Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


The last two summers, I have gone to the PDYM Student Leadership Conference with 3 high school guys, 3 high school girls, and our weekend programmer for High School, Sarah Merk.

Both years we have driven a sweet motor home that has been donated by a family in our church. It’s tons of fun and is pretty tricked out. We use it as like a mobile office/meeting space of sorts while there and do lots of planning for our school year. We stay an extra day and use it to apply some of the ideas and plan out school year events and teaching. This process, or something like it is how I’ve planned my school year teaching and such for high school for the majority of my 13 years in student ministry. I’m actually teaching a seminar in about a month or so at Youth Specialties on the process I go through every year to develop an overall big picture plan for our high school ministry.

Anyway, this year we decided to start off our school year with a series called ONLY YOU. We just finished it today.

  • WEEK ONE: Only you can be you- Psalm 139.
  • WEEK TWO: Only you can take a risk- Peter/Jesus walking on the water.
  • WEEK THREE: Only you can do your part- 1 Corinthians 12
  • WEEK FOUR: Only you can control your attitude- Philippians 2

This turned out to be a great start to our school year, but one of the best things about this series was the set design and the level of involvement/enthusiasm in generated. We really wanted students to participate with it and to feel like they were a part of something bigger than themselves. We ended up stealing an idea from the PDYM leadership conference that Sarti designs dreamed up. But we didn’t have the space they had or the money to use full canvas pieces and the paint they used would take more time than we had to dry, so we made a giant jigsaw puzzle instead. Here’s how:

  1. Bought a template to make a custom jigsaw puzzle off istockphoto.
  2. Imported the template into Adobe Illustrator and made an 8 foot square design with about 160 pieces in it- minus a hole in the middle for our series logo.
  3. We then counted the number of each puzzle piece we needed and printed them on 11 x17 cardstock.
  4. Cut all 160ish pieces out of cardstock with lots of high school help.
  5. We then printed a master copy of the design to scale on an overhead.
  6. I made an 8 foot square backdrop out of plywood and covered it with soundboard so it would be soft enough for students to use a push pin to eventually place their puzzle pieces onto.
  7. We then painted the backdrop white and projected the image from the overhead onto it. We then outlined where all 160 pieces would go and painted a master puzzle outline with black paint. Kinda like a kids puzzle with the impressions of where the pieces go on it- but huge. This results in a puzzle outline on the stage without any actual pieces in it- if that makes sense.
  8. Then, on week one, we taught on student’s uniqueness and gave them 10 minutes in service during my message to make a puzzle piece that represented themselves.
  9. Lastly, during our worship set, we encouraged students to put their own pieces on the stage during the songs using push pins in a slot that fit their piece. Much to our surprise, the first weeekend, over a hundred students actually filled one out.

Here’s the pics of the end result and some of the students. Today we let them take their piece home as a reminder of the things that are true of ONLY YOU. I really hope these lessons last- I think the messages were so needed as we look to get a lot of students involved in our ministry and serving this year.


  1. Brian Berry, that’s amazing! I love that you combined art and meaning and coolness… so jealous of those ideas!
    Good job dude.

  2. glad you liked it Amy. enjoy your college days girl!!!!

  3. i really liked the way you took an idea and made it organic and interactive for your students. well done.

  4. thanks leigh. It means a lot- especially coming from you.

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