The Old Testament sucks like Episode I, II, and III of Star Wars suck

The Old Testament sucks like Episode I, II, and III of Star Wars suck

Do you remember watching Episode 1 of Star Wars.  It was the worst!  

For people with zero touchpoint with the original trilogy, it was a poorly done movie that relied too much on CGI and cheesy characters.  You had no emotional connection with the characters and the poor acting was a total put off.  

The entire point of Episodes I, II, and III was to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker and his transformation from child slave to infamous Darth Vader.  The movies did just that, but in a totally un-compelling way.  And because of that, anyone who's first taste of the Star Wars franchisee were these movies, they walked away with a limited understanding of the total story and didn't get to experience the emotional payoff of episodes IV, V and VI.  

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A post-Christian Gospel

A post-Christian Gospel

It is overwhelmingly obvious that the landscape in which we do ministry has changed.  The values, morals, expectations, and biblical understanding have been completely turned on its head. If we continue to do ministry the same as we have always done it, with the same assumptions then over the long haul the Church is going to find herself in trouble. 

A while agoI wrote a little about how the gospel is really not good news at all this this current generation of students.  And while many of our students "play ball" for us while they are under our supervision or while they frequent our programs, who they are in the rest of their life has little to no reflection of traditional, Judeo-Christian, ethic, values, or understanding.  If this assumption is correct then the penal-subsitutionary atonement brand of Christianity with the discipleship bench marks of shutting down sexuality or not drinking have to change.

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Want to grow some good will at your church?

Want to grow some good will at your church?

This last week I was with some fellow youth workers and we started sharing stories about times we should have, or at least could have been fired.  In fact at every youth worker gathering I have been to, this has been our go to ice breaker question.  "When was a time you should have been fired."

But what was interesting about this conversation was not the silly stories about all the dumb things we have done throughout our ministry careers, but the reasons why we dodged the bullet, avoided the ax.  And the common denominator was simply the amount of good will you have built up with parents or with your boss.  

So, if you don't want to be fired anytime soon for some dumb thing in your future, then now is the time to put some money in the bank and start building up your cash reserves of good will.  Here are three really easy ways:

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The secret to connect with any student

The secret to connect with any student

Who are the students you naturally connect with? Chances are they are students who share similar stories, experiences, or interests. If you expand the circle even larger, I bet that most of the people in your life are also people who share similar stories, experiences, or interests. This is just part of the human condition. 

There are people that we just naturally click with. We get used to hanging out and joking with people like us, which is great for building friendship among our peers, but means that we are a little out of practice when it comes to getting to know new people, especially people who we have nothing in common with. Because we are out of practice, it can be really intimidating to try and connect with students who are nothing like you. For me, it often feels like the less I have in common, the harder it is to connect. But I think the inverse of this rule might actually be true. The less you have in common with students, the better chance you have to make a genuine connection.

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How are you managing the 3 P's of power politics in your student ministry?

How are you managing the 3 P's of power politics in your student ministry?

While student ministry may be an incredible job and an even more incredible calling, there are so many hidden land mines that have caused untold damage to the life, heart, and even careers of some of the most gifted youth workers I know.

At the same time, with the right tools, (i.e. mine detector) one can learn to not only navigate these dangerous terrain, but actually thrive.  

What are the land mines?  What is the mine detector?  I am glad you asked.  

POWER is the hidden land mines, and your position relative to that power is your greatest tool in surviving and thriving in ministry. 

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A spiritual formation plan for our students

A spiritual formation plan for our students

I think we are in agreement that the world of behavior management is the Church is coming to an end.  For too long the Church has sent out a rubric of behaviors that would be indicators for the rest of the Church and would qualify people for full inclusion and even leadership.  This rubric included our language, music, politics, modesty, abstaining from alcohol, sexuality, and sexual activity.  

But as our students are becoming more and more amoral (or maybe they have always been, but are now free to express that in public) a behavior rubric doesn't seem to be a good fit for the faith development of our students.  

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Inviting students into the Family of God

Inviting students into the Family of God

Yesterday was Easter and part of our Easter message was to have an invitation, an invitation for people who are not that familiar with Scripture and for sure, don't speak Christianese.  I had the challenge, and honor to do that part of the service.  This was my attempt:

(I would also love to know how you do this in your context.  What do you expect people to know or understand when you have an invitation.  What are you inviting them into, what level of commitment are you expecting?  You know, the usual debrief sort of questions.)

Ok, here is my stab at it:

EASTER MEANS YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  BECAUSE JESUS IS ALIVE YOU HAVE FULL ACCESS TO GOD AND ARE INVITED TO BE PART OF HIS FAMILY

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2 more years

2 more years

"How much longer can you keep doing this?"

It seems like I have been getting this question a lot lately.  And by lately, I mean the last ten years.  As someone in their early 20's, student ministry was a great fit.  As I rounded the corner into my 30's I became a respected veteran and expert.  Now that I am in my 40's it just feels a bit awkward to me, and apparently to others.  So, with regular frequency, when I meet with parents, the questions always seems to come up.

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Who is holding up your hands?

Who is holding up your hands?

I love, love, love student ministry.  But if I am honest, it has got to be the hardest and most difficult thing I have ever done.  Not the tasks, not the actual job that I get evaluated for, but that subjective, spiritual, unspoken work of pouring your entire being into the life of students.  

Most people love to "invest" in the lives of students.  

But to be honest, most of this investment seems like the Farmer who is not only scattering seeds, but wasting good seed on miles of path.

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Top 10 ways to stay hip and relevant

Top 10 ways to stay hip and relevant

The number one question I get asked by people young and old is, “Ben, how do you stay so hip and relevant?”  People look at me and watch me in action and they can not believe a man in his early 40’s is so cool and has such a bead on the youth culture.  Just to prove it, I downloaded Rebecca Black’s song from iTunes way back, when there were less than  1,000,000 hits on youtube.

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March Madness: the top 5 reasons you should participate

March Madness: the top 5 reasons you should participate

March Madness is one of my favorite times of year. I love betting, I love being together, and I love basketball. Here is a post that seems timely every March! Whether or not you know anything about college basketball, March Madness is an amazing ministry tool. 

Now that the brackets have been chosen, it is time to round up any group you want to build some unity with and place your bets. It doesn’t matter if it is with your church staff, volunteer leaders, or small group, as long as it is a group of people that you like and you want to bond with, then this is the month for you.

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Irreducible Complexity in Student Ministry

Irreducible Complexity in Student Ministry

There are so many great things we do in student ministry.  But so much of what we do are simply add ons to what is truly the fundamental core values of student ministry.  The challenge is separate out what is the irreducible complexity in student ministry and what are simply the add ons.

Now, don't get me wrong, it is the add ons, the amenities, and the style points that are what makes your ministry uniquely yours.  These are probably what you are known for and affirmed for in your ministry.  But if we are not careful, we lose focus and make the amenities the main things.  What we really want to do is firmly understand the core values of student ministry and from that foundation we can build what every stylized and culturally appropriate ministry we have been dreaming about!

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How old do you have to be to start cussing?

How old do you have to be to start cussing?

This was the question that was posed to me by my 10 year old son.  It was actually a really sweet moment that tested my theology, my own convictions, and my parenting.  

A couple of weeks ago, I was reading a book on my bed  and my son climbed into bed and asked this question, "How old do you have to be to start cussing?"  I immediately went on a witch hunt to find out what dirty friend of his was poisoning his mind.  But before I could get too far down that road, my own life and actions betrayed me.  For I have been known to use colorful language from time to time.  And now, my loose lips are sinking ships.  Well, they may not be sinking ships, but they are setting up some moral dissonance for my kid and forced a gut check for me.

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04 | What do do when you are in a rut.

04 | What do do when you are in a rut.

Welcome to the Thursday Morning Debrief with Ben and Ryan.  

This is a podcast where we seek to leverage our friendship to maintain a soft heart towards Jesus and towards our ministry.

In this weeks episode:

  • What sort of circumstances get us in a rut
  • A reminder that ministry is for our students and not for us
  • Some go-to ideas to pull out of the rut and enjoy the rest of the year.
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The need to create a unique culture within your youth ministry

The need to create a unique culture within your youth ministry

It is easy to think about student ministry priorities in terms of numbers, biblical knowledge, or behavior modification. Yes, spiritual formation is the goal, but often these priorities are the lens in which we evaluate this process. 

In an era where our kids are fully post-moderns, and increasingly post-Christian, there is a ministry priority that I think should out rank the first three as a tool for spiritual formation. And that is creating a culture.  

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Why I surf

Why I surf

I little over year ago I started a new hobby, surfing.  Surfing is a really strange activity.  Unlike running, biking, hiking, swimming, surfing brings all sorts of epic connotations.  It is beautiful, elegant, cool, and elite.  I mean, very few people in the world even have access to the sport.  

And it was for some of these reasons that I decided to try my hand.  A group of my friends have been going out surfing Thursday morning for years, and have been inviting me, to no avail.  It was too early, it is too cold, and I hate feeling like an idiot trying new things in front of people.  But last fall, I got over myself and did it.  And it has been life changing.

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Why are we letting big churches dump their baggage on the rest of us?

Why are we letting big churches dump their baggage on the rest of us?

I love youth ministry.  I mean, I really love  it.  I love doing it, talking about it, reading about it, writing about it, and learning from my "industry" leaders about upcoming trends and practical helps.  

But what I have found to be disconcerting after learning from the "experts" for quite some time, is that I am not really sure that they are the "experts."  The talking heads and leader authors and presenters in youth ministry circles are good looking, successful, high capacity youth ministry leaders of some of the largest youth ministries in our country.  But they reason for their huge numbers are because they are part of huge churches.  

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