Youth Specialties Blog

Change It Up

By Josh Griffin on April 14 2014 | 0 Comments

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time, whether it’s in our personal lives or our ministry lives. When you’re feeling like you’re stuck, check out these suggestions to change it up and get back on the right track—with some serious traction!

Change up the order of service

Always do the same thing at youth group? Change it up! Try the message first, or songs at the beginning or end of the program. Keep students on their toes—making them guess just a little bit will keep it fresh AND help jump you out of a programming rut!

Change up where you do sermon preparation

Always follow the same routine when you write your talk? Change it up! A change in scenery can give you a burst of creativity and a fresh energy as you prepare your message. Consider a different coffee shop, or a place with some natural beauty.

Change up how you do your personal devotions

Often, my walk with Jesus can get into a rut. So change it up! You might be surprised at how a new devotional book can invigorate time with God. Combine this with a new location and you’re really in for a fresh perspective!

Change up your teaching

Do you speak most of the time? What if you asked one of your key volunteers to teach this week, or (gasp!) the senior pastor to take a series? What if you used some fresh voices, like a panel, or parents, or a series of shorter talks instead of one longer one?

Josh Griffin is the high school pastor at Saddleback Church and co-founded Download Youth Ministry with friends Matt McGill and Doug Fields. Use the promo code letitgo for 10% off your order this month!

By Josh Griffin on April 14 2014 | 0 Comments

Your Job Is To Care, Not Fix

By Jacob Eckeberger on April 14 2014 | 0 Comments

When I was in high school, my Mom was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. In a matter of hours after the diagnosis, our family life plunged into a whirlwind of hospital visits and church prayer sessions. I still remember one specific night while my brother and I were praying with my mom in her bedroom that I became overwhelmed with feelings of confusion, frustration, anger, and helplessness. Those feelings seemed to come from every corner of my mind and consumed my thoughts.  
After that night, several people in my life took notice of the change in my spirit. In an effort to “fix” me, well-intentioned friends and family lined up with an arsenal of encouraging Bible verses. They would swoop into my life for a moment, drop a verse that they believed would fix me, stay just long enough for it to be awkward and then move on. But none of it worked. My spirit was never fixed and it actually did more harm than good.
Looking back, I realize that what I desperately needed was someone who would truly care for me. I mean care in the way that James 1:27 describes true religion as “visiting orphans and widows in their affliction.” True care for someone in the midst of an affliction requires you to sit with them in the middle of their pain, even when you can’t do or say anything to fix it.
In Out of Solitude, Henri Nouwen describes caring for someone as “the participation in the pain, the solidarity in suffering, the sharing in the experience of brokenness.”
People wanted to fix me by dropping their Bible verses into my life, lighting the fuse and running, hoping that the Spirit would allow the ignition at the proper time. But they never stayed long enough to care for me.
Nouwen goes on to say that “[to fix] without care is as dehumanizing as a gift given with a cold heart.”
I didn’t need Bible verses dive-bombed into my life from people passing by. I needed someone who would be with me in the awkwardness of my mom’s hospital visits, in the anxious searching for hope, and in the angry moments of questioning God.
That’s where you can come in. No matter where you are on the spectrum from youth pastor to youth worker, you have a responsibility to sit with students in the awkward and painful parts of life, especially when you can’t fix it. Wade into the suffering with them. Fight the urge to fix their pain and choose instead to truly care for them. After all, only the Creator of all good things can make all things new, even our suffering.


Jacob Eckeberger is the content and community manager at, an itinerant worship leader, the husband of a church planter, and a long time volunteer youth worker. Follow him @jacobeck.

By Jacob Eckeberger on April 14 2014 | 0 Comments

Trending Links: The Walking Dead, Social Media and Easter, The Top 300 Christian Ministry Blogs

By Youth Specialties on April 08 2014 | 0 Comments

This week in Trending Links, we focus your attention to a website called, The Walking Dead Gospel. We also point out a blog post from an attendee of YS Team Training, take a look at church social media and Easter, and the top 300 Christian Ministry Blogs.

Church Social Media After Easter

We all know that the Easter season is one of the busiest times of the year for new attendees to our churches. However, have you thought about how you and your ministry will use social media to connect with all of those new people, or how you will use social media to reach out to those in your community who may be looking for a place to attend this Easter? Josh Burns gives some great thoughts on a social media plan, as well as offers a free download for an outlined social media plan.


It's all the latest rage since the introduction of Twilight to our youth culture: zombies and vampires. It's carried across the major motion picture screen to the smaller (sometimes) screens in our own homes. Join Jonathan McKee as he follows along with the hit series, The Walking Dead, and provides discussion guides for each season and episode. These are a great resource for parents, your volunteers, or yourself if you want to know more about what the show is all about, and why today's teens are captivated by it.


Highlights of YS Team Training

Justin Knowles, High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA,  joined YS for Team Training in Chicago a few weeks back, and posted a simple reflection on his experience. Have you joined us for YS Team Training yet? Join the conversation with Justin, or bring your team to join us for training.



Top 300 Christian Blogs for Ministry // 11th Edition

"There are thousands of ministry blogs to read, but do you ever wonder which ones everyone else is reading? I do, which is why I have compiled a list of the world’s most read Christian faith blogs.

Keep in mind, this list isn’t an endorsement of the blogs but rather an objective list. There is a broad scope of perspectives included, so be spiritually discerning about what you read and compare it against what the Bible says..."


By Youth Specialties on April 08 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab - Charles Lee: Creating Innovative Cultures and Idea-Making

By Youth Specialties on April 08 2014 | 1 Comments

What is it that holds us back the most from turning our ideas into reality? Join Charles Lee as he talks through useful habits, practices, and tips for doing the hard work of seeing our wild ideas come to life.

Do you have any tips on how to make your ideas come to life? Head over to YouTube and post your comments there, or feel free to head to Twitter and post your thoughts there. Remember to use the hashtag, #YSIdeaLab so we can join in the conversation together.

By Youth Specialties on April 08 2014 | 1 Comments

6 Pointers To Get Your Ministry Promotion Week Right

By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 1 Comments

A well thought-out transition plan for students from children’s or junior high ministry into junior high or high school ministry is crucial for your program’s health. The time for that transition can sneak up on us and sometimes we miss a key opportunity to get those students plugged in from the very beginning. Below are some key initiatives that have helped me get promotion week right—and I think they can help you too. 

1. Start early.

I’ve experienced both years where I have done this right and years where I have let this slide. This year, I’m trying to get an earlier start than usual to make sure that the students coming into my junior high and high school ministries know who and what they’re walking into before they ever set foot in our building.

2. Make a visit (or two).

Take 10 minutes on a Sunday or Wednesday and walk over to your children’s or junior high ministry to meet some of the students who will be transitioning into your program. I try to do this once or twice in the months leading up to “Promotion Sunday.” It helps me to start to get to know the students and allows my face to become familiar to them. Sometimes I even invite a current student or two of mine to come with me.

3. Plan a “get to know you” event.

Our children’s director and I are planning a bowling night next month for fifth graders. I’m going to bring some of our core students and volunteers along with me to get to know the students. We hope to do this at least two times before Promotion Sunday.

4. Guest teach, host, or run a game.

Obviously, there are a lot of different models of ministries around the country so this may look different at your church, but see if you can get some “stage” time in the ministry your students transition from to let the students see you in action. Do a guest talk, host a panel of your students talking about what the next program is like, or run an ice-breaking game.

5. Host a parent meeting.

Hosting an informational parent meeting a few weeks before the transition can ease a parent’s worries and answer a lot of questions they may have about you and your ministry. Tell them what you do, how you do it, and why you do it the way you do it. Leave time for questions and make sure you stick around to shake hands afterwards. Heck, maybe even throw in a summer camp promotion somewhere in there!

6. Take their pictures.

For years now, I’ve set a photo booth up for new students who come into the ministries I work in (a trick I learned from the great Scott Rubin). We make it look like a mug shot because it’s silly and ironic, but the idea behind it all is so that I can make flash cards for my staff and I to remember students’ names. I set up a booth so that it feels less creepy for new students walking in. Sometimes I even let volunteer students take the pictures so there’s not some weird adult that they barely know taking pictures of them. It works really well because it helps me connect with students immediately and gives me the resource I need to build relationships later.


Getting this transition right is so important for our ministries. We all remember what it felt like to walk into something new when we were that age, so let’s try to ease that awkwardness the best we can. Then our students will feel like they belong before they even walk in our doors.

Do you have any tried and true tips for making such a big transition easier for students? Share them with us!

Wes Wilson is the director of student ministries at Willow Creek Community Church's DuPage Campus. He's also the creator of “Games: Video Edition.” Check it out here. Follow him at @wesmwilson.

By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 1 Comments

Trending Links: More On Selfies, Don’t Mock The Megachurch, Chasing Elvis, Noah

By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 0 Comments

In this week's trending links, are talking more about the selfie pandemic, why we shouldn't mock the megachurch, chasing Elvis, looking at the new movie Noah, and letting you know about a new iPhone app that will help create worship graphics for you.

She's Not A Megachurch. She's My Sister.

We all hear it, the constant debate back and forth of the value of the Megachurch. To some, they are the next best thing after Grace itself, but to others, they are the biggest threat we've ever experience in ministry. Regardless of your opinion of them, the big churches exist. What we need to do as youth workers and ministers is to do our part to understand them and their role in the Kingdom. Author Shauna Niequist rcently wrote a great post on her experience with the Megachurch.



Movie Review: Noah

Our good friend Brian Berry, took to the theatres with some friends this past week to catch a glimpse at the new movie, Noah. Last week, we highlighted a movie review on Divergent, and thought we'd keep the theme going with new one.

Brian - a fantastic youth worker in California gives us a great perspective on why we should see the movie, even if it's not 100% Biblically accurate.





NEW APP: Shift Media Creator

"You could keep finding worship media the way you’ve always done it. Search. Sort. Search some more.

Or you could use that powerful, high-end camera you’ve got in your pocket to shoot exactly the image you want, quickly and easily make it exactly the right size - and make it gorgeous - before sending it straight to your ShiftWorship account to download into your software.

It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s fun. And it puts all the creative power right in your hands. Worship media will never be the same."



Our YS Team Leader, Mark Matlock, recently wrote a post for YouthWorker magazine in which he reflects back on his own personal faith journey and battling the changing cultures. Take a read on Mark's perspective as he takes a few moments to reflect back on his journey, and shares with us the experience he had with a chasing Elvis.



Young People and Selfies

Jonathan McKee is one of these guys who just has a tremendous understanding of teen culture, and can frame things so well for us youth workers. As a father of three of his own teenagers – he get's it.

Selfies, or a picture of yourself posted on the interwebs, have become the latest and greatest craze in pop culture tp the point that our pop culture "icons" and "role models" are jumping on board and taking things even further.

Take a read on Jonathan's read on what this Selfie thing is really all about.


By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab - Tim Eldred: Student Ownership of Ministry

By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 2 Comments

What would it look like for students to own their own youth ministry? Tim Eldred offers some inspiring and challenging thoughts on the implications, risks, and rewards of seeking out students' gifts and interests and then empowering and allowing them to shape the ministry themselves.

By Youth Specialties on April 01 2014 | 2 Comments

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