I Was Not Living In Reality

And that has caused me a ton of frustration. This quote from Gary Vaynerchuk  is stuck in my head,

“The reason you are so frustrated is because you are living in the way you want the world to be rather than how it really is.”

All I could think about was how things should be

How I thought my work should be

How I thought my relationships should be

How I thought the church should be

and every time I thought about it, I got angry and stayed angry. This kind of wishful, wanting thinking was ruining my day and my life.

I had to face it, life was not as I wanted it. People were not as I wanted them to be. It’s hard to love people as they could be because of the glaring shortcomings all of us have. It’s much easier to love people as they are and journey with them.

Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. – Nikos Kazantzakis

I cannot change my reality, at least not all once, but I can change how I see reality. I need new eyes, and that is my prayer. Brandon Heath, in His song Give Me Your Eyes sings,

Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.

I want a new reality, but I need new eyes, first, to see the reality I am in.

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7 Elements Every Youth Ministry Curriculum Should Include

I recently purchased a series of lessons and I was less than thrilled with not only how the material was formatted but the content as well.

Now, before you think I’m too judgy, I write my own curriculum and sell it youth workers so I have a good idea of what youth workers are looking for.

As a youth worker, I’m looking for certain things when I buy a series of two weeks or more:

I’d like there to be slides

This is almost mandatory these days. Why would someone create a teaching or preaching series without slides? I create slides in two kinds of formats, Powerpoint and Keynote for each of the series I create.

Even if it’s a small group series, an announcement slide would be helpful.

I’d like there to be opener and closer ideas

These could be games, discussion openers, stunts, etc. anything to get the kids loosen up or to get kids to focus on the topic. I’d also like some clusters. How will I close this meeting? Give me an altar call, candle lighting, circle up, something to put a punctuation mark on the meeting.

I’d like the material written generically.

The most useless part of a series, to me, are the actual notes of the person who wrote it. I could care less about their illustrations because they usually do not fit my context.

It’s laziness to simply ship off your notes for someone else to buy. I know it takes care and time to re-write something so it can be used in various context but, to me, it’s worth the effort.

I’d like a “how to use this material” page.

I don’t want your notes, but I do want your background. Why did you do this series with your youth ministry? What’s the story behind it? I’m looking for some kind of connection so I can relate it to why I am doing the lesson with my group.

I’d like it to be formatted for easy reading

I offer pdf’s and docs for everything I write. I try to break down the parts with bold titles so youth leaders can follow along without having to search or strain as to how this thing is supposed to go.

I’d like social media graphics to promote the material

This should just be standard, but it’s not. I try to include everything and the kitchen sing because I know the youth worker I am writing for needs all the help he can get to get the word out.

I’d like a resource page that includes other material that would bolster the series 

One again, effort. Too many guys are taking their messages, as is, and are trying to make a quick buck. They’ll make that buck but they won’t make any fans.

I try to include as much as I can and more than I even used in my series because..why not? Why not over promise and over deliver. Why not shock, surprise, and delight those you’re writing for?

I include songs, links to video, etc. Even if it’s an idea I have after the fact, if I think it will benefit your youth ministry, I’ll throw it in there.

I want small group questions 

I don’t have this in all my series, but I do include small group questions because sometimes a youth group is a small group. Youth workers want to teach the material but may need the small group questions to have a break out, small group time.

To me, it’s all about giving people options. It cost me nothing as a writer to throw 10 questions together so you can have a small group time, which may be the best thing your kids like about your youth group.

I like a bonus 

I have not seen any other writers do this, but I include an audio curriculum coach feature with every series I’ve made for the past few years. I want youth workers to hear my heart behind the material as well as walk them through the process.

When I’m creating these kind of resources I’m thinking about  the volunteer or bi-vocational youth worker who needs all the help they can get. I want them to feel confident and prepared and that I created what they’re reading with them in mind.

Lastly, I’d like any site that sells downloadable material to up there standards to make some of these these things mandatory when a youth pastor submits their material. Is that too much to ask?

Tell me, is there something you’d like curriculum writers, like myself, to include in the lessons we create? Let me know.

Why don’t you grab my series Dear Bible. It’s a $15 value, but I want you to have it for free. Life’s too short for sloppy sermons.

Please feel free to check out my other sermon series/curriculum page HERE. Each series is packed with the stuff I talked about above and  has everything you need to challenge your kids to grow in Christ.

 

 

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18 Things I’m Not Stressing About In 2018

The size of our youth ministry. I’ll love whosever comes.

What others say. Words. Just words.

The future. God’s already there.

New technology. It’s continues to evolve and I can jump in any time.

Social Media. It will serve me. I will not serve it.

My weight. Care not obsession.

People who don’t get me. Their loss.

Politics. No one is 100% right.

Keeping up with everyone else (I got my own race to run).

What people think I should think. Shame is no way to treat someone.

Guilt and shame. Jesus took care of that.

Perfection. I’m just gonna write and ship my stuff to my tribe and hope others find it as well.

My e-mail list. It’ll grow when I pour more love and care into it.

Success. I’ve already achieved success. I have a great wife, three great kids, God loves me and serve an amazing group of kids. What else could I need?

God’s will. I’m living in it right now. If He wants to move, I’ll move with Him.

Equating work with value. I’m much more concerned with who I am becoming than what I achieve.

Spiritual achievement. For who? Not you. Becoming is a journey not a destination. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

How others will judge me. I’ve built a body of work over the last decade. In the end, I hope it’s blessed a bunch of people, trained a bunch of youth workers, and equipped a bunch of saints. History, and, more importantly, God, will judge me in the end. My legacy is His glory.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Youth Ministry Leaders or Chaperones?

I can remember going to school dances where chaperones were in attendance. Their job was to make sure there was no kissing, dirty dancing, or smoking in the parking lot. The goal was the  make sure something didn’t happen. Sadly, this is role many youth leaders/volunteers take.

Youth Ministry chaperones make sure no one talks during the message,  that nothing gets broken, and no one dies.

Leaders, on the other hand, have a mission each week to make an impact. Volunteer Leaders see their role as proactive rather than re-active. They make sure something does happen

  • a life giving affirmation
  • a deeper conversation about life
  • a listening ear is offered

My view of leadership says a volunteer should be, over time, influencing the lives of students to walk uprightly, make good decisions, and lean into the gifts and abilities God has given them; all the while making sure no one dies.

It’s not either or, it’s both. We should all be training our volunteers to be active participants who, weekly, makes something happen because it’s hard to measure the spiritual growth of students though inaction.

 

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17 Things I Learned In 2017

I decided to do some reflecting on the past year, on a personal level, and this is a list of a few things I learned.

1. Dreams do come true, as I spoke at the National Youth Workers Conference.
2. My romanticism, about certain things, runs deeper than I thought.
3. I’m a better writer than I thought, but I have a long way to go. 
4. My real fight is against the pull to be average
5. I let myself become frustrated at small things I cannot change.
6. I learned, through ancestry.com that I am not Irish, but 40% British, 30% European Jew, and the rest Irish/Scottish/Scandinavian
7. The youth group I serve is pretty amazing (I kinda already new that)
8. I’m not looking forward to turning 50 next year.
9. I may not be “good enough” to make it to the “next level” and it will take far more work to improve my chances of making the next step.
10. I quit believing in a personal destiny, where I believed I should be at certain place by a certain time. Giving up this idea has freed me up to be wherever God would have me to be.
11. I have to lean into where my life is going versus fighting it.
12. I need to broaden my horizons when it comes to relationships and contexts.
13. The fight against isolationism is real.
14. Improvisation is better than scripted.
15. Doing Facebook Live is rewarding but more taxing than I thought.
16. I was very consistent in creating content across multiple platforms.
17. God continues to be faithful when I am not.

What did you learn in 2017?

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Improvisational Youth Ministry

I played a part in a dinner theater where I played a lawyer. I had a script to follow. A script lets the actors know when they are to speak their lines. I say a line, you say a line. But, I am terrible at memorizing scripts. Case in point, for this dinner theater, I hid little notes of script all over the set unbeknownst to the audience. Even this could not save me from forgetting my lines.

I came to a part in the script I could not remember. We had a reader behind the scenes who could give us a line if we forgot. For some reason I could not hear the person back stage so it looked like I was having a conversation with the wall. The audience laughed even harder. So much for scripts.

When my son was little, I remember him trying to tell me knock knock jokes. He’d say “Knock Knock” and I’d say, “Who’s there?” and he would cut right to the punchline It still made me laugh. Maybe he gets it from me, I can’t tell a joke. Jokes feel canned. Improv on the other hand, that’s where I shine.

I love the back and forth of making a joke on the fly. I love shows like Who’s Line Is It Anyway. Improv is like playing with play dough until something is created. Youth ministry, these days, feels more like improv rather than a script.

I am reading Impov Wisdom by Patricia Ryan Madson. It’s a fantastic book about ditching the script and rolling with what’s around you. In her 10th Maxim: Make Mistakes, Please she offers this wonderful quote

The more precise my vision of an outcome, the more likely I am to be disappointed. Things don’t turned out as planned. You don’t need to abandon your dreams; just don’t let them get in the way of noticing what IS taking place

I work with a youth ministry filled with wonderful students, but the more precise my vision the more disappointed I come. That’s the problem. This youth ministry will never become what I want it to become and it’s time to let that go. In letting go of my ideas and dreams I become aware of what God IS doing in and around my students, parents, leaders and church.

This is not to say I do not have goals or plans. Heck, I wrote a whole book about the planning process, but I’ve become willing to ditch the script to notice what the Sprit is doing versus what I want Him to do.

In her book, Madson introduces me to a new and fantastic word bricolage. According to Mirriam-Webster

According to French social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the artist “shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life.” Lévi-Strauss compared this artistic process to the work of a handyman who solves technical or mechanical problems with whatever materials are available. He referred to that process of making do as bricolage, a term derived from the French verb bricoler (meaning “to putter about”)

I love this so much. As youth workers, we often rely on a script of how a youth meeting, event, or program should go yet, all our best memories are from events that did not go as planned.

God like an artist, “shapes the beautiful and useful out of the dump heap of human life”. Isn’t this what we are trying to do? Take a youth group of diverse kids, some bright, some not so much, and make something out of it that will bless God, our church, and our communities?

I’m gong to try to do. a little less planning (in detail) and make a lot more room for puttering and see what God will make with this play dough called youth ministry.

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The Christmas Nobody Wants

Jimmy Kimmel loves his pranks. Every year Kimmel encourages parents to tell their kids that they have eaten their Halloween candy, and film it. He takes it another step further for Christmas by asking parents to give their kids an early Christmas a present, but one they know their kids will not like. You can watch the compilation below (Warning: kid uses salty language at the end)

The reactions from the kids range from confused to throwing fits to absolutely losing their minds! Kids have certain expectations about Christmas, they expect only things they want. Life, like Christmas, offers us gifts we weren’t looking for and we are often disappointed with.

There are so many “gifts” life gives us that we didn’t ask for, that we want a refund on, that we simply want to throw away, but, maybe we should re-think this.

Nobody asked for the “gift” of sickness

Nobody asked for the “gift” of divorce

Nobody asked for the “gift” of failure

These are “gifts” that circumstances gave us.

Think of a “gift” the world gave you that you didn’t ask for. What is that gift responsible for? Did sickness make you more thankful to be alive? To treasure each day? To be grateful of modern medicine?

How about divorce? Did it make you work harder on your relationships so this wouldn’t happen to you?

Failure. Did it teach you more about life than the successes?

I was adopted. Although I struggled as a young man with my identity, as I get older, I am thankful that my parents gave me up for adoption rather than choosing abortion. I am glad my life took this path, with all is struggles. It looked like tragedy but it was really a gift.

Nobody asked for Christmas. God took it upon himself to invade the world, uninvited. Christ offers mankind gifts we did not ask for such as grace, peace, joy, forgiveness and renewal that people refuse on a daily basis.

King Herod wanted to kill him.

His family rejected him.

The disciples abandoned him.

This is not the “gift” they had been expecting.

Yet, Jesus offered the widow back her dead son alive, the woman at the well redemption, and salvation to all mankind though his death. All unexpected gifts to those who received them.

Many times we act like the spoiled children in the video when we do not get what we want, throwing a fit or complaining about our “gift” . This may not be the Christmas you wanted, but it’s the one you got. What will you do with it?

 

 

 

 

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What Will You Do With This When You Get It?

I just read this story about Kellie Marie Tran. It’s a feel good story that makes you wish all actors felt like this, but Kellie shares something that we should all be in tune with.

She says.

“In my 8 years as a struggling actor, I came to the realization that the hardest thing to obtain from another human being is their genuine interest,”

Actors, businesses, bands, churches, youth groups and everyone else, are looking for what Kellie was looking for, genuine interest.

She rewarded a table full of genuinely interested people talking about her role in The Last Jedi by going over and introducing herself.  A simple and kind gesture, but it meant the world to that table of people.

As human beings, we can come to believe we deserve genuine interest, but Kellie was humble and grateful for such attention. We should all be so grateful that anyone is talking about us, buying our stuff, or recommending what we do to others. We should also have a plan to reward them when they do.

How will you reward people when they give you the genuine interest you’ve been looking for?

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My 17 Most Popular Posts of 2017

These posts received between 1,000 and 5,500 views each and are not arranged in any particular order. Enjoy.

The Wrong Kind of Busy

Growing Older In Youth Ministry Sucks

The Danger of Study – Preach – Repeat

Real Youth Pastor’s Don’t Starve

Losing Your Faith In Humanity? Good!

Three Reasons I Live Stream Our Youth Service On Facebook

The Anxious Ranting of A Burnt Out Youth Pastor

Three Tips For Apprenticeship While Looking For A Master

The Number 1 Reason I Am Not Ministering To More People

Halfway Is The Problem

Don’t Give Your Whole Life To Youth Ministry

3 Tips For Mentoring Teens

Turning Your To Do Lists Into Your To Be Lists

When I Learned This, I Was Crushed

Tips For Live Streaming Your Church Service

The Incredible Power of Encouraging Yourself

Did you have a favorite, something that really helped out?

Let me know. 

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All Roads Go Through Bethlehem

There’s was a road I hated driving in in my town. It’s a narrow double lane, no passing. I really like driving it because of the differing kinds of trees. I hated it because, if there was an accident, I couldn’t get to my house. There was no other road that I could take to get home.

It’s the advent season. Christmas is less about Jesus and even Christians are putting less faith in the the actual Christmas story.

The problem with that is that all roads run through Bethlehem.

Think about that road you hate driving on, but its the only one that get you where you want to go. There is something at the end of that road you want to get to. Your destination may be something like home, school, work, etc. or it could be success, joy or purpose.

We, as humans, are trying to make easy roads, short cuts to the places we want to go. We want to get there faster with the least amount problems. Think of that last short cut you took and thought it would be faster but it actually took you longer.

It’s the same with faith. For the follower of Jesus there are no easy roads, no shortcuts. Every road we try to take or create to get us off the road of faith in Christ runs right into or intersects with the road to Bethlehem.

God’s desire to bring the world back to Him, to restore peace in the human heart, was born in manger. His announcement was not to the powerful, but to poor Shepherds. The birth of Christ was the start of the road back to God.

The Shepherds heard the good news and immediately went to worship the Christ child,

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Luke 2:16

Many hear the good news and spend the rest of their lives building new road, seeing short cuts, try to find their a to what they want out of life. All the foot dragging, stalling, and avoidance will do us no good because, even at the end of our lives, hoping to get into heaven (or to whatever you think lies beyond) you will finds yourself on a road with a manger with a small child in whom you tried to avoid.

Jesus said,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Even in death, and our hope for something more, all roads go through Bethlehem. It’s the only way home.

You can watch my online devotion below for more context

 

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