My top 10 albums of 2009.

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Ok. This will not be easy, but I know it has to be done. Here they are:

10. Switchfoot, Hello Hurricane
Mark (from David Crowder Band) said that this was the Switchfoot album he had been wanting for a long time, and I completely agree. Going indie was a WISE decision for these guys. Super awesome CD.

9. Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster
Look, am I happy to admit that I own and listen to this CD with a fair amount of regularity? Heavens no! But let's face it kids, she has like a million songs that are popular all at once right now. This CD is impossibly catchy, very hard to put down.

8. Jason Mraz, Beautiful Mess
Ok, so this is kind of a cop out way to make sure to include We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things since I didn't do a top ten last year. But dang, this is awesome for a live CD! I wish I had seen him this summer in Pittsburgh. The re-imagined version of The Remedy is spectacular!

7. Derek Webb, Stockholm Syndrome
Derek joins the many folks on this year's countdown who made an album that completely goes against what you would expect them to sound like. And yet they all make it work. Stockholm Syndrome works on so many levels. I wish that record companies wouldn't have their heads in their butts, because the complete version is way better than the stripped down "safe" version, but what can you do? Totally solid disc!

6. Fiction Family, Fiction Family
Ed and I have joked around that this band (combining Jon Foreman from Switchfoot and Sean Watkins Nickel Creek) should be called Nickelfoot, but in all seriousness this album is spectacular. There's a mood that this album fits super well. I have no idea how to explain that mood, but I seem to be in it quite frequently! (If you dig this, you should also check out Jon's solo stuff. Super good!)

5. Mutemath, Armistice

Ok, here's where it get's difficult. Any of these 5 could easily be #1 this year. Could someone please explain to me how MuteMath could not only break the sophomore curse, but manage to write a BETTER album than their first? (Their first was a pretty sick album!) Armistice is just phenomenal. I personally think the song Clipping is an addictive substance. But that's just me.

4. Owl City, Ocean Eyes
I feel like I knew about Owl City before (they? him? it?) got famous, so I get a little bit defensive of (them? him? it?). This album is special! So catchy! So pop! So upbeat! And so many delicious puns! This is a keeper folks!

3. Jars of Clay, The Long Fall Back to Earth
I don't know if the rest of the Christian Music scene feels this way, but I see Jars of Clay as the standard for how to make good music. This album backs up that reputation in a big way! They tackle some issues that aren't often covered by other Christian bands, if for no other reason than no one else is willing to go there. This CD is NOTHING like the Jars I grew up with, but man is it awesome! I couldn't put it down for about a month and a half.

2. David Crowder Band, Church Music
"This is a worship album?" is the question I'm often met with when I'm listening to Church Music in my car. "Yep" is my traditional answer. This album showcases the ENTIRE Crowder Band's creativity (it is after all a band, not just David Crowder) in a huge way. God Almighty None Compares is the rock and roll equivalent of a 30-ton mac truck barreling down the highway. Then there's the sheer girth of this album. 17 tracks? And none of them are little in-between fillers? Amazing!
Unfortunately, one of this album's greatest achievements is also one of it's greatest downfalls. This thing doesn't at all sound like worship music you're going to hear in your Church on Sunday. That's because mere human beings can't reproduce this stuff, so worship leaders, this one is a little hard to work with. However, if you're willing to be creative with stripping it down, there are a bunch of tracks that will work for you.

And now, drum roll please...

1. Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King
I can't imagine making an album shortly after one of your founding band members passes away. I can't imagine working through all the emotions that would come from that, only to walk into all the emotions that typically come from being in the studio as a band.
And yet, DMB strikes again. Not only did they survive all the emotional stuff that was going on for them, they put out what might be the best album they've ever done. I've been waiting since Before These Crowded Streets for the band I fell in love with in high school to come out of their hiding, and this album is it!
I defy you to find a track that you'll want to skip over. It doesn't exist on this CD! Every single song is masterfully executed in both writing and performance. There are some obvious head nods to Leroi's passing, but not so many as to over-weigh the album with sorrow. My only real complaint is that some of the stuff that was given in the bonus iTunes pass wasn't put on the official album, but I guess they can only be so big. This is by far the best album Dave Matthews Band had put out in a long time, if not ever.

What did I leave out? Let me know in the comments!

Godspeed,

Jason


Write it out.

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Greetings for blog post number two on the night.

Someone said something to me tonight. It's not worth noting who said it, or even what they said, but suffice it to say that it was said and that it upset me a great deal.

I sat down for a while with friends and talked about it. I told them I didn't want to be mad, but I was. I didn't feel like I should be upset, but I couldn't help it. I asked them to try to help me down from the anger ledge, and they said some amazing things because they are amazing friends, but I still felt angry.

After everybody left the room, I paced for a while. Still angry. I got in my car and listened to sappy music. Still angry. I drove 45 solid minutes out of my way for my yearly Sheetz run. Still angry.

At some point in my driving, I said to myself "I just don't like the way I'm representing Christ tonight." All things being equal, I probably had every right to be as angry as I was. But why would anyone want to carry that around with them for any extended period of time? It felt like a tremendous weight had been handcuffed to my ankles and I had the keys.

So I came home and wrote a worship song. Truth be told, it's not very good. Chances are no one other than the dogs or I will ever hear it. It is not very likely that we will play it at the Bridge. But in some weird, synergistic moment, when I asked God to take my anger and do something with it, he made a song.

The song itself is about what I was talking about above, about how I didn't like my anger and I wished it could be a bit more productive. But again, I don't think the song itself matters. Tonight, when I was hurting, and when I was down, I turned to God and worshipped him with things that I love doing. And through that process, the anger is gone.

It may not work out that way every time, but tonight at least, I am thankful for God's creative Spirit!

Godspeed, and MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

J


Like a pair of jeans.

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Merry Christmas folks!
I'm sure you all have significantly better things to do than to read the J-Blog this holiday season, but two posts popped into my head tonight, and I thought I'd get them out now rather than hold on to them. They're both worship related, but this one goes out to all you guitar players in the bunch.

Tonight I was getting ready for the Christmas Eve service, and giving my guitars the yearly once-over. Polish. Lemon solution for the neck. New Strings. String ointment (no joke). The whole nine yards. I do this no where near as often as I should, but Christmas Eve is a big production for us, so I like to make sure the axe is in good shape.

As I was polishing the body of my Taylor, I noticed that right around the sound hole there are a collection of scratches. At first I thought it was just a smudge, but these are in fact deep lasting scratches right next to the pick guard.

At first I was sort of ticked. This is my beautiful guitar, that we spent way too much money on! How could I be so foolish as to rock so hard unrelentingly for so long as to cause my baby this damage? But then I thought about some of my favorite guitars out there (spoiler alert: they're all Taylors)

Dave's Taylor is sporting some wear and tear on the up side of the sound hole. This strikes me as odd. Is he strumming harder on the upstrokes? This man is a mystery to me...

I scoured the internet looking for a frontal shot of Josh Wilson's Taylor, but alas Google would not comply. Josh just went a head and ripped his pick guard off his guitar, which is pretty slick because it leaves the anti-pickgaurd line behind. You can see it best in this video, which just display's some sick pedal work!

First of all, where does one summon the courage to wear those shorts on stage? Secondly, Jars of Clay has been one of my favorite bands for a long while. No two albums sound the same, and yet, I love all of them. No other band can do that. Again, Matt Odmark's guitar is ellusive to the still camera, but youtube bails us out again. Check out the :52 mark.

I heard someone say that a good guitar is like a good pair of jeans. They're fine when they're brand new, but they don't really become yours until they're worn in a little bit. I will say that I feel like guitar self-mutalation, or purposefully damaging it to look cool is on par with paying 50 dollars to have someone pre-rip holes in your jeans. But if you're actually wearing and tearing your guitar, have a blast!

Godspeed,

J


You Tube Round Up #8: He picked up his keys!

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I don't know why, but this just seems like something that Ed would enjoy.

Godspeed,

J



I finally did it!

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Hello friends!
After years of talking a big game, I finally went out and did it. If you take a gander at my wedding ring in the above photograph, you will realize that I am not wearing my ring. In fact, I am wearing a tattoo! It's the Hebrew word "Ahavah" which is one of the words for love. Sarah and I each got the same tattoo on our wedding bands, just to remind everybody that we are crazy go nuts in love with each other. But just in case you are one of our youth who are reading this blog, there are some rules for tattoo getting that I'd like to enforce for you today:

  1. You must be 18. This is a rule anyway at most tattoo parlors, but tattoos are forever. I can't think of a decision I made at 16 that I was happy with all the way to now. Plus then your parents won't bug me.
  2. Even if you are 18, you need to be self sufficient and on your own. Let's face it, if your parents pay for college, and they don't want you getting a tattoo, you have a lot to loose! Wait until you're on your own, or until you have your parents blessing. And by that I mean they say "ok" without looking at you like you just threw up on the carpet.
  3. This is a big one: You have to know what you want, where you want it, what color you want it in, and every other possible detail about the tattoo for an entire year before you get it. This is critical, even for big people like me. I have a tendancy to change my hairstyle, facial hair, clothing, shoes, and sometimes even cars on a fairly regular basis because I get bored. But like I said before, tattoos are forever, so you need to settle in to the design of it for a good long while. Trust me on this one. I have some friends from college who got a little bit tipsy and decided to get a really sick eagle eating a fish on their arm. They regret it to this day. Think long and hard!
So there you have it. I'm inked. It really changes my whole attitude towards life. I'm not just a guy drinking coffee. I'm a guy with a tattoo drinking coffee!

Godspeed,

Jason


Geno!

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Hey gang,
I'm a little behind on this, but this is an awesome commercial for Geno. What a human!

Godspeed,

J


Snow Day!

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Hey everybody!
Sorry I haven't been blogging as much as I would like. Such is the life of a church worker around Christmas time I think.

Some things I've been working on:

  1. A final (maybe?) show for Everyday Giant. If you're not doing anything, come check us out on New Years Eve at South Minster Church in Mt. Lebanon at 7:00. Who knows with this band when we'll play again, so get this chance in while you can!
  2. A new band. Ben and I have been working with some friends on a new worship type band. It's really in the formation stages, but just to get the word out there if you are a youth pastor in need of a worship band for a retreat or special service or something, let me know. It's going to be off the hook!
  3. Related to #2, I have been writing new songs like a mad man.
  4. Christmas Eve service at the Bridge. I promise it's going to be fantastic! We might even set off some fireworks. Just kidding.
  5. A college prep seminar. This is something that's been banging around in my head for quite a while, and I have some friends who are excited about it to help out. There will be a lot more on this later.
  6. Being a good husband, and cleaning around the house.
And it just so happens, we're kind of snowed in today, so I've got some free time to work on all of this stuff. What are you working on this Christmas Season?

Godspeed,

Jason


Another Generous Offer!

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Hey friends!
Almost a year ago, I started a friendship through J-Blog with author Ed Cyzewski. He had written a book called Coffeehouse Theology, and I was a sucker for a book with a good cover, so I read it. Turns out it was more than just the cover that was solid! It's a real good read! After mentioning I was reading it here on J-Blog, Ed offered to do a blog interview. Since then we've become pretty solid friends. He stayed at my house for a couple days last spring, and even watched a Pens game with me. (The true sign of a friend...)

But, today he's promoting his book pretty hard core, and I'd like to help. If you click on the link at the top of J-Blog, you'll be sent to a site where you can get several free things:

  • A free Bible Study Guide that goes with Coffeehouse Theology.
  • A free coupon code for 35% off the actual book Coffeehouse Theology (that's a steal friends!)
  • And if you help with the promotion by forwarding e-mails or mentioning it on your blog, you'll be eligible to download the Coffeehouse Theology Contemporary Issues Guide.

Come on youth pastors! You know you like the word "Free!" Thanks to Ed for making this offer available to us!

Leave some comments if you have any questions!

Godspeed,

Jason


An open letter.

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Dear Steelers (and the rest of Pittsburgh for that matter),

What can we say? This just wasn't our year. This is understandable. We've had several years lately. We have with predictable regularity dominated the NFL, especially the AFC North. People trembled in fear when we came to town. Our towels were mighty. Our cheerleaders were fat men with stuff painted on their chests. We won Super Bowls. Times were good.

And then there was this year. Was it a hangover from last year's dominance of the league? Who knows. I started to suspect something when we lost to the Chiefs. I really suspected something after last night's embarrassment. Now it seems that barring a complete collapse of everyone in the NFL, we will not be joining them in the playoffs this year. Bummer.

But please, don't give up on the season, I'm talking to you, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes, Jeff Reed, and Heath Miller. I need points. But for all intents and purposes, the season is done.

Now please, do not misunderstand what I'm about to say. I will be there with you for training camp next year. I will wave my towel with all my heart. I am not abandoning you, nor am I a fair weather fan. But we're pretty much done for this year, which opens things up for me to root for someone else for a limited time. Just between now and the Superbowl, and that's it. I'm not cheating on you Steelers, I promise.

I thought about the Vikings. Brett Farve is amazing. I also thought about the Saints, but I feel like both of those are a little trendy. And so I've decided that for the rest of the playoffs, I will be rooting for the Green Bay Packers.

First of all, they're an NFC team, so there's almost no chance they will ever become one of our rivals. Secondly, they're in the playoff hunt, but just underdogish enough to make me respect them a bunch. They play gritty dirty football, and they seem to have a pretty awesome fan base. They remind me a lot of you Steelers.

Again, I will be back after this year. But we're on to other things for now, and besides, you've known from the beginning that my heart really belongs to someone else all this time:

Godspeed,

Jason


YouTube Round Up #7: Why?

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Why in the name of everything holy is stuff like this allowed to happen to a really nice TV set? And who gave that guy THAT gun? You'll know the one I'm talking about...Insane!



YouTube Round Up #6: Surprise!

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How is it possible that videos of cats get so many hits on Youtube?



Chrome goes Mac. A review.

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After months and months of waiting, Google has finally released a beta version of Chrome for Mac. Sarah has been using Chrome on her PC for a while, and really likes it. So I thought I'd share some thoughts on the Mac version, and offer some suggestions to improve upon it for any of those Google developers who happen to swing by the site.

1. It's flipping fast.
It's true, Chrome is a wicked fast application. It loads in absolutely no time at all, and loads most web pages in a fraction of the time it took me to in Firefox. MacLife claims that Safari is still a little faster than Chrome, but I can't really notice the difference. And because I'm not professional at all, I like the customizability when it comes to themes and such.

2. Downloads are cleaner.
I have never really been wild about having a separate window for downloads. It easily gets lost on my already cluttered desktop, and I loose track of my processes. Chrome does all of its downloads in a pretty descrete status bar at the bottom of the page, which I totally dig.

3. Front page pros and cons.
The very first page you see when you open a new window of chrome is the six most popular sites you visit. This is really handy, and it was something that Safari already had going for it. The thing that Chrome could improve upon here is the flexibility of that page. At the present, you are limited to six (Safari let you expand to quite a few more). However, a feature that I love as someone who all too often closes a tab too quickly, is that Chrome puts the most recently closed tabs at the bottom of your screen, in case of accidents.

4. Bookmarks.
Really, my only major complain with Chrome at the moment is the lack of ability to organize your book marks. Once they're imported from Safari, you're kind of stuck with them. I'm sure that's something they'll fix with the official release, but it kind of bugs me right now.

But all in all I'd give it a couple of thumbs up! If you're a Mac user (or a PC for that matter), I highly recommend Chrome for all your browsing needs!

Godspeed,

Jason


You'll know what to do.

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Hello friends. Sorry for the delay in blogging this week!

On Monday, a very good friend and parent to some of our students passed away after a long run with cancer.

We've known this was coming. It's actually been a part of our ministry at Westminster for almost as long as we have. And still it doesn't feel any easier to think that. It's still difficult.

At one point this week, someone signed an e-mail to me about the boys and their situation "I'm sure you'll know what to do." This person meant well, and I appreciate their confidence, but man, do I ever not feel like I know what to do.

I don't feel like I had a battle plan when it comes to someone close to us dying. I don't think any of my plans would have been any good if I had any. But all the same, I kind of walked around on Tuesday feeling like the worst youth pastor in the world. "I don't have a plan...I don't know what I'm doing." It all came to a head when I was at breakfast with Matt and Ed, sharing my ideas for a talk this week, and realizing together that I was about to run into a brick wall at full speed. The talk I had prepared for that night would actually have made things much worse at that point. I think I might have said a few things at breakfast, but my mind was just full of doubt and conflict. For the first time in a real long time, I felt like I didn't know how to minister to the kids in our youth group.

Now, a couple of things came from all of this. First of all, Matt and Ed are huge in my life! Having friends who aren't afraid to tell me that I'm about to do something profoundly stupid is incredibly important to me. They have saved me from myself on more than a couple of occasions. If you don't have a group of friends to get together with on a somewhat regular basis, please seek some out. It's crazy important to your ministry, I'm fairly certain of it.

Secondly is that while some people can abuse this idea, it is absolutely critical to make sure that you are in tune with the Holy Spirit more than you are your plans. This isn't to say you shouldn't conduct any sort of plans, because you absolutely should. But the Spirit is much stronger.

Yesterday as I was driving back to the office, I heard a very clear voice tell me that the talk I had written that night was for me, and that the kids wouldn't be served by it at all. And then that same voice reminded me to go back to what we need to hear most in youth ministry: the gospel of grace. And so I wrote a new talk, and went into Veritas feeling pretty good about everything. Which brings us to the third point:

Please don't ever forget why you're in ministry. I wrote a while ago about keeping the kids first, and in the midst of all this confusion and sadness I had forgotten my own mantra. But spending the night last night at Veritas with the kids that I have loved serving for the last three years was awesome! It's a careful line, because you don't want to dump any kind of emotional baggage on your kids (which I don't think I did last night, or at least I hope not). But just being around them last night reminded me why I love doing what I do.

So when you don't know what to do next, when the future is cloudy, keep some good friends by your side, listen to the Spirit speak to them, and always remember to serve the kids God has placed in your life!

More to come later today.

Godspeed,

Jason


Elections Inspector

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Wow. This story is too good to pass up!
So in November, on November the 3rd to be exact, my wife and I went to the church down the road to vote in the local elections. My wife takes voting VERY seriously, and has started to rub off on me a little bit.

So as I stood in the booth looking at the screen, I had picked out everyone I was voting for. Some positions I knew going into the booth who I would be voting for. Mayor of Pittsburgh, a couple of City Council Members, a Judge here or there. But from there, if I didn't have any prior knowledge, or just didn't care, I would vote for whoever had the coolest sounding name. This might seem dumb, but it's never failed me before.

Until now.

Because as I scrolled through the names available to me on that fateful day, I realized that there was absolutely no one running for Elections Inspector. That wouldn't do! Who would inspect the elections? Where would we find such a hero if no one was willing to do the job? And so, doing something I've dreamed about doing since high school, I wrote in my own name.

I figured this was slightly more responsible than nominating David Crowder or something like that. You might think I'm a horrible person, that I didn't take the election process seriously enough. You would be right. But I figured nothing terrible could come of this, right? I mean, it was only one vote. No one else would be writing my name in.

Well, remember how they say that one vote DOES make a difference?

Today I received a letter in the mail informing me on my recent victory! One vote was more than enough to get me into the Election Inspector's office for my ward, and so I am now an elected official. Well, I will be once I notarize the stuff and send it in. I thought about declining, but I need to own up for what I did, and it seems like a pretty cool gig to boot. I knew when I wrote myself in that it would have to be for a position I was ok with doing if I won, and that is absolutely what happened.

So we'll add that to the olde resume. For one day a year I get to gorge myself on awesome hot dogs and all the donuts and coffee I can handle, and inspect all the elections. I know we'll be in this neighborhood for at least one more year, so we'll see how long I last at my post.

UPDATE: Hey everybody! I officially accepted the post! I'm waiting to hear more details from my boss, the Judge of Elections. But I absolutely accepted! AMAZING!

But it is safe to say that this is one of the best stories I've ever been a part of!

Godspeed,

Jason


Revolutionary Christians

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I've been thinking about this post for a while. I've felt this lack of revolutionary motivation in my world lately, and I think I know where the root of the problem is.

First of all, this all got swimming in my head again today because I read this article by Shane Claiborne. It's a letter written in Esquire, which is most notably not a Christian Magazine. To write that openly and honestly in that venue takes some guts, and I applaud Shane for taking the time to put those thoughts on paper.

It's one of those things that gets me all excited. I feel like there's this box around Christianity and Christians in general, and we are so terrible at stepping outside the box and engaging the world. There's a way things are done, and we shouldn't depart from it. But this letter doesn't live in the box (neither does Shane if you know anything about him). And that kind of attracts me to to it.

It feels like Jesus lives in actions like this. Jesus would want us to hang with people on the fringes, on the outside, the kind that the religious elite would despise. And that's what makes a revolution. It's not dressing like a hippie, wearing thick rimmed glasses, and looking down on people who don't drink fairly traded coffee. It's going where Jesus would go. It's being where the spirit would lead you. It's getting in tune with God's will in your life.

Francis Chan noted at the NYWC this year that you couldn't start a revolution any more than you could create waves in the ocean. It's not like I could sit here at my desk and come up with revolutionary ideas and implement them by dinner time. The truth is, we need to be open to the Spirit's leading, and trying our hardest to be in lock-step with Jesus' agenda, rather than trying to create our own.

So may we listen with open ears, see with open eyes, and pray with open hearts for Christ's leading in our lives.

Godspeed,

Jason


You Tube Round Up #5: Mario Kart Love Song

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If you know us at all, you know that we love us some Mario Kart. We played so much that we actually wore down the disc. While we're waiting for me to be not lazy about getting a new disc, there's this for you. It's somewhere between sweet and dorky, so you know, right in my wheelhouse.

Enjoy!
Godspeed,

Jason


Pop goes the worship!

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(Edit: After starring at that picture for a while, I realize just how creepy it is. She's going to eat your brain. Don't stare for too long. You'll turn to stone. Ok, I'm done now...)

On Wednesday, Ed tried something that I thought was kind of insane. During worship, he inserted the chorus of "Replay" by IYAZ into our normal rendition of "Forever" by Chris Tomlin. The words are as follows:

"Shawty like a melody in my head that I can't keep out got me singing like "na na na na" every day. Like my iPod's stuck on replay."

Now, the true professionals among us can justify this by noting that OBVIOUSLY God is Shawty. Even the most grizzled theologian can reach that conclusion. But I think one of the more basic question that reaches each of us is "Should I include a Miley Cyrus song in my worship service?"

I've racked my brain for the better part of thirty seconds, and came up with some tips for helping you discern the right time to throw down with Jay-Z.

  1. Are there curse words? This is a deal breaker unfortunately. Unless you're Mark Driscoll. Then go for it. But seriously, probably not a good idea at that point.
  2. Do you have to change the words? This one might be a bit snobby of me, but as a song writer is drives me crazy when people change the words to someone else's song. I know that one word is driving you nuts, and if it wasn't there it would make the perfect song for your situation. But it's not your song, and one word is more than enough reason not to do it. Plus, your kids are probably going to hear the song on the radio anyway, hear that word, and think that you've endorsed it. Just don't do it. Fight temptation.
  3. Just a dab will do ya! Don't think you have to cover the whole song. I think the drop in is the most effective strategy here. Just a chorus, or a bridge, will do just fine. For Replay/Forever, Ed just stole the chorus, which was more than enough to get the point across, and fit the topic pretty well.
  4. Look for a song that's already out there. This one's more for the musicians, but try to find something that fits musically with what you're doing. I'll give away the big one Ed and I were holding on to, that Jordin Sparks "Battlefield" is IDENTICAL to Awesome God. Listen to it again. It's exactly the same. That's handy for the in and out drop in.

So there are some suggestions. Have you ever tried this before? Leave some comments below!

Godspeed,

Jason


You Tube Round Up #4: Boggie Body.

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I'm actually slightly busy today, so I don't know how many blog posts will find their way up today. But this is disturbing enough to keep you busy for the entire day! I don't even really know if this is suitable for minors...

Godspeed,

Jason



A generous offer.

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Hello friends,
This morning, former YS president and all around awesome guy Marko made the following offer on his blog:

so here’s what i’m offering: i’ll come to consult with you or have lunch with you or, shoot, mow your freakin’ lawn for absolutely free, if you spring for my united round trip ticket and i can do it in one day (without an overnight). if you need me to stay a night (like, because you want me to speak in the evening to your youth group or women’s quilting club), i’ll do the same thing, but will offer an absurdly reduced honorarium off my normal rate.

Unfortunately, by the time Ed and I read this offer, he had already made his plans. How awesome would it have been to bring Marko to Veritas? VERY!

But as we were sitting in the office, Ed realized that it was actually a pretty sweet idea, so we want in on that. We'll make the same deal as Marko. Pay for our flight somewhere, and we will come speak for you, have a lunch meeting with you, mow your lawn (at first I was hesitant about this one, but if you live some place where the weather is conducive to lawn mowing, I'm game), lead worship for your service, or even pretend to be your friend in public. That's a pretty sweet deal!

The offer is good for either me, Ed, or both of us together. Of course, we'll probably bring our wives and at least six carry-on bags of Siamese Frogs.

Of course, just leave the details in the comments section, and we'll be on our way.

Godspeed,

Jason


The Power of the One on One

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Numbers have been a big part of our ministry lately.

We had some huge success with our Catacombs event, and then followed it up with weekly numbers that were a lot higher than they had been.

But I kept telling myself that didn't matter. Youth ministry is about much more than numbers, or having a rock and roll worship service (big time kudos to Ed for incorporating "Shawty" in our worship time last night...). I kept repeating the mantras we've all heard before. "It's all about relationships. It's all about relationships."

And while I kept saying it, I didn't really realize how much I meant it until this week. It's only Thursday, and I've already had a handful of one on one meetings with kids. Some had pretty big problems, some just wanted to talk, some just wanted to blow off steam. And in each case, I really realized how much power there can be in these one on one discussions.

Think about it. Last night, I spoke to our entire youth group about following the star. While I tried my best to include as many points of view and situations in my talk as I could, those 20 minutes could not possibly have reached every single student where they were. If i was lucky, maybe they'll remember that I used a picture from the Simpsons as an illustration.

However, in those same 20 minutes one on one, we get to deal with what that student is going through specifically. We can spend time on what they want to spend time on. I don't have to guess if what I'm talking about will be relevant, that is of course if I'm listening to them and making sure I'm hearing where they are. A 20 minute one on one discussion will almost certainly outlast a 20 minute sermon in a students mind every time. I can almost promise it.

If you find yourself in a medium sized or large group, make sure that you're taking some time out to do the good work of being with students one on one. It's a lot harder and time consuming than preparing a couple of sermons, but it's also more effective in the long run. Your kids will thank you for it some day!

Godspeed,

Jason


Ok, social media DOES own us.

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Ok, I thought I had seen everything.

For a long time I had been saying that I thought social media could be a bad thing if it was used improperly. I'm ready to flip flop on that entirely. If someone can update their facebook status from the altar, then there is nothing wrong with facebook. Nothing. Nothing at all!

So here's a question for you all: What's the weirdest place you've ever tweeted/updated your facebook status?

Godspeed,

Jason



You Tube Round Up #3: The Matrix

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I think everyone in the world is on to this one, but here you go all the same!



Tiger Woods.

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I thought I'd take some time and weigh in on the Tiger Woods deal that's going on in our media right now, since it obviously impacts every aspect of our lives from grocery shopping down to whether or not Santa is real (he is, trust me.)

Tiger has always seemed to me to be a stand up kind of guy. Maybe I'm dim, but I feel like he still is. The news that he crashed his car was surrounded by this sort of "what if" mentality, assuming everything from domestic abuse to aliens coming down and sucking out his brain. While those options sound cool, I don't think they're really based in any sort of reality.

He mentioned that he's screwed up here on his website. This is likely in reference to the news that broke earlier today that he has had an affair with several women in the course of his marriage. That's a mega bummer kids. I was remarking to Ed that it feels like the only thing one has to do to be better than a celebrity these days is not have sex with someone other than your spouse. Please understand, that this blog post is not in defense of those actions.

What it is in defense of is Tiger's handling of events, or at least how I perceive them from his note. It seems like in spite of the struggles, Tiger and his wife are talking it through. He seems to understand that he's done something wrong, and that they need to work together toward forgiveness. If that's truly what's happening (and maybe that's a bigger if than I'm giving it credit for) then he's doing the right thing.

I'd like to know where we fit in. Does it really concern us at all? My favorite part of all of this was last night, watching the news, and hearing the "shocking" "breaking news" that Tiger was assigned a fine for his accident. Apparently "shocking" and "breaking news" are words that mean $165 fine. $165? I've done worse than that when I was 16. So why is that news? (Or maybe more importantly, how come I've never been on the news?)

My point is this: leave the guy alone. He's a sinner, to be sure. But so am I, and for that matter so are you. If you know Tiger personally and you feel like as a brother or sister in Christ you can challenge him and encourage him, then do so, but if you have never met him in your life, then let it go. Don't watch news stories about it. Don't comment on the story. Don't get huffed about it.

And whatever you do, don't read someone else's blog about it.

Godspeed,

Jason


Stormy Weather

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Ever experience a time of stormy weather in your life? Where things just aren't as good as they could be? Little pressures outside of your control are starting to gain momentum and place unmanageable weight on your chest.

It's not cool.

And it's exactly where I am right now. There's a lot going on in the more personal side of my life, and sometimes it's a bit overwhelming. Financial woes. Health woes for Sarah. Melvin the Terrible (seriously, the dog would eat anything). There's a lot of pressure coming from the outside, and it's kind of weighing heavy on my heart. I think it would be easy to fall into some sort of depressed state, which would make me unbearable to be around for a season of time.

However...

I was doing the dishes last night, and as I put everything away, I realized that I'm content with the life I have. Donald Miller spoke a great deal at the National Youth Workers Convention about conflict, and how conflict plays a role in our lives. Conflict will always be there. The clouds will always have some sort of greyish tint to them. But that doesn't mean you don't have to take some time to thank God for all you have.

Like a clean kitchen.

I spent some time reading the Psalms, and I realized that David was excellent at this tension, living in the storm and being completely content with the man God made him to be. I want to be more like David.

Where are the storm clouds in your life? And can you find a way to be both secure in God, and surrounded by storms at the same time?

Godspeed,

Jason


My Wallpaper: December.

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Hey guys,
I've realized that posting many smaller blog posts is better than a few big ones. If I'm wrong, and that becomes annoying, let me know.

Anywho, I get all my wall paper for my desktop from Smashing Magazine, something I thought I'd share with you guys. This little Rudolph is going to be staring back at me for the month of December! You too can know such joy, or one of the many other awesome desktops this month by clicking here. Check it out!

More to come later today!

Godspeed,

Jason


You Tube Round Up #2: Everybody to the Limit

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We were watching this one yesterday for a while. Enjoy and laugh!

For more like this, be sure to visit http://www.homestarrunner.com

It's still really funny, and a great way to waste time at the office!



Teaching Advent in a Consumeristic Culture.

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I've been planning a couple of sermons to deliver in the Advent season. Traditionally Advent is a time of preparing our hearts for Christ's arrival. Working through this with a group of adults on a Sunday morning worship service is one thing, working through this with a youth group is a completely different challenge.

How can we learn to wait when we get anything we want as fast as a swipe of plastic? How can we learn to wait when we have all the information we could ever need or want at our finger tips at all hours of the day? How can we value silence when we are surrounded by background music and noise?

This Advent season, my hope is to impress upon our folks the importance of waiting and silence. Figuring out how is actually fairly easy, it's making it a priority in our lives that's difficult. Of course, I'd love any suggestions from you guys! Feel free to post in the comments below why you think concepts like "waiting" and "silence" are important to the Christian life.

Godspeed,

Jason


You Tube Round Up #1: Fainting Goats

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Ok, time for a new series on J-Blog.
Youth ministry is all about goofyness, and Ed and I consider ourselves professionals. So as we discover awesome youtube videos, I'll post them here on J-Blog for your amusement.
Today, I bring you Fainting Goats.



Your opinion.

7 comments

Ok people. It's game time.
Ed and I play each other this week in fantasy football. Statistically, this game means absolutely nothing. However, for the sake of pride, we have decided this is the game of the century.
So, we would be super appreciative of your comments as to who you think will win below. As the guy who's coming in as an underdog, I feel the need to tell you that projections are merely that, projections.
Comment below, and we'll see what happens!
Godspeed,

Jason

Helpful Edit: Forgot to tell you. Ed is Trample the Weak, I am Hurtle the Dead.

Comment away!


Very funny!

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Picked this up from Tony Jones' blog. HILARIOUS!



Breaking News!

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Tomorrow is a glorious day.
After 2 and a half years of working at Westminster. My dream is finally coming true.
Tomorrow, is the opening day of the brand new Dunkin Donuts in Dormont. I feel like this is good on several levels. There is a double D close by, but not so close as to cause obscene fatness and wallet emptying.
To celebrate, I will be popping in and picking up donuts for the staff. And an extra big shot of coffee for me. Real big. Super sized. Not addicted.
Godspeed,

Jason


iPod playlist December 09.

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Somebody wrote on twitter or something the other day that they wanted to see less lists and more original blog posts. I took the bait, I'm going to be making some lists. HA!
But seriously, about once a month I get severe music ADD, and change out every song on my iPhone. And so, I present to you, the good people of the blogosphere, the contents of my iPhone this month. Feel free to argue my poor choices in the comments!

  • Alanis Morissette (Flavors of Entanglement)
  • The Album Leaf (Green Tour EP, In a Safe Place)
  • Anathallo (Floating World)
  • Anberlin (Cities)
  • Andrew Osenga (Letters to the Editor Volumes One and Two, The Morning)
  • Andrew Peterson (Behold the Lamb of God)
  • The Beatles (Abbey Road, #1) (It should be noted here that my Beatles collection is in sad shape, and I'll be looking to remedy this situation sometime soon!)
  • Ben Folds (Ben Folds Live)
  • Ben Harper (Diamonds on the Inside)
  • Blue Man Group (The Complex)
  • Bob Dylan (The Essential Bob Dylan)
  • Bob Marley (Legend)
  • Brandon Heath (Don't Get Comfortable, What if We)
  • Brenton Brown (Everlasting God, Introducing Brenton Brown)
  • Caedmon's Call (In the Company of Angels, Overdressed, Share the Well)
  • Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest)
  • Dave Matthews/Dave Matthews Band (Some Devil, Live at Luther College, Live at Radio City, Before These Crowded Streets, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Central Park Concert, Live at Mile High Music Festival, Live at Nissan Pavilion) (I like Dave)
  • David Crowder Band (All I can Say, Church Music, Illuminate, Sunsets and Sushi)
  • Death Cab for Cutie (Narrow Stairs, Plans, Transatlanticisim)
  • The Decemberists (The Crane Wife, The Hazards of Love, iTunes live from SoHo EP)
  • Derek Webb (The House Show, Mockingbird, The Ringing Bell, Stockhom Syndrom)
  • Eisley (Combinations, Fire Kite EP)
  • Enter the Worship Circle (Second, Third, Fourth Circles)
  • Fiction Family (Fiction Family)
  • A Fine Frenzy (Blue Christmas EP)
  • Goo Goo Dolls (Dizzy Up the Girl)
  • Guster (Ganging Up on the Sun, Goldfly, Keep It Together, Live in Allston MA, Lost and Gone Forever, Parachute)
  • Hellogoodbye (Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs!)
  • Jack Johnson (En Concert, In Between Dreams, On and On, Sleep Through the Static)
  • Jars of Clay (Christmas Songs, Furthermore, Good Monsters, If I Left the Zoo, The Long Fall Back to Earth, Redemption Songs)
  • Jarvis Cocker (Further Complications)
  • Jason Mraz (Jason Mraz's Beautiful Mess- Live on Earth)
  • Jimmy Eat World (Chase This Light, Christmas EP, Clarity)
  • John Mayer (Battle Studies, Continuum, Heavier Things)
  • Jon Foreman (Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter)
  • Josh Wilson (Sing: A Christmas EP)
  • Life House (No Name Face)
  • Matt Maher (Alive Again)
  • Moby (Play and Play B Sides)
  • Mute Math (Mute Math, Armistice)
  • Nevin James (Perfect Strangers)
  • The Notwist (The Devil, You + Me)
  • O.A.R. (All Sides, In Between Now and Then, Live From Madison Square Garden, Stories of a Stranger)
  • Owl City (Maybe I'm Dreaming, Ocean Eyes, Of June)
  • Paul Baloche (Glorious, Our God Saves, The Writers Collection)
  • The Postal Service (Give Up)
  • Radiohead (The Best of Radiohead, In Rainbows)
  • Regina Spektor (Begin to Hope)
  • Relient K (Let it Snow Baby, Let it Reindeer)
  • Robbie Seay Band (Better Days)
  • Rogue Wave (Eyes, iTunes Exclusive EP)
  • Shane and Shane (Clean, an Evening With Shane and Shane, Glory in the Highest, Pages)
  • Shawn McDonald (Live in Seattle)
  • Sisters Hazel (Santa's Playlist, ...Somewhere More Familiar)
  • Starfield (I Will Go, Starfield, Beauty in the Broken)
  • Switchfoot (The Beautiful Letdown, Hello Hurricane, Oh! Gravity)
  • Third Day (Christmas Offerings)
  • Thom Yorke (The Eraser)
  • Tristan Prettyman (Hello, Live Session, Twenty Three)
  • U2 (All that You Can't Leave Behind, How to Dissmantal an Atomic Bomb)
  • Various Artists (Across the Universe, City On A Hill Christmas, I Am Sam, iTunes Fall 2009 Sampler, A Very Special Christmas)
  • The Weepies (Hideaway, Say I Am You)
  • Weezer (Christmas With Weezer)
  • Nooma (Soundtrack Volume One)
There you have it! What's there that shouldn't be? What's not there that should be? Let me know!


Pep Talk

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Greetings bloggers!
I hope everyone is enjoying the Thanksgiving hangover that is Black Friday. If you were brave enough to hit the stores today, my hat is off to you! If you are like my sister, and had to work on a day like this, you are a hero! I still have not quite figured out what would possess a person to be up at 3 am to find any kind of "deal." Personally, I did some shopping on Old Navy dot com, and came away with some pretty good bargains. And all while sleeping in for the morning!

But I want to talk to those of us who find ourselves doing ministry. Consider this your pep talk.

This is it my brothers and sisters! This weekend represents the last moments of sanity you or I are going to possess until Christmas. You know it. I know it. It's a reality, and it stems through all kind of church work, not just youth ministry.

If you're the pastor, or if you find yourself preparing sermons for the coming Advent season, you're in trouble. Everybody has such high expectations for the Advent/Christmas season, and you better not let them down. Or at least that's what it feels like sometimes, right? You feel like you have to come up with something that's bigger and better than last year (while trying not to remind yourself that your congregation can't remember what you preached about last week, let alone what you preached on last Advent). And so you find yourself either locked in your office twitching in the fetal position or attempting to maintain some dignity while doing the same thing in a public coffee shop.

Or maybe you're in the Christian Education department. These little ones absolutely lose their minds around Advent time. Maybe it's the promise of presents to come. Maybe it's the ridiculous quantities of sugar they're consuming on a daily basis. Maybe it's the fact that mom and dad have a million Christmas parties to attend, and so every night they get to order pizza and harass the baby sitter. Either way, they're yours now, and that hour seems to tick by way slower for the next couple of weeks. You are tempted beyond all temptations to throw a Veggie Tales marathon, and take a little personal time. Don't do it. You'll end up hating them while they ask you a million questions through the film and wind up telling them that (spoiler alert) Santa doesn't exist just to spite them. I've seen it happen people. You do not want those phone calls.

Or (on a more serious note) perhaps you find yourself in pastoral care. My good friend Tammy assures me that while there is no physical or statistical data on hand just yet, it is true that the church will field more care calls during the holiday season (not meant as a cop out, just trying to find a way to cover Thanksgiving too) than you will the rest of the year. This is difficult. People will tie these memories to the holidays for the rest of their lives. Plus you will be run ragged. You will be from hospital to hospital, hospice to nursery, home visit to home visit.

Youth ministers, you have all of these things, but you will do them for 7-12 graders.

My point is this: we know it's coming. We know it's just around the bend. But we also know that we serve a God who will never throw anything at us that we cannot handle. If you're anything like me, you've taken a couple of days off here around Thanksgiving, and you'll probably be a celebrator of National Associate Pastor's Weekend (the service after Christmas). Take these times to make sure you're ready to do God's work in the world. Remind yourself that his grace is enough to cover you through this season, so if you don't get to everything and you don't perform as well as you'd like to, his love for you is unshakeable. Take some time to pray for the people who are going to need to hear an encouraging word from you, and pray that you can be attentive to God's Spirit and distribute it appropriately in their lives. And most of all, make sure to spend some time with your family and assure them that they are your first priority. It's easy for them to get lost in the hustle and bustle of what comes next, don't let that happen!

There's your pep talk team! Now go out and get em!

Godspeed,

Jason


The Youth Worker and the Janitor

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So I had a pretty interesting experience today.

Before we left for the convention, the kids had collected 1,621 food items in our thanksgiving scavenger hunt. That's a lot of feeding people we're going to do! So today, we were gearing up to deliver the food (or, as it turned out, the half we could get to). As I was loading up the food on the bus, one of the containers of Chicken Broth exploded, leaving a pool of chickeny goodness all over the floor of our bus. This has allowed me to finally utter one of the sentences I've been waiting for in youth ministry:

"And that is why the bus smells like chicken soup."

So after driving the food to SHIM, I brought the bus back to the church for a meeting, and decided I needed to mop it out before going any further with my life. Now, here's the thing about our church. We have an excellent team of janitors, who do an excellent job, but are impossible to find when you need them. There are walkie talkies that supposedly will get them to you in a hurry. It's lies. Plus, where I had parked the bus was nowhere near a walkie. So I decided it was just easier to get the mop myself and clean out the bus.

I took off my blazer in the bus, revealing my neat looking but pretty grungy t-shirt. I walked back to the janitor's closet, grabbed the mop and all it's glorious bucketry, and started to walk towards the bus. Just then, a member of our counseling center saw me, looked at my shirt, looked at the bucket, and kindly asked me to clean up the bathrooms just outside his office.

He had no idea who I was.

He thought I was the janitor.

But here's the thing, and what I think makes it an interesting experience. I didn't mind. First of all, it's not like there's any less value to the ministry that janitors perform in churches. If it ain't clean, people ain't coming! But more than that, I was thinking about this quote that I heard in high school about leaders.

There are really two types of leaders:

The first walks into a bathroom, discovers an absolute disaster zone in the stall, and screams in disgust while running to find the nearest person to "lead" into cleaning the mess.

The second might moan for a second, and then steps on the flush. That's true leadership.

Now, I didn't clean the bathroom for this guy, and I'd like to think it's because one of the actual janitorial staff came by and did it for me. But I totally would have! Because though I know some of us in youth ministry feel under-apreciated for what we do, I don't think that's license to feel more deserving than we are. What's wrong with picking up a mop and cleaning out the church bus every now and again?

So maybe you don't have to scrub toilets, but take some time in the coming weeks to think about how you can serve the church. Not just by throwing a dodgeball, but by stepping into a new role for yourself, and maybe stepping into someone else's shoes.

Some food for thought:

Jesus Washes His Disciples' Feet

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?"

7 Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."

8 "No," said Peter, "you shall never wash my feet."
Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

9 "Then, Lord," Simon Peter replied, "not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!"

10 Jesus answered, "Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you." 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them. 13 "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Godspeed,

Jason


Thanks.

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A brief list of things I am thankful for (in no particular order, please don't be offended):

  • jesus' love
  • sarah's love
  • my dad
  • my mom
  • my sister
  • my dogs
  • my dog's twitter account.
  • my band family
  • the pittsburgh penguins
  • the stanley cup rings they're all wearing this year.
  • interviews with evgeni malkin
  • the westminster staff (they're my best friends)
  • staying up all night debating theology with Matt
  • staying up all next day debating theology with Ed.
  • each and every single student who's a part of veritas.
  • seriously, I mean you.
  • sunny days
  • cloudy days accompanied by the right music
  • pumpkin spice lattes (fall only)
  • peppermint mocha (coming soon!)
  • dunkin donuts coffee
  • a flight on a plane
  • a flight on a plane at night time
  • a day off with the aforementioned sarah
  • a snow day (we get them off of work too!)
  • singing
  • singing at the bridge
  • the feel of a good guitar in your hands
  • hitting things
  • (the last one only applies to drums and my steering wheel in traffic)
  • vacations
  • new york city
  • Stuff Christians Like
  • pensblog
  • youth specialties. (even in the middle of whatever they're in the middle of, they're still the bees knees)
  • the saying "the bees knees"
  • marko and tic (I know it's probably because the whole sale thing's been on my mind, but I've been really appreciative of everything they've done for youth workers)
  • going over to friends houses for dinner
  • having friends over to our house for dinner
  • peanut chicken
  • writing
  • writing for j-blog
  • writing sermons
  • writing books
  • writing in my prayer journal
  • writing songs
  • people who comment on j-blog
  • fighting bears
  • a warm hoodie
  • old navy
  • t-shirts
  • the decemberists
  • the david crowder band
  • dave matthews band
  • dave matthews acting
  • filming the j and ed variety show
  • not capitalizing words.
  • my iphone
  • my laptop
  • colorful shoes
  • being silly.
Of course, I missed some things. Would you be so kind as to celebrate Thanksgiving J-blog style by leaving your comments below!

Happy Turkey Day everybody!

Godspeed,

Jason


NYWC #10: The Sale of YS! or (Everybody else is blogging about this!)

6 comments

(Author's Note: It became clear to me only after I had read Adam's comment that the previous title of this post could be construed to mean I was suggesting that YS itself had died. I was actually trying to poke fun at the people who were freaking out about it. I failed. Miserably. This could be blamed on a great many things, the first of which being my lack of sleep, or my inability to actually be funny. Sorry if I offended. I do not in any way, shape or form believe YS is dead or even dying. I'm just concerned. And now, on to the show!)

Hello friends.
What an exciting weekend we've had here at NYWC! I hope you've enjoyed these kind of reflective blog posts as much as I've enjoyed writing them. It's been fun to think about how a lot of things don't really change over time, and how even though we've learned a lot in our life-times, there's a lot left to learn.

My over all experience at the convention was wonderful! I really felt like God was speaking to me specifically (I know he was speaking to more than that, but I really needed to hear his voice this weekend!) I learned a lot, I discovered a lot about myself, and I think and I hope that I've grown a lot.

However, there was kind of an elephant in the room the whole way through the convention. At the first big room, an announcement was made that YS had been sold to YouthWorks camps. The arrangement as we were told (in what might have been the worst and most awkward announcement I've ever seen, which is staggering when matched next to all those "minute" for missions...) that Zondervan would be handling the publishing side of things, and that Youthworks would be handling the events.

PR skill aside, I knew this announcement was coming, and it still left kind of a sinking feeling in my stomach. Look back over those blogs I've written this weekend. I have 6 years of experiences just like those. 6 years of learning about youth ministry, learning how to do it better, making friends, experiencing healing and forgiveness when I needed it most, and becoming part of a family. Obviously when all of that gets threatened, a lot of people (myself included) get nervous. We all seem a little nervous.

I want to have hope in times of uncertainty (thank you Andy Stanley, and a mighty boo hiss to the dvd company that somehow forgot to push record for his talk!), and so I'm not saying I'm giving up on YS. It has literally been there for me my entire youth ministry career, which is getting longer than I had thought! (I was looking at Your First Two Years In Youth Ministry in the book shop, and thinking about how that was four years ago! Yikes!) But as is always the case, my friends and I were talking last night, and some great points were raised. And then I read some blogs by some smart people today, and some more great points were raised. And so I thought I would share my thoughts, not to be a jerk who throws stones at people in the hopes of making them feel bad, but in the hopes that some folks from YS/Zondervan/Youthworks will read this (pass it along if you can) and take these thoughts and suggestions to heart. Consider this my comment/suggestion card for next years convention!

1. Business?
One of the things I have heard most through this weekend is that Zondervan and Youth Works will most likely treat this whole thing as a business, where profit is the bottom line. This is tricky. Of course, you want to make money to be able to do more and bigger things. It's a part of the game, when you're in the business of blank, you are in business! Even those of us who find themselves in the business of youth ministry are actually in business. You would not just give away all of your trips for free, you try to cover your costs and offer something amazing to kids. That's all well and good.
But what concerns me is the potential (very critical word here: potential. I'm not saying it's happened already) for business to trump ministry. At Tony Jones' blog, he says that "I think that Yac wanted to make enough money each year to pay everyone and throw a kick-ass Christmas party." The bottom line wasn't dollars, the bottom line was lives changed through Christ.

Please, people in charge now, listen to that. I'm fine with you being a Christian business. I think it's great that we have Christian businesses. But if you plan on using that adjective in front of your name, if you claim to be different than the businesses around you, then you must actually be different than the businesses around you. This of course will mean different priorities and probably even sacrifices. Failure to do so doesn't make you a Christian business, it just makes you a business, at which point I want nothing to do with you. Again, this isn't to say this is happening yet. It's just not hard to imagine a situation in which it could.

2. One Convention?
Last night, Mark Matlock announced that there would be a true National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville. The claim was that YS was not capable of pulling off three conventions and pulling them off well. First of all, that's incorrect. They've been doing it just fine for years, and I was more than a little offended at the idea that none of them were any longer considered "good conventions".
On the surface, the idea of one convention sounds great. All of us, in one room together, for a whole extended weekend? We cause enough trouble when divided into three groups, all together is going to be a blast! Who wouldn't want to sit down front for Crowder with upwards of 10,000 youth pastor voices screaming behind you? It's going to be phenomenal!

But...

There are logistical concerns that may not be on the tip of everybody's mind yet. Were you in the food court at CNN this year? Did you see how hard it was to find a table? Our group spent a lot of time every day trying to find something to eat. Combine this with the fact that everything in Nashville closes at 4 in the afternoon (them musicians gotta get to their gigs!), and I wonder where we're all going to eat? I wonder if you will have to intentionally allow more time for meals, or just hope that we all find food and make it back in time? Either way, chances are there's going to be less time for sessions or big rooms, which sucks big time. That's what we come from.

Or what about hotels? Our church is lucky to have the budget we have, so we were able to have hotel rooms within a reasonable walking distance of the convention center. These were not cheap by any stretch. So we have to assume then that the less expensive hotels (which tend to be farther and father away from the downtown of any city) will be where most youth workers go, and they will sell out quickly. What does this mean for smaller churches with smaller budgets? Are they out in the cold? Will a single convention actually be bigger, or will condensing it like that actually drain a cities resources to the point where it's the same size as any of the conventions we have now? People will miss out...and that's not good.

Maybe one convention is a good business decision (you only have to set it up once, pay the bands once, rent the convention center once, etc...), but I don't know that it was made with youth workers in mind. With that said...

3. Where are our guys?
For as long as I have been coming to this convention, I have been certain of one thing: Tic and Marko were one of us. They didn't just understand our world from a philosophical standpoint, they were citizens in our world. As I watched that announcement on Friday night, I got the sinking feeling that nobody at the top is a part of our world any more. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, our world is not the easiest to understand.
Who will represent us? Who will be our voice when decisions are made? Who will separate the actual, honest to goodness good youth ministry ideas from the absolutely terrible books that are going to come across Zondervan's desk? My heart breaks for Mark Matlock. I was hoping to get to see him sometime this weekend and talk to him, but unfortunately our paths never crossed. He looks like someone in stress to say the least. If suddenly we're asking him to be our go to guy and our voice, that's a lot to put on his shoulders. And I think he'd do a phenomenal job at that, I trust him fully. But he's not in charge, YW and Zondervan are. So like I said, I'm nervous.

Please, don't take any of this in the wrong light. I'm not mad. I'm not enraged. I'm not trying to stir up a fight (read my previous fights and see how quickly I shy away from them!). I'm simply trying to raise some concerns that are in my head. All in all this convention was one of the best I've been to, and I'm super thankful to the YS family for putting it on once again. But let's be honest, this is the last one like it. Next year's convention will be completely different, and unless some of these concerns are addressed, I feel like we're going to experience some birth pains in the not too distant future.

Thanks again to everyone who started reading the blog through the convention. It's been a blast to write for you! I'm headed to the airport now, and will be back in Pittsburgh before you know it! And then (I can't believe I'm saying this) I'm back to work tomorrow! (Gasp!)
Stay tuned for more stunning adventures at J-Blog!

Godspeed,

Jason


NYWC #9: Going home.

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Six Years AgoI can’t believe it’s over. EJ, Ro, and I are sitting just beside the escalators that head down to the main room. EJ is real big on the concept of a debrief, making sure that we have opportunities to discuss what we’ve learned, and spend a little bit of time learning from each other. As we’re sitting there talking about our latest seminar, Karla Yaconelli, wife of the late Mike Yaconelli, goes zipping by on a pink scooter, looks at us, and proclaims “Huh, guess there really isn’t an elevator down here...” I look at her and say “I don’t know, but I bet the business men having a conference down the hall aren’t riding around on scooters!”

Today:
I woke up in a cloud in my room. Literally. I opened the window and all I saw was white. That was kind of neat, not going to lie!

Yesterday the convention went out with a bang. After posting my last post, Ed, Dan, Abby, Mike and I went to John Acuff’s seminar on satire in youth ministry. The amount of jokes we were making to each other under our breath during the seminar proved for certain that we didn’t need any help with our satire! But it was a really cool seminar, and John’s an awesome guy. If you don’t already, you absolutely need to check out his blog at www.stuffchristianslike.net

We went out for dinner at the CNN center, again. Every meal we have eaten at this conference has been at the CNN center. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this blog in the CNN center. I love CNN. Maybe they’ll google their CNN brand name every now and again and CNN will put me on TV, you know, on CNN (please). Anyway, I sat looking around the table, and even thinking about it now, I get overwhelmed at the privilege of sharing this convention with the people I love. If any of you guys are reading the blog, I really had a blast with you all! I learn more from you guys than I learn from any of the presenters here, and I’m so happy to do ministry with you!

Reggie Joiner was our speaker at the big room. He spoke about systems upgrades, and making sure we don’t fall into a rut, almost doing ministry on maintenance mode. If you work in a church in any capacity, and you live in the greater Pittsburgh region, let me know and I will loan you the DVD. It was amazing! He got extra bonus points from me for making Apple products the big illustration for his talk. Huge bonus points Reggie. Huge.

I watch as EJ talks to Karla about losing Mike. I never knew Mike Yaconelli, I had just heard that he was the guru of youth ministry, and that he had died in a car crash recently. I didn’t know just how huge and wonderful a man he was until I got to the convention!You can tell that everybody here loved him deeply. You can tell that his loss has caused some very deep rifts in YS, that things are starting to change. After Reggie’s talk last night, Mark Matlock got up and once again brought up the sale of Youth Specialties, which has seemed like the big huge elephant in the room. I feel like the whole Youth Specialties staff is hurting, they aren’t sure what to do or where to go next. The youth ministries community has lost a very good friend in Marko. You can tell that a lot of people were really invested in him as a leader, and now he’s gone. Now there’s some sort of future ahead of us, but we don’t exactly know what tomorrow holds. All we know is that God is good, and that he loves our kids even more than we do. I am certain beyond all reason that youth specialties finest days are still ahead of it, even if we have to go through some painful transitions to get there...

(There will be more thoughts on the youth specialties/zondervan/youthworks camps deal later today.)

Godspeed,

Jason