Sunday, October 31, 2010

Daughters Baptized Today!

Today I had the tremendous joy and privilege of baptizing my daughters. They have both accepted Jesus to be the Leader of their lives and were baptized today as a step of faith and obedience. Here are a few pics. I am working on getting the video and as soon as I do I will upload it.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lecrae "Background" Featuring C-Lite (whose performed @ Planet Impact!)

For all you Elim peeps, notice my main man David Ham in there a few times.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Belize Hurricane Update from Pastor Ron Braaten

"What a shock to see so many beautiful tree uprooted or broken. My yard looks strange. The carport was dismantled today and now we begin again. Three vehicle were damaged. This all can get fixed. My family and friends are all safe. Thank you Lord. Our church lost the entire back section we put up for the Sunday School. We will have to start over. The power meter and lines were torn off the building as well. We may not have service tomorrow night. Keep praying for the recovery and rebuilding process. And the funds we need to do that. I'll send pictures." - Ron

Here are a few pictures of the back section of the church that was there when we were there this summer, which was lost in the hurricane. Friend Pastor Ron on Facebook for updates.

Scare Andy & Get 20% Off Youth Ministry Resources!

SimplyYouthMinistry Scare Andy Sale

Friday, October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another Cool Starbucks Encounter

I was sitting in Starbucks reading today when a man about 50-years-old came in and sat in the seat across from me. I had seen him on Monday and noted that he had some kind of disability. Unbeknownst to the man, I decided to buy him a coffee and told the barista not to charge him when he came up; that I would pay for it. When he returned to his seat he mumbled to himself, "Yeah, but she's married. Oh well." I had to laugh ... he thought the manager was flirting with him because she said his coffee was free. Anyways, I started a conversation with him and found out that his name was Joey. After some small talk he said, "Well, I might as well go ahead and tell you. I have a brain injury." He told me that he was in a car accident a few years ago and had been in a comma for 6 weeks. He said he had to learn to talk all over again. I told him that God had been so good in allowing Him to live, and that he had experienced the grace of God first-hand. He told me that just the other day two Baptists had come to his house and invited him to church and that he had been baptized "just like Jesus was." We had such a beautiful talk, and before I left I asked him if I could pray for him. He agreed, and I held his hand and prayed for God to continue speaking to him and healing him. When I opened my eyes he had this huge smile on his face and expressed his gratitude. I also wrote his name down so I could continue to keep him in my prayers. I then went to the counter, payed for his coffee and left. Would you join me in breathing a prayer for Joey today? Thanks!

Matt McGill Sports Instructional Videos: Golf

Matt McGill Sports Instructional Videos: Soccer

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Winter Retreat 2011 Early Bird Special!

Hand in your $60 non-refundable deposit by Thursday, October 28th and go for a total cost of $160 instead of $175!

How My Students Tell Me They Love Me

Yep. In the twisted, warped mind of teenagers, this is how they tell their youth pastor they love him. At least, I think that's what they meant. lol!

Unbelievable Dunks!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

14-Year Relationship Over

Sadly I have had to part ways with a long-time friend whose been all around the world with me. We've been to Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Belize, England, Tanzania, Canada, and all around the United States, and have had many wonderful memories together. That's right, I'm finally saying goodbye to my trusty Lands End suitcase. It's a sad day! I'll never forget you Mr. Suitcase!

New Teaching Series: 3 Big God-Ideas


Friday, October 15, 2010

The "Talk Station"

I just picked my girls up from school. My 9-year-old daughter and her friend made a "Talk Station" at recess so kids who are having a tough time can have someone to talk to. This is the tree they sit in to talk with kids. Wow! I'm blown away by her sensitivity to others and her desire to offer them help. Such a proud papa!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Small Groups ARE Youth Ministry

I am right now having a powerful moment. I just walked around and eavesdropped on our small groups. Not one to be into numbers, I did do a head-count tonight to see what my adult-to-student ratio is. As I write this I hear the rumblings of transformational conversations happening next door about life and faith and am so excited that we have 65 students being intentionally discipled by 16 caring adults. That's a 1-4 ratio of adults to students. I am so thankful to God for my wonderful adult volunteers. They are truly my heroes! As my buddy Josh Griffin Tweeted the other day ... small groups ARE youth ministry! I couldn't agree more!

Youth Ministry Assessment Results

Today I completed a Youth Ministry Assessment from the Youth Ministry Architects to see how we're doing in creating and maintaining a healthy and balanced approach to youth ministry. Here are our results.

Climate: Firm Foundation

Your church has done an outstanding job tending to the "climate" (the culture) surrounding the youth ministry. There is a foundation of joy and confidence in the ministry, a foundation that will simply make everything run more smoothly. There is no more important first step to take in building a sustainable youth ministry than tending to its climate, and Smithtown Gospel has done this well. A positive climate lubricates the ministry, allowing good decisions to be made more quickly and investment in the youth ministry (in funding, staff and volunteers) to come more easily.

Structure: Firm Foundation

Your church has done an outstanding job tending to the foundational structure of the youth ministry. You have "squared your corners" in a way that will likely save much time and energy as you move your ministry strategically forward. It is likely you have an excellent "air traffic controller" on your leadership team, someone who can manage multiple priorities well and who has the ability to empower volunteers to "own" the responsibility for carrying much of the weight of the youth ministry.

Staffing: Firm foundation

The paid staff leading your youth ministry is exceptionally positioned to lead the youth ministry well. Your church has done an outstanding job creating mechanisms for maximizing the longevity of staff and for ensuring the high levels of accountability for those staff members. Sustainable youth ministries tend to be led by youth staff who bring with them the unique benefits of experience in your particular context. As long as your staff attends to the foundational concerns outlined in this assessment, Smithtown Gospel can expect increasing and sustained momentum in its youth ministry.

Volunteers and Recruiting: Firm foundation

The Smithtown Gospel youth ministry has done an outstanding job building its volunteer team. In a time when most churches name "difficulties associated with recruiting and volunteers" as one of their top challenges, your ministry has successfully beaten the odds and developed systems not only for recruiting but also for sustaining the volunteers serving in your ministry. This achievement did not come by accident; the youth ministry would be wise to find ways to celebrate not only the accomplishments of your volunteer team but particularly the extraordinary work of the person responsible for recruiting and equipping volunteers in your ministry.

Curriculum: Firm Foundation

When it comes to curriculum, we have one word for you Congratulations! Yours is one of the few youth ministries that have actually taken the time to be purposeful and deliberate about what the youth of your church will be taught. Instead of building your curriculum around the hottest new resource with the most effective marketing campaign, you have created a clear framework for you're your young people will learn.

Vision and Goals: Firm Foundation

The Smithtown Gospel youth ministry is one that is guided by a clearly defined vision for what the church hopes to see happen in its youth ministry, and there appears to be broad-based buy in to that vision. You have given your volunteers and staff a clear sense of "where home plate is," allowing them to all pull in the same direction together. You'll want to make sure that you have systems in place for be an intentional annual review. The annual review provides time to revisit all your visioning documents, with a special focus on reviewing the ministry's progress toward achieving its goals from the previous year and setting new, reasonable, and measurable goals for the future.

Conclusion: Firm Foundation

In summary,Smithtown Gospelhas done an outstanding job building the kind of infrastructure necessary for building a sustainable youth ministry. Though in any ministry, there is always room for improvement, this ministry has developed enough momentum from tending to foundational priorities that this church should anticipate a continued track record of highly effective ministry.

A Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
when there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand,
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

HomeWord ... A Great Parenting Resource!

Hey Mom & Dad! Here's a tremendous resource for you. HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches to build God-honoring families from generation to generation. (“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6)
America’s Parents Have Tremendous Needs. Consider that:

  • Nuclear families have dropped to below 25% of all households.
  • The number of single dads grew 70%, and the number of households headed by single moms grew 25% in the last decade.
  • Every thirty minutes in America - 29 kids will attempt suicide, 2,795 teenage girls will become pregnant, and 22 girls will get abortions.
  • Studies reveal that 85% of the people who make a commitment to Jesus Christ make the decision by the age of 18, or they never will.
  • Churches are generally not equipped to respond to the needs of parents
HomeWord is a place where Parents Get Real Answers! In response to the overwhelming needs of parents and families, Jim Burns founded HomeWord in 1985. HomeWord is a Christian organization designed to provide assistance to adults worldwide as they help young people make wise decisions and lead positive, vibrant, Christian lifestyles. Multiplication and Leverage: While absolutely committed to young people, HomeWord equips parents, grandparents and youth leaders; those who daily reach out to kids. By equipping adults, and leveraging those adults to reach kids, HomeWord reaches more young people more cost effectively.

Four Strategies to help adults help kids...
  1. HomeWord Radio – HomeWord reaches over a million parents a day through a 30-minute daily radio program being broadcast in most of our country’s largest cities and a one-minute radio commentary that is being broadcast in over 800 cities. Offering help and hope, HomeWord Radio is our mouthpiece to the world.
  2. – Every month tens of thousands of parents visit for advice and resources. A truly interactive web site, is an on-line ministry of support for parents, grandparents and youth leaders.
  3. HomeWord Resources – More than a million resources for parents, children and youth workers have been translated into 17 languages on 6 continents.
  4. HomeWord Events – Parenting and marriage events educate and encourage parents, provide answers to life’s most important questions.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Tonight I will be facilitating a conversation about bullying at PI-678 for our middle schoolers. Here are two videos I'll be showing. The first one features author Frank Peretti talking about his past, and the second one is a music video inspired by his book No More Victims.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Colorado Day 5

Today I ran to Kohls and bought a new suitcase to bring home all of the resources I got from Group for my team. I then went to Buffalo Wild Wings for lunch and spent some time journaling. I then went back to the Devil's Backbone, but this time I hiked the entire trail. It is a stunningly beautiful piece of God's artwork. Incredible! After a quick pit stop back at the hotel, I drove to Estes Park. When I arrived the weather changed suddenly from a decent day to very cold and rainy. I picked up a few souvenirs; however, I have only been to one place in all of my travels where finding a plate and a bell (two things we collect) are harder to find, and that was in Africa. I then headed back to Loveland and on the way stopped into Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park and engaged in a prayer experience. It was a wonderful time with the Lord. I then grabbed some dinner and headed back to my room where I ate and watched the MLB playoffs. Tomorrow I head home. Can't wait to see my girls (including the one who calls me husband)!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Colorado Day 4 - Climbing Twin Sisters Peaks

Today I was hoping to sleep in, but found myself awake at 7:45 a.m. and unable to go back to bed. I was planning on climbing the Twin Sisters Peaks (which are 11,428 and 11,413 feet in elevation) tomorrow, but decided to go ahead and do it today. I started at 11 a.m. and after following the train for about a quarter of a mile it suddenly ended. It looked like some foot trails went off to the left, but it didn't take long for them to blend in with all of the animal trails, and I knew it wasn't the right way. However, I did stumbled upon the skeletal remains of an elk. I then backtracked, but still did not find the trail. I spotted some orange trail markers going up the hill through the woods, so I followed them, and gladly they led to the trail. It took just under two-and-a-half hours to reach the summit, and I only saw 8 other people coming down as I was going up. I did spot some chipmunks and squirrels and on a handful of occasions heard rattlesnakes shaking their rattles. I was hoping to see one, but no luck. I spent about a half hour on the top of the two summits. I chatted briefly with some park rangers who were doing work on a tower. There were several mules with them who bring them and their equipment up. They said it takes the mules about an hour-and-a-half to get up. Not unlike the commute from Long Island to NYC. lol! I then ate some trail mix, drank some water, and headed back down. Going down only took an hour-and-a-half, and the trail which had eluded me on the way up came out not far from my car. The driver's seat of a car never felt more like a Lazy Boy! I also downed another bottle of water which I had in the car. I then drove into Estes and enjoyed an Elk burger and journaled before driving back to Loveland. Here's the link to pics from the day.

Colorado Day 3

Today we wrapped up our three days of brainstorming, planning, and leadership community-building at Group. We really accomplished a lot and it was a vigorous, exciting experience to be a part of creating the 2011 Simply Youth Ministry Conference. I was also able to have six of my youth ministry friends record leadership training videos for my adult youth leaders which I will be posting on our Adult Youth Leaders blog in the coming weeks. After The Summit, a handful of us spent the day driving through Estes Park and the Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountains were stunningly breathtaking and we saw several herds of elk, one of which we were able to walk within 10 feet of. Absolutely beautiful! We then had dinner together in the park before heading back to Loveland where we spent several hours around the fire at the Gilmour's home talking about youth ministry. I even discovered that one of the women I worked with all week went to college with my childhood friend, Ryan Swain. So cool! Click here to see my pics from the past three days. Below are also two videos of the elk. Have your volume up and you will here them calling.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Grafting ... Video, Scripture, & A Powerful Meditation

At Group having a great conversation about grafting. Read the Scriptures below, watch this video, and reflect on this reality of life in Christ.

Romans 11:11-24

11Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. 12But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!
13I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry 14in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches.

17If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, 18do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. 19You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." 20Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. 21For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.

22Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. 23And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

John 15:1-17

The Vine and the Branches

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

9"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.

Colorado Day 2

This morning my phone started vibrating at 5:30 a.m. I didn't want to wake my roommates, so I didn't answer it. But, I figured it was Natalia calling me at 7:30 a.m. EST to remind me it was her birthday, so I sent her a text. After that I was unable to get back to sleep, so at 6 a.m. I got out of bed, got ready, and hit the treadmill and ran 3 miles. Felt so good! After a shower I had a banana and coffee for breakfast, read my Bible, and at 8:30 a.m. headed over to Group for our meetings. Michael and Lisa Gungor were here and led us in worship. After some teaching we engaged in some vigorous discussions on the care team, discussing how we are going to help conference attenders feel loved and cared for before, during, and after the conference. For lunch we took box lunches and drove about 15 minutes to a beautiful little park. I was able to have a great conversation with my friend Duffy Robbins. He's such a great blessing! After lunch I dropped off the people who rode with me then headed back out to a ridge I had seen called The Devil's Backbone and hiked up to it, taking some pictures. Then it was back for the afternoon session. Before dinner I went back out and took some pictures of the canyon we had driven through as well. Then we had a tasty dinner followed by a great night of fellowship and dessert at the home of Group founders Thom and Joani Schultz. It was a wonderful day!