Cut the Crap: Get Transparent

When I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, I was stoked.  One of the biggest blessings that I had was being able to meet so many people that I have networked with over the last three years in the blogosphere.  I had some really encouraging and hilarious conversations with many people who have a decade more experience and eons more wisdom than I.

One thing that showed up in our conversations is their affirmation of the characteristic in myself that I sometimes hate: my transparency.  I was often told that my transparency is what sets me apart, and never stop showing that.  This was encouraging for me, as I rarely get transparency from people as much as I show it, and one of the biggest things I struggle with in the personality of youth pastors is their lack of transparency.

So, session after class after conversation, this theme showed up.  In a large-group session, I was pushed to visualize my struggles and let them go.  In this session, we were encouraged to write all of our junk on a hackey sack with a marker.  I wrote junk after junk after junk on this thing.  Then we had to get in a small group and share one thing.  I looked around and saw some very empty hackey sacks, and heard some even emptier answers.  When it was my turn to share, I clammed up.  Yes me.  I walled up and let out some answer that was half the truth, because the rest of my group couldn’t share their junk.  Then we had to group-juggle our hackey sacks, which could have been a great exercise to show the fact that we sometimes not only juggle our junk, but others’ as well…except my group wanted to make a systematic “1–2–3″ countdown in order to pass ours around.  It showed me that even though I may be transparent, and others may say they want more transparency, many still won’t show it.

So youth pastor, cut the crap.  If we can’t be transparent about these issues with one another, then we have a serious problem.

Transparency is hard, I get it.  We are afraid that the truth will drive others away.  We are fearful that if we were to get real with one another, we may be looked at as a Negative Nancy.

But what transparency does is worth it: First off, it makes you feel better. You realize that someone out there gets it.  You begin to understand that you are not the only person struggling with what you are struggling with, and you can solve the issue together.

We are in ministry together.

One of the things I love is the Facebook group community that YouthMin.Org has. Many youth pastors are transparent on there and share their struggles…and even if not publicly, they message myself and other contributors and share their junk with us (and I with them).

One passage that I meditate on time and time again is in Philippians 4, and I’m sure you can quote this by heart: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But we forget that next verse: “Yet it was kind of you to share my struggle.”  We struggle with junk after junk, but not alone.  We do this as a team.

Feel free to contact me or anybody on the team, and let’s do this together.

Cut the Crap: Get Transparent

When I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in March, I was stoked.  One of the biggest blessings that I had was being able to meet so many people that I have networked with over the last three years in the blogosphere.  I had some really encouraging and hilarious conversations with many people who have a decade more experience and eons more wisdom than I.

One thing that showed up in our conversations is their affirmation of the characteristic in myself that I sometimes hate: my transparency.  I was often told that my transparency is what sets me apart, and never stop showing that.  This was encouraging for me, as I rarely get transparency from people as much as I show it, and one of the biggest things I struggle with in the personality of youth pastors is their lack of transparency.

So, session after class after conversation, this theme showed up.  In a large-group session, I was pushed to visualize my struggles and let them go.  In this session, we were encouraged to write all of our junk on a hackey sack with a marker.  I wrote junk after junk after junk on this thing.  Then we had to get in a small group and share one thing.  I looked around and saw some very empty hackey sacks, and heard some even emptier answers.  When it was my turn to share, I clammed up.  Yes me.  I walled up and let out some answer that was half the truth, because the rest of my group couldn’t share their junk.  Then we had to group-juggle our hackey sacks, which could have been a great exercise to show the fact that we sometimes not only juggle our junk, but others’ as well…except my group wanted to make a systematic “1–2–3″ countdown in order to pass ours around.  It showed me that even though I may be transparent, and others may say they want more transparency, many still won’t show it.

So youth pastor, cut the crap.  If we can’t be transparent about these issues with one another, then we have a serious problem.

Transparency is hard, I get it.  We are afraid that the truth will drive others away.  We are fearful that if we were to get real with one another, we may be looked at as a Negative Nancy.

But what transparency does is worth it: First off, it makes you feel better. You realize that someone out there gets it.  You begin to understand that you are not the only person struggling with what you are struggling with, and you can solve the issue together.

We are in ministry together.

One of the things I love is the Facebook group community that YouthMin.Org has. Many youth pastors are transparent on there and share their struggles…and even if not publicly, they message myself and other contributors and share their junk with us (and I with them).

One passage that I meditate on time and time again is in Philippians 4, and I’m sure you can quote this by heart: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

But we forget that next verse: “Yet it was kind of you to share my struggle.”  We struggle with junk after junk, but not alone.  We do this as a team.

Feel free to contact me or anybody on the team, and let’s do this together.

Take Care Of Your Body

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

New International Version (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

I know Paul is talking about sexual purity and honoring God with your body that way, but I also believe that Paul is saying take care of your bodies in general! Our bodies are a temple, and the Holy Spirit dwells within us, and how should God use a body that can not stay fit and healthy? The healthier you are (physically and spiritually) the better you can do work for God. Here are some ways to stay healthy physically and keep the “temple” clean and in shape!

Get Rest:

I learned this one the hard way, but you cannot always keep going. As Youth Pastors or whatever your title is, we have responsibilities and activities that keep us from having the usual sleep time as others. You never know when you will have to get up in the middle of the night to help a family, or when you will only have 1 hour of sleep due to a lock-in. You cannot expect your body to stay healthy if you do not get sleep! As hard as it is, I try to make one day a week where I can just rest, sleep in late, and be a bum! I learned a few years ago, that when I push my self to total exhaustion, I just fall apart; I get sick, cranky, and my mind just does not want to focus! I end up having a terrible week or two because I am sick and cannot get things done till I recover. This ends up with me getting even further behind. It is best to just get the rest, even if you have to force it, then falling apart the week of a big event and not being at the top of your game!

Eat Clean:

Stop using the excuse of being a Youth Minister to eat junk food every day all day! Our bodies are not made to function of processed foods. Here is a good rule of thumb I use: If I could not catch it, kill it, and or pick it, do not eat it. Yes, I eat junk food, but I have limited it to once to twice a week. The other days I eat lean meats such as skinless chicken, fish, and occasionally lean red meat, add some healthy veggies (and do a veggie tales skit with your kids while cooking with them), and some fruit and you will feel better in no time! Take the challenge and do a Paleo diet for two weeks, and see how much better you feel and function! You will never want to go back to junk food! Here is one of my Favorite protein shakes: PB2 banana shake.

Pray:

Seriously, pray! I think we forget that God made our bodies and He knows exactly what we need to function correctly. Ask God to give you guidance as you make decisions about your daily food choices and exercise routine. You need strength and most of the time I have to go to God and ask Him to give me the will power to do what I need to do to stay healthy!

What do you do to stay healthy through out the week? Have a suggestion? Did something we mentioned help you? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Staying Healthy at Youth Camp

 The past 5 months for me have been a journey to eating healthy and being healthier as a whole! I was at an all-time high in weight, weighing in at 260 lbs. I have made some little changes in my diet and exercise routine and wanted to share with you some practical ways of eating and staying healthy at Youth Camp.

Our youth ministry just returned from Global Youth Ministry camp and we had a blast, but it never fails…. the camp food is blah and high in fat and calories. So how do you do it? You have been working hard to get fit, or you just do not want to gain weight to your already hard-earned physique that God has blessed you with.

Here are some tips and a list of the things I did (and I actually maintained my body weight of 217 lbs while at camp eating their food!):

Count Calories.

I count calories and have always counted calories since I started my journey of being healthy. My number one tool for doing this is the app MyFitnessPal. They also have a website that lets you do everything the app does, it is just a little more time-consuming. On top of calories I also watch my carb and protein intake and this app keeps track of that as well as all of your nutritional values (sodium, vitamins, cal’s, water intake, potassium, etc…).  The last thing I do with this app is record my cardio, as it subtracts from your calorie intake and adjust everything automatically to tell you what you need to meet your goal nutritionally everyday.

Get Exercise.

Get some type of exercise in throughout the day. If the students are playing a game of ultimate-Frisbee, join in. You would be surprised at how many calories you will burn in 30 minutes of being moderately active when running around. I wore a heart rate monitor while doing any activities at camp; while playing a 30 minute game of ultimate-Frisbee I burned 325 calories (this is for a 24 year old, weighing in at 217 lbs). If you are lucky and the facilities have a weight room, then use them. On the other hand, if they do not have an exercise room then get creative. I found a playground the third day I was at camp and used the monkey bars to do pull-ups and chest bar dips. If none of the above are available then just go for a jog and or walk even if you have to go around a parking lot 20+ times.

Watch your carbs.

When you do eat, try to stay away from carbs that come from sugars and try to eat 70% protein and only 30% carbs. If you must have carbs avoid the following:

  • White Pasta
  • White Rice
  • White Bread
  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Fruit Juices
  • Bagels
  • Donuts
  • Muffins
  • Sweets and Candies
  • Processed Breakfast Cereals

For a more in-depth look at carbs and what you can and should not eat go HERE. By the way, carbs that come from fiber are good to eat. They do not store in your fat storages as quickly as sugar carbs and are used for an all day energy.

Take your vitamins.

This step is optional. I use supplements every day. Supplements do not = steroids. Here is a list of supplements I take and why I take them.

  • Spark- This is an healthy alternative to energy drink and coffee. I use it when I wake up in replace of my coffee and I use it once again after lunch to give me all day focus and energy.
  • O2 Gold- This supplement actually helps your body use more of the oxygen that is present in your blood. I use it once a day whether I exercise or not. It helps my muscles from getting fatigued. It also helps keep me alert and supports the immune system.
  • Catalyst- Catalyst helps me retain muscle and reduce fat for a more toned and better defined look. This supplement gives you all the Basic Chain Amino Acids you need to support your body through out the day. It actually helps transport the fat from your fat storage to be used for energy.

What are your thoughts– is there something you do that helps you when you are at youth camps? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Is It Pruning Time?

This morning my wife mentioned she was going to trim our rose bush in the front yard and bring some of the blooms inside to put in a vase.

I asked, “Why not just leave them on the bush so they look awesome in front of the house?”

Her explanation blew my mind just a bit: “I have to cut away some of the full blossoms, and any dead or dying ones, so that the new ones will be able to grow and bloom. ”

I never realized it would affect the plant, but she pointed out that the new blooms would be less impressive because the plant would be splitting its resources between too many areas. I even Googled it to make sure; it is totally necessary to prune back to a minimal number of healthy stems to allow for growth of healthy, beautiful roses.

So, that’s like ministry. Sometimes we have our resources split across too many areas and the entire ministry is straining to keep all of it going. Maybe it’s time to prune. As you get hopping with summer activities, take some time to evaluate three categories of systems/events/programs that may need to be cut:

ROUND ONE: Cut The Dead Ones

Do you have stuff that’s dead? Maybe it was beautiful and awesome once, but now it’s that brown, wilted part that just looks ugly and distracts from the pretty blooms around it . . . Kill it. Bury it. And move on. Dead things will only corrupt the things around them, and will often pass on the stuff that killed them.

In ministry, this is totally true! Is there stuff that’s just been a drag? An event that once was huge and is now a pain where you go through the motions and no one even shows up? Or maybe it’s that Bible study that just limps along without any purpose any more and seems to be a leaving point for your ministry. Don’t let the sickness spread! Keeping dead programs around will only make everything else stink, too. Just cut it, you’ll feel better.

ROUND TWO: Remove the Has-Beens

Some of the roses that have to get cut are still blooming, but they peaked last week and they will soon be wilted and dead. It’s time to cut ‘em, bring them in for a last hurrah in the vase, and then toss them out.

Do you have some aspect of your ministry that is not what it once was? Maybe it needs to be revitalized . . . but maybe it just needs to go. Sometimes we have programs and events that are great for a time and then they go away and we do other stuff. That’s fine! Do that. Get rid of things that are on their way out. Just because it’s been around for a while, doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever. You don’t want it to stick around and die.

ROUND THREE: Trim for Maximum Growth and Health

This is the hardest one. Take an honest, hard, long look at your ministry and all of the programs. Now step back and look at your mission and your values. What is the heartbeat of your church and your ministry’s role within that?

When it comes to roses, some of the pretty flowers need to be cut. The strongest stems need to stay; the straight, solid ones that grow out from the center can grow healthy and strong. They will allow the root of the plant to receive nourishment, and won’t fight among each other for sunlight and room to breathe. Pretty flowers that grow inward and clog the middle have to go. Beautiful roses on weak stems have to be cut. Too many stems will deplete the plant and make it weak.

Back to your programs: Your mission, values, and passions are your center. Everything should grow out from there, reaching first those within the ministry, and then reaching outward into the world around us. Stuff that grows back in upon itself breeds isolation and clogs up the mission with petty things like “my favorite seat” and “I want to be fed this…”; inward thinking is counter-productive to growth.

Some things that are doing well need may need to be cut. Maybe you have two programs that fulfill the same vision. If you cut one, will the other have more room to flourish? If you combine two studies that do the same thing, could you find yourself with twice as many leaders to maximize the impact? Or is there an event that always draws a lot of people, but doesn’t seem to really fit the vision for the ministry? Sometimes it’s OK to have those. But sometimes, if we are bold enough to cut them, we can grow a more purposeful event in its place.

PRUNING ISN’T PERMANENT

Nothing in this world will last forever; not even the changes you make. And as we look at cutting some things and redefining our programs, we can take heart in knowing that things can grow back.

If you cut the wrong thing, you can bring it back later. If you don’t cut enough, there’s always next year. I once cut a camp that our church did on its own in favor of the district winter camp. The district one was great. But so was the one we did on our own. So the next year, it was brought back, and it was stronger than ever.

Pray about pruning some things back. And know that if you get it wrong, there’s always the possibility of regrowth.

What are some tough cuts you’ve had to make? Or are there some things that are standing out that need to go?

Summertime Blues

Summer is right around the corner, and it is approaching quickly! I love being a part of camps, mission trips, and random outings that can only take place during the summer break. The preparation that is put into summer is all paid off when we get to see God move in our students’ lives. Summer truly is an exciting time for youth ministries!

Yet, there is a problem. I’m having a hard time getting excited for summer. In fact, I dare say I almost wish it wouldn’t happen. Currently, I’m a little down about work, school, and the opportunities I get to minister to students. In some sense, I’m even questioning my calling. Is this something I want to do for the rest of my life? Can I be happy doing some other profession? Do I even have the skills to get hired in another profession?

If you are experiencing these types of feelings, don’t worry: you’re not alone. You’re actually in good company, and what you’re going through is completely normal. What you are experiencing is what I like to call “Summertime Blues.” The cause? In my opinion, a really long spring semester. I don’t know why, but the spring semester seems to drag out, unlike the fall. It could be the anticipation from all the summer planning, and we’re just ready for it to be over? Or it could be the emotional toll we go through, leftover from Easter, and working with seniors who are about to graduate? Either ways, we may never know; however, there are ways we can combat this attitude so we can be ready for summer!

Take A Vacation

Last year I experienced the blues and my pastor suggested I take an actual vacation. A few days off here and a few days off there are fine, but they don’t have the same effect a solid vacation will provide. We need time away from the office and a chance for God to pour into us. Furthermore, our families need this as well. Finally, make sure to take your vacation before the summer starts. Last year I took mine in late July, but I really needed it before than. Plan accordingly. If you haven’t planned a vacation yet, don’t worry; you still have time to take one before the summer starts!

Go To A Conference

I believe every youth pastor should attend one conference a year. Moreover, I believe it’s even better if you can attend a conference in the fall and spring.  Conferences are a great time to worship without responsibilities and a chance to meet new people. Furthermore, they’re opportunities for you to hone your skills and get the creative juices flowing again. If you can, attend a conference that is a couple of days long. I know it can be pricey, but they’re worth. If you don’t have money for it, talk to your pastor about seeing if your church can pay for it, and if not, add it to your budget for next year. Conferences are like camp for adults. Just make sure there’s no purpleing going on, unless your spouse is with you!

Worship At Another Church

Yes, this means you have to take a Sunday off; however, it’s worth it. It’s amazing how refreshed you can be by attending a different worship service. Hearing a different voice and worshiping with a different group of people helps us to refocus ourselves for the future task at hand. Furthermore, it’s a great opportunity to see what other body of believers are doing. When you decide what church you’re going to attend, call the youth pastor up and let him know you are coming. See if they can give you a tour of their church, and if they’ll have lunch with you. Take this time to learn about a different ministry philosophy and see how God is moving among their body of believers. Be willing to worship and learn!

In the end, it’s important to track your spiritual health. Just like we plan events around certain parts of the year, we need to do so with our spiritual care. If you are experiencing the same type of spiritual slumps during a particular part of the year, then the best thing you can do is plan accordingly to combat the slumps. Learn what does and doesn’t work for you so you can get the most out of the way you take care of yourself!

What do you believe causes the “Summer Time Blues?”

What are some conferences you would recommend to attend?