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Tag Archives | programming

Box of Lies

Box of Lies

Let’s face it, Jimmy Fallon is one of the best youth pastors that never was. This guy is brilliant. If you are looking for a great game for your youth group, look no further than his show.

A few weeks ago, we played one of his games called, Box of Lies and it killed! Our students had so much fun with it! It is such a fun and memorable game… perfect for any “big” service (a Fall Kick-Off, a Promotion Week, etc.).

Here is a video of Jimmy playing the game with Kate Hudson:

To play this, you need to have a killer host… or a least someone who will have a ton of fun with it! It is a great opportunity for you (or a volunteer) to show off your personality and make memories with your group. In order to make it just a little more engaging for the audience, we didn’t show them what the object was inside, so that they could be guessing too.

A few of the objects that we did were:

-Barbie leg in a mousetrap

-Bedazzled Goldfish carton

-Live Lizard

-Sandwich with wet cat food in the middle

-Turkey baster filled with pictures of Justin Bieber

Have you played a Jimmy Fallon game? Which one did you do?

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How to kill sacred cows

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

Every ministry has a sacred cow.

Sometimes sacred cows need to die.

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

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

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

2. Individually examine the questionable program’s…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So after much prayer and discernment, we killed it.

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

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

After all, in Christianity, life comes from death.

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



Summer 2014 Mix

Summer Mix

Summer is right around the corner, which means teenagers across the nation are putting together their summer playlists. Our ministry has put our own summer mix together and we use it as our pre-service music (you can follow the playlist here).

If you aren’t using Spotify, I would highly recommend that you get an account. We use it at everything we do. While Pandora is a good alternative, we love the freedom Spotify gives us to choose exactly which songs we want played. And, since it is a profile based program, Spotify is a fun way to connect with students by seeing what music they are listening to and sharing bands and songs! So fun!

Has your ministry put together a summer playlist? Share a link below!

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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4 Things A Good Emcee Must Know

Stage presence isn’t natural – some people are so good at it you might be tempted to think so, but it is enormous work and countless hours of practice fools you into thinking either you have it or you don’t. Sure, some people’s gifting makes it easier than others, but it is work for everyone. Here are some principles of basic good stage presence and this is what we came up with:

Know the steps onto the stage. Know where you should stand, where the lighting is best and know the front edge of the stage. Make a mental note of any unusual parts of the stage and get an idea of your “sweet spot” where you’ll spend most of your time. It is also a good idea to walk the stage beforehand with lights fully up, so you get an idea of your crowd blindness. Often times people on a stage for the first time are thrown by the strength of the lights in their eyes and are tempted to cover their eyes. Never talk about the lights or the sound – fight your instincts to shade your eyes or talk randomly off-topic.

Be sure you hold the microphone up to your mouth – people that aren’t used to the stage tend to make the common mistake of holding the microphone away from their mouth. Make sure the microphone is right up near your mouth, rest it on your chin if you have to. If your hands are filled with stuff, that stuff will temp you to move the microphone around too much. Either memorize what is on the cue card or put it on a music stand in front of you. When you ask someone on stage a question, remember to hold the microphone up to their mouth, too. Typically by this point in the service, even a rookie emcee has figure out they need to hold the mic up to their own mouth, but too often forget to help the crowd hear the other person on stage, too.

Someone has trusted you with the entire stage – and remember that everything is the message, not just the message so what you’re doing is very important. You now control the room – you are there to build energy in the room and excitement toward the next element, you’re there to bring the crowd down to what’s next, or you’re introducing something. Either way, you’re not the star of the show, you are driving the vehicle with passengers are what people want to see. Know what you’re there to do and get off stage!


If you’ve got an opening line/bit/joke it will really help get you started on the right foot. Equally important, a great run on stage ends with a fizzle if you’re not sure how to end it all. If you’re throwing to video – sell it. If you’re introing a person, make the transition obvious. However you come in or leave the stage – make sure you have a plan.

Anything you would add to this list of basics?


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How to Teach When You Want to Scream


I will be the first to admit that I struggle with patience. As a leader, it is one of the biggest qualities that I pray for. Most of the time, I can bite my tongue and be a good sport, but when someone causes a big problem at an event I am running or with a project I’m in charge of, I’m not always at my best, to say the least.

In order to tame myself and help build people up, I have trained myself to take a deep breath and ask two questions before I confront people that have made a mistake:

Is it worth being said?

Are you confronting this person because you can use it as a teaching opportunity, or do you just want to “let them have it?” Unfortunately, many of us tend to identify with the latter. I mean, it feels good, right? It helps us feel like there is a little bit of justice. We think, “They totally deserve it.” But where is the grace in that? Why are we forgetting that we are capable of mistakes as well? Most of the time, the person knows they made a mistake and us coming up to remind them of that won’t make it better. Don’t confront unless you have an opportunity to teach someone or to help him or her grow.

How am I going to say it?

The first question doesn’t mean anything unless you have the tone to match. One time, one of the team members that runs our computer graphics accidentally deleted the teaching video from our computer. We had to improvise and had almost a minute of “dead time” where nothing was happening on stage. It was ROUGH. After the service, I knew that this was a teaching opportunity and that a conversation was needed. But my tone did not back up my intention. I used phrases like, “How did this even happen?” and “Why didn’t you check the playlist before service even started?” I hurt her feelings and made her feel totally dumb. As soon as I left, I knew I needed to apologize. It was a wasted opportunity to improve her as a team member and encourage her at a time when she didn’t feel great about herself.  The way you say it is radically important.

Surely I’m not the only one who has struggled with this. Spend some time to reflect on how you handle those situations. Do you show grace?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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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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Switch 4-Week Series Arc

HSM is going to take students on a 4-week journey through some classic and not so classic Old Testament Bible character stories this summer. In each of these stories, the lead figure in the story has a major turning point, a “switch” that takes them on an incredible journey of faith. Students will walk away with a firm understanding of each of these key biblical events as well as learn transferrable principles for their own life. Here’s the series arc where we’re headed:

This is the fist week of the series, so we want to set the stage for the concept of a tuning point or a “switch” where something big happens and changes everything. We’ll look at a couple movies and cultural moments where the “switch” happened and also study the life of the minor prophet Hosea. Students will learn about the unfaithfulness and sin of the people. They’ll also learn about the “switch” moment where Hosea married a prostitute to full understand the depth of unfaithfulness and ultimately forgiveness and love.

King Josiah
Students will learn about the wicked King Amon and his blatant disregard for the temple and following God’s way. They will also learn about the good King Josiah, who had a “switch” moment where he discovered an abscure and forgotten book called The Bible and how he fearlessly led his people to faithfully follow God’s ways once again. Josiah wasn’t afraid to call out sin and challenge others to a life of repentance.

Students will learn fully about the story of Jonah and the Whale. The focus of the teaching will revolve around the “switch” moment where he moved from disobedience from God’s way and how a few days in the whale changed everything. Jonah is a powerful model of listening to God, repentance, forgiveness, doubt and the power of changed lives that result when we faithfully follow his paths.

Moses is one of the central characters early in the Old Testament. During this talk we will focus on his inadequacies and worry about leading the people of Israel, and his “switch” moment at the burning bush where he turned into an epic leader who would set the chosen people of Israel free.

Excited about this one!


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Comedy… Where is “The Line?”


“The line” is such an important thing to keep in mind. Comedy has gotten darker and more risky over the last few years which means that many youth pastors have an ongoing question in their minds, “How can I stay relevant without crossing the line?” I’ve had a ton of friends forget to ask themselves that question and ultimately, it cost many of them their jobs. It’s hard to say specifically, “This is where the line is,” because it changes from church to church. But as you think about where yours is, keep these things in mind:

Use your head. If you have to ask yourself, “Is this crossing the line?” then  it probably is. If you know that you don’t have the best judgment, then make sure you ask someone you trust before you show a controversial video or post a questionable graphic.

Be sensitive. NEVER make any jokes about rape, disabilities, depression, homosexuality, abuse, etc. Your jokes can easily alienate you from a student struggling with very real and tough things. There is no way that a student wants to talk to you about struggling with same-sex attraction when you just made a joke about gay people.

Know your church. Sometimes, the things students find funny and the things that the elders and parents at your church find funny don’t line up. While it can be a pain when we think that some of the people at your church “don’t get youth ministry,” really try to pick your battles. Is your joke worth the parent phone call or the stern meeting with your senior pastor?

What tips would you suggest?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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The Perfect Order of Service

Perfect Order

I think the template for the perfect universal order of service doesn’t exist. I do believe that the perfect order does exist on a case-by-case basis. Sure there are similarities in the order in which our ministry does things, but we like to see every program like it is its own monster. We first write out every element that we want to include in the service and then we put it together. Our average service contains these elements: a message, a funny video, an announcement video, an opening song, 1 minute meet and greet, worship songs, a game, and a welcome/announcements.

This is the order that we would most likely put it in:

Opening Song (cover of a popular song or song that relates to the message)

Funny Video (either one we made or one we ripped from YouTube)

Welcome/Announcements (2-3 announcements max/sometimes done through video)

Announcement Video


1 Minute Meet and Greet

2 Worship Songs (usually these are fast and fun)


2 Worship Songs (slower and more reflective/Pray and dismiss)

That is our basic order or service. When putting our order together we always keep a few things in mind:

Transitions. You always want to try to avoid any awkwardness during your services. Some of the most uncomfortable moments are when you are getting to the next element, like switching from band to announcements or announcements to game. We use program elements to serve as natural transitions. For example, we use the videos as time to switch people and sets on and off stage, same for the Meet and Greet. Bad transitions also happen when you make a sudden change in energy. Try to avoid going from a high energy moment right into a serious one. Ease it in.

Timing. Is it too long? Too short? Always plan out roughly how long your service will be. We are usually generous with our estimations because things usually take up more time than we originally thought. But stay somewhat true to your timetable. You never want your service to drag, so remind the people involved to keep it interesting but tight.

Risks. Every innovative idea started with a risk. If we aren’t taking programming risks, we’ve settled. If you do the same order every time, your students will get bored and you will too. If you aren’t inspired by your program, they won’t be either.

Mix it up, have fun, keep it tight!

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Great Youth Group Game: Egg Roulette

This week we played one of our favorite summer camp games at our youth group. It was so great – if you haven’t seen Egg Roulette, yet, watch this fun clip from host Jimmy Fallon and celebrity guest Tom Cruise. Makes for a great youth group game … but be careful to turn the egg correctly so it breaks easily because the other way will give you a knot on your forehead … just ask my friend Justin Knowles. Ouch!


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First 2 Years: 3 (More) Onstage Rules

Onstage Rules

A few months ago, I wrote a post on 5 “rules” for being onstage and I thought I had to give it an update.

Have Fun. Having fun isn’t something that you do just for you, but for the audience as well. If you’re not having fun, they aren’t having fun. Sometimes I think we focus way too much on trying to be funny when we need to be focusing far more on having fun. When you play games, keep in mind that you are creating memories with your youth group. Laugh with each other. Don’t freak out when things don’t go as planned. Turn those mistakes into moments. Laugh at yourself, laugh at the hiccups, and just have a great time.

Timing is Huge. When you are onstage, you have to be paying attention to the clock. I think we will agree that we would never want our stage time to “drag” or be boring. A great way to avoid that is to time things out. Always look out for ways to “tighten up” your time by cutting out unnecessary sentences and filler talk. Have a rough idea of how long the segments of your stage spot should take. For example, if you’re doing 3 announcements at the open of service, know roughly how long each will take. (Note: Unless we have a video to go along with it, a single announcement for us rarely lasts more than 30 seconds). For things like games, always be thinking about pacing–never spend too much time on any one part (explaining rules, intro-ing contestants, etc.). When in doubt, feel it out. Feel the mood of the room, if you feel like you are losing them, wrap it up!

Be Mindful of Your Body (Follow-Up). Look out for your nervous body habits. Everyone does something without thinking about it. A lot of people do “pretzel feet,” which happens when they cross their legs while standing. Do what you can to prevent any distracting body movements. For example, if you are sitting on a stool for something, make sure it isn’t a spinning stool. It is incredibly tempting to move back and forth and spin on something like that. Those body habits seem harmless, but they can be distracting and keep us from fully engaging. Be aware of what you are doing. If you don’t know what “your thing” is, ask a friend after you get off stage or even ask someone to record you.

What are some things you would add to the list?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

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Saddleback HSM Weekend In Review: Volume 232

WelcomeWeekend Teaching Series: Fact or Fiction? (Series Finale, Week 3)

Sermon in a Sentence: Is Christianity the only way?

Service Length: 76 minutes

Understandable Message: We closed our series off by having Brett Kunkle speak to our students about salvation. Like always, he was incredible! He equipped our students with valuable knowledge, resources, and tips on how to have productive conversations with classmates, parents, and others that don’t share the same beliefs about salvation. He had a perfect combination of logic and heart. Loved it!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We continued our series of videos that highlights volunteers in our ministry. For this weekend, we featured one of our awesome small group leaders, Cory. We had a whole bit about him building an IKEA shelf—he was hilarious!

Music Playlist: Let It Be Known, Tear Down the Walls, and How He Loves

Favorite Moment: To raise awareness for World AIDS Day, we showed a quick informational video. The cool thing was that the video featured Kay Warren explaining our church’s heart behind serving those with HIV/AIDS. It was so great to see “Big Church” make a video just for student ministries. I loved that our students got to hear directly from our pastor’s wife!

Up next: Armed and Dangerous (One-Off)

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GUEST POST: Evaluation & Change Bring Clarity

I’m a fan of Strength Finder tests.  I don’t think they are the most comprehensive approach to who we are as leaders but every time I’ve take one it’s unique to see what stands out.  One of those traits has always been a learner.  I like to learn, process & apply ideas and strategies.  As with youth ministry we as youth workers have a great setting that allows us to test a lot of different strategies and implement what’ll work the best for our unique setting, church setting & micro-culture of students.

A truth is when we implement something it is usually because something else wasn’t working.  I know for me there are times where removing or altering with an aspect of a program be it large group, small groups, specific events, leadership development or anything else.  If I’m able to see it at a deeper level I need to see if the Gospel is really the foundation it moves out of.

I’ll confess that I find it easy for myself as a youth worker to think strategy & implementation of ideas and forget that when we cast a net too wide trying to tackle to many things we are not able to always keep a clear communication as to how the Gospel bleeds out of what we are doing.

A simple question we ask student leaders & adult leaders is “How does this [program element] reflect the Gospel clearly?”.  It’s interesting to always here the feedback as well as the discussion that follows as these become prime team collaboration time to be sure the main thing stays the main thing.

There is also a deeper truth that is revealed in these moments about my role & leadership.  If people are unclear as to why a certain program element matters and how it helps us further a gospel living mindset in students then I’ve done a poor job communicating and leading that fact.

What if you dug into a variety of ministry components in your ministry?  Would you see the gospel as a foundation or a sidepiece?  When was the last time you asked key leaders to help you evaluate part of the ministry using the filter of “How is the Gospel reflected clearly for students in this?”.

Danny Bowers oversees the student ministries at Mission Hills Church in Mission Viejo, California. Follow his blog and catch up with his Tweets, too.

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True Move Video

Taught on the Good Samaritan this past weekend, wish I had found this video before the talk! Great piece about helping others and how those that have been forgiven much, forgive much. From the same director who gave us Silence of Love, too. Wow.


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Is It Really in the Bible? Youth Group Game


I’m pumped to point you toward a GREAT game that I’ve seen work multiple times and continues to get strong reviews. It is called, “Is it Really in the Bible” and you’ve got to play it with your students! You can check out Volume 1 and Volume 2 in the DYM Games category today!

Think you know your Bible? We’ll show you a quote, and you have to decide if it’s from the Word of God or not! Sound easy? Think again! We’ve selected some of the most contemporary, outlandish, and mystifying quotes you would swear (although let your yes be yes and your no be no) are in the Bible or that there is NO way they are!

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