URLToday I was messaging a friend a few links on facebook and the length of the URLs (aka web links) were ridiculously long. Have you heard of URL shorteners? They are pretty great. These types of sites will take any link and convert it to a shorter link using their specially branded URL code like this…

From This: https://www.google.com/search?q=happy+dog&safe=active&espv=210&es_sm=91&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=i7aWUoyQKOqwsATr14GoBA&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1388&bih=743#es_sm=91&espv=210&q=simply+youth+ministry&safe=active&tbm=isch

To This: http://goo.gl/vXr6W3

Those are the same links, try them. There are several URL shorteners to choose from but my goto is http://goo.gl, Google’s URL shortener.
Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 2.44.42 PMGoo.gl Pros:

  • I like most of what Google does.
  • If signed in to your Google account, it keeps a history or ALL links you have shortened.
  • Good sorting and searching tool for all past links.

Goo.gl Cons:

  • No Frills.
  • No Custom URLs.
  • Every once in a while it askes for me to authenticate via captcha, I understand the security need but I hate captcha.

Check out http://goo.gl

Brandon Early


We recently used “Made,” a sermon series by Kurt Johnston™©, in our Sunday morning program. It is a great teaching tool for any youth worker. This robust package (marketing tools, graphics, presentation slides, transcripts, etc.) is also complete in a way that a ministry leader can feel comfortable handing it to a volunteer and letting them run with it. If you want to buy it, let me hook you up with a 10% discount. Just click the “made” graphic to the right and then search “made” in the Simply Store.

We added a 4th week to this 3 week series by creating a prayer experience at the end. The experience was simple and powerful. Feel free to use, edit, or springboard off these elements and ideas. Here’s what we did:

There were 7 stations, each explained by these signs. You can print these out on legal paper, each page represents one station.

Items Needed:

  • Signs for each station (download here)
  • Paper people to cut-out (something like this, or draw your own and photocopy)
  • Scissors (don’t forget those green handled ones for the left-handed kids)
  • Board to display people cut-outs on (we have a metal wall and magnets, if you do not have that consider tape and a wall or a cork board and pins)
  • Markers (for 3 different stations)
  • Refrigerator letter magnets to spell “I WAS MADE TO
  • Play-Doh (We called it molding clay, it is less messy than clay)
  • Cotton Wool (We just bought cotton, but if you can find real wool that would be good)
  • Salt (We had about 100 students, so we asked a fast food restaurant if we could have a hundred salt packets)
  • MADE Sign.  For the series we had someone in our church create the word MADE from wood and hung it on stage for set design. We had sharpies at this station and asked all the students to sign a letter.
  • Background Music (optional, here is our short playlist…took about 25 minutes to get all the students through)
  • Scripture video loop.  Download it here for FREE.

We asked our students to complete the walk in any order, but to stop at the Scripture video loop last. This had us end at the same place while keeping the other stations from being clogged.

Prayer Walk – Broadband from Brandon Early on Vimeo.

If you have any questions about the curriculum, the prayer walk, or the 10% discount just leaving a note in the comments.

Brandon Early


Hidden YouTube Fun 2

 —  November 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

On Your Lunch Break:

1. Take some dramamine.Beam me up scotty

2. Go to Youtube.

3. Type”Use the force, Luke”  in the search bar.

4. Wait, watch, and move the mouse around.

If this does not send you into vertigo, here are a few more searches to try:

  • Beam Me Up Scotty
  • Do The Harlem Shake
  • / geekweek
  • Fibonacci

Enjoy and share! Post in the comments what your favorite finds are!




Here’s another free game you can use in your ministry setting.  Cell Phone Draw is pretty simple…

  • Show the graphic
  • Explain that the 5th caller (or any number caller you choose) wins a prize (make sure you have a prize)
  • Show the slide with your cell number and let the ringing begin
  • Answer your phone…make a Big Deal!!!
  • Give Prize
  • Done

We have 2 graphics here (Click Here To Download); a TITLE slide and a BLANK slide. The title slide is to show as-is announcing the game and the blank slide is for you to add your cell phone number to (if you do not have photo editing software try http://pixlr.com/editor/ and just do it online). To download the font I used, click this link or go to dafont.com and search “western.”

If you do not want to make your cell phone number public, consider getting a free number from Google Voice or paying for a disposable number with an iPhone app like “Burner.”

Have fun!




Are you registered for SYMC 2014? When I head out to Columbus, I want to pack lite and be ready for a great experience! This is not an exhaustive list of tech tips to make SYMC 2014 smooth sailing, but hopefully you will be able to mentally download some good trips ideas here. These tips come from years of conference-going and many are specific to my time with SYMC. I hope these will help you have a more successful trip!

TIP #1 Know what tracks and workshops you want to attend (at least know what is available). Knowing ahead of time will make your life easier. Check out the scheduling tool SYMC has provided symc2014.sched.org. If you prefer to schedule directly from your smartphone click here. Check out the details on the scheduling resource here conference.youthministry.com/schedule.

TIP #2 Book Store Discount…Bring your senior pastor’s credit card!

TIP #3 Bring a bag/backpack. You will be carrying your Bible, Participant Journal, Pen, Hotel Key, iPod, Headphones, Cell Phone, Water Bottle, Laptop, Moleskine, Deodorant, Backup Hotel Key, Gum, Chapstick, USB Thumb Drive, (remember when we actually carried a Digital Camera too?)…and on top of all that you will need to leave room for all the stuff you pick up in different areas of the conference hallways from conference partners, in workshops, and at the bookstore while you are at SYMC.

TIP #4 Bring business cards and address stickers. This is a little nerdy and lazy but I do not like filling out my address dozens of times over the weekend…I have seen people stick a sticker on those forms, complete with; Name, Address, Phone, and Email. The business cards are for networking…you may want to bring something to hold other people’s cards so you don’t lose them (or take a picture of it with your cell phone app that turns business cards into a contact and throw the card out…when they are not looking).

TIP #5 Connect with other youth workers! If you bring team members, don’t do the easy thing by spending all your time with them. Try to spend time with people you may never get to see again. Try a Connect Group. Find the National Network of Youth Ministries and ask them to help you meet other youth workers in your area. Ask people in your workshops to lunch and kick around what you have been learning or struggling with…if they say they can’t because they are on a budget offer to buy.

TIP #5.5 Connect with the speakers. There will be aome of the sharpest minds in youth ministry at SYMC. Connect!

TIP #6 Need some love?? Soul Care, enough said!

TIP #7 Don’t forget the tag your tweets with #SYMC. Run a search for #SYMC on Twitter to see and be a part of all the buzz!

TIP #8 See someone taking notes like crazy? Ask if they are a blogger and if they are posting their notes online!

TIP #9 Bring a squirt gun and shoot the guy who has to answer every question the track speaker asks, just kidding….but seriously, don’t be that guy.

TIP #10 When you get home write a short letter to your ministry point person on your leadership team telling them how amazing your time at SYMC was, share a few nuggets of what you learned, and thank them for making it possible (time away, money, etc…this effort can go a long way with leadership). If you paid for SYMC yourself, write that letter to your spouse. If you are single, take yourself out for ice cream and review your notes. If you are lactose intolerant consider taking one of those Lactaid pills or just pray about the risk.

I know there are way more than 10 tips, and I am sure that you have some that are even better than these. So, please share your best conference tips in the comments below! Hope to see you at SYMC 2014!!!!!



The Death of Facebook

 —  November 13, 2013 — 1 Comment

One tech question that has come up several times in the last few weeks sounds something like this, “The kids in our ministry are not using Facebook as much as they did a year ago … how are you responding to this shift?”

It is true, Facebook is not the powerhouse of communication that it once was, and social media in general is just too decentralized to reach everyone with one or two networks. Before you go deleting your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts hold on, there is still a place for all that, but we do need to consider a shift.

Side Note: This post is more descriptive than prescriptive.  I do not think you need to do what I am doing but I hope this post helps you think through your own potential shift(s) in communication.

Instead of following culture in the area of social media and communication, we are trying to create culture.

At one time we were doing everything (instatwitvinemailbooking) and in doing everything we found we were decentralizing too much. While I want every parent and student to hear about our upcoming ministry events, we needed to stop catering to everyone’s “needs” (which are actually wants and conveniences).

At the start of the school year we over communicated and clearly laid out our new effort to communicate student ministry information.  Here is a brief overview of what we are now doing.

  • We email once a month: This is us to them (our direct connect). This forces me to look ahead, that’s a good thing. 12x a year instead of 52x times a year creates greater urgency (before our once a week emails were more like spam than help).
  • We text when deadlines get closer: Short notes, directly to their phone is a huge win and Simply Youth Ministry TOOLS makes that happen for us. I know, there’s a 99¢ app for that. No app is as robust and useful as SYM TOOLS! Sign-up for a free 30 day trial here.
  • We put everything on the web: It’s our hub! This is them to us (their direct connect to us). They need something…they can trust it is there.
  • Publications: We still do a quarterly calendar that we mail to everyone on our mailing list. We also do a flyer for every event, something cool that kids will take home and hopefully take to a friend.

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc have their place and uses, but they are not a main focus any longer.

If you’re not creating culture in this area, you are subject to shift when students move on to the latest thing so will you…and you will be starting from scratch.



PlugBug Mac Adapter

 —  November 11, 2013 — 2 Comments

I am trying to get some work done in an airport lobby, I need to plug in a couple of devices (so my batteries are full for the ride), but there is no room to plug in two devices.

Good thing I have my PlugBug from TwelveSouth. PlugBug is a USB wall charger that attaches to my MacBook Power Adapter. It allows me to charge my MacBook Pro and iPad or iPhone at once. If you do not have a PlugBug, you could just trickle charge your USB device from your Mac, but the PlugBug provides more power for a quicker charge.

Check out this short video and click over to TwelveSouth for the details!  It’s a great buy at $35!

PlugBug from Brandon Early on Vimeo.