I did a LIVE Curriculum giveaway (a $500 value) back in August and then left on vacation – and never picked a winner! I’m so sorry – I had such a great time away and then came back and didn’t give it another thought. This week I mentioned it to the guys at Simply Youth Ministry and they decided to give 2 more LIVE editions away to make up for me being an idiot! So congrats to ALL 3 winners:

Congrats! Thanks to everyone who entered!


Hilarious video by Parker and Travis we played at both Life Group leader training this weekend and our youth services. Loved it – a typical girl’s Life Group night in a nutshell!


HSM’s Life Groups are divided by grade, gender and geography – you can read more about that right here. Curious about your situation and was hoping you would vote in today’s poll – are your small groups divided by gender? Vote now.


The Power of Testimonies

 —  September 20, 2012 — 1 Comment

I love adding a testimony to my message. I think it makes the sermon totally come alive!

For HSM’s Fall Kickoff this year I taught a message to each class (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) and for a couple of them I added a testimony to help give the talk a sense of realism and weight. The two students who shared, Jenna (an incoming freshman) and Bryce (starting his senior year), did an incredible job sharing their hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. I was so proud of them – a couple incredibly mature students!

We don’t always have a testimony, but when we do:

  • We give students direction for their story – but not usually too much lead time
  • Students have to simply read their testimony on the stage – it is the great equalizer
  • All testimonies are edited by someone from the team
  • Parents have to be aware of the content and sign off on it being shared


Fun new video from HSM to promote the last day of Life Group registration! www.hsmlifegroups.com


I got to have lunch with one of our new small group leaders recently and he asked me about some of the tricks that I had learned during my time leading a small group. Despite me only having 3 years of small group experience, I realized that I have learned a lot in that time. Here are a few of the tips that really stuck out for him:

This is an awesome idea that I got from a pastor in Virginia. It is essentially a “pass-book.” In it, the student has the freedom to write whatever they want to their leader. Be prepared for anything! I’ve gotten pictures of dinosaurs, movie reviews, knock-knock jokes, and much MUCH more! But I’ve also gotten students to open up about school frustrations and family troubles. The cool thing is that the leader collects these books at the end of every meeting so that they can read them and write back to them. I love the ministry that I have been able to do through the use of those journals. Sometimes, it can be hard to give each student the “one-on-one” time that they deserve, so this is an awesome way to give each student individual attention every week!

Traditions have been so key to the bonding that I have seen in my small group. Have your leaders be on the look out for things that would be fun and unique for their group to do. One of the biggest traditions for my group is our once-a-year “let’s talk about sex” party. Being a guys small group, sex is a topic that gets brought up weekly, but we make sure to take out a week or two out of the year to focus specifically on sex and purity. I go all out for this party. I make decorate the room (I usually wait until the Valentine’s stuff goes on sale), I make sure there is plenty of food, and I even bake a cake. It is super fun and my guys look forward to it every year. Encourage your leaders to find their group’s tradition!

For some this might seem like a given, but there are too many small groups out there that aren’t serving together. Serving is super important not only for the awesome bonding that is provides, but because the Bible calls the Church to be serving. Serving is a great way to mix up the traditional 30 minute lesson and allows students to be practicing what they have been learning. It also deepens relationships in the group. It is crazy to see the difference a service project can make to a groups chemistry and health! Try to provide your small group leaders with information on upcoming service opportunities that they can be taking their groups on!

What are some small group tips that you have?

Colton Harker is the Student Leadership Coordinator at Saddleback HSM.  If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him at coltonharker@gmail.com or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

How We Do What We Do

 —  August 29, 2012 — 3 Comments

It will come as no surprise to most of you that we have a very specific strategy concerning our approach to youth ministry. While your paradigm/process/strategy/purpose (call it whatever the heck you want) may look different than ours, having an easily articulated method to your madness is worth considering. Our youth ministry is centered around three simple “arenas” we think are ultra important in teenagers lives. Right now all of our youth ministry programs fit into one of these three arenas, each with a very specific purpose:

LARGE GROUP: We want to EXPOSE students to Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes.

PRIMARY PROGRAM: Weekend Worship Services
Our weekend services are designed to give students a taste of what the church is all about and an entry-level chance to be exposed to the teachings of Jesus. All students are welcome, and the message is designed to have applications for seekers and the sold out. The services have a high level of student involvement with adults only in the most critical roles (teaching, etc). This is our most visible program to the public and also the most visible to the pastoral leadership of the church as well.

SMALL GROUP: We want students to EXPERIENCE Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes with others.

Our small group program meets during the week (on Tuesday or Wednesday nights) and divides up the large group into groups of 8-10 students. Groups are ideally made up of teenagers in the same grade, gender and geography enabling them to form a strong community through their high school years. Every group has an adult leader who leads the discussion and teaches a curriculum that’s separate from the large group program. Our goal is that a student goes beyond simple exposure to Christ but will begin to experience discipleship, ministry, and community.

INDIVIDUAL LIFE: Ultimately, we hope students will EXPRESS Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.

PRIMARY PROGRAM(S): Grow booth, missions trips, events, serve projects
Basically in this arena we have a ton of options that students can choose as an individual. They’ve been exposed to Christ at the entry-level program, they experience Christ in a small group—now they have the chance to express or live out their faith in a myriad of choices presented to them at this level. We offer lots of Serve opportunities and resources to help students grow, and a few key events/camps throughout the year as well.

What does your process look like? Share it in the comments!

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.