3.27.2011

toomuchpizza.com

it's time for a change!

we're not going to be blogging at this site anymore, so c'mon over and follow us to our new blog location...

TOOMUCHPIZZA.COM


3.26.2011

a change is coming

So in the blogging world of Cory and Shanna, a need for change has been brewing within us...
1. We've blogged here on and off for over 3 years now with varied levels of commitment
2. The content of this blog seems even more varied at times and I often wonder what it's purpose is or has become
3. I'm deeply moved, influenced, encouraged and challenged by the 30+ blogs I try to read each week, and sense a stirring to contribute in a more focused way
4. most of my time in life is spent thinking about and living within the trenches of student ministry, and I long to share some of what I'm processing and thinking with other youth workers, especially those that I already know
5. Everyday I'm learning how closely tied a youth worker's family and personal life are to his/her ministry, and want a blog that still shows that link from the content posted
6. And... I'm sick of Blogger.com (no offense guys - thanks for keeping it easy for tech dummies like me) and enamored with Wordpress.com

Shanna hasn't blogged in a long time and seems to have lost the itch, at least for now. But she might resurface with some gentle prodding...

Not exactly sure where this is leading yet, but these are just some thoughts...
To all 3 of our readers lol, stay tuned!

3.19.2011

yaconelli quotes

i had just entered the youth ministry world back when mike yaconelli suddenly passed away, but his videos, books, and quotes have challenged me greatly. here's one i found buried on my facebook page:

"if i were to have a heart attack right at this moment, i hope i would have just enough air in my lungs and just enough strength in me to utter one last sentence as i fell to the floor: 'what a ride!' my life has been up and down, careening left then right, full of mistakes and bad decisions, and if i died right now, even though i would love to live longer, i could say from the depths of my soul, 'what a
ride!'"

this guy truly was crazy.
(this clip is kinda long, but it's worth hearing his passion for student ministry and his "wahoooo's")

LEADership Day at LCC

the last few years lakeshore has dedicated an entire saturday to helping its leaders grow in their leadership (in addition to the global leadership summit in august) and today was this year's big day. it was great... and here's a few reasons why:

- a relatively new church member is the president of an executive and leadership development firm, and she gifted us today by leading the entire event and taking us through some of her material. it was so beneficial and i can tell why big corporations in the area bring her in to work with their executives.

- in explaining how he stumbled upon this "gem" right within our church's community, pastor vince stated that "whatever God has GIVEN your church right now is exactly what your church NEEDS right now". it was a profound statement and reminder for me. like many other pastors, i find it easy to look at other churches and covet their resources, facilities, levels of staff, absence of conflict (yeah right), and big budgets.

- a few of our student leaders were able to join up all day with us adults, and it was fun to see the two groups interact together. in an overwhelmingly adult environment, these guys kept right up and added value to the room. it truly felt as if everyone in the room shared my view of them: that they're not the leaders of tomorrow, but the leaders of today!


3.18.2011

it's Friday!

i'm really not sure why, but this terrible music video has gone viral and is huge within youth culture right now. at the time of this posting it's had almost 17 million views and is now being rapidly downloaded from itunes. one of my small group guys told me about it last night.

i have to, for my own sanity, believe that teens are downloading it just to make fun of it.

3.08.2011

more pictures from the conference


ugly snow

when we got home last night we were greeted with another couple inches of snow. in november, it's pretty... in december, it's desireable... in january, it's cold... in february, it's annoying... but in march is just plain old!

but to mariska, it's HEAVEN!

3.06.2011

on stage artwork

here are the images i was trying to post the other night from the conference. it was a great time away, and it's great to be back!

highlights from the Simply Youth Ministry Conference

i'm so crazy blessed right now to be able to be here in chicago at the simply youth ministry conference (a live feed during general sessions can be viewed here). the only thing that could possibly make it better would be to have shanna here with us. definitely gotta fix that for next year!
here's a few random things that have made me smile during the weekend so far:

1. powerful general sessions
the worship and speakers have hit it out of the park each time! God is using them in big ways to challenge our hearts, recharge our reservoires, and create space for us to be intimate with the Almighty. doug fields spoke last night (with some CRAZY on-screen creativity), and louie giglio killed it in the morning session today! the skit guys have been hilarious, and shane and shane, matt maher, and tim timmons have brought us to the throne.

2. time with each other
i'm especially thankful for the opportunity to be here with 5 other adult leaders from our student ministry back home. in fact, i'd love to have all 15 of them here (and the other youth leaders from other area churches in our community). it has been truly great to connect deeper together in a more relaxed and casual environment, and discuss all the things we're learning and growing through during this time. it's so much better than coming alone!

3. watching them connect with God
i love seeing God work in our students... and i love seeing Him work in our leaders. to see them with their hands raised in worship and to watch them digest life-giving, mission-inspiring words puts a smile on my face like nothing else.

4. creativity unleashed
there's something about large group presentations that tap into the creative arts that connect our hearts to God in profound ways. there's a truly gifted artist here this weekend who has been painting on canvases and adding to the stage design live during the worship sessions, and it's been powerful to watch. coming from someone who's still trying to perfect the stick figure, it truly amazes me! i was gonna try to put some pictures in here, but it's not letting me right now. :(

5. practical tips, tricks, and ideas
my moleskine journal is filling up fast with tons of great ideas, tips, and tricks that we can easily implement in our setting back home. i want to make the most of this conference so that i can make the most of my calling. it's in spaces like this where God really begins to use things we've heard and learned to shape some ideas that may change and morph some things in our ministry, and it'll influence how our students interface with God!

3.01.2011

birthdays

one of my small group guys has a birthday tomorrow, and tonight at group we're gonna try to celebrate it so that he feels a little extra special. not really doing much - just a few cheap and easy things - but it's amazing how as a small group leader just "noticing" can go so far.

i'm not a big birthday person at all - in fact the people close to me know that because it shows in the effort i've often given to their birthday gifts (or lack thereof, to be more truthful). in fact my roommate in college literally got ticked off if you said happy birthday to him or got him a gift! i think he rubbed off on me.

but... as a small group leader, it's not about me. if it's a big deal to most people, it's probably worth a little effort for all.

i'm just hoping the guy in my small group isn't like my roommate!

what are some creative (and simple) ways you've found to celebrate someone's birthday?

2.27.2011

randomness

some random happenings in life lately:

vacation
this whole past week has been SOOOO great for us - 8 straight days with nothing scheduled and no obligations. it has been a wonderful break from the constant pressures of email, texting, facebook, and the phone... truly necessary. spent lots of time reading, sleeping in, and doing little projects around the house. i feel like we're more rested and recharged as we head into another busy season of ministry.

niagara falls
we were able to spend a couple days in niagara falls this past week (why we chose to go there in this "stupid" cold...i'm not sure). we found a really nice italian restaurant for dinner one night, but that was about the extent of our "touristy" sightseeing. we're boring. but... we did head up towards toronto to visit their ikea store. that one made the wife happy.

baby anticipation
shanna is now 30 weeks along with only 10 more to go. we are both getting more and more excited each day for this baby to finally drop by. i'll have to blog more of my thoughts from this amazing journey - but there's some jaw-dropping, unexplainable stuff that happens inside when you feel that little kid kick (shanna probably has a different way to explain it... but i think it's cool). it's still so amazing how God just "makes it all happen". her name is fully picked out, and shanna created some "custom" artwork for her room this week. we'll put pictures up once she's here, but for now you can take a peek at some of it "in progress":


church visit
with being off this week, we decided to check out a different church today - been meaning to check out this place for a while actually and see firsthand the great work they're doing. it was like nothing we had seen before. i'll be writing more about it soon...

simply youth ministry conference
this coming weekend i head out with some of our adult leaders to the simply youth ministry conference in chicago. i went last year and it was probably the best ministry investment i made all year. i'm so excited to be challenged, refreshed, and charged up to love on students better in the months ahead. shanna will be heading to pittsburgh with the dog and one of our students. i love it that the 2 of them will get to connect together a little more than usual.

mariska
speaking of the dog... it may just be the extra attention we've been able to give her this week, but she's been SO well behaved. here's a fun little picture i snapped of her earlier in the week:

2.11.2011

CONNECT forms

in the student ministry, we just started something with our student leaders that i'm getting SO excited about! it's actually something that my youth pastor/leaders growing up made me do, and it helped me practically discover how to connect with other students in relationally meaningful ways. it's so easy to just go to church, find your group of friends, and never reach out to someone new. this form is an attempt to help that.

we asked all of our student leaders to take one of these forms and fill it out every sunday morning and thursday night that they're at church. a few have come in already, and it's been SO cool to see what they're writing down and how they're breaking down cliques in our youth group.

2.05.2011

an exciting time to be in student ministry

every generation has their "thing" that defines them and causes them to stand out among the other generations preceding them. after working with teenagers and immersing myself in their culture over the last few years, it seems that this generation of young people is being defined (by and large) by something very exciting and positive. in the midst of bloggers and former youth ministry "professionals" saying our whole paradigm for ministry needs to change, it seems that something bright is on the horizon.

i believe teens and 20-somethings in our culture today are ready to make real and tangible differences in response to the injustices and oppression around them. and the "around them" isn't just in their neighborhood or city... with the influx of social networking platforms, the "around them" is now global, and they're ready to make a difference!

see, they've seen a generation before them spend their energy and cash on themselves; the big house, the gated communities, the shiny cars, and the wider TV screens... and they've experienced for themselves a profound emptiness in spite of their wealth. and they're ready to make a change.

they may not believe in God... or in just God... but they believe in justice and they believe that their role in it is big.

it's an exciting time to be in student ministry!

2.01.2011

the power of facebook

shanna found this graphic a few weeks ago with some very interesting data on facebook and how it's changing the game in so many ways.


a friend just sent me this video to check out - very interesting and well worth the 7 minutes. the more "wired" we become, the more self disciplined we must be as well. i'm trying to get better at this area of my life...



1.23.2011

Dodgeball Tournament - Highlight Video

this weekend our student ministry hosted a dodgeball tournament for the community, and it was so fun! i'm hoping to post more on it within a few days. tons of new faces and people who seemed to go away with a positive and fun experience in a church, which is a big win for people who've been burned by church in the past.

check out me getting pummeled at 2:20!

1.21.2011

sponges

just saw this post via my good friend doug fields (even though he doesn't know we're good friends lol). if you're a parent this quick read is WELL worth it and will make you chuckle. i think this is what gets me most excited (and scared) about parenting our little girl...

here's an excerpt. head there for the rest:

My kids are sponges. Maybe all kids are. But I'm acutely aware of my own.
They soak up everything around them and everything I do. They watch me on my phone. They watch me drive. They watch me talk. They watch me fart. They watch everything.
Today I took two of my boys to our weekly one-on-one java chat. TJ before and Tyler after school. They both had questions and in the process, reminded me... they are soaking up so much. They are sponges.



1.20.2011

a gay man goes to church

i have been reading Love Is An Orientation by andrew marin and it's been really stretching of my view of and ministry to the GLBT community. he tells the following story in it of a gay man that went to church one day:

Ron attends a well-known evangelical church, and he began to tell me about a recent service. A video was played that had been recorded by a man a few months before he died. The man said that the five best days of his life were the day he met his wife, the day they got married and the day each of his three children were born. After the service Ron went up to the pastor with tears in his eyes and said, "If I continue to live the way that you're suggesting that I live [celibate], then I'll never experience any of the five best days that man experienced before his death." The pastor paused as he looked Ron in the eyes and said, "I don't know what to tell you."

and who, among us - heterosexual, married men, with kids - who among us would know what to say??? i think it's important for us, especially those of us in the church, to have this understanding of a gay person's reality when they step inside our worlds... not so that we can build an answer, but so that we can respond with empathy and compassion.

1.11.2011

makes me wanna puke

i don't know how much you've been following the news, but i just saw this article about the [unfortunately] infamous people from westboro baptist church and their intent to protest the arizona shooting funerals. what really saddens me is that this kind of thing is getting less and less surprising from these lunatics.

if i can say one thing to my seeking / "unchristian" friends in moments like this, it'd be:
this is NOT christianity... and this is not me.

sometimes it's easy to think we're all the same, but we're not. i don't dive in a bomb shelter every time i walk by a middle-eastern man in an airport, so don't make the same assumption when you see my name associated with a church. i don't believe that God sent the shooter, i don't pray for more people's destruction, and i don't believe that God is laughing at this.

but please do me a favor: if i ever get this screwed up, please send some insanity-claiming gunman and have him center his cross-hairs on me.

Baby Poll

So, I made a baby poll! *Notice the sidebar... Just click on that and then enter your best guesses for our little one's birthday, weight, etc! The winner gets ... a year's supply of dirty diapers! oh, wait... that's one of my prizes. Okay - how about a nice round of applause and maybe we'll sneak some fun prize in there if you get really, really close!

1.07.2011

the value of networking

i love it that our church values networking with other churches and organizations in our community, and i scored big time this week because of it! here's a tweet from earlier in the week that i made on score #1:

so thankful im @ a church that values networking. all staff just got a free chair massage! hoping my wife doesn't read this

score #2
a friend of mine - jonathan - is doing some amazing stuff at Calvary Assembly in Chili, and made the video below to promote Flower City Work Camp as the deadline is fast approaching for our students. he made it available for other youth groups, and i have to believe he made the video general enough hoping others would be able to use it! so good! it's on our queue for this sunday!

thanks jonathan!!!

1.06.2011

Gratitude



After walking that long, devoid road of infertility, we chose a different path.  The new path of adoption was still full of unknowns, but perhaps a little less barren.  Along the way - I had cried out to God.  In the beginning, I had cried and sobbed for a child.  For a baby to grow in my body... a child that would have Cory's blue eyes and freckles, maybe with hair the color of mine.

Then, the Comforter worked in my heart.  He pried my clenched fingers open in order to release those desires...  He didn't need to replace them with a passion to adopt - that was already there.  But, I was shoving that desire down, because a biological child was first on my priority list.  When it became apparent that no child would be coming from this body, I grieved.

I mourned for what we would never have... for what I would never experience.  And yet, there was hope in adoption.  We moved slowly through the home study - through loads of paperwork and red tape and meetings and money raising.  Crawling along, we worked through emotions and biases.  In our hearts grew a knowledge and passion for birthmoms.  My heart broke the more I read and watched and observed of birthmothers who place their children with another family.  I grieved for them and for me.  This journey wasn't all about me and Cory anymore.  Our sorrow would be shared with another.  Different sorrows, but the same.  Yet, ours would be comforted.

Finally, we hit the homestretch.  Matched!  A mom chose us to raise her little girl.  We met and talked and chose names.  Baby showers - Check.  Diapers stocked - Check.  Parenting books read - Check.

And then, 2 pink lines.  Four years I had waited for that second pink line.  Four years of tears and hope and tests and hormone-crazed cycles and ...  Now, when all that is done.  When my heart has moved on.  When a another woman is counting on us.

But, we were still willing and wanting to bring our baby girl home - to see this adoption through.  So, we told the woman, but still hurried to finish the nursery and find a pediatrician and ...  The baby came early, September 13th.  And the woman held her little girl and her family gathered around.  And they decided to parent.  And a part of me grieved, while another part rejoiced that this family would be able to stay together.

So, now our adoption plan is on hold.  We are busy with doctor appointments and heartburn and kick counts...  Only 4 more months until this little girl makes her debut.  So while there are still days when emotions run haywire inside my heart...  I can look back and see God moving in me.  Changing my heart and head.  Rooting out judgemental, insensitive beliefs and words.  Giving me eyes that truly see people - not their angry words or mean actions - but their hurt and loneliness underneath.

I wouldn't have chosen this path, but I wouldn't trade it.  Because of the hurt and fear and loss, I am a different person.  I am better and stronger and I look more like Him.  And I wouldn't trade it.

So, I have learned about true gratitude.  I have learned how to cry out to God for my needs and wants, but to say - If You have a different plan, then I'm thankful for what You are doing.  I might not like it all and I might cry and feel pain.  But, I know, I'd rather Your plan than mine.              

1.05.2011

"So once more the people complained against Moses. 'Give us water to drink!' they demanded. 'Quiet!' Moses replied. 'Why are you complaining against me? And why are you testing the Lord?'
Exodus 17:2

The people complained about their problems instead of praying. Some problems can be solved by careful thought or by rearranging our priorities. Some can be solved by discussion and good counsel. But some problems can be solved only by prayer. We should make a determined effort to pray when we feel like complaining because complaining only raises our level of stress. Prayer quiets our thoughts and emotions, and prepares us to listen.

Taken from the Life Application Study Bible ® Devotion Reading Plan at YouVersion.com. You might enjoy it, or one of the many other plans that are available. Check it out at YouVersion.com.

1.04.2011

an uncomfortable tension

so this afternoon i was working out of the office at one of my favorite restaurants, panera - doing some preaching prep on our new series which begins this sunday. ironically the series is called 'billionaire' and is on money management, tithing, and living generously.

i walked out to my car afterwards and as i was just about to get in to drive away, a man called out to me and approached the car. i knew right away what he wanted. he asked for some money so he could catch a bus to henrietta for a job interview, and apologized for not getting to the car sooner to help me brush off the car. he asked where i worked, and we talked for a little bit. then i reached into my wallet, gave him enough money for the ticket and a little extra, and i also handed him a Lakeshore invite card.

a few years ago i would've avoided conversation, said a prompt no, and driven off thinking i did the right thing (because he'd surely spend it on beer or drugs). but more and more i've discerned that for me personally, that's just a cheap way out of avoiding an uncomfortable tension.

as i drove away praying for this man, i concluded that for me, i'd rather be known as someone whose money fed an alcoholic's habit, than someone whose money was never given away at all.

trying to understand God

got a question from a friend the other day who is trying to understand God. among other things right now, a family member of theirs is still wondering why God would allow their 12 year old to die in an accident 21 years ago. i get asked questions like this a lot from teens and other people (and it's moments like this that i wish i could peal the "pastor sticker" off my forehead). while i feel like i have at least a partial, big picture "answer", it still is a question where silence and shrugged shoulders rule the day. i wrote back already, but just curious what you would say?

1.03.2011

fighting the "island mentality"

just enjoyed reading kurt johnston's post on a few "baby steps" their student ministry took to close the generation gap, and it made me think of an article i recently wrote for our church's quarterly newsletter. figured i'd post it here as well.

FIGHTING THE “ISLAND MENTALITY”

Over the last year, Ignite Student Ministries has seen some significant changes, particularly due to the addition of the LC2 and the shift to 2 student services every Sunday morning during the adult services. It has been a year of watching God work in profound ways as new teens have made faith commitments and taken steps closer to God!

But with these changes our leadership team has been growing aware of a flipside danger that every Student Ministry faces to one degree or another… and it’s called the “Island Mentality”. In essence, we bring our young people to the “Student Ministry Island” during their teenage years, they grow and develop closer to God during that formative time, but then we “ship them off” to the “mainland” after graduation and discover that many seem to get “lost at sea” in this voyage back home. A Student Ministry can look like an island when the teens are not given consistent opportunities to integrate and blend with the adult ministries of the church.

Our leadership team recently got away together for a weekend and “Fighting the Island Mentality” in our setting was one of the things we discussed. From those discussions, here’s where we’re starting to land:

COMMON GROUND

There’s intentionally never anything ISM-related happening during these adult midweek services, and we encourage our students to be there for it! It’s an opportunity to worship, learn, and build community with the adults in the church. If you have a teen actively involved in ISM, get them actively involved in Common Ground too!

JOINT SERVICES

Every 2-3 months we shut down our student services one week and encourage the teens to join the adults in the main auditorium. These are not the Sundays to miss!

HABITS

Real long-term growth in our students will be seen as they develop personal habits during their teenage years that will help them grow on their own. The beauty is that these habits are not dependant on a person or a program in the Student Ministry. Encourage your student(s) to continually utilize the many resources at the “Habits Shack” in the youth room.

Parents… we need your help in fighting this “Island Mentality”! Are you in?

youversion.com

it's amazing to me how many methods and ways we have now to read God's Word. hundreds of print bibles - hardcover, softcover, waterproof, leather, engraved, with tabs, etc. there are probably just as many websites and apps that are even more easily accessible. a couple years ago i discovered youversion.com and started to poke around at its features. but it wasn't until a recent update of their app that i started really using it for my personal bible reading. here's a couple reasons why you would be crazy not to at least get the free app for your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Droid and give it a try.

it's free
like so many great things that lifechurch.tv puts out, it's free for the taking and intended for sharing and spreading without the financial speed bump.

bible reading plans
right in the app, you can browse over 25 (and counting) different reading plans. once you think you want to try one out, you can select it and begin reading each day. it automatically checks the reading off after you complete it, and syncs with your progress from other devices as well. as you browse their reading plans, you'll notice that not all are the standard "bible in a year" plans. there are a number that will only take you through certain portions of the bible, and the duration varies from a couple weeks to a couple years.

no guilt
a recent update added a "catch me up" feature to the bible reading plans. when you get behind so far that you want to quit (as most of us do), you can just tap that button and it automatically adjusts your start date so that today's reading is the next one in line. in essence, you'll finish the plan later than you originally would have, but at least you're more likely to finish at all! i started a couple new plans a few weeks ago and already needed to use the "catch me up" button (and i don't feel guilty)!

public and private notes
as you read, you still have the ability to create notes, highlight sections, and bookmark certain passages (much like the kindle app and iBooks). but you also have the option of making those notes private for only you to see, or public for anyone on youversion.com to see. you're also able to easily share your notes on twitter or facebook.

if you haven't gotten it yet, you should so check it out!