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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