jake_stemo_single_v3_2My friend Jake Stemo is releasing a song today called “Making Me New.” I may be a little biased because he is a friend, but I love this song. It is Jesus-centered and has a catchy hook. Jake is a worship Leader and songwriter with a shepherds heart. He is not selling this song with hopes to make a car payment or buy new studio equipment, he is releasing the song to help support Mallorie (11), a girl in his youth group who was diagnosed with Leukemia. Jake is giving 100% of his Noisetrade ”artist tips” to Team Mallorie. Hear a little more about this story and pick up a copy of ”Making Me New” over at Noisetrade.

“Making Me New” is available in an Acoustic Version and a Studio Version. The download for the Acoustic Version comes with a chord chart. Click over to Noisetrade, demo, download, and add it to your worship set this month.



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?



One of the questions of interest that comes up pretty often when youth workers visit our high school ministry is what songs we are currently playing/singing in youth group. Taffy (aka Student Ministry Worship Guy, aka Rice and Worship) sent me the most recently Top 10 we’re enjoying right now:

1) What Would I Have Done (Bethal Live)
2) All I am (Phil Wickham)
3) Christ in Me (Written by Tim Timmons) Free Download on www.clusterofstudents.com
4) Overcome/Blessed Assurance (Desperation Band)
5) He is Alive (COS) Free Download on www.clusterofstudents.com
6) Here for You (Matt Redman)
7) 10,000 Reasons (Matt Redman)
8) Like and Avalanche (Hillsong United)
9) God above all (Hillsong Youth)
9) LIft Him up (COS)
10) Learn to Love (COS)



Last week our student bands gave you 4 free songs, and today a couple of our high school team want to give you a gift of their own, too. If you want to get A Very Colton and Travis Christmas Album for yourself – you can right here for absolutely FREE  – it’ll make your Christmas that much better, I promise*!


*this is a joke, the whole thing is absolutely terrible. Wonderfully terrible.

Planning Center is a beautiful service to lead and organize your music team and techies.  BUT, only if you have the budget for it. And let’s face it – a church plant youth ministry barely has enough money to get you a microphone cable. You can save a bunch of money by using other sites and services to provide nearly the exact same module for your music & production team. It won’t be as pretty but it will get the job done FOR FREE! Here’s how:

1. Create a website – use one of the many free website creating services online. I’ve used Weebly and Google but there are tons more out there. (Example)

2. Schedule teams with Google Docs – you can publish your team’s schedule for free using Google Docs. Make a spreadsheet, publish it to the web and make the link accessible to your team. (Example)

3. Upload songs and sheets - host all of your music and song sheets on a free file sharing website. Currently, I use MediaFire as our host and it’s working like a charm!

4. Create a Facebook Group – everyone is on Facebook these days AND everyone responds to being “tagged”. Create a group for your music/tech team on Facebook and use it as your main way of communicating. And “tag” each member that is scheduled for the upcoming Sunday in a wall post within the group. This is their reminder that they’re on to serve!

Gary Hale is the Student Ministries Director at High Pointe Church in Puyallup, WA. Check out his blog he created for youth workers in church plants – Student Ministry in a Box.

I stalk a few churches around the country – one of them in Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY. I know a few of their staff and love how they’re leading students toward Christ.

Their student ministry released a new worship CD recorded live in the Block (their student building) and just set up a site that includes 3 videos, chord charts, and more. Check it all out at Awaken Worship – I bought the album on iTunes last night – already soaking them up!


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!