Monday, January 31, 2011

Job Search Misadventures

The Spring and Summer of 2001 found me exploring many different possibilities for life after the Union Church of HinsdaleMarilyn and I were seeking a new ministry, and our preference was to head back to Florida.  My resume had been online for quite a while by then, but I had deflected most of the offers for interviews up until that point.  Over those next few months I would spend lots of time on the computer and the phone, sorting through the churches who had an interest in me.  After prayerful consideration (and Marilyn telling me, once again, that we were not going to Las Vegas or Texas!) I began to set up a few interviews.  When it comes to employment, trying to deal with churches can be frustrating.  Witness the following accounts...

One of the first places that flew me in for a weekend was a United Methodist Church on Florida's Space Coast.  It was a fairly large church with a very active student ministry in need of a leader.  I had a great interview with their search committee, and then a dinner with the Senior Pastor.  I was very excited about the possibilities.  I then spent an evening with some of the student leaders of the group.  We had a great dinner together, and afterwards a number of those youth came to me and told me that of all of the candidates they had met so far, the felt I was the best fit. The whole weekend seemed like a huge success.  I returned home to find my in-box full of encouraging e-mails from staff and students telling how much they hoped I would be coming back to Titusville to join them.  And then I never heard from anyone at that church ever again.  It was like the interview never happened.  I called the pastor later on and was only told the position had been filled.  I found out later they had decided to go with a specific model of ministry and hired someone who had been trained in that method.  Ouch.

The weirdness was only beginning.  Another UMC in Florida called and did an extensive phone interview.  They were very positive and liked what they heard from me.  We planned for me to fly down and spend a weekend.  In the meantime, I heard from some old friends from FUMC-K who had moved and attended the church.  They too were very excited.  On the evening before I was to fly to Orlando on a Friday, they called to tell me not to come.  The position had been filled by their current Assistant Youth Pastor.  I have never quite figured out why they didn't know that before they bought me a plane ticket.  I flew down anyway to visit my parents. 

Yet another UMC, this one in southwest Florida (We wanted to come back to FL, but clearly God was trying to tell me something and I wasn't listening!) flew me in for an interview with the church staff, the search committee and some of the youth & parents- all in one evening.  I knew immediately this place was different.  The Associate Pastor was clearly the one in charge.  The Senior Pastor didn't seem to have much going on.  The student ministry was fairy active, but it had one very serious drawback.  Someone had decided to run a youth-friendly nightclub out of their youth building on weekends.  They had been doing it for about 6 months at the time I interviewed.  They were drawing in almost no one from outside of the church, and the entire student ministry budget was tied up in the enterprise.  There was also almost no money to pay a youth pastor.  I was not looking for anything near what I was making in Hinsdale, but this would have taken me back to a 1993 pay level.  It was another no-go, but at least this time I got to be the one saying no!

God still was opening doors for me, and I continued to walk through them. The final two churches I would interview with before accepting a new position in August of 2001 were both quite interesting in their own ways.  Wednesday I will tell you about my weekend in Baton Rouge, LA, where nothing- and I do mean nothing- was as it seems.  Tomorrow the Jesus Revolution continues!

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Do Something Amazing

I first read this story a very long time ago and used it in a sermon in 1992 at Springfield Friends Meeting.  I wanted to share it with you today as an encouragement to us all.  Jesus doesn't want us to sit around and complain.  He wants us to get out into the world and do something GREAT in His name.  Enjoy.

A young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring to him. They were too far behind the times, with boring tunes and meaningless words.  His father put an end to the discussion when he said, "If you think you can write better hymns, then why don't you?"  The boy went to his room and wrote his first hymn.  The year was 1690; the boy's name was Issac Watts.  Among the almost 750 hymns he penned in his lifetime are When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, O God Our Help In Ages Past and Joy To the World.  Feeling bored?  Do something great to serve God.  Wouldn't it be amazing if we were still remembered for our faith 300 years from now?

Do you love the church of Jesus Christ too much to leave it the way it is?

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 29, 2011

7 Things I Think I Know About Youth Ministry

Yesterday I warned you I was going to preach a bit today about a few things I learned over my 28 years in youth ministry.  I actually learned more than 7 (surprise!) but this list will do for now.  Here we go!
  1. Be purpose driven and strategic.  I wish I had understood what that meant when I started, as it would have made my life much simpler.  I am not talking about buying in to the whole Saddleback model; I don't believe any one church or one model has it all figured out.  I am talking about knowing what you are trying to accomplish with your ministry and making sure that EVERYTHING you do helps you reach those goals.  I learned this process from Doug Fields, and it transformed my ministry.  Our vision statement from FUMC-Kissimmee is pictured.  Every time our Youth Ministry Team planned an event, we wanted to know what purpose it was going to help us meet. Know what you want your ministry to look like, and plan to get there. If you are a youth pastor, and you have not read Purpose Driven Youth Ministry, go buy it today.  Then tweet that I told you to buy it and maybe I can get a cut of Doug's profits...
  2. Youth Ministry is all about relationships.  Our job is to connect students with Jesus, with each other, and with adults who love them.  The last 2 are often the best way to the first.  If your ministry is bringing in students from outside the church walls (and if you are not, turn in your membership card right now!) then you have to work at intentionally building relationships and community.  An old quote I love reminds us that it is much easier to draw a crowd than to build a family.  It takes work, and it is crucial.  So many times teenagers find Jesus in the midst of such fellowship.  And so many youth have so few positive adult role models in their lives.  Find ways to spend time one-on-one with your students.  Obey all the safety precautions- but find a way.
  3. 
    Myrtle Beach Trip, 1988
    
  4.  In your desire to turn your students into spiritual giants, please don't neglect fun.  Teenagers need to learn how to play.  They need to learn how to be social in ways that don't involve a computer.  And for the sake of Pete (Short Circuit reference!) take trips!  Nothing helps you accomplish community building better or faster, and the memories you make last a lifetime. Look back through this blog and read the comments about our trips from 30, 20 and 10 years ago- those memories are precious to the youth who participated.  Take mission trips, take vacation trips, take mystery trips- but please, take trips! 
  5. Be Wholistic ( I know it's not a real word!) in your ministry. Teenagers are not just developing spiritually, but mentally, physically, socially and emotionally as well. A great youth ministry will aid in all of those areas. Never assume your youth are being helped with problems, issues and growth anywhere else. You know that Jesus is the answer for all those things- but they probably don't.
  6. At some point everyone "borrows" ideas from other leaders and other ministries. That's cool- right now someone is probably "borrowing" one of your ideas! Just make sure you only "borrow" from the best. All ideas, programs and events are not created equal- some of them stink! And others were never meant to work in your situation. Be picky.
  7. Remember who the ministry is for- students!  Plan your meetings and events not only when it works for them, but also for their friends.  If all of your kids play football, are in the marching band or are cheerleaders, then planning Friday night events during football season is just stupid.  I had major programs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays over the years depending on the schedules of my students- and ALWAYS on Sundays.  It is very chic these days to not meet on Sunday evenings.  If Sunday nights are still the night that most of your students and their friends have available, then meet on Sunday nights!  I don't care how inconvenient it is for you or your church.  Parents who are really worried about "family time" can make time for that some other day.   And for the love of Sheldon Cooper, make full use of summers!  Your students are available and bored.  We once had 75 days between the last day of school and the beginning of the next year.  We had youth events on 72 of them. You need to be there for them- not the other way around.
  8. 
    Pie, Carl.  Carl, Pie.
    
  9. All Christian ministry should be all about Jesus.  But more than any other ministry of the church, youth ministry should reflect the radical nature of the Savior.  Jesus made the church leaders of His day extremely uncomfortable.  A good student ministry will do the same thing.  If your youth room is not occasionally filled with tattooed, pierced, wildly dressed renegades who are still searching for Jesus, then you may be doing something wrong.  If some of your events, ministries and music don't rub part of your congregation the wrong way, you may need to take a second look at how you are doing youth work.  If you don't periodically ruin the Jones Memorial Carpet (I miss you Yac!) because a Jello Night or a pie throwing skit got a bit out of control- well then I just can't help you!  Youth ministry should be outrageous- in the way we love, in faith, in fun and in outreach.  Remember, Jesus' "church council" didn't like Him either...
So there they are for today- I am sure I will rant more down the road.  I look forward to your feedback.  God bless and have a great Sabbath!

Because of Jesus,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Youth Ministry: An Old-Timer Remembers

Most of you know (because it says so right at the top of this page) that I spent 28 years in youth ministry. For the vast majority of the years from 1978-2007 I worked for churches and religious organizations. I witnessed a lot of growth and a lot of changes during those years. I was a part of one of the first generations of career youth pastors. Up until the late 1970's, youth work was something you did on your way to something else.  Can you believe that once upon a time people thought the only difference between being a youth pastor and being a senior pastor was age?  Most full-time youth leaders were hired as Associate Pastors or Directors of Christian Education and then thrown to the wolves, regardless of their gifts.  I was around when pretty much the only resources for youth leaders were the Ideas Books.  I was there when youth groups were after-thoughts for most churches, with no budgets and no staff.  I witnessed youth ministry become a priority in many churches, with all kinds of money thrown at the ministry. With one move in 1994 I went from a $800 budget to a $12,000 budget- for almost the same number of youth!  I worked at one church for $50 per month and did not get paid during the summer, because in those early days most student ministries shut down for those months. During those years I worked at a summer camp.  I served as the regional youth ministry resource person and event planner for Quakers in New England in 1985-86, serving over 80 churches, and was paid $14,000 for the year. In 2000 I took a position at a church in Illinois that paid me over $70,000 for doing less work than any other position I have ever held.  And now I am seeing churches cut staff and budgets as the economy impacts ministry.  At least 2 of the positions I once held no longer exist.  We have come full circle.

When I started there were no VCRs, no PCs and no cable TV.  We did have CB radios.  The only CCM artists I had ever heard of were Amy Grant, Keith Green, Larry Norman and some lady named Evie.  A Praise Band was called a guitar.  I watched as the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention went from a once a year event with about 600 in attendance to the multiple city, many thousands of participants events we see today.  In those days Doug Fields was just a guy in Jim Burns' youth group.  When I started, GROUP was a magazine for the students in your youth group- and that was all.  No work camps and no magazine for leaders- just a long-since extinct event for students called the National Christian Youth Congress.  There is no truth to the rumor that Moses was in my first youth group- although  Duffy Robbins once told a seminar I had been his youth pastor.  He also told them I had been his mother's youth pastor.  Seriously!  But you get the point- I have seen a lot.

Lots of the changes have made student ministry much better and helped us have a greater impact in the lives of the youth we serve.  But sometimes I think we have changed simply for the sake of change.  We have bought into new ideas without prayerfully considering their full impact; we have been guilty of being trendy. In my humble opinion we have too often chosen program and style over relationships.  Tomorrow I want to share with you 7 Things I think I know about student ministry.  Some are out of step with current trends.  A couple may be a bit controversial in today's world.  Nonetheless, I want to share them in the hope that the lessons I learned may be of use to others.  I am no longer a youth pastor; I lost that great privilege in 2007.  But I still have a heart for it and a calling to it.  I have a 15 year old son, and seeing how he and his friends are being ministered to (or not) gives me cause for prayer and reflection.  If tomorrow's post ends up sounding like I am preaching, it is because I am!  Nothing brings out the passion in me more than talking about Jesus and student ministry.  Come back tomorrow and be part of the dialogue.

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Devil Is Bad!

My 15 year old son Will and I had a brief discussion about Satan the other day. We were watching a trailer for the upcoming movie The Rite. The film deals with demon possession and exorcism, and we both commented on what a scary subject matter that could be.  I don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the devil, but I know it is a mistake to dismiss him completely.  Evil is very real.  Just look around you... 

In 1998 a Christian swing band called The W's released an album called Fourth From the Last which featured a hit single called The Devil Is Bad.  This incredibly fun song (and silly video) takes us back to the Garden of Eden and the first temptation, as well as into the desert with Jesus.  It reminds us of how important it is to be aware of evil in our lives, and how important it is to flee that evil.  It was also a song that we played absolutely to death in the youth room at FUMC-Kissimmee back in the day.  We would taunt each other with the chorus- "You are the devil and the devil is BAD!"  It's a great way to remember that in this world you will find troubles, and you will stumble in the darkness.  But Jesus always has and always will be able to kick Satan's butt.  Put your faith in Jesus.  You had better believe in Satan, even though the devil doesn't believe in you.  God does.  That's why he sent us Jesus.  Enjoy today's video and join us every Thursday for another CCM Flashback!



Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Upon Further Review...

Here in the midst of the frenzy that is the lead-up to the Super Bowl we football fans have by now grown accustomed to the phrase "upon further review..."  This means that after a controversial call by an official, someone challenged the ruling on the field and made the referee watch a replay.  The ref goes to a hooded screen and proceeds to look at the play from 20 different angles, in slow motion HD, to see if the correct ruling was made.  Lots of times the calls on the field stand.  Occasionally they are overturned.  For the most part these reviews serve their purpose, which is to get the call right.

I realized that before I write about leaving the Union Church of Hinsdale in 2001 that perhaps I needed to take another look back at my time there.  Perhaps in telling my stories of those days I have not remembered the positives as well as I should.  Perhaps there were factors involved that I have not mentioned.  So here goes.  Upon Further Review...

Positives-  There were some wonderful people at UC.  I have mentioned David Knecht, Mary McKenzie, Kevin Baab and others from the Youth Ministry Team.  I have mentioned Mark Toole, Barb Cathey and Dick Nye from the staff.  There were many students I cared for and loved.  Plus our next door neighbors, Paul & Debra Allen, were just the best.  We loved being close to Chicago and riding the train into the city (Marilyn did that everyday for work).  It's a great city.  Going to Cubs games at Wrigley Field simply rocked, as did all of the theater, concert and other cultural events we had access to.  We loved the Field Museum and the Shedd Aquarium and learning to be Bears fans.  Will's school was amazing, and within walking distance of our home.  When people find out that we were only in Illinois for 18 months, most people assume the weather was a major factor.  In fact, it wasn't.  We enjoyed the snow and having real seasons.  That does not include Marilyn's walks from Union Station to her office in 10 degree weather and 25 mph winds- but for the most part we enjoyed it.  Living in Clarendon Hills and working in Hinsdale was like spending Christmas with the Kranks.  People had lots of money and spent lots of time and effort decorating, and it was spectacular.  As you can see, upon further review there were lots of positives.

Negatives-  We were a long way from family and friends.  My family was in Florida, Marilyn's in NC, and even thought they came up it was hard on Will not seeing his grandparents very often. We also never felt like we fit in.  So many of these people had so much money, and the lifestyles they lived were so foreign to us.  And speaking of money, both of us were being paid more than we had ever made in our lives, and yet we could not get ahead.  The cost of living was awful, and because of state taxes I was not actually bringing home any more than I had in Kissimmee.  As you know, I was frustrated with my work, and we were not very enthused about worship at UC either.  It did not pass my "smell test."  I always ask the question, "If I didn't work at that church, would I attend it?"  The answer in this case was an easy "NO!"  It was partly theology, partly style and partly commitment.  Rich Mullins once wrote, "The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the Giver of all good things." At UC, the "stuff" was winning.  And finally, I just had too much time on my hands.  With "summers off" and few special events to plan, I spent far too much time sitting in front of a computer or shopping at bookstores.  The bookstores were fine.  The computer- well, I was developing some bad habits.

So there you go. Upon Further Review, the ruling on the field stands.  My staying at UC would not have been helpful to anyone.  With God's help, I prayerfully made the call.  The road was plowed.  David was ready to be the next youth pastor.  Now I can get on with the stories of my interview process that lead me down a few crooked paths.  Watch for those next week.

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Without Love, We Are Just Noise

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don't love, I'm nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God's Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, "Jump," and it jumps, but I don't love, I'm nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don't love, I've gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I'm bankrupt without love.  -1 Corinthians 13:1-7  The Message


As part of my 2011 Jesus Revolution, I have been making it a point to chat with my neighbors about their belief systems.  Some, of course, don't want to talk about it.  I respect that.  Others are more interested in the beliefs of their neighbors; we have a Jehovah's Witness family on our circle that many have questions about.  But Saturday (while walking my dog, of course) I had a chat with a mother of 3 who lives across the street.  We talked about her faith history.  We talked about her most recent attempts at taking her family to church.  It was not a happy story.  She and her husband were having trouble finding a way to fit in.  When they called the church office for assistance, they were told that their Sunday School class would help.  When they responded that they didn't yet belong to a class, they were told to join one.  That was the final answer.  There was no outreach.  There was no love shown to them.  And so they gave up on church.  I hope I can do something to get them started again.  #FAIL

The church is like its members- it will never be perfect.  We  get it right more often than not.  But the one place we should never fall short is in showing love to our world.  I have seen more and more examples lately of how the institution of the church seems to be losing touch with the teachings of Christ.  As the 1 Corinthians 13 scripture reminds us, without love we are nothing.  We are just white noise, becoming more and more deaf to the hurting people around us.  How is the church failing to love?  Here are just a few of the things I have seen and read recently that make me just a little crazy...
  • I heard from a friend of a youth ministry that requires (at the demand of their pastor) church membership cards before students are allowed to enter the youth room.  So much for Acts 1:8, huh?  #FAIL
  • I read about the Westboro Baptist Church, which in its attempts to condemn gays has done greater harm to the way people see Christianity than almost anything else Satan has going on.  #FAIL
  • I saw a church sign that read, "Join us Sunday.  We'll scare the sin right out of you!"  Now there's a message of hope and love...  #FAIL
  • I know of a church that stopped having youth group on Sunday evenings so that the students could spend more time with their families.  It sounds good on paper, but in reality over half of their youth are from broken homes with little parental support.  I'm guessing many of those kids are not having family game night on Sunday evenings.  #FAIL
  • I know of a church leader- a man who works for a well-known Christian organization and who teaches classes at a very large church.  When he speaks about his faith, many people listen.  Yet there is another man who wronged him (and confessed this sin) and whom he sees in church most every Sunday.  He will not speak to him or even look at him.  Until he shows grace in that relationship, his words about the amazing grace of Jesus sound hollow and impotent.  I struggle with my own feelings towards the man- but is anything harder than forgiving someone who will not forgive?  I am telling you, without love, that "professional Christian's" life is just noise.  #FAIL
Without love, the Jesus Revolution will be over before it starts.  Christ-like love is our calling card.  1 John 4:7-8 reminds us that if we don't love then we don't know God, because God is love.  And if we cannot love each other inside our communities of faith, what chance do we have of showing love to rest of the world?  Through the love of Jesus, we are God's Plan A for saving this world- and there is no Plan B.  I don't want to be a creaking, rusty gate anymore.  Bring on the revolution!

Because of Jesus,

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reality Bites

Work Tour 2001 to Tijuana was a great experience by every standard.  The team from the Union Church of Hinsdale had done great work at the orphanage, both in building a wall and a restroom and in bonding with the amazing children who lived there.  Our adventure out into a small village to lead a VBS had been a rousing success.  The youth did a remarkable job given our limited Spanish, and they were amazed at the hunger of the village children for Jesus.  I even held my own leading music in Spanish.  We got to eat some awesome Mexican food from little carts (no water, please!) and be tortured by the kids from the orphanage who tricked some of us into eating the hottest peppers you can imagine.  We visited an amazing beach (see picture- sorry the quality is so bad).  And at Candle, UC's traditional closing worship for Work Tour, the youth said all the things you hope they will say about growing in faith and wanting to be more committed to following Christ.  It was indeed a legendary trip.

Our flight home had us changing planes in Denver (where there was a Burger King with no hamburgers.  I'm not kidding. Only chicken.  Too weird).  We had a rather lengthy layover there and I found myself sitting and watching the rest of the group interact.  I became aware of two things as I observed them.  One, I could already hear them longing for their creature comforts and down-playing the things they had seen in Tijuana.  And two, their leader was not me.  It was David Knecht.  He was one of them.  He spoke their language, knew their lifestyle and loved them all.  Once again I was reminded that I was not going to be with them much longer.  I was almost done plowing the road for David.

Upon our return to Hinsdale, not much really changed.  The truth of it was that these were rich kids whose parents saw everything as a priority over faith.  That was the reality, and sometimes reality bites!  The Work Tour team did not suddenly start showing up for Discovery or bible study.  They didn't sign-up to be part of the team for our monthly trip into Chicago and the Good News Soup Kitchen.  I know the trip made a difference in their lives.  But I sure couldn't see it.  It was like Tony Campolo's description of altar calls. He said far too many people "go down the aisle to Just As I Am; they kneel at the altar just as they are; and they return to their seats just as they were."  And when my summer brochure for 2001 came out, it was again greeted with a yawn.  "Might as well get used to summers off..."

By late June both God and Marilyn were telling me it was time to go.  Doors were opening, and I began to interview with some other churches- in a few interesting situations.  Those stories are coming Wednesday.

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sham Wow Bible

It seems to me that more and more people are using the Bible to prove their beliefs and politics by changing around the context and meaning to fit their purposes.  This is called "proof-texting."  Many years ago I saw a skit about just such thinking, and it inspired this.  It is not that hard to imagine the following commercial...

Hi.  Vince here for the Sham Wow Bible, the latest in electronic scripture technology and the greates invention since the Slap Chop.  I want to talk to you today about the world's most important subject- YOU!  God thinks you are so cute He just can't take his eye off of you. He wants to give you success, money and power (over your friends!).  He wants you to be important!  And now thanks to an amazing discovery at our laboratory in Germany (and you know the Germans always make great stuff) we are able to bring you the world's first truly personal electronic bible.  Now, for the first time, your daily bread is a piece of cake!  And what makes the Sham Wow Bible so special?  Easy!  It's the first electronic bible with an editing system.

Here's how it works.  Just pick a passage and enter it in your Sham Wow Bible.  Let's say you choose John 3:16- "For God so loved the world that..."  Then you just hit the patented SWB edit button.  Replace all of the parts that don't really matter to you.  Then enter your own personal promises from God.  From now on, God will have to do what you tell him to- because it's in the bible! 

You'll be amazed at what you can do to God's word- and so will He!  Just listen to a few examples:
For God so loved the world that...He gave a Hummer to the Jacksons!
If someone strikes you on one cheek...pull out your Glock and open fire.  It's self-defense!
Thou shalt not steal...unless it's illegal downloads of music and movies.  Or from work. Or from people who are richer than you.

There you are.  No more convictions, no more rebukes.  Just life with God the way you intended it to be.  Can't stop sinning or just plain old don't want to?  Make it a virtue!  It's all there in your Sham Wow Bible- or at least it soon will be!  Get your new Sham Wow Bible at Wal-Mart or other stores that just don't care.  Void where prohibited by God.


Followers of Jesus don't get to pick and choose which teachings to adhere to and which ones to ignore.  We must deal with all of scripture.  We must make sense of a talking donkey, of a Savior who scribbles on the ground for no apparent reason, of a drunken Noah- and of a God who sacrificed His Son to wipe away our sins.  Jesus didn't say "Take up your cross...and hand it to Steve!"  He said we had to carry it in order to follow Him.  No editing allowed.  And in order to know the real scripture, you must read the real scripture.  Anything else is a sham.  Wow...

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Shout Outs!

Welcome to another edition of Saturday Shout Outs!  It's been an amazing couple of weeks for me, and here are some of the things I am shouting about:
  • Will (our 15 year old son) had been home a lot the past couple of weeks,  First he had exams for 4 days, so he was home before noon each day.  Then he had two days off for MLK day and a teacher workday.  It was a blast having him here so much, although things are much quieter with him back in classes.  :)  OH...he's taking Driver's Ed this semester, so start praying for us NOW!!!
  • I have a few prayer requests to pass along.  Lorelei Hanbery, daughter of Melissa & Jerry (FUMC-K), has been sick this week with a stomach bug and dehydration.  She also had her 1st birthday.  Let's remember that family.  Jennifer Minnigan Kuramochi (FUMC-K) is still in the early stages of her pregnancy, and we want to be praying for her and Jun.  Ashley Goad Broadhurst (Springfield Friends) just returned from Haiti and will head back that way in abut 6 weeks to build more wells and provide clean water for that poverty stricken nation.  Remember Ashley, but more importantly, pray for the people of Haiti.  And a final request- as we used to say in the prayer circle at FUMC-K on many occasions, "Unspoken."
  • Marilyn posted on Facebook a little over a week ago that I was making Mexican Pile-Up for supper one night.  Cindy Martin (FUMC-K) wrote how much she missed having that at Super Bowl parties, so I invited her and anyone else who wants to make the trip to Tampa to come on over Feb. 5th.  Reservations are required!  :)
  • I also need to express the sheer joy Will and I had in watching the New England Patriots lose.  The Hoodie and the Pretty Boy went down, and we loved it!
  • I heard from Kevin & Jess Penner via Twitter this week.  Some of you will remember Kevin as the drummer and Jess as the guitar player/vocalist from Spooky Tuesday.  Sounds like they are doing well!
  • Speaking of Twitter, you might be interested to know that my post A Word of Caution was passed around and read by youth workers all over the world.  I have met lots of very cool people on Twitter and have over 600 followers now, most of which are either Disney fanatics or involved in ministry in some way.  It's all very groovy..
  • One final Twitter note:  I tweeted this week that I saw where IHOP was offering all-you-can-eat pancakes for $4.99, and that I took that as a personal challenge.  So here's my question to you, faithful readers- how many pancakes would I need to eat to break even, and how many do you think I could put away at one sitting?  I need your input!
  • And finally, I wanted to share a link with you.  Our pastor, Matthew Hartsfield, read us a Love Letter From God last Sunday, and it was amazing.  It was scripture verses woven together into letter form, with God speaking to each of us.  If you have any doubts about how much God loves YOU, go read this now.  You can find it at http://matthewhartsfield.wordpress.com/ 
That's it for today!  I hope you all have a blessed weekend. that you will  "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy," and will enjoy time with the ones you love.  And don't forget to pull for Da Bears!  Se  you tomorrow.

Because of Jesus,

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Radical Sabbatical

Teresa on one of our New York trips.
Sometime around 1997 I was looking for ways to increase spiritual growth in the students I worked with at the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee, FL.  We had all of the normal things in place- youth group, bible studies, small groups/Sunday School- but I was looking for an idea that would help jump start some of the high school students who wanted to go deeper on their faith journey.  I remembered John Westerhoff had once written that "one overnight retreat is worth 52 weeks of Sunday School."  I remembered that Jesus seemed to have pretty good success working with a group of 12 disciples.  And thus the concept of The Radical Sabbatical was born.  I would accept no more than 12 interested students for a weekend of study and spiritual disciplines.  We would sleep on the floor of the youth room.  It would be intense.  I only wanted those who were serious about pursuing Jesus.  And the group that gathered was just that. It was an awesome, Spirit-filled weekend.

I broke our time together into segments, during which we studied and participated in worship, prayer, bible study, fasting and meditation (both silent and guided).  For myself (and everyone else I heard from) the guided meditation section was the one that was truly memorable.  I led the students through a scenario in which they met Jesus by a lakeside, and He comes over to see each person individually.  I remember that I had the concept in mind as we started and a few notes written down, but that for the most part I was winging it.  In the midst of this improv, it seemed that the Holy Spirit just took over.  This was no longer only a story I was telling- Jesus was there!

After asking about memories of Radical Sabbaticals last Saturday, I received an e-mail from Teresa Reep Tysinger ( a Hall of Fame inductee), who was one of the high school students present that day.  She shared this with me, and told me I could share it with you. 
"...this experience is one of the few moments -- maybe THE defining moment in my personal walk with Christ.  For a teenage girl who often felt awkward, too self-conscious and lacking in many ways, it was such a RADICAL concept for me that Jesus would seek ME out of a crowd of people....amazing that Jesus would be happy to see ME....that I was the person Jesus was looking for.  Awkward, self-conscious, not good enough ME.  It was THE moment I realized this  Jesus guy was sent for ME...died for ME...and would have done it all the same if I was the only one here needing salvation from my sins.  ME."

Teresa went on to say that she also experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit that afternoon, and that she considers that to be the time when she really gave her life to Christ.  All of us who were there knew we had experienced something special.  I continued to lead Radical Sabbaticals for ten years after that weekend, and we had some more special times.  But nothing ever matched that first event and those few moments we all spent standing by a lake with Jesus.  Some things just can't be duplicated.  Like sequels to great movies, the original is usually better.  Except for Scooby Doo...

Those of us in student ministry spend a lot of time, effort and prayer hoping that we are making a difference in the lives of the young people we serve.  I have always said that if in my 28 years of ministry I had done anything that brought even one person into the presence of Jesus that I would be happy and honored.  So thank you, Teresa, for sharing your story, and for the work you still do for the Kingdom.  You didn't know it when you wrote it, but your story completes mine.  They say that one of the problems with being in youth ministry is that you don't really know if you made any difference in the lives of the students you work with for at least 10 years after they graduate.  And now I know.  "To God be the glory, great things He has done..."

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Undignified

I have met very few dignified youth pastors.  I certainly wasn't one.  It's a job only a fool would do...
Me, totally undignified- 1990
 Going to church is easy.  All that is really required of you is that you show up- and if possible bring a little cash.  Claiming to be a Christian is easy.  All you have to do is learn the language- Christianese- and then be nice.  Everyone knows Christians are nice, and nice people fit in everywhere.  But following Jesus- really trying to live life the way He taught us to live and really trying to love one another the way He said we should- that is a bit tougher.  Jesus never taught us to be nice- He taught us to love.  That's radical.   Not only are his teachings sometimes difficult to live by, when we actually succeed in following them we are often a target of scorn and ridicule.  Your friends may think you to be a little "off" if you spend your time and your resources helping the poor and the hungry.  Responding to someone who steals your shirt by offering them your coat as well may bring a visit from men in little white coats.  We live in a world that is so far out of step with Jesus that anyone who tries to live out his teachings will be seen as foolish.  Many of us grow up thinking that foolishness is a bad thing, something to be avoided.  In fact, scripture encourages it!  1 Corinthians 4:10 reminds us that those who follow Him are fools for Christ's sake.  We will always look foolish in the eyes of our world when we follow the Christ.

But it's not just the world we can be out of step with when we seek to follow Jesus.  Sometimes we become out of step with the church.  I grew up thinking that any noise other than preaching, praying, reciting, organ music or singing respectfully from a hymnal while in church was an offense to God.  I memorized Psalm 100- "Make a joyful noise to the LORD"- but I never made one.  My experiences among Quakers taught me that even in silence I could participate in worship, not simply be a spectator.  But I was well into my 20's before I discovered that worship could be passionate!  It was not offensive to God if I moved a little or felt real joy in worship.  I could clap my hands, pray out loud and sing with gusto and joy in church- all of the things I loved about church camp and youth group.  It was an amazing revelation.  How could I have gone to church all of those years and never had anyone tell me that King David had once danced before the LORD with such joy that he danced right out of his clothes?  I am not suggesting naked worship, nor am I saying that there is any one correct way to come before God in praise.  I am simply stating that for me, my understanding of the foolishness of following Christ and my ability to pour out my heart to God in worship expanded greatly once I understood that it was perfectly fine to be undignified.

Today's song, from the David Crowder* Band, takes it all one step farther.  If we live our lives full of the passion and love of Jesus, then we will seem a little loopy to those around us.  We will seem "mad."  We will act in foolish ways.  And when filled with the Holy Spirit, we just might become down-right Undignified.  We just have to remember, as the last line of the song says, "It's all for you my LORD!"  So here is your assignment for today.  Play the video found below.  Sing along.  Dance!  See what kind of reaction you get from those around you.  If they look at you like you are a little crazy, congratulations!  You have taken another step towards following Jesus.  But please- don't dance out of your clothes.  Even being a fool for Christ has limits...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Technicolor Stomp

Among the things that confused and baffled me about the students I was working with at the Union Church of Hinsdale in 2000-2001 was that they really didn't like games or stunts.  The only games they ever wanted to play were basketball and Capture the Flag- both fine games, but hardly the kinds of games I wanted to play exclusively.  I led them in a few of my tried and true favorite games, and they just didn't get the art of playing.  As for stunts (little skits or games designed to "punk" someone at the end) they just seemed confused as to why anyone would do such things.  Even Psychological Sit-Ups failed to amuse them.  It was all very frustrating for me, and writing about my days at UC has brought it all back.  So I want to share with you a few things that worked most everywhere else I served, and see which ones my former youth remember, and which ones still sound good today.

The Egyptian Mummy Race-  We would divide into several teams, and each team would attempt to wrap one team member in a roll of toilet tissue from head to toe.  Best mummy wins!  You can see great mummies from Springfield Friends Meeting and FUMC-Kissimmee on this page.
The Honey Bee Club-  An "initiation" stunt that convinced students they were being welcomed into a special club, this elaborate bit conned the victim twice.  The first time they had water spit in their face, and then were promised a chance at revenge by initiating the next person.  Unfortunately for them, the next "victim" was in on the gag, and so they got it again.  It may sound a little mean, but it was a beloved stunt at many stops along my journey.  And who can forget listening to the entire crowd buzz likes bees the entire time.  Bzzzzzzzz...
Do You Love Your Neighbor?-  A musical chairs type game, this was played with great ferocity by all of my groups- but one.  The odd-person out would stand in the middle of a circle of chairs and then approach a seated peer.  They would then ask the question, "Do you love your neighbor?"  If the seated player answered yes, the people on either side of them had to change seats while the odd-person also fought for one.  If the player answer no, they would then continue on to say "But I do love people who..."  They would then complete the sentence with things like attend a certain school, are wearing socks, haven't brushed their teeth today or what ever they choose.  Then everyone with that characteristic has to change seats.  It is a wild game that also helped kids get to know a little about each other.
Speed Kissing-  A race of teams in straight lines, facing forward, the turning as rapidly as possible and passing kisses on the cheek to the back on the line.  After a few practice runs, they race against another team or a bogus "world record."  And when the next to the last person in line turns for the finish, they are greeted with a pie in the face.  Another often requested stunt.
The Technicolor Stomp- You divide into teams.  Each team gets an equal number of balloons to inflate, with every team having their own color.  After they are all blown up, the balloons are all placed in the center of the room, and you yell, "GO!"  The idea is to use your feet to pop the balloons of the other team so that your color will be the only ones left.  Thus the name.  The game is wild, loud, easy to cheat at and a ton of fun for everyone!  Yet somehow the students in Hinsdale found it beneath them.

I'll stop there, but I have to tell you, games and stunts were an important part of making our youth groups meetings "You Gotta' Be There!" events in the communities we served.  Other games like Hook-Up Tag, Fruit Basket Upset and Four On a Couch were huge parts of various ministries.  I am so thankful that I grew up knowing, and hopefully was able to impart of the students I served, that following Jesus is fun.  Thanks for letting me look back.  Now I'm gonna' go play some SMITH...

Because of Jesus,

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Faith Like A Child

Yesterday I had to confess the worst thing about me to an old friend.  Her response?  In so many words she told me that she didn't care and she loved me.  Just one more story to remind us that you never know when you will encounter the Jesus Revolution...

After arriving at the orphanage in Mexico, we settled in to a couple of small buildings that had been built to house mission groups- the guys on one side of the compound, the girls on the other.  Tom, the pastor who ran the organization and chose which groups to work with, gave us a tour and talked to us about what we would be doing.  We were going to rebuild a restroom in one of the dorms.  We were going to dig a ditch and then build a retaining wall out of concrete block that ran for about 200 yards.  We would travel out to do a VBS in a village.  And we would eat our meals and worship each day with the children of the orphanage.  He told us of their circumstances.  They were there because their parents had abandoned them, or because their parents had died on the very violent streets of Tijuana.  He talked of how the orphanage had literally saved many of their lives, and how it was all done in the name of Jesus.  Their lives seemed so bleak to us.  We wondered what our first meal with them would be like.

We arrived at the dining hall/worship center and had to wait a few minutes outside while a group of kids arranged tables and chairs and set the tables.  They were very organized, very efficient and seemingly enjoying their work.  We were invited in and told to chose tables.  I had encouraged our team to spilt themselves amongst the orphans, and they did.  We arrived at tables and began to be seated, only to be grabbed by the locals and pulled back out of the chairs.  There was work to be done before we sat down.  I assumed we need to bless the food, and we did.  But there was much more.

To give you the full impact of what happened next, I will remind you that my students were not far removed from being biblically illiterate.  They had struggled to learn to share a few verses of scripture and a few Bible stories to share on this trip.  So you can imagine their surprise when before dinner Tom had all of the children of the orphanage say aloud Psalm 8.  All of it.  There were speaking Spanish, but I could look into the eyes of my youth and see the amazement.  They finished and Tom startled us one more time.  He invited us to say it with them- in English.  I knew a bit of it.  No one else new any of it.  But these folks we had been feeling so sorry for a few hours earlier could say it all- in 2 languages!!!  And this was not an isolated incident.  It happened at every meal, with different scripture passages. These kids knew their stuff.  And it lit a fire under my group.  They were partly inspired and partly embarrassed.  We were all humbled.  And we all wanted to be more like those kids.  We all wanted to heed the words of Jesus and have faith like a child

And so it is with the Jesus Revolution.  When we let Jesus have control, we will want to know more.  We will want to experience more.  We will want to have faith like children, wide-eyed and mystified.  We will want our lives to drip with the love of Christ, and in order for that to happen we have let our lives "soak" in the things Jesus taught.  For the first time in a number of years, I am once again trying to memorize scripture.  I began by reviewing the Beatitudes and the 10 Commandments to make sure I still knew them from memory.  I am now going to work on things Jesus said for a couple of months.  I want His words to be written on my heart.  When others begin to see- and hear- Jesus at work in my life, they will become witnesses to the revolution.  Join me.  We can change the world.

Because of Jesus,

Monday, January 17, 2011

Tijuana, 2001

Today we celebrate a day set aside in recognition of the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  We rightly remember his leadership in the civil rights movement, his legacy in the African-American community, and his passion for the church.  We also remember Dr. King as a revolutionary who practiced and preached non-violence.  But in this year of the Jesus Revolution, I would also like to remind you (and I am sure MLK would concur) that Jesus Christ was the first non-violent revolutionary- He changed the world with love.  Dig it.

Some of you will recall that when we last visited 2001 I was preparing to lead a team of youth to Tijuana, Mexico on the Union Church of Hinsdale's annual Work Tour.  We spent many hours in preparation for the trip learning to sing songs in Spanish, practicing making crafts and telling Bible stories in Spanish.  This was a challenge on several levels.  First of all, I took 2 years of high school French and 2 years of college French.  This was of little help.  We had some students who spoke Spanish, but it was still going to be a bit complicated.  Also, the group knew very little about the Bible, so teaching the stories in any language would be tricky.  But Spring Break arrived...and off we went.

We flew from Chicago to LAX (it was cheaper for some reason) and then rented vans and headed south- through San Diego (which in the original German means "a whale's -"  but that's not important now) and into Mexico.  Remember, I was travelling with primarily wealthy students who had travelled the world.  Their families had vacation homes.  Their own homes had 9 bathrooms.  They had never seen anything like what they were about to see.  Driving through Tijuana on our way to the orphanage we saw entire extended families living in cardboard boxes.  We saw broken down cars used as shelters.  The streets were full of small children, many of them begging.  We saw old people sitting on street corners, broken and helpless.  My students were asking if those were really homes, and where the parents were.  Some began to cry.  Others hid their eyes.  It was very powerful- and the trip had only just begun.

I mentioned in my post Reclaiming the Mission Trip that I wanted to change the culture of Work Tour.  The attitude of many of the youth and adults of UC was that these trips were a chance for us to give of our superior wealth and intellect to the less fortunate.  My concept had always been that we had so much to learn from the people we were going to serve.  I wanted these teenagers to KNOW what life was like for most of the world.  I wanted them to KNOW "the least of these."  The ride through Tijuana had begun that journey in a far more impressive way than I could have ever dreamed.  We arrived at the orphanage ready to humbly serve our God.  By the time we had finished dinner that first night with our new orphaned friends, our minds were completely blown.  That story tomorrow...

Because of Jesus,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Franciscan Blessing

A friend from Twitter, Tracee Persiko, shared this Franciscan Blessing on her website at http://traceepersiko.wordpress.com/ on Friday.  It's from the book Leading On Empty by Wayne Cordeiro .  Her roommate, Stephanie Dole (another Twitter friend), is reading the book and I want to get it soon. I find this prayer to be magnificent, and I share it with you on this Sabbath day.

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, hard hearts, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live from deep within your heart where God’s spirit dwells.

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world and in your neighborhood, so that you will courageously try what you don’t think you can do, but in Jesus Christ you will have the strength necessary to do.

May God bless you that you remember we are called to continue God’s redemptive work of love and healing in God’s place, in and through God’s name, in God’s spirit continually creating and breathing new life in grace into everything and everyone we touch.

Wow.  As Tracee said on her blog, "Dang!  Now that is praying!"  Hope you are blessed by it as well.  See you again tomorrow as we return to stories of my 2001 Tijuana mission trip.

Because of Jesus,

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Random Ramblings

I'm feeling especially random today, so just jump in and hang on!  And in case you are a little slow and don't take hints well, I want to hear from my readers.  Thanks to everyone for all of the comments, tweets and e-mails, but I want more!  I'm just greedy like that...
  • Congratulations to Connor (FUMC-K) and Jolene Lewis, who became the parents of Connor Matthew at 12:07 AM on January 14.  Mom and baby are both doing well, and big sister Caitlyn is thrilled.   No word on whether he can do the "Gator Chomp" yet...
  • I think this blog has mice.  I can tell which posts are being read through a statistics program I have, and for the past week or so it seems people have been paying a lot of attention to some of the older posts that deal with Springfield Friends Meeting and FUMC-K .  There have been an unusual number of hits on my Hall of Fame post about The Class of '95.  I have no way of knowing who is checking out these stories, but if it is you...TELL ME!  It's driving me crazy- I love knowing who reads my blog!  I love that my FUMC-K family stays connected, and I really miss my SFM family.  You will always be my "one particular harbor."
  • Speaking of Jimmy Buffett, he is coming to Tampa on April 16th.  Tickets go on sale today at 10 AM.  They will most likely be gone by noon.  So if you plan on buying me tickets, you need to move fast...
  • Yesterday's post got a lot of attention (Over 300 page views- but only 5 comments? HINT!) and confirmed something I have been praying about for a while now.  I want to make myself available as an online sounding board for pastors and youth pastors.  Not so much to offer advice or opinions, but more as someone they can vent to.  I know first hand how frustrating it can be to be hurting or angry and not be able to talk to people at your own church.  I'm not the only one who has ever had to deal with sin in my life or a The Pastor Who Shall Not Be Named.  It is often difficult to balance openness and job security.  I'm not sure yet how I am going to put my self "out there," but I am going to try.  Be praying for me.
  • Does anyone besides me find it humorous that Disney has had to close a place called Blizzard Beach numerous times this winter because it has been too cold?  :)
  • Do any of you remember our overnight event called The Radical Sabbatical?  I would love to know what people remember about them.  So tell me (yet another hint).
  • I am thinking of doing a series of Music Thursday posts on The Lost Music of EPCOT.  A lot of great songs from the 80's and early 90's have disappeared, and I want to bring them back.  Would anyone be interested?  Have a favorite you remember?  E-mail me at Youthguy07@aol.com  
  • And finally, my quote of the week comes from the late Mike Yaconelli and his classic book Dangerous Wonder: "Christianity is not about learning how to live within the lines; Christianity is about the joy of coloring."
I hope you all have a blessed weekend.  Thanks for reading!


Because of Jesus. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Word of Caution


Several years ago there was a famous advertising campaign (see above) for Federal Express (that's Fed Ex for those of you who only know abbreviations; it still weirds me out to think that there are people reading this blog who have no clue what KFC, AOL or IHOP stand for) that used the catchphrase "When it absolutely, positively has to get there overnight."  In today's world, overnight is nothing.  We want things to happen much faster than that.  Things that are 7 minutes old are retro.  We seek immediate success and gratification.  And sometimes that is not a healthy attitude...

Lately I have read a number of articles and blog posts talking about how it is time for student ministry to "move beyond pizza parties and games."  The gist of these stories is that ministries need to be deeper and more significant and offer students a greater chance to change the world in the name of Jesus.  Certainly for anyone involved in youth ministry this is one of your goals- to see the teenagers you serve develop a heart for God and a passion for serving others in Jesus' name.  I have seen first-hand how a number of youth ministries, including the one at the church my family attends, have narrowed the focus of their programs to two elements- worship and service.  And they could not have chosen two more important factors to include in the spiritual lives of teenagers.  However- I believe such a choice can come at a cost.  Here is my word of caution.

Ski Trip Silliness!
Every youth ministry I ever served dealt with students with a wide range of spiritual maturity.  This was true because we were always aware that a part of our task was to draw students from outside the church walls.  These "newbies" would often arrive at our youth meetings speaking a different language (cursing or slang) and with limited expectations.  They would also often arrive without family support.  The purposes of our ministry they understood the least were worship and service.  Many times it was events like pizza parties or lock-ins that got them there; often it was things like crazy games and great trips that kept them around long enough to begin to hear about the love of God whose name is Jesus.  We tried to teach the students who were more mature in their faith to understand that these things, while seemingly superfluous, were actually acts of ministry in which they were an important part.  It was their chance to share their faith and serve as leaders who helped new youth learn the ropes of being a Christ-follower.  This spiritual diversity was a crucial element in the development of our ministries.  A group of youth who are all at the same place in their spiritual journeys run the real risk of becoming a "Holy Huddle."  Every youth ministry should be holding hands in fellowship, but facing out, seeking to make a difference in their schools and communities.  And sometimes to do that requires Yuck Night or a rousing game of SardinesFellowship, whether it be food, games or simply hanging out, is a crucial element of the Christian church- check out Acts 2:42 if you don't believe me.

Over the years I can count dozens of students who arrived at our ministries just to see what the fuss was all about.  They came because of their friends, not because of any great spiritual awakening. They stayed at first for the fellowship.  Maybe they liked the music, or heard some teaching that made them think.  They began to learn through our studies and small groups.  They began to appreciate worship and service.  They then wanted to tell others what they had found.  Sometimes this process took years; other times it happened much faster.  I remember one young man who never wanted to participate in anything remotely spiritual; he just came for the people, the food and the games.  He eventually began to open his heart to Jesus, and his life began to change.  By the end of his high school years he was growing in his faith and a true leader in our ministry.  Today he is a pastor.  Without games and pizza parties, the church would have lost him early on.  And this is not an isolated story.

I guess the point of my rambling is this:  Youth Pastors want for all of their students to know Jesus in a deep and meaningful way- as they should!  But in your passion to see them all reach that point, you should not neglect the journey.  Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that youth ministry is all about the students and all about Jesus- and not about us.  Jesus loves us all where we are in our lives, not where we should be.  And sometimes where your students are is at a pizza party.  Should we pray for youth to love worship and seek God?  Absolutely.  Should we desire them to want to serve others and change the world for JesusPositively.  But friends, please be careful that we don't try to get to those places overnight.  There is joy in the journey...

And by the way- IHOP is the abbreviation for International Hamsters On Patrol.  Right, Zach?

Because of Jesus,

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Redemption Song

One of my favorite hymns of the church is the great classic It Is Well With My Soul.  Written by Horatio Spafford in 1871 after his family drowned at sea, it has been sung in churches for many years.  It is a glorious reminder of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, even in the midst of our greatest struggles.  It is a song of hope and perseverance.  It has lifted my spirits on numerous occasions when I was feeling a bit lost.  It was the last hymn we sang my final Sunday at Springfield Friends Meeting in 1994; it was a song that brought me comfort during a great personal darkness in 2007.  The song is a brilliant reminder that Jesus loves not because of what we do or who we are, but in spite of those things.

So I have a challenge for you today.  Watch this very cool video (complete with lyrics) of a modern arrangement of the song by the great band Jars of Clay from their album Redemption Songs.  If you listen to this song and feel a sense of true worship and a sense of thanksgiving for the sacrifice Jesus made for each of us, then leave a comment praising Jesus.  If you don't feel those things, you may need to get your heart checked.  I'm just saying...



Because of Jesus,

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reclaiming the Mission Trip

A View of Tijuana
The spring of 2001 found me preparing a team for our spring break mission trip that the Union Church of Hinsdale had long called Work Tour.  It would be my second such trip, having accompanied the group to Dungannon, VA in March of 2000, just after my arrival in Illinois.  David Knecht and I had found a mission site that we were very excited about at an orphanage just south of Tijuana, Mexico.  It would be an international site, which would excite the students we served.  It would give us opportunities to use our construction skills and accomplish concrete goals, which had been the history of the trip.  And it would give us the opportunity to minister in the name of Jesus to real people.  That aspect of the trip was going to be a little different for the team.

In fact, my primary goal for Work Tour 2001 was to help the wealthy and upper-middle class students of Hinsdale see what Jesus looked like through the eyes of those facing unbearable poverty.  We would eat, play and worship with the kids of the orphanage several times each day.  We would go out into rural northern Mexico and do a Vacation Bible School for the children of one small community.  My youth would be forced into situations where they would not just build walls or paint buildings- those things were in their comfort zones.  They were going to have to talk about Jesus- in SPANISH- with people who were hurting and seeking God's grace.  It was going to be legend- wait for it- ary!!!

Next Monday & Wednesday I will tell you some stories from what would turn out to be my final Work Tour.  You will hear tales of amazing Mexican children who had memorized entire chapters of scripture- in 2 languages!  You will hear of hot peppers, sandy beaches and real tacos.  I will tell you of my experience leading music in Spanish- a language I do not speak.  And most importantly, I will share with you some amazing moments of youth encountering Jesus in ways they never expected.  I hope you'll be here.  Come back tomorrow for a little redeeming music from Jars of Clay.

Because of Jesus,