Another edition of the HSM Sports Minute (see Volume 1 here). REALLY loving this series! Such a simple, current connection to their world. If you get good enough you could film a new video in 1 minute each week!


How do you reach the students who come in, don’t say a word, sit by themselves and leave as quickly and as silently as they entered?

Every ministry has students like these – here are a few ways to “go after them” and invite them to be a part of the ministry:

No on sits alone.
When you talk to your student leaders, make sure they know that “no one sits alone.” Determine that when someone visits for the first time (or the 21st time) they’re going to feel welcome. Prepare them with some basic questions to get the conversation going, and cast the vision time and time again: No one sits alone!

Consider adding a short greeting time.
We’ve recently added in a short greeting time (we stole the idea from big church), and have seen it work wonders. Put your core students on notice that everyone gets greeted, smiled at, and touched in some way. Adding a greeting time is a short and somewhat artificial taste of community, but it’s a chance to break down the walls of the wallflowers.

Add discussion questions to your program.
If you’re looking to build community in your youth service, what about inviting students to discuss the message right there in their row or at their table? If you’ve got a great volunteer in the room, make sure he/she ison the lookout to get everyone involved in the discussion, too.

Invite someone out for a Coke each week.
Ask God to direct you to the right student he wants you to give special attention to this week. When he points you to the right student, invite them out for a Coke and use the time to pour into them one-on-one. Most students who feel like losers or are lonely will find little help at a large group program, but would come alive across the table at Taco Bell.

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.

1. Go to More Student Activities. This is something I didn’t do nearly enough as I should’ve last year. Showing up to a game, play, concert, etc. makes a HUGE impact on students. Showing up to an event says that you care about what they care about. It is something that will stick with them. Recently, a co-worker and I went to a high school football game to see two of our students perform as the school mascots (hilarious). I was blown away by the response that we got from students! Students would climb over people in the stands to come say high to us and hang out with us! It is such a good tool for relational ministry… too good to pass up.

2. Write More Letters.  I was talking with a student recently about how much he hated getting mail. He said that the only thing that he ever gets in the mail is report cards, which sucks. Because of that, I decided that I am going to send at least one encouraging note to a student in the mail per week for the next year. I feel like there is something so personal about getting a letter from someone. We are so used to text messages and emails that it really means a lot when someone takes the time to write and mail a letter. Plus it is something that the student can revisit. I’m all about it.

3. Build Relationships with High School Faculty. On the first day of school, students from our ministry covered their campus with encouraging sticky notes. The next week, I spoke on the phone with the school’s Student Government Director and she RAVED about our students. It would have been cool if she stopped there, but she then let us know about an upcoming event that we could be a part of! Relationships with faculty are powerful. I am stoked to continue building relationships with the schools. I want them to know that we are here to support them and partner with them. I want them to know that we are here to serve in any way possible.

What are you committed to doing this school year?

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

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 or on twitter at @ColtonHarker.

What I’m Learning

 —  September 5, 2012 — Leave a comment

Occasionally Kurt and I take the time to take on “the 3” and this week our topic is what we are each learning right now about ourselves and ministry. I’ve picked out things I’ve learned in the past…or I think I’ve learned them in the past because it seems like all three of these are old and new at the same time. Here’s what I’m learning this week:

1: Jesus is still changing lives!
I loved taking to students this weekend at church—seeing them move from seekers to the saved…watching them move from atheist to at-least-curious. Jesus is changing lives every week in your ministry. You might not see it, but it is happening. Teenagers are being drawn to Christ, and what you’re doing matters for the kingdom. It seems like every time I get frustrated with ministry, or wonder if it’s worth it, God shows me that he’s still in the business of saving people.

2: Camp works!
Holy smokes…camp was incredible this summer! I love that summer camp still works—despite the roadblocks of summer sports and summer school. Camp works!

3: Your capacity has to grow with your ministry.
I’ve had the realization recently that the people around me who have stuck it out in our church have increased their capacity every year. Not just work production, but their hearts have grown larger and their relational skills have increased. As your ministry grows, you need to as well—so here at the end of summer it begs a great question: How are you growing in productivity—working smarter not harder?

How are you leveraging new technology or ideas to reach more, and be more effective? And secondly, how are you growing spiritually—are you growing closer to Christ as your serve him?

What are you learning here at the end of summer?

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.

rut [ruht] – noun
a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc; dreary or undeviating routine

There have been many days, recently, where I have found myself staring at my office walls thinking, “I wonder how many youth workers find themselves in a rut. How often does this occur (for most)? How do they avoid it? How do they get out of it?”

I imagine most of us didn’t get into youth ministry for the promise of a narrow, predictable, dreary, or undeviating experience. And, like the women’s restroom I accidentally walked into the other day, we want nothing more than to get out of this position.

What I am discovering is that sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to revisit what got me excited about youth ministry in the first place.

Here are a few of my rut busters…

1) Get with students: As our ministry grows and we focus on forming relationships between students and leaders, unfortunately, I feel less and less connected. This is difficult. I need to pray and look for my own opportunities to connect. The other day one of my former students came to me and said, “Hey, do you think we could get together and study a book in the Bible?” I wanted to jump out of my skin! Heck, yes, I do! It gets even better. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and do you still want to come to one of my football games? I’ll get you a schedule.” Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? I’m there! If only all of my students showed that kind of initiative.

2) Get with Jesus: In the first 11 verses of John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times. I know that the best version of me is found in Him; it’s just a matter of getting there.

3) Get in community: Ever since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, I always wanted to be a part of a great team. My best times in youth ministry are when I am sharing life with a team of people, focused and committed to a common goal. My loneliest and most monotonous times are when everything in our ministry comes from the idea bank of me.

4) Get creative: We serve such a creative God. When I accepted the call to communicate God’s love to students, I longed to reflect even a fraction of that creativity. In a rut, creativity is one of the first things to go. I need to allow myself the time and space to get creative.

What about you? What have you found to be your greatest rut busters?

Bryce Gernand is the Middle School Pastor at Jackson First Church of the Nazarene in Jackson, MI where he has served for eight years.

HSM’s Guys Trip 2012

 —  August 20, 2012 — 13 Comments

Years ago HSM used to have the tradition of a “guys-only” trip filled with adventure and wonder. The summer it was time to bring it back! And while the girls ran a parallel trip but with painted nails, ocean views and fancy dinners – the guys trip took a slightly different route. And while much of what happened up there has been sworn to secrecy, here are a few of the highlights of our amazing overnighter in the mountains:

  • The Log Cabin Mansion (sleeps 30)
  • Since there was 50 of us, we shot BB guns at a target to see who got a bed
  • All-U-Can-MEAT (17 different kinds/cuts of meat, it’s whats for dinner)
  • Wilke Waffle Extravaganza
  • Gladiator ring w 3/events
  • 4-mile hike to the start of the hiking trail hike
  • devotion on Samson
  • quite time in the morning for everyone to spend time with God
  • Midnight capture the flag
  • Opening speeches on Why America is the Greatest Nation of All (alternate topic: Why America Dominates Everyone Else)
  • Medal ceremony – 10 medals for various reasons (courage, purple heart, fearless, going to bed early like a sissy)
  • NERF SWAT missions to kill the VIP
  • Xbox 360s linked with Halo
  • Every kind of Pringles, every kind of beef jerky
  • 11 boxes of Pop Tarts and an unlimited refillable snack bar with 10 different options

Here’s some of the promo we used to get students to sign up:

“The wolves howl at the bright moon as they rip into the freshly killed caribou. The pack lowers their heads in submission as Kodar, the Alpha male, pads softly forward to claim the still-beating heart, his by right. He devours it quickly. The wolves howl their approval and continue their feast. It is a good night.”

What does this have to do with Guys Trip? If you have to ask yourself that question then you shouldn’t be going. Guys Trip is THE overnight right-of-passage journey into manhood that you have felt the longing for in your soul. Join us, if you dare, as we head to the mountains to live off the land, eat nothing but meat, embrace adventure, and develop much needed skills to survive. The limit is 50 men. So sign up now.

It will be a trip long-remembered!


My friend and co-worker AC (who runs put together a quick list of relational youth ministry thoughts and tips. Thought I would grab a couple of them and point you there for the rest:

  1. Relational ministry has more to do with the example you set than the words you say.
  2. My walk with Christ and my prayer life plays a huge role in leading and guiding students to Christ.
  3. Be intentional and strategic. ” He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Corny…I know, but so true!!
  4. Don’t waste students time by hanging out with students to stroke your own ego.
  5. I am a spiritual leader first and friend second. – Your spiritual authority can be easily compromised when you reverse the order.
  6. Honesty is huge in building trust with a student. -You don’t have to be perfect but you do have to be honest.
  7. Be a listener and ask them questions. Check out Conversation Tactics for Youth Workers
  8. Listening and being honest wins you the right to speak into their lives. – Listening shows I care and honesty shows character and realness.
  9. It’s not about the quantity of time spent with students but the quality of time spent with students.
  10. Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions.
  11. When the opportunitay presents itself for you to disciple, obey Nike and “Just do it”. – nothing else on the agenda is more important.
  12. Never cut a student off when they are sharing. If you can’t remember what you were going to say it probably wasn’t worth you sharing anyway.