Youth Specialties Blog


By Youth Specialties on April 22 2014 | 0 Comments

Original photo by Lotus Carroll


Let’s say you’re standing in the hallway outside the youth room. Which would bring you back into the room faster: loud noise or complete silence? Probably silence. Why? Because youth ministry is loud.  It’s supposed to be loud. Youth ministry is like that perfect song on the radio that MUST be turned up as the window goes down.

Too often churches want to treat the youth program as if it were a continuation of Sunday school. The curriculum is merely an extension of what they learned in grades one through six. When you become a teenager, the brain kicks in certain chemicals. (Don’t we sound all expert-y?)  When these chemicals kick in, the human brain begins to experience things on amazingly high levels. Sitting students down around a table and having them fill out the “teen version” of what the kindergarten class is talking about won’t cut it. Youth ministry must be about the experience if it is to be effective. 

Youth ministry is abnormally loud, ordinarily annoying, as a rule messy, universally unglamorous, customarily disgusting, repeatedly boisterous, routinely disorderly, often smelly, frequently vulgar, seldom peaceful, and every now and then... downright dangerous.

Allow for this. Allow the program to be messy. Allow the spirituality of your teens’ faith to be messy. Don’t try to force your program into a smaller container. (Unless it’s like one of those noisemaker thingies where you push the clay into the little plastic pail and it makes that glorious FRAAAAAAAAAAAPPP sound.)

Allow for the gross.

Allow for the loud.

Allow for the mess.

Allow for the borderline-sacrilegious.

Churches that understand this simple concept will see how much a program can grow because its students are given permission to be what and who they are. If they are accepted for who they are at your church. If they understand your church, your youth room, your community is a sanctuary, they will be much more likely to open up and let you into their lives. If they feel safe they will be more likely to let God into their lives. If they feel they can be themselves... they will be more likely to be who God called them to be.

Steve Case has been in youth ministry for 25 years. He has written numerous books for YS and countless articles. His book Everything Counts is available in the YS Store HERE and his first novel, Father Dark is available on Amazon HERE.

By Youth Specialties on April 22 2014 | 0 Comments


By Youth Specialties on April 17 2014 | 0 Comments

Original pic from Sharon Drummond


Whenever I host a dinner party, there's about 10 minutes right before guests arrive where I have nothing to do. Everything is clean. The table is set. The food needs to stay in the oven just a couple more minutes. Usually, in those 10 minutes I take a moment to sit down and wait. This often gives me just the right amount of time to over-analyze the meal and my preparations. If only I had taken time to get fresh flowers. If only I would have dusted that picture frame above the TV. I can be a little obsessive over the details in that small window before guests arrive.

Last night, just before youth leaders filled my tiny home for dinner, I took a second to over-analyze the assortment of chairs around the two tables I had set up for dinner. It's easy to dress up a table. Throw a tablecloth and some center pieces on it and it's a little more pulled together. But there's not a whole lot you can do about ugly folding chairs and mismatched kitchen chairs from Ikea.

For a second last night, I longed for a beautiful formal dinning room with one long table filled with perfectly matching chairs. Images of Pottery Barn showrooms flashed through my mind. For a second, all I could focus on was the ugly metal folding chairs instead of the beauty of the meal I had prepared for a group of people I cherish. For that moment, I wasn't focused on the blessing of being able to host dear student ministry volunteers and friends instead all I could see was the mismatched and the tiny apartment.

And then as quickly as those 10 minutes came, guests arrived and they were gone. No one mentioned the mismatched chairs. When I crawled into bed last night I opened up my devotional to Luke 2:4-8:

"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

How many times have I read this scripture? Dozens and dozens of time. But this time, it hit me in a whole new way. God brought His Son into the world in the most mismatched and humble way. He used teenagers and shepherds. There is nothing pulled-together or Pottery-Barn-showroom about being born in a barn filled with animals. It reminded me how often I get so caught up in the details that I forget about the joy God brings into the world through the most mismatched and unlikely of situations. 

I started thinking, what if the church looked a little more mismatched? I think about the big churches and student ministry models that we sometimes feel stacked up too. If only we had a Starbucks in the Narthex or a multi-million dollar youth facility… Don't get me wrong, I know those tools are used to further the Kingdom. But I'm wondering if, instead of looking up to those huge pillars of ministry, we started with what we have.

What if ministry began in our homes and our neighborhoods and moved up from there? If adoption and foster parenting wasn't so foreign but something we talked about and prayed about more together in the Church? If our internal ministry events looked more like outward opportunities to love those who live all around us? It could be a little messy, sure, and it may not match up to what we've always been before. 

But I'm sensing an urgency in my own heart to not be okay with the norm. I'm praying that I can surrender the need for it all to be pulled together and that I would recognize the joy in the mismatched.

Stephanie Riebe is one of the student ministries directors at Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She’s in her eighth year of full-time student ministry. She loves, road trips, witnessing Jesus transform the life of teenagers, Vera Bradley, mission work, running, and coffee—and not particularly in that order. 

By Youth Specialties on April 17 2014 | 0 Comments

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 | 1 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. Josh is generously offering 10% off any order this month at if you use the promo code "letitgo"!

By Josh Griffin on April 16 2014 | 1 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

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