Legacy Building In Student Ministry

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I recently spoke at Life For Youth Camp, the camp I received Christ at when I was 13 years old, and my mind was blown. Here’s the first mind-blower, I had five girls attending camp this summer who were aging out, they would not be able to come back. All of them chose my week of camp for the last seven years. When I thought about it, it really humbled me. Who am I that kids, teenagers, who would commit a week of their summer at based on the fact that I was speaking. To honor them I secretly put together a short graduation service for them on last night of camp.I made them some graduation boards, had then line up for Pomp and Circumstance, and gave them their graduation diplomas.

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You can watch the video down below on how I made the grad hats.

It was a sweet and surreal moment. The kids who attend my camp are like another youth group to me. I pray for them and follow up with them they commit to Christ. The fact they they were all moving on and I would not see them again next summer was sad and yet I felt like it was a moment of accomplishment for them and for me. But, the mind blowing had just begun.

The next mind blowing moment started after I had done the grad ceremony with these five students. I knew there had been a few campers on staff and I heard from some of them “You never did that for us?” I said, “Well, I just thought of it this year, man.” Anyway, I came to find out that we had 15 former campers on staff. Some of them I knew really well and others not so much. So, I decided to honor them as well. I made more diplomas (but no hats) and had them stand up to receive them at the staff meeting after the Friday night service. I asked each of them how many years they had been to camp. The number ranged from two to nine. I then asked how many of them had been at the camp  or received Christ during my week of camp and all of them had raised their hand for one or the other. Brains cells exploded everywhere. I fully understand that many factors were a part of them becoming counselors and not just my influence, but I am proud to be a part of all their stories.

It’s easy to say I bragging, but to be honest I had not been keeping track except for the number of years I had been going out to the camp. Tomorrow I want to share my thoughts on how I think I intentionally/unintentionally arrived here.

Your Turn:

What does building a legacy in student ministry look like to you?

Have you experienced it? What has your experience looked like?

Let me know in the comments below.

 

 

 

What It Takes To Be Generous

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Generosity is a gift and a skill. It’s something we all have the ability to  do and get better at. Giving  our praise, c comment, a thumbs up, a retweet, a share, a shout out, a pin, etc. are all things we can do if we want to. So, how come we are not more generous? And hat will it take to become more generous

Time

It takes us less than a few seconds to decide whether something is of value to or not and how we want to respond to it. In the old days, if we liked something or was grateful for something we sent a thank you card. We had to buy the card, physically write something in it, put it in an envelope, put a stamp on it and mail it. That clearly takes more than a few seconds but if what we experienced was worthy of a hand written card or note we did it. Today, we have the ability to be far more generous to far more people in for less time, yet many people consider it a bother.

Yesterday I commented on a blog of someone I do not know to say thank for sharing, a retweeted about a half dozen people and it took me less than three minutes. I believe you reap what you sow. if you want more likes, give more likes, etc.

The will to be generous

 Generosity is a choice. It is normally not a pungent emotion that overwhelms us like cheap perfume, although if we handed a million dollar check or if someone did something unbelievably awesome for us we would be touched emotionally. For me, your stuff does not have to be that great, effort is what counts. If you gave a it a shot to wow me, entertain me, or educate me I am going to be generous to you.

The passion to see others smile and succeed

I love to give the students in our ministry music. Back in the day I gave away  hundreds of tapes and cd’s to kids especially if I knew what kind of genre they liked. I recently listened to a female rapper called Heesun Lee. I love her music and play it in the youth hall frequently. I overheard one of female students comment that they really liked one of the songs so I gave here the cd. I did not ask her to thank me or trader her for a comment, I just gave it to her. i saw this her post this that evening

Probably one of the best female Christian rappers I’ve ever heard. Thank you, Paul
for this wonderful CD I can’t seem to stop listening to.listening to HeeSun Lee
I wanted her to enjoy the cd and I wanted Heesun Lee to be heard. Win/Win.

The desire to reap

I don’t know about you but I like to reap. I like to see the fruition of my effort pay off, that’s why I like to sow.  I believe in the law of reciprocation. It is unavoidable. I know there are probably many bloggers, etc who wonder why they do not get what they think they deserve and, to be honest, I think they like to reap where they have not sown. I don’t deserve your comments, your likes, or your shares, but my hope is that the material I share, post, or produce will be worthy of all those things and if I miss the boat once or twice you’ll be generous anyway.

Your turn:

If you want to be generous go and

Comment on 3 blogs you regularly read but have never commented

Recommend 5 resources that have greatly benefited you

Retweet 10 tweets

Be generous and see what happens.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Things I Learned On My Mission Trip To Alaska

 

 

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Good morning all.  I just got back from Alaska (Saturday) with a fantastic group of people from our church. We had mom’s and daughters, mom;s and sons, and a scattering of youth and young adults and myself and today I want to share 10 Things I Learned On My Mission Trip

1. The devil is a big fat liar.

Well I knew that before hand but before the trip I felt like he was working me overtime to get me to believe things that were not true. Things about my team, myself, and our mission. None of mt F.E.A.R’s came true. Fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. He almost got me, but the truth of God’s word saved the day.

2. Our students stepped up bigger and better than expected

Now, I know my kids are awesome, but for all of them save one, this was their first mission trip, ever. I could not have been prouder of our students. They worked hard with the camp kids, they all got along really well, and kept griping to a minimum.

3. Children can handle the truth

I am a Youth Pastor, I don’t usually do kids ministry unless I have to. It’s not because I don’t like kids, it’s because I feel awkward/ I tend to speak about issues and in a way that might be above their heads. I don’t intend this, it just happens. Anyway, these kids (some of who were in foster care) received some straight talk from the guest speaker and responded with open hearts. Kids can take meat in small bite sized, chewable pieces.

4.  I still like being a cabin counselor

I grew up a camp kid at a camp where we were assigned cabins with a counselor. When I grew up I became a counselor and did six or seven summers as a counselor. Now, it’s been a long time since I have been a counselor with kids I had no ideas who they were, but I found my “counselor heart” to be a little dusty but still in tact.

5. Alaska is breathtakingly beautiful

From the water to the mountains and all the lush forest in between, it;s beautiful country. We took the boat tour from Seward and saw whales, otters, and many more of God’s creatures roaming free.

6. I could not live in Alaska

As beautiful as Alaska was, I could not live there. It’s a five hour plane ride from Phoenix. Once you are in Alaska you are there unless you really like to fly.

7. 24 Hours of Day Light is no way to live

During my time in Alaska it was daylight 24/7. On the last night of camp the kids did midnight swimming and it looked like ti was 4 in the afternoon. I am noticing, now that I am home, that my sleep patterns are messed up. Lawd! Help me!

8. I way over packed

I had a ton of clothes I did not wear. Gonna go skinny on the next trip.

9. I saw a dead moose

We dd not see the moose get hit by the car but we saw the damage a moose can do to a car.

10. I met a kid whose middle name was sourdough

I learned that if you were a long time resident of Alaska they called you a Dusty Sourdough. This kid dad’s name was Dusty and his dad put sourdough in his name. Weird and cool at the same time. If this were my name I have a feeling I’d get hungry every time i wrote my name down.

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: John Mark McMillan’s Borderland Lyrics

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I have to say, I am digging the new album by John Mark McMillan’s, of How He Loves Fame (yeah I know you thought Crowder wrote it)  album Borderland. It’s a really moody album and reflects the angst of Springsteen’s Darkness on the Edge of Town meets Bruce Cockburn’s lyrical punch on Stealing Fire. Throw in a little Mark Been of The Call and you have a pretty amazing album.

Tons of great lines from the album but here are my top 10.

Holy Ghost

Dead in the water
Lamb to the slaughter
If the wind doesn’t sing her song

You don’t have to be pentecostal to enjoy this line, but it makes more sense.

Love At The End

Tell the reaper
Tell the repo man
I’ve got nothing that belongs to him

So true. When we are empty of this world, they have nothing to come for.

Guns/Napoleon

And you keep coming on
Like Napoleon
And I’ll lose my head and throne
In the bloody revolution

God is a lover and a fighter when it comes to our souls.

Future Past

All treasures of wisdom
And things to be known
Are hidden inside your hand
And in this fortunate turn of events
You ask me to be your friend

God does not need us, He wants us.

Borderlands

Help me Holy Jesus
Won’t you show me how to live
I’ve got monsters at my table
I’ve got Bibles bent like shivs

Really deep song and worth some reflection. The law makes us feel like we are looking at God through a chain link fence, leaving us to do battle with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Counting On

When the stakes are raised
We hold the hand we’ve drawn
You’re what I’m counting on

Sometimes we have no control of the life we are dealt but we we can always count on God.

Monsters Talk

We are fragile creatures on collision
With our judgement days

Powerful reminder of who we are and where we are headed. Walk gently.

Tongues of Fire

We can still push up against those pillars
We can light those foxes tails ablaze

This speaks to me as a calling back to my youth and to be a passionate believer. I can be Sampson in my finest hours.

Silver Shore

We were born on heaven’s silver shores
I know it in my heart there’s more to be afforded

Heaven has more for me.

Visceral

Memories rust and trophies fade
In the remnants of our glory days
Will we regret the thing that we’ve made
From your table I can see a better way

Lots of hope in these words. it reminds me to be careful of what I make because it will all fade away one day.

Here is an interview with JMM with Relevant magazine

Here is the song Holy Ghost, and it has some of the best lyrics on the album

 

You can buy the album and other JMM stuff from his website at www.johnmarkmcmillain.com 

 

What profound music lyrics are running through your head today?

 

 

It’s Not The End Of The World

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I had to tell myself last night: It’s Not The End Of The World.

This is the second year we’ve have done Mission Week and I had high hopes after last year. But this year just pooped out. I mean we had a great start on Sunday then we were rained out on Monday and now Tuesday I am answering phones because one of our secretaries is out. So, if you’ve ever had a case of the “emotional poops” this is for you.

It’s not the end of the world if…

something does not work the way I want…

someone isn’t who I thought they were…

I never get what I prayed for…

if a program fails…

if my family is out of sorts…

if I lose my job…

If my kids are not perfect…

If I don’t have enough money…

If I didn’t lose all the weight I wanted…

If a relationship goes sour…

If I have money problems…

It’s not the end of the world.

Every disappointment we encounter is a chance to make something right, to make it better, and to redeem it for good. The feeling of failure is just that, a feeling, it is not The Truth. The only truth, that is truth, is God’s word. It’s not the end of the world, it only feels like it.

You know what is the end of the world? The end of the world.

 

52 Videos Later: What I’ve Learned About Content Creation and Myself

 

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Three days ago I recorded my 52nd episode of The Tuesday Panic and it’s time to reflect. I am proud of what I’ve done. I did something that required me to set a time, do something technical, bring something creative to the table, and do it every week for a full year. That is not to say that I think every show I did was a winner. They were not all winners, but they were made, and that’s the point. It’s not that every video was quality but that I took the advice from Seth Godin and I shipped it, did my best work, and put it our for public consumption. That is something I am proud of.  Here are some lessons on I learned in the process

Creating YouTube Videos Is More Fun Than Blogging

Blogging requires me to thing too much. Writing is not my first language, talking is. I have always had the gift of gab but writing is something I have had to really work at. In fact it took me longer to write this post that it took me to record my 52nd video.

Trying To Be Like Others Is Hard Work

If you watch the first 1o-15 seconds of  some of my earlier videos like THIS ONE,

and THIS ONE,

you can see by the intros, I thought creating funny intros were cool. In reality, not so much. I made intros because because lot of other shows had them. I enjoyed making the intros but I was too focused on the creative process than I was in creating clear and compelling content. My time, like yours is valuable, so I have quit making elaborate video intros and just jump into it saving myself and my viewers more time.

I Figured Out What I Won’t Do To Get You To Engage

I won’t argue theology.

I won’t be be outrageous for the purpose of being outrageous.

I won’t tear others down.

I won’t review stuff I don’t like or wouldn’t use.

I won’t interview people who don’t interest or challenge me.

I won’t do the show with my shirt off (I would lose subscribers, probably.)

If you want ministry salaciousness, I am not it. I am boring  but passionate about equipping youth workers and keeping it real.

Content Creation Is A Baptism Of Fire

I have been creating videos every week for  a year and I know my audience pretty well and creating content is still a struggle .Every video I create i think it will generate more comments, likes. etc. because I am progressively getting better. Better is better right?  The bad thing is, my expectations are to high. I think people want to connect but instead most people just want to consume.  The good news is that the whole process a trial by fire . With every video I go through the five stages of death after posting them

Denial – No way, this video should have done better.

Anger – Really?! You couldn’t find 10 seconds to at least say “your video sucks”

Bargaining – Watch my video Tweet Tweet Tweet, Plus Plus Plus, Pin Pin Pin. Trust me, you’ll love it or your money back.

Depression – I suck, you suck, we all suck. I quit.

Acceptance – Yes, i suck, but I can get better, Yes, you suck for not engaging but I believe you’ll come around. Next video.

Everything that does not work is burned away in the silence of my audience, including my false expectations. The good news, whatever I am left with after editing and the fire is over, I am left with something real.

Here is my 52nd Tuesday Panic

 

and a Thank You video with a contest for a free book

 

 

The Price Tag Of A Life Long Commitment To Youth Ministry

 

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I will be turning 46 this Saturday and will have been a Youth Pastor for over half my life. Although I have enjoyed my time as a Youth Pastor, but as with anyone with a singular focus in life,

A scientist working on a cure.

A teacher who’s married to their class.

A politician constantly seeking re-election.

Pastor’s who’s life is the flock.

it’s had it’s price tag.

I discovered The Leadership Triangle by John Maxwell years ago. The leadership triangle says that the higher you go up leadership your choices become fewer and fewer. Because of my singular focus, as a believer and pastor. I can’t

  • post anything I want on facebook
  • write about anything I want on this blog
  • make snarkey comments on twitter (although I have been busted a few times)
  • participate in certain activities otherwise I’d have my testimony or leadership questioned

Jesus said there would be a cost to following Him and that cost manifests itself in my personal and professional life. The cost of focusing on youth and youth ministry for 23 years looks like this, for me:

Lack of adult friendships and community

Some would say this is a choice, but it in reality it is not. At least not for me and many others. Being a leader and a Pastor puts me in small group. Other than who is on my church staff and youth staff, my relationships are rather limited. No one wants to hang around a pastor for fear of them finding out something about them, like they keep a few beers in the fridge or  fear that the pastor may see their DVD collection and judge them.  I am not completely devoid of relationships, but most of my informal  relationships are outside the church.

Being misunderstood about what I do and sometimes why I do it

The older I get, the more I think people are wondering about my sanity. I get it , I am old and growing old in youth ministry looks a little weird. Funny, we don’t question a teachers life-long commitment to their students or why a coach wants to hang around and coach college kids. I can’t tell you how long I will continue to be a full time youth pastor, that will be up to God and I to work that out, but until I am not one, I will just have to deal with people who don’t get it.

Being good at just one thing

I have had, what I call, the Orville Rednebacher philosophy most of my life. Orville Redenbacher is the pop corn maker who bragged, “We do one thing and we do it better than anyone else.” All I have ever wanted to be was a good youth worker, I wanted to be the best in my field. To be really good at anything  requires study and commitment and I have put the hours into crafting a professional life. The other thing i really want to be good at is training youth workers. I don’t mean just spitting out information but helping other youth workers craft a life long passion for reaching and discipling teenagers. That has a separate price tag, but no less costly,. This why I blog, do Youtube videos, and tweet out info youth workers can use.

In addition to being the best youth worker I have an equal if not greater commitment to being the best father and husband I can be lest you think I am completely self absorbed in my work. Also, separate price tags.

Financial Cost

If you want a career as a youth worker, a teacher, a social worker, or other kind of public service job, you are committing to a narrow path. I have no retirement plans. Yes I should have saved money , invest in a 401k, bought some stocks, and done a host of financial planning, but I didn’t. I have the next 20 years to correct.

God has blessed me every step of my journey. He has provided everything my family and I have needed every day of these 24 years and will not stop providing, ever.

These are not gripes or complaints, these are just reflections and observations of where I am at. Maybe you are a youth worker and you feel a life-calling to work with teenagers, to that I applaud you and give you a standing O, but don’t believe that it comes without a price tag.

 

Your Turn

Have you, like Jesus said, “considered the cost” Luke 14:25-33

Do you have have a life long calling to youth work? What costs do your for-see to make the journey?

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Tuesday: Fundraisers

871742861_1360260010Let me start by saying that I don’t like fundraising. I do it for only two reasons, which are probably yours as well, Camp and Missions Trips. We’re going to Alaska this year as our missions trip and it is the largest financial commitment we’ve ever asked kids to make at 1,300. We’ve been fundraising since January. To be honest, it’s exhausting, but the trip should heal all wounds.  I have done several fundraisers that I have never done before this year such as selling Boston Butts for Memorial Day and a 3k Run. here are My Top 1o Best Fundraisers

 

1. Selling Fireworks

This was a pretty easy deal. The company we used set up the tent, we provided the security in the form of a trailer to load and unload the fireworks. We usually cleared $1,200 to $1.500.

2. Walk For Missions

Every Easter, for years, the youth ministry did the Via Dolarosa. We did a 36 mile ministry walk in tow days. Kids got sponsors per mile and usually made, on average, around $100.

3. Dinner Theater

This is huge undertaking but it’s the most gratifying. This took the whole youth ministry and created some great memories. We have several performances over a weekend including a luncheon after service. This was a ticketed event and we usually made around $1.200.

4. 5k Run

This was new one for me this year but it was pretty easy. The key is getting T-Shirt sponsors. If I can get 20 people to sponsor the event by getting their same on the shirt, that’s $1,000. Each runner registered at $25 and $6 of that went to purchase the shirt. We cleared around $1.200-$1,300.

5. Church Wide Yard Sale

On average we score around $700 to $1,000 and earns participants around $50 a person.

6. After Church Luncheon

This is not a ticketed event, instead, we ask for donations. The key to success is offering take out trays. This is usually good for about a minimum of  $500

7. Build A Base of Donors

Pure and simple, I ask people. There are always people in our church who want  to help and I make sure to give them opportunities to do from putting commitment cards in the bulletin to personal phone call.

8. Servant Auction

This fundraiser is not a huge money maker per se, but it allows kids and church members connect. We auction off kids based on their abilities such as babysitting, yard work, etc. I think this also affirms kids because people are bidding over them. I set the initial price starting around $25-30.

9. Christmas Tree Sales

We did this when we lived in Florida ad had pretty good success. Of course sales peeked when it was slightly colder. We usually made around $1,500.

10. Valentines Banquet

This was a variety show and dinner. We had several kids sing and and do dramas. We even had Elvis show up. This is a ticketed event at $1o a ticket or $15 a couple. This is not only a great fundraiser (around $1000) but it’s a great way to encourage the body of Christ.

Do you have a favorite fundraiser? Feel free to leave your idea below.

 

The Five Word Challenge

 

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I read a great article the other day from Fast Company called  Simple, Direct, Honest, Personal, And Blunt: How The 5-Word Performance Review Works Wonders  By: Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield  (Warning the CEO from Kayak.com, whom they interview, has a potty mouth)

I think this might be a cool tool to use with our youth ministries and teams. Why not let your team fill out a paper with five words about your leadership?  Why not let your students offer five words to describe their youth ministry?

The interesting point about using five words is it’s bluntness. Unlike a paragraph where you can couch your words or meanings, five words  sum up your feelings to the point.

So, what five words would you use to describe your youth ministry, your leadership, or your volunteer team?  Try using three positive words and two words that would denote changes that need to occur.

See you in the comments.

 

Thursday Morning Quarterback : Give Yourself A Break

 

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I don’t know how spiritually ready you were last night to execute your youth meeting or small group, but I was spiritually slacking.  I have a lot going on in my life right now. I have trying to get my High School senior son graduated, I have a basement being remodeled, and I am prepping for a missions trip to Alaska. None of these are excuses. I still pray, read my Bible, etc, but yesterday it felt like I could only pray one prayer, “God, I need your help.” That was it. I had been up since 3:00 a.m. from taking my wife to the airport and I was out of rhythm all day and really all week.

Would God respond to my weak and anemic prayer? He did. Even though I did not feel like I had “earned” any favor for the meeting or my performance, I sensed his presence during worship and the message. I connected with several kids and we had a fantastic meetings. Normally, I would be analyzing how our meeting went today. I am taking the day off from critical thinking and instead focusing on being grateful for the sufficient grace of God. Maybe you could do the same.

Think about your meeting. How did God’s grace appear to you?