Thursday, October 28, 2010


You'd think after working with teens this long, that not much would surprise me in youth ministry.  But lately, I've been pleasantly surprised several times.

  • I've been surprised by the ease of a convo with a student or two when I thought for sure it was going to be like pulling teeth to have any kinda significant discussion.  
  • I've been surprised by the level of ownership of a few of our serving teams by their student leaders.
  • But the thing that has surprised me most lately is how much stuff students save from our youth ministry.  Kinda like this post from a few years ago.
I love it that students save stuff, but it still surprises me.   Here's 3 examples as of late:


We gave students a chance to make a commitment to Jesus and to regularly attending our high school ministry called Powerhouse.  Then just this week I received a text message and an attached photo that read, "Was going through my wallet and found this."

It was from Danny Loughran who graduated from Washington High School back in 2002 and we gave them out somewhere in the middle of his high school carreer!  He sent me an e-mail later that day too that read, "The card has been worn.  The name has almost faded.  But the commitment still stands.  I thought you would appreciate it."

Danny, You know I did.


I moved to San Diego after having been a youth pastor at Powerhouse for almost 11 years.  It was the hardest thing I'd done to date in ministry.  Leaving behind a ministry where I had cut my teeth in ministry poured my heart and soul into was a huge faith stretcher for me.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the ministry was a student leadership team we had for seniors only called the Timothy Tag Team (TTT).  It was solely by invitation and was offered to the seniors who had stepped it up and owned their faith and our ministry the most over the previous years.  It culminated in their final summer with a local missions/bonding trip.  Due to my transition to San Diego, the last group of seniors had to finish out the final 5 months of their senior year without me by their side when I left in February, 2005.  A few days ago, one of them- Shawn Cummins- posted on facebook a letter I wrote to the team as they headed into their final TTT trip.  Oh dang did it bring back memories.  I copied it all below or  you can read it on his facebook notes here.  The baton he mentions was something I gave every student on my last Wed. Night in Powerhouse.
I remember reading this on the edge of the Grand Canyon, probably one of the most pivotal weeks of my life. Still have my baton this day...Miss you guys:
... By the time you read this, your year of the TTT will officially be done. You will have finished the task you stepped up to last September. Never before has the phrase "the brave, the proud, the few" been more true than to the Timothy Tag Team of 04/05. Every TTT in history has had at least one person who signed up at the start and bailed before the end, but your team- more than any other- has weighed in and taken some serious hits. The line up at the start of the year was filled with potential and a chance to become new friends who took one another to new heights and depths of faith and devotion to Jesus. Some stepped up to that challenge and some backed away. Yes, God's grace is sufficient for all of us, but when I pushed all the chips I had left across the table last February to the TTT and said to you, "The ball is now in your court, for real" and I gave you a baton and asked you not to drop it... Well you truly carried it.
I wish with all my heart that I was in town this weekend so that I could be there to say this to you personally and probably cry as I tired to read it. But with as much gratitude and strength that I can muster up, I want to clearly say to you in this letter, "I'm so proud of you. You Rock! You embody what it means to be a faithful servant in times of trial. I want to say thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for not dropping the ball. Thank you for taking the baton that Jesus placed in your hand and giving a full sprint for the finish line. Thanks for owning your faith. Thanks for making your faith in Jesus and your devotion to powerhouse not about pastors and leadership but about guts, faith, and perseverance. Thanks for stepping up."
 There are few things in this life I have loved with more enthusiasm and commitment than the ministry of Powerhouse. When God called me to go, I left a piece of my soul in Fremont and I took memories and friendships and hope in Jesus Christ to fill the hole it created. Every TTT group before you had to step it up. Every TTT group before you had to decide if they wanted to keep or chuck the faith. But more than any other group, you had to really put your money where your mouth is and decided to embrace a God whose plans are not always ours when you could have decided to be bitter, angry or apathetic to the change that God has called Powerhouse to. Thanks for Caring. Thanks for loving. Thanks for truly living.
 I leave you with this verse as a reminder and challenge as you too turn the corner and leave a piece of your life behind- your high school days in Powerhouse. In a sense your race with the Baton of faith is just beginning and the finish line is nowhere in sight if you live to be a senior citizen. So, remember the challenge of Paul to those in difficult situations in the Colossian church. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Col 3:23-24.
 Carrying the baton with you. Your friend and youth pastor,
 Brian C. Berry
The Last Standing of Timothy Tag Team '04-'05 (minus Shawn who is behind the camera)
Thanks Shawn, you bless me.


I put on our Encounter High School Ministry weekend program a simple sentence. It was on the back next to the announcements a plainly read, "I'll pay you $100 for the first person to save 75 completed weekend outlines" or something like that.  I never announced it or drew any attention to it and only ran it one weekend.  I never knew if anyone even noticed.

Then last April or so, I had a couple of students (Christa and Michael) come up to me and say on consecutive sundays, "Here's my stack".   They both had independently and quietly accepted my challenge and saved the outlines from the weekends they attended.   Maybe it's just the power of a bribe... but I was blessed anyway by those who stepped up to the plate.


Saturday, October 23, 2010


So, my last post produced over 800 reads in one day- well over 8x what this boring little section of the internet usually sees.  The reason was not because I titled the post "boobies", but largely due to the fact that it was picked up by two prolific blogging friends of mine with a much broader audience, mark oestreicher and adam mclane.

The result was, a slew of comments, reads, and several questions on multiple blogs and facebook.  Because of the brief rant nature of my last post and I guess because it is national breast cancer awareness month, I touched a nerve in some.

Since I don't really want this to be the subject of my blog, I figured I could just drop this whole thing and move on.  But, before I do that, here are my responses to some of the questions posed to me.


The ten year old boy I mentioned in my post, is a kid on my U12 boys soccer team I coach.  He had to take it off for a game because it is considered illegal jewelry.  Consequently, I was asked to keep it for him.  I did so until the next practice when he asked me if I still had it.  I asked him why he wore it and if he had anyone in his family with breast cancer.  He said he liked it but that no one had cancer and then the conversation turned to all his peers telling him that at their secular elementary schools, they are not allowed to wear them either and that the principal confiscates them.

I don't "rip" things off 10 year old boys (or teens for that matter).  However, I also do not see "I love boobies" bracelets as anything necessary to the task of playing soccer, and for the one boy who wants to wear it, I have asked him to take it off during practice too, as it is not needed... and for much deeper reasons, too far beyond the scope of conversation with a prepubescent boy.

And yes, I believe it should be a parent's job.  No, I don't let my own kids (all of whom go to public schools) wear these.  I see no reason to, regardless of who in my friend or family circles may or may not have breast cancer.


No, for guys.  Yes, for one girl which I mention in the next question.

We do have a student in our ministry who has a mom who has been fighting cancer (not of the breast though) for the last 8 years, when she was given just 6 months to live.  This month, he has a ribbon shaved into the back of his head, but no bracelet proclaiming his love for boobies on his arm.


Yes and no.  Yes, wearing a "I love boobies" bracelet is a minor issue.  There are massively larger issues in the area of teenage sexuality at least.  No, because it is a symptom of a much bigger issue.

I have worked with high school students for the last 16+ years of my life and I can tell you without a doubt, at least in California, the girls believe they have to look a certain way to be beautiful.  They are unilaterally paranoid about breast size, waist size, butt shape, legs, noses...  even skin tone and hair color.  If you sit down in front of a group of American teenage women and tell them sincerely and with passion that regardless of the messages they've been told, that they are beautiful, loved, valued, and treasured... my experience says that at least 50% of the audience will be in tears and the reason the other 50% are not is they've been hurt too much to believe you.  NO WOMAN OR GIRL in this culture needs another message from our culture telling her that her boobies matter or are loved by boys and men.

If you want a much better way to combat this issue, try the dove campaign for real beauty.

Here's one example of how I do deal with these bracelets in our ministry. (I already posted it in a comment on Mark Oestreicher's blog comment stream but I'll repost here for clarity).

This last summer, one girl in our high school group wore an "I love boobies" bracelet when we were going to work with the homeless. I explained to her that unless she wanted homeless men talking to her about her boobies while she gave them a sandwich, she should put it away… because they are not interested in fighting breast cancer, but they are hungry.  She agreed and did so.  I also talked with her that I thought it was degrading to her and others and that she should value her own body more than this bracelet communicates.  I told her that I don't think she'd feel honored by me if I wore one, and that she should give it some thought if that's any different for she or her male peers.

No, I don’t have a bouncer a the door of youth group saying, “you can’t come in here with that”… though I’m not sure that is good. I really think I need to call both men and women to a higher ground.  I believe that messages like the "I love boobies" campaign,  however subtle that message is communicated, are incongruent with being a follower of Jesus who holds to a all women are created “in God’s image” view of creation.

I don’t think the average teen even thought at all about any of this before buying or wearing these bracelets.  I think as a loving and caring adult, I must help them do just that.


Ha! Adam McLane provocatively titled his link to my post, "Brian Berry Hates Boobies".  Thanks Adam.  And no, for the record and without giving you more info than the internet deserves, I don't hate breasts.  I have very honest conversations with the young men in our ministry and my own 13 year old son about the beauty of God's design for sexuality.  I think sex was created by God and is intended to have both reproductive and pleasure implications.  I however don't think anyone in my ministry needs a bracelet to remind them or anyone around them that they are a fan of God's invention called breasts- cancer free or not.


This company/organization does.

These bracelets and shirts they make are being banned all over the place on public schools as distraction to the middle school and high school students. If you worked with any context that is saturated in pre-teen and teen students, you know instinctively why that is.

If you want to hear a story or read a story of a high school student who is an exception to this rule and who evidently really did know why she was wearing her bracelet, then read this blog post about Candice.  Which, while I still don't like the slogan, I understand and respect her passion and story.  As the article clearly states, she is the exception to the rule and her school district gave she and she alone a pass on their ban of the products.

Additionally she mentions that she's trying to get an assembly for her local middle school for girls ages 11-14.  I have zero problem with this.  In fact, that makes a lot of sense.

What I think is totally bogus is for coed teen contexts to be the target of this campaign.   

At least 3 facts from this breast cancer fact sheet make me seriously question the use of any marketing strategy on breast cancer that is designed to raise awareness among high school men... and barely much sense for it to be such a huge issue for high school girls.  If this was even a college campus initiative, it would make more sense.  For example:
  • (for the most part, and yes, there are exceptions) we don't even begin to require or expect women in our culture to have a mammogram before they are 40.  
  • less than 5% of all breast cancer patients are under 40. 
  • some men can develop breast cancer, but it is extremely rare. 

All of this seems to make it crystal clear to me, that there is zero reason for a 16 year-old young man in my ministry to be wearing this bracelet.


Friday, October 22, 2010


Yep, I just titled this post "boobies".  Now I will get all kinds of disgruntled porn traffic.

Which will only prove my point further.  

I've had a rant stuck inside me for months that I've let out in various circles but I've been waiting to blog about for forever, but be forewarned, here it comes.


I hate them. 

I've pulled them off 10 year-old boys on my soccer teams, called out guys in our high school program for wearing them, and questioned girls who walk proudly with them on- the latest of which was earlier today.  

To mock them, I even bought,, and  Yep, I own them all... cuz I was seriously thinking of starting my own stupid trend to mock the current one.  I was gonna make bracelets and t-shirts with a giant silverback gorilla and his big boobies and raise money for prostate cancer or maybe diabetes or something.   I just hate them so much that I don't want to risk losing money fighting them with my satire, so I'm a chicken of an entrepreneur and haven't done anything with my url buying spree yet.  


Wake up!  

No 16 year-old dude is wearing a bracelet that says, "I love boobies" because his mom has breast cancer. That guy didn't do the breast cancer walk or raise money for breast cancer awareness and if you ask him to give you $10 to fight cancer and skip the bracelet, you'd raise no money.  He will happily check your breasts for suspicious lumps however. 

My grandma lost one of her breasts to cancer.  She was a breast cancer survivor.  We constantly teased her for leaving her foam "replacement" boob everywhere. "Grandma you left your boob in the kitchen again".  I can't imagine in a million years wearing a bracelet that says, "I love boobies" around my grandma who only had one.  Maybe I should have bought her one that says, "I love boob".   

I was in vegas this summer for 5 hours on our way to Idaho and asked this teen guy if I could take his pic in circus circus.  Read the location as an intentional pun on this stupid pic. 

Look... at least he has one that really says it... "I love your boobies"

You know what's even more astounding than the fact that the NFL chose to sponsor breast cancer and not lukemia or lung cancer and heart disease or drug rehab or anything not directly related to sexuality and cheer leader anatomy... what's most amazing to me is that they wear pink cleats, pink chin straps, pink pretty much anything.... but not one of them is wearing an "i love boobies" bracelet that I've seen.  No one. Go figure.  

Several of high school and Middle Schools in our area agree with me and have BANNED the stupid things.  Oh... and the online pole for nbc san diego dot com attached to the article says the fact that they banned them has "71% of people furious" about it at the point I published this.


It's a teen thing cuz they love breasts not fighting breast cancer.... but that's another discussion. This really isn't about the sexual or reproductive marvels of the female anatomy anyway.


It does.  We've been telling them this for years in our culture.

This stupid trend does it the most unashamedly of all.  It says to them, "Hi, when I see you, I see breasts first."  So we sell all kinds of products and surgeries and you name it, to make the part of you we see and value the most, look more like what american culture demands for beauty.  

Think about it.  

I have an idea.  How about I start wearing one of these bracelets when I teach on Sunday?   Maybe I'll wear a shirt that says "I love tatas" with it and afterwards we can all go grab lunch at Hooters.  

I'm sure... positive even... that all the girls in our ministry will be thinking, "what a creeper".  I'll lose my job on demands that I'm a pervert.  I mean really, now I'm supposed to tell students, "wow, we both love boobies. So we have that in common."  

Ridiculous.  Absofreakinglootly ridiculous!!!



Friday, October 15, 2010


Periodically I meet with parents and teens who are having a tough time getting along.  I'm no expert parent and this process isn't flawless or endorsed by some counsel of 4 out of 5 successful parents somewhere, but when we do meet, there are several things I always go over.


First thing I do is remind them of the obvious.  No one thinks this is fun. They inherently get that. No student loves being in my office with their parent who is upset with them.  What they don't always realize is that it's not fun for anyone.  No parent decided to have kids, then taught them to walk, bought them ice cream, created family photo albums of cute kid pics, and then just waited for the day when they would lack trust in one another and end up frustrated and in my office.  This whole situation sucks for everyone and the sooner we can agree where we are is not where we want to be, the sooner we can start working towards an agreeable future.


Next, I remind parents and students that our goal is to work ourselves out of a job.  All students in this situation think their parent wants to micromanage their life and is some kinda control freak.  Even if the parents really are doing this, all parents in this situation feel like they have no other choice.  The second agreement I try and reach is that our collective goal is to stop telling the student what to do.   If they're having their teen pee in the cup all the time for a drug test, I declare this as a waste of time and money and something everyone would love to no longer need to do.  Everybody hates it.  I remind parents and students that parents actually have enough problems of their own to worry about and would really love to focus on something other than trying to manage their teen's decisions.  Every parent begins the process at birth making every decision for their infant (minus when they crap their pants) and is now in an 18 year (plus or minus) baton pass of eventually making none of their child's daily decisions.  I remind students and parents that we are literally trying to give the student full control of their life.  This is usually no where on a students radar.  

I then draw this diagram explaining that with as a student gets older, responsibility for their own actions does and should increase:

which leads me to this third conclusion:


With greater privileges come greater responsibility.  If an adult crashes their car then an adult has to deal with the ramifications of that.  If a "legal minor" does, then that affects not just them, but the "adults" responsible for them.  In the same way, if student doesn't want their life micro-managed by a parent (which we already agreed they do not), then we have to agree that they must also take on more responsibility.  they have to do some growing up and kissing of adolescent behavior patterns and excuses goodbye.  In that case, when they are given the privilege of say "extra freedom", then the responsibility of owning the consequences of the choices they did with that freedom must also be embraced.  

Here is where I usually work with a family and suggest that they come up with a top list... say 5 things or less, that can be agreed upon and are "big ticket" items at this stage of the parenting/growing up task.  I ask them to look for things that the student and parent both want and that can have clearly agreed upon goals and consequences.  

So, for example... If a student wants to be able to go over to a friends house after school, but the parent doesn't trust the peer group they want to be with due to past failures, then we try and find another agreeable location they can meet and an agreed upon consequence should they revert to stupid behavior and say "get drunk together" again.  


I usually encourage families to do some "homework" and work on that list and how we can get out of the business of micromanaging of one another's lives and then let's talk again about how to implement it.  

There ya have it.  My 3 cents.  

What about you?  You got any tips? 


Wednesday, October 13, 2010


In our desert trip last weekend, one of the things we did was give students a 30 minute block to be alone with God.  We invited them to find a space somewhere within whistle distance of our main camp and they spread out into shaded spots on rocks all around.

Then in honor of the once in a lifetime date of Oct. 10, 2010 or 10.10.10 we had them do the following exercise.  (We sounded a horn between each section to indicate it was time to mentally move on and cautioned them to not move ahead or go back, but simply stick to this mental discipline as it is designed)

some things to consider:
  • experiences
  • regrets
  • addictions
  • conversations
  • people
  • pain
  • laughter
  • joy
some things to consider:
  • attitude
  • soul
  • problems
  • feelings
  • faith
  • loves
some things to consider:
  • goals
  • character 
  • risks
  • what will be on your tombstone or said in an epitaph
  • family
  • relationship with God and others
  • vision or purpose

This little activity proved to be the highlight of the weekend for several of our crew- providing space for God to speak to us and to intentionally evaluate where we've been, who we are, and who we are becoming was an amazing opportunity.

We then discussed what we heard/discovered/concluded about our lives in small groups.  Discussion was lively and the entire time in small groups and the solitude that proceeded them just flew by.  

Well worth doing again not only for my own life, but in ministry in another retreat or even team meeting setting in the future.  I'd highly recommend finding a half hour slot in your life in the near future to do this exercise.  Find a time and spot to unplug and give it a try. 


Tuesday, October 12, 2010


When I moved to San Diego about 6 years ago, I left behind a youth ministry that I poured my heart and soul into in Nor Cal.  Powerhouse was the place I cut my ministry teeth, experienced life changing trips and retreats, and developed some of my deepest and most treasured life-long friendships.

I could go on for quite some time about the lessons I learned there, but there was at least one thing I vowed to continue- regardless of where I was serving in student ministry.  (ironically, it was one of the first things that was cut after I left- but that's another story)  Anyway, I vowed I would provide an opportunity for women and men to have a gender specific discipleship retreat.  That experience has taken on many different forms over the past decade for me, but here in San Diego, it has always meant the women go to a beautiful San Diego resort/hotel and the men go to the desert for the weekend.  I have still never experienced the women's retreat (for obvious reasons) but I know that it changes lives.

But our high school men's retreat, I've seen first hand and this last weekend was yet another trip to the desert.  This year it consisted of our crew and a crew from Danny Bower's church.  All totaled it was 45 men of various ages from teen to "definitely not teen" in the desert for 2 days of bonding.

Here's some of the reasons why I do it.

GET AWAY FACTOR:  Everyone in ministry who has ever done a "retreat" knows the power of this truth: "when you change the setting, it's easier to change lives."  It just is.  And change is CRITICAL to the process of moving from boyhood to manhood.  Getting away from our comforts and "normal" context is a catalyst to this process.

UNPLUG: even though our girls stay local, the first thing they do is turn in their cell phones in a bucket so they can unplug and focus on God and one another for the weekend.  On our guys retreat, we don't have to collect them because they don't work in the desert and we'll simply use them for target practice if they bring them or their ipod out anyway.  But if there's anything this generation and men in our world need in general, it is a chance to unplug from the distraction of this texting, ear bud wearing, electronic world.  Solitude and Silence prove to be awesome aids to spiritual growth.

MATURITY IS A CHOICE:  I believe getting older is mandatory, but growing up is not.  This retreat is a chance to offer boys the a clear path of choices that lead to adulthood, something that has been lost in our culture in my opinion. We wrestle with Scripture, we take communion, we worship, we pray, we talk about real life, and we challenge young men to act as such and to leave some childish ways behind.  In the process, it inevitably reminds all the "non teen adults"that manhood is not a destination, but a constant journey we must continue to move along too.

FATHER SON MENTORING:  This retreat gives us a rare opportunity to really step into a role where, like a good father, we offer a chance for guys to be intentionally mentored by a caring adult.  Whether it's teaching them how to handle a weapon, bbq a steak, or interact with Scripture, I never tire of watching male students and leaders have significant conversations and life on life teachable moments.  Especially when so many of those young men come from a fatherless context, it seems to me that this type of opportunity is mandatory for the church to seize today.

GOD SHOWS UP:  Seriously, there's something about the desert where it seems that God is there waiting for us.  I LOVE this little spot in the desert we camp in.  It's a sandy wash in the bottom of some massive rock piles that just makes you want to sit down and connect with God.  

FUN: I love the fact that these guys have genuine fun.  It's like they all revert to being a young boy again and just have some good healthy fun with no one to impress.  We play paintball with slingshots, baseball with a potato gun, ride a zipline, and teach them how to properly handle several weapons and shoot targets.  We do some team building, we go on hikes, we literally sleep under the stars on tarps, we blow stuff up (don't ask), set stuff on fire (you can kinda ask), and eat way too much food. It is just plain and simple fun.

And... if you happen to be a youth pastor reading this blog, then here's some cheater stuff for you if you want to do this same retreat for your group or something similar to it.

Here it is, all wrapped up in a bucket download. Included inside you'll find:
  • our agenda for the weekend.
  • teaching guides we used with Scripture and some quotes from Donald Miller's, A million miles in a thousand years book we centered some discussion around. 
  • 20 questions doc we used for the first night bonding questions
  • food and kitchen prep list for all 6 meals.
  • general packing list of what we take.
  • our church permission slip
If you have more specific questions after downloading that stuff, you can hit me up here



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

Blog Archive

  © Blogger template Blogger Theme II by 2008

Back to TOP