Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday Tidbits

- Went to the doctor yesterday for a check up and some tests results. Anyway, as she is talking to me, she asked if I had lost any weight recently. Well, I'm proud to say that I have. Since the beginning of the year I've lost 13 pounds. Woo Hoo! Anyway, I told her that I had lost some weight, but had been trying to do so ... running, watching what I'm eating, etc. So, she asks me to take my shirt off for an exam and when I do she says, "Now I see why you're trying to lose weight. You have a bit of a 'gut'." Yes, thank you doctor for pointing that out. Ahhh, just love bluntness.

- I spent some time with Mercy this morning. Carol was getting ready for work, so I got to do the morning routine with Mercy. It was so nice. Lately, Mercy has been crying ... well, screaming ... when I hold her at night. Her "fussy" time has always been around 7:30pm to 8:00pm. But, I'd hold her and she'd always sorta snap out of it after a bit. Well, lately she hasn't been and she's only been calming down when Carol holds her. So, I've been feeling a bit disappointed about that ... like she hasn't "connected" with me yet. But, this morning ... man, it was great. I just felt like we were really bonding and I just loved every minute of it. It's hard to believe she'll be 3 months old this Thursday!

- Our services Sunday were awesome. We wrapped up the 21 day fast with a worship celebration. We had a time for people to share what God has been doing in there lives. It was so special to hear from people. All of the things people shared were great, but the one that stuck out to me was when a teenage guy shared that his dad is an alcoholic, but is getting help now and with tears just streaming down his face he said, "I feel like I have my dad back." Oh, man, we could have just ended everything right then and there for me.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My Ring

Ezra has been doing something for the past couple of weeks. When I go to bed I usually take my wedding ring off and put it on our night stand. In the morning, when Carol or I go get Ezra, we bring him in to our room and just let him play on the bed with us for a little bit. Anyway, he always sees my wedding ring and will bring it to me and just keep saying "Daddy. Daddy." He wants me to put the ring on and won't STOP saying "Daddy" until I put the ring on.

It's been a good reminder to me of how important a good, loving, intimate marriage is to the development of children. One of the best things that Carol and I can provide for Mercy and for Ezra is a good marriage. To allow them to see that mom and dad are there for each other ... that we love each other ... that we truly enjoy being with each other ... that type of environment will provide so much security and stability for our kids as they grow up.

One of the things I try to pray every day is to be a GREAT husband. I don't want to be known as an "average" husband. I don't even want to be known as a "good" husband. I want to be GREAT at being a husband. Carol deserves that from me. I am so blessed to have her in my life and so fortunate that she puts up with me. There's so much I need to work on in being a GREAT husband, but I'm glad I get to work on it with her. But, working on that will not only show her how much I love her, but will also be one of the greatest gifts that we could ever give Ezra, Mercy, and whatever other children God may bring our way.

One of the things I've heard Pastor Jon say is that he often prays "God, kill me before I do something to hurt my family." That has become a prayer of mine as well ... "God, please kill me before I do something to hurt my family, Your church, or Your ministry." We are all one step away from failure and I need God's grace in my life to keep me from failing. I talk to our teenagers all the time about Carol and things that go on in our relationship. Having a family has definatley changed the dynamics of ministry. It's made it a little more difficult to "hang" with teenagers. My family is my priority and I will not sacrifice them ... although they have made sacrifices many times. But, to keep my family a priority I have had to say "no" to some things. So, I've had to try to figure out new ways of doing ministry and building relationships. But, one of the things having a family has definately done is allowed me to demonstrate to our teenagers what it means to be a Godly husband and a Godly dad. I love to have our teenagers see Carol and I interact with each other because I just love my wife! And, I want our teenagers to see that.

"God, help me to be a great husband, a great dad, and a great pastor." And, thanks, Ezra, for always bringing my ring to me.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Compliment Guys

Check out what some guys at Purdue University are doing every Wednesday outside of class.

What I'm Learning About Youth Ministry

I was able to go to a conference at CE National in Winona Lake this weeks for a conference on youth ministry. There were approximately 40 other youth pastors there from around the country and we just spent time talking about youth ministry, sharing ideas ... what has worked ... what hasn't worked ... and really just trying to learn from each other. It was very helpful for me to be a part of something like that.

- I was really challenged in a couple of areas. First, I need to give our kids more ownership of their youth ministry. We have kids involved in virtually EVERY area of axis ... but I think we can do even more than we're doing now. I have to figure out ways to get our kids more involved in THEIR youth ministry.

- I need to invest more in our adult leaders. We have just an incredible group of adults who work with our kids, but I really need to begin investing more in them and providing more opportunities for them as well. I also realize that we desperately need more adults to help and invest in the lives of teenagers.

- I need to invest more in our student leaders. I'm thinking about just totally blowing up our student leadaer ministry and completely revamping it. We have good kids and I need to give them more of myself and provide more opportunities for them.

- I need to provide more opportunities for our kids to begin to dig deeper into the Word of God. I think we are on a good path with this right now, but I want to stay focused on it and really see the kids who want to have the opportunity to dig in to the Bible and know why we believe what we believe.

I'm not sure how this is all going to be fleshed out quite yet, but I know these are some things I need to be doing.


Had some labs done today for insurance purposes. So, I had to have blood drawn, but I have historically difficult veins. I remember the first time I ever had blood drawn ... 6th grade appendectomy ... and the nurse had to stick me 3 times. Ever since then, there is rarely success with the first "stick." Today, two sticks ... no success. The nurse said she's never had to stick someone 3 times. So, she just decided to call it quits and give someone else a try. Some of the secrets I've learned, though, to getting blood drawn ... drink lots of water. It makes your veins bigger and more easily accessible ... except in my case. :)

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: The Power of Words
The "Big" Idea: We have the power to use our words to build up or tear down
Student Involvement: We had kids working the camera, working in the cafe, the tech room, on the worship band, greeting, and helping with all of our sign ups.
Fun Stuff: Impossible Shot in the gym.
Attendance: 203
Bible Verses: Matthew 12:34 - 37
Lesson Review: We spent time looking at 4 "truths" about our words. 1. Words Can Hurt. 2. Words Show What's In Your Heart. 3. We'll Be Held Accountable for Our Words. 4. Our Words Can Make a Difference. We showed a couple of videos. One was a funny "Deep Thoughts from a Shallow Christian" on words. The other was a news cllip on the "Compliment Guys" at Purdue University. I really tried to drive home the idea that there is power behind what we say and we need to use that power to build other people up instead of tearing them down with our words.
Personal Thoughts: We broke up in to small groups (or "3 D Groups ... Dig Deep & Discuss) for the first time this Wednesday. We had been doing small groups on another night, but have decided to move small groups to the last Wednesday of every month. Those in a small group left during the lesson. Those not in a group stayed with me. It was cool to have a smaller group of kids to teach and it seemed to make things more interactive, which is what I'm hoping to have happen on our 3 D Group Wednesdays. I'm also excited about the kids in the 3 D Groups that will be going through our statement of faith. Overall, it was a great night.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Mona Greasa

This may turn you off to meat forever! :) Enjoy


I never thought I'd say this, but if I don't get a chance to run, I actually MISS doing it! I've been training for a half-marathon that I'll be running in Indy in May and have really enjoyed getting ready for it. I've talked to a lot of people who say that when they run they feel close to God and can spend lots of time in prayer. Well, that's great for them, but when I run, a majority of the time I'm too busy BREATHING to be able to focus on anything else. :) But, what I have noticed is that running has taught me that I can do more than I think I can do. When I first started training for this half-marathon, I kind of circled March 21st because that was the day that I was to run 9 miles. NINE FREAKING MILES! At the beginning of the year, I could never have imagined myself being able to do that ... but today I did. Running has taught me to push myself ... to go one more mile ... to be disciplined enough to get up and go ... and even though MOST of the time I'm not really enjoying it DURING the run, when I'm finished I just feel GREAT!

Today, in between my breaths, I did try to pray for a bit while I was running. I focused on asking the Holy Spirit to to continue to develop His fruit in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and SELF CONTROL. As I look at my life, "self control" seems to be the one that I've struggled with many times ... but the Holy Spirit wants to give me self control. I'm just blown away by the role the Holy Spirit plays in our lives. As Pastor Jim has often said, "The Holy Spirit is our unfair advantage." The Holy Spirit shows up to show off and I'm praying that I'll continue to allow the Holy Spirit to "show off" in my life.

Oh, funny story about my run this morning ... it was pretty cold outside. Since my chemotherapy treatments two years ago, my hands have been really, really sensitive to cold. So, at five miles I was running past my house and my hands were FREEZING ... literally numb. I couldn't feel them at all. So, I stopped and grabbled a pair of gloves, but the only gloves I had were my camo huntin' gloves. So, there I was in my running shorts, my adidas shirt ... AND my camo gloves. Don't think I'll be getting a sponsor any time soon. :)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hard Day

I've been burdened for some kids in our youth ministry this week. One of our key students was diagnosed with a brain tumor on Wednesday. It was a cool opportunity for us as a youth ministry to surround her and pray for her. It was very cool for me to see a ton of students going up to her on their own and just hugging her, praying for her, and just being there for her. But, man, it's tough to see that happen to a young girl.

One of our adult leaders is with her dad right now. He just had a heart attack. We also have another student who has been dealing with a pretty serious sickness for a few months. A student who just lost her mom to cancer. And, some kids who are dealing with heavy issues at home.

You never know what a teenager brings with them every time they enter our ministry's doors. I'm burdened for our kids and have been praying for them today.

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: The End
The "Big" Idea: The end should motivate us to talk to others about Jesus.
Student Involvement: We had kids greeting, working the cafe, working the tech room, playing on the worship team, and passing out Bibles.
Fun Stuff: Dodgeball in the gym!
Lesson Review: We wrapped up our "The End" series by looking at the last 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. We started with a video clip from Deep Impact that shows an asteroid hitting the earth. We reviewed a bit and then tackled the last 3 1/2 years. We talked about the 2 Witnesses, the "assassination" and the perceived coming back to life of the anti-Christ, the "Mark of the Beast," the "Bowl" judgments, Armageddon, the Second Coming, and the 1000 Year Reign. It was a TON of info, but was really well received. The big idea that I tried to drive home was that all of this stuff is cool to talk about, but it really should motivate us to ask 2 questions: Are we ready? And, which of our friends to we need to make sure are ready? It was a good way to close out our series.
Personal Reflections: This was a great series and one that really stirred a ton of interest with our kids. I had one girl ask me before axis, "So, how are you going to scare us tonight?" I have also had a ton of kids just coming up to me asking questions, which is really cool. I also received two really cool texts from kids. One said that she is in choir at school and they are singing a song based off of Revelation (strange choice of songs :) but anyway, a friend of hers was asking a bunch of questions and she said that because of what we've been talking about on Wednesdays, she was able to answer a lot of her questions. She then invited her to axis and she is coming next Wednesday. I also received another text from a student who said they have really enjoyed the series and are actually trying to read through Revelation ... even thought it's really hard to understand!
I also thought it was our best use of videos that we have EVER done during lessons. I purposely tried to go "media heavy" with this and it really seemed to work with the kids. They loved the videos we used and it broke up our lessons very well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Monday

- I got to the office today with "big" plans ... and quickly got distracted by computer problems. It's amazing how quickly things can come up that demand our time ... but are so not worth our time. Sometimes the "coakroaches" are just going to show up and you just have to deal with them. I guess the trick is to not go looking for those things, but to stay focused on the most important things.

- Had lots of rain last week that, once again, made it into our basement. I think I finally figured out where this water is coming in and am hoping to quickly get the problem fixed. But, unfortunately it's too late for our carpet. We'll have to do some renovations downstairs because of the water damage. Yuck! Good life lesson and part of the reason I work with kids ... it's easier to build up a strong kid than it is to repair an adult.

- Just getting over the flu as well. Man, I feel a ton better than I did over the weekend. The problem is the flu kept me from my "long" run as I'm getting ready for the half-marathon. I was supposed to run 8 miles on Saturday, but knew that wasn't going to happen. I might just skip the 8 and go straight to the 9. :)

- Had really good services yesterday: "He Is Wild." Looked at the heart of man's wild side. It was so much fun! We had some competitions for guys and a really funny "wipe out" video. The band also sang "Wanted Dead or Alive" to start the service. It rocked! Over all it was a really good service and I'm sure couples had lots to talk about when they got home.

- I was a part of some really good meetings over the weekend ... when I wasn't in bed sick. First was one for small group leaders and deacons on the difference between "care vs. counsel." We had the head of a counseling center come in and describe how their church differenciates between those who give "care" and those who give "counsel." In short, the "care" role is generally crisis and need management. The "counsel" role is generally longer term, specific, problem managment. There were lots of other details that were just great to hear. I also had an adult youth team meeting. It was a good, good time with our adults. They're awesome! And, finally, met with my teen small group Sunday afternoon. What a great bunch of teenagers!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: The End
The "Big" Idea: It's going to be really bad!
Attendance: 186 with 2 first time visitors
Student Involvement: Our worship team was entirely student led, we had kids taking pictures, working in the tech room, reading Scripture, greeting, and working the cafe.
Fun Stuff: For both middle and high school we did the Impossible Shot in the gym. It was a lot of fun. I tell ya, the kids just love that game!
Lesson Review: We started out with a clip of the Rapture from Left Behind. We ended with the Rapture last week and we used that clip as a review. We then moved on to the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. We used clips from Day After Tomorrow and also Deep Impact to sort of illustrate things that could possibly happen during the Tribulation. This topic is really getting in to our kids' heads and they are talking a lot about it and asking questions ... which is cool.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Feed the Children

While Grace was busy handing out boxes of food from Feed the Children at our church, I was busy at the Concord Mall with my 5 Star kids passing out food to hundreds of families! Don't get me wrong, I love my church and would have loved to have been here serving ... but it was nice to be out with kids from the Goshen Middle School, most of whom don't have a relationship with Jesus, and to be serving with them ... teaching them the importance of giving back and helping others and also modeling that for them. I was thankful 5 Star had the opportunity to be involved with this and thankful the Goshen Middle School principle let the kids out of school for a few hours to help. I also thought it was great to see the principle RIGHT THERE with the kids, getting her hands dirty and serving right along side of them. What a great example!

There were 15 semis full of food and other supplies and hundreds and hundreds of cars lines up to receive the help. What a cool day. Awesome to see people from all over Elkhart County team up to help others from all over Elkhart County.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday Monday

- I woke up this morning incredibly grateful for my family. I am so blessed to have Carol and Ezra and Mercy. There are times when my heart feels like it's going to explode with joy because they are in my life. I certainly do not deserve to be so blessed ... and yet I am.

- Tomorrow is a big day in Elkhart County. There will be a county wide relief effort and we'll be participating by giving out food to some hurting families. I think Jon Stewart said something along these lines: The auto industry is falling apart. The housing industry is falling apart. Elkhart County decided to combine the two (RV's) ... no wonder it as the highest unemployment rate in the country! I guess sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Anyway, it will be cool to be able to help some people tomorrow. I'll be joining my 5 Star kids and helping them pass out meals at the Concord Mall.

- I had a high school teenager come up to me at church yesterday and let me know that after axis last Wednesday he went to Taco Bell with two other friends. We talked about the end times and one of the friends had just a ton of questions. Long story short, he was able to share the Gospel with him and his friend got saved! Woo Hoo! Something else that's really cool ... it was absolutely pouring down rain yesterday morning ... POURING! That same teenager saw my wife getting out of the car to walk to the church ... ran out in the deluge and helped Carol bring the kids in to the church. Very cool.

- I was getting things ready at our house last night for small group. I had to move our pack-n-play to another room and asked Ezra if he wanted to help. I picked it up, was absolutely doing all of the work, but Ezra was on the other end as happy as could be because he thought he was the one moving it. I thought about that for awhile and came to the conclusion that's often how things work with God. We may feel like ... or even believe ... that we are the ones doing all the work ... but we're not. God is the one in total control and He's doing all the moving. We just have to be willing to be involved in the process.

- Sunday's services were great! Jim continued the "He Is" series and talked on "He Is Visual." He did a great job! I learn a lot from him ... not just from what he talks about but also how he talks about it. He's a good mentor to have.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: The End
The "Big" Idea: Are you ready?
Attendance: 186 with 4 first time visitors
Student Involvement: We had kids greeting, taking pictures, working the video camera, sound, media, and lighting. We also had kids reading Scripture, working in the cafe and on the worship team.
Fun Stuff: In both middle and high school we had the Conan O'Brien bit "What If They Had Babies." In middle school we played "Finger Duels" and in high school we had the "Impossible Shot."
Lesson Review: We started out by watching a Sermon Spice "Man on the Street" video about what people thought of the end times. There were some really interesting thoughts. That intro'd our topic for the next 3 weeks. We talked about how, whether we believe it or not, one day the world as we know it will end. (2 Peter 3). It's not a fun topic to think about, but Jesus wants us to be prepared and to recognize the "signs of the times." (Matthew 24:3 - 14). We talked about the Rapture this night (1 Thessalonians 4:15 - 18) and tried to think of what it would be like when the Rapture occurs. Again, the big thought was "to be ready" and I encouraged our kids to talk with adults in axis about any questions they may have and how they can know how to be ready. I had some really good conversations with kids after axis and received and email from a mom who said the kids she took home couldn't stop talking about things in the car. It was more "theology" than "application" tonight ... and I believe we need to do that at times with our kids, but it definately got them thinking and talking. We closed with the following video.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Here are some of the videos from the National Youth Ministries Conference. These guys do such a great job of keeping things light and fun, but also providing serious opportunities for reflection and relationships. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Wednesday Wrap Up

Topic: God's Planet, Our Responsibility
The "Big" Idea: The little things can make a big difference.
Attendance: 200
Student Involvement: We had students greeting, working the cafe, working the sound, media, and lights. We also had students playing on the worship team.
Worship Set: Dancing Generation, We Are Free, ... and one more song I'm forgetting at the moment. It was a great worship set and kids were really getting in to it.
Fun Stuff: We used a "drum line" video as a countdown. It was really good. We also played a game to go with our "green" theme called "Green in a Blender." We put a bunch of green foods (green beans, collared greens, green M & M's, green "Peeps", Guacamoli (I'm sure I'm not spelling that correctly), Green taco sauce) all in a blender and them mixed it up. We then had 4 students compete by seeing who could drink their cup of green the fastest. Gross, but fun!
Lesson Review: We started out with a video from a group of teenagers who were so passionate about recycling that they actually had plastic bags BANNED from their town. We also watched video clips from Wall-E, and a clip I found on More Than Dodgeball of kids showing ways to conserve water. I tried to talk briefly between each of the clips and tried, once again, to go media heavy. Our Bible verses were Psalm 24:1, Genesis 1:28, and Genesis 2:15. Again, the idea was that God created this amazing place and entrusted it to us. We have a responsibility to look after it. I then gave 6 little things that can be done that would make a huge difference in caring for our environment and also talked about what we'll be doing as a youth ministry to try to implement some of those "little" things. Overall, I really thought it was a good night with good connections with kids.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Back Home

We made it back from the National Youth Ministries Conference. The trip back was MUCH better than the trip there. Mercy slept a majority of the trip ... which was really nice. All in all, I really enjoyed this year's conference. There was a really good mix of fun, seriousness, and relationship building. One of the things I really appreciate about this conference is their desire to see other youth pastors connect with each other. It's really good to have the opportunity to do that. I'm still processing everything I've learned and am looking forward to implementing many of the things I learned in my Deeper Track. The take-a-way from the last track that I was at is that many youth volunteers get caught up in the "task" of youth ministry and we, as youth pastors, need to provide opportunities for them to simply build relationships with kids. I really want to do that with my team and have some work to do on the best way to provide those opportunities for our volunteers. I have such a great team of men and women who really care about our kids and who sacrifice their time to be with them. I want to do my best in providing opportunities for them to simply "BE" with our kids.

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