Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #102: New Year's Eve in Times Square

answer #101 - Alabama became the first state to recognize Christmas as an official holiday in 1836.

question #102 - In what year was the first-ever official celebration of New Year's Eve on Times Square?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reflections on: Christmas vacation

This trip home has been different than those of the past. Maybe it has something to do with the 3 kids, or maybe its that I'm getting older. I bet its a combination of these two, plus many other factors. This year has been the first time in 7 years that we've been with our extended families on Christmas. Our first Christmas as a married couple we were in GA and did not go home due to my church responsibilities. That year, we traveled home for Christmas in January. We kept that tradition up for the next six years (and depending on where I end up in ministry we will probably do it again in the future).

But this year, we were able to travel to see family on Christmas. We spent Christmas Eve with my side of the family, at my grandpa's. This has been the celebration day for my family for as long as I remember. It was so great to be there with a lot of my family. Then on Christmas, we drove up to be with Amy's family for Christmas night. It was the first time I remember driving on Christmas day, a lot more people than I thought there would be. Another fun night with family.

Here are some of my reflections on this Christmas trip:

1. Family & friends mean more than gifts. Gifts are great, but I would much rather spend time with people I love and not get a gift from them. The gifts stop working or you lose interest, but the people need to be cherished.

2. Travel with 3 kids is exponentially different than 2 kids. It can be stressful to travel with 2 kids, but adding the 3rd changes everything. It becomes so much more difficult to get everyone to travel in the same sequence, so to speak. Trips that should take 4 hours, can take at least 5 hours. Make sure to enjoy ever moment, though.

3. Always leave room in your vehicle for the return trip. On a Christmas trip, with little kids, you will most likely return home with more stuff than you left with.

4. Busy schedule -> stress -> miscommunication. Vacations can bring out the worst opportunities to stay connected to your spouse. If you do not take the time to talk with your spouse, then you won't be given that time.

5. Talking with your family is extra important on vacations. See #4. When you are with your family (the extended kind) do not just sit around and watch TV. Take the time to talk about topics that are important, talk about faith, talk about your family history, talk about parenting. You do not get these opportunities very often, so take advantage of them.

6. A lot can happen in a year. Since last Christmas a lot has happened in my life, and being home reminded me of just how much. Last year on Dec. 28th, my grandma passed away. In April, I started looking for a new ministry. In May, I stopped ministering at my church. In July, my first daughter (third child) was born. In September, she had hernia surgery. In October I turned 30. Over the last 7 months, I have been constantly amazed at how God provides for and takes care of my family. I can't wait to see what next year holds.

7. All good vacations come to an end. No matter how good a vacation you have, it has to end. You have to return to your daily routine. You have to get back to work. Hopefully, for those working in churches, this is not a bad thing. If you are passionate about what you do for a living, then you will be just as excited to return to that work.

bonus: some guy at church had a dog with him. It was weird to see him walk out with his dog in his arms. On the bright side, the dog never made a sound during the entire service.

What was your favorite moment from your Christmas vacation?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Best of '08: Websites

I use the internet a lot in both ministry and my personal life. The more I use the 'net, the more I find I tend to use the same websites for a majority of my needs. I guess you could say I become a creature of habit, I won't be offended. I like trying new sites and venturing to other corners of the web, but if a website works for what I need why would I stop using it?

According to what I needed most this year, here are my favorites.

Best of 2008: Websites:
Facebook (personal/ministry) - Facebook was a great website to not only stay connected to students, but also to connect with other friends. You can stay connected to students no matter where you in relationship to where they are (ie, even if you move away or go on vacation you can keep up to date with what they are doing). You can be my friend by going to my profile.

Twitter (personal) - Twitter is a fun way to stay connected with friends in 140 characters or less. You can tweet from the website, your phone, or using a number of apps. I discussed a couple twitter applications over a year ago, check out some of the apps you can get to enhance your twitter experience. My favorite application is Tweetdeck, here is my tweetdeck review. I really love the ability to know what people are doing, hear stories of their youth ministries and something just laugh. You can follow me by going to my profile.

Youth Ministry Exchange (ministry) - YMX has a great forum community, some great articles and reviews and a few other youth ministry specific resources. (and every once and awhile you can see a review I write show up) (ministry) - A great collection of articles, freebies and other resources. There is a lot of great content on here. I think they'll publish anything, though (based on the fact that I've got some articles on there). Seriously, though, if you are in youth ministry, you need to check out this site.

Blogger (ministry/personal) - I use this site for both my ministry blog and my personal family blog. I like blogger's ease of use and relatively small learning curve. Its a great site for beginning bloggers to get their feet wet. It is not the only option out there, but I have not had many problems or complaints - so I keep using it. (personal) - Now that my oldest son is 4 1/2, we've been spending a lot more time online with him. PBSkids is a great site for us, it has a bunch of the shows he loves and has some pretty good games for him to play or activities he can do on his own. If you have little kids, you need to check this site out. (personal/ministry) - I use google for email (, blog statistics (analytics), searching (, writing (google docs), and maps. I'm on the verge of using it for my blog reader, too (google reader). There are so many ways to use google in your minsitry, which will help streamline your online presence. I won't spend any more time talking about it, if you want to know more just leave a comment or email me. (personal) - Because I am a father of 3 young children, I do not get to watch much TV when it airs. Neither my wife nor I watch much of anything on TV, unless it is a cartoon or something the boys also want to watch. So, we watch most of our TV online after it airs. We usually use to do this. It is so easy to use and navigate and has great quality and quantity of content. And they have a growing collection of movies to watch, too. For me, this is a much better alternative to paying for some form of cable or dish.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas everyone.

For everyone who went to church last night, hope you enjoyed the Christmas Eve service last night.

Have a great day and enjoy some time with your family and friends. May God remind you of His love for you this season.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #101: Christmas

answer #100 - March is national frozen food month.

question #101 - Which state was the first to recognize Christmas as an official holiday?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hello Winter... Youth Ministry Style

Sunday (Dec 21) was the first day of winter and that means youth ministries around the US (b/c those youth ministries in Australia, for example, are currently enjoying summer) will be transitioning to a winterized version of youth ministry. Some aspects of youth ministry do not change, but anything that involves the outdoors has to change. Here are some of my favorite winter youth ministry games, events, ideas and more.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am aware that my friends in places like CA, GA, or FL do not need to make these adjustments because it does not get that cold or snow that much. And for that I say ":-P"

Winterized Youth Ministry:
Free Version...
1. Sledding. Just take your group, or have them meet, to a local hill. You can spend hours just sledding down and walking back up the hill. You can do something organized like races or just let everyone do what they want.

2. Build Snowmen/Snowball fights. If you get enough snow, build snowmen. This would be a great opportunity for some good video and/or pictures of the group. Have a themed-snowman competition, see who can build the largest... The snowball fights will just come naturally.

3. Shovel snow. Take a day and drive around town shoveling people's driveways and sidewalks. This is a great service project. It will help your group bond together, while doing people a wonderful service. Make sure you have enough shovels, gloves, hats, etc.

4. Outdoor Ice Skating. Depending on your area, this might be a great time to go ice skating or play ice hockey. This is one event that might just draw a smaller crowd, but it will be a fun day together.

5. Any excuse to serve hot chocolate. Find any reason to get the group together to drink hot chocolate. This might be a great addition to one of your outdoor events or just something you do as a stand-alone event. Make sure you have marshmallows (and I suggest the mini ones).

6. Special parties. During this season, most youth ministries will have their Christmas parties and New Year's Eve parties. Maybe you should have a "_______" party (fill in with whatever you want) just to have a party. This is a great time to give the students something to do, since they can't go outside. (obviously, be mindful of the family time activities this time of year)

7. Ice Sculpting. If you have a large amount of ice this is the perfect time to use it. Even if you just have a small amount of ice, set aside a time to let students sculpt it. Allow them to be creative and just make it fun.

Non-Free Version...
1. Skiing. Most students love to go skiing, but do not get to go often. Plan a ski trip with your group. Or if you live close to a ski resort, schedule regular days (or at least some days) that are official youth group ski days.

2. Indoor Ice Skating. Take the group to go ice skating at an ice rink. Depending on the size of the group you can get discounts or even rent the entire rink.

3. Broomball. Rent an ice rink for a few hours of broom ball. You play hockey with broomsticks, only tennis shoes, and a ball. It is a lot of fun. But be careful, as people will fall.

4. Trip to warmer weather. Take your group to warmer weather. Probably want it to be within driving distance, but I hear Hawaii is nice this time of year.

Those are a few of my ideas for a winterized youth ministry. What have you done in the winter that has worked or what other suggestions would you have? Leave a comment with your ideas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Photo Friday: Camp Fire

I thought you guys might need some reminders of warmth during these last few days of Fall.

Take these pictures and use them for backgrouds or event promotion or anything else you want. Just don't make money from it, please give me credit and I'd love to hear what/how you are using them.

What is your favorite part of a campfire?

Mine is the quiet atmosphere a nice campfire creates.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Best of 2008: Music

I found some good music this past year. One of the groups to make my list is brand new, two groups have been around for a couple years, one is a new album from my favorite band and one is a new solo album from the lead singer in one of my other favorite bands.

Best of 2008: Music

1. Jon Foreman
The frontman for Switchfoot put together a collection of EP's this past year (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer). Each EP has six songs, but two EP's come together (Fall & Winter, Spring & Summer). You'll love the strong lyrics, fresh vocals and overall sound. If you haven't listened to this music, yet - you need to.

2. Robbie Seay Band - Give Yourself Away
This is an excellant album. I really enjoyed their first album (Better Days), but honestly this one is a ton better. I got a copy of the album for free from Relevant and have been recommending it to anyone who will listen. You can go to iTunes and download the entire album for $8 right now. If you are a fan of American Idol, you'll recognize "Rise" from some of the promos from last season. Go to iTunes and download it now!!

3. Third Day - Revelation
There are only a couple CD's that Thriday Day has released that I can not listen to all the way through. This might be one of my favorites (not as good as their self-titled freshman album, but close). Call My Name is one of the best songs I have heard all year. If you don't know who Third Day is, then might I recommend you take some time to listen on their site (Thief is my favorite). If you haven't heard this album yet, you will want to listen. (and they have a new album coming out early 2009)

4. Leeland - Opposite Way
This is another great sophomore album. "Count Me In" is a strong song with some intense lyrics. One thing I like about Leeland is the fact that they are a fun band. Whether its a concert, their website or even an album - you can sense their joy for life in everything they do. You will not be disappointed with this album. I got mine for $5, the best $5 I spent on music all year.

5. Connersvine - Connersvine
This last group was introduced to my wife, who passed them on to me. Its just two guys (I think one's name is Conner and the other is Vine - wow that was a bad attempt at a joke). They have a great sound and lyrics you have to pay attention to. I especially like "Glory Be" and "Hosanna". You can go to this site and download a free mp3 and chord chart. My guess is that you have not heard of Connersvine, but if you start listening to one new group this week - make it Connersvine.

6. This is Home by Switchfoot. Off the Prince Caspian Soundtrack.

What is your favorite music from 2008?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #100: Your Favorite Random Fact

answer #99 - Nursery School Teacher

question #100 - What is your favorite random trivia fact?

Today's question is a little different, to celebrate it being question #100. This one is all about you, the reader.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Book Review: The Truth About You by Marcus Buckingham

Marcus Buckingham has put together a toolkit to help readers discover their strengths. The toolkit has three parts; an enhanced DVD, an interactive book, and a ReMemo pad. The goal of this toolkit is to create a more interactive experience for the reader. It also provides a chance for the reader to receive the same message/ideas in multiple formats. Finally, this toolkit format leaves the reader without an excuse to not learning what her strengths and weaknesses are and apply that knowledge to her job.

I enjoyed the video format, a mixture of Buckingham speaking into the camera and footage of a boy finding his strengths, and found it easy to connect with the ideas. If you pay attention to the video, you'll notice that most of the thoughts are found throughout the book. This repetition helped me process the connection between what he was saying and my own personal situation. The concepts are fairly simple, so the book is easy to follow (which makes it a pretty quick read).

Overall, The Truth About You is a good resource for anyone who is not satisfied with her current job situation or feels like there is a better way to use her talents. The biggest complaint with this toolkit, along with most other business books, is the price ($30), which seems high to me. If you can afford the cost or can get a copy from a friend, it is worth your time to go through this well-developed toolkit.

My advice (rating) – borrow from a friend (3 out of 5)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best of 2008: Non-Youth Ministry Books

This is the first post in a series of posts on the "Best of 2008." This year has been a tough year for me, no many levels, but despite all of the downsides it has been a blessed year. As the year comes to a close, I thought I would take some time to share some thoughts on this year. More specifically, these are my thoughts on some of the highlights of my year. Let's just start with one of my favorite things: books.

I read a lot of books this year. This year, it seems I read a high percentage of non-youth ministry related books. This was good. You could call these books for my soul, and nurturing the soul is a very important task. What follows is my list of the best non-youth ministry books I read this year. Some of these books were published in 2008, others were not. Regardless of when they were written/published, these are the best books I read this year that are not directly related to youth ministry. I highly recommend each of them to anyone looking for something new to read.

Best of 2008: Non-Youth Ministry Books:
1. Signature Sins by Michael Mangis
This is a book I read to review for YMX. I am so glad I got this book to review, because I probably would not have found it otherwise. (I'll post a link to the review when its posted over at YMX) A few weeks ago, I posted on a quote in the book that put youth ministers in a negative light. The purpose of this book is summed up by these two quotes from the first chapter. "We do not sin at random. Our sin takes a consistent and predictable course." And "When we allow struggles to turn us toward God we redeem the brokenness."

2. Addiction & Grace by Gerald May
I know it was not written this year, but I just got around to reading it. To be honest, I started reading this a few years ago and then put it down. I am so glad I picked it back up and finished it this year. To be completely honest, I read an original version and not the new updated one that came out a few years ago. I posted two quotes from this book this year - go here and here to read those quotes.

Gerald May does an excellant job discussing the multiple aspects of addiction; physical, mental and spiritual. There is a lot of great, practical information within this book. Another must read for every youth worker. It will help you better understand/help anyone you know who is dealing with an addiction.

3. the dip by Seth Godin
This little book (76 pages) came out the end of 2007, but I didn't get around to reading it until the first of this year. This is a book on quitting. Quitting the right things at the right time, in order to focus on not quitting the stuff you need to stick with. Making it to the end involved making it through the dip - that tough part of the journey which causes most people to give up on their goal. The connection for youth ministers (and any church leader) is clear. In order to make it to your goal (your vision for your ministry) you have to make it through the dip. You will have to quit some "programs" in order to not quit on your goal.

Its worth the read, and it shouldn't take you more than an hour or so to read. To read some of my thoughts on one particular quote, on longevity, read this post.

4. free refill by Mark Atteberry
I got this book from Mark a little over a year ago. Over the years, there have been times where I have felt empty in my faith. I have needed more Jesus, to be filled up. Atteberry has written a book filled with examples of biblical people who were refilled. You will find encouragement within these pages and get a little glimpse of how much Jesus wants you to be filled up with his love.

I posted a quote on Jesus' love earlier this year, go to this post to read it. And when you are done, go to the store (or internet bookstore) and get a copy of this book to read the whole thing.

Those are the best non-youth ministry books I read in 2008. What were your favorite non-youth ministry books from 2008?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Photo Friday: Church at Night

A simple, small church building at night.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #99: Princess Diana

answer #98 - Video Killed the Radio Star

question #99 - What was Princess Diana's profession before she married Prince Charles?

Monday, December 08, 2008

25 White Elephant Gift Exchange gift ideas

Last week, I wrote that one idea for this Christmas season is to do a white elephant gift (WEG, as I like to call it) exchange at a Christmas party. As I thought back over my youth ministry career so far, I remembered quite a few good WEG ideas. So, being the generous person I am - I am posting some of the better gifts I can remember.

Disclaimer: in the case of a WEG, "better" does not always mean "better" in the normal sense. Just keep that in mind as you read the list.

25 White Elephant Gift Ideas:
1. a slice of cheese
2. two stuffed pig dolls
3. a broken "don't spill the beans" game
4. various cds (dishwalla, mercy me, a couple compilations)
5. a vhs version of any movie
6. mark twain paperback
7. 10 random buttons
8. $1 bill (which by the way no one really seemed to want)
9. a mp3 player (it will be a gift most people want)
10. headphones (nothing else)
11. Winnie the Pooh backpack
12. A Casey's top 40 record from 1983 (probably need an old DJ for this one)
13. a plethora of a charity's (like relay for life) material (buttons, stickers, cups)
14. 101 things you need to know book
15. a used sippy cup
16. girl scout cookies and hot chocolate (another item people will actually want)
17. random items from your desk (works best if its a student's desk)
18. a dance instruction vhs tape
19. potpourri (any shape or form)
20. a mostly burnt candle
21. a manual ice cream maker
22. some of your old school papers (for the adults)
23. Britney Spears cassette tape (a few kids didn't even know what a cassette was)
24. one coaster
25. a pink t-shirt that says "Britney's competition" (I'm wearing it in the picture)

There are 25 ideas to get you started. One of my favorite WEG moments came a few years ago. My wife reminded of it recently, because it is her favorite WEG memory. We had a new student, the Christmas party was her first event, and she brought a really nice bath set. Somehow the communication of what kind of gift to bring was lost and she actually brought a nice gift. The best part was the gift she left with, though. At the end of the night, she left with a plastic fork. Classic youth ministry moment. A moment that brings a smile to my face every time I think of it.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Photo Friday: The Nativity... with one change

I took this picture as my boys were playing with our Little People Nativity Set. At first glance, everything seems normal. But if you look a little closer, Baby Jesus has been replaced by someone else. Did you notice who it was?

5 Christmas Season Ideas for Youth Ministry

December means Christmas. And in youth ministry that means a busy schedule (or the possibility of a busy schedule this month). There are so many good things to do with your students during December, but I thought I'd share just a few of my favorites.

Here are 5 ideas for your Christmas youth ministry season...

1. Christmas Party with a white elephant gift exchange.
Plan a party at one of the student's houses. Play some games, eat food, share stories or anything else you want. But you have got to do a white elephant gift exchange. It always provides a ton of laughs and some great memories.

2. Caroling.
Take the students around town, visiting some of the new families at the church. Or go to the nursing home or homes of some of the adults who can't get out much.

3. Bake cookies, then deliver them around the neighborhood.
This might be more geared toward the girls in your group, but its not limited to just girls. We always bake one day and then deliver a day or two later. This activity will help build the community within your students and it will help them get out and serve the community. Plus the community gets some homemade cookies and desserts.

4. Snow shoveling.
No one wants to shovel their walk or driveway, so why not let your students do it for them. Not only is it a way to serve, it usually turns into a fun time for the youth.

5. Sledding & snowball fights (or other classic winter events).
These are just for fun and to build community within your ministry.

No matter which of these events you do, make sure you take pictures and video. You will be able to use that media in so many ways throughout the year.

What other ideas would you consider essential to a good Christmas season?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Trivia Wednesday #98: MTV

answer #97 - Alaska

question #98 - Name the first song ever played on MTV.

Monday, December 01, 2008

NYWC '08: Picture Tour

I did not take many pictures this year, I guess I was too busy enjoying the convention. The picture tour is in no way a complete picture of what a National Youth Workers Convention is like, but it'll give you a sense of what my week entailed.

Picture Tour highlights: 1. Zaxby's on the way down. 2. Some guy on a really tall bike I saw when I got into Nashville. 3. Youth workers starting to arrive at registration. 4. One of my fellow volunteers, Dan. 5. Stage being set up. 6. Heather and Karen doing some serious Resource Center work - getting stuff ready to bag the freebies. 7. Youth workers signing up for Compassion sponsorship. 8. Giving away the freebie bags before the 4th session. 9. Arena full of youth workers. 10. Zamboni Crossing (need I say more). 11. Crowder leading worship. 12. Starfield leading worship. 13/14. Doing my part to write one verse in the Bible Across America. 15. Mike Pilavachi sharing his version of some of Jesus' miracles. 16. Worshipers. 17. Working in the Resource Center. 18. Breakfast with the convention staff on Monday. 19/20. Adam doing his podcast thing. 21-23. Packing up the Resource Center and saying "goodbye" to other volunteers. 24. View from the elevator going down, marking a close to the convention.