Summer Camp Reminds Me...

Summer Camp Reminds Me That...

- A good jr. high camp speaker is clear, simple, and short. Ours this week has been all three.
- My wife is a really good cook.
- Junior high boys cabins have always and will always smell like warm feet.
- Organized recreation brings out the very best and very worst in people.
- Junior high girls cry very easily, and so do their counselors.
- Paintballs hurt.
- Pranks always start off innocent enough and always escalate out of control.
- "Lights Out" really means "Okay gang now is the time we suggest you begin to start thinking about getting ready for bed....brush your teeth, take a shower, play some games, wrestle, go for a night hike and then turn your lights out in a few hours."
- Most of our students live life at a really frantic pace and slowing down for a week is good medicine.
- God is in control, that he is a very present creator, that he loves his creation very much, that he has a unique, remarkable plan for every one of our students and we are privileged he allows us to play a small part in that plan.


Monday Miscellaneous

- We had a GREAT weekend in our junior high ministry. The lesson felt good (Car Battery..."How To Re-charge When You Feel Drained"), the games were fun, music was great and our live "bit" that we've been doing each week during the lesson was one of the strongest yet. But, perhaps the highlight of the week was that we finally had some acoustics installed in the ceiling of our room which made the sound much, much, much better. I was amazed at how much more attentive and involved the crowd was, which is logical since they could actually hear what was being said from stage!

- We're up at camp right now. The first night was great and day two seems to be off to a good start. Tons of kids who are new to our church and youth group. This is our 11th year at Thousand Pines and I'm still convinced it's the best camp experience for our group.

- News you've probably already heard: Youth Specialties has joined forces with Mark Matlock and Wisdom Works. Two really, really great organizations that, together, will do make a great team as they look for ways to minister directly to kids. Good stuff.

- One of my weird, quirky, favorite things about heading up to Thousand Pines is the library of old ministry-related books in the house I stay at. I stumbled across one today written 25 years ago. The topic: How the 'battle' between the fundamentalists and the more liberal theology is poised to rip apart evangelicalism as we know it. The back cover suggests this book offers a practical reminder about what evangelicals should, and shouldn't cling to. Not sure I'll read the whole thing, but it sure seems like it may have been more prophetic than people probably realized back in '83.


For Those Who Love Sports

In what has to be the slowest time of the year for sports fans, this selection of recent sports pictures itched my scratch.

Of course it was the first one that caught my attention. Denver Bronco Rod Smith's retirement brought tears to my eyes, too.


The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Spent most of the day today visiting our three regional campuses at their high school summer camp. We take our junior highers to the same camp next week, so it was an added bonus to get a sneak peak ahead of time. Our three regional campuses are doing a great job and it was really fun to spend a little time with the staff and students from those campuses.

It was really, really hot. We left right when organized rec. time was starting and I couldn't bare the thought of 400 high schoolers being forced to create cheers, run around with banners and compete for cheesy points. The camp does a great job with rec, but to me camp rec always equals bad. Am I alone in that sentiment?

I'll be the first to admit that my youth ministry mindset is often one of "anything you can do, we can do better". While visiting the camp today it didn't take long for me to switch from a mindset of "I'm just here to visit some of my team and students" to "I'm going to critique each aspect of camp and come up with reasons we could provide a better camp by doing it ourselves." I get that part of my role is to provide the best possible experiences for my students and to ensure they are getting their money's worth at events etc. But it is shocking to me how quickly and easily I judge and criticize the efforts of other Christ-loving brothers and sisters who, at the end of the day, have the same goals for my students as I do. I DON'T want to run camp and I'm so thankful we go to an incredible camp that does an incredible job.


Junior High Ministry Prizes

Here are a few things I probably would have given away as prizes 10 years ago that I couldn't get away with today.
- Squirting Cigarettes
- Switchblade Comb
- Potato Gun


Obama and McCain Civil Forum

The rumors have been confirmed. On August 16th, Saddleback will host both candidates in a civil forum. Rick Warren will lead the discussion. Should be interesting.


Monday Miscellaneous

- This weekend was week #5 of our 'Full Service Summer' series. Overall, it was a great weekend. Bethany, a member of our JH team taught a great lesson on how to put the brakes on temptation. It was the first weekend of the Summer that attendance was fairly low.

- Wasted most of the evening last night watching the Deadliest Catch marathon.

- Kayla is at Disneyland, and Cole is at a buddy's house so Rachel and I spent some time on a 'date' shopping for sales on riding gear. Bought two new helmets and a jersey.

- Tomorrow we say goodbye to Allison Hibbard. Allison grew up in our junior high ministry, served as an intern for two years after college and has spent the last 5 years as a member of our full-time team. She's moving to Kenya for six months. Not sure what our ministry will be like without her.


Friday; And I'm Wondering...

...What the easiest way to lose 10 pounds is. I've heard you can loose it just by drinking water instead of soda. For the first time in my life, I'm a little heavier than I want to be.

...If Heath Ledger is really as good in Dark Knight as we've been hearing. We'll find out tonight.

...Why Cherry Coke and Sweet Tea have such a grip on me. Most likely the reason I need to lose 10 pounds.

...How many of the "core" kids in my ministry have ever had a spiritual conversation with one of their friends.

...When our junior high ministry will have a new intern or two. This is the first time in several years that we've been without. Intersted?

...Why CBS cancelled 'Cane' after one season. A decent show that, I think, would have picked up steam.

...If the ministry I lead has done a good job recently of loving, thanking, encouraging our volunteers. Our ministry would fail to exist if it weren't for them.


Encouraging Kids To Serve

At the PDYM student leadership conference we have had two teenage guests who are both making a significant impact for the kingdom share their stories.

Bethany Hamilton is the young woman from Hawaii who was attacked by a Shark a few years ago while surfing, and lost an arm as a result. Bethany had a promising career ahead of her and was tagged as one of the best up and coming female surfers. Since the attack, Bethany has refused to give up the sport she loves and has continued to climb the professional surfing ranks. She also travels the world sharing her incredible story and her love for Jesus.

Austin Gutwein is the high school freshman who started Hoops of Hope when he was 10 years old. Hoops of hope raises money for children orphaned by HIV. Austin loves basketball and decided he could get others to join him in a 'shoot-a-thon' to make a difference in the world.

Bethany is using something that happened to her to make a difference in the world and Austin is using something he's passionate about.

What a simple way to encourage our students that they can make a difference. When God allows crazy things to happen to us, it is an opportunity to use that experience to encourage others. When God puts passions in our lives, we can use those passions to encourage others. Every single student in your ministry has one or the other or both!


What Do The Experts Know Anyway!

I was snooping around CPYU.Org and stumbled across this recent list of Top 10 television shows.

Rank TV Program Audience (in millions)
1. America's Got Talen t (NBC) 12
2. Wipeout (ABC) 9.5
3. Criminal Minds (CBS) 9.1
4. So You Think You Can Dance - Thu. (Fox) 8.8
5. CSI: NY (CBS) 8.5
6. Two and a Half Men (CBS) 8.5
7. 60 Minutes (CBS) 8.2
8. House (Fox) 8.1
9. CSI: Miami (CBS) 8
10.Hell's Kitchen (Fox) 8
Source: Neilsen Media Research

Do you remember several years ago when the "Reality T.V." craze kicked into high gear? At the time, most television experts and pundits went on the record as saying that reality tv would only last a year or two. It's interesting that in the list above, 4 of the top 10 tv shows are reality shows. In fact, 3 of the top 4 fall into the category!

The lesson: Experts and pundits aren't always right. Every field has its experts, and in every field, those experts can often be wrong in their assessments and predictions. Youth ministry is no different. And is often the case in other fields, the youth ministry experts, pundits and predictors of things to come are often far removed from the real world of youth ministry. I appreciate the wisdom and observations of men and women who observe trends, society, theology and try to help us figure out where it's all heading. But I also realize that they can be wrong. It doesn't make them less smart or less authoritative, just wrong sometimes.

Keep reading, keep going to seminars, keep talking to people you respect. But don't change your entire ministry based on what today's hot youth ministry topic is among the experts.

When I look at that list I notice a couple things:
First, things change and progress, and that's vital to progress.
Second, while some things change, lots of things stay the same.

Perhaps that's not a bad way to look at youth ministry.

Some questions to chew on:
- What things in your specific ministry have changed that you didn't expect?
- What things did you think would have changed by now that haven't?
- What things desperately need to change and you are willing to make it happen?
- What things must never change?


Monday Miscellaneous

- Week 4 of "Full Service Summer" went really, really well. Heading into the weekend, I didn't love my lesson and after teaching it twice on Saturday night I really didn't love my lesson. But I was kinda stuck with it so headed into Sunday committed to giving it my best shot for final two services. My final evaluation of my lesson is this: Students seemed to like it and my insecurity of wanting to always be funny and captivating made me feel like this lesson wasn't very good because it wasn't as funny or captivating as normal. We had great attendance, games were fun, music was great, and the horrific acoustics in the gym couldn't even hold us back...even though they tried really, really hard.

- Played poker last night (we never play for money...just for fun). I went "All In" in the third hand and got schooled. My three Aces got beat by a straight. Needless to say I was home sitting next to Rachel on the couch much earlier than planned.

- I'm reading The Shack and, to be honest, I'm a little disappointed. Disappointed only because I expected it to be either the most amazing, world shaking and spiritually inspirational book of all time (based on what so many people say) or the most heretical, blasphemous, faith-wrecking book of all time (based on what so many people say). It is what it is: A good read with some great inspiration wrapped in a creative allegory.

- Spending the morning this morning working on my general session message for our PDYM student leadership conference. I feel nervous and unprepared and I believe I speak the session right before Francis Chan which will certainly set him up to look REALLY good! Better that I go before him than after him, I suppose. Wow, insecurity about teaching seems to be a recurring theme for me lately.

- Hoping to go for an afternoon surf today which would be the third time this week. I love Summer.


If Junior High Youth Group Was Like Costco

....Kids would need a membership card to get in (bummer)
....Grace, encouragement, acceptance etc. would come in mass quantities (brilliant)
...It would be well organized (brilliant)
...Some offerings would never change, but lots of things would be rotated out (brilliant)
...The stuff we sell at our snack shack would be the best deal in town! (brilliant)
...There would be lots of kids on the outside looking in (bummer)

Okay, that's about all I've got. It sounded like an easy analogy but maybe not. Shoot us your contributions!


Junior High-Friendly Resource

Even though '10-Minute Talks' wasn't written specifically for junior high workers, I think it could be an incredible tool for people who work with young teens. What JH youth worker couldn't use a couple dozen short, sweet, simple lessons to keep on hand for when they find themselves in a pinch? I have a feeling I'll grab this book far too often!


Random Randomness

- This week is flying buy! I've been gone since Tuesday morning on our annual "Burly" trip for JH guys. We limit the trip to 50 students and try to beef up on leaders so the event feels highly relational.

- Last weekend was week 3 of our "Full Service Summer" series. The object lesson was on the Exhaust Pipe. Application: Our outside actions, attitudes and words are closely related to what's going on "under our hood".

- Saw Hancock with a couple buddies on Saturday night. Above average but not great. The best part of Hancock (and, in my opinion often the best part of most movies he's in) was Jason Bateman. He has slowly become my favorite actor.

- I often say that junior high ministry is more about "long term fruit" than what you see in the moment. A recent example for us is Kathryn. Kathryn was in our ministry about 10 years ago. She went away to college, struggled in her faith for a bit and has returned this summer as a volunteer in our ministry. Her faith is strong and her servant's heart is amazing. She points to her junior high years in our ministry as key to her life experience. A great reminder of importance of young teen ministry.

- On Monday night our family went to the beach. It was the first time I've surfed in several months and I am still sore! It's amazing how quickly one gets out of 'surf shape'. The highlight of the night was watching Kayla and Cole paddle into their own waves.


Interesting Survey About High School Personas

It turns out that your persona in high school (nerd, jock, cheerleader, etc.) has strong influence on your future career. Read more about it here.

I had a hard time placing myself in a specific category...I was a weird mix of the entire bunch. I guess that's why I'm I weird mix today.


The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The past couple of weeks have been like a breath of fresh air to me. Because it's summertime and because of our crazy schedule, I have been more "hands on" with our junior high ministry than I have in quite a while. I've always been really involved in most of the bigger day to day stuff, but in order to pull everything off in this season I've been doing everything from building stage props to shopping for prizes to coming up with the game ideas to working the information booth....you name it, and I've had my hands in it. I'm not sure it's been good for everybody else to have me up close and personal, but it's been GREAT for my own joy factor.

As amazing as our new facility is, one thing stands out as HORRIBLE....the acoustics in our junior high room. Because of budget constraints, we eliminated acoustic treatments about a year ago while we were building. But the sound is so bad in our room that without some solution, I really believe we run the risk of attendance dropping. Students simply have to work too hard to clearly hear what's going on.

Last weekend during my lesson there was a brand new crop of cute little 7th grade girls sitting right up front. During most of my lesson they were talking fairly loudly amongst themselves. In a moment of weakness I called them out in front of entire group, which isn't the ugly part. The ugly part was my attitude and super sarcastic tone. Here's what I said (please read in your most sarcastic tone of voice):
"Hey you girls wouldn't happen to be brand new 7th graders would you? Yes? Oh, that explains why you're so immature and squirrley. Here in Junior High, we actually try to be respectful when somebody else is talking."
Ouch. Needless to say they didn't interrupt my lesson after that. The only redeeming piece of that story is that I tracked them down after service to apologize for the way I handled the situation which seemed to earn me some favor and grace.