Thursday, May 26, 2011

Filter Bible Reading Challenge Day 1

Today is Day 1 of Filter, the 100 hour Bible reading challenge I've put up for my students. 100 hours in 100 days - reading the Bible for an hour each day. Why? Why would I ask my kids to trade a hundred hours of their summertime freedom to read the Bible?

It's because we need to hear God's voice. In a world of Biblical illiteracy, the church runs the risk of losing touch with our Maker. We have more translations and study resources than ever before, yet many Christians never read the Word beyond what's read to them on a Sunday morning. It's no wonder so many churches aren't actually making disciples.

But I think the church is poised for some amazing things that God will do through this next generation - if they can hear Him calling... Young people have some serious questions and some difficult issues with how the church seems to be functioning. But they often are beginning to take their faith very seriously, digging into those questions and issues for resolution. If they can learn to recognize His voice in their lives, God will use them to take the church to places we never dreamed we'd go. It will take a lot more than 100 hours, but it's a start.

Friday, May 20, 2011

10ST - 6 More Stupid Things in Youth Ministry

I recently completed a series of posts reflecting on Geoff Surrat's book Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing, and how those stupid things relate to youth ministry. I want to add one last post to sum it all up and add a few extras. The book primarily addresses lead pastors and the stupid things they do, but we youth ministers do our fair share of stupid things, too. In the previous posts, I've noted how each of Surrat's 10 things may pertain to youth ministry, so I won't rehash all that, but I will add a few to the list for youth ministers:

1.  Thinking parents are 'the other side/team'. Youth ministers, please hear me on this: We are supplemental.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Help Wanted

Her face said enough. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know she needed help as she sat there in traffic with the hazard lights on and her head mostly buried in the steering wheel. She looked like she'd been there for a while... waiting.

I wondered what was wrong and if there was actually anything I could do to help. Did she hit something? Had she been told to stay put? There was a dent in the front fender, but no glass or parts or another vehicle or anything to suggest an accident. Must be something else...

As I pulled into a nearby parking lot and reached for my door handle, some doubts flashed across my mind. Mind your own business. Go home, this is your lunch break. You're going to feel pretty dumb when she says she doesn't need help. What if her problem is too big for you? You're going to look stupid...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I was asked to write a bio a few months ago for an online youth ministry publication called Youth Ministry Today that wanted to post an article I'd written. Writing a bio of myself seemed kind of like writing my own obituary, only I get to keep breathing! I was happy to have something I'd originally posted here published for a wider audience, but it was kind of awkward writing a really short bio of myself. I'm not really sure why - maybe I think too much of myself, maybe too little (or maybe both). Now I need to provide another bio for another youth ministry site that I may be writing for regularly (Youth Ministry Ideas), and I'm faced with the same dilemma:

How do I sum myself up?

Here's what I wrote:

Monday, May 16, 2011

10ST - Committees

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
Ok, so technically, committees themselves aren't the stupid thing as this title may suggest, but "letting committees steer the ship" is. Surratt suggests that letting committees lead decisions ineffectively slows the decision making process so much that it qualifies for stupid thing status. I'd have to agree. Vision (which is critical to leading well) comes from God, not from a committee. Instead of having committees to determine direction, we need God to tell us where He's leading... then we need courageous people to step out and follow, and we need effectively led and resourced teams to implement action.

At least in the circles I've grown up in, this stupid thing may be one of the most common. Our churches strongly (and sometimes even to our own detriment) maintain the independence of each congregation and choose our own leaders. Our system of choosing leaders can (but doesn't always) lead to a multitude of committees and meetings and agenda items. Without a compelling vision from God, these committees often degenerate into meetings with little sense of the need to actually accomplishing something. We came. We met. See you again next month/week/year...

Surratt offers a four pronged approach to leading well in a team environment that will benefit about every youth minister & pastor I know. (Remember, the committees aren't really the problem; it's when the committees lead rather than implement.)
  1. Get a vision. Be alone with God enough that you know what He wants. If you don't have a clear and compelling picture of what God is calling you to do, it will be nearly impossible to see the team/committee you're leading flourish and grow.
  2. Share the dream. Once the vision is clear, begin to share it with key leaders in your ministry.
  3. Define the mission. As the team understands and buys into the vision, you need to be defining the specific roles and pieces and how those play into that vision. It's awesome when a team is able to put people into service in areas where they are genuinely gifted and passionate about serving to reach the mission.
  4. Empower the missionaries. Keep the vision fresh, keep the team on mission, keep the path clear, and give the team what it needs to accomplish the mission.

Could You Repeat That Please

Blogger was having issues while I was at Catalyst, so I parked this post in a temporary spot and am now moving it back over here. I have issues, too, so I'm not bitter. A little disclaimer though; my filter breaks when I'm tired, and... I was tired when I posted, plus LuAnn wasn't there to preview this and tell me how bad it sounds, so please take it with a grain of dragon salt (which Ted and I had at a Mongolian grill that night)...
Do you ever wonder if you're really picking up what God's dropping for you? Like He's told you something, but you're maybe not quite getting it... Today at Catalyst I had that feeling.
Give me a sign #cat11 on Twitpic
A lot of the sessions today were messages I've heard from speakers I've heard. Not just similar messages, but nearly identical messages. I wasn't upset about the repetition (because these were great the first time and I had no worries that they wouldn't be great this time, too), but I wondered if I didn't get it last time or something...

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Catalyst Labs Dumping Off Place

Only 5 sessions into Catalyst Dallas, through the pre-labs, and I've already been wrecked. Maybe I was damaged to begin with, but I don't remember this much inner wrestling this soon into the previous two Catalyst's I've been too. It probably more a reflection of my own spiritual-mental state at the moment than anything Catalyst's done different but it felt different today somehow. Or maybe it's the abscence of Grumpy Jim and a bumpy ride in a rented Mustang... or the acute Rodd deficiency our group is currently experiencing.

Scot McKnight opened the first session talking about the need for us to "paint the leaves" (ref. to Tolkien's "Leaf By Niggle"), to paint the small, insignificant details of our dreams and leave the significance to Jesus. As he talked about the way Jesus' parables subvert our grandiosity, our values, our plans... this was the first point where I found myself slammed to the mat. How often do I miss the details of God's dream for my life because I'm too busy trying to see the whole tree? What are the dreams I'm painting in the Kingdom?

Since I'm so deeply saturated in the hip-hop culture (cough-cough), I was excited to go to Lecrae's lab in the next session (no joke about that part, the guy is pretty awesome). His message was to engage your city, love your city, and work to bring about redemption and rehabilitation. I loved how he began his lab by saying he wasn't going to rap, he isn't a great speaker, and he isn't very entertaining without a beat track. His lab, however was deeply reflective of Acts 17 and the idea of Paul being "provoked in His Spirit." He didn't just walk away disgusted with the sin he saw, but sought to redeem and rehabilitate - to reconcile and push back the darkness.

In the midst of what has kind of been a dry time for me, I almost opted for a safer alternative during the next lab session, but ultimately went to Jon Acuff's lab talking about his new book Quitter. He talked about "closing the gap between your day job and your dream job." I love youth ministry, and the last year has seen some huge strides with a number of my students, and I'm really excited to see what God is going to do with them/us next... but I've had to face a pretty large gap between my day job and my dream job recently. He talked about defining your dream as the first step to closing that gap, and I probably haven't done that very well to this point (or maybe I have and not admitting it is a way to let myself off the hook). Dreaming is a process of recover, not just discovery: What have I done that I loved? What passion have I lost? Just as Acuff's humor had me laughing, I found myself on the mat again, choke slammed by the thought that "maybe the desert road is a gift from a loving Father." I'm tired of being patient. Thankfully, his next statement was that wrestling with God is a sign of intimacy - you can't wrestle from a distance.

Pete Wilson's lab was on transformational leadership and focused on Joshua's faithful reliance on God even when it didn't seem to make sense. He talked about how transformational leadership always requires more than you have, requires you to avoid the path of least resistance, requires God sized obedience not me sized solutions, and always relies on God promises (not on answers). I loved the thought that "every opportunity has an expiration date" and missing out will often cost more than messing up. So stop playing it safe, stop hiding, and choose to be with God.

The theme of hiding was one that stood out to me today. In several instances, I found myself being challenged - How am I hiding? Why don't I just trust and do what He's telling me to do? Am I still consecrated to Jesus, or am I just doing what I've been doing for the last 12 years because I'm comfortable with it? This last thought of consecration was the crux of Mark Batterson's message in the last session, which had me thinking back to the first Catalyst Lab I attended two years ago in Los Angeles. Then, he seemed to ditch his notes in response to God's prompting to talk about Numbers 11, where God miraculously provided what His grumbling people really didn't deserve. It was a great session that I still remember vividly. After 2 years of simmering, the message to live in a place of complete dependence on a God who is big enough to do what He says He will do was just as convicting and encouraging.

I just wonder if I'll even be able to get up off the mat tomorrow...

Monday, May 09, 2011

10ST - Mixing Ministry & Business

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
This stupid thing is a little tricky. It must have been difficult to write - mixing the business of authoring with the ministry Surrat was leading at the time. (He does mention writing on vacation time to avoid an improper mix.) I'm inclined to think that this issue isn't quite as black & white as the title implies (and the actual content of the chapter indicates as much).

The point is still valid: It's stupid to use your position in ministry to gain a business advantage for yourself. Many pastors work bi-vocationally and do so with integrity. A list of my favorite pastors would include people who also make money as authors, entrepreneurs, film-makers, and a geologist. But very clear boundaries have to be established in order to successfully mix business and ministry.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

10ST - Discipline over Reconciliation

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
This chapter may have been one of the most obviously relevant chapters to youth ministry. How do we respond when discipline is necessary in our ministries? It's often tempting to give in to the knee jerk & tell them they can't come anymore. It would often make our lives easier to do exactly that.

I once had a couple guys start coming to youth group who had a reputation for being in trouble a lot. I thought it was awesome that these guys wanted to be there at all, and prayed they'd quickly find a deeper connection with God. But, the parents of some of the other kids in the group didn't want them around. Actually, they threatened to stop bringing their kids if I allowed these two guys to keep coming. There was a real fear that I was allowing the bad influences into our group.

Friday, May 06, 2011

The Envelope Fundraiser

A few weeks ago, I had my students number 100 envelopes (1-100). We put the envelopes on a display board and explained to the church that they had a chance to help the students with the cost of registration for CIY Move this summer. We have a group of 15 going this year, so this will be a costly endeavor, so we need help. The intention is to take an envelope and donate that amount of money toward the trip as well as pray for the group.

I was hoping for a hundred people to get involved. Not just for the money's sake, but a hundred people to invest themselves in the lives of our students. I was hoping to be able to cover the cost of the trip with the fundraiser, but we're well short of that hope. I just finished totaling everything up and thought I'd share some quick stats.

100 envelopes available.
Gifts given in increments of $1 from $1 to $100.
35 envelopes taken.
30 envelopes returned (maybe the other 5 will still make it back).
$1746 given.

I'm really grateful for the 30 people who've given. God will use what you've given to build into the lives of these young kingdom workers. This is a great start to this summer's trip - please be praying and watch how God will provide for the rest. Let me know if you'd like to sponsor a student.
So, I need your opinion. This was the first time we'd done this type of fundraiser and I'm trying to evaluate whether it's worth doing again. About 30 people seemed to feel pretty good about it, but what about the rest? We raised way more money than we've raised with any other single fundraiser but one, but we were way short of the goal. So is this:
  1. a bad idea... If you fall that far short of the goal, it was a bad idea to start with.
  2. a good start... $1746 dollars is a great first step.
  3. a stupid way to raise money... Why would I want to just put some money in an envelope without the kids doing anything to earn it?
  4. a good idea... I just didn't have anything to give this time. We should do it again sometime & have the envelopes out longer.
  5. huh... What envelopes? I should show up more often 'cuz I don't even know what you're talking about Mike.
What's your vote?

10ST - Copycat Church

10ST is an ongoing series digging into Geoff Surratt's Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing and how those stupid things keep youth ministries from growing as well.
Taking anything out of context is always a risky endeavor. Perfectly worded phrases in one book become nebulous mantras in another, devoid of the clarity that once was present. Appropriate attire for one occasion becomes awkward and even out of line for another. Best practices of one organization become the unexamined tradition of another.

In the church, this is stupid. We simply can't expect what God is doing in one place to function identically in another. Just because Rick Warren wears Hawaiian shirts on the West Coast doesn't mean the masses will come flocking to me in West Nebraska.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 4.Bonus

I know about 20 people who started blogging (or significantly increased the rate of their posts) about 5 months ago. They were all in the course I took which led to this Sticks & Chisels series of posts. Some of them have blogged before, some of them set up their very first posts on our first day of class. It's been fun to watch as they get into it (or don't) and I always speculate about the fate of their blogs now that the semester is coming to a close.

We were assigned a total of 17 posts - and my guess is that for a lot of the students, 17 (or maybe something less) will be the total number of their post count for quite some time. Some of the students only posted because it was an assignment. Now that the semester's done and the assignment due, the posting will stop. The motivation is gone.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Sticks & Chisels 4.4

This weekend, a couple van loads of WestWay students went to Cheyenne for a weekend focused on the Word - the emphasis was great and fits perfectly into the recent and upcoming flow of our student ministry. More and more lately, we're sensing God's challenge to dig deeply into the Bible and learn to recognize His voice there.

Weekend trips like that are almost always fruitful in developing relationships and intently focusing on spiritual development. But one aspect of these trips that always leaves me tired is this crazy thing that happens when you get to your housing assignment, throw down the sleeping bags, & turn off the lights on a room full of young guys: I'm still suffering the effects of a weekend of sleep deprivation!

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