Archive for January, 2009

An Even Greater Impact

Over the past two years we have been working hard at raising awareness of the vast need for clean water wells in Rwanda, Africa.  The youth that I pastor at Impact and around the Northern New England District have raised over $20,000.00 to drill two clean water wells.  This is reason to celebrate alone!  Teenagers have done this.  Today we have another reason to celebrate.

We at Grace Capital Church have finished up our capital stewardship campaign to expand our facility to make room for an ever growing youth & children’s ministry.  Our church council, pastors & campaign team have decided to tithe on the total amount that is raised through our Greater Impact Campaign.  Well, the total is in:   

$1,799,743.00

Now, keep in mind I wrote tithe.  That means that 10% of all that comes in is going out.  Even cooler news, above I wrote about how we have been raising money to drill clean water wells in Rwanda.  The tithe, that 10% number, the $179,974.30, yeah, all that.  It’s going to drill clean water wells in Rwanda.  With each drilled well costing $10,000.00 that means that we will be able to drill 18 clean water wells in Rwanda villages.  This equates to over 18,000, that eighteen thousand people gaining access to clean water which will keep them healthy, reduce the amount of time (usually up to 6 hours per day) looking for water, which will give women the ability to care more for their families, children the ability to get educated rather than searching for water, and end the senseless passing on of diseases to family members by providing dirty water for cooking, drinking and cleaning.  Water = Life.

The thing that I am most proud about with this decision to tithe on our capital campaign program is that what we do effects more than just us.  Yes, we will build a phenomenal youth center but it is less about us building our kingdom.  It’s more about building His Kingdom.  With the funding that will come in we will be blessed with an expanded facility but even more important, a legacy of life giving will be set forth.  That’s the message that I want every teenager who walks through the doors of our soon to be new youth center to know.  That’s the vision that I want them to catch.  That’s the kind of world changing movement I want to see be built in the lives of the people that I serve.

It’s not too late.  You can join us in making this dream a reality.  Would you like to use your money to do something so much bigger than you could do with it on your own?  Join with us.  Help us build up a new generation of young people who will go out and impact this world with the love of the Father!

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Shut Up and Listen

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I’m in a season of restructuring and reforming some very important systems in how things are done within my realm of responsibility.  As I work to make changes that are best for our ministry I can’t help but seek input from others.  I can not take on the attitude that I have all the answers in how I approach some of the necessary changes that need to be made.  I need to bring in others who can speak into the changes and help bring about the best solutions.

The day I take on the perspective that I am always right is the day that I have killed the chance of determining the right solution to the problem.  I may come up with a good solution but it may not be the right one.  

“The need to be right all the time is the biggest barrier to new ideas.” —Edward de Bono

I have learned that in many meetings that I am a part of I can be the loudest voice in the room.  I may not speak all that often but the tone of voice I use in addressing an issue removes the creativity from others who could share some excellent ideas.  Unfortunately I have done this in the past.

Has this ever happened to you?

I am understanding that in most cases I need to hear from others and then sit back to formulate the solution after fully hearing their ideas.  If I truly value the opinions of those that I am asking for input I need to speak less and listen more.

Thank You

Thank you!

Youth Ministry can be a thankless calling.  Thank you can be two words that you long to hear and yet it seems week, months, and sadly years in between the times that you hear them.  If you serve in Youth Ministry hear these words today, Thank You!  What you do so faithfully is vital to young people growing into the followers of Jesus that we each long to see.

There are days when I feel very appreciated.  But there are also other days when I have my resignation letter written and plans for a new job where I just collect a paycheck and leave my worries at the time clock everyday.  It is on those days when I need to go into the folder in my desk where I keep all of the cards, notes, and pictures that people have given to me over the past 10 years (yes, I have kept all of them!)  This is the folder that reminds me of why I do what I do.  We all need folders like mine.  A place where you can go to be reminded of the victories from the past, the lives that have been changed, the hope that many now have.

In the same way that I need to hear, “Thank You.”  I also am well aware that each of the volunteers that serve in our Youth Ministry need to hear it as well.  I began a practice of writing notes to my leaders a while back and I am reminded today of how they feel when receiving one of these notes in the mail.  We are all very busy and sometimes we can feel like it takes too much time to write a note to someone.  I want you to think back and remember how you feel when you receive a note out of the blue from someone who you have helped.  Now take those feelings and let them re-prioritize your schedule.  

I hear Youth Pastors and leaders complaining all the time about not having enough helpers.  This can at times be a very true issue.  My question to all who are reading this post is this, What are you doing to keep the leaders that you DO have?  Are those who volunteer to serve the youth of your church aware of how much you appreciate them?  Don’t think a simple pat on the back or a verbal, “Thank You” will do it.  If you value your volunteers let them know it.

There’s more that I could write on this topic but I think the point has been made.  I’m going to turn off my computer now and write a few thank you notes.  Maybe you should do the same…

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Okay, so it’s more like Monday Evening Quarterback today.  Cut me some slack, I’ve been sleeping all day due to some sort of stomach bug.  This past week was fantastic.  Along with some of my personal goals we also had a season of prayer at our church and that time together praying with so many was not only encouraging but also faith building.  I’m looking forward to the next time we do that in April!  Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: It was a great week.  I made it home for dinner a few times and spent time playing with the girls.  In addition to that Kim was away over the weekend leading a Girls Retreat so I was able to play Mr. Mom all weekend.  Aside from messing their hair up for church on Sunday we had a great time together. Megan continues to lead the household at wii bowling and has passed into PRO status.  A feat that she is very proud of…
  • Exercising: 3 times last week.  14.5 miles total for my running.  I am starting to get into the groove with it and had two great days with 4 miles in under 37 minutes.  My goal is to hit 5 miles per day in 45 minutes which, at the rate that I am running right now, is achievable.
  • Weight: last week – 215  this week – 210.  5 pounds!  I’m thrilled and I am actually noticing my pants feeling looser at the waist line.  This was really encouraging.
  • Monthly Date Night with Kim:  I have a babysitter lined up for Friday and we are hitting a nice Italian place and then a movie.  Hoping I can talk her into seeing Gran Torino with Clint Eastwood – it looks real good.
  • Increase Time Spent Mentoring Next-Gen Leaders:  I have chosen the next young man that I will spend ten weeks mentoring and will be making contact with him tomorrow morning.  I’m excited for what this will bring in his life as well as the growth that comes in me personally as I strive to better equip him in Youth Ministry.  You can read more about the Youth Ministry Mentorship here.  This past week I was able to spend a significant amount of time finalizing all that will be incorporated into  STAND, our new attempt at relational discipleship at Impact. This begins next week and I am praying that the youth at GCC that partake in this will see some incredible spiritual growth take place in their lives over the next three months.
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  This week I read Sustainable Youth Ministry by Mark Devries and began Reality Check by Guy Kawasaki.  This one is a large book and will most likely carry on into midweek this week.  I received my Catalyst Filter Box on Wednesday and in it were several new books that I look forward to reading in the near future.  One of which is Run With The Bulls Without Getting Trampled, by Tim Irwin.
  • Stop Checking Email on Days Off and Holidays/Vacations:  Much to the chagrin or some who expect instant replies from me I have been very good about this.  To the point of actually only checking my email three times per day in the office.  I have also begun leaving my laptop at the office Tuesday thru Thursday nights which has dramatically changed my attention level at home.  It has also lowered my stress level and helped me sleep better.  This is one habit that I will definitely stick with!

That’s all for this weekly update.  More next week!

Sexting

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You didn’t read wrong.  This post is about sexting – the act of sending a text message to a friend via cell phone with a nude photo of themselves attached.  You may be very surprised to hear that this is commonplace in youth culture right now.  You may even become horrified by checking your kids cell phones.  They could be taking part in this.  That is one reaction – I would suggest a different approach.  

Conversations about sexting should take place between you and your teenagers.  Chances are the cell phone that your teen is using is being paid for by you and is part of your cell plan.  It is the responsibility of every parent to help guide teenagers through the decisions that they make.  Without proper guidance by parents and others in their lives teens fall prey to the pressure of their friends and end up making choices that they will ultimately regret.

I’ve been holding onto this post for about a month and today seems like the appropriate day to post it.  If you are a parent or a youth worker – please read every word of this – but then don’t just shrug your shoulders and walk away.  Do something.  We need to be proactive in protecting the teenagers in our lives.  Some days that means protecting them from themselves and the poor choices that they make.

Nude photos of teens reflect inexperience

article originally printed in the Chicago Sun Times

It’s 10 p.m. Do you know who your teenager is texting? And, more importantly, do you know what your child is texting?

A recent survey hosted by Teenage Research Unlimited found that 20 percent of teenagers have sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves.

The possible repercussions of these scandalous photos are tremendous. The original poster or sender loses control of the content once he sends or posts it on the Internet. Not only is this photo or video likely to be passed around the school, it is also likely to be passed around the Web — possibly for many years to come. From college admission boards to future employers, everyone can have potential access to these ill-advised photo sessions.

Believe it or not, most teenagers are actually well aware of these consequences. Some 73 percent of teenagers in this survey said they knew photos and videos such as these could have “serious negative consequences.” And yet many teens choose to take the photos regardless of the possible fallout.

Why?

It could be that even though teens claim to understand the possible negative consequences of so-called “sexting,” they don’t fully grasp the concept. Yes, they have been told of the possible consequences and have even seen the consequences play out in their lives of their favorite celebrities, such as Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Vanessa Hudgens.

However, research has shown the teenage brain and the young adult brain is not fully developed. A part of the brain called the dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex is still developing through these years. The dorsal-lateral prefrontal cortex is believed to be responsible for judgment and consideration of risk, so its lack of development in adolescents and young adults might lead them to make risky or poor decisions.

No wonder teenagers seem more willing to try dangerous or thoughtless behavior, such as racing down the street in their parents’ new car or sexting the cute boy in science class. Thus, all of those times that you threw your hands in the air and asked your teenager, “What were you thinking?!” the answer really might be that they weren’t, because their brain isn’t fully developed yet.

Don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t mean that teenagers aren’t highly intelligent or capable of complex thought. It just means that the “live and learn” theory might really be true in the case of adolescents. Until they suffer the consequences firsthand, or until their brains finish developing in their 20s, their judgment calls won’t always be the best.

Unfortunately, by the time these “sexting” teenagers live and learn, they might have irreparably damaged their reputation and their future.

What’s the solution?

Until your teenagers are able to make wise decisions, you can substitute your judgment for theirs. You can certainly forbid sexting and other degrading behavior in your home, and you’ll need to be vigilant to enforce that boundary.

Talk to them about what’s happening among their peers and ask if they’ve been involved in sexting themselves. Without anger or judgement of them, talk about the repercussions short term and long term and share your own values. Ask them their thoughts. But it’s by instilling a high sense of self-worth in your teens from an early age that you can best prepare them for making wise decisions.

Talk to your children about the value of their sexuality and how priceless their bodies are. This should be an ongoing conversation from the time they learn about what sex is. By giving them the support and guidance they need you’ll get through the tumultuous adolescent years together, until their best judgment kicks in.

Monday Morning Quarterback

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Recapping the week that has past with my overall personal goals in mind I would say it was a win.  While some additional stress has been brought into my life with some decisions to be made and prayers that I need to have answered it has been a good week.  Here’s how the goals are going:

  • Time with family: I made it home for dinner several nights last week and enjoyed some really good family time.  Over the weekend I went for a hike in the newly fallen snow with the girls and got to break out my snowshoes.  Not only did we have a blast playing hide & seek in the woods but we were active as well.
  • Exercising: 3 times last week.  I’m getting into a pretty good routine at the gym going Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  This will continue to be work for me for quite a while but I am enjoying the extra energy that comes with an active life.  My time in the office has been more productive and my mind seems to be working better.  I nailed 12 miles for the week doing 4 miles per day and have increased my repetitions in sit-ups, push-ups, & chin-ups.  Not many aches so I know I need to increase more this week.
  • Weight: last week – 215  this week – 215.  No loss but I am consoling myself with the understanding that fat is turning to muscle and muscle weighs more…  I have decreased my caloric intake significantly and have increased my water intake to over 100 ounces per day – that also increased my trips to the bathroom by 50% but you really didn’t care to know that I am sure!
  • Running a 1/2 marathon by July:  I registered for the Big Lake Half Marathon Friday night.  There’s no turning back now.  May 9th I will be running my first 1/2 marathon.  You can read more about that here.
  • Monthly Date Night with Kim:  working it.  Looking to line up a babysitter tomorrow so that we can go out for dinner and a movie next week.
  • Increase Time Spent Mentoring Next-Gen Leaders:  You can read more about that here and if you are a youth leader with less than two years of experience you can even jump in and apply.  I’ll begin the next round of mentoring a rookie youth leader in February.  The beginning of February is also when we begin STAND, our new attempt at relational discipleship at Impact.  I’ve been spending quite a bit of time planning this and I am looking forward to the fruit that will come from it.
  • Read Two Books Per Week:  This week was “Do Hard Things” and “The Dip.”  Both very good books.  We’ll be using Do Hard Things as part of STAND.  I think young people really do need to be challenged to do more with their lives than view the teen years as a time to enjoy, relax, and be waited on.  I like the message of personal expectations being raised for young people!  The Dip addressed the things in life that need to be quit in order to make the right things succeed.  There are projects and goals in each of our lives that either need to be pushed through or quit.  Some pushing will never lead to success and some will.  The important things to identify is what needs to be continued and what needs to be quit.
  • Sponsor a Rwandan Child:  Done.  The girls sat with Kim last week and picked out a young girl who they will help receive an education.  My hope is that they will make the most of the correspondence that they will have with this young girl and learn about a new culture as well as gaining a new understanding of how much they can help others with personal sacrifice.

That’s all for this weekly update.  More next week!

No Backing Down

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I did it.  I registered to run a 1/2 marathon in May.  There’s no backing down now.  With me being as frugal as I am the entry fee of $45.00 will keep me on task.  As I set out with these plans I have begun to think of why I will run.  First off, this is a personal goal that I have set for myself.  Secondly, I just to be an incredible runner.  (Just ask my mother)  I could run for days and never get tired.  However, I also found running very boring.  So I quit.  Over the years I have lost my stamina.  I’m working to get it back.  I’ve been running regularly now (3x per week) and need to set a goal for my running or I will bore of it once again.

As I was registering for this race there was a question asking “what charity will you run for?” and it got me thinking about a cause.  Something that I consider myself very passionate about is Clean Water in Rwanda.  So, here is where you can join me in my efforts.  Would you consider donating to make clean water available through the drilling of a clean water well in Rwanda?  Being a 1/2 marathon the total distance that I will be running is 13.1 miles.  Would you consider making a financial pledge for each mile I run?  Hey, I’ll do all the work on this one.  All you have to do is crack open your checkbook!  

Over the next few months I’ll keep you posted about my progress and fill you in on the details of the race.  If you’d like to give in advance you can connect with Global Benefit and give on my behalf to help make clean, safe, drinking water available to those who have none.

Silence

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I attempted something completely different than we have ever done at Impact last night.  The stage was set with a few candles.  The music was muted and slow.  The lights were dim, almost dark.  We spent a good half hour listening for God to speak.  No noise.  No speaking.  No music playing in the background.  Just silence.  Sheer, utter silence.

It was refreshing.  It was freeing.  In today’s culture there seems to be so much going on around us at every moment.  We are very well connected.  We get texts, emails, pictures and more on our cell phones.  We update our Facebook every few moments on order to let everyone know that “we just had the best ice-cream sundae ever!”  We are never disconnected.  We never turn off.  We fail to settle down or stop entirely.  We did a simple experiment.  For a total of an hour we turned off our cell phones, iPods, and anything else that may connect us to the world around us.  We sat silently, focusing on a few specific questions.

  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What do You want from my life?

These three questions were the only ones asked last night.  We were not seeking answers from our own thoughts.  We simply sat quietly, alone in our own spots throughout a large room, and asked over and over again for God to give us answers.  It was amazing to hear the silence.  It was invigorating to hear Him speak.  Not that we heard an audible voice, but many have gotten back to me that they sensed specific answers from God for the questions that they were asking.  

Most times we can’t hear God because we don’t make the time to listen.  On average we pray more of a wish list and then move on than ask questions and wait for an answer.  I believe the message that I spoke last night, while extremely brief, was one of the most important I could preach.  We all need times to connect with the slow rhythms  of God.  To connect with the Holy Spirit through silence.  To ask questions and then allow time for the Holy Spirit to speak to us.  He still speaks, we just aren’t listening most times.

I’m grateful that last night we were listening.  I am thankful that many found clarity.  Tonight I give thanks that there were many who experienced rest, peace, and quiet for the first time in ages.  My prayer is that many will make this more of a common practice in their lives.

Youth Ministry Mentorship Open Now

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I had the privilege to be part of a Youth Ministry Mentor program back in the Fall through Tim Schmoyer’s blog and will be taking part in mentoring another new Youth Pastor beginning in February.  This person could be you!  

If you are new to Youth Ministry, within the last two years, you could receive up to ten weeks of mentoring with a seasoned Youth Pastor who desires to help you along in your leadership development.  You can check out more about this here  and apply for the mentorship here.

One very exciting development within this Youth Ministry Mentor program is the sponsorship that has come from Lifeway Students.  Lifeway Students is sending mentors and mentees the following list of resources absolutely free, valued at $269, just because they appreciate that you invest so much of yourself into students — let them invest a bit back into you and your ministry.

  • Transforming Student Ministry
  • Experiencing God: Student Edition
  • Fuel: 2 Volume 1
  • Insider DVD pack for teen girls
  • Survival Kit
  • Complete, A Life Of Purity
  • Apply!

    If you’ve been in youth ministry for 2 years or fewer and would like to have a FREE one-on-one youth ministry mentor for 10 weeks, read the official Youth Ministry Mentorship page. The link to the application is there. It’s open to anyone who serves in youth ministry in any capacity, whether that be on a volunteer basis or as a full-time youth pastor.

    The application period is open for only 11 days. After January 24, no further applications will be accepted for this round. Read an overview of the mentorship and apply there.

    As you can understand, we have a limited number of mentors, so you may not be one of the 13 chosen this time around, but keep your eye on this site because this is an on-going program. The next round will be in August 2009 sometime. Subscribe to the RSS feed or by email to stay up-to-date.

    A former mentee’s perspective

    As I said at the beginning of this post, I had the privilege of being a mentor in the last round of this program and have connected with a great, young leader down in Georgia.  If you’d like to see an example of what you’re in for, check out Danny Eiler’s blog. Throughout his mentorship with me, one of the mentors, Danny blogged about our conversations for all to see. You can expect amazing personalized youth ministry training just like what Danny writes about.

    Don’t wait!  If you are looking for an opportunity to have some personalized one-on-one mentoring apply today.

    Monday Morning Quarterback

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    As I have reviewed my personal goals for 2009 and have made them public for accountability purposes I thought I would begin a new Monday Morning post series.  Each Monday I will review the previous week to account for what I have done to make headway on my goals.  Here we go with week 1.

    • Trips to the gym: goal – 3 per week, actual – 4.  Yay me!  I have begun a break from weights for now and am focusing more on cardio.  Each day last week I ran 3 miles for a grand total of 12 miles for the week.  For muscle conditioning I am limiting myself to sit-ups, push-ups and pull-ups.  I figure with all this weight why not use it to work my muscles?  Lemons into lemonade baby!
    • Weight Loss:  Two pounds.  Beginning of the week – 217.  End of week – 215.  Slow but steady wins the race!
    • Time with family: still need to work on that.  I have set appointments on my calendar to remind myself to leave the office in order to get home and have dinner with my family.  It happened a few times last week but there is much more progress I can make in this area.  Pray for me here.  I want this to be a top priority.
    • Daddy Dates: While we did get out of the house to grab a quick breakfast it was a late start and so we had little time for conversation.  I need to get to bed sooner in order to get the rest that I need in order to wake up earlier and get Megan out of the house on time.  My philosophy with the Daddy Dates is that I want to be able to speak into my daughter’s life when she is 15, 20, 25 and so on and I know for that to happen I need to begin now while she is 9 so that she will know that daddy is always available to talk with.
    • Sponsor 1 Rwanda Child:  Kim and I received a packet from Global Benefit that included many children who need sponsoring.  We are sitting down as a family to decide which child we will “adopt.”  I want our girls to be involved in this process to see the impact that they can have on someone halfway around the world.  Keeping them part of this process will also make it easier for them to understand when we have to skip out on spending in order to meet the monthly sponsorship costs.  I want my girls to learn the value of sacrifice.
    • Read 2 books per week:  Youth Ministry 3.0 by Marko and Downtime by Mark Yaconelli.  Both great reads.  YM3.0 challenged me in some of my thinking on Youth Ministry and at the same time confirmed that changes I have made in how I lead are the right direction to be heading.  Downtime served as a practical reminder in giving teens space and quiet time to connect with God.  I’ll be using some of Mark’s ideas in the near future at Impact.
    • Write a book:  This past week I did quite a bit of writing and kept myself busy with the Youth Ministry Essentials series on this blog.  Each day I wanted to write about 1000 words to get juices flowing and spark creativity within myself.  I did accomplish this but after reading Anne Jackson’s blog at the beginning of the week I am spending more time praying about whether the writing of a book is what I should be looking to accomplish.

    That’s it for this week.  I am looking on my calendar this week to set dates for Kim and I to get away (I’m even going to line up the babysitters!)