article.2013.01.09From time to time we pause from the normal posts to answer a few questions from you—the Youth Ministry Nation. Here are a couple we received in the past few weeks, all relating to baptism.

1. How much time do you believe students need after becoming Christ-followers before they should be allowed to be baptized?
Great question! While each church or denomination may have specific programs, rules, or structure, the example we see in Scripture is that baptism was often immediately after conversion. When someone trusted Jesus, they got baptized. Take some time to investigate what traditions your church holds to in this area, and make sure you have a conversation about the baptism process before you run someone into the water and then get into hot water yourself.

2. Do you have a baptism class? Is it required before you are baptized?
We don’t have a specific baptism class in our church for students—we definitely do in our children’s program, and every student 6th grade and under is required to attend before they can be baptized. In junior high and high school we simply interview the student who inquires about baptism and talk about their faith and why they want to be baptized. Usually early in the conversation an experienced youth worker will be discerning enough to know if the student is ready or not.

NOTE: We always get parental approval before baptizing a teenager in our youth group for two reasons: 1) We don’t want the parents to miss out on the celebration and 2) We don’t want to baptize a teenager against a parent’s wishes (we once baptized a student of a completely different religion, MUCH to the disapproval of Mom and Dad).

3. What do you think a student needs to know before they get baptized?
The Scriptures show us that they need to understand that Jesus is the way of salvation and trust in him as their Savior—after that, they’re good to go. Remember, baptism is just a symbol of the transformation of the heart that has already taken place.

If you’re looking for some passages to study as you begin to answer these questions for yourself and your youth group, consider these: 1 Corinthians 15, Mark 1, Acts 8, Romans 6, Matthew 28

4. Do you have any baptismal studies resources you could share?
Yes! The one we would recommend first is the student version of our membership classes where baptism and salvation are the central topics of the first class: CLASS 101-401 Curriculum

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.

article.2013.01.08What would Jesus do? The saying that launched a zillion wrist bands! But it’s a timeless question that has some fun implications when you apply it to youth ministry. Here are a few of the things we believe Jesus would do as a youth pastor.

Teach with lots of stories.
Without a doubt the Master teacher would teach with stories. He would fill his message of hope and salvation with illustrations and object lessons. He would probably be criticized as being “shallow” for his talks, but crowds would flock to hear him teach.

Spend time with core leaders.

Jesus had an inner circle he spent the majority of his time with. He would pour into a few key students in whom he saw potential, and world-changing opportunity to work through them. He would be criticized for ignoring some people, and would undoubtedly have more than a few parents complain that he played favorites.

Focus on relationships.

Jesus didn’t seem to be big on programs. When he did an overnighter, everyone fell asleep while he prayed. Instead of building great programs and youth rooms, he was a man of the people who ministered outside of the church walls.

Trust his volunteer team.
When Jesus left…he left the disciples in charge. In fact, he never came back! Talk about ownership… He was focused on building them, and then set them loose to change the world…and they did!

If you teach with lots of stories, pour into student leaders, focus on relational ministry, and empower your volunteers, you are following Jesus’ example. And while there certainly is more to the modern church, you are most like Jesus when you serve this way.

Blessings as you serve others this 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.

article.2012.12.25[1]Christmas is either a time where you ramp things up to “crazy level” or a time when things slow down just a bit. Of course this mostly depends on your church culture, events, and expectations—but we’re thankful you’ve given us another minute of your time as we end 2012 together with a celebration of the birth of Christ.
As you prepare for the candlelight service at your church—or perhaps you’re reading this from your iPhone as you drive to Idaho to be with family this week—here are a few reminders in this season full of presents.

Be present with your family.
 Take the next few days, when the whole country slows down, to be with family…and really be with family. Break out the video camera; leave your phone on “Do Not Disturb” a little more often; really be present with the people who love you the most. And, if your idea of “present” means paying attention to the family festivities in hopes of capturing the perfect Instagram moment, you are missing the point entirely!

Be present in your ministry.
 One of the benefits to being present with your family, and a little disengaged from church during the holidays, is that it can create a new sense of hunger for ministry heading into the new year. Take advantage of the slower (we hope) ministry season to prayerfully consider what the next year holds and how you can engage more fully and effectively as it begins.

Be present to listen. 
Too often we focus on volunteers and students and the next big overnighter in our ministry and don’t take the time to really listen as we walk hurriedly to the next big thing. Take some time to listen over the break—listen to what parents are saying, listen to students a little more closely, and listen to God’s voice speaking life and guidance into your heart and ministry. Be present in God’s presence.

Merry Christmas! Looking forward to a great 2013 together, too!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.


Stephanie Eis —  December 18, 2012 — 1 Comment



Imagine empowering your students to spend just a few minutes each day discovering a life-shaping, thought-provoking, Jesus-centered truth that can transform them into the kind of people God crafted them to be.
Sounds like a worthwhile investment, doesn’t it?
The Simple Truth Bible features 366 daily devotionals—each one a tasty, bite-size morsel that powerfully reveals what it means to deeply love and trust God, to lead a Jesus-centered life, and to lean on Scripture for guidance and wisdom.
Teenagers will discover how to experience hope in the middle of tough times, how God deeply and passionately loves them, how to build an authentic friendship with Jesus, and how they were created to lead a life of impact in this world and for eternity.
Each devotion includes:

  • Thoughts on a specific passage of Scripture and how it relates to students’ lives
  • Insights to help teenagers turn their thoughts into prayers as they spend time with God
  • Ideas to follow if students want to spend more than a few minutes each day with God
  • Perspective on how that day’s passage fits into the big picture of the Bible

The Simple Truth Bible features contributions from some of the leading voices in youth ministry today, including Kurt Johnston, Mark Oestreicher, Tim Levert, and Greg Stier. The writers skillfully connect the dots between the ancient truths of Scripture and the issues teenagers face living in the 21st century.
Help students join a generation of teenagers committed to experiencing God’s constant, daily presence in their lives!

Get it! Read it! Share it!


Our ministry is very evangelistic. How did it become that way? Good question—and one we’ve been processing in our own discussions this week, too. Here are a few of the reasons a student develops a heart for his or her lost friends, and how a whole bunch of teenagers like that create an infectious ministry.

Lead people to Jesus yourself.
Your ministry is usually a direct reflection of you. Want students to develop a deep sense of community? Be in one yourself and talk about its importance often. Want students to share about their failures and problems? Model vulnerability from the stage and you’ll get it in return. So if you want to produce evangelistic students—you can see it coming by now, can’t you?—share your faith with friends, families and neighbors often. Talk about the lost friend you’re praying for, show them how a conversation can point people to Christ.

Make sure everyone knows their own story.
Students need practical ways to share their faith with their friends—one of the best ways is helping them articulate their own spiritual journey. If their story is filled with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll…that’s okay because it’s THEIR story—but make sure the focus rests squarely on Christ and his redemptive work. If their story isn’t quite that dramatic, encourage them to point out how much God saved them from and the potential they have following Jesus’ ways without the painful past. Either way, having everyone write out their personal story is a great way to help build evangelistic confidence.

Make prayer cards.
A super practical idea might be to help students simply jot down the names of friends who don’t know Jesus on a little card, and keep it in their wallets or purses. Whenever they see those names, they can pray that God would open the door for a spiritual conversation with a friend.

Create series that are easy to invite people to.
We need to be sure to teach the whole counsel of God—every word is ordained and inspired but not as easy for a first-timer to church to handle. At least once a year have a “bring a friend” series that’s designed to give them an easy felt-need they can invite someone to.

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.

This week we’re going to focus on some of the best practices of youth ministry nationwide and hope that it generates some helpful conversation as you agree, disagree or have no opinion either way! Right up front we want to let you know that there is no PERFECT way to do youth ministry; our hope is that you prayerfully consider your context and determine what would and wouldn’t work in the ministry you lead.

BEST PRACTICE: Dividing up junior high and high school students.
There is simply too much difference between a 12-year-old 7th grader and an 18-year-old graduating senior—specifically, the developmental differences. Plus, on a practical note, keeping them separate gives the junior highers something to look forward to. Having said all that, there are some incredible opportunities when you keep these groups together. The older students can disciple and model what younger students can become over the next few years.

• Do you have separate ministries for junior and senior high?
• Why or why not?
• What are other pros and cons of dividing up these age groups?
• What would happen if you made the switch?

BEST PRACTICE: Small groups being the primary method of discipleship and fellowship.
Most youth groups meet once a week for a large-group time of celebration, fun, and worship; and then either as part of that gathering, or at another time during the week, divide up into small groups for fellowship and discipleship. The overwhelming model has been for groups to work through a curriculum and also share life and Christian community together.

• Does your church have small groups, Sunday school, or just large group times?
• Why have you chosen this strategy?
• What is the weakness of this model?
• Sunday school used to be invincible; now it has largely been replaced by small groups. What’s next?

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.

This week we’re focusing on leadership—specifically, the upside-down concept that to be a great leader you have to be a great follower. Yesterday we looked at Follow-Up and Following the Leader—here are two more.

Follow Jesus
We didn’t start with this one yesterday because it may have felt cliché to lead with this one—but it is the most important “following” out of all of them…hands down. Following Jesus can be easily faked, but the person who genuinely follows Jesus shines with an authenticity that is easily recognized. Be that person! If you want to be a truly great leader, make sure you follow the Leader.

Practical ways to get better at following Jesus: Find a resource that will help you spend time with Jesus every day. Download the YouVersion Bible app and pick a reading plan—be sure to set a reminder each day to give you a nudge in you haven’t marked it completed by noon.

Block out a little time for prayer before your lunch hour each day. Spend a month and only read the red letters in the gospels. Being more familiar with the ways of Jesus might actually help you follow him more closely!

Follow a mentor
Don’t risk doing youth ministry alone. You need a person who has been there before who can share wisdom with you from the journey. It doesn’t need to be someone in the exact same profession, but someone who can relate to your calling and shares some of the same passions. All great leaders have great mentors, if you want to be great be humble enough to learn from someone else today.

Practical ways to get better at following a mentor: Find a network in your area where you can gather and talk shop. Search online for a veteran youth minister in your area to help coach you. Find blogs, books, and resources that will help mentor you and push your development. Identify somebody in your congregation, from any profession, that you respect and ask them if they’d join you for coffee once in a while.

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.

This week we’re focusing on leadership—and conveniently each of the principles we’re sharing this month start with the letter “F.” Why, you ask? No reason, really.

A parent mentions something to you in passing right before you walk on stage to give announcements. Later that afternoon, as you are dozing off on the couch while watching football, you suddenly, vaguely, remember something about a concerned parent. You have no recollection of what the parent wanted, or the level of concern in her voice. You shrug it off and decide that if it was something serious, she’ll be sure to track you down. Great leaders have ability and willingness to follow up when others would shrug it off; to take action steps others would have long forgotten. If you want to be a strong leader, accept nothing less than excellent follow-up to each interaction.

Practical ways to get better at following up: Flag emails that need your action. Always start with that folder first to knock some of those out right away. Get good at leaving yourself quick voice memos on your phone you can track down later. Use a Moleskin (real paper—gasp!) or the Stickies app to help you jot down quick thoughts you need to follow-up on later.

Follow the Leader
You serve Jesus…and the pastor He has called to lead your church. Too often youth workers get frustrated by their position on the church staff totem pole (somewhere below the janitor). God has called you to a church and he has called you to serve those “above you.” Until things change, you are to serve and honor them. Breaking the unity of the church is a rookie mistake—veteran leaders with longevity know how to follow the leader…even if it’s the church janitor.

Practical ways to get better at following the leader: Ask them out for lunch one day this week to help build your relational storehouse. Make sure your interactions go beyond crisis management or only meeting when problems arise. Send a thank you card or note to your leader. Appreciate the real weight of those leading your whole church.

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.