Friday, August 1, 2008

Youth Conference

Just a quick post to say that the conference has been amazing so far including hearing from Shane Claiborne and Zach Hunter. I'm having trouble with internet access at the hotel at the moment, so I'm at an internet cafe at the conference with limited time. But just wanted to update you all that we're still chuggin along! I had lunch today with a columbian who is pastor of a church in the UK. They are dealing with similar challenges in our area. I also talked with a younger guy who is a youth pastor in Hamburg, and he has been describing to me what ministry is like in a post reunification world here in Germany. Good stuff to say the least.

Talk to you all soon!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Leipzig and more...

We're back on the internet (sort of :) ).

After we left Salzburg, our first stop on Monday morning was to get a Sound of Music Tour. We visited a few sites that were seen in the movie and got a little background from our tour guide on how it all came about. (Gotta watch the movie when we get home as a reminder). If you remember the movie, this picture was on the steps of where they did the Do-Re-Mi song:

After the sound of music tour, we headed to Neuswanstein castle which provided the inspiration for Disney's castle. This castle is set up in the hills above Fussen and overlooks the valley. Its incredibly Disney-esk.

Fussen is a smaller town that we stayed in (unfortunately i-net access was sparser than the first two cities). We did get a chance after dinner to walk around town and get a double shot of Gelato (an ice cream like european food that is very good.)

Tuesday morning we woke up and headed to Munich. Upon arriving in Munich, we went first to Dauchau the concentration camp. Our tour guide who is from Germany, mentioned to us that all German school children have to visit a concentration camp as a way to be sure that something like the holocaust doesn't happen again. It was pretty sobering to walk the grounds and see the buildings where many who were killed once walked. We even saw the crematorium and gas chamber onsite (although they tell us that this particular gas chamber was never used for mass killings like Auswitz).

From Dauchau, we moved on to a walking tour of the rest of Munich which is quite the bustling city even into the late hours of the night. After dinner we went back down into the central square and walked around for a bit. Then for a bit of adventure we rode the s-bahn (train) back to the hotel.

The next morning, we hopped the bus again and made our way up to Leipzig including a stop in Nurmburg for lunch.

Its about time to head to breakfast and the conference here, so I will catch up more with Leipzig tonight when we return to the hotel...

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Today we took a drive and left Vienna for Salzburg. We spent most of the afternoon touring around seeing the sights in Salzburg including Mozarts house. Dinner was at a small cafe across the river.

Our hotel in Salzburg is just a short walk from downtown, but most interestingly is through a tunnel from the downtown area. Apparently this tunnel has been around since Mozarts time.

After dinner tonight, we spent a little time walking around the city then back to the hotel for some hangout time. Since its Sunday, not many of the shops were open today.

Tomorrow we do a Sound of Music tour in the morning, then head out to Neuswanstein castle and to Fussen for our overnight.

Pics in the morning as its late... Thanks for all those that have left comments!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Day 2 in Vienna

Today we spent the morning at Schrommburg Palace. Incredible location as it has 1400 rooms. (We only got to see about 22 on our tour). It also had a magnificent gardens behind that looked very much like Versailles.

Following the tour, we went to a market that was very much like a flea market, with little shops / tables for the locals. Then we jumped on the Underground and headed to St. Stephens Square where we first had lunch at Griechenbeisl which is a famous restaurant where many famous people have signed the ceiling in the signature room. We were blown away by seeing signatures including those from Beethoven, Mozart, and Strauss, to the likes of Mark Twain, and even more moderns such as Phil Collins.

After lunch, walked up an over 300 step spiral staircase to the top of the spire at St. Stephens cathedral.

From the cathedral, we split into a couple groups where there was shopping, one group went to the Art History museum. I took my group up to the Prater which was a little amusument park where we jumped on a Riesenrad or Ferris Wheel. This one was interesting as it had cars that held 16 people, and took 10-15 minutes to make 1 revolution. You could rent a car that was setup for a romantic candlelight dinner for the evening.

We ate dinner at WienerWald, a restaurant near the hotel. After dinner was a short tram ride, then ice cream back. At the moment, there are a number of our youth that are in our room playing games and hangin out together.

Tomorrow morning we're off to Salzburg for the day.

Everyone's doing great, having a great time, although we're all pretty tired at this point.

Friday, July 25, 2008

In Europe!

This morning our team landed in Vienna Austria where we will be spending our first couple of days. And WOOHOO! We have internet at the hotel. So after meeting the other churches in our tour (except one which didn't make their connection in Amsterdam), we headed off for a bus tour of Vienna. Following the bus tour, we got checked into our first hotel and headed off to lunch. Most tried Weiner Schnitzle, and a couple of us had ribs.

Following lunch we went on a walking adventure since we had some free time, and explored part of the city near our hotel. By mid-afternoon, everyone was clamoring for sleep including Ben who nodded off in Starbucks. (Yes there is a starbucks here, and its only 1 block from our hotel. WOO HOO!).

We continued walking after ingesting some caffeine to keep us moving. We are now preparing for dinner as it as 6:30pm as I'm writing this. We'll be walking a couple blocks up to our restaurant. Then after dinner, there is a video concert of an orchestra playing at the city hall on their big jumbotron, so we may try to stay awake long enough to watch part of that before heading back and crashing tonight.

Everyone's doing great, no major problems as of this point, except everyone's trying to get readjusted to our new time.

I'll post some pics after dinner tonight.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Germany, Puppies, and Stuff

Its been a couple weeks now since camp... I'm still catching up on sleep it seems. But it was an incredible experience with a few of our youth giving their lives over to Christ.

Tomorrow we take a team from our church and join 3 other churches from St. Louis and head to Germany for some touring and to attend the Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference. Our kids are in Arkansas with family, arrived last night and are incredibly excited (including getting to sit in the pilot's seat at the airport after landing).

My wife will be going with me on this trip as well which is great as the trip falls over our anniversary!

At the same time as all this, we're also looking to adopt a puppy:

We don't have a name yet, but we pick him up the week of August 10th. the kids are of course very excited... He's a yellow lab from lab-rescue. Part of a litter that is up for adoption and he is the last one to be claimed. Check out for lab adoptions.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Camp - Day 2

Woo Hoo! Day 2 of camp was also an exceptional day. BTW, when are camp days not good days?

Today was the first day our family groups experienced recreation together! Rec was filled with an adventure day for our HSers, and water day for our MSers. During water day EVERYONE got wet. Check out some pics below.

We also talked today about rebellion from The Way and what that looks like, what are the things that lead to destruction in our life.

During church group time, we shared stories from the day (and there were some funny ones too), as well as talked about ways that we rebel from God. We also had a time of prayer with our students as some shared ways that they were rebellious and wanted to turn from those ways.

Everyone's pretty tired but havin an awesome time so far. I'm actually writing this as I'm knocking on doors getting guys up :).

Alright off to breakfast, here are a couple more pics from yesterday...

Camp - Day 1

Today at Camp was an incredible day as we saw and learned alot. Our theme this year is The Way taken from Acts 19:23 which says "About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way".

We're talking a lot this week about what it means to follow Christ, what is God's way vs., all the other stuff in this world that distracts us from God's way. Tonight at Celebration we studied this passage as well as Acts 5 when the Apostles were persecuted. We talked through what it means for us in America to be persecuted, and are we really willing to be passionate for our faith?

Alright, it's pretty late, and I'm tired. Check out below for a couple pics of our students while they were preparing to go to their family groups.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Woo Hoo! We made it to camp after a long drive yesterday, some fantastic times at the Pickel Farm, and a quick drive this morning. So far we've been unpacking, orienting and getting ready for dinner. I just found out free wifi across campus, so I can blog from the comfort of my dorm room.

Off to dinner, so I will post more about the day a little later this evening!

Friday, May 30, 2008


This Sunday is our senior recognition Sunday at Columbia. We've been working on a video of our seniors for church, and today I'm working on writing notes in each of the gifts for our seniors.

Writing these notes to me is an important thing each year. Its a brief note where I can encourage, share memories, think about the growth I've observed over the years with our seniors. Its an amazing yet sad time as I know pretty soon, the making of memories will for the most part end with this class as the go on to college and beyond... It is yet pretty cool as I know God will be doing some incredible things with these youth, as he has already...

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


One of the books that I'm going through right now during my Quiet Times is Soul School by Jeanne Stevens.

The latest chapter I've read talks about Idols. The Israelites from time to time made idols and worshiped them. Other cultures had their idols and gods as well. When the Israelites did this, God usually let them know that they put something before Him. We sometimes think that idol worship was just an Old Testament issue. Yet, we have idols today in our lives. There is something or someone that we put ahead of our relationship with God, and God becomes secondary to our lives.

This has been such a great reminder for me, especially as a youth pastor. She talks about in youth ministry, some idols that we perhaps fall into from time to time:
External Success
The Past or the Future
Religious Activity
Youth Ministry

In my experience so far as a youth pastor, I'll admit I've had these idols from time to time, and they tend to rear their ugly head just as things within the ministry seem to be going well. Sometimes its a constant battle to keep our eyes focused on the one true God that deserves our worship. Logically it would seem that this should be easy seeing as he's the creator of the universe, provides our every need, loves us, has a purpose for us etc... yet sometimes our hearts are easily swayed by the allure of our own glory. I've found for me, that spending daily time focusing on God through reading, praying and worshiping seems to help keep the focus right, and when I don't do those things, its easy for the idols to creep back in.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Move

This week has been an interesting week of transition. Tuesday came and I had to quickly finish packing up my office and move it to another building. I had time enough to do a little purge of my 'stuff', but it still amazes me how much i've acquired in the 5 years here as youth pastor. Even still, today: Friday, I look around and see all the boxes yet to unpack and stuff to go through. These boxes contain everything from good and bad memories, books I've read that have helped, and others that made me go huh?. Many times things like office moves, and house moves give us the opportunity for either the freedom of a clean slate, or a feeling of being burdened by our stuff.

Interestingly Paul talks about this same idea in our relationship to Christ as in 2 Corinthians 5:17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

We all have 'stuff' in our lives that we carry around. Things we wish we could get a do-over, or wounds that someone gave us. Yet, when we live in Christ, we are a new creation, a clean slate. Two things come to mind though: That stuff many times is so deep that it carries with us, it can be hard to let go, or hard to heal from the wounds. Its a process, a daily taking up our cross and following Jesus. That's something that I have to remember day in and day out.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Vine

Each Sunday morning, one of the things I most look forward to is the Ignition Group that I teach. Right now this group is made up of 7 students, 3 HSers and 4 MSers, and we're going through John Foster's Celebration of Disciplines. Basically each week we are taking a look at a different spiritual discipline and figure out some of the mechanics to give each of our students a place to start practicing on their own. In the midst of this, a couple of them have asked for a weekly passage to think on. This week is John 15:1-17 about being part of the vine.

I got to thinking about this with regard to youth ministry. Everytime I read this passage, I'm reminded of how important it is to stay connected to God, especially as it relates to ministry. We say this over and over, yet we don't always do it. It seems like the busyness of the world caves in, and our own cares take over, instead of pushing these things aside, making our whole day center around our relationship with Jesus and taking on the cares of God. When this happens, you begin to feel more alive through every day experiences. When you are disconnected from God, you begin to really notice as well. I speak from experience on this one. I can look back over my life and see those times when I was disconnected from 'the Vine', and began to wither, even in the midst of ministry, and it can become painfully lonely when this happens. I also know of others currently in ministry that are facing this same pain. Most of the time, I tend to bounce somewhere in the middle. Somewhat connected to God, knowing that there is more that I need to give up to him. I must decrease so he can increase.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Last week I was at the prelude gathering with some other youth pastors from our area and one night we discovered that a couple of us hadn't posted on our blogs in over a month. I guess for me I haven't felt quite inspired recently.... and I didn't necessarily want to put something random up without any thought to it. I will most likely post soon more about the conference as I continue to process what went on.

But this morning I ran across a news report concerning the ongoing debate about the pictures of Miley Cyrus that were recently published in Vanity Fair. While I'm not necessarily interested in entering the debate at the moment, I do have to say that this was very predictable. But instead of writing why this was predictable, I'll point you to Walt Mueller's blog. Walt is constantly staying up on youth culture and the influences on our youth today. He wrote a great blog yesterday about both Miley, and Chris Brown and how predictable their recent behaviors are.

I also ran across a new blog yesterday that I passed onto my wife who does an amazing job of being a part of a youth pastor's lifestyle. Unless you've been in a youth pastor's shoes, its tough to explain what this lifestyle is like. But I happened to run across a Married to a Youth Pastor blog yesterday, read it and all the comments, and realized this might be a great place for my wife to hang out and be supported by other youth pastor's wives. If you ever bump into my wife, please say thanks to her as she's an amazing woman, and I would not be able to do what I do without her.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


So this week I'm on 'vacation' which means I get to hang out with my daughter and do projects around the house. We're planning on going to the DC planetarium, an art museum, and some other fun stuff in there. BUT today we went to see Horton Hears a Who.

You definitely need to see it! There are some great theological connections in the movie that describe some similarities with our relationship with God. Instead of going through them all, check out Planet Wisdom's review of the movie as they already have some good stuff on it.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Core

This past Saturday we went to The Core which is a training opportunity by youthspecialties. As always this is top quality training that YS puts on, and this year they included students as well. This year's theme was on Generation Change which had to do with our helping our students change their world. The progression of the day was 1. Change happens inside first 2: a Transforming Youth Ministry, 3: Changed to bring Change

Brock Morgan was our presenter and he did an outstanding job. I think he got better as the day progressed (and we all woke up ;) ). The material was all solid and I appreciated the way it was presented and worked through. One thing that really hit me during the day had to do with a commercial that Dove put together dealing with helping girls with their body image. This struck me both as a youth pastor and as a daddy of a girl about the age of the girl in the video. Note the video is a little graphic. Check it out the original on Dove's website:

lastly I'm ON VACATION! I took the week off to spend with my daughter as she has spring break this week. We have some fun stuff planned such as seeing Horton hears a Who, and going to an art museum.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Weekend!

Well the weekend is almost here. We'll be heading to the Core tomorrow with a couple of our adults and a couple HS student leaders. This training event is one of the key opportunities for any of our leaders each year as its a low time commitment opportunity, but they always hit things head on. This year's theme is Generation Change which promises to be a great experience. Our trouble this year is its located right at the beginning of Spring Break. Many of our adults and students will be away so we aren't able to bring as many as we had hoped.

We're also in the process of adoption! Yes Adoption, but no more kids :). We're working on adopting a lab from lab-rescue. Check out Hudson...
He's not the one we're adopting, but he's a cute lab anyway :). I would highly recommend adopting from a rescue if you're looking for a dog.

I've been playing around with Twitter this week... twitter is a tool that allows you to 'microblog' what you're doing and your friends (or followers) can get immediate updates. You can also get updates of who you're following texted to your cell phone. I've only got 2 followers as I made them try this out with me. But its pretty cool as I can text from my phone a status, and it automatically updates my facebook page, and any of my followers. I'm thinking there could be some good uses in youth ministry for this thing. Gotta play around more.

I've also been leading a small group on Sunday mornings for a few of our students, talking about spiritual disciplines and how God gave us these to stay connected to him. Its been very interesting so far as we've dealt with the obvious ones such as study, prayer, solitude. Last Sunday we dealt with simplicity and what it means to live simply, not giving ourselves to the burdens of things like materialism, or overcommitment. We seem to live in a culture of running at breakneck speed filling our lives with stuff (i'm just as guilty as anyone). And this complexity very easily turns our attention off of our Creator. I've seen others do it (and not be a monk in the process) and its been very freeing. We're in that process right now as we try to declutter our lives and schedule so we have more time and space to focus on God and our relationship with him.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

@ Planet Wisdom Day 2

We just returned from the Planet Wisdom conference... I'm at home sitting in my house, totally exhausted, ready to go to bed, yet my mind continues swirling about our experiences this weekend. I think this weekend was definitely an outstanding experience. As one of my leaders put it: "This was the best one yet!"

I'm still looking forward to some of the stories that will be shared amongst our group, and can't wait to hear about each of their experiences through their own eyes. Mark Matlock and Sean McDowell both did a steller job speaking well grounded truth into the lives of our students. All of the material they presented was solid Biblical truth presented in a way that I really believe our students could grasp hold of. They continued talking about how we are each clay in the potters hands and stepping us through that analogy. Additionally, Sean stepped us through some of the logical side of the truth being proclaimed.

During one of the sessions, I sat there and was thinking about each of our students and the situations that each of them find themselves. This included one of our students who every time the band came up, he immediately jumped up and rushed the stage so he could be right up front. I never would have imagined this student to do this, yet he didn't care about what anyone thought of him, he was going to jump up and be right up front each time. It was awesome to me to see this kid's passion come out like this.

The last thing I'll say, is I'm so appreciative of our volunteer leaders. They each took time away from their own busy lives to not just be with us, but to spend some intentional time with our students, and what a difference they made as always. I'm also very proud of our students and some of the conversations I had during the weekend. Its such an incredible opportunity and honor to be their youth pastor.

@ Planet Wisdom

Day 1 of the Planet Wisdom was excellent. I am came down early with one of our seniors to help with setup at the conference. Then the rest of the group joined us around dinner time. I've been looking forward to this event for a while, for just a chance to be with our students. In the general sessions last night, Mark has been giving our students a picture of their lives using the potters clay illustration. It was a powerful night and our students had much to talk about at the end of the evening. I've had some great conversations the last day as well... I'm thankful for being here and being with our students. i'll update more tonight with some pics as well...

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Presence Centered Youth Ministry

Ok... so I'm pretty exhausted today, and so to end my day in the office, I decided to start working through this book. Just read the introduction and the piece that really sticks out to me is the Prayer that Mike as it relates to youth ministry quotes from Thomas Merton:

"My Lord God I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean I am actually doing so. But I believe that my desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone."

Check. I can relate to that one. There are definitely days in youth ministry or any ministry that feel like this. But I love the last 2 lines of the prayer. There are some days when I wake up in the morning where this becomes my prayer. Because of my own human-ness, I have to repeatedly recognize that our youth ministry here is not my own, but is God's. Most times this recognition comes during my prayer time when I offer this ministry back to God. If I don't do this regularly, then my own pride kicks in and takes over, which is usually not very helpful in our lives.

More Prelude

The Prelude Gathering is coming up in just over a month. After registering, they sent us each 2 books, A New Kind of Youth Ministry by Chris Folmsbee. I've read the book, but didn't blog on it. The other book is Presence-Centered Youth Ministry by Mike King. We're to read these for the gathering, so I'll taking a break from my other books and reading Mike's book over the next few weeks. I'll also try to blog on it to help with my memory retention (which these days isn't doing too well).

--begin rant
On another note, I've been catching up on my reading of Group's youth ministry magazine. (check out for some good resources / articles). While I was reading the magazine, I had this overwhelming sense of being blasted with the consumerism side of youth ministry. I love the articles they always have, and they always get me thinking. But in some sense I'm getting a little tired of the overwhelming amount of resources that are out there. Resources are good and all and can be helpful in ministry especially when starting out, but in a market where more and more resources are hitting the shelves, companies have to market harder and harder for our youth ministry budgets (limited as they are). At some point it becomes a commodity like everything else in our consumer culture. What do we teach our youth when we continue looking for the latest and greatest resources to fill our shelves? I feel like I could probably spend a full time job just looking for something good and useful through all the fluff. Unfortunately the way my mind works, it tends to clog my brain instead of providing clarity. I think it would be great if someone could figure out how to provide quality resources to youth ministries, without leading us into the consumerism that plagues our world. Maybe it already exists and I haven't found it yet... or maybe just by providing this we continue to buy into consumerism...
--end rant

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Just some stuff

Ok so I have to admit, even though I had a day off yesterday, I'm still pretty exhausted. We've had a busy schedule here recently, and a couple more weeks left to go. This weekend is another one of my favorite events that we attend put on by Planet Wisdom.
I'm always excited to be there as Mark Matlock is an excellent youth communicator, and of course the skit guys are hilarious. Setting aside the impact that this event has on our youth, I partly get very excited about this one because its an event that requires little planning on my part, and affords me the ability to just be with our students without the normal stress of actually running the event.

Next weekend is also an exciting opportunity: The Core This is a great opportunity for our leaders and student leaders to get some great training. We always have a great time together hangin out and bonding as the leaders of the youth ministry. This year's theme is "Generation Change". Lookin forward to it and will post thoughts about it after the conference.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


In April, Tom and I and some others will be in Kansas City to be a part of the Prelude Gathering where a discussion among a number of youth ministers will be occurring to think and collaborate on the direction of youth ministry and God's story in our lives and the lives of the youth we spend our time with. Lookin forward to stepping away from things for a couple of days to thing long term as we discover where God is leading us in all this.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Ski retreat '08

After a very busy January and February, I think I'm back to having a little space to do some more blogging about things I'm thinking about related to youth ministry and my own life.

President's weekend was our annual high school ski retreat where we head out to Columbia's retreat center and have an opportunity to get away from the distractions to worship together and have some fun together. This year we had Tom Lynch come and share about God's story and how we fit into it, focusing on taking risks for the kingdom. This is a topic we've been talking through in our high school ministry since January. My hope here is that we can teach our youth what God's story is, and how their story connects with God's story. Part of the weekend is of course writing more stories about our community including the fun we had with a day of skiing /boarding on Saturday, and snow tubing on Sunday. Most of our youth have been posting pics on facebook, and they're great to see all the interactions they continue to have with each other. We've also had some of our youth ask to do a retreat every weekend. Oh to be in a time of life where that could happen :).

On a totally geeky side of things, I'm starting to get back into playing with Linux. There is a new (to me) distribution called Ubuntu which in african means 'I am what I am because of who we all are'. Its been a couple of years since I've had a chance to do any work with Linux, but I'm looking forward to playing around with this distribution to see if it could actually be a windows replacement as many folks out there are saying. Interestingly, there's a theological connection here as we talk about youth ministry. We are who we are because of who Jesus is, yet he has put each of us together in community for a purpose, and each of our youth ministries has a unique identity.