20141022_192610Some things just seem to go better with music.

Youth group nights are one of them. I’ve watched games go from “awkward” to “amazing” once there was an appropriate soundtrack to complement the moment.

Certain songs seem to be “just right” for the walk-in as students arrive, while others are better for games. There are likewise times that some quiet music works well, such as when you give kids a few minutes to write something down or brainstorm an answer together.

It’s actually one of the reasons why as a teenager I came back after my first youth group experience. Well, that… and the fact that there were cute girls everywhere.

Aside from my hormones, though, I remember how the first thing I consciously took note of was that “These guys are playing songs I know.” That was true during the competition time slot, as well as when we went into the main auditorium. A band got up and played two songs I would have heard on most any mainstream radio station… only at the end of our teaching time did they throw in something I hadn’t heard before, but by that point I was open to hearing it.

How much attention do you pay to the “soundtrack” that will minister best to your students?

  • What are your thoughts on Christian versus mainstream tunes at youth group nights?
  • Do you let students pick the music out, or do you filter it?
  • What’s your policy on trips when it comes to what’s played through the van?

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” – Martin Luther

Sermon Series Ideas

 —  July 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

It is time for me to start planning our 2014-2015 calendar; events, sermon series ideas, retreats, etc. I have posted a list of my favorite resources that help in the area of sermon series ideas and graphic design elements but these three pages never made the list. Not because they are not great, but because I just discovered 2 of them. I have been visiting churchstagedesignideas.com for a few years and recently found seriesideas.com and worshipsetideas.com.

Click on and check out these three sites, they are easy to navigate and spark great ideas.  The URLs are what they say they are…

Other than from your regular Bible reading, where are you growing your series ideas?

– Brandon Early



“Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, made the parody t-shirt.”

There are some truths that you simply need to be reminded of, only from a fresh angle, to overtake your moods and tendencies.

C.S. Lewis said it this way:

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason ’has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

The first step is to recognise the fact that your moods change. The next is to make sure that, if you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and church-going are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed. And as a matter of fact, if you examined a hundred people who had lost their faith in Christianity, I wonder how many of them would turn out to have been reasoned out of it by honest argument? Do not most people simply drift away?

This is a value worth teaching your students, especially in a world where there are constantly new ways to repackage/remix everything from music to movies.

It’s also a value worth noting in how you teach your students. It will be your mood or tendency to reach them using whatever reached you.

Case in point, consider the original Star Wars trailer:


Now watch this “super trailer” for all three of the original movies:

Finally, consider this “Guardians of the Galaxy” style version:

Same content, but different presentation.

  • Which one would inspire you to go buy a ticket?
  • Which one would most inspire your students to go buy a ticket?


Are you teaching and doing ministry according to what worked for you “back in the day,” or realizing there’s a whole new generation who sees life differently than you do?

Does it matter? What do you think?

stuffHere is a list of my favorite “FREE STUFF” websites. If you are looking for help with sermon series ideas, graphic, and games then you have should bookmark this post!



 —  December 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

Countdown-4Think back when you were a Jr. High or High School student. What would’ve been the equivalent to sexting?

I’m guessing it would probably be flashing. The only difference between the two (besides the obvious) is that a quick flash would only be talked about after it has happened. Sexting pics are forever, therefore, people have visuals to add to the conversations for years to come.

If you think sexting is about students just getting a quick fix of sexual gratification you are mistaken. There is a lot more going on. Guardchild.com did a very detailed survey on sexting, and the results were interesting.

  • One in five teens have engaged in sexting – sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text messages. And over a third knows someone who has either sent or received messages like this.
  • 38% of teens confessed to someone sharing with them what was sent to them.
  • 34% of the girls that have participated in sexting say they did it to feel sexy.
  • 23% of girls and 24% of boys say they were pressured by a friend to send the inappropriate pictures.
  • Most participants say they engage in sexting because their boyfriend/girlfriend ask them to or to have fun.
  • 52% of girls said they did it as a present.
  • 29% of teens believe those exchanging sexually suggestive content are “expected” to hookup or date.

These statistics say a few things that we in youth ministry need to pay attention to.

  • These statistics change the face of the person who’s sexting. It’s like when you think of a flasher you think of an old pervert who walks around in a trenchcoat all day. Well, when you think of sexting you may think of an older, porn-exposed student who’s been a trouble maker for most of their life. These statistics suggest that’s not the case. These statistics normalizes the profile of a sexter to look a lot more like your everyday teen in Jr. High or High School, who may or may have not viewed porn before.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming normalized within boyfriend/girlfriend relationships.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is becoming more normal and culturally acceptable in the world of teens.
  • These statistics suggest that sexting is a gateway to getting into more sexual activity.
  • These statistics suggest that it’s impossible to shield your child from sexting.
  • These statistics suggest that there is a deceptive identity/power piece that sexting gives to girls and guys.

So what should be our response?

Sexting is a complete lie embedded in the mind set that it’s innocent or that it’s not worse than me having sex. Here are 4 ways I feel we should respond:

  1. Prayer - We should be interceding for our students and for the students at our local schools. Prayer in our ministries need to be proactive not reactive. Keep your ministry connected to the power source.
  2. Educate parents on trends and technology -About 2 out of every 5 teens say their parents have no idea what they are doing online. So we must take the initiative and help parents become more knowledgeable with trends and technology. Let’s be the support they don’t know they need.
  3. Talk about it in youth group – I wrote a post on this (click here). Add Sexting to the list because it’s becoming the norm. And right now students don’t get a choice whether they are exposed to it or not.
  4. Challenge your students – I think sometimes we may feel like a good talk is enough, but actually talk is only half the battle. You need to challenge your students to take action, and stand against cultural norms that are slowly destroying their generation. Give them action steps that will give them confidence in the stance they take. Teach them how to move in righteous anger. Be creative in what you give them the opportunity to do. I would grab a few students and let them help you shape the challenge. I love getting students involved in stuff like this, because it gives them ownership.

I would love for the #ymnation to weigh in. What are some other ways we should respond to sexting?

hope it helps


Lock-Ins and Movies

 —  December 9, 2013 — 15 Comments

We have a lock-in coming up this weekend, and I’d love your input on something.

To Save A LifeEver seen the movie “To Save A Life” with your youth group? I know this was a popular trend when it came out a few years ago, but I’m wondering about a few pieces of the movie and its effects.

  • Early on in the film, the main character is shown taking his shirt off to have sex with his girlfriend and diving into bed with her. It’s certainly one step further than an implied closing of the door.
  • At one point in the movie, the main character critiques the youth group for a game where they drink soda out of someone’s sock. His stance is they should be about something more meaningful than that.
  • A pastor’s kid is portrayed as a drug-selling cynic who takes up space in the back row.

I know we live in a culture where all of that isn’t a big deal to kids who regularly watch everything from The Walking Dead to Glee. However, I wonder if even “not a big deal” scenes mean something more when a youth group puts something up on the screen.  Could a Christian movie like this (with its great message) set up kids in a negative way?

I’ve pondered that while considering if we let our high school students watch this movie:

  • Would church parents have trouble with a movie where the boy and his girlfriend are shown making out and taking the steps that lead into sex?
  • Would students become forever critical of anything goofy game we do in the future that actually has a point?
  • Would the stereotype that pastor’s kids live under only be amplified?

To top it off, the movie centers around the theme of how a teen’s suicide affects another student.

Sure, our youth groups can always watch Napoleon Dynamite, the Princess Bride or any other old standby flick. I’m wondering if those are “safer” than a Christian movie with some edge.

Is “safe” even the goal? Likewise, are we so geared up to “be real” that we don’t think about how unnecessarily raw we’re being?


How to Make Teenagers Cry

 —  November 6, 2013 — 3 Comments

youtubeTalk-show host Jimmy Kimmel has dared parents to frustrate their kids just after Halloween and capture it on video.

It’s an annual prank Kimmel has featured for the past few years as mom/dad tells their son/daughter how all the Halloween candy is gone… because the parent(s) ate it. The kid usually erupts with some sort of understandable tantrum, and the audience enjoys the gag.

Here’s one of the compilations:


Of course, this seems absurd. Why would anyone who loves their kids put them through it? It could arguably erode trust and create suspicion of anything in the future.

Then again, we do this in ministry all the time, don’t we?

  • “Hey everyone, I know we’ve always gone to _________ every year, but this year I thought we’d mix things up and do __________ instead.”
  • “Hi! I’m your new youth worker. I thought since I’m new, it was a good time to change the name of the youth group… and what we do here… and when we meet… and what you call me… and the age groups… and…”
  • “I’m kind of tired of us always singing these songs. I just got back from a conference, and we’re now going to do some different worship music…”

Ever seen this?

Ever done this?

I’m raising my hand with a tinge of guilt.

Then again… sometimes change was needed, like pruning before the fruit could bloom.

What do you think –

when is it appropriate to rock a teenager’s world over something they’ll cry about…

and when is it equal to pulling an unnecessary prank?

Youth workers, for the most part, are creatures of habit. We have a hard time admitting that, though, because we see ourselves as innovators, creatives and the ones leading the charge for change in the church. Those things may be true…but we are still, for the most part, creatures of habit. When we find something that “works”, we have a hard time letting go.

One case in point for our junior high and high school ministries: Outreach Events.

Our primary tool for evangelism and outreach has never been events; it’s been students being salt and light and eventually inviting their friends to church. But to assist that process we have always hosted one or two big outreach events each year, on Friday night. And we’ve done it this way for a long, long time because it has worked. Of course, “worked” depends on your definition. The big Friday night events worked in so much as they attracted tons of students, but very few of those students ever came back to church the following weekend (we have our primary youth meetings on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings). And by very few, I mean VERY few!

So this year we are trying something different (I wish I could say it was my idea): We are attaching all of our big outreach events to the Saturday night service instead of putting them on a separate night. The idea is that our students will invite a friend to church, then they will stick around for the activity. Pretty basic stuff, folks!

We’ve done this once or twice now, and here is what we’ve already discovered:
* Less first-time students show up to the event.
* But WAY more first-time students attend church as a result (actually, they attend church as a PREsult because church happens first).
* Families and students appreciate that it’s not another night out.
* The event can be “smaller” because it’s not a stand alone thing….expectations are less.
* We can do a few more of them a year because they are smaller and less elaborate.
* It makes for a really easy church invite. “Wanna come to church with me? And afterwards there’s gonna be a massive dodge-ball tournament!”

Revolutionary? no. Cutting Edge? Not even close. Worthy of a blog post? Barely. Effective for us? Totally!

So here’s a question that I’d love the readers to share with the rest of us: What is an “Easy Button” moment you’ve recently had…a simple change in some aspect of your ministry that yielded significant results?