Archives For Ministry Events

I have had little time to process all of the lessons, classes and discussions.  I thought I would relay some meanderings here that might help participants of NCYM, fellow youth ministers, church members and everyone else. I wish to do this in a sort of “lessons learned” format.

  1. For Youth Ministers, there is much to learn. I made the comment to a vendor at the conference that I have been in youth ministry for 8 1/2 years and feel like I still need to learn every day. Every… single… day.
  2. Never underestimate the healing of intense worship. Just about every speaker who was not COC commented on how beautiful the acapella singing was in the worship. Each night I felt myself drawn to the father through worship with a few hundred other folks who were bowing at the throne.
  3. We need the church. I heard this a few times in lessons and discussions. As broken and imperfect as the church is we need her. Why? She is the bride of Christ and the kingdom of God runs with, through and from her.
  4. Those in ministry need to be light before they can be leaders. Too often we are put to the front lines of leadership without really understanding what it means to “walk in the light.” We cannot lead a student to a place we have never been.
  5. The Church of Christ is still a beautiful place for students, families and the world to be participants of the kingdom of God. You say the word “Church of Christ” and people start freaking out and there are even some who are embarrassed by the name. We are not perfect folks (What denomination is?) but we are striving to be biblical, to listen to God, to seek the lost and to make heaven a reality here on earth.
  6. I am not the only fish in the sea. That applies positively and negatively.  Sometimes I think I am the only one going through struggles and conferences like this reassure me that I am not alone. On the flip side, often I think I have the best idea or my youth ministry is somehow better than others and discussions with other people humble me knowing there are far better youth ministries than the one I am serving.
  7. Theology matters. I wonder if people’s perception of a conference is that we go to worship and talk about our problems and then come home somewhat refreshed. Realistically, we spend a lot of time talking about the biblical text and wrestling with it and it’s implications in our ministries. I was refreshed to see how many people cared about Scripture. It was warming.

What would you guys add?



Great day I experienced with classes, super-sessions and keynote messages from some of the finest people in Christianity. I typed 10 pages of notes yesterday so I cannot include everything here but I want to give you some highlights that stood out to me.

Tuesday Morning, Mike Cope “Spiritual Intubation: How Community Keeps Us Alive” The Wizard of Oz: Revelation’s View of Community

  • “No church ever existed in a pure state. The church is made up of sinners. The fleas come with the dogs.” (Eugene Peterson)
  • Four characters who are known by their deficiencies. Much like Christians today.
  • Showing of who Oz really is. “The great Oz has spoken, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
  • Pergamum
    • It’s a great distance from Colorado Springs to Pergamum.
    • In Pergamum it was very, very different.
    • Everywhere people went they told two stories: the power of Rome and Greek gods and goddesses. Everywhere they went they are told that they are caught up in and how could they not believe it. It “has to be true.”  Every market, athletic event, silver item told them about temple worship.
    • Where is the Pergamum church of Christ?
      • A tiny…insignificant few.
      • Imagine holding on to the story of Jesus while walking among the temples and other places where the minority is huge.
      • Have you been the minority?
      • Power, honor, identity was wrapped up into gods and Rome not Christ.
    • Persecuted Christians get it
    • “Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw he saw no creatures so wild as one of his own commentators.” G. K. Chesteron
  • Deep Community is anchored in Jesus
  • Deep community has to be eschatological in nature.
  • Deep community is at its best when it is part of a mission…a larger story.

Tuesday Morning Keynote Kurt Johnston @kurtjohnston “Deep, Redefined”

  • Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things in youth ministry that you don’t do very well? We are great at trying to control the perceptions of other people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great at creating perception of us.
  • Four truths I have learned that have 1) pointed out my shallowness and 2) led him into a deeper experience in faith.
    • Life is a squiggle
    • I need a travel partner
    • Busyness will keep you in the shallow end.
    • When you begin to have a long view of youth ministry

Tuesday Super Session Frank Viola @FrankViola “The Missing Ingredient”

Observations about ministry to young people:

  • Catch30 Crisis – Human beings go through developmental stages as they get old. When they are 30 they reassess every decision they made in their 20s and they either abandon what hey believed or abandon them. You don’t know where someone is spiritually until they are thirty. You could not serve in the house of God until you were 30. Jesus did not begin his ministry until he was 30. Young people need to be prepared for this.
  • There is a difference between youthful enthusiasm and spirituality. Most of the big Christian movements are built on youthful enthusiasm. The problem is that many operates on youthful enthusiasm and the well runs dry
  • You can’t pass on to those whom you minister to what you have not experienced yourself.
  • I have to prepare them for the forgotten beatitude. Blessed is he who is not offended by me.

Other Notes from class…

  • If you cut the bible in any place it will bleed Jesus Christ.
  • Moses and Christ
  • Creation and Christ
  • Isaac and Christ
  • Jacob and Christ
  • Conclusion  – #1 – Find Christ in the bible. #2 – Do business with the Lord

Tuesday Afternoon Class 1 Josh Graves @JoshGraves “The Bible Jesus Read: Genesis 1-2”

2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 5

  • We need a more mystical understanding of Scripture. But also how it calls us to new spaces.
  • “All Scripture” does not exist yet and he has in mind Torah.
  • Inspired…he does not infallible, inerrant. They never show up in the bible. Sometimes the most important work we do is not learning new things but relearning old things.
  • 2 Timothy is not about proving Scripture over science but it is about inviting people into God’s world in order to see the world differently and “to do something about it.”
  • These stories carry the freight in any given culture.

Genesis 1

  • God can’t help but to create. He is in control. The things God creates would not be believable if we have not seen them.
  • Everything else that has creativity or imagination that somehow it is all linked back to the God who started.
  • One of the ways Genesis invites us to go deeper and that we live in a good creation. Does not deny the dark side of life but he made everything and called it good.
  • Most people who tell the story of God begin with Genesis 3 and not Genesis 1.
  • We have to introduce paradox to our students. Life is full of joy and pain. Paradox is one of the greatest contribution to the Western world.

Tuesday Afternoon Class 2 Sally Gary @centerpeaceinc “Reaching out to Teens Who Identify as Gay and Lesbians”

Many who struggle with same sex attraction but still love the Lord.  Struggles do not divide us.

Starved for Intimacy. Facebook and its struggles for intimacy. Question is: How can we meet this need? This desire for community. There is a great need for this connection.

What teens learn from the world: Glee, Modern Family.

What teens learn from the church: Nasty messages about homosexuals from the church

What they need is looking for a safe place.

How to be a safe place?

Deal with our own fears.

  • Change our thinking
  • Change our language
  • Listen
  • Be consistent
  • Model the Love and Acceptance of Christ

Tuesday Night Keynote Frank Viola @FrankViola “God so loved the world vs. Love not the world.”

The world in the New Testament is used in two ways…

  1. Speaks of the material universe. Jesus of Nazareth is this world’s true Lord.
  2. A system or network or order of things designed to draw us away from God.

Historically Christians have taken two postures: 1) Retreated from the world’s system (Isolationism) 2) Enmeshed by the world and married to it.

The most miserable person is a Christian who is living in a way where deep inside them they are told to give something up and they can’t. When we are in community with other Christians the Holy Spirit is clearest.

The Holy Spirit will reveal to you what is of the world.

2 Kind of legalists: 1) Salvation by works 2) I am going to take what the Holy Spirit has shown me personally and make it a law to you.

“The gospel spreads best not through force but through fascination” (Shane Claiborne)

Dinner in Colorado Springs: Uchenna Ethiopian Restaurant

This was ranked #2 in Colorado Springs by TripAdvisor and it was awesome. I had Yebeg Alecha which was tender pieces of lamb marinated with butter then sautèed with ginger, garlic, and 12 spices. There were no forks but you had this roll that you put the meat and the sauce in. It was excellent. The owner’s name is Maya and they cooked everything to order so it took a while but the food was worth it. They have mostly organic food and a substantial vegetarian menu. I have never tried authentic Ethiopian cuisine but this was a must! Went a left the owner looked at me and said, “Go in peace.” I love her already.



Yesterday the sessions started with an per-registration meeting with Patrick Mead that I missed (boo) but I decided to go to Agia Sophia’s coffee shop (see yesterday’s post). After that I did a little detour to visit a couple of places…

Manitou Springs

This is home of Pike’s Peak Cog Railway which was, much to my dismay, closed. I wanted to go up to the top but it is closed for the winter so I looked around at all of the neat shops and happenings. It is a quaint little town that is like Gatlinburg minus the rednecks and fudge.

Garden of the Gods

IMG_3551This was a great find. I hiked a little and was able to be alone and still for a small period of time. As I was walking up and down the trails my mind was drawn to the students in our ministry and how they would love this place. There are trails, rocks to climb and beautiful scenery and for that pesky youth group kid their are even mountain lions roaming about. JUST KIDDING!

U.S.A. Olympic Training Facility

IMG_3554This was free as well. I just showed up and was able to get onto a tour quickly. The guide showed us where Olympic athletes train for shooting, basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, wrestling, swimming and showed us the weight room. In the weight room we saw the University of California’s swim team and training with them was Nathan Adrian who won gold at London in the 100m Freestyle. Pretty cool.

Dinner Jack Quinn’s Pub

IMG_3572I loved this place for the Irish atmosphere and authentic Irish food. They are renown for their fish and chips and their Irish Boxtys (potato pancake with fillings) but I was in the mood for something else: Corned Beef and Cabbage. That’s right! Since my wife did not come with me I get to eat all the cabbage I want. I highly recommend this place that is located in the heart of downtown Colorado Springs.

Monday Night Keynote – David Skidmore @sycamoreskid – “A Few Good Aquamen”

Great lesson as he taught in metaphor which is a lot like what Jesus did with his disciples. He used aquaman as a template for youth ministers. Below are my (sporadic) notes and hope you enjoy them. I am off now to hear Mike Cope’s early session.

–       Job Description is crazy for youth ministers.

–       Prayed for Jason and Elyse. 2 months in ministry

–       This is kind of like that….

–       Tokyo Water Park

–       Bulls Eye Picture

–       Gas Gauge

–       Help is 172 km ahead

  • “Don’t let NCYM be a destination.”
  • “Let the overflow fill someone else up.”

–       Luke 8:29—“Driven by the demon into solitary places.”

  • How you get to solitary places.
  • Renew yourself.

–       Whale—frequency no other whale can recognize.

  • Most whales are making sounds higher but it is low.
  • It is never identified with other whales.
  • Your teens are on a frequency that nobody can understand and some of you youth ministers are on a frequency nobody understands. Parents are on different frequencies then we are.

–       2 Peter 1:8

  • Ineffective or unfruitful.
  • Do we bear fruit?

–       Super Friends

  • How lame was aquaman?
  • Every comic book…
    • A hero…
    • A problem
    • A question

–       Does he/she have what it takes to endure this?

–       Micah 6:8

–       It’s not just about depth but about distance. 20,000 leagues is not about how deep it was but how far they traveled.

–       Our churches will let us stay on the surfaces. If God (Satan?) cannot make you bad he will make you busy.

–       We are called to be a sycamore tree and not a savior.

–       1 Samuel 13

  • Running….
  • Hiding…
  • Blacksmiths…

–       “It is not within our power to place the divine teachings of God directly into the heart of another. We can only lay them on the surface of the heart, so that when the heart breaks, they are the first to fall in.” (Jewish Saying)

  • We are the only blacksmiths people have…

See the slideshow below of images from yesterday

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Technically the conference starts today but I flew in early yesterday rented a car and had a day for myself. That sounds pretty selfish but with a wife and four kids, a student ministry of 30 kids, a part-time job and other things on my plate I rarely take a day just for me…. so I did. Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 wrote, “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.” I don’t think my work is meaningless (or vapor as the Hebrew indicates) but I do think we get to a point that if we do not take a day and do nothing then toil can be imminent if not definite. So here is what I did…but don’t judge me on the first thing. (See all pictures below…)

Coors Brewery Tour (Golden, Colorado)

IMG_3525I know I am probably going to get slammed for this but if it helps you I did not drink anything but water. Having said that it was a free tour to see how beer was made. It was a fascinating tour and I learned a lot about something I was ignorant in and it was helpful to me. As I was on the tour though I could not help but to think of all the money and time spent on a drink that will lead a lot of people to do some really dumb things. So I prayed a lot on the tour and reflected.

Columbine High School (Littleton, Colorado)

IMG_3530I vividly remember when the shootings occurred in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold showed up to school and killed 13 people and then ended their own lives. I pulled up to the high-school and noticed that it was a picturesque setting. It was in the middle of middle to upper-class suburban homes with a beautiful mountain setting in the back. It just did not seem that such a shooting should have occurred here but those are assumptions on my part. I felt broken and humbled at the violence that occurred here. All I could do was pray for their families. The parents of Klebold, Harris and all of the other victims as they still search for answers they may never get.

Food and what I am doing right now…

I love researching places to eat and often frequent the app Urbanspoon to see local dives and hot spots. I found a neat place in Colorado Springs called Bird Dog BBQ which was excellent. I had the brisket which was tender and flavored to perfection. I am on a diet so I coupled that with baked beans some corn and toast. It was amazing. Highly recommend. Right now I am writing this from the Agia Sophia Coffee Shop in Old Colorado City. It is a wonderful setting that serves as a coffee shop, food connoseur and nesting ground for discussions about religion, politics and life. I love places like this where I can work, drink coffee and enjoy a tremendous view of the mountains.

I assure you now the next time I write it will be more about ministry and less about tourist attractions. I plan on wandering the city a little bit and discovering neat things to do/see. Our conference starts later. Pray for me. Enjoy the pictures…


The guys at the Jenkins Institute are doing some amazing things and one of those is “Ministry Now” that will help those in ministry to spark the work and feel of the church.

Register here.

Revival Youth Minister's Retreat

Rusty Pettus always does a great job at providing top notch speakers and programs to refresh the youth minister’s soul and to challenge, equip and empower us to go to our churches and be the kind of minister’s God called us to be.

Register here.

Dr. Walter Surdacki is doing some amazing things with the youth ministry department at Lipscomb. Here is what they are doing…

“Mark your calendars for an exciting event that Lipscomb University’s College of Bible & Ministry is hosting, March 1, 2012 Titled, “The Three Stories of Youth Ministry.”  We will have three nationally-recognized speakers in for this tremendous event:

  • Teaching THE Story of God:  Michael Novelli, author of Shaped by the Story, an expert in teaching the Bible narratively.  He will give you tools that you will be able to use to teach your students the Biblical story in an engaging and exciting way.
  • MY Story with God:  Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkeytown, will help us see how our upbringing and our biases shape our worldview, our faith and our ministry.
  • OUR Story with God:  David Hutchens, author of A Slice of Trust, is an expert in helping organizations like Coca-Cola, Kroger and Wal-Mart define their organization’s story and how it shapes, helps and hinders their culture.  David will help you define your ministry’s and your church’s story and ethos.”

Register here.