Monday, January 31, 2011


When was the last time you found yourself in a serious leadership void?

Maybe it was in your family.  Maybe in your workplace.  Maybe it was on sports teams or in a government program or in a church... or....  Truth is, it can and does happen all the time and in all kinds of spaces.

And when it does, the signs are always the same, regardless of the context.   The system is clearly broken.  The organization is out of whack.  The mission has been lost in the fog of confusion.  The leadership void is massive and the result is a stagnant group.

This week in my Bible Reading plan I ran across these two verses describing a leadership void Jacob finds himself in in regards to his sons.

(Genesis 42:1–2)  “When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?”  He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.””
So, in response... I offer these observations about leadership voids:

  • You might not be a leader if... you're standing around staring at your peers waiting for someone else to act.
  • You might not be a leader if... there are problems all around you and you're paralyzed by them.
  • You might not be a leader if... you're still waiting for Dad or your Boss or your Pastor to tell you what to do.
  • You might not be a leader if... apathy has become the norm among you and your peers.
  • You might not be a leader if... you need the obvious restated to you before action can occur.
  • You might not be a leader if... you know the solution, but are still waiting for someone else to initiate it.
  • You might not be a leader if... you've stopped learning and begun simply observing. 
  • You might not be a leader if...


Saturday, January 29, 2011


Ok...well, last night, a friend of mine Scott Berglin taught me how to make a custom ringtone from a song on my iphone using itunes and my mac... AND being the nice guy that I am... I shall now share the secret with you with 15 step-by-step instructions... for even a dummy like me.

  1. Open itunes.  
  2. Find the song you want to make the ringtone from.
  3. Highlight the song and right click on it (or hold the control key and click the mouse). Select "get info".  
  4. Go to the options tab and change the duration to the start and stop time you want your ringtone to be. 30 seconds is the max.  So I choose 29 or less just so there are no problems.  Click "OK" in the bottom right hand corner which will save the changes.
  5. Right click and select "create AAC version".
    • if the file is "protected", a window will pop up and tell you that you cannot. In this case you will have to stop right here and burn the song to CD and reimport the song. Then start the process again.
  6. Search for the song in itunes.  You'll now see a version of the song that is 30 seconds or so in duration... whatever you chose it to be when you made the start and stop time in step 4
  7. Right click the song again and choose, "show in finder".
  8. Find the song.... which will now be highlighted and will likely be the name of the song with a "1" added to the title.
  9. Change the song name as you wish and change the ending from ".m4a" to ".m4r".  When the confirmation window asks you if you want to do this, click "use .m4r" when it asks.
  10. Type "ringtones" in the search window on your harddrive.  You're looking for a folder labeled "ringtones".  It should be under your user/your user name/music/itunes music/ringtones.   When you find it, drag your .m4r file in there.
  11. Double click on the ringtone you've just made and play at least some of the song in itunes.  I don't know why. Just do it.  We're the dummies- remember?
  12. Plug in your iphone to your computer.  Find your iphone in the left bar and click it.  Now make sure you have selected "sync ringtones" under your "ringtones tab".  Now perform the sync. 
  13. When the sync is done, on your iphone... you can go to settings and change all your calls to become that ringtone under the "sounds" tab in the settings app or... 
  14. .... you can customize a single friend(s) only.  To do this, go to your contacts and pick a friend you want to have a custom ringtone for when they call.  Select "edit". Select the ringtone tab and then scroll for your song which will now be added above the stock ringtones that came with your phone.   Choose the one you want.
  15. BAAMMMO!  You're in biz and unless you chose a sucky song, you're cool too. 


Friday, January 28, 2011


I've been kickin' it with 4 other pastor-long-time-friends for the last 2 days in Huntington Beach to bond and do talk about life, faith, family and such.  We pray and laugh and kick around discussions that stretch my brain and challenge my life to be lived more intentionally.

This year, we've been using some videos to spark some of our discussion.  Here's 4 we've watched so far.  Check em out if you want to join us :) 



THIS ONE BY DANIEL PINK IS INTERESTING ABOUT MOTIVATIONS.  He's talking to business professionals but there's tons of insight for life and ministry here.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011


About a year ago, I read a book called "Wellbeing" by the Gallop people.  I wrote about it here and I spent some time processing it.  It has continued to mess with me some in terms of the inequality of resources and their dispersion around the world.  It's also messed with me in regards to the level of intellectual agreement I have with its premises verses behavioral disconnect with my lifestyle.

For example:

  • I believe that healthy relationships bring about the best life, but then I don't make time for them.
  • I believe that I'd rather manage my money than have my money manage me, but then I spend it poorly.  
  • etc...
So, this year I'm trying to seriously not do that anymore in my own life and back when we were planning out our calendar year, I was kickin' this around with our college pastor and she agreed, it's time for us to do something about this in our young adult communities at Journey too.  

Thus, last Sunday we launched the first of five seminars in a series we're calling, "Wellbeing: my journey to being whole in Jesus".  We've tweaked the format of the book some and combined two into one and added a specific week to focus on the spiritual.  We meet once a month for 3 hours on Sunday after church and we will be bringing in specialists in each field to help our high school juniors and seniors and our college age community step into living an adult Chirst-following life well and on purpose.


January 23: Spiritual wellbeing.
  • I am a spiritual being.  Everything I do is spiritual.
  • I am a spiritual being.  I must feed my soul for it to be well.
February 20:  Community wellbeing.
  • I am a communal being.  My contribution matters.
  • I am a communal being.  I can participate in God’s Kingdom daily
March 20: Relational wellbeing 
  • I am a relational being.  My relational health is key to my wellbeing.
  • I am a relational being.  Healthy relationships inspire a healthy me.
April 10: Physical wellbeing
  • I am a physical being.  My body is temporary and fragile.
  • I am a physical being.  My body is a temple to be protected.
May 22: Financial and Career wellbeing
  • I am a valuable being.  My money can be a tool I use.
  • I am a valuable being.  My career can increase my usefulness and joy.
So far, so good.  We had 25 young men and women there eager to dive in and they LOVED the first session as we kicked off with a lengthy study of a consistent trend in Scripture and how "everything is spiritual".  Such a great reminder for all of us.  If there ever was a seminar I didn't want to just host for students, but actually live out myself, then this is it. I'm going to school with them on this one for sure.


Monday, January 24, 2011


I don't know what you would say the goal of your life or family or marriage or job or ministry or whatever is.  But I can tell you mine.  They are all the same.

Here it is in a picture:


This is the Raby family.  Thanks to Cassidy and facebook, I heard they were going to be a Disneyland today.  Since we have season passes this year, I called to ask if Shannon and I could crash their party for lunch.  They graciously agreed and we went up and spent 3 hours or so with them today in the park.   

We originally met 17 years ago in Fremont when I was the youth pastor there.  The memories we have shared over the years are way too many to list here.  Two of them were high school students in our ministry.  Three were very active volunteers.  All of them are still active in their respective churches, married men or women who are seeking Jesus, and are raising their kids to do the same.

Tom was on the search team when I was hired as a youth pastor at 22 and one of the questions that committee asked me was "How do you define success in youth ministry?"  My answer was this:  "You don't define it by how many students come to youth group or how great an event goes or even by how significant a life change you see in 4 years in high school.  Instead, you define 5, 10, 12 years down the road when they've long since graduated and they are now loving God, working for him daily, and reflecting that in their home and family." 

Freeze this picture.  Cuz this, my friends, is it.  

Tom (dad) told me (holding back the tears) in his gentle and humble voice, that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt his family is blessed and any day the Lord wants to take him home, he'd be ok with it.

I wish I had a magic wand to make this happen.  I wish I had a "staples easy button" for every family I know that had shed tears of their own praying and striving for this in their own family.  I wish I could write a book about how to do this or tell you what to put in the water our kids drink.  But 17 years in youth ministry and watching countless families raise their kids around me, I'm absolutely positive there is no one-and-done formula for success like this.   If I'm really honest with you, my fear is that I won't ever snap this picture of my own kids.  Tom and Nancy would tell you they doubted they ever would too.  

But, I have 5.  FIVE!  I feel like that is so many lines to have in the water at once and my chances of hitting the success lottery like this is so out-of-this-world miracle wishing.  I mean really, even if we avoid some major life and death kinda tragedy, How are my wife and I going to raise 5 kids who love God, love one another...  and if they get married, choose to do that same thing together?  Much less, how am I doing to even come close to that as a pastor investing into other people's kids?

From this vantage point, here's what I do know:

PRAYER IS NEEDED:  No, not like the cliche statement every parent is supposed to make.  I mean serious, pound on the door of heaven, beat down the gates of hell, oh God we need help and mercy kinda prayer.  Dear God I need tons and tons of grace.  I surely will screw this up bad on my own. 

YOU DON'T ACCIDENTALLY GET HERE:  Maybe I lied.  I guess I do know a formula.  I know some that don't work.  I know that you can't force or legislate this kinda family or youth ministry.  I know that you can't get here while chasing money or fame or charisma or power or the American Dream.  I know you have to strive to love God and serve him as best you can if you expect to even get remotely close to this without going to hell and back- literally.  I know this does not happen by accident.  It can happen by grace, but not by accident. 

YOU CAN'T QUIT:  I also know you don't get here easily or without sacrifice or pain or regret or unconditional love.  This family has required it's fair share of all of that.  I know it takes endurance, long haul thinking, and the end goal in mind.  I know that I must press on. I must forgive and ask for forgiveness. I know that it won't be easy. I know it might cost me everything.  I also know it will be all worth it.

I promise you this.  If I ever snap this picture with my adult children and grandchildren.  I'll be crying. 


Friday, January 21, 2011


I'm 3 weeks into some new leaves I turned over in my own life and habits I am trying to change.

The result?   I'm convinced that the hardest leadership in the world is "self leadership".

  • Anyone can blame others for a failure.  Owning up to insecurities and shortfalls requires another level of leadership.
  • Anyone can convince others to join a vision.  Making the personal sacrifices to own the vision yourself, that's much harder.
  • Anyone can set personal goals.  Making the hard choices that are needed to keep them in check... yeah, that's self leadership and that my friends, is anything but easy.
So, here's how I'm finding I have to lead me.  And no, I'm not easy to lead.  I'm sure you already knew that, but I'm just smelling the coffee now. Took me almost 40 years to figure that one out.  I'm clearly a slow learner.

WRITE IT DOWN:  I have to clearly articulate what I'm trying to do.  When I don't, I often forget what I'm really aiming for or change it as I go.  Even on the treadmill I'll change the goal mid workout if I don't tell myself before what the goal clearly is.

EVALUATE DAILY:  I have to look at my goals and assess my progress daily.  When I don't do this, especially if I fell short, my failures quickly begin to snowball and then I want to quit again. 

DO OVERS:  I have to be generous with do overs.  I have to treat each day as a new day, granting myself the grace I would want to give to others.

ACCOUNTABILITY:  If I tell no one, I let myself off the hook easy.  Accountability keeps me from bailing on good goals because of a lack of self will.  


Thursday, January 20, 2011


My kids are sponges.  Maybe all kids are.  But I'm acutely aware of my own.

They soak up everything around them and everything I do. They watch me on my phone. They watch me drive.  They watch me talk.  They watch me fart.  They watch everything.

Today I took two of my boys to our weekly one-on-one java chat.  TJ before and Tyler after school.  They both had questions and in the process, reminded me... they are soaking up so much.  They are sponges.

TJ:  He gets a propel water and a breakfast bagel sandwich from the local cafe owner in our community, "Joe".  I get a hazelnut americano.

Today he asked me, "Are there still Christian Martyrs today?"  

He had read a story about one and it got him thinking.  I said yes and we talked about the blessings of living with religious freedom and how even Christians have been guilty of martyring their "religious enemies" throughout history.  I loved talking life, faith, doubt, and pain with TJ as he wrestles with making faith his own.  I love that he is asking "adult questions" now.

He's a sponge.

TYLER:  We always go out after school.  He gets a vanilla chai latte. I again, get a hazelnut americano.  Sometimes we grab a treat. Then we chat.

The first time we met this year, I asked him, "So, what do you want to know?"

He said, "What do you mean?"

I said, "Well, if we're gonna meet, then you have to come with 1 or 2 questions you want to know each week.  You can ask me anything, but you have to have a question or two."  I was half joking.  (TJ doesn't always have one.)

Tyler was not joking.  Ever since then he has brought a question or two to every convo.  Sometimes it's simple: "What's your favorite color?" Sometimes it's silly, "Would you rather pee out your eye or poop out your nose?"

Today he had 3 questions.  They were so sweet they made me want to freeze him at this stage of life.

We've been reading some books together written by a couple of friends of mine for middle school students.  I decided to get a jump on the middle school years and dive in early in the intentional convo process.  So, first he read "My Friends".  Today we started, "My Faith".

I asked him what questions he had today.  He had written two down on a note pad I had given him and he asked me a third our way home.

1. "Dad, If a friend of mine offers to do something for me and I let them, does that mean I'm using them?"  

He read in the friends book that using your friends was bad and he didn't want to do it.  He said last week a friend offered to staple some papers for him in class and he let his friend do that.  He wanted to know if that meant he was using his friends.  We talked and decided that he was not and clarified what it meant if he was.

2. "How do you tell your friends about God?"

Here, he had invited some friends to church.  They said they didn't want to come cuz it was boring and a waste of time.  He told them that his church was not and why.  His friends still told him it sounded boring.  He was kinda hurt. We talked it through.  The question by itself blessed me.

3. "Why do you take your foot off the gas when you shift the car gears?"  

I told you he was watching everything!!!


My kids are sponges.

Oh Lord, give me grace. Surely I'm screwing this parenting thing up- especially if they are watching EVERYTHING I do.  I'm just not that holy.  Dang.  I need some serious prayer.



For a seminary class last quarter I read some article about leadership vs. management.  I don't recall where I read it or who wrote it or the real debate the article was about.  But I do recall this two sentence truth that has been mulling around in my head for a while.

  • If you don't have a problem, you don't need a leader. 
  • If you don't have complexity, you don't need a manager.
Stew on that for a while.

I have been.  Here's some stuff I've been marinating on about these two realities:
  • Problems are essential to leadership.  If you don't have a problem to solve, then you are not having meeting, you're having a social club.
  • Leadership sees a problem as an opportunity for action the same way Managers see complexity as an opportunity for teamwork. 
  • Complex problems require a leader's vision AND a manager's insights to produce a real solution.
  • Problems and Complexity both grow exponentially in the dark.   Ignoring problems creates problems.  Ignoring complexity increases complexity. 
  • My family has enough problems to constantly require leadership.  Our family has enough complexity to constantly require management.  Neither are negotiable skill sets we can avoid developing.
  • I enjoy leading until the problems become trivial. I enjoy managing until the solutions become predictable.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011


So, I've been an apple user since before Apple was well, Apple.  I have never owned a PC... like I went to college with an apple IIGS.

Yup. I'm that old.

Anyway... I now have either an iphone, an ipad, or my macbook pro tethered to me pretty much all the time.  Not to mention a slew of other macs for my wife and kids.  I've been told that computers and such were supposed to help us save time, but most of the time, we all know they do the reverse.  So, as part of the brand new me overhaul in 2011, I declared war on that to and decided to try and use them more efficiently to do my job and manage my life.

So, here's the web based apps I use to keep my mojo goin':

WWW.ME.COM   I use my mobile me account to:

  • upload files that are too big to e-mail and that others can download via a link I send them.
  • coordinate my calendar and contacts between my wife and I.  I have several calendars for work stuff, each family member also has their own color and individual calendar too.  They all auto sync to our iphones and laptops and this my friends is how we keep our crazy lives sorted out. 
WWW.TWITTER.COM  I trimmed down and cleaned up my twitter account and I use my twitter account to:
  • get my news.  I get subscribe to CNN, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and the San Diego Union Tribune.  Seriously... I get enough news from those brief feeds that the evening news on TV is like a bad re-run.  If I could get them to stop re-tweeting their affiliates, it'd be perfect. 
  • I use it exclusively to update my facebook status.   
  • I only look at this feed 2 or 3x a day.
WWW.FACEBOOK.COM  I use my facebook account to:
  • connect with students and as another e-mail alternative
  • update our student ministry facebook page
  • find or reconnect with old friends.  It's like a giant personal yellow pages or something. 
  • get this blog easily accessible to that community of friends via notes
  • I'm rarely actually on facebook... cuz I just have no time to truly try and be social with it.  But a couple of times a week, I bounce in and spend some time and make some comments and laugh and even cry at some stuff and then move on.  
WWW.YOUNEEDABUDGET.COM   I use this program to:
  • create and track our family financial budget
  • sync my purchases between my iphone and my desktop using their iphone app.
  • I love this program.  Super easy, super customizable, and super helpful for communication in our home about where money is or is not going.
WWW.YOUVERSION.COM  I use you version to:
  • read my bible on my iphone, ipad, or computer
  • it instantly tracks my reading plan and syncs my reading plan from any of those computers.
  • it has zillions of reading plans and translations, is free, and is my new favorite thing.
WWW.EVERNOTE.COM  I am growing to Love evernote.  It's my newest favorite thing since I got a tutoring lesson from adam mclane last week. I'm already using it to:
  • I use my ipad, iphone, or mac to create lists, to do's, or new projects.  I have one labeled ASAP and another labeled "contacts" which is a list of people I need to follow up with, and a bunch more in the big categories of "desk drawer", "dreaming", "ministry", and "family" and yeah... I love this thing. 
  • They auto sync to a web based "cloud" so they are all constantly up to date, no matter where I made the changes. 
  • I can e-mail myself stuff to a custom e-mail and it holds whatever I send in my "desk drawer" there.
  • In one click, I can save webpages or info I find while browsing that I want to use later.  I can tag it and search it for future reference.
  • I can send photos direct from my iphone.  
  • I keep a running list of teaching ideas, blog ideas, ministry brainstorms, and more so that I can update them on the go, anytime I need to.  Seriously, this thing is genius. 
There ya go.  My entire digital world... now I just got a new recommendation for an exercise tracking app... so I'm off to the races now and probably officially some kinda nerd.  


Monday, January 17, 2011


Ok, I confess.  I watched 40 minutes of Oprah while I was on my elliptical at home last Thursday.  It was all about being the best "you" that you can be.  They had a guy on there talk about personal health. Some guy talked about fashion tips and tricks.  Yeah... I ignored most of that.... but this one guy completely sucked me in.  His name was Peter Walsh... and he's some kind of space management guru or something.

Anyway, he helped this "normal" American family clean up their home.  His motto was "clutter is defined as random stuff on flat spaces".  He said flat spaces were the battle ground and that the largest flat space in any house was the floor.  This completely made sense to me.  My family can walk in from church or soccer and in a matter of 60 seconds, completely destroy a house by cluttering up every flat space within eye shot.

It's truly amazing.  We could win an award.

The longer I ran and listened to this guy, the faster my pace and the more extreme my mental note taking became.  This made TONS OF SENSE to me.  Then he said the kicker.  He said that no matter where he does this clean up routine.  No matter what country or what size the home.  If the home has young children, then there is one universal response of all kids when they walk into a previously cluttered space that is now clean.

Do you know what they do?

THEY DANCE!  They all DANCE.  He said, "We can learn a lot from that."  I almost had to stop running to process this because I LOVED THAT IMAGE so much.  He went on to say what we all know, and that is that "stuff does not bring us joy.  Simplicity and freedom from stuff does."

So, right then and there I decided to add this to my new years resolution list.  "I'm declaring war on flat spaces in my life."


  • Today, with some help from my family, I gutted our kitchen, cleared off all the counter tops, literally emptied every single cabinet, and then got rid of everything we did not use.  It felt great.  I danced. 
  • I vowed to refuse to be lazy about setting stuff down on flat spaces like the floor, desks, counters, tables, shelves.... you name it.  
  • I'm going all out. One room at a time. 
  • I think my soul can easily become a giant flat space.  It's super easy to clutter up my life with too much stuff.  I can casually let others dump extra responsibility on me or to take on stuff I should not. Before I know it, my life and soul are cluttered, confused, and have no idea what way is up.  
  • I will not let my inner life become one giant flat space dumping ground either. 
  • Maybe this is a huge illustrative stretch, but it made such sense to me that I'm declaring war on flat spaces in my soul too.  I want to be clutter free.  I need to be clutter free.  Both inside and out.
I want to be so clutter free that my heart and my soul DANCES all day!!!


Friday, January 14, 2011


No, I'm not leaving Journey or Student Ministries.

But I have been asked to expand my oversight responsibilities to include children's ministry as well.  [Probably cuz we I have 5 of them living in my home :)]  This means in addition to being hands on in high school,  I'll also be overseeing the staff and volunteers responsible for our ministries that target anyone at Journey ages birth through college age. We're officially calling it a "generations pastor".  Sounds like a lot, but we have a great paid and volunteer team that is going to be expanding some here in the near future as we hire a couple of more part-time slots and provide tons of ways for volunteers to get involved.  Oh, and for the first time in almost 17 years, I'll have a close to full time administrative assistant working exclusively with our team!!!  I hope you saw me jump out of my seat when I said that.  I'm almost giddy with excitement.  I can't wait to see how God will work in and through this team in 2011.

This weekend, all our parents who drop their kid(s) off in Children's ministry will be getting a letter we're passing out.  Here's a copy of the official details:

Dear Parent,
Thanks so much for partnering with us here at Journey in the spiritual development of your child.  We count it an extreme privilege to join you in the process of inviting a generation to understand, own, and live out a life changing faith in Jesus.
To that end, we’ve recently experienced some changes in leadership here at Journey in our children’s ministries area you might want to know about.   During January, our Children’s Ministry Pastor, Chris Rader will transition out of Children’s Ministry.  This is in response to a leading Chris has had for a while from God about his changing passions and calling on his life. Chris will not be leaving our pastoral team, but instead will now be giving leadership to Pastoral Care here at Journey (care groups, benevolence, bereavement, marriage counseling, etc. )
In his place, Brian Berry, our Student Ministries Pastor, is expanding his oversight and leadership to include the children’s area too.  So, in the coming months Brian will be helping to lead a team of staff and volunteers to provide the same fun, safe, and spiritually engaging children’s ministry you and your children have come to love.
 Maybe you’re wondering, “How will this change affect my family?”  Well, here’s what we want to reassure you of: 
-We will still provide the same excellent children’s ministry parallel to all our services.  
-Our current check-in and check-out policy works as it always has for the safety of you and your child.  So, keep your cards and gather your stickers and all that fun stuff. 
-As always, we would love to have you help us lead, teach, or just love on kids.  Please let us know if you’re interested in volunteering. ( Simply e-mail our administrative assistant, Pam Molde for more info:
Serving Jesus and children with you,
Brian Berry  and  Chris Rader

There ya have it.  Pray it up people.  I could use all the prayer you can muster.  Should be quite the ride in this next season of my life. 



I believed for a long time that "success without a successor is no success at all".  I repeated it.  I wrestled with it.  I evaluated myself by it.  It just plain sounded right.  Like, if you can't pass on your skill set or talents or mission or vision or whatever onto anyone else, then you're simply a flash in the pan.  And that's not a success- at least not as I defined it.  It seemed in my mind that the truly great leaders were those that took organizations from dying to thriving... or at least from good to Great!


Well, not really. Or at least I don't think so anymore.  

Here's why:  
  • I think it takes some leadership to revive a nearly dead thing that was once amazing.
  • I think it takes a much higher leadership quotient to take what is going good and declare it done.  
Anybody can say, "we were once good, and we can get there again."  In the Biblical world, it's the ease of Nehemiah's message.  No shot at his incredible leadership or sacrifices he made along the way.  Just saying that it was an easy sell at first.  "Jerusalem used to be beautiful and amazing.  It's a mess.  We can fix it.  Let's go do it."  People emotionally and spiritually want this to be true.  We are easily nostalgic about the good times in the past, so people will join in recreating what could and should be true again. 

That's all well and good, but very few have the leadership wisdom to say, "Jerusalem is a mess.  I remember when it was awesome and it was so good.  Let's leave it alone, celebrate it for what it was, and go do something else somewhere else."  It's even harder yet to say "Jerusalem is awesome, I love it and we love it, but it's time to close up the gates and go tackle Samaria."  

So, I think one of the hardest questions that a leader must ask is, "Has ___________ run it's course?"  It's super hard to not let that sound negative.  I bet it even feels negative to you as you read it.  

But the truth is, it doesn't have to be.  We can celebrate something that is good and actually sacrifice it for the better.  It doesn't have to go from good to great.  It can go from great for a season to not great for today and not be declared a failure.  Instead of riding a good thing into the ground, we can choose to do another good thing in it's place and celebrate both things as God's call for a season.  

In the context of student ministry it sounds like these kinds of questions:
  • Is this room we spent thousands of dollars creating still the best place for us to do ministry to students?
  • Is this program we know and love actually at it's peak?  Is it time to bring about radical change to a good thing? 
  • Is the camp we've always done still serving our ministry at maximum level?
  • Do we have the right staff and volunteers for the thing God is calling us to be today? 
I pray I have the leadership guts to not just take the good or dying and make them amazing, but to actually look at the effective with the same critical eye and ask, "Is this still what God is calling us to do today?"


Thursday, January 13, 2011


If you've been in ministry for any capacity and any length of time, then you know what it is to be discouraged.  You know what it is to feel like you want to quit, like you're wasting your time, like it's not worth it and you're just plain tired of it all.  Sometimes, it seems like half the book of psalms was written when David felt like that.

Regardless, after 17 years of student ministry, I can't even begin to count the times I've felt like that.  Sometimes it last for hours.  Other times it seems like it's an entire season of it's own.  Thankfully, this is not one of those times in my life.  If it was, this post would probably be a cry to stop the bleeding.

But without digging too deep, you could find just below the surface of my soul some common sources of discouragement for me:

  • DIVISION: when people can't support one another in ministry, it drains me.
  • DEFECTION: I have a LONG list of former students who at one point went on missions trip with me, served on teams with me, prayed with me, loved on me, encouraged me, took notes on hundreds of sermons I gave, and even served with me as they grew up into adults who have for one reason or another, ditched the faith we once shared.  It ruins me every time.  Some that go years back in my past still haunt me almost daily. 
  • GOOD INTENTIONS GONE BAD:  when I try and say or do something helpful and it ends up wounding someone instead of helping them.  So discouraging to feel like a failure. 
  • BEARER OF BAD NEWS:  when I have to be the one to bring a tough word of correction or rebuke that I know won't be well received, I can easily get discouraged.  Especially if they choose to leave as a result.  
  • LONELINESS:  when I feel alone in ministry, like no one is in this with me... I easily get discouraged and feel like I should just bail.
  • ... and on and on... 

So, what do you do to get out of that rut?  How do you rebound from discouragement and back into encouragement when things aren't good?  I don't know what will be true for you, but here's 3 things that have helped me... mostly that I've learned the hard way.

  • RETURN TO CALLING.  I owe this reminder to a time in ministry when I literally did quit.  Thankfully, my senior pastor refused to accept my resignation.  Doubly thankful that my youth pastor/mentor told me that I needed to return to my calling as I sat in his office spilling my guts.  He said it was a "why am I doing this in the first place issue?" When I'm discouraged, the reason I stay in the game is not because I feel like it.  I never really feel like it in those moments.  Instead I have to consciously ask the question: "Is this what God has called me to be doing?" The answer is the clarity I need to keep going or make a change. 
  • SEEK AN AUDIENCE OF ONE.  When I'm discouraged, I often quote Galatians 1:10 and remind myself that whoever is upset with me is not my real audience anyway.  I literally cannot please both God and people. It is impossible. 
  • SURVEY MY WHOLE PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL STATE OF MIND.  If I haven't gotten enough sleep, am not getting a Sabbath, or dealing with tons of messes in tons of places, then I have learned to doubt my own discouragement.  I've learned that some feelings, though very real in their emotion, quite simply cannot be trusted. 
So there you have it.... my guts on the table. Hope someone who's discouraged in ministry finds some camaraderie and encouragement within this post. 

Question:  What discourages you and how do you find your way out?  


Tuesday, January 11, 2011


This week I have been trying to work on saying no to some things so I can say yes to others.  I even have a few friends trying to hold me to it.

Sounds simple enough.  But yeah, it's not that simple.

Last night our wash machine broke.  We have 7 people in our home.  A broken wash machine is not good and our family smells bad already- 4 boys smell.  Don't even think of walking into TJ and Tyler's room after they've been in there all night.  But, I digress.

Anyway, today I had to decide if I was going to try and fix it myself or if I was going to hire someone to do it.  I have the tools to take it apart.  The error code and the manual tells me where the basic problem lies.  The question now is not "can I fix it", but "should I try to fix it"?  This question comes up every time our cars break, our house breaks, something in my ministry breaks, etc.   I ask this "can I" and "should I" question almost daily.

 In this case, I weighed the situation, my current work load, and the resources available to my family and decided we'd hire some help.  The result?  I lost $185 and gained a functional wash machine in 2 hours and the ability to come home and go for a 3 mile run instead of fixing a wash machine.  Expensive run or wise move?  Guess that depends on your perspective.

Here's 4 questions worth asking before you go solving that problem...

  1. Is this my problem to solve or someone elses?  Am i doing my job or someone elses job? 
  2. If it is my problem, is solving this problem worth the exchange?  Like will it cost me in time, resources, and energy and is that collective cost worth it?
  3. What is the worst case scenario if I ignore the problem?  Can it wait and if so, for how long?  
  4. Is my "attempt to save the day" actually robbing someone else of a chance to learn a valuable lesson via the teacher named "experience".   Sometimes my desire to help actually keeps people from spiritual growth.  Is this one of those times?  


Monday, January 10, 2011


The first 2 weeks of 2011 we did a 2 week series in our high school program to kick off the new year.  It was simply called "brand new" and was first about a "brand new me" and then a "brand new us".

Yesterday we reflected on "US" and in the process we looked at Isaiah 1 and the horrible reflection Isaiah prophetically gives a couple of towns based on God's distaste for their worship.  We agreed we did not want any of these rebukes to be true of us and reflected on the corrective word Isaiah gave them.

I challenged students to join with us to create a new normal in our high school ministry that culminated with the opportunity for them to sign a card indicating their ownership of these "new or renewed corporate values".

About 2/3 of those who came covenanted together with us to "Count Me In".  In a weird way, I was encouraged that not everyone participated.  Makes me think that those who did really meant and those who did not either are not interested or not ready.  Either way, I'm glad for the clarity.

We agreed to the following:


  • By this I was not trying to combat hypocrisy so much as the ignoring of questions to appear as though we're in agreement or understanding.  So, our new normal is that for the foreseeable future, at any point given the sermon that someone has a sincere and genuine question, then the sermon is fully interruptible.  It might take a few weeks for students to believe us because we've been an "i talk, you listen" communication environment for a while now, but I'm hoping we can change that as we work together to be honest about our wondering or confusions. 
  • So, we agreed that if we cannot really give 2 or more things our undivided attention, that we would declare this environment a cell phone free zone.  We'll turn off or put away our cell so that we can give God and one another our undivided attention in this space and not be in some other cyberspace simultaneously.
  • We agreed that we cannot claim to follow Jesus or love God and turn a deaf ear to the poor, the abused, the neglected, or the wounded.  We agreed to commit to bring $1 a week as a minimum to help us raise the funds necessary to sponsor the 5 kids we sponsor through several organizations like world vision.  This bar sounds so low to  me and yet it's been so hard to achieve for over 2 years now. I'm praying this commitment becomes a sincere one and also one that we blow out of the water.
We reaffirmed our mission statement and agreed that WE WILL SEEK TO UNDERSTAND, OWN, AND LIVE OUT A LIFE-CHANGING FAITH IN JESUS. 

I am praying that this will not be lip service, but instead passionate pursuit of our high school students in 2011.  Oh God may this be true of US. 


Friday, January 07, 2011


Well, try and hold back your enthusiasm.  But 7 days into 2011, i've managed to hold onto several of my resolutions.  So far, so good.

  • MONEY STUFF: Every day so far I've entered our daily expenses into my family budget.  This is amazing cuz I didn't do it at all for the last 4 months.  I also started a monthly automatic withdrawl for my tithe at church cuz I kept getting to church without my checkbook in the Friday service Shannon and I attend.  I've resisted this forever since it seems to take away the act of actually giving when it becomes automatic... but at this point, it will keep me from letting it pile up for too many months.
  • EXERCISE:  I ran on my treadmill or elliptical for at least 25 minutes every day this week. 
  • SLEEP:  I actually got at least 5 hours of sleep a night. Usually closer to 7, but no less than 5. 
  • READING: I kept up with my Bible reading plan every day. 
  • BLOG: I updated this thing daily.
Welp, there ya go.  I know. Amazing.  Next week I'm going to try and do the above again plus:
  • READ... not just my Bible everyday, but add a few blogs and a section of some other books back into my reading habit.
  • SAY NO... to anything not in my job description.  Wish me luck. 
  • PLAN... some time to do my tasks and refuse to schedule a meeting with anyone in that slot.


Thursday, January 06, 2011



Hey, if you're in youth ministry, here's a shout out for some bonding in Chicago this March at SYMC.  But hurry, cuz the conference is 80% full and time is a wastin'.  Cost goes up after January 15 too.

It's 4 amazing days....

Great Atmosphere- think laughter, training, like minded people, relaxed, refreshing.
Great People- limited to 2500 of your closest friends.
Great Weather- if you love cold and sleet and snow in Chicago :)
Great Training and music and yeah....
Great Times.

I'm teaching two workshops this year.  You should come and join me and check em out.  I'm really stoked about both of them.
  • Moving from Leadership to Ownership: Creating a Student-Owned Ministry.
  • You Suck! Enduring, Learning from, and Responding to Conflict and Criticism.

See you There.



The internet has leveled the playing field, but it hasn't changed the reality of the game much.

Yep, you can create a wikipedia article or write your own blog or publish yourself on youtube, but you still are a nobody in our culture until your article/blog/twitter/video goes viral.  Until 4 million people watch or read your stuff, your influence is subpar.  You have to be "found" before you're valued.

I started writing daily or so for this blog for 2011 because I miss the outlet and the challenge to write and think in this venue. Not because it makes me valuable.  As far as blogs go- this small space of the internet a nobody really.

So yesterday I saw this video of a homeless guy with a radio voice.

He was interviewed by the Early Show crew on CBS here when he was at 3 million hits. (worth watching by the way).  Now the original video I linked to above is at almost 9 million views at the point of my publishing this- and is likely old news to you by now.  Bottom line: he went from being a nobody "homeless man" with a sign in Ohio on Monday to being "Ted Williams"- a highly sought after radio voice in a matter of like 3 days.  Amazing.... and ridiculous.

Ted was no less unique or valuable 3 months ago than he was 3 days ago than he is today than he would be if he never was featured in a youtube in the first place.  This man's value is not based on his performance, but his nature as an image bearer of God (Genesis 1:27).  This image of God reality is one that our culture only validates when someone has a marked contribution.  However there are hundreds of thousands of homeless men and women around the world who have "no voice" but are very valuable nonetheless.

Proverbs 29:7 reads "The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern."

I love Ted's Story. I however believe that there are Ted like stories all over the world.  I believe that as a believer, it's my calling by God to be a voice for the voiceless... for the millions of orphans around the world, for the millions of people in villages all over this globe who have no "official record of their birth" and will never make a history book, for the quiet, overlooked, and neglected in our society.  It is our collective responsibility to speak on behalf of those without a voice.

May the children, the poor, the discriminated, and the abused always have a voice among God's people, regardless of how many people ever know their name or story.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011


On Saturday, I went to a soccer game with TJ.  He was supposed to be playing, however because he pulled a muscle in his leg at practice, we were just watching.  And since I was not coaching, I was more of an observer at the game than I've been in a long time.

At the end of the game, like literally in the last 5 seconds of the game, the other team scored the tying goal and in the process, pushed TJ's team one point out of the finals.  This resulted in one parent yelling to the ref his frustration and claiming there was 4 minutes left.

The Ref's response?

He walked to midfield, looked at our sideline, and yelled, "What did you say?"  The man repeated his claim of time left and the ref then screamed while moving his hands as if he was declaring a base runner safe, "THE GAME IS OVER. DONE. OVER!!!" and then scowled at the sideline.
The Parent's response?
He went over to the head quarters for the tournament to leverage his complaint.
The Sideline Ref's response?
He loudly asked the entire group of parents if we heard what he said when the game was over and just kinda pitched a fit, claiming he said the game was over too.
The Commissioner of the Tournament's Response?
She came down to the field and yelled at the coach and one smart mouth kid on our team, "DO YOU WANT ME TO CANCEL THIS TEAM?  DO YOU?"  Someone on the sideline, heard her rant and yelled "Who are you?"  She screamed back "I'm the commissioner.  I'm the one who puts on this entire tournament.  I'm in charge!"
My Response?
I just walked away and shook my head at the ridiculousness of it all.  I asked TJ what he thought of the fiasco.  He said people were mad and acting dumb.  I told him, "That my son was an exercise in unilaterally bad leadership.  You can't lead from position.  All of them demanded the right to be heard by yelling and claiming position. All of them. Positional leadership is an oxymoron."

#1. If I have to yell to gain power, I've lost all authority.   Sure, there are exceptions (like a fire or something),  but for the vast majority of the time, if someone in "leadership" has to SCREAM at their audience to be heard, they've only proven they have no leadership in the first place.

#2. When someone in a position of power says, "Because I'm the______________  (pastor, boss, parent, coach, president, ceo, etc.) and therefore I make the decisions", they've actually reached for the very last leadership card.  When they throw that card first, they only prove they're desperate for power.  It's not the fastest way to gain it, it's the fastest way to prove they never had it and what little they do have, will quickly be gone. They have no credibility cards left.

#3. Positional leadership is not leadership.   It's power wielding, not follower gaining.  True leaders earn the right to be heard and work to gain influence.  Dictators don't lead, they dictate. I don't want to be a dictator as a parent, a pastor, a coach, or any other environment I'm in.  Positional leadership is cheap and weak sauce. If I never have to pull that card another day in my life, I'll be way ok with it.  I need to work hard so I don't lead like this.


Monday, January 03, 2011


If you're like me, you've started and stopped more Bible reading plans than you care to admit.  I'll probably get fired for that sentence.  But the truth is, I read my Bible, just not very faithfully to any plan.  However, I also know that without a plan, my reading can be more recreational than devotional and more haphazard than directed.

So, that said, I have tried starting one this year that I'm a whole 3 days into.  Wow, I know, my consistency is impressive.  

Anyway, if you're interested in joining me in a Bible reading plan, then here's my advice.


Good news, there's a bazillion out there.  Without trying to make any kind of summary of this vast list, I've narrowed it down to 2 free options well worth your time. 
  • OLD SCHOOL:  If you want to print a reading plan and tuck it in your Bible and just check off the readings as you go, then Discipleship Journal (which is an awesome devotional magazine by the way) has 3 options that just might be perfect.  You can download one or all 3 of them here for free.  
  • TECH SAVVY: If you are interested in a little more high tech option, but still free, then I'd highly recommend  It's pretty stinkin' awesome. You can get apps for the ipad, iphone, android, your computer, pretty much anything for free.  I have my reading plan set up in my free online account and I can read the days readings on my iphone, ipad, or online for free and check off my progress on any of them.  It then records it and keeps me up to date, no matter what format I'm using.  You can customize your reading plan from a HUGE list of options and in tons of translations to choose from to read it in too.  And NO, you don't have to pick a plan that will have you reading the whole Bible in a year if you don't want to.  In addition, if you like the community piece, you can share your thoughts with others who are reading your plan or even post a favorite verse to your facebook profile or twitter or whatever in one click if you want.

Like anything, if you start going gang busters without warming up, you're probably setting yourself up for failure.  If you pick a plan that takes you an hour a day, you might be up a creek fast. Maybe try reading a plan that takes you through the New Testament instead of the whole Bible. I also have enjoyed reading Proverbs for a season from time to time.  There are 31 chapters, so you can just read it one chapter at a time. Don't let anyone tell you what "a good christian would do".  Those people have issues you don't want to know about anyway.  


Find a new spot to read.  Maybe pick a version you are less familiar with.  Try journaling.  Highlight stuff.  Write stuff down that inspires you, even stuff that confuses you that you need to ask some questions about. Draw a picture.  Memorize some of it.  You name it.... just feel the freedom to experiment a little.


Say it with me... "I will fall behind and I won't stress out about it."  Seriously, you should have said that out loud.  Not if, but when you fall behind in your reading plan, just give yourself a break.  Skip some parts and pick up the plan on the day you're on if the date thing stresses you out.  Or ditch the plan and find one that's more realistic for you or... whatever.   On you can actually go into the settings on your reading plan and change the dates so you're no longer behind too... awesome.

Bottom line, Relax! Reading and wrestling with your Bible is waaaay more important than the plan you picked anyway.  Don't let your plan be your God.   In the end, spend less time reading to finish the task and more time actually wrestling with what you're reading. It'd be better to take 5 years to read the Bible than 3 months if at the end, you actually have experienced something in the process. 


Sunday, January 02, 2011


For our high school service this weekend I needed some videos of the best of 2010.   In the hunt, I found 3 worth watching...


HERE'S WHAT WAS MOST POPULAR ON YOUTUBE. I'd only seen like 1/2 of these and since they had a collective 250 million views, this officially proves I'm a pop culture idiot.

HERE'S WHAT HAPPENED IN THE SOCIAL NETWORK WORLD.  Super interesting the data about who is on facebook and students texting in this one.


Saturday, January 01, 2011


3 confessions:

  1. I set several goals for myself for 2011.
  2. Some of them are the same goals I set for myself in 2010 but never did.
  3. My own history says I'm not very good at achieving my self-discipline goals, but I can't seem to quit setting them either. 
I'm sure there's something twisted in there- maybe a lot twisted in there.  Especially since I'm pretty sure a calendar year is merely a psychological transition more than an deep seated convictional transition for most of us, which is probably why I suck at holding onto my goals set during this season of my life most of the time.  

Regardless, because I want to continue to change and grow and become someone better than I am, I used this new calendar year to set some goals in the areas of finances, family, ministry, and my own soul and physical health too.  I shaped them by reading this set of principles I wrote for myself back in April of 2010.  Consequently, I hope they have deeper roots than most of my January goals. Perhaps the most helpful tool in keeping my life on track in 2011 will be the perpetual asking of the following 10 questions in light of my top five core values I'm trying to foster.  I really hope they make 2011 a banner year for me.  I'm going to print them out and review them weekly, if not daily.... I think :)

  • What is my motivation for ______________?
  • Am I living for an audience of One?
  • What spiritual discipline am I focusing on to nourish my own soul in the next 3 months?
  • What is my number one family priority in the next 3 months and what steps am I taking to achieve it?  
  • What area of my leadership needs the most attention right now?
  • Who can speak wise and godly advice into my life with the current issues I'm dealing with?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What opportunities is God specifically and intentionally leading me into? 
  • Am I protecting my best time to write and teach well as a leader?
  • What are my top 2 or 3 ministry priorities this week and have I structured my schedule to achieve them? 



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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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