Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Don't Waste Your Christmas - Via Advent

What are your plans to prepare your heart this advent season?  Please take advantage of this Christmas season to remember, meditate on and savor our newborn King.

The last 2 years I've used Shawn Smalls little book "The Via Advent" to ignite my heart and imagination towards the coming of our Savior.  Reading through this little book has brought to life the characters of the Christmas story in a way I could never imagine.

When included with daily scripture meditations, the short chapters are a great tool for daily time with Jesus.

Order it soon so you don't fall too far behind!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NYWC Random Reflections 2012

We are 10 days or so removed from the convention in Dallas.  In my experience it's important to drive some markers to remember all that God taught and inspired me to do and be as a result of this incredible time.

Sometimes experiences are very personal.  That's my take on the National Youth Workers's Convention, God had some themes especially for me.

As I've had some time and space to reflect here are 3 thoughts that linger.

1.  Being at the convention is almost like coming home

 I love being around hundreds of people who get who I am and what I do.

Youthworkers are the coolest people on the face of the planet.  Simply put, there were 2600 or so people in Dallas who love Jesus and love students.  Just to walk around the convention center and see so many people who work with students is amazing.  And by the way, it feels we (youth workers) are becoming more and more diverse.

With simply an eye test it seems there are just as many women as men.  There are older people (am I one of them?) and younger.  I'm a part of a diverse family of people who long to see the greatness of God declared to the next generation.  That's really encouraging to me.  It's always helpful to know we're not alone.

2.  I'm blessed to have deep friendships with great people.

One of the highlights for me was connecting with youth pastors, ministry leaders and others from around the country.  Over the years God has blessed me with connections with people who are smarter and more passionate than I.

Walking away better equipped and challenged to serve my church and youth ministry more effectively is one of biggest advantages of attending conferences.  Seminars and the big room are great, but for me equipping happens most in the context of a lunch or late night discussions with people I love and respect.

I'm a better pastor, ministry leader, husband and visionary because God has allowed me to experience deep relationships with people around the country.  I'm so thankful for these friends I get to see once or twice a year.

I need / want to pursue the people God has graciously brought in my path.  I am blessed.

3.  I'm thankfully called to student ministry.

Tony Campolo was awarded the lifetime achievement award from YS.  Mark asked why he was intentional about protecting time to speak into the lives of youthworkers when given so many other opportunities to speak to others.  His response was brilliant.

He referred to his role as a sociologist and understanding that the major decisions in life are made between the ages of 13 and 23.  This is when their future is shaped.

As a 45 year old youth worker I wonder about my future calling.  For now it's clear God wants me to invest significant time in the next generation.  For now I know I'm called to the next generation, it's in the fiber of who I am.

Thank you Tony for reminding us why what we do as youth workers is so important and strategic.

As I get older and more experienced I long to see life and ministry with a sense of WONDER and TEACHABILITY.  Thank you Youth Specialties for caring about the next generation and those who serve.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pre - Convention Pep Talk

This afternoon I'm heading to downtown Dallas for the National Youth Worker's Convention.  I'm super excited to see old friends, hang out with my staff and learn from people who are smart and gifted.
It's going to be a super time but it's be a dangerous time for me.  Isn't that true of many opportunities?  The greater the potential the greater the danger. 

You see, I struggle like crazy with pride and arrogance.  It's easy for me to either feel a little better than others or super inferior.  If I'm not careful I can slip into the mode of comparing myself with everyone around.  I know!  It's horrible, but God's grace is good!

So, as I go into the weekend here are 4 ways I'm trying to maximize my time and walk away Sunday evening 
better equipped, more passionate for students and more in love with Jesus.

Think about my neediness...

I'm a needy man.  There's so much I need to learn and experience in order to grow.  As I navigate through the weekend my hands should be out asking for help and encouragement.  Thoughts like "been there done that" aren't very conducive to continued learning and growth.  It's exciting to think about what God is going to teach me about ministry, but also about my heart.  I'm praying for a soft / teachable heart.

Care and connect with others in need...

Student ministry can be difficult.  There will be youth workers at this convention who are struggling in their family, personal and ministry life.  There will be youth workers who feel they are about to be "let go".  There will be people who are stuck in their relationship with Jesus.  There will be youth workers who need freedom from deep sinful patterns.  As I embrace my neediness I hope I can be sensitive to others, listening more than speaking, encouraging more than seeking encouragement.

Write what I learn...

As God speaks to me over the next few days I'm committed to writing down what I'm hearing.  As you know, we all walk away from conventions feeling overwhelmed.  It's like a trying to take a sip from a fire hose.  Sometimes it helps to sort through all you're hearing by writing to make sure it gets deep into your heart and mind.

Have fun...

That's a given.  With my student ministry team there and friends coming in from all over the country I'm looking forward to all the connections.  Is there anything better than being with thousands of people who love Jesus and love students?  Youth workers definitely know how to bring on the fun.

BTW, I hope you're going to be here in Dallas.  If so, come with great hope and expectation.  Pray that God will have his way in your heart and the hearts of all who attend.

It's going to be an unbelievable weekend!

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Perfect Parent

Now that I’m on the downhill side of parenting (my kids range from a senior in high school to early twenties) I’ve been wondering what kind of dad I was.  Maybe some day I’ll have the courage to ask my kids what they think.  Maybe that should be today.

When I’m honest with myself I wish I had done so much more. 

I wish I had prayed more, cared more, spent more time, listened better, taught them more theology, and taken them to more movies or zoos or football games.  I wish I had encouraged them more, been stricter, been more lenient, handled my anger better and been more present at home at their school or in their rooms.

The list could go on and on.

The good news for me (and maybe for you) is this; I’m still a dad and have time to learn and grow.  Also, God is faithful.  He’s good to do his work in us and in our kids many times in spite of us.

As the sun is setting on time with my kids here are a few things I’ve things I’ve been thinking.  (sorry about all the “p’s”)


Parenting isn’t about finishing with a perfect product it’s about a process filled with pain and joy, victory and failure.  Much of my parenting experience has been about what God wants to do in me as much as about forming the hearts and minds of my children.  At the end of the day it kind of seems like they’ve taught me as much or more than I’ve taught them.

Parenting is a journey and perhaps God is more concerned about our faithfulness in the process than the perfection of our kids.


It’s so important.  My daughter is a senior in high school.  One of the highlights of my week is taking her to school (that’s why we haven’t given her a car).  She’s kind of quiet in the morning and many times there are as little as 10 words spoken as we drive through bustling Flower Mound.  But we’re together.  I’m present with her.  One day a week we stop at Starbucks on the way to grab some coffee.  She talks, I listen.  Presence.

My two oldest sons are in college in Georgia.  Presence with them is very different.  It usually involves long conversations on the phone talking about the deep important matters of life, Notre Dame football.  I know, not that important, but we’re present together.


More than ever before I’m committed to going before the throne of God on behalf of my kids.  As my time with them becomes less, the greatest impact I can have on their lives is to cry out to God on their behalf.  This isn’t meant to be over simplified or over spiritualized, it’s just true.  More than anything else I want my sons to grow to be men who love Jesus and my daughter to be passionate for Him.   Not much else matters.


There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m a less then perfect parent.  In fact, sometimes I just simply wasn’t that good.  But there’s hope for me and each of us who are navigating through the chaotic but beautiful journey of parenting. 

God is faithful!