oh but he’s at a fun stage

I don’t know how long it’ll last, but I’m going to hold on to this as long as possible.

Charlie wants to go with me everywhere I go. Today that meant riding out to Spring Mills to pick up the truck, hanging out at Josie’s end of the year rugby picnic, then immediately over to the church building for another round of worship team rehearsal.

The truck is back on the road and running well. Last week my buddy Andy and I replaced the brakes and rotors, but I got something misaligned, and the right brake was squealing. So the good folks at Bierlein Automotive tweaked it and threw on two new tires to make it all road-worthy.

The picnic was a blast. We got to hang out with some of the fabulous rugby parents while the girls chattered about the season. Charlie was more interested in playing in the creek and on the playground. But can you blame him? He’s got the soul of an Adventure Guy growing inside him, and I want to feed that.

Since he handled last week’s worship team rehearsal so well, I thought we’d try it again. He was a trooper. He spent about 30 minutes chasing a wiffle ball around the room, swinging righty and lefty (mostly lefty!) and driving the ball the length of the room. It was pretty fun to watch. He was even able to connect with a couple of Happy Gilmore swings, running as he approached the ball and swinging as he ran.

He’s asking me to spend some time with him tomorrow having an adventure. I’m not sure that I can pass that up! We may have to find a little trail or creek to play in…

a little night-walking

Ponder the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Those were the helpful words that I heard as I listened to some Scripture tonight on my walk home from XStream. We dropped the truck off at the garage last night, so Kim and I had one vehicle for the day. She expected me to get a ride home from church with someone. I forgot that I didn’t have my truck until after everyone was gone for the night.

So I walked. And it was actually kind of fun. Over the 2 miles home I got to listen to Psalms 4-6 and Romans 8, and the night was just about perfect for praying as I walked.

I don’t know if I’d want to walk everywhere, but it definitely wasn’t a wasted night!

One another note, Ali Bruce shared the talk tonight at XStream. She talked about how God can use our acts of service to help us grow spiritually. I didn’t get to hear her speak, but I got lots of good feedback from folks who did. Ali is one of our key leaders, and is part of our youth ministry staff. She is the real deal, loves Jesus and teenagers, and I couldn’t be happier to have her with us.

Ali & Josie Ali, Josie, Annabelle

my shadow Charlie

Charlie has been my little sidekick for some time now, so it didn’t surprise me that he wanted to tag along to worship team rehearsal tonight. He’s pretty quick to jump in the truck to ride along for any and all errands, picking up kids from rehearsals, or impromptu trips to the store.

But I wasn’t sure how he’d do at the church while I spent a couple of hours setting up, rehearsing, and tearing down. That’s kind of a long time to an almost-4 year old boy, especially close to bedtime.

I shouldn’t have worried. He crushed it. Plus he got to chase a dog around the worship room, entertain a baby, and work on his worship dance moves.

I should’ve snapped a picture, but I was too busy laughing at him. I love that kid…

best day of the week

Thursday is quickly becoming one of my favorite days of the week.

Around noon every Thursday a bunch of us youth worker types get together to pray, plan, eat, or work on our youth ministry skills. I love the community that I find there, and always come away feeling refreshed, renewed, and challenged to keep gettin’ after it. The conversations that flow are real, vulnerable, encouraging, and deep. And I’m blessed to call these crazy folks my friends.

Then to top the day off, I get to meet with a bunch of the leaders who work with Calvary’s teenagers. Most Thursdays it’s our lifegroup, which is mostly comprised of Team XStreamers. But once a month all of Team XStream gathers for prayer and planning, with a side of Kim’s mac ‘n cheese. Tonight was that night, and it was solid. These men and women are the real deal. They love Jesus, love teenagers, and are committed to leading teenagers to love Jesus.

Kevin and Brandon

Kevin and Brandon are twinsies in their new Team XStream shirts.

I’m amazed at the growth that I have seen in our team, and in the unity that is developing in our town. I have to believe that God is doing good things, and that the best is yet to come.

I think we survived

It might have been the most awkward night of their lives, but nobody left the room screaming tonight when we talked about pornography.

The female leaders (led by my lovely wife Kim) shared some of their own experiences dealing with body image, acceptance, and lies girls believe/the truth that God wants them to know. These leaders are the real deal, and we are blessed to have them working with your daughters. The big idea is that when we understand and know God’s truth we can discern the lies and live according to the truth. I know that the young ladies were encouraged.

The young men met with me and the other guy leaders. I did most of the teaching, but the other leaders chimed in with some very wise and on-point comments. You could have heard a pin drop when I said the word PORNOGRAPHY. I don’t know if they’d ever heard that word in church before (although some of them pointed out that Pastor Dan mentioned it Sunday in his sermon.) We gave them the opportunity to write down questions, but the bigger opportunity for follow up is going to come in the conversations that will happen in small groups.

One young man came up to me at the end of the evening with a big smile on his face. “That’s the most awkward conversation I’ve had since I was 13. That’s when my dad gave me ‘the talk.'”

I’m ok with awkward as long as it leads to future conversations, hope being born in the hearts of young men and women, and freedom being celebrated.

i’m a sex talker

Yeah, that might get me screened by your internet filter.

There’s an old youth pastor’s joke that goes something like this: Do you know what the top 3 topics teenagers want to discuss in youth groups?

  1. Sex
  2. End Times
  3. Will there be sex in the End Times

At one point in my youth ministry career I felt the nudge from the Lord to be more intentional about teaching and talking about sex, both with students and leaders. Not long after that, Bob and Dannah Gresh invited me to be part of their Pure Freedom team, speaking to hundreds of teenage boys across the country about God’s call to purity.

Each year after that I’ve presented a series about love, sex, and/or dating to the students at XStream. Now we’ve got a house full of teenagers, and it seems like we’re always talking about some aspect of dating relationships, love, or sex.

We’ve been working our way through a series on dating, or the dangers of being OBSESSED with dating/relationships. Tomorrow night the young ladies will be discussing Body Image/Body Issues with the female leaders, while the male leaders will be talking about the lies of pornography with the young men.

As a youth pastor, I look forward to sharing some hope for freedom with the young men.
As a dad, I look forward to my sons and daughters hearing truth and being encouraged.
As a man, I look forward to sharing my story of freedom and trusting God for a breakthrough in the lives of our young men and women.

Here are the outlines we’ll be using tomorrow night. OBSESSED Session 3 Girls outline OBSESSED Session 3 Guys outline

XP3_Obsessed_S3BottomLineGirls XP3_Obsessed_S3BottomLineGuys

If you want more resources, click over to the youth ministry announcements page from the tab at the top of the page.

I almost got inked, and I lost to Charlie

I had a pretty interesting day.

I’m meeting regularly with the young men who lead our student ministry, doing a little coaching and encouraging. Today I visited one of the guys at his lab. AC works with squids–tiny little squidies. That job takes him to Hawaii several times a year. Yeah, it stinks to be him.

While I was meeting with AC, the snow doomed tonight’s XStream. Since we didn’t meet tonight, I gave the leaders the option of getting together to play some board games. I thought I’d get some practice in, playing a quick game of Candy Land with Charlie before supper.
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He beat me. Totally serious. It wasn’t a “dad tanked the game” win, either. He just flat out whupped me.

Several folks from Team XStream got together tonight for a few hours. We ended up playing Apples to Apples and being silly for most of the night. I love this group of leaders. In addition to being goofy, they love Jesus and teenagers. I’m looking forward to seeing what God does in us this semester!
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highlights of the day

Wow, so much goodness happened today. It’s hard to select a highlight, so here are a few:

Kim went out to breakfast with a friend who was in town for Leadership Advance. That meant I got to stay home and fix breakfast for Charlie. He and I ate omelets and played until Kim came home to take Jase to get some 6-month-baby shots.

A bunch of the folks from Team XStream loaded the van and headed to Millheim. We drank coffee and ate sammies at the Inglebean before walking over to visit Brandon’s cats (Carl and Carl Jr.) I love hanging out with the folks who are shaping the lives of Calvary’s teens. Our team is growing, and it’s good.
Team XStream at Inglebean

Tonight was Lilly’s winter concert at State High. This concert featured the Cecilian Singers (11-12th grade ladies), OMA (Only Men Aloud 11-12th grade men) and the Chamber Singers. As expected, the music was phenomenal, and Mr Drafall once again selected a number of pieces that find the origin in Scripture. I love listening to his choirs perform. It’s almost like going to worship!

After the concert, we hung out in the lobby with a few families that we’ve grown to know and love over the years of shared theatre/choir experiences. It was fun to laugh and catch up with them. Two of the other parents were celebrating birthdays today, and Kim’s birthday is tomorrow. I think we missed an opportunity to go out and celebrate, but I don’t know that the day could have handled much more excitement…

the best part of the game

Tonight we watched Ohio State whup up on Oregon. I didn’t really have a favorite in the game. I like to see Big 10 teams play well and represent the conference with dignity. So while I didn’t think that OSU would pull it off, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

But the BEST part of the game for me was having a full house for the viewing. Team XStream was in the house! Not everyone showed up, but we had a blast catching up, being silly, telling stories, and building relationships. There were conversations happening all over the place.

This was a night of community being built, and I love what God is doing here.

Team XStream is the name we give our adult leadership team for youth ministry at Calvary. They are the folks who invest in middle school and high school students, who model what it means to live for Jesus, who invite students to walk with them. Kim and I have been praying and keeping our eyes open for young men and women with leadership potential. We’re looking for folks who display the following characteristics:
Faithful–to Jesus, to his teachings, to his call
Available–not too busy doing other things to make a difference
Responsible–they understand commitment and are growing in maturity
Teachable–They want to learn, are hungry to grow

If that sounds like you or someone you know, drop me a line. I’d love to talk to you about joining one of the best teams ever!

best foot forward

Tonight while the students of XStream were meeting, talking about what it means to FLOW with Jesus in what he calls you to do, Kim and I were meeting with lots of the parents of those students.

We chatted about the vision and values of our student ministry, how things are going, and how they can get involved. Some of the parents had great questions, and it was fun answering them. A few of the parents wanted to know what they could do to be more involved, which is stinkin’ awesome!

It’s my hope to meet with parents on a regular basis. I think we’re gaining momentum, seeing some good things happen with students, leaders, and parents. I believe that our best days are yet to come, and that we’re moving in the right direction. I’m excited about the way the school year has started! Best foot forward, indeed…

photo courtesy of Josh Cone
XStream feet