Summer Camp 2010

This was my 9th Summer Camp, and it was my favorite by a mile.

I took 90 students and 12 leaders with me to Forest Home last week. I’ve spent the past 8 summers at Hume Lake (minus 1 Summer). I love Hume. Every year was amazing. But this year was just different.

I don’t think it had anything to do with the location. It had to do with what happened among my students and leaders. I’ve never, ever seen a group this tight-knit. Usually when you take that many students somewhere it’s very difficult to feel a sense of unity, but not this year.

The theme of the camp was brokenness, and our students and staff bonded so deeply in their shared need for a Savior who can take what it broken and make it beautiful. Their transparency and humility was contagious. There wasn’t a faker among us. Everyone spilled their guts, and found so much hope in the acceptance of God and His people.

I’ve said it a thousand times… this has been the best year of ministry for me yet. I’ve never felt closer to a group of students and leaders- and that’s saying a lot because I’ve had some pretty remarkable students and leaders over the years ūüôā


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What Does a Pastor Look Like?

I had heard about this sort of thing happening to other youth pastors, but it had never happened to me… until yesterday.

A guy came into the church office and asked to meet with a pastor. He needed some counseling, and he didn’t know where else to go. He was probably in his 50’s, well dressed, and visibly shaken from whatever was on his mind. I was the pastor that they called to come and talk to him. Usually our Mercy Pastor gets the call, but he was unavailable.

As soon as I turn the corner he looks at me little bit funny. He literally looks me up and down, reluctantly shakes my hand, and then follows me into our conference room.

Guy: “What do you do here?”

Me: “I oversee our Student Ministries Department.”

Guy: Sigh

Me: (Trying to ignore the sigh) “So, what’s going on? I can see that you’re pretty shaken up by something.”

Guy: “Is the Lead Pastor around?”

Me: “I don’t think so, but I can check for you.”

I go look for Mark Connelly (who looks like a surfer more than a pastor). I find our Executive Pastor of Spiritual Development Paul Fischbach (he has a goatee and a bald head so he definitely looks like a pastor). Paul’s busy so he can’t talk to him. I go back in with him…

Me: “I couldn’t find our Lead Pastor, but I’d be happy to talk with you. (Long pause) I’ve been in ministry for about a decade now.”

Guy: (Spends about ten seconds trying to figure out what to say to me, and then…) “I’m sorry… I just can’t… thank you for your time.”

This story is part funny, but part sad too. Funny that I got completely judged by my age and appearance, sad because this guy left our church hurting when he didn’t have to.

The funny part is that THIS IS OUR LEAD PASTOR. He looks like he’s on his way to his Senior Prom.

Do I need to look more like beefcake up above?

Or maybe this guy:

The Whole Gospel

I believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins.

I believe that we are saved by grace through faith.

I believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

But… that’s not the WHOLE gospel. It’s the best part, but it’s not the whole thing.

The whole gospel is that God cares about the whole person. I’m pretty sure Rick McKinley was the first person I heard say it that way. Or it might have been one of the 2,103 verses in the bible that talk about the poor (financially), the oppressed, and the marginalized.

God cares that people don’t have clean, safe drinking water, about people who go hungry, about people who are homeless. He also cares that their souls are broken and thirsty, and in need of healing that I believe can only be found in Him. To be a pastor, you should probably care about both of those things too.

If I had to pick one of those two things as a priority, I’d pick the soul because it lasts forever. But, here’s my beef with that cropped gospel:

People need to live long enough to actually hear that part of the gospel.

It doesn’t have to be one or the other. You can care about, and address both needs.

I write this because twice this week I’ve been questioned about the gospel by two pastors who used to know me pretty well. They asked if I prioritize the gospel enough.


I know that Jesus offers “living water”, but you’ll never swim in that lake if you’re a 5-year-old, malnourished African boy who drinks dirty water every day and suffers from dysentery. If you show up in that kid’s community with a tract about 4 steps and a cute bridge, they’re gonna say YES to your gospel (because they’re polite). But what they really need is a holistic, comprehensive plan for restoration. Not a ticket to heaven. Jesus offers both.

A “gospel” that doesn’t care about physical needs isn’t good news at all.

Grand Opening at Mission

The grand opening for our new buildings at Mission was last weekend, and it was a huge success.We opened a new Worship Center, and a new Student Center.

The initial thought for the weekend was to bring in a famous football player, which would likely draw a huge crowd, but we bailed on the idea after a new one was presented. We decided that we’d try to save a thousand lives instead of focusing exclusively on luring a thousand new people to our campus. Not that its a horrible idea to use a football player, but it just didn’t seem to resonate with who we are. Besides, the quarterbacks are already millionaires… they don’t need the money.

We decided to give all of the money we would have spent on the quarterback to charity: water. If you haven’t heard of them, I’d like to take this opportunity to welcome you back to civilization. How was it being frozen in ice all these years?

We sent them a check today for $26,000 today, which will go right to the people of Marialapas, Haiti. Apparently I’m going to Haiti to visit these lovely people when the project is done.

Best day at church, ever.

Mission Community Church: Grand Opening

For every person that comes to celebrate the grand opening of our campus expansion on Sunday, March 28th, Mission Community Church will give 5 years of safe, clean drinking water to a person in need. Join with thousands to make a difference just by showing up.

It breaks down like this: for every person that comes (women, men, children… all of em), we’re sending $5 to charity: water, an amazing non-profit organization that provides clean, safe drinking water to people in developing nations.

Our youth ministries did a 3-month fundraising campaign earlier this year for charity: water, and it was a great success. We raised about $5,000!  CW gives 100% of every dollar to the people in need. No overhead costs, no profits, none of that.

The video says “5 years of clean water”, which is a variation of what charity: water says, which is that $20 can give one person clean water for 20 years. They’ve told us that our efforts will go towards a specific project in Haiti!

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Lent 2010

I’m not really fasting from much this Lent. I’m not going to drink any soda, but mostly because I think it’s time that I cut back. I can pound a hundred ounces of Diet Coke down in a day without any trouble. Don’t judge me.

I’m entering this Lent season interested more in what God can do in my life. I think that people fast from things for very good reasons, but as I considered it I quickly realized that most of my reasons were selfish. I wanted to feel good about saying no to something for a long time, and maybe break some unhealthy habits as a result. That’s just not enough for me right now.

All sorts of things are new in my life, and I want to see what God is up to. Lent is all about death and new life. I have some things that need to die so that I can truly live. I want God to show me those things so I can carry them to the cross with Him. Isaiah talked about some of the pros and cons of fasting. God’s offer is guidance in life and satisfaction for my greatest desires.

I want that.

I see plenty of value in fasting, but this Lent season I’m going to push everything else aside so that I can feast. I want to experience the passion and resurrection of Jesus, and I want God to transform my soul in and through the process.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”- Marcel Proust

welcome back

I grew up partying with a bunch of great people. We had a good thing.

I left the whole scene because I needed to. I wanted to follow Jesus, but I was too weak to do that AND hang around the bars and whatnot. I was just too controlled by my desires, so I had to literally remove myself from that world.

It’s been about 10 years now since I’ve hung out with that crew, but I’m pretty sure of this: If I went back to them, they’d take me back.

I could go back to them and say, “I don’t know what I was thinking… I just got wrapped up in the whole thing and went crazy for a while!”

They wouldn’t create a transitional re-entry program to return me to fellowship, not that those are bad things… They’d probably¬† just buy me a beer, fill me in on what I’ve missed and invite me to the next get-together.

How easy is it to get back into your church?

I hope we church goers are never out-graced by people who’ve never tasted and seen God’s grace.

How Many You Got?

It’s the question that 98% of youth pastors hate to get asked:

“How many kids you got coming?”

Why? Because most of us don’t have huge youth groups.

My guess is that most groups have about 15 students coming each week, and that’s probably a combined crowd of Junior High and High School students.

My attendance was in a constant state of flux for years. I became the Golden Boy one year when I hosted an event with over a thousand teenagers in attendance. My title didn’t last long.

We had about 200 kids coming for a while in my Junior High Ministry. Then I transitioned to High School where we’d peak around 160 but then valley in the 60’s at times.

Nothing had changed but the attendance. I was doing the same thing year in and year out. I was working hard. I was committed. I was even putting together “evangelistic” events and teaching through topics that we intended to draw crowds. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Today I’m the same guy, doing the same thing (sort of), teaching through the same bible… but this year our attendance is way up.

I can’t take the credit because I’m doing the exact same thing I was doing when I got fired for my low attendance just 2 years ago!

Jesus would probably get fired by most churches if he was the youth pastor. He’d spend way too much time with kids and not enough time planning huge events. He’d be horrible using technology. I’m guessing he wouldn’t shop at Buckle. And come on Jesus… 12 students doesn’t really cut it if you’re church is MEGA.

Attendance isn’t everything, faithfulness is.

Hey youth pastors will small youth groups: you’re in pretty good company!

I worked my heart out for years and had 60 kids coming. I’m doing the same thing now and the numbers are up.

I think God is involved. God may have wanted me to have a smaller group for some reason. He might choose to cut my current group in half next year. He’s got the right to do whatever he wants. Or he may double it. Who knows!?

If your success as a youth pastor is based on your attendance, I’d like to introduce you to my friends at Church Staffing. Quit now, and go find a church that wouldn’t fire Jesus. Feel free to send me your resume’.

Don’t give up or give in.

Girl Power

I’m just gonna go ahead and say it: The girls in my High School Ministry are leading the way.

We have some AMAZING guys who are a part of our ministry. But…

More girls serve in Children’s Ministry, 5/6th, Junior High Ministry and other various ministries in the church than guys do.

More girls are plugged into small groups than guys.

More girls show up to events, trips, and camps. Example: As of now we have 16 students signed up for a mission trip later this year. 13 girls.

More girls have found creative ways to own their faith than guys have. I can’t measure this one mathematically, but I’m pretty observant.

The list goes on and on.

My guys are doing great things… but if this was a spiritual Battle of the Sexes, the fellas would be losing!

For those pastors and churches who limit the role of women in ministry, and treat them as second-hand citizens in the Kingdom of God: come hang out in the Mission High School Ministry some time. You’ll be eating your words.


{the foxy buff woman in the picture is my lovely wife}

Memorize Colossians

I’ve made this offer a bunch of times, but so far none of my students completed the mission:

If one of my high school students can memorize the book of Colossians before summer camp I’ll let them go for FREE. That’s about a $500 prize. We’re headed to Forest Home for a week, which would be an amazing amazing amazing thing to win for anyone of any age.

This should be easy. It takes about 10 minutes to read all four chapters of Colossians out loud, which is what… 2 and 1/2 songs? We all now 10x that many songs by heart, so our brains are fully capable of doing it.

The rules: Any translation, word perfect, all at one time, before camp, one winner.


The most I’ve ever memorized was Psalm 101 back in 2001.

{Side note: I include an additional $3¬† for the cost of each student’s camp to raise enough money to cover this spot. It’s a much more creative way to do a giveaway than dishing out a bunch of cash from your ministry budget}.