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.

article.2013.02.05New, new, new!

For many youth workers a big part of their job description seems to include “Think outside the box on a regular basis”… constantly coming up with new ideas and innovative programs that are bigger and better than last year, last week, and last night. And while there is certainly a place for risk-taking and improvement in each new season, sometimes what you really need is tried and true, solid stuff. Stuff that is actually totally inside the box!”

Ask yourself these questions as you look at planning the season ahead:

  • What has worked really well in the past year?
  • What is a “classic” that would be fun to revive?
  • What were people talking about after last summer?
  • What is MY favorite event of the year?
  • Where did we see the most life-change in the last season?
  • What is easy to plan but brings the ministry a big win?

There’s a fine line between tradition and boredom, so be careful as you plan—but sometimes, the best things you can do are ones that already worked in the past.

Here are a few examples of ideas that started off as new ideas and have become traditions in our youth ministry:

You Own the Weekend—This is a series where students completely run youth group. It has had an incredible response every year!

Pumpkinfest—We don’t do a ton of big events, so we tend to really do our best to go “all in” on just a couple a year. One is this fun festival in the fall that students now know and love.

Guys Trip / Girl’s Trip—These fun summer overnighters have become really popular with out students and were one of the highlights of just last year. So guess what? We’re doing them again this summer.

Take a second to think inside the box for your next season of ministry!

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.

Seniors That Stick Around

 —  January 28, 2013 — 2 Comments

article.2013.01.22Since last week was Kurt’s birthday, we thought this week would be a good week to write about seniors. Not senior citizens….the seniors in your high school ministry.

One of the sweet joys of this time of year is seeing students who “GET IT” really hitting stride as they head toward the home stretch of their senior year. There’s the other side of it, too (we’ll cover that tomorrow) but for today let’s talk about how to get seniors to stick around.

As we processed this topic, we came up with three key areas that seem to help seniors make it to the finish line. What you do with these—how you infuse them into your ministry or create programs around them—is up to you, but we think these will make sense as you process this topic this week.

GROWTH: Challenge them with senior-specific stuff.

What are your seniors getting when they come to youth group, small group, or Sunday School class? For most churches, the answer is simply more of the same. More of the same lessons and stories they’ve heard since they were a kid fidgeting all over and around the pews in the sanctuary. What would it look like if you had a new voice and / or a new focus for your student groups? What if you broke them out for a special youth group night occasionally or had a unique senior-specific curriculum. Give them something to look forward to that they can only get if they stay until the end of their senior year.

INVOLVEMENT: Give them a reason to stay.
Is it possible to help them stay through the end by also reserving special trips and service opportunities until their last year? In our ministry, seniors are the only high school students we allow to be eligible to be small group leaders in our junior high program. We’ve toyed with the idea of a fun senior trip or a missions trip that is super small but super awesome only for seniors. Seniors who have skin in the game are less likely to slowly fade away during their senior year.

EQUIPPING: Give them help for the next step.
The reason many seniors start looking for the door early in their senior year is that they no longer feel is it relevant to the stage they are about to enter. And part of that is true and healthy—but what if you took that last 3-4 months of their last year in high school and offered special field trips to visit other churches so they get a chance to see what it will be like to pick out their own church when they go away to school? What if you took a night of small group and researched churches around their college campus or investigated parachurch ministry presence where they are going to attend? If you are guiding them into their next step instead of “losing” them to it, they’ll likely welcome the support.

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.

article.2013.01.16Yesterday we talked about gossip and how destructive it can be within the church culture, and devastating to those outside the church walls. So let’s fight back! The best way to stop gossip is right where it starts – with your team and with the people you influence. Here are a few things we’ve learned about how to create unity and continue the uphill battle against gossip.

People who are informed are less likely to gossip.
Oftentimes ignorance can create a breeding ground for gossip. When you keep people in the dark, sometimes their mind plays tricks on them. They read into a situation or conversation, and the lack of communication creates gaps they gladly fill with their own speculation or opinion. If you want to create a unified team, keep people in the loop! When you communicate well, you crush the early growth of gossip.

People who have great history have unity.
If you have a few key volunteers who have been with you since the beginning, you know how sweet it is to be with them, serve alongside them, and do the hard work of ministry together. You literally and figuratively have each other’s backs, and unity is your middle name. On the other hand, when you have high turnover or a collection of young, immature, or inexperienced youth workers serving with you the total opposite can happen. If you want to know the joys of a gossip-free team, work harder than ever to keep them around for a long time.

People who laugh rarely turn on each other.
We’ve noticed again and again in our years of youth ministry trench warfare that when people laugh together, they love each other more. When you are in relationship with your people – great stories, memories and inside jokes – the stronger you are together. When was the last time you spent some time just playing with your team? When was the last time you had an awards ceremony and gave out awards for everyone? Laugh together and unity quickly follows.

How have you seen unity built in your ministry?

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.

article.2013.01.09From time to time we pause from the normal posts to answer a few questions from you—the Youth Ministry Nation. Here are a couple we received in the past few weeks, all relating to baptism.

1. How much time do you believe students need after becoming Christ-followers before they should be allowed to be baptized?
Great question! While each church or denomination may have specific programs, rules, or structure, the example we see in Scripture is that baptism was often immediately after conversion. When someone trusted Jesus, they got baptized. Take some time to investigate what traditions your church holds to in this area, and make sure you have a conversation about the baptism process before you run someone into the water and then get into hot water yourself.

2. Do you have a baptism class? Is it required before you are baptized?
We don’t have a specific baptism class in our church for students—we definitely do in our children’s program, and every student 6th grade and under is required to attend before they can be baptized. In junior high and high school we simply interview the student who inquires about baptism and talk about their faith and why they want to be baptized. Usually early in the conversation an experienced youth worker will be discerning enough to know if the student is ready or not.

NOTE: We always get parental approval before baptizing a teenager in our youth group for two reasons: 1) We don’t want the parents to miss out on the celebration and 2) We don’t want to baptize a teenager against a parent’s wishes (we once baptized a student of a completely different religion, MUCH to the disapproval of Mom and Dad).

3. What do you think a student needs to know before they get baptized?
The Scriptures show us that they need to understand that Jesus is the way of salvation and trust in him as their Savior—after that, they’re good to go. Remember, baptism is just a symbol of the transformation of the heart that has already taken place.

If you’re looking for some passages to study as you begin to answer these questions for yourself and your youth group, consider these: 1 Corinthians 15, Mark 1, Acts 8, Romans 6, Matthew 28

4. Do you have any baptismal studies resources you could share?
Yes! The one we would recommend first is the student version of our membership classes where baptism and salvation are the central topics of the first class: CLASS 101-401 Curriculum

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.

article.2013.01.08What would Jesus do? The saying that launched a zillion wrist bands! But it’s a timeless question that has some fun implications when you apply it to youth ministry. Here are a few of the things we believe Jesus would do as a youth pastor.

Teach with lots of stories.
Without a doubt the Master teacher would teach with stories. He would fill his message of hope and salvation with illustrations and object lessons. He would probably be criticized as being “shallow” for his talks, but crowds would flock to hear him teach.

Spend time with core leaders.

Jesus had an inner circle he spent the majority of his time with. He would pour into a few key students in whom he saw potential, and world-changing opportunity to work through them. He would be criticized for ignoring some people, and would undoubtedly have more than a few parents complain that he played favorites.

Focus on relationships.

Jesus didn’t seem to be big on programs. When he did an overnighter, everyone fell asleep while he prayed. Instead of building great programs and youth rooms, he was a man of the people who ministered outside of the church walls.

Trust his volunteer team.
When Jesus left…he left the disciples in charge. In fact, he never came back! Talk about ownership… He was focused on building them, and then set them loose to change the world…and they did!

If you teach with lots of stories, pour into student leaders, focus on relational ministry, and empower your volunteers, you are following Jesus’ example. And while there certainly is more to the modern church, you are most like Jesus when you serve this way.

Blessings as you serve others this week!

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.

article.2012.12.25[1]Christmas is either a time where you ramp things up to “crazy level” or a time when things slow down just a bit. Of course this mostly depends on your church culture, events, and expectations—but we’re thankful you’ve given us another minute of your time as we end 2012 together with a celebration of the birth of Christ.
As you prepare for the candlelight service at your church—or perhaps you’re reading this from your iPhone as you drive to Idaho to be with family this week—here are a few reminders in this season full of presents.

Be present with your family.
 Take the next few days, when the whole country slows down, to be with family…and really be with family. Break out the video camera; leave your phone on “Do Not Disturb” a little more often; really be present with the people who love you the most. And, if your idea of “present” means paying attention to the family festivities in hopes of capturing the perfect Instagram moment, you are missing the point entirely!

Be present in your ministry.
 One of the benefits to being present with your family, and a little disengaged from church during the holidays, is that it can create a new sense of hunger for ministry heading into the new year. Take advantage of the slower (we hope) ministry season to prayerfully consider what the next year holds and how you can engage more fully and effectively as it begins.

Be present to listen. 
Too often we focus on volunteers and students and the next big overnighter in our ministry and don’t take the time to really listen as we walk hurriedly to the next big thing. Take some time to listen over the break—listen to what parents are saying, listen to students a little more closely, and listen to God’s voice speaking life and guidance into your heart and ministry. Be present in God’s presence.

Merry Christmas! Looking forward to a great 2013 together, too!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

Every now and then we take a break from the normal routine to interview a friend, author, ministry leader or youth worker we think would have something to share with the youth worker nation. Today we talk to Greg Stier, founder of Dare 2 Share (, which is a ministry dedicated to equipping students to share their faith. Greg is a long-time friend of Simply Youth Ministry and will be speaking in a general session at the upcoming SYMC Conference in March.

1. Dude, many of our readers haven’t met you before—tell us about yourself!
For 10 years I was a church planter and pastor of Grace Church in Arvada, Colorado. Although I loved this amazing church, God used the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 as a wake-up call for me to focus full-time on reaching the next generation for Christ. I resigned my post as pastor and began to mobilize teens for evangelism through Dare 2 Share.

I’ve been married for 21 years to the love of my life, Debbie. We have two great kids who, unfortunately for my wife, have my spastic genes. We couldn’t have kids for 10 years and wondered if God would ever bless us with children. We were so thrilled that he did! Being a husband and daddy has taught me more theology than any Bible class I’ve ever sat through. It’s humbling and exhilarating all at the same time!

When I’m not traveling the nation equipping youth leaders and teens for evangelism, I’m hanging out with the fam. We live in the great state of Colorado and love to hike together. This summer my son and I had the opportunity to climb our first two “14ers” (mountains that are 14,000 feet or higher in elevation). It was great fun…even though I thought my lungs were going to burst. One more thing…I’m a movie freak.

2. How did you become so passionate about student evangelism?
I was raised in a family of body-building, tobacco-chewing, beer-drinking thugs (and that’s just the women!). Seriously, my family was bad to the bone. The Denver “mafia” knew my five fighting uncles as “the crazy brothers.” So when the mafia thinks your family is dysfunctional you have some serious issues.

But this church from the suburbs reached out to the city and, as a result, my entire family came to Christ. As a kid I witnessed the spiritual transformation of every one my family members from violent troublemaker to passionate Christ follower. This church also had a killer youth ministry who discipled us—that is, had us growing deep in our relationship with Christ and understanding theology, as well as training and expecting us to share our faith. They also had high expectations when it came to leadership and they gave teenagers significant responsibilities in leading the youth ministry, which I think is critical. There’s no way I’d be doing Dare 2 Share if I hadn’t seen it modeled in this amazing youth ministry setting first. Bottom line as to why I’m so passionate about student evangelism? I believe in the power of the gospel and the potential of teenagers!

3. Yesterday we talked about producing evangelistic students; what is the biggest key in your mind for students to “get it”?
They have to have their hearts broken for their friends who don’t know Jesus. They need to get their “Jesus eyes” on.

When I was a teenager my youth pastor challenged me to go to a local shopping mall and do some people watching for 30 minutes. He told me to put an imaginary tag on people’s foreheads as they walked by which read, “Bound for Hell.” I did just that. For 30 minutes I thought about the hell they were headed to and the hell they were going through apart from Jesus. By the time it was over I was crying. For the first time I saw people through the eyes of Christ and my heart has been broken ever since. As we put our teens in situations to interact with unreached people (mission trips, local outreaches, etc), we will have the opportunity to teach them to put their Jesus eyes on. Then, as their hearts begin to break for the lost, evangelism becomes much more natural.

4. Tell us about a time you were rejected after sharing your faith. How can leaders prepare students for the adversity they face in times like that?
There have been many times I’ve been rejected. The hardest was my Uncle Richard. He was the one holdout of my uncles who refused to believe in Jesus. It took 12 years of sharing and being rejected by him before he finally succumbed to Jesus (just before succumbing to cancer).

I think youth leaders can prepare their students by helping them realize that rejection is part of the discipleship process. Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

At Dare 2 Share we do a thing called “Persecution University.” If a teen gets rejected for sharing Jesus, they become a PU grad and get a standing ovation from the thousands of teens in the auditorium. Of course some Christians get persecuted, not for sharing their faith, but for the way they are sharing their faith. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about helping teens to humbly share the good news and then realize that, if their friends reject them, they are entering a fraternity of persecution that’s 2,000 years old. I find that teens who truly realize this have their faith steeled and sealed deep inside their souls.

5. You are an excitable guy! What are you most excited about at Dare 2 Share!
We are seeing teenagers truly share their faith, and youth groups are growing in maturity and in numbers as a result!  We are witnessing how evangelism accelerates the discipleship process in ways no traditional model can emulate. It’s great fun to watch the exciting messiness of a youth group growing with new and raw teen disciples.

I’m also excited about the way the Lord has opened up the door for this movement to be scalable outside of our Dare 2 Share events. From training curriculum to our free online training material to webinars to an upcoming Dare 2 Share mobile app (coming soon) we are pumped up to see that God is moving beyond our training conferences to accelerate teen evangelism training. Of course, the Dare 2 Share conferences are as exciting as ever and we are adding more and more new cities to the tour. I love what God does through these catalytic training events!

But what excites me most is that I believe we could witness a true revival in this nation within my lifetime. And I’m fully convinced teenagers and youth leaders will be on the leading edge of this next great awakening. I’m a student of past revivals and, to be honest, I’m tired of reading about revivals—I want to be a part of one!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.