short term missions
Wednesday May 31st 2006, 10:57 am
Filed under: youth ministry, church, youth work

here’s an article VERY worth reading, from the christian science monitor (about short term missions trips). i was interviewed for an hour for this article, but apparently said nothing worthy of inclusion! maybe that’s why it’s a good article. agree or not, wholly or partially, the article is good food for thought.

the ulimate water-balloon launcher
Wednesday May 31st 2006, 10:56 am
Filed under: youth ministry, youth work

if you’re a youth worker, you know you want this water balloon launcher. i love the description, that says:

Want to shoot an object at 140 MPH over 500ft? Then this launcher is for you! This article will teach you how to build one of the cheapest, easiest, and most powerful water balloon launchers ever invented.

of course, you would have to change the name of the launcher, should you use it in your ministry. i cracked up at the mildly nerdy and defensive explanation of the name: The “Douchenator” was named for the sound it makes when fired, not for other definitions of the first part of the word…

jh summit participant book recommendations
Wednesday May 31st 2006, 10:52 am
Filed under: books

over the last week or two, i posted slightly edited notes of our time at the junior high pastors summit. i’d mentioned (in a post during the summit) that we’d shared book recommendations with each other (we do this each year when we gather), and a few readers have asked that i post those. so here they are. in order to be suggested, the suggester had to have read it in the last year, and felt others would benefit from it. i don’t find book suggestions all that helpful unless i know the person doing the suggesting. but for what it’s worth… (i’ll plus it a tiny bit by adding links to those recommendations i have read and would also endorse)

Book Recommendations
Nate R – “” Lauren Winner, “” Scot McKnight
Andy J - “Enneagran: Christian Perspective” Richard Rohr, “” Kenda Dean
Sean – “” Linda Pearlstein, “Queen Bees and Wannabees”, “Searching for God knows what” Donald Miller
Cristin – Stacy Eldredge “Captivating”, “” Duffy and Maggie Robbins
Steve – “Ragamuffin Gospel” Brennan Manning, “” Donald Miller, “Fresh Encounter” Daniel Henderson
April – “” Brian McLaren, “Difficult Conversations”, “” Rob Bell
John – “The Upside Down Kingdom” Donald Krabill, David Anderson “Letters Across the Divide” and “Multicultural ministry: Finding your Churches Rhythm”
Jim – “Velvet Elvis”, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger” Ron Sider
Scott - “” Kurt Johnston, “The Irresistible Revolution” Shane Claiborne, “” Seth Godin
Heather – “The Myth of the Perfect Mother” Carla Barnhill, “” Ann Lammott
Kurt – “The Doom Loop System” Dory Hollander
Jason – “Give Your Speech, Change Your World” Nick Morgan, “The Revolutionary Communicator” by Erik Lokkesmoe, Jedd Medifind, “” by Doug Paggitt
Ken – “Soul Searching” Christian Smith, “Seen and Heard”, “Spiritual Leadership” Oswald Chambers
Nate S – “” Malcolm Gladwell, “Velvet Elvis”
Alan R – “Barbarian Way” Erwin McManus, “The Emotionally Healthy Church” Warren Bird
Eric – “” by Miroslav Volf, “Jesus Remembered” James Dunn, “Christ plays in 10,000 Places” Eugene Peterson, “Freakenomics” by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner
Marko – “” Ann Rice, “” Mark Yaconelli, “” Daniel Pink
Judy – “Seven Practices of Effective Ministry” Andy Stanly, “Barbarian Way” by Erwin McManus, “” Jim Collins and “Good to Great in the Social Sector”
Jeff – “The World is Flat” Thomas Friedman, “Revolution” George Barna
Alan M – “1776” David McCollough, “The Essence of the Church” Craig Van Gelder “Practicing Passion” Kenda Dean
Johnny – “The world is flat” Freedman, “Trust: The One Thing That Makes or Breaks a Leader” Les Csorba, “Choosing to Cheat” Andy Stanley, “Blink”

my grup gripe
Tuesday May 30th 2006, 9:56 am
Filed under: youth ministry, personal, thinking..., music, youth work, emergent

some time ago, i read an article from new york magazine about “grups”, shorthand for a newly quantified demographic of adults who are erasing the generation gap. i found the article in a link from the thinkchristian post also had a link to an al mohler blog post about the same article. all three are worth reading (especially the article). however, i strongly think they (particularly the new york mag piece and even moreso al mohler’s post) have completely missed the point.

first a bit of a summary. a few quotes from the article:

He owns eleven pairs of sneakers, hasn’t worn anything but jeans in a year, and won’t shut up about the latest Death Cab for Cutie CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap.

This is an obituary for the generation gap. It is a story about 40-year-old men and women who look, talk, act, and dress like people who are 22 years old. It’s not about a fad but about a phenomenon that looks to be permanent. It’s about the hedge-fund guy in Park Slope with the chunky square glasses, brown rock T-shirt, slight paunch, expensive jeans, Puma sneakers, and shoulder-slung messenger bag, with two kids squirming over his lap like itchy chimps at the Tea Lounge on Sunday morning. It’s about the mom in the low-slung Sevens and ankle boots and vaguely Berlin-art-scene blouse with the $800 stroller and the TV-screen-size Olsen-twins sunglasses perched on her head walking through Bryant Park listening to Death Cab for Cutie on her Nano.

For a Grup, professional success is measured not by how many employees you have but by how much freedom you have to walk, or boogie-board, away.

There’s that tricky word again: passion. What’s with the Grups and passion? It’s all anyone wants to talk about. Passionate parents, passionate workers, passionate listeners to the new album by Wolf Parade.

here’s my gripe: i think the article wrongly focuses almost completely on clothing and music choices. then good ol’ al mohler takes this a step further, and implies that it’s an issue of immaturity, that growing up would entail knowing when to wear a good suit (my words, but not far from his).


let’s look at the positive intent here (something i’ve found to be extremely helpful in understanding any conflict or change). maybe the grups (do i qualify? i don’t wear $200 dollar jeans, but i do wear shorts or jeans everyday, and rarely anything but a t-shirt. and at 43, i’d rather listen to death cab for cutie or system of a down than led zepplin or the journey or anything that actually came out of my generation.) are rejecting the crap values of a previous generation. and, to take it a step further, maybe they’re rejecting the values of their own teenage years.

in other words…

how is not a GOOD thing that a 36 year-old is more interested in quality of life than in corporate climing? how is it not a GOOD thing that a 33 year-old would rather work a job that provides meaning and significance from contribution (even if it means less pay or ’status’ in the way that used to be quantified), rather than working a job that provides high pay or prestige or power over others, but robs the soul. and to the fixation with clothing and music found in the article and mohler’s post… well, i’m just baffled. how is a suit and tie somehow, instrinsicly, better? if ‘appropriate clothing’ is a societally-prescribed norm, it’s a “it is what it is” at most, and annoying group think at worst.

well. i could rant about this for a while, but i sense i’m rambling. let me just say that i want clothes that are comfortable and allow me to focus on my priorities in life, which do NOT include propping up a previous generation’s norms. and let me just say that i want to listen to music that moves my soul, not music that makes me think of the past — and since my spirit and soul continue to grow and change (thanks, god, transformation’s a pretty cool invention of yours!), music that moves my soul will likely continue to grow and change also.

HERE’S THE THING: the observation that the generation gap, as experienced in every previous generation, is disappearing… now THAT’S something worth talking about and studying and thinking about. what are the implications? what are the risks? what are the new opportunities this provides us — especially in the church? wow — just think of it! is it possible to conceive of a time when worship style wars won’t be drawn along generational lines? how cool would THAT be?

the wonder that is whole foods
Tuesday May 30th 2006, 9:56 am
Filed under: personal

i’d heard of whole foods before. but until two weeks ago, i’d not been. but during the early days of my cleanse, jeannie and i (and the kids) took a little family excursion to the one-and-only location in san diego, about 20 minutes from our home. stepping in, i instantly felt i had entered either the waiting room of heaven or just-west-of-nirvana or some mythical kingdom of purity and goodness. the produce — oh, my! the selection of juices and organic foods! and don’t even get me started on the deli/prepared foods section — i felt like i could eat every meal for the rest of my life in there. a whole foods closer to my home would make us regulars. but i’m sure we will now be semi-regulars, regardless.

this week
Tuesday May 30th 2006, 9:55 am
Filed under: youth specialties, personal

this morning we have representatives from world vision and compassion in our office. we have partnerships with both of these wonderful organizations (one life revolution with world vision, and child sponsorship with compassion) and promote them both at our conventions, among other places. but being in partnership with two organizations that have highly overlapping ministry empases, yet slightly different approaches to how that is carried out, has not been without a few bumps and bruises and misunderstandings. so we thought it would be good to get us all in the same room for a half day to think about this fall’s youth worker conventions, making sure we’re all stacking hands and working together for the greater good. the people who represent their organization’s partnership with YS have become great friends of mine over the years, so i’m looking forward to our short time together.

then, at noon today, most of the CORE presenter team come to san diego for our yearly debrief. we’ll spend three days critiquing this past season’s CORE material, planning the basic planks of next year’s content (ooh, i’m really excited about what’s on the docket), and celebrating together. laurie polich is stepping off our team this year, so we’ll be celebrating her 14 years of contribution. we’ll be staying at the town & country resort in san diego, where we’ve held so many conventions over the years (and will return to for one of the youth workers conventions in fall of 07). jeannie will be with me — which is wonderful. but i’m really missing my kids, and — other than taking them to breakfast this morning — haven’t seen nearly enough of them, or they of me, in the past week. i’m really glad i’ll be home this weekend.

june is my worst month of travel this year, with trips to tahoe (if you include this past weekend, which was actually may), a hotel in san diego (which is local, but i might as well be out of town, since i’m staying there), birmingham alabama, lima peru, vancouver, and washington dc. i’m really glad i was able to cancel a trip to grand rapids that was right in the middle of the month, giving me a couple more days home.

jh summit notes, part 8
Monday May 29th 2006, 4:33 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth work

over the next week or so, i’ll post slightly edited versions of the notes from our junior high pastors summit. they’re pretty fragmented for someone who wasn’t there, i’ll admit (they weren’t ‘taken’ for this purpose). but for those who would like to read, i’m excited to share them with you.

parts 1, 2 and 3 are the summaries of the morning scot mcknight spent with us. then, parts 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are the pieces of our discussion. one bonus post will have the book recommendations from the group to one another (this is one of our traditions each year, to share two or three books we’d recommend to each other).

here’s part 8…

Evangelism and Outreach
Johnny – we do not want to manipulate, back up and have a more holistic view so students are invited into all 4 corners (God, self, others, world) – talk more about the God angle – ask students – to not just talk about Jesus but to incorporate the whole Gospel
Nate R – want students to know how to love God and others and how God has chosen them, and from there continue to speak on God, self, others and world – students need to realize it’s more than joining a club. Psalm 23, trying to tag all 4 things in the context of scripture
Marko – we can’t rely on ourselves to be the converter – we need to Trust God to do that
April – do students bring their friends because it’s a cool place or because they love Jesus – is that Evangelism?
Jim – yes! If we are providing that good “feel” – that it’s accepting, warm, caring – that’s
Marko – some kids bring friends because they experience acceptance, it’s safe, If we are providing that environment – that’s evangelism
Eric – kids are more holistic
Nate S – a lot of church kids come because they know it’s a welcoming atmosphere – they don’t get that anywhere else – the Christian kids are there because it’s the norm for them
Ken – if we stop taking the value off performance, we could have a great part in evangelism and outreach if we put the focus on who they are in Christ – youth group is the one place they come and feel loved
Jason – are our groups as accepting as we think they are?
Sean -if we our kids are accepting we have to be accepting – who are we accepting – do we approach the outsider as much as we approach the outgoing/popular ones – if not – how can we expect kids to?
Alan – how do you call kids to a decision that isn’t manipulative?
Eric – do we give them a platform to verbalize their faith – it doesn’t have to be an altar call but doing something physical and intellectual so kids can feel/think and help them understand their faith.
Johnny – give 5 or 6 different responses kids may have and give them outlets to go out and express that
Steve – offer an invitation to talk to pastor/leader to discuss and answer questions
Marko – it’s been engrained into us that a real decision to follow Christ is a single decision not a series of decisions; we are still saying we want it to be a series of Big Decisions instead of gentle nods of the soul
Alan – do you need to help students process what a gentle nod would be
Marko – which faith is more likely to last – the big decision or the gentle nods? We need to be courageous and try new methods
Jeff – it’s not us calling them – it’s God, we can offer our help and resources but it’s not us – it’s God

very interesting comment
Monday May 29th 2006, 3:54 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth work

thom olson, long time friend who played an instruemental role on the emergent convention planning team for three years, posted this very interesting comment on one of my posts about the junior high pastors summit notes (particularly addressing the ‘jesus creed’ of ‘love god, love others’, and the gospel as restoration of our cracked relationships with god, self, others and world):

I’m finding so many paralells between counseling chemically dependent sex offenders, murderers, and drug dealers and doing Junior High ministry. Let me explain …

When we do our assessment interviews, we are told to pay particular attention to the age when the client first started experimenting with drugs. There is a sense of “arrested development” that takes place emotionally (and cognitively). Coincidentally, most of our clients experiment with drugs before age 12. When I’m counseling, I’m often talking to a 12 year old mind in a 47 year old body.

But when I say, “Love God, Love Others.” Light-bulbs go on. Talking about the need to be restored and reconciled to God, self, others, and the world–they can grasp that. Rest assured everything you guys have been discussing here is having a secondary ripple effect in the lives of the 26 guys I’m counseling at the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (at the Lino Lakes Prison in MN).

Maybe YS should consider publishing a new line of Junior High materials: “The Adult Offender Editions”. Or would that be redundant?

goodbye sinners
Monday May 29th 2006, 3:14 pm
Filed under: faith, personal

our annual YNS (young notorious sinners) meeting is over, and i’m sitting in a starbucks in reno, waiting four hours for my flight. this year was equally wonderful, but very different than previous years. the place we met — a rental house up on a hill overlooking lake tahoe — was gorgeous, if not a bit pricey. but the stunning view of the lake…

and the perfect meeting space…

combined with actually having enough beds for the nine of us, really made it a great place to stay. it had a huge open kitchen as part of the great room, and we cooked all our meals together (well, toben did most of the cooking, but we were nearby), which i’m finding more and more and more is such a key element of spiritual community.

it was different this year in that many of us were in a really good space, and there were very fews tears (last year almost everyone was crying at one point during their sharing time). there were a few significant things, and some great input from guys who are committed to each other, and give advice in that relational context. i had a small blow up with one of the other guys at one point, and it called for some intense dialogue and processing to go on. both of our feelings got pretty hurt in the process, and it uncovered some more issues he and i will need to process more in the future — but it was still good to have these things uncovered, rather than remain silent and hidden (or unknown).

personally, i have some more reflection to do. i feel like i stumbled onto a sometimes-good-sometimes-bad new insight about myself: that i have a strong tendancy to try to control people, and specifically, to control (or manage) the emotions of groups i have responsibility for. i’ll blog about this soon, as i expect it will be helpful for me to process it in words, not just thoughts.

jh summit notes, part 7
Friday May 26th 2006, 9:51 pm
Filed under: youth ministry, faith, youth work

over the next week or so, i’ll post slightly edited versions of the notes from our junior high pastors summit. they’re pretty fragmented for someone who wasn’t there, i’ll admit (they weren’t ‘taken’ for this purpose). but for those who would like to read, i’m excited to share them with you.

parts 1, 2 and 3 are the summaries of the morning scot mcknight spent with us. then, parts 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 are the pieces of our discussion. one bonus post will have the book recommendations from the group to one another (this is one of our traditions each year, to share two or three books we’d recommend to each other).

here’s part 7…

Ministry Around “Love God, Love Others” and how to know if we are achieving it
Alan R – measuring it by how kids love others, honor their parents, etc.
Cristin – JH tends to be concrete and egocentric, they have a hard time with concepts so shouldn’t we find ways to discuss these things and help them think outside the box – yet have that incorporated
Nate S – a lot of them are going from concrete to abstract
Marko – the real goal is that they know how to live out loving God and others on their own time on their own turf – now and beyond
How do we Get students to enter into a love God relationship?
Eric – because kids are abandoned we need to have a ministry that is more active and less like kids just coming to a church building
Alan – loving God is obeying is commandments – that is the action piece, the spiritual disciplines are pathways to help students comprehend how to love God
April – is there an element of catching up between loving God and loving others
Alan – learning to love God is very different for every student,
Marko – loving God is not just keeping his commandments, it’s not an if/then, keeping his commandments is a result of
- it’s important to teach students why it’s beneficial to obey
Steve – spiritual disciplines are a big part of it, a key word in loving God is Abide – that is not a JH word but it’s a key part – helping kids see they are cracked eikons
Judy – you can convey that in stories and when they can visually see how God has love his people
Andy – most of the JH don’t know who God is, we give them Spirt. Disc. And we talk about Jesus but we don’t teach them who God is –
Marko – the disciplines can lead to a deeper knowledge of God – if we have kids spend time in silence and let them hear from God – we need to leave room for God to do his work
Jim – do you go with the love God first? Is there a priority in having kids love God first before we teach them to love God, self, others and the world
Steve – Pg 162
Jim – Do we start with teaching kids to love God, self, others, world and then go from there in re: to thin slicing
Marko – it could lead to a misshapen gospel for kids
Eric- we need to not do it in a linear way – they are all intertwined, it’s a unified thing and we keep wanting to break it down
Marko – How do we know?
Kurt – is it important to know? It feels like it’s dangerous – measuring the tangible can be totally scued and we measure what we can’t see
Marko – it’s not a measurement in the way we’ve measured things before – are we “achieving” the goal of having kids love God and love others
Jeff – we have an idea because we look at the environment of our youth groups
Eric – what does it look like for a MS to be loved, markers are used: they know names, they invite them places, etc.
Marko – student leaders would give grades and be used as a starting point for discussion of the atmosphere of love
April – a lot of it comes from asking questions, it’s a feel, when it comes to planting seeds and not seeing results – is it just mindset on how you interact, teach JH
Kurt – even the markers can be off, certain kids will “feel” better if they are popular, etc, - this muddies the measurement
Nate R - had kids on 3×5 card write answers to certain questions so you get 300 stories, you will be amazed at the response
Nate S – how do you partner with parents and encourage what they’re encouraging while trying to teach this gospel
Jeff – let the parents know what we’re teaching, educate them as to what’s priority
Sean – learning from parents what they are teaching and help them with resources