A Letter of Blessing

January 28, 2015 — Leave a comment

This week, I’m blogging about our family’s child dedication last weekend.  As part of the process, we wrote a letter of blessing to each of our kids.  Here’s the letter we wrote to our youngest and below is the letter I wrote for our youngest boy…

Dear Jackson,

 

You like to take your sweet time. You do things in your own timing. You’ve always been that way. We thought you would be born a full two weeks before you actually came out. You took so long that you were huge—over 9 pounds! And yet, you were just the sweetest little baby—our first blond. We were so surprised to see your blue eyes and blond hair after 2 brown haired, brown eyed kids.

I’m not sure there has ever been a sweeter little man than you. You are so sensitive, thoughtful, snuggly and kind. Our hope is that you’ll always stay this way.

You love to do fun things with the people you care about. You’re always talking about your friends, McKenzie, Delaney and Parker. Our suspicion is that relationships will always be very important to you. Friends will always be a big part of your life. May you choose good ones that will be as devoted and kind as you are. We believe that anyone who is lucky enough to have you as a friend will be a better person for it.

One of the things we love about you is that you are so funny. You are a little comedian. We believe that making people laugh will be an important part of your life for years to come. You have a gift. The ability to make people smile—to brighten a sad day is no small thing. God can do amazing things with a gift like this. You’ve already been in one Lifeline video. Who knows what God has in store for you in this area of your life?

Another fun thing about you is that you love Discovery Village. Well, maybe drop off isn’t always super fun, but you always love your time in DV and you talk about what you learned all week long. Our hope for you is that you will always want to learn more about Jesus and always want to grow deeper in your relationship with him.

There is nothing more important in this life than Jesus. We hope and pray that you fall in love with Jesus and live your life for him. Jesus is where we find meaning and purpose. We believe that God has wonderful plans for your life. He wants to partner with you to restore this broken world. We don’t know exactly what your role will be in this but we know it will be exciting and meaningful. We’ll help you figure that part out.

Jack, you love friends, and we want you to know that you’ll never find a better friend than Jesus. There’s no one in this world who loves you like He does. He gave His life for you. Building your life around your friendship with Jesus is the best way to live. As your parents, we want to help you learn to walk with Jesus. We commit to following Jesus ourselves so that you can see what it looks like. We’ll do our best to love and support you always as you grow in your faith and discover who God made you to be.

 

Love,

 

Mom and Dad

Blessing Kids

January 27, 2015 — Leave a comment

This past weekend, my wife and I finally dedicated our children.  That is to say, we dedicated ourselves, before a bunch of friends and family, to teaching our kids to follow Jesus.  It was a great experience, and as part of the process, I wrote a blessing to each kid.  I thought I would share what I wrote.  Here’s the blessing I wrote for my youngest daughter…

 

Dear Piper,

You are going to change the world. We’re sure of it. You’re full of energy and life. You’re little miss adventure. You’re brave, a little brash and slightly reckless but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Your favorite phrase is, “NO, I DO’D IT!” You believe you can do everything your older siblings can do and you don’t want any help doing it either.

You’re our most independent child, that’s for sure! We love the way you tackle life. God has put all of this in you. We just hope you don’t grow up to be a third world dictator.

Honestly, we don’t know what your adventurous nature will turn into. Maybe you will be a strong leader? Maybe your adventurous side will lead you to take the Gospel where it isn’t welcomed. Perhaps you’ll be a girl who says what needs to be said regardless of the consequences.

Or, maybe your nurturing side will grow stronger as you get older. We love to watch you taking care of your baby dolls. You love to put them to “nappers” or change their “stinkies.” It’s pretty cute watching you mother dolls that are practically as big as you are.

You also love to help take care of your little cousins. You’re always popping fallen binkies back into unsuspecting mouths or planting kisses on baby foreheads. You definitely have a nurturing side. We believe God has placed this within you as well. Perhaps your future involves loving and serving the unloved or raising a beautiful family of your own.

Maybe we’re completely wrong in all of this but it doesn’t really matter because God knows who He has created you to be and He has a plan for you. He wants to partner with you in restoring this broken planet and we’re confident that He has important work for you to do.

As your parents, we promise to guide you in what’s most important in this life: following Jesus and partnering with Him in what He is doing in this world. We promise to teach you all we know about Jesus, the Bible and what it looks like to follow Jesus. We will also do our best to follow Him ourselves so that you can see how it works.

We are so excited to watch you grow up and become the woman God has made you to be. We could not be more proud to be your parents.

Love,

 

Mom and Dad

I read some great books in November and December.  Here’s a list with a few thoughts.  I’d love to know of any good reads you could recommend.

 

PattonI’m a huge WWII nerd so this book was a must.  George Patton was such a controversial and passionate person that reading about his life surely isn’t boring!  In terms of the writing, I really enjoy O’Reilly’s narrative style.  It is very fast paced and exciting.  If you’re into history or WWII history in particular, I definitely recommend this one.

 

scrum

This book made me rethink how I oversee projects.  For our student ministry team, projects are a big part of what we do.  We approach our camps, retreats, trips and the entire summer like many organizations approach projects or new products.  I think I have a lot to learn from principles that guide the technology industry or lean manufacturing.  I’m very interested in adopting the Scrum approach for project management.

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My wife and I read this book with a couple we are mentoring.  This is a great book, particularly if you grew up in a strongly passive aggressive family, like I did.  This book teaches a method for talking about difficult issues.  I found it to be very helpful.  I’ve used principles from this book to discuss difficult issues with volunteers, staff and my family.

The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_PeopleThis book is old school but so good!  It’s one of those books that you should re-read every few years, particularly if you are in leadership.  If you’ve never read it, you should pick it up.  It will help you define and organize your life around what you truly care about.

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I met this author at the Hutchmoot conference in Nashville this fall.  He is part of the Rabbit Room.    I liked this book because it is historical fiction, which I enjoy and because the author is a follower of Jesus but the narrative doesn’t follow the prescribed Christian novel script.  I’ll just say it, I like a story with a little darkness because it feels more authentic.  Sometimes the typical Christian novel feels a little too plastic.  Also, there are pirates in this story, so it’s hard to go wrong.

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Jennifer Trafton was also at Hutchmoot this fall and unless I am completely out of my mind, I believe she is married to Pete Peterson (the author of the previous book).  I read this book to my kids at bedtime and it was perfect!  They loved it.  It stimulated their imaginations like crazy.  In fact, as we read, my son built Lego scenes and characters to match the story.  It was really fun.  If you have early elementary aged kids, this book is great.

SNOW CAMP!!!

January 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

In honor of our upcoming snow camp.  Here’s a video we produced to announce snow camp registration.  We could not be more pumped about snow camp this year.  We’re taking over 600 people.  We can’t wait to see how God moves in the lives of our students and volunteers.  Also…pay no attention to how we haze our new staff.

Announcement: Snow Camp from Lifeline Student Ministries on Vimeo.

Lifeline made a little Christmas video for you.  I hope you enjoy and I hope you have a fantastic Christmas!

 

Lifeline Christmas Special from Lifeline Student Ministries on Vimeo.

This year we stuck it to the man.  We said down with the establishment!  OK, it wasn’t quite that intense but we did do away with our desks and cubicles and transitioned to a more collaborative space.  The change has yielded great results for us.  Here’s what we did:

LL Office 1

 

How do you promote collaboration among a team?  First, you do away with traditional desks and create a collaborative workspace.  Second, put in soft seating.  It’s great for conversation.  Third, put a giant TV and cowboy hat on the wall.  Actually, the TV is pretty great for team meetings but the cowboy hat is leftover from a ridiculous leader retreat video.  We aren’t very good at throwing things away. LL Office 2

In my opinion, the best part of our office is our ginormous glass board.  This is the hub of creativity and collaboration.  This board was expensive but definitely worth the money because it looks classy, won’t wear out, and it’s HUGE!  You wouldn’t believe all the genius ideas on there.

LL Office 3Offices have a reputation for being boring and stuffy.  Being a team of youth pastors, we obviously wanted none of that!  To lighten the mood and inject fun into our space, we stretched many of our old t-shirts over frames and made them into what you see here.  Now we have unicorns, mustaches, and narwhals all over our walls.  It’s basically perfect.  This was an idea we stole directly from Elle and Kenny at Stuff You Can Use.

PS…all those boxes you see in the background are Operation Christmas Child boxes our small groups put together.  There’s over 100 of them!  The boxes are a good reminder that our space is designed to promote great student ministry.  We absolutely love what we do and can’t believe we get paid to do it!

Something New and Awesome

December 2, 2014 — 1 Comment

Hey student ministry type people!  I want to share something new and awesome with you.  My friends Kenny and Elle are launching Youth Ministry Answers–a new podcast from Stuff You Can Use.

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The premise of the podcast is pretty simple:  You ask questions and they search for answers.  I’m pretty pumped about this new podcast because Kenny and Elle are top notch.  I’ve talked with them a few times at various reThink events and I’ve always been impressed.  Their Stuff You Can Use site is one of my favorite student ministry resources.  In fact, their creativity inspired the Lifeline office redesign, pictures of which I’ll be posting later this week.

Be sure to check out Youth Ministry Answers…oh, and they’re giving away free stuff this week!

 

Will Our Kids Succeed?

November 18, 2014 — 1 Comment

Recently, I read “How Children Succeed” by Paul Tough. It’s a fascinating book about the psychology and sociology behind success.  The ideas presented in the book have helped me rethink what is most important in parenting.

As a parent, I’m constantly focused on two things:  excellence in the classroom and moral character.  If I’m honest, I want “A”s and good, moral behavior.   I’m particularly vigilant about honesty. I deeply desire for my kids to grow into adults who speak the truth and easily gain trust with others. What I’m realizing, though, is that moral character is only part of the equation for successful kids.

I grew up in one of those families that is dominated by the family business. We’re a water well drilling family and have been for years. I am a 5th generation water well driller, or at least I was, until I became a student pastor.

Growing up, my father developed in me a strong work ethic. From an early age, I was expected to chip in, work hard and problem solve. I want to see these traits in my kids as well, but I’ve never been able to describe what I want with any sort of clarity until I read “How Children Succeed.” Paul Tough breaks performance character into 7 qualities.

1. Optimism

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Kids who grow into successful adults tend to look on the bright side. They believe in their future and they are able to set goals and run after them. Put simply, kids who succeed believe they will succeed.

2. Zest

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Life is an adventure. Kids who succeed, do so, because they bring energy and zest to the challenges and opportunities before them. Rather than becoming paralyzed with fear of the future, challenges energize successful kids and activate their inner drive.

3. Self-Control

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Success often involves delayed gratification. For example, good grades usually require doing your homework before plopping down in front of the TV. For kids who grow into successful adults, learning self-control is a key ingredient.

4. Grit

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I love this word. Grit is that quality that enables a person to push through. It’s when a child initially fails, but picks himself off the ground and powers through to the finish line. People with grit never give up and never quit.

5. Social Intelligence

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Kids who grow into successful adults learn how to navigate society. They learn acceptable social behaviors, how to influence others, how to listen and how to engage in teams.

6. Gratitude

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Gratitude is simply thankfulness for the blessings of life. Kids who learn gratitude become adults who are satisfied with what they have been given. They don’t need the next shiny thing and they are capable of staying committed to important relationships.

7. Curiosity

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Curiosity has unleashed every major techological breakthrough in human history. Every significant advancement in human society has been born out of, “What if?” Children who grow into successful adults–adults who change the world for the better, are driven by curiosity. They just have to know, understand, and see what happens.

 

Obviously, I believe that education is important, but if the basic premise of this book is true, the character we develop in our kids is far more important than what they learn in the classroom.  How they go about education and what they do with education, as filtered by their character is what will determine success.  I’d almost go as far to say that how we play with our kids is more important than what we formally teach them and surely how we model is definitely more important that what we speak.  What are your thoughts?

 

Grit photo credited to filin ilia – aliyo.hu via Flickr

Self-control photo credited to Robert Plaskota via Flickr

Zest photo credited to Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

Optimism photo credited to Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Curiosity photo credited to Broterham via Flickr

Thankful photo credited to MTSOfan via Flickr

Social Intelligence photo credited to Philippe Put via Flickr

Don’t Shrink God!

November 14, 2014 — Leave a comment

Here’s a teaching video we produced based on XP3‘s Ten series.  God wants to be center stage in our lives.  When we put something else in that place, life will never be everything God intended it to be.

Ten: Center Stage from Lifeline Student Ministries on Vimeo.

Is anyone else tired?  Have you noticed that ministry is exhausting?  Over the last year and a half, our church leadership has transitioned me from a high school small groups coordinator to leading our student ministry team of 13 staff.  I love my job and my team is phenomenally talented and fun.  However, the workload, responsibility and stress can be a overwhelming.  In my most tired moments, I wonder how long I can last.  Let’s be real, not many pastors are still thriving after a decade or more of ministry.  That’s why when someone who has been in the game for decades still loves ministry and leads with passion and grace, speaks about thrive in ministry for the long haul, I listen up and take notes.

Last week, our senior teaching pastor, Jeff Manion, shared a few thoughts on how to keep yourself fresh and vibrant through years and years of ministry.  He’s in his early 50s and still leading and teaching with passion.  Jeff has been leading our church for somewhere around 30 years and he has he energy of a 25 year old.  Here’s what he shared about thriving in ministry over the long-haul.

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The overall image that Jeff shared was of being poured out.  In ministry, the work, the conversations, the crises, and everything else, require that we pour ourselves out on a weekly basis.  In order for us to pour ourselves out again, again and again, we need to refill ourselves.  What Jeff shared are three practices that refill.

SABBATH

Sometimes, Sabbath seems like one of those Old Testament laws that doesn’t apply anymore.  It was cool for Israel but this is America.  Jeff disagrees.  To him, the practice of Sabbath has been vital to his ability to stay fresh, vibrant and passionate about ministry.  Sabbath is not a day off.  It’s not a day when you exchange to-do lists.  Instead, it’s a day in which you don’t have a to-do list.  It’s not, “What do I need to do today.”  It’s, “What do I want to do today?”

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Is there a day in your weekly schedule in which you simply unplug and do things that give you life?  If not, you may be in danger of pouring yourself out without a means to resupply.

FRIENDS

I’ve blogged before about how ministry has a way of turning even the most die-hard extrovert into an introvert.  Ministry is about people, and it should always remain that way, but the truth is that when your entire world revolves around serving, listening, speaking, and helping people, you find yourself in desperate need of getting away!

I’ve heard this argument many times but Jeff put a fresh spin on it.  What he argued is that what is needed here is friends.  In ministry we have a million acquaintances but what we are desperate for are deep friendships.  One of the keys to thriving in ministry over the long haul is to identify the people in your life who are deeply enriching, life giving friends, and then organize your calendar around these life giving relationships–create space for them to grow.  Invest in the friendships that give you life.  Spend inordinate amounts of time with the people with whom you can be honest, real and raw.

When you have friendships in your life in which you can unplug, unwind and come unhinged, you are ready for ministry for the long haul.

RELATIONSHIP

I think Jeff’s most important statement in his conversation with us was this:  “The best thing you bring as a leader is not your talents and abilities but a relationship with God that is worth having.”  In the end, ministry is living out your relationship with God in front of and with other people.  Said another way, you can’t lead people where you haven’t been.

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Sometimes it’s hard to remember that it’s all about God and our relationship with Him.  Sometimes I get so caught up in the programs, numbers, issues, crises and events that I forget that eternal life is all about “knowing Jesus.”

So, if like me, you’re experiencing a season of exhaustion, I would plead with you to make sure you are refilling and recharging by focusing on sabbath, life-giving friendships, and the relationship that matters the most.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly if you’ve uncovered other ways to thrive in ministry for the long haul.

 

road image credited to Mark Sebastian via Flickr

bench image credited to Oliver Kendal via Flickr

Bible image credited to Ryk Neethling via Flickr