Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I don't know about you, but I'm not rolling in time or money.  So this means that not only can I not do everything I want to, but I cannot pay everyone to get r done either.

I also don't like paying people to do stuff I know how to, or can do myself. So that means that I recently took my PT Cruiser apart to fix a broken door lock and even went to the junk yard to buy the part instead of the dealer to save me another $100.  Made for good times with Tyler as we went junk yard bonding, but it also took a lot of time to save me a little money.

Then on last Saturday morning, I had a full day planned with a birthday party for Billy and a party in my backyard on Sunday for some adult leaders, so I called and hired a couple of students to help me do yard work for 3 hours.

Yup, I hired help. That's like a rare experience in my world.  But I was SO THANKFUL that I did.

So it got me thinking... when would it be wise for me to buy some time and spend some money on stuff I know how to do myself?   Here's my conclusions.


  • Had I not hired help last Saturday, the same yard work tasks that took me 3 hours would have taken me 9 hours. When my time multiplies, my investment compounds and the money is worth it.   This means I'm more likely to hire someone to help me than I am to replace me.  
  • At some point, I have to put a wage on my time.  If the cost of the job is low enough and the value on my time high enough, at some point doing it myself is actually not a wise investment. I'm actually wasting time that could be better spent making money or on things at a higher priority level.
  • This is the what goes around comes around concept.  Like I could make my own coffee, but buying it from the local java shop also supports my community.  When I hire a babysitter or give a job to a college student I'm investing in them as much as they are helping me. When I help them make money and they help me get a job done, it's a win-win.  Spending that money feels like an investment more than an expense. 
  • If I can hire help and get a monkey off my back, then sometimes it's worth it. Like if the project is going to be left undone for 4 weeks before I can get to it, but it can be solved in 3 days with hiring help, then I might seriously need to consider it.  Stress relief sometimes is worth a big dollar amount.  If I have to live in the mess of a project for too long, paying someone to move the project along is not only healthy for the project, but it is an investment in avoiding depression and angst too.  


    Monday, May 30, 2011


    What I do without thinking says more about me than what I do when I have plenty of time to process my response.  If I don't like my gut response, it's the clearest indicator for me that something is wrong inside.  If I respond on a whim in a way that reflects the character of God, it's the clearest indicator that God is in me.

    Similarly, as a parent when my kid's reflexive response is not the one I want to see, I need to put on my x-ray glasses and look past the reaction into the source.  Something else is going on and I need to identify it so that I can address it and parent in it. 

    As a leader, the truth is, I'm really not that interested in watching how someone can map out their plan.  I'm not that impressed with written answers on applications.  I'm more interested in how they respond when their plan goes the way of the toilet.  How one responds in tragedy or crisis tells volumes more about their inner soul than any pre-meditated response.  

    That's when you discover the real truth about someone.  Reflexes tell all.  

    I got a first hand reminder of this last night as I was playing indoor soccer.  A goalie on the other team got his finger hurt when he tried to stop an incoming attacker by diving on the ball.  The result was his finger got stepped on or something and it started to bleed.  He got so upset that he went on a yelling, cussing, screaming 3 year old tantrum fit and then wiped his bloody pinky on the refs Jersey in anger.   By his response, you'd have expected his finger to have been amputated.  It was the most ridiculous, childish, character revealing episode I have seen in a long time. I wouldn't let that guy lead anything.  If he was an employee, I would have fired him on the spot.  If he was a volunteer, I would have fired him all the same.  As it is, the soccer field banned him from play for a year.   They did it cuz he wiped blood on an employee in anger and used his potentially diseased fluids as a weapon.  I would have kicked him off simply for revealing that deep down, he is just an angry child in a man's body.  

    Looks can be deceiving. Reflexes are not.

    Jesus was right. Out of the overflow of the mouth the heart speaks.
    Good people bring good things out of the good stored up in their heart, and evil people bring evil things out of the evil stored up in their heart.  For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.  -Luke 6:45
    Perhaps this is why Solomon warned as well.
     "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." - Proverbs 4:23


    Thursday, May 26, 2011


    This is my life these days.  I'm not expecting it will change anytime soon.  Here's a few thoughts on how to keep your crazy life from making you crazy.

    If I'm honest, I'm actually just using this blog as a counselor for me.  If the shoe fits, you can wear it too.  But for right now, LISTEN UP BRIAN... and do this!!!!

    GIVE UP:  if you started your day with more than can be done in a day, at the end of the day you'll still have more to do. So give up the idea that you can get r all done and just get some of it done instead.

    THINK BEFORE YOU MOVE AHEAD:  take 5 minutes and make a list.  A brief list.  What must get done TODAY.  What would you like to get done.  Look at the calendar and schedule some long term stuff a couple of days from now.  Sometimes the very best thing you can do before you get at it is survey the big picture.

    BLOCK OUT TIME: block out and hold critical some times when no one can interrupt and when certain tasks are going to be done. Like an appt with a friend, just block out an hour and call it a meeting with a certain task if you need to.  Like, "meeting with message prep" or "meeting with e-mail" :)  But whatever you do, know that when your boat is below the waterline, if you schedule no time to do a task, you'll have no time to do it cuz other stuff will fill all voided spaces.

    AVOID MULTI-TASKING:  when you try and do two things- especially important things- at once you just do two things poorly.  If you do less at one time, you'll get more done and better.

    DELEGATE:  If you can give it away.   Do.  Even if it's a 5 minute job.  You're wasting precious time on stuff someone else could do.  Why is that again?

    GIVE YOUR BEST PROJECT YOUR BEST TIME: When you give your best thinking hours to menial tasks, you're killing your productivity.  If a phone call can wait to be made on your way home, then don't do it during your prime teaching prep time.

    ok... I'm going to bed... with my list no where's near done.  Tomorrow I'll try and practice what I preach.


    Wednesday, May 25, 2011


    ... is when students have good clean fun.

    I really love it when students just get to laugh, especially when I know that's rare in their own personal world.  Tonight was one of those nights and we just simply had a great time with students at a "root beer kegger car rally".   There was no agenda really.  Just a good time and some root beer floats.

    Ingredients for this night:

    • kegs of root beer
    • ice cream for floats
    • volunteers to drive
    • clues to hidden points and a few hidden people all over town
    • cell phones for pictures
    • a list of ridiculousness to do like:
      • find a pregnant woman and get her to sign your belly with her due date.
      • get a picture with one person in your group in hand cuffs by a cop or in a firetruck at a station
      • build a pyramid in a public setting
      • re-enact the iwo jima with a flag pole
      • etc..
    here's some of the silliness in pics:

    At the end of the night I heard so many great things from students and volunteers.  In fact, I probably heard 10x more feedback on this night than I do on any "serious" talk I give.  They said:
    great job Brian, I really had a lot of fun.
    let's do that again, I haven't laughed that hard in a while
    hey, if you ever need any more help, let me know.  I really had fun tonight.
    That stuff fills my tank.  I'm not saying I don't love it when students make more significant decisions with their life, but I really it just does something to warm my heart when I watch students engage in great fun and laughter.

    I think they need it really. I know I do.



    I was reading twitter today and saw a link to an article on false statistics.  Then today I got an e-mail about a crazy awesome baseball catch that saves the life of a woman reporter.... and it's awesome and a fake.  Both got me thinking.

    So, in honor of stats that are bogus and since you likely know that 3 out of 5 statistics are made up on the spot.  Here's my take on 5 that don't hold much water but are common place in the youth ministry world.

    No they aren't.  For every study that says teens are having sex there's one that will say they're having less sex.   Yup, some students are sexually active.  All probably wish they were.  But I'm putting my money on the side of regardless what "they say", most graduates even went home on prom night still in the clothes they left in.

    I hate this statistic not only because I could give you lots of examples where this isn't true, but mostly because I could give you just as many examples where it was primarily the church's issue, not the youth pastors.  It might be more accurate to say, "the average church in america" doesn't want a youth ministry for more than 2 years before they decide to practically and financially rethink it.

    I think this might be the most quoted verse in all of youth ministry gatherings.  Students will say it to each other to build up confidence.  Leaders and pastors use it to encourage and to support their view.  But it is not true nor was that the point of the passage in Matthew 18 where Jesus says it.  He was not trying to give us some blanket statistic for every time 3 believers sit in a circle.  Trust me, there are tons of times when 2 or 3 "christians" have gathered together and the Holy Spirit was no where in it and lots of times where they were all alone and God was surely there with them.  Just because 2 or 3 people get together and pray does not mean their decisions were blessed by God.  It just doesn't. What about those 2 naked students in my first bogus statistic.  Was God in their midst?  Well... that depends on what you mean... I suppose he mighta been there, but I'm not guessing he wasn't directing their actions.

    If you do enough youth ministry and hang around youth pastors long enough, you'll find that there is no shortage of "you're not gonna believe this one" stories.  Many of which stem from something your senior pastor or some angry parent said to you.  But despite the stereo types, every youth pastor in the world needs strong pastoral and parental support to do ministry well.  Youth Pastors are not saints any more than parents and senior pastors are demon possessed. [there's a thousand things I'm not typing here :)] Bottom line is we'd all be better off if we'd quit ranting about the bad apples and started partnering with the healthy ones.

    No they won't.  And if they did, it's because 80% never owned it in the first place.  It's also not because youth ministry is dead.  This is like blaming a divorce on a professional counselor's inability to fix a couple who came to them with divorce paperwork in hand.  There is way more to a student's spiritual development than just their hour on sunday or midweek in youth ministry.  Youth ministry might not be dead, but expecting a couple hours in youth group per week in their teen years to change a life for forever... that might be dead.

    Got any bogus stats you wanna add?


    Monday, May 23, 2011


    If you're ever in the beautiful wine country of Northern California's Sonoma Valley, well you owe yourself a 2.5 hour treat called the Sonoma Canopy Tour.  It's beautiful country to drive through and the experience once you get there is well worth the hour off highway 101 it'll take you.

    It is a high ropes adventure and zipline experience of a lifetime owned by Alliance Redwoods Conference Grounds outside of Occidental, Ca.  Seriously, it's crazy fun.  It cost over a million dollars to build and design and it's about 10 months old now.  You go on 2 rope bridges, a spiral staircase around a redwood like 100 feet off the ground, and 7 zip lines totaling a little over a mile in all with the longest one being about 800 feet long and about 200 feet above the forest floor.  It ends with about an 80 foot rappel off a redwood to the ground.  Amazing.

    It's crazy awesome.  My son and my dad and I all went on it yesterday after I finished teaching at the mens retreat.  Oh man is this thing fun.  What a great way to polish off a great weekend.

    Here's 4 of my pics:


    Thursday, May 19, 2011


    Dallas Willard in the Divine Conspiracy proposes that the beginning of the most famous of Jesus' sermons, the "Sermon on the Mount", begins with what is actually a role call of sorts.  In other words, he believes that Jesus is speaking to...

    • the spiritually drained
    • those hurting from loss
    • the quite and gentle
    • those who yearn to be more like God
    • those who are merciful
    • those whose heart's are pure
    • those who mend broken relationships
    • and those who are persecuted
    As I've been praying about this retreat I'm teaching at this weekend, I think that Dallas is right.  I think pretty much every time I teach in any context this entire audience is there.  It doesn't matter if I'm teaching in high school or "big church" or at a retreat setting or even in a self-selected seminar... all of those people are there.  

    Someone once wisely said, "if you preach to the hurting, you'll always have an audience".  If you ever teach the Scriptures to a crowd, know this is always true.  Someone is always hurting in ways we have zero awareness of.  

    To that end, perhaps you can join me as I pray this prayer as I teach this weekend with several hundred men who each have their own unique story.  If you're teaching too, maybe this can be your prayer as well.  (Adam, I'm praying this over you as you teach in our high school ministry too my friend.)  
    May the drained be filled with the Spirit, the hurting find comfort, and the gentle find strength.  Oh God please speak clearly to those who yearn to be more like you and be merciful to those who show mercy. Protect those whose hearts are pure from that which seeks to pollute them.  Mend the broken and give them a peace that surpasses all understanding.  Holy Spirit bind up the wounded and protect those who are persecuted for right living.   Amen. 


    Wednesday, May 18, 2011


    In our litigious society, kids ministry and youth ministry and even ministry in general has many scared of touch.

    One of the tasks that I've been working on now that I oversee kids ministry too is developing a policy manual for our volunteers.  I hate red tape and I'm really not much of a policy and rule guy, but we're trying to have a formal written document that explains what people can and can't do for that litigious society and for training purposes too.  As a result, I got a copy of one church in our area's manual to learn from and inside it has this statement explaining what no sexual contact with a child looks like:

    No physical contact includes: children sitting in an adult's lap, no stroking of the child, no front hugs, no children hanging onto adults, no picking up of children in the Early Childhood and Elementary classrooms. If a child initiates any of these physical contacts immediately but gently remove the child.
    Let's be clear.  This is not because a 3 year old in my lap or hugging me is unhealthy.  It's because of legal mumbo jumbo and sin.  Jesus could not have worked in this church childcare cuz I'm doubting he refused to hug the kids when they came to him.

    In my youth ministry, 4 times in the last 3 months I've had a girl sitting alone in our Sunday program who I approached to see if she was ok.  Each time I said, "It's good to see you.  How are you doing?" and then put my hand on her shoulder.  This simple act each time has resulted in a flood of tears and the admission that they are not ok.  It was a hand on a shoulder that said, "How are you.... really?".  It is what separated it from a nice greeting to a sincere request and demonstration of concern.   I have become convinced that today, more than ever... there is intense power in healthy touch.

    I remember reading "What's so Amazing about Grace" by Philip Yancey years ago.  In it he marches in a gay parade with some homosexual friends of his and experiences the spitting and yelling and condemnation of some of the "Christians" protesting the event.  In the subsequent interviews he does afterwards he is told by one man, "It's easier to get sex on the streets than it is for me to get a hug in church."  That has never left me.

    Really?  Dear God... please don't let healthy touch be a rarity among your people.

    If this is new to you, here's 4 suggestions for healthy touch:

    #1. DON'T BE AN IDIOT:  healthy touch is healthy touch.  It is observable by others.  It is non-sexual.  This should be obvious what you should and should not do.  If this is a question, please don't volunteer or lead in ministry to minors especially.

    #2. PLEASE TOUCH: seriously, for the love of people and God, please give a hug to someone who is crying.  Please squeeze a shoulder, shake a hand, touch a little kids head with a smile... something to indicate people are loved and you're comfortable with them.

    #3. WHEN IN DOUBT, DON'T:  if you think there's more going on behind the scenes for either of you, then walk away.

    #4. DON'T DISCRIMINATE:  Hug everyone.  Squeeze everybody's shoulders.  Put your arm around someone and say, "good job".  Just do it to everyone.  I think we could use a good solid influx of healthy touch in our churches.


    Tuesday, May 17, 2011


    We have billboards all over San Diego, one within like 200 yards of our church that read, "Judgment Day. May 21".

    My friend Trevor suggested that we rent a billboard and put this on it on May 22.   


    I found this particularly funny because I've actually had some personal interaction with the man primarily behind the May 21 end of the world prediction thing.  Seriously... he called me.  His name is Harold Camping and he predicted the end of the world at least once before.   

    At the time, I was in college at UC. Davis and I was a junior there and the president of an organization called Truth Seekers.  We were a club on campus that brought in apologetic debates: things like creation vs evolution, does God exist, and stuff like that.  Our events were pretty well attended and even some professors from the campus would come listen because we brought in big name mucky mucks with lots of Ph. D's after their name. 

    Anyway, it was May of 1994 when Harold contacted us and wanted us to bring him to the campus to tell people the world was going to end on Sept. 6, 1994- or at least to debate about if he was right.   I didn't want to bring him but I wasn't sure what to say and then I had my aha moment.  I said, "It takes at least 6 weeks to pull off one of these events and that will be just about when school gets out for summer break.  So as a result, we can't bring you until the fall.  But since we were on the quarter system, instead of our school starting up in August, we don't begin until mid to late September and by then, the world would be over and there would be no point. So, guess we can't pull it off.  Sorry."  

    So we didn't book him and now he's at it again. 

    I'm thinking maybe I'll have him come talk to my high school students about the value of humility, learning from your own mistakes, a community of believers and a good hermeneutic for the right interpretation of the Bible, and doing wise research before spending massive amounts of money.  I think I'll bring him in early June this year.  :)

    On a less silly note... Harold could accidentally be right.  Jesus is coming back.  Might be today.  Might not.  I'd say we should spend less time worrying about when and more time thinking about "what if"today.  


    Monday, May 16, 2011


    Everyone in ministry knows the pressures of feeling like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it.  But the truth is, delegating some of it to others is easier said than done.  Especially if it is going to be  done right where people are “empowered and encouraged” and not just "used and abused".  We also all know that delegation, at least initially, can often take more time or energy than just doing it yourself.

    So over the years I have a developed a mental framework that I try and think through when delegating to volunteers or even a paid helper.  My goal is always that everyone is valued and useful and no one feels like a servant of my agenda or overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations or even underwhelmed by trivial tasks that minimize their contribution.  To that end, I try and match their leadership capacity with the right task through these four basic categories:

    These volunteers are valuable servants, but not take charge leaders.  They require a specific task list to be successful. They might make phone calls, drive a vehicle, get food, or photocopy fliers.  But they don’t do all of it.  If you ask them to lead something, they’ll freeze and freak out. They serve one step at a time.  So make a to do list and call someone like this to help.  They love helping and you’ll be glad you asked.

    These volunteers are trustworthy helpers, but not visionary people.  They will do a lot for you, as long as you give them rails to run on.  If you want them to lead a small group, they can.  But they need curriculum, a list of expectations, and a follow up from you to make sure nothing derailed them.   If you give them one thing to do, they’ll feel like they are wasting their time.  If you give them 10 things with no direction, they’ll fumble.  So set up a training time, give them the resources they need, and let their engines run on the tracks you gave them.

    This volunteer is a well intentioned, but dangerous leader.  I love this group, but if not kept in check, they start stuff without talking to you and can cause problems accidentally.  (Like they planned their small group retreat, called the parents, and did everything perfect… except it is the same weekend of your ski trip.) They might be able to oversee an entire event or lead a small group on their own, but they need to know what you expect and what you don’t want.  They need regular communication and regular checks and balances.  The key to this person is to have them work with you as a co-leader first.   Give them big roles, but stay in the loop. Once you feel confident they know what you do or don’t want them doing and the lines of communication are open…. then you’re good to go.

    This is a tried and true leader.  You will probably only have a handful of these people.  You can have them teach, lead the music, design a flyer, or oversee an entire event depending on their gifts and talents.  However, do not underestimate their ability or corner them with a small to do list or they’ll leave to find a place they are truly needed.  This person is someone you bring into your vision brainstorm meetings, empower with a piece of your ministry, and then walk away knowing full well that they will get it done and probably better than you could have done it anyway.   If you have one of these, what are you waiting for.  Give them a piece of your ministry now.


    Wednesday, May 11, 2011


    Last March I taught a seminar that I had taught once before.  I made some changes to it from the first time, but it this go around was called, "Moving from Leadership to Ownership:  creating a student owned ministry".  It wasn't about student leadership per se, but rather was about some shifts that I think we need to make if we're going to move from ministry to students to ministry owned by students that will withstand the test of time.

    You can give the entire seminar a listen by buying it or on cd or download here if you want.  (btw, I get nothing financial if you do that, so no push from me really).

    Anyway, in that seminar, one of the things I mentioned was that I think the proclamation model of teaching is dying among students and I questioned its ability to produce life-long followers of Jesus by itself.  Simply put, preaching alone is not gonna cut it.  I suggested that we that we need to move to a more interactive teaching format that engages students in the thinking process.  That prompted a recent e-mail to me that read as follows.  Since I didn't ask for permission, I'll post it here anonymously:

    I was one of the student pastors at your workshop at SYMC on moving from leadership to ownership. BTW I really enjoyed the session. I remembered you talking about using the Lady Gaga song "Born this Way" during a teaching time with your students and turning it into a discussion amongst the group. I want to use that as well as a few clips from last weeks Glee episode in a discussion message in the next week or so. What does that look like when you do it? I am great at monologuing and preaching when I am the only one talking, but I am not sure what questions to ask or how to lead a discussion message in this context. I think it would be such a great thing to help our students understand the good and the bad of the song. Any help? Thanks bro

    Without taking the time to clarify what I said or what this youth pastor is asking about, here's my response as to how I think we can help students engage a discussion in a learning environment.  I posted it her ein the hopes that maybe you'll find it helpful too.


    thanks for the kind words.  Glad you enjoyed the seminar.

    If your normal gathering is like mine where it's easy to do the monologue/ proclamation style of learning... then I have found that there are at least 4 things that are needed for good discussions in these environments.  These are not yoda conclusions but rather observations in process.  They are also not a full treatment of teaching to teens, but rather some simple ideas to help engage an audience of teens in feedback.  Ok.. all that said, here they are:

    1. PREPARE YOUR ADULTS: you need adults or key students spread around the room to get conversations going in smaller groups.  they need to know this is coming and to be ready to help when it does.  
    2. PROVIDE AN ENGAGING TOPIC or ILLUSTRATION: you need a topic that is engaging on various opinion levels but that is still safe to talk about.  Hence Lady Gaga or Osama Bin Laden or Glee or whatever.  Then get students talking about "most teens" or "their peers" instead of themselves.  Most students will actually share stories they relate to, but in the 3rd person
    3. CREATE SAFE INTERACTION POINTS. Ask open ended questions (ones that don't have yes or no as an answer)  You can collect feedback verbally by writing down responses up front on a whiteboard- affirming the contributions as they come.  You can give students a chance to speak silently by writing something down on sticky notes and such and then pasting them somewhere and you read them.  You can use texting or other methods too.   You can see a sample of how I recently did this here.
    4. DEVELOP A TEACHING/INTERACTION RHYTHM.  ie: teach some.  read some.  show a video. then gather responses.  then repeat.  give lots of chances for them to talk in brief, short, safe segments.  Warm them up to the idea that they can ask a question or interrupt you or speak up when you give the go ahead.

    Ok... those are my thoughts.  You got any others that help to engage discussion among students in a large group gathering context? 


    Tuesday, May 10, 2011


    On Palm Sunday, while teaching at Journey, I said this in one of the services:

    "If you have God nicely in your theological box, 
    I'd be scared of your box."

    I've been really bugged by this lately: The idea that we know God so well that we can tell you without a doubt who God is and exactly how God works.

    To this end, there is this recent resurgence in the church to call one another heretics.  I'm not sure why people get such a big kick out of it, but there is nonetheless a pattern in the church world- particularly those who deem themselves as the protectors of all things evangelical- to call those who don't fit in their box heretics.

    I guess my biggest problem with calling someone else a heretic is not just the flippant nature or the arrogance that it is often said with, but more troubling for me is the foundational idea that their beliefs are the epicenter of orthodoxy.

    So to this end, I've been thinking about this and here's what I've concluded so far.

    NOTHING IS SO SACRED IT CAN'T BE QUESTIONED.  I believe in the sacred.  I just don't believe that when passing the sacred on, that it can be merely proclaimed as such and then be assumed to be owned by those to whom it has been "passed onto". I could go so far as to say that I think the more sacred something is the more it should be questioned so that it can be constantly reaffirmed as sacred indeed.  Declaring the Bible or the marriage bond or some doctrine sacred does not make it so.  If the sacred cannot stand up to scrutiny, perhaps what we have is more traditional than foundational.

    DECLARING EVERYTHING A MYSTERY IS A THEOLOGICAL COPOUT.   One nagging reason why some have decided the box of belief needs to have very rigid and not flexible walls is a reaction to those who refuse to even give their box corners.  A little humility without apathy would do us all some good.  The truth is, that when nothing is sacred, everything becomes sacred. When nothing is solid, everything becomes subjective and wishy washy.  I don't hold to a lot with a theological certitude, but when we hold nothing and declare all conclusions equally mysterious we only sound ridiculously ambiguous.

    THE LONGER A DOCTRINE STATEMENT, THE MORE IT'S PROBABLY GOT WRONG.   My favorite doctrine statement so far is one I've heard numerous times in one of my seminary classes.  Here you go.  It's 3 words long: "Jesus was right."  Ha!!! I love it.  Go ahead, print it on t-shirts for your elder board.  What a great doctrine statement.  What a great discussion starter.  It obviously begs the question "About what?"  And then you're off to the races questioning stuff and finding stuff jesus nailed down.  You know that's gonna be a series in our student ministries soon. :)


    Monday, May 09, 2011


    I have some friends in the youth ministry world with some name recognition to them.   Like, if you travel in youth ministry circles, you'd know their names cuz they write and speak and lead some stuff that lots of people have found significant in their lives.

    Tonight, as in the backyard of one of them when we were talking about some youth ministry stuff and the subject of tracking how many people come to our blogs came up.  It probably came up because I told them that I recently just passed up 1000 posts on this blog and that I wanted to do one of those cool blog posts on what thing I've written has received the most feedback or been read the most in the history of this blog, but that I didn't know how to find out really.

    So, as I got schooled in all things techy, we started checking the stats of one of the guys, and I found out that one of them gets about 2000 readers a day.  The other guy in our tiny backyard bonding group probably gets more.  HAAA!  Mine gets like 50.

    While it is surely humbling how small this pond (or should I say puddle) really is, it did also remind me why I do this thing. In honor of my 1008th post, here's my top 3 reasons I blog:

    1. It's a good outlet for me to process my own life and learnings.
    2. I get feedback occasionally that what I write is good and helpful for some friends in youth ministry with me around the country.
    3. It's fun to share some thoughts and learnings with my friends and family who I don't get to see face to face but that can stay connected with me in some ways via this crazy internet. 
    Well, there ya have it. Welcome to my puddle.  Come on back and maybe I'll throw a rock in and the ripple will impact you in some small way. 


    Sunday, May 08, 2011


    If you work in student ministries for like an hour, you'll quickly discover that moms that are present in the lives of their kids are way too rare a privilege.  My kids are beyond blessed with the mom they have. Shannon and I are both blessed beyond words with the Moms God gave us both.  

    Knowing how God managed to pull our family together from literally half way around the world is crazy to me.  Our family is a ride.

    Here's some pics from our afternoon and dinner in La Jolla tonight as I played my role of photographer, grabbing the kids here and there for a few pics.  Thank you Jesus for how you've blessed my family.

     dog pile on a bench

     on the stairs at the La Jolla Shores Country Club

     Grandma Cheryl







    Thursday, May 05, 2011


    Several weeks ago, I was driving my 13 year-old son, TJ, home from small groups and I asked him the normal parent question: "How was it?"

    To which he said, "It was good. But it got me thinking. I've actually been thinking a lot lately. Actually, last Sunday I wrote down a bunch of questions I have."

    "Did you talk about them tonight?"

    "No, not really."

    "Well, if you're up for it, I'd like to hear those questions.  Why don't you bring the list to our next breakfast meeting on Friday and we'll talk about it."

    Two days later he did and we sat down for java, juice, and a bagel while he busted out a wrinkled piece of paper from his back pocket with some questions scribbled on it:

    • Where did the devil come from?
    • How come I was born where I was and other people were born where they were? 
    • How do you know that prayer is real? 
    • etc.... there were like 15 of them. 
    As we talked, I was so amazed by the depth of his questions and the sincerity with which he was wrestling with life and faith. Since we only have about 45 minutes together before school, we never really got beyond about 5 or so of them before he lost the paper in the laundry in what we playfully refer to as a "middle school moment" in our house.  

    Anyway, I told him after a couple of weeks of questions that I would be honored if he would write a blog post for me on his questions.   Today I harassed him at our breakfast meeting and said, "Hey, you never wrote that blog post."  To which he said, "Yes I did, it's on the computer at home.  I wrote it during spring break." 

    So, tonight I dug it up.  Here it is... my son TJ's honest wrestling with life and faith in his own words, unaltered or edited by me. 

    Welcome to the world of trying to help my own teenage son learn how to think, and not just what to think. 


    Hi. This is T.J. and here are some of my questions about God and life.

    What is my purpose?
    This is a big one for me. I want to know where I am going with my life but I really have no idea. I want to have a plan and be able to shoot for it. But I can’t find a plan. Therefore, I am thinking that I have to trust God and believe that he has a good plan for my life, and that is the best plan for me individually.

    How can I relate to the Bible?
    The Bible is this book that we look at every week in church. OK, well, how can I relate to this religious book that is so important in the Christian religion and way of life. I want to do what I am supposed to and be able to what God wants me to do, but in order for me to be able to do that, I have to be able to get what he is telling me to do.

    What is God trying to tell me? 
    I really have no idea about this one. I know that all of the pastors and people can sit there for a day sometimes and think that God was talking to them, but how do they know?  I mean I have seen God speak through other people in my life, but how come I can’t hear his voice directed towards me? Just me. Not through someone else’s voice but straight to me. I have thought that I have before but then I keep telling myself that it was just my mind talking to itself. Because whenever that happens, I am always trying to listen and then I don’t think that it is God but just my mind.

    How come God doesn’t speak straight to people in person any more?
    This one is confusing and I’m trying to figure it out. I think that it might have to do with God supposedly being able to speak through the Holy Spirit. But I have no idea really. I know that way back in the Old Testament, God used to talk to Abraham and Noah and all of those people. That doesn’t mean that I am any closer to knowing why. I am just trying to find out why he doesn’t. I want him to talk straight to me. Not through other people, but to me directly. This one is just trying to work itself out in my mind.

    How come I can live like a robot, with no thought?
    I have no idea about this one either. I really want to know. I can go through a whole day not thinking about what I am doing and not get in trouble and make descent choices. I want to know why I don’t have to think about God and the Bible and all of that stuff in my day? I want to have that stuff in my daily life, but sometimes it seems like I can go without it and I don’t want to be without it. I think that it is a personal decision and I think that the decision is mine to make.


    Wednesday, May 04, 2011


    I have said numerous times on this blog that I'm not interested in teaching students what to think, but rather how to think.  The latest world events provide prime material for just such a lesson.

    Tonight in our guys small groups we decided to capitalize on the debate surrounding the death or killing of Osama Bin Laden.  It made for some great discussion.  Here's the outline if you wanna dive in and get your students talking.

    We opened with this video.

    then we followed this basic script for conversation and thinking:


    • What do you think about the Osama Bin Laden thing?  
    • What do you think about him being killed by the U.S. Navy SEALS?  
    • What do you think about celebrations in the streets?  
    • Was this revenge or justice?"
    READ: Romans 12:14-21  (one side of the issue at hand)

    • What does this have to do with the Osama Bin Laden thing? 
    • How do you tend to respond when you've been wronged? 
    • What does this passage teach about revenge?
    • How do you know if "as far as it depends on you", you've done all that is required for peace? 
    • What does this passage mean for those in the police force or the military today?

    • How does this video relate to the passage in Romans 12?
    • Why was he unwilling to die for his enemy? What do you think you'd do if it was you? 
    • Who do you think you would die trying to save? 
    • What do you think about Chris Plekenpol's assertion that we treat God like terrorists treated him?
    READ: Romans 5:5-8

    • How does this passage relate to the I am Second video we just watched?
    • What does this passage tell us about God, ourselves, and our enemies? 
    • What difference does this text make in for those who follow Jesus?  
    READ: Romans 13:1-5 (the other side of the issue at hand)

    • How does this passage relate to the Romans 12 passage? (Make note that it is IMMEDIATELY following chapter 12's text)  How are they different?  How do they build on one another? 
    • What do you agree with or disagree with in this passage? 
    • What kind of authority is the kind we should submit to?  
    • How do you know when an authority is set up by God and when one is not?  
    • Do you think that the U.S. armed forces were used by God to bring justice or used by the evil one to bring about revenge?  Or do you have a different view all together?  What evidence would you give to support your answer? 

    There you go my youth ministry friends.  If you end up using it, be sure and comment sometime and tell me how your discussion went.  Praying with you that our students learn how to think and translate life and faith in the real world.


    Tuesday, May 03, 2011


    This month we're doing a new series in our high school program called, "So I've been thinkin'".

    I launched it last week with a message on Romans 12:1-2 about transforming the way we think and challenging student that if they were going to have a transformed mind, then we need to be thinking followers of Jesus.  I'm a huge fan of students embracing doubt and learning to wrestle with the hard questions of life and faith.  I even think considering a critics viewpoint is borderline mandatory for students to truly understand this faith that I'm trying to encourage them to own as theirs.

    Well, this week, the series takes a new turn and I'm doing something I've done numerous times over the years; I'm having some of our older student leaders teach in teams of two in our weekend program.

    To that end, I don't just throw students up in front of their peers and say, "teach".  Instead, the preparation starts 2 weeks out for each teaching team.  Here's the breakdown.

    2 WEEKS OUT:  I meet with the student teaching team for 90 minutes.  I brainstorm topics and texts with them.  Then I give them a basic 101 crash course in message prep.
    • INTRODUCTION:  I challenge students to earn the right to be heard and make no assumptions that their audience cares to listen.  I ask them to answer the question for the audience, "Why should I listen?" We talk about the difference between deductive and inductive teaching. 
    • TEACHING TEXT:  We select one main text from which to teach that is addressing the topic they want to teach on.
    • TEACHING POINTS:  I tell students that they need to come up with some teaching points.  As a general guideline, those teaching points should always be written first person, as an action statement, and in a complete sentence.   So I try and have them avoid one word points or just simply stating facts about faith instead of actions their challenging their peers to join them in. 
    • ILLUSTRATION AND APPLICATION:  We talk about the value and difference for both.  Illustration brings the ancient truth into today's imagery.  The application takes the teaching point and the illustration and merges them into a practical action step.  Both are necessary.  Without intentional coaching, my experience says that most students and teachers tend to teach and illustrate, but miss on the application of the two into a cohesive whole.  So we talk about how to not miss it. 
    • TRANSITION AND CONCLUSIONS: I then talk to them about how to transition between points, especially when tag-team teaching.
    1 WEEK OUT:  I meet with the teaching team for another 90 minutes.  They bring their ideas and plans based on our last meeting and the homework they did on it between then and now.  We wordsmith the teaching points, illustrations, and application of them.   We decide who will say what and when.  We show video clips they want to use and discuss other teaching aids they might want. 

    2 DAYS OUT: I meet with the teaching team to do a practice real-time rehearsal in our youth room.  I give feedback and we make minor tweaks to the plan so that it has the greatest chance of building confidence for them.

    DAY OF:  we meet early for a time of prayer and to do one final look over on their notes and then they teach... in our case, the same message twice in back to back services.  One at 9am and one at 11am.


    Monday, May 02, 2011


    I confess, I have a file in my office labeled "Navy SEALS".  I've had it for 15 years or so and I keep adding to it from time to time when I read articles written about them.  I've used them as teaching illustrations from time to time- mostly for issues like discipline and suffering.

    I have always been amazed by their commitment, willingness to endure severe pain and ridiculous demands for a cause, and the elitism of the training process- especially during the week know as "hell week".  I was fascinated by a Newsweek reporter who once documented the week moment by moment for a cover article.

    I then read an autobiography in college (warning- it's r rated for sure) of Richard Marcinko titled "Rogue Warrior"- the founder of the seal team six. It's a crazy read and tells extensive details about missions and training and mindset.

    I was mesmerized several years ago after we moved to SD and we were having dinner in Coronado when I found myself watching the seals train in San Deigo bay in rubber rafts.  They would fly by at about 40 miles an hour and then each man would just start falling into the water in a tightly choreographed event before they would come by just as fast and pick them back up.  They did this like 20 times as the sun set and darkness crept in.

    One of my favorite Ad campaigns of all time is this one from 2005.  It's for the Navy SEALS and asks, "do you have what it takes?"

    The fine print at the bottom says this:  "Pictured, from left to right:" and then lists name and rank of 8 navy SEALS.  Too funny.

    Anyway, as a result of all of that, I've been slightly addicted to the details of this Bin Laden thing because of the SEAL role in it.  As I read this article, I found this paragraph from a Navy SEAL recruiter incredibly interesting.
    "We are not looking for cocky kids," said Senior Chief Hans Garcia, a SEAL recruiter. "The perfect person would be a candidate who is remarkably physically fit, but is pretty humble, an analytical thinker, a problem solver -- someone who is very value-oriented, patriotic, puts service above self."
    Regardless of one's opinions about the decisions made in the last few days.  I found myself again mesmerized by the description of the ideal SEAL.

    • Takes care of their physical body
    • Humble
    • Thinks before he acts- especially under pressure
    • Sees a problem and figures out a way to solve it.
    • Value oriented- thus willing to sacrifice and even die for them
    • Serves others before themselves.
    Truth is.... I believe that list is what I'm looking for in a great leader in my high school ministry.  That's who I want to be and who I'm trying to be before my kids.  

    And ironically, as much as Americans might celebrate the Navy SEALs accomplishments in stopping at least one man from master minding and funding anymore terror around the world, their own celebration is a humble one and their pride is in their mission, not in the flaunting of it.  They have always been, and will continue to be, a largely unseen and very powerful force.  

    That fact alone inspires me.  



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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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