Preparing for a Student Ministry Conference

SWAMP-blog-movie-seatsI enjoy attending conferences for student pastors and youth workers. They are always a great place to meet new friends, be challenged spiritually, be refreshed, and get a ton of free stuff! One of my favorite conferences student ministry conferences is the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Sadly I will not be attending this year. After four years of attending I’m taking a break because let’s face it, conferences take money to get to and be a part of. I hope next year I will be back and hit up other conferences in the near future.

Getting the most out of a conference begins before you even get there. You must prepare well. Since many of my student ministry friends are probably headed to SYMC this coming weekend, here are a few tips I want to share with you. These are a few things I have picked up on by going to SYMC for four years now. Here are a few thoughts on how to prepare for a student ministry conference.

Prepare yourself spiritually. Even though free resources, new friends, and workshops are important, you need to be ready to hear from your Savior and be ready to be challenged personally in your walk with Him. Take some time to pray and ask God to give you opens ears and an open heart to whatever He wants to do with you at the conference.

Bring your best note-writing device. Your going to hear a ton of information at the conference so have something with you to take good notes with. Whatever is your go to gadget for note taking bring it along. Make sure you take whatever device works best for you. If you still take the best notes with a note pad and pen then bring it! It may be an iPad for others. Whatever is it, bring it and be ready to take good notes. Whatever doesn’t get written down will probably be lost after the conference.

Have the right gear. Bring the right gear. Your going to probably doing a lot of walking and receiving some great resources so wear comfortable shoes and have a decent sized bag to pack full of youth ministry goodies. I usually do a book bag that I have throughout the day and then keep some extra suit case space for received resources. Also, make sure to bring things like chargers for your iPad or laptop and simple stuff like that.

Be ready to communicate to your pastor and volunteers what you have learned. This may not be strictly a “pre-conference” thing, but it needs to happen both before and during the conference. Before you get to the conference remember there is probably a pastor and volunteers that are ready to hear what you will learn at the conference. If anything, take good notes so you can pass the knowledge and ideas along to them.

These are just a few thoughts on preparing well for a conference. Conferences are awesome, but to get the most out of them you need to prepare well. Go, have a blast, and come back ready to point your students to Jesus!

This post was originally a guest post I wrote for Josh Griffin over at More Than Dodgeball. Check out that site for more helpful content and resources for your student ministry.

3 Things Student Pastors MUST NOT Do

A little over a month ago, I wrote a blog called “3 Things Every Student Pastor MUST Do” which gained some attention and made waves in the student ministry blogosphere. It even was posted as a guest post on Josh Griffin’s website. In that post I shared three things I believe every student pastor must do in their ministry. As a sequel to that post, I want to share a few things I believe student pastor MUST NOT do.

1. Do not separate the student ministry from the church. We need to remember our student ministry is a part of the overall local church. Our student ministry should be placed under the authority and direction of the church. We are not called to build a “church of young people,” but we are called to serve students in the context of the local church. The more you separate students from the church, the harder it is for you to get them plugged into the local church. If they do not get plugged into the local church, they will abandon church all together when they graduate from your youth group. They need to be plugged into the church, not just the student ministry. If a student pastor builds a student ministry that is separated from the local church, it becomes a parachurch ministry which holds many dangers (click here to see a post on the dangers of parachurch ministry).

2. Do not build inappropriate relationships with the opposite sex. Students pastors need to make sure they keep boundaries between themselves and the opposite sex. It seems like every time you turn around you hear of a student pastor or a senior pastor being disqualified from ministry because of a situation including someone of the opposite sex. This is why I place Godly women on my leadership team. This allows me to focus on the guys when it comes to one-on-one interaction and the ladies on my leadership team can focus on the girls.

3. Do not put student ministry before your walk with God and your family. Let’s face it, student ministry is non-stop craziness. But student pastors need to learn how to put student ministry on hold so they can focus on their walk with God and time with their family. Student pastors must not sacrifice their relationship with God and their family on the altar of student ministry.It’s not worth it! Jesus will take care of His church and the ministry of it. He has called you to be a Christian first, husband/father second, and a student pastor last. Recently, I read Brian Berry’s book As for Me and My Crazy House which is a great book for this topic.

There are many more things I could write about what we in student ministry should not do, but these are the three that are most on my mind. Feel free to leave your thoughts and add to this small list. At the end of the day, student pastors need to make sure they are doing student ministry according to God’s Word. His Word will not only direct us what we should do, but will also show us what we should not do.

Discipleship According to Costco

One of my favorite blogs to read and follow More Than Dodgeball by Josh Griffin.I enjoy reading his thoughts on student ministry as well as the resources he shares on his blog. Recently he shared some thoughts about how Costco gives is a good philosophy of student ministry.

A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

After drooling over for the TVs for a while I like to head toward the food area, largely because of the incredible amounts of free samples they give out. They allow you to get a taste, see if you like it or the product speaks to you, and encourage you to buy it and then heat it up for dinner. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – either way it is a good experience and one that I began to think about over the next few days that translates to our youth ministry philosophy.

Youth Group is the sample
The purpose of our large group meetings is to expose students to the Gospel of Jesus and encourage them to see  a step they could take in their spiritual life. The message is neither shallow nor deep – it is a sample of the whole counsel of God designed to push them forward i their relationship with Christ whether they are a devoted follower or even hearing about Jesus for the very first time.

Small Group is where pick up the package and inspect it
The large group is designed to give students a taste of what Jesus is all about. Small groups are the next step where students begin to experience Christian community and are surrounded by changed lives and an adult mentor. Small groups are the place for questions, doubts, fears and decisions.

Individual Life is taking it to the checkout and making it your own
Our desire that a student sampled who Jesus is in a safe, relevant way during our weekend services. We’ve challenged them to inspect their faith and examine their lives in community and study the scriptures together. Now we want them to own their faith, that they would grow on their own and express their faith well into adulthood with Jesus. They serve on mission trips, follow Christ’s example in baptism and have a walk with Jesus that is their own.

Costco wants you to sample, inspect and own. We want our students to expose, experience and express.

Every student pastor has his own philosophy of ministry and some may not like this one. I think this idea of the large meetings being an introduction and small groups being more about spiritual growth is a great philosophy that would help many youth ministries see numerical and spiritual growth.A while back I was in Costco Warehouse store [read: Sam’s Club] for lunch and to stare at the display of magical flat screens that call my name when I walk in. Josh … you NEED a 75″ 3D cinema display…

Joshua Griffin is the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He has been involved in full-time youth ministry for over 15 years and has wrote several helpful books including Live Large Be Different Shine Bright, 99 Thoughts for Youth Workers, and 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders.

How are you interacting with the teens in your life?

I ran across this chart today on Josh Griffins blog,, and it really struck me to how are we, as youth pastors and those in ministry, interact with the students God has placed under us. I find it interesting that the top three things on this chart as to what students are saying has to do with us building a relationship with them. Too many times in ministry we just tell our students what to do and preach to them about everything. They listen to us but most of the time it never changes them and transform their lives. We must not preach/teach our students only, but we must have healthy relationships with them before they will truly let our teaching/preaching change them. Some might disagree with me and that is ok, but I honestly believe that if we as leaders do not build relationships with our students outside the church (via Facebook, Twitter, Texting, and hanging out with them) we will never see our preaching/teaching change them. We must combine healthy relationships with our teaching/preaching and then we will see the change. Look over this chart and honestly ask yourself, “How am I interacting with the teens/kids God has put in my life?”

What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment and let me know what you think about all this!

Accept How God Created You

I ran across this video today on Josh Griffins, High School pastor at Saddleback Church in CA, website ( It is definitely worth your few minutes to watch and I have a few words to say about the video also. But first watch this awesome testimony!

The statements that really jumped out at me when I first watch this video was when this girl says, “God has given me so much happiness now when I look at my disability” and “I know God has a purpose for me.” That is awesome! Most of us, who are healthy, don’t have that kind of faith and trust in our Savior and God! there are many people out there who have real disabilities, some physical, some mental, and some that people struggle with personally and no one else knows. But like this girl, we have to come to the point where we realize God formed and shaped us even before we came into this earth! The Bible says while we were in our mothers womb, He was creating and forming us.

“You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (NASB)

So we see that God made and formed us even before we entered into this world! With this truth in mind we must always remember that if a child or someone is born with a disability it was not an “accident” it was God who created tat child and person just like that and He has a reason for it. Like this girl in the video, we all must come to grips with how God made us-problem, disabilities, struggles and all! This issue goes far beyond disabilities. We must realize God has a purpose and an exact reason why He created each of us the way He did. We must accept that and not let our disability or problem become our identity!