The Dress

dressYesterday, a picture of a dress went viral because of fundamental disagreement. Some people saw a blue and black dress. Others saw a white and gold dress. Both were completely convinced that the way they saw the dress was correct and that everyone else was wrong (or that something was wrong with them). For the record, our office is divided on what color The Dress is (although it’s obviously blue and black).

Here are a couple of things we can all learn from this strange social experience:

  • We all see thing differently. Jesus calls us to see things in this world differently than the world sees them. (Romans 12:2)
  • If we are to effectively serve God and the world, we MUST walk in unity, regardless of differing opinions. We cannot afford to be so divided on issues that we cannot serve alongside one another. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

If this topic is still trending with your kids this weekend, here are a couple of ideas of how to use it on Sunday morning with your young friends:

  • Divide Into Teams – Have the kids stand in the middle of the room. Show the photo of the dress, and have those who see white/gold go to one side of the room, and those who see blue/brown go to the other side of the room. Now you have two teams!
  • Use It As An Illustration – This is a good example of subjectivity versus truth. People “see” the photo differently, but does that mean there’s not a “true” interpretation of the photo? Does all “truth” depend on a person’s opinion?

Here is a picture of the infamous thing in case you haven’t yet seen it.

Made You Laugh

“Classically trained beat-boxer” Jimmy Fallon and Tonight Show guest Will Smith prove the truth of “There’s an app for that”. HT USA Today.

Ice. Ice. Baby.

The Nashville area woke up today to ice, sleet, rain, snow, and below freezing temperatures. And the forecast is that we’ll be in the deep freeze all week. Which means everything that’s falling is going to stick around for a while.

So of course, I have this stuck in my head. You’re welcome.

While we’re iced out of the office, we don’t want you to be left out in the cold. Join YLO online and use coupon code ICE25 to save $25 on a Select, Original, or Works Membership.

re:Tuned Discussion Starters from Grammy Winners


Our re:Tuned Discussion Starters take mainstream songs and help you use them as a jumping off point for a conversation with students. Here are 3 recent re:Tuned guides featuring Grammy winners from Sunday night’s show:

  • Sam Smith: Stay With Me (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist)
  • Pharrell Williams: Happy (Best Pop Solo Performance)
  • Paramore: Ain’t It Fun (Best Rock Song)

What An Amazing 10 Days for KING & COUNTRY Has Had!

Imagine for a moment that you were in a band (and what youth leader hasn’t imagined that?). Now, imagine that over the course of ten days, your band would play events for YouTube and Sirius XM, rock multiple sold-out arena shows, perform on The TODAY Show and cap everything off by winning two Grammy Awards. Pretty intense, right?

Well, our Team interlinc Members for KING & COUNTRY did exactly that over the last ten days and we are so excited for them.

And how about this for a commitment to student ministry? In the midst of this insane whirlwind of a schedule, Luke and Joel took time out to Skype with the youth group at Wildwood Baptist Church in Acworth, GA. The Wildwood youth group won our “No Shave November” contest and a for KING & COUNTRY “virtual-visit” to their Wednesday night meeting. Here’s what Youth Pastor Terry Huey said after their call:

The guys had a really great spirit with the students. They answered every question that was asked, encouraged the students and the leaders, sang with us, and prayed over the students and our ministry. They are the real deal!

Now, that’s the focus on the things that are important!

Get a free for KING & COUNTRY Bible study here

They are walking out Matthew 6:33 that promises that if we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be given to us.”  These guys’ commitment to serving the church, and specifically young people, is a big deal and part of their DNA as a band. We are honored to be partners in youth ministry with them.

If you want to know more about for KING & COUNTRY, please visit their interlinc artist page. Plus for a limited time everyone (not just YLO Members) can get the complete youth group session built around their song “Fix My Eyes” and see how you can get  Bible studies, chord charts and tons more youth ministry resources for your youth group!

Join Youth Leaders Only and get access to all of our for KING & COUNTRY resources, plus studies for songs from hundreds of other artists

Made You Laugh

It’s the most universal of lyrics. The best of the fillers. The one part of the song everyone knows and sings along to.

It’s the “Whoa” … or is it “Woo”? Or “Ohhh”? Or “Ooo” … ???

HT @Relevant for pointing out this supercut mashup of “Whoa-Ooo-Oh”

Heart of the Artist: Tobymac

020215_tobymac_600w_blogEditor’s Note: Over the years we’ve done hundreds of “talkback” sessions with Toby and youthworkers. Every time it seems the Lord does something very special. This interview is part of one of those sessions. The entire ”talkback” was recorded and is available at on the YLO Members page.

This Heart of the Artist interview is included in the YLO98 Resource Book

Thank you for working with students. That is my heart too, and always will be. My son is 15 and I’m walking through some stuff with him. My manager and I were talking about whether he would send his son to a public or Christian school. The manager said he’d interviewed a bunch of parents with grown kids that were doing well, and they all said the consistent thing in those kid’s lives were youth groups — not Christian or public school — those kids all had solid Christian youth groups and friends.

That was convicting to me because I go to a small church that doesn’t have enough people to have a youth group. I’m doing my son a disservice by not having him in a great youth group. So I’m feeling convicted, and appreciate even more what you guys do.

Note: Toby’s been able to get his son involved in a youth ministry in the weeks since he talked about this. Got to love a guy who doesn’t just say things, but does them too!

My mom would drag us to church every Sunday. I didn’t like it much. We never went to youth group, just big church. My dad wouldn’t go — he’d just sleep. When I was 13 years old the youth pastor asked me to go to a summer camp. He described it as a basketball camp because he knew my friends and I liked basketball. Some friends and I signed up. We headed out in a van with that youth pastor to go to that camp. Got out of the van, grabbed my bag, started walking to the cabins. They stopped us at an outdoor pavilion, and this dude preached for two hours straight. My boys I’d invited were like, “Yo, this is the strangest basketball camp I’ve ever been to in my life!”

Each night, the youth pastor would read the Bible to us. He was willing to get down on the floor and hang out with us. He wasn’t behind a pulpit. He just read the Bible and talked with us – and God used that to just grab my heart.

On that Friday night we got up off the floor and my heart was just racing away because I wanted to do something about what I felt, but instead I got in my sleeping bag and zipped it up. After about 20 minutes, I finally got the courage to walk into the next room and wake up that youth pastor. I said, “Hey man, I’ve got to do something about what is going on inside me.” He asked whether I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. We got on our knees, and he led me to the Lord.

That experience changed my life and family. My mom told me to ask my dad to go to church. I was scared of that. My dad eventually went, and got saved. It changed our life — all because of a youth pastor. So again, I just thank you for what you do. You guys are in the trenches with those kids. We pop into town, do our concert that we’ve prayed over, hoping God will use the concert to turn your students’ eyes to Jesus. But, we know you are in the trenches. I understand and am thankful for what you do. God is smiling for the effort and time you take with students.

Preview “Eye’m All Mixed Up” – the new remix album from Tobymac

Let me give you a little insight about how I write songs. I’m not confident in myself; I know how much I need God to make a great record. I could probably make a decent record, but for great I desperately need God to do something beyond me. So, when I sit down to write, I ask for God to breathe something in me that I could never do on my own. I’m just plugging along here not knowing what will relate and what won’t, but God is faithful. I think “Steal My Show” is a clear message. “Me Without You” is light but the message is strong – “I’m thankful of how much I’m aware I need you, God.”

“Speak Life” is something that has been powerful for me. I want to use words powerfully. A mainstream film picked up that song. The quote Ryan Stevenson and I cowrote is from Brennan Manning, “We either give life or drain it; there’s no neutral exchange.” I thought most of my exchanges throughout the day were neutral. I have chance to make somebody feel recognized or not, feel loved or unloved, encouraged or discouraged just by the way I look at him or her. That deeply affected me; I can overlook stuff sometimes and I just wanted that song to be a wake up call to us all, especially students – they are ripping each other apart with words, texts, tweets. To me, it’s not the coolest song on the album, but I thought the message is so important that God wanted that delivered in that form and I just trusted Him.

 Join Youth Leaders Only and get music and media resources you can use in your student ministry


The S-Word

Editor’s Note: This appears as the “Letter From The Editor” in the Music Resource Book for the new YLO98

“No! Not THAT again! We hear about that all the time! We’re sick of it!”

That wasn’t the response I was expecting when I told a bunch of kids I was working on the theme of “sex” for this magazine. I was expecting enthusiasm, interest, and some questions. “Oh, that’s cool, Ken! You’re the hippest youth leader ever” would have been nice. Or, “Can I see it when it’s done?” Or even, “Can youth leaders talk about sex without getting into trouble?”

What I got was immediate revulsion. And that got me thinking. Why would a bunch of church kids not want to deal with this vital issue? What would have made them respond so emotionally to the subject? I think I might have some answers.

My first thought is that those kids don’t want to hear something that might go against their current beliefs as seen through their actions. They know that they’re disobeying God when they engage in sexual activity, and they don’t want to be reminded of it.

And then, I wonder if students have heard us cry, “Wolf!” once too often. We tell them about the racking pain of guilt that they’ll feel. We talk about the risk of disease. We carry on about the value of purity. But, the kids don’t know anyone who experiences painful guilt nor do they know anyone who has a sex disease, and the “pure” kids they know could just as easily be called “nerds” – where’s the value in that?

Finally, I’m thinking about the “hear about that all the time” phrase. “Hear about it” is probably correct. We perhaps use way too much one-way communication concerning the issues of sexuality. I long ago figured out that kids learn by doing, not by hearing. But, the “all the time” part is probably not accurate. My guess is that this topic comes up once or twice a year at their church. The topic of sex is so charged with energy that talking about it even twice a year may feel like “all the time” to a teenager.

So, despite what my young friends said, I’ll continue to find ways to engage them in learning the value of godliness, discovering the benefits of purity, and building the kinds of safeguards that will enable them to thrive in a sex-saturated society. These Youth Leader Only materials will help me. The Bare Facts DVD will be put to good use in living rooms, youth rooms, and even bedrooms. The articles in this magazine will get into the hands of parents and volunteer youth leaders. The music in the box will spread out into the cars, computers, and home stereos of my young friends.

I hope you do the same

3 Ways to Beat the “Christmas Crunch”

By Ken McCoy


It’s the best of times, and the worst of times. Christmas.

For a youth leader, “the holidays” can be anything but. In addition to our “normal” jobs of planning and pulling off awesome weekly group meetings, directing a team of volunteers, going to church staff meetings, and leading small groups, we suddenly have to factor in special Christmas programs, “Winter Break” activities, Christmas parties, and more. PLUS, we really want to make the season special for our own kids and family.

The extra Christmas workload is enough to turn an enthusiastic youth leader into a “Bah, humbug!” Scrooge.

Just in time for the Christmas Crunch, here are three ways you can maintain your Christmas spirit in these two hectic weeks leading up to the holiday.

  1. Take advantage of Christmas music – Christmas music is one of the defining elements of the season. You hear it everywhere—in stores, on the radio, television commercials, and in church. Before long, Christmas music can lose its charm. Don’t let this happen to you. Get the FREE “Rockin’ Christmas Tunes” from interlínc (find out how on interlinc’s website) and you’ll transform your Christmas music experience!
  1. Remember the “Reason for the Season” – You and I both “know” that Christmas is far more meaningful than music, programs, parties, decorations, presents, concerts, and commercials that feature a big red bow on a brand new car in the driveway. Maybe you should check out the Bible study I wrote for the Disney movie A Christmas Carol—the animated one featuring Jim Carrey. (It’s also available on interlínc’s website.) You’ll be reminded of what “incarnation” means, what the incarnation meant to God, and what it means to us. I know that I need an annual renewal and sense of wonder about the tremendous gift that we celebrate this time of year. Once I have my head on right, dealing with the Christmas Crush becomes far easier.
  1. Let interlínc do the heavy lifting – The “Twelve Days of Christmas” freebies, available to Youth Leader Only members at interlí, includes helpful resources like the “Really. A Virgin” article I wrote for the resources we built around The Nativity Story film, or the “Always Winter, Never Christmas” youth meeting/Bible study from interlínc’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe movie guide. You’ll also find a youth meeting guide for Owl City’s song “Light of Christmas” that features a VeggieTales video. There’s no reason for you to have to wrack your brain to create awesome holiday meetings for your group!

Yeah, getting through the next couple of weeks will be a challenge. I really do hope that your load will be a bit lighter from reading this article. I’m certain that God will use you and your efforts to encourage young people to worship the newborn king.

Merry Christmas!

3 Faulty Foundations

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Duffy Robbins’ book, Building a
Youth Ministry that Builds Disciples: A Small Book About a Big Idea from Zondervan/Youth Specialties.

Our mandate is to “go and bear fruit-fruit that will last” (John 15: I 6). Just as a gardener carefully nurtures the vines and a builder carefully constructs the tower, so must we in ministry give serious thought to how we build what the Designer intends. The apostle Paul underlines this mandate when he writes, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care” (I Corinthians 3: I 0).

To build the kind of youth ministry program that will result in long-term disciples, serious consideration needs to be given to the blueprint. When building efforts are based on the wrong blueprint-even if they’re done with great skill-the result is going to be unusable structures. One way to begin thinking about the blueprint of your ministry is to take this short informal survey. Answer yes or no to the questions below.

The Smorgasbord Approach

  1. Is a full youth calendar one of the main criteria by which you or your leadership team evaluate the ministry?
  2. Is great care taken to make certain there’s a broad menu of programs offered on a weekly basis?
  3. Is the main concern of the leadership to keep the kids “active”?

A yes answer to any of these three questions indicates that your ministry may be offering lots of selections on the menu, but no real plan for nutrition and disciple-building. It’s an approach that begins with the premise that kids are consumers and that if we want them to consume our youth program, we must offer a wide variety of spiritual and recreational products.

Nowhere in Scripture is there an emphasis on activity. The emphasis in Scripture is always on productivity. None of us yearns for more activity. What we yearn for, what we pray for, what we’re called to, is productivity.

The Bright Light Approach

  1. Is your program based around a young, athletic, hip Pied Piper whom “the kids really like”?
  2. Has this charismatic leader been slow to raise up and train other adult leaders so the program will have continuity if and when he or she leaves?
  3. Do people in leadership ever say something like this: “Okay, granted, our youth leader may lack vision, experience, and spiritual maturity. But he plays guitar; he’s got an outrageous sense of humor and massive facial hair; and you wouldn’t believe what the guy can do with his iPad”?

Yes answers to the above questions are a sure sign of an approach based on the notion that the brightest light attracts the most bugs. And since we want kids to swarm our church property, it stands to reason that we need to find our own resident “bright light.”

Perhaps the biggest concern with this approach is that it tends to balance the ministry on the shoulders of one person-which is kind of risky, unless that one person is Jesus. The Bright Light Approach to programming tends to breed mavericks and lone rangers-individuals who tend to shine better and brighter when working alone. Without the diversity and cooperation of a team approach, a youth program will be severely limited in the type and number of students it can expect to draw. A program that’s built on a personality can fall quickly when that personality is no longer present to prop it up.

The Bigger Is Better Approach

  1. Do you find yourself eliminating portions of the program that might have deeper spiritual impact because they don’t seem to “get as many kids out”?
  2. Do you find yourself asking, “How many?” more often than you ask, “How deep?”
  3. Would you honestly say that some of your programming choices are driven by competition with other youth ministries in town?
  4. Is your ultimate dream to have youth group meet in the Civic Center?

If this sounds like your youth group, you may be basing your program on the belief that the more kids we have under the roof of our church building or on the roll of our ministry, the more effective our youth program must be.
If youth ministry is only about numbers, then why not go all out and plan an evangelistic kegger? We’ve already seen that, in Scripture, the emphasis is far less on addition and far more on multiplication. When it comes to setting youth ministry goals, quality always takes precedence over quantity.

That’s not to say that numbers are unimportant or that large numbers are bad. This is not an argument between big and little; it’s an argument between deep and wide. On one occasion after I’d shared this concept during a seminar, a woman raised her hand to say how encouraged she was by all this “because we’ve really seen our numbers drop over the last six months.” That’s when I realized she hadn’t really heard what I was saying. I’d intended to make the point that our goal is to grow the group deep and that, in time, that depth would also grow the group wide. She basically walked out of my seminar thinking, “Well, we don’t have very many kids coming, so we must be doing something right!”

The fact is that some youth groups are small in quantity because they are low in quality. Sometimes our groups are small because we’re doing youth ministry badly! This is not a plea that we reach fewer kids. This is a plea that we don’t get so obsessed with reaching many kids that we neglect to nurture and equip the “few faithful” kids we have. (See 2 Timothy 2.)

Bigger isn’t better, and smaller isn’t better. Better is better.

This article originally appeared in YLO97