Wednesday, October 31, 2012

"Deep" Teaching / Preaching. What is it?

Last night I had a great conversation with Matt.  He is one of IBC's super duper college ministry leaders and a seminary student.

We were talking about certain speakers and preachers and some were described as "not very deep".  So we started to ask the question, what is deep teaching?

Does depth come when you throw in a greek word here and there?

Is depth when you give lots of historical and cultural background?

Is it deep when you tell your listeners something they don't know?

Does talking for a long time and reading lots of scripture make a talk deep?

Does depth happen when those listening have their thinking challenged?

This morning some other questions started rattling around in my mind.  Is depth a sufficient goal for my speaking?  Do I want people to walk away after listening to me and say "wow, that was deep" or do I want them to walk away thinking / feeling / doing something else?

So how would you define "deep teaching"?  AND do you believe depth is a legitimate goal for speakers to have?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Youthworkers, We Must Pull Together!

Sometimes the brightest events flow for the darkest hours.

The last week has been dark for Coppell, Texas.  Coppell is a small suburban town on the northwest side of Dallas and where many IBC (my home church) families live.  One week ago today (Sunday, October 14) we received information that a senior from Coppell High School was missing and feared dead after cliff diving at a nearby lake.

That evening hundreds of students gathered at the football stadium to pray for and remember Jacob Logan, starting safety for the Coppell Cowboys.

As you can imagine the next 2 days were spent counseling students, parents, teachers and our own hearts.  Events like these seldom make sense.  One junior girl told me that she didn’t blame God, but she wasn’t a real big fan of what he was doing.  I concur. 

By Tuesday afternoon the body of Jacob was still missing.  As we were praying for peace and closure the unthinkable happened.  Jonah Blackwell, also a senior at Coppell, took his life.

Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning and the rest of the week were spent trying to understand in my own mind what God was up to while answering tough questions from students.  You can imagine.

Is it ok for me to be angry with God?
Why is God doing this?
Of all the people, why does God take the best?

I have a lot of thoughts on grief and God and suicide and many other topics, but that’s not where this is going.

You see, although the week has been exhausting there have been some great things happen that wouldn’t have otherwise, not least of which is the simple and beautiful truth that I didn’t have to walk through last week alone.

The youth workers in and around Coppell have always liked each other and many times grabbed some coffee together.  But these events have brought us together in a fresh miraculous way.  From Baptist, to Church of Christ, to Methodist, to Non-Denom, to Catholics, we’ve basically walked this journey together.

I’ve been a youth pastor for 25 years and have advocated and begged for churches to work together for the sake of the community and the Kingdom, but I’ve never seen God do anything like this.

Sunday night at the football stadium, (the night Jacob went missing) I was not alone.  There were at least 10 of us together developing a game plan of how we were going to encourage one another along with hundreds of students. 

Monday morning at Coppell High School, I was not alone.  We were together loving and praying for students.

Tuesday night at the local pavilion, I was not alone.  While trying to comfort students who didn’t understand why a second friend was gone, we were there together.

Thursday morning at the memorial service for Jonah, I was not alone.  We were there together.

This short note from an area youth pastor echoes the heart of many youthworkers in our area.

Hey Team,

I wanted to send a follow up on the day since we were all going in the same but different directions yesterday.  Let us continue to be present on campus in the days to come.  I will be present at lunches for sure and we need to have some presence at New Tech as well.  I know we can't all be there all day but as you can swing by the campus please do so.  God orchestrated some Big things yesterday with Christian students stepping up and leading out in their classrooms and teachers and coaches being bold with the Gospel.  I am grateful for each and every one of you and your involvement yesterday and in the days to come.  God is BIG and yesterday He used each and every one of you in a unique and "just right" way.  We are all uniquely connected to the Logan family and/or the situation.  As a result we really need to be diligent to share information about search details, services details, kids who need care, adults or administrators who need care, organized vigils or gatherings so we are not competing with one another but coming alongside one another etc.  I am humbled to have linked arms to serve our God by serving our community together.  I am blown away at the reality that WE ARE BETTER TOGETHER.

I often times get caught up in the weekly stuff that I neglect building and maintaining relationships with those doing the same things in the same town.  Forgive me for not playing my part in galvanizing the group of youth workers around the cause of Christ in Coppell.  The ONE Network needs some new life and I am committing to help make that happen.  Who's with me?!


What we did together wasn’t really rocket science.  All you can really do during these times is be present, pray and listen.  That’s what we did and it was so good to do it together.

There’s a lot of work to be done in the next days and there are already dozens of stories I could share of how God is using all this for his fame and Kingdom, but the main story I want to tell is this.  There is power in churches and especially youthworkers coming together to serve with one heart.

I’m so thankful there was a great level of trust and relationship before all this went down and even more thankful those relationships have deepened over the last week.

So I have to ask.  Are you connected?  If and when (it will come) tragedy comes to your community will you be able to serve along side other youthworkers?  Can I encourage you to begin to lay the relational foundation now?  Reach out and spend time with other youthworkers in your area.

I don’t know how we would have dealt with the tragedy of last week if youthworkers were not willing and eager to work and pray together. 

We truly are better together.

BTW, if you want some great ideas about building a group in your community check out these videos from the National Network of Youth Ministries.  They're there to help.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Please Pray

Once again our community is grieving the loss of a teen.  Jacob Logan, a Coppell high school student, disappeared while cliff diving with friends on Sunday.

After spending the day with high school students at Coppell High School I'm so sad by what the students and the family have to experience.

Last night we had a time of prayer and worship at our church with students.  Our focus was to help them embrace this simple truth...God is great and God is good.  God is who he is in spite of our circumstances and feelings.  That truth is tough to embrace in times such as these.  To be honest, my faith struggles in times like this as well.  Pray that God would strengthen our faith.

Please pray that God will do what he does, take tragedy and turn it to beauty.  That's the story of the gospel and my hope is it will become the story of Jacob.

Thank you for praying.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Youth Ministry Unconference Cinci - What We Shared

Youth Ministry Unconference is a fresh new way to learn, share and grow in student ministry leadership.  It's unique in that it utilizes creative gatherings that place youth workers in venues where they can learn from others, share from experience and receive encouragement.  Youth workers of all levels of experience can be an incredible resource for one another.

YM Unconference was developed by Mark Matlock after seeing the benefits of this kind of format at the National Youth Workers Convention 3 years ago.  We launched YM Unconference in Dallas and found people around the country were interested in hosting.  After learning from Mark, we have had the privilege of serving youth ministry by facilitating several gatherings around the country.

Here are some principles that make YM Unconference unique.
  • There's no "hired gun" speaker.  Wisdom, encouragement and challenge flows from the collective wisdom of all the voices in the room.
  • It's super low cost.
  • Relationship is king.  There are great friendships created and deepened and space given to those relationships.
  • It's God dependent.  Sure there's a plan, but there's plenty of flexibility that gives freedom to follow the heart of God.  Discussions are determined by conference attendees.
  • The gathering is always surprising.  It's amazing what comes from the hearts and voices of everyone in the room.  I never cease to be amazed.
You see, every person called to serve teenagers has unique perspective and experience others need to hear.  Older and more experienced youth workers need to hear from the young.  The young need to hear the wisdom of those who are older.  And every person called to minister to teens needs to continue to learn and grow in their ministry effectiveness.  It's this teachable and humble DNA that drives the heart, spirit and effectiveness of YM Unconference.

Last weekend I had the privilege of participating in YM Unconference Cincinnati.  We gathered on Friday morning through early afternoon and then again on Saturday morning.  There was a a lot of diversity in the room.  There were men and women, old and young, urban and suburban, experienced youth workers and rookies, payed and volunteer.  This diversity feeds the richness of the shared experience.

Here are some themes that rose to the surface.  Each of these were discussed in detail and depth.  Although much of this may not be new, it's always important to grow in these areas.

  • Youth workers need to be wisely transparent in their relationships with students.  
  • Perhaps there needs to be more attention give to time with students over producing a "show" for students.
  • When spending time with students learn how to ask great questions to get beneath the surface.  
  • The unique needs of todays teens are not that different from what todays youth workers struggled with as teens.  (and struggle with now)
  • We need to be creative in connecting with teens after they graduate high school.  Incredible ideas were shared about how this might happen in urban areas.
  • Creating a culture of discipleship is key in seeing all students grow in their faith.  This culture must have just enough structure to unleash relationship.
  • As youth workers, our connection to Jesus is key.
I walked away from Cincinnati refreshed, encouraged and challenged.  As a 25 year veteran of student ministry I need these environments to learn and grow.  And who knows, maybe I was able to share something that encouraged others.

Thank you Greater Cincinnati Youth Network for hosting!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Questions for Potential Speaking Engagement

Every once in a while I have an opportunity to speak at different venues.  From one day conferences to parenting seminars to retreats, whatever the venue I want to serve people well.

Sometimes you can feel like you're shooting in the dark when you walk into an unfamiliar place with unclear expectations.  My heart is to serve each group as effectively as possible.  So with that in mind here is a list of questions I'm thinking of sending potential groups.

Are there any question I'm not asking I should?  Is there any question you wouldn't ask?  By the way, this also helps me think through information that needs to be given to speakers we bring in.  What do you think?

Main contact person / information.

 Date / Dates of speaking engagement?


 Is there a theme / topic picked?

 Number of talks?

 Amount of time for each talk?

 Age range?

 Any information you can share about the audience that might be helpful?

Available audio / visual resources?

Are you able to pay for all expenses?

What is your budget for honorarium?

What have you seen speakers do in the past that you really appreciated?

What have you seen speakers do that has frustrated you or that you wished they did differently?

Expectations beyond up front communication? 

Thanks for any input you can give.  I love this shared wisdom thing!