Old School Tools for Youth Ministry

Youth Specialties
April 13th, 2016

The head-spinning pace of technology has revolutionized the way we do ministry—most of it for the better. Tools such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, texts, etc. have provided new ways to connect with students and develop life-giving ministry. In our world of Snapchat (which you should not get) and Evernote (which you should), there are several old-school tools that defy replacement.


First, the clipboard.

Yes, the clipboard—that thing with a metal, vice-like contraption that holds paper on a sort of portable table.

I find the clipboard particularly indispensable when I’m leaving for a trip. Harried parents are rushing to church to drop off their children. Upon arriving, they begin thrusting checks, release forms, copies of insurance cards, and hand-scribbled prescription notes into my hands. The same amount of information would freeze even the best technology.

The clipboard becomes a landing place for the papers and a firewall for my sanity. Clip it now—sort it later. Bonus points for the pen attached by a string.


Few man-made things are more beautiful than the dry-erase board. The color-coded information decorating the board like Christmas lights can bring even the most chaotic mind (or ministry) into focus. The squeaky markers become the soundtrack of ministry dreams. In a few marker strokes, you can map your curriculum plan or event schedule. Multiple markers can mark out your ministry year. My team’s workweek begins with a whiteboard session.

Whiteboards are effective visual aids for your messages, fun time-fillers for your students, and great daily calendars for students (or leaders!) who need to know what’s going on.

Despite the overwhelming amount of technology designed to make planning calendars and curriculum easier, nothing beats the old-school dry-erase board.

Ziplock Bags

Yellow and blue make green—and clear, waterproof bags are wizardry. The beauty of these bags is the ease of storage and see-age (see-through-ness, that is). They can hold pens, playing cards, notecards, dice, and the all-important medication.

On mission trips, ski trips, retreats, and weekly programming, ziplock bags can turn your mishmash backpack into Ikea-level organization.


It’s time to upgrade if you’ve ever been shocked at how quickly it got dark while you

  1. tried to balance your phone in one hand and cabin list in the other,
  2. cozied up next to a car’s headlight while shouting out small-group lists, or
  3. attempted to organize a game with a flashlight in your mouth.

A headlamp—the original hands-free device—can end the awkward yoga-toward-the-light poses. Cheap and lightweight, the headlamp gives you the ability to direct traffic, unload luggage, point students, direct leaders, and give high fives. It also gives you a significant advantage if your crew is into outside games after dark.

Plastic Tubs with Locking Lids

Super cheap, easy to store, and water resistant. Consider how quickly you could prepare for your next trip if you had the following items pre-packed and labeled:

  • Medical kit
  • Pens/markers
  • Rainy day games
  • Paper/notecards
  • Bibles

Moleskine / Travel Journal

I learned the hard way that if it isn’t written down, it’s forgotten. One of the key components of ministry is remembering names, stories, and experiences . . . and following up on them. When I’m on retreat, mission, or any extended period with my students, I have a pen and journal in my back pocket. Literally. I pull it out to note conversations (curriculum potential), experiences (to celebrate or commiserate later), and inside jokes (to laugh about later). A cheap but durable Moleskine journal will get you through and put you in the tradition of Ernest Hemingway, who also carried one wherever he went.


Why don’t I just text? I want my students to have something tactile that communicates my love for them—something they can pin to their walls. I also want the parents of my students to see the way I communicate with their kids. A postcard that says “We missed you!” lets the parents know that their student is known and nurtured. And I want my students to experience the thrill of receiving mail. There’s no better way to spend 35 cents.


I’m an introvert who experiences stress at surprises and unexpected twists. The most important old-school tool I’ve discovered is a pack of gum.

Chewing gum is a proven stress reliever—and it’s a much better choice than throwing and breaking any of the other old-school tools I’ve shared. Gum also has tremendous community-enhancing qualities. Whip out a pack of gum, and in 4.67 seconds you’ll have a horde of students surrounding you.


Last but not least is the Bible. Simple—but often overlooked—the presence of the Bible (or lack thereof) communicates how much I value Scripture. I want my students to see me with the Bible whether I’m preaching, leading a small group, or speaking at a retreat. I especially love when they see how I’ve highlighted, made notes, and underlined in my Bible.

These low-tech, low-stress, old-school tools make ministry more efficient and free you up to snap group selfies along the way!



jason headshotJason Brown has served in student ministry for 13 years. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary and currently serves at Broadway United Methodist Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Jason also serves as a coach for Student Ministry Solutions. He longs for a day when the Utah Jazz win the NBA championship. 


Tony AkersTONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for 25 years. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 12th year serving as the Minister to Youth and Families at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama. Tony also serves as a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM

Youth Specialties

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.