I’m excited to be a part of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference again this year – took a couple minutes to sit down with Jason Ostrander, the conference director and king of event planning for Simply Youth Ministry.

What has been the funniest moment in planning SYMC?
One thing I know about youth ministry is that you “never cut funny”.  In other words, now matter how serious ministry can become (and it is a serious thing) we have to remember that we still work with students – and students are funny.  So watching you and Jake remind our team how funny things like music videos and crazy announcements can be has been hilarious!  Let’s just say it ensures that we won’t soon forget who we are.

What has been the most difficult part of planning the conference?
Walking that fine line between entertainment and ministry.  One of the distinctions of SYMC is that people know they have been ministered to –that’s its not just been a parade of youth ministry “stuff”.  But at the end of the day SYMC is also a hotbed for resources as well as a place to highlight some of the brightest voices in YM culture.

Just saw that Youth Ministry Architects will be there. What’s the plan/idea there?
YMA is an amazing organization that seeks to partner with the local church in a consultant-like role.  They truly want to partner with youth workers to help them create and grow an impactful ministry –it’s like having a YM expert in your back pocket all the time!  They’ll be on site in Indy with a handful of staff ready to meet one-on-one with youth workers throughout the conference.  I would sign-up as soon as you arrive!

What did you learn about Josh and Jake (the conference emcees for 6 years running) last week at your planning meeting in Colorado?
Two things: 1) that Josh is the smart and sensible one, and 2) I would not want to be Jake during the announcement videos come March 1st-4th.

Tell us the #1 reason someone should attend SYMC?
I wouldn’t have stayed in youth ministry as long as I did if it wasn’t for the greater YM community.  I think the best thing about SYMC is the community that exists year after year –its so interesting to watch as the attendees start to arrive, the conference turns into a family reunion literally overnight.  So whether you already feel connected or this is your first time at SYMC remember -the family is waiting!

Thanks, Jason! You can register for SYMC right here!


I had a chance to sit down with Jason Ostrander, the man behind the incredible Simply Youth Ministry Conference this year – easily one of my favorite weeks of all time. This year we’re in Indianapolis in March – going to be really, really fun:

What is the heart and vision behind SYMC?
The Simply Youth Ministry Conference (aka. SYMC) has always been unique in the landscape of youth ministry conferences in that it is, by design, a conference “by youth workers –for youth workers”. In all aspects of the conference youth workers are an active part of both its development and implementation. The true heart behind SYMC it is to be a place where youth workers from around the world can come to learn, connect and recharge and the vision is always to support the local youth worker in every way possible so that they can thrive in youth ministry.

There are a lot of conferences out there, maybe now more than ever – why choose SYMC?
This is a great question.  My immediate response takes me back to when I was a youth worker attending SYMC –I remember that everyone I met seemed to identify with me as well as my journey.  It felt good to be known (and remembered year after year!)  As the conference director, I would say that SYMC works very hard to cut through the fluff of youth min conferencing so that we can fully engage youth workers right where they are.  I have been a part of some SYMC Lead Team meetings in the past few weeks where we’ve cut out potentially “good” things to make room for the “most important” things that we should be offering to youth workers.

When is the best time to sign up to get the best deal?
Of course the deepest discount for SYMC would be the early bird registration ($40 off the regular price) –which ends THIS WEEK on October 31st!

Hmmm … I should have seen that one coming. Well, youth workers love freebies – give us a deal or secret freebie just for MTDB readers! 
OK…how about a secret MTDB gift bag that includes: a $25 coupon for the SYMC Bookstore, a special early-entry pass for the nightly General Sessions (and other free SYMC-related resources)?  If you register with the code MTDB you’ll receive your gift when you check in at the conference!

Hahaah that’s the best! See you at SYMC!


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.