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Student Leadership Team Promo Video

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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3 keys to dealing with crises

Rwandan van

The country of Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills.

As it turns out, this nickname is no joke.

I experienced these hills on a recent high school mission trip to Rwanda. While there, we traveled from one side of the country to the other, along a road that zig zags through the hills. The road’s narrow and steep. At times, it feels as though your vehicle is mere inches from the edge of a cliff. The reality is, however, that each day, thousands of people navigate this road safely.

Unfortunately, the day we traveled it we came upon a terrible collision: A 17-passenger bus verses a motorcycle. As we rounded the corner, my trip leaders and I caught a glimpse of the accident’s severity. The bus was flipped over at an awkward angle, the belongings of it’s passengers strewn throughout the road. The motorcycle lay mangled on the other side of the road. Onlookers were everywhere.

So, too, I assume, were the bodies of the crash victims.

Given the speed at which people travel this road and the fact that Rwandan buses don’t come equipped with seat belts, there’s no way this accident didn’t result in fatalities.

My trip leaders and I all realized this at the same moment. Without thinking, we started simultaneously screaming directions to our students.

Look left.

Look right.

No, look straight ahead.

We meant for our directions to protect our students, to prevent them from seeing something unforgettable, and to keep them from being frightened about our remaining travel throughout the Rwandan countryside.

In reality, they did the opposite.

Rather than protect our students, our reaction made things worse. It left students confused, unsure which way to look. Worse still, our fear permeated our bus, making teens fearful, too.

In reflecting on this moment, I’ve realized three important things about dealing with crises.

1. Students’ emotions and responses mimic ours. Thus, how we respond to crises directly impacts students. If we’re calm, they will be too. If we’re afraid, they will be too.

2. If you don’t actually know what’s going on, say nothing. When we happened upon the crash, neither myself nor my other leaders knew what had happened. Yet, we all spoke. To make matters worse, we all said different things. That, more than anything our teens might have seen, is what contributed to their fear.

3. Despite our best efforts, we cannot protect teens from bad things. We can’t keep them from seeing or experiencing things that might scar or frighten them. What we can do is help teens make sense of those experiences by processing them together.

As I think back on that day in Rwanda, I wish we wouldn’t have tried so hard to protect our teens from the horror that lay on the side of the road. Instead, I wish we would have let them look and then afterward, ask them what they saw and how that made them feel.

Rather than make them fearful, I suspect such a response would have shown teens that faith is something that carries them through, rather than avoids, bad things; That God is not someone who necessarily protects them from the bad, but instead, walks through it with them.

And for that matter, so are we.



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!



How To Help Hurting Parents

We prepare ourselves to work with hurting teens. We read up on strategies and resources.  We surround ourselves with people who are counselors, psychologists and crisis professionals.  But, what happens when it’s a hurting parent in your ministry?

Just like teenagers parents are hurting because life is messy.  They might be hurting because:

  • Their teenager is hurting.
  • They are going through a divorce or death.
  • They do not know how to communicate with their teenager.
  • They are scared that they are failing as a parent.

No matter the struggle parents need pastoral care.  As a youth minister you need to be there for the parent because it affects the teens.  If parents are hurting then the teenager will know and it could cause worry, and frustration. A healthy youth ministry is there to serve both parents and teenagers.

To help a hurting parent you need to make sure you: Continue Reading →

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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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Hold Your Plan Loosely

So I have been processing a ton of things lately. One of which is how we make plans and how God can and sometimes will call us away from our plans so we can live out His plan for our lives and ministry. It is just up to us whether or not we, as youth workers, will discern what He is calling us to do and where. Where ever you are in ministry, these are things to always keep in mind when doing God’s work in ministry. Hope it is helpful.

Hold Your Plan Loosely (James 4:13-15)

Our lives are not ours.

This last weekend was my last weekend on staff here at Saddleback Church (If you missed that post, you can click HERE to read what is happening!) Now it was a part of my own plan to work here at this church in HSM for 5-6 years. In my head, I thought this would be such a great opportunity to learn from some amazing ministry minds, do some great ministry and I would buy a house here, have some kids here and plant some roots. This was my plan. God blew up that plan. I know without a doubt that me taking a position at a another church was something God had in his plan for me. Looking back at how everything went down, it is undoubtably God moving and prompting. I could have stuck to my own plan, fought it, held on tight and do my own thing and possibly miss out on the great things I know God is going to do through me in the future.

When we hold so tightly to the things that we want to do, we miss out on the things God called us to do.

If God is involved, it most likely will be uncomfortable.

Many of us want to be successful in the future if we think we are not already. The trap most of us fall into is thinking that God wants the same things we want. We start to think that God wants us to be successful just like we want to be successful. But here is the thing, God is not in the success business.God is in the refining business. God is far less excited to see you be successful, but He is constantly trying to make sure we are shaped to be more and more like Jesus everyday.

Usually when God is involved, it’s going to be uncomfortable because that is how things are refined. When things are refined, they are put under fire until it gets too hot to handle and then all of the impurities come to the surface and all the nasty stuff is revealed and then it makes the item a more pure version of itself. How do you know if God is prompting you to trust Him in His plan for you? It’s probably something that makes you a little bit uncomfortable and will take faith.

Seek God First, He Gives You What You Need (Matthew 6:25-33)

You can read the whole passage for yourself, but Jesus says when we seek Him first in our plans, God will give you and your ministry everything you NEED. Not want, but NEED.

What do you need to tweak in your life to make sure you are seeking the kingdom of God first in your plans?

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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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GUEST POST: When You Need to Restate Vision

Several months ago, I noticed many of our middle school volunteers standing at the back of the room during Sunday services instead of sitting with students. This had been an issue about a year prior, but we were able to communicate the value of sitting with students at a leader meeting, and that solved the issue. At least for a while. After almost a year had passed, several volunteers began drifting back to their comfort zone at the back of the room.

It was a great reminder for me that a leader needs to restate values and vision as often as possible. Ideally, I would meet with each leader in person to explain the value of sitting with students, but that wasn’t a possibility before the following Sunday service.

So I decided to send out the following email to explain why it’s important for leaders to sit with students during our middle school services. Although an email can feel impersonal for something like this, it’s often the only way to communicate with multiple people in a timely manner.

Hey leaders!

I just wanted to take a minute to reinforce the value of sitting with students during Sunday services. I know it can be an awkward, crazy, and generally uncomfortable experience… but it’s something we HAVE to do if we want our presence on Sundays to be meaningful for our students! In addition, as most of us have discovered at some point or another, it can be a very rewarding experience.

We have plenty of students who are still sitting alone, and there’s no reason we can’t fill those empty seats next to them with ourselves!

The messages we send students when we stand at the back of the room:

  • I’m a babysitter, supervisor, chaperone, etc.— not your youth leader.
  • I’m not really into the service.
  • I don’t want to hang out with middle schoolers.

The messages we send students when we sit with them during the service:

  • I’m your youth leader— not a babysitter, supervisor, chaperone, etc.
  • I love this service. Let’s engage in it together!
  • I think you’re cool and I want to hang out with you for the next hour.

That’s a WORLD of difference we make with one simple gesture!

From now on, I want us to hold each other accountable for this very important value. Let’s start encouraging one another to find a seat in the crowd. If you see me standing on the side or in the back of the room instead of sitting with students, I give you permission to call me out!

We’re all in this together. I love and appreciate each of you, and I’m so lucky I get to serve alongside you!

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

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Difficult Conversations Are Part of Youth Ministry

For a long time I would avoid the most difficult conversations in youth ministry. I would just hope that people would “figure it out” themselves.

  • That a volunteer would figure out that their time on the team was done.
  • That the student would figure it out the changes they needed to make.
  • That the parent would realize their destructive patterns are reflected in their teenager.

I still don’t always have the guts to say the final 10% of a correcting conversation. I still cringe when I am about to say something that is of the Spirit but stings.

Confrontation isn’t something I live for, but it is something I know I have to live with.

But the longer I’m in youth ministry, the more I grasp my responsibility to gently nudge, speak truth and boldly proclaim God’s path. I pray for God’s discernment that I won’t go too far or say something that isn’t led by Him. It isn’t fun, it isn’t easy and I know I don’t always get it right. But it is a necessary part of youth ministry I should have had the strength to embrace sooner in my calling.

Blessings as you lovingly correct this week!


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Wildside Does the “Amp Up” Song

Christ in Youth (CIY) puts together a fun “amp up” video each year to have an element of fun in the sessions at their summer Move event. Our Wildside junior high team gathered up a bunch of volunteers to recreate it for their summer camp this week, too. So fun, great way to warm up youth group! Steal this idea!


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The Study Starts This Weekend


We’re starting a pretty innovative idea this weekend. We’re hosting a discipleship class on Sunday morning. I realize that some of you might have heard of an idea like this before, and may have called it Sunday School. But I assure you this is something completely different and like nothing you’ve seen before.

Just kidding, it is exactly like Sunday School! But our church hasn’t had a Sunday School-like program in a decade – so this “new” idea isn’t new at all to churches across America – but to us it is fresh and exciting. We’ve got a ton of students signed up to come to church an hour early and go through a great new Sticky Faith book from the Fuller Youth Institute called Can I Ask That?

Here are a few things I’m hoping you take away from this:

1) New ideas are good.
2) Refreshed, old-but-good ideas can feel like new after time.
3) Don’t get hung up on traditions or innovation. All you need to care about is effectiveness.

Here’s hoping The Study is a wild success!


It is such a fun new experience for me to watch a summer camp highlight video as a parent instead of a pastor! I usually watch the videos with a more critical eye, hoping that the tone of the video and choices made by the editor reflect camp in a positive way as the lead person responsible for the event. But it has been so fun this week watching them as a dad – looking for a glimpse of my kid! Man, I sure do love this new stage of ministry and life.


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5 keys for Training Adult Leaders

All around me, students are headed back to school. As school looms before us, so, too, does the start of fall programming. In my context, fall programming for students begins the day after Labor Day. Fall programming for adult leaders begins two weeks earlier.

We switched to this format several years ago. Prior to that, we claimed to value leader’s training.

After all, we wholeheartedly believe the best leaders are those who are equipped for the roles we’re asking them to fulfill.

Despite this stated value, at the time, leader’s training was happenstance. I’d occasionally throw out a date and say, “We need to do leader’s training.” If most leaders could attend, we’d move forward with it; If not, we’d continue searching for a date. Such a pattern left leaders ill-equipped for effective ministry and questioning whether or not we really valued them, their training, or even their service.

As a result, four years ago, we made significant changes to how we trained leaders.

1. We began including training as part of our recruitment spiel for new leaders. This clearly communicated training as a non-negotiable part of serving as a leader.

2. Making training non-negotiable for leaders forced us to schedule trainings in advance. We now approach each year with about six hour-and-a-half long trainings on the calendar. Leaders know these dates from day one.

3. Out of respect for our leaders, rather than ask them to give up more time for training, we instead hold it during the time they’re used to serving anyway. To facilitate this, we replace our normal youth ministry gathering with a movie or game night held at someone’s house. Parents then serve as the “adult leaders” for that night. This communicates how much we value training to both leaders and our youth ministry families. The more aware families have become of the extensive training leaders undergo in order to serve in our ministry, the more confident they’ve become in our ministry and it’s leadership.

4. We moved leader’s training from the church to my house. Doing so created a much more relaxed environment. Additionally, by holding training in my house, I essentially invited leaders into my life – powerfully showing them I value them both as friends and leaders.

5. We began serving dinner at each leader’s training. Throughout Scripture, fellowship happens around a table. Thus, we decided to experiment with serving a meal in order to more intentionally build community (and, on a more practical note, enable leaders to come straight from work to training). As leaders began sharing meals together, they also began sharing stories with one another. This enabled them to form relationships with one another, which they can now model for the students they serve. As an added bonus, genuine community with one another makes leaders much more likely to continue serving for the long-haul.

As a result of the aforementioned changes, leaders now know how much we value them. When we say they’re the backbone of our ministry, they know it’s true.

How do you communicate value to your leaders?



I Missed Youth Group This Week


I missed youth group this week. That’s right, I stayed home!

We had to call an audible this week which meant I wasn’t going to be able to make it to youth group because of my son’s 11th birthday party. All summer long we’ve been having a Midweek Bible study and music on Wednesday nights and because we are hosting a conference at our church this week we got bumped to make room for them. In order to make it work, we had to change nights. But that conflicted with a really important family night. What should I do?

I didn’t go! But it wasn’t an easy decision. Here’s why:

1) There is an emotional battle that rages when you have to choose between family and church. There is a frustration with you not being capable of doing everything and balancing everything perfectly. There is a pressure from the leadership that you need to be there and on point every week. There is a calling as a father (in my case) to love my kids and raise them to love Jesus and love the church. All of those forces and more pulling on me just because I’m going to skip youth group? Some of you feel me on this. #realtalk

2) This battle is fueled by your passion for students who you love like your own. Here’s why it is a struggle: You LOVE these students. You love them like they are your own kids! You weigh where they are at spiritually. You wonder if there is a message it is sending if you’re not there. You wonder if it will all fall apart if you’re not there to hold it all together.

3) When you’re not there it does send a message. I actually think it sends several messages – like “this youth group is bigger than me” and “family is important” and “you need to hear from a variety of voices” and “be a good dad” … in short, I like the message that me not being there sends.

I don’t know the right answer in every situation. I posted this poll last night and realize that sacrifice of some important things can be part of the calling. We haven’t been able to celebrate our anniversary on the actual date for several years. I’ve called my daughter from Africa on her birthday. I get it. Not sure I’ve always done it right … but I did it right last night …. and don’t be afraid to miss youth group sometimes.


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