Youth Specialties Blog

Save Yourself First

By Youth Specialties on February 02 2015 | 3 Comments

We're excited to share this guest blog post from Kim McKee, one of our incredible YS Team Training speakers this year. Check out more info about YS Team Training here.

Sometimes I wonder how many people are actually listening to the in-flight instructions given by the flight attendant. I would imagine those who are flying for the first time may be hanging on every word. Then there are some like me, who feel they’ve heard them so often they could take the microphone and complete the spiel. But no matter how many times I’ve heard, “be sure all carry-on items are securely stowed in the overhead bins, “fasten your seatbelt” or “smoking is not allowed,” there’s one reminder that gets my attention every time. It’s the one about the oxygen mask. You’re instructed to put on your mask first before helping others. This statement always grabs me because some airlines also include, “put on your mask first even if you’re traveling with a small child”! As ministry leaders, we can glean a lot of wisdom from this especially if we have at any time espoused the notion of God first, others second and ourselves last.

The Real Deal

The truth is, if we’re always putting the needs of others before our own, at some point we’ll become depleted and ineffective. A habit of putting ourselves last is a sure recipe for burnout! Whereas the other extreme would be total self-centeredness, the key is balance. God’s will is for us to be healthy in every area of our lives. “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 1:2). The healthier we are spiritually, physically and emotionally, the better we can serve God and serve others.

Breathe Normally

The last instruction regarding the oxygen mask is to “breathe normally.” Of course this can be easier said than done, especially in the face of crises when our tendency may be to panic. But no matter what crises we face in our lives and ministries, God wants us to take it one breathe at a time knowing that His grace assures us a safe landing. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). There will always be countless opportunities to do good works. But in doing all we can to help save the world, we must always remember to save ourselves first!

Kim McKee is a trainer for Youth Specialties, served for 16 years as a youth pastor and is currently the Women’s Ministry Director at Jubilee Christian Center in Antioch, CA. She is a graduate of the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative and founding board member of S.H.O.U.T (Serving Him One United Together) Houston, a learning community for emerging youth leaders. 


Get to know Kim McKee as she shares more at YS Team Training Chicago, Phoenix, and Seattle

By Youth Specialties on February 02 2015 | 3 Comments

Trending This Week (Jan 30)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 29 2015 | 0 Comments

Every week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a letter from a parent to the church baptizing his baby, reasons why you should care less about preaching, sayings that will kill your growth, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination. 

Blogs From This Week

Amy Williams encourages us with: "God Doesn't Need Me But He Chooses To Use Me" - CLICK TO VIEW

I put together "25 More Txts You Can Send To Your Students" - CLICK TO VIEW

David Olshine shares: "Helping Our Students Understand Hard Time" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Jason Micheli shares this powerful letter: “To the Church that Baptizes that Baby” - CLICK TO VIEW

Tim Walk wrote: “4 Reasons Why You Should Care Less About Preaching” - CLICK TO VIEW 

Andy Blanks gave us a powerful reminder with “The Most Significant Roadblock to Your Effectiveness as a Youth Minister” - CLICK TO VIEW

Justin Knowles shared “3 Sayings That Kill Growth” - CLICK TO VIEW

Justin Smith wrote: “6 Things Your Church Should Be Doing But Probably Isn’t” - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Marshawn Lynch press conference with Skittles - CLICK TO VIEW

School closing announcement as “Let It Go” from Frozen - CLICK TO VIEW

Old Spice Nightmare Face - CLICK TO VIEW

Growing Pats (Growing Pains Spoof) - CLICK TO VIEW

Bad Lip Reading of the NFL - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 29 2015 | 0 Comments

Helping Our Students Understand Hard Times

By Youth Specialties on January 28 2015 | 0 Comments

The following is a guest post from youth worker and author David Olshine and we're so excited about his newest "Studies On The Go" resources in the YS Store!

Original photo by Michael Dorokhov.

I left the funeral.

People were sobbing over the loss of Jeremy, a teenager who was driving and texting. Not only was his own death tragic, but it was also even sadder because Jeremy had crossed the medium and piled into another vehicle, killing both passengers. Not only could I see it on people’s faces, but I heard this word over and over: “Why?”

The Bible, as complex as it is, does not shy away from such topics as death, trials, temptations, and suffering. Teens want some answers to the “why?” questions.

In the book of James, we see that the author understood hard times. He referred to them as “trials of many kinds.” We learn three important issues about understanding hard times.

First, trials come in many shapes and sizes.

James not only deals with difficulty in life, but actually tells us that there is a benefit to trials. “Consider it a sheer gift, friends” James says (MSG). Trials seem to be a gift that many don’t seem to want, yet James tells us to “consider it pure joy” whenever we face trouble, suffering and any “kind” of trial. How could anyone have joy over the death of a teenager, seriously?

Second, James explains the nature of a trial.

James defines it as “the testing of your faith” (verse 3). Why does our faith need to be tested? The same reason a teacher gives students an exam: to see if the knowledge is understood and applied. Some young people have an “affiliation” faith, faith that lasts only when friends are around. But what happens to someone’s faith when life falls apart, when a parent dies or their best friend commits suicide or a teen dies in a car wreck while texting? The testing of one’s faith reveals what we really believe in and who we trust. Hard times show us what’s deep inside of our souls.

Third, we learn one of the reasons for trials.

“The testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James is saying God’s intent is to create resilience in our soul, the ability to “stand under’’ the worst possible test or trial. He goes on to say that, “under pressure, your faith life is forced into the open and shows its true colors” (verse 4, MSG). How does one react when life is hard? What is beneath the surface when you face suffering? What deep-seated emotions and reactions beneath the water line come out when pressure hits our lives?  

David Olshine is the Director of Youth Ministries at Columbia International University, a speaker, author, husband, and father. David wrote Studies On The Go: James, 1-2 Peter and 1-3 John with the busy youth worker in mind, who either lacks the time or the information to lead a quality Bible study. These are written for the fast-paced leader who does not skimp on depth and substance. The books of James, Peter, and John deal with real life issues and questions that are down to earth. Studies on the Go pushes teens into the text and explains how to hear God’s word on a practical level. So whether you need something for a class, youth group, or small group, this curriculum is a great resource for you! Check it out in the YS Store HERE


For a limited time we're offering a special Studies On The Go bundle that saves you 10% when you purchase all the books in the series! Add it to your shopping cart HERE!

By Youth Specialties on January 28 2015 | 0 Comments

25 More Txts You Can Send To Your Students

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 26 2015 | 1 Comments

Text messages might be the only way you're able to stay connected with some of your students. Between all the personal texts and event updates, we wanted to give you some encouraging messages you can copy and paste to all of your students. If you missed the first 25 texts we shared, check it out here for even more ideas. 

Morning Prayers:

God of light, you did not fill the earth with boring colors. Guide us out of the shadows, to step boldly into the light.

God of compassion, help us care for one another today. Help us open up instead of closing off. Help us love as you love.

God, help us go where you would lead us today, so we can become what you want us to become.

Evening Prayers:

Lord, calm our worrying hearts tonight. Give us patience for what we can't change and your courage for all things we can change.

In the midst of suffering, open our eyes to your presence with us, Lord. May your presence bring the peace we need tonight.

God, you told us that we can bring our burdens to you. Help us unload all that weighs us down, finding rest in you tonight.

Daily Quotes:

Jesus said it's no big deal to treat your friends well; discipleship begins when we treat your enemies with grace and love.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” - Mae West

“It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not.” - Andre Gide

“The opposite of love is not hate; it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness; it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy; it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death; it's indifference." - Elie Wiesel

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” - Douglas Adams

“There are only two ways to live your life: One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” - Dr Seuss

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” – William Faulkner 

“There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” - Vincent van Gogh

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion and compassion and humor and style and generosity and kindness.” - Maya Angelou”

“Love is what we are, when we drop all the things that stand in the way.” - Karen Maezen Miller

“Use your imagination, not to scare yourself to death; but to inspire yourself to live.” – Adele Brockman

“To succeed, you need to take that gut feeling in what you believe and act on it with all of your heart.” – Christy Borgeld

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” – Robert Brault

“Sometimes the fastest way is not always the best way. Sometimes the best things in life take a while.” – Emily Beth

“Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible.” – Corrie ten Boom

“Minds are like parachutes… they only function when open.” - Thomas Dewar

“Empty pockets never held anyone back. Only empty heads and empty hearts can do that.” – Norman Vincent Peale

Are you looking for an easy way to text your students, parents, and volunteers? Our YS Group Txt is a resource we offer to help with that. Check it out at

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 26 2015 | 1 Comments

God Doesn’t Need Me But He Chooses To Use Me

By Youth Specialties on January 26 2015 | 4 Comments

We're excited to share this guest blog post from Amy Williams, one of our incredible YS Team Training speakers this year at our Bay Area, Kansas City, and San Diego locations. Check out more info about YS Team Training here.

If you were a single woman living in Chicago (also known as Chiraq, Killinois) during a time when the homicide rate was at an all-time high and you heard the voice of the Lord say to you, “I need you to move into a gang neighborhood,” what would your reaction be? I would love to say that I bowed down in reverent obedience and immediately rejoiced at the mission God had called me to. Instead, I chose to do what many of us often attempt: Engage God in a debate with hopes to change His mind.

My many points of debate included: “I mean, I know I was called to work with gang involved youth and those in the criminal justice system but Lord, I can do that from another neighborhood, like a safe one. I don’t have to live there to love them. I can do a ‘sanctified drive-by’ every day and say what’s up. I can impact those young people in any number of ways. USE ME LORD… but do it in any other way please.”

His one debate point: “Baby girl, I need you to know that I am already in that hood. Those are my people. I have not forsaken them. I am already doing a work there. I’m not asking you to be their savior. That’s what I’m here for. All I am asking you to do is be a light in a kid’s darkness. That’s all. It’s that simple.”


What it really came down to was God reminding me of who He was and who I wasn’t. I wasn’t the fourth member of the trinity. I wasn’t the second coming of Jesus. But I was the one who chose to walk this life with God. In doing, I was also the one who made the choice to surrender my will and be used any way God chooses... even if it meant intentionally moving into a gang neighborhood.

And, it has been one of the best mandates God has directed me to do! To walk like with young men and woman who find themselves lost in darkness and in need of light, love and friendship with no strings attached. To have someone there daily who sees them the way God sees them when everyone else is quick to label them. To have a safe place on the block they can run to any time they have need or just want someone to laugh, cry or chill with.

God knew the most powerful way to impact them was to go from “they” and “them” to “we” and “us.” I became more than a mentor. I became their neighbor.

Trusting God with this call really challenged my idea of what it means to surrender to His plans that, most times, make no sense in their initial directive. As I’ve watched God moving on my block over the years moving, I am constantly reminded that He doesn’t need me, but He chooses to use me. What an incredible privilege that I don’t deserve.

As a 19-year youth ministry veteran, Amy Williams follows her passion to minister to teens involved in gangs, youth on probation/parole, and those lost in the criminal justice system. As a certified Gang Intervention Specialist, she has pursued her calling as a youth pastor, reentry coordinator for paroled youth, youth mentor, speaker, and a national trainer for other youth workers. Check out her blog A Hope Dealer

Be sure to connect with Amy at our affordable, regional YS Team Training events this spring. Check out more info at

By Youth Specialties on January 26 2015 | 4 Comments

Trending This Week (Jan 23)

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 22 2015 | 0 Comments

Every week we pull our favorite links from across the inter-webs. This week's trending links include a look at the relationship between pornography and sex trafficking, thoughts on building your team, creating culture among your staff, and plenty of fuel for your procrastination.

Blogs From This Week

I pulled 25 great Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes that offer some encouragement for the youth worker - CLICK TO VIEW

Josh Griffin shared his 4 values of youth ministry: "Why We Have Youth Group" - CLICK TO VIEW

Blogs From Other Great Youth Workers This Week

Walt Mueller wrote: “Pornography and Sex Trafficking… One and The Same” - CLICK TO VIEW

Ministry Management shared this great post: “Building Your Team - A Task That Never Ends” - CLICK TO VIEW

Jared Kirkwood talks about creating a culture with your ministry team: “Choose Your Stories Wisely” - CLICK TO VIEW

Jody Livingston wrote: “5 Things I Hope to See in Youth Pastors” - CLICK TO VIEW

Brooklyn Lindsey helps us refocus with great post: “What’s Your Worthy Dream?” - CLICK TO VIEW

Fun Things To Fuel Your Procrastination

Super Bowl Party Stereotypes - CLICK TO VIEW

Crazy plastic ball prank - CLICK TO VIEW

Nerd Alert: Fallout vs Skyrim - CLICK TO VIEW

What the F.R.I.E.N.D.S. intro sounds like without music - CLICK TO VIEW

Bad breath just might be her competitive advantage in this arm wrestling match - CLICK TO VIEW

By Jacob Eckeberger on January 22 2015 | 0 Comments

Why We Have Youth Group

By Josh Griffin on January 21 2015 | 0 Comments

The following is a shared post by friend and long-time youth worker, Josh Griffin. Check out the original post here.  

Original photo by Patrick.

Whether it is a midweek program or a weekend service, youth group meetings are typically one of the biggest and most essential parts of your ministry, so defining the purpose is incredibly important. After all, it is the purpose that shapes and inspires every aspect of your program. So when you are defining it, you have to ask yourself, what do I value?

When putting together our youth group program, we focus on 4 main values: connection, growth, celebration, and fun! Here is why:


When a student walks into our youth group we want them to enjoy themselves, to smile, to have a good time, and to feel comfortable. We try to accomplish that through crazy games, hilarious videos, and some awesome after service events like Extreme Bingo or a simple Christmas movie night watching Elf. We want students to relax, be with friends, make memories, and have a good time. So while we start with fun and games, other values quick rise to the top.


We want each student that walks through our doors to feel known and valued. We want them to know that they have people that care about them and notice when they don’t come. To achieve this, we use adult volunteers and student leaders. Every week, before, after, and even during service, there are opportunities to meet new people and help know that they belong here. So while we work hard to make our youth group fun and entertaining, we make sure to provide a loving Christian community.


We have awesome speakers that give messages geared specifically for the lives of a student. Our youth group aims to help students learn how to study their Bible, to apply the Bible to their everyday life, and to have a personal relationship with the Lord. We do fun topics teenagers love to talk about – sex, friendships, parents, stress – and tackle the tough topics that people often avoid and show students what God has to say about them, too.


We use singing through worship to help students really understand God’s love for them and the power of the Bible in a way that’s different than someone simply speaking. If you come to one of our services, you’ll see a vibrant and passionate community of students expressing their love for Jesus and dedication to Him through songs, communion, and prayer.

We hope that the environment we create in our ministry clearly communicates to students that no matter where they are on their walk with God, they feel welcomed and loved when they walk into youth group.

Josh Griffin is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church and co-founder of Download Youth Ministry a place to get high quality, inexpensive, trench-tested resources ready to use TONIGHT at youth group. Check them out at

By Josh Griffin on January 21 2015 | 0 Comments

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