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!


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.
21 Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”
22 Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.
25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

The Death of Jesus

28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs.34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

38th Birthday thoughts...

Another year has come and gone... and another birthday has too.  I creeped one year closer to 40... what a scary thought.

But for now: I'm still basking at 38.

I thought initially about doing 38 things that I'm thinking about right now... but I'm not sure that I have 38... so I'm just going to go for an old fashioned birthday brain dump.  What follows is an assortment of what is going on and what I'm thinking about.  There is no order of importance nor is this a comprehensive list.  Just some of what is happening in my life and over the past year.

  1. I never could have imagined where I would be this year over last year.  Yesterday morning I was thinking about praying about the changes that have occurred in my life over the past year and it amazes what God brought us through and to.  I would never choose to go through what we went through to get here but I wouldn't trade what we have now for anything.  
  2. I have an incredible wife who is an incredible mommy to Myles.  She is being stretched by living in NoVA but she is handling it way better than she thinks she is. 
  3. I'm so excited to work for CFC and with the staff at CFC. 
  4. I'm excited to work on a youth ministry team.  In the past, I was the team along with my leaders... here we have a full blown team of people who care about the success of youth ministry at CFC! Super exciting. 
  5. Myles continues to grow.  He is learning new words and going crazy.  He is starting to try to sing along with songs... which is hilarious.  
  6. I am running my 3rd marathon this fall... the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was on my bucket list and I got in the lottery on the first shot! 
  7. Training back up mileage is hard.  My legs are sore after a 4 mile run yesterday... it used to take 14 to make them sore. 
  8. I have become lazy with reading... I'm working on fixing that... 
  9. I have become lazy with blogging... I'm also working on fixing that too... 
  10. I love living in the suburbs again! It has it's moments but I enjoy being back in a busy area where things are growing. 
  11. I miss folks from Zanesville... especially some of our close friends... but I in no way miss the city of Zanesville.  I had forgotten what community actually looked like in Zanesville.  While I miss the people, I have never once (in the past 3 months) thought, "I miss Zanesville."  
  12. I am going to miss the Walking Dead until fall. 
  13. I can't wait for baseball season to start. 
  14. Jackie bought me baseball tickets for my birthday... the Cubs come to Washington at the beginning of June and we have tickets for a Saturday game.  It's going to be awesome!
  15. Its a good day. 
Again... no rhyme or reason... just wanted to capture some of these thoughts.  Maybe some of these thoughts will become a full blown blog post later.  


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eyes on the Prize

Leave it to making it into a major marathon to restart both my serious running and my blogging in the same day... but it seems to have happened.

This morning, as I was scrolling through "my usual a.m. phone check-in with the world after waking up"... email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc... I saw this email!

I knew that the lottery was drawing today for the Marine Corps Marathon but I didn't realize it would be that early!

But... I won the participant lottery and made it into the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26th!

Yesterday I hung my shadow boxes of previous marathons and half-marathons that I've done... Akron 1/2 (2010), Flying Pig 1/2 (2011), Air Force full (2011), Cap City 1/2 (2012) and Chicago full (2012).  This morning as I was looking at the wall and imagining the shadow box that will soon hang there with my Marine Corps Marathon medal, I found myself thinking about the prize.

This verse popped to mind:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

The thing that I love about having a marathon on my schedule, I know what I need to do... it brings discipline into my life (running, diet, sleeping, etc).  I know what the training looks like.  I know what the mileage looks like.  I know what it feels like to complete it.

When I don't have a marathon or a race on my calendar, I find myself lazy with my training.  I run what I want... when I want... how I want... But I don't accomplish anything.  I don't get anywhere.

I think it's easy to end up in the same spot in our spiritual lives.  When we don't have our eyes on the "prize" spiritually... when we do what we want... pray when we want... read when we want... without any discipline... we don't get anywhere.  We don't accomplish anything.

Paul says: Let's run in such a way to get the prize!

What are you running for spiritually??

I know that running a marathon will leave me with an awesome medal, some memorabilia, some photos and a great memory.  What will your spiritual marathon leave you with?  And are you running so as to get that stuff? Are you "running" with discipline?

Father: Help me to discipline myself spiritually as I discipline myself physically!


Monday, January 26, 2015

GUEST POST - Rick Lawrence - Jesus Wants Your Skin In the Game

There He is again, playing a game of verbal “Battleship” with the Pharisees in the temple court—they take a shot at him, and he fires right back. Jesus has, once again, so grossly offended the teachers of the law that they intend to stone him to death… Typical of His in-your-face style with the teachers of the law, He’s just pulled the pin on this little grenade: “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
John records what happens next with elegant simplicity: “Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” If an angry mob picked up stones, intending to kill you, “hiding yourself” would require a) Harry Potter’s “cloak of invisibility” or b) fast feet. John leaves out the details. This is all merely the prequel to a bigger drama that’s about to unfold…
Likely breathless from his escape, Jesus runs across a man who is blind from birth (John 9). When the disciples catch up, they ask a question that’s quintessentially human: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” They want to know why bad things happen to good people—a conundrum that’s fundamental to our life in a broken culture.
It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents,” Jesus replies, “but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Then, without permission or hesitation—or, it has to be said, apparent rationality—the Master spits on the ground, fashions a little clay, then smears it all over the man’s eyes and face.
As shocking as all of this must have been for a blind man who’s suddenly been sucked into a big moment, the next words out of Jesus’ mouth must have seemed no less astonishing: “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (John 9:1–7). The pool is on the other side of town, a long trek away. And this man has just been told to walk there on his own. Still blind, his eyes smeared with spit and mud, he’s supposed to find his way to a specific pool where he can wash his face. If he can find the place…
What’s the point?
Why would Jesus ask this man to do something that will so obviously require him to take a great risk?
Why, when He has healed multitudes with a simple touch, does Jesus ask the man to jump through hoops in order to find his freedom?
It makes no sense—unless Jesus wants the man to put his skin in the game.
Risk, Jesus says, is our primary language for communicating the great works of God. And when the man offers his skin in the game, he’s really setting the stage for God to be known and worshiped.
The blind man is used to poor treatment, and getting clay smeared on his eyes smacks of same-old, same-old. So why should he obey Jesus’ bizarre instructions, after an equally bizarre and inexplicable act of apparent disrespect? We don’t know the calculus going on inside the man’s head, but we do know his response. He accepts Jesus’ challenge and finds his way to the pool of Siloam, where he washes the clay from his eyes—and then runs back through town to declare the impossible: He can see! For the first time in his life, he can see!
We may not like the hard edge of risk, but Jesus requires it of those who would wash away their blindness. And so, we must consider the dimensions of the man’s risk, and our own, because our courage is proportionate to its impediments. Like the man born blind, we’ve heard an Accuser’s voice our whole life, planting lies in our soul.
On a men’s retreat a couple of years ago, my friend Bob Krulish asked a group of sixty gathered in a mountain auditorium to answer this simple question: “What’s one lie you are right now believing about yourself?” Here’s a sampler of their anonymous responses:
I’m not really desired by my wife
I’m not enough (listed multiple times).
I always feel like a failure.
If you really knew me, you’d reject me (listed multiple times).
I’m not worthy or capable of success.
I’m invisible.
I’m inadequate.
My life isn’t worth much or special.
I’m dirty.
I’m a loser.
I can’t do it.
I don’t have what it takes
I can do it all by myself—don’t need others.
There is something wrong with me.
What about the man born blind, with mud smeared on his beaten and weathered face? His own interior collection of lies may well be legion—a toxic stew of the entire bulleted list. But he chooses to risk anyway, stumbling his way through town, past the averted eyes of others, all the way to Siloam and a miracle that exceeds his deepest hopes. For the man is about to gain more than his eyesight alone. His newfound vision will turn the tables of his entire life. Before, he was defined by what he needed, but henceforth, he will be defined by what he gives.

This blog is adapted from the just-released book Skin In the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life.
- For a free excerpt of the book, go here: http://store.kregel.com/client/excerpt/978-0-8254-4359-6.pdf
-  To connect with Rick Lawrence, go here…
Web Site: RickLawrence.com
Twitter: @RickSkip
Facebook: Facebook.com/RickSkip

Rick Lawrence is an author, ministry leader, and the longtime executive editor of GROUP Magazine, the world’s leading resource for the “Navy SEALS” of ministry—youth workers. He’s the general editor for The Jesus-Centered Life Bible (Fall 2015), and he’s the author or co-author of 37 books, including his newest, Skin In the Game: Living an Epic Jesus-Centered Life (Kregel).

Thursday, January 01, 2015

happy NEW year

happy NEW year!

"And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”"

Revelation 21:5 (NLT)