Being intentional is a concept we are all familiar with in ministry, and more and more it is becoming a key aspect as we struggle to compete with the busyness of students lives. We value our student’s time greatly and know that we are competing against a lot of other activities that they could be doing. Since we know that a student carving out a 3-hour block of time to come to church is a big deal, we respond by making a big deal of our youth night. Part of making a big deal of our night is that we are intentional from start to finish and we have a reason for every element of the night. Here are a few reasons why you need to really intentional about everything:

For God: I believe that taking your weekly gathering of youth seriously is a priority. To steal a page from Doug Fields’ book Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, if something we do does not promote Worship, Discipleship, Service, Evangelism or Fellowship why are we doing it? This should be a primary consideration of every element of our youth program and all events and activities we put on. I am not sure that I want to stand before the Lord and say we did something “just ’cause”, because as leaders that is not good enough. We need to point students to God at every opportunity, not just sometimes.

For Students: Modeling for students that every facet of our lives matters to God is important. We are not shy about explaining why we do what we do at our youth program and I think it is a great teachable moment when students ask. Our student’s time is valuable; and when we have them, we will always try and make the most of it. From start to finish our goal is provide them with opportunities to encounter God, to connect with a caring leader, to learn about Jesus and to Worship Him. Having a clear purpose of your youth ministry will benefit the spiritual growth of your students.

For Parents: Parents have been known to be critical of youth programs sometimes because the one they were a part of 30 years ago was not like “this”. For those parents I choose to be prepared when they start asking questions such as:

-Why is the Worship so loud?
-Why do you allow secular music to be played in the Church?
-Why do you allow saved and unsaved students in the same small groups? (Actual question!)
-We never had small groups on the same night
-Why don’t you play more games? We used to play dodgeball all the time.

It is pretty easy to defuse a parent when you have a reason for doing what you do. If they question an element of your program and you don’t have a rationale for why you do it they way you do, watch out. Parents may not agree with you, but will respect that you have thought about their concern before hand.

For the sake of supporting the vision that God has given you for your ministry, and for making the most of every opportunity that you have when your students are in the building, its vital that you have a reason and a rationale for every element of your youth night from the time the first student arrives until the last one gets picked up.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MTDB. Be sure to check out his Twitter stream for awesome ministry goodness. Want to get in on the fun and write up a guest post yourself? See how right here.

When Kurt and I came up with the idea of sharing a couple books that influenced us the most in ministry my mind immediately thought of a dozen books that have significantly shaped me as a youth worker. Without a doubt I am a better leader, husband, parent and youth pastor because of the influence of incredible men and women who have shared their hearts, learnings and failures with me over the past 15 years.

As for the Top 2 … well, these are the best of the best. If you haven’t read them, I can’t encourage you enough to pick them up and let the authors pour into you like they did me. Here’s the 2 most influential in my life personally, and a list of runners up you may also want to check out:

The Heart of a Pastor — HB London
I remember reading this book while I was serving in my first church. Ministry then was a series of extremes. It was extremely rewarding and I had a front-row seat to life change for the very first time as a pastor. And was extremely challenging and difficult to figure out how to do youth ministry for the first time. If it wasn’t for a grace-filled pastor and elders I would have (and possibly should have) been long gone. I read this book and one particular phrase continued to stand out to me as a stark reminder of my calling: bloom where you are planted. No excuses, no wandering eyes, no wishing you were somewhere else — God has called you HERE so until you hear from Him, act like it. So I did. Fantastic book.

Purpose Driven Youth Ministry — Doug Fields
This book came at another crucial time in my youth ministry experience. My wife and I had actually resigned our youth ministry position and were finishing up the summer out before leaving “to go to seminary” — translation: we wanted out, and this was the nice way of saying goodbye. During our final months I happened to stumble on Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren and eventually this, Doug Fields’ student ministry version of the book. As I devoured the pages, it felt like what he was saying was what I had always felt — even intrinsically know — about how church could be. We went back to our church that summer and God blessed us with 4 more incredible years at that same church we had resigned from, and the student ministry became something really special. This book played an eye-opening role in my journey to become a real youth pastor. An absolute must-read.

First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields
Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries
Every Man’s Battle by Stephen Arterburn
Grace Awakening by Charles Swindoll
Bringing Up Boys — James Dobson
Handbook on Counseling Youth — Josh McDowell

What books have shaped you? I’d like to read them 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.

Can’t afford to take your volunteers to a conference this year? Looking for some youth worker training during the Christmas slowdown or to kickoff the New Year? Lots of great options on sale this week at Simply Youth Ministry. Check them out now!


Kurt posted a lengthy piece about how we’re doing Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry here at Saddleback today. He talks a lot about our past and where we’re headed in the present. There’s some good stuff there for you to check out if you’re interested in how he is leading us as the Student Ministries Pastor here at Saddleback. Here’s an excerpt:

My starting point is the idea that we have “three arenas” in which our ministry has access into the lives of students. We gather them in LARGE GROUP settings, We gather them in SMALL GROUP settings and we get together with them as INDIVIDUALS. Here, in a very small nutshell is what it looks like:

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

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

INDIVIDUAL LIFE: With the hope that students will EXPRESS Christ, his Kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.

We are still aware of the 5 potential audiences….that students are in different places spiritually, but instead of trying to design programs specifically for those students…that aim just for them and discourage other “audiences” from showing up, we are recognizing that students show up to whatever they want, whenever they want regardless of the program and it’s intended purpose or audience.


Quick update from the Dominican Republic – we just finished up hosting a Purpose Driven Youth Ministry Conference here for about 300 youth workers. Still processing it, but here’s a few thoughts in the moments we’re wrapping up:

1) It is amazing to praise God with Christians in another country. We’re thousands of miles away from home, but sing, praise and worship the same God. It is fun and powerful to be united in a few songs both groups knew this afternoon.

2) Youth ministry faces many of the same issues whereever you go. Some of the same questions we face in our church are identical to the ones youth workers internationally face. These youth workers are struggling to find volunteers, feeling the frustration of elders and knowing the limitations of budget.

3) The calling of the youth worker binds us together. We’re responding to the crisis together, all around the world. Students need Jesus, and the ones who do know Him need to be connected, grow and serve. We are part of a world-wide army of people serving students.

Powerful day.



Saw this over on the PDYM Community website and thought you might be interested in helping! Head over there for all of the details and deadline info:

Doug Fields wrote Purpose Driven Youth Ministry to communicate what he believes are the key ingredients to building a vibrant youth ministry that glorifies God and changes the lives of students. It is the best-selling youth ministry book of all-time, but after nearly fifteen years in publication Doug has decided to re-write Purpose Driven Youth Ministry. He needs your help! (the content is not out-of-date, but the fonts, graphics, and some of the stories are.) We are looking for stories, anecdotes, illustrations, and most importantly, examples of how the purposes work in your ministry/setting…and, clearly, we could use some help choosing timeless, classy fonts.