Can You Pass The Purity Test?


I am a news junkie. I like to know what is going on. News organizations have started ramping up 2012 Presidential hopefuls for the Republican party. A phrase I keep hearing is “a purity code”. The various parties, both conservative, liberal, and tea, all have a code. They are asking “are they____________ enough to win” Fill in the blank: morally conservative, fiscally conservative, christian, liberal, etc. The problem is, no one can pass this test and win.

We in the church have our own set of purity codes. I am not talking about the code  or laws from the O.T., but the subtle codes we carry around in  our minds. We carry these codes for many of the spiritual disciplines of faith. Here is an example:


Did you have your devotions?

First we decide what that means to us and then it become the purity code by which to measure other people devotional time. Some of the factors that make up this purity code are:

  • Time (how long was your devotion? How long is enough?)
  • Did you memorize a verse
  • Did you sing and worship the Lord?
  • Did you pray, and how long?
  • Did you read the The Word? How long? (what is the appropriate time)

You could apply this to worship, fasting, bible study, church attendance etc.

A book that really screwed me up was Larry Lea’s Could You Not Tarry One Hour? It was the ultimate purity code for prayer and devotion time in 1987. Not that I am against praying for an hour or extending my devotional time, but it was the feeling of failure that came over me when I could not do the full hour. I tried and tried, and I always measured my time with God by the hour. I never seemed to enjoy God because I was always watching the clock.

I wonder how many times we put an “unfair” purity code upon students that only Pharisees intended. Ways we do this?

  • Do you speak in tongues?
  • Can you spit out the four spiritual laws? (nothing agains the 4)
  • Do you raise your hands during worship?
  • Consistent attendance in Sunday School, Small Group, Or Youth ( I am pro attendance BTW)
  • Do you share your faith all the time? (I am pro faith sharing)
  • Do you bring your friends to church? (I am pro invitations)

We use these “codes” to qualify leadership or sometimes to determine if a person is “really” saved. The challenge our youth ministries may be facing is an over codification of faith.

I am all for scriptural and some human standards, principles, evidences, but I have aversion to codes; especially if they are man made and locked tight to change. I guess we should all take a gut check and a Word check, and see if there are some secret, man made codes we have been using to qualify the spiritual lives of ourselves and our students. As we go, we we should remember that we ourselves cannot even pass our own codes most of the time.

“For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, “(NASB)

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatian 2:21

“The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

“Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (NLT) Romans 13:8

Let’s enjoy the Lord and each other and “the code” will take care of itself.

5 Reasons I Squidoo And You Should Too


I started using Squidoo about 3 years ago. Squidoo was started by author and marketing expert Seth Godin. It was a fun hobby and challenge, but I have recently had some breakthrough ideas for using Squidoo for even more ministry purposes; like using it to build a platform for greater interaction between you, my fabulous blog readers, and myself. There are a lot of ways to use Squidoo, here are a few of my reasons:


  1. I like the game aspect.

I get points for

  • creating lenses
  • liking other people’s lens’s and having mine liked
  • commenting on, voting on, or participating on other people’s lenses

You can work your way to becoming a Giant Squid (50 lenses) or a Squid Angel where you can “bless” other lenses and give them extra  points.  I list some of my Squidoo Goals HERE

2.  I like the creativity it offers.

I am A.D.D when it comes to what I feel like working on at any given moment. If I have an idea for a lens, BAM! I can just jump over and make one.  Here is one I did after watching the T.V show The Cape. I thought it was lens-worthy.

3.  I am starting to figure out how to use it for our youth ministry

This is a challenge. When you are dealing with social media,  it’s easy to get your message out my tweeting or changing your status; but some times you need more information or want to have an ongoing conversation. Squidoo has some great tools for debate, voting, ranking etc. I started a lens for our College and Career and will have one for our youth and parents soon. The cool thing is, if you want to create a crazy lens of nothing but polls about Lady Ga Ga, you can.

4.  I am using Squidoo to compliment my blog and bless my readers and other youth workers

In the blogoshpere, there are lot of ideas. They offer are a view point of ministry, life, scripture, etc. but Squidoo keeps the conversation moving. you can comment on my blog and then take it on over to my Squidoo Lens, and you can debate, vote, and go as deep as you want. A good example is my lens on Youth Ministry Games

5. It keeps my writing sharp

The Squidoo community is a tough crowd. You have to step it up if you want to get a like or comment. I can’t just phone it in.  I like affirmation, and I get a lot of it from my Squidoo friends. I received a purple star (a big deal) for my lens called One Life Matters. Through my involvement in Squidoo, I have been able to share my passion for young people and the role youth pastors play in the life of the church.

This reason is not just a number, it is more than that. The Squidoo Community is fun, quirky, world-wide, and challenges me to be better.

So, if you decide to try Squidoo, let me know. If you sign up, tell them Paul sent you and they may give me a few extra points.

If you want to get to know me better, check out all my lenses here on my Meography.

Here are my Squidoo lenses that focus on youth  ministry or ministry oriented lenses. Come by and say hello.

Have a great week everyone!!


Is Your Youth Ministry Hiring?


Our nations unemployment rate is 9.8. That is a lot of people out of work. Just like our nation, our youth ministry has a spiritual and physical economy. We know when people are working:

  • Money flows back into the economy
  • Products get made
  • People are more satisfied
  • There is less crime
  • The government pays less in welfare

What does it mean, if our youth ministry’s unemployment rate is high? It means you have a possible mess on your hands. Kids without roles or responsibilities means:

  • You are working harder than you need to.
  • Your group is moving towards a spiritual welfare group, where kids come with hands out and hearts closed.
  • Kids are not discovering their purpose or calling through  trial an error.

Look at he parable of the vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard.

He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.

“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’  So they went.

“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’

7 “‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.

We all have too many kids sitting on the side of the road. Many are their simply because we have not asked them to serve.  Think about a program you want to run or a job that needs to done, which kid can fill that role? The more you hire, the more you reap these  benefits:

  • You have kids taking ownership of their group
  • You will have less behavior problems
  • You have permission into their lives and can help equip them to do their role.
  • You build excitement.
  • Student feel fulfilled that they are making the program run.

Look around,  I bet you’ll find your next student leader standing right next to you.


What is your servant unemployment rate? How can you implement a strategy to get more ids involved? I will be publishing a page of ideas soon, and if you’d like to get it first, sign up for the Get it First newsletter in the top right of this page.





7 Reasons You Should Teach A Parenting Class, Even If You Don’t Have Kids

I have taught a few parent classes over the years. Some were well attended, others were not; but all of them were worth it.  Here are some reasons that youth workers of all ages and every phase of life;  from no kids to empty-nester grand parents should teach a parenting class.

  • Parents need a place of their own. This is an affinity group. It is a place where parents can share and see everyone else nodding their heads.
  • Parents need connection. They need to know and feel you care beyond the midweek program. You may want to have a parent co-teach the class with you. They can be the voice of experience and you can offer some cultural advice.
  • Parents need answers. Don’t assume parents know how to raise their kids with Christian/biblical values. The information you teach, may be the first time some of these parents have heard it.
  • Parents need to know they are not the only ones going through a difficult time. In fact, many parents, after hearing other stories,  may come out of your class being more grateful.
  • Parents need time to grow. Healthier parents = healthier community = healthier church.
  • Parents need to know their is a resource for them to turn to. It’s o.k. if you have a small class, it let’s the other parents know the church cares enough to have a class.
  • Parents need you to be real. They may see a speaker, a programmer, or a game guy. This gives you a chance to show the real you.

Here is an extra page I created with more advice and resources for youth workers and parents.

Buying Into The Next Level

Before launching anything, you have to have a certain level of buy in. Whether it is a small group, discipleship group, evangelistic event, or a leadership group you need kids to buy in. You have to have kids who are interested, that have some want to. How do we get that? How do we do that? We have to get students to buy in with:

  1. Hearts (they have to feel it)
  2. Minds (they have to think it will be worth it, and t will be)
  3. Souls (they have to believe it will affect their walk with Christ and could have a greater impact on the youth group and the Kingdom of God)
  4. Bodies (they have to show up, sometimes just by faith)

So, what can we do to help our kids buy into the next level of their spiritual growth?

1. Make it a practice of telling kids you believe they can make it to the next level.

The students may not be ready now, but they can be and will be if they know someone believes in them.

2. Invite kids to taste the next level.

Jesus invited Peter, James, and John on special trips where they experienced things (mount of transfiguration, personal prayer time with Jesus in the garden). Find ways to invite kids to experience that next level of maturity.

3. Cast a vision of what life could like for them at the next level.

Kids need to see what’s in it for them and for the Kingdom. I know we want every choice to be altruistic, but most kids don’t have that. Their choices can be Spirit prompted, if they can see it with the heart and their imagination.

Jesus painted great pictures. We can too.

  • Paint a picture of the rewards at the next level (eternity, crowns, presence of God)
  • Paint a picture of the consequences at the next level (they will reject or persecute you)
  • Paint a picture of the dangers at the next level (most guys are enticed by an element of danger)
  • Paint a picture of the joy they will experience at the next level (the positive emotions will keep them coming back to that level)

4. Tell them there is a task custom made for them at the next level.

Jesus told Peter “Feed my sheep”. You have to show young people that their are important things to be done at the next level and they can do them if they step out in faith.

5. Let them know they will learn something they do not know at the next level.

We have a responsibility (on a program level) to make each level interesting, challenging, and educational. The disciples went from fishermen to walking on water, healing the sick, experiencing the power of the Spirit, proclaiming the gospel to Gentiles, and ultimately, giving their life. We have to make sure each level is not just fishing in different lake but deeper lakes with bigger fish to be caught.

6. Pursue and Live At Your Next Level

Before we invite kids to the next level, let’s make sure we are heading to the next level God has for us. We can’t invite kids where we have not been or are not heading. They will know if we are stuck at or scared of the next level in our own lives.

Your Assignment:

  • Take your program apart into small pieces.
  • Divide it into levels of deeper maturity (where do you want them to go?)
  • Decide which kids to invite to which level. (invite them consistently)
  • What rewards and consequences await at each level?

First Church of Awww-kward

If I could have banned a word last year it would have been the word: awkward. From sit-coms to general conversation, the word just creeped in to describe anything uncomfortable to talk about. Although I don’t like the over use of the word it completely describes my youth ministry and just about every other youth ministry in America. But awkwardness can be the catalyst for learning.

Consider this, we are trying to build a community and a church and the church, out of awkwardness. We have kids with no filters from brain to mouth, kid who are shy, kids who figuring out who they are. I struggle on a weekly basis to connect jocks with nerds, cheerleaders with anime chicks, and I wonder why the group doesn’t grow or achieve certain goals.

Every youth meeting is fueled with awkwardness. From trying to get kids involved in games to getting up and sharing a testimony or announcements. We are flying in the face of adolescent angst. So, what do we do? Nothing. There is nothing we can do. I’m not sure we need to.

The disciples, I’m sure, could recall some awkward moments:

  • Peter sinking right in front of Jesus
  • James and John’s mother requesting special favors for her kids
  • Jesus talking with women
  • Jesus arguing with Pharisees
  • Jesus healing lepers
  • Judas running out on the last supper
  • The woman challenging Jesus about dogs getting crumbs of bread

The list goes on. Jesus was a master of creating awkward situations. Jesus did not avoid them, he embraced them. Maybe, instead of trying to avoid awkwardness or abolish it , we should capitalize on it. It is the awkward moments that create teachable moments.

You know what is really awkward? Trying to explain all this in a staff meeting.

For your pleasure: awkward family pictures

Don’t Take It Personally

You know if someone leads with the words, “Don’t take it personally.” you are about to be offended. Many of us take our youth work very seriously. Sometimes too seriously. We are supposed to be relationship, programming, and preaching experts. We work hard at these things and we don’t like to be questioned. We don’t make widgets. Widgets are not unthankful or ungrateful. Widgets don’t talk back, don’t have whiney parents, and don’t say ugly things about us on Facebook.

Offenses make it easy to become youth ministry Pharisess. We don’t want anyone’s advice, because we think others have no idea what they are talking about.  Pharisess were the the most offended people in the bible. “Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” Matthew 15:12.

Are we being offended by all the wrong things?

  • Are we offended that others want to change something we’ve done something for a while?
  • Are we offended when God moves in a way that jacks up our program?
  • Are we offended when new kids come and force us to change the way we relate?
  • Are we offended when an authority asks us to consider handling a situation differently?

Youth ministry is too short a run to be offended. Don’t hold on too tight to the things that don’t matter. Let’s be offended at the things that do matter:

  • Jesus was offended that people were selling and not praying
  • Jesus was offended that needs were going unmet.
  • Jesus was offended at the stubbornness and hard heartedness of people.

Maybe it  just comes with age, but I have a message  for the petty and small thinkers: I am over you.  I refuse to let offense slow me down. To paraphrase a line from Jesse Ventura in Predator, “I ain’t got time to be offended.”

It’s easy to take things personally when it’s all about you.

Paul told the Ephesians “Let all bitter, sharp and angry feeling, and noise, and evil words, be put away from you, with all unkind acts;” 4:31

What offense has been eating at you and robbing you of time, energy, and passion? Take it to the Lord, forgive quickly, and be about the Father’s business. You’ll feel better, perform better, and live better with  a lighter load. If you are offended by this blog, don’t take it personally.

Youth Ministry Is Not A Game..Or Is It?

When I was in youth group (a very long time ago), I remember my youth pastor doing a contest called L.I.F.E.. He broke down the youth group into four teams and we would have weekly contests between team members, etc. and at the end the winning team received X. This is still a viable tool to use today to get more kids to show up or get involved but I wonder how certain aspects of social media have changed this game dynamic or changed this medium of game play.

I belong to several social media apps that use Funware to keep me coming back.  Funware is a game dynamic that offers points, badges, etc. to get us to keep coming back to the app or webpage. Frequent flyer miles are an example of the earliest Funware used. If you earn enough points you get a free flight. I remember an episode of the Brady Bunch where they collected greens stamps and they had to decide what they were going to buy.

I use apps like Get Glue and Foursquare for fun. Get Glue offers special digital stickers you can post on your Get Glue page and will they will even send you the real stickers once once you have accumulated enough. You get stickers for watching movies on opening weekend or watching  new t.v shows several times in row. Foursquare is an app that allows you to “check in” to places. If you check in enough times you can become mayor of that location.

There are many more kinds of apps like this available and more coming out every year. Old companies are trying to revamp their model by using Funware. I am working on a project for our youth ministry that involves a similar mechanic. This game play mechanic will only available to our Get It First Newsletter Crew, well, because they are awesome. If you would like to receive it, you can sign up in the top right corner of this page.

So, is youth ministry a game? Do you use contests, exclusivity, earned titles, loyalty programs or privileges to get kids to come back to your group? If you don’t, why not? Please share your best idea(s) so we can all benefit.

You can debate the topic of games in youth ministry HERE

Here is a link to a great video on the topic of Gamification by Gabe Zichermann author of Game Based Mechanics. I should warn you, he does use some salty language in the video.

I have been pondering this blog for quite some time. As the world of social media and apps becomes more game centric, I am wondering if this has impacted the way we engage students and build loyalty to our students. Is it possible that the under use of games, in the broadest sense, a missing link? Let me know if you’ve retooled your contests or games for youth ministry based on funware or social game mechanics.

I have a created a lens on that includes comment areas, polls, and a debate so you can weigh in on any of the topic I have covered here and a few new ones.

Help! I Need Training, Mentoring, and Community! Now!

My friend Nathan over at Called To Youth Ministry asked me a few weeks ago if I was interested in doing some mentoring and I told him I am always up for helping fellow youth workers. Called To Youth Ministry is sponsoring an online training opportunity. For twelve  weeks we’ll cover topics like Dealing with Burnout, Getting Your Youth Ministry Plan Together,  and the How To’s of Discipling Teens. In addition, and most importantly, we’ll search the scriptures and pray together for God’s will for you, your family, and your ministry.

I will be leading 1 hour conference calls on selected Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. CST and we will be posting thoughts back and forth over the course of the semester. If you are interested in getting some more training on a flexible schedule and at a minimal cost, you can check it out or sign up HERE

I look forward to the journey.


The Myth of Fairness

There is nothing fair about life or ministry, yet, we spend an enormous amount of time and energy trying to make everything fair for ourselves, our our youth ministry, and our leaders. Jesus was not fair. Jesus chose less qualified people and shunned the most qualified. Trying to be fair:

  • Decreases trust in our leadership.
  • Hampers our ability to make hard decisions.
  • Pushes us towards people pleasing.
  • Leads us to be double minded.
  • Cautions us from taking risks
  • Keeps us from pulling the trigger on important projects.

It’s not fair that we give scholarships to some kids for camp and not others. It’s not fair that we choose some to be leaders and not others. It’s not fair that we spend more time with students than others, but we do and we should stop feeling guilty about it.  Jesus did not apologize for choosing Peter, James, and John to be with him during pivotal moments. He did not apologize to the Jews for blessing Samaritans. He did not apologize to the Pharisees for saying that prostitutes and thieves would make it into the kingdom before them.

If we have a chance to be fair, in certain cases, we should. Trying to build our lives or ministries centered on fairness is like chasing Big Foot, it’s a myth.

Where are you being fair where you should be leading? I think my post Timing Is Everything is complimentary to this)

How has being fair cost you?

How has not being fair led you to success?