Friday, August 17, 2007

Left Behind (The Rapture Song)

This is from our main service this past Sunday. We are in the middle of a series on Daniel, and this week was covering chapters 8-12 and Daniel's visions. Thought this was a funny way to intro the sermon.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


August 25th brings our annual YouthWorker Training Day here in KC. This is hosted and organized by YouthFront with the help of some local youthworkers. The idea is to provide a day of encouragement and training for local youth ministry volunteers. It's a great day to take your entire volunteer team to.

I am doing two seminars - the first is "Parents are your Partners." The objective is to help volunteers see the family as their ally in reaching young teens. How can we move beyond the teen as our "end goal" and start seeing the family as the place where lasting ministry moments can happen more frequently?

The second seminar I am doing in tandem with my associate Emily Wilson and another young woman in ministry Jenny Marvine. This seminar will be "Ministering to Middle School Boys & Girls." Our objective in this time is to help volunteers understand ways to better connect with students as they better understand who they are and where they are and why they are. Did that make any sense?

If you have any thoughts that might be good to share in either of these seminars, let me know.

Harder than it seems...

Blogging is harder than it seems. It's difficult to find things to post. Well, at least, things I think someone else will care about. I get tired of going to blogs only to find them filled with Babel and blah. I guess that's just my opinion though. Most would probably say the same things about what I have and will post. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Leading and Following

i don't know who was leading and who was following in this situation, but it's safe to say there was a plot by a couple of kids to do something they saw as "fun" and nothing to stop or cause them to think it was not okay. was the 17 year old in charge and did he lead these 10 year old boys to this? that would be my guess. whatever the case, it breaks my heart and reminds me of how messed up our world is and how much in need of redemption we all are.

Monday, April 30, 2007

What will they think of next?

Amazing what teens will think of to try and "get ahead" in the world today. The question for me is "what kind of pressure do I place on my own kids that might contribute to them feeling like they must do well all the time?" Read this article here.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Volunteer Training – Community vs. Equipping

One of the things I wrestle with is how to fill our volunteer training times. Now, I’m not saying I don’t have anything to say – I always have plenty to say. Rather, I’m talking about content management. What should our times together look like. I’m wrestling with the fact that so many of the volunteer teams I have seen in the past three months and so many of the volunteers I have talked with seem ill equipped to do what we ask them to do. Let’s be honest here. We desire a relational ministry because it’s through relationships that significant ministry can take place. So, we ask our volunteers to hang out with students in and out of our program times. We desire the students in our ministry to learn, to be discipled, to grow in their faith, and some of that happens in our large groups, but we really rely more on our small groups to accomplish this. Yet, how well trained are our volunteers to lead these kinds of small groups? Is it happening? I would say that in many cases, the answer is “no, it’s not.”

Listening to volunteers has taught me they feel ill equipped to do what we ask of them. The feel like they are failing with their small group. They are stretched thin and need some help and leadership. So, when they come to our training time, what do we give them? The tools they need to successfully lead a small group, or food for their own soul, or both? Question: What would it look like if we stopped giving our volunteers another tool for their ministry toolbox, stopped giving them answers to problem a, b, and c? Instead, what would happen if we met their needs, discipled them, helped them grow closer to Christ? Would they naturally be better at doing this with students if someone did it with them? Maybe!

What role does the rest of the church play in this process though? If the volunteers in your ministry are involved in an adult small group of their own (a healthy thing to be involved with people older than 12) and they found the encouragement they needed and the soul food they needed within that context? Would you need to fill this role? Maybe we need to spend our time trying helping them learn to translate what we have gleaned as adults to the lives of the young teens they work with. Would this accomplish the goal of helping volunteers be better at discipleing students?

Now, the bottom line is there are some volunteers who do this very well (either as a result or in spite of what we have done with them). There are others, however, who may not ever be good at it no matter what we do. There are still others who, with a little push, could become great. The question is what does that push look like? We want to move our volunteers to become better at reaching our overall goal of making disciples, but we don’t want to be trying to move them to an unattainable place.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I'm Learning

Things I have been learning on my sabbatical – simple statements that I’ll seek to elaborate on later.

  • Training our volunteers is highly valued, but not well done
  • Volunteer leaders need to be super-human to do what we ask of them (this makes those who actually do what we ask amazing)
  • Ministry assessment is not happening very well – how well do you confront the brutal facts of how your ministry is doing?
  • Discipleship is not happening as well as we might think it is
  • Our small groups are not really accomplishing as much as we thought they would
  • Junior high students are very capable of diving into the spiritual disciplines (the old and “new” ones) as long as they are lead well
  • There are not a lot of good resources out there for junior high students. There are plenty of not so good things, but not many that are really worth much. If a student is looking for a devotional booklet or some help with a problem, don’t hold your breath for the answers to come with a simple resource

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Book Review

Just finished Walt Mueller’s book “Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture: Bridging Teen Worldviews And Christian Truth It was about what I expected having sat in on a few of his seminars though the years and regularly read his newsletters, blogs, and publications. I highly respect Walt for his approach to engaging culture. I know some would disagree with, what I would consider to be, his conservative approach to life, but I find it refreshing. I resonate with someone who can have a more conservative theology and outlook on life, and yet still has the ability to engage culture, seeing it as God sees it. As Christians we can not run and hide from culture, nor can we simply immerse ourselves blindly. We must engage it, learn from it, and work to redeem it. My biggest tension in this area how to keep up. Culture changes so fast and Walt would seem to advocate digging in to that culture for the sake of reaching those lost within it. Yet, as I look at the kids in the schools we minister to, their tastes in music and such are all over the map. It’s would be a full time job trying to understand every kid’s music. Even trying to map out the subgroups within the school is hard, there is so much diversity. It’s funny to say that when we work with middle school students who pack together, but what they like changes so fast, sometimes your head can spin. I also am not always convinced that young teens are listening to music for it’s message. Some are, but because they are so pack oriented and long for acceptance so much, I think they change what they listen to often because of who they are trying to be like or accepted by this week. They don’t listen because they connect with the lyrics, they listen because someone they want to be like likes the music. Did that make any sense? Anyway, this is a good book to read, especially as a suggestion for parents or volunteers on your team who could use a shot in the arm for understanding more of the culture their kids swim in.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Who Says Middle School Students Aren't Great?

Check out this 11 year old girl who saved her mother, brother, and herself from serious injury by stopping her mom's van when she was sick. Read it here.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Taco Bell Reflections

Last week I found myself sitting in Taco Bell with Steve Friesen (a self-proclaimed taco bell junkie). As I waited for Steve to arrive, I was listening to two cable guys talk about their jobs. They are talking about how they don’t like to work in the “rich” neighborhoods because the home owners treat them like crap. They are wondering why when they try to be so nice and go the extra mile to resolve a problem, do people treat them like dirt and call in to complain. I’m reminded to be a person of compassion. How do I view the people in life who work minimum wage jobs? Do I look down on them? Do I feel like I am entitled to something because I make more money than they do? Are they not created in God’s image just as I am? Are they not “the least of these” that Jesus talked about? How are you doing? I can do better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Size Doesn't Matter

This past weekend, I had time to ask all my sabbatical project questions to Scott Reuben of Willow Creek. Now, I have known Scott for a few years and he has always impressed me as someone who thinks and really seeks to excel in ministry. My conversation with him this past weekend confirmed these feelings even more. One of the things I really like about Scott is his genuine humble attitude. This manifested itself this weekend in a few simple ways. First, he was willing to take time with me (okay, we have a low level ministry related friendship, but still, he has a monster of a ministry to run and probably gets a ton of requests for his time). Second, he gave me a sneak peek into some of the inner workings of the junior high ministry at Willow and he did not need to do so.

I think, for me, the thing I was most reassured with in my time with Scott and his team this weekend was size does not make things easier, it just takes the problems we all face and compounds them (in fact my group is about 15% of Willow’s and I would say that we have the same difficulties, but I deal with about 15% of the breath of those problems in comparison to Willow). Let me do what I can to challenge those of you who dream of huge ministries to stop dreaming J If God desires to entrust you with so many students, great, but don’t wish for it. The problems you face now will not run away when you have ten times the kids, ten times the staff, and ten times the budget. You’ll just get ten times the problems and you’ll still be pulling your hair out trying to be a good steward of what God has called you to do. I am glad to be serving where I am!

BTW - MarkO posted on the numbers game a few days ago, read his comments here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Have you Ever?

Thought about what a sixth grader coming into your ministry can and can’t do? I’m not sure I have given this a ton of thought. This weekend was an eye-opener for me in a few small ways. You see, as I traveled with my soon-to-be-sixth-grader-in-my-ministry son, I noticed he was not ready to do a few things I routinely ask new sixth graders to do - assuming they can do them. The most interesting of these little realizations was the fact that he has never ordered his own meal at a restaurant. Now, I know that is a sad reflection on him and even a more pathetic reflection on me, his father, but it’s true. When we go out to eat, and it does not matter if it’s a fancy place or McDonald’s, it’s always been easier for me to order for all the kids (I have four of them). It’s a pragmatic thing – we talk about what they want and I communicate it to the waiter or waitress. However, now I am just realizing that my son does not even really know how to do this. So, this weekend I made him order everything. It was quite an experience. At times, he did fine and at other times, he had some trouble. One thing was consistent – he was nervous. Can you believe that? He was nervous about ordering a chicken sandwich at McDonald’s. Now, extrapolate that to a bunch of your sixth graders and that “deer in the headlights” look when your standing at the counter on that first trip with them makes a whole lot more sense. I’m sure you are better than I in this area, but I plan to pay more attention and be much more sensitive to these sixth graders from here on out.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Very Special Weekend

I have been promoting parents talking to their kids about adolescence for a long time now, but this weekend, the talking hit home for me. My 11-year-old son, Ethan, and I embarked on a trip to Chicago together. The purpose of the trip was two fold. First, I had a few meetings with junior high pastors for my sabbatical project, but second, we were going to have a “man” weekend.

Our weekend started with Ethan getting out of half of Thursday and all of Friday from school (he did not complain). We hit the road to Chicago and began to listen to Dr. Dobson’s “Preparing for Adolescence” CD series. I will say that I don’t think there is a lot of good material out there to help parents navigate this important transitional time and although Dobson’s stuff is horribly dated (he recorded it in the late 70’s) it is still, I think, some of the best stuff out there. To clarify, what I like is that he does not just cover sex and the physical changes that will occur in the years to come (and I must say, I think he covers this subject very well), but he also talks about inferiority, conformity, love, and friends. The dated side of the material shows up in his examples and statistics. I would love to see him update these (or have one of his staff do so).

Friday put us at the Cubs game. Ethan has always been a Cubs fan (influence of his grandfather), but he had never been to Wrigley. So, naturally, we needed to get this done while we were there. It was a great day (except they fell apart in the 5th and lost by one run). We got to the stadium at 11:00 for b.p. and Ethan was initially not excited about standing around for two hours prior to game time. However, after 90 minutes he got a ball and that made everything worthwhile. An added bonus and totally a coincidence, Ethan’s grandpa and uncle were at the game and we were able to sit with them and enjoy our special day together.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


One thing that I don’t think we have enough of is good resources for junior high girls. This is a broad category because I’m talking resources for parents of teen girls, resources for youth workers about teen girls, and definitely, resources to give junior high girls weather they be devotionals that are good or just books that they can read and interact with that will help them through this turbulent time. I just finished Heather Flies’ entry into the “I Want to Talk With My Teen About…” series put out by Standard Publishing where she talks about "girl stuff". Heather is a very thoughtful and insightful female junior high youth worker. I love her stuff and have had her in for a weekend to talk to my staff about middle school girls. Her book (well, more of a booklet) is a great resource that I will pass on to my staff and parents, but what else is there? Give me your best suggestions.

(NOTE: I am currently reading “Teenage Girls” by Ginny Olsen and look forward to being able to add this to my very short list of good girl resources. I'll post on it when I'm done.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Teenage Boys

I finished “Teenage Guys” by Steve Gerali yesterday. This is a great book worthy of recommending to your parents and staff. There are some parts that I would not totally agree with, or indorse, but, it is non-the-less a great resource for those who work with teenage boys. I hope “Teenage Girls” is equally as good.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Rained Out

Well, my lifelong dream was rained out (at least for now). My wife and I had a great few days in New York, but the highlight of the trip was to go to a Yankee game at Yankee Stadium. I have seen the Yankees play many times (in fact, they are in KC for 7 games this season), but I have never been to Yankee Stadium. My hope was to get into the stadium and absorb some of the history etc... The game was less important than the stadium - well, it was not meant to be. The rain came hard and all day and they never even opened the doors :( Bummer! My tickets are good for a year, so maybe I'll get back out there sometime.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Impacting your Neighborhood

This artilce appeared in a recent issue of "World" magazine. It's really prompts us to think about our neighborhoods in a new way. Do we really think whoistically in our approach to ministry? What do you think?

Man about town
Urban planner Christopher Leerssen sees caring about the built environment as one way Christians love their neighbors | Mindy Belz

"As a Christian architect I try to reflect the order and the creativity of our ultimate creator—to somehow point to hope and faith and many times humility through our edifices," is a straightforward statement of purpose from prize-winning architect Christopher Leerssen. The Georgia Tech graduate specializes in architecture both vertical and horizontal, serving as an urban planner in Atlanta with expertise in designing infill and urban mixed-use developments around the Southeast. Planning communities, he says, should include a biblical expression not only of beauty but also justice and mercy, where justice can be a sidewalk and mercy a bench for the homeless.

WORLD: What makes for a great community?

LEERSSEN: Some folks would say that community is only people, and I would agree partially, but I would also forward that the form or shape of the place will influence and affect how great that community can be. Truly beautiful, lovable places have both a visual loveliness and an experiential charge to them.

I would say what makes for a great community is a respect for the human. It comes from an understanding, written or unwritten, that we are image bearers of a Divine Creator. From that knowledge stems great people places: places of worship, discourse, learning, and market. My view of greatness entails well-roundedness. While rare, a free democracy is paramount; greatness cannot come on the backs of others.

WORLD: How do you translate those abstract ideas into concrete reality?

LEERSSEN: I am certain that participating in public life is a must for believers, and if there isn't that sidewalk or park or space where people rub shoulders, either start one or move to some place that has a real community. Also, when the time comes for a vote on community plans and zoning, don't be afraid of people different from you (smaller houses) or of density (apartments). A compact urban form is necessary for an ecologically sustainable future and fiscally, a dense city is easier to service, police, and beautify.

WORLD: How does the design of traffic flow patterns and streetscapes advance the kingdom of God?

LEERSSEN: Traffic can either give or take away time to be with other people—family, strangers or otherwise. And streetscapes and their sidewalks are the bedrock to good public space—they are the glue that holds diverse neighborhoods together.

WORLD: Are big-box stores and mega-malls then unbiblical?

LEERSSEN: No, not really. They certainly serve a purpose in commerce; however, their deleterious impacts on community, traffic, other businesses, and the environment should not be overlooked. As with any business you should ask if the manner in which they deliver the product is ethical and in line with what you believe. We all can display a slick form of greed when we price shop to an extreme. Price warring has resulted in shopping centers that look like they dropped from outer space—they are entirely auto-oriented and far from a beautiful or uplifting human environment.

WORLD: You have said, "A powerful tool for the spread of the gospel is lost when our public realm is dismantled." What do you mean by dismantling and what can be done to reverse it?

LEERSSEN: Dismantling the public realm starts with building inward-looking, privately focused developments, be they single-family homes with garages at the street or gated apartments, all linked by roads that have no sidewalks. Or take the schools that are only accessed via automobile, fenced in and off limits, having no real connection to their surrounds and engendering no other public activities at any time of the day.

Where do religions have their greatest impact? Dispersed through the countryside or in the network hubs where new ideas and change are a given? Where did the early apostles go—to the outskirts or to the center? Reversing our inward-focused mindset entails loving to be with other people at the park, on the way to work, at the school. Loving to know your neighbors and to have the opportunity to serve them is paramount to spreading the gospel.

WORLD: Is there a specific role for churches in this process? Do churches resist civic engagement as "not direct ministry"?

LEERSSEN: Certainly, churches and their buildings should be less clubby, private affairs and more of that common ground for "the Church" proper to interact with the outside world and skeptics. Churches could open wide their doors by hosting art shows, financial seminars, offering mercy, and musical performances—invite the public in and create that haven for public discourse.

Churches are also buildings. Congregations must have a very good understanding architecturally how their master plan contributes to the fabric of the community. The church could regain some of her stature and prominence in our communities if congregations would locate and design their site in such a way to be less insulated and boring.

Many churches these days, when expanding their facilities, look for the 10-20 acre site on cheap land with good access (Sound like a familiar story? Think big retail). This ensures the church is only accessible by automobile and probably nowhere near any preexisting human activity in the community—it's no wonder we've lost some of our connection with the world.

The better scenario is to look for the spot near some nexus of human energy and build a church which fits into that context. The really exciting hybrid of that positive scenario is when churches also play developer (likely through a partnership of sorts) and add housing or major mercy facilities into their master plan.

WORLD: Since Atlanta is your hometown—and to many a maze of overbuilt freeways and endless shopping meccas—how do you interact with locals to improve your own public realm?

LEERSSEN: Hotlanta—the city too busy to hate. Its energy and youthfulness are intoxicating, but from a planning and architectural standpoint we've grown inebriated with our success and grown too fast. It really is a fantastic laboratory to test out various patterns of building a city: solid intown neighborhoods with transit, walkability, historic properties, and decent retail; first-ring suburbs that are for the most part imploding due to an exodus of fleeing families and downward real-estate values; second-ring suburbs that seem to do OK but are stiflingly boring; and the exurbs, which is a horse farm next to gated cul-de-sac that could go on quite literally till Tennessee. Frankly, due to our abuses of the land, we are returning back to time-honored principles of city building.

We all have to help locally, and for me that means serving on the board of my neighborhood and chairing our zoning committee. There very local decisions about density and design and streetscapes are made as we negotiate with developers and landowners. I attend planning workshops and interact with the process, and many times end up angling for the rights of the poor, the elderly and car-less.

My family also sits on our porch a good bit; we take walks and are available for neighbors. We make use of our parks and sidewalks and trails so that we can enliven and reinforce the idea of being with other humans. We walk to dinner, to shopping, and to transit, saying hello usually to more than one neighbor. Once the coffee shop opens up, we'll be there, too. We don't watch a lot of TV—we'd prefer to interact with ruddy faces, not glowing ones.

WORLD: What can fellow Christians do to improve the growth of their communities in meaningful and practical ways?

LEERSSEN: Be more mindful of the physical spaces around you—begin to ask yourself some questions about the places in which you dwell. Are your daily places those where you have the opportunity to interact with other image bearers? What does your commute do for you? Are you active in your neighborhood—allowing you to more fully know and love your neighbors? Is your church active in its (maybe the same) neighborhood? Community is both physical and nonphysical, but God gives us the capacity to dwell in and improve both.

Monday, April 02, 2007

New York Here I Come

I head to New York with my wife tomorrow morning for a three day get away. The highlight of the trip is heading to see my beloved Yankees play on Wednesday. I have like the Yankees since I was a kid and have never been to Yankee Stadium. I told our executive pastor this (another Yankee fan) and he got me tickets to a game in New York for a sabbatical gift from our church staff (another reason why my church rocks). Although the weather looks to be mid 50's and raining, we are really excited (you need to understand that my wife is a bigger baseball fan than I am, so she's really looking forward to the trip as well).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Way too Cool

Have you seen this article from the NYT? Brittany Bergquist, 16, and her brother, Robbie, 15, started "Cell Phones for Soldiers" three years ago (when they were middle school students) and since have raised more than $1 million for phone cards for soldiers. WOW! I love stories like this. Students who do make a global difference in a big way.

Volunteer Staff Team

One of the things I have always known, but often times have neglected anyway has been investment into our volunteer staff team. Now, I’m not saying we’re miserable or anything, in fact, I think the team we have in place right now is the best team we have ever had. I would say that more of our volunteer staff understand genuine ministry and love students more holistically now than at any other time in my ministry life. That being said, if ministry really does center around relationships with adults who love Jesus and love students, than, it’s extremely important for those adults to be equipped and trained to use those relationships to help students live in the Kingdom of God.

I must ask myself and evaluate myself and my own leadership in this area of training staff. I would contend that I have a long way to go in developing people who are powerfully impacting teens. I would say that those on our current team who do this well are natural at it and would do well with or with out me. What will I change when I get back to the helm of our middle school ministry that will allow be to better lead, train, and equip our volunteer staff team?

So, how are you equipping your team? What has been the best thing you’ve done or taught in the last year? What has been a valuable resource for you in this area?

A New Kind of Youth Ministry

I don’t know about you, but I always have more books on my list to read than I actually can get read. Even now, when I am on sabbatical, I’m finding it hard to get as much reading done as I would have liked (although I’m not complaining, I’m doing a lot of reading). So, you may understand why it has taken me until now to read Chris Folmsbee’s “new” book “A New Kind of Youth Ministry.” WOW! This is a great book. I liked it because it was fresh and easy to read (I read it in one afternoon). Yet, I also liked it because, even though it was easy to read, it will be a source for chewing on for quite some time.

Interesting, one of the things I am really enjoying on my sabbatical is the opportunity I have to visit other ministries in our area. It’s great to see my friends in action and experience their context. Yet, with Chris’ book as a backdrop, I would say that every church I have visited (mine included) has a long way to go if we are to really be “new kinds of youth ministries.” There are a number of things many are doing well and a number of things that I would suggest we need to rethink.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Fun Game

My six year old is adicted to this game (he's gotten the daily high score on the site a few times). It's pretty fun.

What's our Responsibility?

As youth workers, we may be more in tune with things like this (an NYT article about a Texas Teenager who died and came back to life after playing a choking game), than the parents of the teens we serve. So, if we are more aware of some of the things that go on in youth culture, what is our responsibility in getting the word out. On the one hand, we don't want to be alarmists and cause unneeded worry. On the other hand, we don't want to neglect the fact that teens in our ministries do stupid stuff all the time. What do you think?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Want to help?

If you have been reading my blog at all, you know that I am in the middle of a 12 week sabbatical (this is awesome and I feel incredibly blessed to have a church which grants this Sabbath rest). One of the things I have been wanting to do for some time is to think about the future of young teen ministry. Part of my sabbatical, as I proposed it, is to be spent thinking about this in the context of my church and ministry. For this reason, I have put together a set of questions that I have been wrestling with.

This is where you can help if you want. I am in the process of setting up one hour phone interviews to talk through these questions. If you would be willing to give me an hour of your time, I would love to ask for your thoughts on my thoughts. The only requirement is that you are in full-time junior high ministry. You can be in a church or para-church or some other ministry. As long as you work with young teens, I’d love to talk with you.

If you would like to see the basic questions prior to talking with me or deciding if you want to talk with me, you can find them here. I will not get through all these questions with everyone, but you’ll get an idea of what I’m looking to ask.

If you would like to participate, please leave me a comment and give me your email address. We’ll go from there.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I have finally finished my struggle through a very THICK book. Not thick in terms of pages (although it was not thin there either), but THICK in terms of content. WOW! What a ride. I’m sure I’ll be digesting this one for a while. The book is “Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity” by Nancy Pearcey. This was not an easy read for me, but well worth it. Let me try to explain why without boring you.

In our church, we have come to adopt a four chapter view of the Gospel story. This is not our idea and not a new idea, but it makes a ton of sense to me. The story the way we understand it starts not with the two story idea of sin and salvation, but with Creation. We and the world are created by God and the way God created us was good. The way things were created was the way it “OUGHT” to be. We came into the world, however, and took God’s plan into our own hands and did our own thing. Thus, sin enters the world and screws things up. This is the way it “IS” but not the way it “OUGHT” to be. The solution is redemption - God’s plan for resorting not only man, but the world to Himself. When we look at this plan, we see the way the world “CAN” be if we follow God’s plan. Finally, we look down the road to a new creation. A time when God’s plan will again come to perfection and the world “WILL” be the way it was created to be once again. As creations of God, we are called to live within His plan, to help fulfill His plan, to help restore the world and all that is in it (including people). Nancy Pearsey uses a three chapter version of this message (she combines chapters three and four) and explains why it is so compelling and why it is so helpful in her book.

A bottom line is summarizing this book might be to say it helps one form a more complete Christian worldview. I know that this may not sound fun and to some, it may even sound ugly (the notion of worldview is often misrepresented and therefore discarded). Yet, I believe Mrs. Pearcey is right on track in saying that everyone has a worldview and we must not only understand our view, but know more about how that worldview answers some of life’s most important questions. As Christians, and as youth leaders, we have done a good job of helping people know “the facts” but we don’t always help people connect the dots. Let me explain a bit more…

A helpful insight that Mrs. Pearcey brings out is the bifurcation of the mind. Our world (and Pearcey traces the roots as to how we got to where we are today) separates life into to realms, fact and value. Facts are the things that deal in science and empirical evidence. These are the things that can be “known.” Values are connected with religion and are held as subjective. Our culture has made the realm of “fact” to be what we talk about in the public square and the realm of “value” to be confined to the private life of an individual and the two have no connection, no relevance to one another. Therefore your private value system has no business in determining the public policy for this or that. You can see examples of this everywhere, from President Clinton’s scandal, to the “battle cry” discussion on marko’s blog. Of course the problems raised by ron luce and his ministry are a problem for the city of san fran. But the city is not going to listen to what ron has to say because he is dealing in value and they have no traction in the public square where fact rules the day. As ministries we must reculture and re-architect our language and the arguments we have in order to be heard in the public square and ultimately make a difference in redeeming our world.

How is this relevant to junior high ministry? Good question. I need to process this a lot in order to be equipped to answer that fully. However, if we are not helping students see the dichotomous life they are living when they place their faith in that “value” realm and pull it out only on Sunday, then we set them up for a miserable failure in post high school life when they are picked apart by people who can pick apart some of the “holes” in their faith system. If we don’t show students how to connect their faith with every part of their life and how it answers all of life’s hardest questions what good are we doing? If all we’re doing is transferring information, we may create good Bible quizzers or “good Christian kids” but will we see life transformation? Will we see students fall in love with Jesus? Will we see students really know whom we are asking them to love? Will we help students see that life with Jesus is about living in His Kingdom now, not gaining access to heaven later?


I just finished a novel called “abduction” by Robin Cook. It was entertaining, but had some of the interesting view of a “brave new world.” A world is “discovered” beneath the ocean floor and five members of a drilling crew are abducted into it. The story is easy to read and follow. What was more interesting was the type of society that lived in this new world. This world (atlantis is described as a part of this world) has no violence and no death. People’s “essence” is extracted from their bodies and placed into a new body when one is ready. The new bodies are grown in a hatching center. I loved the author’s thoughts on some of the world’s myths, like Atlantis, and the ending was a good twist. However, I felt like it ended without much closure.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What a Weekend...

This was a crazy weekend. My parents were in town for a visit (a lot of fun, but the usual stress on my wife having the in-laws stay the weekend – nothing bad, just the normal stress – perceived or real). We had some fun plans for Friday night and then my older daughter got sick, so we modified the plans a bit. However, on top of that, my friend Sean Meade was in town for ENCORE, an event by Stuck In The Middle, Sean’s ministry. Anyway, I was on the docket to do a seminar for volunteers on Saturday afternoon (not hard – he asked me to do the same gig on small groups I did for YS in the fall). So far, nothing too out of the ordinary. Enter the weird phone call on Friday morning. Sean calls me at 9:00 am and says, “dude, Jason (main stage speaker for Friday night) had outpatient surgery yesterday and can’t come for the weekend, can you speak at TONIGHT’s general session?” Holy Cow! Now, it’s important to note that after speaking to junior high students for sixteen years, this is not real hard, but 650 kids who are paying to be at a conference and are expecting someone really good and really funny adds a bit more stress to the deal. Well, after about 90 minutes of preparation (remember my parents are here and we had a bunch of plans for the day already), I got up and did the opening session for Sean. You’ll have to ask them how it went – I thought it was pretty good – but I’m a bit bias.

On a sad note, but another factor in our weekend, a great lady in our church (and also our small group) passed away Wednesday after a ten-year bought with cancer. The services were this weekend adding yet one more item to the plate (again, not lamenting the services, but rather the irony of “when it rains, it pours”).

Last night as my wife and I were lying in bed (for the hour I was there before my six year old got up and I had to move to the living room floor with him up half the night), we were commenting on how full we feel like our schedule is on my sabbatical. I guess, for some dumb reason, we thought our lives would slow down for these weeks. What were we thinking – we have four kids who are involved in stuff.

Interesting Article...

Saw this article this morning on teenage moodiness. It was an interesting read.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Dead Sea Scrolls

Yesterday I had the chance to spend the morning with our church staff downtown at an exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was in some ways less than what I expected, but in most ways, it was truly awe inspiring. There are over 100,000 fragments of scrolls that were found in the caves of Qumran. Yet, most of them are small pieces and therefore are not impressive in size. However, when you think about the fact that you are seeing a fragment from the Bible that was written over 2.000 years ago, that's really impressive.

One other thing that was way different than I expected was how small the writing on the scroll was. I guess I assumed that because everything was copied by hand, the writting would be a "normal" written size (maybe around a 12 to 14 pt font). Yet, the scrolls had what I would classify as more of a 9 point font with all the intricacy of Hebrew and Aramaic lettering. WOW!

KC Brigade

Sunday my two sons and I hit Kemper Arena here in KC for the home opener of the arena football league Kansas City Brigade. Last year, the Brigade was 3-13 and very pathetic. This year, with a less than impressive "grand enterence" the Brigade came out and kicked some Chicago butt. It was a ton of fun.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Family Ministry

This has become more and more of a buzz word in youth ministry circles, but what does it really mean? It has been something my heart has been beating for, but I’m not really sure how to “take it to the next level.” Currently, in our ministry, we seek to help, equip, and encourage the family by…

  • providing weekly resources for communication between parents and teens
  • providing weekly communication to families through our website and broadcast emails
  • providing periodic parent forums for training and development of parenting and communication skills
  • providing a few fun moments where parents and teens can connect in a friendly environment

What I would like to see happen is to bolster these efforts. I’d really like to see students and parents talking more. Some of the reasons I think many do not communicate would include…

  • parents may not really know how or where to start
  • parents may actually be scared of communication
  • students view it as boring and irrelevant
  • students feel threatened because every time a parent tries to communicate it turns into a “grip” session where they are in trouble

So, as a ministry leader, one of my burdens is to see communication strengthened. Is this realistic? Is it possible? What is the role of the church in this process? How do we go about really helping instead of playing lip service to the entire idea? If you have thoughts, I’d love to hear them. If you know someone who is doing this well (or some part of family ministry well), I’d love to get their name so I could talk with them personally.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Damnation Street

Last night I finished a new mystery novel called “Damnation Street” by Andrew Klavan. I have not read any of his other books, but he has won a few Edger awards for his mystery writing, so I thought I’d read this newest effort. It was engaging, but I’m not much of a literary critic, so I don’t know if it was well written. I did enjoy the twists and the unique writing style. It was a bit more “edgy” than I expected. Pretty racy and crude, but still a very engaging story.

What I liked the most about this novel is Andrew is a Christian and the book was not a Christian book. It seems that, as an artist, he has been able to engage the world and live the Christian life without swimming in the mire that often is bad Christian literature. Here’s an excerpt from an article in World Magazine about Mr. Klavan.

Andrew Klavan is an unusual combination: He writes detective novels filled with depictions of human depravity, and he's now a Christian. It shouldn't be an unusual combination, because an understanding of man's sinfulness, along with a glimpse of God's holiness, often makes us realize our desperate need for Christ. And yet Christian fiction has a reputation for being too nice to take on vice.”

I’d recommend the read just for the fact of finding good work done by a Christian that is not so “Christian.”

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blog Suggestions

Being new to the blogging world and very new to the “almost every day” blogging world, I have desired to read good blogs. Now, I must say that I’m not a big fan of reading someone’s journal of all their personal stuff (unless I know them), so, I guess, I’m looking for thought provoking blogs that are more substance than fluff. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

Solitude and Silent - AHHH!

I just finished “The Great Omission” by Dallas Willard. I really enjoyed it. Dr. Willard says the same thing a bunch of times, but dummies like me need that repetition to have something sink in. One of the phrases he uses throughout the book is “grace is opposed to earning, not effort.” His premise is that we often fail to work at our life with Christ, supposing that it just magically appears and becomes vibrant when we become Christians. He spends a great deal of time talking about spiritual disciplines and the need to practice them in our quest to be more of whom Christ wants us to be. For me, particularly, his emphasis on solitude and silence was chilling. This is not something I do well, not is it something I have practiced often. It is, however, a major goal of my sabbatical. If you have suggestions for taking silent retreats, I’d be open to hear your thoughts.

Amazing Christian Junk...

Take a look at the Jesus action figures (note they come in light or dark skin). Enjoy the scenic background you get with it and the hours of fun you can have. I love the button you push to order. Note is says "order Jesus." What kind of a society are we in that we can "order" Jesus? Don't forget to check out the entire line of Biblical action figures.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Post it note Jesus...

Fix your eyes on this Jesus made out of Post it Notes. What will we think of next?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jesus vs terminator

You might want to move away from your computer in case you get struck by lightning for watching this, but it is very funny.

Home Sweet Home...

Today I visited the Olathe Campus of our church. This multi-site location of the church I serve is a unique blend of the components of our church that are what makes it Christ Community with a small, quaint atmosphere. I enjoyed the musical leadership of the campus corporate worship pastor and the genuine young leadership of the pastor of congregational development. The sermon is done via video on a one week delay from the Leawood campus and with a 16x9 screen with two HD projectors; I actually enjoyed watching the sermon on the screen more than I like it live in Leawood. After a few weeks away, it was good to worship at “home.”

What a day...

It has been a long time since I have had such a great day with my family. I was a great day not because of something huge we did (Disney World will top that list for a while), but because of time spent together. I am kind of a task master around the house on Saturday’s. I make the kids pick up and we need to clean the house. Today, however, things went more smoothly than they many times do and we were finished by 10:00 am (we get up early). This left the entire day for other things to take place. Each member of the family as doing something they love to do while we all relaxed a bit. After a while, my 8 year old came along and announced it was her teddy’s birthday, so I encouraged her to decorate her room and throw a party. We even made brownies for birthday snacks. After lunch, we sat down and played “Star Wars Risk.” Jay (my six year old) and I were the bad guys and we conquered the galaxy. It was just a fun day and one that we need to repeat more often.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Little Blessings

Ever have one of those times in your life when it seems like money is flying out the window faster than it’s coming in? We are in one of those brief moments. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining here. We decided to replace many of the windows in our home and the workers were finishing up today, so I needed to pay that bill. This is something we wanted and chose to do, so it’s not that it was surprise, but rather a large check. The bummer was that yesterday I started our van and heard a “clank” and then the van died. I restarted it and it ran real rough. I hate that sinking feeling in your gut when this happens because it usually means the cash register at my local car fix-it shop goes cha-ching. Today, I took the van in and after three hours they called me back. Guess how much I had to shell out for this one? Nothing! Man, this was a great boost. A vacuum hose has slipped off and because they had done some work on it not too long ago, they did not charge me anything. God is good even when you feel like all those little money grabbers keep popping up at every turn.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sabbath Rest and the Family

I am finishing up Brennan Manning’s Abba's Child as one of the first books I am reading on my sabbatical. There are so many rich things in this book I could share with you (and maybe I will in the future), but for now, let me focus on Sabbath. Because I am on sabbatical (an extended Sabbath rest), I am maybe more in tune with this concept and am more aware of the fact that I, and I assume most of us, have butchered the observance of rest in our lives.

So, let me challenge you first with the concept of Sabbath and how you are doing at getting the rest you need. Are you working non-stop? Are you going 110% all the time? How is your life at home? Do you give your all to your ministry and fail to have anything left to give to those in your life who matter most? Think about this and be willing to make a change and confront the brutal facts if needed.

Second, in Manning’s book, he makes this statement about the Jewish observation of Sabbath: “…it started at sundown Friday with the mother of the family ceremonially lighting the candles. Then the father, after saying grace over a cup of wine, laid his hand on the head of each of his children and solemnly blessed them with a personal prayer. These and many similar paraliturgical gestures not only hallowed the Sabbath but also sanctified the Jewish home making it a mikdash me-at, a miniature sanctuary in which the parents were the priests and the family table was the alter.” WOW! Why don’t we do this in our families? This is great!

One of the things I will be thinking about a lot while I am on this sabbatical is family and how our ministry can more effectively come alongside families and help them be the “pastors” and “miniature sanctuaries” they were meant to be.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Introduction To Christ by Steve Harvey

This is a bit funky, but also worth watching. What would you do if you had to introduce Jesus for a speaking engagement?

when she does the handstand, RUN!!

Saw this video the other day. It's pretty amazing to an old guy who can barely touch his toes.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Amazing Grace

Yesterday was “Amazing Grace Sunday.” I hope your church participated in this great day. Amazing Grace is a movie hitting theaters on February 23rd and is a powerful look at William Wilberforce, the man who was responsible for abolishing slavery in England in 1807. Now, in our church, “Hero for Humanity” by Kevin Belmonte, a biography of Wilberforce, is required reading in what is our primary pathway for Spiritual formation. His dedication to social change in the public square and commitment to living his faith and his calling are worth studying and admiring. The movie, I was able to see it a few weeks ago, is very well done and worth not only seeing yourself, but taking some of your students to see as well.

Because I work with middle school students, I would suggest that, if you’re taking young teens, they would definitely need some guidance through the movie. I say this because it’s not an action-adventure, a sci-fi triller, or a horror film. It’s a bit slow at times and a bit hard to follow at times if you do not know much about Wilberforce. However, the significance of his life and his role in world history as a man and a Christ follower demands attention. Students need to know who Wilberforce was and how they could stand to see this example of how one can use whatever talent and gift God has given in whatever vocation one ends up choosing in life. There is not such thing as “sacred” callings. We are all called to live a Christ-like life no matter what our vocation. We are all called to be apart of God’s redemption plan for the world we live in.

I hope you’ll check out the movie and consider taking a few students to see it as well.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday #2

Sunday number one was at Disney World and we visited the church of the Magic Kingdom. Today is Sunday number two and I visited my local Catholic parish for mass. There are a few things I noticed for reflection:
  • The Scriptures are held in high esteem – literally! The priest this morning paraded an ornate Bible around the front, holding it above his head as he made his way to the lectern where he read the Scripture lesson. Now, I don’t think we need to walk around in our daily life with the Bible raised above our heads, but in our church, most don’t even bring a Bible. Do we really value the Scriptures like we should? Do we have the respect for God’s Word that we should? Is it a living, breathing, life-giving book, or just another book on our shelf? Maybe we should hold it up more often.
  • The parishioners stand for specific reasons. It seems in the protestant evangelical church we stand for musical worship and that’s about it. Why don’t we stand in reverence when the Scriptures are read? Why don’t we stand when we pray? Why don’t we stand in respect at other times in our services?
  • The people kneel for certain prayers. Now, I don’t really know why they kneel for some prayer and why they stand for others (I’ll ask a catholic friend this week), but what I know is we don’t ever kneel for prayer in our church. As a staff, we kneel in our weekly prayer time, but why don’t we encourage our congregation to kneel when we pray? This simple act of submission can be powerful.
I am looking forward to visiting a lot of churches over the weeks to come. At each church, I will be taking notes and asking questions about what is done and why it’s done. I hope I can learn a few things along the way that may help our ministry grow in richness.

Disney World

What can I say about my first week of sabbatical? It was GREAT! I took my family to Disney World and had a ball. They really know how to make a vacation great, but you can also fall into some terrible pitfalls as you seek your grand adventure. Here are a few thoughts for making your time at the Mouse House a success…
  • Stay on Disney property – yes, it will cost you more, but the benefits are numerous and make for a much more relaxed and stress free vacation.
  • Get the meal plan and plan ahead – Disney offers a meal plan to those who stay on Disney property. It’s not cheap, and if you brought all your own food, you could eat cheaper, but it’s a great value if used wisely, and it allows for more stress free vacationing. Example – a typical lunch at Disney is about $10/person. Snacks around $3/person/snack, and dinner will range in cost from $20-$50/person. Your meal plan will cost you on average $25/person/day. If you plan ahead and make reservations (a must) at nice places for dinner each night, you’ll save a TON of money.
  • Relax – you’re on vacation – we say many families dragging their kids through the park and running them into the ground with a frantic schedule. Relax! Give yourself permission to NOT do everything.
  • Go between mid January and mid February – I have never taken my family to Disney, but have been many times with groups and this was the slowest I have ever seen the parks. We waited, at most, 20 minutes for all the rides. Most often, we waited under ten minutes. It was fantastic!
I don’t think we will ever do Disney again (not because we didn’t like it, but because it’s a lot of money), but it sure was a great week.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


I love the church I serve!!! I have heard of sabbaticals for years. I served for 11 years in a college community and was accustom to professors taking sabbaticals to write or further their education in some way. However, in the church, my experience with sabbatical has been limited. I have heard of senior pastor’s getting some study time or some time off now and then, but have not heard of many who get a true sabbatical rest. In the same vein, I have heard of even fewer youth pastors getting a true sabbatical rest. It seems that this “year of jubilee” or “work for six days, rest the seventh” concept is not widely practiced in church.

Enter my church. When I joined our staff team five years ago this thing called sabbatical was on included in the compensation package was sated as being granted every five years. This twelve-week respite is granted to bless the pastoral staff a period of refreshment and withdrawal from the demands of weekly ministry. The elder team has an idea that, while on sabbatical, the pastor will spend time deepening relationships with family, the Lord, and strengthening their love and passion for their work. However, they do not demand a great list of “to do’s” that must be accomplished. Their primary desire is to see the pastoral staff renewed and to return to the ministry refreshed and ready for another term of engagement.

Well, after my first five years of ministry here at Christ Community Church, I have been just begun my first twelve week sabbatical. Let me say that I look forward to this time away not because I don’t like my work (I love my work), but because there is so much I would like to read, so much I’d like to contemplate, I look forward to having the time to do these things without the weekly demands of ministry. Most importantly, I am excited to reconnect at an intimate level with my maker. Ministry is to come out of the overflow of ones heart and my overflow was/is running low. I relish the opportunity I have been given to deepen my life with the Lord.

If you actually read this blog post, let me ask you to rejoice with me in the blessing I have been given, but also pray with me as I seek to use this blessing wisely and responsibly. I love my church and I look forward to returning to the ministry of Christ’s bride in twelve weeks.