Notebook: NYWC Day One

I am super tired. I will try my hardest to post all my thoughts on the day, make it interesting, and still be in bed at a reasonable hour.
Game on:
-Woke up at 7:45. This was sad. 
-Walked over to the convention center, realizing along the way that there were maybe 10-30 billion hotels much closer. I am fat, and so this is an issue.
-Thought about going to a seminar in the morning, but laziness took over. This was predictable. 
-Instead spent the morning in the exhibit hall, where we discovered that a fundraiser could be done at Westminster by selling coffee
This of course made me this happy:

-General session one was outstanding. Starfield brought the rock and brought it hard. Mike Pilavachi was the speaker. He was from Britain. 

Even if this failed to be true, he spoke directly to where I am right now, and it was wonderful. He spoke a ton about letting kids take the reigns a little bit, even if they might fail at it (or worse, be better at it than we are). Awesome. Easily the high point of the day. 
-We went to lunch at Atrias. I ordered the Hawaiian Chicken. MMMMMMMM......
-We made it back just in time for semiar series #2. I do not mean to belittle anyone, but this speaker totally bombed. 

The topic was theology in youth ministry, and our speaker just did everything he could to not talk about how to use theology in youth ministry. In all seriousness, please pray for me on this one, because we've been talking about him all day, and I don't think we've done so in the most Christ-like and loving manner, which is no good. So we brush that one off, and move on to dinner.
-We ate at Premanti's Brothers. You must when you are in Pittsburgh I guess. 
-The evening session was neat. There were three speakers that dealt with three hot button issues facing the church today:
Shutting up for a second and listening for God


It was a really good discussion and a really good day. Right now though I'm so tired I can't see straight, so I'm going to bed.

More tomorrow.

NYWC Day Zero

Hello friends,
I have holed up in the Dunkin Donuts on Market Street (to fully understand my love affair with Dunkin, please visit my personal blog at after a wonderful lunch with Marko from YS.
He spoke pretty much off-the-cuff, and it was wonderful and challenging. I would really like to take a look at some of the materials he's suggesting for our ministry, and take a deeper look into youth culture, rather than just youth ministry. Youth culture has changed so much in the last couple of years, and continues to change at such a rapid rate, it's almost hard to keep up. For example:

More tomorrow.

Notebook: Wednesday Night Veritas


Hey kids. 
Last night was our weekly youth group meeting called Veritas.

Here's a run down of what we learned together:
-Once a month, we set aside the games and the goofiness and do a night of worship. 
-This is creatively titled "Worship Night".
-It only serves to prove that I actually desire to be a bit more like this guy:

(PS, starting today I will be blogging live from the National Youth Workers Convention, and he's playing on Sunday)
-The number of kids who walked past me on the way into the gym (where we have contemporary worship at our church) who said "Oh, I love these nights" really got me thinking about what we think our kids like. Maybe dodgeball and silly eating games are a thing of the past, maybe they want to go a little bit deeper. But then again...
-The Jr. High boys were all over the place last night. Asking them to sit still is like asking a Philadelphia Fliers fan to have self-respect.

-Set list: No One Like You, Every Move I Make, You are So Good To Me, Breathe, (Talk), Hungry, I could sing of your love forever.
-Ed lead worship, even when half the worship team decided they couldn't come. Props to Ed!
-I gave the last talk in the "Do Something Series". Seriously, if you haven't heard of Doug Fields and his Simply Youth Ministry, you need to go there. After four weeks of absolutely choking trying to write my own talks, it was nice to have someone prepare an idiot proof script for me to follow. Kind of like having my own speech writer.

If I had to give the evening a letter grade, I would say "B+". 

As mentioned previously, tonight I'm heading down to the National Youth Workers Convention, so I'll be blogging from there. Today's highlights:

12:00 noon- Lunch with Marko. PYN is hosting a lunch, and I think it's going to be really neat to get to meet with Marko and share some ideas.

10:00 PM- Check into hotel room with gang, watch the Pens game. Please oh please let them take a few shots.

More tomorrow.

Deep and Meaningful Stuff


I had planned on writing something deep and profound today, but in all seriousness nothing's coming. 
It's been one of those days in the office where I'm searching for something to do. The National Youth Workers Convention is starting up on Thursday, and so I find myself feeling similar to a kid in school right before Christmas break...

So yes, I am totally mailing it in today. More when I feel like it!

Bible Translations: A Round Table Discussion

Hello friends.
On this blistery Sunday evening, the Steelers blew a tremendous 4th Quarter lead to the New York Giants. This displeased me so. I've been told in times of distress, we are to turn to scripture. And so tonight, I am laying out the three best and three worst translations for use in a youth ministry setting. These of course are only my opinion, which I choose to interpret as fact.
The Best:
#1) TNIV

This Bible's got it all. It's a modern day version of the NIV, which has been the leading seller among bible translations since the Tablets were given to the people.

Now many people seem to have a problem with the TNIV because it has been said to be gender neutral. This is not the case! Gender neutral is what happens when psycho hippies start referring to God as It. What the TNIV has done is to go through the scriptures and make a point of referring to brothers and sisters in situations where the writer was specifically and directly addressing both genders. This of course saves us from having to have that weekly discussion about how we respect the ladies but support the oppression of them as long as it's cultural (Are my biases showing?). Read it for yourselves, but I don't think it hinders the scriptures one bit. It's readable without being dumbed down. 

Rob Bell: Hit us with an endorsement!

The TNIV Study bible is what I'm using for confirmation class this year. It's been pretty well received so far.

#2) ESV
The ESV is really one of two bibles that my seminary is absolutely in love with. This of course makes me really scared of it, but in all honesty it's a really good translation. It does a good job of being exceptionally accurate, while not being so far over peoples heads as to resemble a pass from Big Ben.
Brad really likes the ESV, and in most cases I really trust his judgement (largest exception: any fantasy football recommendations). He also has a big man-crush on John Piper, and I don't blame him one bit.

Papa J, endorse!
Kick it Piper style. Next.
#3) Da Jesus Book.
My associate pastor Tammy hipped me to this translation. It's not an English translation, so it may have slipped under the radar screen. It's translated into Hawaiian Pidgin, which is awesome if you're ever thinking about hosting a reggae night. it.

The Worst
#1) The Message
I almost didn't put this one on the list because I don't think it's really the bible (too harsh?) Even Peterson agrees that it was meant more to be an exercise in trying to understand the bible better, not to be the actual bible, much the same way Mythbusters is not meant to be confused with actual science.
This is not to say The Message doesn't have it's place. I even have a copy adorning my bookshelf at work. However, where I don't think the Message should be used is in a teaching or studying situation. I have heard of all too many youth pastors using it in their confirmation class or even teaching from it on Sunday morning. Plus, (and this is a little known fact) the Message actually clocks in at a third grade reading level. So to read it to a group of middle or high school students would probably be best illustrated like this:
#2) KJV
The faint smell of wood chips and lighter fluid tells me that some of you are ready to burn me at the stake, but hear me out. These are my recommendations for YOUTH ministry oriented bibles, and let's face it, this bible was designed for the teenagers of Shakespeare's time.
I understand that some of you out there have a real thing for tradition, and I totally dig that. What I don't dig is trying to keep alive a tradition at the expense of having your kids take anything home for the evening. It's bad enough that people today actually believe that God speaks in terms like "Thee" and "Thou" (remember, the Bible came to us in Greek and Hebrew, so I'm guessing we should study our vocabulary terms if we want to talk to God in person), we shouldn't be encouraging such a stereotype is all I'm saying.
Again, it has it's place. I use it from time to time myself (particularly Philippians 3:8, in which the King James Version comes closest to using the word Paul actually says without going over)

#3) Anything that looks like this:

Sunday Caffeine Rush


Let's face it. If you're anything like me, you are exceptionally tired on Sunday morning. So in an effort to make it through the typical hoopla of our various Sunday morning responsibilities, you jolt up on Starbucks (or it's regional equivalent). Thusly, on Sunday afternoons, you are as dead as St. Louis' Super Bowl hopes.

So to help you get through the day on Sunday, we will be posting random news (for either personal or ministry use) in a manner that even the most tweaked youth pastor would understand. Check it out!

Ditching your kids in Nebraska was a good idea...
I was informed this week that there used to be a law in Nebraska where you could ditch your kids in a hospital if you no longer wanted them. The law was designed to cut down on abortion rates, and provide pregnant women in less-than-ideal situations a way to make it better. However, when people started leaving teenagers at the hospitals as a way to get rid of their noise, the law was changed to be good only for children three days old or younger. In related news, our Jr. High Mission trip to Lincoln is cancelled.

"Batman" Theme Writer Dies at 85
Neal Hefti, composer of the "Batman" and "Odd Couple" Themes has died this week at 85. Our kids probably have no idea what these themes sound like, but who hasn't based at least one lock-in on the idea of a thought bubble that says "Pow"

52 Cows Killed by single lightning strike.
A farmer in Uruguay was probably pretty pissed to discover that his cows had all huddled around a metal fence during a thunderstorm. He called it a tragedy, I call it dinner.

Enjoy the weekend!


After a wild night of not sleeping, I am trying to keep myself awake long enough to ensure that I will sleep tonight. So I'm killing time by watching CSI:

and thinking about photography. I'm sure we all take photos of our youth ministry, but we've run into a problem that might be of interest to the community at large.

Angry parent.

Our church does not want to place photos on any of our websites without prior permission from parents to publish their child's photo. However, we're having an impossible time getting parents to turn in the appropriate forms.

Maybe they're lost in the pile of papers on their desks.

Maybe they're lazy.

Maybe their kids eat the paper.

Whatever the reason is, I sometimes feel like on this one I am fighting an uphill battle. 

Notebook: Catacombs


One of the things I've found most helpful in my carreer in youth ministry is when people share experiences, both good and bad. So, after big events (particularly big events with tons of mistakes), I'll be posting a "notebook".

-Catacombs (for those of you who don't know) is an exceptionally complicated game of hide and seek. We were psychotic enough to decide that we would need a whole night dedicated to the sport. Kind of like Dave Attell's Insomniac on speed.

-My assitant Ed (you will likely hear a lot about him) and I decided it would be wise to chug "Full Throttles"

This in turn made us both feel a bit like this:

-The first round of the game went for an hour and 20 minutes. I am a wuss, so I stayed up stairs and prayed that the ghost of our church wouldn't bother me. 
-The second round included a volunteer who found a hiding spot in the boiler room, got comfortable, and promptly fell asleep.
-Our youth room now smells like the flu (The kind where you stay in bed, sweat all day, and puke a lot). We're not sure where the puke came from.

Question of the day: Are overnighters worth it? For as much as we had thirty kids in the church and an excuse to eat like we were in college again, we really didn't speak about Christ much in the evening. Thoughts?

It's a blog!

It seems entirely appropriate to give birth to this blog just 6 short hours before embarking on an all night game of catacombs in the church. Researchers tell me such an act has about as much common sense as the following video:

We've all been there. We've all spent nights sleeping in the couches in our offices. We've all driven the church van home on entirely too little sleep. We've all had that feeling in the pit of our stomach when we knew we were going to kill that child if he/she uttered one more word. Chances are we even knew where we were going to hide the body.

This blog is for us, the youth leaders. It is for those of us who would rather spend our Wednesday nights dressed up as a big dork

than actually have a life and contribute to society. It is for those of us who are in love with our kids almost as much as we are in love with Jesus Christ. It is for those of us who are addicted to one of the following items:

I can only make a few promises to you from the on set:
1) I will make many promises about how often I plan to post on the blog. At the moment, I would like to post at least once a day, if not more.
2) I will almost never keep the first promise.
3) I promise that this blog is based on the ministry I am running in Pittsburgh. This isn't some place for big ideas that have absolutely no basis in reality. This is about real life on the front lines.
4) I promise to try not to let the fact that I am in fact a Christian get in the way of me having fun or telling fart jokes.

The only thing I ask from you is tons of comments. This thing is all about community, and we need to band together to make that happen.

So to those of us on the journey, light up one of those cheap cigars. We just had a blog!