Northwest Ministry Conference, March 19-21 in Seattle, WA

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nwmincon 2

 

I am honored and humbled to be included in this list! I am also excited to share some things I learned while leading a team of volunteers for all these years.  If you are going to this conference I hope to see you and connect in some way while we are there.  If you aren’t already going, I think you should consider it.  Jump over to their website and check out all the details and get registered.

Simple yet Effective

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Distracted.

This word is quickly becoming the definition of our culture.  There is so much to consume, so much to read, watch, and play.  Every moment can easily be filled with a swipe of the screen.  Yet, with all the access we could ever want, is it helping us to accomplish what God has entrusted to us to accomplish?

Time management and busyness have always been major issues in ministry.  The real question should be if we are spending our time on things that really matter.  What sucks time out of your day that with one small adjustment could return huge time dividends?

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

For me it is email.  Every time I grab my phone I check it…all four email addresses.  And almost every time there are new messages; mainly because of all the lists my addresses have ended up on.  Realizing how much time I waste deleting emails, I have started unsubscribing from many of them.  Although the time I get back is minimal at first, the biggest return is my distraction level.

What simple yet effective change can you make in your daily routine?  Is it using the unsubscribe link, or limiting social media time, or just closing the door to your office?  A seemingly small change can return big results. I dare you to make a change!

Family is more important than we think…

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Reflecting on the Thanksgiving weekend we all just experienced, I was reminded of this post from last spring and thought it would be fitting as we navigate yet another holiday season.

Today I taught Launch Pad, a Christian religious release class in public school.  Today’s class was about how God is a God of joy and delight.  Being happy and having fun truly can be an act of worship!

The last part of the class we all sat in a circle, ate ice cream, and went around the circle sharing a bit about our lives.  We all answered two questions:

1. What is one thing you are looking forward to doing this summer, and how will that bring joy into your life?

2. Describe one person that you have observed in your life that truly lives out the joy of the Lord.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I was a bit surprised by the majority of the answers.  There were a few of they typical/predictable answers.  But the majority of the students mentioned an activity like a trip or camping or vacation.  Why did it bring them joy? “Because I will get to be with my family.”  Literally almost every student mentioned that.

And then the second question; literally half of the students said a grandparent.  A few others answered one or both of their parents.  Not a single one identified their youth pastor or youth leader, and these are all students that are at least loosely connected to a church youth group.

If you are a parent or a grandparent: your influence is HUGE in a teenager’s world

I realize teenagers don’t always say thank you and sometimes it doesn’t seem like they care if you are involved in their life.  But they are listening and they are watching, and they care for you A LOT.

If you are a youth worker: you need to be encouraging and helping families

If you truly care about teenagers’ faith growing (and I know you do), your efforts need to include parents and multiple generations.  I have heard it said for my entire youth ministry tenure–the #1 influence in a teenager’s life is their family.  That was once again proved accurate today.

What are you doing to support and/or encourage parents in your church?

How are the multiple generations within your church interacting with each other?

Obvious Yet Often Overlooked

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There is something about teenagers that every youth worker needs to realize.  This is going to happen to 100% of the students in every ministry.  It is never a major surprise when it happens but often times it is tragic.

 They get to old to attend youth programs.

The typical youth ministry does a pretty bad job of preparing teenagers for this, which is one of the major contributing factors to one of the most embarrassing statistics attached to youth ministry; the percentage of graduates that remain in the church.  (I believe there are several contributing factors to this, not just this one)

What has been the typical response when this inevitable event occurs?  If your church counts weekend attendance using more than 3 zeros you transition them on to the 18-24 year old program.  If not, we either send them off to “big church” not expecting to ever see them again or we make them a volunteer leader in the youth ministry.  Any of these, especially in smaller churches, have minimal rates of success (typically) and sometimes produce more problems.

I have been working with teenagers for 15 years, and my personal track record does not beat the average of how many of those former youth group members are actively living for and serving God.  Here are a few hard questions we need to ask ourselves:

 Does relationship end at the same time as their program attendance?

The core message of the Bible is relationship; with God, with other Christians, and with the world.  Even guys I have personally discipled for years I hardly ever (or never) talk to after graduation.  Yes, there is a list of excuses, not to mention the list of new students that come in as the old ones graduate, but I am embarrassed to admit how bad I am at keeping in touch.

Ultimately it is not MY relationship with them that matters most, but their relationship with God.  If all we have done in our four to six years with them is attaching their faith to our programs we are setting them up for failure.  They need to know how to grow in their faith on their own, not just at church.

What is my real goal for them?

Is the goal of youth ministry behavior modification?  For a lot of parents, church boards, and even youth workers it is.  I realize how bad that sounds, but if we feel successful based on how many students are in the church’s graduating class, and how many of those are still virgins and/or don’t have a criminal record then it probably is.

Our goal for them needs to be spiritual transformation.  Programs can certainly aid in that goal, but they are just a means to this goal, not the goal itself.  A lot of what I see in the youth ministry world is program ideas.  I need some more spiritual transformation ideas.  I know how to entertain students, I am still trying to figure out more ways I can aid God in transforming them from His creation to His child.  How can I help them move God from just savior to actually being their Lord?  From trying so hard to blend into the world to sharing God’s heart and wanting to change the world?

Every student that I meet is going to get too old to attend our youth ministry.  I don’t want to be a part of setting them up for failure any longer.  Are you with me?  What are some of your “spiritual transformation” ideas?

Training Seminar in Boise

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resolve flyerJust wanted to let you in on this training I am involved with in Boise coming up soon.  If you are within driving distance I hope you will consider this as an option for training not just yourself but your team of leaders as well.  You can check out more details and register online by clicking here.

Comment with any questions as well, hope to see you on November 8th!

*FYI these conferences are available to be done in other locations as well, resolve has several options on their website and you can see the seminars I offer on my speaking page.

Real Men Cry About the Right Things 3

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As I have been continuing to think about this series of posts, I want to conclude these by looking at scripture so me, and you, will not be focused on me or my ideas, but on God.

I in no way have meant to imply that if you don’t cry that you aren’t a real man.  My hope for both you and me is that we will be exactly what God created us to be.  If that includes crying, then no need to hide it.  If it doesn’t, then don’t fake it.

To wrap up this series, I want you to read some of God’s opinion of what a real man is really like.  I focused on 3 identities that are pretty common for most men: God’s child, a husband, and a father.  I feel like I have not even scratched the surface of what God has to say.  Please read through these verses, and feel free to add the ones that I didn’t.

Mark 10:6-8 (NIV) 6 “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’7 ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,8 and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh.9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NIV) 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

1 Peter 3:7 (NIV) 7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Ephesians 5:21-28 (NIV) 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Colossians 3:19 (NIV) 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

Colossians 3:21 (NIV) 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

1 Corinthians 6:18-20, 7:1-5 (NIV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

Proverbs 19:18 (NIV) 18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.

Proverbs 23:13 (NIV) 13 Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die.  14 Punish them with the rod and save them from death.

Hebrews 12:7-11 (NIV) 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live!10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20 (NIV) 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Real Men Cry About the Right Things 2

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As I continue my thoughts about this topic, I have to say that most of my life I have felt embarrassed when I cry.  In fact, I have been putting off writing this post for days partly because of that embarrassment.  Yet, as I think about what makes me cry I should feel honored, not embarrassed.

I cried when I was baptized.

I cried at my wedding. 

I cried at the birth of all three of my boys.

I cried at my ordination service. 

I have always said “the only 2 things that make me cry is my family and when God works.”  As I think back to all the times I have cried (like the times listed above) and the times I have not cried (like when I felt the most intense physical pain of my life after my bike wreck) that statement really is true.  My struggle and embarrassment about being a crier comes with how our world defines “a man.”  The traditional world view is that men don’t cry, or feel emotions, or ever say I love you.  A friend and speaker recently said “if your wife knows you will die for her submission is not a problem.”  This statement really made me think, and truthfully challenged me.  I tell my wife I love her every day, but does she know I will fight for her, even die for her and our boys?  I hope she does because I would.

I disagree with the traditional world view of manhood. 

I think real men cry about the right things.  I think real men love their wives and kids so much they will die for them and actually tell them that.  I think real men lead by example.  I think real men invite accountability.  I think real men find a balance between discipline and love.  I think real men are strong enough to be the Spiritual leaders of their households.  I think real men work hard, play hard, and love even harder.

I love it when I see other guys striving to be real men.  This past week I had a former student from our youth ministry, who is now married, call and ask to use me as an accountability partner in the X3 program he was putting on his computer.  He was nervous and embarrassed, but I am proud of him for stepping up.  I was also proud to tell him I have the same accountability software on my computer, and have my report emailed to my wife so she never questions my online activity.

If you need help with online accountability go here and get the free program from XXX Church.

Are you a real man?  Are you striving to be one like I am?  I hope so because our world seems to be short on them.  From my own boys, to the guys in my youth ministry and church, they need to see a lot of good examples of real men.  So do the guys in your world.    Whether you are a crier or not, you can be a real man with God’s help and grace.

 

Real Men Cry About the Right Things

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Have you heard about the movie Courageous, if you haven’t you should.  Here is the official movie website: http://www.courageousthemovie.com/

Seeing that movie, and the message it screams loud and clear, has pushed me to write this post.  Truthfully this post has been on my heart for a long time but I have been putting it off, mainly because it hits so close to my heart.  It is close to my heart for several reasons:

1. I am a man

2. I am Dad to 3 boys

3. I am mentoring other men

4. I am in a place of authority over teenage guys as a pastor

5. I love God with all my heart

6. Anyone who knows me fairly well has seen me cry

My struggle with this is based on what our society views as “manly”.  Number five and six in the above list could have the phrase “un-manly” tagged on them.  In a recent marketing campaign for a beer company they poke fun at un-manly things, which just drives home the fact that our society (and you) know what I am talking about.

I think our society has for the most part given men a free pass from being real men.  It is OK for Dad’s to be disengaged with their kids if present at all.  It is OK for men to engage in pornography and ignore their wives.  It is OK for mothers to take the initiative and be the Spiritual leaders of our families.  It is OK for men to ignore their emotions and never tell their wives or kids they love them.  The more I read scripture, and get to know God better, the more every ounce of my being wants to scream IT IS NOT OK!!

As this has been stewing in my mind over the past few months I have heard and experienced a few things that just showed me more and more how true this is.  While listening to the radio I heard this quote “men in our society are passionate about things that don’t matter and ignore the things that matter most.”  One thing that I like, and a lot of men can be very passionate about is football.  By living in Boise, ID and being a Boise State football fan I automatically get into the middle of “heated” conversations about the BCS and how we don’t belong and little kids tables and yada yada yada (Yawn) with anyone outside of the treasure valley.

A few months ago I was at a conference with a lot of youth workers from all over the nation.  At dinner one night the conversation at the table turned to football, and once it did I started preparing myself for what was about to happen, and then it did happen.  One of the other youth workers brought up the BCS and quickly became visually agitated about sitting at the table next to a BSU fan.  From that moment his body language and the tone at the entire table shifted.  Suddenly there was an invisible wedge between me and rest of the room, which lasted for days with this specific guy.

If you want to talk football then fine, I have no problem with you being passionate about your team.  My problem is that this topic has NO eternal value, and yet it created tension between me and this other youth worker.  I assume he is a good guy, and I am sure he loves God and loves students, but I don’t know for sure because he would not talk to me after that encounter.  I don’t understand how something like football can hinder us being on the same team for God, and working together to further His kingdom among teenagers.

To be continued…

Change = Ripples

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Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of zirconicusso at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the last several months of my ministry life there is one word that covers every aspect: change.  As I have navigated through this season I have been reminded of a lesson I have learned many times before.

Every change has ripples.

Think about a nice smooth lake or pond.  It is calm, predictable, everything is working fine.  But if a rock gets tossed into the water, not only does it make a splash (the initial change), it also creates waves and ripples that permeate from that spot and move further and further away in every direction.

It is pretty common knowledge that most people don’t like change.  But I don’t think that is entirely true—most people can deal with a change, it is the ripples they don’t like and are scared of.  And often times even good leaders don’t consider the ripples before making a decision.

Even an obvious change that is needed and good can still have ripples you haven’t thought of or didn’t see coming.  A simple example: I change my diet and exercise routine to lose weight and be healthier, but it also effects my entire family.  Time spent working out is time away from my family.  Meals need to be planned and prepared differently.  The cost of the gym membership changes our budget.  The ripples start to really matter pretty quickly.

Whatever you are leading, whatever decision you are facing, whatever change you so desperately want to make, before you do anything—think about the ripples.

It’s Not ALWAYS Harvest Season

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I was looking through some old articles and I found this one that I wrote two and a half years ago.  A lot has happened since I wrote this, a lot of which I had no idea was coming.  But because of doing the things I described in this article, I feel confident in saying the harvest is finally here again! I hope this can be an encouragement to you, no matter what season your ministry is in.

Here is the original article:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

 I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make.  Are you ready, here it comes…

My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.

I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that.  To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.

The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t.  In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:

Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

My question is this: what made Jesus so upset?  Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson.  Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in.  If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit.  But “it was not the season for figs.”  The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was.  It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.

To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t.  Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that.  But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.

 What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?

I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:

Seek God more than you ever have before

Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting…  All of the above-at the same time!

Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.

During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest.  It may be something that needs to change about you.  It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment.  Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)

Plow

I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests.  If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.

 Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

 Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it.  Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off.  Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done.  Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.

Keep going and give God your best no matter what

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful.  The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest.  Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.

The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner.  I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.