The Youth Cartel’s Middle School Ministry Campference has become one of my favorite events of the year! If you work with young teens in a paid, part-time or volunteer basis we would love to have you join us for three days of learning, laughing and encouragement with others in our “tribe”. The campference is just that: A camp combined with a conference, which is what makes it so unique. If you want to join us, it’s almost too late…but not quite! You can get details and register right here.

lets talkWe went to the email bag with this topic. Remember email us at with your questions or topic suggestions. This is a topic that needs more attention and dialog. We decided to talk about it in the context of our on ministry.  Also, we probably give the best advice that we have on the topic towards the end.  Let’s keep the conversation going. We would love to hear how you approach this topic within your ministry.


hope it helps

kurt & ac

lets talkKurt and I deviate from our usual structure (the good, bad and #smh) and we give you our TOP four tips on speaking to students.  We know that for some speaking my come easy, and for others speaking can be a challenge.  So for some we hope these tips confirm and strengthen what you already know, and for others we hope these tips encourage and give you more confidence in the work God has called you to do.

What’s your number one teaching tip you would share?

hope it helps

kurt & ac

Okay, I’ll admit it; there are things about junior high ministry, and junior highers in general, that I just don’t like. It’s the stuff that I’ve tolerated for 25 years because of my love for, and calling to, this wonderful age group. Here are just a few things that make me cringe:

- The “Steal The Cute Boy’s Hat” game that girls love to play. You know the one: Girl steals boys cap and boy proceeds to chase said girl all around the youth room. Why do I loathe it so? I have no idea.

- When a junior higher, usually a girl and usually one with sticky hands, sneaks up from behind me, covers my eyes and makes me guess who it is. I know it’s a way of showing endearment, but yuck. Of course, if I was just a little taller my eyes would be out of reach which is why my junior high ministry buddy, Scott Rubin, has no idea this ritual even exists!

- The relentless questions by some students that just don’t need to be asked! Hey, I’m all for inquisitiveness and discovery…that’s a really fun part about working with young teens. But I’m not talking about that stuff; I’m talking about the kid who, while at camp, fires a barrage of unimportant, or previously answered questions: “When is lunch?”, “What do we do during chapel?”, “Why isn’t there any fruit loops?”, “How long is free time?”, “What do I do if I get bored?”, “Am I allowed to get a drink of water on my own?”. You know the kid I’m talking about.

- Close Talkers. I’m apposed to close talkers of all ages, and I think the habit starts in junior high when students are dying for attention and want to make sure they are getting it….in an up-close and personal way. So, in an effort to prevent them from a life of extremely awkward conversations (of course, close talkers don’t find it awkward AT ALL), I simply don’t tolerate the practice. I’m cringing just thinking about close talkers.

- That game they play at the table at camp…the one where they move their cups around and stack them to some sort of beat. I’m sure this dumb game has a name, but I’ve never stuck around in its presence long enough to learn it.

I’m sure there are other things that make me cringe, but those are the ones that came rushing to my fingertips as soon as I started to type.

Here’s your chance to vent (it feels pretty good, and it’s okay to do once in a while…). What about junior high ministry makes you cringe?

lets talk

Small groups was our very first request for a topic (you can send your topic requests to So here we go!

Small Groups are the lifeblood for many youth ministries, and for good reason! I’ve often said that if I was told by our Pastor that we could only do ONE thing in our ministry the one thing we would do is small groups. Workshops have been taught and books written on the topic, and today we add a few simple “Good, Bad and #SMH” thoughts of our own on the newest episode of “Let’s Talk About Youth Ministry”.

Attention youth leaders! A great resource is waiting for just a click of your mouse to fuel your ministry right now. Sign up for the Simply Youth Ministry Today newsletter to receive FREE, brief and powerful nuggets to spur on your ministry daily.

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The revamped SYM Today newsletter, now equipped with exclusive posts Monday through Friday, is the best way to make sure that you don’t miss a beat of daily wisdom from authors in the trenches of youth ministry.

Leaders including Rick Lawrence, Editor in Chief of Group Magazine, and Saddleback’s Kurt Johnston among many others share advice on everything from taking care of your family to missions to summer agendas- if it’s relevant to youth ministers, they are talking about it. Don’t miss another day of useful truths in your inbox.

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Happy Friday Homies!

- Amber Cassady aka the new girl aka AC

article.2013.06.19Actually, you can lose the support of parents in 10 MINUTES, but we wanted this week’s theme to be consistent. Uninformed youth workers often criticize parents as standing in the way of youth ministry. This makes us laugh…and then cry. We hope you get this: Youth ministry is about caring for students and families and parents as they raise their children. It is our job to come alongside them as the church and support them in this calling. We don’t always get it right, in fact today we’ve got three ways youth workers often miss the mark when it comes to parents.

We don’t let them know what is happening in youth group.

Youth group is the best-kept secret in the church! How cool would it be if parents knew the lessons ahead of time and could have the opportunity to discuss it before they left for group? Or at least had some tools on the back end to help them discuss at home what they learned at church… Too often we move from lesson to lesson and program to program without even the most basic communication to parents.

We don’t return phone calls.
It doesn’t matter what type of communication you prefer. For many parents, hearing a voice over the phone is far and away the best message. When you don’t return a phone call it subtracts equity from your ministry. It doesn’t take long before you are overdrawn. If you aren’t a phone person…who cares? You need to become one because a phone call is the love language of most parents these days.

We keep the spiritual growth of their child a mystery.

This year we’re trying to go public with the spiritual progress of each student. We’re not hanging a star chart on the wall of the youth room, but hoping to connect parents and small group leaders every month in some tangible way. Maybe in a personal email, a coffee date, or even a breakfast gathering that would function more like a parent-teacher conference than anything else.

How else do we lose parents in our ministry?

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.

You’ve probably heard something like this dozens of times:

“Great message this week. Hey…what do you do all week anyhow?”

The tempting response is to punch that person in the neck (in love, of course). But a better response might be to actually be ready to give a quick answer to an honest question. We don’t always reply this way, but here is one example.

Serve students faithfully.

We got into this because of our love for students. Something about that age still resonates with us as we remember how critical this stage was in our lives and in our spiritual development. What do we do all day? Serve students. Talk to them about life. Nudge them toward Jesus. Call them out. Empower our leaders to do the same.

Equip parents and volunteers strategically.
What do we do all day? We create tools and resources to help our team of incredible people minister to students. We write talks and lessons and experiment with all sorts of ideas to help moms and dads love their teenagers more and empower them to spiritually disciple their own children. We celebrate when leaders bring someone to Christ or when a parent sees a wayward son or daughter come home.

Love the church wholeheartedly.

We love youth ministry—but we’re all about the whole church, too. Part of what we do all week is caring for adults and helping our teenagers not just fall in love with youth group but want to be a part of an adult movement that is changing the world for Jesus. We want to do whatever we can to help the whole organization be healthy.

Love our community unconditionally.
Part of what we do all week is love people—love our neighbor, love our spouse, and love our kids. I (Josh) serve in the community and chaplain the Cub Scout pack down the road. Ultimately what we get paid to do all week is love God and love students.

P.S. Obviously Josh also spends a good portion of each week doing calf exercises.

“So … what do you do all week?”

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.