So how do you pick the title for a youth group sermon series? Great question! And while I suppose there are lots of ways to go about it – and I hope some others chime in on the comments with a few other suggestions – I thought I would walk you through some of the ways I go about picking the title for a youth group series:

Brainstorm with studentsA great way to pick a title is to gather up a few students or volunteers and walk them through the topic and come up with a list of potential titles. Make sure no one is “married” to their ideas, then land on one later that week. It gives students some buy into the process and also helps you brand it well.

Find inspiration in culture
One of my favorite examples of this was during the Women’s World Cup a couple years ago – I loved the subtitle they used “11 vs the World” and immediately planned a sermon series on the disciples around that idea. The series 11 vs the World in our youth group was a really fun one that was named really well, too (sorry Judas and even more apologies to Mathias the replacement disciple as well).

yhst-95977426524948_2239_10950023Tie it into the teaching
So sometimes the title starts the development process of the series – other times I wait and see where I want to take students and find the title as I prep the messages. I did a series a couple years ago about stewardship and the environment we ended up calling Save the Planet and let the teaching help us land on the right title.

Steal the title … or buy the resource and teach someone else’s series
If you see a great resource out there, borrow the title and adapt it yourself! You could also just buy the resource and use the ready-made graphics and outlines as well. Here’s 25 ideas to get you started, and 31 more when you’re through those!

How do you find the perfect series title!


Weekend Teaching Series: Instalife (series premiere, week 1 of 2)
Service Length:
70 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we used the app Instagram as a backdrop for a new series in HSM. This week we focused on jealousy – how Instagram brings out the best and the worst in us in that area. We talked about jealousy from Jesus teachings in Matthew 6 and had lots of fun along the way. One of my favorite weekends in HSM in a very long time – I think a good message, great game, fun look/feel and super relevant and easy to connect with our student’s world.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a brand new game called InstaHack – where we bring someone on stage and have them log into their Instagram and then spin the wheel for us to various terrible things to their pictures, followers and feed. They could also win $5 Starbucks giftcards if they were extremely lucky. Super, super fun, crowd died at the right points, and the contestants were always a good sport. We also had lots of student greeters and a fun Christmas rap video.

Music Playlist: Silent Night (Taylor Swift version), Go, Joy to the World, 10,000 Reasons, Your Love is Strong

Favorite Moment: During one part of the talk I called out one of our students (I had his permission, more or less) and talked about #selfies. It was a great moment that I loved and

Up next: Instalife (week 2 of 2)

In December HSM is gong to do a series call Instalife about jealousy, pretending and bragging – talking through what the Bible says on these very important subjects. I happened to stumble on an article (poorly titled, but oh well) on the very subject on Gizmodo that is absolutely perfect research for my message. You can certainly read the whole article, but my favorite part of it being the list of questions the author put at the end:

  • Am I sharing this picture only because I want people to wish they were where I am?
  • Am I someplace expensive? Is it obvious?
  • Am I someplace nobody else was invited? Do they wish they were invited?
  • Am I posting this only because I want people to like it? Or like me?
  • Am I posting this only because it makes me look good?
  • Am I posting myself and explicitly stating how good I look?
  • Am I a nice person?
  • Have I called my parents lately?
  • Did my parents get divorced because of me?
  • Did my parents stay together because of me?
  • Do I know for sure that my ex follows me on Instagram and I want to make sure she sees this so she’ll regret it—oh, how she’ll regret it all!
  • If I saw what I’m about to share, would I roll my eyes?
  • Can I imagine anyone commenting, on this picture, “Ahhh I’m so jealous! I hate u!”
  • Is this an Instaboast?

Now … this is a completely secular article but points out some great truths for me to now use in my message. If I didn’t know roughly what I was teaching on I wouldn’t know to collect stuff like this right now. If I’m preparing a “Saturday night special” talk for my audience on Sunday morning, they’ll never be as good as when I prepare in advance.

Let me spell it out rapid fire if it isn’t obvious:

  1. Plan in broad strokes your teaching calendar for the season ahead
  2. Be a collector of what you read/stumble on
  3. Listen well to what you hear around you and in the culture
  4. Look for stories on your theme in your community
  5. Pray throughout the process
  6. Deliver a great talk

Good luck as you prepare your talk this week … and the one 2 months from now!


Here’s the arc for our series in HSM this month. Pretty excited about this series – we always try to hit on some felt-needs or hot topics

SEPTEMBER 15/16 | I AM… A GOSSIP (week 1)
James 3:1-12; Ephesians 4:29
GOSSIP. Everyone has said something about someone or something that they know they should not have. We’ve all felt the sting of being talked about behind our backs. It is taking a look how we talk to and about each other and how powerful what we say actually is. Looking at how we can turn gossip into encouragement and slander into praise.

SEPTEMBER 22/23 | I AM… A HYPOCRITE (week 2)
Matthew 23
Hypocrites. The dictionary definition of a hypocrite is “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.” We will be looking at what this looks like in our own lives and what that means according to the teachings of Jesus.

SEPTEMBER 29/30 | I AM… A BULLY (week 3)
Bullying has no place in the life of a follower of Christ. We need to stand up for the forgotten and abused. The series will all be pulled together with a reveal that Jesus is the great I Am.


Weekend Teaching Series: Before and After: a study through Ephesians (week 2 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Orphan to being a child of God, from a fan to follower and being a true disciple.
Service Length:
66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres (HSM’s Life Group coordinator) taught our weekend service and Justin Knowles (weekend coordinator) jumped in to teach a point as well. We are continuing our look through Ephesians – this week they concentrated on who we were before Christ and the continuing transformation that must happen as we mature in our faith. They both did an awesome job of helping the Bible come alive with personal stories, admissions and illustrations. Good stuff!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we went to the Orange County Fair and shot some short videos that a contestant on stage would have to guess the outcome. How fast could someone eat a Krispy Kreme friend chicken sandwich, how many shots would we make in the basketball challenge and who would shoot out the star in the BB gun game. The games were simple and fun and the person on stage got prizes that stacked as they got correct answers. Fun, easy and felt very summery!

Music Playlist: Break Free, Your Love is Strong, Revelation Song, Love Came Down

Favorite Moment: Jessica is one of my favorite youth workers on the planet. She is such a great teacher, so warm and invites you to really listen and engage with what God has taught her. So good! And loved Justin getting his first taste of teaching in HSM, too. Great people!

Up next: Before and After (series finale, week 3 of 3)

Weekend Teaching Series: Before and After: a study through Ephesians (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: The person that I used to be and the person I am in Christ.
Service Length:
66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend AC taught for the first time in HSM – he walked students through Ephesians 2 and how we were before Christ and the life-change that happens at salvation. He did a great job explaining sin, the traps of Satan and salvation by God’s grace. The highlight of the weekend was when he had a student come up and share the story of her life, including a recent departure from God’s path that cost her things she could never get back. Her story clearly illustrated the amazing grace of God and how

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend was really straightforward with lots of welcoming students, a fun recap of our recent Rwanda mission trip and our 80′s skate night from this past Friday.

Music Playlist: Somebody That I Used to Know (A capella cover), Here For You, Majesty, What Would I Have Done, Savior of the World

Favorite Moment: Cayla sharing her story was incredible – made the whole message come to life. Incredible testimony to God’s grace!

Up next: Before and After (week 2 of 3)

We’re doing a new series in July called Before and After – a 3-week study from the book of Ephesians. For each series I like to do what I call an “arc”- a simple description of where we want to take students and what the messages will be about. Here’s where we’re headed in July!

3-week study through the book of Ephesians

Week 1: The Person I Used to Be (AC)
BEFORE we were broken, sinful and trapped in darkness by Satan. AFTER we have been freed by the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. This message proclaims the truth that our past is past and our future is with Christ – a celebration of salvation and an invitation to those who have never followed Christ to step across the line today.
Central text: Ephesians 2
Keyword: Savior

Week 2: Above Nothing (Jess)
BEFORE we would live for ourselves and focus everything on us. AFTER we realize that God made us for a mission and we are to love and serve others. Our salvation is not of works, but the saved serve.
Central text: Ephesians 3
Keyword: Servant

Week 3: All Out War (Josh/Parker)
BEFORE we were unaware of the spiritual battle that rages on behind the scenes against us. Christ is our savior and we are His servants – but AFTER we still fight temptation, struggles and problems. Time to do battle by putting on the armor of God!
Central text: Ephesians 6
Keyword: Soldier


Some of the most popular posts of all time here on my blog are simple lists of sermon and series ideas for youth groups. Here’s a collection form a recent brainstorm session that might inspire you to create something in your student ministry:

  • Greater Than >
  • HE>I
  • Abandon Ship
  • Taboo Topics
  • Stuff Churches Don’t Talk About
  • Shhhhhhh …
  • #YOLO
  • I am ___________
  • Lie, Cheat, Steal
  • Be Careful Little Hands
  • More Than Words (How they hurt and how they can help)
  • Workshop Weekend
  • Stuff Jesus Said
  • Things Jesus Didn’t Say
  • Ready for Re-entry
  • Back to School
  • Booty, God, Booty
  • “The Other 6”
  • Apologetix
  • Liar, Lunatic or Lord?
  • Creation, Fall, Grace, Glory
  • IDK- “I don’t know?”
  • Ask Anything (Panel weekend, text in questions)
  • Ctrl, Alt, Delete / Apple+Q
  • Restart
  • Life Apps
  • “There’s an App for that!”
  • Lone Ranger
  • The Rest of the Story
  • “I can’t believe that’s in the Bible”
  • Insta-life
  • Behind the filter
  • <3 Like
  • Poser
  • Geeks, Freaks and Posers