I can't imagine that you ended up at this tiny youth ministry blog and haven't checked out Josh Griffin's (high school pastor at a tiny church called Saddleback in Southern California) monster-blog Morethandodgeball.com, but on the off-chance that you've never checked it out, you should!

Josh blogs more in a week than I do in a year and puts up great content on almost every YM topic imaginable, plus he regularly features guest posts (check out one I did a couple years ago by clicking here!).

Check out MTDB!

- Tim B.
It's a busy Thursday, so I don't have a lot of time to post, but here's one of my favorite videos.  Scary how right they got it.  :)

- Tim B.
In this last entry on how to create easy videos for your youth gatherings, let's talk about prayer and/or reflective videos.

There are many ways you can use video for reflective moments.  Here are some ideas I've used over the years:

- Take one or more passages of Scripture and reveal them slowly with some soft musical background.  This can be a great alternative to just having someone stand up and read the passage(s) out loud (which I also love to do, by the way!).  All you need to pull this off is a simple video editing program like Windows Movie Maker.

- Use video as a prayer prompt.  When the earthquake in Haiti happened, I used the video above in our youth service as a moment of reflection and prayer.  Using video can give you an opportunity to do a "guided" prayer experience and prompt students to focus on different things over the course of a few minutes.

- Silent reflection.  Sometimes it's a powerful tool to use a video with no music or sound in the background.  Try revealing Scripture or quotes that tie in to your theme/message.  You could also use video to put questions up on the screen and have students silently reflect on them before worship or the message.  This has been a really awesome experience the times I've done it with students!

I hope this series has been useful to you!  I love using video in youth ministry, and I'd love to hear some creative ways you've used it as well.  Comment this post and if I get enough ideas I'll do a post with some of them on it!

- Tim B.
Nothing kills momentum in your youth service like stopping everything for 5 or 10 minutes of BORING up-front announcements.  You may be talking about important, exciting stuff, but let's face it - with the attention spans of most teenagers, if you don't spice things up a little bit you'll at best bore them and at worse fail to communicate important info about your ministry and events.

Using video is a great way to break the monotony of announcements.  All you'll need is a decent digital video camera, a basic editing program (like Windows Movie Maker), and an idea.  Youtube is great for the latter - just type in "youth ministry announcement video" and you'll get tons of results that will inspire you.

I've done all sorts of announcement videos - ripping cartoons from Youtube and overlaying our own voices, using action figures with students voicing them, doing the announcements while someone hurts me (!), filming them in an interesting place, etc.  There's really no limit to what you can do!

If you've got a dead spot in your service and it's the announcements, try shaking things up this week or next with a simple (and SHORT) video.  You'll be happy with the results and your students will love it!

- Tim B.
In the last Easy Videos post we talked about a quick and easy way to share your own testimony.

Now, let's talk about student testimonies.  I can tell you, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that one of, if not THE, most powerful and effective things I've done in YM is give students opportunities to share their stories from the front.  There is nothing quite like a teenager hearing the Gospel and how God is working in a life from one of their peers.  There's something validating in hearing this from someone who they can so easily identify with.

The "problem" with doing live student testimonies (and really live testimonies from ANY age) is the - and I hate to use this word - "control" factor.  Once someone steps in front of a mic, they forget that they were only supposed to talk for 5 minutes, or only focus on what God is doing in their life.  I have heard so many 5 minute stories of how a person came to know Christ turn in to 20 minute narratives of everything that's happened in their life since the 3rd grade.

That's why using video as an outlet for your students' testimonies is such a no-brainer!  Don't get me wrong - I still use students up front a lot, but those are usually in more informal ways or after they've been heavily coached.

All you need, really, is a decent digital video camera (again, I love my Flip HD), a student who is willing to share, and a basic video editing program like Windows Movie Maker.

I like to sit with a student and ask a lot of questions - how did you come to know Christ; how has your life changed, how do you connect with God regularly; what is God doing in your life right now; what do you still struggle with; etc.  I'll then take 15-20 minutes of talking and edit it down to 3-5 minutes of solid content, throw some instrumental music in the background, and a title screen with the student's name, and that's that!

I shot the video above to go with a series we did called "What do you believe?"  The response was awesome, and it was a great experience for the students who were involved in making the videos as well!

Student testimonies are awesome - you should try this if you aren't already doing it!

- Tim B.
I thought I would do a series of posts this week called "Easy Videos".  I LOVE using videos in our youth gatherings, and it really doesn't take much to pull it off.  In my low/no-budget situation, we've used an almost-20-year-old big screen TV and a modest laptop running Powerpoint for years.  Couple that with the great amount of free or cheap content out there (www.bluefishtv.com), and you can really add a new dimension to your time with students that can enhance your teaching/speaking/theme.

This week I want to focus on what you can do with an entry-level laptop, Windows Movie Maker, and a handheld digital video camera (I have a Flip HD I got for Christmas a few years ago).

The first video, above, is one I made to go along with a teaching series called "What's Your Story" that guided students through the process of developing both the desire and the skill to share their faith with others.  Rather than stand up front and give a 5-10 minute testimony, I mounted the Flip on a tripod on its tallest setting and pointed it over my shoulder as I sat at my desk.  I then took a blank legal pad and a sharpie and just started writing out my story, one little bit at a time on each page.

I uploaded the footage into Media Player (Flips are super easy to upload), sped the footage up, and dropped some music in from www.freeplaymusic.com (royalty free music you can download for... you guessed it - FREE!).

This would be super-easy for you to duplicate and would be a great alternative for you or a guest speaker to quickly share your story as an introduction or illustration.

Let me know if you try it out!

- Tim B.
Here are some thoughts bouncing around in my head tonight.

You don't have to work with young people long to realize that each ministry opportunity and relationship is very different - no two teenagers are alike!  BUT, although each individual student is completely unique, and no two situations are the same, there ARE some common needs that I think all young people have.

Here are three things I think every teenager needs:

Deep inside all of us is the desire for people to know us.  Have you ever called a teenager by name and caught that look on their face that betrays - if only for a second - how happy it made them that you remembered who they were?  Young people want someone older, someone that they look up to, to see them and to know them.  Log on to Facebook and start scrolling through your news feed and tell me whether or not you see students crying out to someone, anyone, saying "here I am!"  Teenagers need to be known.

Not only do young people want someone to know them, they also want to feel like they are part of a group to which they belong.  Unfortunately, the default place of belonging - the family - isn't what it once was.  There is a generation of teenagers before us who are dying - all too often in a literal sense - to be accepted and welcomed in by their peers and caring adults.  There are plenty of negative alternatives of belonging available in the world - from gangs to unhealthy peer relationship circles - and the church and our youth ministries should be a place of refuge and belonging for teenagers.

Teenagers need to be known, they need to have a community to which they belong, but that's not all - they also need to know that they have a purpose.  Have you noticed the rise in interest in "causes" in the last 5-10 years?  Teenagers will attach and detach themselves from causes like fashion.  I believe that deep inside the heart of each young person is a hunger for adventure and a desire to make a difference in this crazy messed-up world.  Again, there are so many unhealthy purposes students can attach themselves to, and it's up to us to point them toward not just the most fashionable cause of the moment, but to the calling that God has placed on every single one of their lives!

Again, these are just a few things that are rattling around my head.  What else do you think every teenager needs?  What would you add to the list?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

- Tim B.
Last night in youth group we had a conversation about the power of our words.  Our primary text was Eph. 4:29.  I love the way The Message Bible says it:

"Watch the way you talk.  Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth.  Say only what helps, each word a gift."

To illustrate how powerful our words can be, I cut a life-size paper man out of butcher paper before we began and had him laying in the center of the our meeting space (as a fun thing before we started, I had markers out so that students could draw on him and give him some "personality"!).  After an opening game, we stood in a circle around the paper person (Roger, as he came to be called) and each student and adult leader took turns walking up to Roger, hurling an insult or some hurtful words at him, and then ripping off a small piece of him.

It was super fun, and the students got really... creative with their insults (ROGER!  YOU'RE SO TWO-DIMENSIONAL!  WHY CAN'T YOU STAND UP FOR YOURSELF???) and even some of our shyer youth got in to the activity.

When Roger was sufficiently shredded by our insults and negative words, I asked everyone to lay their pieces of paper back in the middle of the circle.  We stood there for a second, then I said four simple words:

"Put him back together."

Of course, they were like YEAH RIGHT!  Some actually attempted to match up the pieces and put poor old Roger back together, but it was too late.  Our words had damaged him irreparably.  Do I even need to explain the point?

Our words can really hurt someone, and it's a lot easier to tear a person or a relationship apart than it is to put it back together.  This led in to some great discussion about the power of words and our responsibility as followers of Jesus to always be building others up, NEVER tearing them down.

Try it!

- Tim B.

PS - I can't take credit for this idea.  Big props to Mike Hammer for the basis of this exercise!  Check out his site here.  Thanks Mike!
I know this video makes the rounds pretty frequently in YM circles, but it's too good not to post today.  What an awesome reminder of what a good youth worker really looks like!

- Tim B.
There's a great post over at YM360 on one of the most important aspects, in my opinion, of youth ministry: leading great discussions.

Over the years my message style has shifted from up-front lecture/sermon style to a much more conversation-based method, so I love what this article has to offer in the way of advice for those seeking to engage teenagers in what could be life-changing discussions.

Click here to check out the article!

- Tim B.