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Kickstarter: David & Goliath the Videogame

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I’m excited to announce a Kickstarter project that I think is going to be big – I already supported it this morning! Today is the first day to support the Bible as a videogame! David & Goliath is the first complete game – coming up in episodes 1, 2 & 3 with plenty of more stretch goals to go as well. I happen to know the guys behind the project (they’re volunteers in our student ministry) and have the chops to pull this thing off. Anyhow, I was excited to sit down with the twins and talk about the project. Read this then head to Kickstarter to support the game!

JG

1. Where did this concept originate?
It’s a childhood dream, actually. When we were in High School we turned our High School into a 3D game. It took 3 years. Once that was done, we thought: “What’s next?”. We had always loved the stories of the Bible. So we thought: “How come nobody turned those stories into an epic series of games?”. That’s how the idea for the Game Bible series was born. As we worked in youth ministry, the dream resurfaced in our hearts. We did all the prep work, from research to budgeting and found out we’d never have enough money. So we started small companies to fund initial development. One or two new businesses a year, it was hard work. From the profits we brought in professional developers to come alongside us. It took seven years to get to the “perfect” prototype. Now we’re ready to see if people want it. They’ll show that by backing us on KickStarter.

2. What are the fears/concerns/excitement over adapting the Bible to a video game?
Let’s take excitement first. Just think about it; you can’t go back in time to see Goliath go down. The only medium that really puts you in the shoes of the characters is a videogame. You make the choices. You move. You act. It’s not a movie that you have no influence over. It’s an experience. Even building it is. You tweak and tweak and slowly it takes on a form of its own. Then, all of a sudden we stepped back and let the game blow us away. When that happens, you know that something great is happening.

Of course we have had many fears in a project this size. We’d been nervous of what our non-christian subscribers and game-industry friends would think. But they loved it. Countless of people proudly said “I’m atheist, but I can’t wait to play this”. We heard the same from Muslims, Agnostics, Mormons, Hindus, and more walks of life. There’s a lot more love for the Bible then we thought.

Secondly we were curious about what fellow Christians would say. As it turned out, kids can’t wait, parents keep saying “Finally a game I can give my kids”. Pastors are stoked. Some wept of joy when we showed them the project. A few pastors “pester” us consistently, asking if the game is done yet. We never expected the excitement to be this high.

3. Why have people failed before to bring the greatest story ever told to the interactive world?
We believe there are four main reasons. First of all, you can’t minister through media if you can’t minister face-to-face. That’s key. You can’t step into an executive role and expect success. Media is a megaphone that amplifies what you’re already doing, it doesn’t magically fix it. Secondly, people often think that if their project is on a cool platform, it’ll attract people. It won’t. In fact it’s 10 times harder because you’re now competing with all creative industries.

Third, you need to take the time for quality. It takes years to learn a craft that constantly updates. Some people say “I’m called to make media”. That’s great, but that doesn’t mean you’re already good at it. You’ve got to train like an athlete, and surround yourself with people much better than you.

Lastly, you have to stay true to the Bible. Some add things for “entertainment value” or make up stories in-between. But the Bible doesn’t need any improvement. All major Hollywood script-writing classes refer to the Bible. Everything is already there. Instead, time is better spent on research and trying to find out what the culture was like in those days. Re-creating that will bring far more excitement to the game. For example: once you feel the tension of standing in front of Goliath, you start to make the choices David made. And that’s a whole new way of understanding David’s faith.

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4. The game already looks terrific – who else is helping you with the game?
We are so proud of our team. They are literally all over the world. A level designer from France, concept and character artists from Sweden, developers in the US and Holland. It’s crazy. The games industry is a funny world: the bigger studios often lay-off their teams when a project is finished. This allows us to pick up highly talented people. Our freelancers and consultants have worked on games like Assassin’s Creed (PSP), Stargate, Starwars, Lego, etc.

We enjoy working with people from all walks of life. After all, the Bible is for everyone. One of our gameplay designers said “I’ve always wanted to know more about the Bible, can you tell me how to read it.” One of our top freelancers is an atheist. His doorbell rang and there was an evangelist telling him “I want to talk about the Bible”. He replied: “I don’t have time, I’m working on a videogame about it.” The gentleman was OK with that and moved onto the next door. Hilarious!

5. Where do you go from here, what stories are next? New Testament, too?
This first installment is the story of David. That’s what we’re asking people to fund on Kickstarter. It’s 10 massive episodes taking you from David as “teenage shepherd” to “king of the nation”. That’s why the game is called “David, Rise of a King”. If it gets funded successfully, we have plans ready for all other major stories, from creation to Jesus. The series will come to a climax at Jesus’ story.

BONUS: Tell me there’s and Xbox version coming out if you reach your bonus funding!
Haha! We would love to. The technology we use already allows the game to work on XBox & Playstation. However, to keep our team and budget laser-focused we target Mac & PC first. Once that works, we’ll talk to the console owners because it’s really up to them. Most game developers say that Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo won’t allow games with “religious content”. We aren’t sure if that’s true, but we’ll find out over the next few years.

Go support The Bible Videogame: David & Goliath. This is going to be great!

5 Ways to Get More Students in Life Groups

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We’re in the thick of Life Groups kickoff season – we’re getting the word out to students continually and recruiting leaders nonstop. Training is just around the corner and we’re praying for this year to be another life-changing year of small groups in our youth ministry. I was reflecting on some of the growth and positive things I’ve seen the last few years in our ministry, and wanted to share a couple observations on getting more students into groups:

Make them cheap
Life Groups don’t have to be free – but make sure the price isn’t an entry barrier. I think some cost is actually a good thing: 1) it allows you to offer some extra things, and 2) gives them some “skin in the game” to help take responsibility of the group. As a family we pay a small fortune for small groups for all 4 of our kids, so again you have to be careful that the price doesn’t become a barrier.

Make them consistent and fun
Groups that meet regularly have a better chance of sticking and a better chance of growing. Make sure you meet weekly in groups and only take off for major holidays and important breaks like finals week. And groups that are fun are attractive to new students, too. Groups that laugh and learn together are magnetic to outsiders.

Take the summer off
I think having school year small groups is crucial for both leaders and students. When you have “evergreen” or always-running groups, you burn out leaders and students. Switch things up in the summer and give everyone a break.

Allow them to join with a friend
I see the pros and cons of splitting students up into different groups, but when friends can be together they bring other friends. Groups grow. Let students make requests and put friends together for the win.

Keep leaders who get it
Work hard to retain leaders. When leaders “get it” they’ll help more students stick. Parents will trust them. Friends will come. Everyone wins. Want to group Life Groups? Keep your top tier leaders and they’ll bring them in.

Share another idea to get more students into groups!

JG

Am I Making A Difference?

I can’t believe another ministry year is starting already, after a summer of rest, our team is ready to step back into the game and serve hard for another season. Some of the faces are familiar and others are new this year which is always exciting as new people bring their unique gifting to serve our students.

As we dive into the year, we have so many different people taking on a multitude of different positions in our ministry and it is my job to help them understand what they are doing, but more than that, why they are doing it and why it matters to the spiritual growth of our students. People serve because they want to make a difference, so do they know if they are or not?

I am constantly in awe of our team, they are so loyal, loving and compassionate towards our students and I have so much respect for them and their time. I know that when they say yes to serving our students, they are saying no to their families, friends and responsibilities that they could be taking part in while they are at youth. So if they are going to give up 5-8 hours a week of their personal time, they need to know that what they are doing matters to the students and is having a Kingdom impact and to do this we need to do two things.

Why does my role matter?: Some positions in the ministry have fairly obvious purpose and impact and leaders in those positions like small group leaders and worship team members have a pretty clear understanding of the impact their leadership has. But what about Tech teams, set up people, hosts, games leaders. They have a huge impact on the ministry, but its up to us to help them understand why it does.

Example – Last week I had come into the Church late one night to find a young guy that was just finished high school and being in our ministry sitting in the teach booth. He was setting lighting cues for the main services that coming weekend. I asked him to show me a few things, which of course he was excited to. Before I left, I pulled him aside and thanked him. I said because of you doing this work, you are creating an engaging environment where people can come and Worship God and what you do matters, so thanks for doing it.

The look in his eyes was incredible, for someone to hear that what they do is going to impact people meeting God, that is so empowering. The same goes for people hosting at the doors, being a friendly face welcoming people, or games leaders who get kids involved and make them feel welcome and at ease. It all matters, they just need to know why.

What are we accomplishing together?: Whenever possible, it is vital to get all the volunteers together, to encourage them, cast vision and celebrate. Share stories of life change, stories of walls breaking down, students being set free from their past. Testimonies are encouraging and Popeye might have spinach, we have encouragement and it will build your team up to know what is happening in their midst that they might not know.

While each person might be doing something different, it is vital for them to know how they fit into the bigger picture of the ministry and what affect the whole is having.

They all matter, it is our job to tell them why.

Geoff – geoffcstewart 

Thirst: 40 days of seeking God through scripture, prayer, and reflection

I’ve been working on a spiritual growth project the past few weeks based on Psalm 42:2:

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

The World offers so much! Unfortunately it takes time and pain to discern its true emptiness. We are promised satisfaction and fulfillment, instead we are handed momentary distraction and self-deception. Even the best this world has to offer never satisfies the needs of our soul. Many of us have recognized a deep longing for something more: God’s presence, the power of his Spirit, and the guidance of his Word.

The idea behind THIRST is simple: each day will have a single verse, a simple prayer, and a thought for reflection. My encouragement and prayer for you is that you would Go and Meet God, his Son is the Living Water which ends our deep thirst.


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 256

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Weekend Teaching Series:
 Switch (week 3 of 4)

Sermon in a Sentence: God wants us to stop running and follow God’s purpose for our lives.

Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: We had two members of our team (Hannah and AC) tag team this sermon on the story of Jonah. They took a look at his “big fish” moment and saw what the Lord is trying to teach us about who He is and His purposes for our lives. Hannah focused on our tendancy to rebel against God and how He sometimes has to use “big fish” experiences to get our attention. AC spoke about what focusing on our purpose means for our lives and, more importantly, focusing on the big picture of how we fit into God’s plan.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: For the game, we pulled out a classic “Minute to Win It” game called, Tortilla Head. It is such a fun game to watch! We had a ton of fun with it! Also to spice up the message a little bit, we made an Eye Witness News Exclusive video about Jonah’s disappearance. Totally fun and totally ridiculous!

Music Playlist: We Shine, You Are, You Hold Me, and Tear Down the Walls.

Favorite Moment: This weekend we had a student co-host the game. He did such a great job… better than some of our adult leaders! Makes me interested in maybe developing him and students like him into a role like that more often!

Up next: Switch (week 4 of 4)

Typical Girls Life Group Night

A classic video we’ve played during youth group, Life Group kickoff and leader training. So fun!

JG

POLL: Most Helpful Youth Ministry Resources

There are now hundreds of resources here on Download Youth Ministry and thousands of youth ministry resources and tools that have been created to help youth workers like us serve our churches better. Of the ones listed, vote which one is the most helpful/important to you as you serve students. Vote now!

JG

4 Tips On How To Leave Well

Starting the new position tomorrow at Christ’s Church of the Valley as the Lead Next Gen. Pastor. I’m anxious but exited. I have been off for the best few weeks and let me tell you, time off is great! But with time off I have been able to do a ton of thinking. I have made two transitions from two teams in my ministry calling. One was “eh” and could have done a better job and one was so smooth. When the time does come to transition out of your current position I would hope you would do everything you can to make it a nice, easy, smooth transition for you and for the ministry you would be leaving.

Here are 4 easy things to remember when transitioning out and to transition out well:

  1. When the stirring rises, let people know. My first transition I didn’t tell anyone when I was feeling something and I feel like I hurt some people by doing so because it took them by surprise. The one out of Saddleback, the moment I had an inclination that this was happening from inside me, the next day I talked with Josh and told him what I was feeling and I didn’t know what it meant. To know that he was in this whole process from the beginning was an amazing feeling. We talked, we prayed, we maneuvered through it and it was such a weight lifted off my shoulders because I knew someone I trusted and looked up to, knew and was able to talk me through it.
  2. Talk the ministry up. Whether you are leaving on good terms or bad, in public you talk the ministry up. There is no point going down swinging. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just don’t say anything negative. But in public, to people, and to those who ask why you are leaving, let’s be people who build people up. It says in Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
  3. Their timeline is priority. If you want to leave the people you have been working with in a huge bind, only worry about yourself and get out of there. If your new position can allow for it, ask your supervisor what would be the best timeline for you to be out of your position so they can have enough time to begin to look and scramble to fill your spot. Do whatever you can to respect their timeline. CCV (Christ’s Church of the Valley) was so awesome in making sure Saddleback HSM’s timeline for me leaving was priority and man, it makes a difference.
  4. Set people up for when you leave. Don’t just throw up “deuces” and leave. Chances are you were responsible for a ton of important items. In the time you have left do your best to get another staff member or volunteer and train them in how you did what you did so when you leave, the ministry doesn’t leave with you. Set people up for success. Before I left, I had quite a few meetings with some teammates and walked them through my plans, my thoughts and any items to help them take on what I have been taking on. It shows respect and shows you care for the ministry as a whole.

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 255

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Weekend Teaching Series: Switch (week 1 of 4)
Sermon in a Sentence: God loves us SO much, even though we are broken sinners.
Service Length: 66 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend Jessica Torres taught the kickoff message of the Switch series – if you want to see the series arc for the month you can right here - and did a great job teaching about God’s incredible love for us as sinners with the story of the life and marriage of the Old Testament prophet Hosea and Gomer. She did a great job navigating this challenging and unfamiliar story, and students walked about with a clear understanding of the depth of both our depravity and the depth of God’s love. Well done, Jess!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played the fun Box of Lies game (you can check out more on that right here) and had some fun programming elements with the Share a Coke video as well. Great service, fun energy and lots of students serving all over the place. Good program, good message, but as always we want to really value relationships and conversations.

Music Playlist: Wake, Love Came Down, Oceans, Amazing Grace

Favorite Moment: I’m proud of Jessica for taking on this message. Not an easy one, but she poured a ton of prep time into it and a ton of heart. Killed it!

Up next: Switch (week 2 of 4)

MOVIE REVIEW: The Remaining

We’re excited about the new movie The Remaining. We even had one of the screenwriters on the DYM Webshow a couple weeks ago and both Doug and Matt have seen the film and had lots of good things to say about it. Up today we have one of the first reviews of the film, coming from Ciera Horton and her blog, The Write Things. Here’s a preview:

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REVIEW: AFFIRM FILMS’ THE REMAINING

Be prepared to be scared.

Affirm Films’ revolutionary new movie The Remaining wholly immerses the viewer into the total experience of the end times.  Movie-goers don’t just watch but truly feel like they are in the midst of the action along with the characters as they fight for their lives and struggle to find faith during the apocalypse.  You’ll be plunged into the tribulation unlike anything you’ve encountered before.

This is one of the few Christian movies that has truly impacted me.  I have thought about it, considered the possibilities of the plot and discussed it more than any movie I’ve seen in recent memory.  But the reason that The Remaining is so captivating is that it speaks to multiple audiences with a singular message.

The Remaining asks the same question to both Christians and non-Christians: Do I really believe?  One of the main characters was a pastor who was not raptured and who said, “Just because you have a church and a title doesn’t mean you have real faith.”

There are very few movies that can so effectively prompt viewers to consider their own relationship with God.  It’s not about the theology of the rapture, but it’s about personal self-reflection.

This is a groundbreaking film for the Christian industry in that it enraptures audiences by making them active participant viewers.  This movie will surely be talked about, so don’t be one of the remaining who miss out on the conversation.

Read her full review right here!

Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 254

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Weekend Teaching Series: Summer Camp Stories Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: A celebration of all that God did at camp this year!
Service Length: 116 minutes

Understandable Message: This weekend we went all out – invited parents and students to a big celebration service with a special baptism service right after as well with a huge party and cake, too! There wasn’t a huge formal message, but a ton of messages in student stories shared live throughout the weekend. We also included an “open mic” part of the evening as well where we opened it up to anyone in the crowd. Powerful stuff, and totally unpredictable.

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Huge energy in the youth room, we played all of the camp songs and played the final highlight video as well. So, so fun! One of the best weekend we’ve had in a long time – there’s something special about the youth group after camp. Wow.

Music Playlist: Savior of the World, You Hold Me, Sinking Deep, We Are the Free, He Is Alive

Favorite Moment: I LOVED having the parents in the services this weekend. This is a new annual tradition for sure! WIN!

Up next: Worship Together Weekend (August)

Magnum Clock Giveaway Winner!

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Congrats to Luke from Big Bear Youth Ministry who scored the awesome Magnum Clock for his youth room. We’re so thankful for them sponsoring this great giveaway – if you don’t have a clock in your space / church, be sure to check them out. The best!

JG

POLL: Loneliness in Youth Ministry

My post earlier this week, The Lonely Island of Youth Ministry, and Chris Wesley’s post on the same subject, How to Deal with Lonely Leadership were unplanned but coordinated on a single message. Who knew just how closely we were thinking on the same subject! It inspired today’s poll – vote now!

JG

Do We REALLY Need Policies?

UntitledIt’s interesting how we as the “church” are reacting to the culture surrounding us. I have talked with youth programming that still encourages small group leaders to “hang out” with students beyond programming time while others have considered even transporting students in vehicles not deemed “official” church vehicles is a no-no.

Everyone agrees that social media is here to stay. I read an article recently that claimed todays teens are the first generation to grow up interacting through this method on a regular basis.   Easy access to smart phones and touch screen devices have created a society that is always connected. Just today I saw someone proclaim (over social media) how their small children like to face time friends so they can “draw together.”

There was a time when we could “ignore” certain guidelines based on where we live and the size of our community.   Yet, it seems like every time we turn around something new makes the news on a youth group (or pastor) gone awry.

Why are policies important?

They Make Us Proactive Not Reactive:

My volunteer handbook is full of guidelines based on mistakes and missteps I have made through the years. I wish I had been able to think through scenarios and helped bring peace from the get go.   We can no longer have and attitude that people should “know better.” Brainstorming policies that are (and could be) needed helps you from a position of constantly putting out fires.

They Bring Consistency:

There is always going to be someone on our team who tries to do things “their way,” even when you believe you have made it clear. Writing down policies (and asking your team to sign them in acknowledgement they understand) keeps everyone on the same page. No one has to wonder about expectations and how to carry them out because they have been made crystal clear.

They Bring Accountability and Knock Out Fear:

It’s easy to just put policies in place based out of fear from bad things that are all over the new. It’s also easy to think “that would never happen to us.   We can’t assume anything anymore from either direction. We must remember that our first responsibility is to shepherd students and their families.   When we have policies everyone is held accountable to a standard for the purpose of a quality ministry that helps students.

The fact is we want more of our time to be spent focusing on ministering with students than struggling with issues. There are so many variables we can’t control, let’s make sure to put in attention where we can.

(**Note: DYM offers lots of forms and places to begin on ideas of policies, including an example of a Volunteer Handbook.)

A Ministry On Its Toes

Fantasy Football draft is coming up for me. I love the NFL. I love the fake football draft. It’s great. I remember playing organized football for the first time going into my freshmen year of high school. Everyone was running around and the coaches were doing different drills to see what skill sets everyone has so they can put them in their proper positions. I remember the hitting drill. I remember it because at first, I was awful. The first time ever hitting someone with pads in a drill was against one of the biggest guys on the team. I stood there, on my heels, as the running back ran towards me and got pummeled. DE-STROY-ED! The coaches pulled me aside and explained to me that if I were to wait on my heels and react rather than being on my toes and go towards whats coming at me, I’m going to be flat on my back every time.

Some of us in ministry, are on our heels. Things go as they go and we react to situations rather than plan ahead and act upon it. Sometimes we wait for God to open a door for our ministry to go forward when many times I feel God is just waiting for us to move forward to He can lead us where He want to take us. I am about to jump into a new role and I know God has called me to move forward. I don’t need to apologize for it. I’m going to move until God tells me, “No”. Sometimes, we assume God’s answer is automatic “no” and we look for a “yes”. Sometimes I think God is saying “Yes” and we just don’t see it and we assume the answer is a “no”, therefore we are stuck in our current place.

As leaders, we are called to be on our toes. To be leaning forward. To be on the go, always moving forward. the enemy is coming at us with everything he has and if we are caught on our heels waiting to react we will find ourselves flat on our backs. God is faithful. God is good. We are called to take our ministries forward in whatever that means for you.

Maybe it is:

  • Having that difficult conversation with that student or volunteer you have been avoiding.
  • Getting rid of a volunteer who is cancer to your ministry.
  • Starting a small group ministry but you know it’s going to be a ton of work so you have been putting it off.
  • Planning a few months ahead because right now you are just week-t0-week and you are procrastinating.
  • Changing the “sacred cow” in that ministry because you know that model is not working in your context anymore.
  • Being active in making sure the rest of the church knows what God is doing in your youth ministry because no one seems to care because most likely they don’t know.
  • Talking to your senior pastor about how you need a raise.

What is it that you have been playing on your heels for too long with? Move forward and onward because God provides for those who have enough faith to take that tough step forward.