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. 



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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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