Josh Riffle pointed me to an article on CNN that seems to be an important read for youth workers about students being shallow in their faith and what strong students of faith have in common. Seems to get a bit on the USA Today bandwagon from earlier this month, but some good insight nonetheless:

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.


This summer we took some risks and planned a summer calendar for our high school youth group that looked pretty different than years past. I think for the most part it paid off – here are some of the new ideas (for us) and the results:

Summer camp moved to the beginning of the summer
This was the biggest game-changer for us – for years we’ve let camp be the “end of summer event” that catapulted us into Fall Kickoff and the new school year. I blogged about the Benefits of Early Summer Camp, not in an effort to justify the move but to make sure we took advantage of the strategy behind the move. Camp now kicks off the summer, and gives us momentum in a typical downtime for youth groups. COST: $299

Midweek Bible Study replaces small groups
For the longest time our small groups (now Life Groups) have met only during the school year. But this year we decided to have a discipleship/worship/fellowship gathering call WE(MID)EK all summer long. The consistency was a win – students knew that every Tuesday night we gathered to sing, pray, learn and connect. And yes, I realize that Tuesday isn’t midweek but it was the last day available. Cost: FREE

Bible study just for girls
This year one of the ideas was to have a Bible study just for girls – not necessarily on girl’s issues (it was actually an Old Testament character study) but so girls could learn together away from the distractions of the boys. Bagels & Bibles was a great 8-week success – and the guys want one next summer, too! Donuts & Dudes, here we come! Cost: FREE

Fun and relational time every Friday
Every Friday we spent 2 hours at the park, and 2 hours at The Refinery hanging out and playing games. Athletic kids loved the outdoor games, and everyone loved the cold Cokes at lunch. Great opportunity to bring friends or have a surprisingly deep conversation. Cost: FREE

Lots of guest speakers over the summer at the weekend worship service
This summer I did a significant amount of teaching when our freshman we’re incoming, then turned it over to other voices in our youth ministry team. This past weekend, two volunteers spoke, which was incredible. It gave me a chance to go on vacation and for our students to hear from different personalities, styles and backgrounds. COST: FREE

Two service projects, no mission trips
This summer we didn’t go on any mission trips – saving that for our Spring trips to Kenya and Spring Break trip to New Mexico. But our students were involved in service projects in the community, we did a Pancake Breakfast for a needy area and helped pull off Operation: Backpack. COST: FREE


Noticed that Doug and Matt’s YM Daily yesterday had some great thoughts about looking back and taking time to debrief, evaluate and celebrate the past season. They had some great questions to think about (which I think I’ll answer in a future blog post) that would be good to think about this week as you enter the new school year.

  • …| What happened during the summer that was great? What do we want to be sure to repeat in the future?
  • …| Where did God show up? What victories could we celebrate?
  • …| Where was I surprised? What last minute “audible” or changes was I forced to make?
  • …| What went wrong? What could have been better?


A fantastic testimony shared during the Life Groups weekend of the LAUNCH series. Parker finished his story live on stage – talking about God changing his heart and encouraging students to join small group as well.


A strong testimony using during the LAUNCH series to help encourage student to see the importance of joining and HSM Life Group this fall.


Weekend Teaching Series: LAUNCH: Ready for Re-Entry (week 3 of 5)
Sermon in a Sentence: Launching into a successful school year includes getting accountability and community by being a part of an HSM Life Group.
Service Length: 73 minutes

Understandable Message: This week was all about Life Groups. Our small group year starts in just a few weeks, and registration for the big launch ends in 14 days. This weekend was taught by Life Group volunteers (Matt and Mel – Team M&M) and they hit on the importance reasons to be in one using an acrostic (L-I-F-E-G-R-O-U-P-S) and testimonies both live and on video. If a student wasn’t in a small group, they would sure want to be at the end of the hour.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Matt did a good job of bringing humor into his talk – he made references to Justin Bieber and Batman and made comparisons to the pop stars and comic books of his day. There was a very positive environment to the weekend – you could tell the community that they were teaching on was genuine in their group and a goal for all of HSM’s Life Groups.

Music Playlist: Rise and Sing, Beautiful Things, How He Loves, Burning Ones, With Everything

Favorite Moment: The power of story is always amazing to me – when a student gets up to speak the students listen intently to what they have to say. And it totally works both live or on video. I’m also so impressed by the strength of the students who got up to share their story this week. Epic stuff.

Up Next: LAUNCH week 4

Awesome opening video made by one of our HSM volunteers (Nathan is one of the tech arts dudes for our adult services) for the Launch series this weekend. The emphasis was on community, this video went after showing that to our entry-level students.


Thought that Adam over at Life in the Middle had some good thoughts this week on how to respond after a youth group that just doesn’t go well. You wake up the day after youth group bombs (or you’re mulling it over in your mind in your bed that night) with that feeling that things just didn’t go well. Other than trying to learn from what didn’t work and trying to shake it off – what is the correct response? Here’s part of his answer, hit his site for the complete thought:

  • Let the night go - We have to realize that the night is behind us and we cannot redo it. We cannot continue to replay the night over and beat ourselves up on where we feel like we failed. The only thing we can do is let go of the night behind us and move forward.
  • Start getting ready for next week — It’s time to start getting ready for next week. It’s time to start praying, planning, and preparing for the next weeks service. Set your eyes on what’s next.