Thursday, May 31, 2007

Consulting part deux

So here’s the thing:
If we have a situation where youth ministries are trying to ram purpose driven whatever into their ministry (or willow, etc) and coming up goose eggs – there has got to be a better way and I have a few suggestions and observations.
Goose Eggs = failure. Now this seems harsh at first but essentially my premise is that unless a ministry philosophy and strategy has had at least 7 years to work it can’t really be called a success. That is not to say that the preceding 6 years of ministry are write offs. But its hardly possible to say that after 1 or 2 years we have experienced success.
Youth Ministries that flourish and have permanence:
-start at the grass roots. I mean that leaders are interested in involving people (parents, students, volunteers) on the ground level. Evaluating context and effectiveness of ministry models and strategies is done by everyone. This can be a very humbling process. It can also easily lose momentum with out an effective leader driving the process
-start from scratch. Although there are many good models out there to implement – successful youth leaders/ministries do not super impose any framework or methodology on the ministry. Instead they choose to use the familiar frameworks as a back drop to developing their own thing. This creates ownership and unity. (This is basically Bill Hybels story – and talk to Blaine Greiner sometime about his own ministry experiences) The difficulty here is that many youth leaders are only exposed to one maybe two models. And not everyone has the skills to orchestrate the process of paradigm building.
-remain organic. Ministries that remain adaptable to changing cultural and community dynamics are better able to adjust their approach to accommodate the ministry needs. Instead of adopting the franchised method that is popular in ministry – these ministries carve out significant time to re-evaluate all the dynamics of their ministry. This is different than ‘thinking outside the box’ because there is a lot of value in maintaining consistency in ministry approach as long as it clearly remains effective.
-have the support to take time. All these things take time to develop. Unless the ministry leaders are going to have support from the political power in the church that recognize the time investment needed – the pressure to do things this way will be derailed. It is really difficult to expect the youth leaders to address the needed changes when the focus is on quick results.
-youth leaders have ample time to read and study new methods and evaluative techiniques.

Suggestions in Part 3


So I have been reading Chris Folmsbee’s (president/CEO of SonLife) blog. (I am still waiting to read his book).
His latest post really connected with a number of thoughts I have been chasing in these last few weeks. Check it out:
"I am thinking that in the end, the more glocal (local ministry with comprehensive impact over time is how I am choosing to define this word), contextualized voices we can cultivate and sustain the greater hope we instill and the greater the impact might be."
Being in ministry for as long as I have has not made me an expert in the field by any stretch but it has opened my eyes to a lot to the dynamics of youth ministry. I have seen a lot of stuff that works and stuff that does not. I used to sit regularly with a group of youth pastors (ministerial) and each fall when we would convene our first meeting of the season there would always be a new crop of fresh faces. Youth pastors that had just gotten hired on over summer. And after a while you could to tell which ones would last the year and which ones would be gone by the end of it. It’s sad really but I think I even remember betting on the results one year…
And it’s not just that – I have seen ministries crash and burn repeated. And in my humble opinion the reason has often been because ministry model did not fit the context. (square peg round hole)
Here’s the basic problem:
Ministry Franchising: Whether its willow creek, saddleback, sonlife, YFC, or whatever other stripe you choose there is a tendency to attempt to clone successful ministry models and strategies. Granted: Hybels, Warren, Fields, everyone one of them always say, “Don’t just cut and paste – adapt!” But that advice is rarely listened to. Reason? You just don’t sell the reams and reams of ministry material (books, DVDs, software, etc) by advertising it as something to change. Instead the underlying principle that gets communicated is: If it worked for me it will work for you.
Time: For as much as thoughtful youth leaders want to adapt the material they get – they simply do not have the time or resources to do the work. Almost everything in youth ministry is organized around quick – big results. Basically youth pastors have a year to prove themselves in. On top of that they usually have young families. So the time crunch dictates that they take short cuts. I don’t know a youth leader that doesn’t take short cuts. Curriculum designers know this. They craft their material in bite size chunks so that even if you don’t do any prep at all you can walk into your youth meeting glance at you book and wing it – with success. I’ve done it!
Narrow View: typically I would say youth leaders are only exposed to one or maybe two different types of resources. Their church may be hooked into the Willow network – or they could have a church full of SonLife Coaches – but it is rare to find a ministry that has the advantage of exposure to multiple models/resources. About as rare as it is to find a youth ministry with an adequate budget. So if a person’s exposure is limited one can only expect that the results are going to be skewed in that direction.
So put these factors together and it’s easy to see how ministries often misfit their context. The intentions are good but the results are still lacking. But on top of all that we have people like Mark Yaconelli who comes along and suggests that we need to slow down and be more contemplative. And I think he is right. But in some ways this sorta only adds pressure to the already stressed out youth leader trying to pack ministry into their busy lives. So I have been wondering about a few solutions to this problem but you’ll have to wait till the next post to read about them.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

There's a new kid in town...

Seems like the Tyrell kid has met his match. There's a new kid in town. Its the Big Valley Creation Science Museum. And who knows if this province (or country for that matter) is big enough for the two of them. Check this out...
The vision of Harry Nibourg to offer a scientific and biblically based alternative to the evolutionary view of earth history, as presented by the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller, has become a reality in Big Valley, Alberta.
See promo video here.
Isn't the basic question that need to be answered whether or not God did it?
I mean in some ways both 'sides' do damage to their integrity by wiggling thier 'material' in such a way as to prove that the other side is catagorically wrong.
Oh yeah and if anything in this post made you think of 80's music check this out

Monday, May 28, 2007

I lose...

Here’s one of the things I’ve been wondering about…
You know after 15 + years of doing the same thing – your identity gets tied into that very thing you’ve been doing. Especially, if like me, you’re a pragmatist. By that I mean that when people yammer on about “being” versus “doing” you really don’t understand what they are talking about. And it’s not like you aren’t a thinker – that is that thoughts travel through your consciousness – it’s that thinking and ‘being’ is so interwoven with doing that you are not quite sure where one begins and the other ends. And I am perfectly aware that I am much more than just a collection of events, tasks, and accomplishments. But it is that the focus of my life has really been about doing what I can do well. Well, most of the time. And so the real identity of a person – this person – cannot be differentiated from the tasks performed no matter how pathetically.
So what I am – is in no small way what I do. And get paid to do. There is a validation in that – getting paid. It’s like this, people say “You are a crazy guy that seems to connect well with youth – we’ll pay you to do it”. And if I say, “Okay.” – Its not that I have just said yes to hanging out with kids – I have earned the whole ‘crazy’ identity as well. And it’s not like its entrapment – no far from it. It has been and will always be a clean clear freedom that I have lived these last 15 years. But here it is: I am a youth pastor – that is as much who I am as what I do. It is as much who I want/wanted to be as what I feel responsible for as my duty in this world.
My spiritual journey is tied intrinsically to all of this. I would not be who I am in every aspect if it were not for my position. And this is how it should be I believe. I am not sure how it is possible to compartmentalize your life so much that you could have a spiritual journey that was somehow detached or unfamiliar to your vocation. It borders on schizophrenia to suggest this.
One of the blessings of the last four years of my life has been the intensifying of my spiritual journey. I feel like I know God better and because of that I am amazed at His mysterious grandeur. I feel my life has fallen more in step with the natural rhythms of God’s design for humans. And I am more convinced than ever that His grace is unparalleled beauty. But…
I wonder how my spiritual journey will change as my vocation changes. I wonder how I will live and think differently when my spiritual journey no longer hangs on some of the familiar rhythms of ministry. I wonder what unfamiliar territory I will walk though before I recognize the creator in it. I wonder how I will be reminded of the power of redemption when I cease to see it through the changed lives of young people struggling through unimagined pain and hurt. What will I lose? What will I gain in this new venture? It’s hard to say.
It is becoming clear though that as I say goodbye to youth ministry (for now) I also say goodbye to a way of knowing God. Quite frankly that scares me and excites me all at once.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

these are the slides that i used with...

the chasing cars song that vicky did last weekend...

You'll have to imagine her and Mo playing it (which i have to say i quite prefer)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ghandi seems to be rubbing off...

Ghandi was quoted as saying: "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ." Seems like more than just Ghandi feels that way...
I guess the real question is just how appealing should Jesus Christ be. There is definately a sense that in some ways Jesus can be both repulsive and attractive - maybe even at the same time. If nothing else this type of reflection must cause us to consider whether the image of Jesus that we are displaying is accurate.
ht: Dan Kimball

Abundant Springs

So this last weekend, I spoke in front of 700 people at a youth conference called Abundant Springs. I attended this same retreat years ago when I was a teenager growing up in Southern Manitoba. I can remember wondering at the time what it would be like to speak in front a large group of people like that.

Lots to reflect on as a result of that weekend. I really hope and pray that what I said was significant in helping people to consider what living the 'full life' Jesus promised in John 10:10. It is a pretty bizarre thing for me who is used to being able to talk to kids weekly about stuff and have them challenge me or seek clarification on topics that I teach on or that they are wondering about. As the mouth piece-I never really got that kind of feedback. It made me feel uneasy and not quite sure if I was hitting the mark-you know connecting with where kids really are at. Now don't get me wrong alot of people came up to me and expressed their appreciation for what I had said ---

I just wonder how these guys who do this 'speaking' thing get any sense of how they are connecting.

One of the things I did was invite several youth up on stage during my talks. I thought that would allow me to interact with at least a few kids and make some sort of connection. It amazing how a big stage can make you feel larger than life. But these guys were great - they gave me some good honest feedback and some straight up opinions. I think it helped to make the connection with the rest of the people.

I also had Vicky Berg with me up on stage. In every talk I had her sing/play a song that related to the theme I was talking about. She did a killer job of Keane's The Hamburg Song; Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars; Finger Eleven's One Thing; Shaun Groves' Jesus; and Julie Miller's How Could You Say No To This Man. And when I say killer-I mean she blew the whole place away.

We also ran the life sim. game called THE MASTER with all 700 people no less it was crazy but it worked so well. In this game every player in the game is supposed to try to get to heaven while blind folded out in an open field. There are minions who can only tell lies and one master who can only tell the truth. It's pretty simple but hugely effective in reinforcing the idea of how so many voices can mislead us from the truth.

Thanks to all of you who prayer for us and to the great people I met there. Thanks especially to my brother for helping to coordinate so many of the details of this experience for us.
Oh yeah and a few people were wondering about that Bono clip that I played in the last session so I will embed the youtube of it here

Thursday, May 17, 2007


So here is a sequel to BruceALMIGHTY (i think)...starring steve carell (the office fame).

Looks like some people at Youth Specialties have teamed up with the movie to launch a kindness campaign. It looks really interesting check it out here.


Saturday, May 12, 2007


I am the kind of person who takes a certain amount of obsessive pride in the quality of my lawn. It was incredibly disconcerting that when we moved into our current residence almost two years ago – I learned that the previous owner had sprayed round-up on the lawn in an attempt to remedy a significant weed problem. His plan was to reseed or sod the back yard but he never got around to it.
It has taken a lot of work to bring the lawn back – and there is still much work to do. It is still patchy-but it is pretty lush.
The front yard however is another matter altogether. Our cul-de-sac is one of those neighbourhoods where one or two make it their business to chide and guilt people into keeping the neighbourhood looking good. So there exists a weird sort of competitive snobbishness about how our front yards look.
Now my front yard has it’s own challenges. A large pine tree is located in the center of it. I am less than affable toward this giant forest dweller. It sucks water and covers the ground with acidic needles that ruin the ph of the soil in the front yard. Because we are a corner lot we only have a small pie shaped piece of lawn – difficult to water and small enough to reveal every blemish. I fret over it constantly.
My neighbour to the west gets a professional company to come in with their fancy sprays and chemicals. His front yard postage stamp of a lawn is decent. I’m far too Mennonite and proud to stoop to having someone else prop up my lawn.
My neighbour to the east has a nice size lawn that is square to the street. No trees. His lawn flows right into mine. We intentionally mow our lawns at different times to tell where one property begins and ends. I was priding myself on how well I was able to keep my grass in comparison to his given my inherent challenges.
Imagine my delight when this morning I drove out of my driveway and discovered that he had sprayed round up on a large section of his grass in much the same manner that our previous owner had done.
The jaws will be waggin…
i just smiled!
oh by the way here is a new and interesting product - never needs cutting or watering!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Pluma Moos (fruit soup)

2 qt. water
1 c. seedless raisins
1 c. dried prunes
1/4 dried peaches
1/4 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. sugar
6 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
Wash fruit, add arm water. Cook till almost tender. Prepare paste with flour, sugar & salt. Now slowly constantly. Cook until slightly thickened. Serve warm or cold.
Does anyone have a better recipe than this?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Soul Graffiti

by: Mark Scandrette

“Today there is tremendous pressure on spiritual leaders to be spectacular and to “market” faith in ways that are simple, easy and easily consumable. Too often the promise of “the life you’ve always wanted” is actually the life no one is living.”

“We have all found ways to misuse the good gifts of creation to cope with anxiety and stress: anger, working, drinking, consuming, eating, indulging in elicit escapes, and perhaps as many other things as there are people. Sometimes what promised relief become the habits that form us in ways that hurt our bodies, our souls, our relationships, and the Earth itself. In one way or another we are all reaching out to find a new rhythm of life that is healthy, generative, and sustaining. Discovering that transforming rhythm is the essence of the good news.”

“We are more likely to trust messages that are inhabited…”

After more than 15 years in youth ministry, I am keenly aware of my short-comings, weaknesses, and failures. There are things I would change – but I really bear no guilt for my failings. They are I suppose part of the fabric of that God has chosen to weave. I am embarrassed at times – but mostly at peace. There is one thing that I bear guilt and shame over an above all else. It is the places where I have served to communicate, endorse, espouse, and defend the hollow, shallow, glossy, in authentic ‘faith’ that still parades itself in and out of our churches like a filthy whore. Glib answers, trite platitudes (I really didn’t believe or live), and contrived, slick ‘instructions’ have too often been a part of my ministry repertoire even if it only was once (which it wasn’t).
We (I) can get so good at spewing out and mimicking the latest greatest mantras or 4-step/4-week/4-results program, that we (I) forget to acknowledge the twinge of guilt each time one of these things roll of our (my) tongue.
Forgive me!
Would that I might inhabit the ‘essence of the good news’ more

Hurry Hurry

Less than a week till this...


at least at 5 am