Monday, November 20, 2017

Where to?

Yesterday's post may have come out of nowhere (literally... I know I have blogged in over 2 years). 

I was honestly trying to wrap my head some of the swirling thoughts that I was experiencing. For some reason, my first instinct was to sit down and write.  

You may be thinking two things: 

  • First, who even blogs anymore?  And I must agree, it's somewhat of a lost medium.  But why not? 
  • Second, where did all this come from? 

Let's go back.  

About 6 months ago, my church's leadership came to me with a unique proposal.  They asked to consider shifting my role to fill a couple of holes in our church's overall strategy.  And as I pondered this changes, I began to see God's hand in this movement, both in our church and in my own heart.  

Here's what I know: 
  • Most churches (notice I said "most" and not "all"... some get this right but most don't) don't do well with what happens next after youth ministry or high school ministry.  They have killer children's ministries... they rock middle school ministry... they knock high school ministry out of the park.  Only to graduate their students into...... (nothing). 
  • Most churches (again, "most," not "all") don't pay much attention to the growing opportunities online.  Our world is experiencing an explosion of opportunity online as we are the most digitally connected we've ever been. Most church's websites are adequate.  They use Facebook and social media as a digital, online billboard for their church's events.  They use email as a one-way conversation to drive attendance.  
These are the two gaps that I have stepped into. 

Here's where the trail begins.  

We are driving to create a unique connection ministry for our high school students graduating and heading off to college.  Ashburn is not a college town and that isn't likely to change.  We have a few students but certainly not an overwhelming mass of people.  How can we reach out to our students, both local and across the country, and connect them in meaningful relationships that foster their growing faith and encourage them along new paths of engagement with the Church? 

We are working to create a more viable online community.  We are seeing our social media outlets, not as a means to the end but as an end in themselves.  Those behind the profile pictures are people.  Some local... some global... but all important to God.  How can we create and foster online content that shares the love of Jesus with those who may physically attend CFC and those who may never walk through our brick and mortar front door?  

So... where do we go from here?  

Honestly, this is the fun part.  Both of these areas of ministry are so new and so uncharted that we don't really know.  We have a general sense of where the path goes in a couple of areas and are beginning to get a sense of our direction.  But much of it is new.  

And that's exciting.  

To borrow a few of the words of Captain James Tiberius Kirk, "We are boldly going where few have gone before."


Sunday, November 19, 2017

The End... And The Beginning...

I sit here in the “Big Room” of the 2017 National Youth Workers Convention and stare at the screen.  

It’s over.  

Many of the youth workers have left.  Some are still lingering, laughing, enjoying the moment and connecting, refusing to go home.  
I stare at the blank screen.  

It’s a weird feeling that I am feeling.  It’s hard to quantify but I feel like I need to.  

When I got into youth work nearly 20 years ago, I did so because I felt a call from God and a passion to reach young people with the message of the gospel. I still feel called.  I am still passionate about young people and sharing the Good News of Jesus with them.  

But today, I head in a different direction from most of my friends and colleagues.

Many of those friends were in Memphis this weekend; others span the country and the globe.  I feel that God has called me in a new direction with my ministry focus.  It’s a direction that I’m excited about and passionate about and yet there is a weird feeling in my gut.  

For 20 years, this has been my tribe, my people.  But that’s been changing over the past 4 months and I have felt that this weekend.  The jokes and the faces here are familiar, comfortable, enjoyable.  Yet, I feel restless in this tribe.  I’m between two worlds.  The world I have known and the unknown world that I am being called to.  

While I want to go… 
There are parts of me that want to stay… 

And so I sit.  

It’s over.
And I know when I get up and walk out of this room in this convention center, it will truly be over.  The friendships remain.  The faces will stay known but yet will become somewhat less familiar, less family, less comfortable.  

I am confident of God’s calling.  
I am comfortable with where God is leading me and my ministry.
I am excited about what God is doing in me and through me.  

And yet, I sit. 

This is truly an end.  A victory lap of connection with old friends to share common jokes and high fives and hearty hugs.  
This is truly a beginning. I don’t yet know the terrain of this new arena.  But soon I will.  

When I got into youth work, I prayed this day would never come but today it has.  

And while I had feared this day, I can truly say that it is good.  

Thank you Father.  Thank you friends.  Thank you to all of those who have invested in me as a youth worker.  The countless seminars, speakers, blogs, podcasts, books, coffees.  I am forever indebted to you and your wisdom and kindness.  

And as I look back over the faces in my mind of nearly 20 years of youth work I can say, it has been worth it.

It’s over.  
And as I get up and walk out of this room, pass out a few more high fives and hugs, it is the end.  

And it is only the beginning.  

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Youth Ministry Reminder - Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

I grew up in the 80's and 90's.

I grew up on The Dukes of Hazard, MacGyver, The A-Team and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  These shows were staples in my home.  Now that I have a 2 year old, almost 3 year old, little boy and thanks to the wonders of Netflix, I am starting to introduce him to Mister Rogers (and his spinoff Daniel Tiger's) Neighborhood.

A friend of mine recently posted the embedded video on Facebook.  I thought, "Cool... a little walk down memory lane."  Then I found myself being broadsided by a message from God.

I've been doing youth ministry for a long time (almost 17 years... that's a long time in my profession) and I love what I do.  But I'm like you, I have a to-do list that is a mile long and is growing and begging for attention as I type.  And I enjoy punching things off the list.  I enjoy pulling off a great event or program, nailing a great talk or writing a killer set of small group questions.

But you know what God reminded me of today: That's often not what makes the biggest impact in the life of a teenager.

Most don't remember my killer small group questions or all (or even a few) of my well-thought out rhyming sermon points or how incredibly creative that game was.  All of those things are important, mind you.  But God reminded me today that the most important thing is liking, caring, loving and encouraging the teenager in front of me right now.

It's easy to get lost in the details.

Youth Worker Friends: Let's not get so lost in the details (that need to get done for sure) today that we forget or miss the opportunity to say something encouraging.  To look a teenager in the eye and accept them and point them to Jesus in a loving way.  To look for simple ways to serve the students and families in our care.  Maybe even at the expense of getting a few more things knocked off the list.

Mister Rogers reminded me today from 1981 that loving the person in front of you is the most powerful thing you can do in the life of a teenager.


Monday, June 08, 2015

"Dear Dad..." - Confession of a Dad

My buddy Neal Benson is a campus pastor in San Francisco.  He and I were youth ministry buddies back in the day before he moved up to San Fran.  He totally kicked my butt this morning with this blog post.  My prayer is that what kicked my butt this morning kicks yours too.

Don't miss today with your kids.


Confessions of a Dad: I love my phone too much

"Hey dad, wanna play?"
Looking down at his phone, "Give me one minute, I'm almost done."

Dear Dad,

Look up from your phone for just one minute, I'd like to tell you something. Your kid is only going to be this age once. Tomorrow she will be older. Today she wants to play: Legos, hide and seek, soccer or Go Fish. So why not play with her?

Do you know there is going to be a day that she isn't going to want to play with you. Sure, you'll still have your phone. In fact, it will be an upgraded model with more "cool" stuff. There will be more apps and games for you to play. But she will always be your kid, there is no trading up here.

Let me ask you: "Is what you're doing on there really that important?" I mean, can it wait? Do you really need to check your email every five minutes? Will the posts on Facebook still be there when she is in bed? Is it more important to check Craigslist right now?

Let me give you an example to help you. Walk to your room. While you're walking turn your phone to silent. Look at your dresser, there is tons of room there. Set your phone down, try facedown. Now walk out, leave it there.

I'll stop telling you how to live your life, I can see you're either frustrated with me or get the point. I know being a dad is tough for you but fight for her. She wants to play with you. Remember how big she smiles. Remember how much she laughs. She loves you!

Put your phone down, it can't really be more important than her.


This is a letter I wrote to myself and I'm sending to myself. It's not for you, though it may speak to your situation. The letter is for me. I'm sick of stuffing my face in the phone, so it's a reminder I need to focus on my family and what really matters most.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Three Key Words Your Kids Are Longing to Hear (By Kara Powell)

This blog post was originally posted here.

*Portions of this blog post are adapted from “The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family” by Kara Powell. 
Our friends Dale and Jody have a great relationship with their kids.
So great their 24-year-old son drives ninety minutes across Los Angeles (in traffic!) for family dinners or to watch basketball playoff games with his parents.
Their 27-year-old daughter asked Jody if the two of them could meet to study the Bible together. Every week.
My husband, Dave, and I have asked them what makes their family relationships so magnetic. Their answer is pretty simple: “Our kids know we like being with them.”
Dale and Jody stumbled onto a key factor in fighting for the heart of family relationships: Their kids know that their parents are crazy about them.
Research backs up their parenting intuition and shows how family relationships affect our kids’ faith. One study of relational dynamics in more than 300 families spanning 35 years analyzed the power of warmth among the generations. Family warmth was more correlated with faith transmission than any other relational factor (including amount of contact between the generations, the type of contact, and the number of children in the family).
In other words, families in which parents and children felt close were more likely to be the same families in which children also adopted the faith of their parents. [1] So letting our kids know that we like them not only bonds our family closer together, it also increases the odds that our kids will keep their faith.
So how do we communicate we like our kids? First, through our words.
As I’ve pondered the research on family faith and relationships, I’m convinced that there are three words your kids are longing for you to say to them: “I like you.” They’ve probably heard “I love you” from you more times than they can count.
But do they know you actually enjoy them as people?
I’m still learning how to communicate to my kids that I like them. But research has motivated me to not only tell my kids, “I like you,” but also to tell them…
“I’m crazy about you.”
“I love spending time with you.”
“I feel so blessed to be your mom.”
How else do we communicate we like our kids? Through our faces.
One of my goals—a goal I don’t always accomplish—is that when my kids walk in the door, even if I didn’t say a word, my face would tell them that I’m their biggest fan. That they would know without a shadow of a doubt that mom is glad to see them.
What do you do to let your kids know not only that you love them, but that you like them?
[1] Bengston, Vern L., with Norella Putney and Susan Harris, Families and Faith: Generations and the Transmission of Religion. Unpublished manuscript, July 2011, final report submitted to The John Templeton Foundation: 90.
This finding has been confirmed by multiple studies across a variety of faith traditions over the past three decades.

KaraPowellKara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch”, Kara serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books includingThe Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken WorldDeep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

Monday, May 18, 2015

832 weeks and counting...

A couple of weeks ago, the youth staff (children's ministry through high school ministry from Christian Fellowship Church) spent a week in Atlanta at the Orange Conference.  There were a lot of thoughts and images from that event that have stuck in my mind.

This one has stuck more than most.

Myles is 2 years old.  This jar is holding 832 marbles, representing 832 weeks until Myles' graduation.

The reminder is simple: Make good use of your time.  It's limited.  Don't miss it.

It's often tempting in the tyranny of the clock to consider short-term things (emails, texts, phone calls, quick meetings, a late night, an extra project or meeting) more important than the long range things.  Those things are important, don't get me wrong and they deserve their time.  But a true leader keeps the long range in view while working on the short term.

The reminder for me: Don't allow the short term to crowd out the long term.

832 weeks and counting.
Don't miss it!

Thanks Reggie Joiner for the reminder!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Four Free Apps Every Youth Pastor Needs to Increase Productivity

The Internet and the mobile Internet has changed the game in youth ministry.  My first church had dial-up when I arrived in 2000.  My current church is next door to wikipedia (literally) and has downloads in the 180mbps.  My first laptop was functional.  But my laptop and desktop today (I have both) as well as both of my mobile devices (iPad 3 and iPhone 5) are highly functional and productive pieces of machinery.

I'm always looking for new apps.  BTW: If you have an app suggestion that you feel to be particularly beneficial, feel free to leave it in the comments below and why you find it effective and I'll check it out.  (Always learning!)

Here is a short list of 4 free apps that increase my productivity and might help yours.  This, of course, is not exhaustive list.  And they are my "go to" favorites.  I'm always meeting people and youth ministers who have never heard of these.  Therefore, I share.

Four Free Apps to Increase Youth Minister's Productivity:

1. Evernote: What seems like eons ago, I used to carry a moleskine tablet with me everywhere.  I wrote down lists, ideas, thoughts, message prep, literally everything that I was working on.  About 5 years, a friend introduced me to Evernote (thanks DG) and I've never picked up a moleskine again.  Evernote is a free, cloud based notebook.  They give you 60mbs per month (plenty for text, pdfs and notes) for free (with an option to upgrade to a "plus" membership for $25/year or a "pro" membership for $50/year). At this point, I have been a free user for nearly 5 years.  I have over 2250 notes.  I clip sermon ideas, notes from conferences, lists, to-do items, blog posts, anything that I think will be useful in the future and everything I'm working on.  It works on your computer and mobile devices and cross syncs seamlessly.  So I have my notes regardless of where I'm working and I always have my notebook in my pocket.

2. Wunderlist: I have been a Wunderlist user for years.  Wunderlist is a free to-do list that syncs between multiple devices. It allows you to create to-do list groups (days of the week, projects, etc) and then add items and check them off when completed.  It also allows you to put reminder times on to-dos and due dates.  I like that it's simple.  The checked off items remain in the list, though hidden, and can be unchecked the next week if the same project is due.  There are a variety of to-do list apps out there... but they always seem to want to do more.  Wunderlist is just a to-do list app.

 3. Feedly: I mourned when Google Reader went away several years ago.  I had been a Google Reader for a long time.  Feedly offered to import my blogs in quickly and efficiently and gained a new customer.  It is a free RSS feed reader.  Feedly allows you to categorize blogs and read them on different platforms (desktop or mobile) and syncs what you've read and haven't.  The interface is clean and easy to use.  

4. Dropbox: I work on 4 different devices (a laptop, a desktop, an iPad and an iPhone).  Dropbox is a free cloud based storage program that allows me to store documents, pictures, etc in the cloud and assess from all the different devices.  It integrates with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on iOS so I can make changes on the fly.  There are other services that provide more space (Dropbox starts you with 2Gbs and gives you more if you refer (referral if you'd like one and want to give me extra storage).  But I'll trade less storage space for quicker service (OneDrive gives 15Gbs but is mercilessly slow).  Dropbox allows me to keep my active files on all my devices at the same time and work on any machine.

Honorable Mentions:

A. Podcasts: I listen regularly to a bunch of different voices: leadership conversations, youth ministry podcasts, other preachers, radio shows, etc.  Podcasts is a quick and easy way to listen and keep up with the conversations.

B. YouVersion Bible: Thousands of Bible translations, including all the majors (NIV, NLT, EV, etc) for free, in your pocket.  Thousands of reading plans ranging from a few days to a whole year and sections/thematic plans to whole Bible plans.  Plus, and I have found this to be time saving, you can listen to the Bible read if you are driving or working out.

Those are just a few of the things that are keeping my functionality high.  What's keeping you working efficiently?  Comment below! Working more efficiently allows me to get more Kingdom Work done!