My friend Shawn Harrison and I have been tackling what we see as the “Elephants In The Youth Room.”  We had planned on only really putting out four posts on the issue, however, we have been surprised at the traction they have gained. Especially with the conversations from, “The Great Game Debate,” I thought there was one more topic I needed to address.

Last week I had an interesting conversation with my 14-year-old daughter. I asked her, “If you were to set up programming for a youth group, what would it look like?”  

She said she would nix games, although she might have an opening activity or object lesson to draw everyone in. There would be a “worship time,” followed by preaching, and then small groups.

Then I asked her why she would set it up like this. “Well you know I love to connect to God through singing, so that’s why I would have an opening worship time. I also think it helps quiet our hearts.” She went on, “For us introverts, preaching is a good thing. We can listen and learn. We don’t really have to interact with anyone. Then small groups is where we get to ask questions and really go deep.”

Then she sat and thought for a second. (I thought we were going to change topics.)  “You know now that I think about it, the worship time really depends on whether or not there is a decent worship team that works.  If it’s just some guy with a guitar who can’t sing, then that’s just distracting and awkward.”  

We dove into this for a few moments. She has tried a number of youth programs in addition to the ones I run. It gives her a chance to experience a setting beyond where her parents are the leaders and gives her the chance to “just go to youth group.”

As she thought about the different places she has tried, attended at the invite of a friend or even participated in she noted something,“It’s like there is a formula for how you do youth group, and you know it doesn’t seem to work for everyone.”  There were people who weren’t great at preaching, and it lost her attention. Perhaps, that’s just a personality issue.

However, she had attended a couple of groups where the “worship time” was just plain painful. She posed the question, “If it doesn’t work for a group, Do we have to sing?” One guy sang alone and was always off key. In another group, they played musical tracks and that felt weird to her.

So here it is. Does there HAVE to be the “youth group” that includes a guitar and singing if you don’t have the capacity?  I think if you have a student run worship band or a leader who enjoys to offer this, it might be different. However, who decided that singing is what makes for great youth programming?

I think some students love it and others hate it. In my own home, my boy would love it if there were only small groups and that’s it.  Is it a way to include different types of kids, or do we offer it because “that’s what you do?”

Does it exclude our “unchurched” students as they have no clue what the song is or how to follow along, especially if there isn’t even a PowerPoint?

Could there be “seasons” in your ministry when you have no one to lead that you get rid of this time?

We call it “worship,” however, I think we all know that isn’t always what it is. Worship goes far beyond a time that includes music. If no one is actually “worshiping” during this time could/should you nix it?

Did you get rid of this time already? If yes, what do you do?

I think my daughter’s question is a valid one, “If it isn’t working,  Do we have to sing?”  A better question might be, “Do we have to follow the youth group formula at all?”

What do you think?



Here’s HSM Fall calendar – we handed them out this weekend bundled along with a few promo cards for Pumpkinfest and our weekend services. Our hope is that students will keep the calendar and hand out the cards to their friends and invite them the church.

The calendar is a simple and clear design – we are only doing a few events so the focus is on on-going programs like our weekend services and Life Groups.


Last week I blogged about Kyle Smith’s new song Your Love is Enoughthis week I’m excited to point you to the second single from Taffy and Cluster of Students (made up of high school students from HSM at Saddleback Church). Get the song Divine and Holy on iTunes today, then download the guitar charts for FREE right here to use in your ministry!

So proud of these guys … love these songs!


This is so cool! Taffy (our Student Ministries Worship Pastor) and Cluster of Students just released a new single on iTunes. You can check it out here, and if you’d like the chord charts for it and the credits, grab them for free, too. Awesome!


No services next weekend in HSM. Here’s the video to make sure students got the message.


Next weekend we finish up a series we’ve done 3 years running called You Own the Weekend. In fact, we added a 6th week by popular demand – that’s how exciting this series has been. It is one of the biggest series we do every year (beaten only by our kickoff weekend and the sex series) and has become a staple in HSM’s culture.

The idea is that each high school gets their own weekend to run from start to finish – they do everything from the message to the videos, testimonies and bits. Each school starts a Facebook group and has an adult mentor, but no adults take the stage at any time for the entire month. How crazy is that?

Here’s why it totally works:

Students get involved in ministry
More students get a taste of ministry during this month than any other time of the year. Students step up and there’s a positive peer pressure on them to be a part of what is going on. There’s something for everyone – from greeting, decorating, videos – even speaking!

Students bring their friends
Without a doubt this is the most evangelistic series we have – teenagers bring their friends to something they are a part of. You Own the Weekend captures school spirit and gives students an easier opportunity than normal to bring their friends. Every student from every school gets an invitation to church.

Parents show up
I’m amazed at the number of parents who attend a weekend service during You Own the Weekend. They love seeing their kids doing ministry, not just watching it. Parents leave with a better idea of what the high school ministry is about and infectious in spreading a positive word to others when they leave.

One fun byproduct of the series is that it allows students to see just how challenging it is to create a youth group every week. They appreciate sermon prep, great videos, awesome stories or a funny bit way more in the future.


Let me start by saying, my name is Geoff and I am not ashamed being part of an attractional youth ministry. A few months back I attended a Youth Pastors gathering in my area, and the topic of attractional vs missional ministry came up, and the proponents of each began to discuss and debate the virtues of each and it became clear that the two camps were miles a part. Not only that, I was told that I was running an attractional ministry and that they are not effective in growing students. EXCUSE ME?? I get frustrated when other Youth Workers write off “Attractional Ministries” as having no substance, and are merely entertaining students. I don’t agree and feel they can be effective and here is why.

You get one chance to make a first impression: Having a student in the Church for the first time is an honor, but it is important to look at it through their eyes. It is important to understand that churches can be intimidating and they are probably coming with preconceptions and ideas of what it will look like and what is going to happen. The fellowship time before we start and the first 15 minutes of our services is designed for new students, seekers and non-Christians, it is intended to help make them feel comfortable and welcome. The bells, whistles and flashy elements are for these students, they ad credibility and help to challenge their idea of what Church is like.

We have Lasers, but they don’t matter: Our Services are packed with Worship, lights, haze and sometimes lasers, but students do not stay because of them. Recently I met a focus group of 30 students and asked them questions about our ministry, and when it came to what keeps them coming back, not one of them said it was lights and lasers. In fact, most said it was having a small group leader who cared about them and challenged them in their faith that was most important.

We are about seeing the Lost Saved: The lights, the smoke, the videos, it’s all a lot of fun, but the purpose is not to entertain, its to compete. Not competing against my buddy Tyler or Kevin’s Ministry down the road, but against X-box, TV, drugs or just plain apathy that keeps students from coming. My heart is to see the Holy Spirit get a hold of these teens, but if that means having fancy lights to get them in the door, I will do that. There are 4000 High school Students within 15 minutes of our Church, they need to know Jesus.

Students are sharing their faith and serving : If you ever have wondered how community kids end up at a Youth Group, they are invited, intentionally. Encouraging students to invite friends to Youth allows for conversations to happen, about God, faith, Church and life. Having a place that is safe to invite your friends to is a good start. Having more elements of the service allows more students to serve in ways they are passionate about. We add elements to allow more people to serve, one in four students serve on one of the Worship or Technical teams, this is a great way to develop a Kingdom building group.

We share the Gospel with students: I have been told in the past that Ministries like ours water down the Gospel, or worse don’t share it at all. I can tell you this, that no matter if your are Missional or Attractional or both, Jesus is the center, he is the reason we get up in the morning and come to work. We share the Gospel in its fullness and apply it to the lives of today’s students, relate in a way that they can understand, and wrap their minds around and hopefully engage it in a real way. We equip our students with the Gospel so that they would follow the Great Commission, and bring those friends to a place where they can be learn, engage and be discipled.

This subject tends to put a bee in my bonnet, I love being a Youth Pastor and if a Youth Ministry can attract students to come to the Church, learn about Jesus, challenge them to know Him better, facilitate them being involved in our community and build his kingdom, then I am all in. God deserves everything I have, every resource I can use to help build His Church. Before you write of a Ministry, go check it out, hear the heart of the Pastor for their students and go see what God is doing there.

Geoff Stewart is the Pastor of Jr & Sr High School for Journey Student Ministries at Peace Portal Alliance Church and regularly contributes GUEST POSTS to MoreThanDodgeball.com. You can, too! See how right here.

Matt and Steven have been doing a good series of posts from the youth ministry volunteer perspective over on Volunteer Youth Ministry. Here’s the 2nd one in their series of 10 upcoming posts, this one focusing on the importance of volunteers attending an adult service. Good stuff from a rookie and veteran volunteer. Here’s a clip, head there for it all:

I really love serving in Student Ministry. I love the feeling I get when I interact with students, and I love being able to talk a student through a problem. I love seeing a student who came in with a sad face and something heavy on his heart, leave the service with a smile on his face because God worked through me to help a student work out his problem. I’d love to be able to serve at all four of our high school services each week, but I also know I can’t serve and really worship at the same time. I can pray, I can get students excited about worshiping, I can praise God, I can sing Hosanna with the best of them, but it’s not the same as attending a worship service where I am totally focused on God.

Attending worship service can make even my worst day a good one. I feel re-energized and revived and ready to serve God because I strengthened my connection to Him. I’ll pick up tidbits from worship that I’ll use in next week’s high school small group lesson. I can feel a difference when I connect with God through worship every week. Here’s the other thing….parents of my small group students often see me in worship each week.