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A Quote for Friday

"Follow your passion, and success will follow you."

Arthur Buddhold

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Are You Too Busy for Burning Bushes?

Moses had become a shepherd trying to avoid mistakes of his past. Having once been raised in privilege in Egypt, he now lived in Midian with a wife at home and a job to occupy his time. He was simply going about his business on the west side of the wilderness in Midian.

Then God showed up and everything changed.

In Exodus 3 Moses sees a bush that was on fire. In fact it says that an angel appeared in this flame. But he also noticed that it wasn't consumed by the flames, and that's what got his attention. He headed over to investigate, and that's when God spoke up. Ex3:4 says, "When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him..."

It was when Moses turned aside to see what God was doing that God spoke to Moses.

Do we miss God speaking to us because we're too preoccupied with the sheep we're herding to turn aside long enough to see what God is doing?

How often do we get sucked into the routine and become numb to burning bushes all around us?

Maybe God is wanting to speak to you. Maybe God's putting burning bushes in your path to get your attention. Maybe you should turn aside from your "sheep" for a few minutes to listen to what God would say to you.

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Saving You Time on Facebook by Using Friends Lists

This post is part of a series on Using Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry.

If you're using Facebook and not using Friends Lists, this is about to change your Facebooking experience.

Instead of seeing the full news feed from ALL your friends, you can setup Friends Lists that will only show updates from people you assign to that list.

One of the benefits of having groups of people separated into lists is that I can read through updates quicker because I'm only seeing the people I'm looking for at the moment. This helps keep me from wondering around the Facebook world and wasting time in the office. If I want to see what old college friends or family are up to, I'll check that on my time. If I want to check-in on my students, I click that Friends List, skim the center column, send a few quick notes, and I'm out. Don't get sucked in.

Checking in like this is helpful in a couple of ways. One, it's a student contact in itself, sending a little note or some encouraging words or a reminder about an upcoming event. But, two, it helps to setup the face-to-face conversations when I'm actually with students. The status update "Loren got a new car!!!" becomes my conversation starter the next time I see Loren coming down the hall.

Here you can see an example of my Friends List setup:
Example of Facebook Friends Lists

You can see I was viewing the main "News Feed" (it's highlighted in blue). Listed below that are my lists called "Statesboro FUMC", "Family", "College", and "In Ministry". You can name your lists whatever is helpful to you; "Co-Workers", "Old High School Sweethearts", "My Friends Who Look Like Famous People"... whatever. And, I suppose, you could have as many separate lists as you want. (I don't know if FB has a limit, but I know I use several others.) This is even more helpful the more friends you are connected with.

To set up a new Friends List, simply click the "+ Create" link you see at the bottom of the Friends List menu. You can then name your list and assign people to your new Friends List.

Maybe you set up one group called "Youth" for all the students you work with. Another may be "Youth Parents" or "Youth Volunteers" or set-up a list for different ministry teams within your group... whatever is helpful to you. Too many may be excess, but tailor it to your needs.

Again, this is a simple way to wade through the constant stream of activity a little quicker by only seeing the updates from specific people.

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A Quote for Friday

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter."

E.E. Cummings

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Is Your God a Puppet?

Hearing God speak? or Speaking for God?

It makes a difference.

Graphic is from Jun7, 09 on ASBO Jesus, which is a funny, thought-provoking site you should take a look at.

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Using Two Facebook Tools to Build Community Online

This post is part of a series on Using Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry.

Social networking websites such as Facebook and MySpace seem to be everywhere. The growth in popularity of these sites has been huge in recent years. You can read all about Facebook for yourself. I'll just say, anytime somebody starts a project and there's discussion of it being purchased for an amount of money that uses the word "billion", that's a successful project.

Here I'll be writing about Facebook (rather than MySpace) for a few reasons:

  • First, because that's what I use.
  • This is entirely opinion, but I prefer the Facebook aesthetic; simpler, cleaner, and ads aren't as intrusive.
  • In terms of fostering relationships and building community, Facebook trumps MySpace. I'll explain a couple reasons why in just a moment.
  • Who you can reach on any social networking site will be limited to those that use it, but for me that's where most of the teens I work with are.
There are countless "Third Party Apps" on FB you could waste years of your life on; ridiculous quizzes, pointless surveys, and fake pets and farm town things. I say skip those. All of them. Outside of the basic communication functions of Facebook such as wallposts, private messages, and instant messaging, there are two opportunities here that will help youth workers connect.

Facebook allows people to setup "group pages." Users can choose to join groups. This allows the group administrator (one person or a group of people) the ability to do several things:
  • Message all group members at once. Don't overuse this, because it feels "spammy" to group members, but if there are important messages I want to spread fairly quickly this helps.
  • Update a "recent news" section of the group page. When I type up announcements for the bulletin or newsletter, I copy and paste them into here. One more point of communication.
  • There's an officers list. This might be a place to list Youth Ministry staff, a student leadership team, key volunteers, or even funny fake made-up titles for the senior pastor. Sometimes it's helpful to let people know who does what or fills certain roles.
  • Provide basic contact information for the group. Something as simple as having church phone number, address, or email addresses can be super helpful for people sometimes.

Also, group members can post photos, videos, website links, or talk back-and-forth on the "wall" or a discussion board. A Facebook group page could function as your youth ministry's very own website. (Note: If someone does not have a Facebook account, they may still be able to view the page, but would be very limited in their interaction.)

From your Facebook Home page, you'll see the Facebook Groups icon in the bottom left of the screen:
Facebook Groups icon

Clicking this will take you to a listing of groups:
Facebook Groups listing

Here's an example of a group page from our youth ministry's group page:
Facebook Group page

Bottom line: Facebook Group pages are a great opportunity to provide information and interact online with youth who use Facebook.

Have you got a youth event coming up that you want people to hear about? Try spreading the word by creating an "Event" on Facebook.

You can easily set-up the basic info (Who? What? When? Where?), list a little description, and send invitations to your Friends list or to Group members. Not only that, but people can post pictures or talk it up by posting on the wall. Plus this gives your youth kids an easy way to invite others. Having used this a couple of times, it's not an entirely reliable way to determine how many people to expect, but it's a helpful estimate.

From your Facebook Home page, you'll see the Facebook Events icon in the bottom left of the screen:
Facebook Event icon

Clicking this will take you to a listing of events:
Facebook Event listing
Notice you can create an event by clicking the "Create an Event" button in the top right.

Here's an example of an event page from a recent youth event:
Facebook Event page

So, maybe you can use Groups and Events on Facebook to help your students connect with your church's youth ministry a little easier.

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Using Today's Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry

Someone who applies even a little bit of creativity could come up with plenty of ways to wow people with some of today's technology, but I'm not looking for the razzle-dazzle. I'm just hoping to offer a few ideas for how to leverage technology and social media as a tool to enhance relationships for the sake of youth ministry. I don't intend it to be comprehensive, rather just a few quick tips and suggestions for getting more mileage out of some tools you may already be using.

This series of posts has been inspired by an upcoming workshop I'll be leading for the United Methodist's South Georgia Annual Conference Pathways to a Healthy Church event in August. The official title and description for the workshop goes something like this:

Using Today's Technology to Further Relationships in Youth Ministry
Discover ways that technology and social networking can be used as a tool to enhance youth ministry.
Before we dive into ideas and how-to's, let's restate that all of this use of technology is simply a tool to facilitate relationships in ministry to teenagers.

The Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, "We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us." (1Thess2:8)

As we seek to invite people into faith in Jesus, that happens as we share our lives with one another. The core and backbone of effective youth ministry is relationships. To truly share the gospel of God, we must share our lives. We must grow along side one another. And with the hyper-connectivity today's technology provides, with all it's positives and negatives, we should make wise use the tools available to us for the sake a building potentially life-changing relationships.

Certainly there are warnings and cautions to how a person uses this stuff. All of this should be done within the context of friendships and relationships, not invading "their" space or imposing on teenagers. Also, it's important that parents be aware that you are interacting with their teens in these ways just to be certain there are no questions about integrity. Basic word of advice: Don't be the creepy old guy that stalks kids online.

Here is the starting line-up for the series:If you have suggestions for other posts in this series or questions about some of this stuff, that's what the comments and email are for.

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Youth Week 2009

One of our big events of the summer is Youth Week. And it starts tonight!

Ohio Avenue will be leading music and the one-and-only Kirk Hagan will be speaking. And there's a ton of fun surprises all week long.

Youth Week 2009
Praying for big things this week.

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A Quote for Friday

"Well done is better than well said."

Benjamin Franklin

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Leaders: Persistent Despite Obstacles

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit“

~Napoleon Hill

The following excerpt from an article on Think Simple Now was so well worded, I thought I would simply pass it on to you adding just a few of my thoughts:

In some of his speeches, author Jim Rohn often talks about the ant philosophy. Ants are remarkably persistent. If an ant is on its way somewhere, and you place your thumb in its path, the ant instinctively tries to find another way. The ant will try to go over, around, and sometimes through any obstacle. Giving up is never an option.

Have you ever seen an ant come across an obstacle, stop and quit as to say, “Why are things always getting in my way”? Instead, the ant believes that there is a way to continue on the path and it works until it finds it.

When things get tough in our lives, we have to adopt the ant philosophy. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, and letting the obstacle win, we must attempt to find another way to get on the right path. We must be persistent until we reach our destination. (from Think Simple Now)
You can read the rest of the article if you want, but I'm really only talking about this little "parable." Ants are persistent despite obstacles.

Some see obstacles and try pushing through anything that comes their way, certain of how they're getting to where they're going, often facing conflict and frustration. Others see obstacles and redirect their path, letting their situations and circumstances dictate where they go. I know there have been times I feel more apt to 'let things happen' rather than 'make things happen.' I'm not talking in absolutes here, because I think there is value in both approaches, letting and making, but it seems a leader is one who achieves a balance between the two.

A leader has a clear, compelling vision for where people need to go, and passionately, relentlessly pushes to make things happen in the pursuit of the vision. And if you believe that vision is a God-given vision, that should be even more motivating to accept nothing but pursuit of that vision. At the same time, a leader must also be aware of what's happening and changing around them, flexible enough in strategy to go "over, around, and sometimes through any obstacle."

In other words, a leader must hold tight enough to the vision to push to make things happen, and hold loosely enough to plans and strategies to adapt to obstacles that come up.

Some people are naturally pushers; outspoken, driven people who push their thoughts and opinions and influence. Others are naturally reactors; people who flexibly respond to situations and circumstances as they come up. I think real leaders have both an unwavering commitment to a vision and the sensitivity to environment and obstacles to adapt the path that achieves the goal.

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A Quote for Friday

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

Albert Einstein

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You Can "Ask" Or You Can "Ask With Style"

This wouldn't fly with every lady, but I think that's what makes it work; that he thought through it enough that it's something SHE would be into. (As opposed to some of the other public proposals I've seen before that, well, don't go so well, like this or this.) And it's not something I'd pull off, but you've got to give the guy credit for pulling together some romance and creativity...

That's GOT to be one of the slickest proposals on YouTube (but I'm open to other suggestions).

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The Day the Music Died

Well, at least a piece of the music scene died. I just read these words from Jason Harwell earlier today:

This past weekend, we celebrated Independence Day, our country's birthday, on the 4th of July. This comes one day after July 3rd (of course), which is a much less significant birthday - that of Rebuilt Records. I spent much of my time this past weekend away from the world, and most of my thoughts revolved around freedom, independence, and that pursuit of happiness our forefathers declared to be an inalienable right. At some point in the six years since Rebuilt became my full-time activity, I feel like I misplaced these things. And so it is a bit poetic perhaps that here is where we end Rebuilt Records. See rest of article here.

The ending of Rebuilt Records strikes me as sad in some small ways, mostly because I appreciated what I saw to be the heart and passion of Rebuilt Records and Jason's quirky wit and the inspiration of the music. Whether it was the soulful sounds of Micah Dalton or the down-home feel of Jon Black or the fun and flare of the Flavor cds, I liked it.

Harwell's Alive in the Fall really is one of my favorite albums, finding a comfortable blend of indie/folk/pop that always felt a little-bit Tom Petty and little-bit lazy Sunday afternoon. The music is a beautiful compliment to the hope and hurt and joy and passion of the "standing-on-the-edge-of-something-new" lyrics throughout the album. Here's a little of what I'm talking about:
Somewhere The Sun

I'm waking up for the first time in years
Not afraid to remind myself
Of who I am and in who I am found
It's all right

I'm making plans to get back on my feet
Don't want to be afraid no more
If I can make it right down to the street
It's all right
Yeah, it's all right

Break through all the doors you can't seem to open
Somewhere the sun is shining
It's what you are hoping to find

Nobody said it was easy this way
But I think that it's worth the trip
I might not be the biggest bang for your buck
It's all right

So what if I fall flat on my face?
The poster boy for the never-was
Life is too short just to count my mistakes
It's all right
Yeah, it's all right

I'll offer the token of support by passing along the current website links for the Rebuilt family of artists (not knowing when these links may expire or be affected by the ending of the label):Thanks for the music that is a part of the soundtrack of special times and memories in my life. "Here’s to finding the next wave."

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Fernandina Beach Vacation

We took a short family trip to Fernandina Beach last week. It was Noah and Ansley's first trip to the beach. Ansley was pretty laid-back about it, but Noah was super excited. Here are a few of the many pictures from the trip:

Noah's first time seeing the beach; at night time. Noah's first time seeing the beach; at night time.

We went down to the beach for a few minutes our first night there, mostly because Noah was so excited about the idea of the beach. All day long he talked about, "The BEACH, mommy! The BEACH!" He wasn't disappointed. You can see the ear-to-ear grin. (Ansley was happy just hanging out in the baby-cocoon-hammock thing.)

Early morning on Fernandina Beach Playing in the water at Fernandina Beach

Noah and daddy at Fernandina Playing in the sand at Fernandina Beach

It's a boat at sunrise on Fernandina Beach Family pic on Fernandina Beach

Here's one of the funny twists to our trip... Since we were all in a room together, when Ansley woke up (early) to eat it wasn't very long after that Noah was awake, too. It was 5:45am! Since we were all up (and you know the kids aren't going back to sleep) we figured let's just get on with it. We had breakfast and were walking the block-and-a-half from the hotel to the beach by 6:30.

It's not what I'd have guessed of vacation time a few years ago, but it worked out pretty good. We saw some of the sunrise over the water, we got down to the beach before it was hot or crowded, Noah played for a few hours, and then it was back to the hotel room for lunch and naps.

It was such a fun little trip and some nice memories I'll hold onto for a long time.

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A Quote for Friday

"Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

Martin Luther King, Jr

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Kingdom Builders 2009 Videos

Like I said the other day, we did accomplish some great things in Ashland last week with Kingdom Builders.

I don't think I could tell all the stories about what our youth accomplished and the ways God moved during our trip. We experienced meaningful times of worship (Thanks Jonathan & Lisa), met the physical needs of some people in Ashland, Kentucky, and made memories that will last for years. Also, I had significant conversations with a couple of the youth about some big things in their lives. I'm grateful for a church that supports our youth as they continue to serve Christ by serving those in need through short term missions.

"I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." -Matthew 25:40

Here's a video recap of each day:






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10 Questions for Youth Pastors

Some good reflection questions for people in Youth ministry:

  1. what am I doing that is distracting students from Jesus instead of pointing them towards him?
  2. am I setting up students to carry their faith beyond high school?
  3. how can I allocate my budget to better reflect my mission?
  4. is my faith evident outside of lessons and programs?
  5. in what ways am I perpetuating a weak/lame version of christianity and church life?
  6. am I really called to this?
  7. am I running to God to get filled up or to something else?
  8. do I have too much planned?
  9. do I have too little planned?
  10. am I talking ABOUT God more than I’m taking WITH God?
(Note: Josh got this from Brad Cooper who got this from Adam Lehman.)

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