Sunday, February 24, 2013


Hey friends and blog readers, I just wanted to make one final post on this blogger site and communicate to those of you who read might be reading this through an rss reader that this blog is moving.

I asked a friend of mine, Adam Mclane with Mclane Creative, to help me move, update, and fix my blog to make it more professional looking.  I wanted people to be able to easily buy a book from me and to provide a way for people to contact me too.  If you want a similar thing done, I'd highly recommend you go check out the services they offer.  Super good stuff and Adam can do this stuff in his sleep.

Anyway, if you want to stay up to date on what I write, you'll want to re-subscribe with the the link on the new site.  To do this, just redirect your browser and go to and hit the rss button on that home page.

That's all.  See you there.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Ecclesiastes 7:1–2 reads:
“A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart.” (TNIV)

Every time I go to a funeral, I'm reminded that Solomon was right when he wrote those words.  Every time I help my kids navigate a loss in a critical soccer game, I'm reminded that losers ponder their methods and rethink objectives, but winners just celebrate and toast the victory.  Every time I make a mistake or suffer loss or struggle as a pastor, husband, or father....  I'm reminded that pain and hardship cause me to rethink stuff, but victory and ease cause me to coast through life.  It just does.

CS Lewis put it like this in his book "the problem of pain".  He writes, "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world."

And that reality is no less true today than it was 3000 years ago when Solomon wrote it down or when CS Lewis echoed them in 1940.  However, since the majority of my work is with high school students, most of them feel like death is a lifetime away (and I pray they are right).  So they never give death or morning much thought.  Not that their parents do either, but death and mourning are not popular subjects for teens.

However, the Biblical book of James reminds the reader that our lives are like a blip on the map of eternity and even a long 90-year life will be over before we know it.  He warns: "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."  (James 4:14)

To this end, I think one of my jobs as a youth pastor is remind teens that today should be lived in light of forever.  I have a responsibility to challenge my students to consider the life they are living and the destiny they desire.  I have a responsibility to live that way myself.

Just last Sunday I sat down with a young woman in our high school ministry who had asked to talk.  She told me she was not happy with where she was at spiritually and that she wanted to make some changes.  Rather than spend a lot of time focusing on how to help her do that... I spent the majority of our time reminding her that what she does today should be shaped by who she wants to be tomorrow.

When we know what we want said about us at our funeral... when we know what we want to be known for and to be all about... then-and-only-then do we have a solid filter through which to make our decisions.  Youth ministry is not about giving students tools to navigate the stress of today.  It is instead about helping them set a compass that will help them navigate all their days in a way that honors God.

Recently... I was reminded of these truths by two GREAT pastors on opposite ends of our country:

1. Louie Giglio, recently gave a sermon in Atlanta, GA that is beyond worth the time to listen to on this very subject.  Seriously, it's so good you should go download it now and give yourself an hour of life that will remind you what you want all of life to be about.  Get some earbuds and drown out the rest of the world for a few.  You'll be so thankful you did.

Here it is under the title:  From Here and Now to Now and Forever.

2. Britt Merrick is a pastor in the Santa Barbara, CA area whose 8 year old daughter, Daisy, just tragically died from a 3+ year battle against cancer.  In that context, he gave a sermon a few days before Daisy's death that will rip your heart out.  It will also, in no uncertain terms, remind you that while the day of morning is not chosen by any of us, is still the crucible through which life screams it's lessons and lives are forever transformed.  This sermon is a video and might be the best 50 minutes you've spent in the last 50 days.

It is titled, "When Sparrows Fall" | and was given at Reality Santa Barbara


Friday, February 15, 2013


When I was in the process of writing Criticism Bites, I asked a friend, mentor, and most recently... my boss -Tic Long- if he'd be willing to write the intro to the book.  
I knew that Tic was someone I had a deep respect for, knew me well, and had navigated a truck load of criticism in his years at Youth Specialties and running their national conference for decades.  
So I was obviously stoked when he said he would write it.  Since the book is now officially in print and available for electronic download , I thought I'd post his introduction here.
So for what it's worth... This is what Tic had to say about Criticism Bites: 

I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say, “I love to be criticized,” “Criticism is so awesome,” or “Criticism is fuel for my soul!” Nope, I have never heard that because most of the time criticism hurts. It more than hurts, it bites! It can suck the life right out of us and cause us to want to quit whatever it is we are doing. But check this out: If you are in ministry or a leader of any kind, it is inevitable—and if you are in youth ministry it’s close to being a constant companion. So you see, we don’t have an option but to learn how to deal with it.
Brian states early in the book, “Your capacity to respond to criticism in ways that honor God is not an optional skill; it is a mandatory tool for all leaders.”
He is 100 percent correct, but oh, if only it was as easy as that sounds. “Cool, I just need to add a new tool to my ministry tool belt and I am good to go.”
Dealing with criticism is one of the most difficult challenges in life and yet one of the least adequately addressed.
Most of us are more than aware of our typical, unhelpful responses to being criticized such as ignoring, getting angry, attacking, pouting, justifying, and daydreaming of elaborate ways of getting revenge that will strike a blow but won’t end up getting us in jail. We KNOW they get us nowhere, but we go there time and again.
Criticism is so multilayered. It’s personal, it’s professional, it’s called for, it’s uncalled for. We see it coming, we are blindsided by it. It is well-reasoned, ill-reasoned, and just flat-out wrong. It comes from both friend and foe. It hits our self-worth, our sense of calling, and our competence.
No wonder it can cut us to the quick and put us into a deep pit of despair. It is nothing to trifle with or attempt to face with simplistic responses.
Fortunately, Brian spares us the simplistic responses and provides four really helpful things.
  1. He explores with insight why criticism can be so devastating to us. What is it about being criticized that can so quickly rob us of our joy, confidence, and self-worth? He gets inside us.
  2. He provides a path, a way of being, a sense of understanding, a life strategy—whatever you want to call it—along with practical tools to not only survive criticism and to pick your way through its minefield, but to reach a place where you are not just better equipped to survive but actually grow from it in both your personal life and ministry.
  3. He puts us on the spot. Brian provides questions for us to have to work through about ourselves. This is not an academic exercise but an opportunity for maturing. We are being discipled in an area of our life we can’t ignore. Brian calls us to look in the mirror.
  4. He offers truth, real-life situations, and authenticity. This is a nonsense-free zone where Brian helps us face real issues in real life.

I have known Brian for years, and I have criticized Brian. I know that he lives the stuff he is writing about. I know the wisdom found in these pages can be life-giving. Those of you who are youth workers are called to be criticized; you can’t avoid it. You must always take risk, take chances, try new things. You will make mistakes (and you should!). You are herding cats, but you are also changing a generation. church janitors...your world invites criticism, and you must learn how to invite it in as a friend and not run from it as an enemy. Brian will help you to do that. He knows your world. He is your friend.

Sound like a read worth your time?  If so, you can grab your copy if you click here.  


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


There's something inside of me that just hates mediocrity.  I hate settling for less than the best.  I hate the idea that I missed something better God had for me because I accepted the first thing someone offered me.

I hate lame retreats.  Mediocre ministry. Half-hearted talks. I hate the phrase "it is what it is."  I think it should be banished from the world with the one exception of describing the past.  But I want nothing to do with "it is what it is".  I don't want it in my marriage, me personal life, my parenting, my life as a pastor, no where...  I hate it so bad I'll correct you if you use it around me.  

Perphaps that's why I've watched this commercial like 40 times.  Mini-coopers are fine.  But forget the car, I want this message to play in the background of my life 24-7.  


NO ONE in the tech world believes "It is what it is" should be our mantra.  No it's not.  And 10 years from now, we'll all be thanking some tech guru for not settling and for moving us to some new technology we now "can't believe we ever lived without" because they dared to dream and demand better.

In fact, I don't think the devil really needs to get us to buy into evil to win the day in us.  I think all he has to do is get us to settle for something that is less than Awesome.  If we just decide that a normal marriage, a normal routine, normal parenting is all we need.  Then he wins.

Don't let him win.  Fight normal and mediocre and acceptable and complacency with all you've got.

In case you still need more inspiration to ditch average stuff of life.  Here's a elementary school kid with some genius for you.

"Don't stop believing in your dream, unless your dream is stupid.  Then find a better Dream."  Ha ha. This kid is awesome.  "I was made for awesome"

So good.  


Monday, February 11, 2013


This weekend my 10 year-old son came in and asked me if he could have a song added to the ipod he got for Christmas.  I told him that depended on what it was.  He said, "Thrift shop: the clean version".

I told him I'd never heard of the song and I'd need to look into it first, but the fact that it has a "clean version" isn't making his chances good.   He said, "All my friends are listening to it."

So I went in search of the lyrics and to give it a listen.  I went to itunes and noticed it was the number one single on their site.  Immediately I knew my head had been under some kinda music rock and that this was all over the place.

I then went to youtube and watched the video.  I won't link to it, but you can hit it up if you want.

Then I found this video of teens reactions to it.  It's a little long- 7 minutes- but it's full of insight into student culture and the teens that I work with.  Truly, it's a lesson in teenage cultural anthropology.  If you work with teens, it's worth a listen and is essentially a "clean version" listen that bleeps stuff the song doesn't.

I'd even argue it's worth watching as a parent or small group leader with your teen(s) and discussing it.  It's my plan for my weekly Wednesday morning one-on-one with my oldest son TJ this week.  I think it sparks some really good discussion.

If you want a Bible passage that relates... try discussing James 2:1-10 along side of it.

Interestingly enough, about 50% of the song is something I think I would champion. In an ironic way (since it is making millions) the song makes an attempt to fly in the face of our consumerism culture and mocks those who have to have the latest fashions.  One central theme is that it encourages frugality, re-sale shops, and the beauty of being unique.  If the song wasn't said with such angst and laced with lazy profanity, it probably wouldn't be the hit it is, but it's interesting nonetheless.

Whatever and however you do it, if you're parenting and/or pastoring teens, I think it's a responsibility we all share to help teens interact with and critique culture, not just consume it.  Failing to engage it on purpose won't make it better, it will only leave them to consume it by osmosis instead.


Thursday, February 07, 2013


My last post was about getting your group safely to the snow.  So if you're thinking about taking your youth group the the slopes,  check that first.

But once you've gotten them to the slopes, you're not done yet.  Here's the details you'll need to know about taking a group of 20 or more to the ski slopes.  My experience is that if you don't have at least 20 people on the slopes, you won't qualify for a group rate.  But once you do, there's some stuff you should know.

Contact the ski resort that you're going to be using and ask to speak with group sales.  They'll have their own office and staff dedicated to just that task.  Tell them when you're coming and about how many you're bringing and they'll send you some stuff to get your trip going.   Some of them have limits on how many groups can come on any given weekend and some have a requirement for how far in advance you need to contact them, so don't just get the info off the web and then wait till the last week to make this call.

The ski slopes you're going to will likely have tons of things they offer.  All kinds of rentals, lift tickets, lessons, package deals, etc.   I never publicize them all.  It just complicates stuff.  You're a group coordinator, not a custom travel agent.  I always give students only 3 options included as check boxes on the brochure.   They simply check off the ones that apply to them and add them to the base cost of the trip. 
  • All Mountain Lift Ticket Only :  I have my own gear
  • All Mountain Lift Ticket and Snowboard Rental / Lesson Package
  • All Mountain Lift Ticket and Ski Rental / Lesson Package
[Side note, I also round these up to the nearest simple number.  If it's $73 for the package, I just make it $75.  It makes life easier and is still a lot cheaper than them buying the individual stuff without our group anyway. The extra few bucks just helps offset the cost of other details.]

I never charge my adult volunteers for anything, but I do charge them for whatever this trip costs on the slopes.  They pay for their own rental and lift tickets.  The only exception to that is if I get enough students that the slopes gives us some free tickets.  Then I share the love. I've never had anyone complain to me about this. 

Getting your rental gear will be the biggest issue of this whole process.  If you've never checked 20+ people in for gear rentals, READ THIS CAREFULLY!  WHAT I'M ABOUT TO TELL YOU WILL SAVE YOU TONS OF HEADACHES.

RENT AT HOME IF AT ALL POSSIBLE: In Nor Cal, we were on the slopes for 2 days and we told students to rent all their gear at home.  Trust me, if you can pull this off, you will save yourself HOURS  in lines and forms. Just have the students rent their gear and bring it.  You will need masking tape and some sharpies to label gear however, because everyone's rental gear will look almost identical and no one will know whose is whose.  So we just have a volunteer whose only job at check-in is putting masking tape on all boards/skis/ and each boot and then writing a last name with sharpie.  Trust me, labeling stuff will be a miniscule detail compared to the MOUNTAINS of stuff you'll have to do to rent at the slopes. 

IF YOU RENT AT THE SLOPES, EXPECT PAPERWORK. PAPERWORK. PAPERWORK.   You're going to have lots of this.  In our local resort, (Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA), everyone on the slopes needs a general waiver (regardless of if they rent or not) and a rental form filled out if they're renting.   Some require a drivers license on every sheet.  Some require a credit card number.  There are lots of signatures.

In my case, since we only board one day and since we live in San Diego, it's cost prohibitive to rent local.  So I had 28 students to check in.  Each of them required 10 signatures on the rental form- not including the ones their parents had already signed before the trip.  I become the "guardian" for the day and have to do 280 signatures.   Yup. 280.  Yikes.  Just bring another volunteer with you and divide it up.  It's gonna take some time to get through the rental process. Be patient.

GET THERE EARLY.  I mean EARLY!  Last weekend, I saw the line for rentals go over 100 people deep by 9:30am.  In that case, your new students will MISS their lesson and your experienced students will miss hours on the slopes.  Trust me, this process takes a while- especially for a group. So don't delay on getting to the slopes. 

SHOES: oddly enough, shoes will be an issue. In the rental process, everyone has to get out of their shoes and into their boots and then onto the slopes. This will leave students asking, "Where do I put my shoes?"  Last weekend, this meant 28 pairs of shoes that needed to be dealt with.  I can't rent enough lockers for that and it's a pain to send them all to the car.  So we bring black trash bags and have a volunteer collect all the shoes as they exit the rental office.  Then we take the shoes and lock them up in the cars during the day.  Then we return with the shoes at 3:30 pm to wait for students to arrive and return their gear/pick up their shoes. 

DISCOVER THE PROCESSI already outlined some of this, but the only way to fully do this is to ask LOTS OF QUESTIONS of your local slopes and even then, you'll probably miss some stuff until you do it once.  Here's how it works at Snow Summit and what you might have to do at your slope of choice:
  • Before you arrive: 
    • contact group sales and get paperwork sent to you.
    • sign a group waiver and send it in with your reservation and payment at least 72 hours in advance. 
  • When you arrive: 
    • show up at the group rental office as close to opening as you can with all your individual group ticket waivers signed.  (Snow Summit Group sales opens at 7:30am)
    • pick up group tickets and make any last minute changes.  (I always have some)
    • pass out tickets to your students
    • send the students with rentals to rental line  (in my case, I don't bring the students to the slopes until 8:45am or so. But we're really close so while they're eating breakfast,  I go to the slopes and get all the tickets and check everyone in through the initial line at the snowboard rental.  Then I get the vouchers, give them to the students, and when they arrive, they go straight into the rental process and skip the LONG LINE for the pre-rental paperwork).
    • Even then, I still have to sign paperwork for daaaaaayyyyyyzzzzz inside the rental shop till all the students have gear and rentals are complete
    • send the newbees to their lesson
    • get on the slopes and have fun.
LESSONS Force your new kids to take the group lesson.  If they say, "no, my friend is going to teach me."  Tell them, "Your friend is a horrible teacher, will ditch you after you don't get it, and will not be your friend after you let them attempt to teach you to snowboard.  If you're dating, you will break up."  I swear, it's true.  Don't let them ditch the 2 hour lesson.  It's so going to save everyone a ton of headache and keep the peace in your group.  If you think you're going to teach them, go ahead and slap yourself.  Bad idea.  You all can "teach each other" after the professional lesson if you want.

LUNCH:  Will cost you 5 million dollars and 3 hours in line if you buy it in the lodge.  We always bring our own lunch and meet at the cars at a pre-determined time.  In our case,we always meet at noon because the lessons are from 9:45-11:45 for the new kids.  They then go straight to lunch and practice what they learned afterwards.

For lunch we use gallon ziplock bags and kids write their name on them, fill them with lunch stuff the night before.  They then set them in a bin we take to the slopes.  If you like hot meals, we have had a parent who was not on the slopes boil water and pour it into drink coolers and meet us at lunch in the parking lot.  We used it for boiled hot dogs one year and for cup-o-noodle another.  

If you try and meet in the lodge for lunch instead of the parking lot, here's 2 warnings:  #1. Some lodges kick you out if you bring in outside food.  #2. Finding or reserving room for your whole group is all but impossible and you'll end up frustrated.  The parking lot is always a better meeting spot for a group.  Plus, if your students leave their boards laying around, they risk getting them stolen.  I lied, Warning #3:  don't let them lean the boards against your vehicles. They will fall over and they will make awesome semi-circle and permanent scratches on your paint.  Just simply set them on the ground with the waxed side up and it will all be fine.

MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME:  Seize your lift lines and chair lift rides.  So many epic conversations happen for me while just hanging out talking about life and faith and stuff.  Seriously, it will be the highlight of your day.  Challenge your leaders to seize those moments too.  Avoid the temptation to pop in your ear buds and listen to your tunes. 

NO ONE RIDES ALONE:  remind your group to partner up.  Spending the day on the slopes alone is horrible and the opposite of why you came as a group.   Getting on the slopes first thing is always crazy.  But after lunch, we try and do several runs with as many of us together as possible on some sort of medium difficulty run that most people can manage. 

  • FIRST AID BINDER:  I always have a binder of everyone on the slopes with their permission slips inside.  I then put a cover on the binder that has my name and cell phone number. Then I take it to first aid (every slope has a big first aid office that you should know where it is as well).  I then explain that we have a group on the slopes, and leave the binder with them.  If they need it, they have it.  If they don't, which is my goal, then I just pick it up at the end of the day.  (NOTE: write yourself a FAT reminder and tape it to your steering wheel or something.  It's super easy to forget and leave all those permission slips in 1st Aid , especially if you didn't need them)
  • RADIOS:  The same radios you used for carpool are great for the slopes.  I give one to a key leader in the lodge, a few to leaders on the slopes, and attach one to the first aid binder when I drop it off.  I leave the 1st aid radio off, but if they turn it on, they can use that to get a hold of me if need be and my cell is not working. 
  • PLANT A VOLUNTEER IN THE LODGE:   I always try and have a lodge sitter who is someone that students can find if they need help or that can be free to solve problems.  Sometimes that's helping a student who is hurt, sometimes it's helping with lunches, sometimes it's just someone who a student can find who then can find me if needed.  Mom's who don't want to ski are awesome for this job.  Tell them to find a spot they love by a window, bring a good book, and you agree to buy them all the java they can drink :)  
  • INJURIES:  I've had years with none.  I've had stretches where someone got hurt every year.  Just know that if you take a group to the slopes and you only have the bare minimum in adults to drive your students, if one of your students is hurt and needs someone to go to the hospital or the ambulance with them, you'll be stuck.  Also, know that for legal reasons, the slopes will likely require any head injury to be given an ambulance ride to be checked out.  So if you get a head injury in your group, you're going to need help- regardless of its severity or lack thereof.  Bring some extra people (preferably a parent or two) "just in case" to help with this stuff if it comes up. 
END OF THE DAY MEETING SPOT:  Most slopes close at 4pm.  Most students will be done by 3pm.  Life on the slopes is exhausting.   I tell my students to meet me at the vehicles by 4pm.  If they have rentals, they need to return them first, I tell them to stop riding at 3:30pm. 

Well, there you have it.  If you've never done this, it sounds like a lot. And I guess it is.

But like all great memories, this one is worth the effort.  Dang I love snowboarding and while this stuff always cost me lots of energy, it's always so worth it.  Rarely do I get thanked in youth ministry.  After this trip, several students always do.  Epic. 


Monday, February 04, 2013


I love snow boarding.  I love it.  I also love that once a year, my job collides with this passion and I get to take high school students to the snow to experience the wonders of snow play together.  I've been either going on or running this kind of trip for over 25 years and I always love it.

I have so many GREAT memories from taking smallish to large groups of students in the snow, that I thought I'd post some stuff on the blog this week that might help if you want to take your group.  If your "winter retreat" is taking your group to a camp in the mountains that does all your food, provides a speaker, and the does the recreation for you, then you don't need this post.   If you are the group that fly's to some elite resort in Utah, then you're probably good to go as well. 

But, if you're thinking of renting cabins/conference ground/or school buildings and running your own camp within a longish drive of you, where the primary activity is on the ski slopes, then these posts are for you.  Feel free to add your own comments or suggestions, but I'll do 2 initial posts.

POST #1.  Getting there and back if your group is larger than 1 or 2 vehicles.  

POST #2.  Specifics for Snow Summit in Big Bear, CA with implications for those in other ski resorts where you might take a group to.

Here goes Post 1: Getting there and back. 
It will sound like a lot, but trust me, it will be so worth it!  A day on the slopes is awesome!!  So get there safe!

VEHICLES:  This piece of your trip can be an amazing bonding experience or a total nightmare.   If your church owns enough travel vehicles for your group, then you're probably good to go on vehicles.  If not, then here's my suggestions to make getting there fun and less of a nightmare. \

RENT THE BUS IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT:  If you can afford the bus rental, I'd say do it.   Minus the possible danger is getting the "keep it quiet as a mouse" bus driver from hell, the benefits of avoiding the potential hassle of chaining multiple vehicles yourself and putting drivers who are unfamiliar with certain conditions behind the wheel just might be worth it, if you can afford it.

RENT VANS:  We can't afford the bus, so we rent 15 passenger vans and a cargo vehicle.
  • In this case, buy the insurance.  Just do it.  Stress about something other than this.  (side note: some credit cards do this for you if you charge the rental with their card. Also, if you have a corporate account like we do with Enterprise, then we negotiate it so that the insurance is always included in the rental)
  • Get trusted drivers.  This is not the retreat to take your college students and have them drive.  Find some parents or older adults to drive cars on your retreat who are confident know how to drive in the possible snowy, icy, and wet conditions your trip might hold.  Even if it's "sunny" during the day, driving home at night has risks of icy roads.  This is a great place to get some dad's involved in your ministry.  Ask them to drive!
DON'T BORROW VEHICLES:  I've done it and survived.  I've had nightmares too.  Even if the "owner" is on the trip, I try to rent first and save the miles on their vehicle.   I'd do anything and everything I can to rent a vehicle before I borrow a vehicle for this trip to the snow.  Too many variables and not enough time to deal with stuff like...  
  • The "4x4" suburban that won't go into four wheel drive and now you don't have chains. 
  • The defroster doesn't work and now you can't see outside or drive safely. 
  • The battery is not well taken care of and you go to start it at the slopes and now it won't start and you need to buy a replacement at 4pm on Sunday night in the mountains. 
  • get the picture?  
USE COVERED STORAGE OPTIONS:  If you take a trailer, get the one that is covered.  Towing in the snow can be it's own kind of crazy though.   I personally prefer a small packing truck or box truck.  Here's why:
  • They are relatively cheap:  $80 a day was my last fee.
  • They always have dual rear wheels, so they are easy to chain cuz you can drive the inside tire onto a block and then chain up the outside one. 
  • You never have to worry about someone stealing boards or gear at the slopes cuz it's easily lockable 
  • You don't care if it rains or snows.  
  • They are super easy to pack.   
  • They don't require long parking spaces like a truck and trailer.  
MUSIC:  A 4 hour car ride with teens will involve music.  If you decide it won't, you'll be up for a fight.  If you don't provide a way for them to play it, they'll zone out into ear bud isolation.  In this day and age, all the vans I rent come with an aux input on the dash.  But they never have the cord.  I always provide the double 1/8" mp3 player cord for each van that lets them plug it into an ipod or phone and then into the system.  I learn a lot about students by what they play for us being the DJ and we always have so much fun with music.
WALKIE TALKIES:  Get some. Get good batteries.  Pass them out.  Your caravan of drivers should not be texting or fumbling with phones and even if you have a passenger on the phone instead, the mountains are notorious for bad cell reception on someone's carrier won't work, even if yours is good-to-go.  Hand held walkie talkies are inexpensive and critical for communication on a trip like this.  
  • SIDE NOTE: We also pass out cards with all the leaders cell phone numbers to our adults on the trip before we leave so that in case for some reason, the radios aren't cutting it, they can call on a phone
GO AHEAD AND PRAY FOR CLEAR WEATHER, BUT BE PREPARED FOR GOD TO LIKE SNOW INSTEAD.  HE DOES THAT A LOT.   :)  If it does snow, travel will slow down and get a bit more complicated.

GET CHAINS AND DON'T FORGET TO BRING THEM:  you'll need snow chains in CA.  Don't leave them in the church as you pack though (ha!  maybe we did that once.  maybe.)  Anyway, some states you don't need them, but here in CA you do.  Most places will even let you return your chains if they're unopened.  I buy the size I need for the rental vans (I prefer cables actually), and then I return them if I don't use them.  I've needed them enough times however, that now we just own the ones that fit a 15 passenger van.  Beware though...  do not assume all vehicles use the same size tire chains.  Even a 12 passenger van is usually a different tire size than the 15.  So get the right size!  
  • WARNING:  if you ignored me and are sending drivers with their own vehicles/chains, you might want to triple check that they actually work on that vehicle and aren't just the ones they have laying around the garage.  You also might want to check to make sure their "snow tires" that don't need chains actually have enough tread left to function well too.
YOU ALSO MIGHT WANT TO PAY THE CHAIN INSTALLERS: If you're new to this snow thing, there are professional chain/cable installers who will be at the place the chains are required. They are licensed by the state and they make a killing doing it.  Probably like $25 a vehicle.  But, if you've never done it before, you could save yourself a ton of headaches if you do it wrong.  A loose chain can rip the wheel well or the brake line apart and make your day really bad really fast.  Just bring some cash and smile, the installers might give you a group discount too.  
  • WARNING 1: installing your chains for you one thing, but if you have to buy the chains from them too, you're going to need to have a FAT wallet, cuz they're going to ream you for that mistake and smiling won't help you.  
  • WARNING 2: If you do it yourself, it's a cold, wet and dirty task. Bring a rain coat, work gloves, and appropriate shoes or you'll be a mess by the time you're done. If you do this in your nice ski coat, I promise you it won't be nice anymore after you run it all over your nasty mud/snow tires

FEEDING PEOPLE ON THE ROAD:   Most trips will leave after school on Friday.  This will means you'll likely have dinner on the road.  Here's a few tips for this, especially if your group involves more than 15 people:
  • Plan your dinner stop in advance.  Know when and where you're going to stop.  Ideally it will be a place where you'll be within a reasonable dinner hour for your students but also close enough to your final destination where you can avoid the "pee" stop before you arrive.  
  • Never make your planned stop where there's only 1 or 2 places to eat.  Of if you do, know that your dinner will need some serious extra time for people to get their food and eat.  More options = more places = greater choices and faster service.  
OK... last thing on Post 1:  PARKING AT THE SLOPES:  

Depending on when you arrive the next morning, you could end up with a lot of people really far from the entrance to the slopes.  If you have to do the shuttle thing to the slope, it's a nightmare with a large group.  Here's how to avoid that. 

TELL THE SLOPES WHAT VEHICLE(S) YOU'RE BRINGING IN ADVANCE:  All of them have a parking department.  If you call in advance and tell them how many and what type of vehicles you are bringing, they will usually set aside premium parking for you as a group benefit.  They all have "bus parking", which is what I try and leverage for us, even without busses.   So this year, I told them I had 3 vans and a cargo coming to the slopes.  I asked them to give me 2 "bus spots" and they just parked me in 2 bus spots and we blocked each other in.  It worked perfect, and not having to hoof it to the slopes is worth the extra effort it took on my part to get it worked out.  They never offer this to me without me asking.  But when I ask for it, I'm rarely told they won't do it for me. 

IF FOR SOME CRAZY REASON THEY WON'T WORK WITH YOU, BUY THE PREMIUM PARKING:  It's probably like $20 a vehicle, but all the slopes I've been to have it.  If they won't park you like a bus, it will be worth it to buy the front row parking.  Trust me, it might be the best $20 a vehicle you spent all weekend if it means you all park together and you can walk to the slopes to look for that one missing kid.  If you have to get on a shuttle and pass 4 shuttles looking for him, you're going to want to poke your eye out in the process and want to kill that kid when you do find him.  


Monday, January 28, 2013

1 CORINTHIANS 16:13-14

In my Bible reading this January I have run across several verses that for what it's worth, I've skipped or glossed over or I dunno how I largely missed them... but nonetheless they have stopped me dead in my tracks.  But anyway, here they are in the English Standard Version.

1 Corinthians 16:13–14
“(13) Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  (14) Let all that you do be done in love.”

Seriously, does it get any more clear than that?  I'm still blown away that verse 14 hasn't become the logo of some t-shirt company.   1C1614 should be the logo.  The NIV simply puts it "Do everything in Love".  Bam.

I spent the majority of last week wrestling with life and faith and ministry with 3 other pastors/long time friends at a house in Coronado.  It's an annual piece of my life to try and stay sane.  Anyway, here's 5 questions we kicked around that might be worth pondering today:


I think this question can be seen in two ways.  First, what danger lurks around the corner?  What is it that you need to be aware of that can rob your life of joy and peace and hope?  The scriptures speak of a thief that comes to kill and destroy the things of God in us. BE WATCHFUL.

The second way is more positive.  Like where have you noticed the work of God around you?  Kinda like how I noticed this verse.  What has recently stood out to you about God or faith that you previously didn't notice as clearly?


This question gets to the important stuff.  For me it is essentially, "what hill are you willing to die on these days?"  Where will your faith stand firm?


I looked it up in the greek and it's just a one word command.   It has a root that is the same root we find in words like "anthropology", so it has a flesh and blood feel to it.  It can be translated be brave, be courageous, or act like a man.  All the translations that are more intentionally gender neutral choose "be courageous" since Paul was writing to both men and women in this letter.  But regardless of it's entomology.... the question is still, "Are you doing it?"  Are you taking responsibility for you life and faith and family and in what areas do you need to be courageous or "man up"?


In what area of your life do you have to exert the most energy to stand your ground?  What leadership piece of life is requiring the most strength from you?



Friday, January 25, 2013


I confess, I have become a bit of a prop guy when teaching or preaching.  In fact, if you count pictures on a projector as a prop, I'd say there's close to a 95% chance that there will be a prop somewhere in my teaching.  If you fly me in to teach, I'll probably bring my own props as well as ask you to pick some up whatever I could not carry or was too bulky to bring.

Last weekend I gave five different talks at a middle school winter camp over a span of 3 1/2 days and had a prop of some kind in each talk.  In fact, on the 5th and final talk, I decided to ditch my planned "new message" and simply do a response to the previous four messages.  Since I had used so many visuals and teaching props in my previous messages, all I had to do was hold up the prop and ask, "What was this all about?"   This lead to a remarkable response where all over the room of over 500 middle school students, hands were shooting up to tell me what the answer was.  They could literally tell me almost word-for-word my stories, illustrations, scripture that I used, and even the "so what" point.  I really think without the visuals, this would have been all but impossible.   

Simply put, using props and visuals always helps make the illustration or story I'm telling more memorable.  It really helps those who are visual learners and rarely hinders those who aren't.  It is a no-brainer win if you ask me.  

As an example, one illustration I used this past weekend was one with chocolate milk that I learned in college.  It's so easy to use and so powerful.  Here's how it works:

  1. Take a regular milk and pour it into a clear glass.  Tell them this is their life.  (If your crowd is big, feel free to use a vase or other large cylinder that can be seen from farther away) 
  2. Then take hershey's chocolate syrup and pour it in.   Tell them the syrup represents Jesus.  (You can have fun with Jesus being brown skinned or sweet tasting or just full of goodness if you want)  But the point I make is this:  a lot of people claim to have Jesus in their life... and they might not even be wrong.  
  3. Then point out the pile of chocolate syrup in the bottom and draw the analogy that the problem isn't that they have no Jesus in them, it's that you have to look in the right place to see or taste Him.  
  4. I show them that if I cover up the chocolate syrup pile that forms in the bottom of the glass, then no one can tell if there's chocolate in it or not.  The same is true of a lot of "christians".   They don't look or taste like they have Jesus in them in about 95% of the environments they're in.   
  5. So I then tell them that if we want to have God in every piece of our lives, then we each have to stir up some stuff and at which point I use a spoon to stir up the chocolate.  
This is a perfect illustration of the filling of the Holy Spirit and never ceases to prove powerful every time I use it.  But without the visuals, it's so less impactful.  I could explain it, but seeing it live is 100x better.  It just is.  

So... if you want to up your influence in your communication, and especially if you work with teens,... let me encourage you to start using props.  To that end, here's a series of questions that might be worth processing as you prepare for your next teaching:

1. Is there a way that I can enhance this story with a visual?  For example, if I'm going to tell a basketball illustration, would it be good to have a basketball in my hand?   

2. If I don't have a physical object to represent or use, can I get a picture instead?  

3. Can I use a brief video to make the point?  

4. Can I give one object in my lesson to everyone?  Can a visual move my audience from observing to doing something?  If so, what should I tell them to do with it or how can we use it in this talk?  

5. Can I use one visual in various ways throughout my talk instead of just one time for one point?  

6. Can I use a drawing board, white board, or flip chart to enhance this talk? 

7. Is my visual a distraction or a help?  Should this visual be used to spark curiosity throughout my talk or should I reveal it from behind a curtain or box later in the message? 


Wednesday, January 23, 2013


While preparing for a weekend of talk's to junior high students this past weekend at Forest Home, I found myself wrestling with two truths I was trying to teach.

The theme set by the camp was "everything".  Not like, teach whatever I wanted everything.  They were basing this on the "shema" in Deuteronomy 6 that Jesus quotes in response to the question, "What is the greatest commandment."  

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’”  
In other words, God wants our everything.   As I read this over and over again for like the five thousandth time, I was reminded of two truths I needed to live out and communicate.  


First, if I give my all to something, then I can't give my all to anything else.  I think in a multi-tasking society, where we believe we can do 50 things at once, this is a profound reminder.  I can give parts of me to lots of stuff, but if I want to give my all to God, then I can't do that and give my all to anything else.  Only one thing can be my everything.

When I let the opinions of people, the acquiring of stuff, and the achievement pile become my top priority for a season, then it by default moves God out of first place.  I can't do that and say yes to this call in the Greatest commandment.


Secondly, I found myself wrestling with why it is that I find myself settling for less than "all of God in all of me in all areas of my life."  To that end, this observation proved profound for me spiritually this weekend as I taught it and personally processed it.

When I accept an average amount of God in my life, I miss out on the awesome that God has in store.  In a world of comparison games, immediately we go to some sort of competition with that phrase.  Like who can you be more awesome than?  But the truth is, this call of God has NOTHING to do with comparison.   Awesome is not defined as "better than", it is defined as ALL of God in ALL of Me!  That' is awesome.

It's deciding that the phrase, "it is what it is", in this context is flat out a copout.  No my spiritual life is not an "is what it is" reality. Our spiritual connection with God is never all it is or could be. There's so much more.  And to that end, Satan doesn't need me to reject God to win, all he needs is for me to accept a moderate amount of God.

Bottom line, when I settle, it's a victory for the enemy.

So this week, I'm wresting with these two questions as I search my soul:

1. Is my top priority in my schedule this week something God can be and is fully present in?
2. Where have I settled for average when God had a plan for awesome?


Friday, January 18, 2013


You've heard that, "The road to success as not paved by good intentions."  But that phrase is ironic all by itself because quoting a bumper sticker and doing something to solve the problem are two very different things.  Anybody can have good intentions or even be aware that intentions without actions are merely idle talk.  But choosing to mean what we say... that's a different story.

So this fall we kicked off a small group series with our students for just 3 weeks to try and put some umph behind our intentions and the momentum of January.   We're calling it.. "And I Meant It!"

Week 1:  I said I wanted to get close to God... and I meant it.  

Week 2: I said I wanted true friendships... and I meant it.

Week 3: I said I believe in the power of prayer... and I meant it.

Last week was week 1 for us and myself, my co-leader kevin, and 10 squirrely A.D.D infested teen guys got together to talk about what it would be like if we had a "tent of meeting" like Moses did where he met with God.  They all agreed that would be a rad, but at one point I had to call their bluff and say some stuff I can't put on this blog.  It was time to stop "posing" and acting like we cared about getting close to God just cuz we showed up at small groups.  It's a start, but it's not like going to class makes someone a good student.  You have to put actual real effort in.  

So we all agreed to hold each other accountable to read our Bible daily.  We passed around mobile numbers.  We prayed.  We said, "let's do this thing."  We're using the One Minute Bible as our tool.  I like it because it's bite sized readings each day. It's not cheesy or filled with lame graphics.  It's enough to start a conversation and get a habit going without biting off more than a teen guy can handle who didn't read much anyway.

So I'm stoked for what could happen in these 11 dudes if they truly develop the new beginning of a life with God on their own.

If you wanna join us, you can grab a one minute bible here.

You can download the teaching plan here.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013


For the last 8 years as a youth pastor in San Diego, our youth ministry has been sponsoring kids around the world.  To do this, we put piggy banks on the tables and ask students to bring $1 a week to help us change the world, one kid at a time.

  • We started in 2005 with a girl named Luyando in Zambia through World Vision.  
  • Then we added a boy named Hector in Tijuana through a local organization that we work with called His Ministries.  We go visit Hector 2 or 3 times a year and bring his family giant amounts of food to use for the months ahead.
  • Then we started sponsoring an orphanage in Uganda.
  • Then we added Marvin in El Salvador.
  • Then Ruby in India. 
  • Lastly, we added a girl named Keke in Thailand through Compassion International.
All-in-all, to sponsor these kids, it still only totals about $225 a month we need to raise, not counting gifts we send.  Which, around the Christmas season, we send $100 to each kid- which is more than some of their families will make in months.  This special annual money we send is then used for the child we sponsor to get them something, their family, and often the area or community they live in too.  One year we sent money to India and Ruby, along with every other kid in the village got blankets.  She sent us this picture.  So rad.  

This is worth it's weight in gold to show students how just a few bucks a week can change the world in a tangible way.  It broadens their world and radically changes what it looks like to love Jesus.  

Then this year, just last week in fact, I got a letter from Luyando in Zambia.  Seriously, she lives some 10,000 miles away from us, literally almost half way around the world.  I'll most likely never meet her, but look at how the $100 we just sent her was spent.

Along with this picture was a letter that read the following:
Special greetings to you and your family.  How are you?  I guess you're doing fine.  I'm fine back here and my family is fine too.  I was so grateful and still am for the money you sent for me amounting to 100 U.S. dollars.  As a family, we are all happy for your support which will go a long way.  We thank you so much and pray that you have a long life.  With the money my father managed to buy me the clothes that I am wearing, books for school, gumboots, a few groceries, and some iron sheets to roof our house which was grass thatched.  It's rain season here so the money came at just the right time.  Now we no longer worry about the roof, no matter how it rains.  Happy Christmas and Happy New Year to you.  With love, Luyando.  
Seriously... it doesn't get any better than that.   I still cry when I realize that a group of high school students pitching in a few bucks a week fixed a roof for a young girl and her family in Africa. Amazing.  Thank God for World Vision!  What an amazing experience.  Thank God a family is not getting wet as I type this because their roof is solid now!

I really can't encourage you enough. If you lead students, please consider sponsoring a child of some kind together as a team. It will change you and I guarantee it will change a kid's world somewhere else.


Monday, January 14, 2013


Last week I had some writing to do and found myself for a variety of reasons, sitting for hours in a coffee shop that has free wifi and that I don't frequent that often: Panera Bread.  I used to have this rule that I can't go there without my wife, but I ventured out and decided to sit there in a cubicle, plug in my computer and go to work with free coffee refills.

Since I had never really spent hours in this place, I learned something that I had somehow missed in my previous visits.  Several times each day, like about once every 2 hours or so, someone on the staff would yell, "HOT Bread!"  This would then be echoed by the rest of their team who would then start successively shouting "HOT Bread!"It got me thinking of the "hot donuts" sign at Krispy Kreme and how somethings, you simply have to "get 'em while they're hot".

In youth ministry, this is both a truth and a lie.

TRUE- GET IT WHILE IT'S HOT:  There are seasons and moments where as a leader, you have to read the times and seize the opportunity for change.  Here are some:
  • SEASONS:  The fall when school restarts and the new year after Christmas break are moments when it's easiest to launch new programs.  Both are "hot bread" moments when people are ready for change and if you want to change your service times, your ministry structure, or your programs, these are time when change is hot and people are more apt to expect them.  Good leadership leverages these moments.
  • WHAT YOUR AUDIENCE IS SAYING:  Reading an audience is not an idea, it is a necessary skill of all up front leaders.  You cannot run a game, give a talk, or lead a group in musical worship well without the ability to read your audience. This is more art than science, but one will quickly discover that if you don't seize critical moments, they will pass and an inability to read a an audience that has left you can bomb an experience instantly.  If a game is a miss, smart leaders either adjust it on the fly to fix it or cut it short and call it a failure before it kills momentum.  Worship leaders figure out when people are engaged and when they are not and make changes to tempo and engage the audience with instruction accordingly to keep them with you.  Teachers change tone, volume, pace, interaction level, ditch or add a story... all for the same purpose.  
  • WHAT GOD IS DOING:  God-honoring leadership also follows God's unique move when it's out of season or not on the plan.  Especially if a student shows up with 10 new friends, if an audience has been moved to tears, if the response to a service project was overwhelming, then you go with it and follow the Spirit's lead.  Don't wait to respond, do it now while the bread is hot and the people are hungry.  

FALSE- LET IT COOL DOWN FIRST:  There are also mythical "hot bread" moments where someone irresponsibly flips the switch and says, "we gotta do it now or we're gonna be in trouble."  Sometimes that's a lie.  Here's some I tend to doubt are as "HOT bread" as they seam:
  • CRISIS:  Every crisis has a "hot bread" feel to it.  This relationship, this conflict, this concern must be addressed NOW.  This fire will burn down the building for sure.  However, not every time someone pulls the fire alarm in youth ministry, should the building be evacuated.  Smart leaders learn to discern through the panic and look for other signs.  They don't jump just because others are in crisis.  Like a healthy first responder in an emergency 911 call, they stop, think, pray, and respond with wisdom that many in the middle of the crisis simply cannot.  
  • GOSSIP:  Youth ministry is the land of "so-and-so said" and "such-and-such happened".  If you try and become the gossip police and shut down every irresponsible thing said in a small group, typed on Facebook, or put into the air, you'll do nothing else for your entire career.  But if you learn that some gossip is more deadly than others and let some simply die of it's own stupidity- stepping in only on the one's that are lethal- then you'll discover that not all moments are as "hot" as they seemed.
  • CRITICISM:  Want a great way to ruin your reputation and your ministry?  Just respond to every criticism while it's hot and let nothing cool down to evaluate what's inside.   Wise leaders learn that some things are better dealt with when they're cool.  Giving an angry critic enough response to calm them down before diving into their concerns is wise.  Taking time to think and pray and sleep on it for a day before responding to a critical email is healthy.  Some things are simply better enjoyed when they have had time to cool down.


Friday, January 11, 2013


Here's the final part 3 of 3 posts on some brutally practical tips on managing your ministry life.


I hate a cluttered inbox.  I try and keep mine to 200 or less. Maybe that's cluttered for you. Maybe that's a dream.  But if I get it to 50 it's a miracle.  Around 100 is just kinda normal for me.  If it hits 200 or more and I have to go sit down and deal with it. If an e-mail is in my "inbox", it is because I either haven't read it, haven't finished the project it is relating to, or it is there as a to-do list reminder of sorts.

But, here's what I do to keep most of it out of there.

Don't give it your best time:  Be careful that you don't let e-mail become our job.  I limit my access to it, refuse to respond to long e-mails on my phone, turn off the "chime" saying I have new mail, and stuff like that.  Sending e-mail can be done for me just about anytime.  Message prep, meeting with leaders, and stuff like that cannot.  So I can't use my most productive hours to respond to e-mail.

Unsubscribe like crazy:  If you don't need it, hit the unsubscribe button on all your flyers and mailers and junk.

Set up accounts for certain things: 
I have a private e-mail I give virtually no one and use often to send myself stuff and reminders. I also use it for social media.

I have another one I use for purchasing and website registrations.

I have a work one.

I have a home or "family" one.

This may seem crazy to you, but it really helps me keep life straight and access to e-mail uncluttered.   Since I can check them all in one location (I use apple mail), it's way easier for me to not just send everything to one e-mail.

Create personal inboxes and rules for all my direct reports and staff: 
So that no one that is really important in my world get's lost in the shuffle, I have created folders for most of my ministry team.  Then I create a "rule" under my mail preferences and anytime I get an e-mail from them, it goes directly to their personal box.   Some people use "flags" and "colors", but I use "personal inboxes".

This does two things:

(1) it makes it easy to find mail from individuals

(2) it shows me at a glance who has sent me mail.  I'll have bold face number next to any of their boxes telling me how many e-mails I have from them that I haven't read just yet.  So if I have 50 unread e-mails, I can tell you immediately how many are from my direct reports and how many are from our lead or executive pastor or etc.

This is super helpful to make sure that the most important stuff gets dealt with first.  Here's a screen shot of how it looks for me:

File everything:  As soon as an e-mail is dealt with, I either delete it or file it.  If I want to keep a file, I have created TONS of folders in my mail where I can dump stuff.  So there's a file for "receipts".  One for every "event" our high school ministry is or has done, etc.  

As a result, I can then easily access all my mail via the issue it was about by simply going to the appropriate file and finding the e-mail I need.  Yes, my e-mail is searchable, but this makes it so much easier to search because I can narrow it down to one file location to search in an instant.  

Here's a screen shot of some of my files under our high school ministry folder:

Well, hopefully that helps.  Feel free to add your own tricks and create a learning community with us if you want in the comments.  



Next up:


1. Let's not talk about my average week.  Depending on the season, it's stupid.  ha ha.  pray for me.  Some days I should be asking you this question, not writing about it.  Ok fine, most days.

2. Here's kinda how it works for an average week for me (i.e. not christmas, spring break, summer, or soccer coaching in the fall).  Hence the word "kinda"...

  • Monday: off work. I take Becky, Billy, and Jake all to one-on-one meetings with me.
  • Tuesday: Direct report meetings, meetings with exec team, prayer meetings as a staff.  Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. 
  • Wednesday: Breakfast with my son TJ, High School Pastor stuff.  Small groups that night. 
  • Thursday:  Breakfast with my son Tyler, message writing, doing stuff I need to do to get ahead of my team and that I can't get done in meetings, and seminary that night.
  • Friday: Final message prep, meetings with volunteers, dinner out with family, church that night.
  • Saturday: off.  At night, I look over and review my prep for high school the next morning. 
  • Sunday: High School Ministry in the morning, volunteer and student meetings in the afternoon, play indoor soccer at night. 
3. Carving out time to date my wife, take family vacations, exercise, write, read, get alone, and anything else that is "about me" is work and difficult and well...

I wrote a ton about it in the first 1/3 of As for Me and My Crazy House, so I'll shamelessly plug it here.

If you're wondering how to pull this "balance thing" off and take care of you, your marriage, your family, and your ministry...  well you can join me in the crazy and give it a quick read.  Hopefully you'll find a kindred spirit as you read.  



Recently, I got this e-mail:

I saw that your role seems similar to the one I am serving in.  I'm wondering if I could ask you three questions: 
1.  What are you doing to develop your direct reports?
2.  How do you budget your time, or what does the average week look like for you?
3.  Whats your strategy to keep up with email?
So, incase you and I both share similar worlds or maybe you're just morbidly curious what I said, here's my answers to his questions.  I initially had this all in one post, but it was getting to long so I decided to go ahead and break it into three, but I posted them all today.

By no means do I have this all figured out, but here's what I do.  Hopefully one of them is somewhat helpful to you.  Feel free to share what you do in the comments.

First up:


Meet directly:  On a personal level, I do my best to encourage them, ask how they are doing, be available, and speak into them as the need arises. Specifically, I meet with my high school paid staff weekly, my direct report team leaders twice a month, and the rest on a monthly level since they are "direct reports" to someone else on my team primarily.  Then in addition to that, about 2x a year we get together for a 1/2 day of team building and dreaming as a "Generation Team".

Local ministry training:  In terms of specific training and development, from time to time I take my team to local ministry training events.  We don't have the budget or funds to send our team across the country to tons of conferences, but we do try and seize the local opportunities that come our way.  Whenever we can get together as a team and go to a training that fits our budget, schedule, and aligns with our ministry, I try and make it happen.

As a church, we send all our paid staff and many from our congregation to the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit annually in August since we host that as well.


Wednesday, January 09, 2013


It's inevitable that in life, and especially in ministry, things will get funky between you and someone else.  It will happen in your family, your marriage, your work, your team... pretty much your everything.  Where there are relationships, there will be funk. I promise.


Expect it.  Anticipate it.

And please.... for the love of all things holy... go directly to the funk and get through it.

Don't go around your boss.  Don't go down the chain of command.  Don't go to friends.  Just go to the person you're in a funk with and deal with it.

Matthew 18:15-17 reads as follows: “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

So if we just follow the textual prompts with this teaching of Jesus, then we will follow a very specific order of events when we confront people when there's a funk or sin or whatever it gets labeled:

  1. Go directly to the one you have a conflict with, and try to work it out personally
  2. Bring in two or three people who you respect and who are in godly leadership roles to help mediate
  3. Bring it to a larger group of Christ-followers to work it out.  Maybe the elder board or something. 
  4. Then the ugly gets dealt with kinda ugly and people get removed all together to eradicate the funk. 

While I pray that you never have to get to step 3 or 4, my experience is that we would avoid about 90% of all of it if we just always started with step 1.

Don’t go to the person’s friends to get clarification first. Don’t text your small group or ask 12 people for advice.  If you're in youth ministry, don't ask another teen what they think.   Just go directly to that person and ask a good question.

Look for clarity.  Strive to understand. Apologize if necessary.  Undo misunderstandings.  Assume the best.  You know... just be sane and stop the gossip train.

If you do that, you might actually be on the road toward God-honoring restoration, too.  You definitely will be on an less traveled road to a God-honoring response for sure.  And the peace you'll have that you acted according to the voice of the Holy Spirit will be from God.


Monday, January 07, 2013


Just yesterday I asked students to turn in written prayer requests as a way to start off 2013 right.  I invited them to write down an invitation to ask God to move in their life in a specific area.  Some students did nothing with them, but some dove in.  Some dove in deep.

How deep?  Well one girl, at the end of service, on her very first time in our youth group, walked up to me and handed me a prayer card.  As she started to walk away I read it and realized that it said her mom had died just 5 days earlier.  It doesn't get any deeper than that.  The truth is, she wouldn't say it to me, but she would write it down.  I called her back.  We hugged and cried. We prayed.

As she walked away and as I had this card in my hand, I realized I was holding a deep spiritual need that I would have never known about had we not had these cards.  She sat at a table of girls and talked and smiled and said nothing about it.

As a youth worker, I can't afford to not know that kind of stuff.  We can't afford to not know this.  Too much is at stake. If you work with high school students, let me encourage you with just one thing: find a way to gather the prayer requests of your students.

For this purpose, I want to strongly encourage you to: USE PRAYER CARDS.

Why?  Well, if the story above isn't reason enough, then here's my top 3 reasons:


Plain and simple, call it the consequence of a texting generation or simply chalk it up to fear... but the truth is, when I hand a group of students a prayer card and ask them to write down what is weighing them down spiritually, often I find that someone has written a need they have not uttered to me or anyone else in the room.  

I was reminded this last Sunday that every weekend I need to remind students that we have cards they can write stuff on and leaders who want to love on them in the midst of their unfolding life story.


I know you want to be a resource in the lives of your students.  But you and I cannot do that 24/7 and God can.  The best chance I have of coming alongside a student as a spiritual influence in their life is actually not to be with them more, but rather to constantly remember them in prayer.  Apart from it being spiritually powerful, on a brutally practical level, it also helps me in the times I am with them too.  I do a better job of remembering names, have a greater sense of spiritual connection, and have more meaningful things to talk about when I've prayed for them all week.

To this end, prayer requests that are written down are a goldmine for my spiritual investment in a student as I ask God to do what only God can do in their lives.


Maybe they can hear music in youth group and at home.  Maybe they can connect with friends at school and in your church.  Maybe they can go to the snow on a trip with your ministry and with their family.  Sure, maybe the activities and opportunities of church and life collide in a lot of different ways.

But when you offer a student a chance to communicate a spiritual need in their life every time they come to your ministry, you set yourself apart as a place where students know they can go to cry out to God in-and-among a faith community in ways that are both profound and distinct.  And that... that is a one of kind thing that the church is supposed to be.

Sure... use a youtube video and play relevant music and write Bible Studies that relate to their lives.... but don't miss the opportunity to do the one thing they don't do anywhere else:  write down a prayer need so you and I can join them in the incomparable privilege of taking a life to God in prayer.

So... I hope you join me in this prayer card priority in 2013 if you don't already do it or even if for you, but like me, it sometimes gets casually addressed instead of intentionally called out.  Let's change that this year.

I suppose that could look like 1000 different things, but here's the one we use in our ministry if you want to download it for a sample.


Friday, January 04, 2013


  • The outreach didn’t work. You’re a failure.
  • The meeting bombed. You’re a loser.
  • That talk you gave was flat. You should quit teaching.
  • Your team lost because you called the wrong play. It’s all your fault.
For a second, let’s assume that all the first statements of those sentence pairs are absolutely true.
  • Your outreach didn’t reach anyone. 
  • Your volunteer meeting was not good. 
  • Your talk left plenty of room for improvement in your teaching technique. 
  • You did call the wrong play, and it did cost your team the game. 
Even if that’s all true, one reason we can’t stand to hear any of that is because there’s a period after the sentence. We said it. The result was not good. Period. This kind of thinking naturally results in the second set of statements. We feel demoralized, we label ourselves failures, and we ponder quitting. This is because in our culture we celebrate success as a win, but the process gets no glory, and setbacks are deemed failures.

I once dropped a $5,000 projector from a ceiling onto a concrete floor when getting it down to take to summer camp. Let’s just say that projector had a lot in common with Humpty Dumpty.

Speaking of summer camp, I left a teenager there once. Oh, he got on the bus. But then he got off the bus to go to the bathroom. We left him three hours from home. It was long before the days of cell phones where he would have called a friend to alert us. So I just drove the bus home. Never knew he wasn’t on it until we got back and then had to send his parents 30 minutes away to get him from the people at the other church from our camp who had found him and brought him home for us. Awesome.

In the past 19 years of full time youth ministry, I’ve amassed plenty more failure stories than those two and discovered that if we want to have any kind of longevity in ministry, we can’t limit the word success to only those things we think went well. Success is not only about an event that goes right. Sure, that’s a form of success—but not if that means you’re done or that if it didn’t go well, you’re a failure. It’s about a much bigger and much larger goal.

This is because my ultimate goal is not to plan great talks and perfect retreats, even though they’re helpful. I want success, but if the ultimate goal I have is a God-sized goal where students follow Jesus for a lifetime, then it’s not going to happen in one event or meeting.  To that end, as I pursue that goal... I should expect some failures, setbacks, and even legitimate criticism along the way. But if you put a “period” after every experience, this will kill you. We need to accept the fact that a failed talk, a bad decision, or an event we deem a flop does not mean we’re a failure. It means we have some things to learn and now we can be wiser for it.

What we need to all remember as parents, leaders, teachers, pastors, coaches, and coworkers is this:  success is not a goal we worship; it is a process we embrace. 

So as we look to that process to bring us to our goal, our critics will come and go-- even in the mirror—and because it’s not all on the line all the time, it won’t be the end of us.

[this was a little teaser taken from my upcoming book: "Criticism Bites" available in March 2013.  If you found this post encouraging, you might find the book helpful too.  Keep checking back.  I'll post some links when you can download or grab the print copy.]


Wednesday, January 02, 2013


Nope, that's not really news. But evidently it has become news because a mom recently posted an 18 point contract that she gave her 13 year-old son when he got an iphone for Christmas.

Here it is, assuming the website is back up.  I assume it's gotten a lot of hits and crashed as near as I can figure.

But for what it's worth, I agree with some of her statements and not all of her methodologies, but to each their own.  Here's my thoughts on your teen and cell phones based on my own experience and our own family standards.

PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.  If you don't want your teen texting on their cell as they drive one day, don't do it either.  If you expect them to ignore their cell phone at the dinner table, then ignore yours.  If you don't want them texting all through a church service, then don't do it either.  If you don't want them glued to it like a game console, then don't use yours to hide from the world either.  I'm not telling you I've mastered this, I'm just saying that if I don't want my kid to do it, I shouldn't either.  Much more is caught than taught with a generation that grew up around cell phones.  Model what you expect.

EAR BUDS ARE NOT A LIFE ACCESSORY.  Hoodies, helmets, even sunglasses now can be bought with earbuds in them. In our family, ear buds or head phones on phones, computers, and iPods are used on long car rides, when listening to music on your own, or when the circumstance makes it appropriate.   They are not a life accessory.

CELL PHONES AND CHARGERS ARE LEFT IN THE KITCHEN AT NIGHT.  We buy our kids alarm clocks to use for wake up calls.  Cell phones are not ways for your friends to get ahold of you 24-7.  So each night they go on the kitchen counter and can be recharged overnight there.

PHONES ARE GIVEN ON AN AS NEEDED BASIS:  We give phones when it becomes needed. So far, for us it's been sometime in middle school.

I PAY FOR CELL, YOU PAY FOR DATA PACKAGES OR APPS.  Neither of my two teens who have a cell phone have a data packages or apps on their phone because quite simply, it costs too much.  I pay a monthly fee for their phone and they share a family unlimited texting package we have.   Until they can pay for the internet and such, their phones are for contacting and texting only and can't receive a multi-media message of any kind yet.

TYPE IT OR SAY IT, IT'S ALL THE SAME.  As a youth pastor, I no longer can simply talk to students about James 3 and the power of the tongue.  Now I have to talk to them about the power of their thumbs.  Truthfully, some type or text more than they verbally say to their friends... especially outside of school.  But those words are no less powerful or dangerous than the ones they speak with their tongue.  Consequently, teaching about the dangers of reading texts without vocal tones, misreading language when no body language is present, and hiding behind a screen to say that which you would never say face-to-face are a few of the things I have to teen my own teens as well as the ones I minister with at church.

PRIVACY IS A PRIVILEGE.  I don't search my kids phones as a habit, but if I have a concern, I won't hesitate.  My kids know that the phone is a privilege that can be taken away if abused or misused, not an irrevocable right.  Open conversations and trust are critical as teens get older and privileges increase.

BUY THE INSURANCE.  While I don't tell my kids to avoid them being careless, I do buy the phone insurance on teen phones because I expect accidents to happen.  When they do, most plans will replace the cell for a long list of ills.  (Best Buy has one that is crazy)  If they lose the cell, which has happened in our family, my kids are responsible for the replacement cost.

Oh... and no, we have not given them a contract or formal letter yet. :)



Well coaching soccer, seminary, work, house fiascos, family stuff, and writing my second book have all caused blogging to take a back for most of the fall and the last 2 months completely.

I wanted to launch a new website/blog design for 2013, but time has me slammed still and my creative energies are tied up elsewhere... so that's still to come.   But I do miss blogging and I'm going to make an attempt to pick it up 3x a week.

My goal is to write 3 nights a week and post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  Some stuff on life in youth ministry, some stuff on family, and some stuff on my latest book I think will be the subjects I'll chase after this winter.

So if you still have this blog feed in your reader or you happen to drop in here from time-to-time still and my last 60 day hiatus didn't scare you away, then we'll see you in 2013 as I share what overflows out of my heart and mind and soul with those who care to read and interact with it.



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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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