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4 Things To Remember When Dealing With Parents

So this week is HSM Summer Camp. I’m going to be up front with you, I have nothing to do with the planning of it. But the week before we head out, its all hands on deck fro answering questions for students, leaders and mostly parents. For the most part, summer camp runs smooth, but there always is the dreaded “putting the cabins together” and not everyone is going to be happy with everything. That is okay, it is part of it.

All this last week, I would say I spent a good 2 hours on the phone with upset parents. These parents were not out of control; they were just worried because they were looking out for the best interest of their child. My phone calls with parents were great and it got me thinking about how we as youth workers deal with parents and some things we need to keep in mind.

When dealing and communicating with upset parents we need to:

Listen- I have heard of horror stories where parents don’t feel like the youth pastor actually listens to them when they are upset about something. I think one of the most important things we can do is just to listen. Stop talking. Hear them out whether they are being rational or not. Most people think they will get backlash right back so when we don’t respond and hear them out, it automatically lets them take their guard down and allow you to say what you need to say in a loving but clear way. Parents want to know they are being heard.

Affirm – Whether you think so or not, how they are feeling is a real feeling to them. We may not agree with what they are feeling or why they are feeling it, but regardless, it is how they feel. Saying, “I can see how you can feel that way” or “I understand where you are coming from” shows that you are listening and hearing what they have to say.

Inform – Remembering that their feelings are very real to them, we still need to explain why something is a particular way. If it was an oversight, we can apologize and fix it if necessary. If there was a reason you made the choice they are upset about, this is where you would lovingly explain to them why it is that way.

Encourage – We are to partner with parents. We want to listen to them, affirm their feelings, inform them, and then encourage them. If you do the first 3 things, usually the end of the conversation is much different from the upset beginning. It allows us to cool down the confrontation and then turn it into a conversation about the most important thing (and the reason why they are calling you so passionately) their child. We are to speak life into their family whenever we can.

Granted, some conversations don’t always end so nicely. Hopefully you will be able to figure the best way to represent Christ with a passionate parent. But I feel remembering these things while talking with an upset parent will help us get through a difficult conversation and turn it into an encouraging one.

GUEST POST: Making the Most of Camp Cabin Times


Cabin times: confusing and frustrating youth workers since 1847*. We are told that cabin times are where the “real” ministry happens at camp: the band and the speaker will get students pumped for Jesus, but those late-night group discussions with their counselors will seal the deal.

*This statistic is not supported by science.

This kind of thinking is based in a lot of truth, but it can also create anxiety, undue pressure, and feelings of inadequacy for the counselor when his or her cabin time falls short of powerful expectations.

We just returned from middle school summer camp, where I was reminded again of the challenges of leading a “successful” cabin time. (In a minute I’ll explain why I put successful in quotes.) Thankfully, we brought along some incredible volunteers who were able to share their cabin time experiences and teach me a thing or two about making the most of group discussions at camp.

Here are some of the tips and trips I picked up last week and in previous years while reflecting on my cabin time successes and failures.

  1. Remember that there is no definition of a successful cabin time. You may find yourself frustrated more often than inspired during your cabin time. That’s OK. Even Jesus had trouble getting his group of twelve to focus, and he was spending time with them 24/7. Remember the words of Jesus: “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matt. 18:20). Jesus is working in the hearts of your students, even if you can’t see it. Therefore, enter cabin time with a sincere and prayerful heart and great stuff will happen— it just might be more subtle than an outburst of repressed emotion or a student giving his or her life to Christ.
  1. It’s not about you. It really isn’t. It’s about God using you and a bunch of other people to bring students closer to him. Even if a student doesn’t open up to you in cabin time, there are so many other opportunities for them to really experience God at camp. And just because they don’t open up doesn’t mean they aren’t getting anything from the cabin time discussion. So ask God to help you take the pressure off yourself. On the day before camp, pray something like, “God, let your impact in my cabin group be as if I weren’t even there.” Take yourself out of the equation so that God may bring you into his process in ways you would never expect or imagine.
  1. Share your story. This was something my co-leader and I tried last week at camp. During our second evening cabin time, he opened the discussion by sharing his testimony, and there was an immediate change in the temperament of the group. Suddenly, our students’ perception of him went from a leader who had everything figured out to a fellow human being who was struggling through his journey with Christ along with them. Before I could share my story, a student raised his hand and asked if he could share his. After he went, another asked to share. And then another. Suddenly, students were opening up about their past and their family life. I had never seen anything like it. By the end of the week, almost all of our cabin students had shared their stories with the group. And it all started when one of their leaders, a high school senior, opened up about his life.
  1. Let them lead. A few years ago, I led a cabin group of eight high school juniors who had been following Jesus since they were kids. It was like pulling teeth getting them to talk about anything. On the final night of camp, I tried something different. It may have been a Hail Mary after three days of silence; I don’t quite remember what was going on in my mind. But I opened up cabin time by saying, “Tonight, you guys will be leading the discussion. I’m going to stay with you and participate, but I’m not going to ask any questions.” A few awkward seconds passed. Then, one of the juniors turned to the others and said, “OK. What did you guys get out of tonight’s message?” What followed was the best cabin time we had had all week long, even though it was the one I had guided the least. This tactic of letting them lead might not work with a younger group, but don’t be afraid to delegate leadership to your students.
  1. Remember that cabin time isn’t everything. Sure, some of the most powerful stuff at camp can happen during cabin times. But the buck doesn’t stop there. You may find that an impromptu, one-on-one discussion with a student during free time is just the interaction they needed. Maybe you’ll have a couple students who don’t especially connect with you throughout the week, but they really connect with the camp speaker’s messages and experience true life change during chapel. Understand the importance of cabin time but don’t exaggerate it. Keep a humble heart, ask God for excess amounts of patience, and trust that Jesus is there among you, guiding each and every student exactly where he or she needs to go.

Taylor Bird is the Middle School Pastor at Southwest Church in Indian Wells, CA. He has been serving in youth ministry for five years.

Fun Twitter Campaign Idea For Summer Camp


This weekend we leave for HSM Summer Camp. It honestly is one of my favorite things we do all year long. The staff is pumped. The students are pumped. Our volunteers are pumped. I think it is easy to say, everyone and their mother is pumped for camp. One thing we have been trying to get pumped up (because we have not really focused on it besides the last few months) is our @SaddlebackHSM twitter. If I’m honest, we have neglected it but that has changed recently.

As I’m sure all of you know, many students are online in some way, shape or form. We have noticed many students have made the transition to Twitter so we want to communicate to them and get our ministry Twitter up on its game. So with camp coming up, I decided to launch a Twitter campaign of “100 Awesome Things About Summer Camp”. The goal was to get students to interact with it and in a way spread the word about HSM twitter to other students and friends while promoting our stuff. So we started to make a list of things about summer camp and used the hashtag “#100AwsomeThingsHSMCamp” and went to town.

I would have to say it was a success. Students “favorited” or “retweeted” many of the tweets and it was a really fun way to get students excited about camp. Go check out the rest of the tweets by clicking HERE.

HSM Summer Camp Games: Pool Relay


GAME 1: Slip-N-Slide Kickball
GAME 2: Battle Fort
GAME 3: Ultimate Food
GAME 4: Human Battleship

GAME 5: Pool Relay


  • Cover watermelons with Vaseline or baby oil
  • Place puzzle pieces at the bottom of the pool
  • Make sure the pool rafts are inflated


  • First team to complete the relay wins!
  • Each team divides up and assigns players to each “leg” of the relay
  • 12 people for the raft
  • 10 people for watermelon
  • 2 people to get puzzle pieces
  • Everyone assembles the puzzle
  • On the whistle each team gets the first group of people in the pool in a straight line across the pool. Then a watermelon is passed from one end to the other and back. Once back at the start line those people rush out of the pool while the next set of group people go.
  • Their goal is to all get on the pool raft and row themselves to the far side of the pool and back. Once back, they tag the next person to jump into the pool and collect a puzzle piece. This continues until all puzzle pieces are collected. Once they have all the pieces, their team can begin to put the puzzle together. First team to complete it wins!
  • Must be different people working on each leg of the race.

Download Youth Ministry WebShow #247

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!

New Release Tuesdays on DYM!


Every Tuesday on Download Youth Ministry we release new youth ministry resources! If you’re not in the habit of checking the site early in the week or if you haven’t subscribed to the DYM Weekly newsletter you are missing out! In addition to the $1 Download of the Week you can get the inside track on specials, sales and new stuff hitting the store that day.

This week we’re excited about The Bro-Off, TV Dads and Nerf Wars Event Package & more!


Students Share the “Tough Stuff”


On the fringes of youth ministry lurks an evil monster.  It seems to rear it’s ugly head often. No matter how we run, or hide it is chasing our students and their families.  The heat of summer seems to sometimes make him appear stronger than ever before.  Maybe it’s because there’s more time on everyone’s hands with less to do.

The name of this hideous creature?


We could also call him: hurt, suffering, hopelessness or even depression.

We are talking to adolescents who mask their problems with alcohol, drugs, perfectionism, anger, or acting out in a multitude of ways.  At camp and on trips students break down with honest assessments of their thoughts and feelings. They hunger for:  Hope. Truth. Love. Acceptance.

Instilling life into the heart of a youth takes, time, energy and focus.   There are days when the lives of our students just seem so heavy. In the midst of all the weight we are left feeling helpless.

What do we do?

Keep Building Relationships:  

I heard it said once that a “touch is worth a 1000 words.”  In a world focused on social media we can easily hide and pretend to be anything we want to be. HOWEVER,   all of us, especially teens are hungering for deeper, authentic relationships. YOU may have time to really go deep with maybe 3-5 students. Teach your team how to build relationships with students.  Make this a philosophy that spreads like wildfire.

Include and Involve the Parents:

One of the first things we as the youth worker want to do is to “save children from their bad home life.”   However, getting to know a family and their situation just may save a life. This goes beyond offering “classes or meetings” for parents. Genuinely get to know the families. Figure out practical ways to lift them up and come along side them.

Train and Equip:

Bring your team together to talk about all of the “sidebar” issues in the lives of your youth.   Let’s face it, we can find a book on programming or how to run a Bible Study.   All the “hard stuff” our teens are going through is intimidating. Find videos to watch, books to read together and experts to bring in.   The more involved you are as a unit,   the more the paid “staff” will not feel alone in handling the “tough stuff.”

Know When To Direct to “Professional” Help:

We are called to walk life with students. However, some problems simply are too big for us. There may need to be a counselor or agency brought in to aid in the situation. This does not mean they take over. We still need to stick around, yet,  there are spaces where the professionals know how to take the monsters down fully.

Let’s face it the sword of the truth is the only thing that can bring freedom once and for all. Sometimes we need to look a youth in the face and simply let them know the truth: “They are loved with an everlasting love.”   Not just once. Over and over.   Together I think we can slay this dragon.

What are you doing this summer as your students share the “tough stuff?”

How to kill sacred cows

Image credit: http://oldpiano.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/SacredCow.png

Every ministry has a sacred cow.

Sometimes sacred cows need to die.

But how do you kill a program in a healthy way?

Here are the steps I follow in order to slaughter sacred cows:

1. Enter a time of prayer and discernment. Since people are, by nature, resistant to change, invite others to join you in this process. When people have a hand in making a decision, they’re more likely to support it.

2. Individually examine the questionable program’s…

- Value: What has and does the program contribute to your ministry, congregation, and larger community?
- Sustainability: Is your program breathing life into your ministry or sucking life out of it? How much momentum and funding does the program have?
- Worthwhileness: Is it good stewardship to continue pouring resources as well as the time and energy of leaders and students into the program? Is the program worth a night away from people’s families?
- Seasonality: How long has the program been around? Is it possible it’s run it’s course and that God might be calling it to end?

3. Collectively examine the program’s value, sustainability, worthwhileness, and seasonality. Reach consensus around as many answers to the above questions as possible before then moving back into a time of prayer and discernment.

4. Together with those involved in your discernment process, determine what God is calling you to do.

5. If God is calling you to continue with the program, take time to determine how you will intentionally reinvigorate it. Make plans to reevaluate it at a specific time, so as not to let it linger indefinitely on life-support.

6. If God is calling you to kill a program, carefully determine how to share the news with people. Frame your decision positively and hopefully. Positivity enables you to celebrate and affirm the fruit that’s come from that program. Hope enables you to live into the future rather than dwell on the program’s death.

After working through the aforementioned process, my youth ministry recently made the decision to kill one of our staple programs: A relationally based Kids Club ministry for refugee children, which my high school students faithfully ran for four years.

In many ways, this program was one of our ministry’s best. It gave teens the chance to put their faith into action and provided a frequent entry point for friends to get involved in our ministry.

The problem was by the end of the school year, high school teens outnumbered the refugee children 7 to 1.

So after much prayer and discernment, we killed it.

We are, of course, grieving it’s loss. But we’re also convinced it’s far better to kill a program than to indefinitely keep it on life-support, in the process allowing it to rob our ministry of much needed energy and resources.

We’re also hopeful about the future, curious to see what new ministries will emerge in it’s absence.

After all, in Christianity, life comes from death.

So it is when we kill programs. By intentionally killing some, we make room for others to grow and flourish.

What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do

There are times in ministry (and life for that matter) where I come upon a situation and I really do not know what to do. I get a very angry email from an upset parent and my first response will probably not be the best. There is a leader in which I know is not working out and I need to ask them to step down. There is a student in which seems not to get anything I have been teaching or saying and they just keep doing the same thing over and over again. There is a decision that only you can make but you don’t really want to make it because you know you are going to get back lash. I feel like I have been in a season of all of these things happening at once and I find myself just standing scratching my head thinking, “What do I even do here?”

Here is a few things I do when I do not know what to do:

Stop. Relax. Chances are it’s not the end of the world, it just feels like it. One thing I know for sure, the best decisions are not the ones out of immediate reactions of anger and annoyance.

Forget about the overall outcome. Many times just the thought of what is going to happen down the line will freeze us in making a right decision, or any decision for that matter. When we don’t get too ahead of ourselves, we stop and think, we can make the best leadership decision.

Think about the next right, immediate decision. So instead of thinking so far in the future, ask “What would be the best next decision now to get towards the solution?” We can worry about whether or not this is going to pan out and stay stuck or we can think about what the next move is and move forward.

Pray about it. Sometimes I feel like it’s really easy to skip this step. We get so caught up in the anxiety, we miss probably the most important step. We know what Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We have the power of the Holy Spirit to help guide us in decision-making. allow God’s peace to guard your heart and your mind. Give it to him.

Respond appropriately. When we give it to God and have spent some time in prayer about it, we can confidently know our decision is the best one we can make and we know we have gone about it the best way we humanly know how. Then respond appropriately and people will be able to see your leadership and how well you handle tough calls.

HSM Summer Camp Games: Human Battleship


GAME 1: Slip-N-Slide Kickball
GAME 2: Battle Fort
GAME 3: Ultimate Food

GAME 4: Human Battleship


  • Hang the 2-3 tarps over the volleyball net so that it goes from the top to the ground. (the goal is that no one can see the opposite team)
  • Give each side 2 buckets of water balloons, 2 balloon launchers and a bucket of soak balls (10-15 each team)

Team Set-up:

  • Teams will arrange 20 people into different formations to represent the battleships. Once they are set up they cannot move.
  • The rest of the team will be launching and throwing water balloons and soak balls.


  • The goal of the game is to “sink” as many human battleships as possible within 10 minutes.
  • Each time a player is hit, they are out of the game.
  • The team at the end with the most people left on the court wins!
  • Play this twice – great game to beat the heat.

Simple, Fun Youth Group Game: Crack Dice


I’m not sure where the name came from … but this game is simple, easy fun. It is called Crack Dice and the student ministry team at Granger Community Church introduced me to it and I had to share. Props to Greer Evans (the director at GSM LaPorte) for creating it. Here’s how it works:


  • Everyone gets a 3×5 card and sits around a table. There is one set of dice on the table.
  • One person (selected however you would like – oldest, youngest, nearest birthday, etc) has a pen, begins writing #’s 1-100 as fast as clearly as they can!
  • Everyone else takes turns rolling dice in a clockwise motion
  • When someone rolls doubles, the next person around the table grabs the pen and starts writing down #1-100 on their card
  • When someone rolls snake eyes (2 dice both with 1 facing upward) pass the paper to the left.
  • The first one to write out all numbers 1 to 100 on their card wins!

Such a simple, fun game! Perfect for the countdown before service or a fun icebreaker. Winner!


WIN a Sin Scanner Box Filled with Awesome Stuff!


We’re giving away a Sin Scanner! OK, maybe it is just the Sin Scanner box … but it will also be filled with amazing youth ministry goodies! Get all of the details here on how to enter (it is super easy) and you could be getting a box – sent in the mail which is something we never do. Fun!


4 Components Of A Youth Ministry’s Identity

Go ahead and take two minutes to describe your youth ministry.

How did it go?

Every youth ministry has an identity.  The question you need to answer is, “How clear is your youth ministry’s identity?”

Do you know it?  do others?  Is your youth ministry doing what you hope it would do?

If the answer is no, then it’s time to look at the type of ministry God has called you to lead.

To truly understand your youth ministry you need to understand it’s identity.  To understand it’s identity you need to know the main components that shape it.  The 4 components that are essential to your youth ministry’s identity are a(n):


If your ministry is going to be a movement it needs a destination.  To get people on board and investing you need to give them a clear picture of where your ministry wants to go.  Decide what it is God is calling your ministry to do.  Describe what that looks like. And then communicate it like crazy.


It’s not just where you want to go, but how you are going to get there.  Your mission explains to people how you’ll reach that destination.  It’s your behavior and your values all mixed in one.  Your mission tells people what you need to do in order to succeed.


Your ministry’s identity depends on who you are trying to reach.  You could try to be a youth ministry for all teens, but you’ll struggle to be efficient.  Focus on a group that has the potential for the largest impact on the surrounding community.  At first you’ll draw a select crowd; however, over time your mission will reach more and more.


Your values dictate how you behave, and what’s important to your ministry.  What you value is based on the characteristics of it’s leadership.  When you gather people together with similar values your youth ministry will work well together.

Recruit people with similar values and raise like minded leaders.  You’ll not only improve the quality of your ministry, but increase your effectiveness.  A ministry that is confident in it’s values is one willing to take on big challenges.

Your ministry’s identity is essential to it’s growth.  Without an identity your ministry will just exist and eventually burnout.  Take some time to sit with your leaders to discern the vision, mission, target audience and values.  The work will payoff.

What other attributes are important to a youth ministry’s identity?

Our End Goal In Youth Ministry

I don’t think it comes as a surprise, but I think small groups are great. There are a ton of reasons why students join a small group. It could be just the thing to do at your church. It could be because their parents are making them. It could be because a leader a student has a relationship with invited them into the group. It could be because a student has seen the life change it causes and invited a friend to it. It could be because a student wanted a community around them so they just joined one.

Either one of these reasons are great. I approve. I want all students in a group. But I think there is one reason we as leaders should have a purpose for small group ministry.

Last weekend I was talking to a student about her small group and she hit the main reason right on the head. She said, “I joined the group at first to have community, but as I kept going I realized I really joined because of my need to repent of my sins and learn how to follow Jesus fully.”

BOOM! I was so proud in the moment that this student realized this on her own. She decided to let God control her life and she should stop running it. Her joining the group was the first step to letting that happen. She knew that the community around her would help her understand the studies, she knew the group would pray for her, encourage her, help keep her accountable.

But the main thing was to repent. And this will be an ongoing process.

This is the end goal of youth ministry and healthy small groups of God’s people are instrumental in bringing life change . . . repentance . . . transformation.

Hey You! Promo Videos for Guys/Girls Trip

Fun promo videos from this weekend to help promote Guys/Girls Trip. So fun!