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Author Archive | Josh Griffin

The Lonely Island of Youth Ministry


Youth ministry is lonely. Some of that comes with the leadership territory, and some of it is unhealthy. I’d love to reflect on both just a bit.

Leadership Lonely
This is part of the gig! If you are a leader, there are times when you are going to feel lonely. After you make a tough decision to let a volunteer go. After a big conflict with a parent. After a frustration with an elder over the church van. There’s a reason that the phrase “it’s lonely at the top” has stuck around in our vocabulary for so long. At times, if you are leading you will feel all alone.

Lack of Community Lonely
This is the one that is rough on youth workers. This is the one that challenges your call and increases the strength of temptation. This is the one that cuts tenure short and encourages brain games and dysfunction. Yes there is a reality of lonely leadership, but there is a painful loneliness that is different and far more painful. Sitting alone in the church basement office (been there). Being the only guy under 55 on staff at the church (been there). Serving in a church with a lack of people my age (been there). You drop in your situation here (probably been there too).

Couple suggested remedies to fight against loneliness:

1. Make your spouse your ministry partner – do ministry together. If that isn’t possible (hello 4 kids in my case), download the day together when you walk in the door. Partnership in ministry changes everything. If not your spouse than someone you can trust, you can be close to appropriately, someone who you can share ministry

2. Find a youth ministry mentor or find a solid network – if there isn’t a good youth worker network in your area, start one. And there’s got to be someone within an hour’s drive of you that has been in youth ministry for a little while – seek them out and start a Taco Bell meet up once a month. Chalupas and conversation = double win!

3. Watch the DYM Webshow – we hear it all the time, “it is like we’re doing youth ministry together with you” or “see you in a week at our next staff meeting around the DYM table.” Join in on the fun, just might be the remedy for a little bit of community.

What else do you do to help fight loneliness?


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Free Yourself from Vacation Guilt


I’m currently on vacation, and loving it. I’ve got my 4 kids and wife in the car the past 10 days and we’re road tripping a huge chunk of the US and hitting up big reunions on both sides of our family. This is my one major vacation his whole year – I’m going to be away from my church and youth group for like 17 days or so.

I’m available to our students and church about 340 days of the year, 24/7. I don’t feel guilty when I’m gone. When I started to even feel this way I felt guilty even saying it, much less actually doing it! I wish I learned this long ago.

Don’t punish yourself about ministry when you’re on vacation. Don’t feel guilty when you’re gone. Work impossibly hard when you’re there so you can be gone when you’re gone. Be all in so you can be all out!


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POLL: What type of youth ministry do you have?

What type of ministry are you currently involved in – do you primarily minister in a rural area with lots of small towns, farms and countryside around? Are you in the thick of the urban setting in a downtown ministry? Are you in between, in a suburban setting where lots of people commute to work in the city? I realize that there are many ways to describe areas we live and our youth groups are always a mix of different students, but think the information would be helpful/interesting for sure!


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Download Youth Ministry WebShow #250

Another week, another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Show! This week we’re all back together talking shop! We talk about youth ministry for 45 minutes every week or two, your questions answered every time! Join Doug Fields, Katie Edwards, Josh Griffin and Matt McGill every week around the table – and this week, special guest Jessica Torres fills in for Katie who is away at junior high camp.

Just enough youth ministry so you don’t feel guilty for listening.

As always, thanks to our amazing sponsors who support the show and help with incredible giveaways:

Send in your questions to webshow@downloadyouthministry.com to be answered on a future show, too!

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MOVIE REVIEW: When the Game Stands Tall


Inspired by a true story, WHEN THE GAME STANDS TALL tells the remarkable journey of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), who took the De La Salle High School Spartans from obscurity to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for any American sport. When the streak is broken, and tragedy strikes the team, Coach Lad must teach his players – and the entire town – that it’s not about how you fall, but how you get back up.

MOVIE REVIEW: When the Game Stands Tall
MPAA RATING: PG for thematic material, a scene of violence and brief smoking
OPENS: August 21st (select) August 22nd (wide)
DYM’S REVIEW: 5/5 stars

I really, really love this movie!

I played football in college – OK, let me clarify that for the record a little. I got destroyed my freshman year, learned the game my sophomore year, got some solid playing time my junior year then blew my knee my senior year. But I understand the game, played the game and love the game. This movie is a great football movie, and athletes and teammates will appreciate it the most without a doubt. But football, even the historic undefeated run and consecutive national championships, are just the vehicle for a film that strives to teach all of us more about the game of life than the game of football.

The movie stars Jim Caviezel, Alexander Ludwig (aka that one guy from The Hunger Games) and a really great Michael Chicklis who steals several scenes as assistant coach Terry Eldson. By the end of the movie you’ll know Beaser, Mickey and Buster Matthews all too well. The movie jumps right into the action, and the action looks great since all of the football was choreographed by the team behind Friday Night Lights. Really good stuff!

The movie isn’t overtly “Christian” but has a clear, faith-based message. The coaches are Christian but not perfect and also not afraid to stand their ground. They are human but have deep-seated values held firmly in place. Christians will enjoy seeing what a dedicated life looks like, and non-Christians will be challenged on how a genuine life of faith could change things. Christians are displayed as real people and even the coach has weaknesses and temptations he struggles with through the journey of the movie. Thankfully the movie never gets “preachy” in any way, yet is straightforward with the message: these players, coaches and parents are different because of their faith in Jesus and their Christ-like love for each other. In fact, I would hesitate to call it a “Christian film” and just say it is an inspiration true story of faith and football and let it stand on it’s own.

This is a great movie to go see as a youth group. The PG rating is earned but there is nothing offensive or even distracting from the clear messages in the film. This is a student-friendly movie, I know of a bunch of friends that are taking our youth group to see the film opening weekend and encouraging their local coaches and teachers to do the same. You could even take your whole youth group to see When the Game Stands Tall – I promise it will help bring up great conversations about life and faith. I brought my younger kids and they all walked away with learnings about faith and life.

These are the kind of movies we need to get behind. If you want more good stuff to come out of Hollywood, put your box office behind it. Beyond just the economy of the movie industry – this is a film you should have your own children see. This is a film young athletes should see. This is a film for dads to bring their kids to help cement values in their home. When the Game Stands Tall is an inspirational movie that needs to be on your must-see list for the fall. And if you see the movie on opening weekend, it sends a statement that more and more of these films need to be released.

We got to see the film a few months ago in a rough cut and wrote a special downloadable companion guide to the film to help create great discussions around the film’s message. We’re proud of this tool and excited to see it downloaded thousands of times already. You can get the DYM Conversation Starters here and other great tools for the movie here.

In short, I loved this film. Everyone in the DYM office loved this film. We’re thrilled to see a movie of this quality with an incredible story and A-list actors wrapped up in a compelling package. We’re big fans of When the Game Stands Tall – go see this movie! In theaters THIS weekend!


PS: Be sure to Stay for the credits … seeing the actual footage of the coaches and players from De La Salle in the first few minutes after the film ends is fantastic. Totally pulls the whole movie together, even made me tear up a bit.

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Special DYM Webshow: The Remaining

Here’s a fun special episode of the DYM Webshow featuring Chris Dowling, the writer of the upcoming movie The Remaining. Good stuff!


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Youth Ministry Veteran Tip: Turn Questions into Content


Earlier this summer we held our summer camp parent meeting  - it was a super fun night of videos, content and questions. But being there and working through an extended question and answer time made me remember a principle I needed to put into practice:

  1. Make sure someone records every question asked during training
  2. Make sure someone records the learnings from camp during the week
  3. Make sure someone records the leader debrief after camp

Swirl all of this together, and turn it into content for next year. You can improve the parent meeting, camp itself and parent/student experience by more than 100% each year. Take the questions and turn them into content. Take the failures from camp and turn them into improvement. Take the debrief time not just to celebrate but to anticipate the needs of next year.

If you launch life groups this fall and don’t turn your questions into training, you missed a big opportunity. If you teach a workshop at your denominational gathering and don’t have someone recording the questions so you can fill in the missing spots of your lesson, you’ll continue to train people incompletely. The reason some youth workers are great leaders is that they learn from their questions. They address questions before parents or counselors even known they had them. A decent conference speaker and a standout-memorable-ministry-changing talk is probably because she’s taken the time to incorporate the questions into her talk.

When someone raises their hand, it is an opportunity for you to improve next time!


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POLL: Facebook Still Going Strong for Youth Ministry?

Texting and Instagram are the best forms of communication in our student ministry, with Twitter on the rise (finally) and Facebook (finally) on the decline. I wouldn’t presume that is the same across the country – but it made me wonder, is Facebook still the “go to” platform to talk to students? Vote today if it is getting better, about the same or starting to fade!


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 252


Weekend Teaching Series: The Need Movement (1-off, guest speaker)
Sermon in a Sentence: Share your faith with your friends
Service Length: 60 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we brought in a guest speaker Riley Mailman to challenge students to share their faith. That they needed to have a burden for their fellow students and that burden should motivate them to follow and share Christ. It was a great challenge woven into his own personal story and his learnings while writing his book, The Need Movement.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We had a ton of fun this week – we played Sit Down If into World Cup Name Game and both were a huge hit. Sometimes we fail to have students volunteer for a game up front (or we have the same 2 every week) so we used Sit Down If to get us down to a couple and then let them go head to head in the up front trivia game. Worked perfectly, everyone had a blast!

Music Playlist: We Are the Free, Christ is Enough, Take It All, Oceans, Divine and Holy

Favorite Moment: I’ve been wanting to have Riley speak since I saw him at the Student Leadership Conference. So good! Great message.

Up next: 1-off

Strong little video our team made to help push students to think about joining HSM’s Student Leadership Team. Good stuff – we’ve played it a couple times at youth group just to raise awareness and start conversations during the application season late summer / early fall!


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It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Great People

goodbye justin

Hard to say goodbye to great people – this weekend we said goodbye to Justin Knowles who took an incredible position up in San Dimas with the church he interned at a few years back. He’s going to do an amazing job and I’m so proud of him. As I’ve been reflecting on his departure, I was reminded of a few principles of transition:

1) When God moves, you move. The challenge, of course, is understanding when it is God speaking and not your own insecurities, fears or doubts. There comes a point where it is undeniable that God is laying out a new path and you have to have the courage to take it. It was awesome hearing my friend’s story and how it was clear now was the time!

2) Leave as good as you can when it is time to go. When you transition out of a position, prepare your successor as much as possible. The handoff is absolutely critical so the ministry doesn’t miss a beat, can thrive and maintain the strong foundation. If it fails in the future, that is partially on you! Thankful Justin has been working hard on making the transition as seamless as possible.

3) Leave cheering the ministry on. Lots of people are interested in juicy details and plot points – but nobody wins when someone badmouths on the way out. In this case, there was no story, and Justin is (and I know will continue to be) the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever had.

Proud of you Justin and will watch your career with great interest!


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#ShareACoke HSM Welcome Video

Had some fun this weekend with a simple little #ShareACoke video. Got a good response from our students!



YS IDEA LAB: Tic Long on Leading Well

Another great in the YS Idea Lab series – this time featuring YS legend Tic Long. Such good stuff in here about leading well!


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Download Youth Ministry WebShow #249


Another week, another episode of the Download Youth Ministry Show! This week we’re all back together talking shop! We talk about youth ministry for 45 minutes every week or two, your questions answered every time! Join Doug Fields, Katie Edwards, Josh Griffin and Matt McGill around our roundtable.

Just enough youth ministry so you don’t feel guilty for listening.

As always, thanks to our amazing sponsors who help with incredible giveaways:

Send in your questions to webshow@downloadyouthministry.com to be answered on a future show, too!

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