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!


So thankful to be a part of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference again this year (since the beginning, actually!) and love this video of highlights from the whole thing. Can’t wait to do it all again next year in Columbus!


So much of youth ministry seems to be about what “not” to do. Don’t spill Kool-Aid on the carpet. Don’t play games in the sanctuary. Don’t get on the wrong side of this committee or board. Don’t do this. Don’t do that…

The following post by Josh Griffin (with help from Kurt Johnston) does a good job of focusing on what we should “do” in ministry. The post is from Josh’s blog, More Than Dodgeball, and was originally part of the Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter.

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Youth Minsitry Do’s

More Than Dodgeball and SYM Today are great idea resources for you. I encourage you to check them out as often as you can.



An expanded video from the opening video from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this weekend. Great narration to accompany the imagery – trying to set up the idea of disorientation and frustration that would be resolved by the end of the weekend.


Dave and Steve created this fun infographic-style video based on a script I wrote about the attendees of the Simply Youth Ministry Conference 2013.


Incredible video put together by Matt and Grant to help introduce the theme for the 2013 Simply Youth Ministry Conference. It was the 1st of 3 videos.



Change is one of the only things that is always present in our work with Group Mission Trips. I’ve had at least 6 job titles in my 11 years working with this ministry. I can’t tell you how many different job descriptions I’ve had during that time. We’ve gone from doing only one kind of mission trip, Workcamps, to 3 different mission trips (Week of Hope & Lifetree Adventures) and a single-day of service youth event (The Big Day of Serving). Things have changed from a single team of people focused exclusively on organizing and supporting mission trips to combining forces with our partners Group Youth Ministry/Simply Youth Ministry to help bring everything we can to support youth workers.


Change is hard. Change isn’t easy. Change can cause pain. For some people change is welcome and they jump on board fast but don’t fully take stock of the potential trouble spots. For others change is difficult and they seemingly fight against it every chance they get. And many people fall in the middle of those two extremes.

It’s not any different in church ministry than in a mission organization. How you manage change is just as important and dreaming and thinking of the change. Here’s three great ideas for managing change in your ministry:

  1. Make sure everyone involved in the change is part of the process. One member of out team is constantly preaching the message of communication to the rest of us. And he’s right! Especially when it comes to change. You cannot communicate enough. Before the change is even finalized. When you announce the change. While the change is being implemented. After the change is now the new normal Communicate And the biggest part of communicating – listening. Listen to what people are saying. And try to hear what they are not saying. Involving everyone will help to give people a chance to make the change theirs.
  2. Help people understand how the change will benefit them. In every change there are good things for everyone. New opportunities. New ideas. New responsibilities. New working relationships. New results to shoot for.  New And new can be very unnerving unless you help people know what is in it for them. Even in ministry, your team will want to know how this change will benefit. Them as an individual. The ministry as a whole. The youth who area  part of your ministry. Giving everyone an understanding of how the change is good will go a long way to navigating the process of implementing the change.
  3. Regardless of how good a change is, someone will be negatively affected – at least in their mind. Seek those people out. If a team is getting a new role in the ministry because of the change, spend time with them as they adjust. If it means there isn’t a spot for someone, give the the space and time to grieve the loss and give them your time to process. If possible, implement change in stages or steps so that those affected the most have time to adjust. If the change you are implementing has a bunch of negatives (even small ones), spacing out the change will allow those most affected to move through the process with grace.

Change isn’t always easy (I know) but it can be incredibly good. Keep these steps in mind the next time your team and ministry go through change.

Youth Ministry Don’ts

 —  February 25, 2013 — 1 Comment

article.2013.02.19This week we’re taking on a few youth ministry do’s and don’ts! With our experience, we’ve learned a few things about both sides of this—we’ve both had some solid successes and some epic failures! Would love for you to read these, and then add your own in the comments, too!

Don’t avoid the stuff that doesn’t come easy to you.
Too often youth workers simply ignore what they don’t want to do, or what they aren’t good at. That explains why the chairman on the finance committee is always shaking his head at you when it comes to receipts. Just because something isn’t natural or in your gifting doesn’t give you a free pass to avoid it and hope it goes away. It doesn’t go away; it gets worse! Ministry is full of what we call the “hate to/have to” stuff we hate to do, but we have to do!

Don’t avoid the difficult part of youth ministry.
Follow-up with that parent. Don’t leave someone hanging. Report it to the authorities. Speak the whole truth—do it in love—but speak it all to them. Receive criticism well. Be a learner.

Don’t give up on your relationship with the rest of the church.
For many youth workers, they want to take a rowboat out to youth ministry island and live there. Be a part of the church! Otherwise you’ll create a great ministry at a church your graduates will never attend. Be one with the leadership, the vision, direction, and the whole church.

Don’t miss the small things that matter to other people.
Be on time. Fill the van up with gas. Let someone know about the problem before they stumble onto it. Clean up the youth room. Pick up that trash as you walk in from the parking lot.

Don’t be ignorant of your perception.
A wise man once said, “perception is reality” and it is never more true than when we apply it to youth ministry. Know your reputation, know your weaknesses, and work to get better on the stuff you fail in. If you are blind to your blind spots, you will be blind-sided.

Just a few youth ministry “don’ts” to get your week going. Got one to share with everyone, too?

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.