Friday, September 28, 2012


This is my fourth post on some reflections from my time with Rob Bell last May.

you can find the first 3 here:

1. Preaching and sermon development.
2. Sabbath and soul care
3. Dealing with criticism

This one will be #4 and some thoughts on Reading, thinking, brainstorming, and Idea Mining.

Whatever you think or believe about Rob, I think you'd be a fool to say he isn't well read or doesn't think outside the box in some very creative ways.  He surely does both of those things and whenever I find myself within earshot of someone like that.. I soak up all I can about some of their patterns and where they generate those ideas and learnings from.  I loved the stuff he was sharing to this end.


If I am stressed out, slammed, and can't get ahead.... ahhhumm...  then I shouldn't be surprised when ideas drop like flies.  I have to create space in me for creativity and you have to create space in you.  This means protecting our best time for our best stuff.  It means taking care of your own life and soul.  It means post #2 above is critical to hearing ideas, brainstorming, and giving ourselves time to flush them out with God.   Take a break.  Go for a walk.  Leave it and come back to it. Give ideas time and space and visit them often.  Think day to day, not marathon and don't underestimate the power of brainless space for fabulous conclusions over time.

"If you're preaching on Sunday and starting prep on Thursday, that sermon's probably gonna suck."- Rob


For example, Rob said the fundamental questions when designing a service are:

"Can we create an experience that messes with the proverbial follow up question of 'Great, now what's for lunch'?"
"Can we create experiences where when it's over, it's not over?  Preaching should start, not end a discussion."
"Can we mess with the 'now what' question?"
Rob suggested that the basic question behind creative thinking is:  "God is in this place, but am I aware of it?"  So, we open our eyes and ears and go digging.  Here's some questions to do that:
"How did this make me feel?... pay attention to all your senses when wrestling with ideas." 
"What did I find intriguing?  What spurred my curiosity recently?  What are people becoming a connoisseur of?  What does that tell me about them, the human condition, and of God?"

In preparation for one weekend service, Rob and his team asked, "How can we help people dump their spiritual, emotional, and lifestyle baggage?  Literally."
Their answer to this was that one year, at good Friday, they told people that they could come in from 3-9pm and just dump whatever was holding them back from God. So for 6 hours, people came in and dumped alcohol, computers, pictures, notes, you name it... they dumped it.   In an empty room with one cross lit up in the center and some music playing.  It was a culmination of a series called "leaving Egypt".  Then on Easter Sunday, when they came back this HUGE pile was GONE.   I think they showed a time lapse video or something of the stuff being hauled away... but it was evidently massive and so literally moving for people.  [This is the kind of idea stuff that comes up when we start breaking the mold and asking better questions... the kind of stuff no one ever forgets.]


You have found this true.  I know you have.  We've all said this, "I can't get anything done here."  Wherever "here" is for you.  If you have young kids, you probably cannot prepare a sermon at home.  You might love to work in a coffee shop or you might just be interrupted 47 time by people who see you.  Your office might be a haven of productivity... but mine is a constant space of interruption.  I have to be in it and interruptible regularly, but I also have to get out, get away, and think.  Often, these can't be done in the same space.  Just admit it, and go find somewhere to think and pray and get r done. I sometimes lock myself in our youth room instead of my office to do this some days.  There's a big table in there and the students are in school and I don't have my office door open and yeah... game on.


We got to spend several hours one day listening to the chief creator/producer of the TV show Lost, Carlton Cuse.  I'm not much of a TV buff, but it was a kick to listen to how a show is written and such. But bottom line, it's 6-10 writers in a room, 450 million dollars an episode, and 425 employees feeding and creating and running with ideas that created that show.

To this end, they talked a lot about the ridiculousness of a tv show or a sermon or a talk hoping to be really really great when it's been prepared by only one person hulled up in a study somewhere.  Got me thinking about the huge value of team sermon prep and some things I recently heard Perry Noble say on the subject.  But here's some stuff Rob and Carlton said:

  • A well organized group will out-produce and out create any individual any day.
  • Don't be afraid to fail.  In fact, embrace it.  To achieve anything of importance, you have to risk failure.
  • If you have good people around your table and everyone is passionate about it, trust it.  
  • Beware of the twin poles of procrastination and perfectionism. Avoid both.
  • Use NLQ's =  not a leading question.  In other words, ask one's you're genuinely curious about, not one's you're secretly trying to pitch an idea through.   
  • Turn off your cell phone.  Distractions and a lack of presence destroy creativity. 
  • Don't squash the ideas of others.  Let the craziness sit for a while and springboard off of it. 
  • Learn to love the process of discovery, not just the end product.
  • Search for the simple that lies just beyond the complexity of things.

  • You know you've read enough commentaries on a subject when they start quoting each other. 
  • Find better sources and read the best of the best on a subject.  Look at reviews.  Once you find some good stuff, find out what they say is good and go read that.  
  • Read widely, it's great for idea stealing.  Pick up a sports mag, a fashion mag, a news mag, etc... 
  • Don't linger on the internet.  Fly in, get what you need, fly out.  It's a productivity pit if you stay too long.  SOOO... get off my dumb blog now and go make some great stuff :))))


Wednesday, September 26, 2012


This is the third post on some reflections from my time with Rob Bell last May.

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

This one will be #3 and is some reflections on dealing with criticism, something that if you even distantly follow Rob, you should be aware he's received more than share of in the past few years.  One of the reasons I went to this was for this reason alone.  I wanted to hear Rob's thoughts on the subject- especially since I knew my next book- which is currently in the writing stage- is on this very subject.

So here's some stuff I gleaned from listening to a man share his life and reflect on his journey with us.


No, we don't then assume that if your'e criticized, it's evidence that you are like Jesus.  Just this... if Jesus was criticized, don't be surprised when you are.  The authors of the gospels go out of their way to make sure Jesus was not without his critics

  • John 6:52-67  people no longer followed Jesus because of a hard teaching.  Jesus even asks the 12 if they will be leaving too. 
  • John 8:48.  Jesus is accused of demon possession
  • Luke 22:47-48   Judas betrays Jesus
  • Matt 2816-17  But some doubted.  


We cannot surrender control of what others say or do.  We cannot control what they will or will not do with a teaching.  We cannot control how they respond.  We can barely control our own lives.  So live in this freedom.  Do all that you can to deal with your sin, yield your life to Jesus, surrender your heart to the leadings of the Holy Spirit, and then let the chips fall where they may.  The results are beyond our control- for better or for worse, so save yourself a headache and surrender them now.  


All change is a form of loss.  Learn to lament, to mourn, to celebrate, and to embrace change as a movement from one to another.  Letting go is part of moving forward.  The ability to navigate through the past and into God's preferred future is immeasurable. 


Surround yourself with people who will love and support you and tell you of your funk long before your enemies do.  


This should just be followed by the word..... "duh".  Why it is profound, is a statement against the "christian" community - especially the blogging one- that must make God sick. 

Here's some of quotes I jotted down on the subject: 
"The bigger and more prophetic your voice, the harder it is to find true community"- Rob
"This is who I married."  Kristen, responding to why the front lines junk her husband Rob takes and she goes headlong with him into, is worth it.  Her love and grace was beyond profound to me.
"When Love Wins came out- no one said mean things to our face.  No one.  Even people who knew us and had our phone numbers. They said it on the internet and through someone else."- Kristen on dealing with controversy as a couple and again, causing me to be deeply saddened at the state of the church in America.  
"We strived to protect our kids so they could be as normal as possible"- Kristen on raising kids in the wake of ministry and at times controversy where other kids at school would say the most ridiculous things about their dad, Rob, to them- clearly learned from their "christian" parents. This was unbelievably sad to listen to her share but reminded me of our role as parents and influencers on a profound level.  

If you're not going to bring your spouse into the solution loop of dealing with criticism, then don't bring them into the info loop at all.  If you get a critical e-mail and share with with your spouse and then meet with that person and bring repair the relationship, then you have to bring it full circle and come back to your spouse with the full story.   Failure to do this does not help with reconciliation.  As a pastor, your spouse should probably not be your primary outlet where you dump your criticism load.


Be careful who you listen to.


Don't assume you know what it is.  The thing you think is the issue rarely is the issue.  Dig in with questions.  

next up, "Reading, thinking, brainstorming, and idea mining."


Monday, September 24, 2012


Last May I was given the opportunity to spend 2 days with a couple of friends of mine under the teaching of Rob Bell in a one on fifty scenario in Laguna Beach- something he's done a few more times since then with other similar sized groups.

Anyway, I wrote a post in the days that followed about it, promising to write four posts, but never came through and stopped after the first when life got too crazy to blog faithfully.  Initially, I had planned to write about the following 4 things:

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

So this week I'll write on the next 3 from the notes I took then.  Up next:  Sabbath and Soul Care.

Rob mentioned a theme God has brought up in my life many times since.  Primarily, the idea that we spend our lives searching for meaning and love through what we do and what others say about us, when God has already given it so freely to us.  In the process, instead of finding success- we often wound our soul, drain our energy, and fail to develop healthy rhythms of sabbath and energy management.


I don't know many believers who live that way.  I don't know many pastors who do. I really don't know many people who think this is what God thinks, or if he does, then he might be pleased with you... but in the way that only a parent can be.  But Rob reminded this small group of primarily pastors that the very first thing the voice of the Father says to Jesus as he begins his public ministry is "This is my son, in whom I am well pleased."  God is pleased with Jesus before he actually does anything.  So far, he's been baptized.  NONE of the ministry recorded in the gospels has even happened.  At this point, he's essentially lived a life of obscurity for 30 years and followed John into the water's of baptism.  The reminder to the believer is this:  God's pleasure is not something you earn or achieve a level of success to get.  God is simply pleased with you because Christ is in you.  Period.


If Rob said the above statement once, he said it 10 times in 2 days.  Stop spending all your time trying to become who you are not.  God has made you who you are and working to become who you are not results in a boring life.  So be you.  Be the best you that you can be.  Be the quirky, normal, funky, loud, creative, simple, adventurous, quiet, complicated and definitive you.  Stop apologizing for who you are and who you are not.   When you do this, you can empower others to do the same.


Rob said or maybe quoted someone- I don't recall- that sin is.... read this again carefully.... "A culpable disturbance of shalom".   That's some deep thinking there.  Sin becomes when life is not at peace. When my soul is at unrest because of some ill in my life, it's an indicator of the entrance of sin because God is all about shalom.  He is at peace.  When we try to become who we are not, we lack shalom and we lack a piece of God...  A BIG PEACE.  Don't do that. It jacks with your soul in profound ways and wounds you.


Order matters. In our lives and the lives of those around us. Movement towards Jesus will necessarily result in a movement from sin.  But focusing on sin will leave you empty and angry.  Focusing on Jesus will not.  Live and lead in a way that moves people with the positive.  Move your own soul towards potential.  If you're in a hole, spend less time focusing on the depth and the walls and more time gazing and the sky and looking for a rope out.  Jesus is not in your life to point out the depth of your sin, he's there to restore the imago dei in you.


Creation has a rhythm to it.  Rob said, "Creativity needs patterns".  Life does too.  Seasons have a rhythm.  Hours, days, weeks, months, years... have a rhythm to them.  Crops have a rhythm.  Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of a rhythm for all things, a time for this and one for that.  When pastors fail to find a rhythm in life, they work till they drop, ditching the sabbath, and then quit exhausted and burnt out.  Rhythm is part of healthy living.  Find a rhythm in work, in rest, in home, in everything.  This is why when you go on a month long vacation or missions trip and come home you feel a little out of sorts.  It's a big break in rhythm.  We are designed for it.  You need it.  Sabbath is about a regular rest in your regular rhythm of life... and it's soul nourishing.  Quit giving a head nod agreement to this and cancel some stuff.  Now.


Discover what feeds you: what is it that you could do forever?  Discover what drains you: what is it that saps the most energy from you and leaves you feeling like you need a nap or a beer?.. ha ha.  I said that last comment, not Rob.  Anyway, If you, like me, find that paying the bills exhausts you, then don't do it in your most creative energy slot of the day.  If you're a morning person, then structure your day around protecting your mornings.  If you're a night person, then agree to meet with people for breakfast appointments and keep your nights for stuff you need your most creative and fully present you.

Wednesday I'll post some thoughts on criticism. Ironically, the timing is perfect cuz I'm neck deep in my next writing project... a book on that subject alone.


Friday, September 21, 2012


If you're in youth ministry, then an app that you can run off your computer and use a projector or flat screen is almost a basic need in most youth rooms these days.  Even if you're just using your laptop for 3-4 students to have some fun, I found a sweet website the other day and grabbed a couple of apps that i've had some fun with.

It's a website called digital stache and it has some great resources.

You pick up to 15 topics or  prizes or whatever you want and put them in the wheel.  Hit spin and game on.  I love that you can ask it to drop a prize once one has been hit, so you never hit the same thing twice.  This is a super helpful feature if you're using it for questions or a crowd breaker and don't want to do the same thing twice.

We sometimes have people make the spinning motion by the screen and then have someone hit the button in the back and it looks like they are spinning it. You can even jack with someone and press a button where it mocks you for not being a strong enough spinner.  Super fun.

Only downside I've found is that if you're using it for topics or questions, you can't have more than 3-4 words before they fall off the edge of the screen as the font doesn't auto adjust very well.  But besides that, GREAT app.

This app let's you keep score on a big screen between 2 teams. It comes with several backgrounds to choose from and then a few more you can buy for a couple bucks.  I grabbed the guys vs. girls background and we're definitely gonna use it during our dating series this year. Super fun and very easy!!

GAME SHOW, Ready Set Go.
This is a FREE app and it let's you customize your countdown clock for even up to an hour.  Awesome resource for nothing.

There you go.  They have some other stuff for music and such on their site, but this stuff was what i needed. If you know of other sites and stuff that you use for youth ministry games, by all means, feel free to share it in the comments.


Monday, September 17, 2012


On Saturday morning I got the privilege of listening to Ken Blanchard, the leadership guru and author of the now infamous leadership resource, "The One Minute Manager."

I went at the invite of Tic Long and got to spend some time with several of our staff and elders listening to this man in his 70's spew life wisdom and experience like he's made of the stuff.  Which after an hour of sharing, I concluded he is.

Here's some nuggets from him.
"Humility isn't thinking less about yourself, it's thinking about yourself less."
"Profit is not the reason you're in business.  Profit is the applause you get for doing a job well."
But my favorite thing he said was a caution against what he observed was the most common management style he sees in the business world, "seagull management".  It's where some the gull is no where to be found until some problem arises, then the seagull flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps on everyone, and then flies away again.  

This is both a hysterical image and very telling of how people lead in way too many areas of life.

As I thought about this, while I'm not a business owner per se, I am a youth pastor and a dad and I had to admit that at times I've done this in my own life and seen it around me in way too many scenarios than just in the business model.  Here's some other places it can be found. 

SEAGULL PARENTING:  when the parent is absent from the lives of their kids except when they make a mistake.  Then they show up, make a lot of noise, pass out consequences, and fly away to go back to their greater priorities of jobs and cell phones. 

SEAGULL COACHING:  when the coach sits on the sidelines, quietly watching until someone makes a mistake.  Then they squawk a lot, pull kids from their positions, give them a sideline lecture, and send them back to the bench.  

SEAGULL PASTORING:  no one has a one-on-one conversation or truly "hears from" the pastor until they make a mistake.  Then the pastor sets up a meeting or shoots off an e-mail, passes out rules and regulations, issues some corrective measures and sends then goes back to preparing next week's sermon.

SEAGULL TEACHING:  when the only instruction time the teacher gives to a specific child is when they use the pen to make red marks on a students exam, point out all the things they did wrong, give them a pour mark, and then head back to the front of class to spew instruction.  

So what do we do to stop leading and managing spaces like a seagull?  As Blanchard spoke, I gleaned my own list.

PASS OUT PRAISE BRIEFLY AND FREQUENTLY:  show up when your kids, pupils, team, or those you lead does something well.  Give a word. Send a postcard.  Catch them at their best.  Be their biggest cheer leader, not their biggest squawker.

LEAD WITH VISION, NOT WITH RULES:  Blanchard warned that for most families and businesses, people only discover what our values are when we screw up.  We need to have a shared mission at the outset.  If your kids or team or ministry only discover your values when you're correcting them for not hitting them, then there is a problem.  Great leaders do all they can to set people up for the win.  They don't eagerly wait in the shadows to swoop in and offer correction. 

GET YOURSELF HEALTHY:  If you find yourself squawking a lot, take a step back, a good long hard look in the mirror, and figure out what's not right and that's making you so terribly unhappy.  Find some solitude to think and pray.  Read.  Get your head straight so you can help others instead of dump on others what isn't right in you.  


Friday, September 14, 2012


These two videos killed me this week.

My oldest son TJ made his first ever iMovie for a small group announcement in Encounter to a ridiculous rap song by "Krispy Kreme" that I had to listen to 47 times on the way up I-5 with he and his buddies this summer.  Totally cracked me up.  Not bad for his first swing at a video- much less a music video.  Enjoy....

And this "professional" one from Rhett and Link -my favorite youtube channel- just killed me.  You should so subscribe to these guys.  Freaking hysterical.   I thought this was the funniest thing I've seen in forever and so worth using for some dating series in the future.  Epic Manliness at it's best.  Ha ha.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012


I have a five kids.  One of which is Jake.  He just started fifth grade. So, we re-started our weekly afternoon trip to Joe's place after we took a break over the summer. That's not the place's real name.  It's just what we call it. I honestly don't even know the name of the coffee shop cuz Joe is the owner and the only thing we ever call it is Joe's... or maybe Java Joe's.

Other than, "When are we going to restart our meetings after school again?", the only other question Jake kept repeating to me was, "Do you think Joe will be there?"  Joe is like a crazy uncle to my kids or something.  

So over a blended shake and a cookie, I asked Jake how his world was going and he said a bunch including the following:

REGARDING FIFTH GRADE:  "Fifth grade is hard."

REGARDING MATH:  "You don't even do math Dad. You have Pam do it all for you."   (Ha... he got me there.  Pam is my part time admin and all she does almost exclusively the financial stuff and event money recording.  I hate math and budgeting.)

REGARDING THE PRINCIPAL:  "He turned my school into a prison.  We now have gates on the school.  Birthday's can only have healthy snacks and no cupcakes.  You can only buy ice cream on Friday's.  It's a prison."

REGARDING GIRLS:  "Why do they paint their toes? This is a waste of time and money. I accidentally stepped on some girls toes today.  She got really upset.  She should just wear tennis shoes or something.  Or at least close toed.  You know you had to wear closed toed shoes to summer fun camp this summer.  Really, why do they paint their toes?"

REGARDING CHECKERS ON MY IPHONE:  "I don't want to play. You always win."

REGARDING THE RANDOM QUESTION GAME ON MY IPHONE HE LOVES: "Um, are you making this stuff up or is that what it really said?"

REGARDING TYPING:  "I'm not very good at it.  Can you help me type my paragraph tonight."

REGARDING HIS NEW 5TH/6TH GRADE ROOM AT CHURCH:  "It's sick.  I want to play guitar. We need indoor soccer balls."

... love that kid. :)

HANDS DOWN... Best parenting move I've ever made.  WITHOUT QUESTION.  Regular one-on-one bonding meetings with my kids.  LOVE and cherish these times.

and HANDS DOWN... best moments I've ever had with students as a youth pastor are the, the one-on-one conversations with students.

If you're a parent or you're a mentor to teens or you coach or teach or whatever... let me remind you to set aside some time and connect one-on-one.  My experience says the dividends will be immeasurable.


Monday, September 10, 2012


If you have a large group program sometime in your week or weekend like we do, then you know that one of the most challenging and yet critical places to put a volunteer is just in the middle of a bunch of students.  The most tempting thing for adults in this situation to do is to sit together in the back. 

While that's probably the safest way to not feel awkward, it's also the quickest way to miss out on having an impact and to quit because you feel "unneeded".  It's easy to feel like you're doing something significant if you're leading an activity or the teaching the message or playing in the band or serving in some tangible and qualitative way... but if you're just being a caring adult in the lives of teens, then it's easy to feel like you're just sitting in a room filled with teens.  To make an impact here, it will take some more initiative to feel like you're making a difference.  

To that end, here's some training tips I suggest and give to those who sign up to be a large group adult volunteer.

INVEST TIME:  Come as early as you can, stay as late as you can.  Lots of times, the best conversations can be had before the service begins and after it’s over.

SPREAD OUT:  Spread out from other adult leaders.  Don’t sit in groups larger than two of you.

BE HABITUAL AND CONSISTENT: Try to sit in the same area each week- teens are creatures of habit and you’ll find it’s easier to get to know them by sitting in the same place- they will likely do the same thing.

MINGLE:  Initiate Conversations.   Remember students are not looking for a hip adult- they’re looking for one who genuinely cares about them.

KNOW A FEW: Don’t try and know everyone.  The goal is not to be the most popular leader or to know the most number of students so you can care for them all, just strive to care for a few.

LOOK FOR THE MISSING: Of those you do know- Look for who is not there and follow up with them.  Make it a priority this week to call, e-mail, or send them a post card.

INVITE: Ask the students about the events we have coming up.  Find out if they’re going.  If they need to sign up- go with them to do that.  Discover if they are in a small group and if they’re not but are interested in one- try introducing them to a small group leader who is there today.

BE AN ACTIVE OBSERVER.  If you see someone who is crying- talk to them.  If they came in soccer clothes- ask how the game was or when they play next.  If they look lonely- sit by them.  If they look normal- find out why they aren’t.

HAVE FUN:  Games or crowd breakers are your chance to laugh with students and have some good clean fun.  Be a kid again.

MODEL IT:  Don’t expect students to do what you’re not.  Don’t forget to take notes and turn in your Bible and sing and put down your cell... you get the picture.  Model good learning skills.

DON'T QUIT WHEN THE PROGRAM ENDS:  When you have sat with a student for an hour and they’re heading to the parking lot- go with them.  If they drove- you’ll discover what kinda car they drive.  Students love to talk about their cars.  If a parent is picking them up- never underestimate the power of that relationship.  Introduce yourself and say hi.  Thank them for entrusting their student to us and remind them how much we appreciate their willingness to drive to make it happen.  Without them- they wouldn’t have been there today.

PRAY AND PREPARE: Come prayed up and prepared.  Set a goal for yourself regarding your role with students.  What is the next step in your effectiveness.  Pray and act on it.


Friday, September 07, 2012


Like many youth groups around the country, we're launching our small groups this fall.  We also have made some changes based on learnings from the flow of groups last year.  As a result, we have decided that the first 10 weeks will be largely-if not almost exclusively- focused on getting to know our students.  Then in January, after the Christmas break, we'll then build on those relationships and begin a process to dive more fully into the Scriptures together each week in a more "traditional Bible Study".

But what this means in the short term is that from late September through Christmas, we'll be spending a lot of time (like an hour or so) pouring into the life of just one student in each small group each night.  Not like a hot seat where a small group grills one member with questions, but more like a moment where we say, "We really want to get to know you more... but for reals.  So tell us all about yourself."

If the small group you lead is made up of outgoing bubbly teenage girls, well that might be all you need.  You'll be lucky if you get them to stop talking 60 minutes later with that one intro.

But if you're leading freshman guys, it's gonna take some more work.

So in order to help, we put together a packet of stuff to keep a conversation going with a student.  Here's 6 tips we're using to train our leaders.

START YOUR SMALL GROUP EACH WEEK WITH A BUCKET TESTIMONY.  Pick an item (bucket, purse, backpack, suitcase, basket, etc) and have a different person each week come with 10 items inside.   As they pull each item out, they tell you why they put it in there and what it means to them.  As leaders, you do this first, choosing a wide range of items from serious to funny and set the tone.  Then have someone volunteer or choose a student who can do this next week.  Don't forget to call and remind them in the days leading up to your next meeting so they don't forget.

EMBRACE TANGENTS:  If they tell you their favorite food is their grandma’s French toast, ask them to tell you more about their Grandma.  Take the bait and run with whatever other material they give you.

ASK OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS:  Avoid questions that can be answered with yes/no.  Try why, how, and when questions instead of “Do you like _________”  kind of questions.  Try things like:

  • “How did that make you feel?”
  • “Why do you like that?"
  • etc..
DON’T GIVE UP:  It takes about 6 questions before they even think you really care.  Here’s a set of common questions that are essentially intro questions whenever you meet a student in our ministry.  Keep going when these questions are done:
  • Hey, How are you?  
  • What’s your name?
  • What school do you go to?
  • How did you hear about our youth group?  
  • What do you like to do in your free time? 
PLAY DEVIL’S ADVOCATE:  Don’t do this with sarcasm, but feel free to push at a student’s answers to get them to talk more.   If they say “God is so good”, you could say “How do you know God is good? Would you say that to a friend whose mom was diagnosed with cancer? ”   Or if they say, “I think sex before marriage is wrong.”  You could say, “Ok.  So do you think people should get married just to have sex?”  etc…  A great time to do this is when a student says something that appears to have unanimous agreement in your group but you also know the rest of the world outside this group will not necessarily agree.

GIVE SPACE:  Let your question sit before you follow up with another question.  Sometimes rapid firing a question is fun.  Other times, it just shuts them down.  Embrace the silence and give them some time to think about their answer.  If you do break the silence, try clarifying your question before abandoning it or thinking they are not going to answer.

Additionally, we also gave our leaders a couple of sheets with tons of other ideas to ask about and resources to keep the conversation going. Some more of them will be added soon to my Small Group Administrative Tools on Download Youth Ministry in an update shortly.  You might want to pick them up, and a bunch more stuff you might find helpful in small groups if you're launching this fall and want some more ideas or tools.

Praying for great conversations and deep relationships in my ministry and yours.


Wednesday, September 05, 2012


If it ain't broken...  you probably have one eye closed.

In my world, the broken is part of my life.  It's everywhere.

  • 2 weeks ago my dishwasher broke and destroyed my kitchen cabinets.
  • I now have broken cabinets and I re-installed my chipped and stained 25 year old sink in 2x4's. 
  • my truck's power steering is broken
  • my wife's car has a fan that only works of mach 5.  settings 1-4 no longer work.  So it's all air or no air.  The back glass latch is busted.  The passenger door spring is busted.  
  • my yard sprinklers are still busted and we have watered by hand all summer cuz I don't have the time or money to fix them yet. 
  • my wife's macbook mousepad is broken.
  • my boys have broken lamp shades in their bedrooms from various "events".
Do I need to go on?  Let me just assume you get the picture.  The list is much longer... 

Truth is, the same is true of my youth ministry.  I could make an equally long list of stuff that is broken in various programs, a trip that is not working, a mindset we need to shift, a facility change that needs to take place. I could go on for days about what I think could and should be. 

I have a list of the broken in me, in my family.... pretty much anything. Stuff is both working and broken all around me.

So with this reality and for my own peace and sanity's sake, I've decided a few things about the broken... regardless of where in my life I find it. 

SEE THE BROKEN THROUGH THE "YEAH, BUT LOOK AT WHAT THIS COULD BE" LENSES:  Anybody without a blind eye can point out the problems.  They super easy for me to see too.  But I need to celebrate the potential around me and look toward what could and should be instead of what is and is not.  I need my eyes looking forward and up.

DO SOMETHING:  With every day, I become more and more convinced that the tortoise really does beat the hare.  People get physically, emotionally, financially, mentally, spiritually... healthy one step at a time.  The best way to fix my house or myself is to make continual, methodical, slow progress in the right direction.   Maybe I can't solve all my problems or fix all the broken, but I can make movement towards repair.  Pull one weed.  Do 10 sit ups.  Resist the temptation to buy that one item.  Send that one encouragement note.  One day.  Small steps in the right direction. 

DON'T BE COMPLACENT, DO BE CONTENT.  I need to not exchange working toward the best for being content in the present.  Sure, my kitchen looks like someone bombed it.  Actually, it looks like someone took a sledge hammer to it.  Which I did.  But anyway, the sink works and we now have a temporary cupboard/counter top to buy us some time.  So I can be discontent until I put a more "permanent solution" back in place or I can make movement towards my preferred future while being content with how God has provided today.  

The broken seems to be here to stay in this temporary world I live in.  So my goal is not to rid the world of  it (this is impossible).  Instead, my goal is movement towards redeeming the broken for the best.... one day at a time.  

Game on.  



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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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