The best Youth Ministry Conference out there

the orange conference youth ministry

They often say “leaders are readers,” but the underlying truth there is that leaders are learners. We all get that.

That’s why conferences are, in my opinion, so crucial for leaders.  In the world of Youth Ministry, we have a number of options to choose from. In my time as a Youth Pastor, I’ve been to a lot of the major, national conferences and several of the smaller, regional ones.  I don’t mean to bash on the others, but there really is nothing that can top the experience and education of the Orange Conference.

I wrote this summer about the idea of the 10 word answers, that it’s easy to be able to say a quick phrase that sounds great or offer a general solution that might solve a problem without understanding why the phrase is true or why the solution works. For me, I can go to any conference and get inspired, see something that is killing it in another ministry, or hear an idea that would be phenomenal for my church. But rarely at these conferences do I learn a) Why an idea is a killer idea in general, b) why an idea is being successful there in that context, or c) how I can make it successful in my ministry, or if it’s even a good fit for my ministry.

That’s why I love the Orange Conference. You’re going to see a lot of amazing things, hear about a lot of killer ideas. But the focus of the conference isn’t the solution, but instead the philosophy of the solution. You won’t just leave with a notebook of ideas or curriculum options, you’ll leave planning a strategy for YOUR ministry.

So I know I’ll be in Atlanta this coming spring, and I’d love to meet more of our YouthMin community there. Registration opens up this week (october 9th) and you can save $80 per person for opening day, thats a HUGE savings!

Even better, the amazing folks at Orange have been kind enough to give us a ticket to give away to a reader. Just leave a comment on ANY post this week, and on Thursday at 3 pm CST, we’ll choose a random winner!

Check out the highlights from last year’s conference

The Orange Conference 2014: Highlights from Orange on Vimeo.

*Disclaimer: I’m asked to help promote the Orange Conference, but I’d write the same post above even if they hadn’t asked.

What texting service do you use in Youth Ministry?

youth group text messages

One of the most popular questions we get asked in the Facebook community is what texting service others get used. We wanted to create a database of answers, so that rather than always having to repeat the same list, we could point Youth Pastors here.

We added Facebook comments for this purpose, so that users can come right from the group, comment, and head back seamlessly. So add your option!

5 apps you should be using in Youth Ministry

youth ministry app

We love seeing new tools we can use in Youth Ministry, and last year we shared 4 resources we were excited to use in Youth Ministry. But we also love it when we are able to do amazing things for youth ministry from our phones, and we know you do too because one of the most frequent questions we get in the Facebook group is what apps are used most in youth ministry. So with that in mind, here are 5 apps we know will be game changers in our ministries this year.

youth ministry leaders communication

The first app is Slack, a team communication app. We’ve been using this tool for our go to means of communication with the site leadership for for the past while and we love it. We tried Facebook messages, iMessage, groupme, and a few others, but this app is so feature loaded nothing compares. The possibilities with youth ministry leaders are phenomenal, as you can create multiple conversations within teams and limit who sees what. So say in your team of volunteers you have a group focused on worship, a group focused on small groups, a group focused on events, they can each be a part of the main conversation (and adjust notifications to their preferences) as well as in the loop on the important information for their specific team. You can also add files, images, links, and more, so you could text message your small group leaders next week’s lesson and know they have it readily available.

small group leader training youth ministry

I personally am a huge fan of Orange and all they do. In my mind, the Orange Conference is the one conference to absolutely be at every year (unless, like me this past year, your wife is due with your child the week of the conference, and it’s a 4 hour flight. I didn’t absolutely have to be at it this past year, but I wish I was). Something I always hear people say about the Orange Conference is that they don’t go because they don’t use the Orange curriculum, and similar to that, people might not use this app because they don’t use the curriculum. But with both of those, you don’t need to use their curriculum to be blown away! This app is full of training videos and articles for small group leaders, it’s got great tools on it they can use during small group for games or discussion, and it enables your small group leader’s to input their students information, their parents information, and communicate with students and/or parents. It’s like a virtual swiss army knife for your Small Group Leaders, and it’s FREE!

youth ministry attendance

Every once in a while, something fantastic will come out, or major will happen, and it will get posted 50 times an hour in the Facebook group. We saw it when Mark Driscoll was removed from Acts29, when the guy invented the thing that tied 100 water balloons a minute, and most recently, when this app was released. For the longest time, I’ve wanted a database on my phone of students (besides the contacts app) and that’s a fraction of what this app is. It’s also the best attendance tracker out there, and gives the data that more Youth Ministries need to be able to track, attendance trends. As a quick note, if you are going to use this (or something like it) be as precise as you can be, if you only have 8 kids show up, register 8, not 10 or 13. That or be consistent with how many extras you count, so you can still see true trends in growth or drop.

youth ministry productivity

Asana is another tool we started using with the site leadership to get things done, and so it’s another tool to use with your team of leaders. My leaders are broken into 3 teams (production, Host, and Small Group) and our production team is in charge of events, announcements, services, and more. Needless to say, we usually have a pretty long list of to-do items that is constantly being added to, and conversations can get crazy on email or Facebook. Though Slack handles a ton of our communication, Asana is great for organizing what needs to get done, keeping record of it, and working together remotely. Your volunteers may not jump at the opportunity of yet another app and another sign up, this is one that they will thank you for by the end of the year.*

*Not a guarantee, we just think it’s wicked useful.
create video announcements youth ministry

This last app is all about fun. I wish I knew more about after effects, but making a 15 second video would take me hours longer than it should. I love that we’ve got contributors adding awesome video templates to the store to use, but sometimes you want just a quick video to get an announcement out there, and thats where Ultratext comes in. Ultratext easily makes gifs (that can also be exported as videos to instagram) and when I say easily, I mean it. Enter in your text, and it will automatically make every word it’s own image in the gif. Hit done and bam, you’ve instantly got a great video.


So those are 5 apps we’re using in Youth Ministry this year, what did we leave off the list? Like I said at the beginning, we at YouthMin love tools for ministry, so if you know of one we should be using, let us know!

6 Reasons to Teach Church History to Your Students

I went on a rant a couple weeks ago. I was reading though my Twitter timeline and started thinking about how much we need to discuss and know Church History today. When I was in Bible College I took Church History expecting to white-knuckle though a boring semester. Dr. Parsons opened my eyes to a new love and passion that I never knew I had. Church History is amazing! I wondered at the end of that semester how come I never knew of these awesome men and women of our faith.

Before the class started I couldn’t tell you the difference between Martin Luther and Martin Luther King Jr. I just never heard about them. I never heard about the great stories of the Church Councils. Like how Santa was real and slapped a heretic in his face. I mean, that is crazy right? Or the example of Augustine who after 30+ years of living in sin and for himself he give his life to the Lord and has since influenced so much of Christian Theology and Western thinking. I don’t think I ever heard a lesson on any person or event in church history earlier than Jim Elliot. I certainly have never heard a message on church history in youth group.

So I took a risk. I taught on Church History in my youth group. It went amazing!

Here are 6 reasons I taught my students Church History and I think you should too:

  1. Church History teaches our students that Christianity is historic. Millions of people over 2000 years have been studying, believing, and dealing with many of the same issues they are going through and wrestling with today. That should comfort your students that they are not the first Christian ever to deal with a certain issue..
  2. Church History teaches our students about the heresies of the past that have already been dealt with, so we don’t make the same mistakes again. So many heresies that are being propagated today are recycled thoughts from 1500 years ago. There were church councils that dealt with weighty issues and wrestled with the scriptures to find what the Bible actually says on the issue. We should learn from the errors of the past so we don’t make the same mistake again.
  3. Church History teaches us that what we believe is worth defending. Studying the martyrs who risked their lives empowers our students to be bold about their faith and stand up for what they really believe in. People risked their lives for the truth. People died proclaiming the gospel. This is emboldening for our students.
  4. Church History should humble our students. Jonathan Edwards entered Yale at the age of 12. Charles Spurgeon didn’t go to college but managed to start his own Pastor’s College. We have brilliant men and women in our history. People who God has allowed us to be able to study and learn from. In our entitled society it is probably a good habit to read and learn from men and women who can school us and bring us back a couple pegs.
  5. Church History teaches us that God can use imperfect people for his perfect purpose. Martin Luther said racist stuff towards the end of his life and Jonathan Edwards owned slaves. These are things we shouldn’t shove under the rug. We should show our students that God can use incredibly flawed individuals for his glory. That is very good news for us.
  6. Most of the men had epic beards. As Spurgeon said: “Growing a beard is a habit most natural, Scriptural, manly and beneficial.” Seriously, beards are amazing!

Four Epic Dudes

I did a series called Four Epic Dudes. It was a study on the life and ministry of Augustine, Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon. My students came in not knowing much about these men and they left with a new appreciation for Church History and the people who paved the way to where we are today. You can purchase this series in the YouthMin Market Place. I won’t lie, this was a bit different from most of my past series. Lots of research and reading went into it. However, my soul has been enriched after doing it and refreshing my own mind on the works by these men and their lives as an example for me has been very beneficial.

If anything, study church history for yourself. If you want a book to get you started on studying church history for yourself, read Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley. That was my textbook in college and it has been a great resource ever since. Also, read “Lectures to my Students” by Charles Spurgeon. Every pastor should have this on their shelves. It is just an amazing book!

Great Graduation Gifts for Students

In our main Facebook YouthMin group, one question always pops up repeatedly around this time of year.  The question is “What do you get your graduates as you recognize them?”  There is always a lot of conversation, and a great deal of options, and we decided to share some things we’ve done in the past.  Maybe one of these options will be a good fit for you and your ministry as you seek to honor your graduates this year.


  • A Bible with their named engraved on it. (a good study Bible is ideal for a college freshman)
  • Radical by David Platt
  • You Can Be Everything God Wants You To Be by Max Lucado
  • 99 Thoughts for College-Age People by Chuck Bomar
  • Thriving at College by Alex Chediak
  • Apologetics Study Bible
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
  • The Explicit Gospel by Matt Chandler
  • Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper


  • Your church logo on T-shirts or hoodies (downside is you must know sizes)
  • Church mugs/travel mug with church logo
  • Backpacks or Drawstring Bags with your logo (either church of Youth Ministry)


  • Gift cards to Starbucks, Christian Book Stores, etc.
  • For ladies: A Sterling Silver Cross Bracelet
  • If you have the budget and only a few grads, make a care package with essential dorm supplies (laundry basket/detergent, air fresheners, etc.)


  • Honor all graduates during your worship service.  We call them to the front, have them share their name, school, and future plans.  Then, we give them a small gift.  Included is always a flyer about our upcoming College Ministry activities – the hope is they will plug into that ministry seamlessly.
  • Do a Baccalaureate service for your students – meal, speaker, worship, challenge.
  • One church near us does a slide show for their students during the worship service to honor them.
  • Do a mini-retreat for your seniors with some recent college students. Have them share life experiences and words of wisdom as they enter college.


Regardless of what you get your sr.’s to love on them during THIS season, just make sure they know you still love them the same in the next season. The best gift you can give them is a continued interest in their lives and pastoral care as they begin this next chapter in their lives.

We’d love to know what you’re getting for your graduates? Share in the comments the gifts your getting this year, or the best idea you’ve seen!

Essential Time Management

About a month ago I read an article by Carey Nieuwhof to his “younger self” in ministry about how to live and lead better.  As a young leader myself, I ate up the article and have read it weekly.

One point that resonated with me was #10:

Focus on productivity, and not just effort”

Sometimes we brag about how we worked a “60-hour workweek,” but let’s be honest: what did we really accomplish? Why is it a good thing that we work so much? Isn’t it possible to accomplish tasks in a shorter period of time?

As I was mulling over this article, my friend Aaron Helman from Smarter Youth Ministry approached me and told me he was obsessing over the same thing.  Aaron is amazing at resourcing youth workers, and used this obsession to come out with a brand new resource for youth workers: Essential Time Management.

Essential Time Management includes and is endorsed by tons of rock-stars in youth ministry: Rachel Blom, Josh Griffin, Chris Wesley, Jeremy Lee, Jody Livingston, and of course: Heather Campbell.

So please, click this link and sign up for the course!  It includes 8 sessions, coaching, and a bunch of other stuff. Additionally, if you use my special affiliate link, YouthMin.Org will send you a special resource.

Seriously, if you’re unsure–click it anyway and read more about it. I’ve personally reviewed the entire course and I’m not sure, but I’m certain, that a raise is in my near future because of my increased skill set.*

*I may have overexaggerated this part. Just click it.