Monday, January 30, 2012

Intergenerational Tattoo

Study this photo carefully.

 This is my son being tattooed (No it was not permanent--had to say that for the tattoo haters) by two of my friends, Jason Herman (HS Student Minister) and Scott Beck (Friend, Volunteer and Fishing Buddy)--yes, their tattoos are real.  This happened at our Men's Retreat and was sent in response to my wife's photo of "Girl's Night" with my daughter.

 Braeden has still not washed his back.  I know, a lack of bathing is nothing out of the ordinary for a middle School student, but this is different--this is an intergenerational tattoo.  

I am not suggesting a tattoo student ministry program, even though I know of a few, I am suggesting intentional memory making opportunities between older and younger believers.  My son had that experience last weekend and he will NEVER forget the time he was a part of something cool with the "big league" members of our church.  I promise, this experience will further deepen the trust my son feels towards these two adults which will come in handy when he needs the voice of another male influence in his spiritual walk.  So, long after the temporary, imprint has faded from my son's skin,our excursion into intergenerational tattoo ministry has left a lasting imprint on my son's heart.

I received two bits of advice, from my tattoo wearing co-worker, that you need to consider before getting a tattoo. And...these two bits actually work as great reminders to all adults wishing to leave a positive impact with their own and other students. One, it is crucial that you choose the right tattoo artist!  Even the greatest of designs can be messed up in the hands of the wrong artist.  The point is powerfully obvious!  I love the way The Message translates the highlighted phrase from Deuteronomy 6:

Attention, Israel!
God, our God! God the one and only!
Love God, your God, with your whole heart: love him with all that's in you, love him with all you've got!
Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children.

Adults, we have to be sure we are committed to being the best artist possible for the student(s) we are impacting (inking) with our influence. In other words, practice what you preach--student's are watching you! And two, remember that ink is permanent! You can fix a bad tattoo, but you can't simply forget it happened. As adults, we often believe, or want to believe, that students do not want us around or care about our opinions of them and their world.  We are wrong!  They are being impacted by the way we love our spouse, speak about authority, devotion or lack there of in spiritual get the picture.  Be careful--you are carrying permanent ink.

QUESTION:  Stretching the Tattoo Metaphor beyond the limit, what "tattoo moments" do you best remember from your own childhood?  P.S.  These comments will produce a number of practical applications--share away!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Is your WHY big enough?

If you attend a training or conference event, the mark of whether the time and money spent at the event, is the power of the take away (s).  A take away is a thought, concept, principle, resource, tool that has the power to reshape the way you do ministry.  I recently had a powerful take away moment.

Last Friday Jeff Gary, The Hills of Southlake Church student minister, many of the Hills Children's Ministry staff and I attended the Orange Conference one-day training event in Dallas.  It was a blast listening to Reggie Joiner and his team share the importance of Family and Church partnering  in the spiritual formation of our students (there was A LOT of Orange at this event). If you have not already done so, check out Orange at

I attended a Executive and Senior Leadership class taught by Carey Nieuwhof.  I was really impressed with Carey and enjoyed our short conversation after the session (thanks John Turner for the introduction). Let me share Carey's bio from the Orange website:

Carey Nieuwhof is the lead pastor of Connexus Community Church, a multi-campus church north of Toronto and strategic partner of North Point Community Church. Before starting Connexus in 2007, Carey served for 12 years within a mainline denomination, transitioning three small rural congregations into a new congregation that experienced significant growth.  He speaks to church leaders across North America about change, leadership, parenting and the strategy behind Orange.  Carey co-authored Parenting Beyond Your Capacity with Reggie Joiner.  He and his wife, Toni, live near Barrie, Ontario, and have two teenage sons, Jordan and Sam.  In his spare time, you can find him cycling his heart out on a back road somewhere.

Carey's class brought to light the difficulties senior leaders face when trying to implement change in the church system.  He made one of the most accurate and concise statements on the tipping point moment in which a church decides to go through the difficult process of change I have ever heard.  Here it is: Change will happen "when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the pain of change."  Shortly after (here comes the take away moment) he addressed the fact that most church leaders spend their time on the "what" and "how" of ministry but need to spend more of their time on the "why."  The "why" of ministry is that which unifies and focuses a church--especially during times of change.  Great, thought provoking, practical content followed his comments. However, I stayed focused on the "why" comments.

Is our WHY big enough?  I could not get this question out of my head.  I believe most can agree with the following list of "why" statements.  WHY do we do what and how that we do in student ministry (I know, difficult play on words--it is on purpose):
  • To lift up Christ
  • To bring others to Christ
  • To build each other up in Christ
Carey is right!  It is hard to be upset at any change when the "why" is clearly focused on Christ.  As a leader, that is one of our major roles, especially in times of change, to be sure the "why" remains on Christ. I am certain Paul had this in mind when he said of himself that he resolved to know nothing while [with the Corinthians] except Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2).  So, as a student minister, is your WHY big enough?

To be honest, as I look back through my 20 plus years in student ministry, their have been times when the Why for the how and what I did in student ministry was not very big. By the way, these times were often accompanied by disgruntled volunteers, parents, students...and church leaders. Can you identify with at least one of the underdeveloped why's in the list below? Why do we do what and how that we do in student ministry:
  • To lift up my cool student ministry
  • To bring more students to my student ministry
  • To build up my reputation in student ministry
Let's face it, we have all struggled with these small why temptations in student ministry (if you haven't you will--Jesus faced them in the desert).  The solution?  Whatever it takes, stay focused on the bigger WHY.

Question:  As a student minister, what do you do to stay focused on the bigger WHY?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One of "Those" Videos

I want to share a few thoughts on one of "those" videos.  The one that is making a second or third lap around the cyber land circle and is currently drawing attention on my Facebook site.  Check it out (I will wait as you press the button--go ahead--I'll wait).

I think it is an awesome video and I asked my wife, who received it first, to send it my way so I could post it on my page.  Sure it's a video that was produced with a " Bring a Friend to Church" agenda and can be tailor fit to an individual church's context (BTW--This is my favorite of the various Back 2 Church videos) but it is the honesty that grabs my attention--real questions with real answers.

The video produced a couple of thoughts.  One, I really do believe, at the center of each church's heart (name your denomination) is a desire to be the church that communicates the message found in this video!  The message of the video carries the message of the Gospel and Christ's design for his people!  How can Christians want anything else for their church communities?  Well, to be the church in this video means we must acknowledge that life is messy and  make room for the messy people we come in contact with on a daily basis (we all are--Romans 3:23--"messy").  And be messy! And two, I believe we find ourselves in this video.  Whether you have been walking with the Lord for years, sitting in a pew since birth or simply curious about Christianity and have never sat in a church pew, this video demonstrates the level of fellowship you want from God's people!  We want a place where our messy lives can be cleaned up and shaped up for a richer, purposeful, passionate life.  To reach that depth of community takes a level of relational trust that comes from a deep level of trust in which we can share our messy lives openly with the Lord and His people.  And be messy!

So, my hope for all of us Jesus Followers is that we have a Messy 2012 and become more like the Church pitched in the video.

One more thing, a bit of practical advice, spend time reading I Corinthians (a messy church--with a capital "M") and see what Paul's practical advice was for finding unity and healing amid their various messes.

Share:  Anymore practical advice for being a Messy Church in 2012?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Suggested Resolutions for Student Ministers

What a great way to start 2012 by attending the National Conference on Youth Ministry!  A week with my wonderful wife, great information and encouragement from fellow youth workers—priceless!  As promised, I would like to suggest a few New Year’s Resolutions student minister’s may want to add to their own 2012 list (no worries, there are only 3).
  • Live life for the people who are going to be around your bed when you die.  I know, it sounds morbid, but it works.  As ministers, there are a lot of people who need a lot from us.  This pressure rarely, if ever, takes a hiatus—it comes with the territory.  As a result, we have to be intentional about our schedules and protect and spend time with those who are most deserving of our first fruits (i.e. God, Spouse, family, etc).  You will run into people this year who believe their “needs” and “attention” is of first priority (at times it is—I am not talking about that) and emotional strain will occur when you say “No” or “Not now” to their time demands.  I also realize that Divine Interruptions are part of a minister’s life—these moments are often the most rewarding.  So, let this statement guide your time management.  You will find yourself more refreshed and ready for ministry and your spouse and kids will thank you.
  •  Ask yourself the question, “How can I build authentic relationships with this program?” when planning your student ministry calendar. This simple question added to your planning will expand your ministry in the coming year.  A good program provides opportunity for relationship building with the Lord, between student, between adults, between students and adults, between the “saved” and the “lost.”  I know, there are many similar questions you should ask when developing your student ministry program (btw:  keep a watch out for Duff Robbins book on programming due out this year—he will provide a lot of good questions).  Even so, this one question will help your calendar become more sticky (
  •  Read the Bible.  I know…sounds ridiculous.  I am going to assume that we all want to spend time in God’s word. However, I am finding more and more student minister’s who can discuss and quote authors of books, videos and blogs more than the bible.  I hope you read books, watch videos and read blogs (thanks for reading this one) but be sure to get a steady diet of God’s opinion on things.  Oh, the words of the bible are the only words promised to bless your students—guaranteed.  
Question:  What resolution(s) would you suggest student ministers add to their 2012 list?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Random Thoughts: Observations from an early morning flight!

Happy 2012 and the resuming of the CatchFraze blogging adventure!

I have been up since 4:15 a.m. traveling to N.C.Y.M. (National Conference on Youth  I love to travel, but this morning’s wake up call was painfully early.  Even so, as I sit typing in the food court of Orlando International Airport, the flight from Dallas to Houston to Orlando produced a few random thoughts on life that are worth sharing.  Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Wearing a Nebraska Football jersey in public is not as cool as it once was!  I am in the city in which the bowl game they are participating in is being played and receiving little or no reaction. The great Husker Nation will rise again. (at least I am not wearing a Cowboy’s jersey). Thought:  How quickly the crowd cheers new celebrities and forgets the "greats" of the past—fame is fleeting!  Makes me glad the Lord loves me just the same whether the crowd thinks of me as a “winner” or “loser!” (BTW:  A husband and wife just walked by in their Wisconsin Jersey’s—they snickered when they saw the “N”)
  • Not everyone enjoys the cries of a baby on a crowded plane!  As a dad, I understand and empathize with parents who wrestle crying babies on planes.  Stares from annoyed passengers are piercing and the “try this” advice or “pop their ears” suggestions get old…fast! Those who have never wrestled a crying baby in a crowded space are often the most annoyed—they will learn soon enough. Thought:  It is easy to be annoyed by the “cries” of a hurting world if you fail to empathize with their situation!   It makes me think twice before calling out sin and judgment and reminds me to be more like Jesus who demonstrated empathy towards a fallen creation.
  • Powerless parenting is raising up a generation of “entitled” students—trouble is brewing!  Sometimes I can’t help but stare at the source of annoying comments. It is like passing an accident on the road—I can’t help personally assessing the damage of the collision.  This morning’s flight featured an annoying “collision” of two teenage boys, a powerless mom and a group of annoyed passengers (just for fun, these two boys and their mom were sitting next to the crying baby—extra drama).  There are too many annoying comments and sounds to catalog here(yes, flatulence was imitated with abandon), but let me summarize by saying it was obvious that these two boys had their mother where they wanted her—controlled. Thought:  As a dad, discipline is not my favorite thing, but it is a necessary thing!  I am not being holier-than-thou, I am not a perfect disciplinarian and continue to learn and seek wise counsel. Discipline is messy and something we often stumble through until we find the consequence that motivates a change of behavior.  It may be difficult, but when students are raised with the “have whatever you want precious” parenting style they can develop into demanding, unrealistic (emotionally and spiritually), unkind and weak adults.  The cost of non-discipline is a price no one wants to pay.  NOTE:  Students still have to make their own choices and may reject discipline, but that is not an excuse for adults to ignore their responsibility or fail to give their best effort.
  • A rising sun grabs our attention!  It is one of the greatest, maybe only, blessings of an early flight schedule.  There is something about the sun’s first rays peaking over the horizon that grabs our attention and creates pause.  Games, books, spread sheets are ignored for a momentary glance at the indication that a new day is beginning.  I often wonder what is going on in each person’s mind as they witness this daily reminder of God’s goodness—I bet it is something spiritual. Thought: What would happen if we let the simple beauties of the day grab our attention?  I would imagine our focus would be more centered on the greatest things (commandments):  Loving God, Loving People (this is the greatest commandment, Hard Rock CafĂ© borrowed a little).
That concludes the beginning of the 2012 CatchFraze season.  Be watching for the soon to come “Student Ministry Resolutions for 2012.” 

Happy New Year!