Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Hey friends.  If you're going to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this weekend then I'd love to have you join me.  Here's my schedule of how you can find me and if you're not going, how you can be praying for me if you're so willing in the week ahead.

I'll be teaching in the following slots. Come on by and say hi.

SAYING NO TO THE STATUS QUO: declaring war on extended adolescence. 
Friday March 2.  9:30pm - 11:00pm.   ROOM: Breathitt

  • You don't have to be very observant or very well read to know that adolescence has moved from a life stage to a lifestyle and that students are leaving their faith behind as they head into their twenties. This workshop will challenge us to look into how we're structuring our ministries in ways that might be perpetuating the problem and develop some solid theological and practical solutions to putting a stop to this common trend.
YOU SUCK: enduring, learning from, and responding to your critics.  Session #1.
Saturday March 3.  9:00am - 10:30am    ROOM: Carroll/Ford
  • Communication At The Core - Taking criticism is about as enjoyable and endurable as a root canal, but it might be just as critical to your long-term ministry health, too. One of the essential skill sets of all leaders is the ability to learn from, and at times even ignore, the voice of critics. This seminar will examine why we fear criticism, why we need it, and how to respond when it comes.
YOU SUCK: enduring, learning from, and responding to your critics.  Session #2.
Saturday March 3.  2:45pm - 4:45pm    ROOM: Carroll/Ford
  • Responding vs Reacting.. And When To Retreat 
Sunday March 4.   1:00pm - 2:15pm     ROOM: Carroll/Ford
  • Peer Panel-Ministry Conversation with Shannon and I and another couple and hosted by Jim Burns.  Should be fun.  Pretty much all Question and Answer with the Audience.  Should be fun. 
Sunday March 4.   2:45pm - 4:45pm    ROOM: Coe
  • Our life is crazy. Ok, there. We said it. Keeping our own heart healthy, our marriage vibrant, and our family connected is no small task in ministry. If you want some ideas on how to navigate the complicated intersection of of all of that, then join us. This is not a been-there-done-that and now we tell you how to do it seminar. It's an honest and candid discussion on life in youth ministry from a couple who are learning to tend to their own soul, marriage, and family one day at a time. 


Monday, February 27, 2012


Ok, I have a sincere and genuine question that I would love to hear your comments on.  I'm in a seminary class about pastoral care and there's a strong push being made that pastors need to be in people's homes.

They argue that good pastors do home visitation on a regular basis.  Will you give me your answers to this poll?  Feel free to click up to 4 that apply.

I've been told that I need to lead our culture to a point of spiritual health and break down some barriers and get in homes.  This is honestly the first time I've been pushed to do this in almost 20 years of ministry.

I've been told you have to get on school campuses.

I've been told you have to know youth culture extremely well.

I've been told you have to be involved in the community outside of church.

But I've never been told you have to get into people's homes to be a good pastor of any kind- youth or otherwise. 

So, I'm tossing a poll your way.  Do you do this?  I'd love it if you'd take a minute to answer my poll and even to comment on it in the comments below.  Even if you're not a pastor, I'd love for you to comment on why you think your pastor should or should not do this.   I'd love to know the size of your church, the demographic you live in, and the reason you do or do not meet in homes.  

Thanks for your help.  I'm genuinely curious what your experience is or has been.  



Influence takes time. Friendships take time.  There's no fast track to either.  I've been reminded lately, however, that they both come from one simple discipline I often fail to do:  Linger.

  • Linger means not being the first one to their car when the soccer game is done or church service is over.
  • Linger means planning enough time between meetings so you can talk to the Barista or say hi to that couple in the booth next to you.
  • Linger means you don't bury your head in your cell phone in the side of a room waiting for the "official" stuff to start.  Linger means you hang out being available, asking God to show you needs, and having conversations.
  • Linger means you have no agenda.  No hurry and a few minutes to "waste".  Linger feels unproductive, lazy, and sometimes even boring.  
But make no mistake about it, there is power in Linger.  My best conversations as of late, my greatest influence, and even my deepest regrets have come out of moments where I lingered or failed to linger and rushed onto the next thing instead.  I can tell you this, I don't know anyone at my seminary because I intentionally never linger.  Never.  When class is over, I grab my bags and my keys and head for my car and straight to family or work.

I'm headed to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference this week in Louisville and I promise you...  my best conversations, friendships, and moments will come out of times where I lingered in open spaces and was interruptible.  

Maybe it's time to Slow Down.  Plan some breathing time. Be present and aware. Invite God to show you conversations to have and hugs to give.  And LINGER.  


Friday, February 24, 2012


Some people believe that God is found only in the pages of the Bible.  Some believe that you can find God in nature.  Some people believe you can find God in a conversation with a friend.  Some people believe you can find God in heaven and rare glimpses of heaven on earth.

Others...  well they believe that if you pay attention, you'll see the fingerprint of God all over the place... and sometimes, in the most random of places.

Me?  I happen to be the later group.  Don't get me wrong, I miss God all the time.  But when I have my A game on and my ears and eyes tuned in, I find the DNA of the things of God all over the place.  I see it in the broken hearted yearning for a better life.  I see it in the creativity of an artist.  I see it in the reflection of my kids in a window in the right sunlight.

And while driving up I-5 this week listening to an ABC News Nightline podcast from their Feb. 20, 2012 show... I heard the wisdom of God in an interview with comedian Louis CK.

I'm quite positive that Louis is not going to read this blog and he was also not trying to lead people into connection with God, but God regularly doesn't seem to mind or care what people intend to do.  He just uses all kinds of people in all kinds of ways to do what God intends. It's not manipulation, it's really kind of beautiful. God simply gives glimpses of himself all over the place.  I managed to find the clip on Hulu. You can give it a listen and watch if you want.

The full interview with him starts 7 minutes in, but from about 11:00-12:15... I think you'll find some profound God moments... or at least I did.   

Maybe you listened and missed it.  Here's the stuff... I thought... "Wow. That sounds like God's fingerprint to me."
  •  "At some point you just don't care. Well, it's not that you don't care.  It's that you just can't keep faking it.  You can't keep being fake.  Some people either harden into a glazed version of your fake self... or you decide I'm going to stop this"- Louis CK on what I would call integrity and authenticity- both characteristics of the imago dei. 
  • Then the moment when Louis CK's career took off was also the moment that he made some unique family decisions... the narrator says"And in a lesson for all of us... The moment he put the kids first, his career exploded."  Are you kidding me?  That's not ABC wisdom, that's Biblical wisdom. I know a ton of youth pastors that should re-play that line about 20 times.    
  • Oh... and just listen as he is the quintessential example of a guy who was a nobody for 20 years before he found HUGE success in his 40's.  How's that for a God sighting?  Don't quit.  God is not done with you yet.... and you don't have to get discovered at 25 by American Idol either. Some people have to remain faithful to the call and persistent and when they do, they find the fruit of their labor in the second half of life.  That's awesome.   
Thanks God.  Love it when you show up and show your cards in the midst of the craziest of places.  


Thursday, February 23, 2012


In the last several weeks I've had several meetings with parents who called me to tell me they were having trouble with their teen.  One was super casual and we brainstormed a way to creatively solve a stressed out teen issue that ended with a really fun solution that turned out to be a big blessing.  The others were experiencing extreme relational disconnect between themselves and their teen- some to the point of suicidal thoughts.  In the end, they resulted in meetings in my office that were informative and helpful for myself and the parents.  All of them would not have happened had the parent not called.  I was so thankful they did.

So, if you're a parent of a teen and you also have a youth pastor or key small group leader in your teen's life, please do 3 things:

COMMUNICATE YOUR NEEDS:   No pastor has a crystal ball, a supernatural ability to see into the unknown, or an uncanny ability to know what someone else is thinking.  We are normal people just like you and we can't help with what we're unaware of. And no, your teen doesn't tell us everything and no, you're not the enemy.   If you know something we should know, please tell us.  We won't put it on Facebook or tell your teen we talked.  We're a safe place to listen and we're eager to help.  But we need your help so we can be a help. So please sound the alarm when you need to.

COMMUNICATE YOUR WANTS:   If you really wished youth group was a 1/2 hour earlier or that small group met in a home instead of on campus, please speak up.  If the retreats cost too much or you could use a payment plan or you need more notice, please let us know.  If you had 6 students over for a sleep over and you discovered we should address personal hygiene issues, well please... just ask and we'll pass out bars of soap and tell them to wash their sins away :)  We can't always fix every problem or please every family perfectly, but we surely can't help with needs we don't know about.

COMMUNICATE YOUR PRAISE:  If your teen is loving youth ministry or their small group blessed them or they had a great time at the retreat. If your teen is coming home happy or picking great friends for once, or simply would not stop talking about how much they learned or what fun they had in youth group... by all means, say something!  We're on your team on this whole raising teens into young adults thing and we, like you, desperately need some encouragement.

So... while I'm at it...  If you're a pastor working with teens... these all apply to us too!  Communication is a 2 way street.   Tell parents about concerns you have.  Let them know what you want or need.  And by all means, when they make a good decision or you see spiritual fruit in their son or daughter, for the love of God let them know!  They are hungry (and many flat out starving) for a positive word.

Ok people...let's open the flood gates and start sharing the love!


Monday, February 20, 2012


Last week I was given an invitation to volunteer at one of our local high schools.  I went with 5 others from our church, not knowing what I was getting myself into really.  I knew it was this thing called challenge day, the school needed adult help to pull it off, and I was supposed to be there from 6:45am to 2:30pm.  Beyond that, I was clueless.

It turned out to be an organization called Challenge Day coordinating a highly interactive day of vulnerability and forgiveness so students could be honest with themselves and their peers about what really is going on in their life.   Filled with fun, laughter, games, and raw vulnerability, this day was a crazy soup of emotions and a roller coaster ride for students and adults alike.  The day begins with students running into a room filled with adult volunteers forming a cheering tunnel and from there it rolls through a series of activities; some 2 minutes long and some 30 minutes, but it's constantly changing.  Some are meant to make you laugh.  Some are meant to break down perceived and even real barriers.  Some are meant to move your heart and mind to a new reality.   The day ended with a collaborative opportunity for students to challenge one another to live different and to stick up for one another in their halls, classes, and sports.

If you work with teens and you get wind of a challenge day experience coming to your local high school, then find a way to serve at it for at least three reasons.

  1. It will be a great way for you to build a relationship with your local school.
  2. It will be a great way for you to be a resource to a student being real about life and it will remind you of what is really going on with students.
  3. It will teach you some things about youth ministry you might have forgotten.

MOVEMENT MATTERS:  If you want people to connect with others then you have to have space for movement in your time.  Turn and say high to your neighbor won't cut it.  We need movement.  Movement can be for fun or for commitment.  It can be students writing down a prayer need and bringing it up.  It can be a "station" where they do something across the room.  But there's something necessary about movement for action.  I was reminded that our weekly mingle needs to move people to talk, but it also needs to move people.

TOUCH MATTERS: They hugged, danced, high-fived, bumped into and physically touched one another way more than anyone does in a normal day.  I always make it a habit to touch students on the shoulder, give high fives, and thank them for coming to Encounter.  But the truth is I need to be way more intentional about this. At one point I heard Doug Fields tell his leaders that every student in the room needs 6 touches.  They said every student needs 12 hugs.  I need to do a waaay better job of this and teaching my leaders to do this.

CULTURE MATTERS: They worked hard to create an alternate culture in the room and it worked.  Every youth group has a culture.  Every church. Every class.  Every family. Every School.  Every place has a culture.  It's also not accidental.  We're creating it by what we do, say, and even imply.  I was reminded that I need to be very intentional about the culture I'm creating in my youth ministry. It really matters.

MUSIC MATTERS:  They constantly and continually changed the feel of the room with music.  Sometimes it made you dance.  Others created identity and shared bonding. It made you think, distracted you, moved you, or gave you safety.  Pretty much anything they did and every transition they made referenced or moved along by music.  I suck at picking music and I think we are not great at using it.  I need to give this to a student who loves it... someone with DJ spirit in them and an understanding of mood.  Seriously, I need this person bad.  

ADULT INVOLVEMENT MATTERS:  In the end, this day gave students a chance to lead, but it was not possible without safe and caring adults.  This day was an amazing opportunity to connect with and encourage students who were being honest about their life. On Sunday I asked a student how he was doing and in 3 sentences he shared honestly what was going on. I pulled up a chair and sat down and we talked.  I missed all of our normal stuff and everything we had planned because of it and it was totally worth it.  He then connected for a time with another adult leader.  I need 50 more adults investing into our students like this.  Sadly, for almost all of these students that were there at challenge day, the relationships they began with adults in one day ended that same day.  The church can and must do better than that.

HOPE IN JESUS MATTERS:  Ultimately, the day left me wishing I could help students find real hope in a community of faith and connection with God in a way they all were craving.  It was like seeing hundreds of students identify a need and me banned from helping them find it.  It's a deeply spiritual day without Jesus' name being mentioned.  I'm confident God was working. I'm also confident students were not given an answer to put two and two together.


Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'm a lucky husband and a lucky Dad. On this Valentines Day, I was reminded that I'm seriously blessed with the two ladies in my life: a wife and daughter that are amazing. Want picture proof?

No worries, here's my annual Christmas Daddy Date to the Del in Coronado with Becky.  Her beautiful mom decked her out and then I stole her away.  This year we went ice skating. Love that pretty little girl.


Monday, February 13, 2012


The world will end in 2012.

If whoever predicted that is wrong and we manage to live through it, then the rest of this stuff will definitely happen...

Paper books will go the way of the vinyl record, and Amazon is going to take over the communication world.  Laptops will go away and be replaced by tablets.  Cars will be replaced by jetpacks.  The polar ice caps will go away and the world will flood again.  Youth Ministry or at least the need for anyone to do this as a career choice will die.  Marriage will be a thing of the past.  America will implode under it's own immoral choices and/or the ginormous debt we have and then China will basically take it over in some kind of economic meltdown.  Either way, my kids will all grow up to hate me.

I didn't make any of those up on my own.  I've recently read them all in a news article, a blog, or in a conversation I've had.  Ok, I made up the jetpack one.  But the rest have a source outside of me.

Some of those stats I believe.  Some scare me.  Some make me wonder why I bother at all and make me want to quit writing, teaching, learning, and leading into what is inevitably a doomsday of my current reality.  But regardless of which ones are true and which ones are false, they have reminded me of a couple things recently:

The cultural and technological changes I've experienced in the last 30 years are beyond comprehension. The things I do on cell phones, the way I use my computer, even how I pay my bills is not the same as it was even 5 years ago.  Stuff comes and go at lighting speed it seems.  I have no idea what the future holds, but history has proven that it's probably not what it is today and not what the future crystal ball people say either. I remember the day when Apple computers was surely going to fold.  Now the NY Times says the company has $100 Billion in cash and securities.  So go figure.  I don't know what the future holds, but it's a safe bet that how people communicate, travel, spend money, dress, and a myriad of other basics will constantly be changing. So don't get too comfortable in your shoes. They won't last a lifetime, that's for sure.

On the other hand, there's plenty that the past several thousand years of social change has never managed to alter.  Like the basic needs of food, water, and shelter, the Apostle Paul reminds us that people will always need Faith, Hope, and Love.  As I've been thinking about it, I think there's some stuff about ministry I don't think are changing anytime soon either:

  • MENTORS NEEDED:  Much like the corporate world will always have interns and apprentices, kids will always need adult mentors.  We're never going to see the day where adults are obsolete and children run the place. If you're a parent or an adult investing in the next generation, fear not... you'll be needed for as long as the globe is spinning. 
  • LAUGHTER, COMMUNITY, FORGIVENESS, RESTORATION, AND TRUE FRIENDSHIP:  No one will be removing the need for people to do life with each other or the reality that this process is messy.  The pressure for one aspect or another ebbs and flows, but the essential core of it is never going to die.  Embrace every chance you get to do be the people of God. 
  • LEADERSHIP AND LEARNING:  The church and the world will always need leaders.  The smart ones will be learners of the past and seek the wisdom for the future. Don't quit leading.
  • PROGRAMS TO SERVE A NEED:  I know it's cool to diss on programs and to pump relationships, but whether it's a way to feed the masses, get clothing to the needy, help people travel, share a learning experience, worship God, or merely organize a group to go to the snow, people will always need help getting it done.  If you are a leader who helps people collaborate, have no fear... you'll always be doing that and people will always be looking for help.  If you shut the doors on your program, I promise you, it will not close the need for another to open up and meet it. Don't do your program because you've always done it.  But don't quit thinking of new ways to meet new needs, the world will never be so self-sufficient as to make them obsolete.  


Wednesday, February 08, 2012


Well friends, my first book is officially done and up for pre-sale. It's called As For Me and My Crazy House and it should hit the shelves in the next few weeks, but you can pre-order it now and be the first to read it if you so desire.  The subtitle sums up the book's contents and premise pretty well: "Learning to protect your heart, marriage, and family from the demands of ministry."

I'm certainly no expert who has mastered this stuff, but I am neck deep in trying to live it out.  This book is not a been-there-done-that-now-I-wrote-the-book kind of read.  It's just a down to earth, let's think, wrestle, inspire, and challenge one another to follow Jesus as we champion our marriages and love on our families in the context of ministry kind of read.

If you're in the trenches of this tug-o-war while being pulled every other direction by life and ministry, then I hope you'll join me in this journey and pick up the book.

It is broken into 3 sections, with several short chapters each based on 3 foundational truths:
  • The best gift I can give my marriage is a healthy me.
  • The best gift I can give my family is a healthy marriage.
  • The best gift I can give my community and ministry is a healthy family. 
If that sounds like a read you want to dig into.. then click here to grab the print copy.

oh.. and if you want to read it on your Kindle.... no fear. Amazon has it ready to roll HERE NOW!

Here's a video we threw together that Simply posted on their website about it if you want to give it a listen.  My wife filmed it using my phone.  She's a rock start!


Tuesday, February 07, 2012


A friend of mine recently asked me, "What are the key qualities I would look for in a youth pastor?"... 

Well, it'd be lame for me to answer as a youth pastor by making a list that is not also one that I'm trying to embody myself.  So, here's both what I'd be looking and who I'm trying to be:

A TEAM PLAYER:  by default, the youth pastor is almost never calling the shots for the whole church.  Even if they have some key influence you're going to need someone who can lead and build a team as a champion of a mission that is not solely their own. 

VISION: I'd want to bring in someone who has a dream that is something close to "inviting a generation to understand, own, and live out a life changing faith in Jesus." It doesn't have to be those words, but I'd be looking for someone who has a passion to build a ministry that champions something close to that.  

PASSION FOR GOD AND STUDENTS:  I think we need youth pastors that actually love students and not just the job. They have to want to disciple and not just entertain or gather students. 

AUTHENTIC:  We need pastors who know their own stuff stinks and have grace for others when they fail.  We don't need anymore plastic pastors with a painted on smile and a Jesus sticker on their car.  We need real faith lived out in the real world where some days go good and some days do not.

KINGDOM MINDED.  As a network coordinator, I'm trying to care as much if not more that Jesus wins  than our church does.  The end game is not the biggest youth ministry, it's working together to see students transformed in the Kingdom of God- regardless of where that happens. I'd want someone who does not have this local church as the axis around which the rest of the global church rotates.

GET IT FACTOR: I don't know what that means really. I just want to be and hire pastors who have their head on straight and their life is oozing this stuff. 

PROVEN TRACK RECORD:  I'm trying to personally create and hire people with a reputation that says they live what they believe.

FAITH AND ZEAL:  I'm looking to be and work with pastors that say, "let's rock this place and change the world one student at a time."  I have no interest in those who want mediocre student ministry.  If youth ministry is not worth doing well, then it's not worth doing.  Period.

There's my list.  What would you add or change? 


Monday, February 06, 2012


A friend of mine is looking for a youth pastor and casually asked me 2 questions over Facebook. (1) What do I think has changed in the last 10 years in youth ministry and (2) what would I look for in a youth pastor?

Here's the first answer.  I'll post the second tomorrow.


MOMENTUM IS HARDER TO BUILD: At least in San Diego, I've found that generating momentum is 4x harder than it's ever been.  Students and families are busier than ever, interested and involved in tons of things, and teens are fragmented from one another on such a deep level that the thought of having a program or event that "everyone goes to and would not miss for the world" is almost impossible.  In a addition, at Journey at least, there are tons of families that come to our church once every 4 to 6 weeks, and building a connection with those students (especially the ones who can't drive themselves places) is all but impossible.

THE CELL AND FACEBOOK: The last 10 years have radically changed a students plugged in factor.  RADICALLY.  90% of my students are plugged into a digital media source in ways that are unprecedented.  There is never a time when I'm talking with a group of students that someone isn't being lit up by a text message or Facebook update.  It's affecting families and the capacity for a student to be present in ways we never saw 10 years ago.

  • HERE'S A CASE TEXT:  We recently tried to ask parents of infants/toddlers at JCC to give us cell phone numbers so that we could contact them in case we needed them in main service for their kids. We wanted to text them so we could avoid our current number system that causes everyone to check their tag number, disrupting all parents instead of just one.  However we got lots of push back from people because they turn off their phone.  Good news. But why? Because they have Facebook linked to their phone and anytime it's on, they are constantly being buzzed and alerted of changes others are making online.  Literally, they are doing most of their life tethered to the internet and people and places they are not physically with at all times. 
DISCONNECTED PARENT-TEEN RELATIONSHIPS:  Families are deeply spiritually broken... many times generations deep.  Gather 100 students together and very few have any kind of spiritual heritage. I don't know if this is a change I'm noticing because I'm a parent of teens now or a real change, but FAR LESS than 10% of parents I talk to meet one-on-one with their kids for any kind of intentional life conversation or discipleship.  Seriously, I go to soccer games and 4 families are watching.  I never run into parents out on a date with their child.  They go shopping together or take them places.  But almost no one sits down and has a regular teen-to-parent conversation where they talk about life, faith, and the future together.  It's radically altering our need for mentors due to the absentee dad, mom, parent, and even grandparent.

SOCIAL AWARENESS:  They are passionate about and interested in social change.  Not all of them.  But many of them are as willing to go feed the homeless or work with an orphan as they are to attend a dance,  football game, or weekend snow trip.

BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS:   Gone are the days where a Biblical reference in our culture is even noticed.  There is essentially a zero basis from which we begin.  Biblical Illiteracy is off the charts.

EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE:  The extended adolescence thing is killing us. Maybe you think this is just a cliche in the current teen world, but I'm telling you the average 16 year old is not 2 years from being capable of fulling running their own life like an adult. They are a decade away. It's ridiculous and has radically changed in the last 40 years and exponentially in the last 10.

There you go... that's my off the cuff list.  If you're a veteran with 10+ years in youth ministry, what do you think has changed in the last decade?



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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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