12.22.2010

out of office reply

i love Josh Griffin's creative out of office replies, and how he inspires the rest of us to create some fun from an otherwise boring office practice. here's my out of office reply as we're away in pittsburgh:

Cory is currently out of the office right now because he's spreading some holiday cheer with some family in Pittsburgh. He would love to respond to your email right away, but can't because he's roasting chestnuts by an open fire and trying to maneuver his way under the mistletoe with his wife, Shanna.

He will most likely respond to your email when he returns, unless you send him 10 or more emails over Christmas break. There then might be a chance he won't respond to any of them just to teach you a lesson.

Merry Christmas!

12.20.2010

for fellow eagles fans everywhere... yesterday was a day to remember!!!
it was loud in our home ...to say the least.



camel wash

thanks Jill

12.18.2010

mariska enjoying the snow

we don't have tons of snow here at our place because the wind drifts it away, but mariska is having fun nonetheless.



12.13.2010

random h-man happenings

- back on thanksgiving day i blogged a random list of things i'm thankful for, one of which was a furnace that works and heat in our home. i thought i was thankful for that then, but now i REALLY am. since then, a whole new circuit board, pressure switch, and blower motor have been replaced after it stopped working two different times (all covered under warranty). after being without "furnace heat" for the last couple days we're REALLY thankful for it now!

- if you live in the greece area, you really should get your christmas tree from green acres. they should give me a deal next year for advertising for them (to all 3 of you readers out there lol). they are always so friendly, even when you pick the most frigid saturday of the year to pick out your tree. after pointing it out, it's not long and they've already got it tied to the top of the car. they even have a hotdog stand there to satisfy your pregnant craving wife, not that i would know or anything.

- really enjoying the "rediscovering christmas" bible reading plan from You Version. shanna and i decided to read it together this year (although we're a bit behind right now). if you're looking for a new reading plan as the new year rolls around, be sure to check out this site. their plans are different than the usual linear ones, and some are pretty unconventional. and they're starting to really tap into the social networking part of it all that can foster an even better experience.

- there's gotta be few teams in the NFL i detest more than the cowboys, and it was so great to see the 'birds beat em last night! VICKtory!

- speaking of the NFL, did you hear about this jet's coach caught on camera tripping a player as he ran down the sideline? to his credit he did apologize afterwards. i think this is an example of how good leadership sometimes is being humble enough to admit when you're wrong. not sure if the jets will keep this guy, but my guess is that he's the one coach on the squad LEAST likely to make that mistake in the future.

- had our 20 week ultrasound today for the baby. we are super grateful and thankful that the baby is growing and developing well, according to the tech has a "beautiful, beautiful spine", is 11 ounces, and the heart rate is right on target. the whole thing still feels so surreal and miraculous at the same time. oh...and it's a GURRRRLLLLLLLL!!!

11.25.2010

my thanksgiving list

so i'm gonna try something new to help me connect with thanksgiving this year - i'm gonna "free write" for 10 straight minutes anything and everything that comes to mind that i'm thankful for right now. no editing or correcting after the fact... just writing everything that comes to mind.

and

ready

set

go!

life, joy, shanna, technology, our home, heat, a furnace that works, a roof that keeps out rain, 2 cars that run, lakeshore, a GREAT church culture to serve in, our friends, parents who help and serve without thinking, the new baby on the way, that the nursery is done, my marriage, that we're still together, friends, shoes, clean drinking water, health, that my teeth don't hurt even though i haven't been to the dentist in a LONG time, success, prosperous year, that our bills have been paid, enough food to eat every day this year, that i've never gone hungry, for mozambique and our friends there, for our students, for our adult leadership team, for pastor vince, Christ and his sacrifice for my sins, that he opened my eyes and drew me to Himself, confidence and stability, the leadership summit, mariska, a healthy pregnancy so far, God's sovereignty, good relations with parents in our ministry, flower city work camp, college loans paid off, my salary, shanna's photography skills, date nights, our yard, lawnmower that works, that i can breathe, for my youth group growing up, for BBC, francis chan, doug fields, josh griffin, todd bush, colin smith, bill higley, joe schlaegel, bill hybels, frank deluccio, the rest of the church staff, good neighbors, a quiet and peaceful street, awesome view from our living room, for the OBX vacations, for the cabin in VA, common ground services, new building at LCC and youth rooms, coffee, mark, mom, dad, mom2, dad2, alaina, brandon, grant, anna, leigh, joseph, aneila, and all the the other family members, for a slower pace in life, more balance and better decisions, for spiritual growth this past year, for the website done, for the chance to go to SYMC in march, christ's unconditional love, the hope in the future, that one day He'll come back, and that one day He'll make all things right in this world.

11.23.2010

new church building

just got absolutely blown away at something - check this out!!! it's pictures of the new church building for the Savane church plant in mozambique. i had the privilege of preaching there 2 years ago on our first trip, and it was still the grass building when we visited. i still remember hiking out in the tall grass with the church leader after the service as he showed us the plot of ground they were hoping to build on in the near future. how amazing to now see the completion of the building and the continuing of God's work there in savane!

we have so much to be thankful for!

11.19.2010

francis chan on a balance beam

saw the video below posted on f-book by my cousin hannah - so powerful! and i think it touches on a lot of what shanna blogged about yesterday. enjoy!

11.18.2010

Acceptable?

WORRY; verb
  1. be worried, concerned, anxious, troubled, or uneasy; I worry about my job;
  2. be concerned with; I worry about my grades;
  3. disturb the peace of mind of; afflict with mental agitation or distress;
  4. be on the mind of; I worry about the second Germanic consonant;
  5. lacerate by biting; the dog worried his bone;
*Definitions by WordNet


I've been thinking a lot about worry lately...  since we've found out about our pregnancy I've been worrying like crazy.  Not that I didn't have worries related to our adoption; I did.  But, there are so many things with this baby that are within my "control" (haha!).  Such as, what foods I eat or don't eat...  if I exercise or not... choosing to deliver naturally vs. all those wonder drugs...  

Then I realized this worrying could potentially NEVER END!!!  In fact - extreme intensification is to be expected.  I'm irreversibly, unconditionally in love with this little human being.  And loving someone means worrying about that person, right?

BUT - the sticking point for me is this: it shouldn't be par for the course!  Worry is sin.  So, why do we laugh it off and pretend that it is okay?  Why is worry an "acceptable" sin.  We tout the evils of drinking - but where in the Bible does it ever say, DO NOT DRINK?  (don't get drunk - yes! Don't drink - hardly.)  And yet, it clearly says, DO NOT WORRY (Matthew 6:31, 34 and Luke 12:22, 21:13) or Do NOT BE ANXIOUS ABOUT ANYTHING (Philippians 4:6).

Then, I began to wonder what other "acceptable" sins do we have?  How about self-image issues?  For a woman to admit contentment or pleasure regarding her physical appearance seems irreverent and insensitive to all women around her.  Every woman around her feels she's just boastful and arrogant.  And gossip...  don't even get me started about gossip!

Ugh.  The worst part of all of these issues is that I have found them acceptable - even pious at times!  And it has been that way for so long, that the roots of this junk is wound in and around everything inside of me.  There is no yanking it out without pain and awkwardness and even derision.  

And, I'm already worrying about it.  Frustrated that I know I'm going to fail!  (Because, I'm a perfectionist, don't ya know!)  I won't even make it through the rest of today without worrying about something...         

11.16.2010

youth ministry still changes lives

i recently read a gripping article in the latest issue of GROUP magazine about a man named Chris Keith. if you need a reminder of how youth ministry really does change lives and gives hope to hurting young people, read on. i'd love to get him to speak to our teens some day and share his story...

you can read the full article originally posted by CNN here. here's an excerpt, but head there for the rest:

When Chris was five years old his distraught father attempted to kill him, shooting him in the head after he'd already suffocated his mother and shot his brother to death. After Chris appeared to be dead, his father then committed suicide. Even though medics on the scene declared everyone in the house dead, Chris somehow survived his terrible wounds. Later, during his recovery, he was told by relatives that his family had died in a car accident and that he was the only survivor. When he was 12 his grandparents took him to a counselor to reveal the truth to him. In the process they pulled out newspaper clippings that described the crime.

He carried one of those newspaper clippings in his wallet, and slowly retreated from friendships. He was a loner all through middle and high school. When he was 14 he summoned the courage to show the clippings to his youth minister, who cried as he read what had happened to Chris. "It was amazing to me because I had never seen a man cry before," he says. "It made me realize somebody cared about me." Just as the youth pastor was finishing the article, Chris' best friend walked in - he handed him the article and watched as he read and cried.

Chris says his youth minister and his best friend, as well as his grandparents and his church, helped him navigate his anger, grief, and doubt.

11.02.2010

overused statistics

warning - rant coming!

i'm so sick and tired of hearing the statistic of teens who are plugged into church / youth group as a teen and then they vanish from the scene after graduation. if you've been around the youth ministry world for long, you've heard it a thousand different times (and the percentage usually gets higher every time). i agree... it's a major issue we need to address and fight. and that we all can do things to better equip our students for the big transition into young adulthood. our youth ministries need to evaluate and tweak their transition initiatives more, and our adult ministries need to stop talking about being more relevant to the emerging generation and actually be it.

but i'm a little troubled by how many are using this statistic.

more and more seem to be using it to sell a product... whether it's a book, or a dvd set, or a small group curriculum...it's all about the product in the end. just today i got a letter in the mail promoting 2 new christian video games, and in paragraph 2 they inserted the classic quote from josh mcdowell and the age old statistic. maybe i'm just naive and ignorant, but i hardly think an alternative video game will keep our 20-somethings coming to church.

more and more seem to be using it to sell a paradigm... that the whole way we approach and do youth ministry is wrong. attractional vs. missional... family ministry vs. youth ministry... large group preaching vs. experiential learning. yada yada yada ...out with the old and in with the new.

again, i do believe we need to consistently evaluate and tweak our ministries so that we can position our students in the best possible way. but i'm just tired of people flinging this statistic around to get something marginally related to go their way. stop it, people!

10.31.2010

sunday night randomness

baptism
today was a really cool day. we cancelled the youth services this morning so that the teens could join the adults for a special sunday baptism service. we had 3 teens get dunked today, and it's always so exciting to see young people so publicly and unashamedly declare their desire to follow God. the picture below was snapped by a family member of one of the students just before i got to baptize him! so cool! hearing the stories of life change and how God has turned people around never gets old. the student below is one of the guys in my small group, and it's been such a joy to see God at work in him!

church invites
and when today couldn't get any better, a guy at church bumps into me, tells me that i probably don't remember him (which i didn't) but that he remembers me handing him a church invite flyer in the mall over 2 years ago. he said today was his 3rd sunday at Lakeshore and wanted to thank me for giving it to him. he said he was down in the dumps that day, but the simple hello and invitation changed everything for him. i can't wait to hear his whole story!

football
watching the steelers vs. saints game right now and amazed at how goofy this year's nfl season is shaping up to be. huge upsets all over the league - the lions beating the redskins... the raiders back in it... the browns of all teams humiliating the reigning superbowl champs last week?!?!? the only predictable thing is the pathetic bills, and i'm so glad i don't have to identify with them!

family time
been able to spend the last 2 weekends with our extended family, and it's been great. 2 weekends ago got to head to lancaster, PA with my parents and brother for a showing of joseph at sight and sound, and then to pittsburgh, PA this weekend for a quick trip to see shanna's side of the family tree. always good to reconnect and hang out.

election day
i really need to do some research on our local political candidates before election day tuesday. i so am not into politics, though i'm thankful and grateful for democracy. i'm not one of those guys that finds natural enjoyment in talking politics or government policies. all i know at this point is pretty much what i've seen from the TV ads, and they make everyone look like schmucks.

10.26.2010

new website for the student ministry

at the end of last week, we finally were able to go live with a brand new website for our student ministry, and i'm so excited that this project is finally done! it's taken up so much of my time and consisted of tons of emails between us and bridge element (i mentioned them in a previous post), in addition to gathering photos, bios, and crafting the 33 page content map. praying that it'll simply be a tool for our students to point their friends to who are interested in checking it out.



10.20.2010

this is one doodle that can't be un-did, homeskillet

yup...

shanna's pregnant!

it was quite a shock to both of us when we found out back in late august. at that time, things were in full swing with the adoption. we told our social worker right away, and still offered our continued support and commitment to the birthmom we were matched with if she still wanted to go through with the adoption. since that didn't end up panning out, per agency policy the adoption is now on hold until sometime after baby #1 is born. God's timing is funny sometimes.

we are overjoyed and ecstatic to say the least. and at least for now i think we're past the confusion stage. as you can imagine initially there were all the questions like "where was this 3 years ago???" and "why now of all times???", etc. ...that doesn't mean we weren't/aren't grateful (we're overjoyed and ecstatic)...it was just a lot to swallow at the time.

here's what we know:
1. medicine and biology have a place... but ultimately God is the one who opens and closes doors.
2. God's sovereignty (in all areas of life) is bigger than we can fathom.
3. statistically, only 4% of couples struggling w/ infertility who engage in the adoption process then go on to conceive.
4. it's hard now to be on the other side and tell our friends who are still struggling to get pregnant.

everyone seems healthy and doing well. we saw the little heart beat at an ultrasound a few weeks ago! shanna is currently at the 12 week point, and the due date is May 5th.

wow

10.15.2010

make war

last sunday we started a new series called "make war" - all on spiritual warfare and the need to make war against the world, the flesh, and the devil around each of us. i've been so excited about the response and how many of our students are jumping on board and being motivated to fight the stuff around them that needs to go.

i'm not sure if you're into rap - i like it every now and then. one of our students tipped me off to this song by Tedashii and i love it! i love the video that was made with it and john piper's quote at the start of it. enjoy!

10.13.2010

the church of the future

just saw this post by scott rubin, the middle school guy at willow creek. i love envisioning the scene he describes. here's a portion of the post...head there for the rest.

After our pastor spoke, we closed our service with a final song. And because the focus was not so much on the past 35 years… but on what God might want to do through our church in the next 35 years… the adult band & vocalists & choir that had led us in the first part of the service were replaced by teenagers at the instruments and microphones. But cooler than that… after the first verse of the song, all of the students were invited to come to the front of the room for the rest of the worship. For the next few minutes, the stage filled with teenagers.

10.12.2010

balance...such a tightrope

had some great conversations lately with some youth ministry friends from other churches in the area about something we all struggle with... balance. i feel like we should start our monthly gatherings with: "hi, my name is ______ and i'm completely out of balance." actually the more i talk with others it seems like most people in life struggle with this tightrope of balancing work and personal life, but it seems that for some reason it gets really ugly when you're in ministry.

here's what i currently strive to do to keep us in balance, though even this isn't a complete fix:
- force myself to take a day off every monday no matter how heavy the load
- turn the phone off on mondays so i stay away emotionally by not checking emails, voicemails, or texts.
- aim for only 2 nights a week out for ministry/work stuff... 3 nights max
- on the occasional 4 night week that is inevitable every few months, we get revenge the next week by being away only 1 night, etc.
- home by 4/4:30 on away nights, and home by 5:30/6 on non-away nights.
- constant reviewing of the personal & ministry calendars with shanna. the 4 night weeks are more bearable when they aren't surprises.


10.09.2010

i think i ate one of my contacts

"contacts" meaning eye contacts...not a person's contact information. it's kind of funny actually. last night shanna and i were doing dinner (spaghetti, salad, and garlic break...fyi) and we decided to pray before we ate. we don't always pray beforehand - sometimes we thank God for the food afterwards. actually sometimes we forget altogether. but ANYWAYS we were praying and i was rubbing my eyes, and apparently the contact in my right eye fell out during this "moving" prayer time. i didn't even notice that it wasn't there anymore until a little later. after looking for it all over the place (like trying to find waldo in a candy cane shop), we've concluded that it fell in the spaghetti and down it went.

darn.

9.17.2010

networked with others

one of the things i love and deeply value right now is the network of youth pastors/leaders i'm involved with in the greece/rochester area. every month (usually the 2nd tuesday of the month) we gather together for lunch at a panera or pizza joint, etc. and just catch up on life and ministry together. it's one of the most "safe" environments for us to participate in through the "dangerous" world of student ministry. we share updates on our lives personally and professionally, and pray for each other in between lunches. i used to feel that i was too busy for this, but i'm so glad that i jumped in because i now recognize it as a priority. this past tuesday we met and it was so encouraging to see the realness of the others around the table, and the group encouragement to them. i feel so blessed to be a part of this network and thankful to God for allowing us to work together!

9.15.2010

always enough

ever have one of those songs that you know so well and have heard a million times, but all of a sudden it means the world to you and is so helpful to bring you back to truth? i was driving yesterday and was listening to "always enough" by casting crowns... and it ripped me apart. it has big meaning for shanna and i right now and i'm thankful for how it has helped center our hearts this week.

Your love is peace to the broken
faith for the widow
hope for the orphan
and strength for the weak
Your love is the anthem of nations
rings out through the ages
and You're always enough for me

below are some "random" pictures that we took in mozambique...


9.14.2010

making a difference

below is a flyer we just put out to our students this past sunday - it was created by justin lane - one of the 5 students we took to mozambique with us this summer. it's so cool to see his passion for reaching people's real needs here in rochester, and his leadership now among his peers to see that become a reality. can't wait to see what God does this year through him!

9.10.2010

new fall calendars

shanna just finished the final draft of our student ministry's fall calendar for this year! i'm so excited about this new design (we totally stole the concept and idea from Josh Griffin and his team - their summer calendar can be found here and their fall calendar here).

i love how it draws attention to our big 3 programs, and also highlights one big event. hopefully it will help our team and i to pour our energies this fall into a few things and resist the urge to add more.

8.30.2010

golfing

i love mondays because it means we get to shut off the phone, step away from the pressures of ministry for a day, and connect together. this morning, shanna and i decided to do breakfast at panera (an amazing place that gives away their left over bread every day to people in need) in the morning. if you haven't had their cinnamon crunch bagels... you really need to try them! pure awesomeness...

after our plans for the rest of the day got juggled and shuffled a little, we decided to do a quick 9-holes. i played (if that's what you call it) while shan kept score and snapped pictures. how did i do? all i can say is that i threw away the scorecard!

8.22.2010

lcc joint service 2010

today has got to be one of my favorite sundays here at lakeshore! each year for one service in the summer we join up with other area churches to visibly and publicly proclaim that we are united in Christ (we all preach salvation by grace through faith in Christ) and that we are not divided by cultural, ethnic, or racial boundaries. it's always such a refreshing experience!

today we shut down our youth services to make sure the teens didn't miss this. we were joined by 3 predominantly african-american churches: ark of jesus ministries, new way christian fellowship, and victory fellowship, as well as 1 messianic jewish congregation: Shema Y'Israel.

i snagged the video below of one of the opening songs - it's "I Know Who I Am" and was a song that our mozambique team sang a lot when we were in country a few weeks ago. it felt like we were back there...and it was all so right and good.

8.19.2010

3 square meals

warning: rant coming...

people have been asking us all the time how the mozambique trip went... and one of my "short answers" is that it has changed the way i see everything. about 5 minutes ago i found a good example of that.

i was reading matthew 6:9-13 (the lord's prayer)... first in the new international version:

"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'"

but then i read it in the message (which i often like to do in order to get a different "feel" for the text):

"Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."

and now i'm angry. at what point did we as americans develop such an ethno-centric rendering of God's Word that we move the concept of "daily bread" to "3 square meals"?!?!?! truth be told...a lot of us americans (myself included) would do well to have a few less square meals every day so that we come to the realization that we actually can still survive, like many around the world. i mean, wow... does this mean that if i only get 2 full meals today that God's somehow not meeting my needs?!?!?!

i understand the need to contextualize the Bible into each specific culture and language - i'm a fan of Bible translation...but i guess my question is: have we gone too far with this phrase in the english... so much so that we actually have removed ourselves to a place that the MAJORITY of the world simply can't comprehend?

8.17.2010

pillow fight

we were gonna do this on the flight back from mozambique, but we were all too tired...

8.14.2010

book recommendation: UNchristian


a few weeks ago a friend had suggested the book UNCHRISTIAN by David Kinnaman to read. it's been a great read, and while i'm only part way in so far, it's already identified with much of my own experiences and conversations with people in the 16-29 age range. if you're at all passionate about reaching this emerging generation for Christ, this book will be well worth the 10 bucks.

8.13.2010

a man named ZITO

God tends to use people in similar life experiences to sometimes have the greatest impact on us. On last year's trip to Mozambique, God introduced me to a man named Manuel, and he had a profound impact on me as the leader of the church plant out in the "bush" in a place called "Savane". I thought I worked hard as a pastor, until I met him and understood all the "extra" items on his plate each week.

This year the Lord introduced me to a man named Zito, the leader of one of the other church plants that I can't pronounce or spell. Me and a couple other team members visited their service one Sunday after attending church at the Villa. He was such a good preacher and spoke with such clarity and conviction. Lots and lots of gifts inside him, and I could sense a real heart to lead the people in authentic ways.

But it wasn't till after the service that I connected the Zito I just met to the Zito I read about a few months back on a CRI newsletter. Less than a year ago, he lost his wife to the dreaded malaria, and is still grieving that loss. I can't even begin to imagine the pain and devastation of losing your spouse, especially during the sometimes lonely times that church leadership hands you. He's now raising his 3 small children, keeping up on the house, all while continuing to lead and feed his church.

We stopped at his home once during the trip to pray for him, his family, and the church. And I lost it. Throughout the entire lengthy prayer session I couldn't keep my eyes dry. I don't understand why God allows good people like Zito's wife - a person "breathing so much life" into so many women and children in the area - to just pass away so young...and why He allows so many Americans who don't give a rip about Him to live a long life till their 80's.

I know it goes both ways in reality, but it still feels unfair. And I'm sure there's some tidy theological answer...that's not what I'm looking for. It's just tough to meet him knowing the pain he's enduring and the loss the church is still trying to compensate for.

processing from a place of hope

We returned on Tuesday of last week from our 3 week trip to Mozambique, fresh with great memories and at the same time heartbreaking experiences. On Thursday and Friday we attended the Leadership Summit at our church, an annual leadership training event that always encourages us and challenges our thinking. I was definitely curious this year to see how the moments of disequilibrium would pan out with the two events so close to each other.

One of the speakers, Christine Cain, spoke of her great work rescuing girls trapped in the sex trafficking / slave trade. At the beginning I just wanted to walk out. My emotions were about at their breaking point. I think I had come to a point where I saw so much pain, poverty, sickness, and hunger in Mozambique that I didn't want to hear about more injustice and insurmountable pain around the world. It just seemed too overwhelming and hopeless. But I kept listening.

She said something profound that has freed my mind and heart to process all of this. She was talking about her own process when she first got started in her work, and she identified with the same thoughts I was thinking. She threw out the number 27 million... 27 million girls involved against their will in the sex trade, most of whom don't make it out alive. All for money and to please a bunch of horny men. She admitted that the number just seemed too great...what can I, one person possibly do to help 27 million?!?!? And that's exactly the question I've been asking too.

And then she challenged us to not look at the big number "27 million" anymore. Let it motivate you to get involved. But once you sign on to get your hands dirty, set the number aside. Because the reality is that there are 27 million "1's" within that number. Individuals. Each with a unique name and face and personality. She shared how when we look at the big number we depersonalize the need and remove ourselves from a place of hope. But when we look at the "1's" it gives us hope that we really can make a difference.

I don't know about you but that changes the game entirely! I immediately thought of all the "1's" in the project in Mozambique who are being fed, clothed, educated, and discipled. And it's given me a framework in which to process through. Over tne next few weeks I hope to record some thoughts about some of the "1's" we met in Mozambique. Lives are truly being saved and individuals are really being delivered from the generational clutches of poverty. But you can't look at the big numbers to see it.

8.05.2010

messed up

it's hard to believe that just 2 days ago we got back into rochester after spending 3 weeks in mozambique. in about an hour the leadership summit will begin here at the church. and tomorrow night as soon as it's done we'll be taking off for a week of vacation in VA. i'm feeling all kinds of emotions this morning and i feel really messed up...

i feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to not only have so much ministry training (like the leadership summit) available to me all the time, but even more so to be on staff at a church that hosts this high caliber event (and to have a boss that would MAKE me attend if i didn't want to). this event is actually called the "global" leadership summit because the feed is being sent to sites all over the world... but my heart still breaks for the many places like mutondo, mozambique - where leadership training like this may never touch. maybe it doesn't need to ??? i'll never forget meeting with the men and church leaders at the church plant there in mutondo: their questions, their eagerness to learn, and their resolve to lead their village to Christ.

every now and then i'll be driving down the road or doing something normal and my eyes will tear up as i think about fernando, captain, afonzo, ercilio, augustino, ohmi, zito, manuel... and so many others. i miss our friends in mozambique so bad right now... and words can't describe the bond that's been forged. will i see them again? i hope that our trip validated their existence and encouraged them to continue on in their great work and to not give up.

on vacation i hope to be able to blog a lot more about what we saw and experienced in mozambique, as well as some of my takeaways from the leadership summit. hopefully that will help in the process of sorting all these emotions out in my head. it's hard right now.

7.27.2010

kids shouldn't get HIV

Today I visited El Shaddai - the elementary school here in Dondo, Mozambique. It's a private school that is many ways the backbone of the entire Ray of Light project. As children receive an education they are more likely to escape the poverty around them and change the culture. They are doing a great work. Our student ministry back home just started supporting 3 children here in Mozambique who are or will be receiving an education at El Shaddai as a result. So it was with great interest that I hung around the school today. No agenda or plan...just to be there and pray for the kids as they walked by.
About an hour into my visit and I was asked to pray for some of the kids who the teachers felt needed extra prayer. So in they came... One with some aggressive behavior issues, one with some learning difficulties, and then some more with behavior problems. I introduced myself...we conversed a little, and then I prayed for them.
Then they brought in a child and they told me to pray for him because he has HIV. With compassion in my eyes I tried to converse and let him know I loved him more than he could maybe imagine. That I wasn't afraid of him. Inside I was breaking apart. I wish I could've walked out and taken him home with me.
I struggled through the prayer, but I could barely finish without crying. Kids shouldn't get HIV.
It was a hard sight to see and I'm not sure I'll ever finish processing it. I'll never forget his name or the look in his eyes. This one may keep me up tonight.

7.07.2010

7.01.2010

Lord, please don't ever make me a senior pastor

that's a prayer that i've prayed for over 5 years now ever since i stepped into youth ministry and saw all that senior pastors "really" put up with (including us youth pastors that can be hard to handle at times). i'm thankful for a great senior pastor and i love his leadership in my life, both personally and professionally.

i saw this video promo for NYWC this year and made me think of all this... i'm more sold on this other conference, but this video is a 10 all around!

6.29.2010

why i don't like cats

this morning mariska was outside barking and growling like crazy - non stop. when i went out to check, i noticed that there was a cat laying down underneath a car in the neighbor's yard...staring right at mariska. she wasn't afraid...just nonchalantly laying there, thinking that the dog couldn't reach her.

well then i took mariska off her lead, and started walking towards the cat. haha. it didn't take long and the cat ran away. i so wanted to just let mariska go and have some fun.

this is why i don't like cats.

6.27.2010

Randomness

Life always seems to be quite crazy and blogging lately has been put on hold. Tonight we're finally enjoying a quiet evening after a busy weekend, so I've found a moment to jot down some random happenings.

- last Monday we had our final home study meeting for the adoption. Our social worker came over to the house to make sure everything was safe. I don't think our home ever looked so nice, in large part due to Shanna's nerves approaching this meeting, but I'm continuing to learn that while the home is just a small building to me, it tends to be way more to the wife. We are so grateful to both of our families for taking long drives and overnights to fix sump issues, paint cabinets, landscaping and yard work, and so many other little things that left big impressions. One of the coolest things about the meeting was when we went through the adoption survey again. We had done this same survey last fall at our first meeting, but it was cool to do it again because it shows us how much we've grown/changed in our feelings of openness in adoption and thoughts towards the birth family. I never thought we'd end up here, and I'm so excited for how this new outlook will change everything. For more info on the adoption you can check out our other blog on the right sidebar.

- right now I'm typing this on our new iPad. What an amazing piece of technology and what an amazing blessing to ministry (and it's just plain fun). My brother decided to give it to us out of the blue as an early Christmas present. I love his generosity and giving spirit. We are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for.

- it's just over two weeks until we hop on the plane for Mozambique with 6 others from the Student Ministry. I love this group of teens and we've grown so close together over the last 9 months. We had our last training meeting this afternoon, and then celebrated together by doing dinner at The Plum Garden - an amazing hibachi restaurant. So fun. The support from the church has been truly astounding, and it really feels like this is a Lakeshore trip...which is so good on so many levels.

- just came off of our annual all-nighter event... We link up with a few other area youth groups to put on an amazing night of fun, and with our new facilities this year's was really cool. But as an adult leader...I can't stand em. It takes so long to recover from them and I always feel like I'm dragging afterwards. Maybe this was the "thorn In the flesh" that Paul was talking about (back in his youth ministry days).

- just started reading Love Is An Orientation - a book by Andrew Marin that I've been eyeing for a long time. It's a great read for anyone wanting to embrace the LGBT community with love, grace, and compassion. Actually, it's a must read for any Christian because it forces us to stop making excuses and proof texting our arguments, and truly begin to love people the way Jesus loved.

6.17.2010

on edge

i tweeted the other day that i was feeling a little "on edge" and i wasn't quite sure why. it's probably just me and my own issues ... maybe a little overwhelmed with all the pressures of life right now. everything is good and we are beyond blessed...it's not that. i could write a million blog posts on all the amazing things we have to be thankful for right now! i guess i've just been disappointed in some people, frustrated with others, and just plain sad for others.

but then something surfaced today that made me even more on edge, and somewhere in my spirit i know my "on edge" feelings a couple days ago are somehow tied to this thing that surfaced. today i received this in a message:

I brought a friend with me [to church...] I know he could use some guidance. Not 1 person even said hello to him. I just don't get it.

i've been the guy plenty of times before that walked by and never said hello. and i guess that may be why this is so frustrating. but sometimes i think we forget how desperately in need the people are that we pass by everyday. the people who come to our church, the teens who come to our youth stuff and wear fake smiles. i'm tired of them not getting noticed, and walking away thinking the church doesn't care. and i'm tired of feeling the pressure as a church staffer to meet the needs and pick up the pieces that the church people should just naturally do anyways.

i'm not angry...just a little on edge.

6.10.2010

Camera Broken...

After several unfortunate incidents, my camera is finally out for the count.  We bought her last summer because 1. I started falling in love with photography and my point-and-shoot made me want to cry.   2.  My sister's wedding  3.  Mozambique  4. Future work from home job possibility.

Thousands of pictures have already been taken.  Most photographically & artistically bad.  But, my improvement was obvious and incredibly affirming.  I also loved to hand her off to one of our teens or some other adult and let them shoot for awhile.  First, because I love seeing their POV through the lens and second, my little Nikon D60 can make even the most inexperienced photographer feel really good.  :)  She was an amazing piece of equipment that just knew how to do her thing with very little direction.

I took her to Rowe Photo today to have them take a look.  The guy took her all apart and fiddled with buttons, etc (pretty much exactly what I did here at home though a little more confidently) and then pronounced her issues beyond his scope of expertise.  The next step is sending her back to Nikon.  Getting her fixed will cost almost as much as what it cost to buy her.  Actually, I could probably find a body for only slightly more than what they want to fix the thing.

Well, I'm off to eat some more chocolate and try to accomplish something today other a successful pity party.  

5.26.2010

life...

...doesn't always turn out the way we expect.  At least that is what I've always heard.  But, I think the truth is that life NEVER turns out the way we expect and most of the time it doesn't turn out the way we were hoping.  Reality check is that life is hard and it hurts.

Growing up, we hear cliches  like, "You can be anything you want to be." or "If you dream it, you can be it".  Or that things aren't important but family is...  Well, what happens when family disappoints?  Or when "family" is a dream that just doesn't happen.  

Or what about all those dreams that are deemed good - and we fight for?  We do the right things our whole life?  We try so hard to do our best (not be the best - just do our best) and we make hard decisions because they'll be worth it later.  Or we do everything in our power to keep peace and balance and we strive with all our heart to make those we love happy.  

...only to find out that life isn't a white picket fence and lazy summer afternoons.  Life is pain and heart-ache.  Life is hunger and sickness.  Life is broken trust and mangled relationships.  

We try to insulate ourselves and avoid any kind of pain, heck even just discomfort.  We bury hurts and try to move on.  We do the best we can, but it just isn't good enough.

Then the darkness comes.  He worms his way in, not content with extrinsic crap. Oh, no - he slinks into our thoughts.  And there we lay in our brokenness, overwhelmed by loneliness and hopelessness...  
"You're the only one." the darkness whispers, "No one else has dealt with this burden.  They wouldn't understand anyways.  This thing - its so disgusting and all-consuming - you're so disgusting and high-maintenance.  You're all alone.  There's no way out..."
All around me is pain.  People in pain.  People hurting because of other people.  People drowning in their sins.  People are drowning because of someone else's sin.  The pervading darkness leaves me gagging.

But - in the middle of this weakness, I realize I am NOT alone.  That YOU are not alone.  What you are feeling and experiencing - someone else has also experienced.  

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lost heart."  ~Hebrews 12:2-3


5.14.2010

adoption through facebook

as facebook continues to arm wrestle other social media platforms (and leading the pack, btw)... i recently came to the realization that in a normal "work" day for me i'm using f-b00k almost just as much as i am microsoft outlook & email, if not more. anyways, we found a pretty interesting story of a couple who developed an adoption plan through of all things...facebook. fun stuff!

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcwashington.com/video.

4.27.2010

Flower City Work Camp - another vid

one of the other youth pastors in the area (and a new great friend of mine) made the video below for his church to recap last week. if you're wondering what flower city work camp is, he does a great job painting a picture of it. thanks jonathan!

4.24.2010

FCWC 2010 Quick Highlight Vid

vacation

on friday (less than a week away!) we head to the outer banks for 10 days... and we are beyond excited! one of the things i'm really looking forward to is the chance to break away from everything ministry related and do some personal "soul care" while away. i feel like i spend so much time caring for the souls of others...which is great. but these times away are absolutely critical for my own soul in order to keep me in the game.

many vacations i go with stacks of "ministry" and "leadership" books, and while that's good - for me for this vacation i'm choosing to purposefully leave those ones behind this time.

here's what i'm trying to do instead:

1. read angels: who they are and how they help by david jeremiah.

2. purchase and listen to a bunch of new worship music on the 12 hour car ride - some from hillsong, crowder, and my new favorite: tim timmons.

3. read, journal, and study through any of the following: psalms, philippians, 1 timothy, 2 timothy, titus, or philemon.

4. read some of my utmost for his highest by oswald chambers and the pursuit of God by a. w. tozer.

5. carve out moments of solitude - on the beach... or on the deck... talking to God... listening more and contemplating his words.

6. fast from email, texting, facebook, twitter, etc.; my phone will be off completely all 10 days - i may not even bring it with me. it's gonna feel weird, but it's right.

7. have lots of fun... i'm hoping to rent a segway and race it around town (and envision myself as paul blart); we'll have 2 bikes strapped to the back of the saturn so we can go biking while down there; possibly do some hang-gliding in kitty hawk; lots of sunsets on the beach with shanna; and spend lots of time with the bush's & co. before they head back to mozambique.!


4.17.2010

stuck in newark

we recently did a series with the teens called "mood ring" and it was so fun - all about our emotions and how we can better manage them. on one of the weeks we showed the clip below. you may have seen it already... travelers were stuck in an airport due to a security lockdown after the holidays...and as you can imagine tensions were rising and people were getting frustrated. the mood in the room was getting tense.

but then one person (a christ-follower, by the way) happened to be among the crowd. he grabbed his guitar and started playing 'hey jude' while everyone else sang along. instantly changed the entire mood in the room!


this guy is actually the guy who wrote "savior please" ...pretty cool!


4.13.2010

why there's a day of silence

i'm pretty far behind on my bible reading plan for this year, but still making progress - which for me is key. anyways, i'm at the part in numbers where moses out of the blue is in a funk, and grabs his stick and starts beating a rock. it's kinda funny when you think about it, and i think we all have been there at times. if we were in his shoes we'd probably want to beat the snot out of a rock too.

for me one of the things that always makes my blood boil is when i myself and others do a lot of "truth-talking" without a lot of "grace-walking". as a church we're wading through some of these waters right now, and all i can say is that it's getting way messier than it needs to.

one specific area where The Church could use a little less truth and a bit more grace is in the area of how she interacts with the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. this friday, thousands of schools across the country will participate in a day of silence... and i have to wonder how much of these "days" have been prompted by christians speaking too much truth without enough grace.

in preparation of the day, here's a fun little exercise that might be worth your while:
1. jot down the names of every person you personally know who currently lives within the LGBT community. again...these are people you personally know, not like "i watched american idol and i know adam lambert".
2. jot down the names of every person you know who is currently considering joining the LGBT community, but maybe not very open about it yet.
3. jot down adjectives that you would use to describe your feelings for them right now as you write down their names.

i have a theory... just a "hypothesis" if you will:

i bet the more names you have down on your paper, the more gentle, loving, and grace-filled your adjectives are.

4.11.2010

thinking about trust...

been thinking about trust lately - from a bunch of different angles and situations.
it seems that when we enter into a new situation, people often "trust" you in one of 2 ways...

way #1
i will trust you until you prove yourself otherwise

way #2
i will start trusting you when you prove yourself trustworthy

i've been thinking for a while and wrestling with which one is right and which one is wrong. it very well may be one of those situations where there isn't one way that is right and one way that is wrong...perhaps.

if you think about it... we don't want our kids to live out way #1 too much, or else they'll trust any stranger that walks by and could make themselves vulnerable.

but at the same time, trusting someone until they prove otherwise gives them the benefit of the doubt, keeps you from judging, and prevents you from being called "grumpy gills"...

is there a right one or a wrong one?

i'm not sure... but i do know that in my experience the people who live out way #1 make it way easier and quicker for me to build a relationship with than people who live out way #2.

4.04.2010

easter weekend

we hope you and your family had a great easter weekend... here are a couple highlights from ours:

my parents and brother were able to come up and spend the evening with us last night... we went to dinner together, had some birthday cake, and definitely lots of good times. for my birthday, my brother got me a flip video - i had been eying these powerful little things for quite some time. it's SOOOO easy and fun to use. the video below was recorded using it! i am SO excited!

today we kicked off a brand new series in ISM called "Fake ID".... shanna made the graphics for the series.

the series is all about how we so often take on fake identifications in our life, keeping us from living from our true and real identity in Jesus Christ. we talked today about how many labels get placed on us, and the video below definitely helped to drive that point home.

4.01.2010

april fools day: a progress report

just got the following email from one of my "victims" on staff... sheer enjoyment befalls me today.

YOU ARE SOOOOO BAD. YOU KNOW I WAS SUPPOSED TO LEAVE HERE AT 1:00!!!!!!

WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT…………………………………

3.31.2010

april fools day

i get great enjoyment out of april fools day. to kick off the festivities, i decided to play a little email prank on my wonderful wife to "break her in" a day early.

here's an email from her after i pranked her:

The point of that was what exactly? Of course I'll believe soemthing from you! Jerk.

i love how blunt she is sometimes. here's my loving response:

HAHAHA - the point was to start my april fools jokes a day early on the people I love the most! LOL

if you want a really good laugh that the people at simply youth ministry played on one of their new hires, check this video out!

3.21.2010

all teens do is cause trouble...

i don't believe the above line, but i hear it from well-meaning people all the time. this weekend, the students at lakeshore proved it wrong... in fact they proved it VERY wrong!

this weekend we had an amazing group of students participate in this year's 30 hour famine, an event to raise awareness and resources to fight the global war on hunger. it's one of our stronger events...and though i feel like i've been run over by a 20-ton gorilla by the event's end, it's one that i honestly say every year was worth it all!

this year, in addition to collecting a boatload (literally) of canned goods from the homes surrounding the church to be donated to mission share (greece) and the hilton food shelter, our students and their contacts in and outside of the church raised a whopping $6,300+! these funds all go to world vision to help aid their relief efforts around the world! according to world vision, this will give 17 children the chance to see 1 more birthday!

in addition, and i'm even more excited about this one... we started something new this year at the famine. as an entire youth group, our students and leaders committed to taking on 5 children at the Ray of Light project in Mozambique as a part of CRI's Child Sponsorship Program! there are dozens of organizations pushing child sponsorship, including world vision, but the cool thing about this is that these are children in Dondo, Mozambique...individuals that we walked past last summer, and 5 special kids we will be able to see and meet this summer when we go back! AND...the 5 teens we'll be bringing on the team will G0d-willing be able to meet these kids, hug them, and shake hands with them! it's gonna mess me up so bad!

some say that all teens do is cause trouble.
today i say that teens actually are changing the world.

3.19.2010

chocolate bunnies

i love visiting creativemyk.com and i love how the artists on there freely give away their artwork for use in churches and ministries. for all the negatives we see from technology these days, there is so much good happening in the kingdom as well.

i love this image and it cracks me up every time is see it. it was created by bridge element, and even from just watching their opening promo video on their site, i'm intrigued to discover more about them...

3.16.2010

burning for the lost

logged on to facebook earlier today and noticed the post below from Heather, one of our adult leaders. profound stuff, and really challenged me. it's worth the read!

Last year Ray and I went with a bunch of fellow youth leaders to a conference in Pittsburgh and we saw a preacher named Francis Chen, he really had an impact on me. Recently I have been watching some of his sermons instead of just watching Ray sleep here in the hospital. He just blows me away. The sermon I just watched was called Holy Anguish. And it really got me to thinking about my heart and whether I anguish over the lost.

Francis spoke on Romans 9:1-3 and Paul

1 I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— 2 I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race.

He anguished so for his fellow man to know Christ to the point that he would rather go to hell himself than live with the thought that his brothers might end up in hell. Personally I know I don't want to go to hell for anyone. So I am left with do I anguish enough for those who don't know Christ? Do I weep for my family and friends who don't know Christ? Do I pray for them? And mostly do I tell them about Christ, because I can't live with the idea that might end up in hell. Or am I to embarrassed or afraid that they won't like me or reject me. Do I worry more about what people will think of me now? Or do I worry about what they will think of me if they end up in hell knowing that I knew the truth and never told them? Can I live with the idea that people I love and care about could end up in hell? Or do I anguish over them and pray for them, do I weep for them? Do I beg God for the opportunity and privilege of telling them about Christ?


And then he read Luke 16:19-24

19 "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

The rich mans agony in hell can I ignore that so blindly. Such agony that he is begging for just a drop of water to cool his tongue. Can I walk through life knowing that is what is in store for so many and not be compelled to preach God's word to everyone I know? I know the pain and sorrows of this world. And I know that hell is worse than all of that. Will I allow my pride to stand in my way because I want to be liked so badly that I would keep silent so as to not offend anyone? Or will I anguish in my heart and soul for the lost? Can I walk by a stranger on the street and not want to tell him of a God who loves them so much that He died on the cross to save them. Can I walk through life and not see the souls of the people around me? Am I merely an ostrich with its head in the sand ignoring who is around me and what is going on around me, out of fear? Will I die with the knowledge that I have done what Christ called me to do? Or will the faces of the lost haunt me because they beg for me to dip the tip of my finger in water to cool their tongue?

3.14.2010

Ever have one of those days...

So this morning...  we woke up at 7:57AM.  We were supposed to be at prayer circle at church at 7:45AM.  Then, when Cory ran downstairs to get Mariska out of her crate - he realized our basement was flooding again!  And that's when you know its gonna be a loooong day!

Overall, we had a great day with a few more minor bumps.  This Sunday we started a new series called "God wants Fruit not Nuts" where we're covering the Fruit of the Spirit.  And had our Impact Festival.  All the different ministries in the church set up tables and provide "first serve" opportunities for anyone wanting to get involved.  There was some really fantastic displays - plus a few that really made us laugh.  :)  Our Young Adults group had stand-up cardboard cut-outs of one of the guys.  Hysterical!  And kinda freaky when I walked into Cory's office after church and there were two people standing there!  (or just the cut-outs but whew!)  lol. 

We also had another Mozambique meeting at lunch today.  I've really enjoyed getting closer as a group.  We spent a lot of time laughing and just having fun.  We were missing one of the girls due to a nasty migraine, so the group felt a little incomplete - but overall, it was good.  Our new favorite game is Crud.  If you haven't played it - you should!  It doesn't take lots of coordination and it'll keep you jumping and laughing. 

When we finally got home - Cory sucked up most of the water with the sump pump and shop vac and then I mopped everything up.  Since then Cor's decided he needs a jack hammer to dig a hole in our concrete floor.  He's already priced them out and wants to pick one up tomorrow.  Thankfully, Cory's dad spoke some words of wisdom and caution...  we might hold off on extreme and permanent house-altering decisions a while longer.  Though I suppose a jack-hammer might have been some fun.

Cory's phone has officially gone off in anticipation of our day off tomorrow!  :)  So, in the words of Jack Bauer "I'm going dark!"

3.12.2010

Hope

I've been anticipating Spring since last November.  :)  There are some things I like about winter - like warm, cuddly sweaters and hot chocolate.  But, overall - I struggle more emotionally during the long winter months.  Everything just seems a little harder to do, such as walking from my front door to the car.  And the gray sky hangs so low and heavy and confining...

But, Spring! - Spring is soft dewy color and sweet whispering breeze, strawberry shortcake and skies the color of Cory's eyes.  Mud puddles and baby robin eggs, dark purple tulips and bright yellow daffodils, morning bird songs and evening tree-frog lullabies.  Spring brings freshness, life, and new beginnings.  We persevere through long winter months, because Spring is ahead.  We hope for Spring; a sure-thing in this chaotic world.  And so, endure for now - these last lingering days - because Spring is coming!   
  

3.09.2010

demon dog strikes again

somedays we like our dog. she is nice, playful, and some would even call her cute.


other days... we come home, find things like this, and want to kill her.

3.02.2010

leviticus according to a lamb of God

the bible reading plan we're doing as a church right now is going through the book of leviticus this week... and to help motivate and encourage those trudging through this "policy-manual-like-book", the leader of the ministry made this hilarious video. thanks andy!

learnings from SYMC 2010

got back late last night from the simply youth ministry conference, feeling so blessed to have the opportunity to go to this and soak so much in. josh griffin posted a lot of the fun elements on his blog here for you to check out. for me, here's a few of my learnings that i came away with strong...

MY primary ministry...is not students
this came up several times in the affinity group discussions throughout the weekend. something i've been toying with in my mind for the past few years, but it never really "felt" right until hearing it from others this weekend. i would often feel shame if i spent more time in admin stuff or adult leader support than actually spending time with students. as a youth pastor, you set out in this calling because you love hanging out with students and pacing with them. but as the ministry grows, so does the lead pastor's role...and in order to sustain that growth, there needs to be someone still steering the entire ship, and equipping others to do the ministry.
my primary ministry is our adult leaders/volunteers... caring for them, loving on them, and equipping them to be better team leaders, small group leaders, and catalysts for growth in the students' lives. i'm coming away from this weekend with a renewed drive to invest more of our resources and more of my time in the 15+ adults we have, so that they in turn can invest themselves in 3-5 students. i'll be investing even more in a select few adult leaders who will then invest their leadership in the rest of the adult team as it grows.

this does NOT mean that i'm unavailable and unapproachable to the teens... in fact i don't think the teens will actually notice any difference because i've tried to already put a lot of this in place. i will still lead a small group, and still deeply invest in a few students that i naturally connect with. it'll come out more in my own thinking and planning than anything... so often parents will come to me with their kid's issue, and the easy and natural temptation is for me to right then and there setup time later in the week to connect with that student. the answer is different now. it's sending those students directly to the adult volunteer on our team who would best be able to meet that need...or run that event...or lead that meeting...or...etc.

delegate responsibility...not tasks
there are so many reasons why this is so difficult, but there's even more reasons why it's even more important. our leaders need to be empowered and equipped to run entire pieces of the ministry...entire programs, and that's a major weakness of our ministry right now. many of our leaders are busy taking on various tasks that i individually hand off...but few have the responsibility given to them by me to run and develop and grow a certain area of our ministry. it's plugging up the process, overworking me, and inhibiting the overall quality.

i work too much
this is something i've been gently told for a while now by a few close friends, and have been trying to improve on. it was incredibly encouraging to hear from so many others struggling with the same thing, but also to hear from them practical strategies they're using. i used to think that a good youth pastor was "always on" and always available, but more and more i'm learning that that's not a good youth pastor...that's an unhealthy youth pastor. so for the sake of my wife and future family, here's what i'm trying to implement:
  • quit youth ministry every sunday night, and start back up again every tuesday morning. i've been taking a day off, but now i'm going to really take it off. my phone will be off and locked away in the nightstand for 24 hours.
  • no more than 2 nights out/away each week. we have a great ministry process that helps with this, and i don't have to be at board meetings and stuff like that. thursday nights i'm out every week, and most tuesday nights for small groups. while there are certainly some exceptions to this, to maintain healthy balance, this is crucial.
  • home by 5:30/6:00 every night (earlier on Tuesday & Thursday nights). being in the office till 7 or later is just stupid and controlling, and it cheats the ones that matter most. this might be the toughest one for me, but i'm committed to sticking to it.
here's this year's conference rap... so fun!