Friday, February 26, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 2-24-10

Topic: Identity

Student Involvement: Kids were greeting, working the cafe, taking pictures, stacking chairs, passing out bubble gum, giving out free hugs and compliments, working the tech cage, and leading small groups.

Fun Stuff: We did a couple of fun things. First, we played just a silly game called Heads or Tails. I had all the kids stand up, I flipped a coin, and if kids thought it was heads they put their hands on their heads. If they thought it was tails they put their hands on their butt (key word being THEIR butt). :) If you chose wrongly, you sat down, and we kept going til we had one winner. They got a prize. We also did another thing where I gave our kids the opportunity just to get to now each other better. I separated kids in to groups based on kids who probably didn't know each other very well just because of where they typically sat in our room. We then had them spend about 10 minutes together answering various questions I'd ask from the front of the room. Seemed like a majority of the kids enjoyed doing this.

Attendance: 155 with 3 first time visitors

Bible Verses: Phil. 4:13, Psalm 45:11, Deut. 7:6, Joshua 1:5, Jeremiah 31:34, Eph. 2:10

Main Thought: You are not defined by what you do but rather by who God says you are.

Night Review: We broke up in to small groups tonight. Those not in a small group, stayed with me and we talked about our identity and what defines us. I shared a personal illustration of a time when I was feeling very inadequate because of not being able to do something and how I started to believe lies about myself. I spent time sharing how we often feel like we are defined by what we can do or cannot do and the dangers that can bring to our lives because of the lies we'll begin to believe. We watched an I Am Second video of Michelle Aguilar (former winner of the Biggest Loser) and she talked about her self value (or lack of it) and what God did to bring her to a place where she wasn't going to allow herself to be defined by her weight or lack of weight or by her smile or by what she did. She was simply going to allow who God says she is define who she is.

We closed the night by reading a few lies we often believe about ourselves but combatted those lies with the truth of God's word (i.e. I'm not good enough vs. Philippians 4:13 ... I'm ugly vs. Psalm 45:11 ... God can't forgive me vs. Jeremiah 31:34). As kids left, I encouraged them to walk passed a set of mirrors and then to write on the mirrors how God feels about them. They may not even feel this about themselves yet, but I encouraged them to write out the truth about who God says they are. It was a cool way to end our time.

Personal Thoughts: Wow, it was a really crazy day on Wednesday! I felt like my mind was all over the place and I really had difficulty focusing. I didn't feel like I was at my best while teaching but it was cool to see how God used it anyway. Kids came up to me afterwards and said how what was talked about was just what they needed to hear.

We opened our Prayer Room tonight for the first time and it was cool to see kids praying in there. We also started a "Deeper" text list ... a new thing we're doing where I'll send 3 to 4 texts out a week with different Bible verses to reflect on, different things to pray about, or just simply a thought to meditate on. We had over 50% of our kids sign up for this list. Excited to see how that could be used to give kids opportuntities to turn their thoughts toward God.

Next Week: Our special "Invite a Friend" night. Our students are leading and we're sharing the Gospel! Can't wait!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Love LOve LOVe LOVE This Video

You may have seen this video by now, but if not, check it out. What a creative and positive way to promote doing something!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Youth Ministry Mistakes I'm Trying to Fix

I'm going in to my 8th year of youth ministry at Grace Community Church. I thought I knew how to do youth ministry until I actually started "doing" youth ministry full time. 8 years later I realize how little I actually knew and, even now, how little I still feel like I know. Youth ministry is ALWAYS changing because each year, our kids are changing. I feel like I always have to adapt our strategies which always keeps me on my toes. Sometimes I'm quick to adapt and change. Other times I stay true to my Western PA roots and fight change with all that's in me. That said, here are some of the mistakes I've realized I've made recently and what I'm trying to do to fix them:

1. Not following up with kids. Our youth ministry is not huge, but for our area, it's a pretty large youth ministry. There are kids I know very well and kids I hardly know at all. What I've seen happen is that I have often neglected or waited way too long to follow up with kids that I've noticed haven't been at axis for a while. Here's what I'm trying to do to fix that - We've started using an attendance tracking software (one of those things I waited entirely too long to implement) and now I'm able to see each week the students who are regular and those who have been MIA. I plan a regular time in to my schedule each week to follow up with kids that have been missing for 3 weeks either through a text, facebook message, or a letter in the mail.

2. I'm not delegating enough. A counselor I had in college described me as a person who would work all alone on a roof on a hot summer day exhausting myself ... but never ask for help EVEN when people are all around me who WANT to help. Yeah, that's not really how I want to be described. I don't want to appear lazy. I don't want to appear like I never want to do anything. So, I often take the other extreme and will involve myself in EVERYTHING. Not good. Here's what I'm trying to do to fix that - I'm working on my "issues" and want to empower our leaders with responsibilities, not just tasks. There are certain things I'm pretty good at. There are a number of things I stink at. I'm seeking to release more responsibilities to our adults and to our kids and provide them with opportunities to serve and develop their gifts.

3. I have an awful memory. I have the memory of a fish. My desk is often plastered with post-it notes to help me remember things ... and even then I will still often forget. My memory has caused me to forget tasks, birthdays, names, and many other things that are important to our students. Here's what I'm trying to do to fix that - I often pray that axis will be a great youth ministry and that I will be a great youth pastor. To be that, I have to be willing to do the little things that will lead to that. So, I'm looking through school yearbooks to try to remember faces and names. I'm ... well, some would say "stalking" on facebook. :) I will go to the pages of the kids who are members on our axis page. I'll look at their photos trying my best to remember their faces and their names. I will look at a list of birthdays at the beginning of the week and send out either birthday letters or texts to kids. I keep writing note after note after note to try to help me remember.

4. I haven't provided enough opportunities for kids to go "deeper." Our Wednesday night ministry is the biggest thing we do, so I pour a lot of time and energy in to it to make it attractive and appealing to teenagers. I believe that if we can create a caring, accepting environment ... a place of belonging ... then kids will get a clear picture of who God is and will be drawn to wanting to know Him more. That is a core, foundational belief for me. I feel I have been giving kids a clear picture of God, but I haven't been doing enough to provide opportunities for kids to truly know God more. Knowing God still comes down to, I believe, reading your Bible, praying, and serving. I haven't been providing enough opportunities to do that. Here's what I'm trying to do to fix that - I'm pouring more and more time in to our small group leaders and ministry. We are using the LIVE curriculum from Simply Youth Ministry. I'm also providing something called "Deeper Sheets" for our kids to take home with them. It will provide them the opportunity to dig deeper in to what we talk about. I'll also be creating a text list for any kids who want to receive regular texts from me such as Bible verses to think about, prayers, or something to reflect on. We've also been providing (not every Wednesday) but times for our kids to pray together during our meeting time. We've also created a prayer room. Does every kid take advantage of these things? No. But, we are always trying to move our kids to that and also want to have something in place for the kids that DO want these things.

Anyway, I could go on and on with the mistakes ... but that would be a blogging mistake. :) Just wanted to share some of my thoughts on how were trying to fix some things. Any other suggestions? Anything you have done to help fix mistakes you've made in ministry?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 2-17-10

Topic: Our Uncharted Review

Student Involvement: Kids were on the worship team, reading Scripture, praying, passing things out, working the cafe, greeting, and in our tech cage.

Fun Stuff: The Impossible Shot in the gym (had 3 winners and all got a $5 D.Q. gift card), and we also showed a really fun video of our youth ministry from Momentum 09. The video did a great job of showing the fun stuff and the serious stuff from the conference.

Attendance: 179 with 3 first time visitors

Bible Verses: Matthew 22:37 - 40, James 5:16, Acts 4:19

Night Review: I don't think I've ever done this before at axis, but I decided to do a complete review of our Uncharted series. I really feel like the stuff we've talked about (Kindness, Prayer, and Passion for the lost) ... I mean, if we get these things down as a youth ministry, God will use our kids to do just amazing things. I tried to convey this to our kids at the beginning to explain the importance of reviewing all of these things. I then tried to get super practical with our kids and gave them various ways to apply everything we've talked about over the past few weeks. We talked about how kindness is one of the best ways to show people Jesus Christ and how Jesus said if you can only do two things: Love God ... Love Others. To get practical we gave every teenager a package of Reese Cups and told them that their mission was to give it away at school on Thursday. Just a real simple way to show kindness. I also told them that if they eat it instead of giving it away, I prayed that God would give them the worst bowel movement of their entire lives. :) We also promoted our Uncharted Blitz coming up on 2/27 ... our way to go in to Goshen and do 10 Random Acts of kindness for people.

We then reviewed prayer and how the "Prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results." (James 5:16) What better way to apply prayer then to pray at the place our kids spend most of their time ... at school. So I challenged our kids to be a part of something called Claim Your Campus. The challenge was to have every school represented at axis prayed for every day of the week. We had 77 kids sign up to pray on various days of the week for their school. Man, I can't wait to see how God begins to use the prayers of our kids. I also told our kids about our new prayer room that we are going to set up in the Link. It's a room that will be solely devoted to prayer, giving kids an opportunity to pray before or after axis and also to write prayer requests or answers to prayer down. Can't wait to see how God uses the prayers from that room also!

We finally talked about Uncharted Passion ... a passion to reach people who don't know Jesus ... how this is our mission at axis. It's why we do what we do. I talked to our kids about a recent experience I was able to have sharing my faith with someone. The person didn't make any type of decision, but they heard the truth. I also shared a story of my son Ezra. Ezra is 2 1/2 and attends a music class at Goshen college for little kids. At the class they gave him sticks to bang together to make music. Ezra stops in the middle of class and says, "Hey, everyone!" (He then makes a cross with the sticks) He then says, "Look, it's a cross. Jesus died on the cross so we could go to heaven!" 2 1/2 years old and he just shared the Gospel with all the parents and kids in that class! It was awesome! So, I tried to give really practical steps for our kids like: 1) Posting something on their facebook status about what Jesus means to them or a Bible verse or something God has done in their life. 2) Share their story with someone ... what Jesus means to them. 3) Invite someone to come to axis in 2 weeks because we'll be sharing the Gospel on that night.

We closed out the night with worship.

I tried to go really practical on this night and gave our kids very specific things they could do to go Uncharted with God. Exciting stuff is happening and kids seem to be pumped up about reaching their friends. I feel like we have some good momentum going at the moment and would really ask you to pray for our kids and our leaders.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Yep, That's Me in a Bobsled Suit

I'd like to apologize to those of you that just threw up in your mouths a little bit. But, yep, that's me in a bobsled suit. Let me tell ya, my body has never been so happy to get out of something in my entire life. When I unzipped that zipper, it was like my body just EXPLODED out of that spandex!

Watching the Olympics got me thinking a little bit about Brock Krietzburg. I was able to work with Brock at a conference our church sponsored in 2007. Brock was an Olympic bobsledder for the US National team and competed in the 2006 Olympic Games. It's his suit I'm wearing in the picture and I'm thankful that he only laughed a little bit when he saw me in it. (Actually, I think he was a bit jealous of how I looked and used his laughter to cover up his insecurities after seeing me).

But, if you want to read just an incredible story of courage and determination, go to Brock's website and read this ESPN article.

Something else pretty cool about Brock ... he's going to play a CTU agent on one of my favorite shows ... 24! Man, I wish I would have kept that suit now.

Axis Wrap Up 2-10-10

Topic: Pizza and Wings
Student Involvement: Setting up, cleaning up, taking pictures, greeting
Fun Stuff: Pizza and Wings
Attendance: 129 with 6 first time visitors
Night Review: We had several school closings last Wednesday, so I decided to combine our middle and high school ministries and just have a low key, fun night. I brought in some pizza and wings and we just enjoyed being together as a youth ministry. It was one of those nights that kids just really seemed to enjoy being together. It was really cool for me and our other adults because we really just got to hang out with the kids this night. Fun times, but hopefully the weather holds out this Wednesday and we get to move on with our Uncharted series.

Daddy-Daughter Dance

I heard somebody say once that "A good Christian stays away from pre-marital sex because it could lead to dancing." Here's my take on it: As soon as my two kids were able to grab a hold of something and pull themselves up, they would shake their little diaper-clad butts to any type of music that had a beat to it. As one person said, "It seems to me that we come prewired to wiggle and giggle."
This past Friday night, we had one of our annual traditions at Grace where we do our best to get dads and daughters together to dance and have a good time. We call it the Daddy-Daughter Dance ... because we are just that creative.
When we started it 5 years ago, I had no idea it would become such a HUGE hit! But, every year we pack the place out and give dads and opportunity to spend some great time with their daughters. Here's why we do it: I believe that, outside of the husband/wife relationship, the most important relationship in the home is the one between dads and daughters.
This year was an absolute BLAST. Here's a few things we had planned:
- We do our best to let all the daughters know they're valued. We escort them in. We give them a red rose (or a bag of goodies for the little girls).
- We deck out the Link and make it look at nice as possible.
- We have drinks and dessert.
- We give dads and daughters an opportunity to share some special things about each other. This year ... wow ... some of the stuff the little girls were saying about their dads nearly had me in tears.
- Then we dance. We tried something different this year and we hooked up a Wii to our big screen and put in Wii's Just Dance game. It was PERFECT! (thanks for the idea Jeremiah Olson). Man, watching everyone dance to what was on the screen was so much fun and everyone had a blast. We also did some non-Wii dancing.
- Here's part of the playlist: Cha Cha Slide, Shout, ABC, Party in the USA, YMCA, You Make Me Feel So Young, Can't Help Falling in Love.
This year I was able to bring my 1 year old daughter for the first time. She could only stay about 45 minutes b/c of her bedtime, but I just LOVED having her there. Of course, she was the prettiest girl in the place!

Monday Miscellaneous

- As I was looking at the "Title" of this post, I always wonder to myself: "Am I spelling 'Miscellaneous' correctly?"

- As I was looking at the previous sentence, I realize that I'm 38 years old and I still get confused on the proper use of the words "Wonder" and "Wander" and I'm wondering/wandering if I used it correctly this time.

- My computer crashed on Thursday morning. I just love it when that happens. I just got this computer a little over two years ago and this is the second crash in less than a year. The last time we were able to get everything off of the hard drive. This time ... nothing. I do have everything backed up on external drives, so I'm hoping it can all be pulled from there and put back on. What's ironic is I was planning on backing everything up online this week instead of on external drives.

- If and when I get another computer, I'm seriously considering a Mac. I never hear of them "crashing" ... but this could just be my anger talking now too. :)

- Great services yesterday at Grace. Jim spoke on money. Everything said was just so true. I want to be known as a generous person and long for Grace to be known as a generous church and desire for axis to be known as a generous youth ministry. How cool would it be for someone to talk of us and say the words, "They were just so generous all the time."

- Played on the worship team in The Link for the first time yesterday. It's been over 2 years since I last played on a worship team at Grace. I just loved it! I'm definitely out of practice, but enjoyed doing it so much! Can't wait for the next time I'm on.

- Had a really good Valentine's weekend with my beautiful Valentine. On Saturday we got to enjoy a dinner out and also went to a coffee shop. I just loved being with Carol. On Sunday night, we got to enjoy some Papa John's breadsticks and watched the Olympics. I'm not sure how the Papa John's bread sticks has become a Valentine tradition for us, but it has. Sometime around Valentine's day we'll get the bread sticks and watch a romantic movie. We opted for the Olympics this time, though. It was just really good time together and every day I fall more in love with my wife.

- Our satellite campus in South Bend/Mishawaka had their first service in the new building yesterday morning. Everything just sounded AWESOME! You can check out Pastor Tim's reflections on the morning at Boucher's Blog.

- We have the most adorable kids in the world! Carol and I were talking about our kids the other day and just how we really want to try to make as many "memories" with them as possible and then she said something that really stuck out to me. She said (referring to our kids) "The days can be long but the years are short." Wow, how true!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The New Office

Moved in to the new office today. The guys helped me out with my name plate. :)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Latest Blitz Video

At Grace, when we reach out to the community we call it a "Blitz." It's our way to take a specific time period and then passionately make an impact on our community for Jesus Christ. Here is what we'll be doing in 2 weeks. Check out this video.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- So, I'm in the process of switching offices at the moment. I can't believe it, but I'm downsizing. We had an open office and I just felt like I needed a change of scenery, so I decided to make the move. Not sure what was prompting me to move offices, but after giving it some thought, just decided to do it. I'm hoping to be done moving stuff today.

- I was fairly disappointed with the Super Bowl commercials. Seriously ... 2.3 million dollars was the average cost of a 30 second slot and my overall thought on most of the commercials was "You spent 2.3 million dollars on that!?"

- Books I'm currently reading: Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan and Prayer, Does It Make Any Difference by Phillip Yancey. Good stuff so far.

- Our daughter took her first two steps Saturday evening. So much fun!

- Our son is such an encourager. He's 2 1/2, but always says things that just make you feel good about yourself. Often when I'm carrying wood in to our house for our fireplace he'll say "Dad, your so strong." Saturday, while I was carrying wood in to our house he said "Dad, you're so heavy." lol ... Time to run a little more, I guess.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 2-3-10 Uncharted Passion

Topic: Uncharted Passion
Student Involvement: Worship Team, Tech Team, Greeting Team, Check-in Team, Photo Team, Taking Down Chairs, Cafe Team, Sharing Testimonies, and Passed Out Bibles
Fun Stuff: We got ready for the Super Bowl commercials by playing a fun game called "Guess ____________ Favorite Super Bowl Commercial. We pulled up one of our volunteers and we then watched 4 Super Bowl commercials from last year and had kids guess the volunteer's favorite commercial by going to a certain spot in the room. Kids that guessed correctly got .50 Cafe Cash. Very fun.
Attendance: 171 with 8 first time visitors
Bible Verses: John 9:1 - 7
The "Big" Idea: Your story is one of the most powerful ways to share Jesus with others.
Night Review: I used the illustration of entering a contest and winning Super Bowl tickets for the rest of your life. The only catch is that you can't claim that prize until 20 years from now. I asked kids how they would feel about that and the response in the room was pretty negative. I then tried to relate that to how we often look at a relationship with Jesus. We often feel that heaven is the only thing to get out of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Don't get me wrong ... heaven is gonna ROCK (understatement) and I can't wait to get there, but I want a God that make a difference in my life NOW. I need a God like that.
We looked at the story of Jesus healing a blind man in John 9. After the blind man was healed people were asking him tons and tons of questions about Jesus. He didn't have the answers, but he had one of the greatest responses in history: "All I know is I was once blind but now I see." He shared his story. He told people the difference Jesus made in his life.
I talked to our kids about how one of the things that scares us about sharing our faith is that we feel we'll often get all kinds of questions about God and we won't know the answers. Truth is, that could happen and probably will happen. But, we don't have to have all the answers. Just be willing to share what Jesus means to you and the difference your relationship with Him has made in your life. I read a card my wife sent me before my first chemotherapy treatment 2 years ago. She wrote a ton of stuff about me and the impact I've had on her (most of which I'm undeserving of, by the way) and I used that as an example of what it means to simply share with someone what Jesus has done in your life.
Some Personal Thoughts on the Night: Overall, it seemed like a really positive night. During the teaching time I tried to use a lot of humor and that seemed to really keep all of the kids' attention. Reading the card from Carol really hit home well and illustrated what it means to simply tell someone the difference Jesus has made in our lives. We passed out "Deeper Sheets" at the end of the night explaining to kids how they can better tell their "story." One highlight from the night was during our Middle School time. I went up to a group of students at the end of the night to simply say "thanks for being here." One of the kids (it was his first time here) said, "Hey, we could use you about right now." I was like "Why?" He said, "Well, I've been going through a rough time lately and these guys (meaning the group of friends there) told me how to ask Jesus in to my life." I was like, "Well, did you do that?" He said, "Yeah!" Wow! It was sooo cool to hear that and so cool to see the looks on the kids that led him to Jesus. Can't wait to see this kid start growing!

Why I Volunteer

I've had the opportunity to volunteer in several ways since being in Goshen. I've done everything from mentoring at the local high school, cleaning cafeteria tables and coaching girls cross country. Right now I'm currently volunteering as a "Coach" for an incredible after-school program called 5 Star. Here's why I do it:

1. It gets me out of the office and in to the community. It's not that I mind being in the office. Honestly, our office is one of the most fun places in Goshen! But, my influence is small if I stay in my office. I need to get out and rub shoulders with the people in our community.

2. It allows me an opportunity to serve. Many people volunteer their time at church. That is AWESOME and we need people to do that. My job is AT the church, though, so the stuff the church does to be involved in the community ... well ... that's my job. I'm not really volunteering. So, I need to be intentional about getting out and doing something that allows me to serve others that doesn't involve our church.

3. It helps me understand our volunteers better. Our ministry depends on volunteers. I am so thankful and grateful for everything that our volunteers do to help and to serve. I'm amazed at their dedication. I want to vounteer to better understand the demands on our volunteers. As a volunteer there are times I have to say "no" because I have other responsibiliites. Volunteering better helps me understand when my volunteers need to say "no" to something. It helps me be sensitive to the time I ask of them.

4. It helps me lead by example. What I mean by that is that since I'm volunteering my time, it give me a little credibility with our volunteers. If I ask them to volunteer for something, I better be volunteering my time as well.

5. It's rewarding. It's not easy. It is a sacrifice of time. But, it's rewarding to know you're plugging in to the community and investing in the lives of others.

A Steeler Great Passed Away

It's no secret that I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers' homer. The Steelers ARE football to me. During football season, I bleed black and gold. "Bullet" Bill Dudley passed away on 2/4. Unless you're a die hard Steeler's fan or a student of the game, you probably wouldn't recognize his name. But, he was truly a unique football player and an American hero as well. Here's a small portion of his story:

Steelers Hall of Famer Bill Dudley, the only player to lead the National Football League in rushing and interceptions in the same season, died Thursday in Lynchburg, Va., where he had lived since 1951. He was 88.

"Mr. Dudley, known as Bullet Bill, may have been the most versatile player in Steelers history -- running and throwing the football, playing defense, returning kicks, punting and kicking.

"We lost one of the all-time great Steelers," team chairman emeritus Dan Rooney said in a statement from Miami, Fla., site of Super Bowl XLIV. "My father knew Bill very well and admired him as both a player and as a member of society. I became very close to Bill throughout the years. He was a dear friend who will be missed by anyone who knew him."

An All-American at the University of Virginia, Mr. Dudley was the first choice in the 1942 NFL draft and signed a $5,000 contract with the Steelers. As a rookie, he helped the last-place Steelers to a 7-4 record in 1942, the best season in their history at the time, and led the league with 696 rushing yards.

His football career was interrupted by World War II and he spent three years as a B-25 and B-29 pilot in the Pacific. He was discharged in November 1945 and returned to the Steelers for the final three games that season.

In 1946, Mr. Dudley led the league in rushing (604 yards), interceptions (10) and punt returns and was named NFL Most Valuable Player. He set a Steelers record for interception return yardage (242), which stood through the 1991 season. His salary for the season was $12,500.

"He instantly made our team better with his versatility and all-around football skills," Mr. Rooney said.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Really Good Leadership Advice

Had an opportunity to listen to Billy Hybels (yeah, I can call him that because we're tight) this weekend at our elder retreat. Listening to him on cd is not quite as good as listening to him in person, but it was still great stuff. He shared some advice on leadership. When Bill Hybels talks on leadership, believe me, I'm listening. Here's what I learned on how to be a better leader:

1. What do I believe? What are my bedrock beliefs as a person. Whatever they are, they are going to affect how I make decisions. He shared his are a)If I honor God, He will honor me and my ministry (and vice versa) b) People matter ... if I am wrong, I want to be wrong on the side of grace c) The local church is the hope of the world.

2. What Would a Better Leader Do? When making decisions, there are leaders that he knows personally or has only read about, but he will always ask the specific question "What would they do in this situation?"

3. Learn from the Pain of Prior Decisions. You don't need to be "whacked" again. Learn from your decisions gone wrong and from the decisions of others gone wrong.

4. Listen to the Promptings of the Holy Spirit. Trust the Holy Spirit's gracious guidance. He shared examples of many, many times when a decision he made had absolutely nothing to do with his wisdom or his experience, but had everything to do with simply listening to the Holy Spirit.

5. Never call me "Billy"

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