We've Moved!!!!


Sold sign1

Hello friends!

The J-Blog has officially moved to our new home.


Please update your browser's bookmarks and RSS feeds. See you at the new place!

Moving Sale 4: My favorite series


Youth specialties

Hey friends! 


Here it is, the last official post on the J-Blog in this location! Tomorrow, we're going to move to the new site, which you will be able to find at (www.j-blog.net). Tune in tomorrow for Photo Friday and some intro posts!


To close things out, one of the things that I love to blog about most is when we take our annual trip to the National Youth Workers Convention. But a few years ago, I wrote one of my favorite YS summaries. After spending a few hours this morning pouring over the J-Blog, I think these posts represent some of my favorite writing I've done here. And so I shamelessly share it with you!


NYWC #0: Traveling

NYWC #1: Photo Blog

NYWC #2: Time Machine

NYWC #3: Challeneged

NYWC #4: Photo Blog 2

NYWC #5: Me Time

NYWC #6: Photo Blog 3

NYWC #7: Worship

NYWC #8: Photoblog 4

NYWC #9: Going Home


Tomorrow's the big day! Woohooooo!

Moving Sale 2: Anne Rice

Good morning bloggers! 

First of all, good news! The J-Blog move is going a lot smoother than I had originally hoped, so the new site will launch officially on Friday! We'll wrap up the moving sale this week and then move over there for the first post in the new digs! Should be great!

Until then, check out this gem from the J-Blog's history. I wrote a quick piece on Anne Rice, and what her decision to leave Christianity was teaching all of us. It is to this day the single most commented on story in the J-Blog, so it deserves a second look. Enjoy!

Quitting Christianity: What Anne Rice is teaching us all

Posted by Jason Freyer at 9:42 AM Thursday, August 26, 2010
Anne Rice1 thumbGreetings bloggers!
A few months ago, Anne Rice stated on her Facebook page that in the name of Jesus Christ, she was quitting Christianity and was no longer a Christian.
It's taken me this long to get around to this post because that sentence is tough to wrap your mind around. How can a person quit Christianity in the name of Jesus? What's really at the heart of Anne Rice's comment here? What does it mean for those of us who are in the Church and in Church leadership?

Rice's comments make sense in a world where we're told it's perfectly ok to be spiritual but not religious. On the plus side, it would appear to this casual observer that there are more people than ever who are interested in the life and teachings of Jesus. People are opening the scriptures and seeing the God of the Universe who cares for and loves their souls. These people fall head over heels for the savior.

But they simply can't stand his followers.

These folks read the scriptures, particularly the teachings of Jesus, and as their eyes glance up from the page they notice that the people in the pews around them are nothing like the savior has asked of them. They see the horrible things we are capable of doing in the name of Jesus, the way we treat each other, and the way we treat people who disagree with us, and they want out.

So the question is, can you be spiritual, but not be religious? Is it possible to lead a life of devotion to Christ but not be a part of the community of faith? Yes and no I think. I understand the heart of this feeling, the desire to distance oneself from "organized religion" (a phrase I find pretty funny, because as someone who works in the church I realize that it's seldom organized). I can even understand feeling like you're capable of accomplishing more on your own than you could with a group of infighting Christians.

But the truth is, you need that connection. You need that community. You need encouragement when things aren't going your way and challenge to see things differently when needed. You need to have your viewpoints challenged by caring and loving people who are willing to invest in you. I personally think everyone should be a part of a small group, a team of people who will listen to your life stories and help you put things in perspective. Sure, the Church can be ugly. To quote Augustine, the Church may be a whore, but she's my mother.

So Anne, I see where you might have felt compelled to quit Christianity. But I also beg you to seek out those of us who are trying to make authentic and purposeful communities, trying to live the life that Jesus has laid out for us.

Perhaps we should spend less time worrying about being Christians and worry more about being disciples.



Moving Sale 3: My New Monster


Hello friends!

I accidentally published what was supposed to be this morning's blog post last night. Oops! So we'll do another one today. Don't forget, we'll be moving to the new digs on Friday!

This is the single most viewed post in J-Blog history, and frankly I have no idea why. It clocks in 3446 hits, 1400 some more than the next competitor. Why you guys like this one, I may never know, but here it is anyway. Enjoy!

My New Monster


Hello friends,

I noticed something while I was at the gym working out yesterday, and I thought I'd share some thoughts here on the J-Blog.

When I was in high school, I took Advanced Placement American History, or APA as we called it. The idea was that you would submit yourself to an incredibly difficult year of learning, followed by a national test, which if you did well on you would be able to opt out of college classes. The test was the source of much stress and disdain from several students, and so our teacher nick named it "The Beast." It sounds ridiculous, but it actually helped get you through the tough year of classes to know that everything you did was one more weapon in your tool belt for when you would attempt to slay the beast. We pictured it with nasty fangs and blood drenched claws, and know that what we were suffering through would help us to slay the Beast made the suffering tolerable.

Last year, I started cycling as a form of fitness. I had always like bike riding, but never really got into the intense all out riding that so many people have come to love over time. I was at dinner with a few friends, when one Travis Bachelder invited me to participate in the MS 150, a 150 mile bike ride from Slippery Rock to Lake Erie. Foolishly, I said yes.

The 150 became my Beast. It was the monster that I had to overcome. At that dinner table, a 150 mile two-day ride seemed impossible. It was going to require a lot of me in terms of training, in terms of mental dedication, in terms of nutrition and eating better. I was going to suffer. But at least I knew that I was going to suffer with a purpose. I was going to slay the monster, and slay the monster I did. I never felt better after a ride than I did when we rolled into Lake Erie, and they handed me the finishers metal. It sounds cheesy, but that metal means a lot to me. It's not just two days of accomplishment, but it's every ounce of the 500 miles and countless hours in the gym that went into training me for that ride.

The 150 happened in the middle of my cycling "season", and I started to notice something interesting towards the end. I was losing my drive to go on. I didn't want to go out on a huge training ride. I had very little desire to go to the gym. When I did go out on a ride, I was seeking easier courses and flatter terrain. Without a monster to slay, I had no reason to suffer, because suffering pointlessly is really no fun at all.

As I was lying in bed the other night, and I saw an article about Gran Fondos. I had never heard of such a thing, but the article made it sound like the next step up from the charity rides that I have been doing so far. It's usually a century ride, or 100 miles in a single day. They are known for their climbs, and usually have competition on the climbs. They are not to be trifled with, yet they come with rest stops. Like the 150 was to me a year ago, this ride seems so very far out of my reach. There's one coming in New York early next season (http://granfondony.com/) and I want to ride it so bad.

It is my new monster.

All of a sudden I can't spend enough time in the gym. I'm already upset that it's raining/getting colder so as to keep me off the bike a bit more. I will let you know when I get crazy enough to wear the jackets and tights and ride in the weather anyway. But this monster is coming, and I must be ready to slay it.

What is your monster? And what happens when people don't have a monster to work towards? Is it in fact true that suffering makes a little bit more sense when we realize it's leading us somewhere?

Food for thought.



Moving Sale 1: The First Post


It's a blog!

Posted by Freyer at 4:38 PM Friday, October 24, 2008

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:



St redbull f


Dunkin donuts




X men hugh jackman 4

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!



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Moving Sale!



Hello everybody!


October 24th 2008 is a day that I am certain almost no one remembers. I can't imagine anything of national importance happened that day. I think it was really just a pretty standard Friday afternoon. But it is for sure a day that will live in infamy. For you see, October 24th was the day the J-Blog was born. 


I don't even think it was called the J-Blog at first. I think it was just something like Psycho Youth Min or something like that. The early days were weird. Really, it was like I wanted to copy the Pensblog for youth ministry. It did not go well. Those guys are excellent at being them, and I am very much not. But the point was, I had a blog that I wanted to write about youth ministry, life, and the occasional ramble rant that would come across my mind. I had no aspirations of having anyone read the thing. I just wanted to write what came to my mind because I enjoyed writing. 


4 years later, this thing is out of hand! You guys are unbelievably supportive, showing up to read the J-Blog each and every day, sharing your thoughts with me on Facebook or in the comments, starting wonderful debates, and taking this thing much farther than I ever intended for it to go. So thanks for being along for the ride! 


As a result of all this support, and the ads that are wonderfully placed by Google, the J-Blog made enough money this year that it can move into a web hosting space all its own. It's not that the good ship blogger hasn't been extremely kind to us, but a new place to call home would allow us to do a lot more stuff than we're capable of right now at the moment. I think it's going to be unbelievably fun and exciting!


But, these things take time. There's a lot to set up and do over at the new place, so I think we'll be about two weeks or so before we're 100% ready to launch, including the prospect of importing everything from this J-Blog over to the new one so it feels like one coherent thought, just in two different locations. So while we're waiting, and while I'm neck deep in trying to understand the Hebrew Language, I thought we'd have ourselves a good old fashioned moving sale! When you have a moving sale, you tend to clear out the attic. Some things you find that you wish would just stay buried, and some things you find are treasures of the highest order. But at least in my case, I have fun remembering all the joys and difficulties as I sort through the old stuff. So each day for the next little while, we're going to re-post a classic J-Blog to reminisce together. Some of it will make me cringe with how bad my writing was in the beginning. Some of it is actually quite inspiring. Some of it is just weird and crazy. 


We'll keep that up for a little while, and then as soon as it's ready I'll post the link to the new J-Blog and we'll start a wonderful new adventure together! I'm looking forward to it!

Tech Saturday (on a Sunday!): Planning Center Online



Hello friends! 


Sorry I haven't been on schedule around here on the J-Blog. It's been a busy season with a final paper and a new language to learn down at the seminary, as well as the kickoff of a few things at Westminster that need my attention. But, happy happy news is coming to the J-Blog, and I'm hoping to make that announcement next week! In the meantime, accept as my apology a late Tech Saturday offering, and we'll see you all again on Tuesday!


To quote Rob Bell, I would screw up a one car parade. My administrative abilities are negligible at best, and disastrous at worst. Before the advent of iCloud, and the ability to keep all of my calendars and to-do lists in a single space, my desk, car, refrigerator, backpack, and palm were covered in sticky notes and reminders, about half of which I ever remembered to follow through on. My arrival at Westminster forced me to change my habits when it comes to planning and personal discipline, because the mistakes you might be able to get away with in a smaller church can be devastating in a larger environment.


One of the hardest things to keep straight and going was planning for our Bridge worship service. The way we've always put it that makes sense to me is that the Bridge is made up of many moving parts, each of which are changing from week to week. There are two primary worship leaders, who are both sometimes out of town. There are (at the moment anyway) 5 regular preachers. There are dozens and dozens of skilled and talented musicians who have cycled through our doors in the last 5 years, almost none of whom work for the church. And so we have to keep it all straight, some how we have to manage this monster of a thing called the Bridge, and in a perfect world, do so in such a way that to the congregation it seems seamless and smooth. 


This is not an easy task! 


Enter Planning Center Online. This outstanding web based service has helped us to keep track of what's going on from week to week and keep everybody in the loop. There are any number of excellent features on this site, and truth be told I still don't think I have figured out how to use it to its full advantage yet. But here for the sake of a blog post are a few of the features that have changed our worship service, and that I think could help you organize yours:


1. PDF downloads with YouTube Videos. We are forced because of the temporary nature of our worship space to run the no huddle worship team, meaning we do not have a weekly rehearsal time to get things ready for the Sunday to come. So one of the challenges we faced early on was how can we best equip our musicians to be ready to play when they walk in the door for a quick hour long sound-check that doubled as rehearsal? 


In Planning Center, you are able to upload PDF files of your chord charts. Our habit is to simply download the chart directly from CCLI when we can, and upload the PDF to planning center. That way each musician has the ability to download the music on their own when they're scheduled for worship. You can also attach a youtube video to the song in question, so that musicians can listen to the song and maybe even practice along with it with the chord charts. A few of our musicians show up to practice on Sunday mornings with their charts all marked up and highlighted, so they know what to expect when they walk in the door. 


2. When did we use that song last? We try our best to limit the number of times we repeat a song in worship, because we don't want to get bogged down singing "How Great is Our God" for ten weeks in a row. But because we have several different worship leaders sharing the workload, it's hard to keep track of what we do from week to week. Planning Center offers us a Matrix view, where we can see how each of the last few services shaped up, and what songs we might need to step away from, or what songs we haven't done in a while that could use re-introducing. 


This feature is also great when it comes to be our turn to participate in CCLI reporting. Planning Center can communicate directly with your CCLI account and report the songs we're doing from week to week, to make sure that the goofy worship leader doesn't forget to do so on Tuesday morning after staff meeting! One less thing to worry about in a busy week.


3. Scheduling. This is the biggest help for us. Once we know who's leading worship on a particular week, they can sign into planning center and set a schedule for each of our musicians. The musicians themselves can even help things along by letting us know which weeks they are unavailable, so that we can avoid scheduling them or schedule someone else. When someone declines an invitation, Planning Center can help suggest people who might be able to fill that role. 


Planning Center is a monthly subscription service. The cheapest package is zero dollars a month, so you really owe it to yourself to at least give it a shot! Plus, they do an incredible job with their video tutorials so that you know your way around the service. Stop on by and check it out today!



Faith, Politics, Hope, and Civil Discourse


Religion politics article thumb

Hello everybody,


I am a firm believer in Church leadership trying to the best of their ability to keep from broadcasting their political views. Sure, faith has a place in politics as does politics in faith, but as someone who is being paid to teach, lead, and ultimately influence a congregation (or in my case a subset of that congregation) it just feels wrong to try to sway people's vote. Understand, that's not what I intend to do here.


I have been keeping a silent watch on my Facebook timeline, as people I know and love dearly have posted photoshopped images, which I suppose are this year's equivalent of bumper stickers. I have wanted to comment on several people's glaring inaccuracies on both sides of the isle. I have wanted to ask what the purpose of posting such snarky images was doing to add to the political discourse. I have wanted to ask where those facts came from, and if in fact they could handle the label "facts." But I do not. 


For one thing, we as a nation have completely lost sight of what it looks like to disagree civilly. If you support a woman's right to choose, I get to label you a baby killer and not listen to what you have to say. If you want to increase taxes on the wealthy to support programs like public education, I get to label you a socialist and not listen to what you have to say. If you are appearing on the other news channel than the one that I frequently tune to, I get to not listen to what you have to say. Come to think of it, it would appear that our nations political strategy (hear me on this, both sides of the isle) is to not listen while screaming our views even louder. 


Perhaps most frustrating is when both sides invoke God in their policies. You could make a pretty strong argument that the Republicans are trying to please God in their policies. You could make a pretty strong argument that the Democrats are trying to please God in their policies. I don't know anybody who could make a strong argument that God is being glorified in the way we treat those who disagree with us. Let's look at the best example we have. Jesus had disagreements with the Pharisees on a daily basis. He had some harsh words for them, and for the way they practiced their beliefs. But is there a scriptural example of Jesus not listening to their questions. There is not a scriptural example of Jesus reducing their argument to a cartoonish over-simplification. And while this is easy to forget, in the end when Jesus laid down his life for sinful humanity, he laid down his life for those Pharisees with whom he aggressively disagreed with.  


Let's get real. No one in the current climate would lay down their life for the other party, would they? Not when it's so much easier to shout our opinion louder and ignore those we disagree with. These are important issues we're discussing and debating. They deserve more than the easy route. They deserve more than a post on our Facebook. They deserve more than the ratings lifting snarky comment. 


So I'm not here to influence your political views. Like I said, if you stop and think about it for more than 30 seconds you can see that both sides have at their core a desire to glorify God, and I respect that. What I am hoping to influence (and this is a big dream on my part) is the conversation. What would it look like if you stopped posting or re-posting snarky images to your Facebook page? What would it look like if you questioned the validity of your facts before you used them in an argument? What would it look like to watch the other news channel for a while, if for no other reason than to get a feel for what the other side believes? What would it look like to take the attacks out of our politics, and replace them with a vigorous debate about ideas? 


At the risk of sounding overly patriotic, this political climate is not America. It's not worthy of the great nation that has lit the world with freedom for over 200 years. It makes a laughing stock of the gift of democracy to the rest of the world. It is an abuse of freedom in such a way that suggests we don't know what freedom really is. And it certainly makes a mockery of the God who makes us free through his Son to drag his name through all of it. It's time to stop. 


Will you join me? Will you stand up and speak out against this combative political discourse prevailing in this nation? Will you show love to the other side, whoever they may happen to be? Would you pray for your enemies, even in the political arena? Or better yet, will you come to the realization that the other party isn't the enemy, just people seeking to serve the nation in a different way than you see fit? 


Book Review: Extraordinary Leaders in Extraordinary Times


Extraordinary Leaders in Extraordinary Times Volume 1 9780802829771

Hello friends!


We're back after a great Tech Free Monday Sabbath (TFMS), and we're offering up a book review. I actually finished the book a while ago, but seeing as this book was authored by my professor, I figured I would get a better handle on the book after the class was over. Usually, I struggle with professors who use their own books as a text book for a course they're teaching. It sometimes comes off as shameless self promotion, which I don't really want to deal with in a class I'm paying for. But that wasn't the case with Extraordinary Leaders in Extraordinary Times.

For one thing, this book is based largely on research in the field of New Church Development (NCDs for those of us in the biz...) and not based on the authors' opinions. The basic question was this: If there are NCDs that are effective and NCDs that flop, are there specific attributes of the leadership of those church plants that are consistent across the board? Is there one type of church planter who will be successful? 


The short answer after the class is no. While you can discover a few traits that will more frequently lead to success, like being a "Catalytic innovator", many of the church planters we met with during the class failed to contain all or even some of the tier one attributes from Extraordinary Leaders. At the end of the day, if God calls you to plant a church, God has called you to plant a church.


That said, if you are feeling that call on your life, this book is a MUST HAVE resource. It, combined with several other books on pastoral skill sets, can enlighten the attributes that you are strongest at, and also give you something to work towards on your weakest attributes. For instance, I think I'm a pretty strong Catalytic Innovator, in that I love few things more than staring at a blank whiteboard and making a new program or dream come to life through brainstorming, visioning, and discussing things with co-workers and friends. However, my desire to share my faith in one on one situations has been less than stellar. So after reading Extraordinary Leaders I have tried to spend some time hanging out with lost people. 


Also, it's worth mentioning that though these skill sets are specifically found in NCD pastors, those who lead existing churches probably have a good bit to learn from Extraordinary Leaders. The data from focus groups in particular helped to color in some views that I share, and challenge a few of my thoughts on church development. But even as a youth leader, there were practical tips and ideas that we can bring to Veritas right from the pages of this book. 


If there were any critiques of the book, they would be that it's based on surveys and research, and so at certain points read a little like a statistics manual. But when compared to how much like a statistics manual it could read, it's an extremely well written book. Also with the use of focus group data across several authors, occasionally you will find quotes re-used several times, making the book feel a bit repetitive. 


All that said, this book is required reading for anyone considering planting a church. It will surely live on my shelf and come out occasionally during times of prayer for discernment about where to go after seminary. But we get to go farther than the usual book review on this one. This book was followed up with one of the most innovative, creative, and inspiring classes I've ever had, and so tomorrow we'll be reviewing the class itself. You don't want to miss that!

Building towards Sabbath part two: Technology Saturday


Iphone 4 review 21 user interface

Good morning bloggers!


As I left you in the last part of this series, I had come to the sudden realization that I had not taken a real Sabbath in a while. It is indeed a spiritual discipline, in that it's extremely easy to fall out of if you're not careful. The feeling that comes from falling out of the Sabbath practice is subtle, creeping up on you until one day you're cursing your phone out while driving down RT 28 in the middle of the day like a lunatic. 


So what is a Sabbath? Take a moment to reflect on this definition from Exodus:


“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns.11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.


So really, at the heart of things, this is about not doing any work. That would be hard enough, right? It leads to some pretty serious discussions about what is work. Our brothers and sisters in the Orthodox Jewish tradition believe that even something as simple as turning on a light switch would qualify as work. That's not as really silly as it sounds though. Is a game of dodgeball work? It is to a youth pastor! Work can be defined in lots of different ways by lots of different people. I think at the end of the day, it's a heart issue for each person. 


What helps to solidify things is a sneaky little phrase in this passage, one that is too easy to look over. The seventh day is a sabbath TO the Lord your God. It's as if God knows (because he does) that the things we do as work actually wind up separating us from Him. God wants just one day out of our week where our primary focus is on Him, and our relationship with him. He wants us to stop producing things. He wants us to stop placing our value or hope in the things that we DO. He wants (I believe) to speak into us our worth and value, and he needs our undivided attention to do it. 


So if you were going to start a Sabbath-keeping practice, what would you do? What kinds of things would you stop doing because they get in the way of your relationship with God? What kinds of things would you have to START doing to enhance your relationship with God? If you find God in nature, would it be beneficial to have a day each week where you spent the majority of it outside? If you find God with people, would it be beneficial to have a day where you invited your closest friends over for a meal? 


For me, I realize that while I have a deep and profound love of technology like my Macbook, iPhone, iPad (ok, maybe just Apple Tech) that these things do little to nothing to enhance my relationship with God. I understand I could use them for that, and wouldn't discourage anyone who would want to go down that road on their Sabbath. But my technology devices remind me of work. The texts, e-mails, tweets, Facebook messages, all point in the direction of work sometimes, which can make Sabbath hard. I combine that with the fact that as an introvert, I connect with God best when I can sit on my porch for a while, reading, studying scripture, praying, and thinking in silence. So a new Sabbath for me looks like a Monday where I shut the phone off, leave the laptop at work, keep the TV at bay, and spend time in study and prayer. I would deeply encourage each of you to figure out what activities keep you from God and which activities enhance your relationship with God, and set aside (the definition of Holy by the way) a day to the Lord.


Incidentally, this presents a problem for the olde J-Blog. Monday is the first day of writing, and writing is a big part of what keeps me sane. You'll note that I've had more posts in August this year than I have in any month in the last three years. But if my laptop is turned off, I can't very well write for the J-Blog. What to do, what to do?


And so we're introducing Tech Saturday. I'm going to move the whole J-Blog's week back a day, so there will be no posts on Mondays. But then, on Saturday, since I'll be turning off my tech on Monday, we'll spend a little bit of time on the intersection of Technology with our four big areas (Youth Min, Worship, Seminary, and Book Reviews). I'll work through products, apps, websites, and other things related to the techy world. I think it will be fun! If you have any ideas for a Tech Saturday post, please let me know!


As for me, it's time for a Sabbath. See you next week J-Bloggers!