Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I just got back from teaching a couple of seminars at the National Youth Workers Convention this last week in Los Angeles. It is always so much fun to talk about this kind of stuff with my youth ministry peers. I'm really not sure there's much I love more about my job than helping fellow leaders in the trenches think through how we can do a better job of leading students.

One of the seminars I taught was called, "Creating a Teenage Owned Ministry: Developing a High Level of Ownership Among Your Teenagers". It was all about trying to rethink what it means to help students own their faith. I didn't do so from an "expert" position, but rather from the trenches of one who is trying to do this daily and flush out what it means in my own ministry context.

If you were wondering what it was about, I'll reproduce the basic premise and ideas here. They are essentially my introductory thoughts on the 90 minute seminar.

I proposed that there are at least 4 basic problems in youth ministry today regarding ownership and 4 values that I think we have to champion if we're going to see those problems become a thing of the past:

PROBLEM #1: Students follow Jesus for a season.
  • As much as we'd like to not admit it, most of the students that come into our programs will not spend a lifetime serving Jesus. Even the most involved, the most influential, or even the most invested in our youth ministry can end up leaving it all behind in the wake of early adulthood.
LEADERSHIP VALUE: We’re trying to raise up life long disciples of Jesus, not youth group champions. (Mark 8:34-36, Matt 28:19-20)
  • This is an issue of OWNERSHIP, not INVOLVEMENT. Our goal should not be to increase student's involvement in church, but rather their ownership of the core values that our faith/church is built on in the first place.

PROBLEM #2: As student's exposure to other world views expands, their “Christian” values diminish.
  • Far too many ministries think that we need to build a ministry with big bunker walls to keep the evil out. But my experience says that this works about as well as putting a wild animal in the safety of the zoo and then expecting it to be able to survive again in the wild. Bunker mindsets don't produce owned values, they produce immature and naive children.
LEADERSHIP VALUE: The learning process is more important than the end product. (Matt 7:21-23)
  • In other words, the ends don’t justify the means, but rather the means determine the ends. If we want students to OWN their faith as theirs, we need to go through the messy process of helping them interact with true faith in real world experiences. Faking it does no one any good.

PROBLEM #3: Students don’t know how to interact with opposing view points.
  • Many ditch their faith because they simply assume they were intentionally taught only half the story. They leave the church, find out that not everyone believes what they believe, and start to think that this must be because they were brain washed.
LEADERSHIP VALUE: We are trying to teach students how to think, not what to think. (Isa 29:13, Acts 17:11)
  • I have ZERO interest in teaching students how to repeat the "right answers". I am looking for ways to teach students HOW to think. This means we must expose them to opposing views in our ministries and give students a chance to wrestle with those views. The Bible doesn't hide other opposing views from it's readers, neither should we.

PROBLEM #4: Students are underestimated and under utilized… in our own youth ministry.
  • Youth pastors are notorious for complaining that their jobs are nothing more than glorified baby sitting. My push back is not that this is untrue, but rather that many of us have created ministries where this is precisely the case. Before we complain that the rest of the church treats them like children, maybe we need to ask ourselves if we do.
LEADERSHIP VALUE: Students are not only becoming ministers, they are ministers. (1 tim 4:12, Prov 1:1-6)
  • Henry Blackaby: “When you believe that nothing significant can happen through you, you've said more about your belief in God than you have about yourself.” Maybe this is true of our how we treat students. When we don't give them significant responsibilities in our own ministries, maybe we are saying more about our own doubts than theirs.
  • Doug Fields: “They are not the future of the church, they are the church” I've heard Doug say this a thousand times. I have no idea who said it first, but I'll say it again. I need to remind myself of this all the time if I'm going to see ownership, and not just involvement increase in my ministry.


Monday, September 21, 2009


Today I helped some friends get their home owners insurance off their back and save some serious flow by building a railing on their porch.  I was dripping in so much sweat by the end of a hot day in SD that I actually showered before going to soccer practice.  Still, it's always fun to help friends build stuff.

Picture makes it look like the first post was put in at about 15 degree angle, but it's an optical illusion, it's plumb my friends.  So glad I don't have to stain it :)



I have several roles I strive to lead in that lately share one common dilemma: what do I do when those I'm leading won't listen or don't seem to care? Ie:

  • AS A DAD: what do I do when my child won't own up to a responsibility at home?
  • AS A YOUTH PASTOR: what do I do when a students refuse to listen even casually and simply text message all through a service?
  • AS A COACH: what do I do when a kid is passive aggressive and only gives me the bare minimum in practice?
All of these are real leadership situations of the past 2 weeks, but recently, that last one has really got me thinking. I've had conversations with my assistant coaches particularly on my U14 team about what to do when our players stop listening to the coach. I coach on a field that has several other teams being coached on it at the same time, and the answer to that for many of my peers is "make them run".

But I have a problem with punishment leadership. It's not that I don't believe in consequences, but I think that every time I have to call on my title and force a child, student, or player to do what I say... there is only one thing we can be teaching: submission. When I make a student run, we are no longer coaching soccer, I'm only coaching them in one thing: "I'm the coach, and you're the player, and now we can't do anything else until you get that straight." There is a time for that, but I hate it... and it ALWAYS takes a lot of time to recover to the place of relationship. For a while, I'll be simply "coach" and they'll be "player". It's hard to be friends, mentors, or even to laugh together. Some will argue that the relationship will be better afterwards and that it is weak sauce to avoid it, but my experience says "punishment leadership" has a high price tag with it.

So, I have a few "rules" I'm trying to lead by before passing out punishments:
  1. DON'T ASK OTHERS TO DO WHAT I'M UNWILLING TO DO. If I ask my kids to keep their room clean, then I need to. If I ask my players to give me their best effort, then I need to do that as a coach. If I ask my students to turn off their cell, I should unplug too.
  2. AVOID SURPRISE CONSEQUENCES. I don't want to ever surprise my kids, students, or players with a consequence for their actions. My kids should know clearly what is expected of them and what the consequences will be for not doing it. I can't pass out a restriction without first making sure they clearly understood the expectations and what would happen if they ignored them. If I'm going to make my players run for not paying attention, I should have told them clearly that's what I was going to do before practice even officially started.
  3. PUBLIC STUFF GETS PUBLIC CORRECTION. PRIVATE STUFF GETS PRIVATE CORRECTION. If you make a big deal of something in front of a crowd, I'll correct you in that crowd. If you make a mistake as a player in a drill, I'll pull you aside and correct you quietly. If a player says something disrespectful to me in front of the team, I'll correct them in front of the team. I rarely if ever call anyone out from the stage as a youth pastor. I default to private confrontation and use public settings only when I seem to have very few if any other leadership options.
  4. OFFER CONSTRUCTIVE SOLUTIONS FIRST: Before punishing, I try and offer alternative solutions. Before telling a player to run laps or taking away a privilege from a child or whatever, I try and tell them that there is another option. The consequence then to some degree become their choice. This isn't avoidance of leadership on my part, I think it's a way for me to keep leading instead of simply punishing. Thus, "If you do ___________", we can continue our relationship and I don't have to stop leading so I can simply be a cop.
  5. ONLY AS A LAST RESORT, LEAD FROM POSITION: If I have to say, "because I'm the dad and I said so", my leadership level dropped to the lowest common denominator. I try and avoid it at all costs. If I have to use this one, it is me throwing in the towel and saying, we can't do anything more until you realize this. I'm the coach, and you will listen to me. I'm the pastor, and you can't behave like this. Period. There's a time for it, but I try and only use it as a last resort.


Friday, September 18, 2009


... about stuff I probably should.

In fact, I've been stewing on this for a while now. I think this is a BIG piece of my jacked up self. I think it affects so much of my emotional, physical, spiritual, and relational energy cuz I waste too much of it on stuff that doesn't matter.

For the last 3 thursdays... I have shown up to teach my kids soccer at 4pm and there's been a dad there sitting on a bucket of baseballs teaching his kid to hit and pitch. They practice for 20 minutes and leave. I wonder how many days they do that? Even though I left my office at 3pm to get my kid from school so that I could be there to coach 2 teams for 3 hours of soccer, but somehow I still feel like a tool.

What has that Dad said no to in order to be there? Why do I do this? Why does he? What really matters?

For sure I care about stuff I should just say, "skip it" to and I don't care about stuff I should probably pay a lot of attention to. Call it what you want, but I think it's a daily wrestling match when deciding what to even accomplish on my to do list.

Sadly, I think I even care about stuff God doesn't care about and I don't care enough about stuff God does care about.

On the one side. This is ridiculous. I can't possibly care about all that God cares about the way He cares about it.
  • the poor
  • the homeless
  • the sick
  • the dying
  • the helpless
  • the hurting
  • the lonely
  • the spoiled
  • the desperate
  • the complacent
  • the happy
  • the carefree
  • the .... there is no one that God doesn't care about.
In our world of social needs, there seems to be an endless list of dying children, water shortages, disease victims, budget shortages, health care needs, struggling business and families and ..... it seems ENDLESS and overwhelming- the list is so long and so baffling that I sometimes want to quit for sake of the sheer volume of things I don't care about.

So I do my part. One step at a time. One day at a time. Trusting God to be WAAAY bigger than I am. I'm saying yes to some things and no to others. Each day trying to get it right. I think I fail at it more than I'd like to admit. I dunno.

Maybe I should give a rip.

Maybe I should go to bed.


Monday, September 14, 2009


Our church has a grip of photographers at it.  Lots of them helped me capture the moment of baptizing Tyler.  Once I gather all the shots from those with the clicks... I'll see if I can't create some kinda collage.  But here's 5 more I got today from Jonathon Cervantes.


Sunday, September 13, 2009


I had the joy of baptizing Tyler today. This was an answer to prayer and the second of our five kids that I have baptized- TJ did it several years ago. I hope to one day have the pleasure of having baptized all 5! Maybe the next 3 will choose to do it at the same time... that will make quite the pic! Anyway, it is such a great joy as they choose on their own to make this step.

When Tyler came out into the water I reminded him that he didn't have to do this for "us". He wanted to do it a year ago, but we thought he was too young to truly be ready. Tyler said he knew that it was his decision and he was excited to do it. It was great to be able to pray for him and celebrate this step of faith in his young life.

Oh by the grace of God go I. (thanks to sarah tolson photography for the pic!)


Friday, September 11, 2009


Tonight Journey kicked off another character study series. This time on Elijah.

I think I'm gonna have to add this to the mix in high school and do an annual character study. I really think they are great and they inspire me to want to not waste my life on crap that doesn't matter- which is really really easy to do in my estimation/observation/experience.

Tonight I was reminded of how we all have choices and if you want to make a seriously influential dent in the history of the world, then you don't have to be great... you just have to be tight with a GREAT GOD. What a reassuring truth that is for a schmuck like me.

I loved this 1/2 a verse about Elijah and his obedience to God.

  • "So he did what the LORD had told him." (1 Kings 17:5a)
Simple enough. Yeah.... now go do it. Elijah changed the world because he did.

As I thought about this truth in service, several other characters came to mind. Ed mentioned three of them in service. Here's the first ones I thought of that validated the point even further:
  • ABRAHAM: "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Genesis 15:6)
  • ENOCH: Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away. (Genesis 5:24)
  • NOAH: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” (Genesis 6:9)
  • MOSES: "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend." (Exodus 33:11a) "Moses did just as the LORD commanded him." (Numbers 17:1)
  • DAVID: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” (Psalms 42:1-2)
  • JOB: "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8)
  • SIMEON: "Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him." (Luke 2:25)
There are countless others in the Scriptures, but these all seem to me to be people who took God at his word and bet the farm that a life with God is way better than one without.

"I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people." (Leviticus 26:12)

I want to push my chips to the center of the table and bet the farm on that truth too.


Monday, September 07, 2009


Ok... so after doing some research tonight and seeing NUMEROUS comments from people on blogs, facebook, and what not about how the problem is not so much with the speech as it is with the infamous lesson plans sent to teachers.... I went in search of said evil material.

After lots of searching, I finally found it on the almighty public web.

Here is the pdf for the K-6 grade.

Here is the pdf for the 7-12th grade.

After my review, again I am left with questions.

  1. What is the problem? Really, what is the big beef about this lesson plan?
  2. Who could possibly ever do ALL of the ideas in this in one class? Clearly you are supposed to pick some, not do all. So I'm not thinking that qualifies as "telling teachers what to do" or justifies fears about not showing the speech. No where is this an all or nothing plan in my opinion- plus it is littered with subjective phrases like "could" or "might".
  3. If you're a teacher or administrator and you don't like this "suggested plan", why not write your own or tweak this one they gave as a starter? What teacher in the United States cannot look at this suggested list of ideas and tweak it to create one that is appropriate for their age bracket and classroom subject? I mean really. If you do not have the capacity to take a lesson plan and twist it to make it your own that you can teach with confidence, do I really want you teaching anything to my kids at all? Maybe the problem really isn't our kids.
Ok.. I'm stumped. This is ridiculous. Of all the problems in our world and with education, this speech and these lesson plans have got to be somewhere at the VERY BOTTOM of the pile. If you want to have a rant about education, at least make it about something that will solve systemic problems.



I said this 3 days ago.

Now, go ahead and click this and read. It is the president's published and "controversial" speech he is giving tomorrow to children from kindergarten to 12th grade.

If you are one of the ones complaining about this speech, here's 3 things I think you should do:

1. read it.
2. tell me what you think is so dangerous for our kids to hear.
3. if you can't find anything, and you were vocal about your criticism, go ahead and write him an apology.

I personally would LOVE to see our presidents make this an annual tradition. Sure, go ahead and have a state of the union address. But how about giving a speech like this on the day after labor day for forever. Challenge and inspire students. I say every school in the country should start with an assembly, show the speech, and the president should offer an encouragement to students to stay in school, study hard, overcome obstacles, and make a positive contribution to our society. Then have students return to class and share what they were inspired by and what they disagreed with in a classroom setting.

I'm looking forward to watching this with my kids. I'm definitely gonna DVR it.


Friday, September 04, 2009


Everything in my life needs to be maintained. Everything!

On the one side, I can't wait to get to heaven where I'm praying the earth waters itself like the good ol' days of Eden. On the other side- this side of eternity- I can't seem to ever just let stuff go untouched.

Failure to address things regularly leads to mountains of catch up work, stress, and way more effort than had I just simply dealt with it in the first place.

Here's my observations:
  • yard work takes an hour if I do it weekly or a whole day a month if I let it go.
  • my body stays fit if I regularly exercise and eat well. If I let it go, it will take months to fix.
  • my soul requires daily rest and feeding. If I let it go or ignore it's cry for attention, I end up depressed, discouraged, overwhelmed, and exhausted.
  • my marriage requires daily attention. If I ignore it for a day or two, it takes 14 hours of conversations, a grip of apologies, and probably some counseling classes to fix. If I ignore it for longer than that... we become roommates and shuffle kids around. If it goes past that... well, yeah- It's not pretty.
  • my kids require daily love and attention. Ignore them for any period of time and I become out of touch, lose my influence, and an observer instead of a participant in life with them.
  • my school work requires regular studying and process. when I pace myself, I'm good. when I let it pile up, I have to hibernate for 3 days to fix it.
  • our youth group data base takes a few hours a week to maintain. ignore it for a few months and it'll take countless hours and all summer to undo.
  • my cars require regular oil changes, tune ups, etc. When I let them go, I pay hundreds of dollars to repair what could have cost way less had I simply paid attention to wear and tear.
  • bills have to be given weekly attention. If they are not regularly paid they result in bad credit, fees, and a massive headache.
  • a to do list regularly visited gets done. Ignore it, and in compounds with interest in intensity and investment by the hour it seems.
  • my dog even requires attention. lots of attention. I'm not exactly sure what happens when I ignore him. Mostly he just barks at me more and tries to bite me so I'll chase him around the house.

Here's my conclusions:
  • a life that is daily maintained is easy to maintain.
  • a life that is consistently ignored is consistently impossible to enjoy.
  • before adding anything to my life, no matter how shiny it is at first, I need to ask myself, "do I have the time and energy to maintain it?"
  • the tortoise beats the hare every time.



Today, all 5 of my kids brought home what is clearly some kind of mandatory letter by the Cajon Valley Unified School District of which I qualify for a place on the board simply because we have like 20% of the school population in our immediate family.

Here's the subject of the letter:

Evidently, the president of the United States of America... the elected political leader of the country in which I live, is giving a speech on Tuesday about education. (I think they expect me to insert a massive gasp here) The speech is supposed to be challenging students, parents, and educators to ensure that every child has an education. They want to encourage us to watch it together as a family.

We are then warned that some teachers may address the speech in class and that some students may even watch the speech as part of a class.

To which they offer these two paragraphs:
As with any significant current events topic, some teachers may choose to include the President's speech as a part of a supplemental learning activity focused upon the importance of education, goal-setting, and college attendance. We will not be encouraging teachers to do so, nor requiring they use any of the suggested learning options from the Department of Education.
Some families may not wish to have their child watch the President's speech at school. If a teacher plans to include the speech as part of a lesson, parents will be informed by the end of school this Friday to allow parents an opportunity to opt out by notifying the teacher prior to the broadcast on Tuesday morning. Students who have opted out will be assigned supervised alternate learning activities out of the classroom during the 20-minute speech and any immediate follow-up discussion
Ok. So... this bugs me on several levels of which I will simply state in the form of 3 questions:

  1. Who thinks it is a good parenting decision to shelter their kids in a public education environment from a public address of the president's opinion on education?
  2. Even if I disagree with everything the president says, isn't this the perfect opportunity for me to talk to my children about what they are learning in school anyway? I mean how many times to actually get to hear the full subject matter of a teacher's lesson in the first place?
  3. When are we going to embrace the value of teaching our children how to interact with the world around it instead of hiding from it and especially with and from the opinions of those who are in leadership over them? Especially those of the President! No wonder we can't get young people to go to the poles and vote.
I believe it is our responsibility as educators and parents to teach our children not what to think, but how to think. The capacity to truly interact with the opinions of others is the difference between a mere follower of the crowd and an intelligent thinker, learner, and leader in our society.

I guess I'd understand the concern if this was a speech about sexuality, the mexican border, abortion, a war, our response to a 911 type event, or some other controversial issue that may not be age appropriate for my 6 to 12 year old kids... but this my friends is ridiculous. I think it's parenting and politics gone stupid.



He is by far the craziest kid in the berrytribe.... he informed me on Wednesday that he would not be 7 until 7:41pm when mom said he was born.

I gave him 7 spankins and like 70 kisses in bed anyway. Crazy kid.

We are taking him to dinner and to Dave and Busters next weekend with the grandparents after 5 soccer games. Tyler's getting baptized on Sunday too. Crazy weekend ahead.

Anyway... here's Jake's crazy breakfast birthday donut breakfast. No he didn't get to eat them all :)



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San Diego, CA
Husband. Dad. Jesus Follower. Friend. Learner. Athlete. Soccer coach. Reader. Builder. Dreamer. Pastor. Communicator. Knucklehead.

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