The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good:
Our student ministry team has been expanding (new regional campuses, a few newer hires, etc.) but it feels like we are starting to gel as a group. I'm a believer that "fit" is more crucial than "skill" on a team and I feel like our team fits together well and is well skilled at what they do.

The Bad:
Each year, we take a retreat with our youth team and spouses. It's a major highlight for us because we get to hang out, relax and gear up for Summer. Unfortunately because of the schedule of our new student center opening we had to change our dates this year at the 11th hour. The result: A few of our team had already mad plans and couldn't change them. I absolutely HATE that my poor planning results in them missing out.

The Ugly:
I feel like our students and their families are under major attack. Divorces, sudden deaths and "run aways" have been on the increase lately. I hold onto the belief that when amazing things are about to happen, Satan gets busy.


A Hidden Jewel

On our mission trip, we were staying at a local church about 20 minutes away from the reservation youth center. Friday night as I was exploring the church, I stumbled upon a large room that was set up for a massive Rummage sale the next morning. To know me is to know that I absolutely love Garage sales and all things second-hand and cheap. I couldn't resist the temptation to browse around to see what I might find. As I snooped around, I stumbled upon a notebook from the early 90's titled "Teen Clinic" by a gentleman named Dave Ray. It looked like....well it looked like an entire teen clinic in a notebook. How could I resist! I put $3.00 in the little jar and headed back to our group, my head filled up with wonder and anticipation of what this "Teen Clinic" may hold in store. I haven't started reading it yet, but I will....oh yes, I will.


Random Randomness

Missions Trip:
Our missions trip to the reservation in AZ was great. Aside from the usual missions trip highlights, a highlight for me was the fact that a huge percentage of the students that attended the trip were kids who aren't super involved in our ministry. Many of them were kids who I've never really met so I had a great time learning new names, hearing new stories and all that good stuff.

Weekend Program:
It was week two of our "Heroes" series and our subject was the "Sinful Woman" (the woman who poured her perfume on Jesus' feet). Jason Petty, one of our high school pastors taught and did a fantastic job.

Small Group Curriculum:
I'm spending all day tomorrow editing/tweaking/re-writing 10 scripts for small group video curriculum for next school year. We're setting aside two days in a couple of weeks to try to film all 10...YIKES. But, our leaders and students seem to really like the stuff so it is time well spent.

New Regional Campus:
This weekend we will launch student ministries on our 3rd regional campus in Corona, a community about 45 minutes East. Sadly, I won't be able to be at the launch because I'll be on vacation.

It's time to make it official: I have switched my loyalty from Pepsi to Coke. Even typing this makes me feel disloyal and like I'm betraying an old friend. I'm sorry, Pepsi.


Apache Indians...Here We Come!

I'm leaving in about an hour on our Mission trip to AZ to partner with a youth center on an Apache Indian reservation. I'm going along with a team of four dads as part of the "early crew" who will shop for food, supplies, meet with the leader of the youth center etc. so we're ready to go when our students arrive tomorrow night.

Likely won't be posting much over the long weekend.


Grappling For Resources?

Jr. High Grapple, a new resource from Group Publishing has me really, really interested. Much more than merely curriculum it is an online community, gives students a chance to vote for upcoming program elements and more.

I'll be really interested to see how this resource is received and used....I love the idea, but it also feels really different and risky, which is why I love it so much!

If you try it, I would love to hear your reports.


The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

I've tried creating "features" in the past but I haven't had much success being faithful to them, but I'm going to try it again. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly will be a new occasional post in which I'll feature a good, a bad and an ugly from my ministry.


PRIZE WHEEL: We invested a couple hundred bucks for a decent quality spinning prize wheel. It has about 30 slots and each slot has a different prize listed. Instead of constantly buying prizes that we think kids might like (and spending way too much time and money...) we decided to buy a tub full of goofy prizes and let kids spin the wheel to see what they win. Plastic dinosaur, can of corn, rubber spatula, pair of socks etc. are all on the wheel and ready to be won. Students totally love it.


WEEKEND FOLLOW UP: Man, we just can't seem to get this one right. I really want to do a better job of following up on students who attend our weekend program, but I have an aversion to mandated check in systems. The result: really poor follow up! Because we don't take it seriously, we simply aren't following up on students the way we should. I have to figure this one out...probably just sucking it up and creating a mandatory check-in of some sort.



Had a tough meeting with a key volunteer in our ministry the other day. We mad a major decision that effected this particular volunteer significantly. While it was the right decision, his response made it clear that the process by which we made it was flawed. Flawed to the point that a significant level of trust was broken and I wanted to own our part in the process. It was one of those long, uncomfortable conversations that you hate to have but know you need to have.


Monday Miscellaneous

- Joined Twitter about a week ago. Interesting. I'm surprised that I enjoy getting frequent updates from buddies.

- This was a great weekend in our JH ministry. We kicked off our "Heroes...from average to awesome" series with a lesson on Gideon. Lots of creative elements, great music and a pretty good lesson. We had students totally engaged from start to finish.

- I'm sure I'll see Indiana Jones even though I'm not a huge fan and I've heard this one is a bit of a let down which is a bummer considering all the hype and incredible hassle to get it done.

- It's hot, hot, hot and I'm realizing that I'm not quite ready for Summer. I'm ready for all the fun it brings, just not for the heat!

- Last night, a crew of us snuck into the Refinery, our soon-to-open student center, to play the inaugural game of basketball on the new court. High temps mixed with stuffy building mixed with lack of running water. But we had a Great time.

- Not sure which I'm more excited about: Our upcoming Mission trip to the Apache Indian Reservation in AZ. or my vacation that immediately follows. I haven't taken a full week off in well over a year and we have absolutely nothing planned for this one....which is PERFECT!


Leadership Gold #5

The 5th, and final, nugget from Stanley:

“When your memories exceed your dreams, the end is near.”

- Most churches are living in the “good old days” and trying to figure out how to recapture them instead of creating new ones.

Takeaway: Don’t let past success or current momentum overshadow your vision…keep vision out in front.

Question for junior high ministry: Are you more excited about the past successes of your ministry of the future potential? What memories from the past are actually jeopardizing your future?


Twitter Dee, Twitter Dumb?

Okay, I'm not so sure about this but I got talked into trying twitter. Sounds kinda dumb, but sure seems like lots of people are lovin' it so I'll give it a shot.

If you have an account let me know and I'll follow you.

Leadership Gold #4

The fourth nugget from Andy Stanley:

“If we got kicked out and the board brought in somebody new, what would they do? Why don’t we just walk out, come back in and do it ourselves?”

- Sometimes the most obvious, important changes are the ones current leadership doesn’t see or is unwilling to make.

Takeaway: Acknowledge what’s not working and own up to why you aren’t doing anything about it.

Questions for Junior High Ministry: What’s in decline? Where are we manufacturing energy (in other words, what things are we spending way too muchtime convincing ourselves and other people are important, when nobody seems to believe that's the case)? What underlying assumptions do we have that may no longer be accurate?


Leadership Gold #3

The third random leadership thought from Andy Stanley at Drive:

“What do I believe is impossible to do in my field but if it could be done would fundamentally change my business?”

- Most great advances were once viewed as impossible or unreasonable.

Pay attention to the people who are breaking the rules.

What is the “impossible dream” in your junior high ministry? What is something you want to see happen but have never been able to achieve?

Think big...what is something that can't happen, but if it could would fundamentally change junior high ministry as a whole?


Leadership Gold #2

Another of Andy Stanley's random leadership thought from his closing general session at DRIVE.

Thought #2
"The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation."

Andy's takeaway for us:
Change is coming, and change is usually good. Most of the significant changes in ministry won't be brought about by those leading the way today. They will be brought about by the next generation of church leaders. Current church leaders need to decide if the will fight change or fund change. Older leaders need to learn to be students not just critics.

What might this mean in a junior high setting?
- How much of my current approach to junior high ministry is fresh? How much of it is simply stuff that has worked for me in the past and doesn't seem broken so I'm not really open to changing?

- How can older JH leaders begin to "fund" some of the thinking and innovation of younger leaders?

- Am I willing to learn from younger leaders who will usher in next season of JH ministry, or am I a critic of their way of thinking, leading etc.?


Leadership Gold

At the final General session of DRIVE, Andy Stanley decided to toss away his plans to teach on vision casting and share some of his recent random thoughts about leadership in general instead. For the next 50 minutes or so, he focused on five thing he's been pondering based on five quotes that have stuck out in his mind.
Over the next few days, I'll share super quick overview of each of these 5 leadership thoughts and throw out a question or two about how they may relate to a junior high ministry setting.

Thought #1
"To reach people no one else is reaching we must do things no one else is doing."
- Craig Groeschel; founder of Lifechurch.tv

Andy's big thought related to this quote was that obviously the majority of things church's are doing must not be what most people are interested in because most people aren't going to the things church's are doing! Even a super cool worship service must not be what most people are interested in because most people aren't going to super cool worship services...they are doing a bunch of other stuff instead.

Andy's takeaway for us: Become preoccupied with those we haven't reached instead of being preoccupied with those we are trying to keep.

What might this mean in a junior high setting?
- Does my ministry have at least as much focus on reaching un-churched kids as it does ministering to kids who already know Jesus?
- Is there a new way to begin reaching kids who don't show an interest in coming to programs?
- What is one thing that nobody else is doing for junior highers that you have the resources, passion and ability to do in your ministry?


Less Is More....no it's not, but maybe it is, isn't it?

Just sat through a workshop giving a brief overview of the middle school ministry at North Point. Pretty simple stuff:
- One weekly 65-minute program that includes two songs, a game, a 12-minute message and 25 minutes in small groups. This happens during both adult services.

THAT'S IT! They also do three overnight events/camps per year. Nothing else. Anything else is expected to happen through the small groups.

Interesting that they feel content with a "less is more" approach. Are they onto something?

What does your junior high ministry look like?


Learning to Lead

As I mentioned in my post on Monday, I really wasn't sure what to expect at North Point's DRIVE conference. Now that the first full day is wrapping up, I must say that I have really enjoyed the time. In a word, the conference is about leadership. Virtually every general session and workshop has leadership as a central theme. In fact, the leadership theme runs so deep that I've noticed many attendees are experiencing a bit of frustration that may come from one of two things:

1) Much of the material for discussion is coming from the large church perspective. Although the content is amazing, I think there could be a more intentional effort to wrap it in transferable principles for the average church worker.

2) So many people who work in church settings feel like they really don't have much of a leadership platform in which to implement the stuff they are learning. I think some practical application steps on how to implement the content and "lead from the middle of the pack" would be greatly appreciated.

But, if you are interested in learning some really great biblical leadership principles from a church that is doing what they are called to do well, then I would highly recommend this conference next year. I feel like I've really been stretched; my moleskine is rapidly filling up.

Youth ministry training...not so much. Leadership training...incredible.


Monday Miscellaneous

- The weekend was fantastic. On the main campus, our junior high ministry was in its second week of our "Simmer Down" series. This week the lesson was on bitterness which was, in a sense, a continuation from last week's lesson on Anger. Music was great (we had a couple new kids playing and singing in the band), the games were fun and students seemed to track well. We also kicked off our student ministry program at our Irvine campus. Attendance was higher than expected and the overall atmosphere was really fun.

- Right now, the entire student ministry team is in Atlanta for the Drive Conference at North Point Church. The opening session starts in a couple hours. I really have no idea what to expect from the next 2.5 days. The most intriguing aspect to me is the wide variety of really great sounding workshops; as there seems to be a lot of fresh topics being offered.

- I rented a GPS system for the rental car I'm driving. At the time it sounded easier than getting directions for the entire carpool every time we go somewhere. I figured the lead car could just follow the GPS and get us easily to each destination. I'm not sure what's going on, but our GPS is totally messing us up! Telling us to turn on streets that don't exists, self correcting in the middle of directions that then turn out to be wrong. So funny, but so frustrating.

- Heading out to cracker barrell for dinner. Grits, anyone?


Random Randomness

- Our youth ministry at our regional campus in Irvine opens this weekend and we are super excited. Excited about the work God's going to do in the lives of students and excited about unveiling the carpet ball table our 78-year-old volunteer made for us!

- One of my daughter's best friends has an interesting condition, I think. Her sense of smell is fine, but she can't smell skunk. Huh? How does that even happen?

- My favorite guilty pleasure song right now: Thrash Unreal by Against Me! (I'm sure there's a way to link to it, but I don't know how...)

- This weekend is our second week of "Simmer Down...three emotions that will get you in hot water" So far it is shaping up to be a good one.

- Tonight we have a father/son deep sea fishing trip. The boats leaves the dock at 7:00 p.m. and we return at 11:00. My son is only a 5th grader, but I'm sneaking him along with me on this one!



beep, boop, beep, bop.....

I'm no Jack Bauer, but the last 24 hours have, for my simple little life, been quite busy.

- yesterday afternoon I found myself in quick little meetings that seemed to never end. Meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting. lasting till about 6:30.

- Last night's festivities went something like this:
* Drove to movie theater for sneak preview of Iron Man.
* Grabbed two pizza slices at mall before heading in.
* After the movie went to Tommy's burgers for chili-cheese burger
* Then went on a hunt for late night ice cream but had to settle for frozen

- I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with my mind twirling. About what, I'm not sure (probably about the fact that I ate two pieces of pizza, a chili-cheese burger and frozen yogurt for dinner!). couldn't get back to sleep until 5:30.

- My wife called me at 9:00 a.m. panicked because she forgot that our son had a little part in his class play at school at 9:20. She was in her women's bible study and wanted to see if I could hustle to the school. I did. He was great.

- Didn't get into the office until 10:45 so felt like I was already behind on way too many tasks to list. Of course, if I did a better job of listing them, I may actually figure out a way to chip away at those tasks.

- Went on a date with Rachel for lunch. Seems like I haven't spent any time with her lately so a spontaneous lunch date seemed like the best solution.

beep, boop, beep, bop...