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.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Finally after 16 years....

Well, its over.  I have finally completed my B.B.A in Accounting from Trevecca Nazarene University .    Well, unofficially.  I still need to have my transcripts sent to TNU from Park U.  I feel weird.  I am excited but it really doesn't change anything.  I have the same job, make the same amount of money but there is a huge burden that is lifted.  The day I found out I completed my classes, my mom sent me a text saying she was proud of me.  I don't think she expected my degree would take me 16 years to complete...  By finishing my degree, I can now move forward with my education.  I am currently deciding where I am going to take my masters or if I want to take my masters.  If I want to stay in the UMC and become a pastor, then I need to be ordained and in order to be ordained I have to have my Masters of Divinity.  I am still praying and thinking about it.  Fuller Theological Seminary offers a Master in Youth, Family and Culture.  I think this might be better but that will come out later.

As I think about the time since I started college till now, SO MUCH HAS CHANGED.  I started college as a fresh off the farm (if you can call Miami a farm) 18 year old.  I had no idea what a college credit was much less how I was going to pay for any of it, but God provided a way for me to go.  My first day of registering for classes, Hurricane Andrew had just floored Miami and the home I lived in for many years, was gone.  Kind of a weird way to start college, but that first day I meet Jamie, who soon became my best friend.  The next year, I met Beth, my future wife.  The next year, I was married.  Looking at the last 16 years, I have...

  • changed my major
  • got married
  • had 3 wonderful kids, now 10, 9 and 3
  • moved at least 7 times
  • lived in two different states
  • worked at 6 different churches
  • had 4 fulltime jobs
  • gone from being a youth pastor, being an accountant, being a programmer back to a youth pastor
  • I have gone to 5 different colleges
  • worked at one company for 9 1/2 years
  • met hundreds of great people
  • made about 30+ trips from Nashville to Ft. Lauderdale and back
  • traveled up and down the eastern seaboard from Nashville to Delaware to Miami
  • had a house fire that destroyed everything we owned
  • lost my father to a stroke
  • plus much much more...
It is amazing to think that it has been 16 years since I have been out of high school.  Facebook has allowed me to connect with several of my classmates.  It has been good to catch up and see how everyone has changed.
Over the 16 years, my relationship with God has changed for the good and the bad and the good again.  I have deepened in my wife.  I have wavered in my faith.  So much has changed that I can't imagine what the next 16 years will hold for me.  Hopefully, it won't take me that long to finish my masters...  God is up to something.

God's Chisel

We shifted gears a little tonight because of spring break.  We watched a video by Skit Guys titled God's Chisel, which looked at how God wants to take away the parts of us that He can't use and make us look more like Him.  Sometimes it hurts, but God wants what is best for us.

ATTENDANCE: Down tonight because of spring break, 31 with 3 new visitors.  

FUN FACTOR: Downtime was good with most students playing dodgeball then kickball.

LESSON: The video prompted us to think about those things in our life that we shouldn't have but are hanging onto.  The gospel was presented to the whole group.

MUSIC: Fliteline did a great job at leading worship, especially at the end.  The crowd needs to stop talking and participate...

VOLUNTEER INVOLVEMENT: We had a good number of volunteers for it being spring break.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

5 Practices of a Fruitful Youth Ministry - Radical Hospitality

Tonight we begin our series on the 5 Practices of a Fruitful Youth Ministry.  We are adapting Robert Schnase's book, 5 Practices of a Fruitful Congregation and seeing how it works within our youth ministry.

ATTENDANCE: Average tonight, 52 with 3 new visitors.  

FUN FACTOR: A video called, Drive Thru Church , Small groups and a game at the end

LESSON: We talked about Radical Hospitality and how we as a group need to have a welcoming environment at the church and outside the church.  We need to seek out new students and help them know that our church is a safe place to come and be a part

MUSIC: FliteLine did a good job, had some soundboard issues but hoping to deal with those this week

VOLUNTEER INVOLVEMENT: Our adult leaders are awesome.  They did a great job in leading the small groups during service.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


So I am a day late in posting about the National Youth Ministers
Conference I'm Columbus, OH. This is my first time coming to this
conference and I knew that it was laid out differently than the others
but I was still very excited about it. I am glad that I came. I am
lucky enough to have brought my wife, my assistant and one of my adult
leaders with me. Me vs 3 ladies, not always fun :) jk. We had a very
easy time getting to Columbus via Chicago. Planes were on time, a
little hot but short fligts with no problems. Once we got here, the
four of us took a normal cab to the hotel. The Crown Plaza is a nice
hotel to stay at. Glad we are staying there, all the COOL people are
staying there.
I got the opportunity to take an early pre-conference seminar with
Doug Fields about working with volunteers. This is one of my focuses
right now in my ministry because I think we are burning out adult
leaders. I haven't been as good at leading them as I should be. I
was hoping this seminar would help me kick start a better adult leader
program. Doug always does a great job I'm laying out simple steps and
ideas to get things done. I am excited to go back and think through
some things he talked about.
After dinner, we enjoyed a great opening general session with Josh
Griffin hosting. He is a very funny guy and made us all laugh. I
loved the Segway Olympics. The worship was incredible. Doug did Sr
introductions. Then we heard from Alex And Brett Harris who wrote a
book about teenagers wanting more than low expectations. It was a
great talk and something I am going to talk to my students about. I
know our students want to do more, and I need to help them do it.