Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A Tension that Exists in Youth Ministry

I am called to ministry, to serve God and others in the name of Jesus. Currently (and for the past 11+ years), the “venue” has been youth ministry. Looking back, I can certainly see the growth that has occurred in my own life and in the “way” I participated in ministry, etc. At first I was just happy that God called at all, but didn’t do much. My Young Life years (to me) were a joke (1995-1997). YL’s mantra is essentially, “Do all you can to get into the world of teenagers”, by going to as many games, events, lunches, slurpee runs, etc., as possible. Well, as a college student who quite enjoyed lots of “down time hanging with my buds”, I struggled with that. Oh sure, I tried some, but I never felt I lived up to the “superhero” standard that so many YL leaders seemed to have for themselves (and as a result, others in the YL ministry). I was called on the carpet a few times, actually, for how I wasn’t doing enough. The thing is that while many teens were reached, what I witnessed in the life of the leaders themselves was usually the fact that their own families (if married) got put on the “back burner”, and I know of several divorces (or at least, “strained family relationships”) due to this style of ministry. Or, the older, single leaders stayed, well, single, because they just couldn’t settle down. Now, there is nothing wrong with being single, and I do know many YL families that “work” because all members are on board with this lifestyle. But for me…nope… One thing that YL does well in though, as a result of this style, is that they LIVE alongside the teens they serve. They are almost fully in their world.

Since then, I have moved, gotten married, had a kid, struggled, found success, found hardship, found passion, grown, fallen-back, you name it. It has been a roller coaster, but I can say that overall I feel that I have continued to learn and grow in ministry (and in life). One main way I have grown is that my focus seems to be shifting from the, “Be the teen’s buddy at all costs so they think you are cool and ‘trust’ you”, to more of a focus on the “whole family”, especially partnering with parents as they seek to be the spiritual leaders their kids so desperately need. And it may seem cliché, but a lot of this growth in my is due to that fact that I am a father now. Simply put, having kids changes everything in one’s perspective, and I can honestly say that even as a married, but childless, man I did not understand why ministering to parents, too, was vital. Not anymore…(blame Jackson, my 2 ½ year-old, haha).

But there is still a great tension when doing ministry, including youth ministry. The tension is this: Do I do anything, at all costs, to get kids to “like me” so they trust me, feel comfortable around me, able to open up, and enjoy my presence? Or…do I almost become a “parent-spy” in the world of teens (which I sense some parents want me to be), getting into their world, confronting them, letting parents in on all the scary things going on, etc. I obviously think those examples are the "extremes" here, and that there is a balance I should seek as a goal…but it is a hard tension to deal with, as whenever one starts getting parents more in the picture, the teens tend to lose trust, feel betrayed (“dude, why did you have to tell my parents??!!!”). Yet, when I am too much of a “buddy”, the kids don’t seem to see me as a true authority figure, and think they can just do/say whatever around me. While I do like that they think they can be “themselves” around me, sometimes who they are simply isn’t what they need to be all the time…and when I call them on it, I wonder if they “hear” it when I am the “buddy”. Also, I know that parents, while glad their kids like their youth minister, get frustrated with me only being the “buddy” to their children. Some parents truly are living the biblical command to be the primary spiritual teachers to their kids (BRAVO!), others are trying but aren’t’ really sure how to do it (so I hope to help and encourage them where I can), some have “given up” trying (or so it seems), and others seem to think that since I am “paid” to do this, that all they have to do as spiritual leaders to their family is drop them off at youth events, preferably fun ones, that get their kids out of their hair. So, you hopefully can see the tension here.

Lately this tension has been more at the forefront. It just seems that I am increasingly becoming more of an authoritative leader to the youth, and I have had to call lots of them out on their behavior, attitudes, etc. While many kids respond positively (because there is trust), I can’t help but have fear that, “One of these days, they will start seeing me as just a step-below ‘parent’ and thus shut me out, too”. In some cases, that may have already happened. I am seeking the balance, but as I said earlier, I am increasingly seeing my ministry calling as being more than just “youth”. I am called to serve the family in general right now, so I must walk in the midst of all this tension. I am definitely praying for much wisdom on this, as I know I will mess up some, and sometimes do the “right thing”, but cause some relational strain in the process. But I can’t sit back any longer. I love the people (kids and parents alike) simply too much to do or say nothing. And I feel that that is my role/job/responsibility as one in the position I am in. I am a minister. Yeah, in the denomination I currently serve, I am not a “real” minister (haven’t sold my soul to the denomination just to get “credentialed”, hehe), but that is what I am nonetheless. And I would hope that all those I walk in faith alongside would expect nothing less…


I am a music nut, and as I have gotten older, I have increasingly learned to appreciate nearly all genres (even some country…but the “older” and more “outlaw”, the better!). But growing up, it was all about “arena rock”, “power rock”, metal, etc. You know, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Dokken, Metallica, etc. Lots of riffs, power chords, guitar solos, pump-your-fist-air-guitar-windows down with the volume at eleven…

Well, I have often told folks that what rock music needs today is a group of, “young guys who play ‘80s rock, but without all the squeals, screams, and screeches, without the big hair, without the spandex, and without all the sexual innuendo.” In fact, I often tell folks that if I were to start a band, that is the type of band I would want to be in…

Ladies and gents, I present you with my newest musical guilty pleasure: THE SHOWDOWN (

Now, there is nothing groundbreaking here, but generally it is what my request describes above. Just good, fun, ROCK. And as a Christian myself, it is nice that they too are Christians. Now, some may be bummed that their lyrics aren’t very “blunt” as far as their beliefs go (I think their faith does shine in the lyrics…you just have to digest what they are saying…no spoonfeeding), but at the very least it is cool to have a band like this that isn’t singing about drugs, sex, etc. (like The Darkness…another recent band playing 80s rock, but even the “edited” version of their cd I own is a bit much at times). Plus, they have a fun rockin’ cover of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son”, a song I have always loved.

So, if you are in the mood for something new that reminds you of something old, check out The Showdown…

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Final Four Results (and my last 2007 NCAA Tourney post)

Well, I got 2 of the Final Four...not awful, but the thing that stinks is that I have neither team (Ohio State and UCLA) advancing to the championship game. So, my bracket is "done" no matter what happens. Oh well. Overall, this was a mediocre year as far as my picks. Not the worst, definitely not the best. But always fun, as this gives me my only reason to really watch basketball (little care the rest of the year beyond watching Sportcenter highlights, really care less about NBA unless a Texas team is in the Finals).

Friday, March 23, 2007

So I joined the cult...

I have various reasons for doing this...but hopefully it will be an enriching addition to ministry, etc.

NCAA Sweet Sixteen, Day One

Well, last night was darn exciting, even if I dare say maddening that the Texas A&M Aggies lost (and if you know me, you KNOW how strange of a statement that is coming from me...). I missed the first half, but it looks as if an "iffy" technical called on Coach Gillespie, a foul I did not agree with late in the game (I could be wrong, I am not really a basketball guy), and some strange timing issues (was it just me...or did the score-table guy mis-read the "two" from the ref as, "change the clock to 2.0 seconds" instead of, "take two-tenths off the clock (resulting in a slightly better 2.9 left)?") are what lost this game for the Ags. Oh well, that is how sport is. On other days, they will get all the "calls"...

So, while I got (from my original, pre-tourney picks) 3 of 4 right last night, at best I can only pick up one tonight, for a possible 4-of-8 right in the Elite Eight.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Powerful TV Show

If you haven't seen the A&E show "Intervention", you really need to. New Episodes are on Friday nights (9 pm CST, I believe), with re-runs at other times. You can read more on their site, but essentially each episode looks at an individual struggling with addiction (alcohol, drugs, gambling, anoerexia, bulimia, plastic surgery, anger, and even video games have been dealt with) as they head toward an unknown-to-them intervention with their loved ones and a therapist.

I am not much of a "must-see-TV" guy (the only other show I really make sure to "not miss" is "Battlestar Galactica"), but this may be the one show that my wife and I make a point to watch together each week. It is harsh and "shows nearly everything" (like needles in veins, vomiting into Ziploc bags, etc.), but I think that is what makes this show so magical. You truly see the nasty effects of addiction to both the individual and those around them. The show mixes scenes with only the addicted person and scenes with the loved ones discussing the nasty effects and planning the intervention itself.

The emotions I have in the show are all-over the place. Sadness, mercy, anger, love, doubt, hope... Sometimes the most frustrating part is the loved ones, as they often are "enablers" to the addiction, handing out money, places to stay, etc. Often this provides much of the discussion fodder, since it would be hard to do "tough love" and cut someone off due to an addiction that will likely kill them without help.

The success rate...I don't know the percentage, but another "good" (I mean, not good...but glad they show all sides...) thing about the show is that the treatment doesn't always work. Often the additced one gets kicked out of the facility, often they relapse, and sometimes (not as often) they refuse treatment at the intervention itself. But there are also successes, and my heart leaps with joy to see that...

So, watch the show. I would even love to purchase episodes for the teens at church to watch, as it pulls no punches. I'd have to get waivers, though...hard images, rough language, etc... But I think it is worth the cost...

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

When Your "Calling" is Hard to Follow

I truly believe that God called me into ministry as a "vocation". What I mean is that while I think that all who profess to be Christians are called to ministry, some are called to have it as their "job": working in a church, or some para-church ministry, etc. That's where I have always sensed God's voice leading me. Right now it is with teenagers; increasingly I wonder if whatever (and whenever) "next" is, if it will be in another arena/age group/etc. But the main thing is that while serving in "the local church" certainly opens your eyes to some not-fun things (we are all a bunch of not-perfect humans, you know) that one would hope don't happen among God's people, I still would feel "lost" not serving in some sort of ministry capacity. Right now it is as "paid worker", and while I have to be open to something else than "paid", I don't sense that happening...

Well, my "calling" is truly being tested now. Not in an, "I wonder if I am really called"-type way, more in a, "Dang, this is hard right now"-type way. Details are not the point, but let's just say there are some circumstances among those I walk in faith with that are really coming to the surface now and forcing me to obey my call on a deeper level. And it is scary. I often worry about "what I should do", or about what might happen if I do/say the wrong thing, or say too much when I just need to shut up and listen. I also fear not doing or saying enough... "What if I say something that makes the situation worse? What if I 'call folks on the carpet' too much and we 'lose them' from the community as a result?" Then, fear about my job status comes into play. If I say the wrong things, or nothing at all, I risk making situations worse, and folks could be hurt in the process. If I say too much, or maybe too "confrontationally" (is that a word? I just made it up if not...), I risk folks getting mad and leaving...and we all know that when the "numbers" get smaller, the leader (me) gets questioned. So essentially this is all a "fear of the unknown" problem I am having right now. What do I need to do? Go to the Source. Go to the scriptures...and see what God has to say to me...

25"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life[a]?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own
.***Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV);;&version=31;

18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.***Matthew 10:18-20 (NIV);

10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up***Ephesians 4:10-12 (NIV);

I often hold tight to the "do not worry"-passages...and I need to now. I also need to trust that the Spirit will give me (or is already giving me) the words to say, and to again not worry... This is where I need to live always, but especially in times like these. If anyone reads this and considers themselves a "praying person", feel free to lift me up to be open to God's Voice at this time, to be comforted by Him, and to remember my calling... and feel free to pray the same for yourself (as we are ALL called by God to something...).

Monday, March 19, 2007

Results at the Sweet Sixteen mark of the NCAA Tourney

11 of 16 teams right, but I had a BIG loss occur when my national champion pick, Wisconsin, got beat yesterday. Oops. Essentially my Midwest bracket is done, and the East is almost done (I have Georgetown getting to the Elite 8, but losing to Texas, who is also now gone...). The South is still looking good (3 of 4 right, and my "advancers" are all still alive) and the West is a perfect 4-for-4. At best now I can get 5 of the Elite 8, 2 of the Final Four...but my Championship game is shot...

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Overall NCAA First Round Results

So I was 12-of-16 again for Day Two, 24/32 for the First Round Overall. Pretty average for me. I have been as low as 20/32 (maybe worse...can't remember) but usually hover in the upper-half of the the 20s for first round picks.

Day Two Upset Picks: Wintrop over Notre Dame

Picks that now "hurt": None (which is nice...I still have a shot at 14/16 of the Sweet Sixteen (now that Butler just beat Maryland in the Second Round...oops).

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day One NCAA Results

12 out of 16 correct picks... I have done better... (my all-time first round record is 30 of 32 first round winners).

Upsets I Picked Correctly: Michigan St. over Marquette, Xavier over BYU

Wrong Picks that "Hurt" (aka, I had them going even farther, oh well): George Washington (I had them in the Sweet Sixteen).

Hopefully I can do a bit better today (maybe at least 13 or 14 out of 16? We'll see...gotta root for Winthrop, 'Nova, Long Beach St., and Creighton to pull the upset...).

We aren’t nice enough to each other…and we are too nice to each other…

I write this while in Kerrville on our “Senior High Spring Break Road Trip”. It has been a valuable time, and some excellent discussion (mostly on “leadership”) has come out of this, among other topics. Some things have given me great joy, while other things I have heard or learned this week make my heart drop. One thing that has stuck in my mind a lot has been this nasty habit we humans have of being at the “extremes” about things, not the least our approach to faith. We are either uber-bold or uber-loving (see previous post). We like the Jesus that gets angry and drives out the temple merchants with whips, who tells us that he will divide families, who draws lines in the sand, and who talks a lot about hell, or we totally focus on the Jesus who loves and loves and loves…who forgives “seventy times seven”, who promises the same reward to the last-minute confessor as offered the life-long faithful follower, who treats the unlovable with respect and great love. There is little middle ground, at least in how we like to base our “following” of Him.

I think the same applies to how we relate with each other. One thing we talked about was how the kids treat others in the youth group or at school who are “different” than them, either in personality, appearance, attitude, interests, whatever. Some folks were quick to defend the “unlovable”, professing the need to be patient, accepting, and loving, even with folks who “annoy” them. Others just would not budge. “It’s their fault…”, “They bring it on themselves…”, “If they would just not try to impress us, we might like them…”, “I don’t care: they don’t belong in our group. They are too annoying…”, “Their hair/clothes/skin/laugh is just wrong.” Once again, the extremes…

But this made me think about how we like to treat others in general, especially when dealing with the matters of faith. I think we are too often like the first-paragraph comments of being the “Jesus” that wants to expose sin, stir up trouble, tells folks to “turn or burn”, etc., or we almost “love to a fault” (if there is such a thing, and with that comment, you know my “bent”) and do not judge, give second and third and fifty-eighth chances, seeks to “kill others with kindness” and hope they see God in it, etc. So, once again, the extremes… I see this all the time in our church (and The Church), and I guess I just wish we could find a way to be and appreciate “both”. I know that we are all wired with certain personalities, gifts, and what-not, and that is one of the main reasons we tend to gravitate toward one way or the other. I just think it is not that simple. It is, like I often say (with a smile) when folks ask either/or questions about God and faith, “The annoying ‘yes!’”: Are we supposed to be the angry and hateful of sin, challenging, encouraging believers to “become what they believe”, telling others who do not believe about their sin and how it totally separates them from God and deserves a punishment? Yes! Are we supposed to love, welcome, respect, and dare I say even “tolerate” (that is a bad word in many Christian circles…I don’t mean “blindly accept”…) the unlovable, the annoying, the Christian struggling with a “thorn in their flesh”? Yes! The annoying yes…we want either/or. We want a formula. We want what is the “right” way. And it ain’t that simple…and it is that simple.

So, how does this apply to me (as in Ben), personally? I have stated in previous posts how I have been asking God to raise up more boldness in me, as I can lean toward being an “uber-love” when not careful. I guess what is more accurate is that I am asking God to help me find the way to be “both” in this issue. And I sense the tension to go to either end of the spectrum. I was just thinking this week that, “What if I went home and started really telling the kids that their attitudes, jokes, prejudices, judgmental hearts, etc. are wrong wrong wrong…not in the way I already do (which, while I say it, is almost with a shake of the head and a tsk-tsk-tsk), but with a more, "it makes me wonder if your faith is real", statement, because often that is what my human, frail, judgmental side wants to do: expose the wrong at all costs. But I sense the kids get a lot of that already at home, from others in church, etc., so I don’t. I mean, if I did that, what would happen? I guess a few might respond and get serious about God again (or for the first time), but I bet I would quickly be labeled too judgmental, no-fun, mean, unloving, etc., and many would flee the youth ministry (and then folks would probably want my head on a plate and I'd get canned). So my other tendency is to therefore love, love, love, and encourage until I can’t anymore, etc. And that has it’s place. I just need (God, I am talking to you! :-)) to find that balance. I need discernment and wisdom. I need to love like crazy, welcome like crazy…and as a Christian, and thus, minister, I need to do all I can to encourage those around me, life-long Christian and un-believer alike, to know Jesus and become closer to Him every day…even if what needs to be said is sometimes “hard”…

NCAA Tourney 07 Picks and the "Scientific Method"

Ok, first I need to explain how I came to these picks. About...12 years ago, I entered my first informal NCAA bracket contest using this method, and I won the thing. Since then, I have had varying levels of success, but it always amounts to much fun (and unusualy teams to pull for). The method is this: First, make a bracket with the picks that I "really think will win" (like most folks make brackets). Second, I have a bit of fun and pick only the teams I want to win, regardless of how realistic the picks are (so lots of underdogs in the Final Four, etc.). Third, I make picks based on my primative (and not very scientific...) "dice game", which involves me raning the teams on a "power ranking" of 1 (very weak teams) to 6 (the top 2 seeds in each bracket), and everywhere in between, then roll the dice...and the farther apart the two teams' PRs are, the harder for the "little guy" to win. For example, if a 1 plays a 6, the only way the 1 can win is if I roll an 11. If two 4s play, I just take one dice for one team, the other for the other, and whoever has the highest roll wins (since they are "equal"). Later in life (yes, occasionally I still play "dice game", old college friends...), I would realize how this method is not that accurate, and would expand the game to using SIX dice... but for this traditional NCAA pick game, I go old school... Finally, I simply add up how many wins each team has for each bracket, give them that "score", and just go head-to-head (with the tiebreaker being "who I really think would win"). So, if Texas has a 9 and North Carolina an 8, no matter whow much I would normally pick UNC, Texas gets the nod. This method just allows for lots of fun upsets and unexpected "runs", and we all know that the "bracket that makes sense" almost never wins...

Ok, now the picks! I realize the first day of games has played, but I PROMISE no results have been fact, since I travelled yesterday, I know very few of the results from yesterday...

First Round Winners: Florida, Arizona, Butler, Maryland, Winthrop, Oregon, UNLV, Wisconsin, Kansas, Villanova, Virginia Tech, Southern Illinois, Duke, Pitt, Gonzaga, UCLA, North Carolina, Michigan St., USC, Texas, George Washington, Washington St., Texas Tech, Georgetown, Ohio St., Xavier, Long Beach St., Virginia, Louisville, Texas A&M, Creighton, Memphis

Second Round Winners: Florida, Maryland, Oregon, Wisconsin, Kansas, Southern Illinois, Pitt, UCLA, North Carolina, Texas, George Washington, Georgetown, Ohio St., Virginia, Texas A&M, Memphis

Sweet Sixteen Winners: Maryland, Wisconsin, Kansas, UCLA, Texas, Georgetown, Ohio St., Texas A&M

Elite Eight Winners: Wisconsin, UCLA, Texas, Ohio St.

Final Four Winners: Wisconsin, Texas

And the Champion is... Wisconsin

Monday, March 12, 2007

Kerrville with 9 others

First, later this morning Missy and I will be taking a trip that we have wanted to put on for several years now: a sort-of "retreat" with some senior highs from our church. There will be an additional adult with us and 7 teens. I am excited. One of the hopes is that we can all just "get away" to a fun, relaxing setting up in the hills, which should be great. Even if it rains alot (might the first day or so), there are lots of games, we will have movies, plenty of rooms to hang in, etc. Oh yeah, and the NCAAs are firing up later in the week, so much good ESPN Bracketology to watch (I will post my "scientific method" bracket when I get back; you'll just have to trust me that I won't change anything...since it will be after games start). We won't have much scheduled-stuff, but two things I hope to have happen each day are a) one good discussion about "leadership" with the teens, as I truly believe that God has given us these kids to talk with about it this week, and b) a daily, solo, walk on my parent's cool "prayer path".

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Yes! I have needed this scripture!

"15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect..."---1 Peter 3:15, NIV

Have I really missed this scripture the whole time?

Yep...and I have read (not bragging, just saying) the whole New Testament and most of the Old...if not least once when all is said-and-done. So, this is proof that you can still "miss things" in your scripture reading, and that you shoudl never stop studying because you never know when something new will speak to you...

This was quoted by Sean McDowell at the Planet Wisdom conference last weekend. I was floored. I circled it repeatedly.

You see, I have always struggled to explain the "balance" needed to folks in the arena of "boldness in one's faith sharing vs. grace, care, respect, love". It is a fine line, and even with this scripture brought to light, there is still an air of, " what does this look like?" Where I struggle is in trying to encourage those who are "uber-bold" in their faith ("I am right, and you are not...and while I 'love' you, I will do all I can, using any means necessary, to prove that my faith (and often even to other Christians) is 'right' or 'better'...") to also seek a bit of respect and tact, considering that just maybe it is good to "back off" at times, to listen and consider others' opinions, and just lay low... But what is hard is that these uber-bolds are quick to fire back at me with all these scriptures about how we are to be bold, unashamed, how the Bible is a "sword" (and thus used to "fight"), etc., and it has been hard to argue with them. I basically just leave feeling stupid, because I know as well as they do that the "God is love" argument is also too easily taken to the opposite extreme ("Just love them...and let God do the rest"...and thus, nothing is said at all...), and thus I have been at a loss for words in encouraging these types to be just a bit gentler...

Well, 1 Peter 3:15 is music to my ears. I have always thought there should be a better balance between the uber-bolds and the "uber-loves", but rarely is that balance found. It is almost "either-or". So, while this is simply one scripture with no real formula as to how it shoudl work, just seeing this encouragement in scripture is awesome. How can we find the balance? Not totally sure, but maybe we all need to ask ourselves (and ultimately ask God) things like: What are my motives in trying to prove that I am "right"? Am I more interested in winning above ALL else? Can I even "lose" for now (and just make this more of a longer-term conversation), or do I have to "fix this person NOW"? Do I cop-out and say "nothing", because I don't know why I have faith, hope, etc. (and most who "don't know", truth be told, seem to be too lazy to find out why...)? Do I say nothing at all simply because I am afraid of being shunned?

This scripture strikes a great balance of both: We need to KNOW why we have this fiath and hope in Jesus, and be able (and willing) to share that. Folks need to hear our story of faith, warts and all. But conversely, we must seek a better balance, where the story of faith is proclaimed, but with grace, patience, respect, and love for those that may not want to hear it all the time. We must better listen to the Spirit's leadings... If we truly trust the Spirit and his whisperings (and shouts), I think we would all be either bolder in our faith (if you are an uber-love) and a bit more quiet and respectful in our faith (if you are an uber-bold).

Monday, March 5, 2007

Planet Wisdom 2007 Debrief

Wow. The Wisdom Works team hit another homerun. If you wonder what I speak of, each year we take a group of students to the Planet Wisdom Conference (, and so far we are 3-for-3 as far as incredible experiences. Mark Matlock is simply a great communicator for any age bracket, the Skit Guys ( are just hilarious and thought provoking at the same time, it's fun to be worshipping with a few thousand teens and adults in a rockin' atmosphere (not that I dispise more "traditional" worship, but for me, I do love the rock band...), and a new "tag-team" speaker, Sean McDowell, was actually better than I expected (and believe it or not, most of our kids seemed to resonate with him better than Mark!).

One thing that was such a joy to experience this year was that the messages seemed to hit home for such a large portion of our kids. I mean, they always "take something" from PW, but this year's theme of "What Does God Want From Me?", dealing with things like the Great Commandment (;&version=31;), Great Commission (;&version=31;), and Micah 6:8 ( So often (more than usual) I found myself thinking/praying, "Oh God, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have these kids hearing you right now!" And, as always, you have your certain ones that you feel need to hear certain things, and even if they have heard them from a) their parents and b) their youth minister (and thus usually ignoring it), it is good to hear the same stuff from "another source", and those kids I feel "heard" those messages and began pondering the implications.

SIDE COMMENT: This year the conference was at Irving Bible Church (, which for many of our kids was their first experience in a "mega-church" environment, with varying opinions. Some were just in awe of all the "bells and whistles", of the different environment, etc., while others were vocally harsh ("It doesn't feel like a church...", "...couldn't they be spending their money on more useful things?", etc.). It actually provided some good discussion fodder, expecially on the "judgement" theme. I myself have varying opinions on mega-churches (future post?), but more often than not I give them the "benefit of the doubt" and seek to find the positives. I don't think it is my business, for example, to judge how money is used unless I KNOW FOR A FACT it is being "wasted" on fluff... I also think that while more traditional churches with steeples, pews, icons, etc. are great and reach many folks who would never st foot in a church like IBC, there are equally (and maybe more) folks who are willing to set foot in an IBC-esque church WAY before a traditional church, and thus hear the story of God... So, it is not my job to decide which way is "best"... God's Word is being taught to folks in both arenas...good enough for me!

(for what it's worth, I thought IBC was VERY cool...maybe a bit-too, "why go hang out in 'the world'...we have everyhting here!", for me at times (like, workout facilities, coffee cafes, etc...not against them, but folks might just "go there" instead of having coffe with the rest of the world, being salt and light there...), but still cool. I saw some unique ways to "remind" us of various things (like the "Monsters, Inc." doors...loved that), the big "TAKE ACTION" sign as you left, the wonderful opportunities to serve others in the world EVERYWHERE in the church, and the fact that IBC is bucking the trend of most non-denoms by actually embracing some ancient traditions, like Lent (signs up all over...).