Youth Specialties Blog

This Week’s Trending Links

By Jacob Eckeberger on April 17 2014 | 0 Comments




Here are some of our favorite trending links from across the web this week. We look at some incredible Holy Week videos as well as links to articles on 7 dangerous apps, the truth about teens sexting, and the viral video for the world's toughest job. Enjoy!

The Common Truth: Ordinary Stories for an Extraordinary Season

We stumbled on this artcile about The Common Truth: Ordinary Stories for an Extraordinary Season. It's an incredibly creative adaptation of the daily meditations for Holy Week. Check out a handful of the videos and more from the article HERE.


7 Dangerous Apps That Parents Need to Know About

There's no need for a panic but we found this helpful article on "7 Dangerous Apps" that every youth worker and parent should be aware of. READ MORE

The Truth About Teen Sexting

Every student that has a phone is glued to it. Actually, we all are. We are constantly communicating with each other and it's no surprise that some of what is sent to our students is just dangerous or unhealthy. The folks over at put together a startling infographic on teens and sexting. The information is a bit startling and unsettling, but it's something all youth workers need to be aware of. READ MORE


Job Seekers Interview for "The World's Toughest Position"

Have you seen the viral video of job seekers interviewing for the world's toughest job? It's a little funny and a whole lot of truth, reminding us how thankful we are for our parents. Now I'm off to hug my mom and dad again. WATCH NOW

By Jacob Eckeberger on April 17 2014 | 0 Comments

Let It Go

By Josh Griffin on April 16 2014 | 0 Comments

Photo by Tatiana Bulyonkova


My students are still going crazy for Disney’s “Frozen.” It’s been out of theaters forever now and on Blu-Ray for more than a month. We even did an after-service event last weekend and played the movie after youth group. Everyone stayed and sang along, too!

The songs are catchy, the story is great and it is awesome. But seriously… it’s time to let it go.

So even though you’ve seen the movie enough to finish each others… sandwiches (that’s what I was gonna say!), I want to encourage you with those same three little words.

Let it go.

Let go of the grudge against that old volunteer.
Let go of the pain the senior pastor caused you.
Learn from that conversation with a parent—then let it go.
Let go of the regrets of the last season of ministry.
Let go of that youth ministry blunder you made on stage last week.
Let go of that stupid mistake you made two years ago.
Let go of that volunteer who just needs to be done.

People might not let it go, and the devil constantly wants to remind us of our past. But sometimes you just need to hear: Let it go.

Well, now I’m off to watch “Frozen” for the 94th time with my daughter. She just can’t let it go.

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 any order this month!

By Josh Griffin on April 16 2014 | 0 Comments

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 | 2 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 | 2 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

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