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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?

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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.

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Hey You! Promo Videos for Guys/Girls Trip

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


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POLL: When Does Your Youth Group Meet?

When does your youth group meet on a weekly basis? Talking to youth workers it is always interesting to hear when they meet in the larger group of students. Vote now!


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Titanic Dodgeball

Titanic Dodgeball

Looking for a fun game to play this summer? Well my friend Travis and I might have one for you!

We made up a game called, Titanic Dodgeball and it was SO MUCH FUN! It is perfect for any outdoor summer event!

Here is what you need:

-1 Inflatable pool (we used one that was 12 ft. wide)

-3 Yoga Balls

-1 Long Rope (we used a 40 ft. rope)

*Event Hack: If you don’t have a pump to fill your pool/yoga balls/etc., use a tire pump from your local gas station

Titanic Dodgeball 2

Here is how you play:

-Fill up your pool only about a foot or so and surround it by a rope (about 15 ft. from the pool).

- Create as many teams of 3 or 4 as you can. Have each of them come up with their team name (each team is a “ship” so we had all of their names start with “s.s.”).

-The game takes place in a series of 30 second “rounds.” In a round, one team gets into the pool and all of the other teams surround them behind the rope perimeter and try their best to throw the yoga balls (icebergs) and the team in the pool (the ship) and try to sink it (eliminate every player).

-A team can earn points in two ways: 1) If they hit one of the team members in the pool. 2) The team in the pool gets one point for every team member left after the 30 second timer runs out.

-If a member of the team in the pool gets hit, they must leave the pool and watch the destruction of their ship. However, if one of their team members catches a ball, they are allowed to return to the pool and rejoin their team.

-If someone in the pool catches a ball thrown at them, the person that threw it has to sit down and can not participate for the rest of the round.

-At the end of the round, write down the number of points earned by each team

-The game ends when every team has had a round in the pool.

-The winner will be the team with the most amount of points earned throughout the game!

Does your youth group have a classic game that they love? Please share it! We several park days on our calendar that could use some creative games!

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HSM Summer Camp Games: Ultimate Food


This week I’m posting some of our best games from summer camp – or students are SO into Color Wars / team rec games and it is so much fun. Some of the games I’ll list this week are regulars that are so fun we bring them back every year, and some are brand new … and yet to cause permanent injuries.

GAME 1: Slip-N-Slide Kickball
GAME 2: Battle Fort

GAME 3: Ultimate Food
Directions: Ultimate Frisbee with food instead of a Frisbee

  1. The goal of the game is to get the food item from one side of the field to the other, into your teams goal zone.
  2. One team will start with the food item and throw it to the team on the other side. The team who receives it, passes the food item from player to player to get to the other side of the field.
  3. Running with the food item in hand is not allowed – it must be passed from person to person until a completed catch in the scoring area.
  4. Recommended food items: a frozen pizza, a head of cabbage, squash, bag of peanuts or a whole trout

*To score, need to throw it to someone standing inside the end zone
*If someone drops or intercepts, it goes to the other team

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I Am Second Story

I’m sitting here at the Student Leadership Conference watching the I Am Second story video and loving the students in our ministry being challenged to share their story as well. Such good stuff, be sure to check out their site and youth ministry resources right here!


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4 Thoughts On Creating A Successful Small Group Ministry For Students

I have been chatting with quite a few people lately about small groups and how we do them. It really has got me thinking about how we do things and what really does make a successful small group ministry. When I took over small groups, it was an already thriving ministry and I have been trying not to sink it (HA!). But I have learned a few things about what needs there are to make a well ran small groups ministry for students.

  1. It takes time. Small groups are not a one-time, one-event type explosion of a ministry. Small groups deals with life change of students and this takes time. I know as a church, Saddleback is all about small groups. Everything revolves around them they have been doing them for 15+ years. It takes time and energy, so be patient, commit to a model and run with it.
  2. It takes personal commitment to create an authentic community. I know that as a student ministry we are doing well in small groups because the adults are doing well because our senior pastor is in full support of small groups. It’s the DNA of the church. I have talked to student pastors who’s senior pastors do not put a priority on small groups and it makes it a lot harder for successful student groups if it’s not a personal commitment from the upper leadership.
  3. It takes a decent budget. I know. This one is tough. But the saying, “Put your money where your mouth is” comes to mind. You can say all you want about small groups are important, but unless you put a budget to it for resources and leader care, it will be hard to move forward. One way we help with budgeting for them is we charge $35 for sign ups. It helps pays for resources for students throughout the year, leader trainings and resources and anything else for small groups. The only thing with this is, you only get the budget for however many sign up. I don’t know if this is the best way, but it works for us and allows me to have a budget to keep groups going throughout the year.
  4. Small groups need to be the end goal. Everything we do is to push students into small groups. All weekend services, all events, everything we do is to push students into small groups. We know that if a student ends in a group, the chance of them being discipled and experience life change goes up. It can be easy to think that if you have more things available you will get more people involved but sometimes it just makes it harder to choice which way to go. Having one, narrowed focus and end goal helps push students to be in one place and you can focus on making it awesome.


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HSM Summer Camp Games: Battle Fort


This week I’m posting some of our best games from summer camp – or students are SO into Color Wars / team rec games and it is so much fun. Some of the games I’ll list this week are regulars that are so fun we bring them back every year, and some are brand new … and yet to cause permanent injuries.

GAME 1: Slip-N-Slide Kickball

GAME 2: Battle Fort
Directions: Think Angry Birds + Dodgeball

  1. Each team gets 5 minutes to build their fort using all 30 cardboard boxes of various shapes and sizes. They must use all boxes.
  2. The team must build it within the fort boundaries, tapped on the floor or elevated off the ground.

Round 1

  1. A normal game of dodgeball will be played, but the teams must protect their box structure.
  2. The game is over once all the players from one team is out.
  3. The team left standing is awarded points, and the team with the most boxes standing also receives points.
  4. If everyone is not out by 5 minutes, the team with the most people left wins.

Round 2

  1. Each team gets to pick four people who do not get out when the ball hits them and are simply protectors of the fortress.
  2. This round, there is no catching allowed, if someone catches a ball, they are out.
  3. The same rules for dodgeball apply, if you get hit you’re out.
  4. The game ends after 5 minutes or once everyone is out.

Round 3

  1. There are no outs.
  2. Each team is allowed to pick 5 people who are allowed to stand still in front of the fort and block the balls.
  3. Everyone else on the team must be dodging and throwing balls.
  4. The game ends after 5 minutes

Each Round is 10 minutes: 5 minutes of fort building and 5 minutes of game time (if necessary)

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5 Reasons the Church Needs Youth Ministry

I really enjoyed this video from Youth Specialties President Mark Matlock talking about the church’s need for youth ministry. Some good stuff here to chew on for sure!


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Advice To The Newly Married In YM


The conversation still lingers in my heart. John and I were “getting serious.”   That’s when I got offered a job as a full-time, paid youth worker.   Up until this point I had been either bi-vocational or a volunteer. I vividly recall telling him why I couldn’t “take the job.” It was 60 hours a week at least and there was no way that would be good for us when we became newlyweds.   Yet, after praying and seeking the Lord (separate and together), it was clear that this was Christ’s plan, for us.   My world became immersed in youth, and I got “paid” to do it. As a dating couple it wasn’t that hard to navigate. Then we got married. That first year in marriage we learned a lot about what it means to be married and to be a youth person.

You are both “called.”

I highly recommend having an honest heart to heart about this before the wedding bells ever ring. Yet, if you have already “said the vows,” you need to sit and talk this concept through.   I am not suggesting that the church got a “two for the price of one,” deal.   You will need to figure out how you will each serve and support the other in the actual day-to-day tasks of “ministry.” Instead, this is a philosophical view.   When you do not have a heart that is united in backing the “calling” a rift happens in your marriage. It does not belong to one or the other of you, because ministry is never just a “job.”

Learn to communicate

A mentor told me once, “Communication is not what you say, it’s what the other person hears.”   I repeat this often to others.   This means that you as a couple need to make sure that you are learning to communicate about everything from boundaries, to schedules, to vision for your lives.   Make time DAILY to communicate with each other face to face.   Sit and really talk about everything, make sure the other person is hearing you. Make sure you are listening to what your spouse is saying. This does not mean merely sharing, facts, but ensuring there is mutual understanding and investment.

Make Jesus the Center.

Of what you ask? Yes. Is the answer.   Be intentional to take the time to make Christ the focus of your personal life. Then make sure you are taking the time intentionally make him the center of your marriage. Then make sure he is the center of your ministry.   Before anything you “do,” your relationship is most important.  We all “mean well,” to not be too busy or distracted. However, Satan wants to render us ineffective.   He wants to devour our marriage and us.   Individually and together take the time to pray, read the Word and worship. Do these things daily, make it part of your “schedule.” Building your marriage on the rock and keeping it there, is what gets us through the storms of life.

Most importantly, don’t ever forget to enjoy each other! The Lord gave you a traveling companion on this narrow road with him.   The road is rarely easy. However, it is a joy to have someone to share it with. Learn each other, take time to foster this relationship (deliberately) and just fall deeper in love every day. You stood in front of each other on that wedding day and thought, “How could I possibly love them more?” Then with each passing year you get to turn around and watch it grow deeper and richer.   This is regardless of your “ministry status.”

Any other advice to the newly marrieds  out there?

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HSM Summer Camp Games: Slip-N-Slide Kickball


This week I’m going to post some of our best games from summer camp – or students are SO into Color Wars / team rec games and it is so much fun. Some of the games I’ll list this week are regulars that are so fun we bring them back every year, and some are brand new … and yet to cause permanent injuries.

Slip- Ball 
Directions: (It’s a game of kickball on a slip and slide)

Place a GIANT plastic tarp on the ground. Find the biggest one you can find then find something twice as big. Or connect 3-4 of them together. This needs to be over the top. Place mini inflatable pools for bases and fill them with water. Cover it all in a thick layer of baby oil and water and go nuts. The ball should be some sort of inflatable ball, have several handy since a swift kick will pop it altogether.

  1. One team is in the outfield and one team is up to kick.
  2. Have the pitcher roll the ball and the kicker kick.
  3. If the person up to kick kicks the ball, they should start running the bases.
  4. If the ball is caught the kicker is out.
  5. The team in the outfield must get the ball and have 10 teammates line up behind them to get the person out.
  6. The kicker continues to run the bases until they reach home. If they reach home before the other team lines up then their team gets one point. If the other team gets lined up before the kicker reaches home, then the kicker is out. Alternate method:
  7. Continue this cycle until there are five outs then switch sides.
  8. Continue until people are sick of the game or there have been too many concussions.

Have fun with this one!

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Download Youth Ministry WebShow #246

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, Josh Griffin, Matt McGill & special guest Jessica Torres around our roundtable. Doug is out of town this week!

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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Permission to be you

During a recent mission trip, I asked various leaders to share their faith stories with everyone.

The first night, our youngest adult leader, who graduated from college just a few short weeks ago, shared hers. Without a doubt, it was powerful – filled with the kind of experiences you’d expect of a twenty-something-year-old, yet relatable to high school students and full of Jesus.

Shortly afterward, one of my student leaders approached me. She was scheduled to give her testimony the next night and wanted to talk about it. I assumed this young leader – a soon to be high school sophomore – simply needed some last-minute encouragement about the testimony she’d written and prepared to give.

Instead, it quickly became clear to me that this student leader was actually panicking over her testimony. After hearing the first leader’s testimony, she’d convinced herself that hers wasn’t good enough. It didn’t feel like the other leader’s did, nor did it have the same format. Not to mention, according to her, the other leader’s stories were far more powerful than hers.

In that moment, it was clear this student leader was playing – and losing – the comparison game with this other leader.

So I did my best to calm her down. I then reminded her of the time and effort she’d put into preparing her testimony, forbade her from making any last minute changes to it, and asked her to trust that God would use her words in the lives of others.

Despite my words, she proceeded to argue with me, insisting she should change hers to better reflect the format used by the other leader.

To this I finally said, “I don’t need you to be HER. I need you to be YOU.”

Upon hearing that, my student leader promptly burst into tears, saying, “Thank you. That’s exactly what I needed to hear.”

As it turns out, what this student needed wasn’t just encouragement, it was permission to be herself and to tell her faith story in a way that uniquely reflected her personality.

Like this student leader, I wonder how many of our other students regularly play – and lose – the comparison game with others?

This week, how can you give students in your ministry permission to stop trying to live someone else’s faith journey and to instead, follow Jesus in their own unique way?

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Leaps Vs. Steps: Getting Them There

What is the opposite of faith?

It’s a question that deserves to be pondered and I have been thinking about it a lot. I would have to say the answer would be:


If you can see something, you don’t need to have faith to know it’s there. When something is not right in front of you but someone tells you it’s there up ahead, you need faith in them because you can’t see it. So the opposite of faith, I would say, is sight.

There is a difference between having faith your ministry will get to a certain point and actually helping your ministry get there. We can have all the vision in the world for where we want our ministries to go but if we don’t have practical steps to get there we will never reach it. As pastors we love to take leaps of faith. The student’s in our ministries are sometimes not ready, mature, willing to take a leap of faith because they don’t know how or because they are afraid. So it’s our responsibility to show steps to how to get where we want them to go.

So a standard goal I’m sure we want to see is for all of our students reach is to be a fully developed follower of Jesus (This is just general to get my point across but I’m sure no one can argue this is something we want to see in student’s lives). We can have all the faith and vision in the world but unless we have tangible steps for students to take to get there, it will never happen. They just don’t leap to this point in their spirituality.

So what would this be? If the goal is a fully developed follower of Jesus, what would be some practical steps in your ministry be to help get them there? They are not going to make the leap to this point but they will take easy, tangible steps.

  • They need to read Scripture. Great. Very important. Do you have a place where they can be taught how to study the Bible? A Sunday school? A small group? A resource? Or do you just say read the Bible?
  • Accountability. It’s a big deal. Do they know HOW to get it and WHY they need to have this in their life? Do you have something they can receive this in their lives?
  • Quiet times. Awesome! Just saying it is not enough. Many students don’t know how to even go about how to read the Bible and have a quiet time and pray to God. Do we just assume they know what we say when we say, “Quiet time”?
  • Sharing the Gospel. Amazing. It’s a big deal. But are we just saying, “Ok, now go out and tell your friends about Jesus” or are there ways in which we can help them take the necessary steps to get to the point where they can confidently be able to articulate the Gospel to their friends? A curriculum? Class? Book? What?

See the difference? Having vision and faith is a huge part of ministry. Without God and the Holy Spirit moving in our lives and ministries we would have nothing. But in order to get students to go from here to there, we need to make sure they are not leaping into an abyss of confusion but stepping towards a firm foundation in their faith. They will hesitate at a huge leap but they will take a simple, tangible step.

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