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Who I amReside in St. Louis Missouri currently, Lived in California & Colorado.Husband.Father.Pastor.Football Enthusiast.Teacher.Learner.Dreamer.Reader.Friend. [thoughts & comments blogged here are my reflections living life trusting Jesus as God]

Thursday, November 20, 2014

5 Hours in a Deer Stand

Wednesday I got an invite to go with some friends deer hunting & man I couldn't wait.  It's been a 7 years since I've gotten a chance to go deer hunting and I was anxious like a kid on Christmas Eve at this opportunity.

One of our adult mentors in our student ministry his family owns land that has been worked to be VERY viable habitat for conservation.  They've plotted their stands intentionally and to be honest put in a GREAT spot!  The weather was a solid 28 degrees with 15mph winds out of the south.

We hiked in at 5am, got set into our stands by 545-6am and did what all hunters do...waited. Now I did go through my mental checklist to be sure I had everything in place for that 1 moment of action, but while waiting I did the easiest thing I could think of doing, praying.

For 5 hours I was uninterrupted, alone, focussed & had nothing else to do that would distract me.  I prayed for my wife, kids, ministry I'm leading, extended family, myself, my boss, my new co-workers, my sons' future wives, my friends on the other end of the farm hunting that day....I can't tell you how refreshing that was.  I even asked myself, "When was the last time I put myself in a position to be that focussed and have that much opportunity to just sit & pray with Jesus?"
Answer: it's been a while.

Ministry Leaders, lets face it.  We skimp to often on the necessities.  We skimp on the intentional focussed times of prayer, reading & mediation.  Leaders like action & results and all of those things are not results based activities.  They are character shaping moments.  They all compile into long term transformation but not immediate results.
Those 5 hours in that deer stand felt very fluid & am quite surprised it really even was that long.  I'm almost tempted to go sit in that stand again just to be able to pray with interruptions!

As far as hunting went, I did see one doe about 640 in the morning but wanted to sit on a buck.  I didn't see another deer until I was walking back to my truck and I spooked the buck before I could get a shot off.  I guess it'll be one more year before I get my deer.


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Do You Want an Invitation or Permission?

In the last few years the amount of digital invites to events I have received as well as posted is kinda overwhelming.  From a back yard BBQ, student ministry events, birthday parties, church functions, volunteer opportunities, weddings & doggie walk days.  It very easy to check my notifications or comments and check yes or no but I've also noticed how easily the statement of "oh yeah I scanned that but forgot" is for our culture.  For myself Notifications line up with the digital idea of vomit.  They basically just give you "permission" to be a part of things. 

Notifications come & go like breathing...but I would argue that they are as addictive and harmful as breathing in smoke. They can be thrown around so quickly & flippantly that they lose an actual invite to be a part of something significant.  It becomes noise into our lives.   A friend of mine, Adam McClane, posts some interesting thoughts on notifications here and I'd encourage you to read his post.  

Now when I receive a invitation in the mail or a personal invitation I remember it so much more.  I know for myself that the personal letter or personal invite makes me feel like I'm wanted.  I can belong.  I have a group of people I can join to share moments of life together with a certain amount of relational intimacy.

The contrary is being given permission.  The "sure you can do that" or "yes I will let you join us" type statements.  The type of statements where there is no real thought behind the invite and it is more in line with just being given permission to be a part of the background of everything.

Our kids want to be invited with us as parents to do life together.  They wanted invited into significant conversations and life events.  They want their voice valued & listened too in their own family unit.  
They don't want to feel that we just give them permission to be treated similarly to this statement "FINE! You can do this, but just do this one thing".  

Students also want an invitation.  Students want to be asked with relational connection to be a part of something bigger than them that could be great.  Students want to walk with you in life and create some amazing life moments together.  

The Gospel isn't about being given permission to accept God's Grace, it is an invitation to be a part of Christ's Kingdom.

These might just be my thoughts & I may be arguing semantics but I'd invite you to share your thoughts on that matter!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Finding a Life Pace in the Midst of "New"

In this transition our family has been processing a lot and in the processing we are learning what life looks like with change & lots of change.  And in those learnings we are developing a litmus test.  We are developing what we do & do not like.  We look for what lends itself to be more of our family rhythm and we've noticed that we're different.  Southern California living for 12 years & growing up in Colorado for 19 years definitely has shaped how we think, act, react, respond and desire to live.  

It's been enjoyable to have family conversations and hearing the differences the boys notice and as we talk as a family how all of us tend to notice similar patterns as well as point out certain items that others of us has missed.  We are learning & teaching each other together.

There are several times when we ask one another how a certain experience was the response has been "it was ok".  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't great.  
A large part of that is the experiences are new to us and we are developing a new litmus test of what we enjoy and do not enjoy.  Many experiences we walk into and we are having to say out loud that we aren't expecting much.  We are just trying to adapt to our surroundings

We are keenly aware that where we live & making it more of a "home" takes a lot of hard work.  

And the same is true for leading a new ministry.  The evaluations, likes, dislikes, cultural nuances, ministry history, student behavior's and so much more are all new.  New can be exciting & exhilaration, scary, awkward, embarrassing....i think new can expose so many emotions that it's hard to even label them some days.  And it's hard to know how things are really going because your evaluation rulers are all over the place.

A constant we are trying to embrace is giving space for conversations, emotions & knowing we've got each others backs.  As a family, we are in this together.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Missions Trip Done Right Part 2

For Missions Trip's Done Right there are a few key factors that I believe are needed but central to all of them is healthy communication.

During Trip be sure that COMMUNICATION is at an all time high.  Communication with your leaders, with your students, with the organization you are going with, with your means of transportation and with back home.   I want to make sure that What we are communicating is as important as How we are communicating it.

One way to communicate well is you can create a Daily Story.  Anymore with smartphones & the variety of apps available you can create a really unique collage of pictures, quotes & mini-videos that those following your team can get available updates.  It also gives you a way to give sound bites that can remind you later of stories that need to be shared with more detail via testimonies or recap opportunities your team will have once they are back home.
The great part is students LOVE doing this on their own so rotate your students through and ask them to create a DAILY STORY.  They are already doing this so use their energy & maximize your time efficiently.

I like host 24 Hour Meetings.  What I mean is that each Night I like to do a daily recap & a "here is what the next 24 hours will look like".  This give answers to students & leaders questions plus it gives you the ability to assign healthy changes & roles to your team as you encounter certain variables.  At these meetings I try to do 3 R's.  Recap, Remind & Refresh everyone.  Recap the day with the high's or the lows.  Remind everyone about the essentials they need whether it be guidelines, instructions or changes.  Refresh everyone with a key scripture, time of prayer or a cold Coke.  I can't tell you how many times a cold bottle of Coke makes a team enjoy the "24 Hour Meeting" with more presence.

There are always times where you will need to me with just your leaders.  These times are when I try to care for their needs, concerns, questions as well as affirm them.  This is where leadership helps one another gets through whatever difficulty or obstacle that could be in their way.  Often it's a quick 5 minute debrief or it is a late night time of sharing stories from their day.  
Take advantage of making sure they are cared for & prayed for as much as your students are....remember when you get back to the church you still want them to link arms with you on a weekly basis!

You've got to create an atmosphere of FUN.  Mission trips create stress on everyone and that stress is not always unhealthy.  Regardless setting the tone from yourself as the key leader will translate down through the rest of your time.  Ideas like an early cup of coffee, late night ice cream, stopping at a local bakery for sweets to share or a middle of the day game of soccer can all help your team enjoy their time!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Missions Trip Done Right Part 1

I started my 14th year in youth ministry this past summer and I've lead at least one foreign soil mission trip EVERY year of youth ministry.  England, Mexico, Uganda & Costa Rica are all the locations we've been.

I have held to this conviction for a long time; if you want to see a students life changed allow them to see a close friend begins relationship with Jesus and take them on a missions trip.

Over the years I've found a system that works well for me in how we accomplish a healthy initiative led trip.  Each trip brings a few adjustments but the base principles stay the same.
I have two blog posts to share these personal learnings that will hopefully help you with a new idea or encourage you to expand on your own process.

The key to any healthy trip is Organization.  Youth Leaders you will save yourself hours of sleep, you'll gain parents confidence quicker, minimize tough conversations en route & allow students a better experience if you are organzied.
Take the time to gain as many details before the trip as possible.  Be anal retentive about the details you need or think you'll need!  Do you have all legal documents with you & at home?  Do you have transportation covered?  Do you have petty cash because that church credit card won't work overseas?  Do you have a emergency contact system?
This organization factor is also have a backup plan to the "what if" scenario.  What if you miss your flight?  You are stopped & separated at an international border?  A student or leader gets severely sick?

Give ample time to publicize all the "W's".  The Where you are going? Why you are going there? When you leave? Who is leading the trip? What students can expect to experience before, during as well as after the trip?
Field questions ahead of time but thinking through the questions people will have and provide those during information & training meetings.  Post it socially as well as through email updates to families.

Recruit well for Missions trips.  You do not need nor do you want a leader on the trip who will add stress or be high maintenance for you.  Your time and attention is critical and you need adult leaders you can trust and share the ministry with.
You also need to train, inform & include your leaders with as many internal conversations as possible.  Be sure they know their boundaries of what is expected of them but also be sure to give them freedom.  Care for them well on these trips as most of them are leaving family, taking vacation time & sacrifices the same thing you are for the sake of students.  Take leaders with you who you can trust a peer leader.

I've always sorted students into teams with 1-2 leaders per team.  This allows you as the youth pastor to leverage several possibilities.  Your "team leaders" just became small group debriefing leaders.  When teams need to own a specific event, serving function, through border customs, out to eat or anything else you now have the power of sending teams that you already have divided up.
Splitting up into teams also allows you & the other leaders to do a head count a whole lot easier which let's be honest seems to be a factor with every plane change, bus transfer, taxi cab ride from the moment you leave until you get home.

Plan Z
If you don't know it let me be the first to tell you, your trip will NOT go as planned.  You need to talk through the serious what if factors.
For example: On a missions trip we had a motor vehicle accident that affected 3 of our leaders.  Now the injuries were minor but they were still a factor.  We didn't plan that.
On another trip I had a student make a poor judgement call that forced us to sit at a border crossing for almost 2 hours being inspected.  I definitely did not plan nor want this issue!

These couple incidents as well as others were easily handled for the rest of the group to keep moving forward because of the pre-planning PLAN Z we had already in the group plan & strategy.
Take some time with your team before you leave to know what the plan is & the parameters of how to enact the plan if a issue arrises.

Next post we'll talk about some ideas to do while on the trip & post trip followup~

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wholly Crazy Summer!!

That's right...WHOLLY!
Everything.  All of it.  Personal, professional, public & private...all of it has been a full summer of craziness.

To recap the last 4+ months of our families lives here is the bullet point version:

  • March 2014 I had personal & professional reasoning to leave a church we were at in Southern California for 6+ years
  • April 16th 2014 moved to St. Louis MO to begin a new chapter of life & Cole turned 10
  • April 17th began looking for a rental
  • April 21st moved into our new rental & started at a new church
  • April 23rd moving truck showed up
  • May 30th Our sons finished their school year in Missouri after only 5 weeks of going
  • June 3 2014 the home we were renting had a faulty electrical outlet that didn't like my surge protector and our garage & laundry room was burned with severe smoke damage to the house as well as our belongings
  • June 4th we were homeless
  • June 16-20th Student Ministry Summer Camp
  • July 14-21 High School Missions Trip to Costa Rica
  • July 27-August 1st Middle School Mission Local serving & Missions trip
  • August 6th our Boys began their first Day of School
  • August 8th we moved back into our rental home ending an 8 week displacement living in hotels, with family (impromptu Virginia Trip for Kim and the boys) & friends.
  • August 11th part of our contents were returned from a restoration company & I turned 34
  • August 13th all of our fabrics & clothing items were returned from a restoration company
  • August 15th....i finally get back to blogging
Needless to say it's been a wholly crazy summer.  All of us have had a ton of emotions and experiences throughout this whole transition.  
Some of those emotions have been pain, anger bitterness, tears, joy, humbling moments, experience love & care by strangers, we all miss So Cal, we are trying to adjust to humidity & we know it's a process. 

We knew the reason we had to move as well as this move was bringing challenges but we never thought any of these challenges would be magnified by so many other issues and scenarios.  
And through it all I have felt like a broken record saying "day at a time, step at a time".  
Because that is all we really are able to navigate.  We couldn't control anything that pushed us out of Southern California, we couldn't control the fire, we couldn't control issues trying to get back into our rental home & so much more.  All we can do is "day at a time, step at a time".

As a Dad i've tried to care for my boys with as much conversation, fun moments & giving them space to process freely without begin forced to "deal with it".  As a husband I've tried to listen closely to Kim, care for your emotions as well as taking whatever I can off her plate in those moments she just needs a break.  
As a follower of Jesus I've prayed, and prayed....and prayed for wisdom & also the ability to take it "day at a time, step at a time".

To be honest there is still so much we are having to manage in our lives.  Insurance claims & paperwork, a new school system with an entirely new school calendar, our boys trying to develop new friendships, Kim and I trying to create a new rhythm for our family, learning the ins & outs of working in a new church, trying to learn how to balance being outdoor people when humidity makes you wanna stay inside and that list keeps going.

So today I leave with you with this; this summer we've really had a chance in life to practice what we preach.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

Monday, July 07, 2014

Driven Leaders and Selfish Ambition

One of the highlights about being a leader is you get to see & experience things many other people do not.  From lives being changed, traveling around the world with people, creative planning processes and first hand being an influence for someones or an organizations life.

However, with leadership comes power and the ability to make executive decisions.  There is no doubt that certain leaders make some of those decision based on personal preferences or biases.  And leaders are hired and given the opportunity to lead with their own convictions, strengths and drive.  They are hired for a reason.

So when does healthy leadership and selfish leadership have noticeable differences?
I've often thought this is a tricky question because the filter of what is healthy and what is selfish can be subjective to an individual response.  What I may perceive as healthy another can interpret as selfish or biased.  But even with that I think there are some general guidelines for healthy leadership vs selfish leadership.

-- Healthy leadership leads from a place of collectiveness for the sake of the team, organization and greater drive to accomplish the goals without running over people.
-- Selfish leaders makes decisions based on being right or winning the argument.

-- Healthy leadership care about productivity as well as the employee.
-- Selfish leadership cares more about the productivity than the employee.

-- Healthy Leadership is contagious & attractive.
-- Selfish leadership burns people out

-- Healthy Leadership shows genuine care.
-- Selfish leadership cares genuinely about their agenda.

--Healthy Leadership serves before dictates
--Selfish leadership sits on the sidelines before serving

-- Healthy Leadership cares about longevity
-- Selfish leadership is short term & often reactionary

I know these are general statements but for me I've seen both the healthy & selfish side of leadership in those I've worked with as well as at times in my own leadership.  I also know that the leaders I respect, am drawn to learn from and willing to go the extra mile with are those who carry attributes of healthy leadership.  Leadership is not an easy road but whenever you have the chance to lead my hope is we lead well and care about the bigger picture and not just our own personal bias.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Independence Day or Life?

Happy 4th of July! 

    This week, we will take time to celebrate the freedom we enjoy as a nation. We will eat too much food, watch fireworks, maybe attend a parade, and will thank God that we live in a country founded by men and women brave enough to win that freedom over 200 years ago.

    But the longer I reflect on the freedom we enjoy, the more amazed I become with the actual date of Independence Day.
    As we all know, on July 4, 1776, the second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, claiming legal separation from the British crown. The Brits, however, didn’t quite see it that way, and so the formal beginning of the American Revolution was born.
    What I had forgotten from my school days was how much time passed between the day we declared independence and the day we actually secured it.
    While the Revolution began informally in early 1775, it didn’t end until the final treaties were ratified in November of 1783. That makes the American Revolution a longer war than WWI, WWII, the Civil War, the Korean War, and the conflict in Vietnam.  During that period of nearly a decade, Americans (who the British considered still Brits) wrote songs about their new nation that hadn’t yet won the war. They stitched national flags for a country that didn’t yet exist. And they fought for a freedom they had declared but had not yet experienced. There’s a key lesson from that decade of struggle:
    There was a long time between declaring independence and securing freedom.
    And that’s the way it often is in the spiritual world.
    Freedom has to be declared before it can be secured.
    The pattern is clear: God longs for and uses people who will declare their victory long before they see it come to pass.
    Think back to the Israelites, who marched around Jericho long before the walls fell. Remember Noah, who built an Ark while the sun was still shining. Remember the prophet Isaiah, who said a Virgin would bring forth a child, our Redeemer, 600 years before it happened. And remember Jesus saying that he would rise again once he was killed.
    Now think through your life. What victory should you be claiming, even though you haven’t seen it yet? What independence from a bad habit can you declare today? It may take years of fighting and hard work, but if you will consistently name your freedom, and believe in the freedom that has already been won at the Cross and Empty Tomb, you’ll discover a life that’s greater than you can possibly imagine.
    Declare your freedom before it has come to pass. It’s the American thing to do. And it’s the spiritual key to tapping into the power God has in store for your life.
    Happy Independence Day!