What The 12th Man Taught Me About The Church

A football team has bonded an entire region in a way that I wish the church would unite under the name of Jesus.

960x595After the Seahawks victory over the Niners, I saw from a friend on Facebook “I have hugged more than 20 strangers since the game ended!” A tweet I read said, “Never felt so close to so many people I have never met.” 

This city is crazy-united in the name of the Seahawks.

How I wish the church, I’ll make it even more personal, oh, how I wish my church would be even more united in the name of Jesus.

  • I took my family to Disneyland in October and while waiting to ride Pirates I saw a Seahawks fan (wearing a Seattle shirt) “Go Hawks” I said, quickly to get nod and a “Go Hawks” in return! We were united in Hawkdom.
  • While in Phoenix during the Seahawks bye week, I entered a Starbucks wearing my Seahawks Blue- “Hey, I’m from Seattle,” shouted the Barista, continuing, “your coffee’s on me!” 12th Man unite!
  • The shirt I wore in DIA

    The shirt I wore in DIA

    Last week I had the privilege of speaking at a camp in Colorado (yes, I survived), I chose to proudly wear a Seahawks shirt through the airport, “you’re bold!” “Go Hawks!” “Love your shirt, go Seattle” and “12th Man!” were some of the comments I received in the hostile hallways of DIA. But there was great encouragement knowing I had some friends… I was not alone! United in our Hawks-Love!

With Hawks fans it doesn’t matter if Russell or Marshawn is your favorite player- why be divided over personal preference? We understand it is the team that wins (and all the team members are needed). As part of the 12th man, we understand Sherman’s adrenaline-driven antics and we are quick to forgive knowing that his life is not defined by the one triumph or one mistake.

  • At the Seahawks game that my wife and I were fortunate enough to go to this year, we fist-bumped strangers without asking them if they were bigger fans of the offense or the defense. We exchanged low and high fives with our neighbors before we knew that some of them may actually be upset with some of Coach Pete’s decisions. These small things didn’t matter, we were united in the 12!

I have a lot to learn from the unity of the 12th man. I want to go to church and experience an even greater unity in the name of Jesus. The guy in the row in front of me may wish for louder music, but that shouldn’t change anything about how I interact with him. The family down the aisle may believe differently about the signed gifts, but I can still encourage them in Christ no matter their view. The gal who sits alone and never makes eye-contact, can still be asked if she’d like a cup of coffee. The people in the front row who quietly sigh when they see that it is me getting up to preach are still my potential new best friends, because in Christ, we are united.

Unfortunately saints still sin, and we too often let that define EVERYTHING.

Preferences and methodologies have sometimes become our hill to die on instead of letting the theology of the one who died on a hill become our EVERYTHING!

I am a proud Seahawks fan. But I have friends who are proud Broncos (congrats Denver, for making it to the Super Bowl). Even something that has united Seattle so strongly will not stand in the way of the larger bond I have with my brothers and sisters cheering for another NFL team. Because ultimately, we’re united in the Kingdom!

Go Hawks!




Building A Great Youth Ministry Team

coffee-shop-602704-mYou too may be a coffee addict if you know exactly which Starbucks you’d name for each of the following categories:

  • Most likely to be quiet
  • Best one to work in (AKA- the one with the most wall outlets to plug-in)
  • Fastest and/or best service

This morning I was impressed with how fast the line was moving. Not only was the inside line flowing, I watched as cars quickly passed through the Drive-Thru as well. The Barista team was clicking on all caffeine-coated cylinders.

Could the same be said of the way your team is functioning in your youth ministry context? Sure, they too may be addicted to caffeine, but are they clicking?

As I watched the baristas I watched them move in rhythm, I think all of them were serving in their own area of strength. From the friendly gal at the register who struck the balance of conversation, scanning apps and collecting cash to the barista handing the drinks to seemingly still-moving cars in the drive-thru; this team was cranking.

The Youth Ministry team in your church can also move in a rhythm, here are a few keys to building a great student ministry team.

1. Recruit To Areas Need, Gifts & Strengths.

bad-day-at-the-office-1380015-mEver heard, “want to serve? Well start by stacking those chairs.” I get the fact that we’re looking for people with servant hearts, but C’mon!, if I had a need for a 7th grade guys leader, I found the best recruitment tool was to recruit a person who was actually passionate about mentoring young guys— the chairs can get stacked by all of us together afterwards!

Identify some key missing areas in your ministry and look to recruit people to ministry specific purposes, you’re more likely to find someone when you can define exactly what it is you want them to do (and something they like to do).

2. Educate and Train in order to Sustain

I have found that the groups that feel “stuck” the most are the ones who invest very little in training their staff/team. There’s something about the team and time (together) investment that creates momentum. Whether it is a monthly meeting where you’re training in “all things cyber,” taking several to a national denominational conference or inviting your entire team to a regional event- look for opportunities to expose your team to what’s going on outside your four walls.

Unknown[NOTE] I’m honored to be part of the Youth Specialties Team Training events taking place this winter/early spring. Check out if one of these events is within a few hour drive for your team. This totally affordable Friday eve/Saturday event will help move your team forward.

3. Take A Night Off (get out of the way)

Whether you literally are gone for the night or just choose to not schedule yourself for any responsibilities, one of the greatest gifts you can give your team is to trust them with ALL elements of the ministry event.

You’ll immediately see the benefits of ownership when you have others responsible for the check-in, leading worship, delivering the announcements, giving the talk and facilitating the games!

Like a great coffee shop, I think we in youth ministry can create environments where things are clicking and people want to come back… but it takes smart recruitment, great training and selfless leadership to get there! Ready. Set. Invest!


Summer & Fall 2013, Speaking Needs?

I got a late start on my spring cleaning, but who can blame me, the spring was jam-packed with all things BUSY! Mission51 Retreats, consulting and speaking at a couple conventions/conferences.  But the cleaning did begin!

The fish was THIS big! My stories are NEVER exaggerated!

The fish was THIS big! My stories are NEVER exaggerated!

I would love to head into the summer with most of the little clean-up projects taken care of so that I can get rolling with some larger Youthmark projects (a few big writing projects). I’m pumped about this summer, time with family, time for writing, but yet my schedule is fairly open, perhaps a little too open? If you have summer or fall speaking opportunities, I’d love to fill in some gaps for you…

I just updated my speaking page, you can link to it above or right here. Maybe your church or org should be added to that list? Don’t hesitate to contact me (just give a few details of what you’re looking for and when)!

My car is clean, the garage is next! Blessings on your late spring!




A Trip To Consider (meet real needs)

The moment you realize God just used you to meet the need of somebody else…

Seriously... views like this!

Seriously… views like this!

It’s mid-April and you’d think that most (if not all) youth groups have their summer plans laid out, but you never know? In the last week I have had two Montana towns (pastors) in need contact me to ask if I may know of a youth group that could come serve them this summer.  Great needs and they’re asking the Lord of the harvest to provide the workers…

If you’re in the northwest and/or interested in a trip to this region, I couldn’t think of a more beautiful place to do a VERY inexpensive mission trip! Seriously, you could likely do a trip like this for less than $200 per person! Because our mission product-line is less “sending” and more “all-inclusive mission prep/follow-through” I’m happy to show you how to do this in a super-affordable way!

Both of these communities in Montana will provide you and your group the opportunities to:

  • work with children (sports camp or Vacation Bible School)
  • serve with hands (service projects to bless Christians and the unchurched)
  • peer-to-peer evangelism (give your students practical opportunities for real-life outreach)
  • discipleship (Christian teens in community need to see the spark in your students)
  • food/housing (most, if not all, of your meals taken care of)
  • team time (not a scripted trip, you have great freedom to speak into formation and plenty of time to disciple your own group through evening debrief)
  • scenery unparalleled . Seriously, these places are beautiful
Guaranteed real-life impact with hands, heart and words!

Guaranteed real-life impact with hands, heart and words!

If you’re interested in some last-minute planning (that we’ll help you with), but a FULL IMPACT trip, please contact me here, I’ll get you in touch with the right people.

You may just be the answer to prayer for one of these two pastors who contacted me this week!


New In New England

This blog post was written at approximately 37,000 feet above the earth as I travel from Boston to Seattle. I’m certainly flying high after our first Mission51 Retreat in New England this past weekend!

mission_51Just like San Diego we had three different churches represented, which to me was a major victory for a first-time market! However, the most major victory belongs to the work of the Spirit in the lives of these teens. God did a new work in so many ways, here are a few:

Friday Night: This year we launch our Friday night program in the most unique way thus far… Without giving anything away (still have four more M51 Retreats this year), it was very evident from the start that this group was different than any we have had the last few years. Because there were no groups that had ever done anything Youthmark, this felt very new (much like 2009). We were about two-thirds through the night and it became abundantly clear to me that I needed to jump off track for a few minutes. I sensed the Spirit telling me to pause and simply present the Gospel. It was as if the Lord was telling me, “some are ready to trust in me.” I was obedient, He was faithful. Nine students placed their trust in Jesus for salvation for the first time!

Student, Jonah, leading his peers at M51

Student, Jonah, leading his peers at M51

Saturday: There were several “new” things that took place on Saturday. Our Band, Double Vision (15 year old twins Micah and Mason) continues to do a wonderful job leading not just in worship but in several other areas, well this time we recruited a couple other local teens to facilitate and speak. We are pushing Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry (SLAMM) and it was phenomenal to see these Rutland teens step up into their areas of giftedness.

Double Vision

Double Vision

On Saturday evening, after an impromptu after-event concert (Double Vision performed), Rob Townshend had a conversation with one of his teens and she placed her trust in Christ as well!

Sunday: Though the M51 Retreat was complete, I was asked to stick around and preach at Calvary Bible Church. What an honor and the second time this calendar year! This time though I got to do a new thing; Rob Townshend and I tag-team preached, it was a blast!

I tallied one more new state as we traveled to Boston via lunch in Maine! While on that drive I received one more bit of new-news! Incredibly, one of the young ladies, who almost didn’t come to the Retreat (she says, “my dad made me go”) send me a Facebook message to pray for her as she was sharing her faith with an atheist. About 20 minutes later a second message… “He just trusted in Christ!”

I like all this new stuff! Thank you New England!


Mission51 number one, done.

IMG_0428This last weekend was spent at Indian Hills Camp in Jamul (near San Diego), California!

The REAL LIFE themed Mission51 Retreat was an absolute win. Though there are several little kinks that need to be worked out for the next event in New England, I consider this retreat the best “first” event of the spring in our five year history.

The big wins from my perspective (not in any particular order):

IMG_0433The Group Interaction/Broken Down Walls- The programming elements of REAL LIFE get the students interacting with folk from other groups far more than any of our previous retreats. Doing just a little investigation on Facebook I can already see many students from different youth groups interacting and following up online.

Clusters- We introduced a new training method to the groups this year. I am absolutely STOKED about these and how well they worked! This put participants in the most realistic opportunity to practice real-life entry points into spiritual conversations.

IMG_0435Double Vision- The guys  (Mason and Micah) were a hoot to be with and did a fantastic job leading in worship but the most telling thing to me was that they were so much more than great musicians and worship leaders- these guys love Jesus and want others to know him! They took leadership in other areas of the retreat and it truly became a SLAMM (Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry) setting.

I’m looking forward to five other retreats with DV, (click on that and “like” them) the mentoring side of this is such a fun side of the ministry. I literally watched these guys grow in confidence and grasp the different concepts and opportunities we were giving them. The great thing, God has been at work in and through these boys for a long time. Matt, their dad/manager/agent/mentor was along for the trip as well!

IMG_0439In addition to our time at the camp, I was able to preach at one of the participating churches (Pine Valley Community Church) on Sunday after the M51 Retreat. I love this church and have a great history with them. They invited Double Vision to lead worship as well!

I believe God is going to use these retreats to really make a difference in the lives of teens and adults throughout the country. Your prayers are needed and much appreciated!

IMG_0440And of course there was one other huge win (that literally almost made me miss my flight because of how crowded it was, the delay it caused and the traffic we then encountered): IN-N-OUT Burger!

Mission51 number one, done!


Spring Forward Announcement #2

As I stated in my last post, this week I am posting two successive posts pertaining to partnerships and announcements that have me pretty jazzed!

In my last post I introduced the readers to Double Vision, a band we have partnered with for our Mission51 Retreats.

c_40Youthmark is not the only organization who believes in this concept I have deemed SLAMM (Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry). My friends and partners at Youth Missions International are among the others who believe in this and are partnering with Youthmark to make this venture a reality. 

YMI Blue LogoYouth Missions International (YMI) uses all of our curriculum and training elements for before, during and after a mission venture. In addition to partnering with us through the curriculum, YMI is helping make this partnership with Double Vision a reality. Do you believe in giving teens the opportunity to develop their gifts, skills and talents? Perhaps you’ll partner with us as well?

I had the opportunity to speak at YMI’s annual banquet this last weekend. Beyond the short-term mission trips (STM), they send individuals on longer STM’s, run internships and also have an extensive Sports Camp ministry. YMI is growing rapidly- they recently entered into a fabulous agreement with AWANA which will open up a world of opportunity for both orgs.

IMG_4634I’m seriously pumped up about these partnerships as I believe through Youthmark and YMI we’ll be able to advance God’s kingdom through the proclamation of the gospel through students faster and farther! With teens like Micah and Mason (Double Vision) leading their peers!

Speaking of proclamation, through YMI we are looking for others to believe in this training and support this cause through the Proclaim Campaign. 

Double Vision will be flown to all of our seven Mission51 locations this spring. In addition to the twin boys, their manager (who happens to be their dad) will be traveling with. Flights, lodging, rentals and food are among a number of costs, but it’s a cause we believe in, but certainly would love to see others support it as well and offset some of the costs.

If you’d like to donate to this (or other YMI causes) please click here (and scroll to bottom). There you’ll see you can give directly to the Proclaim campaign simply by giving in the fifth box down.

I’ll be sure to post many-an-update and keep you posted on how Micah and Mason are doing and how Youthmark and YMI are encouraged by the hundreds of teens and adults we get to train to share the gospel in Real Life (the theme for the Mission51 retreat).

Thanks for your prayers and for considering a gift!


P.S. I have one more really BIG announcement in regard to this next week!


Spring Forward Announcement #1

I’m very excited about two successive blog posts I have going out this week (both “announcements”). These posts speak to a couple partnerships we (Youthmark) have developed over the last year.

Let me start with a few of my soap-box issues…

  • I understand that some teens can come across as punks (just like some adults can be unkind, not classy or mean as well), but I firmly believe that far more young adults are phenomenal and simply need the opportunity to discover and hone their crafts, skills and talents!
  • IMG_5177I know some churches believe that the youth pastor should be the primary person influencing the spiritual formation of the teens. While I believe a youth pastor can have a great role, I believe parents should be the main disciplers of their sons and daughters. BUT I also know that teens influence their friends decisions more than anyone else. The church and parents need to gain a better understanding of this fantastic fact! We in the youth ministry world need to allow students to use their God-given gifting far more frequently!

The Back Story

IMG_4634While in Kansas City scouting mission locations for a Youthmark trip I began a friendship with my contact, Matt Marrs. I found out that his then fourteen year-old twin boys were part of a band appropriately named Double Vision. Matt shared their music with me. Long-story-short, Double Vision will be leading our worship and participating in the training at Youthmark’s Mission51 Retreats this spring!

During our training times I am consistently saying to teens that they should be the best missionaries that US has ever had. I firmly believe that. 80% of those who place their trust in Christ will do so by the age of 18. Teens have a captive audience of their peers on their campus, at their clubs, in their community and while at church.

In addition to “mission” (read: evangelism), students have other gifts, talents and skills that bring glory to God and influence one another. I simply believe we needed to model that this year by giving the students the platform from time to time. This is not to say adults aren’t to lead. I believe if you have the gift of mercy you should show it. If you’re gifted in admin, you should administrate and if you’re gifted in leadership you should lead (regardless of age).

Mason Marrs

Mason Marrs

I believe Micah and Mason Marrs should lead. They’re gifted musicians, but they’re so much more than that! I cannot wait to see them facilitate worship, but dive in to the training aspect as they challenge their peers in Real Life, conversational, relational influence! These guys love Jesus and want to make him known!

Micah Marrs

Micah Marrs

Please join me in praying for these young men! Check them out and like them on  Facebook  and check out their website. I cannot wait to see how this Student Led, Adult Mentored Ministry (#SLAMM) opportunity works out!

In addition to a post likely to go live on Thursday (another announcement) I’ll have an additional blog post specifically relating to Double Vision next week!


Finishing the Race

Over the last couple years I’ve had the opportunity to partner with Scottsdale Christian Academy in the Phoenix area. The SCA High School shuts down “regular” classes for the week to engage in missions all over the place.

This just happens to be the week that the 14 teams are out!

I’d invite you to take a look at the various places they are serving and perhaps click on one or two that interest you and read a bit about what they’ve done and experienced. It is VERY evident that God is at work and more prayer is needed!

Hope you’re encouraged to read what God is doing and we solicit your prayers as these teams finish the race!



Don’t Miss This!

I had the opportunity in Iowa this week to talk with a number of teens who were pretty excited about Jesus, pumped about some potential changes coming to their youth group and TERRIFIED about anyone ever asking them about their faith.

This should not be.

Unfortunately this is pretty common, not just among teens, but all Christians.

I am pretty passionate about this area and I simply want to see those who know Jesus equipped to have REAL LIFE conversations about him with those who do not yet know Jesus. I understand those fears, but I’ve also seen many people get past that and actually, like me, get to the point where we’re craving those asks!

Please consider joining us though a Youthmark Mission51 Retreat. Check out the 90 second video explaining this year’s REAL LIFE theme.

This is the link to all the retreats! Can’t wait to get real!