter. The main thought centered around narcissism and how a self-centered life is dangerous and leaves us open for sin. Good stuff – especially liked his story and illustration about Narcissus.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We created a couple of fun games during a staff trip to the OC fair – students had to guess 1) who (of the 3 people on the screen) would eat the deep fried butter the fastest, and 2) how long it would take for AC to eat a Krispy Kreme spicy chicken sandwich. Fun stuff, not sure we really had it dialed in until the last service but it was fun either way. We also had a video highlighting students that served in a big community project this past week – good stuff, and a great segway to promote this week’s service project, too.

Music Playlist: You Deserve, Our God, It Is Well With My Soul, Thank You for Loving Me

Favorite Moment: This weekend I was reminded of how important other voices are in our student ministry. Robby (and Phil the week before when I was on vacation) bring a whole new energy and style to their talk. Still God’s Word, still God’s Spirit, but communicated through the personalities he has placed in the leadership of our student ministry. Reminded me of an old post I wrote called 5 Reasons You Should Let Someone Else Teach Next Weekend.

Up Next: 5 Ways to be Awesome [series finale, week 5 of 5]

The HSM Staff

 —  July 13, 2010 — 3 Comments

From time to time people ask who are the paid staff behind HSM – and to be honest, we’ve been in some transition over the past seasons of ministry so the answer would vary from year to year. But in case you were wondering who did what and how we’re structured, here’s some insight:

High School Pastor (full-time) – that’s my job! I cast vision, handle conflict, lead the team, teach and direct the ministry. The buck stops with me, so if something goes wrong – it’s on me. It might be the best job in the world, I sure love it, despite the massive challenges. The rest of the team is organzationally flat, and I report to Kurt, the Student Ministries Pastor.

My assistant/team admin Associate (29 hrs/wk)Alaina just came on the team last week and functions primarily in a support role to my job as well as helping the team with admin tasks.

Volunteer Coordinator (full-time)Ryanne is an incredible minister to our adults who serve students. She works diligently interviewing, training, encouragement and care. She is our first impression to adults, and pastors them well.

Service/Ministry Coordinator (full-time) - AC is also brand new to the team – he’ll be responsible for all of our service projects in the community and helping get students into ministry. He’ll also work with our guys small groups to help make sure they are cared for.

Events/Missions Coordinator (full-time) - Phil cranks out any event we have planned. The dude is a administrative genius, and his top speed blasts by most people. He plans Summer Camp, missions trips, events and activities.

Life Groups Coordinator (full-time)Jessica has been with us just over a year and has a huge heart for our small groups effort. She works hard to make sure volunteers are the right fit, helps manage curriculum and makes sure things move smoothy in the puzzle that is small groups.

We also currently have 2 open full-time spots on the team – we just lost Jake (program, 2nd in command) to be the campus pastor at Saddleback Irvine, and in September we’re losing Robby (pastoral care) to be another campus pastor. In addition to this paid team, we’ve also got 3 amazing 2-year interns and 3 summer interns that function as full-on staff people as well – all of them are brilliant and work 40-50 hours a week and own significant parts of our high school ministry.


Pleased to announce that Alaina Hart has officially joined the HSM team here at Saddleback – she’s my new assistant and the team admin. We promoted from within yet again, Alaina is a great small group leader and now on staff helping us pull of great stuff behind the scenes. If you ever call HSM, you’re probably talk to her – at least, when she returns from Paris on a mission trip she’s on this week. So glad to have her on the team!


I’m very excited to announce today a new addition to the HSM team here at Saddleback — Aaron Crumbey (AC) is joining our staff to serve High School students here in Orange County. He was a key volunteer in our small groups before joining on as full-time staff last week. Very excited to welcome him, Sandra and their two kids to the High School Ministry team!


This year we gave all of our seniors a copy of the book Wide Awake by Erwin McManus and inside was a letter from our team. Everyone signed it, and gave it to the seniors:

Dear Senior,

It has been such a pleasure serving you during the past four years! We are so proud of each and every one of you. Your commitment to loving God and others has served as an example for our own spiritual lives. Although we are sad to say goodbye, we are excited to see how you will use your God-given abilities to make an impact on the world. God has a wonderful plan for you, and if you stay faithful to him, you will see that plan come to fruition. He will use you to change lives, to shape hearts, and to shed light on a dark world. Rememer the wise and powerful words of King Solomon in Provers 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

As you finish one chapter of your life and get ready to start a new one, always cling to the redeeming power of God’s love. High school is difficult, but trust us– life will only get tougher from here, and you will experience new challenges with every step you take. But you have the love of Christ, which will comfort and encourage you during all of life’s hardships. Always stay committed in your relationship with Christ, continuing from the spiritual foundation you built during high school.

We pray that you will always recognize God’s presence in your life, remaining faithful to his perfect love and magnificent purpose. It has been a honor to walk next during these crucial last four years. We encourage you to keep us updated on all the exciting things you do in the future. Feel free to stop by and say hello if you’ve ever in the area. We’d love to see you! Remember– your identity is in Christ! You have the power to truly make a difference in the world.

God bless,

The HSM Team