Rebooting Student Leadership


I am excited to be rebooting our Student Leadership program. Due to staff shortage for the pass year we had no real student leadership program in place. And we have felt it in our ministry. We’ve had plenty of student involvement and even students stepping up to serve but we have seen student ownership of the ministry go down.

All that to say…I am excited that I get to take the lead on the reboot. Here is what we are going to focus on:

1. Growing in your faith- We’ll spend a lot of time focusing on what it means to grow on your own and how to build space and time for the practice of HABITS in our busy lives. We’ll pray and read scripture together…so students can learn how to do these things on their own.

2. Embracing servant leadership- It is important for our students to understand the model of leadership that Jesus demonstrated while on earth. We won’t be the ASB or the cool club kid at church…we’ll be the ones who serve…who wash feet.

3. Understanding your role in the family- Our student leaders will learn what it means to be part of the family. They will see and experience the ins and outs of our ministry. Not only will they see them, they will learn about their gifts and how they play a part in the family life.

We’ve calendar for 6 Summer “training” days. We’ll spend time together serving our church, community and world while talking about the basics of faith and leadership. In the fall, we’ll schedule monthly training meetings…with these times we’ll bring in other staff members from our church to teach on leadership principles. I am really excited about the reboot and the potential it has for our students and for our ministry.

Do you have a Student Leadership program at your church? What does it look like?

(One of my favorite ways that I have been able to encourage my student leaders is by taking them to the Student Leadership Conference. If you have a student leadership program or want to start one, you should consider checking it out. http://studentleadershipconference.com)

3 Action Steps To Improve Your Ministry

Two weeks left and then we’re done.  Thursday, May 1st we are going to wrap up the regular season of our student ministry.  Then we’ll break for a month before heading into summer programming.  Usually summer is organic with little structure.  It’s a time for us to be SIMPLY AVAILABLE.  

The reason for the change in structure is because we focus most of our energy to improve by fall.  Granted we are always tweaking and readjusting, but there are certain seasons when we break things open and really take a deeper look at what needs to be done to create a more effective ministry.  Three action steps we take to improve our ministry are:

ACTION STEP #1 – Survey The Rookies: No one has a fresher perspective of your ministry then the men and women who started serving in the last year.  Ask them to give you the brutal truth of what went well, what was not clear and where you could improve.  Their feedback might be sobering; however, it will help you get out of the trenches and see the big picture.

ACTION STEP #2 – Feed Your Team: During the year most of your focus is on the teens and their families.  Block out certain seasons where you just pour into your volunteers.  Survey where they would like to grow as ministers.  Give them resources to review.  Take them out for a bite one on one and just let them know how grateful you are for their commitment.  A team that feels fed will strengthen the core of your ministry.

ACTION STEP #3 – Rest: Everyone needs to take a break.  If you don’t find time to stop and breathe you’ll only find yourself resenting the job you love.  Their are spiritual, physical, and emotional consequences to not giving yourself some time to walk away.  Look at your calendar and plan a day (Or a week) where you just focus on enjoying life.  Put up away messages and turn off the wifi.  When you return you’ll have a clear perspective and a whole lot of energy.

You should always look to improve your ministry.  There are always more teens to reach and more families to impact.  Set aside seasons in your ministry when you can perform the right action steps.  Put them down, share them with others and watch your ministry grow.

What other action steps should youth ministers take to improve their ministry?

5 Minute Youth Ministry

POLL: How often do you do youth group events?

I get this question all of the time from new youth workers – how often should I do youth group events? There are all sorts of different answers to this question depending on the size of your group, your goals, your church culture and more. So before we jump into that – let’s get a starting point: How often does your ministry have youth group events?


My Spiritual Fitness Pal

I recently started using the MyFitnessPall app. It’s brilliant. You log everything you eat and the exercise you do, and it shows you how you’re doing calorie wise. It evens gives you a breakdown of essential elements like certain vitamins, or sodium and registers if you’re getting enough, or too much of these.

For instance, I never realized my iron intake was fairly low until I started using this app. Within days, I saw that my iron percentage was consistently way beneath what is recommended. So I made some changes in my diet to make sure I ate more iron.

You don’t know where you are until you start measuring it. It’s a truth I realized again when I started using the MyFitnessPal app.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

But what about spiritual fitness? What would you have to keep track of to make sure you’re spiritual healthy?

Going to church

Reading your Bible

Personal prayer time

Memorizing Bible verses


Serving in the church

If you were to score high on all these items, would it truly indicate you were spiritually healthy?

I doubt it.

Spiritual health is about your heart, about things only God can measure. It’s about love, love for God and love for others. And while serving and tithing may be an indication of loving others, you can give away all you have and still not be spiritually healthy if you do it for the wrong reasons.

A Spiritual Fitness Pal, one that could truly measure how spiritually healthy you are. What would it look like? How can you measure love?

3 Learnings from You Own the Weekend

We just finished another incredible year of our weekend teaching series called You Own the Weekend. Students from various high schools planned and executed our weekend service. The heartbeat is two-fold: 1) get students involved in the weekend service and serving in a ministry, and 2) make sure an invitation of some sort hits every student from that school that week. It has been one of the highlights of our student ministry for several years running – thought I would share some takeaways coming off the series:

Students bring their friends and family to something they helped pull off. In short, there’s a direct connection between student ownership and friendship evangelism.Every wonder why your core kids aren’t bringing their friends to church? Maybe it is because they had nothing to do with the creation of the service! When students build it, they will come. So many stories in our youth ministry now start with “well, I first came to You Own the Weekend” or “I trusted in Jesus during the series.” Really incredible stuff! It has becoming commonplace to hear someone say “I was brought by…” or “I wanted to see my friend…” We always emphasize friendship evangelism to our entry-level program, and I know it does happen on a regular basis. But this blew the normal response away.

There are all sorts of gifts waiting to be discovered.
 One of the favorite moments of the series was when a student who attends every week got up and shared his testimony. There are star kids who were born and raised to take the stage and teach and I’m super proud of them as pastors. But I’m also excited about the invisible students who showed up during the series. Unexpected people pitched in, decorated or took the stage to share in the message. This series served as a great reminder that some of your best pastors are probably already sitting in youth group. So many gifts, just under the surface waiting to be revealed.

Students should own every weekend.
 Here’s an obvious ministry-changing takeaway – so … why doesn’t this happen every week? To some degree, there’s a special magic to You Own the Weekend that just can’t happen week in and week out – but I want to see this momentum spread through every series we do. I want student teachers, student editors, students pastoring, student emcees, student testimonies and more every weekend!

This is a game changer for us! Give You Own the Weekend a shot next year in your youth group, too!


Retreat / Camp Youth Group Rules Video

Travis and Colton put together a fun video for our College Ministry retreat a while ago and I thought it was totally worth sharing. Steal the lyrics and make it your own, so funny!

Another incredible rules video from Matt McGill not to be missed as well! His timing … and the pink/purple stuff kills me every time. Genius!


GUEST POST: Power of a Thought

No matter how together we have it, there comes a time when we are vulnerable to fall. Sin has its way of creeping in on our lives at points when we are weak. It starts with a thought, and when you entertain that thought, because that’s all it seems like, is a simple thought…..it becomes reality. All of a sudden, you find yourself doing exactly what you were thinking of doing but didn’t think you would actually do. That simple thought has the power to bring pain, grief, and consequences you were not prepared for.

This is why God says to renew our minds with the Word of God.” (Romans 12:12) We become new creations, transformed into His image when we do so! That’s what I want to look like, I want to look like Him. I want others to be able to look at me and see His love shining bright in me and through me. Even through times of struggle, I am going to get back up and stand firm in my faith. We all should. We should stand together, as one, believing what He says is true. He says we are heirs of Christ, made in His image, one with God.

Believing in His truth changes the way we live, the way we act, and the way we chose to love others. He’s got our back no matter how hard we fall; all we have to do is trust in Him. He will pick us back up and continue to walk by our side through the darkness and into the light, showing us His ways and how to walk in them.  He will take our thoughts and turn them into God thoughts; we just have to be willing. Cause He is able.

Share a God thought for those struggling with wandering thoughts below! 

Ashley Fordinal is the Children’s Church volunteer at Family Life Church in Sulphur Springs, TX.

4 Roadblocks To Small Group Growth

As groups are winding down for the summer I’m just reflecting on how groups grow and how awesome it is to see some leaders just dominate their groups and they are growing in their faith. I love it. I had a conversation with a few leaders a couple weeks ago about things that keep groups from growing. Here are the top 4:

Focusing on knowledge. Wait what? Isn’t that what a small group Bible study is for? To learn? Yes, but what good is knowledge if there is no application in one’s life? Paul says, “Knowledge puffs up but love builds up”. How does a group love? One of the biggest ways for your group to grow is to serve with them. Watch them grow when they are getting out of the circle and into the community. In James it says not to just listen to God’s word but to go do what it says. Growing groups serve others.

Forget Jesus is there. Sounds pretty elementary right? A non-growing group does it’s own thing. Maybe there is only focus on fun rather than actually sitting down and going through a study. A growing group remember that when two or more gather in His name, He is present. They know Jesus has power and that through conversation is where student’s faith is stretched as they wrestle with certain topics. They go through the curriculum provided by the ministry. They pray together.

You talk too much. Some leaders love to hear themselves teach. The only problem is, sometimes the students don’t. Small group is not the time to preach a sermon for 20 minutes to students. There is a time for this and it’s called church. Growing small groups are a place where the leader is a discussion facilitator not a preacher. Are there teaching moments? Of course. But growing groups have leaders who will know how to ask great questions and get students to think critically about their faith and help walk them through their thought process.

Why so serious? No one wants to come to a boring group. Especially students. Studying is great. Talking about faith is great. Bible discussion is great. But I see growing groups have fun! They don’t only talk about things of faith but things that are going on in their lives. They go see movies together, go eat together after youth group, they go play ninja tag in a park late at night. I love fun. Our jobs are fun so small groups should be fun too because even though you are having fun, some of the best conversations come out of having fun because having fun breaks down walls and barriers. Don’t be all business, go have fun with your group and see it grow.

What else do you think keep small groups from growing? What would you add?


(Want to help train your volunteers/small group leaders? Click HERE to check out all DYM’s volunteer resources!)

Using Instagram to Promote Events


We don’t do a ton of announcements at youth group. We have a text list we really concentrate on, but there’s an unspoken limit how much you can send in a week directly to someone’s phone. We print a few pieces a year but not very much, honestly. Facebook still works, but barely the return it used to have. So how are we getting word out to our students and parents about events, activities and opportunities?

Right now, Instagram is our primary way of getting the word out about youth group meetings and events. We have and official Instagram account for our student ministry, but also work hard to provide graphics that people can post on their own. So we’re hoping that yes, people follow our Instagram account, but we’re also hoping that they’ll take the images and run with it themselves. For our recent You Own the Weekend series, it was fun seeing Instagram feeds literally flooded with invitations for students to come to our youth group.

Just an idea worth sharing and maybe worth stealing!


Thank You Letter to You Own the Weekend Students

We just finished the incredible You Own the Weekend annual series in our High School Ministry – it was an awesome 6 weeks of students doing EVERYTHING in our ministry. Each high school was assigned a weekend, picked and theme and pulled it off with an adult mentor. No adults have been on stage for almost 2 months. Incredible!

Here’s a letter I’m sending to everyone involved with it today:

HSM students,

I couldn’t be more proud of you!

I just had to write and share the 3 awesome things I love about what you did the past few weeks during the You Own the Weekend series:

1) You invited your friends – I’ve met more brand new students that visited our ministry in the last few weeks than I have in the past year combined. That could only happen if you are inviting your friends – and you sure did! Not only that, I know several students that accepted Christ this past month and you had a HUGE part in that. So many faith stories start with You Own the Weekend. So proud of you! Incredible.

2) You served the church – it was incredible seeing your creativity and energy. From great object lessons to inflatable cougars, greeters, awesome messages, fun openers, skits and great music, you used your talents to serve God and do His work. My prayer is that this is just the beginning — that you’ve got a taste of what it would be like to own every weekend. What a great model for other students to see in action! Thanks for loving our youth group and loving our church. So proud of the way you served!

3) You started a movement in your schools – don’t let You Own the Weekend end with this series! Start a movement on your school campus, create a culture where students are invited to church and are greeted warmly and openly when they arrive. Live out your faith this week wherever you go.

Love you guys SO much – have a great week!

Just noticed the resource we created to help others pull off a You Own the Weekend series is this week’s $1 Download. Grab the You Own the Weekend resource right now and do one of your own, too!


Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 244


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend (Santa Margarita High School)
Sermon in a Sentence: Adam and Eve committed treason against God, so do we, but Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the tree on Calvary. Treeson.
Service Length: 71 minutes

Understandable Message: It was exciting to add a new school to You Own the Weekend series this year! we had enough students pull together from Santa Margarita to run the services and they did a fantastic job! The message was taught in 2 parts: Emerica talked about the story of Adam and Eve and introduced the theme of treason. Then Jonathan (pictured above) shared his story about his sins and treason against God and how he led other people astray at his high school. It was an incredible weekend, VERY powerful message and clear presentation of the Gospel to a crowd that included many new, non-churched students. So good!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: The opener was fun, the atmosphere and stage decorations were great and despite having less students than some of the other schools there was a great energy to the room. Students were great greeters and everyone wore matching “Treeson” shirts they raised the funds for and had printed. The game Egg Roulette was a hit, and we definitely discovered a few more students who are good on stage!

Music Playlist: Let It Go [Demi Lovato cover], We Are the Free, Hosanna, Oceans, Scandal of Grace

Favorite Moment: I love You Own the Weekend. For sure my favorite series of the year! I haven’t been on stage in 6 weeks, and our youth ministry didn’t miss a beat. In fact, it improved! Ha!

Up next: Easter Sunday (Worship Together Weekend)

Transitioning Seniors

We run our life groups from October to June and take a break during the summer time. For our seniors, life groups are the hardest things to leave because for most, their groups have been together for years and most of them have had the same leader the entire time. No one likes to say goodbye, but graduating from the ministry is something that every church has to deal with.

This year we are trying to be more intentional with our senior life groups and getting them connected with our college ministry here at the church. I have been working with our college pastor and his team to scheduling time with our senior life groups for them to stop by their place of meeting and drop off some gifts and prizes and begin the connection between our ministry and theirs. I feel like transitions either go really well or really bad, and there is no in between. Having a place where students can go and be connected after high school is huge if we want to keep them involved in the church.

Our college ministry meets Thursday nights for a service with small groups attached to the end. College ministry takes over and help run our Sunday night services for the church as a whole (Service geared for 35 and under. This service is louder, different music, after service parties, but same message as the other services with Rick) and we push our students to those services after high school. Which is great because they are then connected to the church as a whole as well as with others their own age on Thursdays. With our college team meeting with and getting time with our seniors months before they graduate, they begin relationships and connections for when time comes where they are now in their ministry. Can’t start early enough to get them connected with the next stage of life and ministry in the church.

I think this will be a great win for our ministry and their ministry as we say good bye to our seniors and they say hello to their new freshman class.

What are some things you do to say good bye to your seniors? Do you get them connected to the church as a whole? What ministry? What does this look like for you?

(Here is a great 1-off message to send off seniors in the best way in the DYM store!)

5 reasons to take the summer off

Image credit: http://www.blankcalendar2014.com/

Earlier this week, Josh posted a poll about taking the summer off saying, “I’m not talking about changing it up a bit in the summer, I’m talking about largely taking the summer off.”

My youth ministry definitely falls into the category of “largely taking the summer off.” During the school year, my high school ministry meets twice a week. Both weekly programs end the week before Memorial Day and don’t restart until the week after Labor Day. Neither happens during the summer, though we do take a summer mission trip and hold a handful of special events.

Here’s what I love about this format:

1. It gives adult leaders time to rest and recharge. The longer a leader serves in youth ministry, the more effective they are. To cultivate longevity, leaders need downtime – weeks where they’re not expected to prepare a lesson or lead anything; Weeks where they can simply come to church and worship with their families, with no additional responsibilities. Taking the summer off allows leaders to do just that. In the process, they come back, eager and ready to serve another year.

2. It gives families time to rest and recharge. The word I most often hear families use to describe themselves is busy. What I hear from tired parents is that by the time we get to the end of the school year, they need a season in which their calendar is less full. By taking the summer off, we give families that time.

3. It gives leaders time to dream. As my youth ministry’s point person, I’ve found it’s difficult to initiate new programs or ideas during the school year, when everything is already up and running. Canceling weekly programming during the summer gives me the space to reflect upon the previous school year and evaluate it. It also gives me a natural time to begin new things and perhaps more importantly, to kill programs that are no longer working.

4. It gives leaders time to invest in other things. Specifically, having no weekly programming responsibilities gives me the time to intentionally invest in my student leadership team, which meets regularly during the summer. Year after year, this investment pays off in profound ways.

5. It creates momentum. Youth workers often decide NOT to take the summer off because they fear doing so will kill their momentum. I’ve actually found the opposite to be true. Having an “end” to our programming year enables us to build various rites of passage into the year, say good-bye to graduating seniors, and welcome incoming freshmen into our ministry. Intentional communication and publicity throughout the summer prepares families for what’s coming, gives them something to look forward to, and creates excitement about our fall launch. This, in turn, allows us to start the school year with fresh momentum.

Your turn: Why else might it be helpful to take the summer off?

Free Student Leadership eBook from SLU


I’ve had the privilege of speaking at a couple of Youth Pastor Summit training events this Spring and love what the folks at Student Leadership University are doing. They contacted us this week about a terrific book for student leaders – wanted to make sure we passed it along to you right away. Grab it for free right here in the DYM store!

Inside you’ll find insight from leaders and experts in ministry and business:

  • Pat Williams, Co-founder and Senior Vice President, Orlando Magic
  • Dr. Danny Akin, President, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
  • Brad Lomenick, President, Catalyst
  • Mark Miller, Vice President of Development, Chick-fil-A


GIVEAWAY: The All-New GroupGames App for iOS


If you’re a you’re a youth group leader then chances are you’ve got a few great games in your back pocket you can pull out at a moment’s notice. Well, what if you could literally pull a few more great games out of your back pocket! There’s an app for that and it’s called Group Games.

Group Games is a database of over 120 fun, tried and tested youth group games for iPhone and iPad and it’s recently received a major update! Watch the video below for details.

I love the idea that in a pinch you can grab a great idea, or when you’re all out of ideas you can find 120 there waiting for you. Calum, the youth worker behind the App, has generously given me 10 free download codes for the App (normally $1.99). All you have to do to claim a download code is be one of the first 10 people to comment on this post!

Jump in the App Store to get it or check out the GroupGames homepage, too!