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Your Student Leaders Want More

September 16th, 2016

Taryn Seemann riginally published this article at  She was writing about youth interns in church youth ministry, but I think the advice crosses over to student leadership in general.  See how her principles might work for you as you engage youth as leaders…

Fed Up Female Intern Fetching Coffee In Office

Several years ago, AT&T ran a series of commercials in which comedian Back Bennett sat with a focus group of elementary school kids. In one of these ads, he asked this curious panel if they preferred having more or less. A sweet, logical girl responds, “We want more, we want more … like, [if] you really like it, you want more.” Your youth ministry interns want the same. They took the internship because they care about youth ministry. They want more than just a good experience; they want to be developed.

This summer your interactions with your interns should be motivated by a commitment to raise up the next generation of church leaders. Every youth worker has the opportunity to develop skills, character traits, and habits in their interns and to equip them to become more effective servants in God’s kingdom. With that purpose in mind, here are threeDon’ts and three Dos for your summer internship program. I pray you’ll avoid the disappointments and frustrations associated with the Don’ts and pursue the long-term growth and impact that can result from the Dos.

Don’t just delegate the parts of the job you don’t like.

Do give interns a variety of experiences to help them discover their gifts.

Don’t give too much freedom or too many restrictions.

Do set clear expectations with defined responsibilities.

Don’t make experience the only teacher.

Do create a growth plan for your intern.

Read the full article, where the author talks more about each of these do’s and don’ts here.

National Service Dates for September

September 5th, 2016

National Preparedness Month

Congressional Recess Ends (September 5)

15th anniversary of 9/11 honored on September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance

Happy Birthday GTCC!

September 1st, 2016

Happy 2nd Birthday to our thickest book:  “Groups, Troops, Clubs and Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth“!!

This book is comprised of blood, sweat and tears; and it’s stamped with great love.  When the publisher asked us to write a handbook for people that work with youth, it was a little daunting.  I mean, YIKES!, capture everything we have learned about working with youth AND make it appealing to youth workers and educators???!!!

As we started wrestling with the project, we realized that we were hooked.  We had a lot of experience to share and a strong faith in the value of positive youth development, and more importantly, we have always honored the many educators, youth workers and researchers we know.  That practice continued in this book as we interviewed others to gather their best practices and incorporate them with our own.  The result – a hands on workbook to empower people that love youth!

Happy Birthday GTCC!

Experiential Stuffed Animal Writing Idea For Kids

August 29th, 2016

Originally published by  at

Get your imaginations ready for a fun experiential writing adventure! You’ll be taking your best friend (aka. favorite stuffed animal) for a walk and narrating the story as it might happen if your friend were real.

This kind of doing and writing is great for young writers for many reasons such as:

  • SENSORY DETAILS: Descriptions can include the sensory details easily because you’re experiencing them while writing. The hot sun, the wet grass, the singing birds . . .
  • SEQUENCING: Young writers are doing the story in the sequential order that they will write down. Beginning, middle, and end becomes much more clear.


stuffed animal
pencil, colored pencils
blank book
backpack or bag to hold everything


Read the directions here:


Meditation on Success

August 26th, 2016
Be you. Live your own truth. Be the best YOU you can be… that is to have succeeded.

how can you preach this truth to your soul?  to your family?  to the young people around you?  to your friends?


Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar® on Tour

August 24th, 2016

We asked different agencies who work with youth (both in school and after-school) to take Brain Boosters for Groups in a Jar, test it out and tell us what they think.  Today’s review comes from a teacher at Cameron, a Lead Public School.


Brain Boosters has been a lifesaver for me this semester. My school leadership council has been having a hard time connecting with one another as well as being motivated to participate in the group. I use Brain Boosters for Groups In a Jar® with them everyday now and they LOVE it! I use it at the start of our meetings to get their thinking and enthusiasm going and sometimes at the end as a fun way to close our meetings.


I have also recommended it to other teachers at my school because it is so quick and easy to grab and go! We have an advisory period each week and Brain Boosters has been an awesome way to connect and have fun with our advisory groups. I love that there are over 100 activities, it is fast and easy, and most of all TONS of fun! It is so much better than having to look up different games and icebreakers online and sifting through all of them to find what I want. ALL of the activities included in the jar are age-appropriate, easy to understand, and take just a few minutes to do. They are all different, unique, and don’t take any planning. I have even used these activities at Professional Development with my co-workers. I highly recommend Brain Boosters to any one working with groups both teens and adults!

– Ashley Parker, Cameron, A Lead Public School

See a sample of Brain Boosters in action below (the leadership council assisted in the making of the video):



Click to order:

More Happy Songs

August 22nd, 2016

One of my high school students wants to see more happy songs in the world, so Emily wrote her on song!

Managing Chaos: Tips for Parent Coaches and Volunteers

August 19th, 2016

Originaly published by Becky Post at

If you have a child in an out-of-school-time sport or club, you may have been recruited to coach or lead that activity. If you have stepped up and taken on a volunteer leadership role, good for you! You are modeling great skills for your kids—and you are contributing to your community.

Many parents are happy to pitch in and teach religion classes or lead scout troops, but the challenges quickly become apparent. One of the biggest challenges can be what teachers call “classroom management.” If you are not a professional educator, you might call it “chaos.”

Managing the chaos is important, for many reasons. Disruptive young people can easily dominate the situation, ruining the experience for other kids and derailing your activity plans.

Setting behavior norms for your group depends on you taking charge, according to youth development experts Ann Saylor and Susan Ragsdale, authors of Groups, Troops, Clubs, & Classrooms: The Essential Handbook for Working with Youth.

They recommend establishing a four-step process:

  • State norms in a simple, positive manner. For example, “Respect the personal space of others,” instead of “Don’t touch others.” Or, “Listen while the leader speaks,” instead of “Don’t whisper to your neighbor.”
  • Refer to the norms and use them consistently.
  • Post the norms where all can see them.
  • Most importantly, develop the norms together.

Saylor and Ragsdale’s book is packed with guidance and tips to help you take ownership of your class or group, while channeling young people’s positive energy and ideas. Using games—like the following—can be a great way to establish norms that the kids can truly own.

In and Out Game

Ask the group the following: How are you expected to behave? What rules and expectations are “in” and what rules are “out”? Break your group into two teams: the “In” group and the “Out” group. Give each team five minutes to list the various behaviors expected for their assigned word (in or out). For example, the In group might say that an “in” behavior is to respect their elders while the Out group might say an “out” rule is whining for what you want. Invite the groups to share their rules out loud. Record their ideas and then, as a group, review and determine the rules and expectations that should be in place for this program and this group.


Ragsdale and Saylor also recommend that your group come up with consequences when norms aren’t followed. They write, “Establish high expectations (You can do it!). But in setting high expectations and consequences, make sure the consequences match the violation and aren’t a ploy for attempting perfection.”

They recommend the following sequence for dealing with challenged norms:

  • When norms are challenged, walk over to where norms are posted and tap the norm in violation.
  • Ask the group what needs to happen next.
  • Do what is necessary (perhaps the simple tap on the norms will get things quiet or you’ll need to follow through on a consequence).
  • Ask if they’re ready to move on and continue to live by the guidelines they’ve created.
  • Move on.

Image via Tom Williams on Flickr.

Helping with a Move

August 17th, 2016

Shared by middle school student Aaron Geyer:

Just at the start of 2016, a family was notified that they had a month to pack up, find a place to

live, and move out because their landlord had decided he would make more money selling the

house than renting it out. The family wasn’t sure what to do. They really had nowhere to go.

Their 6 kids still had to go to school, eat, and sleep. How could they manage without a house?

Thankfully some kind people who attended their church secured a place for them to stay for a

few months. It was a tiny little house behind the church. Although they were very grateful for the

house, they knew it would not work out long term for their family. With their youngest being

only about a year old, and their oldest being a senior and everything else in between, it just

wouldn’t work out. Finally a distant family member told them that the father’s childhood home

was on the market at a very low price. The father couldn’t be more excited! His childhood home,

a good deal, convenient location relative to school, work, and church. It was almost too good to

be true, and as he was soon to discover, it was. He was about to find out why it was listed at such

a low price. “A fixer upper” would be a bit of an understatement. The house was in a deplorable

state. Mold, dust, asbestos, nails dangerously poking out of the floor, were just a few things that

made the house “less than hospitable.” In fact the house would have been better just to have been

demolished. But it had sentimental value to the family, plus they didn’t have that kind of money

lying around. So they started down the arduous road of renovating the house. One of the

youngest sons in the family has a trake that basically means he has a little hole in his throat with

a little filter to keep things out so he won’t suffocate. That’s why they had to do an especially

good job getting the house fit to live in. The main question now was “how?” Only the parents

and the two oldest kids were old enough to do that kind of work. And it would take months or

even years to get the house ready to live in. Some people form there church heard about the

problem and mentioned it to the youth minister who asked some of the kids in the youth group if

they wanted to help clean up the house. Of course all the kids were eager to volunteer and in a

couple of weeks a group was sent out there. The group stayed there for several hours and worked

very hard pulling up old moldy carpet ripping out boards and insulation, getting rid of old rotting

boards, disposing of old furniture, and more. The group came back a second time a few weeks

later and went through the same process again. At this point the house wasn’t perfect, but it was

a start. Thanks to the hard work of the kids the family should be able to move into the house soon!

Does Talking to a Young Toddler in a Shopping Cart Count?

August 15th, 2016

We should never forget the power of being a caring adult in the lives of youth.  Every day there are opportunities to connect with children or youth.  There are youth in our personal lives, young people we bump into at the coffee shop, in the neighborhood on a walk or . . . in the grocery store line.  And, research tells us that being a caring adult matters . . . and little moments count.  Even with toddlers.

Check out this story of connection shared by MRG who responded to an on-line challenge to “reach out to someone new.”  Thanks, MRG, for letting us share your delightful encounter with others!

guest post story:

Since I left Sydney, where you can go into a supermarket and not talk to a soul, not even the checkout chick (not because you don’t want to but they practically insist you don’t!), I’ve moved to Newcastle. Here you can get a running commentary on the days events, an in detail interrogation about the weather and be requested to pass over your family’s secret recipe for lamb shanks, all in the space it takes to move your grocery items through the checkout! So, if you are expecting to move through the queue at a leading supermarket’s checkout, I suggest you make it fast track to the self checkout area, where you won’t be disturbed.

Today in light of my instructions for the reverence of connection, I found myself standing behind a fractious toddler. You know the kind I’m sure, over-tired, possibly hungry and who have reached their limits and feel the only thing they can do is cry. Not the sniffling, I’m-feeling-sorry-for-myself but the fully blown bellow of pain and cry for help, comfort and distraction because they instinctively know their mother can’t give it to them.

Now, I don’t suggest you use this kind of communication on just anyone, as it could so easily backfire and you may not have the kind of face toddlers think is amusing, but I stuck my tongue out, right at the little girl bellowing. The shock of an adult doing such a thing stopped her in her tracks, and she stared suspiciously at me, waiting to see what I’d do next. So then I pulled a face at her and motioned her to do the same. She looked to see if her mother was watching and then did one back. Game on, we continued to through facial insults at each other and she started laughing, really laughing. deep belly laughs.

At this point, the mother turned around to see what we were doing and I explained I was keeping her daughter entertained while she did the rest of her checkout. She smiled and thanked me, which was totally unnecessary because I’d had a great time and been entertained too during the waiting time. I was never allowed to make faces as a child, so I’ve been making up for all those lost opportunities since I’ve become an adult. When it was my turn, I waved goodbye to the toddler and turned back to the checkout chick.

Fun and laughter are everywhere if you slow down long enough to spy the chance to let your clown out!

How can you make a connection with a young person today?


Back to School Ideas: Tips for Getting Kids Excited about the Season!

August 12th, 2016

By: Susan Ragsdale

originally published at

When I was little, going back to school consisted of 4 basic factors:
  • Readjusting to the school bed time/get up schedule (getting back in the routine)
  • Eating breakfast
  • Getting “school ready” (academically): notebooks, pencils, crayons or in later years, calculators, backpacks and making sure summer readings and assignments were completed


  • Getting “school ready” (physically): new haircut, a few new outfits for the back-to-school wardrobe and good tennis shoes

That was it. As I think about readying for school (as an adult), I realize my parents had it fairly easy. I loved school. I looked forward to it–to friends, to certain subjects, and to teachers who opened up doors to magical places of adventures and excitement. As a child, I loved words, stories, and learning by games, which to me was a chance to compete, be fast, and master something! My parents didn’t have to work hard to get me excited about going to school, but most parents aren’t fortunate enough to have this problem ;)

As I think of what contributed to my own self-motivation and how my parents fed into my excitement, I can identify 3 things.

1. I always imagined the good. As the school start got closer, I began to imagine the friends and teachers I was looking forward to seeing and favorite subjects I would be taking.

Tip –> You can help your children “imagine the good” at the dinner table. Ask them to recall favorite memories from last year. Look at the yearbook or photos of fun moments. Talk about teachers they had. Ask about which other classmates that are looking forward to seeing the most.

[Related: Sign up for ParentFurther’s free e-newsletter to get your free copy of Table Time! our family dinners toolkit. Learn more >>]

Tip –>Invite one to three of your child’s special friends over for a play date. Help them reconnect before the first day of school while also taking advantage of the opportunity of getting to know your child’s favorite friends. Host a back-to-school bash for the neighborhood – make it a Popsicle party to keep it inexpensive and fun.

2. I found ways to evoke excitement. For me, the new year always held a hint of promise: new things to learn, new people to meet, new things to try – clubs, sports or pursuits I was interested in.

Tip –> Take your children to the school playground to play. Create a fun moment while also building a subtle bonding to school vibe. Start playing school games together at home like hopscotch, 4 square or jump rope games. This will help them hone skills, and at the same time prepare them for the “language” of jump rope rhymes and schoolyard play so they feel confident and ready to play with friends.

For older youth, squaring away basketball skills or running sprints can serve the same idea of giving a head start. How good it feels to come into the year ready and ahead of the game instead of behind!

3. I always loved to stir my curiosity and challenge myself.

Tip:–> Ask your child: “What classes are you excited about?” “What do you want to learn more about?” “What do you want to discover?” ” What are you looking forward to?” And when they say, “I don’t know,” push and keep pushing: “Think about it. You can come up with something.”

Tip –> When picking up required books to read, why not add a “fun” book, one they want to read on their own, as well (like a comic book, magazine, or graphic novel) to your shopping cart? Encourage healthy things that they are curious about and want to explore.

Tip –> Set a fun goal to go along with school goals. It’s easy to set academic goals (for every A you make, you’ll get 50¢), but what about goals of their own choosing that challenge them to master a skill or learn something new? A personal best perhaps? Or maybe it’s simply a fun goal that comes as a result of accomplishing something at school: if you do X, Y, Z at school, we’ll celebrate by doing B (something they want to do).

Brain research tells us that novelty and challenge are two of the things the brain needs to thrive. Exercise those brain muscles by playing games and being active at home. Here’s a small list of some different ways you can help activate brain cells:

What do you do to get your children geared up and excited about going to school?

______________________________________________________________________More Resources:

To learn more about feeding the brain and what it needs to work at its best, check out these articles:

[Photo credit: bitjungle on Flick’r.]

A Teen’s Look at Litter

August 10th, 2016

by Jonathan Stapleton

For my latest service trashproject I partnered up with my cousin Emily to pick up all the trash on our streets. Littering has always bothered me because I don’t like seeing our environment messy and dirty. This is why I have chosen this as my project. Emily and I walked down our street in Goodlettsville, TN and collected tons of bottles, cans, bags, wrappers, etc. Something that I never realized is how much trash there really is. After only picking up trash for about one and a half hours Emily and I filled 4 large trash bags.

This has really affected me and I plan on picking up trash on a weekly basis. I’ve never understood why you would liter. Can you not just wait until you get home to throw away your trash ? Is it really necessary to throw your garbage out the window ? I don’t think so. To help you understand how big of a problem this is I’m gonna give you some facts. Over 1.8 billion tons of trash ends up in the ocean. Up to $11.5 billion is spent to clean up liter each year. 50% of liter is cigarette butts. Most people think these will dissolve quickly but it can actually take up too 10 years for them to completely dissolve. Here’s another fact, one mile of highway contains approximately 16,000 pieces of liter. This number is unnecessary and can very easily be fixed. Wanna know how ? Just don’t throw it on the ground. A cigarette butt isn’t a large item and may seem like nothing but it adds up. My point is, just wait until you get home or find a public trash can.

This is a problem that needs to be fixed really soon or else it could get out of hand. After doing this project its really impacted me and it definitely met a big community need. It may not seem like the best time or the most fun thing you could be doing but if you go with a friend it can actually turn into a fun time. If you can go out for just 30 minutes you can make a difference. I hope you give this a try and can help out our environment. Thank you for listening.

10 Resources with Free Lesson Plans

August 8th, 2016

guest post shard by

During our process of expanding our science lesson plans section on,  we uncovered some *wonderful* resources! Too good not to share. :)

In an effort to spread helpful and trustworthy information to the public, here’s a great list of 10 resources we think educators and youth workers will find useful.

We are passing on what has been shared with us.  Here you go:

The Ultimate Guide to Satellites for Educators: 35 Lesson Plans and Activities for K-12

The Young Meteorologist Program’s Educator Exchange: Science Lesson Plans

Engineering the Future: The Educator’s Guide to Building and Construction

Earth Science Lesson Plans

Make a Splash in the Classroom: A Hands-On Curriculum with Lessons and Activities on Swimming and Pools

Marine Education Lesson Plans and Resources

22 Dog-Themed Lesson Plans for Teachers

EPA Lesson Plans: Climate Change

Kids’ Guide to Forest Fires

Rainforest Alliance School Curriculum

A Parents’ Must-Have, Back-to-School Guide

August 5th, 2016

by susan ragsdale

originally published at

The months of August and September are a whirlwind of activity for families with children and teens who are going back to school. A new school year brings new routines, which can require many layers of preparation—physically, mentally, and emotionally. We’ve collected some of our most-requested back to school resources to help you make a seamless transition into the new school year—and beyond.

Tips for All Parents – Before school starts:

  • Make sure your child is properly registered for school, particularly if he or she is going to a new school.
  • Ensure that your child is finishing (and finishing well) any summer homework that has been assigned.
  • Schedule doctor and dental appointments. Many kids need certain immunizations before school starts. Athletes in middle and high school need an athletic check up. Find out if your school requires certain medical forms for your child’s doctor to sign.
  • Get any school supply checklists from your child’s school. Many schools post them on their school websites.
  • Confirm any before and after school care that your child needs during the school year so that you don’t have any surprises on the first day of school.
  • Get the dates on your calendar for any back-to-school activities (the meet-your-teacher date, student orientation, parent orientation, and any other activities) offered by the school.

Two to three weeks before school starts:

  • Start shopping for school supplies. Make sure your child knows what the budget is. Get a copy of the new school year calendar. (Most school districts release them around this time.) Read through the entire calendar and highlight any dates (school conferences, parent orientation, school holidays, late-start, and early-release days). If you keep a family calendar, transfer all these dates unto your calendar.
  • Visit your local library with your child. Check out books about going back to school. Some books to consider for kindergarten to grade 3: Little School by Beth Norling (preschool), I Am Too Absolutely Small for School by Lauren Child (preschool to grade 2), Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell, First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg. For high school:Bound by Martin Spethman and Chuck Klein, and the Everything College Survival Book by Michael Malone.
  • Plan some play dates for your child before school starts. Often kids get disconnected from their school friends during the summer because they don’t see them every day. Help them reconnect by inviting old school friends over to play.
  • Schedule a haircut for your child if you haven’t already done so.
  • Help your child ease back into “learning mode” with these brain sharpening activities.
  • Decide on a quick family getaway. Visit an amusement park, a state park, or a water park, and have fun as a family.

One to two weeks before school starts:

  • Visit your child’s school; find your child’s classroom. Look for the cafeteria, the bathroom, the gym, the outdoor playground, and the front office. Anxiety goes down when kids get the chance to walk around a school before it starts. For those entering middle school or high school for the first time, have them walk through their schedule with you.
  • Review the basics. Do your young kids remember their ABCs? Do your incoming fourth graders remember the multiplication table? Review them.
  • Help kids clean up their rooms. Many become disasters over the summer. Now is the time to get them organized so that your child can easily find his or her clean clothes.

[Related: Click here to get simple tips for getting your kids to help out with household chores.]

  • Store school supplies in an easy-to-locate place. Families often stock up on extra school supplies because of the sales and then forget where they stash them.
  • If you have a high school junior or senior, mark the dates for ACT and SAT exams on your calendar. Consider finding a test preparation class for your teenager.
  • If you have a high school sophomore or junior, research colleges and universities.(Seniors should have their final list by now.) Find out when college fairs and college nights will be held at your school or in your community.

[Related Article: Education and Earning Potential .]

  • Start changing your child’s sleep and eating schedules to match the school’s schedule.Most kids have gotten into a summer schedule where they sleep in late and eat breakfast and lunch at odd hours.
  • Go to any orientations and meet-your-teacher events so that your child knows what to expect from the new school year.
  • Fill out all school paperwork. Parents often get flooded with forms from the school, either before school starts or right after it does. Fill out these forms right away and get them turned in before they get lost in the shuffle of other paperwork.
  • Create a route for getting to school. Even if your child rides a bus, get a copy of the bus schedule and follow it with your car. That way your child can see where the bus goes and where it stops. (Some kids get very anxious about their bus routes, particularly if they have to change buses or the bus stops at multiple schools.)
  • Take your child grocery shopping. Together, find healthy foods for snacks and school lunches.

[Related Article: No Cooking Required: Healthy School Lunch and After-School Snack Ideas.]

  • Create a homework space. Find a place for your kids to do homework. If it’s a designated space for homework (such as a desk in their room), help them set it up with supplies. If it’s a shared space, create a folder, backpack, or box where they can keep track of their homework supplies.
  • Set up a homework time now. Get kids in the habit of reading books during the homework time so that when school starts, they’re ready to start doing homework again.
  • Get excited about school starting. When kids see that you value education, they’ll be more apt to value it as well.

A Day at 2nd Harvest Food Bank

August 3rd, 2016

by Chris Geyer

I was privileged to go with campers, parents, volunteers & staff from Barefoot Republic Camp came together to help serve our city and be the hands and feet of Jesus.  One group helped sort food at Second Harvest Food Bank while the other cheered on and encouraged participants in Safe Haven’s Hike for the Homeless fundraiser.

I will be telling the story of what I did at the second harvest food bank and what I learned there. After we met we got into cars and drove there. It was a little cold that day but I didn’t mind. When we arrived they told us what to do and then we worked hard! After five hours we sorted and boxed enough food to feed over 5,000 people! We worked hard but got it done. When it was over they explained their history. Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee opened its doors in 1978 with commitment from several community leaders. The purpose of the organization was to provide a central distribution center for companies, groups and individuals who wished to help provide food for hungry people in Middle Tennessee. Second Harvests mission is to feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in our community. Modeled after the first food bank established in Phoenix in the 1970s, Second Harvest was designed to collect food that would otherwise be wasted, inspect and sort this food and distribute it to soup kitchens, pantries, and shelters serving the hungry. During the first year, this process resulted in a total distribution of 160,000 pounds of food to 75 member agencies. Today, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee is one of the largest and most comprehensive of over 200 food banks and food distribution centers nationwide. During the 2014/1015 fiscal year, Second Harvest distributed more than 29 million pounds of food to over 450 Partner Agencies, providing more than 24 million meals of food to hungry children, families and seniors throughout our 46 county service area. When they were done telling us their story we went back to the church and met with the other half of our group and talked about what they did which is another story for another time! And then we ate food had a bible study and then left. As I drove home I reflected on the day and thought about how good I felt. And remembered what Jesus said, “If you give to the poor you give to me.” And then decided to help there again someday.