Friday, January 30, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: It's Time to "Out Stand"

Lesson in a Sentence: Stand up for the right thing because it's the right thing.

Attendance: 174 with 8 first time visitors.

Student Involvement: We had students serving in the tech booth, camera, greeting, doing announcements, serving in the cafe, and leading on the worship team.

Fun Stuff: Played "Knight, Mount, Carry" in the gym. We also had some Super Bowl trivia and gave away 50 cents "Cafe Cash" if they answered correctly ... which wasn't too difficult to do.

Worship Set: Forever, God of This City, Glorious One. Note - During "God of This City" we took time in the middle of the song to specifically pray for our schools. Our Thursday Challenge was to pray for someone at school, so we wanted to take time to do that during our worship set. In the middle of the song we opened it up for students to come forward and pray specifically for the schools and the students at them. It was a very cool and worshipful time.

Lesson in More Than a Sentence: We continued with the "It's Time" theme and we talked to our students about character and integrity. We showed a clip from "The Legend of Bagger Vance" where Matt Damon's character has an opportunity to cheat during a golf match. No one would know ... yet he chooses to do the right thing and be a man of integrity. Our teenagers were challenged with the thought that their character is determined by what they do when no one is looking. We looked at the latest study on teen ethics put out by the Josphson Instutitute (2008). The surveyed nearly 30,000 teenagers and found that 1/3 of the boys and 1/4 of the girls admit to having stolen from a store or a parent. 42% have lied to save money and 83% have lied to their parents about something significant. 64% said they have cheated on a test. With all of that info, still 9% said they were satisfied with their personal ethics. We talked to our kids about how their decisions now will have an impact on who they will become as an adult and just because they may not get caught, doesn't mean a decision to compromise won't have a long term effect. We focused on 1 Timothy 4:12 and looked at the areas of character where God calls us to "set and example."

Personal Thoughts: Overall, I thought it was a good night and our students were really challenged. The prayer time during "God of This City" was awesome and I really felt the Spirit moving during that time. We also tried sitting at only tables for the first time. The verdict is still out. We'll give it another couple of weeks and determine whether or not we'll continue with it. The kids seemed to like it, but it was a bit more challenging from the adult perspective to keep an eye on our kids.

Someone forgot their purse and after the night a teenage girl brought it up to me and said, "Well, after tonight's talk I figured I shouldn't just walk away with it." lol I thought that was pretty funny!
I love teenagers and believe in them. That's why I do what I do. The really cool thing is that God believes in them too. 1 Timothy 4:12 was written to a teenagers and God believes in them enough that He feels they can "set an example" for other to follow ... even adults.

Pictures from the Night:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Blue Crew is the Blue Crew with OR without the shirts

Got this email from Miah today. Thought it was just super cool to see our people in action.

Hey guys,
Got a call a little before 8 from Tony S. asking if I was on my way to work- he asked me to swing by Roxbury Park on Bashor on my way in to help him get a car out. When I arrived, there was Tony, with Jeff V. and Dan J. Chuck H. arrived after I did.
So here’s a lady with her young child in the backseat, stuck in the snow and wondering what to do… and she’s rescued by 4 Grace Community guys and Dan J.

2 things that stick out to me-

- here’s a guy (Tony) who did NOT just drive by like everyone else, but stopped to help.
- the Blue Crew is the Blue Crew with or without the blue shirts on.

Way to go, fellas! You're representing God well!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Praying for Business

Elkhart County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. I believe the national average is around 7% (I could be wrong on that), but Elkhart County is at 14% unemployment right now. Our community has definately been hit hard by the economic problems the country is having. It seems like we are hearing of people in our church who are losing their jobs every week!

We have many business owners in our church. One of the things I really appreciate about Pastor Jim is that he really cares about our people and what is going on in the community right now and is trying to do something about it! So, one of our desires as a staff is to go to all of the business owners in our church and to pray for them throughout the year. We did that today by going to three separate businesses. These are business owners who are generous and who love Jesus and, just on a personal note, have shown generosity to me and my family in various ways throughout the years. So, today, we went to their "turf" and prayed for them. We prayed that God would give them wisdom. We prayed that God would show them favor and bring business to them. One business owner talked about how they "ding" a bell every time they have a sale ... we prayed for a lot of "dings!" It was a very moving time and I am believing God to do great things in these businesses ... God please help our people!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Monday

- I'm not sure how my wife does it, but she's pretty amazing! She's up multiple times a night with our new daughter and yet in the morning she's smiling, in a good mood, and ready to give all the attention in the world to our son. I remember when Ezra was born how amazed I was at Carol. Well, I'm once again amazed by her. She makes me want to be a better man and I am blessed to have her in my life.

- We went to small group last night and really had one of our best times. We spent a lot of time in prayer for each other. There were a lot of things going on in our lives and it just seemed like a time to spending praying. It was a real special time. On the way home, though, I got pulled over by a police officer. He comes up to the car and asks me if I've been drinking that night! I guess I was sorta driving across the yellow line and must have been doing an awful job driving if one of the first questions he asks me is if I was drinking! What's even more funny, the girl who baby sat for our small group (one of the girls in our youth ministry) drove past while the police officer was talking to me. Good times!

- We have a lot of things coming up on the calendar: Elder retreat this weekend, Super Bowl Party next weekend, Youth team meetings, Middle School Retreat, Daddy/Daughter Dance ... all in February ... It certainly doesn't take long for the calendar to fill up.

- Speaking of Super Bowl ... Go Steelers! My mom is sending us a Steeler's outfit for Mercy. You better believe the entire family will be decked out in Steeler gear come next weekend.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Creative Teens

We have some pretty creative teenagers in our youth ministry. This is a rap video some of our guys made "on the spot." Of course, it was around 1am and we were all a bit "loopy" but I was quite impressed. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: It's Time to "Out Thrive" and "Out Think"

Lesson in a Sentence: It's time we start living like children of God.

Attendance: Haven't had a chance to review the exact numbers, but somewhere around 220.

Student Involvement: Our kids were greeting at the door, working in the tech booth, on the worship team, taking pictures, reading Scripture, and passing out items at the end of the night.

Fun Stuff: Showed the Momentum 2008 hi-light video to promote Momentum in Pittsburgh in July. Also, showed a "rap" video 4 of our high school students put together. It was quite funny.

Lesson in More Than a Sentence: On Monday I had a specific direction that I wanted to go with axis Wednesday night, but as I went for a run on Tuesday afternoon, I just felt like God was leading me in a different direction. I felt led to tag along with our "big church" series "It's Time" and talk about how it's time for us, as a youth ministry, and in particular, those in axis who are children of God to start living that way. We simply focused on one of my favorite verses in the Bible: John 10:10 “A thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. I came so that they can have real eternal life. A better life than you’ve ever dreamed of.” When we really begin to understand what it means to really be a child of God ... the rights we have as children of God ... our lives will thrive! Jesus doesn't want us to live an ordinary, boring life. He wants our lives to THRIVE. It doesn't mean things will be perfect or that we'll never have problems, but it does mean we'll a life more fulfilling than we've ever dreamed of. When Christians "thrive" others outside of the faith will notice and we'll begin seeing spiritual conversations start. We then responded with worship by singing "Happy Day" and "We Shine." The place was rocking! Afterwards, I moved to "Out Think." It's time for us to begin out thinking the enemy and filling our minds with the truth of God. The enemy only knows how to bring hurt and pain so everything he tempts us with will eventually only bring hurt and pain. We ended by saying it's not cool to fall for the lies of the enemy. We went through a list of things that "aren't cool" and a list of things that "are cool." Kids seemed to respond really well to it.

Personal Thoughts: In both middle and high school we had some disciplinary problems. It was pretty distracting to me and really challenged me to keep my cool. In middle school we have a group of kids that seems to be disruptive quite often. About 2 minutes in to the lesson, they were just out of control. I had to stop everything and specifically go over to two kids and talk with them about their behavior. About 5 minutes later, one of the kids continued to create problems so I had to have one of our adults take him out of the room and talk with him. In senior high there was an excitement in the air from the start. There were some kids that were talkative during the night, but nothing out of control. But, as we were going through things that "Aren't cool" I asked the question "You know what not cool?" And one of the kids said "Mexicans." Not loud enough for everyone to hear, but just loud enough for those around him to hear. I heard it also and stopped everything right there and called him out. I typically don't do something like that from the front, but felt it was necessary in this instance. One thing I WILL NOT TOLERATE is racism or racial comments and so for the next 5 minutes I expressed, quite emphatically, how upset I was and how we will not tolerate things like that at axis. I wanted to use it as an opportunity to call this kid out, but also as an opportunity for the rest of our students to hear how totally unacceptable something like that is.

Personal Thoughts Continued: Over all I left feeling encouraged and I felt like God moved in both middle and high school. We challenged our kids to "creatively invite someone to axis" and we did it by giving our magnets to all the students with the new axis logo and info on it. I challenged students to give a magnest to a friend and invite them to axis or stick the magnet on the outside of their locker so they're all over the school. I got a text from a student today who said magnets are everywhere!

Pictures from the Night:

Keep It Simple

Sometimes we just try too hard.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Supper Bowl

We are planning on having a Super Bowl party for our high school ministry on 2/1. This is definately "ministry" for me because my Steelers are playing and, believe me, I'll be focused on the game. Won't care if I have kids coming to me with deep, personal problems. They can talk to me after the game. :) lol

Anyway, the NFL has some copyright laws that need to be followed, so if you're thinking about hosting a party at your church or youth ministry, here are some basic guidelines:

1. Churches can legally host Super Bowl parties on their premises.

2. Churches may show the game on whatever size screen they desire.

3. While churches may not charge admission, they may take up a donation to help with the cost of the event.

4. To avoid any copyright infringements, churches my want to call their event something OTHER than Super Bowl party. We are planning on calling ours a Supper Bowl Party ... at least for now.

5. ALL person must cheer for the greatest team ever ... the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday Monday

- It's good to be back in the office after a week off. I feel refreshed, but also in a bit of a "fog." After a week of very interrupted sleep, my head is a bit cluttered, but this was also one of the more refreshing times I've had away from the office. I'm ready to get back to it.

- Had really good services at church yesterday. I walked away personally challenged to rely more and more on the Holy Spirit (our "unfair" advantage) and to think "Why not us?" I want to make a difference in the lives of teenagers and I want our teenagers to make a difference in their world. I constantly want to check my motives on this too because I don't want it to become some sort of "pride" thing ... "Hey, look at what MY kids are doing." Yuck! I truly want them to reach their friends, their classmates, their teammates so that we can see people come to Jesus. I want to do the same thing in my world too.

- I've been blown away by this plane that was "ditched" in to the Hudson River last week. Captain Scully ... wow! Talk about split second decision making and using your experience. No offense against "young" pilots or anything like that, but if a plane I'm on is going down toward the Hudson River, I want my pilot to have a little "gray" in his hair. I've been in full-time youth ministry for 6 1/2 years now and I hope that I can use my experience to pull through the difficult times and to move us forward as well.

- ... OK ... still thinking about the plane ... Airplanes are designed to withstand lightning strikes ... but a flock of geese can cause one to crash. I guess technology can only do so much.

- My Steelers are going to the Super Bowl! Man, that was a fun game to watch. We had some girls from axis stop by before the game started ... not to watch the game, but to see Mercy. It was great to have them over. We also had one of the guys from axis stay and watch the game with us. He got a glimpse of his youth pastor getting angry and screaming at the TV at times. :) Mercy cried the ENTIRE second half ... I mean the E-N-T-I-R-E time. I think she was just upset over the ball that Limas Sweed dropped for a TD. But, man, I'm pumped they are on their way to Tampa. I'll be nervous for 2 weeks ... but I'm glad to have more time to wear my Steelers jersey.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Teaching Topic: 2009 Vision for axis.

Lesson in a Sentence: Being a clear picture of who God is will rebel against the "flow."

Attendance: 120 on a sub-zero, wintry night.
Fun Elements: We did the Impossible Shot in the gym (a 3/4 length of the court basketball shot). We also gave away 5 t-shirts with Grace Community's 2009 theme: "It's Time." We finally showed a clip from the French version of American Idol of a human beatbox. This guy was amazing. The video can be found on You Tube at

Student Involvement: We had our kids greeting at the doors, working the cafe, giving away prizes, and our worship was entirely student led.

Understandable Message: I shared the history of axis and how God has allowed us to grow from 8 kids 6 1/2 years ago to 200 kids today. There have been many moves made along the way in axis' history, but our goal of representing God well and being a clear picture of who He is has always remained the same. I sensed some apathy in our youth ministry toward the end of last year and challenged our kids not to lose our focus for reaching people for Jesus. I challenged them to be rebels this year ... but in the sense of actually following the teachings of Jesus. If we truly follow Jesus, we will be rebels! Turn the other cheek, love your enemies, guard your thoughts, sacrifice to help those in needs ... who does that? A majority of people don't and that's why if we follow Jesus, we'll be rebelling against the "flow." I challenged our kids to be on mission at their schools one day a week this year for the entire school year and we're calling it "Rebel Thursdays." 1st Thursday of the month: Thank a worker at the school. 2nd Thursday: Serve your school in some way (pick up trash, take up someone else's tray, etc). 3rd Thursday: Creatively invite someone to axis. 4th Thursday: Ask someone how you can pray for them. We also shared some of the events and trips that we have planned for the year.

Personal Thoughts: I had a difficult time prepping for this Wednesday's axis. I'm on vacation this week and really wanted to focus on being home with my family. I had some trouble getting focused and ready for Wednesday night. But, I shared with our kids that the ONLY thing that would get me away from vacation was to share with them my passion for axis in 2009.

Pictures from the Night:

The "Pains" of Childbirth

It's hard to believe that one week ago today Mercy came in to this world. When she was born Carol was in labor for over 18 hours. When Ezra was born she was in labor for over 12 hours. In both cases, because the labor was progressing so slowly, she had to be given a drug called pitocin to speed things up a bit. Pitocin works ... but it causes the contractions to be longer and more severe. I think they used pitocin at Guantanamo Bay because it just looked like she was being tortured! I saw the pain she was in and it was such a helpless feeling because there was absolutlely nothing I could do. During that time I remember being amazed at my wife ... her strength and tenacity to pull through this. But, I also I remember thinking, “I am so glad I am not a woman!” There is no way I could ever go through that!

The Bible says in Romans 8:20 - 22 we live on an earth that has been given to the devil. This creation, this world we live in is in bondage and it is groaning as in the pains of childbirth because it is under the rule of the enemy. I saw the pain and the tears and the utter exhaustion my wife went through during childbirth and the Bible says that all of creation is under the same pain and sheds the same tears and suffers the same exhaustion and it just cries out for relief from the rule of Satan. Satan only knows how to create pain. He only knows how to create hurt, disappointment, suffering. His only purpose is to "steal, kill, and destroy." That's all he knows. Don't fall for the lies.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Random "Dad" Thoughts

- I'm a huge fan of sports but I'm not a huge fan of some of the arrogance that can be found in sports ... especially when athletes refer to themselves in the third person. But, what I've discovered since being a dad is that I refer to myself in the third person ALL the time now: "Ezra, you want daddy to ready you a book?" "Ezra, daddy's going to chase you." "Ezra, do you want to watch the Steelers with daddy?" I would never talk to anyone else that way. "Carol, you want Rich to chase you?" OK, bad example! lol.

- I've only been the father of a daughter for 5 days, but I'm already thinking about how protective I'm going to be of her when the "boys" come calling. Keep your hands off my daughter!

- Since spending time at home this week, I have once again been reminded that our kids watch us all the time. Ezra wants to do everything his daddy does (just dropped a third person on ya). We've had lots of snow lately and he's seen me shoveling ... or as he says "fuffel." Here he is wanting to help daddy "fuffel."

- I will do my best to teach my kids the Bible and pray that they'll believe God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do based on the truths of the Bible ... but I also know my kids' view of God will largely be based on me ... how I treat them, how I respond to them, how I engage with them. What an honor.

Monday, January 12, 2009


I have the opportunity to stay home this week (except when I share the 2009 vision for axis this Wednesday), so I'm going to do my best to "BE" with my Carol, Ezra, and Mercy during this time. That means I probably won't be blogging much. So, allow me to leave you with a couple of pictures of the family.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Your Mercies Are New Every Morning

After 9 months and 8 days, our beautiful daughter Mercy Esther is finally here. We chose the name because the Bible verse that has been impressed on the hearts of Carol and I the most in 2008 was Micah 6:8 "... live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." We have seen God show mercy to us in so many different ways and we also saw God give us the opportunity to live out mercy in 2008 ... we just knew that if we had a girl, her name had to be mercy. We will pray the meaning of "mercy" (leniency and compassion shown toward others, a disposition to be kind and forgiving) over our daughter throughout her life.

Welcome to our world and to our family, Mercy.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


I'm making it my personal mission to celebrate all of our office birthdays this year. The latest birthday to celebrate ... Pastor Jimmy Brown! Happy Birthday, Jim. Most people think I'm trying to do this in the office because one of my spiritual gifts is hospitality and that I just want to take time to celebrate things and let people know they are cared for. The real purpose behind it is that I just like cake.

Monday, January 5, 2009

It's Official

Well, it didn't take long for me to decide to move my blog here. Quick, concise decision making ... that's what leadership is all about. haha. So, you can find me here from now on and hopefully this will be a place full of fun, encouragement, and ideas ... for you and for me.

Test Run

I'm trying to decide if I'll move my blog to here or if I'll keep it on the axis website. Big, big decision! President elect Obama has to make decisions on the economy, on Iraq, on the Israel/Hamas conflict ... I have to make decisions about where to post my blog. lol

Anyway, I'll probably do a couple of trial runs here just to test things out and see which is easier to use.

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