Weekend Teaching Series:  I Am __________ (series premiere, week 1 of 3)
Sermon in a Sentence: Shut up and be a gossip-stopper.

Service Length: 74 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we kicked off our big fall series – this is a critical time of year to capture students who are starting off the year right in church and making a real effort to attend. This year we’re doing a series called I Am Blank and filling in the blank every weekend with a typical mistake/problem area/blind-spot of the Christian life. This week the message focused on gossip and it was super interesting to prepare this week being hyper-sensitive to the topic. It seemed like everywhere I went there was gossip! It made for lots of illustrations and reminders of just how much we need to stop gossip and slander it it’s tracks.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This week we had a fun but simple game – our version of 2 Truths and a Life with students using their cell phones (and polleverywhere.com) to vote on which as the lie. It was a fun game and the prize was a Twinkie Shower from the balcony – lots of fun, even though it probably isn’t wise to sugar everyone up right before you ask them to listen to the talk for 30 minutes. Lots of energy in youth group this week – KILLBALL was after the 6:30 and as always it didn’t disappoint. Although my team, the Deep V’s, came in 2nd which was frustrating.

Music Playlist: Dancing Generation, Here For You, Child of God, How He Loves, Your Love is Strong

Favorite Moment: LOVED hearing Hannah (from our team) share her story of gossip in high school – it was crucial to bring all of the points of the message together. It took a lot of strength to dig through your past and then share a big failure with a bunch of students it is a BIG deal. It was absolutely perfect and I’m so proud of her. Really made the message come to life.

Up next: I Am _____________ (week 2 of 3)

Kickoff for the fall, there is nothing like it.  Everyone is focused on getting plugged in, connected, signed up and registered.  The summer dreams have come to an end, school is back in session and the thought, “Here we go again.” races through your mind.

For some of us the beginning of the year stresses us out and for others it excites us.  There is so much to do, so much to get done and then BOOM! The year starts and we are off.  It’s like a marathon where the anticipation before the race is killer; however, once you get moving you settle down.

Kickoff is a season that can race by; however, it’s also a season that needs to be embraced.  On top of fun memories of moon bounces and wild games, it’s really a season when you can strengthen your foundation.  It’s a season when you need to:

Recruit New Ministers – The best time to recruit other ministers is when the program is in full swing.  That way potential volunteers can:

  1. See the program in action.
  2. Talk to actively serving ministers
  3. Ask questions they might not have known to ask if inquiring during the summer

When you recruit new ministers right after kickoff you’ll have a positive excitement that will be contagious.

Invite More Teens – It makes sense to invite someone to an event before it happens; however, your ministry isn’t an event.  While you want to build up hype and momentum before the program begins you’ll want to put more afterwards.  By continuously inviting teens to your program your creating an open enrollment feeling.  So many times we give up on a class or a program because we miss the first session.  Ministry should be treated like any relationship, where you can step in at any time.

Build Margin – Once the year begins we feel our margin slip away; however, there is no better time.  You should be letting your leaders loose, let them fail, succeed and problem solve.  As the point person you should be able to take a step back, observe and take in the experience.  As soon as the year gets going, slow down and find that pace because it’s going to be a long year.

Kickoff is not the end of summer and it isn’t just the beginning of your ministry year.  It’s a mile marker that you should utilize to grow stronger.  Look for the opportunities in every situation and continue to move forward.

What other opportunities do you see during kickoff?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

How We Do What We Do

Josh Griffin —  August 29, 2012 — 3 Comments

It will come as no surprise to most of you that we have a very specific strategy concerning our approach to youth ministry. While your paradigm/process/strategy/purpose (call it whatever the heck you want) may look different than ours, having an easily articulated method to your madness is worth considering. Our youth ministry is centered around three simple “arenas” we think are ultra important in teenagers lives. Right now all of our youth ministry programs fit into one of these three arenas, each with a very specific purpose:

LARGE GROUP: We want to EXPOSE students to Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes.

PRIMARY PROGRAM: Weekend Worship Services
Our weekend services are designed to give students a taste of what the church is all about and an entry-level chance to be exposed to the teachings of Jesus. All students are welcome, and the message is designed to have applications for seekers and the sold out. The services have a high level of student involvement with adults only in the most critical roles (teaching, etc). This is our most visible program to the public and also the most visible to the pastoral leadership of the church as well.

SMALL GROUP: We want students to EXPERIENCE Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes with others.

Our small group program meets during the week (on Tuesday or Wednesday nights) and divides up the large group into groups of 8-10 students. Groups are ideally made up of teenagers in the same grade, gender and geography enabling them to form a strong community through their high school years. Every group has an adult leader who leads the discussion and teaches a curriculum that’s separate from the large group program. Our goal is that a student goes beyond simple exposure to Christ but will begin to experience discipleship, ministry, and community.

INDIVIDUAL LIFE: Ultimately, we hope students will EXPRESS Christ, his kingdom and the 5 Purposes through their lifestyle.

PRIMARY PROGRAM(S): Grow booth, missions trips, events, serve projects
Basically in this arena we have a ton of options that students can choose as an individual. They’ve been exposed to Christ at the entry-level program, they experience Christ in a small group—now they have the chance to express or live out their faith in a myriad of choices presented to them at this level. We offer lots of Serve opportunities and resources to help students grow, and a few key events/camps throughout the year as well.

What does your process look like? Share it in the comments!

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.

A video we made for this past weekend’s service on the power of music and why we worship. You’re welcome.


Last weekend of the You Own the Weekend series – Tesoro is going to OWN it. So excited – here’s their promo video that’s been on Facebook.


Growing up in the late ’80s and the ’90s when personal computers started coming into the mainstream, MICROSOFT was the bomb! They did everything well and they were everywhere. Computer makers like Apple were struggling and no one even thought of Google yet. In fact, I can clearly remember back when I was hired to be the Jr. High Intern at my 1st church that my boss and I mocked the other intern for her love of Macs. We made fun of her so much (in a nice way of course :) ) that she eventually switched to PC — an Acer no less.

Well times have changed and now my former boss and good friend laugh at ourselves for how we tortured the other Intern because we, like so many of the rest of the world have switched from PC to Mac. In less than 10 years, Apple, Inc has gone from on the brink of extinction to the most popular computer and home entertainment distributors in the world. It was done in large part because of the creation of the iPod in 2001. From there a halo effect the iPod created, Macs have grown in popularity, the iPhone is one of the best selling cell phones in the world and the iPad is crushing the tablet market. Apple, Inc is on a roll!

In fact, if you look at Microsoft, it is struggling to compete in the mobile phone market, they don’t have a table computer that is exciting to consumers and their Windows OS is outdated. So, what happened to Microsoft? How did it go from greatness to an afterthought? Well, according to Fortune’s article “The problem with Microsoft” and Bloomberg Businessweek’s article “Paul Allen’s Revenge” there are a number of reasons for this:

  1. Can’t let go of the glory days. In the Businessweek article, Paul Allen suggests that, “Microsoft continues to overvalue its market share of yesterday’s products rather than develop compelling new ones.” He went on to say that Microsoft was addicted to the Office Suite and continued to bask in the that product which prevented it from developing in other areas such as internet.
  2. Poor execution. In the Fortune article, it shows that Microsoft has been great at spotting trends and getting out ahead of the market on ideas. They started talking about tablet computers 15 years ago and developing an e-Reader 10 years ago — long before anyone else. The problem? Poor execution. Roy Ozzie, who was once the chief software architect for Microsoft after Bill Gates said, “Our early and clear vision notwithstanding, execution [by competitors] has surpassed our own.” They can’t get compelling devices out on the market anymore.
  3. Not letting innovators innovate. In an effort to compete with the ever changing mobile phone market, Microsoft bought a mobile technology company, Danger (the developer of the popular Sidekick). What Microsoft told those employees was, “You’ve got this great product, and we’re going to give you the resources to take this to the next level.” The developers at Danger were excited and pumped for having the additional resources to innovate. HOWEVER, what ended up happening was that those developers ended up getting folded into the Microsoft company and instead of being able to innovate and create, many were assigned to help develop a new Windows-based phone. After months of frustration and delays, the team had to rush to create a new phone based partially on a new operating system. Although the idea for the phone was great, the lack of support, the rush to get done and their inability to create and innovate destroyed any chances of this new phone from succeeding. It was pulled from the stores after only 48 days on the market!

So how does Microsoft’s struggles possibly apply to ministry? Simply put…

  1. Let the glory days be glory days
  2. Never stop innovating and creating with excellence
  3. Take Risks for the glory of the Lord

Microsoft couldn’t let go of the past and they had to keep on putting more and more money into Microsoft Office. Sure it was a great productivity tool, but no one this day and age is a one trick pony. You have to keep innovating and creating. Take Apple for example. They weren’t satisfied with just the iMac or iBook. In 2003 they released the iPod which changed the music industry (Imagine that! A computer company changing the music industry). They could have stopped there but they didn’t. They went on the change the phone and tablet industries by releasing the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010. They kept on creating and making things better for more people.

In the same way, as leaders of Christ to others, we need to constantly be looking for ways to share about Him to people. That means sometimes we need to be changing and adapting the way we do that. Whether it is introducing a new program, a new way to share the gospel or a new way to challenge the volunteer leaders, we need to be constantly creating and changing with the times. What works today will definitely not work in the years ahead. Things have to change as students are changing.

Students, like consumers, are not as loyal as the “good old days”. They are going to go where there needs are being met and where the excitement is. In order to be presenting Christ to as many people as possible, we have to be constantly changing methods (not core principles) and take some risks.

That is why it is so important to keep thinking of new ideas. Don’t get fixated on the prior success of an old program or an old way to share the gospel. Keep on adding, tweaking and changing things. When those new ideas get stall, invite some new fresh blood into the creative meetings. This is a great way to include students into the process and give them ownership. Not only does it encourage them but it is another way to include others and new ideas can begin to develop.

So right now, TAKE A MINUTE and think through how you can keep ahead of the game. Take a look at your program and see where changes may need to take place. What is old and outdated that need to be replaced with something fresh and new? Don’t wait til attendance is down and it is clear things need to change. Get out ahead of the game and make changes as needed so that students have every opportunity to hear about Christ in the best way possible.

Tom Pounder blogs very often at www.ministryblackboard.com and has been featured in several guest posts when Josh is on vacation or is just plain lazy.

Weekend Teaching Series: How to Raise Your Parents (series premiere, week 1 of 3)

Sermon in a Sentence: Your relationship with your parents is up to you.
Service Length: 69 minutes

Understandable Message: This week Doug Fields taught students from God’s Word about their relationship with their parents. He did a great job helping students understand that they control much of their relationship with their parents – if they respected and honored their parents, it would take them far. His usual mix of rumor and truth was super.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: This weekend we had some more fun with HSM Talks, and Chris did a really creative announcement that was part live and part video – a dream about going to HSM Summer Camp. Simple, clean and solid weekend.

Music Playlist: Go, Divine and Holy, Revelation Song, Hosanna

Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was that during each service our junior high services dismissed the 8th graders out for a little root-beer-float-HSM-summer camp promo time. We had a couple students share about their camp experience, and had a raffle for a free camp registration. Super fun relational time with the soon to be freshman.

Up Next: How to Raise Your Parents (week 3 of 3, parent panel and series finale)

So many aspects of youth ministry leadership find themselves in direct opposition of each other. The problem is – they both can be necessary and good things. The first step is to identify the tensions of youth ministry, and then figure out how to manage them. Here are a few of them I’ve identified, feel free to add another in the comments if one comes right to mind:

Tasks vs. People
There is work to be done! And administrative work and email is part of the gig. But the tension could push you to fail people or fail at paperwork. You can’t do either one! There is a tension here, but a competent youth pastor has to fight though the tension and balance both well.

Program vs. Relationships
I love a great program – but the programs and services we offer pail in comparison to what the world offers. Yes, we need to spend time crafting and creating incredible programs and creative elements to share the timeless message of Christ. At the same time – we offer so much more than that! We LOVE people! There is another tension at stake, and neither can suffer. Get the program stuff done, even done well, and pour into people.

Crowd vs. Individual
I am a crowd person al the way, but the tension is to find time to focus on the individual. Both are critically important! I live in this tension every week, and must remember that the crowd is made up of individuals. Every moment that you spend with individuals builds your crowd, and in every crowd situation you have to focus on the individual.

One last one for now … this old post from 2008 about Workaholic vs. Passionate Worker might be a good read.

What else do you see as a tension of youth ministry?