GREAT story #1

On Sunday, two things happened in our ministry that instantly rank towards the top of my many, many junior high ministry stories. I'll share one today one tomorrow.

Jaime is a brand new, full-time minister on our junior high team. Jaime can't drive golf carts.
On Sunday, I was in our junior high tent getting ready for our 4:30 afternoon program when Jaime came hustling up to me. He was visibly rattled, but not overly so. He had been driving a flat bed golf cart/utility cart around the campus cleaning up from our frisbee golf tournament (which I will tell about in tomorrow's story...)
I will write the account exactly the way Jaime shared it with me.


"Uh, Kurt. While I was driving the golf cart, I may or may not have lost control. When I lost control, I may or may not have plowed the cart right through one of those really expensive, concrete light fixtures. After I did that, I may or may not have panicked and tried to slam on the break. Of course, I may or may not have accidently slamed on the accelerator instead. This may or may not have resulted in me and the cart flying down the hill. At the bottom of the hill I may or may not have rammed the cart up a tree. The cart may or may not have actually been stuck up the trunk of the tree which may or may not have forced me to ask some people walking to the worship center for help removing it."

In review: Jaime lost control of one of the church golf carts and plowed clean through a concrete light fixture, down a hill and literally up a tree!

He went to the doctor yesterday to have his shoulder checked out and I haven't heard the results. I've posted picutres of the light (you can see where it cracked at the base...we picked it back up and balanced it upright and then placed the caution tape around it) and the damaged tree.


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Average
Lesson Topic: Week two of MAKE YOUR MARK
'Fun Factor': Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Average
Length of Lesson: 13 minutes
Student Response: Average

The week heading into our weekend programs was a wild one. We found out on Wednesday afternoon that the church has decided to put a three-week emphasis on our student ministries and on raising awarness of our Student Zone construction. This is all great news, but threw a wrench in our weekend plans as we decided to change and shorten our program so students could head up to the adult patio area and be a visible presence. To aid this we created a big student lounge on the patio with arcade games, basket ball hoops, couches, movies playing on big screens etc. The funny part was that we shortened our lesson and postponed our junior high ministry fair so that we could be done early enough to get our students up to the patio, BUT the adult service ran about 20-30 minutes longer than usual so in hindsight we really didn't need to shorten our service at all!



My buddy, Scott Rubin, just sent me this fun link. I'm sure the bigger fan you are of Lost and/or Survivor, the funnier this will be.

I'm heading out for a 30 hour getaway with my wife so probably no post tomorrow.


Creativity 101

I'm of the opinnion that most people are more creative than they think they are. My only real evidence of this is the fact that all of us used to be 5 years old and I've never seen a non-creative 5 year old. Somewhere along the line, many of us 'grow up' and outgrow our creativity because it isn't as well accepted in a grown up world. Over time, we forget how to be creative and begin to believe the myth that we aren't.

I stumbled across this website the other day and thought it had some pretty good reminders about creativity and some exercises to get the juices flowing.


A Few Of My Favorite Things

Recently we've added a few, small twists to our junior high ministry that I'm really excited about. None of this is groundbreaking or revolutionary but it just feels like good ol' fashioned junior high ministry and I'm lovin' it! Here are a few of my favorite things happening in our ministry right now:

- Wildside On Location. We have an old Suburban with our logo painted on it that somebody donated a few years back. One Friday a month we announce that we are going to be 'on location' at a certain campus after school. We load the Suburban up with cokes, snacks and beach chairs and park ourselves near the campus in an easily seen place. We encourage our students to come by for a coke and to bring a friend or two. It's been surprisingly well received.

- Campus Kindness. As part of our student leadership program, students break up by campus to pray for their school and brainstorm ideas to creatively minister to their schools. To help the process, we gave them a list of suggested ideas they can implement. This is brand new and they are just now getting around to actually planning their first campus 'act of kindness', so we'll see how it all goes, but there seems to be a ton of excitement around the idea.

- 'Thinking Small'. A temptation that most youth workers fall into is the idea that bigger is better. We plan bigger events to attract bigger crowds. We work hard to grow our camp attendance. We dream of the day we will have our own youth building....or at least our own room! I feel like I'm at a place in my ministry career that I may finally be over all that stuff (I'm not saying I don't struggle with it, but it's not nearly as important as it used to be). I'm now really trying to force myself to 'think small'. It just seems like there are so many really good things about smaller youth ministries that get overlooked and forgotten in our quest for bigness. Our ministry is making a conscious decision to think small by trying to excel at the stuff small youth ministry does well. I'm not against healthy growth; I'm just done being consumed by it.

And on a completely random note....I'm sitting in Tullys and a guy just walked in who looks EXACTLY like Locke from Lost.



Our student ministry team worked like crazy last week to get ready to move our offices only to find out that while we had to be out of our workspace by Friday morning, we didn't have the proper permits to allow us to occupy our new space. This means that for the next week or two...or three we will be nomads; moving from space to space. We'll sit in an open cube, we'll borrow an office, we'll work from Starbucks (nothing new there for me...) but we won't have access to most of our 'stuff' because it's all boxed up and waiting for us in our new work space. I actually think it may be kinda fun for a week, but if we are displaced for much longer I can see things starting to get ugly.

In anticipation of my grumbling, I've already begun to work on a list of reasons I'm thankful I get to minister where I do.

Mind Control

I've had lots of discussions lately about the temptation and dangers of manipulating junior high students' decision making (especially spiritually decisions....). In light of some of those conversations, I found this article interesting.


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Above Average
Lesson Topic: Week one of a short, two-week series called MAKE YOUR MARK
'Fun Factor': Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Average
Music: Average
Lesson Quality: Above Average
Length of Lesson: 29 minutes
Student Response: Above Average

Lots of fun, creative, out-of-the-ordinary stuff this weekend....especially around the lesson. A couple hours before church on Saturday, I called Matt Hall (one of our JH pastors) and told him I had a fun idea for introducing our lesson. So, we got to church a little early and threw together a really fun little 'skit' as part of my intro. that relied heavily on Matt's ability to ad-lib which he did perfectly.
The highlight of the weekend was our guest Chris Simning. Chris was our Summer camp speaker this year and made a huge impact on our students. As an 8th grader several years ago, Chris woke up one morning and couldn't lift his head. He's now 38 years old and has spent the past 24 years suffering from a rare muscle disease that effects his ability to walk and talk normally. I wrapped up my lesson on making a mark (making a difference in the world) by asking Chris to share his story. As soon as he stepped to the stage, the place went totally quiet. Our students were captivated by his story. It was one of the more powerful moments we've experienced in a while.


Stick Humor

The Office Season 3

There have been very few shows that my wife and I look forward to watching together, but The Office is one of them. I think the first two seasons were two of the funniest on television in a really long time. But for some reason Season 3 feels like it's missing the mark. If you watch the office:

A) Is this season actually worse?
B) Is this season just as good as the previous two, but maybe I'm getting used to the 'schtick'?
C) Am I out of my mind? This is the best season yet!


You Got To Move It, Move It

We are finally moving our student ministries team into our new office space. The official move begins tomorrow, but I was asked to move out a day early so re-painting can begin before the new occupant moves in. I'm in full-on 'move mode' today.

I'll miss my old office....it's in a great location and has been a cozy little home for the past 5 years or so.


Websites Galore....

I stumbled upon this website a few weeks back. It has a massive listing of faith-based websites in a wide variety of categories. I'm not vouching for the links, but it's probably worth adding to your favorites and browsing through every now and then.


What Not To Do

One of the things I love about junior high ministry is the constant quest for a fun new game, activity, event etc. I certainly don't believe that in order to have an effective junior high ministry you have to always have something newer, bigger or better than the week before, but I do like trying to keep things fresh and fun for students.

A question I have been asked a thousand times and one I've asked myself just as often is: "How do we decide what to do....and what NOT to do?"

I'm not talking about the big events and activities that are well planned out and put on the calendar months ahead of time, but rather the little games, skits, spontaneous activities and the like that we find ourselves doing week in and week out. In my experience, it's the little things that can get us into the most hot water if we're not careful. So, any time we're planning a game for a program, or someone on our team has a spur-of-the-moment idea we try to run it through a very simple little filter:

1) Is it age-appropriate? Is it over their head? Will they 'get it?' etc.
2) Does it dishonor anybody? I don't want to dishonor scripture, Christ, nerdy kids, jocks, tall kids, heavy kids etc.
3) Can we defend it? When a parent, church elder or senior pastor asks us why we played that game, watched that movie etc. do we have a defense that will satisfy?

We still make some mistakes and have done some stuff we probably shouldn't have, but this filter really has served us well....when we take the time to utilize it!


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Above Average
Lesson Topic: Week Three of 'Reeled In' (Fish Stories From the Bible: Jonah)
'Fun Factor': Way Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Average
Music: Average
Lesson Quality: Average
Length of Lesson: 20 minutes
Student Response: Average

We wrapped up a really good series with an average lesson. The talked missed the mark a little bit this week. It was decent, but not as strong as the first two in the series. The highlight of our weekend was our 'chocolate slip N slide' down the center of our room (we are in the middlle of 'Choctober'). It was a forty foot slide coverered in chocolate syrup, baby shampoo etc. Students volunteered to slide down it wearing rain panchos....really fun!


Friday The 13th

I think I've only seen one or two of the many, many, many Friday the 13th movies. I've never been a big horror movie fan, but because I am a movie fan I thought today's date might be a good time to list a few movies I think are equal candidates for needless sequels.

Movie: You, Me and Dupree
Sequel: You and Dupree...Me, I'm Outta' Here!

Movie: So I Married An Axe Murderer
Sequel: So I Married An Axe Murderer Who Axed Me To Death

Movie: 8 Mile
Sequel: Adventures of People Who Saw The Movie And Just HAD To Take Their Picture Near The 8 Mile Road Sign

Okay, I'm done...this is neither as funny nor easy as I thought it would be.


Hello, This is Dwight

If you are a fan of The Office, or know somebody who is, this is a fun bit. Now you can have Dwight Schrute call all your friends!


The Good Ol' Days

I'm not usually the kind of guy who looks at the past and longs for the 'good ol' days'. Typically, I like the days I'm living in. But lately, and especially today, I've been looking back at the early days in my youth ministry career and longing for just a taste of the good ol' days. Right now, the good ol' days I long for are the days that I didn't go to endless meetings...the days I didn't spend hours figuring out budget issues...the days I knew every kid by name...heck, the days I knew every volunteer by name!

But today, I find myself at a break between two meetings that will last way too long discussing things that are way too miniscule. Maybe I'm not really longing for the good ol' days right now; just any day other than this one!


Chewing, Chewing, Chewing...

I'm really chewing on something.
My good friend, Katie Edwards, taught a fantastic workshop on the topic of building a middle school ministry volunteer team. This is what she does for a living...it's her sweet spot...she oozes this stuff. So, the workshop was really, really good and all who attended really liked it. As we talked about it afterwards, I mentioned that I thought it would be cool to add a section that lists some unique differences in what makes a good middle school volunteer vs. a good high school volunteer. She loved the idea and then asked 'so, what are those unique differences?' I couldn't come up with more than a couple!

Now, I've noticed that the posts that receive the most feedback on this blog are usually those that are light and fluffy, which is great. But I need your thoughts on this one. I'm surprised that I couldn't list a whole bunch of 'unique differences' easily. It seems like every quality I come up with for an effective middle school volunteer is also a needed quality in a high school volunteer. Could it really all come down to a sense of 'fit' or 'calling'? To me, this suddenly has much larger implications than just the workshop....what are your thoughts?


Me Likey Austin

I'm sitting in the hotel lobby with our crew. Earlier, I spent about 2 hours cruising around the greater Austin area with an old friend who recently began a new ministry role here. This trip has served as a reminder that those of us who grew up in Southern California are a bit arrogant/elitist in our opinions. You see, there is no way any other place in the United States can be as nice, as fun, as beautiful, as trendy, as....well ANYTHING as So. Cal. As we headed to Austin, we knew without a doubt that there would be nothing about it that equaled our home sweet home.

Now four days later, I must admit that although there isn't a whole lot about Austin I like better than Southern Cal there is a VERY cool flavor to the city. It's eclectic, diverse, full of great local restaurants, friendly, and feels like a place that, should I be forced to leave California, I could enjoy.

Okay, now for my thoughts on Bats, Faux hawks, and Deep-Fried Green Beans.

BATS: There is a bridge over the lake just below our hotel. It's been named 'bat bridge' because just after dusk every night of the year, close to 1,000,000 bats fly out from under it into the night sky. We watched it one night and it was a pretty amazing sight. The whole phenomenon raised a ton of questions in my mind, two of which are:
1) Why THIS bridge? There is another, identical, bridge about two hundred yards up the lake, but no bats hang out there (ha! 'hang out there'....).
2) Which bat is in charge and when does he/she decide it's time to fly into the night. They didn't slowly trickle out over a couple of hours....the night went from totally calm to being flooded with bats in the blink of an eye.

Faux Hawks (shortish hair pushed to middle on top and gelled to resemble a short, temporary style that resembles a mo hawk): While they may not be as popular amongst the youth worker profession as the mullet was in the 80's or the goatee/soul patch of recent years, they are definitely the preferred hair style of the coolest of cool youth workers. However, unlike the mullet or facial hair trends, the faux hawk is one that only the younger youth workers can pull off. A 40 year old with a soul patch is somewhat acceptable...put a faux hawk on the same guy and it screams 'insecure, older youth worker trying hard to hold onto his youth'

Deep-Fried Green Beans: A new appetizer at TGI Fridays. We were told that Austin leads the way when it comes to fashion (we dispute that claim), but we weren't told that they lead the way in new appetizer offerings at TGI Fridays. I had never heard of Deep-Fried Green Beans, which are served with a spicy ranch dipping sauce, but we ordered some the other night and they were quite tasty.

I miss my family.....can't wait to get home.


Crazy Day at NYWC

Today was my busy day at the National Youth Workers Convention. Really, it started last night with a late night 'Junior High Idea Lab'. Then, I was scheduled to speak twice today....the first of which was slated for 8:00 a.m.

My friend and co-worker, Matt Hall, woke me up at 8:02 a.m. We had set the alarm clock AND asked for a wake up call as a safety precaution. Both failed to work. I'm sure I set the alarm clock wrong, but have no idea why the wake up call never happened! One of my life fears is to be late to a speaking appointment. Our friends who had agreed to meet us at the workshop called Matt's cell phone to ask where we were...it was that phone call that woke us up and saved the day. Our hotel is about 1/2 mile away from the convention center. We woke up from a dead sleep at 8:02 and managed to make it to my workshop by 8:14! Luckily, everybody else runs late to the morning workshops so it was really no big deal.

I made it through that workshop and through the 2.5 'super session' later this afternoon. All in all it was a great day...but what a goofy way to get it started!

Things I will post about tomorrow:
- The 'Bat' Bridge
- Deep fried green beans
- 'faux hawks' (Fo Hawks????)


Frantic...Running... Out....Of...Time...

I am in a fever pitch as I frantically try to pull everything together for Y.S. Convention in Austin. We leave at 5:30 in the morning, so a long night of sleep is already out of the question.

But, I do really like being a part of the convention connecting with old ministry friends and meeting new ones. Several odd things have forged their way into my mind as I hustle about:

- I'm a guacamole snob. I say I love guacamole, but really I only love it if it is fresh and chunky. I just at lunch at Wahoo's and their guacamole wasn't quite fresh enough. Most people would like it, but not me.

- Why do I have TWO cans of tennis balls sitting on my desk? I don't play tennis, we haven't used them in our ministry....why, then, would I allow two cans of tennis balls to sit there for the past month? Why do I not know how they got there?

- Maybe I'm suffering a very slight mid-life crisis. Lately I've been spending way more time than normal thinking about fashion and the like (way more time than normal only adds up to about a minute a week...but that' still WAY more time than normal...). Do I dress too old, Can I get away with that kind of shirt, would this make me look like I'm trying too hard?

- LOST was great last night, but I'm beginning to dislike Jack....


Simple Thought #5: Youth Ministry In 50 Years

I was tagged by Marko, who was interviewed by Christianity Today on the subject, to share my thoughts on what youth ministry may look like in 50 years. Even though it's a HUGE question filled with all sorts of possibilities I decided, like I do with most big issues, to try to wrestle it down to a few simple thoughts:

If I had to guess, (and guessing really is what we are being asked to do....) I would make these four (some of which contradict the others):

1) Youth ministry will continue to break new ground for the local church while following its lead at the same time. I think youth ministry is the ground-breaking ministry in the church and is always ahead of the curve. However, its success is often tied directly to the success of what the local church is doing, IF it is a local church-based ministry. So, what will youth ministry look like in 50 years? It will probably look a lot like the local church does in 50 years.

2) Para-church youth organizations will be on the rise. IF the local church can't find a way to re-gain it's footing in our communities, youth ministers will probably abandon it and forge new ways to minister to students. I hope this doesn't happen because if the young, forward thinking leadership abandons an already struggling church......yikes.

3) It will still be 'Trendy'. Now, that sounds a lot worse than I mean it to. But let's be honest; none of us reading this blog will still be leaders in youth ministry 50 years from now. Youth ministry will still be led by younger leaders who are ministering to teenagers. Because teenagers are savvy consumers with fickle tastes, youth ministers will still be caught in the cycle of trying to engage them with whatever happens to reflect the current cultural flow.

4) I have NO idea! Really, 50 years? I'm not even sure I know what my junior high ministry will look like in 50 minutes!

Note: As of 10:45 on October 4, I have read several of the other posts on this topic. Wow...those guys are REALLY smart! Seriously, they use words I've never even heard of.


Friday Night Lights...On Tuesdays.

I am a lover of just about all things football. So, I was excited to see they were making a television series based around the movie, Friday Night Lights. I loved the movie and was, originally, really looking forward to the t.v. show. But, there are two things that are beginning to trouble me.

1) Based on the previews, it looks like the show could stray too far from the gridiron action. It looks like it may be just another teen t.v. show in a football setting. If that's the case, I won't last long.

2) It's on Tuesday nights. How can a show called 'Friday Night Lights' air on Tuesday? I'm already confused and I'm not smart enough to remember that a show with Friday in the title is on Tuesday.


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Above Average
Lesson Topic: Week One of 'Reeled In' (Fish Stories From the Bible: Jesus Filling the Nets)
'Fun Factor': Way Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Above Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Above Average
Length of Lesson: 21 minutes
Student Response: Above Average

Without question, this was one of our best weekends in quite a while. We mixed up the order of service a bit....had a fun video in middle of the lesson and a special song at the end. The music was super high energy, the students were engaged and all the pieces just seemed to fall into place. The video I mentioned was a goofy video we made of a crusty old fisherman telling the story instead of me simply telling it as part of my lesson. It was REALLY funny and set me up to win. I think we'll probably use that idea for each week of this series.