Youth Ministry Sherpas

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Sherpa Legends — Josh Griffin

March 21st, 2019

Our Third Legend -- Josh Griffin 

We all know Josh Griffin as one of the leading voices in youth ministry with over 20 years experience in the trenches, most recently as the High School Pastor at Saddleback Church. He's the co-founder of and been in 300+ episodes of the DYM Podcast with Doug Fields. He's created more than 50 youth ministry resources and authored several books including 99 Thoughts for Small Group Leaders. Josh and his wife Angela have 4 kids, which now includes 2 teenagers of their own.

What you may not know is that before he went to Saddleback (the "Mecca" of youth ministry), Josh was at a church with 30 kids in the farmlands of Michigan, working a job he almost quit two years in. So how did a young man who had never worked in a "big church" become the successor to Doug Fields at Saddleback? It's an amazing story, and one that provides a lesson we all can learn about being open-handed with what God has entrusted to us.

The Josh we see on stage at the National Youth Workers Convention is the real Josh. He's fun, enthusiastic, optimistic, wise and approachable. His quick laugh and genuine love of youth ministry and youth workers is a blessing to youth workers everywhere. We are thankful for his support and friendship. 

Check out the new YouTube Show Josh and Doug just started!
More Than Dodgeball

Mentioned on today's episode:
Download Youth Ministry is the best resource ever. Seriously. If you aren't a member yet, you need to be! Incredible resources for youth workers, created by youth workers.
Download Youth Ministry
DYM Facebook Community

Doug Fields is the author of Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, Speaking to Teenagers, and many many more. He's also the co-founder of DYM!
Doug Fields

September 21, 2019 at over 200 locations (including Mountain View Community Church in Frederick, MD)! You can bring your whole volunteer team for just $99 for a whole morning of training from the best teachers in the youth ministry world (including our first Sherpa Legend, Heather Flies)
National Day of Youth Ministry Volunteer Training


YMS Episode 48 — Youth Ministry Thought Bubbles (Part 1)

March 19th, 2019

(Warning: Rated "IM" for "Immature")

Being a youth worker requires restraint. People say things to us that drive us nearly insane with frustration. We've heard every excuse, criticism, and pathetic justification for lack of involvement. But because we represent God, the church, and perhaps even the decent side of humanity, we can't say what we are really thinking. But what if we could? What if our thought bubbles became actual declarations?! Oh, what fun we would have!

It's our youth ministry fantasy, and today we let it out for a run!

In this episode, we say what we are really thinking when we hear the most aggravating, discouraging, ridiculous comments from parents. "My kid doesn't have any friends here. The group is cliquey. I didn't know about that. My kid says it's not meeting his spiritual needs." Pul-leeeaaase! We are't going to lie -- it felt really good to let it out.

In the end, even though we can't say what we are thinking, there are nuggets of truth in our thought bubbles. Perhaps we can find a way to constructively, with grace, say what needs to be said so that people can hear the truth in a way that changes them.

You might want to sit down for this one. It left us breathless. We hope you enjoy this cathartic experience.

(Next episode in part 2 we will share our thought bubbles about students)

Episode 48 -- Youth Ministry Thought Bubbles



YMS Episode 47 — Our Senior Pastors

March 12th, 2019

Today's in-studio combination is more rare than the Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat. (Look it up!) -- two old youth pastors and two founding pastors with 84 years combined in our churches.

In today's episode, we invited our senior pastors to join us. Paul Abbott is senior pastor of Cedarbrook Community Church, which he founded 30 years ago. Guy Kneebone is senior pastor of Mountain View Community Church, which he founded 21 years ago. Add in Mathew and Steve, who have been in our positions as youth pastors for 15 and 18 of those years, and you have a unique level of partnership, longevity, and investment in a local church.

In this candid interview, Paul and Guy share how they found us (we weren't their first choices) and how they've managed to put up with us for so long. Paul didn't freak out when he arrived to find a man-sized hole in the wall of the sanctuary. Guy lets Steve exhibit his inner-maverick ("Steve likes to do what Steve likes to do"). We're glad we haven't been fired.

Paul and Guy share their perspective on youth ministry as senior pastors of growing churches. What do they need from us as youth pastors? What is the value of youth ministry within the church? How can we support them?

We also discuss some of the issues that often cause trouble -- communication, perseverance, visibility, trust -- these are things that often cause rifts in the senior pastor/youth pastor relationship. By the grace of God, we've managed to forge relationships that have lasted all these years. Are there any secret formulas that might transfer to enable others to experience this kind of longevity? 

We think so, and we think this interview is not only a rare combination, but something worth striving for.

Episode 47 -- Our Senior Pastors


10 Mistakes Leaders Make by Hans Finzel

Cedarbrook Community Church

Mountain View Community Church

Northern Hairy Nosed Wombat


YMS Episode 46 — How to Handle Criticism

March 5th, 2019

Nothing takes the steam out of our passion for youth ministry like criticism.

Criticism is a reality for anyone in leadership. Youth pastors might even be in a position to receive more than most, since we have so many people groups (parents, students, senior pastors, elder) to answer to. We've both had our share, and we never like it, but somehow we are still around and loving student ministry.

In this episode, Steve and Mathew talk about our own failures to handle criticism well. Steve has a reputation for being defensive. Mathew has been known to answer before he should have. Both of us are getting better. We've even learned a few tips along the way that might help you put out the fire, not start a bigger one.

So put on your Big Boy Pants, and get ready to ask yourself some hard questions, like, What can I learn from the criticism I'm receiving?

Episode 46 -- How to Handle Criticism

YMS Episode 45 — Cleaning Up Other People’s Messes

February 26th, 2019

Pizza, popcorn, M&Ms, Skittles, shaving cream wars, games involving pudding and eggs and mini marshmallows... youth ministry gets pretty messy sometimes. We've all done our share of messy activities, and more than often we are the ones who have to clean it all up.

But what happens when the mess is more than spilled soda? What happens when it's a moral mess, a devastating failure, or a mistake that throws the whole church into a whirlwind of toxic cleanup? What happens when it's a co-worker or friend who is the one who caused it? How will that affect us personally, and how will it affect the ministry we care so much about?

In today's episode, Steve and Mathew talk about the impact that other peoples' messes can have on our lives. Having experienced this in our current ministries, we understand how hard it can be to deal with it. We somehow have to play the part of friend, church leader, and youth worker all the same time, even while we deal with our own anger and grief. Messy situations can suck up all our energy and time, and leave us exhausted and cynical. But it doesn't have to end that way.

How can we work through these times and find something good and healing on the other side for ourselves, our churches, and our students?

Episode 45 -- Cleaning Up Other People's Messes


Sherpa Legends — Greg Speck

February 22nd, 2019

Welcome to our new show, SHERPA LEGENDS!

Each month, we will present a conversation with a Youth Ministry Legend. Our conversations center around their story. How did they get into youth ministry, what has kept them in it, and what were some of their favorite adventures along the way? We hope you will tune in each month for the next SHERPA LEGEND!


Our second legend: GREG SPECK

A post-college job at a home for emotionally-disturbed teenagers led Greg Speck into a nearly 40-year career in youth ministry. For the past 30 years, Greg has been speaking full-time to students around the world. From camps and weekend retreats to mission trips and international conferences, Greg's special blend of humor, storytelling, sincerity, and love for students have provided him with opportunities to share the Word of God with hundreds of thousands of middle- and high-school kids. 

Sherpa host Steve Anderson first encountered Greg at an outreach in Pennsylvania many years ago when he was a new youth volunteer. Since then, Steve has heard him speak many times at various student conferences and retreats, and just last year saw middle-school students impacted by Greg's "Dad Hugs" after another powerful retreat. God's incredible favor on Greg for these years of speaking and traveling is a testimony to Greg's integrity and reliance on the Bible as his authority. 

Greg is the author of several books for students, including Living for Jesus Beyond the Spiritual High. His latest book, Mustard Seeds on Youth Ministry, is a fountain of direct, clear, spiritual and practical counsel for young youth workers who want to build a ministry that will last.

You can interact with Greg on Facebook and Twitter, or by emailing him at For books and bookings, you can find him at:

Greg and his wife Bonnie have been married for over 40 years and are the proud parents of four grown children. They live in Rockford, IL.



YMS Episode 44 — How to Not Be Boring

February 19th, 2019


Another week of school.

Another Sunday (or Wednesday).

Another youth group.

So much of our students' lives are driven by school, by sports, by academics, and by expectations. To many of them, life is a boring routine, or a constant preparation for the next thing. Do we treat church the same way? Do you ever worry that we are getting boring?

We sat down the day after the MBSBE (Most Boring Super Bowl Ever) to talk Student Ministry. After wasting four hours of our lives watching the battle of the punters and a weird halftime show from Maroon Five and Big Boi (not to be confused with Bob's Big Boy, which serves great hamburgers), we thought we'd spend thirty minutes of our time in a conversation about how not to be boring in youth ministry. By being winsome, by being surprising, and by being transcendent, we think youth ministry offers something nobody else can offer.

We hope this episode doesn't bore you. It's definitely better (and shorter) than the MBSBE.

 Episode 44 -- How to Not Be Boring

YMS Episode 43 — Love and Relationships

February 12th, 2019

Young love, isn't it precious?

Unless it's messing up your youth ministry!

We're coming up on Valentine's Day, and you know what that means: We get to take our wives out to dinner based on where we can go for free! Steve and Karen will be dining at Bonefish Grill (courtesy of a gift card from someone at church), while Mathew and Gina will get free dinner at Fogo de Chao courtesy of the sponsor of the big volleyball tournament they are working that weekend.

So what do we do with dating couples in our youth ministries? The truth is, there is little chance they will end up together, and little chance we can stop them. How do help protect their hearts for when things go sour, and how do we protect our ministries from the toxic fallout that descends in the wake of the break up? 

There are no easy answers, except to the one question everyone is wondering: What did Mathew say when he was invited to Prom?

Episode 43 -- Love and Relationships 

YMS Episode 42 — Our Better Halves

February 5th, 2019

Finally, after 41 episodes, we got something right!

We took advantage of a federal holiday to get our wives -- Gina and Karen -- together in the studio to talk about youth ministry from their perspective. What has it been like to be married to a youth pastor for all these years? How did they survive the nights at home while their husbands were out working with other peoples' kids? How did they handle the expectations placed upon them by others? Do they ever wish we'd all chosen a different life? Do they have any advice for others whose spouses are youth workers? Most importantly, do they realize that without them, we (Mathew and Steve) would be toast?!

This podcast is 200% better than all the others!

Episode 42 -- Our Better Halves

YMS Episode 41 — Burning Out, Falling Down, Drying Up

January 29th, 2019

It's late January, how are your New Year's Resolutions going?

Now is the time when we often fall away from the things we started this year. We have to say, over here at Youth Ministry Sherpas, we are doing pretty well. Mathew has been drinking enough water to fill a small pond and create an impressive level of bladder control. Steve has been in his new hot tub nearly every evening, winding down the day with his wife. He's hydrating his soul, if not his skin. 

In this episode of Youth Ministry Sherpas, we wrap up our three-part "mini-series" called "Burning Out, Falling Down, Drying Up" with a conversation about how to stay hydrated in student ministry. How do we avoid becoming spiritually dry and brittle, ready to crumble at any moment? How can we avoid becoming kindling for ministry trouble and spiritual danger? There are some simple practical steps we can take--as well as some deeper spiritual rhythms--that we recommend to keep us fresher than a rapper's new wardrobe or a high mountain stream.

By the way, don't embarrass your friends by bringing Diet Coke into Pepsi-only restaurants. Sheesh. Some people!

It's Episode 41 -- "Burning Out, Falling Down, Drying Up."