4 comments Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So, it is generally expected that the Youth have a New Year's Eve Party. The ultimate question is what should we do? On the one hand I'd love to get plastic wine glasses and serve sparkling cider for them to toast in the New Year with, but then only the other hand I really enjoy being Youth pastor.

I also considered a lock-in, but … well there are so many reasons not to do that at this juncture.

I have finally decided to try out my first attempt at a movie night. We will be watching The Princess Bride which is one of my favorite movies that I believe transcends generations, even though it was released before most of the people attending were born. Specifically only the adult leaders were born before the movie. I have just read the book and quite frankly I found it to be quite amazing. It is a work of fiction based within the framework of a greater work of fiction that supposedly is based in reality, but all of which is fiction. If you found that to be somewhat confusing then you might have some idea of what is going on with this book.

Anyways, we will be watching the movie and then watching the ball drop. We will also have games and a "hang out" corner so hopefully everyone will be happy.

I'll follow up with this tomorrow. Let me know what you guys are doing tonight and what you've done in the past that works with Youth.

Comments Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas is over and New Years is yet to come. Most people are trying to figure out what to do with the kids while they are on the last few days of their Christmas Break. All of the Christmas toys are working, well most of them at least, but they are starting to get boring already. The video games are beaten and the Barbie hair is matted. What is a parent to do?

It seems now is the time to start getting ready for Christmas Future. No really, think about it. The stores are putting everything in massive discounts. Sure the candy might be a little stale come next year, but it isn't likely to be any worse for you. You can get all of your decorations and music. It really is the only way to beat the system. The stores start stocking up earlier and earlier. Soon enough they will be putting their Christmas stuff out the day after Christmas. By then they won't have to put in on discount because it will be the beginning of the season. If you don't take advantage and buy all the Christmas junk you need now in a few years you will have to pay full price all the time.

Now I know you're thinking that if you buy Christmas decorations now you will have to store them till next year. Let me give you a few thoughts.

  1. You can just throw out your lights from the past years. Leave the new ones in the box and next year you won't have to untangle them next year. Between the time you save and the massive discounts the new lights will pay for themselves each year. Don't worry about the landfill; your grandchildren will likely come up with something to solve that problem.
  2. If you are running short on space o store your decorations you can always put them up. Some people might think you are being lazy about taking down your old decorations though; so remember to wait until all your neighbors are back from their vacations so they can see that you are actually getting a jump on next year.
  3. Wrapping paper can be damaged if not stored properly. The solution is to buy your presents early too and just wrap them now.
  4. Try buying lots of those blowup decorations. Sure they are tacky, but you can store Santa's entire village in a shoebox under your bed.
  5. If you were planning on buying a pet next year it is best to wait. It doesn't matter how much money you can save, there is nothing funny about opening a dead pet on Christmas.
  6. You might think that you can't buy anything since your kids are with you, but Christmas is a year away. They can pick out exactly what they want and if they are like 90% of the ADHD kids in America they won't remember by the time you get home much less next Christmas.
  7. All of the "must have" Christmas gift you couldn't get this year will be available. Sure your kid will be the only one in school without one, but you'll know that next year your kid will be the only one in school with one and who will be laughing then. Yeah.
  8. The credit card bills haven't come in yet so you still have money.
  9. With a little creativity you can alter the seasonal items for Valentine's Day. Melt the chocolate Santa's down into heat molds. Change snowflakes out for little hearts. That is all the manufacturers do so why pay them when you can do it yourself.

Do you have any other ideas of what you can do with the post Christmas markdowns? Leave a comment.

1 comments Monday, December 29, 2008

Bonus post today on card games. My Youth love card games. Specifically the game Mao. I'd love to tell you how to play the game but that is a violation of the rules. Technically telling you I can't tell you the rules is also a violation of the rules. The one rules you are allowed to say is "There will be no talking after the first card is dealt and that will be to you." Then the dealer deals out the cards and the game starts. There are a lot of rules and the only way to learn the rules is to play the game. I honestly really enjoy the game and impressed my Youth with how quickly I picked up the rules. Te problem is that I'm a bit bored with the game not that I know all the rules. Figuring out the rules was the fun part of the game.

This brings up some other games in a similar vein. Bartok is a game that starts with very few rules. You deal the cards and play the first card in the discard pile. Then play goes in clockwise order where each player must play a card in the same suit or from a different suit of the same face value or draw a card. The first person to play all of their cards wins. This is where it gets interesting. The winner gets to invent a new rule. This rule can be overridden by a unanimous vote of all players, otherwise it stays. The rules can be almost anything and remains a rule throughout. Each round a new rule is added making the game very complex until it is impossible to play anymore.

Fluxx is new one we played last night. There are several versions but here is one you can check out http://www.amazon.com/Looney-Labs-4098518-Fluxx-Version/dp/192978001X/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=toys-and-games&qid=1230564852&sr=8-1. The game starts with one rule. Draw a card then play a card. The cards come in 4 types. Rule cards: which add or change rules, goal cards: which set the goal for winning the game, action cards: which allow a specific action like drawing extra cards getting rid of rules etc, and keepers: which you play to your keep pile and usually are required to achieve the goal set by the goal cards. It gets somewhat confusing because the rules can keep changing during play as well as the goal.

Finally there is a game that I really want to play, but which will take quite a long time to play. It is a combination of the game Fluxx, Bartok, and Democratic debate. Basically you start with pick a card and play a card. Then you play a card, any card since there are no rules, and make up a rule. This rule can be debated, amended, and voted upon. Once a rule is ratified it goes into effect immediately. Through this process all rules can be made discarded and amended. The goal of the game can be changed at anytime, but only one rule or amendment can be proposed at a time. In theory the game could go on forever if players wanted by carefully altering the rules at the right times so no one would win.

Those are the games that we play, or at least that I'm interested in playing. Anyone else know any other fun card games?


So we all know about making purple, the new cool way to talk about what happens when you put a bunch of guys and girls in a confined location with the lights turned down low. Right now I don't really have this problem. In fact in my Youth group the girls outnumber the buys by at least 2 to 1. We also have this strange tradition where the girls think it is fun to hang all over each other and stuff.

They aren't gay or bi or whatever they just do this because …? Yea I don't get it. I'm a guy. There are a lot of things girls can do that guys can't. If a guy is hanging all over another guy they aren't straight.

Is this everywhere? I don't remember this being so prevalent when I was in HS. Sure girls would hold hands and hug and all those other things that guys don't really do, but I'm talking about really pushing the boundaries.

I'm not sure exactly how to address this. Is it really something I should address?

--Confused in Seattle.

Comments Saturday, December 27, 2008

I use that word quite often, but I really don't use it right. The word is based on "awe" and should convey the idea of inspiring awe. If something is literally "awesome" then there should be a moment of awe struck staring involved. Imagine the best finale to a fireworks show ever. The kind of display where it takes a moment before the crowd can actually say "ooohhhh … aaaahhh"." That is a truly awesome firework display.

I think church should be more like that. Not necessary some over the top display that leaves people unable to speak, but rather the fact that we are coming together as one to worship God in itself should be awesome. It rarely is though.

This isn't God's fault. It isn't like he gets too busy and forgets to plan this super experience then throws something together at the last minute when He remembers that it is Sunday. The reality is that we are the ones that get too busy. It takes the special alignment of circumstances to get us into the place where we experience the God of the universe that is always there.

In fact, we should be able to have the awesome experience with God anywhere anytime. He is always there and always over the top, unbelievably, awesome. Check out the video "Awe Factor of God" here: http://www.crazylovebook.com/. Francis Chan goes into detail about the immensity of the universe and all of the detail put into as well as the amount of work in a single caterpillar. IF that doesn't do it for you consider the detail of the minutia. The really does it for me. I love work that can be done quickly. When it comes to construction I like demolition, framing, and drywall work because I can see huge change at the end of the day. If I am writing I love outlining and draft work. I have detail work because it can take forever to mud a wall out perfectly or to proof a document correctly and there is so little change in the end. God, though, does the huge and visible stuff as well as the tiny invisible stuff. Consider the hydrogen atom. It is the simplest and most abundant element in the world. It contains a single electron and proton. These are made of a total of 3 quarks. These structures, when viewed under the most powerful electron microscopes, have an incredibly textured surface that results in a significant surface area relative to the size of the particle. All of this is done in such a way that these particles can actually be forced together releasing a significant amount of energy as atomic bonds break and reform into helium. This process is what drives the Sun and gives energy to our world. God focused on all of those details for us.

Start thinking about that and how much God has done for us. Now consider how we come to Him and you will get why we miss out so often. We get to church and think that is the only place we can experience the God that is riding with us in the car ride too church. We are distracted by a million things and forget that God is waiting patiently for a relationship with us. We give God a specific amount of out week and think that we can cram an infinite being into this little time slot. Then we wonder why we don't experience those awe inspiring moments with God more frequently. We blame the music or the pastor or anything but the real cause. The truth is we get between us and God more than anything else.

Try focusing on God and get out of your own way. Don't wait till church, do it right now. Let God leave you speechless.

3 comments Friday, December 26, 2008

We are quickly coming up on the New Year. There are many traditions associated with this holiday. Most of my family eats black eyed peas for luck. I don't know if this is a southern tradition of if northerners do this as well. I do know that we do have strange "luck" in my family. My uncle has won a small lottery and came out for my wedding the same year. We got married near Vegas so he stayed there to write the trip off as gambling expenses. He brought money to lose figuring he'd lower his tax burden while having fun gambling. At the end of each night he had to give the money he planned on losing away to who ever happened to be sitting next to him. It wasn't a huge amount of money each night, a few hundred dollars, but he just couldn't lose it for trying. I'm not a fan of black eyed peas but it would be worth it if I weren't already blessed.

Another more popular tradition is the New Year's Resolution. People typically look back at the previous year, or years, and try to find what would make their life better then resolve to make the changes needed to achieve that better life. Common resolutions include: stop smoking, stop drinking, and lose weight. These are certainly great resolutions but most people fail in short order.

Years ago I made a resolution to stop making New Year's resolutions. I did it as a joke, but then I actually kept it. Every year since, I have decided to not make a new resolution for New Years. People ask e what my resolution is and I respond that I am not making one because I resolved not to year ago. These people go about making their resolutions and then breaking them within the first month while I keep mine from years ago. This is my unresolution.

Of course, some people do make real life changing resolutions, so good for them. I figure, though, that most people fail because they think that there is something special about New Years that will allow them to make a change they are willing to make. That is the real trick. If someone is willing to make the change they aren't going to wait until the New Year. A couple of years ago I was pushing 300 lbs. I was more than a little overweight to say the least. I decided I needed to make a change and tried many things only to fail. I prayed and worked out and dieted. Eventually I found something that worked. For me it was the South Beach Diet. I'm now down to just over 200 lbs. I still have 20 lbs I am trying to lose and will get the eventually Lord willing. When I felt that I needed to lose the weight, though, I didn't say, "I'll start my diet on New Year's." Instead I started that very week. It was in August so my resolve would have certainly waivered by New Year's.

This is the key. We cannot expect to achieve any real change if we aren't motivated enough to actually make the change immediately. If we think we need to wait for some special thing then we will never change.

We are called to so much more than what we are. We seem to think that God is going to eventually send an angel or something to spell out his will in our life. After all, that is what he did for all those people in the Bible. In reality, though, those people were already doing the will of God when they were visited by God. The fact is God has revealed His purpose for our lives. He has called us to service and good works. If we begin the process then He will honor that.

Comments Thursday, December 25, 2008

Actually, this really is not about guilt. This is about motivation and more importantly love. Over at SCL Jon has proposed a book club. We will be reading Crazy Love. I ordered the book and got it right away so I started reading it last night. I'm almost finished with my first read through. Before discussing something by chapter with a group of people I like to read the entire book then read the chapter just before the discussion. It helps me to form a better view of what is being said, especially in a book like this.

I started thinking about one of the things mentioned in this book. I've actually said this from the pulpit so the statistics aren't new to me but the way I looked at them today is. Over 50% of the world's population lives on less than $2 per day. My family is considered pretty poor by American terms. We earn close to half of the national median income and support 6 people on this income. We still spent about $300 on Christmas today. In other words we spend about a half years salary for over 50% over the world on a single day.

Then I read a comment where a person said they thought we should focus on giving to others in the world which was responded to by someone Anonymously saying they rejoiced but did not feel guilt over the plight of the less fortunate because they cannot change that world only the world around them. This person even said that some were called to live the life of poverty but not this person.

I think that is the sentiment of so many in America. We are concerned about what is comfortable. We want to give, but not to the pain. You remember that line right? The Princess Bride has a scene where Wesley challenges the prince to a duel to the pain. He then describes everything it will cost the loser. Of course the prince surrenders because that is unthinkable. We do the same thing. We are asked to give till it hurts and then give some more. We can't bring ourselves to that level of giving. It doesn't really matter what kind of giving I'm talking about.

Sure, we might be willing to give 10% and maybe even more as long as we can still have what we "need." We might even go on a few missions trips, but do we really give till it hurts?

I really don't think we do, because we are called to share each other's burdens and we don't do that. Even here in America there are truly poor and destitute that we overlook. We come up with excuses about how they deserve it or they will just take out money and buy drugs and alcohol, but Jesus didn't really give us an excuse when he called us to help the poor among us did he?

I don't think we should be feeling guilt this season, or any season, but I do think we need to feel motivated by love. If we aren't completely over the top in love with God and moved to do His will by that love then we will feel guilty. If you read this today and think I'm trying to make you feel guilty maybe it is because you aren't properly motivated. If you read this today and are motivated to get out and do then you got the point. If you read this and don't feel guilt or motivation then I hope you are actually involved in giving to the pain, because otherwise I'm afraid that you are sorely lacking a relationship with Christ.

Merry Christmas.

Comments Wednesday, December 24, 2008

That is all.

If you are reading this on Christmas day then turn off your computer and spend time with real living breathing people in person.


As a more humorous follow up to "Here We Go a Caroling" below I offer you this. In an attempt to spread the joy of Christmas I suggest a new holiday tradition Drive by Caroling. This tradition was started last night. It is really very simple and much more acceptable than other things teens like to do from or in vehicles. All you do is roll your windows down and scream out Christmas carols to unsuspecting people walking on the street.

I'm sure you can imagine the looks of joy on people's faces as they are accosted by the voices of teens while minding their own business trying to get some last minute shopping done on Main Street. Certainly they learned the real meaning of Christmas as a chorus of off key and overly loud pimple farmers screamed Joy to the World from a slow moving van.

I believe this is really how the very first Christmas carol went down. The teen angels got tired of waiting while the Angel Youth leader told the shepherds what was going on in Bethlehem and so they decided to pull off their own fly by caroling. This is why they suddenly appeared like that. I like to think their Angel Youth leader was cool and laughed about it the whole way back.

"Did you see the look on those shepherds faces? I hope they stop by the house for a change before going to see Jesus."

"Don't worry I heard one of the wise men has frankincense and that stuff will mask any smell."

"They won't be there for a couple of years."

"Oh well, the barn already stinks, I doubt anyone will notice."

So load up your family, or grab some kids from off the street if you don't have any, and go spread the Christmas spirit.


Last night we went caroling instead of having or normal Young Adults group. I think things went very well. Only 20% of my youth went, but that really is pretty good when you think about it. We didn't go visit all the families. Instead we went to visit the church shut-ins and nursing homes. Generally I think everyone enjoyed it. I know the people we visited loved it. The Youth seemed to have a good time also.

This is the first of our service projects. I was convicted by a blog over at SCL where Jon pointed out that being a Christian isn't about convenience. It wasn't convenient for Jesus to step out of glory into the tiny baby in the lowest of conditions. It wasn't convenient for him to get down on his knees and wash his disciple's feet. It wasn't convenient to be beaten and humiliated. It wasn't convenient to be nailed to a cross and to die there. It wasn't convenient to be buried.

He didn't do all of this stuff so our lives would be convenient. This is something I've tried teaching my Youth this past year. I have taught on service many times and I have emulated it for them, but I haven't really pushed them into it. So last year was a year of teaching, now we will begin doing.

It is my vision that once a month we will go to one of the older people in the church and serve them by doing work for them around their house. I want to focus on the 70 plus people in the church and I want to do this completely free for them. So often they have used Youth labor as a fund raiser, and that is fine. The Youth need to raise their funds for events the go on. It teaches them stuff. The Youth should also do things simply because it needs doing too though. That teaches them other stuff.

By completely free I mean that we want to provide all costs for any material and tools that we need as well as the labor. This means we will need to be sponsored by the 20-60 year olds in the church. Suddenly the service project from the Youth to the Elderly will be involving the whole church. I think that is the way it should be.

Of course, when things like this happen it isn't just about working, I think there is an aspect of learning too. I picked the elderly because I want the Youth to understand the value they have. To that end I am going to ask the ones we are serving to talk to the Youth at the end of the project. I have some topics planned and I'm open to suggestions for other topics. I know a lot of my Youth are really worried about the economy. Teens live in the moment, and when things are bad there is no hope. I would love to have someone who lived through the great depression to share how the made it through and how they've also made it through several other recessions. Of course I have a few other topics as well, but this one seems particularly relevant.

Anyways, this is why I think the caroling is important. It is where we are starting with teaching inconvenient service.

2 comments Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Actually it is a misnomer. Tomorrow isn't really Christmas Eve until sundown. It turns out that the day use to end at sunset and so the new day started in the evening. This is why we have so many holidays like Christmas Eve, New Years Eve, and even Halloween. Of course this means that tomorrow at sunset it is officially Christmas. For all those times that you were told that you had to wait until morning to open your presents because it wasn't Christmas yet was a lie, just like the cake.

We buy a lot of lies about what we can't have yet. We can't have a life of victory because we aren't in eternity yet. I think that is the biggest lie we buy. Jesus death and resurrection did come with a time delay switch. The grave has already been defeated, but we live like we are still under that slave driver. We worry so much about what tomorrow may hold that we forget to live today.

Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. He did go through all of that so that we could live the same life we might have lived otherwise. This doesn't mean that we are called to have a life full of things. Actually it probably means the opposite. All of the things really get in the way of a full life. We are concerned with the things we have and getting more things. IF we get past that and find joy in what we are given then that is the first step to living an abundant life.

That really is the problem with Christmas. We let all the stuff get in the way. We focus on gifts. Some of us are obsessed with the gift we get while others are obsessed with the gifts we give. Neither view really captures the point of it all. We need to become more like Christ and become obsessed with people. That was the reason for it all. Sure Jesus is the reason for the season but people are the reason he came. We need to start focusing more on people. Not giving or receiving, but rather loving.

I think that we should make a point of telling people we love them this season. Sure we can use word, but remember actions speak louder than words. Tell people you love them by doing acts of love, just like Jesus did. Give up your own comfort to serve others. I think Jesus washing the feet of his disciples better captures the whole of what Christmas should be better than the baby in the manger. We miss the real idea of the baby in the manger because we see the gift, both Jesus and the gifts the wise men bring. The real idea is that the eternal Christ stepped out of the glory of heaven and into a baby in a lowly place. That is why Jesus getting on his knees and washing dirty stinky feet really captures the idea.

We cannot comprehend what it is to step out of the status that Christ stepped out of into the stature he walked into, but we can grasp what it is to step out of our place of comfort to do a lowly and overlooked act of service like washing feet.

Merry Christmas

Comments Monday, December 22, 2008

I've decided to try and make my life more organized in many respects. I function best with order. Actually it is quite funny because I"m terribly OCD but I'm also ADD so it strikes a very nice balance. When I stat getting obsessive I see something shiny and get distracted so I'm almost functional.

Anyways, my attempt to get organized with this site will result in daily categories and monthly topics.

Mondays will be totally random poking fun at whatever topic comes to mind. Loony Lundi. (Lundi is French for Monday).

Tuesday will be Topical Tuesday, which will deal with the monthly topic directly.

Wednesday will be about my Young Adult group, unfortunately I don't have a funny name for that yet. Maybe someone could give me some ideas.

Thursday will be about my Youth. Once again I need a name.

Friday will be Freaky Friday ... at least for now. I want to play a game where I switch up people and things, for example play youth for the day, or even letting one of my Youth write the blog.

Saturday will be Solemn Saturday where I'll try to be serious and post something deeply spiritual. I promise I have it in me.

I won't be posting on Sundays regularly.

I'm hoping this new format will help me get focused and will allow me to better at exploring my experience as youth pastor.

On that note, next month will be devoted to football. I know what you're thinking, "what does that have to do with Sweet Baby Jesus?" Well, I guess you'll have to see what comes of it.

Merry Christmas


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So we had our Christmas party and it was generally fun. I went with a pretty open ended agenda with lots of time for just hanging out. We did Dirty Santa, or whatever you call it. If you aren't familiar with the game you put all the gifts up and then use numbers to randomly pick the people to go get gifts. Then they have the choice of picking a gift or stealing one that has already been unwrapped. This leads to great fun as long as people are into stealing the gifts.

We also played a fun game where you build a gingerbread house on someone's face and we had Rock Band 2 running, which is another post, and food so it was alright.

Then there was the garbage. One of the girls was cleaning her shirt down stair after the icing got on it, but instead of using the bathroom she used the sink out in the open. OK fine she was down there with another girl who was watching the door, then a guy went down and saw the one girl in her bra. Oh the drama. OK the guy should have been looking but she shouldn't have been out in the open, we have bathrooms. I had to talk to both sides about what should have been done blah blah blah.

Then I had to leave because our missionary speaker from top side needed a ride and I was it. I left my assistant in charge, and most of the Youth had cleared out, but apparently a couple of the girls got a bit energized and were wrestling over one of the gifts when someone lost their pants in front of everyone. I'm not sure if I wish I was there to try and handle the situation or if I was glad I wasn't so I didn't have to deal with that craziness.

Anyways, my assistant did a great job and she had the place cleaner than it was before the party so big bonus points for her.

I wonder if we can top this next Christmas?

Comments Saturday, December 20, 2008

SO my kids were watching A Mickey Mouse Christmas Carol and it occurred to me that this holiday classic based on the literary classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens doesn't share the Christmas story. This prompted an internal dialogue, read argument, about the Christian value of this story and thereby the Christmas value. Sure we allow all kinds of other stories like The Night Before Christmas which have no value whatsoever, but they are much more obvious so it is easy to talk about how it doesn't really capture the spirit of Christmas. A Christmas Carol and all its versions, on the other hand, seem to share the spirit of Christmas. They even have Christmas spirits, so it adds to the confusion. I have decided to try and compare the good points and not so good points to see if this work really does embody Christmas or not.

How does A Christmas Carol Stack-up?

The Good

The Bad

  • No Santa
  • They say "Merry Christmas" not "Happy Holidays."
  • Super cute crippled boy with a super cute name "Tiny Tim."
  • Encourages giving to the poor.
  • Funny ghost of Christmas present with memory problems like that guy in 50 First Dates that can only remember a few seconds at a time.
  • Has a redemption story.
  • The Muppet version with Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat is hilarious.
  • Ambiguous source of Christmas power.
  • The creepy ghost of Christmas future.
  • The version with Bill Murray is not family friendly.
  • No mention of Sweet Baby Jesus.
  • The Redemption isn't based on the cross.
  • No really good songs outside the Muppet version.


Well, there are points for and against this story, but for now it looks like the good slightly edges out the bad. I guess this means it gets the green light for now, but I'll be watching closely from now on. Do you hear that? I'm watching you A Christmas Carol so you better behave yourself and never remove Tiny Tim's line "God bless us everyone."

Comments Friday, December 19, 2008

For those that don't know, TMI is "Too Much Information." I have found a major flaw in my desire to get closer to my Youth. As my relationships with them grow they open up to me. That is the point right. I want them to share with me their struggles and dreams. I want them to come to me when they are hurting or excited.

I have forgotten that they struggle with the same things that my friends and I struggled with in school. This means that as they open up to me I am inundated with way too much information about all kinds of subjects that I really don't want to consider they know. I don't want to know that a group of my teens were talking about oral sex and condoms. I have grown close to these kids. They play with my children and I see them as my own in many ways. I don't want to know about this conversation anymore tan I want to know about my parents having the same conversation.

So I propose that we agree to a new set of rules.

  1. Anyone I view as innocent must pretend to be innocent.
  2. My children are not allowed to grow-up so I will always view them as innocent.
  3. It is possible to have a close personal relationship without ruining my perception of innocence.
  4. I reserve the right to inflict on others the same as they inflict on me.

I think 4 rules is enough. I can now exist in my private little fantasy land and have the ultimate threat to enforce the rules. They think it is fun to talk about this stuff in front of me ... well then let's talk. I'm not afraid to pull the trigger on my stories. They know I am married with 4 kids and they don't want to think about where those kids come from.

Much as the USA and USSR stood immobile against the threat of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, during the cold war I think we can form a great relationship on the same principle with regards to innocence. The ball is in their court now.


Comments Thursday, December 18, 2008

Together, together; if we ll work together how happy we'll be.

So for a while now I have been involved with a group of Youth ministers from other churches in our community. We have this crazy idea that if we work togetehr then we can accomplish more than if we try on our own. This is a new group in our area and I'm one of the founding members. Even befor eI came here I was feeling a push to work in unity with other churches. God has orchestrated this with like minded ministers. In fact, we also have with our group representatives from secular youth programs. I find it very exciting because I believe this is the foundation for making real change in our community. Basicaly, I figure if each of us goes on our own we will mostly shoffle teens from one group to another without really reaching the unchurched. If we work together we can better target our intended audience.

Today I was able to attend a meeting with one of the secular groups we have been working with. Several different groups form the community were represented in this meeting and it was great to be abel to work together with them. Imagine an entire community working to reach the teens in the community from different angles but in unity. We aren't there yet, but the idea just blows me away.

I have been doing a study in the book of Revelation, and I believe that we will be judged by our actions even as our sins are covered by the blood. When God looked at the churches of John's day He didn't send a letter to the church in Ephesus that mets in the house of Bob. He sent a letter to the church of Ephesus. I believe that we will see similar judgement. Right now God is writing a letter to the church of [insert your community here]. What does that letter say? Are the churches in your area so caught up with themselves that they are failing or are they workign together? I'm not saying we are perfect … far from it. There have been years of failure with the only church growth coming form church hopping. This is sad when the community is growing rapidly. Our churches should be busting at the seams.

Still I think we are starting to make steps in the right direction, and God is moving on the hearts of others as well. We have seen similar ideas growing for all aspects of the church not jus thte Youth. I'm even working to develop solidarity in the church between generations. I'll talk about that another time.

I've even been hearing that this is a growing trend across other communities. How is this going where you are at?

2 comments Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So there are a broad spectrum of parents in the world, but on one end you will find parents that think their kids are perfect no matter what and on the other end you will find parents that don't care one way or the other. I have kids from both categories. Each come with their own kind of problems. There are a lot of different ways the kids can turn out too.

For example, I have a kid that is practically perfect in every way as far as the family is considered. This results in the child generally expecting to get whatever the child wants. The child is generally good though and works very hard to actually meet the expectation of being perfect with no real consequence of failure. I think this is the best case scenario with the dynamic because there is a desire to excel. I think this is generally because that child already has a desire to shine and so the family has just seen the good even in the bad.

Another child is in a similar situation, but has no drive to do anything. The mother, the only family in the picture, ignores any fault and assumes her baby is in the right regardless. This feeds the minor character flaws and grows them into fissures of selfishness.

Then you have the other end of the spectrum with parents that just don't care. Once again this manifests differently depending on the child.

I have a teen that desires love from parents but gets nothing. This teen went through a very difficult period of self destruction trying to get the attention desired and nothing. Fortunately this was brought to a happy end and now this teen does everything asked, but it is obvious that it is all about getting the love of a selfish mother. This situation breaks my heart, but the end result at this point has become a very well adjusted kid despite life situations. My biggest concern would be long term problems leading back to the self destructive behavior.

Finally there is the other side. Kids with no motivation and parents that don't care. I have a couple from the same family. They are surprisingly similar and only show up on occasion. Socially I'm more concerned about them than anyone else. They simply don't care about anything. It is disturbing and probably has a Latin name with a very long dissertation explaining the disorder. The shorthand is sociopath. Well, the one is just anti social, but the other leans much more strongly to sociopath. This one lies about everything, and I mean everything. We went on a trip and the kid started telling everyone about my plans for some big thing. When it got back around to me I started tracing it back to the original source. It was this kid and when pressed for who said anything about this nonexistent event the answer I was given was that I had told the kid all about it. It was just disturbing to watch a kid lie with no possible basis for reality and not exhibit any classic signs of the lie.

Generally I think that the parents are the root of the major problems. The imperfections and faults are amplified by the parents disregard for basic parenting. The parents will then blame anything on everyone else. This is a very troubling pattern that is overtaking, or rather has overtaken our country. This is why people sue over every little thing. I remember a story about a mother that was suing the state of Missouri for wrongful death of her son. He had been in prison 3 times and she fought to get him out every time. He was killed by an officer during an armed robbery attempt and she blamed the state. One of the claims that that her son was still suppose to be in prison when he died and if he had been in prison he wouldn't have gotten involved in the armed robbery attempt that resulted in his death.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up, this is all kinds of crazy and I don't really even know how to cause the change that needs to happen for some of these kids. Without the parents joining in it exponentially increases the difficulty of helping them out.

Any ideas?

2 comments Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So if you are in a preaching ministry and haven't filed in your preaching calendar yet what are you waiting for? I know a lot of ministers like to wait till the night before to here from God, but I promise that god knows what is going on more than a year in advance. That is why it is actually possible to sit down with a calendar and pray about what you should speak on now so you can better organize your topics and plan series that will play well together. God is cool like that.

Actually, one of my pet peeves is when a pastor claims that God changed the sermon just before they walked up and so please forgive them if it seems thrown together. I'm not saying that God doesn't do this. I am saying that God doesn't do this every time. If this happens more than 5% of the time you are preaching then I think you need to work on our prayer life because God should be clueing you in a bit sooner. Also, my experience has been the few times that God changed completely what I was planning at the last minute, I don't have to apologize or even let people know beforehand that I'm under prepared. When God pulls the old switcheroo I have to rely completely on Him and not my preparedness. As such those times everything flows better than I could have planned. God will honor the work you put into the sermon He preempts.

So now you know so what are you waiting for Christmas? It's almost here and then you won't have any time so get that calendar out and start praying. OK, maybe you want some pointers because you were never forced to do this for a class. Let me share what I've learned

  • Start by looking at the holidays. You need to fill them in first or you will miss them or have to split a series across them.
  • Sermon series are your friend. Seriously if you are preaching 3 days a week and one day is traditionally a Bible Study knock out the year by covering an entire book. People need to understand that is the normal way to deal with the Bible, not jumping all over like we do with a sermon.
  • Go general, the details come when you start preparing. God might give you a title or subject or even a passage now. When you start preparing ask God for the details then. If you have more ideas now make sure you write them down. My calendar has a section for notes just like this. You will not remember them later if you don't write them now.
  • Don't be afraid to leave a few blanks. Sure the goal is to plan your entire year, but a few blanks are ok. The unexpected happens. You might be sick and miss a day then you have to adjust your schedule. God knows about these things too so if you don't have every sermon filled in don't force it.
  • If you have a support staff let them see your planned schedule. They will appreciate having more than a week to get graphics for your PowerPoint.

OK, so those are some simple guidelines, now let me share my experience with my latest calendar. First I learned that planning sermons is generally easier for Youth than for adults. I plan 10-15 minutes tops for my sermon. Basically most of my sermons are series, but in reality they are a single sermon that has been broken down by main points. This means I really only need 10-11 sermons for a given year. Also, I plan a game night once a month, so I just fill those dates in first and plan the rest around that. Generally this made it easier to plan my sermons. Now events, on the other hand, have been a bit harder. Youth do a lot more stuff than the rest of church. At least we try to. Sure I don't have much of a budget to think of, but I have plenty of stuff on hand so we can pull of all kinds of things for very little. By planning more events the kids are happier, but getting all that in place a year in advance is very hard since outdoor stuff relies on the weather and it is difficult to guess about the weather. In the end I'm content to have an event planned with backup in case it is raining or something.

So, does anyone else try to plan their year in advance? How does it work out for you?

Comments Monday, December 15, 2008

The fact is that Youth are not adults, they are kids. I'm not sure when the transition is, but it happens sometime after 21. Possibly after 30 because I"m not sure how much of an adult I am, but that might just be me because my wife seems to be pretty grown up, but taking care of 4 children can do that to a person. Not that I don't take care of my kids, but I tend to play more than anything, which might be why she seems so frustrated. If I were more grown up that might worry me ...

Anyways, my point has something to do with working with the Youth and the joy and frustration that can come from the experience. I don't knwo who said it, and I'm too lazy to try and look it up, but some famous director said once, "never work with animals or kids." I'm not sure if this is true in Hollywood, but in the church it is an absolute lie. Sure you have to go out of your way. My kids often need rides because their parents aren't going to bother. This can be a hassle. I have to tell them about 500 times, call them the night before, the morning of, and 5 minutes before, and still end up waiting for them because they forgot all about it. Nothing ever gets back home to parents no matter how many times I beg and plead and offer hard cash, ok money might work but I don't have that kind of budget.

Despite all the craziness working with the Youth is the best experience. I have more energy because of it for one thing. Plus, big church would freak if I put a pie in someone's face. I don't have to try to make them change as much as guide them as they grow, and that is a huge difference. Imagine trying to change the way a 50 year old oak has grown. It is almost impossible, but take a sapling and you can shape it while it is still tender so that it will lean this way or that way when it is grown.

People sometimes wonder why I work with teens. I guess I wonder why I have such a hard time getting volunteers. If people got it, I mean really understood then I think I'd have a waiting list. Now if I could just figure out how to make them understand?

2 comments Friday, December 12, 2008

I've heard tales of Senior Pastors that require the staff to be in the office 8 hours a day through the week. Fortunately that isn't my reality. Actually, I'd probably work less, but don't let my Pastor's wife know. Honestly she works very hard to make sure I'm not working too hard. This past week I put in most of my hours at the house. It is great being able to take a sick day but still get the work done that needs doing. I can relax instead of worrying about all the stuff that is piling up while I'm ill.

Actually this illness was particularly convenient as far as sicknesses go. My voice started to go about 2 minutes before I was going to preach to the Youth this week, but it held, just barely, till the end. We have a guest speaker for Sunday so I won't have to preach that night, so my voice gets to rest a bit longer as well.

Anyways, I've found that there are many obstacles to working at home. First, my computer is in the living room. If I had a dedicated office things would be much better when working at home. With my computer in with the family I get to deal with the fun of my 2 year old spinning my chair. Admittedly this is a nice distraction from time to time, but it gets old much quicker than she tires of it. Also, I am much tempted to watch Mickey Mouse Club House, which she insists on watching over and over and over and over and over and over ………………. Come inside its fun inside …………….. Sorry, where was I? Oh yes, the distraction of the TV. The other fun part is being right in the middle of a sentence and having an infant dropped in your lap with the phrase, "He wants his daddy."

Of course I tend to encourage my own distractions as well. I get bored quickly and will start playing with my daughter because she is there. Actually I find a million things to distract me while at the house, so I was happy to be feeling well enough to go to the office.

Of course the office isn't without its own distractions. Calls and visits from everyone but the Youth, who are in school, and various other projects that vie for my attention, and the school, which has been consuming more and more of my time. In short I'm hard at work but I'm not sure just how much I'm getting done.

Oh well, there is always next week.

Comments Thursday, December 11, 2008

So I stumbled across this pretty cool website. I mentioned it briefly in my post "Let's Talk Sex." It is a Text polling service. You can use it for free with up to 30 responses per poll and unlimited polls. There are fees beyond that based on how many responses you need to allow. Basically you make up a question, either multiple choice or text response, open the poll and provide the information to the people you want to respond.

I did this with my talk on sex and it went over great. They were asking this week if we would be doing that again. I am planning on doing this fairly regularly now. One of the really cool parts is that you can embed the app into a PowerPoint slide and it will show how to respond and also update automatically as responses start coming in. I was able to put a slide up and start talking while they were giving me feedback on what I was talking about. I think that is the most interaction I've ever had with my Youth. I will admit that there is a level of distraction, but face it, you are probably fighting them to stop texting anyways right? Might as well harness the problem and turn it into something fun and interactive.

Anyways, I'll be posting results from these polls from time to time, and just in case someone thinks this might be handy here is a link to the site.


Comments Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I know I've mentioned how much I love technology, but at the same time fight it. I think the main reason I fight my gadgets is because I push them beyond their intended limits. If I had a super fast computer and all the latest goodies I probably wouldn't have to fight it so much. Instead I have a meager budget and big plans that involve things I don't have. This combined with a somewhat unhealthy obsession with MacGyver equals getting the job done at the peril of innocent electronics.

For example, my Youth room doesn't have network and it is not feasible to install a wired connection. This means we need to get a wireless signal over to my building. This really isn't that hard and could be done very successfully for about $150-200. Unfortunately I don't have this money handy, so I'm researching other options. It turns out that there are a ton of DIY projects involving items I have on hand or that I can acquire for close to nothing. Some of them look a tad bit hillbilly, but much of this is concealed.

The biggest problem is that doing it this way will only lead to trouble down the road. I know this from past experience with forcing gadgets to perform outside their performance tolerances. On the other hand I might be able to do this for a couple of months and then be able to afford the upgrades the system actually needs, or more likely gets pieces of the total upgrade as I can afford them.

I know this sounds like borrowing against the future, but its really more like gambling against the future. If the gamble pays off then I get what I need now for the price I can afford now and then do things right down the road, if it doesn't pay off then I have to pay an extra $50-100 down the road. The question is if the gains outweigh to potential risk.

This can only be answered by detailed research, or my preferred method, which is to try it and hope nothing catches fire.

Comments Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I have a stack of books to read. Many are recommended non-fiction ministry related stuff. I haven't really had time to read much at all, but one good thing about being sick so much is I was able to squeeze in some time for reading.

One of the books I am reading is Saint by Ted Dekker. I have like three Ted Dekker books in my to read pile of fiction. The Showdown is the other book I was considering when I started Saint. I picked Saint because it sounded interesting. Generally the book has been enjoyable. Some of the explanations are a little strange, and even annoying, but I can suspend my disbelief for the sake of the story, it is fiction after all. My real frustration is that this book is essentially a sequel to Showdown. This information is not related on the dust cover and not really until I got almost halfway into the book.

Admittedly, so far this hasn't affected my ability to understand the book, but I still wish I had read Showdown first because now I think that I know too much about how that book plays out. This really is information that should be clearly printed on a book cover. I know Ted Dekker likes to keep you guessing and knowing the connection to Showdown might have ruined a small surprise, but not knowing either way means I know too much going into Showdown. Someone didn't think this through.

Anyways, some other books I'm reading or planning to read include: Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, What Happened to my Church?, and The 7 Principles of an Evangelistic Life. I have several more on hand or that have been recommended to me. I think I need to schedule myself a day each week to get through them all. Seeing as I'm booked all week I have two options, I give up my day off, which all of my books on ministry tell me will cost my family, or I add an extra day to the week.

I know a lot of other people feel the same way, so I say we just start going with an 8 day week. I propose we add the day after Wednesday. I know that seems silly, I mean why not add it to the end or beginning of the week, but when you think about it the middle makes much more sense. If you add the day to the beginning of the week then we'll all have to hate a new day instead of Monday. That is just going to cause confusion. If we add it at the end of the week it will mess with the whole "day of worship debate." It is bad enough trying to decide if we are suppose to have church on Saturday or Sunday, if we toss a new day in the mix then, we'll end up with a three way throw down at the ministers' prayer meetings, and a three way fight is much harder than a two way fight. This leaves the middle of the week, and you know you shouldn't move hump day. A lot of people start looking for the weekend on Thursday, so that leaves after Wednesday. The advantage is, that people putting in a 5 day week can take off Friday, when half of them already checkout on, so we'll have higher quality goods and such. See it's a win win win win …

So if you agree please forward this to everyone on your contact list and God will give you your wish and good luck will follow you, but if you don't forward this you'll die in a horrible accident due to quality control problems from the Friday shift workers.

Anyone have ideas what the new day should be called?

4 comments Monday, December 8, 2008

It is my intention to start posting daily again. I went through an illness that refused to stay down. I finally, after weeks, went to the doctor. Good news is my blood pressure, cholesterol, and whatever else they checked is great. Bad news is I had a sinus infection. I say had because I finished off my antibiotics and it appears to be gone. Of course I'm coming down with something else now, but hopefully it will just run its course and be done instead of hanging on for a month.

It is that time of the year again when we all think about that December holiday. Of course I'm referring to Pearl Harbor day. I know that December also gives us Christmas, but I think Pearl Harbor day loses out to the bigger holidays on either side of it. I was fortunate enough to visit Hawaii, and while there I went to see the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor and Diamond Had, where the casualties were buried en mass.

It was a very solemn experience and also surreal at the same time. The surreal part is the fact that so many Japanese tourists visit these landmarks. I wonder why, not enough to ask though. I know they did have some casualties at the site, but I kind of think it is because of what the attack brought. It is hard to say if we would have gotten into the war otherwise, or if we would have dropped the bombs if it wasn't for Pearl Harbor. Regardless, we did enter the war immediately after this attack and we did drop two nuclear bombs at the end of the war.

Many people died in this war on all sides including a great number of civilians. The face of the world was changed in so many ways. We are approaching a point in time when Pearl Harbor and the rest of the war will only be history. The survivors are reaching the end of their natural lives. History is starting to shift. People are making movies that show the war in a negative light and fewer people are able to stand up and say, "Hey I was there and that isn't what happened."

I know I missed posting this before December 7th, but take the time to honor the lives from this day anyway.

4 comments Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ok, so first off I'd like to thank the people from over at SCL for their prayers. I posted that I was talking about sex with my youth and wanted prayer.


I'm glad I asked. I post more detail on the discussion but I think it went well. I showed 3 videos, two dealing with the same study done by Tyra Banks show, and one about another study linking TV and teen pregnancy rates. I also used some text polls and my group responded. I was not very surprised about the results because they reflect much what the other polls were showing.

We had some serious technical difficulties but I had several backup plans in place and some additional help from one of my youth so everything ended up working pretty good. It seemed the enemy didn't want this to work but God was with us.

I came very close to switching to a backup topic at the last minute. We had 4 visitors, 3 of which I had never talked to before. I was barely comfortable enough with the subject for the teens I usually have, then I get other people that don't know me don't understand me. This went well also.

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the responses to the text polling. These are the results from the responding group (which was a bit less than half my Youth).

Will you wait until you are married to have sex?

45% said yes

27% said no

27% said I don't know

How far is too far?

0% said 1st base

27% said 2nd base

18% said 3rd base

9% said all the way

45% said it's all good

My responders ranged from 12 to 22 and these numbers don't really surprise me. This is why we need to talk to our kids about sex and get parents to talk to them. We need to get the message across that sex is a wonderful gift from God but is best expressed in marriage because of all the crap that happens when things go bad. That is what I tried to get my kids to understand tonight and I hope some of them got it. I figure I'll do this again soon and keep up the message because the statistics I've been seeing are down right disturbing.