Tag Archives: youth ministry
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!
OK 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.)
I have a new book which just came out titled Engaging Parents as Allies, a book for youth workers on how to work with parents. It’s part of a three-book series called “Youth Ministry in the Trenches” which the publisher packaged with a bit of a military theme (little toy soldiers, etc.) The other two books in the series were written by my friends Rick Bundshuh and Marv Penner.
Standard Publishing asked me to videotape a little commercial for the book and you can view it below. It’s also posted on Standard’s website along with more information about the book.
My friend Paul Sailhamer unearthed an old photograph that he took at a YFC gathering at Hume Lake in 1962 and sent me a copy last week. I was 17 years old in this photo, a senior in high school (in the plaid shirt with the cool flat top). To my left (or right in the photo, with the glasses) is the YFC director from Ventura Don Goehner who gave me my first youth ministry job. In front of me (in the blue shirt) is Sam McCreery, who was my YFC club director at Camarillo High School and a hero of mine (notice that he had a flat top too.)
Don and Sam both left youth ministry (Don became a fund raiser and consultant for colleges and churches and Sam went into the concrete pumping business) but I somehow managed to find a career in youth ministry that has lasted five decades.
Just today I turned in to the publisher a book manuscript which tells the story of my YFC days and the founding of Youth Specialties, along with thoughts on how youth ministry has changed and where it needs to go in the future. I’ve written a bunch of books over the years, but this one was definitely the most challenging. I’m not sure when it will be published, but hopefully sometime next year.
This has been a nostalgic year for me. Besides writing a book full of memories, I’ve also attended several reunions of various kinds which have brought old friends and colleagues together and they have been great reminders of what God has done in my life through people like Don and Sam. I’ll always be grateful.
This month I began a new adventure in ministry as a Family Ministries Coach at College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. I’ve never been a FMC before and I don’t really know anyone else who has ever been one either. But essentially I will be serving as a consultant to their youth and children’s ministry staff as they explore ways to better serve families at the church.
Strategically located just few blocks from San Diego State University, College Avenue Baptist Church has had a long and fruitful ministry in the San Diego area. My first contact with the church was back in the 1960’s while I was working with YFC/Campus Life.. Our offices were located just a block away from the church on the corner of El Cajon Boulevard and College Avenue. Several of our YFC staff were working part time at CABC and we used the church frequently to conduct Campus Life meetings.
In the 1970’s, I attended Bethel Theological Seminary which was meeting at the time on the campus of College Avenue Baptist. The seminary later built it’s own campus, across the street from the church, but many of the professors continue to attend CABC. Because I have taught a few youth ministry classes at Bethel, I’m still (I think) on their roster of “associate faculty” members.
College Avenue Baptist Church has gone through a lot of changes in recent years as the church has gone through several pastors and lost quite a few members. More than a decade ago the church’s youth pastor started an alternative church service for young people called The Flood which was very successful but is no longer part of CABC. It broke away a few years ago as a independent congregation which now meets several miles away. Another group left the church recently to form another new church plant called Legacy Church.
So CABC has been in something of a rebuilding phase. I’ve been very impressed with the vision that new senior pastor Carlton Harris and executive pastor Mark Goeglein have shared with me. Part of their master plan is to strengthen families and leverage the immense amount of influence that parents have on the spiritual formation of their children. They are also committed to building intergenerational and interracial unity and community which reflects not only the diversity of the church but the reconciling power of the Gospel.
There’s more to their vision of course but I’m very excited about this opportunity to get involved with a church that seems to be really serious about encouraging parents and building faith in the home. I will be meeting with their staff this summer, formulating some ideas and hopefully becoming more engaged with parents and families in the fall.
I began my youth ministry career as a club director for Ventura County (California) Youth for Christ in 1963. Folk music was getting real popular about that time (Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio, Bob Dylan, the New Christy Ministrels) so we formed our own folk groups as a way to be “relevant” with teenagers. The first group I had was a trio patterned after Peter, Paul and Mary called “The Accidents.” I played the upright bass in that group. Then, after hearing the Dillards (who were playing folk clubs around Southern California and appearing on the Andy Griffith TV show), I learned to play banjo and formed a bluegrass group with my brothers called “The Rice Kryspies.” My wife Marci played the bass.
Harry White, who was Ventura YFC’s sound engineer, recently unearthed some old tape recordings of early YFC rallies, several of which featured The Rice Kryspies. The recording below was made on May 10, 1969–exactly 40 years ago. The introduction is by Ventura YFC director Roger Cross (who later became the president of Youth for Christ/USA). The song you’ll probably recognize. Just keep in mind that the Beatles were still together in 1969. This was very cutting edge stuff back then!
An interesting post from the Dallas Morning News religion blog:
“My grandfather had this conversion experience and went to West Virginia Wesleyan. He was kicked out of a church in 1919 for playing the banjo with the youth group. Obviously everybody knew the banjo was an instrument of Satan! … Beware the demon banjo.”
Funny, same thing happens to me all the time.
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.
So 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.
I wrote a book about fifteen years ago for parents titled “Enjoy Your Middle Schooler.” The book went out of print recently (the kids on the cover started to look a bit dated) but this weekend I’ve turned the book into a seminar for parents which I’m doing at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon.
Middle schoolers (or junior highers as they are still sometimes called) are still near and dear to my heart. When I first began doing youth ministry in YFC more than 43 years ago, it was with junior high kids. As a college student I didn’t have enough age or experience to work with high school students, so I was put in charge of a poor unsuspecting group of junior high kids. I found my calling there and to this day feel most comfortable around this age group.
I just finished a book by Jeff Jarvis titled What Would Google Do? which I spotted at the San Diego airport the other day. The title intrigued me so I picked up a copy.
Jarvis is a journalist and internet marketing expert who almost single-handedly brought down Dell Computer a few years ago with his blog. Since then, he’s become an expert on things geeky and in this book he illuminates the worldview of today’s “Google Generation” and outlines 40 principles which have led to Google’s unprecedented success. Here are just a few of them:
- Give the people control.
- Do what you do best and link to the rest (think distributed.)
- If you’re not searchable, you won’t be found. “New publicness.”
- Elegant organization.
- A new economy: small is the new big.
- Atoms are a drag (get rid of “stuff.”)
- Free is a business model.
- Decide what business you’re in.
- Middlemen are doomed.
- There is an inverse relationships between control and trust.
- Make mistakes well.
- Life is a beta.
- Be honest, transparent.
- Don’t be evil.
- Answers are instantaneous
- Simplify, simplify.
- Get out of the way.
Jarvis applies these principles in a “what if” kind of way to all sorts of businesses from media companies to the airline industry. His last chapter is titled “Exceptions” and there are two: God and Apple (computers). In his view religion can’t be Googlejuiced and neither can Steve Jobs who does things pretty much his own way, whether we like it or not. Jarvis doesn’t really elaborate on why religion is exempt but I’m assuming it’s because God thinks he’s Steve Jobs.
But maybe the church could stand a little Googlethink. As I go down Jarvis’ list, I think there are many Google principles which could help the church become more effective.
Certainly our unwillingness as a church to be transparent, to listen better, to “do no evil” and to simplify has driven many young people away from the church. Some have left completely; others have started “emergent” churches which perhaps have been Googlejuiced a little too much. Jarvis believes that companies and organizations willing to change quickly will survive. The rest will simply go away and not be heard from again.
I’m working on a new book concerning the future of youth ministry which hopefully will be published soon. (Jarvis, by the way, predicts that books are soon going to become obsolete as the world becomes more Google-ized.) This book has definitely given me some food for thought. Maybe there are some ways we can do church (and youth ministry) in a Googley way without doing violence to the Gospel. If you have any ideas on that, fire away.
Jarvis’ book has also encouraged me to blog more, which I really haven’t done (much) before. I don’t know if anyone actually reads these things but what the heck, you never know.