Two For Flinching

I hate games where you can get punched for doing something that is natural for you to do. There’s the game where you try to get people to look at a circle you make with your fingers. There is the Door Knob game where you have to touch a door knob immediately after you’ve passed gas or you get pummeled. The worst is when you flinch and get the ‘ol two for flinching.

Flinching is the norm. We get an idea and we wait, and wait, and wait, then we flinch and pass on it  and we get punched down the road because we didn’t move when we should have moved.

We will always pay the price for not puling the trigger when we should. What are you flinching on right now in your life or ministry?

  • Family vacation
  • Leadership development
  • Disciplining a Student or Adult Leader
  • Launching that program.
  • Stopping that program
  • Starting a new habit
  • Stopping an old habit
  • Changing Up Wednesday Night
  • Talking To Your Pastor About That Raise

We all deal with something we are flinching on. I recently read the 25 Tech Fails of 2010. If you look at the companies that failed the most, they are successful, well established companies, that took risks. Do they care that it didn’t go well? Probably. Did it cost them a ton of money to launch? Yep. Will they be listed in next years top 2010 list? I hope so, because it at least says they are trying. The one’s who didn’t get mentioned are flinching, waiting for the “no fail zone” to widen so they can get away unscathed.

I like this quote by Google CEO Eric Schmidt, he told the  BBC. “Remember, we celebrate our failures. This is a company where it’s absolutely okay to try something that’s very hard, have it not be successful, and take the learning from that.”

You are going to get punched, so let it be for trying, failing, and learning rather than for flinching.

Student Leadership Boot Camp


Here’s a thought. Let’s let students lead. “Not as easy as it looks” I said in a previous post. The hardest part is letting go. Letting go of control, letting go of ego, and letting go of the outcome of students leading is tough. So, I have pulled the trigger like never before.

We were having our regular Endeavor meeting, our student leaders, and I wanted to get out the message of the importance of being a leader to the rest of our students. I tossed out the thought of doing a boot camp, a quick shot in the arm to get students interested and involved in leadership. I asked, “What can we do to make this different?”. Andy, a senior, said, “Could we open it up to the community?” Ding!

So, Student Leadership Boot Camp is born. It will take place on Saturday January 22nd, 2011. What makes this different, is that, while the two main sessions will be done by youth pastors, to inspire students; all the smaller sessions will be taught by our students. The students will take some of the lessons I have taught them in the past four months and share them, along with their own thoughts on leadership. We do not have all the sessions nailed down yet, but I will let you know when they are. The cost is $10.00 and includes a t-shirt, materials, and lunch.

If you are from the state of Alabama, where we are located, or from some where else, and want to join us, you can drop me an e-mail at But I’d rather you give Andy, our senior a call, he’s stoked to talk to you about it.  Drop me an e-mail if you are interested and I will give you his number.

Here is the BootCampRegistration for those who are in the “neighborhood” of Birmingham and are interested in coming.

Timing is Everything

Was just looking at my calendar for next year. It’s packed. The question is: What’s the point? Do I want every weekend of my life packed? Does a packed schedule = success or just business. It is a question of timing. When is the right time to do an event or no events? Students want to be busy all the time, especially Jr. Higher’s but what do we teach them if we pack every weekend and take no time for ourselves and our families or create space for them and their families. maybe we don’t need every kid at everything event (this will be a different blog) Consider the timing:

When is it time not to have event? (How about when students don’t plan it)

  • When is it time to get away with your family?
  • When is it time to kill a program?
  • When is it time to go on a personal retreat?
  • When is it time to have that conversation or make that phone call?
  • When is it time to get rid of that volunteer or get that new volunteer?
  • When is it time to rest and enjoy?
  • When is it time to work like mad?
  • When is it time to sow and when is it time to reap?

Ecclesiastes 3 says, There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:”

So, we know there IS a time , but it is up to us to seek the Lord, seek the advice and input of our adult and students leaders, and determine WHEN these times should be. In fact, why not take your youth calendar and compare it to Ecclesiastes 3. Any correlations or revelations? (I feel a resource coming on)

So, get out your calendar , your white out, and your high lighter and get busy, if you have time.

Student Leadership: Not As Easy As It Sounds

“Did you say harder? Well, I’m out then, I thought this was going to be easy. I thought I was just suppose to get out of the way and all these kids were supposed to step up.”-  Every youth worker who thought releasing students to do ministry would be easy.

What are the challenges you will really face when attempting to shift from adult/youth pastor driven ministry to student led ministry?

The first challenge to getting kids to lead is getting kids to believe that they matter, their voice counts, and they can make a difference now. We still live in a culture that believes that dreams can only come true after your 18. We have to foster an attitude and a presence of affirmation. We have to look and listen to kids and start the process of affirming their ideas and passions and giving them the road map to achieve them.

The second challenge of student led ministry are the culture of blank stares. I have been in Endeavor meetings where I have tried to goad an idea out of them and they looked at me like I was try to milk a elephant. Students sit in a classroom all day where they are undervalued. They are not mistreated but they are leading either. How do you lead in Algebra or contribute your skills and talents to Physical Science class? For six hours they are taught to listen and stay seated. They usually never hear the words, “What do you think?”. We have to create a culture of asking questions and letting them ask questions. We must let everything (our programs, etc.) be challenged and changed if necessary.

The last challenge we face is defining “getting out of the way”. Does this mean we do not show up to any meetings? Does this mean kids have total say so and we have none? Do we really let the crazies run the asylum to the point of ruin? Each leader has to define this for themselves. I prefer to think of this as helping kids ride bikes. You stay along side of them until they “got it” and “it” is defined by you. You must carefully craft the vision of what your kids will look like in a year or four years. What skills do they need to know? What theology must they understand. Each kid will be different, but when they are displaying “it”, get out of the way and train another to ride. When you have a bunch or riders, let them ride out their ministry and you can start another training wheels class.

These challenges never go away. They are always in cycle. Our role, as mentor, is to be vigilant and unswerving in our pursuit of making disciples of Jesus. If it sounds hard, it is, and that is exactly why we should be doing it.

For more info on starting student-led ministry check out

A Few Of My Favorite Things- 20 Plus Ideas For Volunteer Gifts

I wanted to show some love to the people, place, and things that have helped me or my youth ministry out this past year. These might make great gifts for your students or volunteer leaders. Don’t know what to get your volunteers or leader? I have provided and handy dandy for form you can use for Christmas or anytime this year. This idea came out of a conversation about Christmas on the weekly show Life In Student Ministry with my friend @Tim Schmoyer. Enjoy.

Gifts For Volunteers

  • Food Cards (subway, etc.)
  • Books (for personal or professional edification)
  • Movie Passes
  • Babysitting (if they need it.)
  • A home cooked meal at your house
  • A gift basket filled with their Favorite Things (from the free form)
  • Time off
  • Pay for a maid service for one day (this is for the busy family volunteer)
  • Time with them- Take them to lunch or just hang out
  • A Coupon Book (free car wash etc. students in your group could volunteer for various chores
  • Card games or games in general (this way they always have something to play when kids come over)
  • A coupon filled with discounts for next years trips
  • A thank you card (with items from the Free Questionnaire)
  • Gift them some songs from itunes or itune cards
  • Art (framed pictures or paintings, or something you make for them)
  • A poem written by you
  • A video on you tube thanking them or kids thanking them.
  • Tickets to a sporting event
  • Tickets to a play
  • Tickets to a concert
  • Yourself- offer to pray with them or e-mail them daily prayers of affirmation up until Christmas

Nothing is too outlandish. If you are meeting a need for that volunteer you are giving a great gift. That is round one of gift giving ideas. I may have more as I go along. Do you have any ideas? Please leave your suggestion in the comments.

Is Your Life The Sum of Wins and Losses?

” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.” Job 1:22

The Iron Bowl is the yearly college football contest in the State of Alabama between the Auburn Tigers and the Crimson Tide. Tonight was this years battle for bragging rights in the state. Tigers won and The Tide Lost. I don’t really have a dog in the fight, I usually root for the Irish of Notre Dame, but I am re-thinking fandom all together. I am not a good fan anyway.

I’m a fan of the Irish, not because I went there or graduated from their but for other reasons.

I am a fan culturally because I am Irish.

I am a fan religiously because I grew up Catholic.

We often equate fandom with Christianity. If we are good fans we wear the right attire and talk the right talk. The problem with that is that fandom is fickle. We love our team when they win and curse them when they lose. Tonight, all over Alabama, there are people getting drunk because their team won or lost. Emotions drive fandom.

This is why Christians are  not God’s fans. I try to keep my life free of emotional attachments to wins and losses. Jesus is the same whether life is going great or not. His Word is true whether I am cheering His Name or not. God was God when my dad passed away at 10 years old. He was God when my mom passed away at 30. God was God when I got fired from two churches. God was also God when I married the woman of my dreams, my first child was born, and got that sweet job.

God doesn’t need more fans on His Facebook page.  And the amount of “fans” He has does not add or take away from who God is. As the preacher says, “God is God all by Himself.”  God does not seek fans, He seeks the faithful.

How about you? Are putting a bag over your head because God’s church isn’t “winning” or because life seems out of control? Does a failure in your life come complete with a post failure commentary filled with “if I had only”?

“His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said. Job 2:9-10

Job’s wife was a fan of God. Job was faithful to God. The fan turns in tough times. The faithful keep their eyes on Jesus, win or lose. Your faith in God is not = to life’s wins and losses, because God is bigger than both.

Taking The Pain Out Of Parent Meetings

I could have used a lot of pictures for this blog that would have best represented how we feel about parents meetings . Here is another photo that I would deem appropriate.

Which ever picture you relate to, sometimes it feels like this when it comes to meeting with parents. Here are a few tips to give you the confidence to meet the parents.

Here are what I think are the top reasons youth workers don’t have or struggle through parent meetings

1. I Feel Inadequate

Whether you are young or old these feelings can be very scary.  Youth workers get in trouble when they focus on pitching programs that mess with normal. The thought is, ” I hope they like my ideas” To go from inadequate to incredible, don’t make programs the center of your meeting. Selling ideas is secondary to meeting needs. make it your mission to empower parents and those knees will quit knocking.

2. I Don’t Have Teens or Kids

If you don’t have kids of your own you might find it tough to relate to the parents in the room. No worries. Not having kids does not make you any less a good youth worker. This does open the opportunity to:

  • watch and learn how parents and kids interact
  • admit you are not an expert and you need help
  • build a team with parents who can help you understand the family dynamic

3. I Don’t Have A Plan

Many youth workers live from event to event. Parents are professional jugglers, between school, sports, teens personal lives, and church. Why is the church always the least organized of these? If a softball team can have a schedule of games and practices so can we! Maybe  we don’t want to have a meeting with parents because we don’t want to look like a charlatan. If you don’t have great organizational or planning skills, recruit parents and a team to help you and let them help you present the meeting.  Play to your strengths, delegate your weakness ,but don’t bow out of the process. Start small and build on it.

I am offering Paul’s Quick Guide To Parents Meetings, on the freebie page, which really deals with the dynamics of creating and hosting a successful parents meeting. It’s a nine page guide with a few tips and tricks. If you are a pro at this, and want to offer some comments, I’ll be glad to add them into a 2.0 edition.

I Want/Need Your Ideas: Our Welcome Center

Here is a picture of our youth’s welcome center. It needs your touch. What would you do with this space to make it pop for our members and new guests. Talk to me about people, props, colors, anything you think would make this space work. What do you do? Share your secrets. C’mon, don’t make me beg.  Leave your comments.

Mighty Youth Workers Devotion Series

I have been reading about David’s mighty men recently and I am always blown away by their honor and heroism. If 2 Samuel 23 were made into a movie it would make the movie 300 look like The Blind Side. These warriors of old are not unlike youth workers of today. We are in the trenches fighting the Philistines we imagine look like pastors, parents, students, our own emotions, family stresses, the devil, and life itself. Let me offer this small tidbit to encourage you today.

” Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them.  But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the LORD brought about a great victory.” 2 Samuel 23:11,12

  • When the Philistines banded together

We are at disadvantage sometimes. We are the lone voice, right or wrong, in the board room, the parents meeting, the staff meeting, or the network meeting. You have a great idea, a vision, a desire, or a powerful thought, and it seems like everyone is against it. We have been trained to be peacemakers. Jesus extols it but there is a time when we must speak out. Our passion is like fire in our bones. If you are outnumbered, think about scaling back or break your vision into smaller, digestible pieces. We must always remember that our ‘enemies”, real or imagined, are not human. Parents, pastors, or deacons our not our enemies.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ” Ephesians 6:11,12

It’s easy to use this verse to say that those who oppose us are driven by dark forces. This is not usually the case. Most of the time we are fighting ideologies and philosophies, generational practices and culture itself, and sometimes the enemy is our own hard- headedness. Shammah knew his enemy, and we must discern ours.

  • Israel troops fled from them

There will be lonely times in youth ministry. There will be times we stand alone but we are not truly alone; God is with us. We may see our youth leaders flee, our students flee, and even our friends flee. The visions may be too tough to see, they might not see what you see. Some see taking new ground as a very scary thing and they do not feel they can fight whatever boogey men lurk around the corner. The Israelites did not see the point of standing and fighting. Too lessen the fears of those around us, we must paint the picture of a field worth fighting for. Use stories of previous victories and potential victories to build the inner strength of those around you. Some will still flee but some may hear the warriors call and join you.

  • But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field

This is where the rubber meets the road. Maybe Shammah was tired of running. Maybe he he was tired of giving up ground. Whatever the reason, he stopped, drew his sword, and said enough is enough. What is your field. What are you tired of running from? Maybe it’s a meeting, a parent, a person of authority, your personal demons, whatever it is, it is exhausting you. We must take our place. Our paychecks come from a church but our calling is from God. My field is young people. I will fight for them against the devil, my own laziness, apathy, the culture and more. I don’t believe Shammah’s fight was short. I believe it took some time. If we fight too hard too early we ill lose steam, our job, and possibly our passion. Fight for the long haul not the short term. In addition, I don’t believe the fight was over lentils. I think there were greater principles in play. Let us not fight for lentils (programs, policies, or privileges) but for the big picture, the spiritual growth of students within the context of the whole church.

  • Every victory is the Lord’s

This should not go without saying. There are days we fight and win and take the credit when in reality it was the Lord who did it. When someone changes their mind, takes our side, or helps us push, we must look at it in the larger context of what God is doing. We may win a battle but the war is still raging.

“A song of ascents. Of Solomon. Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”  Psalm 127:1

We are co laborers with God. He sees the architectural blue prints of our youth programs and churches and we must be in tune with His vision. When others laud us for great programs, large crowds, or great ideas we must deflect praise to God.

You are mighty men or women of God. You have a field, defend it, fight for it but not at the expense of scorched earth where the ones we should love get hurt. We are warriors in battle. Don’t give up. If you do not stand, who will? I believe in you but more importantly God believes in you. Go get’em.