Monday, February 28, 2011

Adverse Change

I came to a shocking realization this morning around 2:30. I have a tooth that really really hurts.  At about 4AM, I came to the conclusion that the pain wasn't going away, and I was going to have to do something about it. Well, I wasn't going to have to do something. A trained professional was going to have to do something. So as soon as my dentist opened up shop today I headed over to get things looked at. That's when I received my death sentence: Root Canal.

I asked the hygienist Tiffany, how long they typically take. Apparently they last around an hour if all goes well. If having my mouth stretched open wide while one of my nerves is destroyed in my mouth wasn't enough, I haven't been getting too many excited comments from my friends and family about their experiences with the process. The general consensus is its painful, long, and at the end of it they give you a bill. No this isn't my attempt at a Charlie Brown Dental Visit, or me sharing Matt's Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.  That's not the case at all.

I hate when I know I have something painful ahead of me. I hate it even more, when I know that it is necessary. It only makes things worse to know on top of everything else, that whatever necessary pain is ahead of me, it won't necessarily fix all of my problems.

It is easy for me to recognize this when my jaw is throbbing and anything is an improvement over that constant pain. It is a lot harder for me, when that necessary pain means having a tough conversation with a friend,  making a tough cut in my personal budget to pay off debt, dealing with sin in my life, or making some other change in my life. 

People are naturally resistant to change because they know it can be painful. We are even more resistant when we know it will be painful.  Still, we can't avoid it. That only makes things worse. Pain is sometimes an inevitable part of life. When we recognize that we have some of it up ahead, we best prepare ourselves to trust God and go through it. If we drag our feet, it can only last longer.

I've gotta run. I think I have an ice skate in my basement. I think I saw Tom Hanks give himself a root canal with one in Castaway. It couldn't hurt to try right?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

CIY Believe 2011 Tour: Student Minister Field Guide

Our students went to CIY Believe this weekend in Cincinnati, and we had a GREAT time. The Believe Team did a really good job of making Friday and Saturday a wonderful and challenging experience for our leaders and our students.  It's Tuesday and my Facebook News Feed is full of inside jokes, song lyrics, memories, and pictures being shared by students and leaders from this weekend. 

Cincinnati was the 3rd of 11 tour stops for Believe this year. I thought it might be helpful for other ministers, leaders, and churches for me to throw out some info that I found helpful, and to share a little bit about our group's experience. Here are some things that I thought were noteworthy, helpful to know beforehand, or things I appreciated that Believe gave us ahead of time. I hope you find it helpful, and I hope your students and leaders enjoy their weekend at Believe like we did.

Registration Process
Because our church was close enough to the arena, I went early to register without our students, and to reserve seats for the evening sessions. The early check in at Believe started at 3pm. I got there around 3:15.  I was able to reserve front row seats for our whole group, but be careful that you get a seating chart for the evening to ensure you save seats that match up with your groups bracelets otherwise you might have to move unexpectedly. I loved the chance to get in early and take care of our seats.

Another thing that I wasn't expecting when I arrived early, was that we needed to turn in all of our permission forms and leader releases in order to get our small group materials and student Bibles. I did not have all of our forms etc ready, but they were very gracious and allowed me to go ahead, pick up our stuff, and turn in our forms later that evening. It was great to get the Bibles ahead of time to leave on the seats we had reserved.

Small Group Materials
The small group materials that they provide the groups this year were significantly different from previous years. This year each group will receive a 'inflatable conversation starting' ball. You toss it around the group and depending on what your hand is touching on the ball determines what question the student gets asked.

The ball is more ideal to be used outside the arena, in your hotel room, or in your church. It won't work to well if you try throwing it around your table at lunch or at a late night coffee shop etc. The ball itself doesn't provide your group leaders with much info on the sessions either. Some group leaders really like to know what topics are going to be covered so they can get their thoughts together on things. The Believe team has released a session by session, element by element overview of the weekend so that leaders can get a good grip on things for their small group times. You can find that HERE.

Worship Materials
This is one of the areas that the Believe team really hit it out of the park. I can't speak for everybody, but I love it when I get info ahead of time about what is going to be said, sung, and done at these events. Not only did they let us know what songs we would be singing, but they provided us with an ITUNES ping list, chord charts, and an overview of what their goal was with the worship times. I hope they provide us with this type of info every year. You can access the worship info HERE.

Oh and I can't forget to say that the band that they brought with them to help lead worship, the Sparks, did a wonderful job. I really enjoyed them.

Finding New Seats
At Believe you group switches seats throughout the weekend to give as many groups as possible a chance to be close to the action. I think its a really good idea. One thing I would give you a heads up on though is the Saturday: After Lunch switching of seats will sneak up on you. Hopefully in the future, they will just have you sitting in one area on Friday, and then one area all day Saturday. My advice for getting your seats for Saturday after lunch, is to try and find seats for your group BEFORE you all leave the venue for lunch.

Believe Bibles
I love the fact that Believe gives every student a Bible and encourages them repeatedly to read along with them in it. However, every year we have several students leave their newly received Bibles all over the place. I think what I am going to try next year is to either print out name labels to put in each of the Bibles on the first night, or have each student right their name in their Bible right away when they get it.

Lion Stencils
One of the underlying themes is that God gives us the courage to do what we are called by Him to do. They have this awesome picture of a lion that represents the courage He gives us. Throughout the weekend, they will use a stencil to spray paint on the lion to students' t-shirts. They actually have stencils for sale at the event, but I thought you might want to get a different lion stencil online to be tagging people's shirts with that weekend. Here are a couple I found:

Lion Number 1

Lion Number 2

Cardboard Box Painting
This was one thing that got me a lot more stressed than I needed to be about it. When we received our info pack with our wristbands, we also received a letter that told us to get a sample size amount of black and white pant, and things to paint with (brushes, gloves, sponges etc).  We would use it in Saturday's last session to paint a box. I tried talking with other people to see what they were going to get, and I called CIY to ask how many I would need for my group of around 40. They told me that I would only need 1 box and enough paint for that box. What worried me was I was worried that not all of my students would be able to participate in the activity.

What I ended up doing turned out to work pretty well. I asked a few students to paint the box during lunch on Saturday, and then had all of our students write on it before the last session started. The element they use the boxes for is pretty cool, and it will come together whether things go smoothly on your end or not. 

CIY's Event Cell
In the packet that we received our wristbands, we also had an overview letter from Corina Ferguson our event coordinator. It talked through different aspects of the weekend, and it also included a cell phone number we could reach her at during the weekend.

On Saturday as we left the arena, we ran into a girl who had been separated from her group in the parking garage. I was so thankful I had brought that letter with me. One of our small groups of girls talked with the student while I called Corina. She quickly found the girl's church, called them, and the group turned around and quickly came back to the parking garage. The Believe team (Thanks Corina!) took care of that problem in 5-10 minutes. I was  so impressed, and I could see how thankful the student was to be able to quickly find her group again.

Make sure you have that number with you in case something happens with your gorup, or someone else's.

Tricycle Racing League
The goofy, entertainment element this year at Believe is a series of videos about the Tricycle Racing league. Although a lot of our students didn't really get these videos, or think they were very funny, they all thought it would be pretty fun to race tricycles some time. So if you have the time before hand, you might go out and grab some tricycles for Believe Free Time, or just start having some Tricycle races with your Middle School students  right now.

Heather Flies-  was our speaker for the weekend and she did a phenomenal job. A lot of our team said that they would love to have her come speak at our church. I love the way she was authentic, quick to the point, and the way she showed love for Middle School Students. 

Roaring Like a Lion and These Are Your Words- were the two songs that our students came away from Believe singing. These were both very meaningful songs for our group, and they will be sung a few more times here at Parkside before too long.

Awesome Group Leaders- Our team of leaders here at Parkside did an incredible job this weekend. I loved overhearing conversations about reading the Bible, living your faith at school, and just seeing our leaders love their students. I also have to celebrate just how much initiative our leaders exhibited this weekend. We had a few students picked up early, and our group leaders handled all of it. Any time a student had an issue or concern the first person to hear about it was their group leader and their leaders did a great job handling those moments. We had a couple of students who didn't like heights and didn't want to sit in the upper deck. Their leaders just grabbed a couple other students, checked in with me and found a small section of seats in the lower deck. It is such a blessing to be a part of this team. They are all passionate about loving students and being a part of God's Kingdom.

No Cathedrals Preview- The focus for CIY Move this summer is on places in the world where churches aren't made up of buildings, but are simply a group of people. These are parts of the world where persecution is a huge concern for followers of Christ. The Believe team showed an extended preview of the documentary called No Cathedrals on Saturday morning. I am excited about revealing this part of the world to our students. We take our faith for granted all to often, and we need to realize just how much grace is worth.

-I hope you found this overview/field guide helpful for Believe. Don't hesitate to email me with any questions you might have. Our weekend at Believe was great, and I hope and pray you have the same experience.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


We have had a great first night at Believe. it's involved tricycles, magic, loud music, dancing, the story of Esther, and our students having WAY to much fun at IHOP at midnight. The students took a lot of video with the flip cam, but it won't be until next week before we get that video online.

So yeah we had a lot of fun. The big thing they challenged us with tonight was for us to realize what has brought us HERE to this moment and what God is wanting to challenge us to do NOW. If anyone wants to read along with us this weekend, they can do that by reading the book of ESTHER. Parents this would be a great way to know a little bit about what your students learned this week and start some good conversations with them.

Please be praying that our students would have open hearts to God's word. Pray that our adult leaders would get more rest than the actual hours they sleep (its 2am as I am writing this!), and pray to that we wouldn't miss God's Spirit in this awesome time. We sang a song tonight about God being fully alive in us and how his power is like a roaring lion within us. Pray that we wouldn't miss Him and his power this weekend.

We have a great group of students here who all have different talents and gifts. They also have a lot of different things that they are working through. Its all a part of being a middle school student. It isn't always fun either. Pray that they would begin to see the ways God guides us and strengthens us for every present moment. Thanks! 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Our Savior, Shepherd, and King

When I was a kid, some where along the way, someone showed me a series of verses from the book of Romans that sum up the message of Jesus. They talk about our need for a savior, how Jesus can meet those needs, and how he deserves to be in control of our lives. They are all solid passages, just like the rest of Romans.

Recently, I have been reading through the book of Psalms with one of our High School Seniors who I meet for breakfast every week. We will get together for the tasty food at Big Apple Bagels and talk about life and then read through a handful of Psalms.

This morning we got to 3 Psalms that I absolutely love. I think they accomplish the same thing that the verses from Romans do. They paint a beautiful picture of Jesus' sacrifice, his loving compassion, and his mighty power.  The thing I might love the best out of all of it is the fact that God inspired these three Psalms to be written by King David a long time before Jesus was even laid in a manger.

The Psalms I am talking about are chapters 22, 23 and 24. Psalms 22-24 start of in chapter 22 with words that Jesus eventually spoke on the cross. The chapter is prophetically about Jesus' suffering. He endured the ridicule of men, and the pain of the cross for all mankind. The chapter ends not with sorrow, but with eternal hope. Psalms 22:30-31 declare, 
"30 Posterity will serve him;
   future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
   declaring to a people yet unborn:
   He has done it!" 

Psalms 23 is one that you will see quoted on Hallmark cards, as well as plenty of other things, but as you read it don't miss the person that the LORD is described as. The person that is described in chapter 23 is the perfect, most compassionate dad anyone could ever think to have. 

Chapter 24 hits you like an incredible pep talk before the biggest test or challenge you might possibly face. It describes the Lord in His great power and might. It paints a picture of God returning victorious from battle to the praise of his people.

Please take the time to sit down, read, and meditate on these 3 chapters today. Thank Jesus for his sacrifice for our sake, embrace him as our loving Shepherd, and take safety in him as your King.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

More Student Super Bowl Commercials

Is this an And1 Mix Tape???

Awake and Alive -or- Is that a Chocolate Chip Cookie or Oatmeal Raisin?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Another Super Bowl Commercial from Our Contest and Random Stuff

This video was done by one of our Middle School groups. As you can tell I think they had WAY too much fun filming this!

I'll be posting other commercials from our students' commercial contest at Rel Community. Here are some other things that I hope make you laugh, brighten your day or grow you in some way:

For those of you who might not know the Super Bowl trophy is named the Lombardi Trophy after former coach Vince Lombardi. As crazy as it might sounds, someone with the same name was arrested on Super Bowl Sunday for shoplifting. He doesn't look too happy does he?

A friend of mine who is currently a teacher in Bolivia sent me this website, and looks like a really informative and valuable tool. It has tons of information and articles about pretty much everything. If you are a Christian who wants to go a little deeper in their knowledge of God or other worldviews, this would be a great resource.

Whether you are in full time ministry, its something you are pursuing, or you just want to know more about what life in ministry is like, I came across a blog interview that has some great insights as to what it is like for the wife of a full-time minister. The interview is with Lauren Chandler who is married to Matt Chandler who is the Lead Minister at Village Church in Texas.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Parent Night at Rel Community

This past month we decided to do something different at Rel Community for one Sunday night. We invited all of the parents to come with their students. We were motivated by our desire to team up with parents in ministry, and our desire to encourage them in the day in and day out challenge they have raising up their kids in the way they should go. Still, we didn't know exactly what the response would be. We put a high value on supporting parents from our student ministry and community so we decided it was something we had to do.

So we put announcements in the bulletin, the e-newsletter, and spent a whole month announcing it to students and giving them take home cards to give to their parents. We prayed a lot that parents would show up. We also prayed that it would be an encouraging time for our parents and our group leaders.

I can't speak for everyone on the Student Ministry team, but I for one was pretty nervous about the Parent night for a couple of reasons. First off, there is unfounded, but pretty inherit fear that most Student Ministers have of parents. I know it is pretty ridiculous, but I'm guessing that its the same kind of feeling that teachers get at times at Parent and Teacher Conferences. It only takes a few times of getting blindsided by a parent to get a little bit apprehensive. Student Ministers and Volunteers spend so much time and passion investing in students' lives, and sometimes parents will unsuspectingly blow us out of the water. It doesn't happen all the time, but it definitely happens, and the scars we get from us can easily affect how we interact with other parents. So not only was I nervous that some of our group leaders would get hurt by a well-intentioned parents words, I also had another fear. I was worried that students would choose not to come because they didn't want their parents to be there.

I spent the week leading up to Parent Night giving my fears up to God and joining other Student Ministry Team Members in prayer for the night. What God did on Parent night was incredible. We had over 35 parents show up and take part in the evening. Not only that, but we also had over 70 students there that evening. Not only did they show up, but everyone participated in the evening's events. We played a HUGE game of Parents vs. Students Dodgeball and nearly everyone played. After that our students taught their moms and dads the Cupid Shuffle, and everyone had a blast!

For our group time that evening we split up our group leaders. Half of them went with their normal group of students, and the other half went to meet with their group's parents. In our parent group time we got to know everyone, shared our biggest fear for our sons and daughters, shared our kids biggest successes, and really just tried to encourage the parents in their God-given role. We ended the night by praying for each other in our circles. It was truly incredible.

One of my favorite parts though was what happened afterwords. I kept getting approached by parents and by group leaders who wanted to say how much they enjoyed getting a chance to interact with each other. Group leaders said they loved hearing form the parents, and the parents kept thanking the group leaders for what they did. On the way home from Rel Community that night I got two phone calls. One was from a group leader. I was worried that someone had said something hurtful or something like that. That wasn't the case at all. They were just calling to say how much fun being with the parents had been. The other call was from a parent. They wanted to let me know how blessed they were to have a ministry for their kids that also wanted to help and encourage the parents. What a blessing those two phone calls were!

Its been a couple weeks since Parent night, and everybody already wants to do something like it again. I talked to some mom's who were at the church the other day, and they said they could hardly wait until they got the chance to come again. I asked them if it would be hard giving up a Sunday evening to come to more Parent Nights. They didn't even hesitate. They said they would be there in a heartbeat. I think God's trying to tell our Student Ministry something. We have loved working alongside of parents, and we are definitely going to be making more opportunities to do it more!

Here is a video to give you a little taste of what the evening's activities were like: