Tuesday, December 12, 2006

New Books To Recommend

Have you seen these books? They are the first two of a series of seven written by Kurt Johnston and Mark Oestreicher. Both Kurt and MarkO are life-long junior high pastors/workers and their experience and expertise shows in these first two installments. Book number one is entitled “My Faith” while the second is called “My Family.” Each are formatted with dozens of two page chapters designed to be a quick reference for students as they make their way through the turbulent years of middle school. Both are great and I look forward to reading and recommending the other five as they are written. If you have not picked them up, you not only need to do so, you need to recommend them to the parents of your young teens.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Check Yourself:

Recently, I read this in a book called Practicing Passion by Kenda Creasy Dean. This is a heroin dealer talking to a youth worker.

“I’m going to explain to you Christians, who are such good preachers, why you are losing an entire generation. Listen, this is really all about being there.”

“What do you mean?”

“When Johnny goes to school in the morning, I’m there, you’re not. When Johnny comes home from school in the afternoon, I’m there, you’re not. When Johnny goes out for a load of bread for grandma for dinner, I’m there, you’re not. I win, you lose.”

WOW! It’s about “being there.” Are we really “there” for the students we work with? Now, another voice needs to be heard here as well. We can run ourselves raged trying to “be there” for every student in every situation. The bottom line here is that we must keep our focus. Remember why we are here? We are here to point students to Christ, the one who is always “here.” Often we think that we can be there all the time and we cannot. But, when we think we have to be we make our work about us, not about Jesus. That’s a mistake.

Kenda Dean, later says this: “Young people are so thirsty for God that they absorb every ounce of prayer, love, and energy we have to offer, thinking that our fidelity can suffice for God’s.”

Go after it – go after students – be there for them – but be there as a lighthouse – a beacon for Christ – a “voice crying in the wilderness, make straight the way for the Lord.” Be there for students, but remember, it’s not about you, it’s about Jesus.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No Stings Attached?

What is the value in being a blessing to someone if they don’t know you are a Christian? This was a discussion a little while ago and one worth having. If, because I have Christ in my life, I am a bit kinder, more patient, and less rude with people in general (okay, I know just because I’m a Christian does not mean I am not a jerk, but when I’m living the way God wants me to…), is it beneficial to the Kingdom of God for one to show love and grace to another when the other person has no idea why you would do this or who gives you the ability to be so different?

Monday, December 04, 2006

What a Break...

What a great couple of weeks. I don’t know about you, but a restful time started a few weeks ago at the National Youth Workers Convention. Okay, so staying up late and getting up early is not that restful, but what a great rest for my soul as I had time with friends and time to sharpen my mind and ministry. Upon arriving back at home, it was a day or two in the office and then thanksgiving. We had decided to not have middle school programming on thanksgiving weekend as our church was doing more of a family service in the main sanctuary. So, without programming to prepare for, I had a great five day break from the office. It was blissful. Time at home with the family is awesome.

Then, this past week, after two days in the office, Kansas City was hit by its first major winter storm of the year (okay, I’m from Green Bay, so this was NOT major, but there was a good amount of freezing rain followed by 8-12” of snow). It happened that this storm hit the city on Wednesday afternoon, so it caused us to cancel our mid-week programming. Then, school was out on Thursday and Friday. Another long weekend! I know we’ll be sad in the spring when school is still in session because of this, but it was great fun. A lot of time with the family and a great rest for the soul – all taken in with great thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Uptown Theater

I'm hanging out tonight at the uptown theater in Kanas City watching a former student rock the house with his band. You can tell I'm old because I'm blogging about this during the show instead of jumping in the pit. These guys are all in high school & are good. They won the battle of the bands club wars this fall & are getting quite a bit of local play time.

oh yeah! I'm a groupie!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Small Groups

Last Friday at the Austin NYWC I had the chance to speak on middle school small groups. This morning I was laughing out loud (sorry Kurt) when I read Kurt Johnston’s blog about oversleeping on Saturday. We were up late on Friday at the ideas lab and I told Kurt there was NO WAY I was getting up to attend his gig at 8:00 – I guess he didn’t want to get up either J

So, as far as my seminar – it was good fun and I enjoyed the time. Although I though the time was well spent, there were a few things that I will change for the Cinci convention. We definitely need more time for Q&A. In the ideas lab there were several pragmatic small group questions. I was reminded that often we attend seminars for the answers to some pressing questions we currently have. Also, I think it would be good to make sure we spend some time talking about how we can be creative in our small group time.

If you were going to sit in a seminar on middle school small groups – what would you want to hear?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The State of Junior High Ministry:

George Barna has come out with another research study that says 61% of students who were involved in church youth ministries as teenagers have disengaged from the church during their 20’s. My question becomes what are we going to do about this? I think that many are beginning to ask this question in relation to high school ministry. Yet, the root of this problem may be found in the junior high ministries. I have seen more and more high school ministries taking the task of discipleship and equipping more seriously. Yet, how are we, in junior high ministry doing? Are we still running “run and gun” offenses? Are we more about fun than discipleship? What does serious discipleship look like in the life of a squirrelly, ADHD, fun-loving 12 year old? One of the final paragraphs in this study states…

“Much of the ministry to teenagers in America needs an overhaul – not because churches fail to attract significant numbers of young people, but because so much of those efforts are not creating a sustainable faith beyond high school. There are certainly effective youth ministries across the country, but the levels of disengagement among twentysomethings suggest that youth ministry fails too often at discipleship and faith formation. A new standard for viable youth ministry should be – not the number of attenders, the sophistication of the events, or the ‘cool’ factor of the youth group – but whether teens have the commitment, passion and resources to pursue Christ intentionally and whole-heartedly after they leave the youth ministry nest.”

Having read Kenda Dean’s “Practicing Passion” I have also wondered what it looks like to stir this kind of passion in a 12 year old. If it can be done, what does it look like? It certainly will look very different from that of a high school student.

May we not settle for the average, same old, easy, game filled, shallow, junior high ministry. May we be in the business of discipleship and transformation.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Training Day

Saturday was our second annual YouthWorker Training Day here in Kansas City. This is a day for paid and volunteer youth workers which seeks to equip and launch them into a new year of ministry. This year, our general session speaker was Chris Folmsbee of SonLife. I have known Chris for about a year and it has been a blast interacting with him. He’s a thinker and he pushes me to think outside of my box. He did a fantastic job inspiring our volunteers to bring students into the presence of Jesus. As leaders we are not called primarily to program or hang out or have fun, but rather to show Jesus to students. This can happen in our programs, in our hang out times, and in our fun times, but it does not always happen. The questions become “why not?” and “what are you going to do about it?”

The day also includes two seminar sessions which are taught be local youth workers. These are sometimes really good and sometimes not so good. They are good when the presenter remembers… 1) the audience is primarily volunteers who help in ministries and 2) keep it short. The seminars are a real bummer when the audience is filled with volunteers and the presenter spends the entire time talking to them like they were the lead youth worker – or able to make final decisions. They are also a bummer when the presenter feels like they must communicate 3 hours of material in the hour they have.

Overall this was a great day and those from my team who attended seemed to be glad they did.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Go 24...

Last night was a good night for my favorite TV Show, 24.

lightning Strike

Friday I was sitting in my office doing a bit of catch up work. It was a bit stormy out and all of a sudden "CRACK!" It was the loudest thunder clap I had heard in a long while. In about a three second time span I heard the clap, thought in my head "holy cow, that was close," and then saw a shower of wood splinters coming down in the parking lot out front. Lightning had struck the big oak tree behind our neighbor's property (a pet crematorium - cool place) and had splintered one large limb all over the place. No one was hurt and no property was significantly damaged.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Fantasy Football

Last night I participated in my first fantasy football draft. It’s funny, last year was the first year I “played” fantasy football. I say “played” because I was paired with someone who knew what they were doing and I really just watched as he did all the work. This year, I am in two leagues. The first, last night’s draft, is with our church staff. It’s a ton of fun to badger each other from week to week and I look forward to it. However, I noticed yesterday in preparation for the draft that my inbox was hit like 50 times with banter back and forth between staff members. I read an article a week or so ago about how work efficiency drops during the season – I now know why – I’m not sure any of us got as much done as we normally would and all I did was delete all the emails (and chime in once telling everyone to get back to work – I’m such a task oriented person). Anyway, here’s the team I ended up with – good, bad, or otherwise. Hope we do okay.

Hasselbeck, Matt QB SEA
James, Edgerrin RB IND
Lewis, Jamal RB BAL
Burleson, Nate WR SEA
Galloway, Joey WR TB
Harrison, Marvin WR IND
Davis, Vernon TE SF
Tynes, Lawrence K KC
Brees, Drew QB NO
Barber, Marion RB DAL
Bell, Tatum RB DEN
Robinson, Marcus WR MIN
Steelers, DST DST PIT

Monday, August 21, 2006


Yesterday was our annual summer baptism. Man, I love these days. It’s fun to see people make this step in their spiritual journey. I had the privilege of baptizing eight middle school students. Each is at a different place in their journey, but each was ready to make this statement to all who were present. Each was, in their own way, saying “I love Jesus and want each of you to know that and would like each of you to help me grow in my love of the Lord.” It was awesome.

These are some of the great blessings of youth ministry.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Last night at 1:30 my phone rang. It was a 17-year-old girl from our high school ministry (a former middle schooler) who was staying at home alone and was scarred. She asked if my wife and I would come over and check things out. So, off we went. (BTW – I told my wife that she would not make a good emergency response team member as after this distressing call she got dressed, went to the bathroom, got a drink and wrote a note to our sleeping kids before we left). When we arrive at her house, she had also called the police – smart kid – and the officer, my wife, and I went into the house to see what was up. Turns out it was nothing but a scarred teenager – bless her heart. So, we brought her to our house and she slept in the guest room for the rest of the night.

Isn’t if funny what ministry to students throws your way sometimes?

Teens need love...

Each fall, I host grade level cookouts at my house for the students in our ministry. For three Wednesday’s in a row in August students from one grade level each week pack into my house for burgers, hot dogs, and a chance to have some fun together. Last night it was the 7th graders turn.

One girl stood out to me and grabbed my heart, as it was apparent all she really wants is an adult who will love her. Her home life is really screwed up, she lives with a grandparent that obviously does not really want her, and that after her own mother does not really want her. Her father is deceased and, in general, there are not many around who really look after her. Her other set of grandparents are Christ followers and I’m not really sure why she does not live with them, but I know there are some tensions there.

Bottom line is my heart hurts for the thousands of kids like this who just need love. We all have students like this girl who have been dealt a poor hand in life and who need some love and positive attention from an adult. Keep up the good work my friends, these kids need us.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I've got bad judgment

Recently I was contracted by someone to create a team video for a 12 year old baseball team. I love to work with final cut pro and other pro tools to create video projects. It's kind of like creative memories on steroids. So, anyway, I thought it was a great idea (get paid to do something you love). In the end, I put together, what I thought, was a pretty good project. I used songs from POD, Toby Mac, Andy Hunter, along with Styx, Queen, and others. It was a great product.

After review from the client, they emailed me some complaints about the music. Now, it's important to note that I would not consider them to be up on what is hot with teens, and I know I am not as up on this as I could be, but being that I work with this age, I thought I could find a good balance between what they would like to hear and what the parents would find appealing. I guess I was wrong. What I got was a letter questioning my judgment. It's also important to note that this person knows I am a pastor and they attend one of the local Catholic parishes. My hope was to be a good representative of Christ as I strove for something excellent and beautiful. What I got was a questioning of my judgment and a diminished impact in the life of this family.

What I found humorous in the whole thing was the fact that the songs that were not acceptable were all the Christian songs and the 70's Styx song (These are the times) was "sexually charged" and not something that was appropriate for this age group. What I wanted to ask was "what do you think your son is listening to on his IPOD?" "What do you think the boys are hearing on the radio?" I refrained because the customer is always right. But come on...do I really have bad judgment? I hope not!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer is over...Hurray!!!!!

I don't know about you, but I have a lot of mixed emotions about the summer (BTW - do you know what the definition of mixed emotions is? When your mother-in-law drives your new car off a cliff). In some ways I love the summer. It's a great time to hang with students, the weekly programs are less in number and take less time and energy to pull off (besides, interns do all the work anyway), and connections with new kids are awesome. BUT - I'm a guy of structure and routine and the summer kills me in this realm. The randomness of the schedule drives me crazy. Finding time to "get it all done" seems to be a constant problem (i.e. this blog - I haven't posted in months - I'm a dork). Well, anyway, school starts here in Kansas City this Thursday for most students. With this comes some sanity and some peace for a few weeks before our fall calendar gets into full gear.

For the two of you who read this blog - sorry for the absence - but the summer is over and my personal feelings about life and ministry get a lot more predictable.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Volunteers Rule...

Have you ever had that feeling like "if she did not help me, I'd be sunk!"? I have! All the time. I don't know about you, but I love my work, but I also know that my work is very dependant on the volunteer staff that helps in our ministry. Without them, if the did not connect with teens, love on them, hang with parents, challenge kids, stay up late, listen to stories, etc, etc, etc..., there is no way our ministry would function. THREE CHEARS FOR VOLUNTEERS!

If you have not taken time to tell your volunteers how much you appreciate them lately, don't wait. Do it today. If, like me, you're a dork, and have a hard time being a bit creative about it, my friend Kurt wrote a great little book with Katie Edwards that gives you a ton of ideas. Check out Go Team.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

We get DONUTS!

Having a great time @ the game. We're actually winning (but the games not over). We have 12 hits. That means Krispe Kreme for everyone.

My family and I are going to the Royals game today. They are SO BAD, it's not even funny. Last night the sports guy on the news just shook his head and said "I don't know what to say anymore, they're bad." Well, the good news is we got free tickets right behind home plate from a family in the church and because they are so bad, there will not be a crowd. I'm looking forward to a relaxing afternoon with the family.

It's that time of year...

The beginning of summer. It is with bitter/sweet emotion that I welcome summer into my life. On the one hand, I love welcoming the new class of 6th graders into our ministry, on the other hand, my structured nature hates the chaos of the summer schedule. What's a guy to do? Deal with it, I guess.

I'm a bit tired lately - I usually get up at 5:00 am, but lately have been having trouble dragging myself out of bed at 6:30. I think part of this is due to the amount of work that needs to be done at this time of year (winding up the school year while preparing for the summer). My intern starts next week and that's always a blast, but comes with some "startup" time needed in helping her get going. Anyway, blah, blah, blah...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Family is a blast. We are finishing up the overlap sport season (that's the time in May when the Spring sports overlap with the summer sports and life is really crazy for a few weeks). Running to so many baseball/softball games and practices alongside the soccer games and practices can be a lot of running, but it is so much fun. I love watching and cheering my kids on. They make me laugh constantly.

My oldest will join my ministry next summer. I have serious mixed emotions about that one (you know the definition of mixed emotions is when your mother-in-law drives your new car off a cliff). If you have your own kids in your ministry, what advice can you give as I prepare for this new phase of life?

Monday, May 22, 2006


HOLY COW! Was the finale awesome or what????? I loved it! The end of Logan was a bit predictable, but still very well done. Also, as soon as Jack was called into a building, I knew he was a goner, but I had NO IDEA it would be the Chinese again. I totally thought it was the mystery group that was behind Logan. WOW! I can't wait to see where they go with this next season. I LOVE THIS SHOW!


Tonight is the season finale of 24 (my favorite TV show). I can't wait to see how Jack takes out Logan!!!!

In case you're interested...

Last week, I mentioned that I was able to join some friends who are also in young teen ministry for a few days. This yearly gathering always feels like a family reunion of sorts. It's one of the highlights of my year.

I mentioned that we spend our time together talking about Scot McKnight's book Embracing Grace and what it means to communicate the Gospel to teens today. If you'd like to read more about this conversation, you can check out MarkO's blog. He has and will be posting the notes from our time on his blog.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Funny Dance Thing

One of my faithful and AWESOME volunteers, Judi, sent me this link. It's a bit long (6 min), but funny. Enjoy. Evolution of the Dance

I'm Back...

I'm back in Kansas after speding four fun filled and stimulating days with so many of my friends who love middle school students and ministry to them as much as I do. It's funny that even with so many years of experience in the room (around 250), we still are but a frail group with a ton to learn. It is SOOOO encouraging to hear people you think MUST have it all together, say they don't. I love the humility and hearing of the journey of these friends. Thanks to all who were a part.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

First Post

So, I'm at the junior high summit and everyone seems to be blogging. I'm feeling the peer pressure to begin a blog, so here it goes.

This week is one I look forward to each year. There are 22 junior high pastors who gather each year to sharpen each other and talk shop on junior high ministry. Each of those who attend have been in ministry for at least ten years and see young teen ministry as a life-long vocation. I enjoy the time because it brings a group of peers in ministry together and that is not an easy thing to do when you're talking junior high ministry. Most of the time, people ask me when I'm going to stop doing young teen ministry. This crowd understands the passion for this age group and the desire to spend a lifetime working with them.

I look forward to posting and sharing thoughts, ideas, and musings on middle school ministry.