Category Archives: youth

Slow Club.

On Monday I came across a video of Mark Yaconelli telling a story that I read in his book Contemplative Youth Ministry some time back, and thought that it was well worth sharing.


Mark Yaconelli on the simple joy of slowing down


Take the time to notice the thousands of miracles happening all around us, every day.

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Posted by on April 19, 2011 in lessons, youth


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Leading a youth retreat on Sabbath and rest this weekend



While I’ve been fascinated and have been teaching spiritual disciplines and prayer a lot in the past few years, opportunities to talk about such things have stepped up exponentially in the past year.  After leading my youth group in California through Celebration of Discipline, upon moving to Texas I have found myself preaching about prayer a number of times, teaching a class to adults on spiritual disciplines on an ongoing basis, and now, this weekend, I’ll be the guest speakers for second youth group retreat centered on the idea of Sabbath rest (which is connected, in my understanding, to prayer and disciplines). 

Here’s the basic breakdown to the four-part series on Sabbath-rest that I’ll be presenting this weekend at a retreat center outside of San Antonio:

BASIC IDEA:   We want/need to begin thinking about not only the importance of keeping Sabbath in our weekly routine (that’s hard enough), but how to think of living a “Sabbath-filled LIFE.”

For the high and middle school-aged (as well as many adults), who long to just “be themselves,” comfortable in their own skin, while also finding a way to live that has purpose, by a faith that is theirs… I think that a “Sabbath-filled life” can lead us towards these things.

Such a life would be rife with four things (the four talks):

1) TRUST…. ultimately, we are called to rest, b/c in the end, the world (i.e., God) doesn’t depend on us.  We are ultimately called to SURRENDER, when we rest…. not just watching football.   We are called to “let go” of the illusion that we have ultimate control over our entire lives.

2) WONDER…. “slowing down” in a lifestyle of Sabbath-living also results in us stopping to SEE GOD…. in our day, when entertainment and distraction are available to us at the drop of a hat, are we losing that ability to be captivated by God?

3) RHYTHM/PRACTICE…. Such a life doesn’t come naturally.  We don’t naturally seek God.  It’s something we have to continue to come back to…. but there is great JOY and FREEDOM in this (contrary to our conception of prayers and church, etc., as rote, forced activities.)

4) CELEBRATION…. When we submit to God (b/c we CHOOSE to, not b/c our parents force us to), we find ourselves FREE.  Free to be ourselves; free to live w/o shame, free to hope for the future, free to know God deeper today.  This is worth celebrating (and we’re free to celebrate, b/c we don’t take ourselves so seriously anymore!)

I try to further tie all of this together by using stories of the Israelites back in their “desert-wandering” days— fresh out of Egypt; without focus or a clear path forward, or a solid identity as a people, how are they to live?  

* God gives them the Sabbath and teaches them about TRUST by forcing them to wait on Him to provide enough manna and to preserve it, so that they will have enough to rest from collecting manna for a whole day. (Exodus 16)

* God meets Moses and the people at Sinai to confront them with His power and to make promises with them; they react not with WONDER but with fear (Exodus 19)

* God gives them the law as a means to live as a people… but also gives them prayers and sacrifices as daily/weekly/seasonal activities as rituals that help them PRACTICE the presence of God among them (Leviticus 1-7; Deuteronomy 6)

* God also gives them seasonal festivals as part of their community-rhythm— most notably the three pilgrimage festivals, and the 50-year blowout known as Jubilee (Leviticus 25)

While I’ve been doing this a bunch lately, I also feel grossly inadequate— b/c I’m FAR from being a spiritual guru.  I have quite the messy prayer life.  But I still love teaching this stuff, b/c it’s given me new focus and hope, and it has been well-received (almost like it is CRAVED) by the people I’ve presented it to thus far.



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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in youth


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The (not quite) new Advent Conspiracy Promo.

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Posted by on November 24, 2009 in Christmas, justice, youth


Holy and Ridiculous.

In the last two years as a new youth pastor, I have developed a saying: “Youth ministry is a mixture of the holy and the ridiculous.” If you’re a youth or volunteer at New Life, you’ve heard me say it, undoubtedly.

In that spirit, I offer you today my findings based on a 5 minute perusal of Facebook…

A ‘holy’ video: a short clip of Empowering Lives: Ilula’s Children’s Home in west Kenya, where I spent three weeks in the summer of ’05 that absolutely changed my life.

A ‘ridiculous’ video: ummm… well, you’ll just have to watch. 🙂

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Posted by on August 19, 2009 in funny, justice, youth


SHIFT:: breakouts, and limping evangelicals.

Just a quick blurb on the day’s events, then I’m off to bed…again. I tried to sleep a second ago, but couldn’t. Hating the PCT right about now.

I attended two special Point Leader breakouts, as opposed to most here who went to four shorter breakout sessions today, for an additional cost (I thought it was worth it b/c I really wanted the slower and more intentional pace of longer sessions and smaller group sizes… and besides, the McLaren and Claiborne breakouts were full already…..j/k)… Those groups were with Mike Novelli and Dan Kimball. I also had an early coffee date with Scot McKnight.

The theme of the day, much to my dismay, seemed to be the worry of evangelicals who have encountered emergent and like movements, and have found much to admire and that from which to draw inspiration… but, a concern remains about the perceived “over-open-endedness” of such movements. Particularly through the conversation with Scot and others at the table, and also through Dan’s breakout, I was struck repeatedly with the notion that our theological discomforts both reveal our own psychological tensions within ourselves, and that many emergent leaders’ thinking has been shaped by deep personal wounds. In other words, the struggle reveals our brokenness, from both sides. (I think my work as a chaplain is where this insight is coming from….)

With the coffee convo w/ Scot, I mentioned that the emergent movement is a half-way house, or a recovery group of sorts… and that’s not a bad thing. emergent is serving a badly-needed pastoral need for so many who have been wounded by the modern church. I hope that doesn’t come across as dismissive. However, those finding refuge in these “recovery centers” had better be careful about harboring their ill feelings about the modern church until it becomes anger, creating an “other” out of other brothers and sisters in Christ (wouldn’t be the first time) and separating ourselves from them and creating more church division.

With Dan’s group, it was the opposite that I observed: Evangelicals who have encountered emergent and have found resources, vision, passion, freshness, and new frameworks, but are fearful of fully identifying with emergent, are wanting to ensure that the old theological frameworks of “substitutionary atonement,” or “the fall,” or topics like homosexuality in the church, are not being changed. There are psychological ( I should say, pastoral…that is, reasons to be pastoral…) reasons for that. Dan at one point posited understanding theology as having a “core” with certain propositions that do not change, while other propositions contain varying amounts of truth are further from the center. Very Quine-esque, which is well and good…but my question is, what if my central propositions were different? (which they were?) What if I wanted more stuff in there? (as in, the Kingdom of God is at hand, which is pretty central to Jesus) What if I wanted less? (as in, Jesus paid the penalty for my sin)… it seemed to me that many evangelicals are weary of wading into the uncharted waters of emergent and are now floundering in the deep end, grabbing onto the old friends of propositional truths to keep them afloat. What is the fear there? What control would they lose? What fears would they have to confront?

I know sounds all very pompous; I know my theology probably reflects the results of a deeply wounded psyche in me…but I felt like I took a step backward in the second breakout session from the first with Novelli (which was great, and clearly addressed how we can have a clear, articulate faith, that can even be taught to and understood by teenagers, without clinging to propositional truth and even our own theological constructs!!!)… and I know I’m probably the only person in the room this afternoon that felt that way. I did learn from the session with Dan some ideas on how to ask tough theological questions with youth or young adults, and how to use visual media. But I was a little disappointed with the rest, if I may be as brazen to say so. Even so, another great day at Shift on the whole.

(And Bo Boshers impressed me again at lunch with his humility and honesty.)


Posted by on April 10, 2008 in church, emergent, theology, youth


at SHIFT 2008.

I’m sitting in my hotel room only 2 miles from Willow Creek, having just completed the first day of the SHIFT conference, a conference for youth leaders, volunteers, and students. It’s my first youth conference since becoming a youth pastor, and I must say, I’ve been quite impressed. I was telling Amy today just how comprehensive, pastoral, and even, dare I say, impromptu, everything was. Although I knew the speakers (Brian McLaren, Mark Yaconelli, Shane Claiborne were just TODAY) were high quality, I was sure that Willow itself and its staff would make me cringe with its commitment to hyper-efficiency, overproduction, and extravagance. And I must repent at the end of today, having experienced what I have. The worship leader, Charlie Hall, cut out half of his planned set after the second session after listening to Mark Y. talk about the need for silence in our lives, and allowed us to continue sitting in the grief that the silence was stirring up inside all of us. Bo Boshers, Willow’s youth exec, teared up after Shane’s presentation and again broke the day’s planned protocol so that Shane could come back up and pray again for us. All of Charlie’s music selections reflected both a deep pastoral conscientiousness of the subject matter, and attention to worship metaphors and pronouns (he had about the right balance of using You-We-I pronouns, in that order of frequency, instead of the usual I-You-We). And as expected, the speakers were all profound, prophetic, and yet still pastoral and loving (especially Mark, with whom I was less familiar). While I remain wary of megachurches in general, I repent tonight of my stereotypes. I thank Willow for providing this needed spiritual and intellectual sustenance for so many youth workers, newbies (like me) and experienced. And I eagerly await tomorrow’s fare.

Check out the blog discussions on Out of Ur for the conference.


Posted by on April 9, 2008 in church, emergent, theology, youth