OVERALL - A great youth ministry resource site for program materials, conversation, support, training, ideas, inspiration, job listings and more. One of the premier youth ministry resource companies in the world.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? I know I sound like I'm on their payroll. I swear to you I don't make a dime out of YS and they make a fair bit of money out of my pockets most years. I'll be reviewing several other websites and companies but I'm leading off with my personal favorite. Not that they're necessarily better than any other just that they match my particular mind set. Co-founded out of the back of a car's trunk by youth ministry icon (legend, hero? He'd reject all of those descriptions) Mike Yaconelli YS continues to offer high quality resources with a relaxed off beat style. Their approach is simple - they love youth ministers and want to do what they can to make our lives easier, better, more fulfilling. How can you NOT love an approach like that? From one day training events to multi day extravaganzas to online forums where you can ask questions or just vent to other folks struggling with the same questions you have YS offers a support community for youth ministry. I went to a National Youth Workers Convention put on in Pittsburgh by YS 4 years ago. On my way down to the event my phone rang to tell me my mom had had a stroke. I bounced back and forth between the hospital and the convention. A YS staff person talked with me, heard my story and made it her job to check in with me when she could (she WAS working at the time). I appreciated that personal concern amidst the hundreds of other folks all there at the same time. So YS has a special place in my heart. The quality of their materials doesn't hurt either.
RESERVATIONS Hmmmm, their mindset really comes from a non-liturgical, contemporary music kind of background and for me as an Episcopal youth minister I sometimes feel a vacuum for things aimed at my particular worship style. Fortunately there are other resources (that I've reviewed recently) that amply fill those holes. Occasionally I come across a resource whose theology just doesn't match mine but that's hardly surprising.
RECOMMENDATION If you don't realize that I recommend YS by now you've really not been paying attention. This stuff tends to be solid, proven materials that are easily adaptable to differing needs (I don't believe in "magic box" programs. Nothing is one size fits all, unless you mean "fits badly".) Take some time and tour through what's available.