In the Fall we like to do a "friend night" - one night where I challenge students to bring as many friends as possible.  I usually schedule it on the same night as we're kicking off a new series, and have some sort of incentive tied to the challenge as well.

This year our friend night is a facial hair fiasco!  I've been growing my beard out for a while now (my wife loves it!), and the number of students that show up on friend night determines what facial hair style I'll shave LIVE that night!  Here's the breakdown:

30 = Muttonchops.
40 = Chin Strap
50 = Fu Manchu
60 = Students get to choose/design style.
70+ = Students get to choose/design style PLUS mohawk!

So there's the furry gauntlet I've thrown down!  We'll see if our youth take up the challenge.  I'm hoping that it's a great night not just for the fun of it, but for the kick-off of our next series (post on that coming soon) and for our midweek to gain some much-needed momentum.

AS A BONUS to you, super-awesome visitor to this blog, here's a short Powerpoint game I came up with to intro the friend night theme.  Click here to download "Name that Facial Hair!"
I HATE publishing regular newsletters.  Not because I hate communication, but because it just seems like tedious busywork to me.

BUT I may change my mind after getting linked to this FREE (or if you can, make a donation!) newsletter template over at Adam Walker Cleaveland's blog!  I LOVE the look of this and can't wait to try it out in my ministry.

Maybe you can use it in yours!

- Tim B.
The news of Osama bin Laden's death and the subsequent discussion on how Christians should appropriately respond to it has DOMINATED the internet this week (at least the part I frequent), and I know that many youth workers are looking for ways to engage young people in discussion about how exactly we can respond in a godly way to the past week's events.

I'm using an inductive study and discussion format this week to discuss ObL's death, violence, justice, and God's heart with students.  Instead of having a "sermon" or message where I give only my perspective on the issue, I think it's important to involve students in the discussion and come to some "conclusions" (using that word loosely!) together.  Frankly, I'd be lying if I said I knew exactly how to feel about the whole thing.  But I embrace the opportunity to discuss, discern, and discover what it means to follow Christ well in the midst of what I think we'd all agree is a profound moment in our generation.

I'd love to share the study and discussion guide with you.

Here's the student sheet - use this at the front end of your discussion to get students thinking biblically about violence, justice, death, sin, etc.

Here's the discussion guide - use this to move your students through a discussion on the issues.

Let me know how it goes!

- Tim B.
This is a great activity you can do with your students anytime of year, but especially at Easter since there it is such an EGG-citing time.  I just can't help myself...

Anyway, this activity leads in to a discussion about what you put your hope in.  I use it around Easter and talk about putting our hope in the One who died and rose again, and how the resurrection is assurance to the believer that our hope is not misplaced but Jesus has indeed triumphed over death!

First, break students in to small groups of 3-4.  Give each group a bag filled with random craft supplies (string, paper, cotton balls, dixie cups, pipe cleaners, etc. - basically whatever's lying around!).

Tell them that they have ten minutes to construct a "vehicle" in which they must place an egg.  The "vehicle" must protect the egg because you're going to drop it from a height (we have a fire escape at our church that works perfectly, a tall step ladder would work fine as well).

NOTE - do NOT give them the eggs before hand.  You MUST be able to put the egg in just before the launch.  Not only will students be able to "cheat" by wrapping up their egg in all their supplies making it virtually indestructible, but you may have egg on your face, literally, if you let them have raw eggs before hand.

Once they're finished, take them OUTSIDE and drop the eggs, one at a time.  It's super-fun to see which ones survive and which ones don't.  Afterward, come back inside and use some of these questions to move in to your lesson.

1. Which design was the best?  The worst?
2. If you were the egg, which "vehicle" would you get in?  Which one would you NEVER get in?
3. What are some things people put their hope in for security, protection, peace, etc. in this life?

And take it from there!  Have fun!!!

- Tim B.
Stumbled on a great site today called  The site contains all of the promotional, educational, and illustrative videos from the North American Mission Board.  You can browse through the entire library and download the videos for FREE!

Our pastor is using the video above for his Easter Sunday sermon, and I'm sure we'll use more of the videos in the very near future.

The folks over at Mars Hill in Seattle have offered up a FREE 30-minute short film called "Good Friday" which depicts the last hours of Jesus' life leading up to the crucifixion.  The film runs about 30 minutes, and it is pretty gritty and bloody, to be quite honest.  You can definitely see the "Passion of the Christ" influence, but this one is of course shorter and in my opinion more accessible.

This could be an option for you if you do a Good Friday service for your students.  Just be sure to send home notice about the film's content to parents/families before you show it.

You can watch and download the film at

- 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 (, 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 (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.
Found some free hiphop/spoken word videos like the one above over at Humble Beast that you might find useful in your student ministry!  Check them out here.

- Tim B.
Last night I did a one-shot message on "Labels".  Before we started I covered myself in labels on which I had written some pretty negative words - "ugly", "fat", "stupid", "lost cause", "smelly", "loser", "unloved"We opened with some discussion on how labels can be helpful or hurtful, and why people tend to label each other in hurtful ways.  We then read the story of the woman caught in adultery, and talked about the names the men who dragged her before Jesus must have been calling her, and the label she was given as an adulteress/sinner/temptress/worse (and probably rightfully so - sometimes our labels aren't entirely inaccurate!).

But the interesting thing is that Jesus - in a deeply profound way - removes all of these voices from around this woman, before addressing her directly.  Perhaps she expected another label to be heaped upon her - "rejected", "condemned", "mistake"...

But instead Jesus says He does NOT condemn her.  She is "forgiven", "free", "released", "challenged", "called".

I gave each student a blank name tag at the beginning of the night.  During our closing prayer time I asked them to, when they felt God speaking to them, write down the "label" they thought God would place on them.  After the prayer, I asked any who would like to share to explain what their label said and why they felt like that's how God saw them.  It was super-emotional and we had some awesome discussion to end the night.

You can buy blank name-tags at any office supply store or download a template for mailing labels online.

Let me know if you try this exercise and how it goes for you!

- Tim B.
It's crucial for your youth ministry team to all agree upon a standard and strategy of YM for you to succeed.  As a way to align our team, before any volunteer can serve in the youth ministry at FBCCS they have to complete a background check, have a one-on-one interview with me, and read over and sign our leadership covenant.

We ask leaders to commit to three areas:  Christ, the Church, and the Youth Ministry.  The covenant sheet elaborates on each of these.  Click here to download it to your computer (tip: right click then select "save target/link as").

I'd love to share it with you here.  I know you can find freebies like this all over the place, but maybe this one will fit your needs or inspire you as you create your own.  This is yours - edit it, use it however you want, and you don't even have to give me any credit!


- Tim B.