Monday Miscellaneous

- Our second weekend in our new building was MUCH smoother than our first. We managed to iron out lots and lots of wrinkles, which felt really good.

- Week 2 of "Full Service Summer" went well. The object lesson for the week was the steering wheel and the lesson was built around the idea of steering your life and choices God's way. The acoustics in the junior high room are really bad which adds some significant challenges, but we'll get that dialed in. Our new 7th graders don't seem quite as tiny and nervous as usual...they are jumping right in!

- Couldn't resist the temptation to see Wanted with the guys the other night. I should have. Too dark for my taste.

- We drive two big SUVs (one was a gift and the other might as well have been...)and the price of gas is killing me. I've never been called an environmentalist, but my conscious is beginning to question the need to burn oil at the rate we do. Of course I'm honest enough to acknowledge that my concerns about the environment seem to have only increased as the price of gas has!

- The car I want to replace my Expedition with is a Scion XB. Anybody have one or have any informed opinions?

- Looking forward to a super lazy day off. Absolutely nothing planned.


Popular Podcast Topic: What To Do When You're New

A couple of months ago I recorded a podcast with Leo Galarza, who at the time was brand new to Saddleback as one of our regional campus youth pastors. The subject was "What to do when you're new". Super basic, sound input that garnered lots of feedback. I thought I'd post it here in case you missed it.


Finally Summer

Now that we have moved into our new building and now that promotion weekend is behind us, it is FINALLY time to start the Summer season. This Summer, more than any other, we are adhering to the "Cheap and Easy" philosophy of events. Other than our Summer camp and one other over-nighter, all of our events are super cheap and super easy for students to attend. No sign ups, just show up.

The trend with our families seems to be the more spontaneous they can be with their decesion to attend an event, the better the attendance. I wish they planned for youth activities the way they plan for sports and school events, but they just don't. We decided to quit fighting the system and try to join it. So things like dodgeball, frisbee golf on campus, open Refinery nights, meet us at the park etc. are quickly becoming Summer-time staples.

Would be curious to hear your thoughts and experiences...


Lemonade Burglar

A couple of days ago, I saw some really young kids selling lemonade on a fairly busy street corner and thought to myself, "man, I wonder if lemonade stands ever get robbed".
Today I saw this story.
Don't mess with 12-year-olds and their livelihood!


Monday Miscellaneous

- Saw Get Smart on Friday night. Fun, but average. Updating classics always seems to be a risky business.

- We opened our new student center, The Refinery this weekend and it was unbelievable. The energy level was off the charts. Additionally, we brought back our fourth youth service (Sundays at 11:15) that we eliminated a year ago. The result: almost 150 extra junior highers. Well worth the effort.

- I went home SUPER sick after the 11:15 service and missed the final night of our church-wide grand opening tours. Our team has been working around the clock for several weeks and even though I felt like I was on my death bed, it felt terrible to not be there with them.

- Our Summer series, Full Service, kicked off fairly well. Each week we will look at a different car part and build an object lesson around it. Should be fun.

- I think I want some ice cream.


Box Boy

This picture pretty much summarizes my life for the past week. In a hectic rush to get the Refinery open for last night's "sneak peak" and this weekend's student ministry programs, Our entire team has been on site chipping in.

What I haven't done this week:

- Thought about the budget of our summer events.
- Looked at our summer camp registration list.
- Participated in church staff meetings of any kind.
- Returned a phone call from my executive pastor.
- Worked on my weekend lesson.
- Met with an upset parent.
- Debated elders over the importance of valuing the young teens of the church.

What I have done this week:

- Assembled air hockey tables.
- Broke down and discarded truckloads of cardboard boxes.
- Swept, power washed, swept, power washed.
- Broke down and discarded truckloads of cardboard boxes.
- Moved hundreds chairs and tables
- Broke down and discarded truckloads of cardboard boxes.
- Assembled concrete picnic tables
- And I think that was all just yesterday!

It's been one of the best weeks of ministry in a long time!


Dear Blog

Dear Blog,
I'm sorry that you and I haven't been spending much time together lately. It's not that I have lost interest or moved onto something sexier, it's just that I've been busy lately. I still think of you and long to spend time with you but you know how life can get. This isn't a 'Dear John' letter and I hope you can trust me when I say that you mean just as much to me today as you ever have. In fact, I hope our relationship is strong enough to weather a slightly stormy season.
Blog, I enjoy our friendship and look forward to continuing to see it flourish. I will still try to visit you on a daily basis to catch up but when that can't happen, please understand that it is only for a short time.



Monday Miscellaneous

- Said farewell to our 8th graders this past weekend, my daughter being one of them. Spent the time between each service giving more "check book tours" of our new building.

- Today, all hands were on deck at 7:00 a.m. (haven't had a day off in several weeks) to begin the grunt work of moving in furniture, assembling things, cleaning, vacuuming, moving piles of sand and numerous other last minute projects to get ready for first grand opening tour this Thursday night.

- Heard an interesting question earlier: Who do you think is facing bigger odds: Rocco Mediate against Tiger Woods or Lakers winning two against Boston at home? My vote goes to Lakers facing tougher odds.

- Kung Fu Panda: Go see it.

- Today is Kayla's 14th Birthday. A bunch of her friends surprised her with an early morning kidnapping. She really does have a fantastic inner circle of friends who treat each other well, and look out for each other.

- Our junior high department just traded our old, beat-up RV for a sweet 1976 Ford Ranchero that will double as a utility truck for our ministry. I think it gets about 5 gallons to the mile!

- I have suddenly lost a bunch of my interest in the political race. I just can't get excited about either candidate. Not sure I love the type of change I think Obama represents (although I do like his charisma) but don't care much for the status quo that I think McCain represents either (not sure he knows what the word charisma means). What to do.


The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

After more than four years in the making, we are slated to move into The Refinery (our new student ministry center) next weekend, June 21-22 which happens to be the first weekend of the Summer and also our promotion weekend. The place is amazing and energy and anticipation are at an all time high.

There are still quite a few loose ends, specifically the certificate of occupancy. Yesterday the fire marshall walked through and gave us a fairly short list of things that needed to be fixed. Every day that we wait for the green light to "move in" means one less day for all the stuff we need to do before our first programs in just over a week. It's kinda like getting the keys to a house. At that moment, the building will be ours but we have to get it cleaned up, set up, organized, tweaked etc.

Because we have so much promo in our church body and the community announcing the grand opening date, I cringe to think about the consequences if we miss our deadline.


LIVE Bible Update

Yesterday, when I posted about Group's new LIVE Bible, I was having trouble downloading information from the website so I linked to Amazon instead. Here is the link to a much better description (including a video) on the Group site.


New Bible For Students!

For years and years and years, the bible we have recommended and sold to our junior highers has been the Life Application for Teens. And for the last couple of years I've felt like it may be time to make a switch, but I love the Life Application so much that I just haven't been able to find something that I like enough to warrant replacing my old friend.

Part of my struggle has been that so many Bibles for teens are just plain dorky, and not something I get excited about selling to my students. That's always been part of the allure of the Life Application for Teens; it's simple, classic, and great for teenagers.

Today at the Large Church Youth Ministry Summit at Group Publishing, they put something in our hands that has me questioning my loyalty to the Life Application Bible. The LIVE Bible (not sure I love the name. Is it live as in "Wow, this bible makes me feel like I'm listening to Jesus' voice live and in person." or is it live as in "Wow, this bible really helps me live like Jesus."?) is fresh, trendy looking, edgy, but not dorky and full of really neat features such as artwork contributed by students, stickers to customize the cover, great insights etc. And best of all, it seems really junior high friendly.

My hunch is that after almost a decade of faithful service to our students, I will be trading in the Life Application Bible for The Live Bible....if I can figure out how to pronounce the name!


Monday Miscellaneous

- Crazy, but amazing weekend! We wrapped up our "Heroes" series with a lesson about the men who brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus. In addition to our usual jh program, we were giving "checkbook tours" of the Refinery before and after every service. Additionally we hosted our end-of-the-school year volunteer appreciation BBQ. So needless to say things were a bit hectic.

- Saw Kung-Fu Panda with my family over the weekend. I gotta say, I think it is one of the more enjoyable animated films I've ever seen. Just dumb, silly humor.

- As of last week, our junior high ministry officially has ZERO interns for the first time in about 5 years. In the past we've had as many as five at a time so this feels fairly foreign. If you know anybody who would be interested in a two year internship, pass them my way!

- Not sure the Lakers can come back from an 0-2 start to the series. Because of how both teams have played in the playoffs, I honestly thought the Lakers would take the championship easily.

- Had a really nasty hotel experience last night: I arrived to my room at about 1:30 a.m. only to find that the bed had been made but sheets not cleaned....dirty, hairy, totally gross. There was no housekeeping available at that hour so the front desk handed me a set of clean sheets and pillow cases so I could change them myself. Truly a disgusting scene.


...And The Winner Is

Okay, after sifting through the "You might be a junior high youth worker if..." entries I noticed that the vast majority of them fell into one of two categories: Classic, timeless bits and bits using current culture as the context. Because of this, I decided to award TWO winners. A winner from each category will receive $50 in resources from Simply Junior High.

"You have a budget category entitled "Damage Repair".
contributed by Corey Willoughby

"You have students who are 12 years old at youth group, but 26 on facebook." Contributed by lifeline leaders

Congratulations! Please shoot me an email at Kurtj@saddleback.net and I'll reply with information to claim your prize.


CONTEST: You Might Be A Junior High Youth Worker If...

- You've ever been blamed for the new stain on the fellowship hall carpet.
- You've ever been caught toilet papering your senior pastor's house.
- You've ever found your left eye twitching uncontrollably during a lock-in.
- You've ever purposely hit a 7th grader in the head during dodge ball.
- Quality time away for you and your spouse really means driving in the same van to camp.
- Your day off is spent staring into the mirror and chanting, "I'm smart enough, I'm good enough, and doggone it, people like me" over and over again.
- You've ever blocked the jump shot of a tiny little 6th grade girl and shouted "In Your Face!" at the top of your lungs.
- You've ever been asked when you're going to get a real job.

Add one or two of your own...The winner will receive $50 in free resources from Simply Junior High.


Time For A Check Up

This morning, I had a great disucssion with Josh Griffin, our high school pastor, about our current small group structure at Saddleback. We talked about strengths and weaknesses, follow up, curriculum, developing leaders, quality control etc. It was actually a really energizing conversation because, quite frankly, our groups have been going so well for so long that we haven't done a real good critique of them in quite a while.

Which leads to a question that may be worth asking yourself: What are areas in your ministry that are working well that may need a check up?

I'm great at evaluating and improving on the weak areas of my ministry, but this morning's conversation reminded me that even some of the strongest aspects of our ministry need to be examined on a regular basis.


Monday Miscellaneous

- Yesterday, Rachel and I celebrated 17 incredible years of marriage. To list the ways my life is better because of her would require a book, not a simple blog post.

- We were away on a short anniversary getaway, so I missed the junior high programs this weekend, but the team said they were amazing. We brought the sixth graders over a few weeks early for a "sneak peak" of our program which included a guided tour of our new youth center that is set to open in a few weeks.

- Speaking of the youth center, "The Refinery" is unbelievable. It's a state-of-the-art facility that is, frankly, mind blowing. I must be one of a handful of youth pastors in the country who get to minister in such a facility. But, It's just a building. I've been working hard to keep sending the message to our youth team and others that ministry to students is still all about building relationships, not building buildings.

- The revised and updated version of "Controlled Chaos", now titled "Middle School Ministry Made Simple" is set to release in August. I should be honored and excited that Standard Publishing believes in it enough to give it another run (it's about 35% new material), but I'm actually feeling really conflicted over the whole situation for a couple of reasons.

- Shameless Plug Warning! If you work with middle school students, you really should subscribe to the Simply Junior High Newsletter. It's packed with a ton of insight, tidbits and encouragement. If you don't work directly with young teens, buy it for somebody you know who does.