Back in the Game

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So my sabbatical time in January has come and gone, and I am back in the game at Oregon Trail Church of God. Last Sunday I shared with the church a few reflections from my time away, and I will pass them on to you here as well.

There were 3 pre-determined aspects:

  • Visit other churches
    • This was very fruitful and I enjoyed interviewing pastors and visiting their churches. I can honestly say that I felt God’s presence and witnessed Him working in every church I attended. They were all different sizes, styles, and targeted audiences; but are all accomplishing great things for God’s kingdom.
  • Start a new book
    • Started is the key word here. I was definitely reminded how much work it is to write a book. After taking a few year hiatus from consistently writing it was hard to get back into any kind of rhythm. However I did make progress on the book, enough that I need to evaluate my true intensions with it before doing much more. Self publish again? Seek a traditional publisher?…I don’t know.
  • Ski a lot
    • Thanks to our lack of snow this winter, this did not materialize as hoped. However I did enjoy two good powder days with good friends, so that is a definite win!

I also completed some home projects, built some furniture, read a few books, and did a lot of praying and reflecting.

The major overall takeaway for me was three fold:

  • I needed this time more than I first realized
  • I can’t imagine doing anything else right now other than pastoring this church
  • I am very excited for what the upcoming months and years holds

The hardest part of my sabbatical was surrounding our adoption. I expected this to be a time of completion, God showed me it was really a time of preparation. God and I had a lot of conversations about this. I am happy to say that God was not silent, however He didn’t say what I wanted to hear. There were two songs that God used to work on my heart with:

Thy Will by Hillary Scott & The Scott Family

Even If by Mercy Me 

Hopefully these songs might help you as much as they did me.

Maureen and I are still hopeful that God will complete what He has started, we have faith that God will complete our family, we just don’t know when or how. Even through the disappointment and struggle I can truthfully say that my heart has arrived at being able to say “Thy will be done” and “It is well with my soul” regarding God’s plan for this adoption – it has taken me a while to get there.

In the mean time, here is our family profile (again), so please spread it around as much as you can. This is the most recently updated version, so even if you have looked before, please look at it again. We are relying on word of mouth and God to connect us to our baby girl. Thank you to those that continue to pray and share our profile over and over again.

January 2018

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Hello! As you already know (especially if you are a follower, if anyone is still left) that I have not been writing for almost three years. When I came to Oregon Trail and jumped into being a Lead Pastor, one of the commitments I made to God and my wife is that I would leave the writing/speaking life behind and focus 100% on the church and on our family. This decision has been a good one and I have no regrets. God has been so good to me in so many ways.

Now, as I start a whole new year, I have a few things on my mind that I would like to share:

  1. Thank you Brian Wangler for letting me come share with your staff a seminar I have not taught in a few years. I had a blast getting to meet your staff and hang with you, hopefully I wasn’t too rusty. And thank you God for letting me experience something I truly love doing again, I hope to do more in the future if God allows.
  2. Thank you Oregon Trail for granting me a one month sabbatical time, with one of the goals being to start writing another book. I have no idea if this book will be published or not…but I feel I need to write it anyway. Stay tuned for what God will do with that, if anything.
  3. Thank you for praying with me as my family has entered into the journey of adoption. We have yet to bring a baby girl into our family, but are trusting God to finish the story. We have done everything we can do until we get connected to a birth mom, all the paperwork is done, home study is approved, and lawyer waiting. God has to do His part now. Please continue to pray and share our updated family profile (see below) with anyone who will look at it, we have faith that she is out there and God will unite us.

Thanks for reading and thank you for praying!

Seidel Family Profile updated

Adding to our family

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Hello,

Obviously I have not posted on here in a long time. Blogging is just not something I feel God leading me to do at this season of life and ministry. However, Maureen and I do feel this is the right season to actively pursue adoption. This is something we have talked about our entire marriage, but never felt it was the right time to move forward. Recently we have seen a green light from God, so here we go. We have started the adoption process, and we are doing everything we can do in our power to find Claire. We are trusting God to do His part; to connect us with Claire and add her to our family. Please check out our family profile, and share it with whoever you can. Thanks for praying for our family, we are excited to see how God pulls this one off!

SeidelFamilyProfile

Free Books!!

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Both of my books are free on Kindle for a limited time, so go get them while you can!

http://www.amazon.com/Flimsy-Ministry-Foundation-Your-Youth/dp/0985484705/ref=la_B009ICAF4W_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1455033484&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.com/Create-Irresistible-Volunteer-Culture-Seidel-ebook/dp/B00KE8QQQ0/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

My hope and prayer is these books can be a blessing to many people, please spread the word!!

Long Overdue Update

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Light purple stacked clear pagesAs I logged into this site today, I realized it has been six months since my last post, wow how time flies by.  So much has happened in these past months with changing jobs (and churches), selling our house, building a new house (that is almost done!), and starting a whole new chapter for the Seidels.

Obviously blogging, along with speaking, selling books, and anything other than a smooth transition for my family and church has been on the back burner.  For that reason, likely hardly anyone will actually read this post, but thank you if you have stuck with me this far.

I’m not making any promises on whether this site will even stay up, I am seeking God and evaluating everything as I decide what I will pursue and not pursue moving forward.

However, I am excited to report that God has truly been with me every
step of this transition, and I see Him continuing to work every day.  I feel incredibly blessed to be leading Oregon Trail Church of God and I am excited to watch God move in this church and our surrounding community.

I invite you to jump over to our freshly launched church website and check out some of what I have been up to.  oregontrailchurch.com

A New Chapter

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Today some big news for me and my family finally went public to our church family, and now I will share it with you…so glad to finally let the cat out of the bag!

 Dear Cloverdale Church Family,

 I have some bittersweet news to share with you; I have accepted a call to be the lead pastor at Oregon Trail Church of God in Caldwell Idaho.

About six months ago I was approached about this possibility. Maureen and I have prayed and agonized over this decision. I am excited for what God will do through me and my family as we enter this new chapter of our life and ministry. At the same time, I am sad to resign my position at Cloverdale. For the past 13 years and 2 months you, the Cloverdale family, have walked with me through many milestones- memories I will cherish for my lifetime. I truly love you all and am thankful that the relationship between Oregon Trial and Cloverdale will not only continue but grow stronger with this change. As the Seidels make our move to Middleton, we ask that you keep us in your prayers as God continues to work out the details. We won’t be too far, just the other side of the valley, so we will still see you around at times. Thanks again for all the love you have shown and continue to show me and my family.

 In His Grip,
Pastor Brian

As I mentioned in the letter, this is has been a long process for me and Maureen, and one that we were not seeking ourselves.  Perhaps some future posts will come with more details of how God worked on us and many others as we sought His will.  But, I will say now that we are excited and anticipating God’s continued leading and blessing through this transition and next chapter of our life and ministry.

Fundraising – A Necessary Evil

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Every youth ministry has to deal with it…unfortunately.  I have fielded several phone calls this week alone about it.  There is an abundance of ideas on how to do it yet many of them are not good ones.  The worst is youth ministries are not the only group or organization out there that has to fundraise, so competition is high.  In our family budget, we literally have an envelope designated for giving away to fundraisers, and we have to say “no” more than we say “yes”.

There are lots of questions surrounding fundraising.  Use a company or do it yourself?  Seek dollars from the community (like a car wash) or from inside your church (like a spaghetti dinner)?  Do you sell something or provide a service?  How much money is a reasonable investment before hand?  What percentage of profit makes it worth your time?  How do you split up the proceeds?  Most of the answers to these questions will change based on your specific situation and need, which just makes this whole issue more complex.

Wow…deep breath needed after all that.  Let me tell you about the best fundraiser we have ever done, and we continue to do it every year.  In fact, I have had 3 people specifically ask when we will start doing it again.  Yes, you read that right, people are calling me begging to donate to our mission trip.

We call it “hire a youth”, and it really is that simple.  We put an article in our church bulletin asking families to hire a youth student if they need extra help around the house.  Yard work, moving, house cleaning, anything they need help with.  They contact me with how many students they would like and when, then I call down the list of students who have signed up to work and put a crew together.  Once the work is complete they donate straight into the students trip account.  Here are a few reasons why this literally is the best fundraiser we have done or ever will do:

It is 100% profit

If a fundraising company calls me I tell them unless they can offer me 85% profit or more I am not interested, those conversations are quick!  There is no upfront cost (other than my time to coordinate) and we keep every penny that is donated.  We keep it purely by donation, and if people ask I say we have no set price, whatever they can pay.  Yes we have a few people every year that give $10 for a several hour job.  But we also have people that have paid over a $100/hour for raking leaves, to every person on the crew!

The people that do the work get the money

You know it is true, there is always the student or leader that shows up late to the car wash and takes the easiest jobs once they arrive yet still gets an even cut of the proceeds.  Since we have each person raise their own account, if they work they get money, if they don’t they don’t.  Much easier to do with a 3 person crew and specific jobs than with large group events.

We actually help people as we make money

Since we have been doing this several years now, people count on the help every year.  They are getting the help and labor they need AND get to support our trip.  They also see how hard of workers our students are, so they know their money is going to a trip where we will make some real impact.  People love it.  And I love that we are not asking them to buy cookie dough they don’t want or a discount card they will never use or get their car washed for the 5th time in a week.

It provides great relational opportunities

Over half of our regular “customers” are the older generation in our church, who are also great cooks.  Several crews have stayed an extra hour after the work is complete to eat a meal that was provided, or even to just finish the conversation.  I love to see them interact with students at church that have worked in their yards.  Several students report afterward “I didn’t do hardly any work, we just talked most of the time.”  It also gives us a jump start on the unity of our mission team, since the leaders work along with the students we already know each other and have worked together before we go on the actual mission trip.

It builds up our church in the community

People in our church have loved the crews so much they brag to their friends.  We have had people call and hire crews that don’t go to church at all (of course we make sure an adult leader goes too).  It has been an incredible tool for reaching out and helping our community.  One year the Dad of one of the students went back to an un-churched families house the next day and repaired their gutters after meeting them the day before, what an awesome way God can work!

I have had my share of fundraiser horror story experiences, and I am sure you have too.  But this is one idea that has turned into gold.  As you can see, many of the benefits are way better than any profit we raise.  What golden ideas do you have for fundraising?

Mission Trip Top 10

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After going on nearly 20 short term trips as a participant or the lead I have picked up several tips and tricks along the way. I have put them in order based on when you would do it in the planning process, not in order of importance. Here are my top ten:

10. Know your purpose

This may seem obvious, but not all trips will fulfill the same purpose. If your main goal/purpose for your trip is to serve and accomplish a task (like a building project) then make sure everyone knows that. If your primary goal/purpose is fellowship and team building people who just want to get the job done will get really frustrated. It does vary between organizations, so know what you are looking for before you get started.

9. Research the organization or decide to do it all yourself

I have done it myself and gone with organizations. As you probably already know, there are plusses and minuses to both. Doing it all yourself is a lot more work but it will likely be cheaper. I prefer going with an organization. They have local contacts and knowledge of what’s needed that I can never get, and it allows me to go and serve with our group and let them manage our schedule. Most of the ones I have used have been great experiences.

8. Get your dates out in January

Once you have nailed down enough details to get a date, publish it as soon as possible. My goal is to have the dates out by new years. Some years this is easy to do, others have been a struggle. Families need to know your dates early so they can plan their own vacations or family commitments. Parents have told me they have literally had fights over going on the mission trip instead of the family reunion, help families out by publishing your dates early.

7. Require a non-refundable deposit to sign up

Everyone has good intentions, and a ton of students will show interest in your trip when you first announce it. If you make them write a check it forces them to think through everything before they sign up, not after. The words “non-refundable” are very powerful, use it to your advantage. Make it enough money that it will force a discussion within their family. Some parents will throw out $5 without thinking, but $50 definitely makes them ask questions. Apply this deposit to the total cost of the trip so the only way it will be wasted is if they drop out.

6. Do individual fundraising

I do not like “group fundraising”. I charge every student the actual cost of their trip, and it is their responsibility to raise the money. We do fundraising events as a group, but divide it among those that actually do the work and put it into their individual accounts. If the group has a large goal, 20% of the team will raise most of the money. That fact really bugs me. By making the fundraising optional and tracking individual accounts only the ones that work benefit from it. Ones that don’t want to participate don’t have to, and they pay for their trip however they decide to.

5. The worship/devotions are just as important as the projects

One advantage of going with an organization is they typically do the evening devotion. If they don’t provide one or you are doing it yourself make sure you put some time into planning these. Everyone will experience many things on your trip, and the evening devotions pull it all together and connect their service to their Spirituality. It all works together, so don’t focus too much on the projects and neglect the devotion times.

4. Plan every second possible

Literally schedule as much as possible. You don’t have to be busy the entire time, in fact rest time is a must, but schedule it in on purpose. Type up meal times, devotion times, project time, down time, travel time, lights out times, and anything else you can think of. Print it, pass it out, remind people of the schedule constantly and then actually stick to it as much as you can. If you don’t have a schedule you will be fighting the slow pokes the entire time and likely will not do devotions after the first few days…(re-read #5 if you need to).

3. Do pre-trip meetings

I have had many people comment to me how great our groups are to host, and pre-trip meetings have a lot to do with it. By doing some team building activities, talking through the details, and Spiritually preparing for the trip will jump start the effectiveness of the week. If you take advantage of this pre-trip time, your team will “come together” several days earlier once you are actually on the trip, which makes their effectiveness go up exponentially.

2. Confirm all reservations and details right before you leave

If you have done your work well this step seems a bit redundant, but there is nothing worse than standing in an airport with 35 people and no confirmation numbers. Go over directions with all your drivers so many times they roll their eyes when you mention “drivers meeting.” Make sure the rental company inputted the right code for 12 passenger van, you don’t want to end up with three compact cars. All of these have either happened to me (when I didn’t do this) or were avoided because of this step.

1. Pray through the entire process

This should be number ten and number one. Pray about your purpose and need for a trip before you start this process. Pray through the entire thing, and pray as much as possible during the trip. If God is not a major part of your trip, then you are just a recreational tour guide. The whole point is for God to work through your group wherever you go and whatever you do and to change the heart of every team member. God can’t do any of this if you don’t invite him along.

As I write these ten, I just keep thinking of more that I should have put on here… What would you add to the list?

It’s Saturday

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Here we are, Saturday of holy week.  Have you ever wondered why Saturday is a part of holy week?  I really haven’t ever thought about it until today; but I think God must have had a reason for waiting 3 days.

Obviously we know the significance of Friday.  Christ died on Friday, everything came to a head, it all hit the fan.  Jesus said he was going away and it happened.  Everyone that wanted Jesus out of their life and off the religious scene finally got their way.  God turned his back to sin and Jesus finished it.

And we have Sunday, the resurrection.  Time to celebrate that God solved the equation, God is still a righteous judge, the wages of sin is still death, and yet I can be forgiven by grace.  The cross is empty, Jesus is alive, and suddenly everything makes sense.  Sunday is the year of jubilee, life is good, and I know the truth and it has set me free.

But what about Saturday?  Think about the disciples on Saturday.  Just a few days ago they were still kicking it with Jesus and all was fine.  Now Jesus is dead and they are left to pick up the pieces.  Imagine mentally going over everything Jesus said and did, wondering what exactly everything meant, and wondering what might happen next.  Everything changed in the matter of a few hours and here they are, alone.  Imagine Peter on Saturday, that had to have been the longest 3 days of his life.  I can imagine the one word that would define Saturday is silent.  Silent Saturday.

As I think about this, I realize there have been several times in my life and in my faith that it has been Saturday.  I have hit rock bottom and I know what I hope for, but all I find is silence.

Perhaps you look around and it is Saturday in your life.  Maybe it is Saturday in your ministry.  We all have Saturdays.  But you know what?  Sunday will come.  God will show up.  It might be only a day away, or perhaps it might be longer, but no matter what know that Sunday is coming!

You are Making a Difference!

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After working in youth ministry for more than 15 years I know that discouragement can be a normal emotion.  I know what it feels like to wonder if you are making a difference.  I want to take a minute to silence that voice in your head and replace it with a loud and clear KEEP GOING, YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

One of the biggest reasons these feelings are so common is because teenagers (and our society) are not typically good at saying thank you.  Maureen and I recently had a few different experiences that were exactly the opposite; I hope they are as encouraging to you as they have been to us.

My wife Maureen spent an evening hanging out with some of the girls from her small group, and later that night she stumbled on to this post:

sadee instagram

Then on a recent trip to Texas for some meetings I had lunch with a former student who graduated from our youth ministry almost 10 years ago.  She is recently married, is doing well in the business world, and her faith is growing and as strong as ever.  She shared how her time at Cloverdale and the influence of the pastors and leaders in her life has really made her into the woman of God she is today.

brittini If you are just starting out in ministry, know that experiences like these are around the corner, keep going.  Be faithful to the call God has given you, and I hope you will see similar fruit as God changes lives through your efforts.