Monthly Archives: April 2009

Last week I went to Chicago to attend a 3-day youth ministry conference called “Shift the Future” at Willow Creek Community Church.  It was sponsored by the Willow Creek Association, a leadership organization affiliated with the host church.

I went because I’m doing some writing this year on youth ministry and wanted to listen to what others were saying about it.  I went to all the sessions as a conferee, something I really haven’t done in a long time.  For most of my life I’ve been involved in putting on conferences or speaking at them.  To just sit, listen and take notes at a ministry conference of any kind felt very different for me.  While there, I always felt like I needed to be doing something … but these were false alarms going off in my head, I kept telling myself.

notes-from-shiftSo I took notes.  I’m not a very good note taker.  I tend to doodle a lot.  At the right is a sample, from a seminar I attended on junior high ministry led by Scott Rubin.  The seminar was actually quite good although you couldn’t tell from my note-taking.

Highlights of the conference included the opening address by Francis Chan, a pastor from Simi Valley California who has become a very popular conference speaker (he also did the YS conventions this past year).  He’s dynamic, passionate, transparent and very inspiring.  I did have a question regarding his use of his daughter in one of his illustrations to make a point.  I’ve always been hesitant to do that–to use your own kids in stories that make you (or them) look good.  There are two schools of thought on that (yes and no).  I’ve generally come down on the “no” side of that debate even though I sometimes break the rule myself.

I also enjoyed the session featuring Mark Holmen, a pastor from Ventura California and Bubba Thurman, a youth pastor from Texas.  Together they presented a compelling argument for ministry to and with families, which of course is a passion of mine.  I’ve heard Holmen several times (I’m a big fan of his) but never before Bubba Thurman.  I was very impressed by his presentation.

I also enjoyed hearing Kara Powell speak.  Currently with the Fuller Youth Institute (Fuller Seminary), I was blessed to have her as a student (one of the brightest and best I ever had) when I taught youth ministry at Bethel Seminary in San Diego.  It’s not surprising at all to me that she’s making such a significant contribution to the field of youth ministry now.

While I was at the conference, I had a chance to have dinner with an old friend of mine, Mark Senter, professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He has just finished writing a very thorough history of youth ministry called When God Shows Up, scheduled to be released next January by Baker Academic Books.  We had a very interesting conversation about the future of youth ministry and a few other topics as well.  One thing we both agreed upon: the future of youth ministry is no longer in our hands.  Our role is to cheer on the next generation of youth workers and avoid putting a lid on their creativity and passion for doing what God is leading them to do.

A big THANK YOU to the Willow Creek Association for making it possible for me to attend the conference, especially to Scott Rubin, the junior high pastor at Willow Creek Church, who also let me stay at his house.   It was an encouraging and productive week for me.


Category: Ministry

I found this newly-released book at a bookstore the other day and couldn’t resist buying it. teenagers-suck-joanne-kimes-paperback-cover-artWritten by a couple of comedians and a therapist, the back cover reads: “Is it any wonder … Most people go through mid-life crises when their kids are teenagers? … Fewer parents are grounding their teenagers–to avoid being stuck at home with them?” And so on. The authors describe their book pretty well in the intro: “This is not a book about parenting teenagers. It’s a book on how to survive parenting teenagers.”

In my parenting seminars I usually tell parents that how you treat teenagers often determines how they respond, how they behave, how they feel. If you treat them as problems, they’ll give you problems. If you treat them like children, they’ll act like children. If you have a low view of them, they’ll live down to our expectations. We are in a sense mirrors to help them determine their identity and self-image.

So in our seminars we try to help parents appreciate the positive aspects of adolescence and encourage them to “catch their kids in the act of doing something good” whenever possible. Discouraged parents only discourage their children.

Needless to say, I don’t think I’d want to leave this book lying around the house for my kids to see.

To be fair, there’s actually some pretty decent parenting advice between the covers. For example, the authors advise against over-indulging teenagers with money and material things:

“First off, realize that teenagers are expensive to maintain. (Think of them as yachts with messy rooms.) Secondly, make sure they realize it too. The more you can steer your teen toward Appreciation and away from Entitlement, the better your chances of maintaining some non-gray hairs. This is where you dust off your ‘When I was your age, my allowance was a nickel and I wasn’t allowed to spend it all in one place!’ stories. You know you have them. And if you don’t, use the ones your parents told you.”

The book was written by Joanne Kimes and R.J. Colleary with Rebecca Rutledge, PhD.


Category: Ministry

dsc01876We had a great time on Easter Sunday celebrating the Resurrection with a back yard full of family and friends.  The weather was perfect, the food was delicious and joyful bluegrass music was heard all over our neighborhood.  I’ve posted a few pictures on Flickr.

I hope we can continue hosting this event every year.  I love Easter and I know everyone enjoys being with us in our back yard which is always green and colorful with the flowers in bloom.  I’m a little worried about how the economy will affect us in the future–and whether we’ll be able to keep our yard in “party shape” for another year.  Water rates are being increased significantly where we live so we’ll have to cut back and let some things go.  And we no longer have a gardener to help us out.  So we’ll do our best to keep things growing and hopefully next year the celebrating will continue.  He is risen indeed!


Category: Personal

While I was teaching youth ministry at San Diego Christian College (seems like ages ago) I met a very talented woman named Maria Keckler, who taught English and computer literacy among other things.  She currently is developing a new website for Christian writers called Writing to Serve.   She recently interviewed me for an article which appears here.  I have no idea where she got that “early” picture of me.  Nice glasses.


Category: Ministry

A funny commercial from Alaska airlines, probably based on the old Steve Martin routine.  Not a bad idea, actually.
Alaska Airlines – Banjo


Category: Bluegrass

Years ago I heard my old friend Ben Patterson quote a theologian (can’t remember his name) who said, “Hope is hearing the music of the future; faith is dancing to it.”  I’m not much of a dancer, so I can’t really relate to the dancing part of that equation.  But I’m amazed by how many people don’t even hear the music.  As I write this, it’s Easter (holy) week, which seems to go largely ignored these days.   For most people, there’s more hope in the beginning of baseball season and the recent rise in the stock market  than the Easter story.

Reminds me of the video below of Joshua Bell,  one of the greatest concert violinists in the world, who played violin in a subway station just to see if anyone would notice.   As I remember the story, this amazing artist who normally gets paid $10,000 and up to play concerts picked up $32 in tips that day.  I love the one woman who hears and recognizes the music for what it is.

By the way, this video was posted exactly two years ago today.


Category: Personal

Last Saturday night on the Grand Ole Opry: Actor Jack Black with Sam Bush (mandolin), Jim Mills (banjo), Bryan Sutton (guitar), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Charlie Haden (bass) and other all-star pickers … must have been a fun night at the Opry house.  Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury and Michael Martin Murphey were also on the show.


Category: Bluegrass

I love Easter and and the season leading up to it. From Ash Wednesday, the entire 43-day season of lent, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day, it’s a special time of the year to reflect on the price that was paid for our salvation on the Cross of Christ and to celebrate the hope that we have because He lives!

Every year we celebrate in our back yard with food, fun and some good bluegrass music.  If you’d like to come this year, let me know and we’ll put you on our guest list.  To see some pictures from last year, click here.

"He is risen indeed!"

"He is risen indeed!"

“Praise be to the God and Father of our our Lord Jesus Christ who in his great mercy has given us a new birth into a living hope through the Resurrection of Christ from the dead!” (1 Peter 1:3)

Happy Easter!


Category: Personal
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