Thumbing Through

This book is a big, thick, bundle of information! It's not the kind of book that I'll read cover to cover, but I'm really enjoying thumbing through it. Lot's of great stuff.


The One Thing

Yesterday, in an impromptu meeting with a few key leaders of the church, Pastor Rick mentioned the importance of 'The One Thing'. The one thing is the ONE single most important thing that you are responsible for in your role. It's the ONE thing that matters more than anything else and it's the ONE thing that nobody else can do for your ministry...the one thing that you and you alone must do.

I'm really wrestling with that. what is the ONE thing a youth pastor must do? And is it the same ONE thing for every youth pastor?

- Is it teaching/preaching at the youth group meeting?
- Is it equipping adult leaders?
- Is it casting the vision?
- Is it ministering to parents?
- Is it different in different seasons of life and ministry?

What is the ONE thing?


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Way Below Average
Lesson Topic: Week 3 of "Exposed....the naked truth about sex"
'Fun Factor': Below Average
Volunteer Involvement: Way Below Average
Music: Average
Lesson Quality: Average
Length of Lesson: 34 minutes
Student Response: Below Average

A tought weekend for us. We had a whole bunch of our students and leaders in Mexico on a missions trip. Two of us stayed back to run the weekend. The trip combined with Holiday weekend set us up for super low attendance and hardly any volunteers at our programs. My lesson ran long (41 minutes of Saturday night!....I managed to trip 7 minutes for Sunday), our program was sub-par and students didn't really seem too into it all. But, the subject matter kept them interested for the most part.


Six Strange Things About Me

I was tagged by Ryan. Haven't been tagged in a while, and I'm feeling rather bored because my entire family is away on a JH missions trip that I have to miss so I can wrap up our Sex and Dating series. So, here is my list of 6 weird/strange/odd things about me.

- I wear a size 6.5 shoe. My 10 year old son has bigger feet than I do.
- I have been shaving my head for almost 10 years and have no idea how much hair I actually have. I've been tempted to grow it out, but afraid of learning the truth.
- I still get really, really, really nervous EVERY time I am about to speak in public.
- I once fell backwards off a high dive and landed on the pool deck. Somehow I didn't get hurt.
- In the first seven years of our marriage, my wife and I moved seven times!
- Extremely popular T.V. shows that I've rarely or never seen: Friends, Seinfeld, Simpsons, Grey's Anatomy, House, The Bachelor, CSI, Law and Order, Will and Grace, The O.C., Beverly Hills 90210.


Middle School Youthworker Gathering

I'm super excited about this opportunity to gather with 70 or so other middle school youth pastors in September. Marko shared the details of this event here, but I haven't mentioned it until now because registration wasn't ready to go.

If you're interested, you need to hurry.


Junior High Ministry 101: PARENTS

The longer I'm involved in junior high ministry, and now that I'm a parent of a junior higher myself, the more I'm convinced of the importance of parents in my ministry. Here are a few bullet point thoughts about parents:

- Parents are your ally not your enemy.
- The key to getting parents on board: Earn their trust!
- If parents are for you, who can be against you?
- Parents have stuff you need!
- Two things you can give to parents that most of them desperately need: Hope and Help.
- You don't have to be a parent to lead parents.
- You probably haven't raised a young teen yourself, and you don't have all the answers.


Random Randomness

- Heading up to Forest Home on Sunday for the annual get-together of JH/Middle School workers. Our little crew has been together for 6 years now so the time is becoming more valuable each year. The word on the street is that there is no internet or cell service, so probably no blogging 'till Thursday.

- When I was in junior high, my favorite candy was Chick-O-Stick. I don't think I've seen one in about 5 years....somebody just walked in and handed me one! That almost makes up for the Jamocha Almond Fudge fiasco.

- The jury is still out, there's a LOT I don't know, the election is a long way away, and this observation surprises me: I really like Mitt Romney.

- We have a young man from Willow Creek visiting this weekend and interviewing for a position on our High School team. He's a really good guy and seems like he could adjust to life on the West coast quite well.

- Speaking of Willow, if you've never been to their student ministry conference, you really should go.

- The finale of The Office was fantastic. The deleted scenes may be even better!


A Heavy Heart. A Shockingly Heavy Heart

Last night on the way home from my daughter's open house, I suddenly had a wanting for ice cream; not just any ice cream but Jamocha Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and usually pass on desserts, but Jamocha Almond Fudge is my Achilles tendon, my kryptonite in an attempt at healthier living.

Sadly, last night I experienced the devastation of Baskin Robbins only having 30 of their 31 flavors. I asked for a double scoop of Jamocha Almond Fudge in a cup only to have the young lady behind the counter share with me that they were out of it. As if that wasn't bad enough, they had left the empty tub in plain sight and as I made eye contact with it, I felt like it was taunting me.

Words that would not accurately describe the feeling in my gut:
- disappointed
- surprised
- sad
- disheartened

Words that would accurately describe the feeling in my gut:
- horrified
- shocked
- sucker punched
- hopelessness

I'm not posting about this because it's a slow day. I'm posting this because my wife and I spent about 5 minutes trying to figure out why I was so distraught (another word that would describe how I felt) over something as simple as an ice cream flavor. She was totally cracking up! It was the weirdest thing. I wasn't angry, I was genuinely hurt (another good word). I'm telling you it was bizarre!

Here's what I came up with this morning:
My life is way too comfy and I am spending way too much time in the shallow end if the most pain I've felt in months is brought on by an empty tub of ice cream.


Using Caution When Blogging

Blogs seem to suddenly be a big trend in our youth ministry. Most of the paid staff have one, many of our volunteers have their own and read those of the staff. And more and more of our students have their own blogs and read the blogs of our volunteers and paid staff. The sudden realization that so many of our volunteers and students are visiting the blogs of my team awakened me to the fact that I've never really talked to them about being wise in what they post, what they choose to talk about, who they link to etc. We have talked about healthy MySpace habits, but blogs seem to be taking over our ministry so I shot out a quick reminder email to my team last week...maybe you'll find it useful.

Hey team,
Since almost all of us have blogs, I thought I'd send this friendly reminder. In this case, 'friendly reminder' is actually more like "blog policy".
Remember that students and even some parents are reading your blog....so:
- Use wisdom in what you post. Don't post subject matter, Youtube videos etc. that you wouldn't be comfortable letting a student or parent see. What may be innocent humor to you and your friends may not be as appropriate for the students reading your blog.
- Use wisdom when linking to other people's blogs. Don't list blogs of people who you don't trust 100%. The students and parents who read your blog will likely click to read the blogs of your friends.
- What you post is permanent. In a real sense, your blog is the same as writing a book, writing a column in a magazine etc. Once you post something, it is 'on the record'. So be smart and safe.
- Remember, you are a minister at Saddleback Church and a representative of Christ. Your blog is a reflection of your character, our church and our Lord.



Hole In One!

Yesterday I played in a fundraiser golf tournament for my kid's school. A buddy of mine is an executive at the insurance company that covers the school and he sponsored a foursome ($1,500 per group!).

At three of the four par 3 holes, a great prize was being offered for a hole in one. There was a trip to Maui, a trip to Cancun and a brand new Mercedes SUV! I didn't come close at any of 'em...but I did take this picture as a statement of faith BEFORE I hit my shot for the Mercedes. I have a ton of faith, but a crappy golf swing.

However, one gentleman yesterday actually DID get a hole in one....unfortunately it was on the one hole that didn't offer a prize!


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Above Average
Lesson Topic: Week 1 of "Exposed....the naked truth about sex"
'Fun Factor': Average
Volunteer Involvement: Average
Music: Average
Lesson Quality: Above average
Length of Lesson: 24 minutes
Student Response: Way Above Average

Quite a weekend! We kicked off our three week sex series. We sent letters home to parents so they would have a heads up, and were shocked that even though church-wide attendance was down due to Mother's Day, our attendance was quite a bit larger than normal. I think that's a good reminder of two things: Students want to hear about sex, and parents want us to talk about it! We had quite a few parents sitting in on the program in the back of the room because they said they wanted to hear the lesson so they could have good follow up discussions with their kids. Our program was a little bit weaker than normal, and we ran short on time because the adult service went about 20 minutes short, but it was still a fantastic weekend.


Junior High Worship

My brother in law, James, and a friend of his host a monthly podcast dedicated to the subject of leading worship within the local church. On Monday,they invited Taffy, our student ministry worship leader, and myself to join the podcast to talk about junior high worship. As you will hear, James, Christian and Taffy are the experts. I was just there for filler.

Ours is episode #9: One For The Young'ns.


Help Wanted

I'm sitting on a panel this Saturday hoping to help a room full of moms of teenage girls get a better understanding of youth culture. One thing I would like to do is provide a list of "Things Every Mom Should Know About Technology" or something of the sort. I don't want it to be a listof scary stuff or a list of the evils of the internet (although I'm sure some warnings are needed), but rather just some stuff they need to know.

I'd love to get input into this, so here's my question:

What are one or two things every mom of teenage girls needs to know about technology?


Junior High Ministry 101: SHOWING UP

I'm typing this from the backseat as we head to Mexico...the wording of this post may be as bumpy as my ride!

Beginning today, I'm starting a feature I'll call 'Junior High Ministry 101'. Once a week or so, Junior High Ministry 101 will feature a short, simple junior high ministry tip, trick, training or tid-bit. If you're a seasoned vet, you probably won't learn anything new, but you may glean something now and then that you can pass on to others.


This usually surprises people when they hear it, but I really like officiating memorials and funerals. It's not because I like crisis, it's not because I feel gifted in grief counseling and it's not because I like wearing dark suits. The reason I like officiating funerals is because it is a reminder to me that a key to ministry is simply being willing to show up in people's lives. The truth of the matter is that I don't like crisis at all, I don't enjoy grief counseling and I hate suits. BUT, I do like showing up, and I've discovered that the best ministry happens when your willing to simply show up.

I don't know how well equipped you feel for your role as a junior high youth woker. I don't know how much training you get from your church or how many Y.S. conventions you've attended. I do know, however, that none of that stuff makes as big a difference in the life of a junior higher as simply showing up!

Show Up at a baseball game
Show Up at a school play
Show Up when they get their tonsils removed
Show Up when they need a little extra attention

There's nothing easy about junior high ministry...there's lots to it. But it is pretty simple to make a big impact in your students lives just by showing up.



- I'm re-reading The Primal Teen by Barbara Strauch. If you work with teenagers you really do need to read this book that takes a look at new discoveries about the teenage brain.

- Heading down to Mexico for the day tomorrow to meet with the Pastor of the church we are partnering with. Hopefully we'll be back before dinner.

- This weekend we are co-hosting The Promise with our women's ministry team. The Promise is a two day event for moms and their teenage daughters. I'm sitting on a panel to help mom's learn more about young teen culture.

- We are kicking off our sex and dating series this weekend (Exposed...the naked truth about sex and dating). It's going to be interesting because my daughter will be in the crowd. We've had all sorts of talks about the subject, but I do think it will be a bit awkward for her to here her dad talking about sex to all of her friends.


Weekend Wrap Up

Attendance: Below Average
Lesson Topic: Week 3 of 'ONE...because change begins somewhere' (focused on global missions)
'Fun Factor': Above Average
Volunteer Involvement: Below Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Above average
Length of Lesson: 28 minutes
Student Response: Above Average

We wrapped up our missions series by focusing on global opportunities. We shared stories, showed visitors, had a guest from Kenya and led students through 5 stations that exposed them to the issues facing people around the world. This series has been one of, if not the best, series we've done in a long time. I really think it's going to serve as a launching pad for how our ministry continues to approach missions and serving.


What A Difference A Buck Makes

I don't usually post on the weekends, but several people have asked me to post the 25 ideas we gave students along with their dollar bill a couple weeks ago. This list was stapled to the dollar that we handed each student as they left church.

1. Buy a can (or two) of soup for a hungry person in Orange County.
2. Buy a cake mix and bake a cake for your bus driver or teacher.
3. Get your neighbor an air freshener for his car.
4. Buy a bottle of water (or two) for the local gardeners.
5. Buy a double-cheeseburger and give it to a homeless person.
6. Give it to someone who doesn’t usually receive tips (mailman, substitute teacher).
7. Drop it in the tip jar at your favorite coffee place.
8. Buy cookies for the stranger behind you in the school lunch line.
9. Exchange it for quarters and pay for loads of laundry at the local laundromat.
10. Buy a donut for a Wildside volunteer.
11. Buy a bottle of all-purpose cleaner and clean your kitchen.
12. Buy your mom her favorite candy bar.
13. Combine it with $3 in your wallet and pay for a movie rental for your neighbor.
14. Pay the toll for the car behind you on the toll road.
15. Offer to pay the postage for someone mailing a letter.
16. Add it to the tip the next time you eat at a restaurant.
17. Buy a bagel for your little brother or sister.
18. Buy a package of pens or pencils and donate to a school in Africa.
19. “Gift a song” on i-Tunes to a friend.
20. Give your teammate a pack of gum, for no reason.
21. Buy $1 worth of Top Ramen (about 20 packages) and donate them to a food bank.
22. Drop it in the offering at Wildside.
23. Buy your dad his favorite soda.
24. Buy a bottle of window cleaner and wash your carpool’s car windows.
25. Pay for someone’s topping at Golden Spoon.


The Power Of Junior High Friends

Last night I was at the rehearsal dinner for the wedding I'm officiating tonight. Believe it or not, there are a total of 24 people in the wedding party! The bride and groom each have 12 friends that they have asked to share in their day.

As we hung out last night, and as story after story was shared, an interesting theme began to develop. The vast majority of these friendships could be traced back to their junior high years. I was reminded of the fact that friendships made in junior high almost always shape the future character of our students and many of these friendships last into the adult years. I found myself asking these questions:

- Is our ministry doing enough to acknowledge the power of friendships?

- Are we really helping students navigate the 'friendship waters' safely?

- Have we helped them develop the skills of choosing good friends, being a good friend and getting out of unhealthy friendships?

- Are we helping our students recognize that who they become will, in large part, be determined by who the choose as friends?


National Day of Prayer

A few thougths about today:

- I hung out at my house this morning watching various morning news shows and didn't see any mention that today was national day of prayer. You don't have to be a far-right fundie to wonder a little about that one.

- I love America, but God isn't American.

- I love America, but found myself praying for God's will to be done, his kingdom to come and his power to reign on earth not only on my home turf.

- I believe that for all our flaws, America is still the greatest country in the world. Our belief in freedom, our efforts to treat each other as equals and our attempts to protect and expand those values to other parts of the globe (even though we don't get it right much of the time...) sets us apart from much of the world, and for that I'm thankful and proud.

- I live for Christ and I hope I'd be willing to die for his cause. I live in America and hope I'd be willing to die for its cause as well.


Full of It!

Forgive me for crossing a line, but there really is good reason. I'm going to recommend a book I wrote. Trust me, my motives are pure. Even if everybody who reads this blog bought a copy, It would only net me about a hundred bucks in royalties!

I was in a conversation yesterday with some of the Pastors on staff and we were talking about the never ending tendency we have to burn out our volunteers. To over-use them, to re-use the willing and able ones again and again, etc.

I'm not sure if youth ministries are more guilty of it than other ministries in the church, but few could argue that youth ministry has a history of burning out volunteers. We don't do this on purpose, of course, but the nature of youth ministry combined with our need for help combined with the nature of youth ministry combined with our need for helped combined with the nature of youth ministry combined with our need for help has created a cycle that most youth groups are stuck in.

That's one of the reasons I wrote 'Full of It' with my friend Katie. Full of It is one attempt to help youth workers keep their volunteers motivated, encouraged and feeling appreciated. This book is full of 101 super easy ideas to say thanks to your leaders for all the work they put into your ministry.

I've learned over the years that even though leaders are over extended, they usually don't quit because of burnout. The biggest reason volunteers leave youth ministry teams is because they don't feel appreciated. This cheap, little book won't solve all your youth ministry volunteer issues, but I do believe that it will help you do what's most important: Encourage them.


Goose Bumps

In yesterday's post I mentioned that we gave each student $1.00 and challenged them to do something creative with it and to let us know what they did. This morning I had this email waiting for me. It's from an 8th grade girl:

This is how I spent my one dollar.

At my school the P.E. teachers often go unappreciated; mainly because they are the only teachers that require endless running and push-ups for a grade.
I have even been asked to come egg one of the P.E. teacher's houses because the students were so fed up with running. The teachers are hugely disliked throughout the entire school and even some of the other teachers have begun to be prejudiced against the P.E. teachers.
I used my one dollar to buy a cake mix and brought cupcakes to school for the P.E. teachers Monday morning. They were very appreciative and surprised to have someone remember them. I got a hug from each teacher and a big thank you. None of them mentioned the cupcakes during the period to my relief, but as I was dressing out to go to my next period I saw my seventh grade P.E. teacher ,whose husband had just died, biting halfway through a cupcake with a grin on her face. Did I mention it was 9:30 in the morning?
Thank you for coming up with the one dollar idea. I hope that there are more awesome stories about how the dollar has influenced this community and made a difference. Thanks again!

Man, just reading that gives me goose bumps!