I see quite a few movies. I typically sneak out to a late-night showing after the family is in bed and join a couple of buddies. Yesterday my friend Eric Venable called me and said he thinks I should add a regular movie review to my blog. I like movies, but I'm really not a reviewer. I watch them for entertainment not through a critical eye, a theological lens etc.

But I thought his idea was sorta fun so here's what I'll do....every now and then I'll share the three most recent movies I've seen and give a simple 'Thumbs Up', 'Thumbs Down' or 'Sideways Thumbs' review.

I'm not a fan of any particular genre of movie, and I have no real ability to identify why I like some movies and don't like others....therefore my reviews will probably be somewhat inconsistent.

Hit Man (Rated R). Best Scene: nothing sticks out.
Review: Thumbs Down

Dan in Real Life (Rated PG13). Best Line: "You are a murderer of love!"
Review: Thumbs Up

Enchanted (Rated PG) Best Scene: The opening scene making fun of Disney's own formula.
Review: Thumbs Up


Junior Highers and Materialism

According to this article, there is a direct link between materialism and self-esteem in adolescents. It introduces an interesting new twist in how we might approach the issue of materialism with junior highers.
(S.O. to Ypulse)


My Late Night Fix

I have to come clean. I have officially become a Stephen Colbert fan. The Colbert Report is, in my opinion, one of the best written shows to come along in a long time. It takes what John Stewart started and improves on it.
Not as subtle as Stewart, but funnier.


Halo Boys

A couple of days ago, Marko posted about this photo essay of boys playing Halo. The passive, tranquil looks on their faces portray a strong sense of calm even though they are playing an intense game. Click on the link, look at their faces and then come back here and scroll down. My daughter took a picture of me playing the same game.


Very Thankful

"Every good and perfect gift is from above..."
James 1:17

Thank you, Father, for the gifts you have given me....they are too numerous to list.



On several different occasions recently I've been told I look like one of these three people: Bruce Willis, Vin Diesel, Jason Kidd.

Other than my rugged good looks, my incredible build and my athletic skills I don't see the resemblance.
Please forgive my inability to place pictures and text properly!


Weekend Wrap Up

Lesson Topic: Week Five of our Series: What's The Point? (40 days of Purpose)
Attendance: Way below average
'Fun Factor': Average
Volunteer Involvement: Above Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Above Average
Length of Lesson: 8 mins
Student Response: Above Average

Since this weekend was on the topic of discovering your ministry, we decided to have a shorter than usual lesson and a shorter than usual program in order to dismiss early for a junior high ministry fair. It was really fun. We had a carnival-like atomosphere set up outside our meeting space with 8 or 9 ministry team booths. Students got to mingle around and check out the various opportunites to serve within our ministry. The lesson was a pre-recorded, 8 minute lesson, on the various parts of the body of Christ.

All in all it was a really good weekend.


Random Randomness

- I've had my Xbox 360 for about two weeks and it's already down. The 'red circle of death' came knocking a couple nights ago. Time to send it to Microsoft and wait and wait and wait.

- My favorite new show of the season is Cane (Tuesdays on CBS).

- I'm tired of teaching live on the weekends every week so this week we stole a page from our High School ministry and filming the lesson in my kitchen to shake things up a bit.

- My definition of Leadership is constantly changing. Does one definition always work?

- We're having a little junior high ministry fair this weekend and creating our own cheesy petting zoo as part of the theme. Rabbits, puppies, snakes, a tarantula etc.

- The best new idea we've added to our program recently is something we call 'Wildside On Location'. Our goal is to be on location at a different school every Friday or so with some smiling faces, a cooler full of drinks and some promo about our ministry. We set up shop at the busiest area and hang out with kids on their way home from school. So far, the response from students has been really positive.

- My kids get the entire Thanksgiving week off school. Looking forward to taking a couple days off to spend some family time together.


Pot Shots At Those On Top

Yesterday as we were leaving my office my 10-year-old son said, "Dad, I've decided I don't want to be famous". I found it hilarious that in his mind he was destined to fame until he decided he didn't want it. When I asked him why he had decided not to be famous he had an interesting response. "Because when you're famous everybody sits around waiting for you to make a mistake and then they gossip to each other about it."

Then this morning I came across this article listing the least sanitary CEOs. I'm fascinated by the way our society builds people up and sets them on a podium and then quickly looks for ways to take pot shots at them. It's a weird mix of admiration and envy.

It reminds me of the various conversations I've heard (and been a part of) when Christian leaders fall. A weird mix of admiration and envy, I think.


Weekend Wrap Up

Lesson Topic: Week Four of our Series: What's The Point? (40 days of Purpose)
'Fun Factor': Average
Volunteer Involvement: Below Average
Music: Above Average
Lesson Quality: Above Average
Length of Lesson: 23 mins
Student Response: Average

It's week four of our six week 'What's the Point?' series. It's part of the church-wide 40 days of purpose campaign that is going well but our ministry is beginning to feel the strain of a long series. We've got some fun stuff planned for the final two weeks so we should be able to finish strong.

Music this week was great. Other than an adult playing guitar in the background, it was entirely led by students which is always neat.


A Blast From The Past

In the current issue of YouthWorker Journal, there is a short interview with David Elkind who, while I was in college, was responsible for some of my early exposure to adolescent development, and the struggles young teens face in our culture.

His book, All Grown Up and No Place to Go, was required reading for one of my classes. Originally published in the mid 80's (It's been updated since then), this book served as a catalyst for my understanding of the importance of ministry to younger teens.
I think it remains required reading for youth workers.


My Life Will Never Be The Same

I finally broke down.
I bit the bullet.
I asked permission.
I signed up for X-Box live.
I played Halo 3 until midnight last night.
I found it amazing.
I think my life will never be the same.


Some Of My Biggest "Ah Ha" Moments

This June will mark my 20 year anniversary in junior high ministry. I'm sure that I will do a much more honest and thorough reflection of stuff I've learned, but today I was thinking about some of the bigger 'Ah Ha' moments I've had in ministry. Moments where the light bulb went off above my head and something changed as a result.

Some of my 'Ah Ha' moments, in no particular order:

- I'm not irreplaceable.

- I don't have to be cool.

- Everybody 'loves' junior high kids (we have to, we're Christians right?) but some people actually like them. Those are the people to build my team around.

- Functioning as a leader first and a Pastor second is a mistake.

- A lesson doesn't have to be long to be good, but if it's going to be long it has to be good!

- Parents need to be viewed as an ally not an enemy.

- To be effective, I have to surround myself with people who are smarter, more gifted and a lot different than I am.

- Pride ruins everything.

- I don't deserve anything I've been given.


"No Way"

In our junior high ministry, our team tries to create what we call a "No Way" moment once in each series. A "No Way" moment is simply something we do in the program that causes kids to think, "No way....I can't believe they did that in church".
Our chocolate slip n slide is a 'no way' moment.
Our cow tongue toss is a 'no way' moment.

This weekend, our lesson was on the power and importance of being connected. As a 'No Way' moment, the entire junior high music team and our paid staff performed the 'all in this together' song from High School Musical. Because I couldn't make any of the rehearsals and didn't have the entire dance memorized, I got handed the solo free-style dance toward the end of the bit. I don't know how to dance and had put zero thought into my big debut.

My 8th grade daughter Kayla already regrets my decision to free-style in front of our entire ministry, and I'm sure I'll live to regret it, too.

The audio is terrible because it was recorded from a video camera in the back of our room. My solo is toward the end....if you can bear to watch.


Sweet Child Of Mine

The longer you listen, the funnier it gets.

On the web...

I've probably referenced these sites somewhere in the past, but the two sites below are my favorites for youth culture research.

The first, www.cpyu.org , is faith based and is a great place to send the parents of your students who are looking for encouragement, information and resources.

The second, www.Ypulse.com, is not faith based but is a sought-after site by marketers and media executives who want to keep a pulse on youth culture.