Wednesday, May 23, 2012


At the risk of sounding like I'm addicted to this song and parodies of it since this is my second video post on the same song... I'm going to go out there and say this is amazing and so much fun for starting conversations with students.  We ran it in the pre-roll last week in our final week of our "Bow Chicka Wow Wow" dating series and it was a total hit!

I found this video when I saw Noah on the Today Show in the days after this video went viral and there is so much going on in it.

#1. A remix of music and lyrics.
#2. Proof that changing things changes almost everything
#3. Stereotypes are being shattered.
#4. Evidence that I can't sing but Noah can.
#5. Validation that confidence in sexier that being sexier.
#6... so much more.

All by a high school student named Noah.  Amazing.  Seriously Amazing.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Last weekend, my friend Adam McLane wrote a blog post entitled:  "How to Keep Your Youth Ministry Job".  In it, he suggests 2 things you must master if you're going to keep getting a pay check.

Read the full post, in the link above, but he suggests at least 2 things:

1. Care about the measurable data like numbers and such that your boss or board cares about.
2. Care about the politics of donor relationships.

I'm not going to discredit either of those, but as I read the article, and then skimmed the slew of comments his post produced from his audience, I thought I'd toss my own thoughts out here.  I was going to write them in his comments section, but then I realized I had a mouthful, not 3 sentences.

So after 11 years in youth ministry in one church and 7 in the one I'm at now and having heard or been a part of countless conversations with youth pastors around the country at conferences and after hiring several myself, I'd suggest the following three additions to Adam's list if you want to keep your youth ministry job:

Sure, you're paid to champion the needs of teens in your church.  Be their spokesperson on or to your church board. Yes, make sure students are cared for and resourced and give them a voice in the "Big Church" world.  Just don't get arrogant and self-centered and bitter acting like your ministry is always getting the hand me downs and nothing else on campus matters besides youth.

I've been given more hand me down sound systems than I'd like to admit when the "big church" got a new one.  I get it.  But we're not the biggest dog in the show.  Get over it.

There's more going on at my church than just my ministry and I need to understand that as the youth pastor, I should champion students, but not above the bigger mission or vision of the church as a whole.

The truth is, if you don't like something, then partner and lead up.  Be a solution finder, not a whiner.  You cannot pit yourself at odds with the kids ministry or the mens ministry or the senior pastor's goals.  If you do, you can probably start the countdown.  Championing your area in vain ignorance of the needs of the greater congregation or the flow of the church body will get your job listed on the internet.

Do this in 2 ways:

1. Over communicate the good stuff.  Why? Because it's fun to share.  But if you just want some gut wrenching blunt political truth on job security, do it because it's hard to fire the youth pastor who is constantly feeding you great news.  If all your supervisors hear from anyone else is the stuff you're doing wrong, then you're in trouble.  Forward a great e-mail, quote a Facebook update, talk about small victories and huge ones.  Share what you see God doing in your ministry and keep the good info coming.  The bad stuff has a way of finding it's way to the top without any help.  Your job is to keep the good stuff flowing.

2. Decide right now too that you'll be the first to communicate when things go funky or bad too.  If you have a problem with a parent or an issue that you think could end up on your supervisor's desk, then go tell them. If you called an ambulance or sent a kid home or a parent sent you an irate e-mail, the tell them what happened, how you responded, and if you were at fault- how you intend to not have it happen again.  Don't ever let your supervisor be surprised by your mistakes or find out through the grapevine.

Be the first one to bring bad news so when the grapevine spreads it, your pastor or board goes, "Oh yeah,  I already talked to them about this."  This will completely take the wind out of your attackers sail as well because they're counting on surprises and shock and awe to be in their favor.  Don't give your accusers this kind of ammo.  Be the first to communicate or you might be first to be fired.

Ever with students or married people. Not on Facebook.  Not in person. Not in a text. Not at the water cooler.  Not for fun. Not sarcastically. Not in jest. Not on a boat. Not on a plane. Not on a retreat.  Never ever ever.

IF YOU'RE MARRIED.  DON'T FLIRT WITH ANYONE WHO IS NOT YOUR SPOUSE.  On second thought.... Start flirting with your spouse a lot more than you already do and if you have to, be cold to anyone who even remotely tries to flirt with you that's not your spouse.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, don't flirt!  I'm tired of hearing stories of friends who lost their job cuz they flirted.  Just this week I heard about a guy who lost his job from an affair.  AHHHHH!  This is not new or creative.  It's boring and annoying and it always starts with "innocent" flirting. Don't flirt! It's not innocent. I have lots more creative adjectives I want to add in front of flirt.  But I won't.  Please just think of one that would offend you enough to get your attention and insert it here:  Stop ___________ flirting!

If you want to keep your job.  Never ever ever ever flirt with anyone you didn't walk a marriage isle with.

Seriously, if this is you, go get help now.  Your faith, your family, your ministry, and the reputation of your community of fellow youth pastors begs you to stop.


Monday, May 21, 2012


I have 8 seminary papers due in the next 10 days.

5 of them are extensive book reports. In this case, being able to extract a quote and view my notes in a quick shot is mandatory.  But since I'm reading those books on my iPad, I have a choice: ibook app or the kindle app.

Simply stated, the kindle is the only way to go for writing reports or extracting info.  If I'm reading a novel, I'll choose ibooks because I like the look better and rarely ever need a quote.  But if it's non-fiction, or something I might want o cut and paste in to a sermon or paper in the future, I use the kindle.

Here's why:

1. VERSATILITY:  I can read the book in one of 4 options on my mac products, all of which are free to download and cloud sync letting me pick up where I left off on the latest page I got to in any of the apps I read the book in.  I have 4 choices:

  • on the kindle app on iPad
  • on the kindle app on iPhone
  • on the kindle app on the Mac Desktop app.  (available in the App Store on your mac)
  • online on a kindle page designed specifically for my kindle. Go to and login and you'll be at your unique kindle page- yup, if you're using a kindle or the kindle app, you have one of these already.   
2. COPY QUOTES:  It is so simple it probably should be illegal.  But don't tell anyone I said that (unless you work for Apple, then tell everyone and fix ibooks) because it's beautiful and so helpful.  Here's how:
  • read the book on your mode of choice.  I prefer my iPad.  
  • make notes and highlights as you wish 
  • open the mac desktop kindle app
  • go to your notes on the left hand column
  • go to the highlight or note you want. Click the note and choose copy.
  • paste in your writing document and it will auto tag it's location and bibliographical data too.
  • done. 
If you'd prefer to save or use your notes in evernote... here's a web article explaining how to do that.   And here's another one too

If you really really really want to use ibooks and you want to work to get your notes out, this is how I guess you can do that if you're like a computer programmer guy too.   


Thursday, May 17, 2012


I live in an American culture that is deeply rooted in the if-then mindset.

  • If you buy this new thing, then you will be happy.
  • If you get a gym membership, then you will work out.
  • If you get this beauty product, then you'll be sexy, thin, and shaped like Barbie.
  • If you get a 4 year degree, then you will get a good job.
  • If you do this and that, then you'll be accepted into this University one day.  
  • If you had a timeshare, then you would vacation and your vacations would be awesome.
  • If you invest your money like this, then you'll be a millionaire by this age & you'll be set.
  • If you eat right and throw away your microwave, then you will not get cancer.
  • If you write a blog post a day, then you will be widely read.
  • If you have a clean desk, then you will be productive.
  • If you are a published author, then blah blah blah.
  • If you knew and were liked by so and so, then you would have access to such and such.
  • yatta yatta

But it's rubbish! If-then statements are 98% lies and don't work ....and if you don't believe me, then you'll be wrong 98% of the time.  ha!

It's also not just on trivial American things we do this with either.  We do this in the "christian" church all the time too.  I'm mean seriously, haven't you heard people say these or even bought into some of them a time or two?

  • If you could get this one sin under control, then you'd be holy.
  • If you train a child to do xyz, then they'll grow up to be like Jesus.
  • If you marry a Christian, then your relationship will be great.
  • If you hold to this doctrine, then you are orthodox and God is happy with you.
  • If your church uses this curriculum, then your church is solid.
  • If you have an accountability partner, then you'll have integrity.
  • If you do would just do this thing or things, then your church or youth group or whatever will grow.
  • If you pray like so and so, then you'll see results like so and so. 
  • ... and about a thousand more


It doesn't work like that. It'd be awesome if it did, but it doesn't. The world and faith and marriage and managing money and building a community of faith is not just a complex series of if-then truths that I just need to order right to be successful.

When I wrap my head around this reality that I'm living in an "if-then" world full of bogus 1/2 truths and sometimes flat out lies, then I find two common responses in myself.  Some days I lean towards becoming an "Apathetic Doubter" where I just give up trying to produce certain results cuz there is no formula anyway.  Yet other days I lean towards being a "Zealous Believer" where I set out to find the solutions that work, believing here is a formula and it just needs to be found.

But like bandaids on a viral wound, neither response removes the funk inside.

So my most recent conclusion is that there is a third way to manage this reality I live it.  I'll call it trying to be a "Faithfully Present" disciple. This means at least 3 things:

Enjoy the "if"so much that the "then"clause coming true is merely a bonus, not critical to success.   "If" I go on this vacation... then nothing.  Then maybe the car will break or maybe I'll get a book read or maybe I'll miss my flight or maybe I'll be really rested.  But what I can do is handle each "if" moment in faith.  I can only do the "if" that I can find joy in, cuz the "then" is a gamble half the time anyway.  When I enjoy the experience and use it as an act of worship, it has a default then built in.

Stop fighting for the illusion of Control. If I prepare a sermon, I can't control how people will respond.  If I plan a retreat, then I can't control what God will do on a retreat.  If I work hard, then I can't control what that hard work will do in those around me.  When I'm primarily not trying to build buildings or paint walls, but rather change people's lives, the "then" part of just about all of my ministry is out of my control. It's not basic math, it's complicated and complex soul shaping of human beings.  You can't "if-then" that, no matter how hard I try.  The truth is, if I don't enjoy the "If I prepare a sermon" part of ministry, then I'm hoping the "then" will make it all worth it and when people don't do the "then" I had hoped, the whole thing falls apart.  "If I meet with someone", then I'll have met with someone I care about. Period.  The consequence of that meeting or investment is not mine to decide and waaaay beyond my control anyway.

Call out the "if-then" lies when I see, hear, or am tempted to believe them. I have to constantly check my motivations and call out the false hopes I constantly buy.  "If" I do this thing, "then" people will be happy and God will like me and I'll believe I'm successful.  That's simply not true. Ever. I have to be really really really careful about the "if-then" causes I buy into.  So many of them are just plain deception.


Friday, May 11, 2012


I received an e-mail several months ago from a friend asking me if I wanted to go to Laguna Beach for 2 day with Rob Bell.  The e-mail describing the event was pretty vague really.  It had a price, a rough sketch of the event, the location and that there were 50 spots available.  So, myself and 2 other friends - Mark and Scott- decided to pull the trigger and do it, kinda seeing it as a once in lifetime opportunity to rub shoulders in this context.  Within 30 minutes of the e-mail blast, all 50 spots were gone.

So, on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week the 2 days finally came and I sat in a small beach front room in Laguna Beach, CA. and listened to Rob and a few special guests talk about life in ministry, family, dealing with criticism, self-leadership, and so much more.  I'm going to take a few posts and dissimulate some of it out on this blog; partly as a way to process what I heard and partly as a way to share it with those who didn't go.... which I'm pretty sure is the category of everyone who reads this blog.

I'll write posts about 4 things that I found profound encouragement in and that I think Rob has done some significant work in.  While no one should learn everything from any one person, and there are things I shouldn't learn from Rob just like there are things no one should learn from me, it is my experience that the wise learn lessons from all kinds of places along the way and in particular, seek out counsel from those who do certain things well.  In this case, the following are 4 areas I found worth learning from Rob and his life to date:

1. Preaching and sermon development.
2. Sabbath and soul care
3. Dealing with criticism
4. Reading, thinking, brainstorming, and idea mining.


If you have not done so already, go ahead and buy the video download of Preachers, Prophets, and Poets.  Seriously, well worth the $20 and time to listen.  It will challenge, inspire, and encourage you as a teacher. Plus, you can hear much of what I heard this weekend regarding this topic there first hand and glean your own conclusions cuz there is lots of overlap.  Here goes.  Unless otherwise stated, they are largely my summary, not direct quotes.

BE INSANELY CURIOUS.  Curiosity is what makes life interesting and keeps a sermon from being merely an info dump.  Ask crazy questions about life, the Bible, peoples lives, etc.  When your brain says "hmm, what does that mean?".... start digging for the answers and run with your curiosity.  Curiosity doesn't kill the cat, it awakens it from a lazy slumber.

ENJOY THE PROCESS OF SERMON DEVELOPMENT & DELIVERY, BECAUSE HOW PEOPLE RESPOND IS NEVER IN YOUR CONTROL.  This is huge.  If you've been teaching for any length of time, then you know some talks go awesome and some don't and the difference between the two can be at times indistinguishable from your vantage.  Avoid the temptation to pull your hair out trying to be the best communicator in the world by psychoanalyzing your crowd, getting all caught up in how people respond as proof of some formula.  Instead, simply enjoy the journey you're on and let the chips fall where they may.  Sure, learn to be a better communicator and pray that God moves and do the hard work of prep.  But if your joy is only in the response, you're headed for confusion and depression. As cliche as this sounds, teach for the joy of the serving God, not the hope that you'll get something back from your audience to stroke your ego.

STRIVE TO STIR UP A CONVERSATION, NOT ANSWER A QUESTION.  My favorite Rob Bell quote was from years ago, but he touched on it again this week.  It is this:  "The problem with most preaching today is that when it's done, it's done."  In other words, if your sermon ties up all kinds of loose ends and gives people 4 steps to do, you end up with not much movement.  But if you leave people saying, "Wait a second. What about.... ?  and If this is true, then what does this mean for....?"  Then you've done your job well and it will change the conversation at lunch and likely a life on Monday.

BE AN ILLUSTRATION HORDER.  God can use anything and shows up in all kinds of things.  Delete your edit button.  Just simply horde ideas.  So, if you see something and it sparks your interest, take a picture of it.  Cut out the clipping.  Grab that physical object you saw or that crazy rock or that weird thing in the window and put it in a bucket for an illustration later.  If you hear a story that inspires, ask them to write it down and send it to you.  Get a name and a phone number.  Just horde all kinds of ideas and then when you need one, go to the bucket and you'll have it.  If you don't stock the idea tool shed, don't be surprised when you have to panic and go all over town to find what you need last minute.

BABY STEPS ARE YOUR BEST FRIEND.  Don't have 40 hours to study?  No worries.  It's way better to do small bits here and there, letting them soak and marinate a little in your brain instead of a long haul preaching prep marathon.  Maybe your personality likes to carve out a day, and that's fine, but Rob pushed that everyone has rhythms and in prep, it's good to find yours.  Most people need breaks and so does your brain.  So dig in for a few hours and then move on.   By way of illustration, he argued it's way easier to move around furniture in a room than it is to load the room with furniture.  In the case of a sermon, load your pages with ideas and illustrations and verses and thoughts and quotes little by little and then spend your final days not creating, but moving stuff around, deciding what fits the best and where it should go.

HAVE AN AWESOME CUTTING ROOM FLOOR.  This was such a sweet insight.  Rob said that, "You can tell the quality of your sermon by the quality of the stuff you had to cut."  Bam!  If you had 5 illustrations to use and the four you chose not to use were so awesome you're going to use them another day, then you probably will have an epic weekend.  If everything you cut from your sermon shouldn't be in any sermon, well the chances that what you kept shouldn't either is pretty high.  The better the material you cut, the greater the likelihood that what you kept is great stuff.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Recently I've been feeling like it's taken me 7 years in San Diego to just get some of my own ministry to a place I can build on and develop some mediocre sense of tradition.

While the nomadic way has some benefits like new experiences, risks of faith, and uncharted territory;  it also comes with a price tag. With new territory comes the frustration of longterm relationships that are now long range by default. Additionally, you have few connections, no traditions, no trust, and no proven track record in your community if you move around a lot.   However when you stay somewhere for a decade or three, like my friend Danny Long has in the small town of Jamul, CA.... what you get is an epic reminder that ministry longevity trumps just about everything.

This last weekend I took TJ and joined Danny on a high school ministry canoe trip on the colorado river where Danny and about 100 students and staff floated a 30 mile stretch over two days.  Danny has been bugging me for years to come with him and this year I came as the Saturday night speaker and to scout out this experience for our own youth ministry too. (Which btw we are so doing!  Dang I had fun with TJ and I think we're going to try and join Thrive and unite for next spring.  Can't wait!)  Anyway, in the process, I learned that Danny has been on this stretch of river for over 30 years.  He started as a kid, then continued as a high school student himself, and now has kept the tradition going for the last 16+ years as a youth pastor.

The result?  Danny knows every business owner he uses by name.  He has a reputation and a tradition that speaks for itself.  Students have been on the trip, love the trip, and tell their friends to come in droves.  He has parents that mark it on their calendar a year out. He experiences the very best of the word tradition and it comes from plain and simply: LONGEVITY.  He has weathered storms and learned lessons and built a ministry in one location. While Danny could move, he has chosen not to and instead of being another youth pastor, he has become THE youth pastor of Jamul.

I've tasted a bit of this myself when I was part of a 20 year run where I ran either attended a summer camp as a high school student, worked in it as an intern, or ran that same camp as a youth pastor in Nor Cal.  Powerhouse was full of moments like this that only hindsight can tell you were in part because of growing up in the area and sticking around for over a decade in the role.  The last 7 years in San Diego have been an awesome ride, but this weekend was a fresh reminder that so much comes to those who stick around.  Time to batten down the hatches folks, I think we're gonna be here for a while.

I was so blessed to join Danny for the weekend, so encouraged by his friendship, so honored to make a memory with TJ, and so amazed at the simple and undeniable joy he is experiencing from ministry fruit that simply is the faithful result of ministry over the long haul. Way to go Danny!  You da man!


Tuesday, May 01, 2012


Last weekend I flew back to UC Davis where I went to college.  I was there for a 20 year reunion of the Iota Chapter of a Christ-Centered fraternity called Alpha Gamma Omega, of which I was one of nine founders on the Davis campus.  Seven of the nine returned for the reunion and a grip of men who have been a part of it since.

As I turn students towards our local high school graduations in the coming months, here's some of my personal convictions about this next season of life they are headed into.

GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MATURITY STEPS A YOUNG ADULT CAN TAKE.  Perhaps the greatest gift I was given in my early adulthood years was the gift of going a few hours away to college.  The memories I have of dorm life and the Arlington farms apartments are priceless.  I learned so much about life and myself in those few years.  As a result, I'm a huge fan of students living with a small group of their peers and sharing a rental.  I encourage all my seniors, even the ones who stay local, to find a way to get out and grow up. Game on.

I BELIEVE THAT COMMUNITY IS CREATED ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY THROUGH SHARED EXPERIENCES.  Getting involved in our church's college ministry, starting a fraternity, living together with friends and almost no money or possessions, studying in groups, taking risks, going to retreats, playing sports and so much more...  dang... it all molded me and bonded us together.  Our community and connection is so deeply rooted in the things we did together and the obstacles we overcame.  There really is no replacement for it in ministry. As I send a group of students off again, the inner sense that they were or were not a part of something great through Encounter High School Ministry is directly proportional to our shared experiences together.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS CASUAL DATING AT THIS STAGE OF LIFE.  I took Shannon back to the ranch where I popped the question.  It was the first time in 19 years that we'd been back and honestly, we wondered if we could even find it.  But I followed my gut and found the ranch again just a few miles from where I'd spent countless hours on another ranch in college. However the gate was locked that led to it and the owners have probably changed so we couldn't get to the exact spot.  But there in the distance we remembered as we starred at that big oak tree that I had a dozen red roses waiting decades ago.  We lingered for a half an hour or so and reminisced and cried over so much that has happened in our lives together.  Our college dating life (and in our case- even high school) has literally shaped our marriage, our family, our kid's lives, our careers, and virtually every other area imaginable in our lives.  I have to keep encouraging students to date smart. It really is a potential life-altering decision they are making.



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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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