writing another story

I had two out-of-the-ordinary conversations today.  The first was with some grandparents from our church.  They’d been wondering what was going on for youth (they have a few headed toward 6th grade) and had no idea.  So they asked me to lunch and plied me with questions.  They had definite ideas about what we should be doing, and those ideas were sort of at odds with our practice.  I got the chance to tell them the story of how youth ministry has changed, and how we can make a difference in this next generation.  When they heard my rationale for the way we’re doing ministry they found themselves agreeing with me, and even offered to jump in to serve with us in some role.  Isn’t amazing how powerful the right story can be?

And tonight after youth group (which was SO good!  We talked about Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom of God) I had a 5 minute chat with a dad who’s been coming to help out for a few weeks now.  He was apologetic for not being more involved up to this point.  I replied that if more dads were involved in our ministry I believe that we’d see some remarkable growth in our ministry, and in their families.  That led us to talking about how our faith was shaped by our childhood–for good or bad.  Most dads I know feel woefully inadequate when it comes to discipling their kids and leading their families.  They know that they’re supposed to do it, but they don’t feel qualified, don’t know how, don’t have a plan…and that leads to feeling guilty, discouraged, and defeated.  But some dads are taking steps, trying to do some different things, making an effort.  And that’s significant.

The redeeming truth is that I get to write the story of US for my family.  I get to shape and define what my kids know as normal.  And it can be as passionate and Jesus-centered, as wildly radical and generous and faith-infused and risk-taking, as obedient and hopeful and loving as I want it to be.

Parents, you get to write the story for your family.  You get to define normal.

What story do you want to tell?
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like father, like son

Levi and I got the chance to lead worship tonight for our student ministry.  We had a blast! Folks were singing loudly, clapping, dancing around…it was fun for us to get to play together.  My buddy Kevin took this picture of us during sound check:

photo courtesy of Kevin Sliman

photo courtesy of Kevin Sliman

Check out our faces–identical!  And the funny thing is that I’m pretty sure that it’s the same face that my mom makes when she’s concentrating on her music.

I love the fact that my kids get excited about playing music in church, that they want to be part of our worship team.  Team Sublett has always been part of the set-up team for our church (we’ve met at the high school and the State Theatre) for years.  We’ve tried to raise them to see the importance of serving, of being connected in ways that give back and contribute to the cause.

And I love playing and singing, leading worship with my kids.  As a dad, that’s a pretty big highlight.  Even if we do look like we just licked a lemon!

children of eden hit and miss

Levi and Lilly (and the State High Thespians) presented Children of Eden tonight.  It’s Levi’s senior show.  We are rapidly coming to the end of his high school theatre run.  It’s been such a good experience for him, and for us.  I’m planning to spend a couple of days exploring some of the things that we’ve learned over the past few years.

But tonight I’m going to leave you with a hit and a miss.  Which would you like first?  OK, I’ll give you the miss.

I placed an ad in the program for Calvary’s Youth Ministry.  The show is Children of Eden.  Based loosely on the Genesis stories of Adam & Eve, Noah and Mrs. Noah, the show has sparked a lot of great conversation among students.  The cast and crew do an incredible job with this story, but it’s not a good representation of the God we know and love.  I had a chance to write a clever ad that would invite people into a conversation about the True Father…and I missed it.  I didn’t know the show well enough to address that in the ad.  Oh well…

The hit?

photo by Meadow Lane Photography.

photo by Meadow Lane Photography.

This is Michael (Cain) hitting Levi (Abel) with a rock.  It wasn’t a real rock–it was made out of wood.  But the hit was real.  Michael clocked Levi in the nose, narrowly missing his eye. Blood on the stage.  Levi saw stars and almost passed out.  The look of shock on the faces of the other actors–that’s real, too.

That’s the kind of commitment that you’ll get from your actors if you come see Children of Eden this weekend.  Shows are Friday and Saturday nights at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm.

And the show is absolutely worth seeing.

that was a first

I’ve been eating breakfasts at the Waffle Shop (the one near Blue Course Dr) for almost 16 years now.  That place has been my office away from the office.  All my breakfasts with my small groups or leaders happen at the BCWS (Blue Course Waffle Shop.)  My order never changes (sausage omelet, swiss cheese, 2 cups of strawberries, and a never-ending cup of coffee), so many of the waitresses know what I’m ordering when I walk in. That’s a pretty sweet feeling.

I know several of the waitresses by name, and a few of them have shared parts of their story over the years.  I always ask them if there’s anything that we can be praying about for them, and some of them have appreciated that.   But today something different happened.

Our waitress was new (at least to me).  I made a little small talk with her to give Ben time to decide what he wanted to eat.  When I asked if we could pray about anything she had something specific.  So we prayed and ate and talked and drank endless coffee.  But when our waitress brought our bill, she also handed me a note.  As she placed it on the table, she said, “If you were serious about praying for me, here are a few things that I’d like you to pray about.”  Ben and I were stunned!

I LOVE the fact that God is opening doors for us to care for the people in our community. And I’m certain that God is up to something here!

my favorite part of Sunday

This past Sunday was a pretty remarkable one in the life of Calvary.  As we kicked off our OneByOne Initiative, we gave away $25,000.  Yep.  Gave it away, sort of like a reverse offering.  Everyone who attended one of the Calvary gatherings received a packet of info about the OnByOne Initiative, which included an envelope with a $10, $20, or $50 to use to bless someone in our community.  We’re already hearing some pretty sweet ideas of how that money is going to be used.  But that wasn’t my favorite part of the day.

Pastor Dan showed up to preach live at the 11:15 worship gathering, which was an unexpected treat.  But not my favorite part.

I got to do the voice-over for a video we used.  Not my favorite part.

Hands down, this was my favorite part of the day.
Every Sunday that I lead worship, Charlie shows up between services to sit with me, play a little guitar, sing into the mic (it’s off!), and hang out with his daddy.

Isn’t that what a worship gathering is really about?  Thanks to Mike Leach for snapping the pic of us.


birthday blessed

As my birthday comes to a close, I’m a pretty content man.  The day was filled with lots of reminders of the good things in my life, and the year has been one of some great/difficult/wonderful moments.

Over the past 9 months I’ve moved back into youth ministry.  The change has been filled with lots of opportunities for me to grow, to learn some valuable leadership lessons, and to put into practice some of the things I’ve gleaned over the past 24 years in ministry.  The transition has been more difficult than I imagined.  Slower, filled with more conflict and leadership snags…but at the same time it’s been a year of getting back to what I believe I’m called to do, re-kindling a fire and passion for ministry, building a team, finding people who want to do life together, rediscovering what our call truly looks like in this town at this time.  One of my new/good friends took me out for lunch today and reminded me that we’re in this for the long haul, and that we’re headed in the right direction.  Our youth team/lifegroup time tonight affirmed that.  Difficult but good.

And my family loved on me today.  It was a normal chaotic day that included a 2+ hour trip to the eye doctor with Sadie and Annabelle.  I got my eyes checked for the first time in about 10 years (no glasses yet!) while the girls got contacts.  Naturally, Sadie lost one of the contacts way up inside her eyeball tonight!  We had to double-team her to squiggle it out.  But along the way today there were lots of good 1 on 1 conversations, plenty of hugs, and lots of love.  I’m not ready to reveal what they’re giving me for my birthday just yet!

I am a man most blessed.  And grateful.  And changed.

80 hours of work today

Yeah, that sounds like a lot.  But that’s what we cranked out today.

10 of us (the midtown “staff”) pulled a “day away” to attack an issue that we’ve been wanting to tackle for some time.  I don’t know if the idea was original with him, but Steve called it a FedEx day–at the end of the day we wanted to have a product to ship.

We laid out some basic ground rules (be honest but kind, stay present, no email, etc) at the beginning of the day before diving in, but we spent a solid day working on our approach to making disciples.  Which is a pretty good idea, since the major call of Jesus on the Christian/Church is to make disciples.

We started by making sure that we had a good working definition, then cranked out several hours digging into the system and content.  Steve let us choose one of the two topics, then gave us time to dive in.  Our goal was to have some clearly defined action steps coming out of our discussion.

I’ve written about my non-love of meetings, but today was a completely different animal. We had a focus, a clearly defined objective, and we were talking about something that truly matters, that will make a difference in our lives and the life of the Church.  Our discussion was lively and spirited.  We had time to chase a few rabbits without derailing the whole process, and even when we didn’t agree on every point, our time together was ultimately unifying.

I’m not going to give away any of the details, but I believe that our time today will be fruitful as we move forward.  It’s fun to be part of a good team, and it’s amazing what can be accomplished when everyone pulls together.


Steve preached a good message on the biblical concept of REST (listen here).  I’ve been thinking about that idea for several days.  When is the last time you have felt truly and fully rested–recharged and renewed and reinvigorated?

Steve pointed out several of our bad habits and practices.  I know that I don’t get enough sleep.  I’m far too tethered to my electronica.  My life is more cluttered than is good for me. I’ve worn busy-ness like a badge, and been proud of it.

Part of my solution has to include more rest, more time unplugged, more time disconnected.  I’ve got to learn to say NO to some of the things that are good in order to get after the things that are great. (There’s a good video on this idea here.)

A second piece to my recovery has been carving out time to be with people who add to me, doing things that I enjoy.  Sounds simple, right?  But one of the first things that tend to get snipped and tossed away are those extras, those hobbies, those pastimes that fill our tanks.

So Saturday morning I took a few of my kids, a few youth, and a few friends kayaking. We were able to snag some time in an indoor heated pool.  We spent a few hours paddling and splashing and playing.  None of us are in great paddling shape, and we were all wore out by the end of a couple of hours.

But I’m closer to finding out how to stay fresh, how to stay sharp, how to stay rested.

How are you feeling?
Andy, Stac, Paul Red Mo stac dustin kayak 2

bringing Metro back

Tonight was a milestone in the life of our youth group and youth ministry of our community.

When I moved to town 15+ ago, there were a few youth pastors already getting together to pray, and once a month they’d gather their respective groups for a night of worship and prayer.  Unity became one of our priorities, and a few key things fell into place.  We ended up spending 3 summers partnering together, meeting every Wednesday night at our barn in Boalsburg.  It was tremendous, and spawned so many good things.  I loved the brotherhood that Jonathan Weibel, Jarrod Sechler, Keith Davis, Matt Hoffert, and I experienced

Then things happened, and things stopped happening.  There hasn’t been much unity or togetherness of late.

I believe that’s about to change.  I’ve been meeting with some of the local youth pastors, and we gathered our groups for a night of prayer and worship, which we’re calling Metro Worship, as a head nod to the past (I’m dubbing Jonathan Weibel as the godfather/grandfather of Metro!)

There were a good number of youth groups represented tonight, and the buy in from youth pastors seems to be growing.  The AOG worship band (all students) led us really well, and my lovely wife created some wonderful interactive prayer stations to help students connect with Jesus and pray.  Jarrod was spot on with his talk, even down to calling an audible with his ending.  He had the students all gather by schools and break into small groups to pray together.  Then he brought the worship team back up to lead us in one more jumpy worship song–and made us move all the seats to create a big open space for us to jump and shout and dance and sing.

I love being a youth pastor in this town.  I have seen good days in youth ministry, but I believe that the best is yet to come!  I am so grateful for those who have gone before us, paving the way for what God wants to do now.  And I LOVE the other youth pastors and leaders that are serving in our town.

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great people make great teams

Have I told you that I’m the youth pastor again?  I’m loving this, and even though we’re not where I want things to be in terms of how things are going, most days I go to sleep with a big goofy grin on my face.

One of the key pieces to how Kim and I want to do ministry hangs on the building of a great team of leaders.  We’ve always tried to find top-quality people to involve, people we would love to have speak into the lives of our own kids.  I’ve never wanted to have chaperones or warm-bodies filling spaces in a “youth program.”  I’m looking for men and women who love Jesus, love teenagers, and love the church.  I’m after leaders who know Jesus, are growing in community, and have determined to jump in and flow with what the Lord is doing.  We want to fill our team–and our lives–with people who are full of faith, available to join God when and where he calls, responsible in leadership and life, and teachable at their core.

These folks aren’t perfect.  In fact, they’re likely to be well-aware of their faults and shortcomings.  But they are intentional about a life lived well.  They know what matters most and are living in that direction.

Those are the people I want to help shape the lives of the next generation.  Those are the people who need to be investing in the young men and women of our community.

We’ve found a few of them.  Some of the folks who match that description are plugged in other places and aren’t able to jump in with us yet.

But we know that there are people out there, just waiting to be asked.  You might even be one of those people.  Or you’re sitting next to her.  Or him.  Or them!

My mom always said that it’s not nice to tell on people, but in this case, I’m willing to overlook it.  So if you know of someone who should be part of this team, let me know. Word on the street is that there’s a pretty nice finder’s fee if the people you rat out suggest actually end up serving with us!