Monday, November 09, 2009

Curriculum Writing: Yours or Someone else's

This past week I finished up a 4 week series in Elijah that I got from I heard Craig gives this series and I really liked it so I decided to teach it. I was amazed at the fact that when I went to their website to listen to the sermons again, they had all their graphics, banners, outlines and sermon notes for free. This got me more excited to teach the series and so I moved forward.

I have always used some form of prepared curriculum in our small groups, Sunday school and rarely for our large group lessons. I really liked the Elijah series and the use of their graphics, especially since our ministry doesn't have a graphics dept. I know there are some youth pastors who have issues with using curriculum that isn't original but I see it as a benefit to those who need it.

Here are some benefits to using purchased curriculum.

  1. Saves time - Not every youth pastor is fulltime paid and therefore need toanage their time in a different way. Using curriculum saves time and effort that can be used in other areas of the ministry
  2. Gives a better lesson - not every youth worker is gifted at developing a good lesson. As weird as this may seem, it is true
  3. More structure/graphics - A lot of mega-churches today are putting their lessons/sermons online for people to use. This includes lessons, outlines and especially graphics. This is a huge vendor to churches who may not have the talent or money to have their own graphics department.

Now, with that being said, I did find some problems with myself during this series.  There were times in the series when I thought everything worked and times when I just felt that everything fell flat.  Here are three pieces of advice for using pre-built curriculum.

  1. Don't use it word for word - This may be ok for a once off lesson but if you are doing a 3-6 week series, don't just pull it out of the box and try to read it off.  Make sure you read through it and know what is being said.  
  2. Adjust for your audience - Don't assume that a series that worked in another church will translate directly over to your group.  The series I used was delivered to adults, so I had to make adjustments and change it over for students.  Also, I am not Craig, so I had to adjust the stories and illustrations that he used.
  3. Do your own small study - Make sure you know that material more than just reading it.  While I used the pre-built series, I also did my own study on Elijah, read the chapters several times and did my usual lesson prep.  When I didn't do this, the lesson felt flat.
  4. Trust the Holy Spirit - Know that whether you wrote the lesson or are using someone else's, the Holy Spirit needs to be involved and can sometimes take over.  We need to allow for this and not expect to run things ourselves.

I have no problems using pre-built series but make sure that you adjust them for your own audience.  Remember, the person writing that series has written it for their specific audience and it won't always transfer directly to yours.  Make sure that the series is the right fight for your audience and not just something you think is cool.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Disciplining Students: Follow the 3R's

We all know the disciplining students is never fun.  We hate to be the bad guy.  Unfortunately this is an issue that every ministry has to deal with.  Remember that disciplining students is not about anger or fear but about controlling the situation and respect for the other students.  Sometimes students who are being disruptive need extra love and support and other times they are just causing problems.  It is up to you to determine the situation.  Make sure that no matter what you do, you let the student know they are loved and accepted but that they are expected to maintain a certain level of respect for the group.  

Here at Flite Ministries we follow the 3R Rule.  Remind, Reseat and Remove.  On the first instance (whatever you deem that to be) we Remind the student why they are there.  In the case of small groups, some students may just not want to be there but reminding them helps them to know that there are students who do want to be there.  If the disruptions continue, Reseat the student somewhere else.  In a small group setting, you may want to bring that student next to one of the adults in the group.  We hope that by Reseating a student, that will take away some temptations for them to cause disruptions.  Finally, if the student continues being disruptive, we need to Remove them from the small group.   Normally this is a phone call to the parents to come pick up their student. 

If you decide to make a phone call to parents, follow these steps: 
  1. If you are an adult leader (not the Youth Pastor), let the Youth Pastor know what you are doing.
  2. Have the student call the parents, letting them know that they need to be picked up and why.
  3. Talk to the parents (on the phone) after the student does, explaining the steps that were taken and the reasons that student is being asked to leave.
  4. Wait with the student until the parent arrives, making sure to speak with the parent about what has happened and letting them know that their student is welcomed back next week.
I hope that it never comes to removing a student from the small group but sometimes that is what is needed.  No matter what we do, we need to emphasize that we love the student and want them to be involved but that they need to respect you, the leader, and the other students who might want to learn something.  

If the student continues to be a problem in the following weeks, you may need to let the student know they need to take a season away from the small group (determine how long that might be) so they can decide if the small group is really where they want to be.  As much as we love having students here, we need to teach them about respect for the teachers and the other students.  By following the 3R's, we give the student plenty of opportunity to fix the situation.

There is never a good one-way to discipline students.  You always need to look at the student and the situation before moving forward.  You know your students and your adult leaders, so make sure to talk with them and empower them to make the decisions needed.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Worship, more than just music.

"In our life Lord, be lifted high".  Those are the words to the song blaring through my computer right now.  I am locked away and listening to some Hillsong United and feeling God fill me up.

How many of us take the time to allow God to work through us in worship?  In most churches, worship is limited to just the singing we do before preaching.  If you were to ask the average church attender, that is what you would hear.  This is a very limited few of worship.  If we think that only singing is worship, then some of us are missing the boat.  Worship is so much more.  Worship is allowing God to "be lifted high" in what we are doing.  Ultimately, the life we lead should be a continual worship of God.  

Luke 19:29-40 tells us  "Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!" “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  If we don't worship God, then His creation will do it.  We are His crowning jewel but if we don't live up to our call then someone else will do it.  I am learning more and more to allow other forms of worship to fill my time.  I love music and I always will.  I have a vast collection of music that sits on my iPod.  Sometimes I just sit and blare the music so that my own thoughts are blocked out and try to allow God to speak through the music.  In spite of this, I am using other forms of worship to move me.

This past Sunday at Refuel we talked about worship and participated in many different forms of worship.  I wasn't sure how the students would take it.  I figured some of them would enjoy it while others might be confused but we moved forward anyways.  I was amazed at our turnout and of those students who took it seriously.  I am thankful for Ginger, our prayer pastor, who came in and helped us.

During our time together we participated in the following types of worship:
  • Praise & Worship - Fliteline did a great job in leading us in musical worship.  They are doing a great job and the students are loving the new songs
  • Your Art - We gave the students time to practice their art. We told them to express what God has done in their life by using crayons, markers, play dough, scissors, glue and paper. Each of us has our own art or way to express ourselves and we wanted each student to find theirs.
  • Scripture Reading - Matt came on stage and read Psalm 23 to all of us.  I love his voice and he did a great job
  • Prayer Stances - This was the big part of our evening.  We went through 5 different prayer stances and focused on different areas of the students lives with each one.  The students formed groups of 3.
    • Kneeling - We confessed and committed ourselves to God so that we may be filled with him
    • Standing - We stood in the gap for our Government, Church and Families
    • Arms held high - Like Moses we lifted our arms to pray for the battles in our schools, our neighborhoods and our friends
    • Sat down - Each student took turns prayer for each other.  Laying on hands and lifting them up to God.
    • Circle Up, Hold Hands - We finished our prayer time by having Ginger pray for Flite Ministries. She prayed for all the leaders and students that we would continue to follow God and do His will.
  • Communion - Ginger served us communion and reminded us of why we do what we do and of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
We ended the night with Fliteline leading us in "Take It All" by Hillsong United.  I love the energy in the song and the way the students get into it.  I know this isn't a complete list and each of us could think of several different ways to worship God.  One thing I want the students to know is that we should be worshiping God 24/7/365.  We cannot limit our worship to a couple hours each week that we are in church.  We need to find time to worship his as we live our lives, no matter where we are or what we are doing.

*** I want to thank Jana Sarti at Saddleback Church of giving me the service they used during the PDYM SLC.
If you are interested in what we did, here is a link to my outline (adapted from Jana's)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Evangelism, Are you a fan?

When you hear the word 'Evangelism' what do you think about? For most Christians, it is a word that was commanded to us by Jesus. For those outside the church, it is a word that causes fear, anxiety and anger. In my 30 years in the church, I have seen many different models of sharing your faith, from the very extreme to the very subtle. Over time we have caused the world outside the church to run in fear when they hear that a Christian is coming. No matter how the world sees it, Evangelism is a commandment that Jesus gave us in Matthew. We are to tell the world the good news of Jesus Christ and share with people how He has changed our life. Some of us have no problems striking up a conversation, others of us are scared to death to talk to anyone about our faith, but still we are commanded. Evangelism is the life blood of any church. If people aren't sharing their faith, if we aren't vocal about our beliefs, then we are failing. You can contrast sharing our faith with talking about our favorite sports team. It's amazing the things we do and say as "fans" vs things we do and say as Christians.

We can look at Matt 5:14-16 and see that we are called to be more than what most of us are. 
14“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

We cannot be hidden.

I know for teenagers (and some adults) sharing your faith, really sharing your faith, is met with fear, confusion and anxiety.  Fear of being rejected or labeled.  Confused about what to say or how to say it.  Anxiety over making a fool of themselves.  I know it is easy to say we don't need to be worried about what other people think, but in reality it is very hard.

Doug Fields talks about (in his book PDYM) that sharing our faith is about living our lives so that Christ is shown and not us.  This way people will see us and wonder why we are different.  He also gave 5 easy steps to sharing  your faith.
  • Step 1. Tell your friend that you are a Christian (not just go to church)
  • Step 2. Invite your friend to an appropriate program (Refuel, FNF, Gross Night)
  • Step 3. Tell you friend why you are a Christian (do you know why) (GOSPEL)
  • Step 4. Tell your friend how you became a Christian (God story)
  • Step 5. Ask your friend if he/she would like to become a Christian
Looking at these 5 steps, we can easily share our faith with our friends and those we meet.  We don't need to badger or pound people into believing.  If we are the light the God calls us, people will see us and what to be like us.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Scheduling for the Summer, Should I ramp up or slow down...

This time of year there is always talk about whether or not to slow down during the summer.  My friend Tim Schmoyer even posted about the benefits of stopping your ministry (to a degree) during the summer.  You can read his blog at  

I tend to disagree with Tim somewhat but do love some of his reasoning.  Personally, our ministry makes some changes but doesn't shut down.  The only thing we will completely stop is small groups.  The changes we make allow us to work with a smaller staff to give those adult leaders who want it a break.  I understand that reasoning that some ministries slow down.  I talked with a YP who has over 800 students a week during the school year but during the summer he is less than 200, that is a huge change.  Sports, camps, vacations and everything else cause students and adults to be gone for ministry programming.

Personally, I believe that it is too hard to ramp up once schools begins.  I know there is a natural transition for some students, but I believe consistency works to your advantage.  While I know that a bunch of students are unavailable during summer but in some small part we need to continue to reach out to the student who doesn't get to go on vacation or who can't attend a sports camp.  

I think each ministry needs to evaluate their own personal needs during the summer.  So rather than giving a do or don't list, here are some things to think about...

1. How much more time do students have during the summer?  Use this to your advantage.  Plan each day/week to spend some one-on-one time with students.  For us, we do a thing called summer lunches.  Each week students are invited to come to lunch with me and my assistant.  They decide where we eat.  We go, hang out and come back to the church.  This provides a great time with them and we have some fun doing it.

2. Rather than stopping a piece of your ministry, can you change it?  We are normally split with Jr & Sr High but during this summer, we are combining to help with adult volunteers and to give the students a sense that kids are still coming.  If your numbers are way low, consider moving away from the church.  Take field trips instead of having a service at the church.

3. Low on adults, look for new adult leaders to help fill in.  If you have a big whole in adult leaders during the summer, consider finding some temp help.  Maybe you had your eye on someone but they didn't want to commit.  Get them to help for the summer, letting them know that they can leave once the summer is over.  Summer is only an 8-12 week commitment, so it might be easier to get out.  Who knows, maybe they will stay on once the fall begins.

I know in my own program, I do everything I can to build consistency in the kids.  I think this helps them as they are navigating the busyness of the rest of their lives.  Because of this, stopping or even slowing down during the summer isn't a real option.  I think we sometimes forget the kids who are left behind when we stop doing the ministry.  I know it is nice to stop or slow down during the summer but I thoroughly enjoy spending more time with students and mixing things up during the summer.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Book Review: The Shack by William P. Young

I think I am going to start writing reviews of all the books I read.

I downloaded the Shack onto my iPhone through the Kindle software. The Shack is the first book I have read entirely in digital form. I actually like this format because I have the book with me wherever I go since it is on my phone. I hadn't planned on reading this book until I found out that Pastor Steve was doing a sermon series and then some of the parents in our group were talking about it, so I decided to read it.

I didn't know anything about this book when I started reading it. I have never heard of the author either but I am glad I read it. The author did a fantastic job at bringing the story to life. I felt like I was in the story the whole time. Let me give you a brief overview (without spoiling the story). The book is about the story of Mack and his journey through a major tragedy in his life. Mack is like most of us in that we know who God is, but we don't always know God. The meat of the story takes place in what would seem a dream, as Mack interacts with his ideals of who God really is. He is rocked to his core and his beliefs are stretched as far as they can go. He battles inside himself until he is able to reconcile his ideas to the realities.

As I read the Shack, my own thinking was rocked. My ideas of who God is, what God wants from me and how I can accomplish that have been changed. I even used some of the thinking from the book in a lesson I did with my students.

I look forward to re-reading this book in paper form within the next couple weeks. Hopefully, I can do it before Pastor Steve starts his series on it.

I give this book an A-.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day Elizabeth

Today, millions of people will call their mom.  Many of them will fake it, just to be the good son or daughter.  Others will be genuine because they haven't seen their mom in months or years.  Beth and I both live 10+ hours from our moms, so Beth called hers this morning and I just called my mom in the late afternoon.

We ended up skipping our own church this morning because I had no responsibilities.  We visited Restore Community Church that meets at Park Hill High School.  I am Twitter friends with a couple of their tech people, so I figured we would see how the services were.  It was good stuff.  Weird going to a school for a church service, but they do a good job making it not feel like a school.  I enjoyed the message the pastor brought.  He looked at Mary, the mother of Jesus and talked about how she must have felt.  Talked about how mothers all over the world have those same feelings.  They did something really cool though.  They gave everyone a blank envelope and piece of paper inside.  The pastor told all of us to write a note and the church would send it for us.  I thought that was very cool and the kids wrote letters to their grandmother.

Today we also spent some time looking at old pictures.  It is amazing how things are changed.  My wife cried in seeing the photos of our kids as babies again.  I love my wife.  I know she struggles sometimes spending most of her time at the church.  I bought her an iPhone for Mother's Day and she is loving it.  Now she can't make fun of me for spending so much time on mine.  I am glad she liked it and hopefully it will help keep her organized.

I am thankful for the woman that God brought into my life.  The last 15 years have been an incredible journey and I just see them as getting better and better.  I don't always treat her like I should but she stays with me anyways...

Thank you Lord for Little Bit...

Friday, April 24, 2009

When my job seems to overtake my life?

I love my job.  I really do.  Now that I am here, I can't imagine doing anything else.  After years of running from what I knew God wanted me to be doing, I can't imagine going back.  Sometimes though, I love my job too much.  There are times when I don't think about my family when I schedule events for our ministry.  I let me wife look at the calendar and help me, but I will override her and do it anyways.  Luckily, that part is getting better.  I am trying to look at the calendar as a whole and seeing how many weekends I am going in a month or how many nights per week I am out.

Often times because I enjoy my job, I allow it to take away from my family.  Sometimes I spend too much time with students or I am in the office too much.  Events can seen to take over the calendar very quickly.  Looking at this summer, every other week I have some event that I am supposed to be a part of.  A few of them take me out of the state.  This takes a ton of time away from my family because I see the need in these events rather than investing in my own family.

A sad tale I will confess to is that we have not allowed our children to do sports because we couldn't find the time in our schedule.  I have known families that move heaven and earth for their child to play a sport  but we never got into it.  We didn't want to get sucked into the culture that say our children need to be actively involved in a sport almost everyday and if they miss a practice or game for any reason, they should be off the team.  We as parents can become obsessed with the success of our own children, so we continually pushing them to do more sports, to be more competitive and more of a winner.  Often times this obsession take over our life and pushes everything else out.  Family vacations become trips to sports camps (insert activity here if not sports).  Church because something we do when we aren't involved somewhere else.

When I was growing up, I used to race BMX.  I wasn't incredibly good at it, but it was something I enjoyed.  We missed church at least one weekend a month (if not more) to go out of town and participate in state races.  As we did this, it became easier for me to skip church, even when we weren't out of town.  On top of that, I also went to a private Christian school, so I thought I didn't need to go to church also.  All of this combined to make it easier for me to find excuses to miss church when I was on my own in college.  

Thankfully, my children have learned to like church and enjoy attending.  When we miss, they let us know it.  We do our best to keep them active in church and involved in programs that they like.  I have also begun to work through my calendar and adjust it so that I am home as much as possible.  My first priority is to my family, then to my ministry and I need to begin living like that.

My Challenge to You:  What does your family calendar look like?  Are you busy 7 days a week?  Do you find yourself missing church often because of sports/concerts/camps?  Talk as a family to decide what you can do to eliminate some of the busyness of your life.  Maybe it is limited your children to just one sport or saying no to another band.

My Prayer: God makes all of us long for you more than anything else.  Let us find our joy in spending time with our family and our church family.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What happened to family dinner around the table?

My parents used to have this giant, big dinning room table that would turn white when you got it wet.  I don't remember the type of wood it was, I just remember that it was dark and heavy.  The chairs were uncomfortable and hard to move.  My mom loved that table.  I remember that last time I heard about that table was after Hurricane Andrew when my dad told me the entire table and chairs were solid white because of the amount of rain that had gotten to them because the roof was ripped off our house. 

I talk about this table because when I was growing up I spent more hours at that table then I can count.  I would do homework there, play games and eat dinner.  We ate almost every dinner at that table.  I used to complain because my father would always eat on the couch and watch TV while the rest of us were made to eat at the dining room table.  I never thought it was fair but I knew it was important to my mom.

When I got married to Beth and we started talking about family, eating dinner at the table was an important piece.  We both knew the value of slowing down the day and sitting together for a meal.  We vowed to always eat there, but like everything else, life happens.  We started out strong and it was nice but as time went by and our lives got busier, it became easier to just eat on the couch than clean off the table.  The times when we did it were great.  We always had good conversations with the kids and loved just sitting there.

There is something about sitting around a table and having talks.  Giving your children the ability to tell you about their day while you eat.  Listening to stories of their playground time, or what they learned in math.  I have seen studies done saying that kids who eat dinner around the table do better in the world, probably because it means their parents have spent time with them, rather than just being relegated to their room.  I think being at the dinner table gives us time to talk to our children/teens about God and his impact on their life.  I think it shows them that we will stop everything else and spend time with them.  I think it says, you are important to me and I love you.

My challenge to you: Spend time at the dinner table.  Maybe not every night but at least 3.  If one is the max you have right now, start there.  If you do eat dinner at the table, make sure to have discussion with you kids.  Don't let them sit there with ipods or cell phones and you, the parent, don't sit there with a newspaper or cell phone.  Shut off the TV and the house phone.  Make the only sound in your house be the sound of talking at the table.

My Prayer: God, bless our tables and the food that we eat.  Make this a time of nourishment for our body and our souls.  Give each family open hearts and open minds, so that parents can be the spiritual leaders of their household and children are able to hear and understand the words of wisdom.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Why I don't pray with my kids?

Of all the things I am guilty of this is the worst and most obvious.  When my children were born, I vowed to be a better spiritual leader than my parents were (hardly any).  I had visions of me reading the Bible to them, and eventually have family devotions with them.  In some small way I started out right.  I prayed with my kids when I put them to bed.  Not every night but most nights.  They were eager to do it, like clockwork they would ask us to pray when we told them to go to bed.  As they got older, the prayer seemed to become an excuse to not go to bed or at least that is what I told myself.  Over time the asking faded away, till now it is almost non-existent.

I know that prayer is important and everyday I spend time in prayer.  Not always by sitting down and bowing my head but always trying to talk to God in the midst of my life.  Unfortunately that hasn't spread to my children.  We pray at meals when we think about it.  Sad to say, prayer isn't at the forefront of the Probus household, at least not from anything that can be seen.  This is horrible to admit and my stomach is churning because I know how wrong it is.  I have been convicted over and over about it.  When my great kids ask me to pray with them, I should be overjoyed and in awe of their innocence but instead I feel like it is a bother.  This is wrong on many levels, but especially wrong when you are a pastor.

As a youth minister, I would pray with any of my students who asked me, but when it comes to my own children, I am an epic failure.  Praying with my kids should be the first priority in my life and I should (and will) stop doing everything and pray with them.  I shouldn't make excuses or worry about if they are making them.  

God has given me three great, beautiful and smart kids.  Each of them unique and each have their own personality.  I love them all more than anything else and I need to treat them better.

My Challenge to you, don't be like me.  Pray with your students & children.  Pray with them at least once a day and not always just because of dinner.  If they look at you weird, take that as a compliment and keep going.  Ask them how you can pray for them.  Take prayer requests and joys.  Let them pray also.  We need to be in prayer for our families and we need to teach our children how to pray.  No matter how old your child or student is, praying will help them.  Join me in this endeavor.

Prayer: God, help me to raise Godly parents that know that talking to you is like talking to their best friend.  Let me lead my children by example, not just rules.  Keep the enthusiasm for you in the hearts of my children despite my own faults.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Problems with Parenting Series...

In the past I have posted blogs that dishonor parents by telling them what I think they should be doing with their students.  I posted blogs about sporting events versus church and how parents usually tend to lean toward sports first, church second.  Over the past few weeks I have really begun to think about the role of parents in the lives of our students and how I can help them and not just tell them what a bad job they are doing.
This summer I will enter a new stage in my ministry, my daughter will be a 'teenager' and be a part of my group.  This is weird on many levels but also puts me in the midst of the parents that I have criticized.  I have decided to turn the tables on my and blog about my short comings as a parent.  Over the next week I will talk about different areas of my life as a parent and how I need to improve it.  I am not perfect, nor do I expect other parents to be.  Hopefully we can all move together to be better Godlier parents to our students.

In our 5th grade parents meeting, I told them that my job was not to spiritually discipline their students but that it was their job to lead their students.  My job was just to help them be more Godly parents.  Not sure how many of them liked to hear that but I believe that is true, but that means I have more work to do.

Here is the schedule I will try to follow for the week:
Monday - Why I don't pray with my kids?
Tuesday - What happened to family dinner around the table?
Wednesday - When my job seems to overtake my life?
Thursday - Is Church first or just the only option?
Friday - Do as I say, not as I do?
Saturday - What happens when you aren't consistent with discipline?

Some of these topics might change during the week as I might delve in deeper on one area or another.  If you have something you wish for me to rite about, let me know and I will see what I can do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Loving the hard-to-love Teenager

Here is a video that was recording during the NYMC in Columbus, OH.  Tim has an incredible blog and you want to check out some of his other videos.

Monday, March 30, 2009

PDYM Recap...

PDYM was an incredible conference.  I was worried that I wouldn't get anything out of it since I had read the book and really didn't subscribe to Purpose Driven fully.  I used parts of it but never made the whole plunge.  This conference changed a lot of my thinking, not necessarily about being purpose driven but really about how I do ministry.  One thing I can say about the Saddleback Ministry crew is that they are very transparent.  They didn't hold anything back.  They made themselves to anyone who was at the conference.  I thought this as very cool.  

Here are a couple thoughts that I learned during the conference...

1. Not everyone has it together...  The Saddleback crew said over and over that they were changing things.  Sometimes we see large ministries and expect them to be doing everything right and perfect.  Doug and crew made it a point to say that they were always tweaking and changing things that didn't seem to be working

2. Smaller is better...  As big as Saddleback is, they strive to be smaller.  They strive on small groups and I even heard Kurt say one time that if he had to choose, he would keep small groups rather than the large group.  We have tried small groups but we will continue to move forward on them and put more energy into them.

3. Keep things in perspective...  Walking into the Refinery is overwhelming for most people.  The building looks incredible, is big, shiny and worth about $19million dollars.  Youth Pastors can look at that and get envious, wonder what they are doing wrong to not have something like that and go back to their own church disheartened.  We need to understand the dynamics of Saddleback in reference to our own churches before making judgment.  I love the Refinery but know that our Student Center is an equivalent for a church our size and that is ok.

4. Good things take time...  The length of time the staff has been at Saddleback is incredible.  Doug has been there 17, Kurt 12, Katie 14 and Josh 5.  Saddleback wasn't built in a day as they say.  We need to start laying the foundation now for longevity.  No matter where we are, we need to start working with the end in mind.  

I really had a blast in Souther California and I am looking forward to coming back in July with my students.  I get to spend the next few weeks/months evaluating our ministry and seeing what I need to change or improve upon.  I am greatful mostly for all the connections I have made with other youth pastors and the staff at Saddleback.  I definitely will be going back next year.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

5 Practices - Intentional Faith Development

Weekend Teaching Series: 5 Practices of a Fruitful Youth Ministry (week 3 of 4)
Sermon Title: Intentional Faith Development
Sermon in a Sentence: Spiritual Development isn't quick or easy
Weekend Scale of Difficulty: 7 out of 10.

Attendance: 64, above average for us.  19 Sr High (average), 45 Jr High (above average)
Service Length: 70 minutes
Understandable Message: Intentional Faith Development is my job.  Giving students the ability to grow in their Faith with God is my number one job.  We have events like Refuel, Small Groups, Sunday School and other activities that give students the time.  We looked at a video on about Dick and Rick Hoyt and their marathon running.  Dick runs for both of them, as Rick is confined to a wheel chair.  I told the students that God is Richard and we are Rick, that we cannot move forward without God pushing us.  Students need to understand that they can't just sit back and expect to grow closer to God, they must pursue him.  Spiritual Growth isn't easy or quick.
Volunteer/Student Involvement: We had good adult leader participation.  We had a new leader come in and help us with greeting.  
Element of Fun/Positive Environment: We played a Power Point game called "Bleep bleep" asking questions about old time video games (think Atari and Nintendo).  Students got rowdy and seemed to like it.
Music Playlist: Lord Reign In Me, Love The Lord, Trading My Sorrows
Favorite Moment: Had a student come up and tell me that they read "Help, I am a Student Leader" already, gave it to her last week.  She wants to go to the PDYM SLC in July, pretty sure she will go.
Next up: Risk-taking Mission & Service and Extravagant Generosity.  5th graders and their parents will be joining us next week, so it should be fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

PDYM Day 3 continued...

After lunch we jumped back into the last two purposes, Discipleship and Ministry.  Doug gave us three words to focus on, "On Your Own".  This is what we are to accomplish when teaching students about Discipleship.  We teach them to do it on their own.  If we show them how and give them the tools, then once they leave the youth ministry, they will survive beyond the people and the programs.  Doug's big picture ideas were: 

  • Discipleship can't be reduced to programs and people
  • An "On Your Own" philosophy is top down philosophy
  • Expectations without Experimentation = frustration
  • Discipleship never ends
Doug also talked about how most ministry have Discipleship with 100% lecture/class time or 50% lecture/class time and 50% experience but he recommended 33% Demonstration/Modeling, 33% Education and 33% Preparation.  This changes the dynamic of how we should think about Discipleship.  He also talked about his HABITS series and how that is a great tool to get students started and heading in the right direction.  HABITS stands for...
  • Hang time with God
  • Accountability with another believer
  • Bible memorization
  • Involvement with the church body
  • Tithing commitment
  • Study Scripture
Josh and Kurt came up to give us the Key Learnings from Saddleback.  They also talked a lot about Discipleship not being about programs.  Their key learnings were: 
  • Expect resistance
  • Being connected to an adult leader makes all the difference
  • Requires continuous vision casting, meaning you can't say it once and leave it, you need to beat the drum
We have to become better at preparing our students to survive once they leave our ministries.  During this session, one of the speaker made a comment that I know would spark some debate in my own ministry.  They talked about how parents are responsible for discipling their students, not the youth ministry.  We are to come along side the parents and help them.  Too often we are held responsible for the spiritual development of the students and that is incredibly hard when we only touch their lives 3 or 5 hours a week, if we are lucky.

During Session 7, we talked about the last purpose, Ministry.  Ministry is the final piece to the puzzle because it is designed for the Core students.  Those who are fully committed to Christ.  This doesn't mean that others don't do Ministry, but that our Core kids should be leading the charge.  Our own ministry is currently developing a student leadership process, so I was very interested in this session.  Again, Doug brought us some of his big pictures ideas.  They are...
  • Teenagers are not the future of the church (but are the church)
  • Student Leadership is bigger than teenage advisor
  • Ministry needs are Ministry opportunities
  • Youth Ministry can and should be a ministry launching pad
Too often students are looked down upon.  Many people think of them as lazy and not wanting to do anything.  Most people can't get past the struggles teenagers are facing to see that they do need a place to serve, just as much as any adult does but normally will do a better job.  Doug gave us a tip in empowering students.  When they go on mission trips, every student on the trip has some responsibility.  Some are small, some are big but all students have one.  And that once we kids students involved in ministry in our groups, they will eventually move outside the group and start finding holes to fill and ways to use their talents that we might never have thought about.

Katie and Matt gave us some practical tips from Saddleback with 3 Key Learnings.  1) There are pastors/leaders/servant in every crowd. 2) Students are flaky.  3)As students grow, all them to experiment.  Student Leadership and ministry isn't always about structure.  We also need to remember that student leaders are still students.  Sometimes we put more pressure on student leaders than we do on our regular students and that isn't always fair.  I did get a lot out of this session and really understand more about how I should develop our own student leadership team.

After this session, I got to have lunch with Josh Griffin (HSM) and about 15 other youth pastors at Chipotle and then Cold Stone Creamery.  I am still full.  Once again, I got to meet and talk with other YP's I have never met.  It was a great time.  Josh and I cruised back in my rental car, he loved it also. (I think we broke the speed limit in the Saddleback parking lot).  Once we got back, Saddleback had invited us to attend a worship service, just for us youth pastors.  The students and Taffy did a great job in worship, speaking, and creativity.  Jana spoke from her heart about where she was in her life.  We were able to share in communion. I was amazed, excited, sorrowful, forgiven, and full of Grace.  I feel I connected with God once again during this service.

Actually, this whole day for me has been about renewing my own soul and resting in God's grace.  When I laid in the sun during lunch and just felt the cold grass on my back and the sun on my face, I worshiped God.  I can't really describe it.

I hate that I am leaving tomorrow but I really miss my kids.  It will take me two weeks to process this conference and start to put plans into place to change myself and my ministry to be more purpose driven...

Thursday, March 26, 2009

PDYM Day 3

I am going to skip day 2 for now so I can be current on my blogging.  Day three gets us into more of the practical side of PDYM. I grabbed Michael this morning, grabbed some breakfast, then got to the Refinery.

The student bands continue to rock and do a great job at leading worship.   Doug talked about the purpose of Fellowship that is for the congregation (connected) students. For Saddleback, they use small groups to fulfill the fellowship purpose. Doug gave us some big picture ideas, they are:
  • smaller is better
  • volunteer is better than paid
  • shepherds are better than chaperone's
  • better is better
He pushed relationships with students as being the number one priority.  After Doug talked, Megan got up and talked about Life Hurts, God Heals and how they created a small group within their small groups by targeting students who are hurting. this is a cirriculum that I have looked and think I will get it and teach on it. She made a statement that floored me, she said "who will help our students who are hurting, if we don't." Very Powerful.

Katie and Jason came up and talked about specifically how Saddleback does small groups and some key learning points.
  • there's more than one way to do small groups
  • small group leaders need to be setup for success
  • small groups can bridge to the next step
It was funny that they talked about having reconfigured their small group programs every year. Some PDYM State Mentors talked about how they were doing small groups. They emphasized helping you small group leaders understand their role as youth pastors to their small group.  

We broke for some debriefing and lunch. I decided to head outside and sit in the sun. The weather here is awesome and I really enjoyed it.  I almost fell asleep :).  The Refinery is an incredible place to hang out.  The design fulfills many different purposes and gives you so many options to build relationships with students or just sit by yourself.  I had lunch with Chris Harkins, Chris Reed (young adult pastor @ Saddleback) and Matt from TX.  I had never met. We had great discussion about doing small groups, recruiting leaders and various other ideas.

Day 3 continued in a minute...

PDYM Session 1 cont..

The opening session had a lot of different elements to it that made or
tons of fun. Worship started with a Coldplay song that was awesome.
Jake and Katie mc'd the night and had some great games. They brought
down the oldest and youngest youth pastors and had them exchange some
advice and gave them gifts. They also played a game called shoot your
distraction that didn't work as well :).

The speaking session started of with different people who have been
effected by a youth pastor or had been a youth pastor and had effected
someone. I was amazed at the impact that we have on the life of our
students when we do real ministry. Each person talked about the
different Pieces of Youth Ministry like:
. investing in students
. longevity
. trusting God to use imperfect people
. beings learner
. not giving up

Doug came on stage and talked abou tthe values for Saddleback Student
Ministry. Values like...
. value of food
. being student led
. music and song
. laughter / games / gifts
. believing in students
. dependence on God's power
. relationship with God and students

I really enjoyed the talk and it made me reflect on how our youth
ministry is rim and some things that I need to change. I look forward
to day 2.

PDYM Session #1 (Tuesday)

I am so glad that  I decided to come to the PDYM conference.  I wasn't entirely sure of why I wanted to come but thought it would be good for me.  Boy, was I glad I decided to (and thankful for the church letting me).

I read Doug's book PDYM over 6 years ago, thanks to a youth pastor I was working at the time.  I read through it, took note of some of the ideas but never fully bought into it.  Since then I implemented little bits of the purpose-driven philosophy but never all the way.  I was hoping this conference would help me decide once and for all if I wanted a ministry that was purpose-driven or just keep going the way I was.

Anyways, I got here on Monday, grab some dinner and headed to the hotel.  I got up at 6am on Tuesday (8am Central Time) and couldn't fall back asleep.  So, I got in the sweet ride I am driving and headed to Manhattan Beach (45 minutes away) to see the ocean and enjoy the view.  The 350Z is going to get me a ticket (almost already did) before the weekend is over.  It is incredibly fast and has awesome pickup.  Driving 90 feels like nothing for it.  I loved driving to the beach, I love being on the beach and watching the surfers (vowed to get in shape for this summer so I could surf when we come back).

I got to enjoy lunch @ Fuddrucker's with Josh Griffin and Jake (from Saddleback) and other yp's.  Some of them I follow on Twitter so it was good to meet them.  Left from there, grabbed another yp from the airport and headed to the conference.  Walked-in the door and was greeted by Josh and he gave us the full tour of the Refinery, it is amazing.  I told him it reminded me of walking into a Universal Studios ride.  The whole place has a purpose and they did a great job of setting the building up.  Very useful and very student friendly.  The most interesting thing I saw (or didn't see) was video consoles, they only have two Wii's.  They opted not to have video consoles because they didn't think it promoted relationship.  Very interesting thought.

The Conference began with a great opening set by the Saddleback student band.  They did a great job.  They have done a great job all week (so far).  It is great to see these kids lead youth pastors in worship.  As I as was watching them, it amazed me how they seemed to forget we were there and just sing to God.  Very cool.

more later...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Just like Christmas...

The anticipation is killing me.  Here I sit in my hotel room, waking up at 6am (8 KC time) and having nothing to do.  The conference doesn't start for many an hour.  I sit alone, no one to comfort my waiting heart.  Just like Christmas Eve, those times of not being able to sleep because your mind was racing with what Santa had brought you.  I need to find things to do to kill the time.  I might just get in my car and leave, find a beach somewhere and take some pictures.  I should probably relax since this week because the PDYM Conference is going to be super busy and super fun (I hear there might be a dodge ball tourney tonight).

I will be Twittering ( the whole event and blogging at the end of each day.