5 Reasons to Experiment in Youth Ministry

A couple of years ago, Kenny and I paid a visit to The Exploratorium in San Francisco. Ever been there? It’s pretty amazing. It’s a gigantic interactive science museum packed with over 600 experiments about everything from sound and light to plants and electricity.

One of my favorite exhibits is a game you play with a partner to highlight the differences in the ways we see colors. When Kenny and I looked at the exact same dot, he saw green and I saw orange. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?!

Anyway, it was cool, but there is a point to this. I loved the Exploratorium because it reminded me of something really vital to youth ministry. See if you can guess what it is from this quote…

“The Exploratorium is an eye-opening, playful place to explore how the world works. Our exhibits, experiences, tools, and projects ignite curiosity and lead to profound learning.”

Did you see it? It’s about learning by experimenting. It’s the idea that we learn best by doingby creating, by asking questions, and even by playingLearning theories and memorizing principles can only take us so far. Sometimes the best way to spark innovation and creativity is simply to try something – to get our hands a little dirty.

So whether it’s a new take on an old event, a restructuring of our programming, or a new approach to how we do something, we learn best when we finally do something. When we try new things. When we EXPERIMENT.

But why does it matter? Why is experimenting with new ideas valuable?


Introducing: Youth Ministry Labs (Plus a Chance to Win $100!)

Okay guys, I’ve got some BIG NEWS as well as a BIG PRIZE to tell you about.



A couple of weeks ago, Kenny and I started making a few mentions here and there about a top secret project we’d been working on. This little secret scheme has been something we’ve been thinking about for a long time and I am SO EXCITED because we are finally (finally!) ready to tell you about it.



Youth Ministry Answers is Back from Vacation!


Great news!

After a few months of summer vacation, our podcast Youth Ministry Answers is back in action! We’re kicking off a new season of episodes with an interview with Adam McLane about how (and how not) to use Snapchat in youth ministry.


You’re Invited to a Middle School Ministry Tribe Gathering!

Okay people, I’m going to get straight to the point.

We are having a party. And I want you to come.

That’s correct.

It’s a party just for the middle school ministry tribe.
It’s for ministry leaders.
It’s for people who think middle schoolers are a big deal,
and who want to hang out with other people who think middle schoolers are a big deal.

So we’re planning a whole bunch of hangouts for folks who care about middle schoolers this fall. And I’d LOVE for you to come be a part of it with us!

Because, chances are, we’re planning a party in a city near you.


20 Things Small Group Leaders Do on Youth Trips

Hey, ministry leaders. We put a ton of work into our student camps, trips, and retreats, don’t we? I mean, between the budget, programming, transportation, food, questions from parents, the registrations, the late registrations, and the so-late-they-actually-never-even-registered-they-just-showed-up registrations…. Well, it takes a lot of work to pull these things off.

But today, let’s take a second to remember that we’re not the only ones working hard on these trips. Our small group leaders are working pretty hard, too.

And, hey. Let’s be honest.

Sometimes, I think our small group leaders have an even more difficult job than we do.

So before we plan our next round of camps, trips, or retreats, let’s take a second to remind ourselves just how hard our SGLs work during these things, shall we?


7 Things I’ve Learned from 7th Graders

This week, I was a substitute small group leader.

Now, here’s the thing you need to know about being a substitute small group leader: when you sit down for the first time with a bunch of middle schoolers you barely know…you’re not going to have a very spiritual conversation. 

If you’ve ever met a middle schooler (or another human, for that matter), this probably isn’t news to you. Most of us aren’t exactly in the habit of pouring out our hearts to complete strangers.

So if you ever find yourself striking up a conversation with kids who don’t really know you, maybe don’t expect to guide them through a major spiritual breakthrough. Try to establish a few more reasonable goals instead. Like…

  • Remember their names.
  • Laugh with them.
  • Learn about their world.

This week, here’s what I learned about the world of a few seventh grade girls.


A Brand New Devotional For Students That I Really Super Love

Okay guys. I have a confession to make. Don’t be mad, but…

I hate devotionals.

Well, not really. I love the idea of devotionals. But sometimes it feels like I’m unimpressed by, like, 98% of the devotionals that I look at. Especially for middle schoolers and high schoolers. It’s because I hate verses without context or relevance and I hate questions that are too leading or too simple or sound too much like What did you learn? instead of What do you think? But, sometimes, it feels like I see a lot of those things on the shelves of Christian bookstores. Bummer.

When it comes to devotionals (especially devotionals for middle schoolers and high schoolers), I want something that gives kids an understanding of the voices and culture that are behind the verses they read. I want something that affects their lives, right now. I want something that provokes discovery and thought and engagement.


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