20141022_192610Some things just seem to go better with music.

Youth group nights are one of them. I’ve watched games go from “awkward” to “amazing” once there was an appropriate soundtrack to complement the moment.

Certain songs seem to be “just right” for the walk-in as students arrive, while others are better for games. There are likewise times that some quiet music works well, such as when you give kids a few minutes to write something down or brainstorm an answer together.

It’s actually one of the reasons why as a teenager I came back after my first youth group experience. Well, that… and the fact that there were cute girls everywhere.

Aside from my hormones, though, I remember how the first thing I consciously took note of was that “These guys are playing songs I know.” That was true during the competition time slot, as well as when we went into the main auditorium. A band got up and played two songs I would have heard on most any mainstream radio station… only at the end of our teaching time did they throw in something I hadn’t heard before, but by that point I was open to hearing it.

How much attention do you pay to the “soundtrack” that will minister best to your students?

  • What are your thoughts on Christian versus mainstream tunes at youth group nights?
  • Do you let students pick the music out, or do you filter it?
  • What’s your policy on trips when it comes to what’s played through the van?

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” – Martin Luther


I saw a movie last night. A really good movie. A tough movie. A movie about mostly good people simply struggling to find their way.

Somehow it made me think about the “movie” of junior highers. It’s a good movie. A tough movie. A movie about mostly good people simply struggling to find their way. Here are a bunch of random thoughts that raced through my head as I drove home last night:

- I wonder if the whole “entitled generation” thing is mostly overblown? Sure, the upper middle class teenagers in our culture have had a lot of stuff handed to them, and feel entitled in lots of ways and to lots of things. But a huge percentage of our population consists of people, junior highers among them, who are hard working, tough minded folks simply trying to figure out how to make their way.

- There’s almost always a story behind the “story”. There’s a reason a student is acting out. There’s a story behind her defensive posture. There’s something below the surface that manifests in his poor grades and distant attitude.

- Family is a big part of the story. For good and for bad, families carry the majority of the influence in the lives of the junior highers in our ministries. I wonder if we sometimes, while pushing the “good” families to have more and more impact, if we forget the fact that some of our students are being impacted in devastating ways by those who should love them the most.

- Life is a journey. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. And nobody has a more “up and down” record of getting things right, then wrong, then right, then wrong again than junior highers! We can help them learn how to make wise choices, but the realities of life and their immature brains often lead them to make choices they shouldn’t.

- We can’t fix every problem; even when we know how! This one is tough. But the reality is that there will be students, families and scenarios that are simply beyond your ability to fix. You may know what’s wrong, and how to help…but sometimes it won’t matter. Some students aren’t ready for help, don’t really want it, feel like they are beyond it or simply don’t know what to do with the lifeline we toss their way.

- I’m a wimp. Okay, this one has nothing to do with junior high ministry but it’s the first thought that popped into my mind as the credits began to roll, and it’s the first thing I admitted to my buddies: “Guys, one thing this movie taught me is that I’m a sissy…no matter how I act, I’m really just a wimp!” My life was a little bit of a struggle growing up, but not really. And any “toughness” I once had has been diminished by my upper middle class, Starbucks drinking, SUV driving, Orange County living, beach bumming, gym membership lifestyle. Compared to so many, my life is a picnic…all day, every day.

What’s the movie? I’m not gonna tell you because then you’ll go see it and walk away thinking, “Man, that movie had NOTHING to do with junior high ministry!” And you’d be right.

But the first person…other than my buddies or people who already know what movie I’m talking about….to correctly guess the title in the comments below will win a 5-pack of the great new book, 99 Thoughts for Junior Highers!

Anybody who sort of knows me knows that movies are my vice, my guilty pleasure. A bad evening at the movies…never mind, there’s no such thing!

Every now and then a movie comes along that has a lot to teach those of us who work with young teens. And most of the time they seem to fly under the radar without much fanfare. So I thought I’d share three fairly recent movies that I think everybody who works with junior highers or younger high schoolers should see. They are all very unique, and all give a peek into the various waters young teens navigate.

Moonrise Kingdom. The best Wes Anderson film yet.

The Way Way Back. The first 15 minutes will make you question this pick. The rest of the movie is pure gold.

Mud. My inlaws recommended this movie and I delayed far too long. One of my favorites in a long time!

Do you have a favorite to recommend?

Random Randomness

 —  September 5, 2013 — Leave a comment

- If you are looking for a fantastic little book to help your small groups get to know one another, This Book Gets Around may be just the ticket! It’s like an interactive, get to know me, pass it around, journal sort of thing. Yep, that’s the perfect description!

– If you don’t play or care about Fantasy Football, skip this one.

Last night was our student ministries Fantasy Football draft, which was a fun fiasco. Two contributing factors to the chaos:
1) We decided to have the draft live at my house around our fire pit, figuring that would be a fun atmosphere. People arrived late and as we were all scrambling to get ready before the draft started, it became obvious my Wi-fi wouldn’t support a dozen people. With about 3 minutes until start, we all scrambled to get to another home down the street. As a result, we missed the opening bell, folks were auto-drafting people they didn’t want, etc.
2) Instead of a traditional “snake” draft, we did an auction draft with everybody starting with $250. The beauty of an auction draft is that you can get any player you want if you are willing to pay for him. Of course, due to our late start many of us had already paid big money auto drafting somebody we didn’t want!

– We are about to kick off a new Jesus-focused series in JH called, “I’m With This Guy!” Can’t wait to see it unfold and to see junior highers become more aware of and in love with our Savior.

– I recently made a commitment with our college pastor, Mike Brook, to start surfing two mornings a week. Because I’m typically at Starbucks by 6:30 a.m., it shouldn’t be too tough to be at the beach instead. It definitely falls into a mid-life crisis category of some sort…trying to regain some of the younger years.

– In two weeks, we are launching a new service in our student ministries at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. This means we will have five service times each week for families of teenagers to choose from: Saturday at 4:00 and 6:00 and Sunday at 9:00, 11:00 and 1:00. QUESTION: Does anybody out there do an afternoon youth service? If so, can you please share some tips/thoughts in the comments?

– It’s not too early to register for The Simply Youth Ministry Conference happening March 7-10. Thousands of men and women from the Youth Ministry Nation gathered in one place to celebrate the wonderful call to serving teenagers.


That’s right, I said it. There are actually tons of perks those of us fortunate enough to work primarily with young teens enjoy that the rest of the youth ministry nation doesn’t. For example:

– Parents are somewhat interested in what we are teaching on Sunday, where we are going to camp, and what movie we are showing at the lock-in. Yep, that’s actually a perk.

– Most of the stuff you teach is brand new to them! For the rest of their lives when they hear old, worn out, illustrations and stories they’ll think to themselves, “Hey, this dude stole my junior high pastor’s story!”

– Their enthusiasm and energy. I know it drives you crazy sometimes (errrr, most of the time), but the fact that junior highers are almost always “all in” is a wonderful thing.

– They almost always look back at their time in the junior high ministry favorably. For some reason, the further removed from the ministry they get…the better the junior high ministry was!

– You get to cherry pick high school and college age volunteers who already understand your ministry and want to follow your leadership because they spent two or three years in it themselves.

– Junior highers say really funny/awkward stuff:
“Rachel, our van stopped on the way to the girls trip to feed a Hobo.”
“Kurt, your nose is big! But that’s cool ‘cuz there’s lots of great smells out there.”

– You are viewed as a Martyr in your church. Sure, many of the adults in your congregation don’t understand why you do what you do, or what you actually do…but they LOVE that you are the one doing it, not them!

– You get paid piles of cash! Ummm….scratch that one.

Add your favorite “perk” of working with junior highers in the comments!

$5 deal 7-18

Yes, yes, I know. This is way too good to be true… but it is! For today only you can get The Simple Truth Bible for just 5 presidential flash cards.

That’s a mere penny per devotional for the priceless result of helping your students grow closer to Jesus!

Doesn’t get better than that folks. Today is the only day for the $5 Simple Truth Bible deal so be sure to get ‘em while they’re hot! *Order now here*

We love you guys! Keep on keepin on.

– Amber Cassady aka The new girl aka AC

FlightTrack-ProI am a fan of the iPhone app FlightTrack Pro and TripIt. I seem to have seasons of busy travel and these apps help keep all my travel plans centrally located. TripIt is free, if you don’t mind ads, but FlightTrack Pro is $10 (their is a $5 version…but go big or go home!).

TripIt takes your trip details (confirmations from hotels, airlines, etc) and creates a helpful itinerary right on my iPhone (or Android). It will sync with your calendar app and online at tripit.com. After you have registered an email address with TripIt you can simply forward any of your confirmation emails from that address to plans@tripit.com. You do not need TripIt for FlightTrack Pro to work but FlightTrack Pro will seamlessly use all your Tripit data…COOL!

FlightTrack Pro allows you to see flight details on zoomable maps and get real-time departure info, delays, and gate numbers.  This app has been super helpful when I am traveling to a youth ministry conference, flying out to speak at a retreat or events, or taking teams on a mission trip.

A Few Highlights:

  • Sync’s with TripIt and phone’s calendar
  • Share flight status by email, Facebook or Twitter (parent win!)
  • Offline mode for use in airplanes – maps still work!
  • Airtime, aircraft, and speed & altitude (Nerdy Flight Stats)
  • Real-time status for gates, delays and cancellations

If flying is your things you might want to check out FlightBoard too, it helps when monitor connections, delays, and arrivals ($4).

How is this app free? Well, I went to Starbucks today and saw that the $10 FlightTrack Pro app was their free app of the week.  That means you need to get to a Starbucks before Tuesday July 9th and grab a “Pick of the Week” card. If you do not have a Starbucks near you post a comment asking for a code…I grabbed a dozen to share.


All the codes are gone.  Thanks for reading, and keep an eye out for more give-a-ways!


One last day on the 40-40-40 Sale at Simply Youth Ministry this week. Tons of resources, 40% off and it ends really soon. What do I recommend? Glad you asked!