LIVE High School

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Product Review: Simply Youth Group

Awhile back I received an email from Simply Youth Ministry. While at my previous church, where I was a bivocational youth minister, we participated in a Group Mission's Trip. While there I filled out information including the fact that I was bivocational. Prior to my last church, I was a volunteer youth minister at a small church. So to say I have a special spot in my heart for bivocational and volunteer youth ministers is an understatement.

In this email the crew at SYM were laying out the vision of a new product they were working on and they needed beta testers. This product was a curriculum developed to help bi-vo and volunteer youth pastors in their ministry. It was to be a video based curriculum which was basically a youth group in a box. It starts off with a simple game, then goes into a video lesson usually including an inspirational video, then it goes into a discussion time, and then a scripture tie in. It requires little to no preparation time for the youth minister, thus freeing them up to spend more time focusing on building relationships with their youth group.

As I am reading this email I am thinking, "What a tremendous resource!" I could not think of anything better as a bi-vo youth pastor at the time that could help me spend more time with my students than a lesson that required no prep on my part. Why? Because we are busy!

The time in my life I am talking about was a very busy time. I worked a full time job from 7AM until around 5:30PM every day Mon-Sat with one day off, I was a part time youth minister at a church that was around 20 minutes from my house, I was a full time college student taking classes online every night, and was married with two young children which included all the trappings of family life; soccer games, karate classes, and school events. So what little time I had free was usually spent preparing youth minister lessons or events.

The benefit of Simply Youth Group cannot be understated. More free time for you to spend building relationships with your students. To me that is worth an immeasurable amount of money. But $40 a month is a very cheap price to pay for a top notch curriculum. That is only $10 a week! Skip McDonald's for dinner one night and your set!

Go over to and check it out! Score yourself a free month trial while your there and see how good it is for yourself!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


Anyone have a friend on Facebook or Instagram that is “that guy”? You know the one I’m talking about. He/She always posts pictures that look absolutely amazing, and it looks like they have an absolutely perfect life? I have a few like that. I even follow some amazing pastors on these accounts that are people I would consider to be spiritual giants. They post these amazing pictures of their quiet times in the mornings that make my 5-10 minutes that I try to steal away in my office look pathetic.

The fact of the matter is, no one is perfect. This also applies to our students. Often times when we plan events we plan based on the fact that our students will come in like little church angels, they pull out their bibles that have been perfectly highlighted with awesome notes in the margins, they will take out their binder which has every last one of our lesson handouts in them perfectly marked with the notes they were taking from our talk, tucked inside the binder is their Sunday School book, before class starts they offer to say the prayer, they give you their offering that they want donated to starving children overseas, they sing to every last worship song we play, they are perfectly attentive and considerate of other students, before they leave they double check to make sure all of their deposits are turned in for upcoming events and they make sure all their paperwork is properly filled out, and when they notice all the trash left over near the snack area they run over to clean it up so you don’t have to. Ahhh, the Insta-student! The one that’s completely perfect that we never have to worry about. The one that makes our life SO EASY!

You have those in your ministry right? If you are anything like me and the three churches that I have served, I DOUBT IT! Students are humans, just like we are. Like us they live very busy lives and often forget things. They don’t take notes, but that doesn’t mean they don’t listen. They don’t clean up, that doesn’t mean they don’t care. They forget to turn in their permission slips and deposits on time, that doesn’t mean they are out to get you. They forget to bring their offering, that doesn’t mean they hate starving orphans. They are shy and don’t want to pray, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a deep spiritual connection with Jesus. They forget their Bibles and Sunday School books, that doesn’t mean they don’t have one. They leave trash and our lesson handouts lying all over the youth room, that doesn’t mean they didn’t like our lesson. Students, like every youth minister I know, need a lot of grace from time to time.

Good thing for us, the God I serve is full of grace and mercy. He is faithful to forgive me when I mess up, so the least I can do is understand a teenager when He/She messes up. Just a little encouragement for you this week!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Partnering with Parents

After Sunday morning service the other day, I had lunch with one of our ministries parents and their student. This particular family have had a rough time lately, but the parent told me she was glad I was there for her child because she knew I reinforced everything they taught her about the Bible.

So how did we put our youth ministries in a position to win like this? Partner with parents! Let's look at some practical ways to do this.

1: Parents are friends, not enemies!
I know what it's like to be new in youth ministry. I remember the days when I thought, I'm the 'expert' on teenagers I know better than their parents know! I'm the expert after all. If we treat parents as partners and friends, not enemies, a new world of ministry opens up. When you have your ministries parents on your side, your lessons will be reinforced at home and you'll have the BEST supporters in the world on your side.

2: Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Parents LOVE communication. If there is one thing I've learned is you can never over communicate. You can never use to many forms of communication either. Broadcast your news on ALL outlets. Send home a flyer, put it in the church newsletter and bulletin, email it, post it on social media, and all the websites. If you feel like you've over communicated, your half way there.

3: Start small.
You don't have to dive in to a massive parent ministry push overnight. Start small. Send home a copy of the verse and topic that your lesson is over with two simple follow up questions parents can discuss over dinner. Host a small parent and student dinner. Just start!

We had a great time talking to this family and I get the honor of baptizing their daughter next week before I move to my new church. I pray that as you think about parent ministry you will realize that partnering with parents is one of the best decisions you can make. Until next time..

Just Keep Swimming!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Social Media and Youth Ministry

What's up everyone! Been awhile! My last semester in college has been a tough one and I've been contributing over at so I haven't been fresh on ideas. Today we are traveling to Paoli Peaks IN for our annual Winter Blast snow tubing trip. Something stuck out at me on the way, it took me five minutes to update all of our youth ministry social media outlets!

Now five minutes isn't a really long time but it got me to thinking about social media and youth ministry. Obviously we want to reach students where they re right? But what is your youth ministry social media strategy?

There are two schools of thought on this.

1: Focus on one particular social media outlet.

The pro's to this concept are simplicity and quality. It simplifies matters when you can say, our preferred method of social media is (insert name here). If you want to stay up to date on our happenings check here. Simple! You only have one social media site to update and keep current.

The other pro is quality. If you only have to focus on the one outlet you can become VERY proficient at the use of that outlet. You will understand it better and know what it takes to make a good post. You will better understand how that platform operates and how to use that platform to reach students.

2: Have a presence on multiple social media outlets.
This is the option we use. We have a presence on the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). While I am very familiar with all three, I would not say I'm an expert on any given one. Quite often as well my posts don't have the reach or affect that I would like. The pros, however, are you can reach a broader base of students and it leaves no excuses.

On this trip we are taking 5 students. Just out of these five there are all three social media outlets. Two prefer Facebook, in fact one just got a Facebook account last month. Two prefer Instagram and one prefers Twitter. By being on all three I can reach students no matter what outlet they takes a balance, you have to devote equal time to all outlets but your reach is broadened.

It also leaves no excuses, students can't say well I didn't know about 'A' because I'm not on Facebook. If you can reach them where they are they cannot say you didn't try.

Want some social media tips for youth ministry?
1: Make your informational posts short. Think Tweet size, students are used to reading and retaining 140 characters or less.
2: Have separate accounts for parents and students. You can keep parents in the know easier if you reach them where they are, typically one outlet back from the students.
3: Monitor your students social media but do not confront them online. Did they post something they shouldn't have? Confront them privately about it, don't have it out in the comments section. Think of it as a privilege that they are allowing you in to that aspect of their life.
4: Use pictures! Want to get a teens attention, studies show teens pay more attention to posts when there is an attached picture or video.
5: Promote promote promote. They have to know you have a page or they won't follow you.

Until next time!

Just Keep Swimming!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Volunteer Impact

I love football! I really do. When I was in high school I hated football. I was in the marching band and to me the football game was just the pre and post show to the bands half time performance. I viewed it as a bunch of dumb jocks pounding away on each other. As I've gotten older though I've come to appreciate how tactical football is. How you run certain plays in certain situations and expect certain results. How a time out called in a critical spot can affect the outcome of a game. I love it.

Upon marrying my wife I was informed politely that I would now be a Cincinnati Bengal fan. My wife is originally from Cincy and she loves her Bengals! I would have to say that the Bengals are my team. I am a fan of football in general though. My wife won't watch any other team, but on a Sunday you will find me watching whatever football game is on. One team that impresses me is the Green Bay Packers. I was thinking about youth ministry and something popped into my head that was really interesting, volunteers and how football applies to them.

Let's take a look at two highly different teams that I know the basics about. First off, the Packers.

Green Bay was established in 1919 the Packers are the third oldest team in the NFL. Originally founded by Earl "Curly" Lambeau and George Whitney Calhoun, the Packers are America's last small town football team. The city of Green Bay only has a population of 104,057, where most pro football teams are located in cities with millions of population. The Packers were named after original sponsor the "Indian Packing Company" which was later bought out by the "Acme Packing Company". 

One thing that sticks out about The Packers and applies to Volunteers is that they are a community owned team. This is unheard of in pro sports and actually will never happen again in the NFL as there is a policy in place to prevent this. The Packers, however, are grandfathered in. Best thing about this? The community has a say in the future of the team. The team is prevent from moving because of a agreement saying they would have to contribute large amounts of money to the Packers Community Fund. 

The community has a say in the future of the team. How about youth ministry? If you have a team of volunteers surrounding your youth ministry it is about the church community in general having a say in the ownership of the youth ministry. A healthy youth ministry is not about a magnetic front man but is more about how the church is invested in it's youth ministry. If your youth ministry is supported by the volunteer community then when you step down the youth ministry will continue on. I recently spoke to a senior pastor whose youth minister stepped down in July. One thing that impressed me was when I asked about the health of the youth ministry, it was maintaining. Why is maintaining good? His church has a healthy core of volunteers who stepped up in the absence of a youth minister and took the wheel of the youth ministry, steering it in the right direction.

How about my Bengals?

I love my Bengals but there is one problem surrounding the team. The Bengals were founded in 1966. Founded by former Browns head coach Paul Brown, who was also the head coach from 1966-1975. The Bengals, named after the bengal tigers located in the Cincinnati Zoo, play at Paul Brown Stadium located near the Ohio River in Downtown Cincy. In 2011, after his fathers death, Mike Brown inherited majority ownership of the team. While the Bengals have certainly turned their franchise around in recent years, Mike Brown is still considered one of the worse owners in the NFL.

The Bengals problem, it has always been about one family and what they want in the team. There is really only one voice that matters concerning the future of the team. Anyone not on board with Browns plans, are usually unemployed. Youth ministry connection? When one magnetic person is the only voice in a youth ministry, that youth ministry is all about him/her. When that person leaves the youth ministry is typically left high and dry. 

Volunteers are an essential aspect of youth ministry and one that can only improve the health of the ministry. Youth ministers must identify and recruit the best possible volunteers to serve in the ministry. Like a pro football coach, the minister must identify volunteers whose strengths compliment the youth ministers weaknesses so that they can compliment the ministry. You don't want a team off quarterbacks but you also don't want a team of all offensive line, neither team would succeed. Until next time, Just Keep Swimming.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Product Review: LIVE Apologetics

The guys at Simply Youth Ministry have done it again! They recently released the new LIVE Curriculum Apologetics study. What an awesome and much needed study. Most teenagers have no idea how to look at things from a Christian worldview. This study will equip them to look at things from a Christian worldview, know the basics of the Christian faith, know what makes Christianity different from other world religions, and how to properly defend their faith. 

One thing that I tell my students is "defense of their faith" does not mean it is a fight. There is no need to get into an argument with your friends who are non-believers. The "defense" part is to defend your faith in your own mind. A better way to describe it is that we are equipping our students to decide what truth is. This curriculum does just that. It makes a point to tell students how to properly engage in a conversation about their faith. 

Like all LIVE Curriculums, Apologetics is very discussion driven. The opening activities are engaging and very up to date. The first lesson has students pulling out their smart phones and looking up a picture that applies to the lesson. The lessons include the script of the lesson leader, questions for the students to discuss that enforce the teaching point, additional discussion questions, and application questions that cause students to apply these principles to their lives. 

Another great aspect of the LIVE Curriculums is the Text Questions to get students thinking about the lesson before hand. THE most important part of the lessons to our ministry is the Parent Email examples that come in the lesson. They include an email to send to your parents to encourage spiritual discussions at home about that weeks lesson. 

All in all LIVE Apologetics is a can't miss for a small group curriculum!

Thursday, October 3, 2013


So the other night at youth group, as we were wrapping up and I was breaking down our setup, my wife comes running over from our main worship building frantic. She blurts out, "I can't get into the church building there is a snake in the way." You've never seen a room of teenagers clear so quick! Of course the Turtleman in me sprang into action. Luckily all of the teens stayed out of strike range and I was able to get them back while I corralled the snake. After the snake was captured and moved into a field behind our church, I was able to reflect something my wife said. She said you did a good job of keeping the students from getting hurt.

Don't we, as youth pastors, always do this? I don't mean protect our teens from snake bites, that's a gimme unless your in a snake handling church. But don't we always keep our students away from failure? Why would we let the students lead worship, that might get messy and not sound good! Why would we encourage teens to share their faith, they might mess up and look silly in front of their friends! Why would we let students lead the mission trip, they may miss something or even forget the lunch food (true story)!

The best learning experiences I have had in my faith were usually from utterly messing up and failing. I knew the snake wasn't poisonous, I've grown up hunting and fishing in Kentucky all my life, I'm very familiar with the poisonous snakes are in my area. So if it bit a student it would hurt and they may get sick from the bacteria, but it wouldn't be life threatening. As a youth pastor I should be able to see what serious failures my students may face, and warn them of them. But the little bitty failures that could help them grow? Maybe I should let them make those failures. Obviously I'm going to correct a student who has a seriously bad theological view of something and obviously I'm going to report a student that is self injuring. But how about putting the deathly shy student in charge of that mission trip? How about volunteering the youth to lead adult worship? Let them fail! They may get bit by Jesus instead of a snake! Until next time,

Just Keep Swimming!