Our Best Games and How We Play Them

This year at The Middle School Ministry Campference, Kenny and I led a breakout called Our Best Games and How We Play Them. But this, friends, wasn’t your typical breakout. In this breakout, we didn’t just tell you about our favorite games. We...

5 Books to Fuel Your Creativity in Youth Ministry

This post is part of Summer Ministry Vlog Week 2016! What the heck is that, you ask? Check this out. Hey pals! Earlier this week I shared five tips that have been really helpful for me personally on how to be, and stay, more creative – especially in youth ministry....

5 Ways to Be More Creative in Youth Ministry

This post is part of Summer Ministry Vlog Week 2016! What the heck is that, you ask? Check this out. Hey friends! I’m super excited to spend a few minutes talking about one of my favorite things ever – how to be and stay creative, specifically in youth ministry. But...

It’s Summer Ministry Vlog Week!

Hey. Guess what. AUGUST 8-12 IS SUMMER MINISTRY VLOG WEEK! This week, a handful of my favorite ministry friends and bloggers are trying their hands at video blogging (in case you thought that vlog was a typo). #SMVWeek16 is the brainchild of the great Tom Pounder,...

3 Ways to Use PHARISEES: The Party Game in Youth Ministry

“This is a legit way to get students (and adults, for that matter) to know more about the Bible and its stories in a super fun way!” Frank Gil YouthMin.org You’ve probably heard by now, but um… Kenny and I sort of invented a game. It’s a...

Weird April Holidays to Celebrate in Youth Ministry

Don’t feel like reading? Then listen to this post instead! Or subscribe to my podcast for more audio versions of my blog posts! SUBSCRIBE! As you may have heard me say recently, I am always looking for an excuse to have a party. It’s something I assume...

The Awkward Moments Contest

You guys. Friday, March 18 is Awkward Moments Day. So I feel like we should talk about our awkward youth ministry moments. And then I’ll give away a prize for the best one. Because I love awkward moments. I mentioned this magical holiday recently in my post,...

5 Kinds of Social Media Posts that Engage Teenagers

Picture this with me. You’re about to post something new on your ministry’s social media channels. Are you picturing it? Great. You frame your image beautifully. You add a sweet filter. You spend ten minutes crafting the perfect caption. You press POST. ...

3 Books I Read in February

Last year, I didn’t do a great job of making reading a priority. Which is depressing, because reading books is pretty much my first love. So this year, I decided to get my priorities straight once more. And, happily, my buddy Brooklyn Lindsey was in agreement....

Weird March Holidays to Celebrate in Youth Ministry

This post is part of a 12-part series about weird holidays in youth ministry. See them all right here! As you may have heard me say recently, I am always looking for an excuse to have a party. It’s something I assume everyone in youth ministry has in common. Of...

Let’s Start a Book Club!

In my last post, three things happened. I told you about three books I read last month. I said that Brooklyn Lindsey and I really, really, really want to start a book club. Approximately five zillion of you said you wanted in on the book club shenanigans, too....

3 Books I Read in January

Last week, while I was complaining on Instagram about my inability to decide which book to read next, someone said what is possibly the truest thing anyone has ever said about me: “I love how much I can depend on how much you’ve always loved books.”...

Weird February Holidays to Celebrate in Youth Ministry

This post is part of a 12-part series about weird holidays in youth ministry. See them all right here! As you may have heard me say recently, I am always looking for an excuse to have a party. It’s something I assume everyone in youth ministry has in common. Of...

Weird January Holidays to Celebrate in Youth Ministry

This post is part of a 12-part series about weird holidays in youth ministry. See them all right here! I’ll be honest, guys. I am always looking for an excuse to have a party. Since you’re in youth ministry, I’m going to go ahead and assume that you...

The Only 3 Things We Need to Teach in Youth Ministry

If you’re like most youth workers, you’re constantly trying to figure out the most important things to teach your students and the best time to teach those things. There are so many stories, books, characters, principles, and ideas in the Bible. How do you...

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. First… THE BIG NEWS 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...

THE CAMPFERENCE | Building a Better Teaching Strategy

Don’t feel like reading? Then listen to this post instead! Or subscribe to my podcast for more audio versions of my blog posts! SUBSCRIBE! This weekend, I had the chance to hang out at The Middle School Ministry Campference and teach a couple of seminars! Here...

Youth Ministry Answers is Back from Vacation!

EVERYONE. 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. It was a...

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...

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...

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...

Conversations with Small Group Leaders

This month, I got the chance to collaborate with my friend/hero Brooklyn Lindsey on an ebook called Conversations with Small Group Leaders: How Giving and Receiving Feedback Can Transform Your Culture.  We wrote it for the team over at Lead Small Weekly. And, by the...

Challenging Your Volunteers… Without Scaring Them Away

I’ve written before about this idea of making bigger asks from your volunteers – especially your small group leaders. I love this topic. But if you’re going to talk challenging your volunteers with higher expectations, you really should talk about...

Introducing… Youth Ministry Answers!

You guys. This is a big day. A really big day. Today, Kenny and I are launching a little something we’ve been working on for about a month. I told you about it a few weeks ago. Introducing… YOUTH MINISTRY ANSWERS A new podcast from Stuff You Can Use! The...

4 Tips for Telling Better Stories

In youth ministry, telling good stories is a skill that really matters. Think about it. Whether we’re communicating from a platform, or in a video, or at a table for two over a nice caramel frappuccino, stories are one of the best tools we have for communicating...

Celebrating Our Volunteers This Christmas

I happen to be one of those people who shops for Halloween candy at 5:00pm on October 31. I am not proud of this fact. But do you know what happens when you shop for Halloween candy at the last possible second? (Probably not, so I will tell you.) You get to...

Introducing… Youth Ministry Answers!

Hello peoplefriends! Guess what.  I have some news. And I think you’re going to like it. You see, last week, Kenny and I went on a bit of a road trip. And when Kenny and I go on road trips, things get dangerous. Not like car-accident-dangerous (usually). More...

A Few Words for Women in Ministry

In the circles that I run in, it seems like there has been a lot of talk lately about women in ministry. And there’s good reason for that. Gina Abbas recently released the book A Woman in Youth Ministry. Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist is still making waves....

Every Kid Needs a Champion

I watched an incredible TED Talk last week. Maybe you’ve seen it, maybe you haven’t. Either way, it’s worth (another) watch. Rita Pierson is an educator, but the ideas she talks about here are way bigger than just tactics to help kids learn. I heard...

Bob Goff and The Edge of Yikes

Okay, so since we’re talking about taking risks and going on adventures this week, I thought I’d give you an inspirational little treat. I’ve been hanging onto it for this exact moment.

A bunch of weeks ago, I finally had the chance to hear Bob Goff speak live and in person. I usually only get to stalk him on the internet, so this was an exciting day.

He threatened Kenny’s life a little bit. (Did you know he has diplomatic immunity?)

He made a super cute video for my small group.

And he said some things that have been rattling around in my head ever since.
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A Few Thoughts About Risk

I wouldn’t consider myself to be a person particularly prone to taking risks.

Well, okay… I like roller coasters. And I want to go sky-diving someday. And one time I painted my bedroom lime green. But that’s about the extent of my riskiness. For example, when thirty of my friends decide it’s a good idea to rent really-super-broken mopeds and dented helmets from some guy on a street corner of the Bahamas, I’m always going to be the person in the group pointing to the sign that says CAUTION! DO NOT RENT MOPEDS and listing all the reasons we’re about to die horrible gruesome deaths. 
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Hey Guess What!

Friends, I have something to tell you.

I’ve hinted at it a few times on this blog. And it’s probably old news if we’re friends on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

But…

I recently got the chance to co-author a book with two of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
And, last week, I held it in my hands for the very first time.
It’s about small groups, which is pretty much my favorite topic.
And it’s available really soon.
And I’m so excited about it.

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HOW TO | Make Small Group Party Kits

I’ve got to show you something Our New Guy Erik has been working on. (Erik joined our Middle School Ministry team back in January. He’s really cool. I’ll introduce you sometime.)

So we really like it when small group leaders have parties with their small groups. Because we know, if a small group leader expects to make an impact in the lives of kids, they need to spend time with their few outside of church.

And because we know small group hangouts are so important to those relationships, we try to make it AS EASY AS POSSIBLE for small group leaders to make them happen.

Maybe I’ll tell you about all of those ways sometime. But for now, I just want to tell you about one of them – the thing New Guy Erik has been working on.

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The Very Best Volunteer Interview Questions

Don’t feel like reading? Then listen to this post instead! Or subscribe to my podcast for more audio versions of my blog posts! SUBSCRIBE! So you’re at Starbucks, sitting across the table from a potential new volunteer. This is a big moment. You’re...

A Look Back at 2013 and a Look Forward to 2014

It’s the first full week of 2014! I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about this coming year. I think it’s going to be a good one.

But, really, 2013 was pretty great too.

I launched this blog in 2013, for one thing. And it’s been a really fun little adventure so far. In the last year, we’ve talked about all sorts of stuff. Social mediahaving funpartnering with parentswomen in ministry… recycling your five million youth group t-shirts… and lots more.

I’ve had a blast so far.

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The Year I Threw Away My New Year’s Resolutions

Hi friends! Happy 2014!

Today is New Year’s Day. Which means yesterday was New Year’s Eve. And yesterday, like most of you, I spent some time thinking about my New Year’s Resolutions.

Yesterday morning, I grabbed my laptop, opened my to-do list, and started listing the things I wanted to accomplish in the new year.

I had goals for our ministry.
For my job.
For this blog.
For my health.
For my house.
For my bookshelf.

Turns out there are a ton of things I wanted to accomplish in 2014.

But as I looked over my list of resolutions, I realized I wasn’t very excited about them. It was a good list, full of really cool things I really did want to accomplish. But something about it felt empty.

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My Soapbox Rant About Empowering Volunteers

Yesterday I gave you some of my favorite snippets and takeaways from the 2013 Middle School Ministry Campference. I hope you checked it out because, seriously, there was a heck of a lot of goodness in those notes.

Now, to keep the Campference conversation going, I want to tell you about a little Campference tradition that I got to be a part of this year: the Soapbox Sessions. Apparently, every year, Marko asks a handful of Campference people to give quick little 5-minute “soapbox rants” in response to this question:

“What is one thing you wish every middle school youth worker would stop doing, or start doing, or understand?”

And, this year, he asked me to get in on it.

So here’s my response, inspired by my 5-minute Campference Soapbox Rant.

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The Middle School Ministry Campference Was Freakin’ Awesome

This weekend, Kenny and I got the chance to hang out at The Middle School Ministry Campference. And it… was… awesome.

Let me tell you some of the cool things I learned.

Oh, but first, if you don’t know anything about The Campference, here’s what you need to know:

  • It’s a gathering just for the Middle School Ministry tribe.
  • It happened at SpringHill Camp in Seymour, IN.
  • It’s sort of a conference (with speakers and breakout sessions and things), and it’s sort of like camp, with crazy free time options (like paintball-ziplining), shared meals (just like at camp!), and tons and tons and tons of conversations.
  • Everyone at The Campference is a peer – including the speakers. Everyone hangs together, eats together, rooms together, and makes some new best friends.

Kenny and I got to lead a couple of sessions about games and environments and marriage, which was really fun. And I got to do a little “Soapbox Rant,” which I’ll talk more about tomorrow.

But today let’s talk about the cool stuff we learned in sessions. Want to hear some of my favorite takeaways?

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Why Fun Environments Matter

You may or may not know this about me, but I spend some of my time working with a really cool group of folks on a really fun project called Uthmin.

What is Uthmin?

It’s a little something for the Middle School Ministry tribe.

Tom Shefchunas (the Middle School Ministry guy at North Point) and Jeremy Lee (the guy behind ParentMinistry.net) are the masterminds.

Uthmin is about helping Middle School Ministers do ministry better, and it’s about bringing Middle School Ministers together… to help each other!

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My 3 Go-To Resources for Discipling Teenagers

I’m often asked to recommend tools and resources for discipling teenagers. And, well, there are three resources I find myself recommending over and over again.

So today, I want to take a second to give you a look at those three resources (a method for sharing the Gospel, a Bible, and a 30-day devotional) and tell you why I like them so much.

Here they are…

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LEAD SMALL | Four Ways to Start Strong This Year

Every month, I write a post for Lead Small, a blog that’s written for Small Group Leaders, by actual Small Group Leaders. In honor of September and the beginning of a brand new school year, I recently shared some thoughts on how to get off to a great start with your small group in the new year.

These are things that have really helped me be a better Small Group Leader for my girls. So if you think it’s helpful, I’d love it if you’d share it with your Small Group Leaders, too!

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I’m Not Blogging This Week (and Here’s Why)

Hey friends! Just wanted to get you in the loop on something…

I’m not going to be blogging this week.

Not because I don’t like you, but because…

I’m writing a book! WOOHOO!

More details will be coming soon, but for now I’ll just tell you a few things about it…

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A Little More Office Inspiration

So, friends, we’ve come to an end of this series of posts on how to make your office more awesome. In case you missed it, we’ve already talked about de-cluttering your workspace, wooden pallet walls, custom dry erase boards, t-shirt walls, and a magnetic chalkboard wall.

To wrap things up, I want to leave you with just a few more sources of inspiration for the design of your office. You’ve already seen some small snippets of our offices this week, but I heard a rumor that some of you might want to see the rest of our spaces. So… here you go! Hope it helps.

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HOW TO | Make a Sweet Volunteer Wall

Ok reader friends, we’re back with just two more installments in this “How to Make Your Office Awesome” series. So far, I’ve shared some tips for de-cluttering your workspace, a tutorial on how to make a wooden pallet wall, a tutorial on how to make yourself some custom dry erase boards, and a tutorial on how to make a t-shirt wall.

And today, I want to give you a peek at my favorite part of my whole office, because it’s super functional and it looks pretty cool, too.

MY VOLUNTEER WALL.

32e3I oversee all the volunteer development, training, and care for our Middle School Ministry, so it was really important to me to have a big statement piece in my office that was all about them. I wanted something that would help me remember practical things, like who was serving where, but I also wanted something that would help me remember why I do what I do.

So I decided to put all of my volunteers’ pretty little faces up on my wall. (Aren’t they so cute?)

Let me tell you what you’re looking at, and then I’ll tell you how to make it.

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NEW RESOURCE! 19 Editable Series Graphics

Hey friends! I need to interrupt this Awesome Office series real quick because… we have new treats for you in the Stuff You Can Use shop!

A BUNDLE OF 19 EDITABLE SERIES GRAPHICS!

Each of these 19 graphics were made with real-life teaching series in mind – some for our Middle School Ministry, others for our pal Dan’s Middle School Ministry.

Each graphic comes with an editable .psd file (editable in Photoshop), plus finished .jpgs (if you’d like to skip the editing and use the designs as-is).

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HOW TO | Make Your Own T-Shirt Wall

We’re still going strong with this little “How to Make Your Office Awesome” series. So far, I’ve shared some tips for de-cluttering your workspace, a tutorial on how to make a wooden pallet wall, and a tutorial on how to make yourself some custom dry erase boards. I’ve got a few more ideas coming this week, starting with this gem from my favorite boy Kenny’s office…

A T-SHIRT WALL.

Being a youth pastor is pretty much synonymous with having an epic collection of t-shirts. So, if you’re looking for a cool (and affordable) way to decorate your office, take a few minutes, dig out your old youth ministry t-shirts, and you’ve got the raw materials for some pretty incredible office decor.

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HOW TO | Make Custom Dry Erase Boards (with a FREE Download)

In case you missed it, I’m in the middle of a little series about how to make your office awesome. Because having a cool office is fun, of course, but also because the condition of your office can actually help you be better at your job.

In my last post, you got a peek at my friend Austin’s wooden pallet wall and, today, I want to keep this trend going with a feature in my office that I absolutely love: custom dry erase boards. 

I’ll tell you how to make them and I’ll give you a free download with the templates to make them yourself.

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HOW TO | Make a Pallet Wall for Your Office

Yesterday I shared a list of tips and thoughts on how to make your office super awesome. And, in case you forgot, Tip #4 on that list was…

DO ONE SUPER COOL THING.

If you recall, I mentioned that our youth ministry offices are pretty awesome. But it’s not because we’ve spent a ton of money on them. It’s because we’ve tried to come up with a few really cool and functional things to do with the space we have.

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HOW TO | Make Your Office Awesome

Today, I want to talk about making our offices freaking awesome. Why? Two reasons.

#1  Having a sweet office is fun.
I mean, think about all the time you spend sitting at your desk. Don’t you want to enjoy being there?

#2  The condition of your office can actually help you be better at your job.
Seriously. Plenty of research shows that the condition of our workspaces can significantly help, or hinder, our ability to be efficient and creative. And that’s a big deal because… well, we’ve got work to do! Like, really important work. If we want to be the best youth ministers we can possibly be, we’ve got to get stuff done, think creatively, and be motivated. So let’s create workspaces that encourage us to be our best and get more done.

So here’s what I want to do. Whether you’re in an office, cubicle, or a broom closet (been there, by the way), I want to share some tips for making your workspace freaking awesome.

These are tips for getting your office more organized (because I’ve seen some of your offices, and they are scary places), and tips for making it look sweet, too.

So let’s do it. Here are 4 simple tips for making your workspace more awesome.

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HOW TO | Make Super Simple (and Awesome) Wall Art for Your Youth Space

Recently, our youth space needed a little makeover.

I guess it’s just what happens when you’ve got hundreds of teenagers running around multiple times a week: stuff starts to fall apart, decorative items get broken or go missing, and things just start to feel… a little run down. Our space needed some revamping. So I started brainstorming some solutions and updates.

The easiest way to bring some new life and coziness to our space, I decided, would be to invest in some cool wall art.

Two complications, though:

  1. IT NEEDED TO BE MULTIPURPOSE. We do youth ministry in a space that is also utilized by other ministries and events. So whatever I hung on the walls needed to appeal to more than just teenagers.
  2. WE DIDN’T HAVE MUCH OF A BUDGET. This wasn’t something we had planned for in our budget. But it was necessary. And buying wall art can be expensive. Boo.

So I made my own! And it was so easy. Even if you don’t have a single artistic bone in your body, you can do this. I promise.

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The Transformative Power of Women in Ministry

Last month, Jen Bradbury over at YMjen.com asked me to contribute to a series she was doing on her blog. She had asked a handful of women in youth ministry to share a transformative moment in their faith and ministry. I loved this series. And I was really excited to be a part of it. And I think you should read it.

Here’s the post I contributed. It’s the story of a moment that changed the way I view women in ministry

The summer after I graduated high school, our youth pastor took a group of high school students and recent graduates to a student leadership conference. For five days, we were challenged to make a difference, set big goals, have a vision, and change the world for Jesus. I loved it.

Toward the end of the conference, one communicator in particular caught my attention. Because we all have unique gifts and passions, he said, the way each of us serves God should be unique too. Some of us would go on to serve God in the “world,” as doctors or lawyers or politicians or whatever else we wanted to do. And some of us, he said, would serve God in vocational ministry – maybe in a church or missions organization.

As a recent high school graduate who was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, I paid close attention. I had a ton of interests and talents and passion, but little eighteen-year-old Elle hadn’t figured out how to pull all of those things together for a future career yet.

I did know, though, that I loved leading and helping and serving in my church and my youth group. So when the communicator mentioned “vocational ministry,” I started to wonder…

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7 New Things We’re Working on This Summer

Earlier this week I shared 9 things that I do every single summer in preparation for the new school year.

Those 9 things are keeping me pretty busy. But (like you, I’m sure) we also have the challenge of juggling all of the new things we want to launch in the new school year.

You know. New projects, new ideas, new systems…

So today, I wanted to give you a look at 7 brand new ideas and projects we’re trying to pull together in preparation for the new school year. And, like my last post, I’ll let you in on how we’re doing with each of them.

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9 Things I Do in Youth Ministry Every Summer

I was just talking to my friend Jeremy Lee about how ridiculously busy summers are in youth ministry. (And when I say we were “talking,” I actually mean he was laughing at me and my absurdly long Summer To-Do List.)

Summers in youth ministry are crazy. Now that August is almost here, I’m guessing you’re swamped with planning the calendar for a new school year, recruiting volunteers, reworking all the stuff that flopped last year, planning a sweet kick-off event, and about a million other things.

Or maybe you’re reading this post right now and thinking, “Shoot… I should probably start thinking about the new school year, huh?”

If that’s you, I will pray for you.

Anyway. I thought it would be fun to share with you a little checklist of the 9 things I do every single summer in preparation for the new school year… and let you know how I’m doing with each of them so far.

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So I’m Wondering…

Ok friends, I’m wondering if you can help me with something…

I’m working on a few new series of posts for this blog. I’m really excited about them, and I think they’ll be pretty cool and helpful.

But… I need your help to pull them off!

So here’s what I’m wondering…

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Don’t Climb Alone: A New Discipleship Tool We Can’t Wait to Use!

Earlier this week, I was gushing about the 7 reasons I’m obsessed with Never the Same Summer Camp. And I kind of left you hanging on Reason #7, where I said that I love them because of “their post-camp discipleship resources.” I had to hold off on telling you more about it because their brand new resource is so stinking good that it deserved its own post.

So, today, I’d like to introduce you to a new tool from our friends at Never the Same. It’s called Don’t Climb Alone.

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7 Reasons We’re Obsessed with NTS Summer Camp

Kenny and I are home after a week of summer camp with some of our little middle school friends!

Our week at camp was amazing. But if we’re Instagram buddies, you probably know that already. Hope you liked all those videos of dance parties and giant sprinklers and boys wearing tutus.

Photo Jul 09, 2 43 28 PMWe take students to NTS Camp (short for “Never the Same” Camp) every single summer. And, every single summer, the NTS team consistently blows us away with their vision, their hearts, their creativity, and their execution.

Is NTS Camp the best summer camp in the world? Yeah probably.

Should you take your students next summer? Um yes.

Let me tell you why.

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Fun Ninja is LIVE!

Guys. GUESS WHAT.

On Friday, Kenny launched a brand new youth ministry resource under the umbrella of Stuff You Can Use, and we are so pumped to share it with you!

Fun Ninja is a growing archive of our favorite youth group games and Kenny’s thoughts about creating super fun environments for students. I love what he’s put together so far, and there is tons more content on the way. Check it out!

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