Thursday, July 31, 2008

Poll Results: VBS & You

The summer is almost over. For youth workers that means its time to kick off the regular ministry year again. But during the summer, many of you were involved with a multitude of ministries - one being the VBS at your church.

According to the latest poll, all youth workers were involved with VBS in some form. Here are the results:

100% (2 people) are involved by teaching a class or leading an area.

I'd love to hear some stories about what made VBS memorable for you this year.

Reformatting and what is important

The other day I did something I have never done before. I reformatted my SD card in my camera. We had just gotten a new digital camera and I was playing with some of its features, trying to get used to it.

The memory card that was in it was the same one we've been using, so it had some video and pictures on it already. I have not figured out how to get the videos from the camera to my iMac, so they were just staying on there until I figured something out. But on this night, I carelessly deleted them all - never to be seen again.

There was one video, in particular, that I really wanted to have. Now, all I have of that moment is my memory of it. The question for me is, is that enough?

I didn't lose any first pictures of our new daughter (she wasn't born yet) or the other boys. I didn't lose a video of anyone I can't get again. I did lose some cute pictures and some pretty funny video, but in the long run those don't mean much.

After I stopped beating myself up for carelessly deleting some good electronic memories, I came to a few conclusions...

1. Capturing memories on film or video is a great way to share moments.
2. If you don't enjoy the moments while they are happening, the picture means very little.
3. Every day you get to spend with a loved one is a gift from God.
4. You need to cherish each moment with your kids.
5. Life is bigger than a few deleted pictures.

Have you ever accidentally erased something from your camera or computer?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #80: National Lampoon's Vacation

answer #79 - Mary Magdalene

question #80 - Name the family in the film National Lampoon's Vacation.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

SHE is here!!

On Friday, July 25th at 8:21am, our wait was over. We finally got to see whether our third child was going to be a boy or a girl. She is a girl and we named her Moriah Jane.

Some random thoughts I have right now:

  • It is a strange, new feeling to have a little girl.
  • I'm so nervous and scared.
  • I want her to grow up to be a godly woman.
  • I want to be a great example of a godly man to her.
  • I am excited about having another female in the house - my wife will be such a great mom and example of a godly woman.
  • Is it true that raising girls is harder than raising boys?

Here are a few pictures of my little girl...

I love this picture. I will remember that moment forever!

Just peacefully sleeping away.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Photo Friday: Power Line

Just a picture of a power line, at the point where the power goes into the house. Made me think about where my Power comes from. (Cheesy, I know)

(feel free to use this picture if wanted. I'd love to hear where you use it)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Family changes and Ministry changes

Today is my last day as a father of only 2 boys. Tomorrow we go to the hospital to welcome a new baby into the world.

So tomorrow starts a whole new chapter in our family; we become a family of 5. It will also make the start of a new chapter in how I minister. With this in mind, I've got a few questions I wish could be answered now, before everything changes...

What adventures will the five of us encounter?
What struggles will the five of us face?
What victories will the five of us achieve?
What kind of encouragement will each of us need?
How will we make each other laugh?
Where will we be in two months?
How will a larger family benefit my ministry?
What adjustments will I need to make as a youth minister?
How did your ministry change as your family grew?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jr. High Questions: Temptation

A little while ago I posted four questions from jr. highers. I think these questions, though from specific individuals, represent some basic questions being asked by jr. highers. I thought that I would post my thoughts to each one individually. Here is the first question and my thoughts on how to answer it.

Q1. Why are temptations so hard to ignore?
A1. Temptations are hard to ignore because they are appealing to you. If it is not something you want to do, then you will have no desire to do it. Thus, if drinking is not appealing to you then you are not tempted to drink. If you enjoy the thrill from stealing, then stealing is going to be a temptation for you. Satan is smart enough to not waste time tempting you with something you do not want.

If someone tells you they don't struggle with temptation, they are lying to you. Even after repeatedly avoiding the "giving in" part, you still face appealing temptation every day. But the more you resist, the easier it is. Just be careful to not feel overly confident. That's when you are most likely to fail and sin. Remember what Paul writes in 1 Cor. 10.13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."

Temptations may be hard to ignore, they will always around. With each temptation comes an opportunity to avoid it, an opportunity to allow God to show you a way out. You can overcome. You can be aware of them and be prepared.

Think of temptation like a manhole, the ones you see in the streets. When you walk down the street and see an open manhole (without the cover on) you do not just walk right into it. No, you go around. If the manhole has a cover, then you can walk on the cover and not fall in. Temptations should be seen like manholes. You should see them coming and avoid them. How foolish is a person who knowingly steps right into an open hole in the street. How foolish is the person who knowingly steps right into temptation without trying to avoid it.

Watch your steps and be prepared for temptations.

Trivia Wednesday #79: Anointing Jesus' feet

answer #78 - Ozzie Smith

question #79 - Who anointed Jesus' feet and dried them with her hair?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bribing students to bring friends

Recently, I saw something online that disturbed me just a little. I was looking through random blogs with the keywords "student ministry" when I saw this title: iPod Challenge. I like iPods and I like challenges, but I didn't like this one.

This was a challenge where the winner of the new iPod was the first student to bring 10 friends to a certain weekly youth event. I have problems with this type of "evangelism" and "outreach."

In my opinion there is a better word for this type of reward challenge - bribery. And it is even worse when its announced from upfront. It sends a couple messages to both the regular students and those invited.

1. This event/program/service/group is not worth your time. There is not value in what we do.
2. The only reason you were invited is so your friend can win something.
3. You are just a number in our system.
4. We are more concerned about numbers than people.
5. If you join the youth group, you'll have a lot of chances to win stuff.
6. We're going to trick you into coming to our event, so we can talk to you about Jesus.

I do not have problems with incentives. But to me there is a line. In my mind, its like rewarding students for memorizing Scripture. It shows that the only reason to memorize is to get a prize. At a certain level (age) you can do an incentive program, but I think you need to stop it at some point. There has to be a transition in the reason students read their Bible or bring a friend. If you never transition from "reward system" to "internal motivation" you have done the student a grave disservice.

I just picture this conversation in my head:
regular student: Hey Susan, you want to come to youth group with me?
invited student: Sure, thanks for inviting me.
(participate in youth group)
invited student: So, what was that about a iPod challenge, how do I get one?
regular student: You just have to invite 10 friends to youth group
invited student: Wait a second, you invited me so you could win an iPod?

What are your thoughts? How do you handle this issue?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Relational Reminders

Almost 2 months ago, I said goodbye to the students at the church I was working at. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do. Being in town and not working at the church has been tough, especially since I live in a small town. I cannot go anywhere without running into a student or someone from the church.

Most of the adults ask about how we are doing and are concerned about us. Some of the conversations can get awkward if "church" comes up. A lot of the adults do not know what to say or how to act when that topic arrives. The students are a little different. They are concerned and ask about our life, but on a different level. Most of them just want to know if we are moving yet or how long we'll be in town. The students do not seem awkward talking about church stuff. They usually bring it up and share how things are going.

Within the last few weeks, our family has experienced some really cool things. We have had quite a few visitors to the house. A majority of these visitors are teens. They have been just stopping by to hang out. Some have brought stuff to show us. Some have stayed long enough to eat a meal with us. All of them feel at home. They know our house and know they are welcome to be relaxed and "at home" while they are here. Recently we had a full day of visitors. From 10am til 8pm there were visitors at our house (adults and teens).

These encounters have been relational reminders to me. Youth ministry is not about putting together the perfect lesson or talk. It is not about having the biggest crowd at an event. Youth ministry is about loving students and leading them closer to God! This involves lessons, camps, retreats, lunch, sports, concerts and anything else you can do with students.

Youth Ministers cannot make this sort of connection with every student. But each student should have that connection with an adult. The measure of the impact a youth ministry had on a student doesn't happen while that student is still in high school. Youth ministry is really a long-term ministry.

Are you willing to wait and trust God to mold your students?

Photo Friday: Bucket Full of Candy

This is all the candy we got at a parade recently. That is one full gallon ice cream bucket.

(Feel free to use the picture if you want, just let me know. Thanks)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #78: St. Louis Cardinals

answer #77 - Red-billed Quelea

question #78 - Which St. Louis Cardinal shortstop was nicknamed "Wizard of Oz" by his fans?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Discussion Starter: Your Grocery Dollar

(Here is an interesting chart that compares inflation on 4 items: crude oil, fuel, food, and consumer price index)

The price of food, gas, houses, and everything else is sure to be a topic of discussion every time you get together. So what are you doing about it? Are you talking about it or ignoring it?

Spending a lot of cash at the grocery store these days? Ever wonder where your money is going?

According to the IL Farm Bureau, here is a breakdown of where your grocery dollar is going:

19 cents - farm value
38.5 cents - labor
8 cents - packaging
3.5 cents - other costs
4 cents - transportation
4 cents - advertising
3.5 cents - depreciation
3.5 cents - fuels and electricity
4 cents - rent
3.5 cents - business taxes
4.5 cents - before-tax-profits
2.5 cents - interest
1.5 cents - repairs

I'm a little surprised that depreciation costs 3.5 cents. I would have thought advertising and packaging would be higher. Any surprises for you?

Next you buy your grocery food, just remember where each dollar is going.

You can use this info when you are talking about money, shopping, food, consumerism, economy or anything related to food or money.

to quote someone else: Paul Pettit (parenting)

"It's in the day-to-day, run-of-the-mill activities of our life that we impact our children the most. Habits, routines, and heroes are made in the normal days, not at the annual visit to the theme park."

taken from dynamic dads: How to be a hero to your kids by Paul Pettit

Great advice to every dad out there. Raising your children should not be the responsibility of the mom. Make time for your family today. In the long-run, you'll be glad you did.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Photo Friday: Bricks

Just a picture of some bricks. Use it as you would like, if you want. (just let me know, thanks)

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Poll Results: Promoting students to next grade

I asked when you promote students to the next grade and here is what you said...

66% (2 people) promote at the beginning of the summer
33% (1 person) say it fluctuates throughout the summer
0% (no one) promotes at the end of summer

New Poll: VBS & You

Summer means Vacation Bible School for most churches. As youth workers, this means that you are most likely involved in one way or another. Just how much involvement is the question this time around.

How much involvement do you have in VBS?
- in charge
- help plan
- teaching a class/leading an area
- helping where needed
- make my appearance then go home
- no involvement
- church isn't doing VBS

Answer according to the one that most fits your involvement. I know some of you are in charge and you also teach a class - your answer would be "in charge."

Have you had any really funny things happen at a VBS?

Discussion Starter: man sues Zondervan...

Read about the lawsuit here.

Look at this excerpt from the article:

Fowler alleges Zondervan's Bibles referring to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of "demoralization, chaos and bewilderment."

The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group's conclusion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder," Fowler wrote.

I heard on the radio that Zondervan stated one problem with the lawsuit is that they do not actually translate the text.

You could use this to talk about homosexuality, personal rights, sin, handling sin, how God views people, interacting with sinners, being a sinner, the Bible, hatred.

Trivia Wednesday #77: Most abundant bird

answer #76 - five

question #77 - Name the most abundant of all birds.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Item Usability in Youth Ministry

In youth ministry, you are always on the look out for new items you can use within your youth ministry. You become conditioned to see everyday options with youth ministry eyes. Can I use that? and Where can I make that fit? become the questions you constantly ask yourself. But not all items are ok for youth ministry. I thought I would share some of my thoughts on item usability in a youth ministry.

I think there are 4 categories of item usability in youth ministry.

1 - usable, all the time
2 - usable, but its a stretch
3 - usable, but not wise
4 - unusable

I'm talking about anything from a bar of soap to a theme from the latest #1 single. Let me give you a few examples for each group.

1 - bandages, pens, soda, candy bars, old t-shirts (granted they don't say or promote anything you don't want to), bouncy balls, themes from current movies

2 - "your momma" jokes, Sunday School lessons written in the '60's, Carmen music videos, laxatives

3 - Rated "R" movies, most stand-up comedian CD's (foul language), old bandages, curriculum geared toward 3rd graders, a personal illustration taken from a current 7th grade girl's personal diary (added by my wife)

4 - pornography, alcohol, bow and arrows (as punishment), anything explosive as an object lesson, "me vs. them" mentality

What item did I miss? What do you think? Add your thoughts and advice (esp. if learned from personal experience) to the list.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Photo Friday: Fireworks with silhouette

Watching the fireworks earlier this week.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Youth Ministry through the Judges: Shamgar

The third judge over Israel was Shamgar. What can we learn from him in reference to youth ministry? Here are some thoughts...

Shamgar (Judges 3.31)

"After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel." (3.31) & "In the days of Shamgar son of Anath" (5.6 in Deborah's song)

  • "After Ehud came Shamgar" - this phrase makes me think about younger siblings. "After Eric came Joni." Eric is the star athlete, gets good grades and is liked by everyone. Oh the shoes that Joni has to fill! No matter what you do, it is hard to measure up. A lot of younger siblings get lost in the mix. They go virtually unnoticed. I'm not saying you (the youth worker) do not acknowledge them or give them responsibility. I'm saying that a lot of times the younger sibling gets lost in the shadow of the older sibling. They never get to be who they are, apart from big brother or sister. Be careful not to just lump in younger siblings with their older siblings and expect them to be similar.
  • When asked who Shamgar was, most people would not know he was a judge. You might say he is not well known and went unseen. Reminds me of a lot of teenagers I know. Many teenagers go unnoticed. Even when they do great things, it is tough for them to get noticed. (Isn't it strange that the teens who are labeled bad get remembered more often?)
  • There doesn't appear to have been a time of struggle and rebellion for the people of Israel between Ehud and Shamgar. Youth ministry can happen without fights and struggles, at least for a period of time.
  • We know very little about him. Many times we feel this way about the teens we work with. You can spend an hour talking to a teen and not learn anything about them. To go beyond surface level conversation takes initiation by you. You have to be purposeful about asking questions and listening to what is said (and not said) if you want to get to know the students better.
  • Look at the account of Deborah beginning in Judges 4.1, "After Ehud died." What about Shamgar? Why overlook him? Funny how we often forget (ignore?) certain people like they were never there. Have you done that to a student in your ministry before?

next up Deborah

(go to YM Lessons from Judges to find more)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #76: Torah

answer #75 - 2 million

question #76 - How many books are there in the Torah - four, five or six?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven but Nobody Wants to Die by David Crowder and Mike Hogan

Death & Hope. Those are the two words I would use to describe the basis of this book. The title of the book (and title of a great song) summarizes a great struggle people have. Getting to Heaven is the goal for most people. Yet, these same people are terrified of death.

Every author has a writing style and language. Everybody wants to go to Heaven is very conversational. Crowder and Hogan are very personable and open as they write and interact throughout the book. Even the layout of the book lends itself to casual conversation. And this is the greatest part of the book, its ability to wrap you up in its context. As you are entangled in this conversation, you forget that you are reading a book and believe that in fact you are in a conversation with the authors about the pain of death and the hope of Heaven.

If you have ever experienced pain from a lose of a loved one, you need to read this book. You may not like bluegrass music, but that is okay (you do not like death either). Crowder and Hogan allow the reader to peak into their emotions and watch them struggle through pain and grief. Throughout these pages, you are drawn into an open soul-searching discussion about what makes death so difficult and how to overcome.

Overcoming pain is not easy, but it is possible. By interweaving stories, personal accounts, Scripture, expert opinions and this section called "columns" the authors have been able to walk the readers through a process of discovery. This process of discovery culminates with an understanding of the hope that can be found in Christ. This hope brings about a paradox. "Hope placed in the future inadvertently brings hope into the present, in turn making the present tolerable."

No other book discusses the topic of death quite like Everybody wants to go to Heaven. You will be encouraged. You will grow. You will look at death and dying from a different perspective.

My advice (rating) – go out and buy it (4 out of 5)

(As I was reading, I came across this fun page. I had forgotten that when I bought the book David Crowder, Mike Hogan and Toni Crowder were kind enough to sign in one of the IM conversation pages. Fun times)