Creative Youth Programming by Landon MacDonald

Fun quotes:

  • “I hate it when people say they aren’t creative. We are made in the image of God and He is the ultimate creative.”
  • “If you are reading the creation narrative… what do you learn about God? Not much. You just learn that he’s really creative, he creates giant things and tiny things.”

You can’t be afraid to fail – Example of  the Ice Cream Truck failure… (synopsis… he bought an ice cream truck and failed fast/hard.)

  1. Creators are creative thieves – Where does creativity thrive?
    • Creatives are bad with budgets, timelines, etc…
    • Creativity thrives within rails… you have to give some boundaries, deadlines
      • Tip: Use the “tent of safety” so people feel free to share all of their ideas without fear of rejection
  2. People are a self-fulfilling prophesies- your assumptions about people effect your attitudes towards them.
  3. kinds of creativity
    • new- wheels, fire… this is rare
    • better – taking an existing thing and making it better
    • different – “all art is reactionary” things ping pong back and forth.

Metrics of Success by Dan Jones and Joe Daley


  • What do you count? (Summary: Butts and bucks!)
  • Who are you counting for? (Senior leadership, committees, donors)
  • Which number matters most? (Small groups, things we have value, mission trips)
  • What do these things tell us about faith? (If you were to measure, what would you measure?)

Words we use…

  • Fragile, handle with care
  • Muddy, generally unclear
  • Developing, taking shape
  • Tipping, on the edge of something great
  • Thriving, really humming
  • Marginless, redlining or over churches

So if those are the words we use, how do we measure that?


Are You Soul Tired? by Betsy Marvin

If you were being really honest how would you answer the question: How is your soul today?

You have permission to go take a nap. You have permission to care for your own heart.

Do you value your spiritual life enough to just value yourself and your walk with Jesus?

Unhealthy leaders make unhealthy decisions and lead unhealthy people.

“Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” ~ Matthew 11:28

We all know this. So why is this so hard?

Sometimes we want people to see Jesus and all they can see is our junk.

Questions for reflection…

  • When was the last time you took a sabbath?
  • When was the last time you went on a date?
  • What do you like to do? And when was the last time you did it?
  • Name 5 people you are connected to that are NOT in your ministry?
  • Who calls you out? Do you listen?

Generations on Your Staff by Lynn Barger-Elliot

This is the first time in the history of humankind that there are different attitudes, generationally, among workers.

Opener: Reflect on a family vacation where three or more generations were together. What was that like?

Quote: “Normally I teach this topic in a semester. Hold on.”

  • Greatest Generation (b. before 1928, 87 yo+)
  • Silent Generation (b. 1928 – 1942, 73-87)
  • Boomers (b. 1946 – 1964, 52-69)
  • Gen X (b. 1964-1980, 25-51)
  • Gen Y/Millenials (b. 1980-1998, 18-34)

Generation Y is considered the most parented generation in human history. They typically delay marriage, child birth, buying cars/houses, finding a career.

How that relates to leadership:

  • TOP DOWN – Delegate to middle management to explain “why” decisions are made in the org
  • Paid their dues b/c they expected to stay with the org, good at kissing rings
  • Follow orders, loyal to the org
  • Had a mentor/guide
  • Live to work
  • First generation to question leadership, having witnessed Vietnam and Watergate
  • First generation to face layoffs

Gen X Leadership

  • Value independent thinking
  • Question “top down” orders without their input
  • Love feedback but not being managed
  • Love feedback but not being managed
  • Openly criticize leaders if they don’t like the leadership decisions; may lead the organization
  • Work to live

Gen Y Leadership

  • 83% don’t want to lead
  • Prefer shared leadership; seek collaboration
  • Ask advice outside of the org
    • Frequently call parents in youth ministry
  • Globally connected; technically proficient
  • Live for now; short-term planners
  • Share critiques via social media

Work Values by Generation

  • Greatest Generation – Tradition, helping others, being a part of change
  • Silent Generation – Tradition, loyalty, joint work ethic
  • Boomers – Their value to the team, public recognition, your need for them
  • Gen X – Their value to the work, work at home

Boomers and Gen Y

  • Gen Y are known to start a job with the assumption that they know more than their boss
  • Both generations have a reputation of entitlement
  • Unique bond: Parents and kids

Gen X & Gen Y working together

  • Tension: Don’t like to work with each other
  • Gen X doesn’t think Gen Y has a good work ethic
  • Gen Y is even more comfortable w/technology
  • Gen X is concerned that communication by Gen Y is done primarily by texting/emails
    • Threatens relationships
    • Leads to misunderstanding

Scenarios that Cause Friction Generationally

  • Staff office hours policy
  • New worship service
  • PLanning for new gathering space in the church
  • Dealing with a sexually inappropriate member
  • Designing a confirmation class
  • Qualifications for a youth leader
  • Process for staff to track pastor care issues

Engaging Student Athletes: Reflections and Stories from an Ex-Jock Turned Youth Pastor and College Dean by Chip Huber

Student athletes at the HS and college level are often times marginalized on their campuses. They have some benefits but they also are often isolated in church youth group and school.

Instead, what we desire…

  • Excellence in their performance– people love watching athletes use their gifts
  • Get involved outside of athletics, make friends outside of athletics
  • To know that it is safe to be around and then to build relationships with them even if they don’t look the same as their peers.
  • To serve as role models and leaders and representatives in public spaces and their games
  • For athletes to share their struggle and fears  and issues with fellow strugglers on campus

What athletes want from their peers… and people who lead them…

  • to show up in their lives
  • liason who they know cares and will advocate
  • second chances
  • non-pre-determined viewpoints
  • invitation to lead in non-athletic contexts

Why athletics needs to be engaged:

  • The real community it offers for a youth group
  • The chance to see a massively influential cultural good and arena transformed for grand impact and purpose in our sports-obsessed culture
  • The power of sport to change lives and our world
  • Nights of Nets on CU campus & beyond

Developing Disciples by Chad Inman

A Case for Developmental Theory

  • Discipleship is about growth

Four people who cover developmental theory…

  1. Piaget
  2. Kohlberg
  3. Fowler
  4. Ericson

We can use discipleship for effective discipleship; using discipleship to impact human development.


  1. Create supportive relationships
  2. Consider moral development
  3. Make room for questioning and doubt
  4. Address multiple developmental stages

Growing Your Youth Ministry by Doing Less by Gina Abbas

The Problem

Lives of parents and kids are way too busy with church stuff. We tend to overwhelm families.

The Solution

We want to be like In-n-Out and not Five Guys. At Mars Hill we keep our schedule simple.

“Everything we do in student ministries is around the priority of life groups on Sunday night.”

  • We aim for LESS PROGRAMS to keep it simple. Everyone in 5th grade and up attends the main worship services.
  • We have LESS MEETINGS. When we have meetings with parents we do it during youth group meetings so parents make less trips.
  • We offer SHORTER CAMPS. We gave up on the week-long camp and moved “camp” to a Friday-Sunday retreat format.
  • We CANCEL one program night a month. We make it easier for busy adults to do stuff with their small group.

[Adam’s thought: This is driven by giving up control. Far too often we choke out ministry potential of volunteers by over-programming. When the staff gives up control, small groups thrive.]

The Results

  • An increase in volunteer involvement in kid’s lives outside of church

“I will not leave you like children who don’t have parents. I will come to you.” ~ John 14:18

  • An increase in leader’s attendance at trainings, camps, etc.
  • More time for faith practice
  • More families sitting together in church
  • Better partnering w/parents

We are not a ministry that competes; but a ministry that connects.

We connect by doing less and by doing less we actually do more… of the things that matter. (Like watching a movie with your mom… that’s more important than youth group sometimes.)


Attendee Information

Where to park

Please park anywhere in the Hansen Athletic Center parking lot. (17 on the map)


Proceed to Bolthouse Hall. (3 on the map) Check-in will begin in the lobby at 8:30. We’ll have bagels and coffee and stuff like that.

We will start at 9. So plan on getting to campus no later than 8:45 to find parking, checkin, all that.

To check-in we’ll only need your name and/or church name. You don’t need to print a ticket or anything like that. 

Where we’re meeting

We’ll be in Bolthouse Hall all day. (3 on the map above) If you arrive late, just find us there.


Lunch is not included in your registration. You may eat on campus in the dining hall for a fee, we recommend meeting someone new and heading to one of the many nearby food options.

Feel free to bring your own lunch if you’d like.

Lunch in 90 minutes. Plenty of time to relax a little before the afternoon sessions.

What to bring

You don’t “need” anything. But if you bring a laptop/tablet we will have access to the wireless network for taking notes.

We’ll ask all speakers to share their slides and/or notes. Those will be posted on the website.


Doors open at 8:30, we’ll start at 9, and we’ll wrap-up about 5.

For those interested, we’ll be having an informal dinner gathering Saturday night starting at 6 PM at Grand Rapids Brewing Company. (1 Ionia Avenue Southwest, Grand Rapids, MI 49503)


5 Weeks Until Open GR!

Ah… winter.

A quick scan of social media reveals that folks living in Michigan, Northern Indiana, and the Chicago area are completely sick of winter.

The supreme irony of our living in San Diego is that we’re Midwesterners who love a good midwest winter. We’d get 6 inches of snow and Kristen was ecstatic about shoveling the driveway. I absolutely loved giving people a hard time about canceling things because it was cold or a bit icy.

So, a year ago, I scheduled our very first Open Grand Rapids right in the middle of winter. On purpose! My hope was that people would have a little cabin fever and look forward to something to get out of the house for on a cold Saturday.

Welp, um… I was wrong. The weather was a bit of a sucker punch and we had a very hard time getting people to come out.

Year one was great: But year two will be a lot better!

This year’s Open Grand Rapids is March 28th (SPRING!) on the campus of Cornerstone University. If you aren’t familiar with the format we have a great line-up of presenters presenting on real-life stuff from all over the region. Instead of the “big national organization” bringing in a group of ringers to offer big-box-version youth ministry training without local context, we recruit local youth ministry experts to offer training to fellow workers doing youth ministry right in that same context. So don’t expect polish or production or anything fancy about Open Grand Rapids. But do expect a very full, very high quality day of youth ministry training for just $25. (No one gets paid and most of the money gets donated back to a local organization & the local organizer team.)

The kicker? What our presenters lack in the experience of doing the same seminar dozens of times per year, they more than make up for in real-life experience. 

What has became so evident at our 3rd Open Boston a couple weeks ago is that with a little bit of experience, some feedback/coaching, that the quality of training is just as good as any I’ve seen.

So that’s the scoop on Open Grand Rapids. I hope to see you there.

Two new sessions added

This week we confirmed 2 new sessions, both will be co-lead, so it’s a total bargain… 4 new speakers! Check out the links to learn more about them.

Re-Thinking the Purpose of Youth Ministry will be lead by Matt Laidlaw and Josh Bishop from Mars Hill Bible Church.

And Recount (a session about metric of success) will be lead by Dan Jones and Joe Daley from Ward Church.

You can see the full line-up on the speakers page.

And registration is currently open!