Jason Ostrander is the new lead guy over at Simply Youth Ministry. He’s formerly been the National Youth Director of The Christian and Missionary Alliance and a youth worker. He may have one of the coolest jobs on the planet. Here’s my 5 question interview with him this past week!

Dude you’re the new guy at SYM! Tell us about your past, present and future there!

Well Josh, I can still remember my very first day as a new youth pastor.  I sat down at my desk and noticed that someone had left the latest edition of GROUP magazine there.  I picked it up and read through it…and it was love at first sight!  Seriously though Group’s resources have always been a part of my ministry –and as a National Youth Director I found myself constantly recommending SYM products to my youth workers.  Currently I am the leader for SYM at Group and I am super stoked about the opportunity to lead such an amazing team!  The future is on hold for now…at least until I can figure out how to use the copy machine down the hall.

The Simply Youth Ministry Conference is one of my favorite weeks of the year. Give us an inside scoop on what will change and what won’t!

Josh, I have been at every SYMC since the very first one in Indy (who can forget Hotel, Hotel.) and I can truly say that my time at each of those gatherings has heavily influenced the way I do ministry.  As far as what will change at this year’s SYMC: there will be some fresh new voices in both our workshops and panels (we’re looking to have 80+ of the nation’s most experienced presenters!) and we definitely have some surprises up our sleeves for the evening sessions!   As for what will not change, I can assure you that the core of what SYMC has become: a quality youth ministry conference designed “for youth workers, by youth workers” will always be there.  Can’t wait to hang with you, Josh, in Indy next March!

You recently wrote the new book 99 Questions Jesus Asked – where did that come from and do you have other projects in the works!

99 Questions Jesus Asked basically came from a dream I have always had to expose what was behind all of those questions Jesus asked in the gospels.  There are well over 300 questions recorded in Matthew, Mark Luke and John –so it would stand to reason that Jesus was up to something by asking all of those questions.  I wanted to write the book in way that both high school and middle school students could relate.  It also makes for a great discussion starter for small group time –just throw a student the book, have them open it to any question and start dialoging about why Jesus might have asked that specific question!  As for more projects –I always have something saved on the hard drive, but I think for now I gotta keep my head down on how to best lead in my new position…

Skinny jeans scare me. Do you think you can stand before God someday having worn them and calling yourself a Christian?

Great question Josh, I feel like the skinny jean issue at the office is a bit understated, I mean honestly my jeans are made up of less denim then the other people’s jeans that I work with.  Less denim = less dye = less water.  See, what I’m doing by wearing skinny jeans is not only good for the environment…its good for fashion.  Case closed.

You have 25,000 youth workers hanging in your every word right now. Free for all question, make them count!

How about –what gets you most excited about youth ministry?  Answer: thinking about all of the thousands of youth workers out there doing everything they can to minister to the next generation of the church.  My life was changed 25 years ago because of three college students who welcomed me into youth ministry when I was in sixth grade.  They showed me Christ-like love and compassion week after week (and they asked me to be on their dodgeball team!)  Therefore my prayer for youth workers has always been out of 1Thessalonians 1:3, “We continually remember before our God and Father, your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I pray this daily for them –and for you man.  Thanks for the interview, Josh!

You can learn more about Jason over here at SYM’s Community page. Cool dude … even if his eyes pierce into my soul in that picture. Whoa.

JG

Tyler Braun is a pastor from Portland, Oregon whose first book, Why Holiness Matters, just released. Learn about an exclusive offer for purchasing the book. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, manofdepravity.com.

What inspired you to write the book?

Almost two years ago I began to think about what I lost in not valuing my innocence throughout my adolescent years. I began to think about how Christian culture places such a incredible focus on authenticity and brokenness about sin that we can easily have people believing they need a past in order to fit in.
From there I had a conversation with an author who told me she was concerned about my generation’s lack of desire for holiness. I immediately drew the connection between my lack of innocence to my lack of holiness. And I saw how my own life story of not valuing innocence, getting comfortable with sin, and then waging a war with my shame, was really a story about holiness (or lack thereof). This is what inspired the book.

What has been your experience in the church personally and what are your hopes and dreams for what it could become?

Having been a pastor’s kid my entire life, all I’ve ever known is going to church and being involved at church. Whether it be Sunday morning service dramas where I had to wear make up or the endless amount of youth group all-nighters, I’ve done almost every crazy thing there is to do at the local church level. More than that though, I’ve grown up in the church growth movement where focus was given toward how to do church rather than why to do church.
My dreams for the church are to continue getting the why down right before we ever consider how to do church. The church is the hope of the world as long as the relationships within lead closer to Christ. We need churches that continue to sacrifice themselves for the sake of allowing those without hope to have hope.

What is most frustrating to you about the faith of the Millennial Generation?

We want to do a lot without being anything. I think we’ve gotten the Christian life flipped around. We focus so much on activism and being engaged in the world around us that we can forget who has sent us out. Church becomes unnecessary when the entirety of faith is about what we do. And we’ve seen this reflected in the gaping hole most churches have between the ages of 15 and 35.
Someone recently told me regarding our cultural engagement efforts, the fruit looks great, but we’ve lost the vine, which is Christ.
Allowing Christ’s love for us to push us out into loving others can often become a human effort where we love others in order to impress them and God. Rather than seeing where we messed this up, we instead blame the church for being out of touch. We must come back to Christ and begin by allowing His love for us to shape us.

Tell us an authentic story about yourself to prove you’re not a robot.

In college I played intramural basketball with a bunch of my friends and during one game the other team had a girl who decided to guard me. She told me just to play my normal game. I’m a competitive guy so I didn’t think anything of it. I was going to make the team pay for putting a girl on me.
I went off in that game. I’ve had some hot shooting streaks in my day but nothing like this. I made 11 three-pointers that game. It felt as if I was playing NBA Jam circa 1998 in real life. But more than all those made shots I remember this girl guarding me tough when I was in the corner. I weaved the ball around and my elbow just clipped her nose. In the midst of the best game of my life I managed to become the schmuck who elbowed a girl in the face. I think I apologized to her 25 times that night.
But it worked out because that girl became my wife 3 years later.

I assume a follow-up book is planned or you’ve got something coming up next. Fill us in!

I’m going to be releasing an ebook on mentoring tentatively titled, “How to Find and Thrive With a Mentor.” The set up is my own story of going mentor-less for over 5 years, and then I provide some needed principles for a Millennial to seek after and then find someone to speak into their life. I think it’s a practical but needed guidebook for many based on tons of conversations I’ve had with others who want a mentor but can’t find one.

Beyond that, I’m kicking around some ideas for a 2nd book to follow up Why Holiness Matters, but nothing is set in stone right now. I’ll continue to serve diligently at my church, and write as time allows. I believe God calls us to speak into the vast emptiness of our world. That work never ends.

Thanks, Tyler. Looking forward to reading your new book!

JG



I was priviledged to be a part of a roundtable on speaking to Teenagers in the most recent issue Youth Worker journal. It’s now available on their site – here’s a clip of it, head there for the whole thing!

YouthWorker Journal: What goals in youth ministry are achieved through teaching?

Duffy Robbins: Helping kids nurture a relationship with Christ, make good life choices and be equipped for ministry. All of this is drawn from Ephesians 4:14-16.

Josh Griffin: Dispensing information is part of teaching, but far more important are inspiration and challenge. Teaching gives youth workers the opportunity to combine personal experiences and story with the eternal relevance of God’s Word.

Pamela Erwin: Critical thinking, biblical literacy and teaching the story of God’s revelation. There’s a tremendous difference between teaching objectives (what content we want to communicate) and learning objectives (the transformative learning that takes place through an experience). A primary transformative skill is thinking critically. Youth ministries are excellent places to teach biblical literacy basics such as the books of the Bible and key characters of Scripture. Youth workers also need to help students understand the big story of God’s work in humanity from creation to Revelation, along with the individual stories of God’s activity in Scripture coupled with how God is constantly pursuing them. Students need to know their stories are as important to God as those in Scripture.

JG

A feature film, dramatic TV series, documentaries, reality television, shorts, music videos and commercials – all of these are regulars for the Erwin Brothers, a writer/director duo of their new feature film OCTOBER BABY. Here are MoreThanDodgeball.com’s 5 Questions with October Baby Co-director Jon Erwin

Movies have all sorts of inspirations and influences – certainly October Baby is the same. Would you share a little of the backstory to the film?

October Baby began when I heard Gianna Jessen speak. I heard her true story and it really shook me it moved me. It was amazing I didn’t know that there was such a thing called ‘abortion survivors.’ I didn’t know those two words can fit together.

The more I study the more I felt my brother and I needed to do something. So we set out to make the movie. we wanted to tell a story about a young girl named Hannah, a beautiful 19-year-old girl who discovers that she was adopted and was never told because she survived a failed abortion attempt. So she goes on a journey of discovery to find answers and ultimately finds the true power of forgiveness. We wanted to make a film that would make you laugh and make you cry and get caught up in a great love story, but most of all make you think about how beautiful and precious every life is.

I’m sure the goal wasn’t to make a pro-life film, but that is certainly how many people are characterizing it. What were your goals originally and have they changed now that people are beginning to see and respond to the film?

Our goal was to get people to talk. We felt this issue was very important to us and the more people talked about the value of life the better. we wanted to confront indifference and apathy more than anything.

I believe the film is much more than just a pro-life film. I think it’s a celebration of life. It’s about forgiveness, it’s about love, it’s about knowing who you are, it’s about a lot of different things, and most of all it’s about the power of forgiveness. But when I read about how people are experiencing the film and young girls who have decided to keep their child because of it, or women and men who have had abortions finding healing, that is really amazing to me.

So far are you pleased with the over response to the film? Any surprises in people’s reaction? Is the conversation surrounding the film what you had hoped?

We have been blown away by how people have responded to the film. Whether it’s the themes of forgiveness or the issue of the sanctity of life, people just react to the film in really deeply emotional ways. I have been surprised by the controversy and how much conversation the film has sparked. But seeing people talk about the film in the public arena and especially in the secular media I think it’s really great.

What scenes were in the original script or filmed that ended up on the cutting room floor?

All in all, we had to cut over 45 minutes of the movie. Some of those scenes I really, really love. But it’s all about making a great movie. So some of those scenes had to go. The one I was most sad about losing, was a scene that involved the character of Alana reconciling her relationship to Hannah.

In that scene she reveals that she had had an abortion and that is why she treated Hannah the way she did. It was a really powerful scene but it just didn’t flow with the rest of the movie so we had to lose it. But thank God for the DVD and all the extra features it will have!

Tell us about the resources that youth workers could use in conjunction with this film.

I’m very proud of the marketing and ministry team and everything that they’ve done to produce some great resources for the film. Lifeway has produced a great Bible Study specifically designed for youth groups. I think that the movie deals with a lot of themes that teens can relate to, and are currently dealing with. So I love the idea of getting resources into the hands of youth workers. I led the college ministry in my church for a year and I know how difficult that can be at times, and also how rewarding. So it’s amazing to create a movie that can be a useful tool and can help teens understand God’s perspective on issues they far everyday.

JG



As a young pastor in Southern California, Craig Gross began to notice a recurring theme among those he cared for – a struggle with pornography. Boldly and courageously, he decided to address the root of the problem, so he went to the porn industry to ask some questions. This passion led him to start XXXchurch.com, a website devoted to telling the truth about porn. It now has had over 70 million visitors to the website and almost a half of million people using X3watch Accountability Software.

1) what are you most proud of in your work with the church and sexuality/pornography?

I am most proud that we have taken an issue that was silent in the church but widespread and in the 10 years we have been doing this we have seen openness to talk about this issue now like I never would have imagined. I find myself speaking at different churches each weekend in different parts of the country that I always ask myself.. are we sure this is the right place? Along the journey, I have met a lot of people that tell me they are accountable now using our software. Its not about the software, it is about the relationships that I believe are changed and challenged because of this conversation and that means a lot to know that we have 1 million people now using our accountability software.

2) what first steps would you challenge a youth worker trapped in addiction to pornography?

Quit your job. Seriously, because the sad part is most of you wont come clean and you will get caught eventually and then you will be fired. If you wont own up and get accountable and get some help then just quit and save yourself and your family and church and kids the heartache of getting fired. Like it or not and I am not saying I agree with this but you will be fired 95% of the times so if you want to keep your job confess. I doubt that is your senior pastor, how awesome would it be if it was but you got to fine someone safe in your circle you can talk through this with so it does not lead to you doing anything crazy offline.

3) what is the goal of Pure Sex?

There is so much fear surrounding the issue of sex and porn when it comes to talking about it. This conversation is not as scary as we have made it out to be. Kids in your youth group are talking about this with or without you. We want you to be in on the conversation and equip you with some tools and resources that will help you lead this conversation. I am excited how it turned out and think this is just an intro to something that each youth pastor can make specific to their youth group. It is a 4 week video curriculum that I think will provide some healthy teaching and conversation on several issues surrounding sex.

4) if you had a few minutes with some key volunteers or small group leaders in our youth ministry, what would you say to them? How does the Volunteer’s Backpocket Guide to Sex play a part in that?

I sometimes take for granted the information we have accumulated because of this ministry. People talk to us and ask us questions they have probally not asked anyone else. I don’t claim to be an expert and at times wont you all the right words but we just wanted to help youth workers and volunteers on a number of issues. This book I believe can sort of be like IKEA instruction manual. Depending on the item I am setting up from IKEA I might need all the instructions or just a few pictures and I am on my way. Some parts of this book might sounds elementary and others you might have no clue what we are talking about but we just thought we would share some of our knowledge and experience from working with kids and answering many of these questions over the last years.

5) anything final thoughts you want to share with youth workers?

Keep doing what you are doing. My youth pastor did youth ministry for 22 years at our church and is the reason why I am in ministry. I get bummed out these days as I don’t see a lot of youth pastors sticking around that long. I don’t know of a more important job in the church today. I know it does not pay as much as the lead pastor or teaching pastor and you don’t get to wear the fancy shoes and Vegas jeans that all those guys seem to be rocking at all their cool conferences but what you are doing is important and matters.

JG

I recently did an email interview with a college student who was writing a research paper about the departure of students from church once they graduate. Thought I would post my answers up here on the blog as well – would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, too!

1. What kind of doubts about the Bible and Christianity do you hear Christian young people express?

Can the Bible be trusted? If God is so loving, why is there so much evil in the world? Is Hell real? What about the inconsistencies in the Bible? Why does the Bible disagree so clearly with what we KNOW is true from science?

Students in our ministry have all sorts of doubts, and honestly, I’m so glad they are sharing them with us. I think a crisis of faith in high school where they are trained, card for, mentored, loved and further educated sets them up for much higher rates of personalizing their faith than those in less fortunate environments who aren’t allowed to express doubts until early in their college years when it is challenged very directly and their faith crumbles in a heap.

2. What non-biblical beliefs do you see Christian young people embracing?

Evolution is taught as scientific fact in our culture, so it is a common belief that theory is how our universe was created. I would also say there is a surge in a more inclusiveness to different faiths, not just within various Christian denominations, but even non-biblical faith systems. Just Google “I’m a Mormon” and you’ll see how great of a job the Mormons are doing of fitting in with Christians and see why Christian teens may be misled.

3. What social issues are young people struggling with?

Bullying is huge in the news and the bookstore these days – it is funny since it has been around forever but just now getting the attention it deserves. In addition to that the homosexual issue is now very much at the forefront of youth culture (see Born This Way and Glee as examples), along with depression, identity issues, self-esteem and suicide. We just finished up a teaching series called Secrets, and have over 400 anonymous cards returned with real issues that our students are struggling with. It was powerful stuff and will shape our teaching topics for the next 1-2 years I would imagine.

4. What do you think are the biggest reasons Christian young people question their faith?

I think it is natural to question your faith. If you test it, and it checks out, your faith is deepened. I may even go as far as suggesting that I think that faith should be questioned, and it is a normal part of believing in something without seeing it. For that matter, I’m not sure it can (or should be) helped. I say that as a youth pastor who knows that to be true, but also as a father that fears that statement because I so desperately want my children to know and walk with God. Look at Doubting Thomas as example A for doubting leading to devotion. Sad he gets such a bad rap – his doubt led him to a depth of faith that would lead him to literally change the world for Christ.

5. What do you think are the major reasons Christian young people reject their faith?

Unsatisfactory answers. Poor foundational teaching. And I also think that the rejection of a parent’s values/belief/ideals is a somewhat normal part of adolescent development as well – we have to remember that the teenager years are leading up to this big burst of freedom to live their own life free of their parents and their past – and the run with the newfound freedom. I have a feeling that teenagers and young adults have long been leaving the church (perhaps to return as a young parent) and it has only recently come to light.

6. What do you think would help Christian young people keep their faith after they leave home?

I think parents are the first and most important key. A Godly, consistent home that reinforces the truths of the Bible is critical. I think helping graduated students find a new church in their new college home and walk through that transition is huge. The importance of the right circle of friends cannot be overstated. And a relationship with someone from back home (a mentor, Life Group leader, etc) to help walk with them through this time of freedom, tempation and maturity. The book The Slow Fade might give you some more specific insight here.

7. What are you doing to prepare your youth to face future challenges to their beliefs?

Every year we do several practical series and give out tons of usable tools to help students grow on their own. Our goal is to make sure that students have a faith of their own and not just riding the Christian culture or the pressure to conform of their parents. We also do regular apologetics teaching series and offer several workshops on these subjects to help ground them in the faith. Life Groups are the opportunity for mentorship and modeling of faith by a trained, screened and loving leader.

8. Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Do you see a correlation between how little it costs to be a Christian in America and the loss of faith that is occurring in Christian young people?

Maybe so, I suppose? I would suggest it isn’t as easy at you might think to be a Christian (outside of the Christian private school/bible college/home bubble I grew up well within myself). In the real world I see my students having to stand up for their faith, be persecuted (mildly by Tertullian standards of course) and perhaps it costs them more than we think on the surface.

JG



It has been a few months since I posted some of the words or phrases people put into Google and subsequently end up on my blog (via Google Analytics). Here’s a handful [out of 1,000+] that I thought were interesting or funny in the past 30 days:

  • you own the weekend
  • doug fields twitter
  • healthy staff culture
  • matt edited from simply youth ministry podcast
  • bottles for bibles
  • chic-fil-a dodgeball
  • missile silos for sale
  • essence series, saddleback, hsm
  • female youth pastor
  • podcast saddleback obama mccain
  • reformation generation
  • saddleback church kyle loza
  • use my business degree
  • bob sahlin
  • business degree church
  • soul patch job interview
  • who stole my church
  • a girl sang at the staples center on August 7th, 2008
  • americans moving to dubai
  • annual youth ministry worker salaries
  • average employee capacity
  • blog movies spoiling youth
  • blogging against the pastor
  • can easy worship use a firewire port
  • chin puff
  • churches with more than one youth minister
  • darth vader snow deathstar
  • david archuleta crush
  • encouragement for young pastors
  • european guys wear capris
  • exit interview youth ministry
  • feeling used blog
  • fighting negativity in the church
  • find the google searches that lead to your blog
  • gay robot pancakes
  • god gave me the gift to play dodgeball
  • hot to shave a gotee
  • how can i keep attendance on my youth group
  • how to get 20000 gamerscore
  • pictures of jason castro without dreadlocks
  • rick warren nut
  • should pastors have a degree in ministry
  • tesh ministries
  • typical work week for youth pastors
  • what happens if you find an indian on a red tootsie pop wrapper
  • what is the real purpose of youth group
  • why run hot or cold water down the garbage disposal?
  • what does more than dodgeball mean

JG

Last month I wrote a short clip for Group Magazine that will appear in an upcoming issue. Thought we could have some fun with it here on the blog now after the fact. Here’s three of 10 Things You Shouldn’t Say in a Job Interview, have you got a few more to add just for laughs?

10. Hey, I think there’s a misprint here. Did you forget one of the digits in the salary?
8. Sure, I’m happy to count summer camp as a week of vacation.
4. Oh yeah, my spouse is definitely part of the “bargain” here.

JG