The worst part of summer camp? The crash! You squirrel kids away for a week, take away all their technology, and pump them full of nothing but Jesus and they conclude that week connected, hopeful, and holy.

A few weeks later….the camp-drug has been filtered out of their systems and the camp high is crash landing.

Conferences for youth workers can sometimes have the same aftermath. We attend; we spend a week away from ‘normal’. We take the wise counsel offered by Kurt, Josh, and other trusted youth workers to glean the most from our week ‘in the bubble.’ We go home. And after a few weeks of board meetings, parent confrontations, and pastoral smack-downs, our camp high has waned.

How do we make the conference experience more than a camp high?

1. Reflect. Journal. Blog. As God reveals truths to you, write them down. On days when you question His existence, those notes will be important to you!
2. Buy a CD or DVD from the sessions that impacted you most. On dark days, pull those out and revisit what was most inspiring to you.
3. Grab some downloads of sessions you wanted to catch, but had to miss because of scheduling (or napping!) Consider this your ‘nicotine patch’. Schedule some time every month to listen to a new session. Not only do you get continuing education year round, it’s sure to remind you what was best about the conference you attended as it sharpens you personally and professionally.
4. Continue the relationships you built through that week. (Yes, you should be building relationships throughout the week.) We’ve all watched those camp friendships go by the wayside a few weeks after camp has concluded. But with so many ways to stay connected, there’s no longer excuse for that. Maintain those relationships — maintain community.

I’ll confess. I’ve been in youth ministry for 23 years. (Yes….old.) I’ve been to at least 23 conferences. No one — NO ONE — does it like Simply Youth Ministry Conference. They embrace core values that really set them apart from every other educational experience I’ve ever had as a youth worker. That’s probably because they so skillfully intertwine education with relationship. I left that conference feeling valued, known, and understood. I left with ideas, tips, and truths that I am still applying today (3 years later.) I left with friendships that are deep and life-changing for me. I had never known a true connection with other youth workers until SYMC. (I’m going to blog some of those stories over the next two months!) After two decades of bouncing from conference to conference based largely on the quality of the brochure, I left with a commitment to return to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference annually.

Conferences no longer should be solely about playing a better game or building a better Bible study. You can get more than that. You can grab a year-long lifeline that pushes amazing education and training while embracing you, friending you, knowing you, and loving you. Go register….right now!

Darren is a veteran youth pastor (that’s code for old and in it for a long time) and co-founder of Millennial Influence – a resource for parents & youth pastors, including Mi Podcast – a weekly podcast for parents of teenagers. Check out his blog at

I’m pumped to be headed to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in just 2 months! I hope you’re coming already and if not you’ll consider it right away – it is one of the most refreshing times of the year. This year they’ve added some great new names to the speaker roster, including Jon Acuff, Craig Gross, Brooklyn Lindsey and many more. Check out the speaker roster right here and figure out now who/what you want to go to when we all get to Louisville in March.

I also love the concept of the SYMC devotionals, designed to help you connect with God between events. Good stuff, free for the taking if you follow the link.

I asked the gang over at SYM if they would give me a registration to giveaway today – they said sure! So here you go: Leave a comment on this post and I’ll pick one at random on Friday!


I was just recommending this book to another youth worker last week – and noticed the $30 is on sale this week for $7.99. Great deal, great resource!

Youth Leader Training on the Go is an easy way to train leaders and multiply your ministry’s effectiveness. Best of all, teenagers will grow deeper in their faith because you’ve invested in your volunteers.

Encourage your volunteers to:

  • Connect with God and build faith in every area of teenagers’ lives
  • Understand teenage culture for effective outreach
  • Discover practical, helpful ideas for ministering to teenagers
  • Work with parents to help their teenagers grow in faith
  • Find balance between ministry and personal life

This resource contains 52 training sessions for youth leaders. Encourage busy volunteers with these practical leadership tips. Everything you need for at least a full year’s worth of leadership training!



I’m beyond excited to hang out with youth workers at the Simply Youth MInistry Conference this year in Louisville – I’m actually taking our high school team along with on the trip and think it is going to be game-changing for our ministry.

Want to join us? Killer lineup, including Francis Chan, Derwin Gray, Jon Acuff, Shane & Shane, Jeremy Camp and 77 more speakers, musicians and mentors. Couldn’t be more excited! The Early Bird rate expires on October 31 so get in now!


How awesome is this Spooky Awesome deal from Simply Youth Ministry? Close to $300 worth of youth ministry resources for $69. Good stuff, click the banner to check it out!


This month in the SYM Today we’re focusing largely on your volunteer team — and this week we’re tackling the topics of caring for and training your team of amazing leaders. Today, we want to talk about care. Here are a few practical ways you can add more personal care to your team:

Know them well
I (Josh) remember when a key leader at our church remembered all 4 of my kid’s names without missing a beat. It was a big deal! I stumble over my kid’s name sometimes, so it was totally impressive. It was a reminder to me that sometimes the little things send big “I care” messages. Set up recurring calendar alerts to trigger a reminder about a birthday or important date in their family history. Stalk them on Facebook — whatever it takes. Truly caring for the leaders on your team is one of your primary roles….and you can’t truly care for them unless you truly know them.

Surprise them
My (Josh) wife is shocked when I bring home flowers. My (Kurt) wife is shocked when I pick up my socks. Their delight and surprise is because for most people there are few things better than a “I was thinking of you” gesture. Write an unexpected note, or buy a small “thank you” gift for someone in your ministry, and see how they respond! We recently sent our volunteers fresh-baked cookies in the mail. We’ve shown up to their place of work to deliver ice cold drinks, and we’ve given them an unexpected weekend off…and paid for them to go on a date when they would normally be serving at church. Surprise!

Be there when things go bad
Life is full of good, bad and ugly things. Show up when life takes a rough turn or they get bad news. Caring for your teammates in need is one of our key responsibilities as leaders. You know this feeling all too well — there’s nothing worse than a leader who feels distant when you need them most. Be present. Send a card. Send flowers. Attend the funeral, even if you didn’t know their great-aunt Matilda. Give them time.

Be quick to coach, forgive and restore
One of the final aspects of caring for your leaders is showing them grace. Over time you’ll begin to master the nuances of caring for your team — when to drop the hammer, when to forgive, when to overlook and when to make a big deal out of something. Sometimes the best way to care for a leader is to show them grace by giving them a second chance.

For a whole book-full of ideas to help you care for your volunteers, Check out Full of It…ideas to fill youth ministry volunteers with encouragement by Kurt Johnston and Katie Edwards.
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.

This is the first week of HSM’s small groups all together at church! In recent years we’ve taken a few weeks before we split up into homes and walk students and leaders through the first few nights together. It gives us a chance to be relational with all of our leaders and to pour into and train them while we’re getting their groups off the ground.

So tonight I was walking all of our Life Group students through HSM’s small group commitment and covenant sheet. Earlier today I had a risky idea tied to it that I wasn’t sure would work … but it did! I wanted to illustrate the speed and the reach of gossip – and how it has no place in our small groups because of its destructive power. I sent a text message to a few students and leaders, and asked anyone if they got the message to forward it to a few other people who were in the room as well.

Did people look at their phones during the rest of the message? Occasionally, yes. But it was worth it. At the end of the challenge (which included a strong word to uphold confidentiality and fight the temptation to gossip) I asked how many of them got the message. A huge percentage of the group had already gotten the text! It had spread quietly and like wildfire through the room – I had no idea if the social networks of friends would extend to the whole room, but it sure did.

All it said was: “this is how fast and how far gossip spreads. :)

I hope it was a meaningful moment for everyone and a fresh take on the old game of “telephone” in the past.


Live Curriculum Video

Josh Griffin —  September 27, 2011 — 1 Comment

We’re about to kickoff the Life Group year – training is tonight and tomorrow night!

This year we’re continuing to use the fantastic LIVE curriculum for our high school small group lessons each week. LIVE comes with a powerful web tool to help us communicate with our volunteer team and scales easily to add new groups and leaders. It is what we use every week of the small group year and we love it. Check it out in the video above and read more over on Simply Youth Ministry, too.