Thursday, November 30, 2006

Which pic do I use?

OK, so my post the other day of my "new" photo has generated far too much conversation around my house, on my blog and in my in-box. To add to the fun, my friend Tom Hammond -- former YP at Harvest Christian Center in Turlock, CA, and now involved in ministry in Brazil -- has posted a poll on his blog to see if I should go with the "new" photo or the "old" one for my profile. You're welcome to participate, if you're thoroughly bored, or concerned about such things. Yes, Steven, that includes you.

Zealous parents.

Interesting column today from CW Nevius at the SF Chronicle. I'm not going to comment on it at all, but I'm sure one or two youth pastors out there have met parents like this.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Some meetings aren't fatal.

Tuesday is my big meeting day each week. The day begins at 8:30AM when I meet with my senior pastor to discuss all kinds of things, some of it ministry. We have our full staff meeting at 1PM, and lately I've been meeting with some of our creative team later in the afternoon as we make final preparations for our Christmas production. Tonight we had a drama team meeting -- a.k.a. practice -- to cap off the day. So, I spent close to 5 hours today in meetings.

But I'm not complaining (today, anyway). It was a productive day with lots of good discussion and dialogue and results. Today's meetings also came on the heels of a great gathering last night with the leaders of our Route 1 girls small groups. I've been here for 3 1/2 years, and we've always struggled with consistency and effectiveness in our youth small groups. But we have a dedicated group of women who are pouring themselves into the lives of our junior-highers, high-schoolers, and young adults. I left Monday evening's meeting encouraged, inspired, motivated, focused and energized. I like that kind of meeting.

Now we're just praying for a group of men to step forward to lead the guys! I know God's bringing them, and I know He'll make it all happen. I want it to happen NOW, but I also want it to happen WELL!

Catchphrase me if you can.

We all love a good catchphrase now and then, don't we? Go ahead. Nod your head in agreement. Well, it turns out that the folks at TV Land have so little to do -- or so many extra employees -- that they've compiled a list of the Top 100 TV Catchphrases.

I wasn't surprised by most of the entries. Homer Simpson's "D'Oh!" is there, of course. So are such no-brainers as "No soup for you!" from Seinfeld, "The tribe has spoken" from Survivor, "De plane! De plane!" from Fantasy Island, and "Bam!" from Emeril.

But a few caught my eye and made me go "hmmm." Such as "Denny Crane" from Boston Legal (I've never heard anyone but William Shatner use that line), "Ask not what your country can do for you..." (which is a great line from a great presidential speech, but on a different plane from the average TV catchphrase), and "One small step for man..." (lunar landings and TV sitcoms just seem too odd of a pairing).

In any case, it's an interesting assortment of memorable phrases, and good fodder for some kind of game or activity or trivia competition, perhaps.

The bigger picture.

I've gotten comments and emails already on my "pretty" picture. Glad to know I could add some humor to everyone's day! Just for kicks, here's the whole pastoral staff photo with some of our other leaders from our elementary school and preschool. Enjoy. And kudos to Geoff Voss for some great pics.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Post 100.

It really doesn't matter to me that it's taken me months to reach my 100th post, or that some people make 100 posts in a span of 3.2 days. But I've decided it's time to change my picture, and the only way I know how to do it is to post a photo within the blog and then link to that post. Or something like that.

Tweens are growing up fast.

Came across this interesting article online this weekend; just now getting around to posting it. It had some good perspectives on the changing world of tweens -- kids between 8 and 12 years old.

Some of the issues my generation dealt with (I'm 33) in high school are the issues facing today's middle school students. And the issues of my generation in middle school are now the issues for today's mid- to late elementary school age kids. This has all kinds of implications for any of us who work with teens, but it also affects people involved in children's ministries.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Let's go Jayhawks.

Just a week after a highly embarrassing loss to Oral Roberts University, my Kansas Jayhawks basketball team had an awesomely fun and exciting game Sunday night against Florida. This time KU came up the winner.

This was great for me for several reasons:
1. I'm a Jayhawks fan. My dad was teaching at KU when I was born.
2. I actually could watch the game. I have cable for the first time in awhile, so I actually could watch ESPN2.
3. It was good to see that the ORU loss was a fluke. This is particularly important because my former pastor (and good friend) Ron Eivaz is an ORU alum. He was quite proud of his alma mater last weekend.
4. My roommates got the chance to laugh at me when I was cheering for my fav team. Perhaps this was enough entertainment for them, without the actual game.
5. My Kansas City Royals give me little to cheer for these days, so at least one of my teams doesn't stink.
6. Maybe this is a sign that the Jayhawks won't fold in the first round of the NCAA tournament this year. Wow, that's my prayer.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Stuff for da house.

The day after Thanksgiving is a day of absolute insanity if you're anywhere near a shopping center or mall or grocery store or video rental or restaurant or Christmas tree stand or gas station or -- you get the picture.

Anyway, this morning I braved the crowds and went shopping. Kohl's had some killer prices on small kitchen appliances, which are needed in my new house. The line was loooooong but I got a big crock pot and a big griddle. Cool stuff. And because I have a home, I need more tools than just the screwdriver set that's been following me around for a few years. That meant stops at Home Depot, Lowe's and Orchard Supply Hardware. Found some good deals, but took a bit of hunting because the Turlock OSH store had already sold out on the stuff I wanted.

I stopped off at a few other places for DVDs and such, but came up empty. No great deals, and certainly nothing better than what I can find on, my favorite though highly addictive shoping website. (Don't worry, Josh, SYM is my #2 favorite shopping website.)

All told, a good day. And when those insane people were trampling security guards at 5AM, I was happily asleep. And safe.

The funny thing is, years ago I worked on the day after Thanksgiving, writing stories about these insane people. Which meant I had to be insane and join them at 6AM, with one of our newspaper's photographers. People ask me if I ever miss working at a newspaper. On a day like today? No way!

Steven needs a blog.

I have some awesome students. Many of them are funny. A few are funnier than me. Which really isn't that tough.

If you look through some recent posts, you'll see numerous comments from Steven Nelson. This is one of my students. Perhaps we can refer to him as the infamous, crazy, dependable yet unpredictable Steven Nelson. Or something like that.

Anyway, Steven should get a blog (if his parents say it's OK, of course). He ALWAYS has something to say. Even if it's right in the middle of a sermon. Or a leadership meeting. Or a missions prep meeting. Or a purchase at Wal-Mart. Or whatever. Steven is never at a lack for words, whenever I'm around him. His mother says otherwise, but that's probably because he's 15.

OK, Steven, there ya go. A whole blog post about you. You're the first student to get that treatment. Satisfied?

His answer will be "no."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving.

Hope you're having a great Thanksgiving -- or hope you HAD a great one. I'm down in Turlock visiting my mom, my brother and friends. Just got down with our big feast. I've a strong suspicion some leftovers will be accompanying me home Saturday. Looked through the newspaper ads. May get up semi-early for some sales. Now that I own a house, I'm trying to round up tools and other things that are good to have around the place. But I won't camp out in front of Wal-Mart, don't worry. Anyway, I trust this is a blessed, relaxing week for each of you, your family and your friends!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Memorable and meaningful church.

Yesterday, I had an extended lunch with our student leaders and some of our adult leaders for Route 1 Student Ministries. We had great conversation and dialogue, and holding the lunch at my new house added to the relationship-building dynamic.

Much of our time was spent discussing the idea of how we can make our youth services more memorable and more meaningful. It wasn't a conversation about how to play more games or do more goofy stuff or entertain students. It was genuinely focused on how we can structure our services to allow God to work AND to leave lasting memories in students' minds.

I was surprised by how many of our team members remembered two specific sermons from the last year or so. One was called "United or Untied: I Make the Difference" about unity within the body of Christ, His Church. The other was about how God wants to open doors in students' lives and help them overcome and move ahead. For both sermons, we gave things away to the students: a piece of a Jenga game for United/Untied, and a blank key for the open door sermon.

Both were small, simple things, yet the "take home" element allowed students to remember the topics AND the main application point. The United/Untied sermon was from August 2005! Usually, I can't even come CLOSE to remembering what I preached on 15 months ago, let alone what someone else shared. But these students remembered, and the simple message has left a mark on their lives.

I know I get visitors of all kinds to this site: students, parents, family members, other youth pastors, ministry friends. If you have a thought on this subject -- making a service more memorable and meaningful -- I'd love to hear from you. You can comment below (even if you don't have a Blogger account), or fire off an email (

Monday, November 13, 2006

Bought it on eBay.

I've never bought anything on eBay before. I never had an account, never really had an interest, never really wanted to get involved.

This weekend, I gave in.

In my first taste of Ebay life, I was the winning bidder on an item posted by the fine folks down at Simply Youth Ministry. They post items from time to time, with all the proceeds benefiting an international charity that helps people in the Third World become sulf-sustaining. So it's a good cause.

Anyway, I decided to bid on the galleys for Doug Fields' new book, "What Matters Most." I have a copy of the book, but with my editing and publishing background, I thought the galleys would be a nice complement to the hard copy of the book.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A funny thing happened...

So, I'm im Wal-Mart earlier today buying some last-minute items for our church's Outreach Celebration (a.k.a. missions banquet). I'm there with one of my students. We needed to buy name tags and Sharpie pens for each table at the banquet. We quickly find our stuff, we wait in line at the cashier, and when she scans my first pack of Sharpies, she does the unthinkable.

She asks for my ID!

I'm not sure if I've ever been carded before. I can understand needing to verify my age if I was buying, say, cans of spray paint or vials of pain medicine or buckets of Sylvester Stallone movies.

But Sharpies? Is this Wal-Mart's attempt the thwart the sniffing habits of our local teenagers? By far, this was the oddest moment of my weekend. And if I hadn't had a witness, people might not have believed the story.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good times, PDYM style.

Had lunch over in Vacaville today with a group of youth pastors, as part of the PDYM (Purpose-Driven Youth Ministry) national luncheons happening all week. Jeremy White from Valley Church of Vacaville hosted, and did a great job. Kinda reminded me of Josh Griffin. Only with fewer children.

I'm involved with a couple of local groups of youth pastors in our area, but it was good to connect with an entirely new and different group of leaders. Most of the folks today were from the Vacaville/Solano County area, but a few of us made slightly longer drives; about 45 minutes for me.

The event's highlight had to be a "degrees of separation" revelation for me. I attended college at Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. TWO OTHER GUYS at today's event attended college in the same town: one at Baptist Bible College, and another at Central Bible College. Evangel and CBC are both affiliated with my denomination.

Ah, but it gets better. The CBC grad, John Buckner, is good friends with Daniel Matsunaga, a missionary-in-training to Japan that our church supports. And the BBC grad, Travis, has a girlfriend who goes to church in Turlock -- the town where I grew up!

On the serious side, it was good to get together with a bunch of people from all sorts of denominations and backgrounds, and spend time enjoying the conversation, company and community.

Oh, they gave away some free stuff. And of course, I didn't win. I never win stuff from Simply Youth Ministry giveaways.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thoughts from YS, Part 1

So, I spent the weekend down in Anaheim for the West Coast edition of Youth Specialties' National Youth Workers Conference. Overall, it was a good time, for several key reasons.

1. Let's face it. It's always good to leave town for a few days of evaluation, encouragement, challenge and soul-nourishing.

2. It's always fun to hang out with people I like spending time around, including my buddy Bill Rath, who's fortunate enough to have an awesome wife who works for Marriott hotels.

3. It's always cool to win free stuff. Well, I didn't win any free stuff. But lots of other people did. One of these days I'll win an iPod.

4. It's always awesome to reconnect with folks. Had lunch on Saturday with a friend; she and I were in the same youth group growing up and haven't seen much of each other since high school days of yore.

It's the end of a long day, so I won't write many details about the conference, but here are a few memorable moments:
  • Meeting Kurt Johnston, the junior high pastor at Saddleback Church in Orange County. He's shorter than I thought he'd be. And for the record, he said I'm taller than he thought I'd be.
  • Hearing YS' Marko and David Crowder discuss (on stage, in front of 3,500 people) who was the peanut butter and who was the jelly in this "peanut butter and jelly sandwich" relationship between YS and the David Crowder Band.
  • Having Doug Fields remember me. OK, I'm sure there's SOME kind of pride issue here that God needs to be working out of my system. But come on, I've been in youth ministry for less than 4 years and Doug Fields remembered me. That feels good.
  • Eating lunch with Josh Griffin. Oops, that one DIDN'T happen. Oh well. For the record folks, Josh missed someone ELSE buying lunch for him. Don't think that happens too often.
  • Seeing comedian Ron Pearson pull his "balance a ladder on my chin" stunt. I knew it was coming; I saw the video blog from my friend Evan Mattei. But STILL, I was amazed to see him do it in person.
  • Walking into my 8-hour critical concern session an hour late and finding out we were ONLY on page 2 of the notes. This was a highlight of the weekend, hearing some life-giving truths and ideas from Dan Webster. Well worth the drive down and the extra cost.
  • Driving 6.5 hours in my car alone while listening to "Good to Great," written and read by Jim Collins. I decided a book on CD would keep me awake better than my iPod music. Another good investment that fed a weekend of new thinking and new desires in my heart.
  • Spending a few days almost completely disconnected from my computer and the Internet. I should do that more often.
OK, I'll call it quits for tonight. I'm heading to a PDYM lunch event Thursday but maybe later in the day I can post some more thoughts from NYWC.

Prayers for my mom.

Thanks to everyone who's been praying for my mom, Ruth. This week is her latest round of chemotherapy as she battles lymphoma cancer.

Overall, she continues to do well. After her last round of treatment three weeks ago, she experienced a little more fatigue than in her previous rounds. I think it's likely because she missed one cycle (her port, which the docs use for injecting her with chemo, had problems and a new one had to be installed) and therefore had gone 6 weeks without her body handling the chemo. I stayed at her house Monday night on my way home from YS in Anaheim.

Thanks for all your prayers. They mean the world to her. The cancer has gone away from her chest and her abdomen, and it's continuing to diminish in her lypmhnodes. Yes, chemo is working, but we also know that prayers and faith in God's healing power are working, too!

Yes, I'm alive.

Hey gang, I am still here. Sorta. It's been a very busy week. Moving in. Heading to Anaheim for the National Youth Workers Conference. Visiting my mom on the way home. Getting ready for our big missions/outreach vision event. I'll try posting some real content late tonight or sometime Thursday. For the 3 of you who read this.