Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Catalyst One Day Mind Dump PART 2

Some more thoughts from the Catalyst One Day Confernce in Chicago this past week:

- Often our ministries won't because we don't

- Change your mindset about things. Think differently ... i.e. Instead of thinking "Our people won't ... " think "We haven't LED our people to ... " A great line shared was: "Quit whining and do something about it."

- We can reach more people by doing less stuff

- Don't be a "needy" ministry. If people want to leave, let them leave. Don't feel like our ministry is going to be THE ministry for everyone.

- God often guides through what He withholds rather than what He provides.

- God gives you everything you need to reach the people you are to reach.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- While I was at our church services yesterday, I noticed that we had 2 axis kids in the tech booth, two axis kids on stage, and several former axis kids helping out. LOVED seeing that!

- Got to go out on a much needed date with my beautiful wife Saturday night. LOVED spending time with her and just being alone together. I'm in love with my bride!

- This year's NCAA bracket is officially my worst bracket EVER! I'm already done and the Final Four hasn't even started yet! I usually have at least one team in the Final Four. Good thing I'm not a betting man. :)

- I'm convinced that the Law of Inertia (an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion) not only applies to physics but ALSO to working out. The more I work out, the better I feel and the more energy I have to work out. If I don't work out, the worse I feel and the less energy and motivation I have to do so. My schedule last week sort of kept me from being as active as I wanted to be and I just felt really sluggish. First thing this morning (5:30am) I forced myself out of bed and went for a run. Today, I feel great.

- I had my 3 year anniversary of being diagnosed with cancer on Friday (3/26). I still remember that day like it was yesterday. But, so far, so good. Been cancer free since October 2007 now. Woot Woot!

- On that note, I have the privilege of being interviewed by the Goshen Cancer Center tomorrow afternoon. They're doing a "Survivors" dinner in just a few weeks and are putting together video interviews from some local cancer survivors. I'm excited to share a bit of my story.

- I know I'm totally, totally biased, but I just think my kids are the most adorable kids in the world! Our nearly 3 year old son talked to Jesus on the phone yesterday. We were reading his children's Bible story Bible to him before bed and there was a short story in there about Jesus raising Jairus' daughter from the dead. Anyway, Ezra was asking what the daughter's name was but the Bible doesn't give her name so we didn't know. So, he then proceeds to pretend to call Jesus on the phone and say "Hey, Jesus. What's her name?" He will also just come up to my wife and I and say "Let's have a meeting and talk about something." (Side Note: If he continues with that, he'll make some lady very happy some day) :) Our 15 month old daughter has now officially learned the word "No." She also loves to be thrown up in the air, bounced, and chased. She's absolutely adorable! If I could choose to have any two kids in the whole wide world, I would always choose them!

- I recently worked out a new schedule for myself in the office. I'm trying to set "artificial" deadlines for many of my things so I can make the most of my time and be the most productive. I felt like I was needing to switch things up a bit. Hopefully it helps.

Catalyst One Day Mind Dump PART 1

Not only did I go to the CELS conference at CE National last week, but I also had the opportunity to go to Willow Creek Community Church for a conference called Catalyst One Day. What a GREAT conference with just really good wisdom from Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel. The conference was basically on gaining and sustaining momentum. Here are a few of the things I learned:

- I love our staff! Have the fun was traveling with most of our staff and one of our elders. It was over a 3 hour trip for us both ways and we just had a great time in the van together.

- I'm not in to buildings, but the building at Willow Creek ... IMPRESSIVE.

- A church can go for generations without momentum and it doesn't bother people as long as the bills are being paid.

- Momentum is DISRUPTIVE.

- Three components to sustained momentum: 1) NEW (anything new triggers momentum. It's not triggered by tweaking something old, but by introducing something that's new.) 2) IMPROVED (the new must be a noticeable improvement over the old), and 3) IMPROVING (momentum is sustained through continuous, systematic, unfiltered evalauation. If we are not evaluating the areas where we ARE experiencing momentum, then the succes is ticking down.)

- Find a way to fund momentum even if it means killing old programs that have NO momentum.

- Momentum stoppers: A disengaged leader, overactive management, complacency, complexity, a breach of trust.

Friday, March 26, 2010

CE National Youth Workers Conference Mind Dump

It's been a great week of learning for me. I've had the opportunity to go to two seperate conferences on ministry and leadership and just soak in information. I feel like my mind is about ready to explode right now and I'm really excited about the stuff I learned and how axis can benefit from it.

Monday and Tuesday I was at something called CELS (Church Effectiveness Leadership Summit). CE National is a wonderful organization that, well, to be honest, I owe so much too. The mission trips, the youth conferences, the training seminars, the people there ... all of those things have had an incredible impact on my life. I'm in ministry today because of a mission trip I went on that was sponsored by CE National. Anyway, they put on a conference for youth pastors and youth volunteers early this week. Here are some of the things I walked away with ... in no particular order:

- There are some good, good youth pastors out there. I loved being able to rub shoulders with others involved in youth ministry. Our fellowship of churches has some very gifted and very blessed youth pastors.

- We tend to think that as long as we do programs, we are doing OK. What really matters is do we truly understand ministry.

- Real ministry is one person making a significant spiritual impact on another.

- God wants people to experience "life-change."

- Can I define the "win" in my youth ministry? What do I desire a student to experience and be like when they graduate from axis? Do I know what I am trying to produce?

- I need to think strategically.

- I need to help every student understand how to do ministry.

- Small groups are INCREDIBLY important because relationships are incredibly important.

- Our environment is INCREDIBLY important. Do kids feel loved? Do they feel welcomed?

The biggest "take-a-way" for me was the statement "Do I know what I am trying to produce?" What is the "win" for me? What bull's eye am I trying to hit?

I have many things to think through and sort out in my mind from the two days I spent at CE National. Can't wait to start working on this stuff.

Axis Wrap Up 3-24-10 Lies, Lies, Lies

Topic: Lies about sex

Fun Stuff: We did another Minute to Win It game called "Hanky Panky" ... appropriate for the night's topic.

Attendance: 157 with 6 first time visitors

Bible Verses: Genesis 2:24, 1 Corinthians 6:18

Main Thought: The sexual relationship is one of the most powerful forces in our lives.

Night Review: We wrapped up our Lies, Lies, Lies series by looking at 3 specific lies we often hear about sex. I tried my best to talk about these things using a good combination of humor and seriousness. The 3 lies we looked at were:

1) God Wants to Take the Fun Out of Sex ... TRUTH - God created sex. He told Adam and Eve to go have sex (Adam said, "Woo Hoo!") God has an entire book of the Bible that just talks about sex (Song of Solomon ... I've never seen our kids try to find a book of the Bible so quickly). Many people think that because God sets up "boundaries" for sex (reserve sex for marriage) that He is trying to take the fun out of it. We talked about how untrue that is. We talked through the idea of how boundaries are a good thing ... it keeps us all on the same page ... we know what to expect (i.e. rules of a game). When people break the rules, there are consequences and a game with no rules or boundaries is simply chaos. When everyone plays by their OWN rules, chaos and confusion happens. Rules and boundaries of games are set up to help us know how to win. God's boundaries are there to help us understand how to win at sex ... how to get the most out of sex. And, God says wait for marriage.

2) Sex is Purely Physical ... TRUTH - We are sexual beings. Having sex will affect every aspect of who we are ... physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. God designed sex to be a life-long covenant between two people. "Dating is about honor. Love is about self-sacrifice. Sex is about lifelong covenant" (Steve Argue). We looked at 1 Corinthians 6:18 and how it describes sexual sin by saying "No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality (any form of sex or sexual arousal outside of God's boundaries) is a sin against your own body." I spent time really talking to our girls here. Girls are wired in such as way that makes them more vulnerable sexually. Girls will often open themselves up to a guy physically because they are longing for the intimacy that only a sexual relationship will bring. Guys can disconnect emotionally from a relationship. Girls cannot. I wasn't trying to make guys out to be the "bad guys" but simply trying to show that the emotional consequences for a girl having sex outside of marriage can far outlast even a guy's ability to remember the relationship.

3) If You Are In Love, It's OK ... TRUTH - We have to be careful when we follow our heart. The Bible describes our hearts as "... the most decietful of all things, desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?" (Jeremiah 17:9) Basically that means, when it comes to matters of the heart ... don't follow your heart! And, that statement comes from someone who is a big time "feeler!" It's better to follow the guidelines of the Bible. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:133 says, "Guide my steps by Your word so I will not be overcome by evil." The goal is to have the desires of our heart line up with the guidelines of God's word. That's a winning combination!

I talked to our kids about why I chose to wait until marriage. I don't know when or where it was, but somewhere along the line I just realized the sexual relationship we have with someone is one of the most powerful forces in our lives. I wanted to protect that. If we believe the devil's lies about sex, sex has the power to tear us down, bring nothing but hurt, guilt and pain, and then leave us confused. He wants to create confusion, guilt, and baggage ... it's just what he does.

I talked to our kids about the forgiveness and freedom available through Jesus if they have already had sex. I also challenged our kids to set up boundaries to stay pure.

Overall, a positive night. I really tried to help our kids see that what they may learn about sex from the media or movies or the internet doesn't come from people who really care about them. It comes from people who simply care about making money so they will depict sex in a way that makes the most money for them. What they will hear at axis about sex comes from someone who genuinely cares for them and wants the best for them.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 3-17-10 Lies, Lies, Lies

Topic: The Lie: I Can Get Even
Fun Stuff: We started things off with a really funny video on "Ghosting". We also did a game called "Bobble Head" from Minute to Win It. The winner got a HUGE box of Lucky Charms to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. DISCLAIMER: If you ever play the game "Bobble Head" ... very funny game, but be prepared for kids to have slight brain damage from bobbing their heads so much! :)
Attendance: 166 with 7 first time visitors
Bible Verses: Ephesians 4:26
Main Thought: You can never really get even.
Night Review: We continued with our series Lies, Lies, Lies and talked about the lie "I Can Get Even." The idea behind it was to have kids begin to think about grudges they may be holding, bitterness over a hurt, or forgiveness they are not willing to give to someone. I used Ephesians 4:26 "Don't sin by letting anger control you. Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil." We really focused on the last part of that verse: "anger gives a foothold to the devil." I used the illustration of having cleets either for soccer, football, baseball, softball, etc. The reason we use cleets is to get better traction. If we hold grudges or hold on to anger, we are giving the devil better traction in our life and allowing him to exert his influence. When he does that, our lives will be surrounded by drama and confusion. It's just what the devil does. He wants us to believe that we can get even because it allows him to continue to get traction in our life. But, in all reality, we can never truly get even. When we have been hurt, we can never truly get back what was taken from us. It was a hard truth to talk to our kids about because I really wish that it weren't true! I hate the fact that there are kids in our youth ministry who come from broken homes or who have been bullied at school or who have been betrayed by friends or who have been abused ... but our anger won't bring our family back together. Our anger won't bring back a childhood that was stolen. Our anger won't bring back a trust that was betrayed. The only way to release the devil's traction and influence in our life is to forgive. Forgiveness says "I give up my right to get even." The longer we hold on to anger or hold on to a grudge, the more havoc it will wreak in our lives.
I gave kids the opportunity to go in to our prayer room afterwards and write down things they were releasing. Here are a few of the things that were written:
- "I release the grudge I had against my dad for not being there for me."
- "My dad has been arguing with my mom a lot and I always hated him for it. I don't want to anymore."
- I am releasing the grudge I have on my parents because of the fact that they seem to force me to live up to my sister's image."
- "Being betrayed by a best friend and losing trust in them."
My heart broke as I read many of the ways our kids have been hurt. Over 60% of the things kids wrote about dealt with their home life or specific things their parents have done. It reminded me to continue to pray for our teenagers .... "God, please release our teenagers from their hurts and don't let the devil have any more traction in their lives."

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I Love Weddings

Yep, I'm man enough to admit it. I love weddings! One of the best parts of what I do is getting to perform a wedding ceremony. I'm always honored when someone asks me ... even if I have to say no. And, there are times I have to do that. But, being able to be a part of something as special as committing yourself to each other "til death do you part" ... that's humbling.

This past weekend I was able to do the wedding for Matt Cripe and Allyce Puckett. They are two of our amazing axis volunteers. Once again, I LOVED it! There are things you see at weddings as a pastor that the "average" person just doesn't get a chance to see. For instance, as Allyce is walking up the aisle, I had an up close and personal look at the tears of joy in her eyes and in Matt's eyes. I actually started to tear up and it was ONLY a minute in to the wedding! And, then, when Allyce's dad, Keith(who he and his wife were amazing axis volunteers as well), gave her away and when they hugged and kissed, Allyce said, "I love you, daddy!" Most people didn't have the opportunity to hear that. It was very special. It's one thing to hear "I love you, dad." But, when "daddy" is used ... well, forget about it. Keith would have given her the world at that point! Below is a picture of Allyce and Keith after their dance at the reception.

When Matt and Allyce were signing the marriage certificate the night of the rehearsal, someone asked Allyce if she had practiced signging "Allyce Cripe" and she said, "Since our first date." I just thought that was the coolest thing to hear. I thought 2 things: 1) So cool that this dream is finally coming true for Allyce and 2) Matt, what a stud! He completely won her over on the first date!

The picture below just seems to sum up the entire night for two of them.

And, then, this picture seems to sum up Matt and Allyce. Allyce is an elementary school teacher and her class came to the wedding. They took time before they left to get a picture together.

I can't wait to see how God uses this couple and I'm so thankful they get to have an impact on our teenagers!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Axis Wrap Up 3-10-10 Lies, Lies, Lies

Topic: The Lie: We Have Nothing to Offer

Fun Stuff: We showed a pretty cool video to open things up by the group OK Go.

Attendance: 167 with 8 first time visitors

Bible Verses: Ephesians 2:10, 3:20, Judges 3:12 - 24

Main Thought: Don't underestimate what God wants to do in you and through you. You have something to offer.

Night Review: We started our new series Lies, Lies, Lies. For the next couple of weeks we'll be looking at lies we often believe about ourselves, but according to God's Word simply are not true. On this night we took a look at the lie "You have nothing to offer." If Satan can get us to believe that, he will keep us ineffective for God. When we believe the truth of God's Word, we become dangerous for God. Satan doesn't want that and will therefore feed us lie after lie after lie trying to get us to believe him rather than God.

We took a look at the story of Ehud in Judges 3. I had recently heard a message by Perry Noble on Ehud and LOVED it! I used some of his thoughts for the night and it seemed to go very well. The Bible mentions 2 very specific things about Ehud: He was left-handed and He was from the tribe of Benjamin. The word Benjamin means "son of the right hand." Being left-handed in Old Testament times was often considered to be a handicap. So, we have a left-handed man from a tribe known as the "son of the right hand." If anyone could have thought they had nothing to offer, it would have been Ehud. But, God used his uniqueness to do something amazing. Ehud didn't believe the lie he had nothing to offer because he believed God had a specific plan (Ephesians 2:10) and would do more than he could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pretty Amazing Video

This is a pretty amazing music video by the group OK Go that we showed to open things up at axis this past week. Imagine if the same time, effort, and commitment was put in to reaching people for Jesus that was put in to making this video. You can watch the beginning of the brainstorming session here.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Taking It to Another Level

Pastor Jim has always been a great communicator, but he really took it to another level this past Sunday. Check out the pic. :)

Can't wait to see his next illustration. :)

Axis Wrap Up 3-3-10 We Need God

Topic: We Need God
Student Involvement: Everything!
Fun Stuff: We had some sweet prize give-a-ways and we also did 2 Wii Just Dance dances shown on our big screen. Our kids LOVED it!
Attendance: 190 with 18 first time visitors
Bible Verses: Matthew 5:3, Romans 10:9 - 10
Main Thought: We Need God
Night Review: This was a pretty big night for us in that we were specifically planning to share the Gospel and so we had been priming our kids to invite their friends to come. We generally always have visitors, but it was cool to see so many come on this night. Our kids did a great job of inviting friends. Middle School and High School were done differently, but the theme was still the same ... We Need God. The key verse that we used was Matthew 5:3 "God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kindom of Heaven is theirs." In middle school I shared my story and how when I really came face to face with Jesus, my life has never been the same! In high school we used a video of a few of our kids sharing their stories with each other and the difference Jesus has made in their lives. We talked about how we often search and search for different things, but how God blesses us when we finally realize our need for Him. I took time to share the Gospel and we has 24 kids respond either by getting saved or getting some things right with God. It was awesome!
Some Personal Thoughts: Some things came up this night that kept us from doing some of the things I really had in mind for the night. I felt like it was sorta like what God was doing to Gideon ... stripping down, stripping down, stripping down until finally there's no doubt that if something good happens, it's all because of God. I loved seeing God move and I loved seeing kids come to know Jesus or spend time getting some things right with God. Our student leaders did a great job of getting things up and going for the night and our adults really loved on our kids well.
Next Wednesday: Lies, Lies, Lies

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ezra the Worship Leader

I think I found out what our son's profession is going to be. Here's a video of Ezra singing at the dinner table. Enjoy.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Going Organic

Carol and I decided to make the transition to organic food around May of last year. After my battle with cancer 2 1/2 years ago, I really learned to appreciate health and promised myself that I would do my best to stay healthy and be active. Going organic is one of the decisions we made to try to meet that promise. We started with milk, then moved to fruits and vegetables, and then decided that, if we're going that far, we might as well just be all in. I'm certainly no health expert. I'm not an organic expert either. But, from my layman's point of view, here's what I've learned since going organic:

1. It Takes More Prep Time. We hardly eat out of a box any more. Carol does an absolutely amazing job planning out meals and then making the meals from scratch! Honestly, I don't know how she does it. With two kids under 3, mounds of laundry, and everything else that comes with managing a home, she still always has a home cooked meal waiting for me. I'm so blessed. But, using organic ingredients definitely takes a bit more planning and time when it comes to meals.

2. It Takes a Bit More Out of the Budget. There's definitely a price difference between organic and non-organic foods. We had to make room in our budget by cutting other things out or lessing other areas in order to increase our food budget. But, for us, it was worth it. We'd rather pay for healthy foods than for doctor visits in the future. You can counter act some of the costs buy going online and finding coupons from organic companies. Some of the local stores also have their own USDA organic brands, which are a little less expensive.

3. I Feel Better. I feel better about what I'm eating. 85% to 90% of the stuff we eat is organic and it's homemade. I just feel better about that which helps me feel better about myself. No harmful chemicals or pesticides either, which is better for us and for the environment.

4. It Still Has Calories. Just because it's organice doesn't mean you still can't get fat eating it. I still have to be willing to watch my intake of food ... some days I do better than others. :) I still have to be willing to be active and burn my calories. But, eating healthy actually aids my body in buring calories. The healthy food gives my body more energy and doesn't weigh me down by feeling sluggish from sugars and carbs.

Now, can you still be healthy and not eat organic. Absolutely. But, we just felt it was the best decision for us and I'm really happy that we're committed to this. I really do feel better about myself and what we are giving to our kids.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fight the Stereotype

Here's a really funny video from the Simply Youth Minstry Conference in Chicago this past week on youth pastor stereotypes. I didn't get a chance to go this year, but followed stuff pretty closely online. I, unfortunately, am a habitual breaker of Rule # 1. :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday Miscellaneous

- I love my church! We had such a FUN day at Grace Community yesterday. If you live in Indiana, by this time of the year, the cold, the snow, the lack of sun, the wind ... it just often wears on you. So, we tried to combat the winter blues by having a Winter Beach Bash at Grace. We encouraged people to wear shorts and flip flops or anything else that could be "beachy." There were people walking around in Hawaiin shirts, life jackets, sun glasses, beach towels ... thankfully no speedos. :) We started the service with the band playing Wipe Out. We also had beach balls flying all over the place. We then had a bunch of really fun games for couples that all revolved around the beach or summer ... things like a game similiar to Musical Chairs except we used beach balls, a hot dog eating contest and an Orange Cruch drinking contest, gathering up summer supplies and setting them all up. We narrowed the competitions down to 1 couple and the husband put on a wet suit and dove ... yes dove in to our baptistry for silver dollar coins. Hilarious! The couple was also able to walk out with a cooler full of summer foods ... steak, drinks, etc. The atmosphere was electric! Everything was really upbeat and really accomplished what we were trying to do ... just uplift people at this time of year. Jim's message was really powerful just on remember who we are as followers of God and the worship time at the end of the service was incredibly powerful too! I'll say it again ... I love my church!

- I'm gearing up for our big outreach night this Wednesday at axis. We've been encouraging our kids to invite their friends to come and we're going to do our best to introduce them to Jesus. If you think of it, please pray for us this Wednesday at axis.

- Last week was a very busy week of ministry for me ... inside and outside the office. Gotta admit, it's Monday and I'm pretty drained at the moment physically and emotionally. But, last week was also just an incredible reminder of what it means to know and believe truth. The enemy feeds us lies all the time. It's not enough to just simply try not to think about the lies. We have to replace the lies with the truth of God's word. Jesus said, "The truth will set you free." I was just reminded last week of how following God is not about being captive to a bunch of "rules" and "do's and don'ts." When you listen to Satan, you're a captive. When you listen to the truth of God's word, you're free!

- Played on the worship team in The Link again yesterday. Loved it!

- Carol and I are huge fans of blueberries! We picked a lot of fresh blueberries this past summer and froze them. We figured it out and, to date, we've gone through 95 pounds of blueberries! We're down to our last 10 pounds in the freezer. That's a lot of blueberries!

- In Jim's message yesterday he shared of 2 times when someone spoke encouragement in to him and basically told him "you have what it takes." In our small group last night, one of the questions was "Share a time when someone told you that you have what it takes." (OK, technically not a question, but you get the point.) I was reminded of a time in high school when a counselor I had at a youth conference wrote a letter to me after the youth conference and basically said "Rich, you have been given much. And, remember, Jesus told us that to whom much is given, much is required. Live up to what you've been given." I was in 11th grade and I believe that was the first time someone really ever told me that I had been "given much." I didn't look at myself that way, but when someone told me that THEY believed in me, it had an incredible impact on my life ... so much so that I still remember it 21 years later. As I look back, I believe that is one of the things that has drawn me to youth ministry ... letting teenagers know that I believe in them and MORE IMPORTANTLY God believes in them.

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