Youth Specialties Blog

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

Trending Links: Divergent, Selfies, How to be the best teacher, and the influence of a teenager

By Youth Specialties on March 25 2014 | 0 Comments

Movie Review: Divergent

 What did your teens see in the theatre's this past weekend? Divergent was the king at the box office this past weekend, claiming the top spot with an estimated $56 million. Meanwhile, the Muppets failed to take multiplexes in Muppets Most Wanted, earning $16.5 million, and the faith-based indie God’s Not Dead inspired an awesome $8.6 million from just 780 theaters. We know that you couldn't have been at all three movies yourself this past weekend, so we thought we'd point you to a review of Divergent from Christianity Today, to catch a glimpse of what it was all about.



Selfies! Pretty Selfies, Ugly Selfies, Selfies for Everyone!

Selfies - it's a term not just for teenagers anymore. In fact, “Selfie” was the Oxford Dictionary’s 2013 word of the year. However, what is the craze all about, and why are some teenagers intentionally taking bad pictures of themself? What's the point, and why the choice? Take a read from the NY Times on what teenagers told them.


12 Rules The Best Teachers Live By

We were pointed to this article on Huffington Post from this post on It's a great article from the perspective of a teacher - you know, those heroes who teach our kids everyday? Take a look at the post, and then see what Rachel Blom had to say at DYM.


Not Every Teenager Is A Leader. But Every Teenager Has Influence.

Hop over to our friends at YouthMinistry360 and read a fantastic reminder about the value of each student that we know and minister too. We don't need to make leaders out of all of them, but we do need to reminder them that they has influence.


By Youth Specialties on March 25 2014 | 0 Comments

YS Idea Lab: Terry Linhart - Ideas to Spark Youth Ministry Leadership

By Youth Specialties on March 25 2014 | 0 Comments

What are some strategies and habits that youth ministry leaders can practice to grow as a leader and build into their ministries? Terry Linhart gives four ideas to help youth workers be intentional about their ministries and about their personal development as a leader.

By Youth Specialties on March 25 2014 | 0 Comments

3 Things I Wish I Knew When I started YM

By Josh Griffin on March 25 2014 | 1 Comments

I just crossed 20 years in youth ministry … so I suppose there’s now some grace for me to reminisce about way back when I started in youth ministry? I spent some time reflecting with a friend the other day about those early years in youth ministry, and he asked me what I would tell myself if I could go back in time and help a brother out.

Aside from not taking the bait of me going back and talking to myself – talk about creating some continuity problems and a rip in the time-space continuum … sheesh … I thought it would be fun to journal what I wish I knew. Here are 3 things I wish I knew when I started out:

Youth ministry is a marathon not a sprint

Youthful over eagerness can be strength at times, but often it is viewed as a negative. Passion is a powerful force, but passionate burnout is real and many well-meaning people have sprinted their way right out of ministry. I know now what I didn’t know then – youth ministry is about being faithful for a lifetime, not being faithful for the short-term. It is all about the lifelong journey.

A healthy youth ministry takes time

Turning a youth ministry around isn’t going to happen overnight. Building a youth ministry from scratch isn’t going to be done in a year. And just when you think you’ve got some things cooking, you’ll realize that something is horrifically broken.

Collaboration is the key to most everything

Want to be a better sermon writer? Collaborate with people in every stage of the process. Want to do great youth ministry events? Don’t feel the pressure to pull things off if it isn’t your gifting, surround yourself with great people who can help you win. Build a team. Love them. Love God. Love students.

Josh Griffin is the co-founder of Download Youth Ministry and the leading blogger in youth ministry and has created more than 50 youth ministry resources. Check out much more at Love God, Love Students blog at and on his Twitter @joshuagriffin.

By Josh Griffin on March 25 2014 | 1 Comments

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