Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Building Your Leadership Library

My friend Josh Evans recently posted a list of leadership books that he recommends. His list was good (although I haven't read most of them), but I think he left a few excellent titles off. Because of that, I decided to create a list of my own.

The Conviction to Lead: 25 Principles for Leadership That Matters by Albert Mohler.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey.

The Catalyst Leader: 8 Essentials for Becoming a Change Maker by Brad Lomenick.

Next Generation Leader: 5 Essentials for Those Who Will Shape the Future by Andy Stanley.

Of course, my list and Josh's list don't completely exhaust the topic of leadership. However, our lists are a great place to start if you want to get serious about improving your leadership abilities.

So, Apparently I'm Too Conservative?!?

I found out last night that I'm too conservative. What exactly does that mean? Is it possible for a person to be too conservative?

  • Is a person too conservative if he loves Jesus first and foremost?
  • Is a person too conservative if he puts a strong emphasis on the Bible?
  • Is a person too conservative if he believes there is a certain way to live, according to the Bible?
  • Is a person too conservative if he wants to see people put their faith in Christ?
  • Is a person too conservative if he wants to see a youth group grow and reach other students?
  • Is a person too conservative if he thinks that "the way we've always done it" isn't necessarily the best way?

If the things above make a person "too conservative," then, yeah, I guess I am. And I'm not apologizing.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review - The Gospel Call and True Conversion by Paul Washer

Paul Washer is the author of The Gospel Call and True Conversion. This is a book that examines what true conversion looks like. So many are plagued with the “easy belief” that is so prevalent in our society. This is especially true in youth ministry, where too often becoming a Christian becomes nothing more than just praying a prayer and putting on a tie.

Right off the bat, Washer lays out eight characteristics of genuine repentance. These characteristics are:

  • Change of mind
  • Sorrow for sin
  • Personal acknowledgment and confession of sin
  • Turning away from sin
  • Renunciation of self-righteousness or good works
  • Turning to God
  • Practical obedience
  • Continuing and deepening work of repentance

The book is broken into three parts. Part One is The Gospel Call, detailing salvation. Part Two is New Hearts and the Nature of True Conversion. Part Three is New People and the Nature of True Conversion.

I would recommend this particular book, if for nothing other than the opening section dealing with what genuine repentance looks like. As I said above, this is an area of deep concern and necessary focus in youth ministry. This is an excellent resource for helping youth workers understand what true conversion looks like, though it may be a bit over the heads of the teenagers they are working with.

Purchase your copy of The Gospel Call and True Conversion from Amazon.com. The Kindle version is also available.

I received The Gospel Call and True Conversion for free from Reformation Heritage Books via Cross Focused Reviews for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review - Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

From time to time, I like to read books that strike my interest. They can be business books, leadership books, or just interesting non-fiction titles. The book that I just finished reading was Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. This is a book about why certain things die on the vine and other things go viral, even if they seem extremely ridiculous.

Dr. Berger has broken down the idea of going viral into six different areas. They seemed simple, but, as I look back on them, I can completely understand where he is coming from. I guess that is why he gets the big money.

The six areas are as follows:
  • Social Currency - We share things that make us look good or help us compare favorably to others.
  • Triggers – Ideas that are top of mind spread.
  • Emotion – When we care, we share.
  • Public – People tend to follow others, but only when they can see what those others are doing.
  • Practical – Humans crave the opportunity to give advice and offer tips
  • Stories - People do not just share information, they tell stories.
I am reviewing this book here because there are so many implications for making the Gospel go viral. For example, if students are aware of the emotions dealing with their friends and relatives on their way to eternity without Christ, they will be more likely to share the Gospel with those individuals. If they have a story of life change, they will share that story with others.

I realize that Dr. Berger did not write this Contagious: Why Things Catch On for ministry. However, there are so many ideas and tactics in the book that I think it is a must-read for youth pastors and others who want to make the Gospel go viral.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Are You Called to Ministry?

Last week I wrote an article on three things to do if you feel that you are being called to ministry. I came across an article by Dr. Albert Mohler that addresses this issue as well. It was an excellent read on the topic and goes along with what I wrote in my post. Here is an excerpt: Has God called you to ministry? Though all Christians are called to serve the cause of Christ, God calls certain persons to serve the Church as pastors and other ministers. Writing to young Timothy, the Apostle Paul confirmed that if a man aspires to be a pastor, “it is a fine work he aspires to do” (1 Tim 3:1, NASB). Likewise, it is a high honor to be called of God into the ministry of the Church. How do you know if God is calling you? If you would like to read more, please visit his site for the full article.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Homosexuality and Youth Ministry

With the recent Supreme Court decisions about same-sex marriage, the issue of homosexuality is going to be a big topic in the church for quite some time. Because the teenage years are the formative years for sexuality, it is vital that a youth pastor be prepared to minister to the gay teenagers that will inevitably begin showing up in youth group.

Some time ago, I recommended a book written by my friend Shawn Harrison. Shawn wrote Ministering to Gay Teenagers as a resource for youth leaders. When Shawn gave a presentation on this topic at SYMC 2013, the copies of the book sold out quickly.I read it in an afternoon, so it is a quick read, but it is packed with important guidelines for sharing Christ's love. I can't recommend this book anymore highly. It is a tool that every youth pastor must have.

Buy your copy at Amazon.com.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Three Places I Wanted to Visit At Disney World

The Disney World resort is huge. We were there for seven days (five days in the parks) and there was still a lot of stuff that we weren't able to do. I think if we had spent all five days at just the Magic Kingdom, we still wouldn't have been able to do everything. Here are three places that I wanted to visit while we were at Disney World that are at the top of my list the next time we go.

The first place is Casey's Corner. This is a little restaurant at the end of Main Street when you come into the Magic Kingdom. It is right where you come into the big "open" area in front of the castle. Outside the restaurant are statues of old-timey baseball players. I saw a video about the best place to get snacks and Casey's Corner was one of those places. We walked by it, but there was always a big crowd inside, so we were never able to stop and grab a bite. I thought about doing it the night we went for the fireworks and parade, but there were so many people that I couldn't even wiggle or someone would take my spot.

The second place is Tom Sawyer's Island. To be honest, I don't really know much about this spot. I read and heard that it is pretty exciting and you have to take a boat to get there. I really love the book Tom Sawyer and have always wanted to be a part of the Tom Sawyer adventure. We didn't make it over there because our boys had a limited amount of energy and there was a lot they wanted to do. I got them to go on the Jungle Cruise and Pirates, but then it was off to the Dumbo ride (and the really awesome playground) and It's a Small World. Next time, we are definitely going to check it out.

The third place is the Haunted Mansion. I've heard really good things about this ride and I do enjoy a creepy ride from time to time. My kids are pretty small (the oldest is 7), so this didn't seem like a good idea for this trip. Our plan is to try for a trip down in about 2-3 years, so (hopefully) at least one of the boys can ride with me. If not, I'll go by myself. But definitely doing this one next time.

I realize that all of these places are in the Magic Kingdom. There are a lot of other places that I want to visit, particularly in Epcot. I guess I will need to visit Disney a lot in order to do everything.

What places do you want to visit, but never made it to?

A great resource to find out about the Walt Disney resort and all of the wonderful places to visit is The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2013. We used it to plan our trip and it was incredible.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Gospel According to Candy Crush

Are you familiar with the game Candy Crush?  Sadly, I am.  I’ve been playing this ridiculous game for way too long and not really getting anywhere.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game, it is a free game where you attempt to match colored candies in order to complete tasks.  The first levels are pretty simple and easy to get through, but as a player advances, the levels become increasingly more difficult.  Some are nearly impossible. 

To help players advance through these levels, the producers of the games have “power-ups” that can be purchased.  Candy Crush is the top grossing game on iPad and iPhone.

When I was growing up, my Christian faith was similar to Candy Crush.  I was told that I could accept salvation for free, but, after that, there were all sorts of things I had to do to keep progressing.  I had to read my Bible so many times per week.  I had to witness to so many people.  There were all these things that I had to do or I wasn’t a good Christian.  I remember being told in college that I should read my Bible for an hour day or I wasn’t in the “will of God.”

The Gospel doesn’t work that way.  There is nothing that I need to do that will make God love me more.  I don’t have “buy” advancement into the Kingdom.  I read my Bible, go to church, and witness because I want to grow closer to God, not because it makes Him love me more.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Planning Our Disney World Vacation - Resources to Check Out

Recently my wife and I took our family on a trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL.  We have four boys (all 7 and under), so this was a pretty big feat for us.  We were able to get a really good deal on a resort just a few minutes from the Disney World resort area and I received a great deal on tickets to the park through work.  We rented a car and drove from Charles Town, WV to Orlando (again, this was a huge undertaking).  While all of this sounds like a ton of work (it was), it was worth every minute to see how excited our boys were.

My wife and I are planners.  We agonized over detail of our trip, even to the point where we tried to plan out the rides and activities we wanted to do at each park.  To help with this, she and I used several books and websites to help us prepare.  If you are planning a Disney trip, I would highly suggest you take a look at these resources to help you make the most of your trip.


The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2013 - This is an excellent resource.  It covers every aspect of what a trip to Disney World with kids looks like.  The book covers nearly every ride in each of the parks and how your kids will relate to the ride.  There are also sections about the resorts and restaurants if you choose to utilize those options.  A few years ago, I met the author of the book at the Magic Kingdom and he was kind enough to give me a copy of the book.

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World 2013 - We also used this book.  It has some great pictures and information, but I did not find it quite as helpful as the Unofficial Guide.  I would make this a secondary resource.

Birnbaum's Walt Disney World for Kids 2013 - We got this book for our kids.  My oldest son pored over this book for hours trying to find what they wanted to do when we arrived.  This is a great book to share with your kids.


There are a number of Disney-related websites, but the three below are the ones I used pretty extensively.  There is a lot of really great information and you should take time to check them out.  My favorite is WDWinfo.com where you can find examples of the menus from each restaurant at the parks.




Visiting Walt Disney World is an awesome experience.  I love going there and can't wait until we have the opportunity to go again.  However, a trip like this requires a good deal of planning.  There is so much to do that if you don't have a plan, you will get overwhelmed very fast.  Make use of the resources and have a great time!

All of the books shown above are available at Amazon.com, your local bookstore, and (if you are lucky like we were) your local public library. Happy planning!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The NKJV Ignite: The Bible For Teens

 I'm pretty excited about the opportunity to get this new Bible, the NKJV Ignite: The Bible for Teens. I can't offer much in the way of a recommendation right now, but it looks awesome and I can't wait to take a look at it. I think this will be a great tool for youth pastors to share with their students, especially if our goal is to get them into God's Word on a regular basis.

I'll be posting a review of the Bible after it arrives, but if you are interested in getting a copy for yourself or for one of your students, you can check it out at Amazon.com.

Ten Scripture Passages to Memorize

One of the most under-utilized biblical disciplines is Scripture memorization. Very few people put a lot of time into memorizing the Bible, myself included. I used to spend a lot of time doing it, but seem to have fallen off the wagon in recent months. It is an area of my life that I am making a concerted effort to improve. As a youth pastor, I expect my students to "hide God's Word in their hearts," so I need to be doing the same myself.

The other day David Mathis wrote at a great article at Desiring God called "Ten Passages for Pastors to Memorize Cold." He offers some great commentary on why we should memorize those passages. I'll let you read the article to get the commentary, but below are the passages he says all pastors should know.

  • Psalm 23:1-6
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Psalm 46:1-11
  • Colossians 1:15-20
  • Philippians 3:7-11
  • Galatians 5:22-23
  • Romans 8:28-39
  • Numbers 6:24-26
  • Jude 24-25

I am going to make it my goal to memorize those passages as soon as I can to keep working on learning them until they become second nature. How about you? Anyone up for a challenge?

What other passages would you add to this list? What are you currently working to memorize?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What To Do If You Feel Called to Ministry

The call to ministry is a huge thing. It is not something that should be taken lightly and it is not something that should be jumped at too rapidly. In James 3:1, it says that not many people should want to become teachers because they will face a stricter judgment. Those of us who want to be pastors should really think it over because God is going to judge us more severely for what we do in His name.

I was called to ministry when I was in high school. My youth pastor took a few of us to Trinity Baptist College for a youth conference. I also think he wanted us to go there because that was his college. During the conference, I began to feel God's call on my life. I don't think He was calling me to a particular ministry; He was just letting me know that I was His and He was claiming me.

If you are experiencing the same thing, here are three things to do to make sure this is the calling on your life.

  1. Pray. This should be pretty self-explanatory, but it is amazing how many overlook this aspect. Pray and ask God to verify the calling on your life. Pray to make sense of what you are feeling. Pray. Can't really say much more.
  2. Prepare for ministry. Preparation looks different for everyone. For me, I began to help out at my church and in my youth group. I went to college to study Bible (changed my major, but more on that later). I volunteered at my church and taught Sunday School. I went to seminary. How you prepare will probably be different from how I prepared. God may call you to seminary, He might not. But you must prepare. You must practice and you must hone your chops. There is no shortcut.
  3. Have others verify your calling. Many people jump into ministry, only to find out they aren't really meant to be there. They can't preach. They have no gifts for ministry. And that is okay. It is very important that others in ministry verify and confirm the calling of God on your life. Your mom is not the one to confirm your call. In my life, my youth pastor and pastor confirmed my calling. Other pastors have confirmed that God is at work in my life and my ministry. If there is no confirmation of your gifts, this may not be your calling.
I realize that some of what I wrote may not be an easy pill to swallow. I have had the opportunity to speak with individuals who are feeling a call and these are the things that we talk about. If you are feeling the same thing, I would suggest that you look to see how your prayer life, your preparation, and your verification are lining up (that is the worst outline ever...good thing this isn't a homilectical outline.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Looking For A Ministry Job - Lessons I've Learned

Many of you know that I am currently looking for a ministry position. I was serving at a church until January 2013 when I resigned in order to be done with a great deal of drama. The past six months have been a bit of a challenge, to say the very least. Here are three lessons I've learned during my search for the right church.

  1. The search is not an easy one. If you are looking, you can expect it to take a long time. I have sent out many, many resumes and had very little response. Some churches never respond. Others will turn you down immediately. The best thing to do is prepare yourself for the long haul.
  2. Be careful with your emotions. It is way too easy to get your hopes up about one particular job, only to have them dashed later. I have been interviewed, videoed, interviewed again, only to have the church go in another direction. Be careful not to get too excited about what is happening. It is appropriate to pray for a particular church. Just be careful not to get too caught up one possible job.
  3. Keep trusting God. I have had some really low moments during my search. After I was rejected by three churches in the same week, I was ready to hang it up. If I wasn't called to ministry, I would have given up months ago. Surround yourself with loved ones and friends who will keep you going and, by all means, keep your eyes on God. Only He will get you through the dark days.

If you are searching for a job, keep your head up. Know that God has called you to ministry and that He has a plan. Remember this, even when it seems like the search will never end. I'm praying for you.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review - NIV Leadership Bible

I am a collector of Bibles. I have quite a number of Bibles, including the ESV Study Bible, an ESV Journaling Bible, and a NKJV Study Bible that was given to me at my ordination. The newest Bible in my collection is the NIV Leadership Bible.

In full disclosure, I am not a fan of the New International Version. It has never been high on my list, but I absolutely love my copy of the NIV Leadership Bible. The binding, a combination of caramel and dark caramel leathers, is beautiful. The layout inside the Bible is very neat and easy to read. The font for the print is rather large, but not large print.

What makes this Bible unique are the devotionals included in the text. These devotionals are geared specifically for individuals who are in leadership positions or who would like to grow as leaders in light of what the Bible has to say. There are 52 different topics, ranging from character and priorities to servant leadership to conflict management and stewardship. Each of the topics is addressed for a week. The week begins with a longer passage to read, followed by a devotional thought. Each day after that has addition Scripture to read and questions to ponder.

The format for the weekly devotion follows this pattern:

  • Day 1 - Passage to be read
  • Day 2 - _____ and Who God Is
  • Day 3 - _____ and Who I Am
  • Day 4 - _____ and How It Works
  • Day 5 - _____ and What I Do

Also included throughout the text are different insights that are provided for the reader and his continued growth. It is quite obvious that the editors of this Bible are interested in growing godly leaders, ones who are interested in using God's Word as their basis and not just the latest theories from outside Scripture. I would definitely recommend picking up a copy of the NIV Leadership Bible for your leadership library.

Please note: I received a free copy of the NIV Leadership Bible in exchange for an honest review of the book. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review - Altar Ego by Craig Groeschel

Craig Groeschel is a great writer. I don’t think I can say that he is one of my favorite authors, but I do enjoy reading his books. He is quite prolific as well, having written Soul Detox, The Christian Atheist, and Weird. The newest book that I’ve read of his is Altar Ego.

Altar Ego is a book that seeks to introduce the reader to his identity in Christ. Too many believers are mired in thinking they are something other than what God has called them to be. I know that I struggle with this issue from time.

Like many of Groeschel’s book, Altar Ego is incredibly readable. Groeschel is a gifted communicator and he writes just like he speaks. For anyone who has heard Groeschel preach, you can pick up on his patterns and flow as you read the book. Matt Chandler’s The Explicit Gospel was very similar in this manner.

While I enjoy reading Groeschel’s books, I don’t think this is one of my favorites. It was not quite as accessible to me and not quite as easy to follow. I appreciate his take on this subject, but I believe that Mark Driscoll’s Who Do You Think You Are? does a better job of communicating the message.

Overall, I would suggest that this book be read, but it is not as groundbreaking as some of Groeschel’s previous material. There were some great illustrations (I especially enjoyed the story about praying in the grocery store), but this does not seem to have the same power as his previous books.

Friday, May 3, 2013

How Did I Get Here!

For those who know me, it will come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of Jon Acuff. Not the "Stuff Christians Like" Acuff (although "Jesus Juke" is now a big part of my vocabulary), but the Quitter, Start, work at Dave Ramsey Acuff. I have listened to almost every interview and talk I can find. I had the privilege of meeting and talking to him at SYMC 2013 and it was a great experience. He was very humble and even took the time to ask about my wife and family after I explained to him about a personal crisis I was dealing with.

In his most recent newsletter, Jon wrote about the five words all people will say. Those words are "How did I get here?" Incredible. He wrote that all of us will, one day, open our eyes, look around, and ask those words. How did I get here?

It made me think about that. Am I just coasting through life and my "5 Words Experience" will be one of sorrow and regret? I don't want to look back on life and not have accomplished anything.

There is a story in Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick where he relates about a conversation he had with a friend before going to see a U2 concert. He said that he wanted to have church in the arena that the concert was being held in. That is an incredible "5 Words Experience."

When I have mine, I want to be completely astounded by what has happened. I want to be flabbergasted at what God has done. I want to turn to my wife and excitedly exclaim, "How did we get here!" I want it to be a moment of tears and hugs and excitement because the Lord has moved in such an amazing way that I never could have done it on my own.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review - gods at War by Kyle Idleman

For most of us, we think that idol worship is something that is done in the jungles or in third world countries. There is no way that you and I worship idols in modern-day, 21st century America. Sadly, this is not the case. Not even close. In fact, as Kyle Idleman will argue, you and I are probably some of the biggest idol worshipers on the planet.

In his book, Gods at War, Idleman illustrates how prevalent idol worship has become in our culture. Now, we don’t have statues or altars that we bow down to, but that doesn’t mean we don’t worship idols any less. And, as Idleman shows from the Scripture, this is an affront to God. In fact, one of the first commandments is to have no other gods before Him.

In the book, Idleman lists out nine different gods that are running rampant in our culture and trying (oftentimes successfully) to steal our hearts away from the one true God. These gods include the god of food, the good of sex, the god of success, the god of money, and the good of family. While none of these things are bad by themselves, when you and I make them the ultimate thing, they become an idol. Idleman tells a story of how individuals were enslaved by these gods and how, through the Holy Spirit, they were able to turn from the idolatry and begin to worship God. He also provides numerous examples from Scripture. The one that stuck out to me was Solomon and the god of entertainment.

As a youth pastor, each of the gods that were identified are areas that teenagers struggle with. There are teens who struggle with food addiction. There are teens dealing with sexual temptation and sexual sin. There are teens who are striving desperately to make money as a way of earning acceptance. This book will serve as a sermon resource and as a book to be shared with students and parents who are working through these issues.

Like his other book, Not a Fan, Idleman has written an excellent book, one that easily understood and immensely helpful. I would suggest that all pastors, youth pastors, and volunteers read it and become acquainted with the content.

Friday, March 22, 2013

How High or Deep Are You Willing to Go?

There is a very beautiful song by All Sons and Daughters called "Called Me Higher." The song is all about how we can rest in Christ, but that we are called to something so much more. Jesus is calling us to go higher and to go deeper. Jesus is calling us to something risky. Sadly, most of us are scared to see what it is all about.

As I've listened to this song and have been reading the book of Romans, I started to read some of the verses a bit differently. In Romans 8:38-39, Paul makes a list of things (life, death, angels, rulers, etc.) that cannot separate us from God's love. Right at the end, Paul says height and depth cannot keep us from God's love.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What if Paul listed those two things to let us know that we are to get risky? What if instead of just using these verses to comfort us (and they are comforting), these verses were written to spur us to movement, to get up and go higher than we've ever gone, knowing that Jesus' love is with us the whole time. What if we are to go deeper, know that no matter how deep we go, Christ is right there?

Knowing this, what heights or depths is Christ calling you to? How high or how deep are you willing to go with your ministry?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Five Awesome Ways to Find Youth Group Volunteers (A Parody)

Finding good volunteers for your youth group is a difficult thing. In a church of several hundred people, it can be hard to find two or three people that want to be involved. To that end, I have created this list of ways to find and recruit new leaders.
  • Put an article in the church bulletin. This will make the need known to the church and you can take anyone and everyone who shows interest. I mean, if you put it out there, they will come, right?
  • Hold a mirror under their nose. If fog shows up on the mirror, the person is breathing and ripe to be a volunteer.
  • Ask who isn't involved in a ministry already. The best candidates are those who have been asked to leave other ministries before. This shows their willingness to serve and the fact that they don't have a ministry already works in your favor.
  • Offer free donuts. You will get some awesome volunteers by letting them know that there are donuts in the youth room every Sunday morning.
  • Beg, borrow, and steal. Your children's minister or choir director won't mind at all if you take their volunteers. I mean, we are all one church, right?

What other ways can you think to get warm bodies for your youth group? I mean, all they have to do is love kids and eat pizza, right?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Are You Prepared to Answer the Rob Bell Question?

As many of you may be aware, Rob Bell, the former megachurch pastor and author of Love Wins, recently expressed his support for same-sex marriage. This presents us with a very sticky situation. While I am not going to use this platform to discuss my own opinions on same-sex marriage, it is important for us to know how to handle the discussion when the situation arises.

In a discussion that I was a part of the other day in regards to Bell and his comments, it became apparent that many youth pastors have used his materials in the past. This can be a bit worrisome because students are constantly bombarded with the idea that same-sex marriage is legitimate and those who are opposed to it are bigoted and ignorant. Now they are hearing that a pastor, one that they have learned from in the past, is promoting same-sex marriage. They are going to want to know what to believe and why some people are saying yes and some are saying no.

To that end, I highly recommend that you get a copy of Shawn Harrison's book Ministering to Gay Teenagers. If you have followed my blog for long, you know that I am constantly promoting this book (you can read my posts here and here). Shawn is a dear friend of mine, but I do not promote his book because of our friendship. The issue of homosexuality and how the church is dealing with gay individuals is a serious concern, one that we need to be aware of and prepared for. You will do yourself a huge favor.

I would also recommend that you read Shawn's blog on a regular basis.  It is a great resource for you and for parents.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Video: Making Time for God by Blimey Cow

The folks at Blimey Cow really nailed it with this video. This would be a great video to share with your youth group.

And if you want more videos to share with your youth group, please check out my Pinterest account for some great ideas.

Monday, March 18, 2013

My Favorite Memories from My Youth Group

As a youth pastor, my desire is for the students entrusted to me to have memories that last forever, much like I have of my youth group. When I was growing up, I attended Capital Baptist Church in Annandale, VA, and we had the best youth group possible. Yes, we fought and had tension, but we loved each other. In fact, I still keep in touch with many of my youth group friends to this day. Here are some of my favorite youth group memories.
  • Planning my first all-nighter at the church. We were raising money for the youth group to buy food for a rescue mission, so we called it the 16-Hour Starve or something like that.
  • Our youth group trip to Richmond. Our youth group did a lot of singing, puppets, and acting, so we did what we called a "tour." Our first trip was a weekend trip to the Richmond, VA area, where we visited a couple of churches and went to Kings Dominion.
  • Adam and the stink bombs. On our trip to Kings Dominion, my friend Adam had a fanny pack of stink bombs. As he was getting on a roller coaster, the lap belt came down and shattered several of the stink bombs, causing quite a smell.
  • The youth conference at Trinity Baptist College. Our youth pastor took me, his daughter, my friend Branden, and another girl to visit his college and to participate in a youth conference. This was the trip that I felt God calling me to preach.
  • Branden falling in the mud. It rains a lot in Florida and our van got stuck in the mud one night at the conference. Branden and I both got out to push the van. When the van started to move, I took a step forward. Branden did not and ended up face first in the mud.
  • Our youth group trip to New York. This was a long trip and a lot of things happened on the trip. Most of the time, after we performed our play or songs, our youth pastor would preach and give an invitation. On our last night, there was no time for him to preach, so we only did the play. A woman received Christ that night. It was awesome.
  • Our week of camp in Tennessee. Three things stand out from this week. First, my friend Tim accepted Christ. Second, this kid did not take a shower the entire week. It wasn't so bad until he fell in the muddy water. Finally, a guy named Larry told us all about his war stories from Vietnam...including the time he did a belly flop on the concrete floor. Then he did one. It looked like it hurt.

There are so many other memories I could share. However, the most important memory I have is of preaching my first sermon. I don't remember the text or anything about it. I remember that it was "Preacher Boy Night" and there were three of us who got to preach: Kevin, Branden, and me. And here's the cool part: Kevin is a pastor, Branden is a pastor, and I am a pastor (well, I will be one again when a church calls me).

What are your favorite memories of your youth group?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five Books I Really Want

On Wednesday, Josh Tandy of The Rookie Pastor sent out this tweet:
Books I could buy are always exponentially more interesting to me than books I already own.

When I shared this with my wife, she said, "Are you sure that you didn't write that?" Sadly, she has a point. My bookcase in the basement is overflowing with books and I am constantly stopping by the library to pick up more. With that being said, I made a list of books that I really want.

What books would you like to add to your collection?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Three Ways to Tell if Your Youth Group is in Trouble

One of the saddest things in the world is a church that is dying. I think something that is even sadder is a youth group that is dying. Usually this is a symptom that the church is dying, but not always. Here are three things that you should be on the lookout for to see if your youth group is about to be place on life support.

  1. Your youth group is only interested in "what we've always done." There is nothing wrong with tradition or doing the same activities from year to year. Some of these activities become highlights or rites of passage. When I was in youth group, an annual activity called the WOL Superbowl was a huge part of our youth group. The trouble arises when people want to only do the same activities and have no place for changing things. There is a time when certain activities no longer work. You need to put those activities out to pasture for the health of your group.
  2. Your youth group only does "fun" activities. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having fun. Some of my favorite activities as a youth pastor or leader have been fun activities. Trips to amusement parks and pizza parties are a big part of youth group life. However, if this is all your group does, you are no different from a social club or a school club. Growing spiritually should and must be a part of youth group. Time in prayer, weekend retreats that focus on the Bible, and mission trips should be a huge part of a healthy youth group.
  3. Your youth group has not had any new people in a long time. If your group is healthy, the students in the group will have a passion for the group. They will be excited about what is happening and they will invite their friends. If the youth group is struggling to stay healthy, this passion will not exist. The students (and leaders) will only focus on themselves, desiring for the group to stay small and tight. New additions to the group will be looked upon as intruders and will not be welcome. Get the hearse ready...your youth group is almost dead.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

15 Ways to Build Relationships With Your Students

Building relationships with students is a huge deal these days. I'm not talking about trying to be friends with the students; I am talking about pouring into their lives. There are a ton of different ways to do this, so let me share some with you.
  1. Ask the student about her week when you see her each Sunday.
  2. Sit next to him in church sometime.
  3. Invite him over for dinner.
  4. Send her a text to say hello.
  5. Write him a letter...an actual pen-and-paper letter.
  6. Take her shopping at the grocery store.
  7. Let him help you change your oil...or ask him to come to the dealership while they do it.
  8. Let her babysit your kids...and pay her.
  9. Read a book together and discuss.
  10. Read through a book of the Bible together.
  11. Memorize a verse of Scripture together.
  12. Take him with you on a family outing.
  13. Plan a youth group activity together.
  14. Work on a project together at the church.
  15. Serve together in the church.

My friend Austin McCann has a great take on this topic as well.

What things would you add to the list?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Three Awesome Things I Experienced At SYMC

This past weekend, I had the opportunity (and privilege) to participate in the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. Wow cannot even explain the weekend. You have to experience it for yourself to fully appreciate it.

Here are three things that made the conference so meaningful to me.

  1. I made a lot of new friends. I won't name drop anyone, but I developed relationships with people I never thought possible. Some of my biggest "heroes" in youth ministry turned out to be very approachable and sincere. It was awesome just to be around them and pick up things that would never be learned in a workshop or interview. I will say this: one of them doesn't know how to appreciate a good corned beef sandwich (cough...Josh Griffin...cough).
  2. God used everything to heal my heart. I went to the weekend still grieving and hurting from being fired in January. It was amazing the way everything (the music, the speakers, the skits, the people I met) worked to help reorient me to seeing Jesus and not my termination.
  3. I was surrounded by like-minded people. It was awesome to be with people who understood what I was dealing with. It was refreshing to hear their stories and to know that I was not alone and that my experience was not out of the ordinary. I was understood and that was a great feeling.

I realize not everyone had the same experience I did. My prayer is that God used the conference to work in everyone differently, but all to His glory.

Did you attend SYMC 2013? Will you be going next year?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Good or Bad, Jesus is Holding It (and you) Together

One of my favorite passages in the New Testament is Colossians 1:15-17. I have preached a message about knowing God by looking at Jesus based on this passage. One thing that I never looked at before is a little phrase in Colossians 1:17. It says, “and in him, all things hold together.”

I always looked at that and thought that it meant that the universe and the world were held together by Jesus. It does mean that. But here is another way to look at it: everything you are going through is held together by Jesus.

That means

  • your good days are held together by Jesus.
  • your bad days are held together by Jesus.
  • that the argument you had with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/parents/boss is held together by Jesus.
  • the horrible diagnosis from the doctor is held together by Jesus.
  • the day you were fired from your church is held together by Jesus.
  • your financial problems are held together by Jesus.
  • those students you pray for every single day are held together by Jesus.
  • the silence from the churches you are applying to is held together by Jesus.

Everything you are dealing with, good or bad, is held in Christ’s hand. What does this mean? It means that He knows everything you are dealing with. No matter how alone you may feel, He is there with you. He is holding you in His hands. He is holding it together.

Monday, March 4, 2013

How is the Gospel Like a Bowl of Ice Cream Covered in Mustard?

In his message to the group at SYMC, Jon Acuff shared the following story. Please note, this is a paraphrase as best I can remember it. Jon, if you are reading this (please comment and tweet the link), I apologize for any inaccuracies I may have in the retelling.

When Jon was in the second grade, he remembered going to Chuck E. Cheese for a birthday party and going to condiment line to put toppings on his bowl of ice cream. While standing in line, he saw another boy from his school who was in a different grade. The boy also had a bowl of ice cream. This boy approached the line with his ice cream, getting ready to load it up with sprinkles and other goodies. He pushed the plunger on what he thought was chocolate syrup. Instead, a huge rush of yellow mustard came out. A worker came over with another bowl of ice cream and offered to replace it. The boy was so embarrassed by what he had done, that instead of taking the new ice cream, he said, “It’s okay, I’ll just stir it up.” Then he turned and walked away.

This story is much like many of us live our lives. We have dumped bright yellow mustard (sin) all over our bright white bowl of ice cream (our lives). There is no mistaking that it is there. Jesus comes over and offers us a brand new bowl of ice cream (a new life), but instead of taking His offer, we try to fix it ourselves by “stirring” it, hoping to make it go away.

We cannot fix ourselves. It is impossible. The only way to get rid of the sin in our lives is to turn to Christ and get a new life. There is no amount of work that we can do that will remove it. Too many of us are wearing ourselves out trying to fix things, but it gets us nothing but tired. The free gift of salvation is the only cure.

Thank you, Jon, for such a simple and profound reminder.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

SYMC 2013 General Session 2 - Jon Acuff

The second General Session of SYMC was just as incredible as the first night. Jon Acuff was the speaker and worship was led by the Jordan Howerton Band. While this session was not as powerful as the first night, let me share three highlights with you.

  1. The Jordan Howerton Band led the group in the most incredible version of “Victory in Jesus” that I have ever heard.
  2. Jordan Howerton shared with us the experience of being a father for the first time. As the father of four beautiful boys, it struck home.
  3. Jon Acuff shared an amazing story about a fifth grader who put mustard on his ice cream and his pride would not let him get a new bowl. More on this later.

Here are the notes I took during Jon Acuff’s message.

  • Jesus had two favorite activities in the Bible: walking on water and journaling.
  • The world is perfectly okay with teenagers living completely average lives.
  • Youth workers have a job no one wants: It is considered a success when we have more teenagers.
  • God is not in the job of better; He is in the job of new!
  • Start before you are ready because being ready is a myth. We’ll never step into something that God’s not ready for.
  • Stop keeping score.
  • Always play to the size of your heart, not to the size of your audience.
  • Stop trying to fix ourselves in areas we feel broken.
  • Be sick, be loved.
  • We serve a running God (story of the prodigal son).

Another great session!

SYMC General Session #1 - Greg Stier

One of the amazing things about being at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference is the General Sessions that take place twice a day. There is a keynote speaker, a worship band, and other cool things that take place. The first night of the conference, the General Sessions was incredible. The worship was led by Shane and Shane and it was powerful beyond words. There was a skit done by the Skit Guys and they had the audience both laughing and (well, at least in my case) crying. Greg Stier spoke on prayer and Propaganda did a number of songs that blew everyone away. Here are the notes I took from Greg Stier’s message on prayer.
  • Revival will start with us on our knees.
  • Too many times we pray like wusses.
  • Jesus was always escaping ministry opportunities to spend time in prayer.
  • The Lord’s Prayer is not a liturgical reference; it is a guide to effective prayer.
    • Praise - approach God with intimacy and awe
    • Request - start with God’s list, not ours. Ask for His kingdom to come.
    • Admit - pray for the removal of the sin that is keeping you from God
    • Yield - yield fully to God and ask Him to lead us.
  • Make prayer the engine of the train, not the caboose.
Finally, here are three highlights from the first session.
  1. Shane and Shane leading almost 3,000 youth workers in “10,000 Reasons.” It was incredible.
  2. The Skit Guys doing their skit on prayer. As I said, it was funny, but it was also a punch in the gut.
  3. Greg Stier had all of the attendees in the room stand and pray at once for personal revival. We did this as loud as possible. I had tears running down my cheeks.
Overall, the first session was incredible. As Jason Ostrander said, it felt like the finale, but things were just getting started.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Be Careful With that Bible App!

The other day I shared three reasons on why you should be using a Bible app. With those in mind, I want to share some reasons why it can be dangerous to rely heavily on a Bible app.

  • There can be a lower comprehension level. Because of the nature on e-reading, we have a tendency to read very quickly and to scan through passages. When you are reading a normal book, this may be fine. It is not appropriate for reading God’s Word. We are meant to savor and meditate on the Scripture. If you are speeding through your reading, these things cannot happen. No one wolfs down a delicious steak. Instead, it is slowly eaten and enjoyed. Slower reading of the Scripture allows you to comprehend your reading and allows the Holy Spirit to speak.
  • There is a much higher distraction level. When I read the Bible on my iPad or other device, there is a constant distraction factor. I am always wanting to go to Facebook or check my email. Knowing that these things are just a click away makes staying focused even more difficult. These distractions are not available when I am reading from a physical Bible.
  • There can be a loss of awe for the Bible. The Bible is the Word of God. It is how He chose to reveal Himself to mankind. The Scripture is something to be loved and cherished. It is a treasure. When we treat the Bible as nothing more than another app on our phone or tablet, we are losing an awe for the Bible.

As with any tool, it is possible to misuse them. The Bible app is a great tool and one that I utilize on a regular basis. I would highly recommend that you share the use of Bible apps with your students. Just be careful to warn them of the dangers of using them too much or in place of a physical Bible.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm Going to SYMC 2013!

Several months ago, when I was still serving as a youth pastor at my previous church, my wife and I agreed that I should attend the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March 2013. We saved money from each of my paychecks to pay for the registration, the hotel, and the airfare. After many, many months of saving, I am happy to say that I will be attending the conference March 1-4, 2013.  I will be leaving home on Friday for what is sure to be an exciting time.

To be honest, I have no idea what to expect. There are so many workshops and speakers that I get overwhelmed just looking at the brochure. When I was pastoring, I had a plan for the workshops I was going to attend; now that I am without a church, I am at a bit of a loss as to what I should take.

Here are three things I am looking forward to from this coming weekend.

  1. Meeting up with friends. One of the great joys of Facebook is the ability to connect with others. I have developed relationships with many youth pastors and speakers and I am looking forward to connecting with them and building the relationship even more.
  2. Learning from the presenters. I love to learn and, since my wife will no longer let me take seminary classes, this is a great way for me to continue to put tools in my "shed," so to speak.
  3. Hearing from God. I am ready to be in a place where I am surrounded by other youth pastors and volunteers. I am looking forward to being focused on God and hearing what He has next for me. It has been a trying time without a ministry and I am hoping to hear God speak as to the direction we are to take.

Please note: I will be posting notes from the sessions that I attend at the conference. If you have not already done so, please subscribe to my blog through your email so that you can get the updates as the become available.

Will you be attending SYMC this year? What are you looking forward to the most?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Why You Should Use a Bible App

In today's world, just about everyone has access to a Bible app. There are so many different types that everyone can find one they like. Because of this, the Bible can be accessed much more readily. This can be a very good thing, especially in a world where more and more people are biblically illiterate. Here are three reasons why I think you should be using a Bible app.
  1. The Bible app is almost always available. Very few people go out without their phones or tablets. I very rarely go out without my iPod or iPad. For this reason, I almost always have a Bible with me. I can pull it out and read when I have a few minutes or when I am somewhere that a physical Bible cannot go. One morning, on the way to work, I was stuck in traffic for nearly three hours. While I would not have been able to use my physical Bible in this situation, I was able to use the Bible app on my iPad and did my daily Bible reading.
  2. The Bible apps make it easier to highlight and share verses. Most of the Bible apps allow the user to highlight passages and share them on social media sites with relative ease. It is usually nothing more than a couple of clicks and I can share the message that God is sharing with me with my friends on Facebook or Twitter. This is an excellent way to witness to someone or have the Holy Spirit talk to someone you may not realize needs it.
  3. The Bible app makes it easier to read more of the Bible. Because of the nature of "e-reading," it becomes easier to read more of the Bible. I find that I read much quicker when I am reading on my iPad than when I am reading a physical Bible. This can be a good thing (or it can be a bad thing...more on that later). The more exposure to the Scripture, the better I start to understand the bigger picture of the Bible. I use a Bible app when I am reading large amounts of the Bible.
These are just a few of the reasons why using a Bible app can be so effective. With so many having access to them, why not utilize the Bible apps to foster a love for God's Word?
How do you use the Bible apps? Do you like using them?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Items in My Pastoral Toolbox

Every pastor needs to be prepared. There are certain tools and items that a pastor needs in order to be effective. Okay, so maybe saying "needs" is a bit strong, but I can promise you, life will be much easier with these tools. Some are pricey, others inexpensive. All of them are very helpful. These are all things that I utilize on a regular and consistent basis.

A Bible This one should be a no-brainer. You cannot effectively share God's Word if you do not have a copy of God's Word. I personally use the English Standard Version because I like the feel and flow of the language. Other pastors use the New International Version, the New King James Version, or the King James Version. I would suggest that you choose the Bible that you are most comfortable with or that your church uses. I have preached in churches who knew that I was an ESV guy, but they asked that I use the King James.

A Study Bible A study Bible is a great tool to help you understand the Scriptures. Because I use the ESV, I have an ESV Study Bible. My wife purchased it for me for Christmas a few years ago and I could not have been happier. This Bible is chock full of illustrations, diagrams, and notes. It really helps me to understand the overall context of a passage and the way it connects with other passages as well.

A Writing Utensil I am particularly fond of the four color pen. Maybe it is a thowback to when I was a kid and I thought that a pen that could write in four colors was the coolest thing on the planet. I really like the way the ink looks and the way the pen writes. It is also incredibly handy for marking in my Bible because the ink does not bleed through the pages like other pens do. Regardless of what type of pen you use, always make sure that you have a pen with you. Nothing is worse than needing something to write with and coming up empty-handed. I always carry at least two pens in my pocket everywhere I go.

A Moleskine I always try to have a notebook with me as well. This allows me to write down important thoughts, meeting notes, and upcoming appointments. The one that I use is a combination planner/journal. One side of the book is a calendar and the other side is lined for taking notes on.

An iPad Mini I was originally hesitant to purchase an iPad Mini because it wasn't really much bigger than my Kindle Fire. I saved for several months to purchase an iPad and when the day came to buy it, I realized that the iPad Mini was only a little more expensive and I could get twice the memory. This item has been a game changer for me. I absolutely love it! I do all of my reading on the iPad. I have a Moleskine app that allows me to write directly on the iPad and sync it with my Evernote account. It is a fantastic tool. This one may be optional, but for me, it is vital.

An iPad Stylus A stylus is an optional item, but if you are thinking about doing some serious note-taking on your iPad, you will want to get one. It makes writing so much easier and neater. It takes a little bit of time to get used to writing with it, but now I almost never use my fingers for any kind of drawing or writing. These are just a few of things that I have in my "pastoral toolbox." While none of them are essential (well, except the Bible), it certainly makes the daily routine much easier. I know that pastors have gone hundreds of years without many of these things, but, since they are available, why not make use of them?
What items do you have in your toolbox?

Please note: All of the items listed above are linked to Amazon.com through the pictures. If you are interested in getting more information about the items, please click the picture and it will take you to website.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Lecrae Shares the Gospel

In case you didn't know, I am a huge fan of Lecrae. He has a way about him that is incredible and his love for Jesus is beyond belief. He recently won the Grammy Award for his album, Gravity. If you don't own it, please, please, please, purchase it immediately.

Here is a video of Lecrae explaining the Gospel in less than a minute. Clear and concise.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Sermon - Joshua 1:1-9 - Courage for the Coming Year

This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached on December 20, 2012. There is no video of the message, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. As always, please leave your thoughts below.

In just a couple of days, 2012 will be over and 2013 will be starting. For many of us this is very exciting and for some of us, this is completely terrifying. We are standing on the edge of something new and we are not sure what is going to happen. Could this be a good year, one full of excitement and adventure? Or is this going to be a devastating year, one that drops us to our knees at every turn?

This is the exact place that we find Joshua in our Scripture passage today. Joshua is on the edge of something that will go very, very right or go very, very wrong. The leader of the children of Israel, Moses, has just died and Joshua has been picked to take his place. The children of Israel have never known another leader. Moses has been the guy for the past 40 years. Those are some big shoes to fill!

Illustration: A few weeks ago, I was questioned by a number of the men in our church in preparation for my ordination. One of the questions, and forgive me because I don’t remember the exact wording of the question, had to do with me stepping into the role of senior pastor were something to happen to Bro. Brian. The person who asked the question wanted to know if I would be able to step up to the responsibility. I’ll be honest: I was extremely overwhelmed by the question. Overwhelmed to the point that I was unable to answer the question for several minutes. Just the thought of stepping into the leadership role of something like this church was difficult to grasp.

Illustration: One of the pastors who is extremely influential to a number of pastors, me included, is John Piper. You may have never heard of him, but, trust me, he’s a big deal. He has written a number of books and has been at his church in Minnesota for a ridiculously long time. Recently, he determined it was time for him to step down from the preaching ministry at his church and they began to look for someone to take his place. He preached his final sermon at his church last night. That means next week, the new guy takes over. The thought of stepping into the pulpit that Dr. Piper filled for so many years has got to be incredibly overwhelming.

I am positive that Joshua was feeling overwhelmed. He had just traveled for forty years with Moses and he saw all of the incredible and amazing things that God had done through Moses. He saw God use Moses to part the Red Sea. He saw God use Moses to provide water out of a rock. He saw God use Moses to provide manna and quail. He saw all of these things. And then, suddenly, Moses is gone and Joshua is in charge. It is at this point that God shows up and gives Joshua a pep talk. God sits Joshua down and tells him that everything that had been promised to Moses was still in effect now that Joshua was the leader. God was still going to give Joshua the land that He had promised and that there will be no enemy that will be able to stand before Joshua and the children of Israel.

There were two things that Joshua needed to keep in mind as he began this new adventure as the leader of the children of Israel. First, any strength and courage that Joshua would have must be found in God alone. Second, Joshua needed to make sure that his life was grounded in the Word of God. Let’s take a look at each point as it applies to Joshua.

Point 1 – Joshua’s strength and courage had to be found in God alone.

In verses 1-6 of Joshua 1, there are at least six different personal pronouns where God is telling Joshua something. He promises Joshua He is giving the land to him. He promises that He will be with Joshua. And most importantly, He promises He will never leave Joshua or forsake him. Joshua had only to find his strength and courage in God. Why? Because it was God who was going to do all the work. There was nothing that was going to take place in the life of Joshua or in the lives of the children of Israel that God would not be involved in. Every step that Joshua took, every piece of land that he claimed, every battle that he won would be the direct result of God working for him. Joshua could have strength and courage for what was about to take place because he had God Almighty already working for him. Can there be any greater ally than God?

Point 2 – Joshua’s life needed to be grounded in the Word of God.

Verses 7-8 demonstrate the need for Joshua to be grounded in the Word. Obviously, at that time, Joshua didn’t have the full text of the Scripture like we have today. In fact, at this point, he most likely only had the Law that was handed down to him from Moses. But God tells him that being grounded in that Law is absolutely necessary for Joshua’s strength and courage. Joshua would need to know the Law inside and out, backward and forward. He would need to make it the tool he went to when times got difficult. God made it very clear that he was to know the Law and he was to obey that Law.

And what was the result of Joshua finding his strength and courage in God alone and being completely grounded in God’s Word? The answer is at the end of verse 8: “For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Which brings us to this question: What does this have to do with me? It’s great for Joshua and we can read to find out what happens, but 2013 hasn’t been written for me yet. You can’t tell me that everything is going to be great and wonderful this coming year.

You are right and, if you look at our text, God isn’t telling Joshua that everything is going to be great and wonderful. There is no promise of easy days. However, the same things that were needed of Joshua are also needed of us. We must find our strength and courage in Christ alone.

I cannot promise you that 2013 is going to be an easy year. There is no guarantee that everyone who is in this room with us today will be with us this time next year. Not to be morbid, but we are going to say goodbye to some very dear friends this year. Some of us are going to get sick and some of us will have surgeries. This is because we live in a broken world that is screaming out for Jesus to come and fix it. However, as we find our strength and courage in Christ alone, we will be able to face whatever challenges come our way.

At some point in the future, my family and I will have to make a very scary decision, one that will have a huge impact on our lives for many years to come. To be honest, the thought of making that decision keeps me awake some nights. It has been a matter of a lot of prayer and a lot of discussion between Tina and me. I have cried over it, wanting to make sure that I am pursuing God in this decision. And as scary as it is, I know that God will be with me.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Philippians 4:13 says I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

When our strength and courage relies completely on Christ, we will be completely at peace, knowing that God is working for us. Our lives must be grounded in God’s Word. The Bible is full of the benefits that come from being grounded in God’s Word.

  • There is purity from sin when we stay grounded in God’s Word.
    How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. (Psalm 119:9)
  • There is direction for the way we are to go when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
  • There is joy to be found when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. (Psalm 119:111)
  • There is an explanation for the joy we are experiencing when we are grounded in God’s Word.
    but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)

I read the Bible…a lot. I know this is something that you would expect to hear a pastor say. I know, I’ve been told, even by some of you here, that I’m one of those weird guys who just loves to read the Bible. But this is what I’ve found…the more that I read the Bible, the more I want to read the Bible. And as I read the Bible, I am better able to understand the circumstances and situations that come my way. That doesn’t mean that it gets any easier. Doesn’t mean that it is all roses and cupcakes. What it does mean is that I can see God’s hand in my circumstances and I can understand that He has a plan.


As we begin this new year, many of you are thinking about resolutions that you are going to make…and break over the next couple of days. I can’t think of a better way to start a new year than by praying and asking God to help you find your courage and strength in Him alone and to help you become grounded in God’s Word.

If you are here today and you do not have a relationship with Jesus, the Jesus you need to know in order to find your strength and courage in God, why not make today the day that you begin that journey? You may be feeling a tug, urging you that now is the time. If that is you, I would love to have the opportunity to speak with you about the Jesus who left Heaven, was born on Earth, died on the cross for your sins and mine, and who defeated death by rising again. That Jesus wants the opportunity to forgive your sins and present you as holy before God. If you want to talk more, I’ll be down front.

Youth Pastor Encouragement - Why Do We Climb the Mountain?

In his book Leadership Gold, John Maxwell shares a really great story that should describe the feeling of every youth pastor for his students, their parents, and the volunteers that work with him.
Years ago I saw an interview with a guide on 60 Minutes. People had died while attempting to climb Mount Everest, and a surviving guide was asked, "Would the guides have died if they were not taking others with them to the top?"

"No," he answered, "but the purpose of the guide is to take people to the top."

Then the interviewer asked, "Why do mountain climbers risk their lives to climb mountains?"

The guide responded, "It is obvious that you have never been to the top of the mountain."

Many people ask us why we want to be youth pastors, thinking that all we do is play games and eat pizza. For the ones who believe that this is the case, it is obvious that they have never been to the top of the mountain.

They have never had the opportunity to:

  • Have a student call or text them to ask if they can give your books to a friend.
  • Read through the Bible with a student and see God's Word become real to them.
  • See students get excited about bringing their friends to Christ.
  • See a student put his or her faith in Christ for salvation.
  • Watch a student open up and step out of their comfort zone.

These are all the reasons you and I are called to youth ministry. This is why we climb the mountain.

Resources Mentioned:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Where In the World Can I Find Volunteers for My Youth Group?

A friend of mine sent me a message the other day asking about volunteers and any resources that I might know of to help him with recruiting and training new youth group volunteers. Here is what I was able to come up with.

Here are two books that I think will also meet the needs. I will confess that I have not read either of them yet, but I greatly enjoy John Maxwell's writing and learn from him regularly. Both of these books are on my to-read list. And while they do not deal directly with recruiting volunteers, I am positive that both books will contain ways to help improve your leadership and the way you pour into your volunteers.

Developing the Leaders Around You: How to Help Others Reach Their Full Potential

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork: Embrace Them and Empower Your Team

Please note: I am not even going to pretend that this list is exhaustive or even adequate. If you know of other articles or books that my friend and I should look at, please feel free to mention them below. That would be awesome. We can help each other grow and improve in this area because I'm sure the one thing that we can all say with certainty is that we never have enough good volunteers.

Three Ways I Read the Bible

There are three ways that I read the Bible. I read for devotion, for understanding, and for preparation. Each way is vital to my growth as a Christian, as a pastor, and as a leader. Albert Mohler said this,
"Convictional intelligence is the product of learning the Christian faith, diving deeply into biblical truth, and discovering how to think like a Christian."
If you aren't spending time in God's Word, it will have a detrimental effect on your leadership.

First, I read for devotion. I typically read two chapters a day, utilizing a reading plan of some kind. I read through books of the Bible. This year I have read through Acts, Romans, Hebrews, and I am currently reading through the book of John. These are the the passages I meditate on and pray through. I am looking to grow when I read these passages. This is the type of reading I do every day.

Second, I read for understanding. This is where I read a lot of Scripture. I use Grant Horner's Bible Reading Program. This has me reading ten chapters or more a day. I read this way to help me become more aware of the overall message of the Bible. Reading this much helps me to understand the whole message of the Bible. Needless to say, I don't read this way every day.

Finally, I read for preparation. This is when I read for sermons or lesson. I read the text many, many times to get the flow and feeling of what is being said. I read the surrounding passages as well. I want to be very familiar with the passage. I look at cross-references and try to find parallel passages. This reading is very in-depth. It is also my favorite way I read.

One note to keep in mind: never allow one type of reading to replace another type of reading. While you may find sermon material in your devotional reading or your understanding reading (and you definitely should), if you are not careful, you may find sermon prep becoming the only reading you do. And that is a big problem.

How much time do you spend in God's Word? What reading style do you use most often?