toby_roweActive in youth ministry for more than 20 years now, Toby has helped lead more mission trips and weekend retreats than he can remember.  Toby has served as a youth pastor and worship leader at three churches, and currently is the Mission Program Manager at Group Mission Trips. You can also find him speaking and teaching at ministry events, and continuing his long streak as a self-titled whack-a-mole champion. Toby, and his wife, Pam, live in Loveland, Colorado, and have four children.

What is the Week of Hope and where did the idea come from? Week of Hope is a week-long community service based summer mission trip that happens in 18 cities across the country. Each location runs for seven consecutive weeks, so in total, there are 126 weeks of youth groups coming together to serve people in need all across America, and at the same time experience a powerful time with Jesus through the worship program and devotions times. And it’s an all-inclusive trip. We take care of all the details, projects, food, lodging, and programming. You just get to show up and have a great week with your students.

What excites you most about each Week of Hope?
I love each Week of Hope because it lets students and adults see people. By that I mean – really see them, and love them, like Jesus did. And in the process, we get to learn a lot about how Jesus sees us as well.

Tell us a funny story about one serve project you were on? The best youth ministry stories come  from things like mission trips. I remember getting a flat tire all fixed on our 15 passenger, and had kept a dozen students from getting squashed on the median strip. We weren’t back on the road 100 feet when the kid that we told to stop eating oranges and hot chocolate all week barfed it all up into every cup holder around him. That was a sight … And smell … To behold. Or the time during a serious part of an evening program … right at the point when the hope of Jesus was being shared, when a jr high kid just stood up, and raised his hand. The program leader couldn’t ignore him, so everything paused and the kid asked (with all seriousness) ” can I please go to the bathroom?” Yes … Yes you can :)

Where do people go to get more information if they are interested – and any chance you will give a couple free registrations away? All the info about Week of Hope – details, available weeks, pricing, and more – is at Just click on Week of Hope. We hope you’ll consider letting us help you have a great mission adventure this summer. Or you can email me with any questions at

What about the free registrations? Sure. The first 5 new groups that email Brent at and say that you like Josh Griffin can bring a try-it-out group of four for free. Yep. Totally free. That’s two adults and two of your student leaders to experience it and see if its a good fit for your youth ministry. And if you don’t make the first five emails, we’ll still let you -the youth leader – come for free if you aren’t already registered. Just cause you like Josh.

Check out Group Mission Trips today!


Loved this post over on Tony Morgan’s blog from a father of 4 to the youth pastor. Here’s a clip, definitely worth the trip to get the rest:

1.Don’t have Bible studies on Sunday morning, but encourage my kids to serve. As a parent, I’m constantly battling everything in culture that’s telling my kids, “Life is all about YOU.” I don’t need my church to be compounding that challenge. Please help me parent my kids by encouraging them to serve other people. In the long run, learning to serve will ultimately keep them connected to the church after they graduate. Likely the additional Bible study will not.

2.Provide leadership opportunities for my kids. When we become Christ-followers, we receive spiritual gifts. God doesn’t hold on to those gifts until we become adults. In other words, students can also have the spiritual gift of leadership. If you don’t offer opportunities for my kids, they’ll check out of your student ministry and find another organization where they can use their gifts.

3.Don’t meet on Sunday night if at all possible. It’s true that there are no school activities on Sunday nights, but Sundays are a very busy evening for my kids. Every bit of homework and test preparation that needs to happen before Monday takes place on Sunday nights, because it certainly didn’t happen on Friday night or Saturday. At all three churches where I’ve served, the midweek student gatherings were always better attended than the Sunday evening gatherings. I know. There will be seasons when athletes may not be able to participate…though you can probably still accommodate them. I believe one of the key reasons midweek is stronger is because my kids can invite their friends at school that afternoon.


Really slick little video the guys made to promote our upcoming Spring Break serve trip!


#3 — Service Opportunities
This was the only surprise to me in the Top 5 – people we surveyed in our membership class valued opportunities to serve even over children’s and youth ministry. I guess it shows the depth of people wanting to play a part in what is happening, not just watch it on stage. Churches that are attracting people are creating places for them to serve within and without. Within the church there are many opportunities to use your gifts, talents and passions. And we must also create missional opportunities to serve without in their community as well. In some senses, this creates a new pathway for other people to attend your church – they were served in some way and are so curious they come to check out the organization that sent out the people in the first place. If your congregation is just sitting they’re not sticking.

Youth ministry application: Focus on getting students in ministry inside and outside the church. Make a list of places students can serve on the weekend or in youth group and place a key volunteer over it all. Find another leader to oversee service projects in your community and schedule at least a few times a year. There is huge momentum in social causes right now, and it is a big reason why people choose a church.

When is your next serve project coming up?


Weekend Teaching Series: Stories (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence:
Real-life stories of life change from core kids who are making a difference by serving and sharing their faith.
Service Length: 62 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend was all about students sharing their stories. We typically do a couple “stories” weekends a year, but this time we concentrated on students raised in Christian homes that were living out their faith. I’ve noticed from time to time that when we ask someone to share, they have a great story – drugs, alcohol, messed up home, etc. So this time we looked at the core kids who have typical Christian, even stereotypical environments to be raised in and used that as a basis to encourage their peers in their faith. The result was an extremely positive service that had great messages about sharing your faith, getting involved in ministry, purity, sportsmanship and more. Really terrific.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we had lots of student greeters and students running the band, lights, cameras, sound, etc. They program included another push for HSM Summer Camp, and a interview with the lady who runs Saddleback’s food bank. Solid program that clocked in right at the hour mark.

Music Playlist: The Earth is Yours, Like an Avalanche, With Everything, Beautiful Things, Your Name High

Favorite Moment: I think my favorite moment was the students sharing and how positive the message was from the weekend. Everyone has a story – it was great to hear how God is working in our core students lives and to have them as an example to other students. So good.

Up Next: Communion (1-off)

In the process of finishing two books on the topic of Jesus. Here are a few thoughts:

The first, Jesus Manifesto:Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, is a challenging read simply exalting Jesus above everything else. They contend that a complete emphasis on Jesus would completely change the world – if we can introduce people to the real, life-changing Jesus, everything else will follow. Lifestyle will follow. Church growth will happen. Discipleship will happen. Simply teach Jesus. Not sure how much of it I’m ready to go after, but preaching and teaching Jesus has to be what the church is all about. Definitely lives up to its subtitle elevating Jesus to the highest place. Pretty academic read, you’ll want to break it into chunks and not speed read for sure.

The second book I’m tackling is Humanitarian Jesus: Social Justice and the Cross by Ryan Dobson and Christian Buckley, and it is a much more accessible read. It attempts to tackle the social Gospel and evangelism question, giving a brief history of the concept and conflict of the ideas of sharing Jesus. The first half of the book is written by the authors, the second is interviews with people in key churches and organizations that are attempting to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Good stuff, drives me to my current thinking – the Social Gospel must be both social (helping people) and Gospel (spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ)! There are many books on this subject, this one probably isn’t the most academic or comprehensive, but by far the most current.


Fun little video (made in seconds with Animoto) to play at this weekend’s services highlight a serve project HSM pitched in on called Operation Backpack.


Well, we made the change from calling them small groups to calling them life groups – it only took me a year since I first blogged about the idea – ha! It is a bit of a semantic thing, but I’m a big fan of the switch. Rather then focus on their size (which remains important) the name focuses on what happens (sharing life, which is more important). Here’s some of the frequently asked questions we answer as people register:

What are High School Ministry Life Groups?
Life Groups are small groups for high school students. These groups are made up of 10 – 12 students (same grade and gender) that meet weekly with a caring adult leader.

Life Groups are a perfect place for you to form great friendships with other students your age, build relationships with adult leaders and learn more about God and grow closer to Him. Your group will be encouraged to establish accountability with each other, have consistent personal quiet times, get involved in ministry, and participate in service projects.

When and where do they meet?
Life Groups meet in host homes on Tuesday or Wednesday evenings from 7:00 – 9:00pm. Meeting in homes creates a warm, friendly atmosphere for sharing life together.

What does a typical night look like?
Each Life Group will look different, but a typical night will look something like this: welcome / snacks / hang out / Bible study / discussion / prayer.

Being involved in a Life Group will be an awesome time to grow closer to God; what better way to do that than by reading and studying the Bible? Every Life Group will choose their study topic from the provided LIVE Curriculum. Studies include: prayer, following Jesus, making good decisions, purity, having healthy relationships, studying the Bible, dealing with temptation, living in godly community and more.

What about my leader?
HSM has incredible, screened, and trained adult volunteers who are ready to serve and teach high school students. Our HSM leaders are there to encourage, teach, guide, and help strengthen your walk with Christ. It may turn out to be the most significant relationship of your high school years.

What is the Life Group Commitment?
Being part of a Life Group is a privilege. We expect each Life Group member to commit to the following:

  1. Come to group prepared, equipped with a Bible, a pen, a notebook and a good attitude.
  2. Respect your Life Group leader. They are giving you their time because they WANT to minister to you.
  3. Respect and be kind to others in your group.
  4. Respect your Host Home. Help clean-up your host home at the end of every night.