Thank You Letter to You Own the Weekend Students

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

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

HSM students,

I couldn’t be more proud of you!

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

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

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

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

Love you guys SO much – have a great week!

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


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Saddleback HSM Weekend in Review: Volume 244


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

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

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

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

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

Up next: Easter Sunday (Worship Together Weekend)

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5 Minute Youth Ministry

Transitioning Seniors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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5 reasons to take the summer off

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

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

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

Here’s what I love about this format:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Free Student Leadership eBook from SLU


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

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

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


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GIVEAWAY: The All-New GroupGames App for iOS


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

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

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

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


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If You Are Doing Youth Ministry Alone

I Tweeted this the other day after a great discussion with another youth worker about the biggest learnings I had in my first few years of youth ministry. I’m not sure I would have articulated it this way back then, but feel this strongly and clearly about it today!

If you are doing youth ministry alone … you are bottlenecking your ministry.
If you are doing youth ministry alone … you will burnout.
If you are doing youth ministry alone … you are building a personality-driven ministry.
If you are doing youth ministry alone … you are missing developing other leaders.
If you are doing youth ministry alone … your ministry will collapse when you leave.
If you are doing youth ministry alone … you are doing youth ministry wrong.

Build your team this week!


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DYM Tax Week! Refunds Every Hour


Download Youth Ministry is giving away a ton of refunds this week – 1 every hour to be exact! Check out DYM’s Tax Week Refund Sale right here! This is going to be fun stock up and you just might get all of your cash right back! Orders are selected at random (using Ultrapicker, actually), so good luck!


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3 Ways You Can Serve Your Volunteers

He was hurting.  He didn’t want to let me down, but he knew his family needed him.  I told this volunteer that we would be fine if he needed a break.  As much as I wanted to keep him around I knew I needed to serve him.  He took the next two months off and came back with a stronger commitment.

If you want loyal and dedicated volunteers you need to serve them.  Without them you are limited with who you can reach.  Your volunteers enable you to extend your capacity.  If you love your volunteers you need to know how to serve them.  3 ways you can serve your volunteers is by:

  • Giving Them Permission To Rest: It’s easy to get sucked in and overwhelmed by a commitment.  Your volunteers might not want to let you down by asking for a break.  You know ministry is a long journey, make sure your volunteers know it’s okay to take a break.  Schedule in seasons of rest or create terms of service.  Help them last for the long run.
  • Rewarding Them For Their Sacrifice: Serve your volunteers by rewarding them.  When you point out the good that they are doing you’ll boost their confidence.  Confident volunteers become confident leaders.  Reward your leaders by giving them gift cards, send them thank you notes or just give them a shout out on Facebook.
  • Challenging Them In Their Discipleship: Your volunteers need to grow.  The more they grow in their relationship with Christ the better they can serve the next generation.  Your volunteers need to be growing disciples who are growing young disciples.  Encourage them to join a small group of their own or connect them with a devotional.  Empower them to continuously go deeper.

While your ministry is to teenagers, you need to make sure your volunteers are at the forefront of your attention.  They are more than people giving their time, they care about your vision and mission.  When you serve your volunteers they’ll know that you care them as people.

In what ways do you serve your volunteers?


Student-Led Small Group Bible Study

One of my favorite things I do with my small group at the end of every year is allowing them to take us through a study. I allow them to take the lead and come up with and lead a discussion based on whatever topic they feel the Lord is pressing on their hearts. They are not always the smoothest, they are not always the “greatest”, but they are a huge part of learning and leading.

I know there can be some things that happen when a student runs things, but I believe those are risks worth taking because of the following reasons:

They read the Bible- You don’t need to be in youth ministry long to know most teenagers struggle reading consistently. But some some reason when they are given a chance to lead a study, they dive deeper into the text than I ever did leading them. They know more about the passage than I do, and it sticks for them.

They wrestle with it- I know when they are asking questions, it is questions they are wrestling with themselves. This shows me what they are thinking while they were reading through it and they want their peers to wrestle with the same.

They are working out their theology- Is everything they say theologically sound? Not always. But that’s why you are there. To help guide the discussions. How are students supposed to work out their theology if we are the ones who are telling them what they should be thinking. Small groups are the place for these things to be worked out and discussed.

I get to meet with them- For every study, I get to meet with the student leading that week for a one-on-one session to go over what they have planned to share. This is where I can help them and speak into the lesson a little bit to help them develop where they want the group to go.

Students need to hear other voices - Again, we know when students hear from people other than you, they will remember it more. I don’t know how it works but it does. Especially when it’s from a peer.

Like I said, it’s one of my favorite things I get to do with my students. I get to see them grow in leadership and faith. It is pretty great. I am always surprised by how great they all turn out. Do you do anything similar with your small groups? Do you allow students to try and lead?

Take a look at some small group teaching outlines students/small group leaders can walk through different books of the Bible with.

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POLL: Taking the Summer Off

We were talking about crazy ideas a week ago as a team and someone came up with the idea that we take the whole summer off – and come back with a big launch in the fall. I have heard of youth ministries doing this in the past, and wondered what percentage actually do that. I’m not talking about changing it up a bit in the summer, I’m talking about largely taking most of the summer off. Vote now!


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Youth Group Idea: Sponsor the Local Sports Calendars


Money is always tight and precious youth group funds from car washes and bake sales need to be spent wisely. An idea we are experimenting with this season is sponsoring the local high school school sports calendars. Maybe contact your local high school and see if there’s a last minute spot or one they still need to fill you can get on the cheap! Simple way to get your ministry in front of students in the community.


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GUEST POST: Bossy Circumstances

Who knows that circumstances far too often try to boss you around and tell you how good or bad your day is going to go? Chances are, you know! Do you remember the dirt road my GPS took me down a few weeks back? Well! My GPS did it AGAIN! But this time instead of tensing up, I was praising Jesus the whole way down it. I had my worship music up, speaking out the promises of God and how good He is when, about a mile down the road, my car stopped in a pile of mud. All of a sudden, I had a choice here. I had a choice to cry out, “God, why me?!” Or a choice to continue speaking of His goodness.

I wholeheartedly chose to speak out His goodness, and allow His words to saturate the air. Shortly after, I called roadside assistance and told them I was on an abandoned dirt road, stuck in the mud, and an hour and a half after continually putting me on hold to answer another call and trying to locate me, she tells me my insurance only covers $120 of the tow and that it would cost more than that. Long story short, she did not send anyone out and my phone was about to die.

Still, here I was, speaking words of praise. Because God is bigger than any circumstance, He is in ultimate control. And that’s exactly what I confessed, even though this lady would not help me, I knew my God would. After being out there for 3 hours and no cars driving by, here comes a truck driving by! And you know what, he JUST picked up a tow rope from his house because his work van got stuck in the mud on another road nearby!

As easy as it would have been to MAKE a big deal out of this circumstance, it really WASN’T a big deal. It was only a minor setback, which turned into a crutch for the glory of God, that I had the privilege of experiencing. I call this a privilege because I was able to experience God’s mighty hand at work in other people’s lives, including my own, as I use this as a testimony of His sovereignty and goodness. Therefore, rest assured, God’s plan prevails. He is above ALL and will work all things together for the good.

This week, I challenge you to show your circumstances Who the boss really is! Our great God!

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

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Download Youth Ministry WebShow #242

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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Webshow Sponsor: Check out YM360′s FREE Easter Vault

Free Easter Bible Study Lessons, Student Devotions, and more!
Our friends and faithful DYM Webshow sponsor youthministry360 have just launched this year’s Easter Vault which includes an incredible selection of FREE Bible study lessons, devotions for your students, and more. To grab these FREE resources, head on over to YM360. And if for any reason you need help or have questions, their team is great about helping out, just let them know!

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