st. louis NYWC, monday morning
Monday November 05th 2007, 11:40 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work

sitting in my room, slurping on my eggs bennie, avoiding my prep work for the closing general session.

yesterday: a mostly wonderful day, really. at one point in the evening, rich van pelt from compassion asked me how i was feeling, and the word that came to mind was “fulfilled.”

really fantastic general session yesterday morning. lots of great worship and fun and all, but what really nailed it for me was ralph winter’s talk about the power of story, the role of story in our lives, and the critical nature of darkness in good stories (which, he said, was why so much christian storytelling sucks). he read his talk, but it didn’t matter (interesting how that does matter sometimes, and doesn’t other times). he used clips from the tv show heros and the the movie x-men 3, and i think one or two others (oh, he actually started his talk with a mash-up movie trailer of “brokeback to the future” — a smash of scenes from back to the future with music and themes from brokeback mountain).

i had a nice break for a couple hours around lunch time, and actually sat in my room and did nothing. i channel-surfed on tv. it was great!

taught my seminar called “a new vision for middle school ministry” in the late afternoon and had a riot. i was low energy going in, and worried i wasn’t going to engage at all. but something kicked in, and i had a great time (i think the attendees did also — they seemed really engaged). then i had an interesting dinner: last year, i got an email (i think that’s what the contact was) from a catholic youth worker who attended one of the conventions and left in the middle feeling the event was anti-catholic. he was really frustrated — angry, even. we emailed back and forth quite a few times, as i tried to understand. i think the primary issue had been a mainstage speaker who made reference to his own story as, “i used to be catholic, before i became a christian” (or something like that). i had remembered cringing for my catholic brothers and sisters when that had been said. anyhow, i asked the guy to return this year as our guests and give it another shot, which he graciously accepted. he was having a good experience this year, which i was glad to hear. but i also enjoyed getting to know him and hearing his story. as a young 30-something retail store manager, with an offer of a promotion on the table, he heard his church was going to hire a youth pastor. he’d never been in a youth group as a teenager, never volunteered in one as an adult, had no youth ministry experience whatsoever; but sensed a nudge. after a wild confirmation from god, he applied for the job and got it. and the group had 2 kids. one girl — who was shy and wouldn’t talk — and one guy. for six months, those were the only two kids. that was five years ago. he senses now that youth ministry is a life-long calling (and the youth group has grown and is healthy).

at the evening general session, tic and i decided to further mock the cheerleading competition we’d all had to walk through saturday and sunday to get to our space in the convention center (hundreds of little girls in cheerleading outfits, with massive quantities of make-up, and freakish bow-things in their hair). some of the volunteers went out and bought outfits for us. tic had the traditional little cheerleading skirt and all. they couldn’t find a skirt they thought would fit me, so i was dressed more like a guy cheerleader, in running pants and shirt: but i pulled the waistline of the running pants up all the way over my (large) stomach, to create an absolutely horrifying visual. in a moment of gender-confusion, the volunteers put my hair in a single ponytail on top of my head (a fountain of youth, one might say). we pranced out to the stage and jumped around. i almost knocked tic to the ground when we “belly-bumped”. we did a short, irreverant cheer, and tossed to a comedian. lots of photos were taken, though i’ve yet to see one surface.

greg stier spoke last night. greg is a genuinely good guy. pure character. pure motives. pure passion. i don’t always agree with everything greg says (his passionate plea for us to preach christ and christ crucified alone was tough for me, and seems to minimize christ to only the work he did on the cross, not the work he did at creation, incarnation, living, resurrection, or other parts of the story). but i love greg’s passion, zeal and affection for teenagers and youth workers. i also got to affirm a very cool young couple in the general session last night. they have been jointly hired by the five churches in their small southwestern colorado town. get this: the churches are catholic, baptist, presbyterian, episcopalian and non-denominational. yes, you read that correctly. those five churches came together to hire one couple for youth ministry. not for 5 youth groups. but for one youth group. amazing.

ok. i have to prep for my talk.

blah, blah, blah
Sunday November 04th 2007, 4:58 pm
Filed under: personal

i’m at the point in the convention where i’m rather sick of hearing my own voice.


spot the differences game
Sunday November 04th 2007, 10:11 am
Filed under: humor

this little game is WAY more difficult than it seems it should be!

(ht to bob carlton)


st. louis NYWC, sunday morning
Sunday November 04th 2007, 10:08 am
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth specialties, family, youth work

another wonderful day yesterday, in every way.

didn’t have to get up too early, which was a great start. morning general session was good, with lynn hybels (she went a bit long, but had some really great stuff to say; and i loved her attitude). then a had a great lunch with 18 national leaders from the catholic youth ministry organization, lifeteen. we’ve been friends with lifeteen for about 6 or 7 years, and continue to love their hearts and friendship and how similar we are in our organizational values. we’ve talked about partnering for years and years, but have never really done anything. but this lunch might be a catalyst into some cool stuff.

after lunch, i had a fascinating mtg in my suite. our ys exec team pulled together a few trusted friends of ys (jim hancock, mark riddle, ginny olson, michael novelli, eric venable, scott burkes, and scott kail) to ask them to assess us a bit. i lead the discussion, asking them to share stories of ys past, then to put themselves IN the past, and talk about what ys was like, from their perspective, at that time. we moved forward and had them talk about ys now. i asked them to speak as ys present, addressing ys past, and cautioning ys past on some things to come. i asked them to complete this sentence: it’s a shame that ys has become ___________. then, we looked toward the future — not in a predictive way, but in a possible way. first, we walked down a road to a preferred future, and talked about that. then we backed up, and walked down a road to a negative potential. ouch. interesting stuff.

then, i was off to a short dinner reception for graduation seniors of youth ministry programs (who are attending the convention as part of the youth specialties academic support network). always enjoy being with that crowd: they’re energetic and optimistic. the evening session was fantastic. michelle tolentino, a compassion kid (now grown up) from the philippines shares again, and slayed everyone. i was on stage with her, and had to talk after she finished (she received a massive standing o), and i couldn’t. i started a word or two, and they stuck. weird thing to be standing in front of 3500 people and not be able to get any words out due to an emotionally-constricted throat. doug fields spoke, and brought it, big time, again. his talk was on ministry envy. during the talk, i was in a conversation back in the green room (backstage); and at one point, i noticed that max (my 9 year-old son) was sitting on a couch watching doug’s talk on the monitor we have back there. as this continued, i was surprised to see max sit throuh the entire 40 minute talk, watching and listening. i heard his phone ring at one point, and could tell it was jeannie checking on where he was. i heard him say, “yeah, i’m watching a guy talk. no, not dad. some other guy.”

after the session ended, max said to me, “i need to go ask that guy a question.” doug was out in the room, with a crowd of people around him. max went out and waited — about 15 minutes, i’d guess. i made my way out there eventually, and sat nearby waiting. max got doug’s attention at one point, but doug didn’t realize max had a question, and after saying hi to max, went on to the next person waiting to talk to him. max waited again. then, i saw doug fields bent over, having a full-on conversation with max (with about 30 more youth workers circled around, waiting to talk to doug). on the way back to our hotel, i asked max what he wanted to talk to doug about. he said, “well, he talked about how sometimes we hate people, even though they’re nice people. but hunter, in my class, i don’t like him, and he’s really mean. and i wanted to know what he thought i should do about that.” “oh,” i said (pulling him on his healies, as i walked), “did he have anything to say?” “yeah, he told me what to do. so i’m good now.” thanks, doug.


get the hug right
Saturday November 03rd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: personal, humor

i’m a hugger. and, seeing so many friends at the national youth workers convention, i’m doing lots of hugging. which means there are lots of opportunity for failed hugs, a la:


(ht to sam harvey)


st. louis NYWC, friday night
Saturday November 03rd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, personal, youth work

we’re off and running. had a good day yesterday, with the first half the the critical concerns course i’m co-leading with scott rubin on middle school ministry. walked the exhibit hall last evening. then jet lag overwhelmed me. so, after tweaking some media for a seminar today, i climbed in bed very early for convention: 10pm. of course, jeannie and max arrived from san diego at 11, so i was up for 45 minutes again.

today was a full day: the 2nd half of the CCC, then the opening general session, followed by the seminar i’m co-leading with mark riddle called “the expectations that killed the youth worker” (which went substantially better here than it did in SD, after we re-organized the entire thing). dinner with some old friends, then the evening general session, which just ended. chris hill was bringing it tonite, and duffy robbins did a nice job of opening the convention earier today. crowder was brilliant as usual, and flatfoot 56 and jars of clay were wonderful today.

i had a major computer issue just before my afternoon seminar. my computer would not fire up. luckily, one of zondervan’s IT dudes happens to be here (for a store software thing), and he was able to come over and help me get it fixed JUST in time for my seminar to start. but now, i’m noticing, after all of that, that various system things (like, at the moment, the title of this webpage) are in arabic. seriously. i’m getting extremely tired of having font problems with my new mac. it’s massively tainting my mac experience.

tomorrow’s a slightly lighter day for me, but not by much. less presentations. but meetings filling in the blanks.

i got a fun gift today from blogger marty estes and his wife erin. i was in the midst of my computer crisis at the moment, and kind of gave marty a brush-off (sorry, marty! i was in a panic!). he brought me a cute (dorky, jesus-junky) gift bag full of dorky jesus junk, in honor of my semi-regular “jesus junk of the month awards” here on they included a nice encouraging note also.

i also got a bit freaked tonite just before i was going to walk up on stage to introduce jerod hall (the illusionist). i very nice looking middle-aged woman came up to me and touched the sides of my head and said, “i think this is the sexiest look you’ve ever had.” i laughed nervously and backed up two or three steps. i’m sure she meant nothing by it other than to compliment me on my fabio hair; but it totally unnerved me!

loved it when, after crowder talked about having a hoe-down, chris hill (an african american) took the stage and said, “a hoe-down in my neighborhood means something completely different.”


making the most of the convention
Friday November 02nd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

love this list from steve argue about how to make the most of the convention. very closely lines up with what i share in the opening session.

Go to a seminar you disagree with… to understand.

Sit in a different spot each session… try to see from another perspective.

Talk with someone different than you… to learn.

Seek out a youth workder half your age or twice your age… buy them coffee.

Spend time being quiet… resist perpetuating busyness in your life.

Sleep in or stay up late… jolt your natural schedule.

Support local restaurants, avoid places you could eat at from home.

Take the long way… let go of efficiency.

Summarize your notes… share them with someone when you get home.

Walk around the block. Don’t say you’ve been in St. Louis until you’ve done so.

Sing nothing during worship… listen as though you were hearing the words for the first time.

Share with someone what the Spirit was saying to you as you listened throughout the plenary gathering… avoid critiquing the message.

Embrace a quote of the day, image of the day, song of the day, surprise of the day, conversation of the day. Journal them.

Avoid at all costs saying, “When I was here last time…”


medical advice of the day
Friday November 02nd 2007, 5:00 am
Filed under: humor, news

in light of the news about broccoli reported in this article (that broccoli has sunscreen effects and can help fight skin cancer), a helpful researcher clarified:

“This is not a sunscreen, because it does not absorb the ultraviolet rays of the sun,” explained Dr. Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. “We don’t want people covering their bodies with broccoli and going to the beach. They will have no protection whatsoever.”

thanks, doc.


blogging from the st. louis national youth workers convention
Thursday November 01st 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth specialties, blogs, youth work

the following list are people who i exect (because they said so, or because i know they’re attending) will be blogging from the national youth workers convention in st. louis this weekend. i’ll update the list regularly.

mike king

jason raitz

andy sahl

jake bouma

lewis polzin

steve argue


mike kupferer

tash mcgill

sean meade


mark riddle

tim schmoyer

carol ann kelly

william hartz, with vlogs here, and twitter updates



brent lacy

eli roogles, and twittering

nic burleson

and, yup, me


the changing church, please?
Thursday November 01st 2007, 6:00 am
Filed under: church, emerging church

stephen shields points out a great quote from yo-yo ma, quoted on noel heikkenen’s blog:

“Any tradition that doesn’t evolve becomes smaller.”

stephen goes on to mention another quote by john murray:

“However epochal have been the advances made at certain periods and however great the contributions of particular men we may not suppose that theological construction ever reaches definitive finality. There is the danger of a stagnant traditionalism and we must be alert to this danger, on the one hand, as to that of discarding our historical moorings, on the other.

When any generation is content to rely upon its theological heritage and refuses to explore for itself the riches of divine revelation, then declension is already under way and heterodoxy will be the lot of the succeeding generation…. A theology that does not build on the past ignores our debt to history and naively overlooks the fact that the present is conditioned by history. A theology that relies on the past evades the demands of the present.”

which reminds me of a quote i’m using in my closing session talk at the national youth workers conventions, which i got from the great book, . quote from hans kung:

a church which pitches its tents without constantly looking out for new horizons, which does not continually strike camp, is being untrue to its calling…. [We must] play down our longing for certainty, accept what is risky, live by improvisation and experiment.