Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thankful for my amazing wife!

With it being the week of Thanksgiving this week I'm going to blog about things I'm thankful for in ministry.

The first thing I'm thankful for is my amazing wife Jamie.  Here's why:

1.  I'm thankful that she supports me and is my biggest cheerleader!  I look for her affirmation more then anyone and her support means the world to me.

2.  I'm thankful she does the ministry with me and loves it.  Jamie is not sitting on the sidelines of ministry, she is in the game!  Not only is she the worship director of People's Church but she is also involved in Epic!  I'm super thankful for her involvement and that she loves ministry because it is such a major part of our life.  I'm thankful for every student's event she has gone to me with, supporting me on Wed, attending leaders meetings and listening to all my thoughts, dreams, struggles and victories in youth ministry!

3.  I'm thankful for her love of God.  My wife is super sexy (probably not the next words you were expecting to read, lol) but the most attractive thing about her is her love for God.  Take notes fellas, beauty with no love for God is ugly!  Her love for God, for me and ministry is an example for our students and she has impacted many lives with her love for God.

4.  I'm thankful for her love for our kids.  She's a amazing wife, worship leader and mom.  It's not easy to be amazing at all 3 and she does a terrific job!

5.  I'm thankful for her feedback, both the compliments and critiques.  Jamie has always given great insight in my ministry and I appreciate her taking the time and loving me enough to do so.  She will tell me when something stinks and even though it may be hard to hear I appreciate her honesty and I know she does it to be helpful and out of love.

A big part of my success in ministry is due to my wife!  Unfortunately I have seen guys step down, walk away, not get hired or even get fired from ministry because of their wife, I'm so thankful that is not the case with Jamie.  She is a total blessing to my ministry and I'm so thankful God sent me the perfect wife to do ministry with.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Better Safe Then Sorry May Have Saved My Life

On Wed of last week as our vacation was wrapping up in Indianapolis my stomach started hurting real bad to the point it woke me up at 2 am and I couldn't go back to sleep.  My entire stomach hurt with sharp gas like pains so I thought I had a virus or a stomach ache from all the junk I had been eating on vacation, lol.

Thursday morning I went to the doctor and he thought it might be an appendicitis but wasn't sure because I had a stomach virus in the past that felt like the one I was having at that moment and I didn't think I had an appendicitis.  So we decided to wait and see how I felt after a day of meds and rest.  The meds cleared up my stomach and helped a ton but I still had some discomfort on the right lower side of my stomach but the pain had gone down a ton.  My thought was I was paying the price for eating junk and would be a cleared up in a couple days.

Friday morning we were packing up to drive back to OKC from vacation, when the doctor's office called and told me my white blood cell count was up and he wanted me to get a cat scan to see if I had an appendicitis.  Again I told him I don't think it was an appendicitis because my pain decreased, he then told me to come in so he could check a couple things and I agreed.  I went and after talking with him he convinced me to get the cat scan because it was better to be safe then sorry since I was leaving on a 12 hour trip.  I went for the cat scan thinking the whole time there is no way I have an appendicitis but I'd like to have peace of mind and would rather be safe then sorry.

A few minutes after the cat scan was done I got a call from the doctor and he told me I had an appendicitis, that my appendix was swollen to double it's size, inflamed and filled with infection and that I was within the 36-48 hour time slot when the appendix would rupture.  Not the news I was looking for, 2 hours later I was in surgery having my appendix removed.  As I reflect I'm very thankful for a few things:

1.  I'm thankful I had to drive back for vacation, if I was in OKC I probably would have said I'm fine I don't want a cat scan and I'll get back with you if the pain gets worse which would have happened when my appendix ruptured and I would have then been in the hospital for two weeks with them treating the infection that was now spread all over my body.

2.  I'm thankful I finally gave into the thought of I'd rather be safe then sorry.  If I would have gotten on the road who knows how bad of shape I would be in right now with my appendix rupturing somewhere on the road, it could have been very bad even fatal.  Even now I'm blown away about how everything went down.

3.  I'm thankful God gave me a doctor who was a believer that encouraged me to be faith based not fear based as I was dealing with the anxiety of the surgery.  The doc was preaching to the preacher and God used him to give me great peace.  Thank you Lord.

Lastly I am so thankful for God's grace, provision, for the doctors, technology to detect and remove my appendix, for a successful surgery and recovery.  I'm also thankful for my wife and family who helped take care of me, a church that cares and supports me and a son who has been praying for me with great faith.  This has truly been a humbling experience.

I hope sharing this helps someone else who may go through something similar to what I did.  It is always better to be safe then sorry!  God gave us doctors and technology for a reason and I was healed by Him through them.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Things I found to be most effective as a youth leader

Alright I shared my blunders yesterday and today I want to share things I did that were effective when I was a youth leader.  Let me say that by no means was I the perfect youth leader and if you read my last blog you can clearly see that, but in my desire to impact the lives of students I did found some success.  Here is what I found to be effective:

1.  I went to a ton of students events.  I went to games, concerts, award ceremonies and visited them at lunch.  I remember that it not only meant a huge deal to our students but it also meant a lot to their parents, especially as a volunteer youth leader.

2.  I gave students rides to church.  I drove all over the city to help students get to our youth group.  As I mentioned yesterday I gave rides to female students without anybody with me, when I was corrected on this I did whatever I had to do to get another person to ride with me so I could keep giving rides to students that needed it.

3.  I attended all youth events outside of church, these were great times to connect even more with our students.  My favorites were camps, missions trips and retreats where I got to pray and do ministry with students.  Some of my greatest memories with students were times outside of the church.

4.  I personally planned events for our students and even planned a camp one year.  This freed up my youth pastor from doing these things and it was an amazing experience for me.  The stuff I learned from planning these things are priceless.

5.  I volunteered in the office during the week.  Whether setting up chairs, doing paperwork or making phone calls I wanted to help in every way in the youth ministry.  Again this freed up my youth pastor to focus on his message and other things but also gave me time to connect with him, help us reach more students or even something as simple as the opportunity to pray over every chair that I set up.  Being in the office also gave me random opportunities like going on a hospital visit with my youth pastor.  If I wasn't in the office I would not have gotten this opportunity.

6.  I was at youth every Wed and I came early.  There is always stuff that pops up in youth ministry and I was able to help with that by coming early, I also gave my youth pastor the peace of mind of knowing I was going to be there every week.  He never had to wonder, "Is Chris gonna make it this week?"  This also helped me build greater relationships with our students, if you miss one week that is 14 days before you see them again, basically half a month, that's a long time.

7.  If I noticed a student had missed a week or two I would call them, let them know we missed them and hope to see them next week!  If my youth pastor didn't notice or make a call I had it covered, if he did then a student got two calls, either way that student knew they were missed.

These are some things that I found to be effective but I need to point out that the greatest part is that my life was changed.  With every opportunity to serve I was stretched, grew and my life was impacted.  That's the greatest part about serving, we not only impact the lives of others but our lives are also impacted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Major blunders I made as a youth leader

I first started serving in youth ministry when I was 18 years old a few months after I had gotten saved.  Here are some major blunders I made for your enjoyment:

1.  I pelted a new student with ice over and over again because she was throwing ice at people.  I thought I was teaching her a lesson with tough love, needless to say she never got plugged into our ministry.  I had to apologize 3 weeks in a row in front of the entire youth ministry for my actions.

2.  When I was the youth worship leader I got so frustrated at practice that I punched the wall and put a dent in it.  Not good!

3.  I got into a huge argument in my youth pastor's office with another youth leader.  We were yelling so loud students could here us in the next room.  I even more embarrassed to say the argument was over a girl we both liked who was a senior in the youth ministry.  I was highly embarassed and ashamed when my youth pastor walked in.

4.  I gave rides to female students without another student or adult in the car.  I was naive and just thought I was being helpful.  When i was first corrected I was upset, thinking no one else is bringing them to church, then I saw the perception of it so I got a student or leader to go with me and I still helped provide rides.

5.  I was way too competitive and lost my cool way too many times in bball games or any other sport.  Notice the trend of anger issues.  I've grown a ton in this area.

6.  I tried to fight a guy who was the boyfriend of my ex-girlfriend at a major youth outreach.  I just lost my cool, it was not a good moment.

Needless to say I gave my youth pastor a few headaches, lol.  However I'm very thankful for his grace, mercy, patience and correction.  You may think why didn't your youth pastor kick you out?  If you asked him I think he would say I would always repent and correct my mistakes.  My heart was in the right place I just had some issues and I learned from my mistakes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Youth Leaders/Pastors: Our students deserve the best and nothing less

Jesus gave us his best and nothing less and I believe every youth leader/youth pastor should also give their best and nothing less for our students.  Every Wed in our experience we strive to give our students the best and nothing less and because of this...

1.  We expect our leaders to serve every week.  Every Wed matters and every leader matters and when a leader is missing we aren't giving our best.  I understand people have to miss for vacation, sickness, work, family emergency and similar things but other then that we need all hands on deck every week!

2.  We expect leaders to be on time every week and if they aren't to notify their team leader.  Every minute counts and we need every leader in place before our students arrive so we give them the best experience.  If leaders are late that means some area of ministry is short handed for that amount of time and we are not giving our students the best.  We will do whatever it takes to get it covered but it's still not better then that leader being on time and ready to roll.

3.  We expect our leaders to be on point in their area of service.  Sloppiness, being unprepared or carelessness leaves an impression, a negative impression and we want to give the best impression every week.  In order for this to happen we train our leaders in their area of ministry and if anything is off point we correct it, learn from it and make it better.  Our goal in this is not to nit pick or single someone out but it's to give our students the best.

4.  We expect all of our transitions and media to be flawless.  Again we want to give our students the best experience possible not average or just above average.  In order for that to happen we must do a run though, cover every detail and be very focused for the entire experience so everything runs smoothly.  With that we also strive to start and end on time every week.

5.  We plan our messages and series 3-4 months in advance so we aren't whipping something out last minute for our students.  The deserve the best so we plan and pray well in advance on what we are teaching.

6.  We are constantly recruiting and training new leaders.  In order for us to grow and give our students the best we must have plenty of adult leaders to run these experiences and love on our students.  

7.  If something is not the best we don't turn a blind eye to it, we address it, tweak it and do whatever we can to make it the best.  Every week we critique our experience to make sure we are giving our students the very best and nothing less!

Disclaimer: Hear my heart we are by no means perfect in these areas but this is what we strive for every week.

Now you may be thinking "Man that's a lot" and to that I say our students deserve the best and nothing less.  Give me your thoughts!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Incorporating the Arts into our worship

At Epic we are moving towards incorporating the Arts into our worship and last week we had a first experience where we went from a hip hop performance into our worship set.  In the future we are also looking to add percussion, dance, stomp and special songs into the mix.  I got this idea from Youth Explosion which is led by Chris Durso, check them out at www.youthexplosion.com.  Here is a clip of a song that Donelle Cole (youth leader) and J'Juan Roberts (Epic student) specifically wrote for our Psalm 23 series.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Psalm 23 Recap

For the month of October we went through the entire chapter of Psalm 23.  It was awesome teaching this chapter verse by verse to our students and it had a major impact on their lives.  A couple cool elements we did for this series was every Wed night we started off the message reading out loud the entire chapter of Psalm 23 together and we put out a challenge for our students to memorize the entire chapter.  To help with the challenge we made a card that said Epic on the front and had the chapter of Psalm 23 on the back that we gave to all of our students.  We also are throwing a pizza party for all the students that can quote the entire chapter to us, it was really cool hearing about students memorize the chapter!

We also ended the series with our annual costume party, enjoy some pics of our best costumes!  The one in the black box was a vending machine with a claw inside of it but you can't see the claw.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Youth Leaders: Relationships + Trust Leads To Discipleship

In my opinion the greatest way to disciple a student is through a relationship build on trust.  Students are like Shrek, they are onions with lots of layers and we can't truly disciple them until we get passed the layers.  If we spend all our time focusing on the content and it's depth without building relationships a lot of times our words and what we teach or share will fall on deaf ears.  Their ears and hearts will open up when they trust us.  With that it's important to remember that trust is not given it is earned.  Here are some keys to earn our students trust:

1.  Love them unconditionally - When a student sees we love them and all of their mess it will definitely tear down some layers.  It will also open them up to allow us to help them with their mess.  This is huge!

2.  Longevity - The longer we are present in their lives the more layers will come down.  Our students are sizing us up, are we their for the long term or short term.  Longevity goes a long way to building trust with our students.  Also some students have more layers then others so it's going to take longer to build that trust, they only way to get their is through longevity.

3.  Consistency.  Not only do we need to be apart of their lives for the long haul but we need to be consistent, trying to build a relationship with a student only once or twice a month is very difficult.

4. Transparency - Share our stories and life experience with them, especially our failures.  When students see we trust them with our story they will start to open up and trust us with their story.  If we try to be all holy and act like we have no issues they will see right through that and the layers will stay up.

5.  Go the extra mile - whether it's visiting them at a school lunch, going to their event, buying them lunch or their favorite drink, a random text or phone call, this kind of stuff helps build trust.  It shows the students we care for them and their interests.  When I was a student I was always meant a lot to me when my youth leader came to my event, called me to check up on me and bought me lunch.  I knew he didn't have to do those things and when he did it showed he truly cared.  These things tore down my layers with the quickness.

To disciple our students we must pull back the layers and the best way to do that is through a relationship built on trust.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Youth Leaders/Pastors: Watch out for wolves!

I would classify the students that come into our youth ministry in 4 categories.

1.  Christian students.
2.  Students who are whoever they are hanging around with.
3.  Unsaved students.
4.  Unsaved students who want to attack the rest of the students.  These are wolves!

The students that are wolves are out to do damage and can hold your youth ministry hostage or scare students away.  We must not only watch out for wolves but if a wolf won't change into one of the other 3 categories we need to remove them.

Here are some characteristics of wolves so you can identify them:

1.  They have zero respect for authority and are defiant.  This student won't listen no matter what you do and will get very loud and ugly.  As soon as you identify them suspend them from your ministry.  We can't protect the rest of our students or ensure a safe atmosphere when we have a student that won't listen to anyone.  (this is huge, a student's response to correction is what we use to gauge are they a wolf or just a student that got out of line)
2.  They only listen to the youth pastor.  Wolves are crafty, they will act up until the youth pastor addresses them but as soon as the youth pastor is out of their site they are looking for their next victim.  Our students need to have the same respect for my leaders that they have for me.
3.  They are repeat offenders.  Again they try to be sneaky by spreading out their attacks.  We take notes on students we have issues with to catch this.
4. They attack other students.  If they start a fight, talk about fighting, bully or threaten another student they are a wolf and need to be suspended.

You may be thinking, "doesn't every student count," yes they do but we can't sacrifice all of the other students for the wolves.

In our eyes suspending them is ministering to them.  When we suspend a student here are things we do to minister to them through the process:

1.  We explain to them why they are being suspended and how their behavior is appropriate and that this kind of behavior will not help them in anyway.  They need to understand the why versus "because I said so."
2.  We notify their parents and ask them how can we minister to their student and offer to meet with them one on one outside of Wed night.
3.  After a student is suspended we follow up with them to see how they are doing, let them know we love them and are praying for them.
4.  Lastly before a student can come back we meet with them and their parent to set up a plan of action to ensure they don't revert back to wolf like behavior.

Lastly let me say I'm all about grace, Lord knows I was a heathen dog when I was a student so their may be exceptions to some of these rules but I still think it's something we need to be aware of and address if it comes up versus turning a blind eye and allowing a wolf to ravage our youth ministry.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Youth Leaders: We Can't Do This Without You

To close this week I want to give a shout out to all of Epic's youth leaders and every youth leader in the world.  You are the backbone of our ministry and we can't do this without you!  Worship, small groups, set up/tear down or any other area of service can't survive without you!  Thank you for the countless hours, love and prayer you direct towards our students!    Because of you millions of teenagers across the world heard the good news of Jesus Christ, many got saved, healed, delivered and have hope because of your investment in their lives and your Christlike example.

You are awesome and never, never, never forget you ARE making a difference!  Even when it feels like you are not know that students ARE watching you, learning from you and ARE being impacted by you!  If you quit they would notice and would miss you, I promise!  So stay strong, refreshed and know you are appreciated.  Thanks again!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Youth Leaders/Pastors: Family First!

Our family should always come before ministry, but if we aren't intentional and paying attention to this it can easily shift to our ministry coming before our family.  This is an unhealthy place that can not only hurt our ministry but even worse it can hurt our family.  Look at what Timothy writes to those desiring to lead/pastor  

1 Timothy 3:4-5 says He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

Scripture is very black and white on this issue and I've made the mistake and have seen many others put ministry before their family in different capacities.  For me personally I'm guilty of putting more energy, strategy and focus on my ministry then on my family, this was a short but potentially very dangerous season in my life and I'm very thankful I got things back on track.  To help me get back on track I had to start looking at my family in the same light that I look at my ministry.  Here are a few thoughts that helped me out:

1.  As much as I love the ministry I should love our family more.
2.  For as much blood, sweat and tears I put into the ministry I should put in more for my family.
3.  For as much strategy as I put into the growth and health of my ministry, I should put more strategy into the growth and health of my family.
4.  For as much prayer as I pray for my ministry I should pray more for my family.
5.  For as much as I am intentional with my time for the ministry I should be even more intentional with time for my family.
6.  For as much as my thoughts are consumed by the ministry they should be more consumed by my family.
7.  I've also learned to say no to things that aren't top priority so my family is top priority.
8.  Another element that helped me was having people in my life I could be transparent and honest with, people that have an outside perspective to open my eyes to things I wasn't seeing.  If you don't have this person find them quickly!  We all need accountability.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm still leading my ministry to the best of my ability and working hard but now I'm also leading my family to the best of my ability and my family comes before my ministry.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Youth Leaders: Everything We Do Matters!

As a youth leader we are called and expected by God to live our lives to a higher standard as stated in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

1 Timothy 3:1-7 says Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

There is a ton of meat to this passage but for this post I want to focus on what it means to be above reproach because it speaks to the gray areas of life that can hinder our influence.  The simplest way I can explain it is if any of our words or actions could be perceived by parents, students or anybody as negative or questionable DON'T DO IT OR SAY IT!  Some people think well that's not fair, again read the passage above, as leaders we can't just do whatever we want, we must be above reproach, respectable and have a good reputation with outsiders.  Here are some above reproach areas to look at (side note I don't list these things to point fingers because Lord knows when I was a leader I messed up on all of them):

1.  Our attitude when playing sports.  Are we too competitive, sore losers or dirty players? 
2.  How do we react to a rude waitress/people?  Are we rude back or gracious?
3.  What are our posts of facebook and twitter like?  Are we negative, use inappropriate language, bash people?
4.  How is our language?  Are we bringing life or death with our words?
5.  What kind of movies, tv shows and music are we taking in?  Are they filled with perverse language, nudity or other inappropriate content?
6.  Are we flirtatious with students of the opposite sex or can our actions be perceived that way?
7.  How do we control our anger?  Do we lose control of show self control?
8.  When we mess up are we humble and make it right or are we prideful make excuses or blame others?

This is just a short list but I share it to show everything we do matters and will affect our influence in a positive or negative way.  A saying we use a lot and live by at People's Church is perception is reality.  If it can be perceived in a negative way by anybody we won't do it or will change it.  That action isn't worth losing the ability to disciple and reach out to students.  Therefore, in all areas of our lives let's be above reproach, respectable and have a good reputation with outsiders!

Examine your heart, words and actions and ask yourself this question: What do I need to change to live a life above reproach?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Beware of being a buddy

As youth pastor's and youth leaders caring for our students and building relationships are huge as I mentioned in yesterday's blog but we must do it in a way that we don't throw away our influence.  We throw away our influence when we become what I call a "buddy."  We want to be leaders, role models and mentors not buddies.  When we become a buddy we are just like any of their other friends, this will definitely hurt our influence.  We must still maintain a level of respect with our students while we build relationships and have fun with them.

Here is how we avoid becoming a buddy:

1.  Don't worry about being cool, just be you.  Wanting to be cool can lead us into doing something stupid, immature that causes us to lose the respect of our students and even get us fired, lol.
2.  Don't condone or ignore reckless behavior.  If you see it or know of it lovingly correct them.  You also cannot be the person they do crazy and wild things with.  We spend so much time trying to be the fun guy let's not remember it's important to also be the guy who draws a line.
3.  Don't let them disrespect you.  This is gonna happen and you have to lovingly correct the students when they do it.  They need to know you are the adult and they are the student.  If you let them disrespect you they will start to walk all over you.  With that you have to be careful with how you interact and what you say to them.  If you are wrestling with them you have to draw the line (this pertains to guys more then girls, lol), if you are cutting up with them you have to draw the line, don't let these things get out of hand.
4.  Don't ever, ever let them disrespect your family.  Students don't see these lines at times, we must make them aware and by doing this we avoid being the buddy and can lead them strongly.
5.  Have spiritual conversations with them.  If all you ever talk about is farts, video games, cutting up, sports and never have a spiritual conversation you are simply a buddy.  You may think "but what if I'm living it out?"  We definitely need to do that but also talk it out, ask questions, this must be a follow up step to what you are living out.
6.  Challenge them.  If it's all fun and games and no challenges you are a buddy.  A mentor/leader is someone who challenges their students to grow and be greater!
7.  Have fun the right way.  Avoid doing things that can hurt students physically, get them grounded, give your senior pastor headaches, could get you or them arrested, basically if you are ever in doubt DON'T do it!
8.  When you mess up, cross a line, hurt a student or use bad judgment around them or to them make sure you acknowledge it, apologize for it and make it right.  This is huge!  Be humble, show your students humility.  Be prideful and you are looked at as a buddy, be humble and you are looked at as a leader/mentor.

Please hear my heart, I share this blog because I have made this mistake and I've seen too many youth pastors/youth leaders become buddies and throw away their influence.  Be a leader/mentor not a buddy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Care Factor

I have heard this quote many times in my life and it's key to having a successful youth ministry or ministry in general, "Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."  Trying to minister, mentor and influence a teenager is not going to happen without a relationship.  When they trust you is when they will open up to you, until then they will be a closed book or putting on a show.  I remember spilling my guts out to my youth pastor but only after I saw that he cared for me, before then I put up a big ol front.  He saw passed that front but wasn't able to minister passed that front until I saw that he genuinely cared for me.  A position doesn't give us a wide open door to a student's life, a caring relationship is what will start to open the door.  So whether you are a youth pastor, youth leader, mentor or teacher our position will only get us so far, to truly influence we must care for our students.  Again students don't care how much we know until they know how much we care!  Here are a few practical steps to show students we care for them: (if you are a small group leader these things are a must to have a successful small group!)

1.  I don't want to take anything for granted and even though I think this is a given I want to make sure it is said, know their name!
2.  Take interest in what they are interested.  Ask lots of questions to learn their interests and to get them talking about their interests.  I'm not a gamer but I can talk and learn about video games.
3.  Go to their events and games, this is huge!  Every student loves having a cheerleading section when they perform.
4.  Love them even when they are acting unloveable.  Consistent care is key!  One moment of caring will rarely open the door into a student's life.  It will more likely take months, maybe even years!
5.  Pray for them and let them know it.  Maybe in your quiet time to pray for them, shoot them a text to let them know you are praying for them.  When you have opportunities pray for them in person.
6.  Call them just to say hello and see how they are doing.
7.  If they are missing call or text them to let them know they are missed.
8.  Be there for them in a time of need like when they are in the hospital, have a death in the family, etc.

If you have other ideas on how to care for and build relationships with students leave a comment!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Owling Week!!!!!

This month at Epic features "The Battle" which is a competition between our community groups.  This year we are giving the groups an assignment each week to get points.  This week features Owling!  Every student can bring one picture with as many people owling in it as possible.  They get points for every person owling in the picture.  They also get points for bringing their Bible, a guest, buying an epic tshirt and wearing that tshirt on Wed night!  The Battle has begun and it's getting intense!  If you don't know what owling is here is a pic of my associate youth director, he has perfected it!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday Night Recap

Last night at Epic we started a brand new series called Shut Yo Mouth.  Between both campuses we saw 10 students give their lives to Christ, thank you Jesus!  Here is an overview of the message:

Title - Is it ok to cuss?

Ephesians 4:29 says Don't use foul or abusive language.

Cussing or any faul and abusive language is a sin.  If we struggle with controlling our tongue here are 3 keys to changing our language (during this whole time I preached with a cow tongue in my hand):

1.  Ask and allow God to change your heart. - Basically if we have a tongue issue it's because we have a heart issue.  Something needs to be healed and restored.

2.  Don't listen to media that is filled with foul and abusive language.  We speak what we think and what we allow into our ears will affect our thoughts which then affects our speech.

3.  Have a game plan. - There is no quick fix, faith without works is dead, we gotta believe and WORK at it!
- To help our students have a game plan we are going a 30 day clean up your language challenge.  We gave them a wristband with the scripture Ephesians 4:29 on it, every time they cuss or use foul or abusive language they have to switch the wristband to their other wrist.  We are praying they do this enough it will really make them aware of the words they are using and change it to the point they are rarely switching the wristband.

All in all it was a great night and I'm believing God's going to use our students tongues to bring life not death.

Next week's message is titled Don't Be A Snitch!

Friday, September 2, 2011

School Lunches Pt 3

School lunches are a major part of our strategy to reach students for Christ, here are some benefits of going to school lunches:

1.  We get to build a relationship with the school, community and their administration.  I once had a principal tell me that a new family asked him about any good churches in OKC to attend and he suggested People's Church because of our presence we had on their campus.  He told me he didn't even suggest his church because he's never seen their youth pastor there.  We have also been contacted by schools when tragedies hit to help, this wouldn't happen if the school didn't know about us.

2.  It's a great way for our students to introduce their friends to their pastor and to give their friends a little glimpse of Epic.  The reality is as youth pastors we are the face of our ministry since every week they hear us teach for 15-45 minutes depending on how long winded we are, lol.

3.  It's a great opportunity for me to meet new students and then remember their names when they come to Epic and personally welcome them.  This is huge, like the Cheers song says "everybody wants to go where people know their name."

4.  I'm a walking billboard reminding students who have been missing at Epic that we miss them and hope to see them soon.

5.  I'm a walking billboard for Epic in general, one of the questions I get asked the most is "who are you?"  They are thinking who is this old bald white guy, but out of their mouth comes "who are you?"  Every time I answer that question I introduce students to our student ministry.

6.  I empower my students to invite their friends to Epic.  Many times when students introduce me to their friends they follow the introduction by saying "you should come to my church tonight" and I say "yeah we would love to have you."

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wednesday Night Recap

Last night at Epic we concluded our series Be The Change.  The title of my message was To Be The Change We Must Introduce People to Jesus!  My text was 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  Here's a quick overview of my points:

1.  Get hype about Jesus - We talk about the things we are excited about.  If we aren't excited about Jesus we aren't going tell others about Jesus or invite them to church where they can meet Jesus.

2.  Be a bringer - the greatest chance of getting someone to come to church is by bringing them to church.  I challenged the students to do everything possible to fill the vehicle that brings them to Epic every Wed.

3.  Be strategic - Paul was all things to all men to win them to Christ.  I challenged our students to learn their friends and will help get them to church.  I also challenged them to take advantage of everything Epic does.

Next week Wednesday Connect (our family ministry) starts and we are expecting a great harvest for the fall.  Our students are prepped and ready to be the change in their schools and in OKC.  I'm super excited for all the miracles and everything God is going to do!

We are also giving away free Epic wristbands next week so don't miss it!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School lunches Pt. 2

Every week we visit students at their school lunches, here is our strategy:

1.  The very first thing we do is we get permission from the school administration to visit our students at their lunch.  If we don't get permission we don't visit those school lunches.  We want to get on campuses but not hurt a relationship with a school or leave a bad taste in their mouth.

2.  We go to lunches on Tuesday and Wednesday because those are the closest days to our Wednesday Night Youth Experience.  This helps keep Epic fresh on our students and their friends minds.

3.  We go to lunches of students that want us to come!  There is nothing worse then going to a school lunch and get brushed off or ignored by students because they may be embarrassed or too cool for school.  We don't force it, we just find the students that want us to come and we go!

4.  We let those students know ahead of time that we are coming so they look for us.  This helps us not wander around a lunch looking lost.  That can be a very uncomfortable feeling.

5.  We don't preach at students or push our youth ministry on them.  We are there to build relationships and the only time we hand out invite cards is if we have permission from the school.

6.  We go to many different school lunches but we visit the lunches that have a majority of our students in them.  We want to see as many of our students as possible so it's great to hit up a lunch where the entire time we are walking around connecting with multiple Epic students and their friends!

7.  We go to school lunches right away, currently we have already hit up over 8 schools.  The school year is the greatest time for growth so we don't waste anytime getting on our students turf.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Weekend Recap

We had another great Sunday at Epic Jr. High!  Here are some of the highlights and other tidbits from the weekend:

1.  We had 66 students at our MWC campus and 111 at our OKC campus!

2.  We had 28 students commit their lives to Christ and 10 students attended our Launch group for new believers!

3.  2 more students completed our Launch group!

4.  Sunday night I had my youth staff at my house and we had an awesome time of food, fellowship and fun.  I love the team I work with and being able to connect with them both professionally and personally!  God has put a tremendous team around me that He is going to use to reach thousands of students in OKC.  One random thing I did was ask everyone if I gave them a round trip ticket to anywhere in the world where would they go and why?  The places mentioned were Italy, Tokyo, Africa, France, Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, Switzerland, Australia and Israel.

5.  Saturday I had my first fantasy draft, it's a dynasty league where you sign players to contracts, have a salary cap and just draft rookies.  It's pretty intense but I finally feel like I have a team that can win it all!  I've been last and 2nd to last the previous 2 years.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

School lunches - Go to them!

School is back in session which means me and my staff are visiting school lunches every week.  We normally go on Tues and Wed and it's always produces results.  This Wed we saw a lot of students that have been missing this summer and most of them we connected with at lunch this week.  Visiting lunches has played a big part in our growth, I not only see more students on Wed when we go but I see a drop in students when we don't go.  If you are a youth pastor and not going to school lunches I strongly encourage you to start going!  If you are wondering why we go on Tues and Wed it's simply because it's the two closest days to Wed night and keeps Epic fresh on our students mind.  I'll post more in the next couple days.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I share in my fall leaders meeting.

Every August I have a meeting with all of our youth leaders to get ready for the fall.  The fall is our busiest season and where we have seen the most growth in our youth ministry.  Here are some things I go over in our meeting:

1.  We eat good food!  It's always nice to break bread with those we are serving with every week.

2.  I thank my leaders for their commitment and investment in our students.  Without them Epic would be a mess.  They are the backbone of our ministry.  I'm humbled and honored to serve with all of them.

3.  I cast vision and remind my leaders that everything we do is for more life change.  Our students deserve the very best and we are going to storm the gates of hell to win as many students to Christ as possible.  We may even get burned doing it but it's worth it when one life is changed.

4.  We go over details of our fall outreach, I want all of our leaders to be on the same page and know the details of what we are doing.  I also give some overview for the rest of the year as well.

5.  The summer can get pretty crazy with people on vacation and so I use this time to remind everyone how important it is that we need them at Epic every Wed and on time.  I'll also address any other housekeeping items we may need to tidy up like changes to our structure, new ministries, changes to team leaders and other stuff like that.

6.  I always use every meeting we do to encourage our leaders to help us recruit more leaders.  They are one of our best resources to recruiting new leaders to serve in our ministry.  Most of leaders that serve were invited by one of our current leaders.

7.  We share testimonies of life change.

8. At the end we give our ministry teams a time to meet about any issues the need to discuss.

The structure of our meeting is eat and fellowship first for about 20-30 min, I cover my stuff in 45 min - 1 hour and then we have time at the end for testimonies or breaking into our teams for about 15-20 min.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Weekend Recap

1.  This Sunday was the Grand Opening of People's Church Midwest City campus and the turnout was amazing.  1280 people showed up and 65 people committed their lives to Christ!  At Epic Jr. High we had 52 students and 13 students committed their lives to Christ!  It's amazing to see what God is doing at People's Church and this is just the beginning!

2.  With the amazing turnout at our MWC campus next week we are launching a 3rd experience!  Experience times are 10 am, 11:30 am and 1 pm, we will also have Epic Jr. High for all 3 of these experiences!

3.  I'm not much of a movie goer because it's expensive and I don't want to waste my money on a movie I won't enjoy but this weekend Jamie and I went with some of our youth leaders to see Rise of the Apes.  Many people said it was good and they were correct!  Great movie, I totally recommend it!

4.  We went to the movie at Harkins Theater in Bricktown and found out they have a kid's zone you can take your kids (3-8 years old) to for only $6!!!  We will definitely be hooking that up next time!

5.  Friday night we had our young adults community group.  We had a great night of food, fellowship and many random conversations.  I love doing life with these people, if you aren't in a community group join one today!  Check out what groups are close to you on peopleschurch.tv.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wed Recap - Historic Day for Epic

Epic made history on Wed night by having our first experience at our new Midwest City Campus.  It was a great feeling to send Arjay Johnson our MWC Youth Director, over 20 leaders and over 80 students to this campus to reach and impact many more teenagers.  This all happened before our Grand Opening which gives us a great base to build off of.  Throughout youth ministry I've prayed for God to enlarge our territory  and I'm literally experiencing at a whole new level as People's Church is now a multi site church.  I'm excited for the adventure, the challenge and all the lives we are going to see impacted.  I love my church, our student ministry and am excited about the future.  This will be a greatest fall to date!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What we do for our 1st time guests on Wed night at Epic

Every Wed night our first time guests get a wristband which get's them into our VIP section after our experience.  The VIP section is open from 8:15-8:30 and features couches, music, our most popular video games, a free treat and an opportunity to meet our youth directors.  Last month we gave away free bottled sodas like IBC Root Beer, Cream Soda, Strawberry and Grape Crush.  This month we are giving away snack cakes like fudge rounds, oatmeal creme pies and zebra cakes!  The zebra cakes are my favorite!  Not only do our first time guests get to come into the VIP section but the student that brought them also gets to come with them.  At Epic our guests and anybody who brings a guest get VIP treatment.  This has been a nice little incentive to get new guests.  FYI - I totally stole this idea from Oneighty and it has worked very well for us!  Here is a little video we made to promote it.

Epic VIP Room from Epic Student Ministries on Vimeo.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Launch - A 4 Week New Believers Group Pt. 2

Again I'm super stoked about the new believers group we just started called Launch.  This group is to help students Launch into the relationship with Christ and soar instead of crash.  Here is a brief overview of what we teach at each week of Launch:

Week 1: Understanding Jesus as Savior - this is a teaching that has helped students understand their salvation and that they don't have to raise their hands every week to get saved.  This has been huge for our students!

Week 2: Understanding Jesus as Lord - this is a teaching to help students learn what it means to be selfless and that part of salvation is turning over their entire life to Christ.  Our key phrase is "He died for us so we live for Him."

Week 3: Prayer, Bible Reading and Worship - this is a teaching on why and how to pray, read their bible and worship.

Week 4:  Baptism and Living Holy - this is a teaching about what is water baptism and why we should get water baptized as well as a challenge to live a holy life.  That their old life has died and a new life has come.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Launch - A 4 Week New Believers Group Pt. 1

This month we started a new ministry called Launch.  This is a 4 week group for new believers or students who want a firm foundation for their faith that I personally teach every Wed for high school students and Sun for Jhigh students.  When the 4 weeks is up the group repeats itself.  Every week I do a 15 minute teaching for these students that is accompanied with a handout for the students to fill out.  I'm very excited about this group and we have had over 20 students attend in the first 5 weeks.    My friend Jason Patterson created the curriculum for it and it has had a profound impact on the students who have attended the group.  Here is the promo video we made for it.

LAUNCH from Epic Student Ministries on Vimeo.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sunday Recap

1.  Today at Epic Jr. High we taught our students about the Biblical Truth About Sex, which is simply that sex was created by God for marriage between a husband and a wife.  I could tell some of the students were a little uncomfortable like "can we talk about this in church?", LOL.  I think church is the perfect place to talk about it, sex should not be a bad word or topic we avoid because I promise they are hearing about it from media and in school!  Our students need to know and understand God's word concerning sex so they can protect themselves and enjoy sex for what God created it for, marriage!  Next week we address the topic: "How Far Is Too Far?"

2.  One of my illustrations was: "Having sex before marriage is like using a blender for a manicure, it's only going to lead to hurt, pain and a mess!  A blender was not created to give manicure's and we were not created to have sex before marriage!"

3.  At People's Church we also started a new series called Be My Valentine, if you missed it check it out online at www.peopleschurch.tv!  Pastor Herbert was hilarious and had good, practical content.  I also agree with him 100% of what kind of dating plan parents should have for their teens!  If you are wondering what he said again check out the message online.

4.  Sunday night was all about relationships!  We had our community group over our house for the Super Bowl.  I enjoyed the game but it wouldn't have been as enjoyable without friends.  The game was good, food was good but fellowship was better!

5.  The highlight of my day was talking to a Jr. High student who was hungry for answers about God, these moments never get old and I'm excited to see what God is going to do in this student's life!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Volunteer Driven Ministry Pt. 3

One of the questions I have struggled with and have heard other youth pastors struggle with is "How do you set high standards for people who are "volunteering" their time?"

For us it's simple, our students deserve the best, period.  Our students deserve excellence, period.  One of the ways we give students our best is through consistency.  Here are the areas we will be consistent in:

1.  Consistently we want them to have an unforgettable experience at Epic.  Our first impressions, media, set up/tear down, worship, safety, community group, Sunday morning leaders help us do this every week.

2.  We will be consistent with holding students accountable to our rules.  We believe in boundaries and discipline and must be consistent with that every week.  We don't do this because stuff is out of control, to the contrary Epic is under control every week because we have volunteers who help us be consistent in this area.  Plus it helps us teach students life skills about authority and respect.

3.  We look for and implement volunteers who will consistently be at Epic every Wednesday or Sunday.  This is a decent amount of this generation that has people that are in and out of their lives and we don't want that to happen at Epic.  Words can't express my thanks for our volunteers and the commitment they have made to our students.

4.  We will consistently change stuff up if it helps us reach and disciple more students.  Our team is super flexible, open to change, loyal and very supportive of the vision of our church, these qualities help us change when we need to.

5.  We will consistently reach students who are far from God.  In order to do this we must have volunteers whose hearts are filled with grace, patience, love, acceptance and commitment for these students.  Again I'm so thankful for my volunteers and their willingness to get down and dirty and reach students who are far from God.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Volunteer Driven Ministry Pt. 2

One of the questions I hear a lot about volunteers is how do you recruit them?  Here is what I have learned:

1.  Make it personal.  From my experience the most committed volunteers are ones who have personal connection to the ministry.  Encourage current volunteers to recruit people they have relationships with and recruit parents of students in your youth ministry.

2.  Be persistent and never stop.  Every week look for new volunteers to recruit.  Constantly remind current volunteers to recruit.  Recruiting takes hard work!

3.  Try a Sunday morning blitz.  We have done this two ways: 1.  Text current leaders on Sunday morning to talk to one person that day at church about serving in our student ministry.  2.  Get some of your top volunteers who are super out going, give them a clipboard and have them meet and sign up people before and after your experiences to check out your youth ministry.

4.  This is the most important and should be applied to the top 3 techniques, whenever recruiting someone always cast vision.  Share with them the need and impact they can help make in the lives of students.  

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Volunteer Driven Ministry

At Epic we have over 80 volunteers that serve our students weekly.  We have 3 teams of adults who serve in our Jr. High Experience on Sunday mornings, a team of Jr. High community group leaders on Wednesday night and a team of High School leaders on Wednesday night.  Our ministry doesn't grow or function without our volunteers, period and in order for us to continue to grow and serve our students with excellence we must always be recruiting and training new volunteers.  We are looking for volunteers who:

1.  Love God.
2.  Love Students.
3.  Have Integrity.
4.  Are Committed.
5.  Are Loyal to People's Church.  

We pray and look for these people every week!  God + volunteers has gotten us where we are and God + more volunteers will help us reach every student in OKC.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Weekend Recap

1.  My weekend started off with some unexpected and not very enjoyable excitement.  Friday afternoon I was in a pretty bad car wreck.  My car basically got tore up from the back and the front and my neck is pretty sore, however I'm very thankful that Jamie and Jace were not in the car and I didn't have any major injuries considering it could have been a lot worse.  Thank You Lord.

2.  Friday night we hung out with friends and watched "How To Train a Dragon."  This weekend we also watched "Inception" and "Charlie St. Cloud."  Out of all 3 movies "Inception" was my favorite and "Charlie St. Cloud" was a definite disappointment.

3.  Saturday my neck was pretty sore so I did a lot of chillin around the house, organizing mail, hanging with Jamie and Jace and did a lot of reading.

4.  We also hit up Barnes and Noble and I purchased 3 books: Crazy Love, Death By Meeting and The Blessed Life.  I'm really looking forward to reading all 3 of these books!  I'm going to read Death By Meeting first because I really want to be on point and efficient with meetings I lead.

5.  Our family has been missing out on Barnes and Noble, Jace loved it and we will visit it more often, especially during these colder months!

6.  Sunday at People's Church was great as usual.  Pastor Herbert preached a great message titled I Quit Cheating On My Wife, check it out at www.peopleschurch.tv.  Jr. High also went really well, we had some new students and in every experience a student gave their life to Christ!

7.  Sunday night we indulged in a pizzookie (a cookie in a pizza pan dish with ice cream on top) from BJ's Restaurant, if you haven't had one go get one this week!!!  The only down side is I gotta hit up the gym to burn off those extra calories.

8.  I finished two books this weekend, whoohoo!  I finished In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson and Green by my youth pastor friend Rodney Wardwell.  I enjoyed both books!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekend Recap

1.  Sunday we had 3 great Jr. High experiences!  Our attendance was good and we had 14 students give their lives to Christ.

2.  In my message I shared with my students the 4 greatest moments in my life, here they are:  1st is when I gave my life to Christ, 2nd is when I married Jamie, 3rd is when Jace was born and will be tied when Cali is born, 4th is when the Colts won the Super Bowl...JK, it's in my top 10 but my 4th is when I've seen or heard about people close to me giving their lives to Christ.  There is no greater reward then seeing people give their lives to Jesus!

3.  This weekend I finished a two week fast, it was both refreshing spiritually as well as physically.  I definitely felt closer to God, got clear direction about Epic and my life and lost about 15 pounds.

4.  My first post-fast meal was Orange Chicken from the Cheesecake Factory, we celebrated Jamie's birthday there Sunday night since it fell on a Wed during the fast.

5.  I was hoping the Super Bowl would feature the Jets vs the Packers, only the Packers made it and I will be cheering for them to win it all!

6.  I'm almost done reading Mark Batterson's book "In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day."  This book has really challenged me spiritually to take risks, move forward through uncertainty and have a greater trust in God.

7.  Saturday night we had community group, I love doing life with other believers, especially those in our community group.

8.  Friday I watched the movie, "To Save A Life", I highly recommend it!  It was a very realistic and thought provoking ministry in regards to what teenagers are facing when it comes to peer pressure and God.

9.  My Buckeyes are tearing it up on the hardwood, we may have come up short on the grid iron but we are looking real good for a National BBall Championship!  The Thunder are also tearing it up!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Resolutions

Not that anyone would care but here are some of my New Year's Resolutions:

1.  Sleep in my bed.  No I'm not in the dog house, lol, last year I got in the bad habit of falling asleep to the TV on the coach.  Sometimes my mind races so veggin out in the tv put me to sleep but no more!
2.  Lift weights consistently.  I haven't lifted weights in years so this year I'm getting back into the hitting the weights.

3.  I'm going to attempt to eat no red meat except once a month.  I'm just being real, if I'm near a Five Guys, Fogo De Chao, Texas De Brazil or Nic's I'm going to eat some red meat :).
4.  I'm not going to drink any pop this year except for when we take visiting guests to Pops, again trying to keep it real :).
5.  Read one book a month.  Last year I did some reading but I want to do more this year.  
6.  I'm not going to watch tv while Jace is awake unless it's a major sports event (playoffs, march madness stuff like that).
7.  I'm going to do my devotions in the morning.  I'm not much of a morning person so a lot of times I will pray and read my bible at night but I'm going to change it up this year.
8.  Get my weight to under 200 pounds.  Brian Rush/Vernon Deas are my inspiration!

I'm 3 weeks into the new year and right now I'm on track with all my resolutions.  If you read this blog you have my permission to ask me how I'm doing on any one of these resolutions!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is 220?

220 is a new 4 month discipleship program we have for our high school students at Epic.  The students who are approved to be in 220 program will be doing the following:

- Weekly Scripture Memorization.
- Read through the New Testament.
- Serve at Epic every week.
- Participate in 2 service projects.
- Attend special teachings led by myself and Jason Patterson.
- And more!

This program is designed to help students go to the next level in their relationship with God.  I'm super excited to see the growth, life change and impact these students are going to have on their world!

Students can get 220 applications in the high school room, the deadline for turning in applications is Wednesday, Jan. 26th.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday Jamie!

Today is my beautiful wife's birthday.  In honor of her special day here are some things I appreciate about Jamie:

1.  She's an amazing wife.  Jamie is very supportive, loving, caring and I'm extremely blessed to be married to her.  She is my better half and I'm a better person because of her.  I thank God for bringing her into my life.

2.  She's a great mother.  I love watching Jamie interact with Jace and her excitement for Cali who is on the way.  Jace knows and love's his mommy very much and she truly is outstanding with him.  Her love, care and commitment to our children is a huge blessing.

3.  She's an awesome worship leader.  This year it's been amazing to watch Jamie grow as a leader.  She is humble, teachable, a hard worker and does a great job with the worship team.  She also can sang!  Yes sang!  Sang means much better then sing and has an anointing!  :)

4.  She can cook!!!!  My house is like the food network and I love it!

5.  She passionately loves Jesus.  Everyday I see Jesus in Jamie.  She has a passion to serve and please God.  This is one of her most attractive traits in my eyes.

6.  Speaking of attractive, Jamie is smokin hot!  Mmm!  She gets me all hot and bothered :) lol, tmi right!

Happy Birthday Babe, I love you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Youth Ministry Lessons I Learned in 2010 Pt. 3

I finally figured out how small groups worked best for my youth ministry! We've failed many times but had success this year.

We currently do our small groups on Wed night as part of our experience & here is why:

1. All of our students attend on Wed night so this change took us from 20% of our students in small groups to 100%!

2. Our sharpest leaders attend on Wed night so I don't have to stress about finding leaders, host homes & another night of the week to do small groups, it really simplified things for us!

3. Our students can discuss the message while it's fresh on their mind!

4. All of our students are now connecting with each other & our leaders at a high level!

5. It saves everyone gas money! Not a real reason but a benefit.

I love the way we are doing small groups & wished we started earlier! This also allowed us to do a Battle of Community Groups which was very successful for us too!

If your wondering what our experience looks like the biggest change we made was I started preaching 15-20 minute sermons to give our small groups 25-30 minutes to meet at the end of our experience.

FYI: We split up our groups by gender, school & grade.