Saturday, December 24, 2011


.. and all through our pad,
No kid was stirring, so the parents were glad
The stockings were waiting for santa to load
And I praised God were were past toy building mode

The dog was cuddled up all tight in a ball
While visions of rabbits danced in the hall
And mom on facebook, and dad on his blog,
We had nothing to do, but several hours to log

Out on the lawn there was a deer all lit up
As I sat by the window, my kahlua coffee to sup
It's clear that December is full of the good and the bad,
Sometimes we laugh, and sometimes we're sad

Today was a mixture of both types of those things
One of those days where I wish I had wings.
Wings to fly high up in the sky
Ask God to clear up the why

Why do good people suffer? What should I do with the past?
Why do I work so hard for the things that don't last?
I'd ask God this and a long list of more
but honestly, all of it makes my thinker get sore

So on this Eve of that day God came here
I'm reminded how desperately I still need him near
When God is distant, my world goes amuck
My heart needs God's HOPE, or I'm eternally stuck.

Merry Christmas friends.

In the midst of your busy and crazy lives, for those who will laugh and for those who will cry, I'm praying that this year we all experience some God given joy and a peace on earth that can be only found in GOD IS WITH US moments.   Oh Emmanuel, we still need you. I surely do.


Thursday, December 22, 2011


I'm not a fan of fake stuff.  I don't like fake Christmas trees.  I don't like fake coffee.  Fake trucks- you know the ones that are lifted and go to the mall instead of the woods- lame!  Fake sugar is in everything- and it's lame too.  Fake flowers.  Fake friendship. Fake faith.  They all are overrated and way too common.

This past monday we went to go see the shamu show at Sea World with our kids- it's like church.  I can't believe how bold they are about Christmas being about Jesus.  It's always moving and fun.  Anyway, afterwards I had some coupons so I took the family to Chick-fil-A for dinner.  My kids sat down with mom and grandma and I started ordering for everyone. I always get kids meals for the little ones because they can turn their toy back in for free ice cream... which is awesome cuz we don't need the trinket and I don't have to buy ice cream!  Anyway, I forgot to ask what they wanted to drink so I made a dad decision and got them lemonade across the board.

When I gave Becky her lemonade, she took one sip and was amazed.  Her face got all weird and then happy and then she made everyone at our table drink it.  Seriously, she passed it around to everyone telling them to take a sip, that this was some serious lemonade.  I wasn't sure what the deal was really, but she dug it.  Then half way through dinner, she asked if she could have a refill for her lemonade because she said, "I shared mine with everyone Dad.  Can I have some mo."  I said sure, and she got up to get her refill. 

It wasn't until the next day when I was at Rubios when I noticed this sign on the lemonade. 

Do you see that?  Go ahead and click the image and make it bigger.  MINUTE MADE LEMONADE CONTAINS 0% JUICE.  ZERO..  Yes, zero percentage of it is Juice.  There's not one freaking lemon in the whole glass.

Amazing!  No wonder Becky was blown away.  At Chick-fil-A they make the lemonade with... GET THIS... Lemons!  Crazy I know.. but there's lemons in their lemonade and Becky was floored. Best stuff she has ever tasted.  

It got me thinking, "what else in my world is both fake and normal?"

Where is my youth ministry just faking it?
Where is my marriage faking it?
Where is my family faking it?
What relationships do I have that are totally fake? 
What part of the man in the mirror is a poser? 

I've been burned bad by fakers.  I've been a faker.  I reminded myself that I hate faking it.  I want to have a 0% faker factor in my life.  I think I'm boycotting Minute Maid Lemonade and I'm going to be looking a lot closer at my OJ too.  

Fake stuff is overrated.  This Christmas, give the world a real gift-- the gift of the authentic and real you!!! 


Thursday, December 15, 2011


We had our small group Christmas Party last night. We played way too many games and had too much fun and ran out of time to do our "bible study portion" which we planned to spend 20 minutes on.  I'm lame, but it was fun.  In case you want some last minute ideas.  Here you go:

We had dinner together and played:

If you click the links I gave you or just google any of that stuff, you'll get some fun ideas and explanations of how it works.

After all of that, we read Luke 2:1-20 as small groups and then I asked just one question.  But I had 5 planned.  Tonight at our dinner table and today in my one-on-one with Tyler before school over breakfast, I used some of these study questions... which have proved to be fun discussion starters on Christmas. So feel free to rip them if you can use them with your own youth group or even family.  2 just for for fun and three a little more serious.
  • Assuming God could not use an angel to tell Mary she is pregnant with God's son, come up with another crazy way for her to find out.
  •  If you could be a superhero angel, what would your wings be made of and what would your super power be?   Oh… and what would be your first pronouncement to the people of the earth? 
  • This story says that the shepherds were amazed. What has been the most amazing thing you’ve experienced in your faith to date?
  • What do you think Mary treasured and pondered in her heart?  What do you think she was feeling and doing and trying to soak in at this point?  What do you feel this time of year?
  • Think about the phrase, “peace on earth to those on whom God’s favor rests”.  What do you think it means?  What does it say about peace and what determines whom God favors?  How do you know?


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I spend a lot of time on design.  Not because I'm a great graphic artist, painter, or designer (cuz I'm not).  But more because I care deeply about space, visuals, and the nonverbal communication of even architecture and how it makes you feel.  

I care that a font looks right in an e-mail.  I care that it can be easily skimmed and that the most important things jump off the page.  I care about room design, how a teaching outline looks, the visuals I use, and how how it all collectively impacts how a participant feels.  I care about little stuff stashed in the corner of a stage and marks on walls and a lot of stuff.  In my first book, I've worked hard with my publisher to come up with a design that is right and fits the book. Because I think the cover matters and shapes the impact of the content.  Claiming that you "can't judge a book by it's cover" is a nice idea.  It's just not true.  People do it all the time.  We all do it all the time.  Visuals shape us and often give us first impressions that shape our expectations.  

Think about it.  Think about the spaces you most love to be in and feel most inspired by.  Even if it's a beach, I'm betting it's a clean beach, not a trash filled one.  If it's a restaurant or a room, my bet is it's well designed.  Things work together and it just feels right.  Everything from the music to the lighting to the smells matter.  The truth is, the amount of hours I've spent on set designs, brochure planning, and even cleaning up a room as a youth pastor is HUGE.  For years it was shared space I had to learn to temporarily design and then take down again.  Then in parts of my ministry I've been able to design custom student spaces too. I truly value a well designed space and love it when a space inspires others and myself too.  

Last week, I spent well over 3 days in preparation and working with our volunteers to redesign our regular student meeting space into a Christmas space for an outreach party and Christmas series we do every year. If you added it all up, it takes a solid 100+ hours to flip our room and make it what it is for this season.  Even re-using previous decorations, it all adds up to an astonishing amount of work.  Last year, I had a professional party designer check it out and tell me that our design and attention to detail was as good as any professional party design he'd ever been to.  

Here's some shots of this years design that my friend Pat took of the final preparations. 

Here's at least 3 reasons why I think you should care about your space and why I care about mine.  

FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER: The first impression a student will get of your youth group and the experience they are about to go into will largely come from the space you meet in.  If your space feels dark and dirty and cold, then it will set a certain tone for the audience.  If it's big and empty and intimidating it will create another impression.  If it's fun and inviting and inspiring to them, then it will send another message.  It's why a great outreach investment can be landscaping and paint for your church campus.  If people don't find the outside of your space inviting, they don't believe the inside is any different.  In real-estate they call it "curb appeal" and if you don't have it, you can't sell it.  Same is true for ministry.  Curb appeal matters. 

SPACES SEND MESSAGES:  Like it or not, your space is communicating something.  The only question now is, what is it saying? When we do a "set design" for a new teaching series, we're trying to change the room to be part of the message.  If you're doing a series on love in February and you cover the tables in rose pedals or candy hearts, it says something. If you ignore the tables and simply put the same pencil boxes you always put on them, that says something too.  Non-verbals are a HUGE piece of communication and what a space is saying non-verbally cannot be ignored.  You don't have to spend thousands to remodel a space, but you do have to pay attention to it and find creative ways to change a room to fit the message you're trying to send.   

STUDENTS DO NOTICE:  Students may have messy rooms and be mess makers themselves.  My experience says both of those things are common with teens.  But that does not mean they don't notice the details of space. The number of comments I get about how our "room feels" or how a new set design or party decor inspires a student to engage is very high.  Even tonight I was talking with a student at small groups and they talked about how the room feels like a "coffee shop" and how they feel comfortable there and inviting their friends into it.  I had another gal tell me that the white stripe/crown look that we added to our Christmas decor up high made her notice the walls in ways she had never before.  It's sometimes crazy to me, but students do notice non-verbals.  A lot!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Ever wished you could have some great ministry resources at iTunes prices?  Like if you could score a message series or a resource for say... uh.. .99 cents then you'd do it!

Well dream no more! My friends Josh Griffin and Matt McGill have launched just such a gem. It's called Download Youth Ministry.

I dug the site, loved the idea, and thus tossed a couple resources their way to join in on the fun.  If you want a steal of a deal on stuff that's worth WAY more than the couple of bucks it'll cost to download, then this is your place.

I uploaded three resources to get the ball rolling on my contributions.  More to come.


BRINGING SEXY WAAAY BACK  a 4-week dating/sexuality series with outlines and scripture and suggested illustrations.

  • WEEK 1 BRINGING SEXY WAAAAY BACK – God’s Design for Sexuality
  • WEEK 2 I’M TOO SEXY FOR YOU – the power of inner beauty
  • WEEK 3 IF YOU GOT IT…. – a new look at modesty as sexuality under control
  • WEEK 4 MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL…. peace in Jesus before purpose in sexuality

SMALL GROUP ADMINISTRATION TOOLS: 7 editable documents to help you pull off small groups! As an added bonus, we’ve included a prayer request worksheet and 3 ready to print (in house or professionally) follow up post cards.

4 Keys to a great study
  • Boundaries for Discipline
  • Small Group Covenant
  • Small Group Evaluation Questions
  • Small Group leader job description
  • Small Group profile
  • Why Small Groups
  • + postcards
  • + prayer request sheet

LEADERSHIP TEAM RESOURCE BUCKET  A large group leader job description, adult leadership application, student leadership application, sample vision statement/core values doc, medical and permission slip waiver, ministry evaluation worksheet.

  • adult leadership application
  • core values and vision outline
  • event permission form
  • large group leader job description
  • student ministry evaluation worksheet
  • student leadership team application



Every youth pastor I know plans retreats.  They give their time and effort and some of their best creative energy into retreat planning because they know that retreats can and do change lives.  Despite the fact that they always cost additional time, money, and often require huge planning steps of faith- they still do them because they are inherently risky and fun and unparalleled memory making ventures.

But here's the rub though.... not many of those same youth pastors plan great trips for their family.  

For years I too put more effort into planning summer camp than a summer vacation.  I justified this as part of my job and brought my wife and kids with me anytime I could.  I still do that cuz I want both my own kids and my students exposed to the intersection of ministry and family.  But recently, especially as my kids have gotten older they started complaining that the stories they heard me tell about our youth group retreats were things they wanted to do too.  Telling them "just wait till you're in high school" was not going to cut it either.  So over the last few years now,  I've become increasingly convicted that if I'm not willing to do this for my own family, I should not be doing it for ministry.

I mean really: Why in the world would I give my most creative energy to the students I work with for a season at the expense of the family I'll be connected to for rest of my life?

Answer?  Because retreats are a lot of work and if you do them both for ministry and your family, your life will get doubly complicated.  Life is flat out easier in ministry and in my home when we just sit around.  Problem is it makes no memories worth bragging about either.  Having planned my share of both family and ministry retreats now... I can say this about them:

  • Family and Ministry Trips both cost money I don't easily earn.
  • Family and Ministry Trips both cost a lot of time.
  • Family and Ministry trips both require planning, preparation, and hours of clean up too.
  • Family and Ministry trips both have me asking, "Why did I do this to myself, I should have just played it safe and done none of this" in the preparation stage. They are also both quickly followed with, "I wouldn't trade this for the world moments"when they're done too.  
Most recently, I took my kids and some friends and their kids back out the desert to do some target shooting, eating, and big bonfire time for a 2 day/one night trip the day after Thanksgiving.  It's become a tradition at this point and every year we go I both simultaneously think, "man this is a lot of work and oh man, it is so worth it."

So from one parent/pastor to another, go ahead and plan that family trip with as much gusto as you do your next ministry trip. You and your family will be so glad you did.  Hearing my kid brag about our family trips makes it all worth it.


Friday, December 02, 2011


A while back I was approached by one of our kids ministry pastors at Journey, Tara, about the idea of creating a family worship experience with a generosity focus during the month of November.  Within minutes we had agreed to do it and then decided to offer an interactive and participatory learning experience.  As parents, we both yearned for this for our own kids and hoped others would want the same.

We ended up working with a team of people to plan it over several months and it finally pulled it off on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  We were stoked, because in the end, it was a HUGE hit.  We had over 100 families show up, worship together and then engage in meeting the needs of someone less fortunate either in our community or around the world.  

Families were given a passport during our large group worship service and then they went to 3 stations on campus before going off campus to buy a gift for someone in need and coming back on campus to wrap it / pray over it / and then enjoy some hot cocoa.  It was an Epic night.  

In the process, I was reminded of a few things.

GENEROSITY IS NEVER ACCIDENTAL BUT ALWAYS FUN.  If I want my kids to be generous, then I have to give them intentional opportunities to be generous. Going to Mexico. Saving money to spend on others. It's nights like this one that provided a win in this regard for everyone.  Another family in need was blessed and my kids were too.  Generosity is not something I drag my kids into, it's something my family gets the joy of participating in and it can't be taught.  It can only be caught.  Blessing others is a joy- especially when you do it together.  

CREATIVITY INSPIRES GENEROSITY.  Each family was unique in how they chose to create this experience and what they chose to buy for another family.  It was amazing to watch really.  This past Thanksgiving, during a tradition of writing down what we're most thankful for during a thing we call the "blessing pot", my mom gave everyone $5 with the one pre-requisite that you would use it to bless someone else.  It really made for some great conversations with my kids and 8 of us at the table pooled our money together and chose to buy a flock of chickens and a flock of geese from  Jake gave his to 1 friend to use in Uganda this summer.  Tyler has been giving his money a dollar at a time to kids at school who forgot their lunch money.   Generosity was in the air and creativity was rolling.  So cool. 

GENEROSITY IS QUALITATIVE, NOT QUANTITATIVE.  Creating a generous Spirit cannot be quantified.  Generosity in my kids and in my family is not so much about the size of the gift we give away, but rather than we are always eager to push ourselves beyond what is comfortable. That could be small or big in terms of actual gifts or money.  But that doesn't minimize the power of a small thing to change the world.  These generous families and their kids said that loud and clear with their lives. 



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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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