There are preconceived ideas of who “people in ministry” are supposed to be.This holds especially true in youth ministry.You can make the stereotypical list yourself, I don’t think I even need to name the traits.

The problem is that not all of us are capable of becoming the resident IT person. Others of us are rarely described as “silly.” What builds from this is a fear that we will lose our students if we “can’t be those things” that other youth people seem to be. We struggle with the concept that we just might not be good at everything and perhaps should surround ourselves with a team whose strengths balance out our weaknesses. Instead, we keep trying to be great at it all.

On top of this let’s say a new youth group starts down the street. They are in a church that happens to have more resources than we do. As a matter of fact while we are playing a 40-year-old Atari on a 30-year-old black and white television, they have an entire video game room replete with 90-inch mounted flat screens, the latest games and every gaming system imaginable. If any of our students start to go to “that group,” we think, “Well of course, how could I possibly keep up with all they have to offer. I am wired “wrong” for youth ministry, and they have a world famous youth pastor. I have no resources, and they can buy whatever they need. They have a hired person for every piece of their youth ministry, and we fear losing our one volunteer.”

Do you see the avalanche forming?  

The challenge in this scenario is doing what we know is right, versus what we honestly tend to do.  We know we should partner with other ministries. In the “Great Game Debate” article, I appreciated the comment that one person wrote saying they focused on discipleship and partnered with a local group that was better at games. However, why is it so difficult to embrace who we are, and perhaps what the Lord has called our group to be?

I had a friend who walked away from youth ministry because “she could never be as fun as other youth people.” Others have told me they are “too administratively minded,” to be any good with students. I hear youth people often complain about the church, or worse the “YoungLife-esque” ministry down the street, who is “stealing all of their students,” and they “can’t keep up.”  We then accuse all the others around of us of being shallow or having what we can’t offer.

Then we play the “keep up game.” We attempt to be like those around us.

“I only have 4 students,” we whine. We spend all of our money on a gadget. Exhaustion overtakes us as we try to be something we aren’t. In the process we lose students anyway.

Don’t deny it. We have all done it in one way or another. See also the time I ended up on crutches from an all night trampoline event.

Why are we afraid to seek out a team that fills in the gaps of who we aren’t?

Could we partner with local groups who offer what we don’t?

Can we stop whining about what we “aren’t” and start to embrace who God has called US to be? Then celebrate it?

No matter how we try in our mega or mini church, we are never ever going to meet all the needs of every person. There are learning styles, personalities and preferences in play here. Sometimes we also forget the simple reality that most of our students come because this is where their parents go to church. It may have nothing else to do with anything other than that.

*Gasp* Could we actually be alright with our students being a part of our ministry AND another?

What if they do “leave” for another church?  What do we do then?

The choice comes down to whether to be who we aren’t or embrace who we are. If we need to make a change because we have given up, well that’s something else entirely.

What are we going to do with this elephant that keeps us morphing so often we just might forget about students in the process?

What are you actively doing to balance your weaknesses against resource gaps colliding with what other ministries offer?

Let me know your thoughts,



Random Randomness

Kurt Johnston —  August 20, 2013 — Leave a comment


Now that my blog has joined forces with the mighty More Than Dodgeball, I thought I’d continue some of the features that kept my junior high blog small and relatively unpopular. My “Random Randomness” posts are a good place to start.

- Just returned from four nights camping under the stars with 8 other families. We fished, hiked, shot BB guns, faced down bears (Katie Edwards did, anyway) and sat around the fire. A really lazy way to end an outrageously busy summer.

- Another thing we did while camping was play lots and lots of KanJam, the game you really must purchase for your youth group.

- May I recommend a short shopping list for your junior high ministry this fall?

  1. This Book Gets Around.  If you are looking for a fun way to help your students (in small groups, at a retreat, etc.) get to know each other a little better, this is the way to go. Such a fun idea. Or, buy some 10-packs and ask your students to take them to school to learn more about their friends!
  2. LIVE small group curriculum. There simply is not a better small group curriculum out there, in my opinion.
  3. The Challenge. Almost every junior higher loves games. Almost every junior high youth worker hates coming up with them. Make everybody happy!
  4. 99 Thoughts About Junior High Ministry. There are a few great junior high/middle school ministry books out there, and they are all too long for your volunteers to read! Give your volunteer team a pocketful of confidence with this fantastic little book.

- Want a free resource…that kicks butt?  Point your hurting students to Teen Christian Ministries. I love this little web show that is making a huge impact on the teenagers who tune in!

- Have you seen The Way, Way Back?  If not, write it into your schedule this week before it disappears. It’s a movie every youth worker needs to see.

It has taken me longer than usual this month … too much real-life/youth ministry getting in the way of my videogaming, but my Xbox360 gamerscore is now up over 55,000 points. The 1,000+ increase over the last update was due to some serious and not-so-serious gaming:

  • 007: Blood Stone (B+) – fun James Bond game, run and gun the whole thing
  • Air Conflicts: Secret Wars (D-) – completely unplayable. Bummed I even paid $16 for it.
  • Kinect Sports: Season 2 (B+) – fun for the whole family, really really fun.
  • Madagascar 3 (C+) – kids loved this one, we never did see the movie!


The Call of Duty Dilemma

Josh Griffin —  February 16, 2012 — 3 Comments

Got a question in from one of our parents this week – it is a question we’re getting quite often and one I’m answering in my own home as well. A parent asked this:

I’ve been researching online because of a dilemma I have. I have 3 boys, a 9 yo. a 6 and a 1 yo. my 2 elder boys love to play Call of Duty. I know it is a violent game, but I just don’t know the right words to say to discourage them from playing it. I tried my best to say that its a violent game and its not going to do them any good but I end up losing the argument when they start saying that they are the only ones in class/group of friends that doesn’t play it.

I asked Parker to reply (he’s the resident game along with myself), and thought what he shared was excellent. He gave me permission to reprint it here on the blog in case it would be helpful to you!

Hi Parent!

Great question! First and foremost, you’re completely right. If you feel like a game is too violent, you have every right to restrict your son from playing it. He may kick and scream, but you’re not doing anything wrong by being a parent. In fact, I’m really happy that you’re not just snatching the game away and enforcing BMSS Law (Because Mom Said So). That would probably cause more issue with him. I love that you’re looking to encourage him to do the right thing rather than force him. So here are my three thoughts on restricting teenagers from violent video games:

1. Explain more about how you don’t feel: Sounds strange, but when you only explain how you do feel and your teenager doesn’t agree with you, he’ll start filling in gaps on your side to justify why he’s right and you’re crazy. So, rather than just saying, “I don’t want you playing these games because…”, add “Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you’re going to shoot up a school because you’re playing MW3. It’s not that I think it makes you a bad kid. I don’t even think it’s the worst game ever that’s going to corrupt your mind.” Every point you make about how you don’t feel is less ammo for him to complain about later. He won’t be able to say, “My mom’s crazy! She thinks a video game is going to corrupt me!” In reality, you’re trying your best to raise a Godly son and you want him to make good choices in what he does in his life. You don’t feel like violent games are a choice that honors God, so you want him to find an alternative.

2. Let him choose alternatives: Some parents are okay with games like Halo because you’re fighting aliens instead of humans (that’s your own comfort level). Let him know that you’re completely okay with other games (just don’t restrict them to LeapFrog games!). If he gets to choose other games, he’ll be less resistant because you’re partnering with him, not controlling him. Just feeling that ownership of decision making can make a huge difference. So, you’re setting the game boundaries because you’re the parent, but he’s free to play whatever game he wants (as long as they’re inside your boundaries). When you talk, focus more on the games he can plan, not the games he can’t. Make it a discussion, not a lecture.

3. Buy him a replacement: If you’re going to take away one of his games, I’d suggest offering to replace it. Remember, he didn’t do anything wrong by playing MW3. It’s just something you’re not comfortable with. So, instead of taking away something he enjoys and saying, “Tough luck”, consider buying him a new game that you do approve of. If he reacts well, reward him with a newer/better game of his choice. If he blows up on you, don’t get him a game at all, but make it very clear that it’s because of his reaction, not because he likes playing MW3.

The big thing is to work with him, not drop a bombshell on his gaming life. This stuff is important to teenagers and it helps them to know that you understand the impact it makes on their lives when you remove a game from their archive. Remember, you’re still the parent and what you says goes. Just give him and support the opportunity to deal with this on a mature, win/win basis. Hopefully things go well and he doesn’t get his whole Xbox taken away!!!

I’ll be praying for you! Keep me updated!


Every fall several video games come out that have huge implications in youth ministry; this fall is no exception! The question is: are you aware of the power of video games? Here are a few stats you might not be aware of…

  • 65% of all US households play video games
  • 2 out of 5 gamers are female
  • 18 hours is the average time spent per week by gamers playing video games

So, if the majority of households in the US have video games, and 2 out of 5 gamers are female, and the kids who are playing games are on average spending 18 hours a week playing them, shouldn’t the church be a little more vested in them and tap their redemptive potential? Can video games teach us anything? Everyone does sermon series on movies, what if you did a series on video games?

Here are 4 titles that your kids will be playing and what you need to know about them:

Modern Warfare 3

After a couple month hiatus of Gamerscore movement (sometimes real life gets in the way of my gaming addiction) our Xbox 360 crossed a huge milestone this weekend. 50,000 points! The boys and I rustled up some achievements playing Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon (B+), Plants vs. Zombies (A+), Kinect Fun Labs (B) and Spare Parts (B).


Enjoyed some video gaming this month in a diversion from the extremes of youth ministry – our Xbox 360 Gamerscore crossed 49,000 last night, in part to Hard Corps Uprising (sequel to Contra, A-), Limbo (cinematic arcade game, A+), Portal 2 (hilarious puzzle game, A+) and Crysis 2 (awesome shooter, A+). Incredible games, some of the best I’ve ever played!


This week off from work spending time with the kids paid off in a nice little boost in Gamerscore on the Xbox 360. We tackled the cheesy Eat Led: The Return of Matt Hazard (B-), got to 100% on Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (A+), beat the party game Rio (B-) and saved America from United Korea in Homefront (A-).