Every so often someone will write in and ask a few great questions about blogging – thought I might take on a few of them from time to time here. Up today is one I got just this week, “where do you get all of your ideas for blog posts?” Here’s a little insight on my process:

  • Start a journal of ideas – when you’re bored in a meeting write down a list of topics and quick bullet point thoughts. If you were to look at my journal you would find pages of quick ideas and thoughts that could easily be developed into full posts.
  • Write when you don’t feel like it – just motor through the tough times and make it happen. Happens to the best of us!
  • Look through photos for inspiration – sometimes I look through my iPhone and instantly SEE/FEEL a blog post. Might be a good way to trigger something that you may have forgotten.
  • Start accepting/soliciting guest posts – I love other people’s thoughts and perspectives on youth ministry. It is fun to share the stage with others – plus, sometimes I need to hear what they have to say, too.
  • Come up with weekly features/filler – if you have some “regulars” that you post every week, it helps you stay in a rhythm. Some of mine are: polls, the HSM weekend in review, etc

Any other tips on where to get blog posts from?


Do you ever feel like your ideas are confined by the size of the devise or space available to write or draw them out?  Something that is important for ministry is to stretch the imagination and allow God to use the creativity He gave us for His glory.  I am very excited to share about a new product that creates not only the atmosphere, but the space to hold any idea or picture someone in your ministry can dish out.  IdeaPaint is a paint-on dry erase board that can go on any surface imaginable.

What are the perks? 

  • Imagine a space in your ministry that allows the freedom to express and respond to God outwardly.   The idea of creating an environment for a student to freely respond to God through writing or drawing should get you excited.
  •  IdeaPaint doesn’t have to stop in your classroom. Imagine brainstorming with your co-workers on an office wall, and posting quotes of fun things kids say.
  • Greatly priced, there are two products; one with a 10 year warranty and a second backed with a lifetime warranty.
  • The IdeaPaint WRITE dry-erase ink (Markers) offer bold color and is certified AP Nontoxic and conforms to ASTM D4236” (this means anyone with allergies won’t have a problem with it)

Does this pique your curiosity? Check out IdeaPaint’s website yourself.  Their site is very user friendly and will open your eyes to even more ideas of what you could do with it.

Below is a short video of how the product is used in a classroom

John Jensen is currently an intern in Children’s and Family Ministry at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  He is also in his senior year at Moody Bible Institute, majoring in Children’s Ministry. Read more posts from John at kid-minquicklinks.com.

In my web travels I have come across a much talked about writing app called “Scrivener” and writers seem to love it.   Literature & Latte (the creators of the app) describe Scrivener as “a powerful content-generation tool for writers designed for composing and structuring long and difficult documents. While it gives you complete control of the formatting, its focus is on getting you to the end of that awkward first draft.”  I have been using Scrivener off and on for about 5 months and cannot get a rhythm with it. This is probably due the fact that I am a burst writer, I am writing 400 word column and blog posts. Check out the video below, it gives a great visual rundown of the app.

However I have found a very practical use for “Scrivener” in combination with “Index Card” an iPad app.  I have been using note cards to teach tech from. When I am talking to a youth ministry class, a group of youth workers, or my SYMC workshops I am knee deep in hand written notes.  I know, lame right, the tech guy speaking from paper…it might as well be the year 2004!  The cool thing here is that these two apps play together nicely.  If I am in Index Card creating digital notecards I can backup from my iPad to DropBox and restore from DropBox in Scrivener on my Mac (Scrivener is available for Mac and PC).  The Index Card app is a great purchase, it makes Scrivener a better tool but you do not need Scrivener if you are jsut looking for a solid digital notecard app. These apps are a great find for any writer!

I find my self using Word less and less, and apps like these, Evernote, and iA writer more and more. What are the main ways you are capturing ideas, notes, and writing blogs, books, and messages?

How To Write a Youth Talk

 —  December 20, 2011 — 2 Comments

Every youth worker is going to be a little different when it comes to preparing a talk — but hopefully this week we can challenge you to try some methods that really work for us as we do our best to teach God’s Word each week in our youth ministry. So please know this certainly isn’t THE way to write a talk, but it is one way. When I (Kurt) was in college my homiletics professor forced us to master the art of writing the classic three point sermon. He said that when we were through with the class we could write sermons however we wanted, but his job was to make sure we knew at least ONE way. The key isn’t to do it our way, but to find a process that helps you best prepare to communicate God’s Word to students.

Know where the lesson or series is heading
What are we trying to say in this lesson or series of lessons? Where are we trying to move students with this talk? Before you start driving, know which road you are traveling down.

Whiteboard everything you can capture in a brainstorm meeting.
Almost all of our talks begin on the whiteboard using lots and lots of collaboration. Students are there, volunteers are there. There is no such thing as a bad idea (although we’ve been doing this long enough to know that isn’t entirely true). Take a picture to make sure it is captured and not accidentally erased by the church janitor before morning.

Pray over and crank out the 1st draft
What started on the whiteboard now makes it into a Word document and becomes digital. Points, passages and illustrations start to take shape. Maybe you’ll write the talk out word for word, more of a speaking transcript like I (Josh) like to do. Maybe bullet points like I (Kurt) prefer. Just make sure you’re making progress on the message God wants you to share with your students.

Another day, another draft
This collection of thoughts and ideas needs to be honed into a discernible message — so you refine it into the 2nd draft. This is really the beginning of the shaping process. Ideally you’re fairly happy with the talk by this point — some weeks you’ll be ahead of the game, other weeks you maybe won’t have even started it yet. Either way, press on.

Stop, collaborate and listen
At this point, send your message out to a few close friends to review – don’t create your messages in a vacuum. Let a few creative/discerning friends talk through it with you for clarity, perspective and editing.

Use the feedback and you’re ready to go
Done. Deliver the talk and ask a few friends for specific feedback on the delivery and clarity of the message. Over time, you’ll become great at both the preparation and delivery of messages in your youth ministry!

Share how you prepare a talk 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.

I’ve blogged before about how I create my entry-level sermons each week for our high school ministry – how I start with literally a blank Word document on Tuesday morning and follow My 6 Steps to Writing a Youth Talk. Then, after the 2,000+ word manuscript is complete and I take the stage, occasionally making notes and adjustments to the talk for the remaining 3 times to deliver it on the weekend. Many of these notes are inspired by ad libs, tweaks from my team or inspiration/ideas in the lull between the 1st and 2nd service.

A few other things you might be interested to note:

  • I call out all media/slides/object lessons in yellow highlight. Timing is critical on these elements, so I try to make it clear for the students and volunteers involved.
  • Sometimes, I make a significant edit to the document, cutting out a whole section, deleting a line, replacing a joke or drawing arrows to fix the pacing.
  • I’ve never once delivered a message without some notes/adjustments on it – seems I’ll tweak to the last minute and then some.
  • I prefer the manuscript form for teaching to this crowd/audience, but use other styles as well.
  • I practice the sermon 2-3 times alone in a room before I give it. Let’s me hear it out loud and make sure it flows well.
  • This is for our entry-level program, a discipleship talk would look very different.
  • This particular week I didn’t have fill-ins, just the verses and some space for them to write down the different attributes of the foundation of sand or rock. I also had them write a couple key thoughts/questions off to the side in their program as well.

So here’s an example of what it looks like after a weekend … this talk was our new year kickoff message about Doubting Thomas (you can read the full weekend in review here).

One last thought … posting my message notes is a very vulnerable moment for me … play nice please. Thoughts and questions? Would love to hear how you craft a talk, too!