Category Archives: Ministry

What is it with worship leaders who don’t know when to quit?

I attended a meeting recently (to be kind, I won’t mention where) which was nearing its conclusion. A few opening songs had been sung, Scripture was read, a lesson was taught effectively, all good stuff. The meeting was attended by around 75 adults, youth and children. Then the speaker asked the worship leader (actually, make that “the guy with the guitar”) to lead us in a little worship time while we reflected on the meaning of the lesson we had been taught.

Okay, I thought to myself. Maybe I do need to reflect a bit.

My head is bowed, eyes are closed. I’m reflecting. The first song has a chorus that I’ve heard somewhere before. “Oh … how he loves us so … (repeat over and over).” I sing along. But then come the verses. I notice that not too many people are singing the verses. That’s because not too many people know words. The lyrics weren’t being projected for this impromptu worship time. This is a hard song to sing. There are too many words to fit into the rather unpredictable melody line of this song. And who wrote these words? I sure don’t feel like a tree in a hurricane nor is my heart jumping violently out of my chest. I’m not singing now, just listening. And I’m second-guessing the worship leader’s choice of songs.

That song ends and then comes song #2. Not sure I’ve heard this one before. Can’t remember the name of it. Then comes the third. The chorus of each song is repeated … how many times? Three? Five? No, make that twenty times. A fourth song (sounds a lot like song #2). Now five songs. I’m not counting but I’m sure this is song five. The worship leader is really into these songs. My guess is that he’s trying to sound like Chris Tomlin. Or is it David Crowder? I’m not sure because I’m not too familiar with all the latest Christian music. I’ve heard some of these songs before but not all of them. I don’t know the words or melody lines to hardly any of these songs. Apparently no one else does either because the only one singing right now is the guy with the guitar. I’m looking around and notice some folks are getting restless. How much time has gone by? Twenty minutes? Thirty? I can’t believe that he is still singing away at the top of his lungs, oblivious to what is going on around him. Besides, that guitar is turned up way too loud for any kind of reflection to be going on. I’m getting a headache. Why is he doing this to us? Is it simply because we are a captive audience? Does he think this is a concert? Why doesn’t the speaker just get up and stop him? Just shoot me. What I’m reflecting on right now is that I would rather hear fingernails on a blackboard. I’m also reflecting that I’m too much of a coward to get up and walk out, although I notice a few others are not afraid to do so. One more chorus and I’m out of here too.

The mini-concert finally ends. A check of the wrist watch shows 40 minutes have gone by. Thank God it’s over. My time of prayer and reflection is done for tonight. Thank you Jesus.

I go to bed. During the night, I keep waking up to a song going off in my head: “GREATER THINGS HAVE YET TO BE DONE IN THE CITYYYYYY!!! …” Lord, please make it stop so I can get some sleep.

True story.

 


Category: Ministry

I just returned from a wonderful week of ministry in Mexico with 25 College Avenue Baptist Church parents and their kids. We built a very nice new home for a poor family and we conducted four days of Vacation Bible School (VBS) in two separate villages involving more than 150 children.

Since I joined the staff of CABC as Pastor to Generations, this mission trip has been a dream of mine. I’ve participated in dozens of mission trips with youth groups over the years but have always felt like something was missing from them—namely the involvement of parents. Even though I believe in youth short-term mission trips and the powerful impact they can have on kids, I think they fall short just a bit. Typically when teenagers return home from a mission trip, their parents rarely understand the significance of what their kids experienced. (“Now, if you’re through changing the world, how about cleaning your room?”) I exaggerate here, but not by much.

So this family mission trip to Mexico was something I was really looking forward to doing for a long time. There is much processing and reflection that still needs to be done but so far there is a feeling of euphoria that makes me want to think this has been somewhat of a high water mark in ministry for me. Watching moms and dads serving together last week in Mexico was absolutely thrilling and I’m so looking forward to seeing how God will use this experience to change those families forever. One parent told me that his family has already decided to start serving meals on a regular basis at a local homeless shelter.

We arranged the trip through YUGO Ministries and stayed at their Ensenada Outreach Center (EOC) near Estero Beach. They set everything up for us and provided us with supplies, meals, the program for the week and very nice accommodations. One parent commented that she felt a little bit guilty staying in such a nice place while serving the poor. I understood completely what she meant but reasoned that since our trip was only a week long, it was such a blessing to have our needs provided for by YUGO so that we could concentrate on meeting the needs of the people we were there to serve. It’s a great introduction to the mission field and a wonderful ministry that YUGO provides for churches and individuals who want to be challenged and stretched.

The only negative of the week is that several of our people got sick. I don’t think all of the sickness was Mexico-related however. We were doing ministry during the week jointly with another group of families from Memphis, Tennessee, and apparently one of their families came to Mexico with the flu. (We started calling it the “Y’all Flu”). Fortunately, it was not too serious and did not hamper our efforts too much. But it’s never pleasant to be sick while you’re far away from home.

I posted some photos which I took on my Flickr page. Since I spent most of my time with the VBS team, they are mostly photos of our VBS activities and lessons. You can view them here.

If you would like to go on our next trip, just let me know! We’d love to have you.

 


Category: Ministry

Youth Specialties is the ministry that Mike Yaconelli and I started back in 1968 to provide resources and training for people who do youth ministry in the church. I don’t think the mission of YS has changed much since I left in 1994 or since Mike died in 2003 but the leadership continues to change. After a few years as part of Zondervan (Harper Collins), it’s now in the hands of YouthWorks (headquartered in Minnesota). The “world headquarters” of Youth Specialties is still in El Cajon, just a couple of miles from my home, but that may change since Tic Long (who has served as president of YS for the past couple of years) is stepping down and passing the baton to Mark Matlock who lives in Texas. Tic just accepted a position at a local church in town as executive pastor.

I don’t know Mark real well, but I’ve had a few conversations with him and I like him a lot. He seems to get youth ministry–that’s it’s not it’s so much about being relevant as it is about helping students become lifelong followers of Jesus. He a smart guy, a good communicator and he’s highly regarded among youth workers from both sides of the theological aisle. I think he’ll be very good for Youth Specialties and its future.

Here’s a video that YS released recently to introduce Mark.


Category: Ministry

I have often talked to parents about the importance of writing family mission statements or family creeds to help pass faith from one generation to the next. Many children grow up in Christian homes not really sure about what their parents (or they themselves) believe. Last month I wrote an article for our church’s parent newsletter on that same topic. Here it is:

In the book of Deuteronomy, parents are instructed to “impress” the commandments of God upon their children (6:7). What does this mean? The word impress in the original Hebrew means to permanently fix or brand, similar to what takes place when a farmer brands his cattle.

So how do we brand the commandments of God on our children? Obviously we aren’t supposed to tattoo them on our children’s bodies. Our goal is to brand them on our children’s hearts and minds.

Let me suggest one way to do this. We can teach the commandments to our children not as a negative list of things they shouldn’t do (“shalt not’s) but as a positive list of things they get to do as members of your family and as followers of Jesus Christ. You might even want to rewrite the Ten Commandments especially for your family as a mission statement or creed. Here’s an example:

Our Family Mission Statement

  1. We will love and serve God, who first loved us and gave his Son to die on the Cross for our sins.
  2. We will keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
  3. We will be ambassadors for Christ and share his love with others whenever we have the opportunity.
  4. We will devote special time every week for worship, prayer, reading Scripture and serving others.
  5. We will love and respect our parents, grandparents and others who care for us, teach us and provide for us.
  6. We will live in peace and harmony with others, forgiving those who wrong us rather than hurting them or seeking revenge.
  7. We will remain sexually pure and faithful in our personal relationships.
  8. We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we do.
  9. We will be honest and trustworthy in all that we say.
  10. We will be thankful and content with all that God has given to us.

Of course the best way to impress these things on your children is to live them out consistently at home every single day. I guarantee you … they will be impressed indeed!

 


Category: Ministry, Parenting

Here’s a short promo video for the short term mission trips that we are doing this year at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. Marci and I will be leading the trip in June to Mexico (I talk about it a little on this video) and if you would like to go, we’d love to have you.


Who or what is the most powerful influence on teenagers? Who do teenagers look up to most as role models? These questions (or questions similar to them) have formed the basis for dozens of studies on teenagers that have been conducted over the years. The issue of teen influence is heavily researched because marketers are well aware that teenagers control an estimated 300 billiion dollars per year of discretionary income. They also know that if you can sell a teenager on a brand or product while they are young, there’s a strong likelihood they will remain loyal for the rest of their lives. That’s also one of the reasons why I believe so much in youth ministry. Lifelong disciples of Jesus are more often than not called while they are teenagers. That was true for me as it was for a number of Jesus’ original twelve.

Primary influences on teenagers (from the seminar presentation "Understanding Your Teenager.")

So another study on teen influence has been conducted (this one by the Barna Group) and the results of that new study were just released. The good news for me is that I won’t have to revise any of my teaching notes on this subject anytime soon. Well, I may need to update the clothing styles on the kids on our graphic at the right, but otherwise, everything stays the same.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been teaching and writing that the most powerful influences on teenagers are not (as some might suppose) the entertainment media and same-age peers. The primary influences on teenagers are (1) their parents, followed next by (2) their extended family (grandparents and other close relatives), then (3) caring adults like teachers, coaches, youth ministers and others who care enough to come alongside them in some meaningful way. This was not only true for me personally but it was confirmed by several studies that were conducted almost thirty years ago.

What’s interesting about the more recent studies on this topic is that researchers now assume the dominant position of parents in the pecking order of teen influence. That was not always the case. David Kinneman, who conducted the Barna reseach, explains that “parents were left out of the assessment because so many teenagers—particularly younger ones—have high regard for their parents or feel compelled to list their parents as role models. Previous research shows that mentioning parents is almost … automatic.” So the question teenagers were asked in this study was “Who, besides your parents, do you admire the most as a role model?”

Their answer? The most commonly mentioned role model according to this new study is a relative, most typically a grandparent. Next on the list—you guessed it—teachers and coaches. Way down the list (after people they know personally) come celebrities, politicians, sports heroes, musicians and the like.

When asked why they chose who they did as role models, teenagers responded by saying that these people “are always there for me” or “are most interested in my future.”

Who influenced you most when you were a teenager?


Category: Ministry

Since my book Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again] came out last month it has received a few very positive reviews that have been very encouraging to me. To tell you the truth, I was worried about how this book would be received. As I was writing it, a little voice kept whispering in my ear: “Nobody’s going to want to read what you have to say about youth ministry … you’re almost 65 years old for crying out loud!” and “Who do you think you are, writing about your early life as if you were a big celebrity or something?” The voices got louder as the publication date for the book neared and quite honestly I was a bit nervous waiting for it to come out.

Well, it’s out now and I have been very blessed by the positive reviews that the book has received so far.

These reviews were solicited by InterVarsity Press from three friends of mine who are also respected voices in youth ministry. They read copies of the manuscript before the book was published:

This book reads like a novel, incites like a prophet, engages like a story, reports like a history, coaches like a veteran and encourages like a pastor. Wayne Rice is absolutely one of the pioneers of modern-day youth ministry. But don’t read this book looking for nostalgia. The whole thrust of this amazingly honest, insightful and hopeful youth ministry critique is about looking backwards only long enough so that we don’t repeat (or make new) mistakes going forward. I couldn’t have written this book with the eyewitness authenticity that Wayne has written it with, but I’ve felt and thought much of what it says. Wayne Rice is still giving youth workers IDEAS they can use.”
—Dr. Duffy Robbins, professor of youth ministry, Eastern University

“All of us in youth ministry owe a debt of gratitude to Wayne Rice. Depending on your age, Wayne’s your youth ministry brother, father or grandfather. With this book, our debt just got bigger. All of us would be wise to sit at the feet of this youth ministry pioneer as he tells us the ups and downs of his own ministry story; shares the kind of deep wisdom and perspective that can only come with years of experience; and challenges us to live, think and minister with biblical integrity. Youthworkers have benefited from Wayne Rice’s experience and wisdom for well over forty years. And now, we should be listening more than ever.”
—Walt Mueller, president, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, and author of Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture

“Wayne Rice is (still) one of the most authentic, honest voices speaking into the world of youth ministry. I have loved reading Reinventing Youth Ministry (Again). It is unlikely that we will reinvent youth ministry well in this generation without a clear and accurate picture of where we came from. Wayne helps us do both, with passion, intensity and his characteristic gentle wisdom.”
—Mark DeVries, founder of Youth Ministry Architects and author of Sustainable Youth Ministry

Here are some other reviews from blog posts, web articles, online booksellers and the like:

Rethinking Youth Ministry

Michael  Catt

Thirsty Ones

Amazon.com

CPYU’s Engage Newsletter

I have also received several very encouraging e-mails from readers who took time to write but I won’t post them here since they were not intended for public consumption.

Needless to say I no longer hear the voice telling me that this book isn’t going to be well received. Now if it would only sell a few copies … !


Category: Ministry

I just returned from the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville (Youth Specialties). I was a speaker at both the Nashville and the San Diego YS conventions this year, an honor for me given that I’m well past my prime as a youth ministry expert. What I am these days is a walking youth ministry museum.

But YS president Tic Long graciously invited me to do a couple of seminars this year based on recent books I’ve written and I really enjoyed participating in both conventions. At the San Diego convention I also got to do a seminar with my son Nate on camping. Since I really don’t know all that much about camping, I basically slow-pitched some questions to Nate (who DOES know a lot about camping) which he hit out of the park. It was a good seminar, if I must say so myself.

One of the really fun things I got to do this year was lead a few old youth ministry songs at one of the main (“big room”) sessions. In Nashville, the “big room” was the Bridgestone Arena, a huge hockey palace across the street from the convention center where some of the biggest concerts and events in Nashville take place. It was quite a rush to lead several thousand youth workers in a half dozen or so songs like “Pass it On” and “Pharoah Pharoah.” From the response I got, I think everybody really enjoyed singing those old songs. As it turned out, I warmed up the crowd for the band Jars of Clay who brought things pretty much up to date.

I think the highlight of the convention in Nashville for me was hearing Mark Yaconelli speak. I sat high up in the stands and alternately laughed and cried as he presented a beautifully crafted message on what it means to serve God in ministry. Now in his 40’s, Mark has become the spitting image of his dad Mike who I had the opportunity to work with for more than a quarter century. It’s obvious that Mark has inherited the formidable speaking talent of his father (with many of the same gestures and mannerisms) yet he clearly communicates in a style of his own which is passionate, fresh and insightful. He had that huge crowd in the palm of his hand for 45 minutes or so, and me in particular. Having known Mark since the day he was born, I loved hearing him speak so skillfully and powerfully. I couldn’t keep from wondering if somehow up in Heaven, Mike wasn’t enjoying all this too and feeling very proud.

I was only at the Nashville convention two of the five days, but I did see a lot of old friends and catch up a bit with some of them. I also had my first opportunity to get acquainted with Paul Bertelson, the founder and CEO of YouthWorks,  the organization that now owns Youth Specialties. YouthWorks is a ministry that has a real heart for youth ministry and as the co-founder of Youth Specialties, I’m very grateful to these good folks for taking on the challenge of keeping YS moving forward, especially during such tough economic times. From all that I heard and saw at both conventions, they are doing a great job.


Category: Ministry

Last year I wrote a book summarizing pretty much all that I have to say about the past, present and future of youth ministry. The book is titled Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again]: From Bells and Whistles to Flesh and Blood and it was just released this month by InterVarsity Press. I began my youth ministry career in 1963 as a Youth for Christ club director, ran junior high summer camps at Forest Home, served as a youth director in a couple of Nazarene churches, then started Youth Specialties with my old pal Mike Yaconelli. All of that took place long before many of today’s youth workers were even born.

So I thought I would share  some of that history as a kind of memoir, along with a few observations on how youth ministry has grown and changed (for better and for worse) over the past 40 years. The book contains a lot of stories, a few rants, and my best shot at trying to describe what good youth ministry should look like in the future. I put all of this down in a book and was simply amazed that a respected publisher like IVP would agree to publish it.

To tell you the truth, I’ve been pretty nervous about how this book would go over. There are so many voices better qualified than me to write about youth ministry. And I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that anyone would want to read another youth ministry book by a relic of youth ministry like me. (“Um, like wasn’t his last youth ministry book written in the last century?”)

Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again] has only been out a couple of weeks now but the response has been pretty gratifying. A couple of friends who got advance copies said they couldn’t put it down. And I was just blown away by the kind endorsements written by Duffy Robbins, Walt Mueller and Mark DeVries on InterVarsity’s website. Best of all, my son Nate gave the book two thumbs up and my wife Marci told me it was the best I’ve ever written. That’s about all the affirmation I need, really.

I’m just very grateful. My prayer now is that it will be used by God to encourage better youth ministry in the future and result in more and more young people coming to know, love and serve Jesus for years to come.

If you do get a chance to read this book, I would appreciate your comments. It’s available not only through InterVarsity Press but from Amazon.com and other online vendors.


Category: Ministry

This was a fun little sketch that the YS gang invited me to do a few weeks ago. It was about 110 degrees outside when we filmed this inside a car with the AC off and the windows rolled up. I kept flubbing my lines so after about 5 takes, we were both about to die of heat stroke. Christina Robertson is the middle school director at Journey Community Church and formerly worked with the middle schoolers at College Avenue Baptist, where I now serve as Pastor to Generations.


Category: Ministry