Category Archives: Ministry

Last week a family band performed live on my radio show called The Anderson Family. They are from Grass Valley, California and had come to the San Diego area to perform at Summergrass and also the monthly San Diego Bluegrass Society “Boll Weevil” gig on the fourth Tuesday of the month. The Anderson Family features dad on the banjo, mom on the bass and their four kids, ages 8 to 16 on the fiddle, guitar, mandolin and Dobro. The youngest plays the Dobro and I’m certain she is the youngest Dobro player I’ve ever seen.

I’ve written before about kids in bluegrass and how they provide an example (for me, anyway) that today’s kids are fully capable of choosing a path other than the one that today’s pop culture and a billion-dollar marketing industry is offering them. I was very impressed by the Anderson Family and I applaud Mark and Christy Anderson for their willingness to set aside the time and make the effort to encourage their children to use their talents and to help them to achieve their goals. In my conversation with them (you can listen to it here) the children told about their daily schedule of practicing and working hard to get better as musicians. They also were given the opportunity to hear and learn from some of their musical heroes who were accessible and willing to encourage and teach them some things. Neither Mark nor Christy are professional musicians.

There’s much here for Christian parents to learn from. I’ve always believed that if we take the time and make the effort to teach and encourage our children to use their talents and gifts to serve Jesus, and if we expose them to enough real-live heroes of the faith who will encourage them also, they may just choose a different path from the one that the world is offering them.

I’ve watched quite a few kids grow up playing bluegrass music in a family band and then abandon it when they became adults, but I’ve also watched many who went on to become some of the most accomplished musicians in the world. In fact, most of our biggest stars in bluegrass and country music today started playing in kid bands or family bands.  I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Anderson’s as they get older and I’ll be cheering them on. They have a lot of talent and most importantly the environment where their talent can flourish.


No it’s not a new fishing technique. cabc0810“Edge” is the name of our middle school group at church. This morning I went fishing with one of our 7th grade students (Gavin, right) and two of our leaders (Steve on the left and Nick in the middle). We had a great time catching a variety of rockfish just outside the Point Loma kelp beds. Two “reds” are pictured here.


Category: Ministry

ilustracionesZondervan informed me a while back that my book (series) Hot Illustrations for Youth Talks was going out of print. So I was a bit surprised when they sent me the latest edition of it in the mail this week … in Spanish. I often hear that youth ministry in other countries is a decade or two behind the U.S. so I guess that’s the reasoning here. Funny, I don’t even know how to translate the name of this book. Looking up the word “inolvidables,” I think (in English) the book is called “Unforgettable Illustrations.” I’m not going to attempt a translation of the subtitle.

Actually, the “Hot Illustrations” series is still a very useful resource for youth workers. The only reason they’ve gone out of print here has to do with sales volume. All four of these books are still available from a number of retailers and you can order them from me, too. I don’t have the Spanish edition for sale but you can order it here.


Category: Ministry

foho_camp2010Last week I accompanied the middle-school group from our church to summer camp at Forest Home. I really can’t remember the last time I spent a week with a group of junior high boys as a cabin counselor, but the sounds, the smells (especially the smells), the cabin discussions … they all felt strangely familiar to me.

It was a good week. The kids really had a blast and I enjoyed very much watching my son Nate (who directs the junior high camps at Forest Home) at work. Later this year, he and I are going to do a seminar on camping at the YS National Youth Workers Convention, so it was helpful for me to observe and be part of an actual summer camp program at least once this year. I used to do quite a few camps, either leading them or speaking at them … but that was a long time ago.

I was very proud of Nate … he was the camp speaker and did a great job. I know my presence there made him a bit uncomfortable but he persevered and from all I heard, the kids responded well to his messages. I was also impressed with the team of leaders Nate assembled to run all the activities and programs. By my count there were more than a dozen staff. It amazes me that we used to run those camps with a staff of four. Times have definitely changed.

Meanwhile … back at home … we are still living in a hotel room, now into our fourth month. The restoration company has held our stuff hostage waiting for insurance money. This has been the most difficult experience I’ve gone through since my wife’s brain tumor almost ten years ago. We are praying that maybe this week we will be able to return home.


huckfinnEvery year on Father’s Day weekend, my two worlds (music and ministry) collide at Huck Finn’s Jubilee, the biggest bluegrass festival in Southern California. A couple years ago, it won the IBMA Award for “Bluegrass Event of the Year.” I’ve been attending this festival in Victorville, California for most of it’s 34 years (same age as my radio show) and it is always enjoyable despite the fact that the weather can sometimes be brutal. It’s usually too hot, but there was one year when we actually froze to death. We’re expecting hot weather this year.

For years  I have served as stage announcer (emcee) for the festival on the main stage Saturday night and all day Sunday. I also conduct a nondenominational chapel service on Sunday morning which draws about 300 people or so who are camping for the weekend. My band Lighthouse provides the music and I get to preach a gospel message, usually with a Fathers Day theme. This year, I’m focusing on Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son which he told to illustrate the amazing grace and love of God the Father.

Marci and I are still stuck in a hotel, waiting for our house to be restored after the fire. Really, we’re waiting for our insurance company to pay for the work being done. Once that happens, we should be able to move back in. All of our belongings are being held for ransom it seems.

I’m hoping that being at Huck Finn will provide a little break from the stress this situation has caused us. I know we’re going to hear some good music!


generation-to-generationMy new book Generation to Generation was  released a couple of weeks ago by Standard Publishing. I just got my copies and I’ve been handing them out to family and friends like a new father handing out cigars. Writing a book and childbirth have a lot in common I think. The process is painful but when it finally comes out, it’s beautiful and there are smiles all around. I thought the cover design on this one was especially nice … thanks to everyone who contributed input on that a few months ago.

This book is for parents who want ideas and help for passing their faith on to their children. It expands on the content of a parent seminar which I created for HomeWord a few years ago. I’m grateful for the very nice endorsements printed on the first page of the book from Jim Burns and Dr. David Jeremiah.

If you would like to buy a copy, it’s available on most book websites like Amazon.co, Barnes and Noble and Christianbook.com. I’m not selling it here on my website yet.


Category: Ministry, Personal

cabcSince the middle of last year I’ve served as a family ministries coach (consultant) for College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. The church has caught the vision for becoming a more intergenerational, family-friendly and unified kind of church and they have asked me to help make that happen, particularly in regards to the youth and family ministries. My observation is that for quite some time this has been a church somewhat divided along generational lines with at least two distinct congregations—one that has clung desperately to the traditions of the past and another that has embraced the informal and edgy styles of the contemporary church. There are two services on Sunday morning for these  congregations: the “sanctuary service” and the “gym service.” You can guess which is which.

Being a divided church hasn’t worked out too well for CABC. Attendance declined significantly over the past decade and for several years the church was without a senior pastor. Many of the staff left or were let go. Four years ago the church called a dynamic new pastor, Carlton Harris to lead them out of the wilderness and as he has implemented his vision for unity and change, the church has experienced even more losses in staff and membership. While this is not untypical, it can be difficult for a church to endure.

Against this background I’m happy to announce that I have joined the staff of this historic yet historically forward-thinking church. I have been asked to serve as Pastor to Generations—a position that didn’t exist previously. I’ll be ministering to parents and older generations in the church, while at the same time providing visionary leadership for the middle school ministry, which has always been my heartbeat. I even have a new office at the church with a big picture window! The church wants to do a better job of serving youth and families and connecting the generations, something I’ve been speaking and writing about for the past twenty years. So this seems like a perfect fit for me, a chance to put my words into practice. The church is only a few miles from my home so we don’t have to relocate and the job is part time for now, allowing me to continue conducting parent seminars, playing bluegrass music and pursuing some of my other interests.

It’s definitely going to take some time for me to learn how to be on a church staff again (I haven’t done that in, well, decades), so I’m certainly going to make a few mistakes. I’ve already made some. But along with the struggles that CABC has experienced in recent years, I’ve felt some positive momentum just in the last few weeks that I have a hunch will blossom into something really special, a significant piece of what God wants to accomplish in San Diego. I’m excited about this opportunity.


Category: Ministry
Marko, Nate and me

Marko, Nate and me

I went to Junior High Winter Camp at Forest Home last weekend with the middle-school group from College Avenue Baptist Church. It has been a long time since I’ve bunked down with a group of middle-school boys as a cabin counselor. Other than being seriously sleep-deprived, I had a wonderful time. The camp was packed with kids (not sure how many but my guess would be around 500 kids and their leaders). We also had some spectacular winter weather–torrential rain on Friday, hail on Saturday, then snow on Sunday morning. The kids loved it.

The highlight of the weekend for me was being able to watch our son Nathan in action. He is the junior high director for Forest Home and besides planning the program, supervising the staff and solving problems that come up, he is a terrific up-front person who leads most of the meetings and activities. I had his job some 40+ years ago and never did it so well. I am so proud of him.

The speaker for the weekend was Marko (Mark Oestreicher), an old friend and the former president of Youth Specialties. Even though I’ve always known Marko for his expertise and experience in junior high ministry, I  don’t think I’ve ever heard him actually speak to junior high kids. He did a great job. He’s obviously very comfortable with them and the kids connect with him easily. The boys in my cabin group had lots of good things to say about what they learned from Marko’s teaching.

Alas, I woke up Monday morning with a cold. It’s great to be back doing youth ministry again!


Category: Ministry

reinventing-ym-coverOK folks, I’ve written a book which will be published later on this year … part memoir, part youth ministry rant … and the publisher has suggested this cover design. There’s still time to change things, so your feedback would be greatly appreciated. Everything is up for grabs … concept, images, title, subtitle, etc. … so tell me what you think works and what doesn’t. Thanks!

(click on the image to make it bigger.)


Category: Ministry

henri-nouwenWhen I was editor of Youthworker Journal many years ago I conducted a phone interview with the late priest Henri Nouwen for an issue we were doing on personal spirituality (spring 1993). I recently found the mini-cassette of that interview tucked away in a desk drawer and thought I’d make a digital copy of it since old cassettes tend to deteriorate over time.

You can listen to our conversation below. It took place about a year after Marci and I (and six other friends) spent a week with Henri at his residence in L’Arche Daybreak near Toronto, Ontario, Canada in December 1991. We talked a little bit about that time together at the end of the interview.

The topic of this particular interview is prayer and in the magazine we titled the article “Gazing at Jesus: A Conversation with Henri Nouwen.”

While this interview was edited for the magazine article, no editing was done on these audio recordings. I did however break it into four segments. They vary in length, from about seven minutes to more than thirteen. Only the first question is indicated below.

After listening to this 15-year-old conversation again, I am re-challenged to shift some priorities in my life and spend more time with God in prayer. How about you?

If the mp3 audio player is not displaying or functioning properly below, just click on the links and you will hear the interview in your Quicktime or Windows Media Player.

Segment One: “Why is prayer so important?”

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Segment Two: “How do you ‘listen’ to God when you are praying?”

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Segment Three: “What is contemplative prayer?”

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Segment Four: “What is a spiritual director?”

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Category: Ministry, Personal