Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Website Launched!

Hi everyone! I have launched a new website! All of my posts from this site have been moved over and I am now blogging at:


Please come on over and keep up with me there.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

SRC Jr. Highers Serving Those In Need!

On Friday night our SRCStudent Jr. Highers went to Queens to work with La Jornada Ministries preparing food for distribution to those in need. They made over 500 bags of sweet potatoes (6,000 lbs!), and hundreds of bags of other kinds of food. We are so thankful for our amazing adult youth leaders and so proud for our awesome students who worked hard serving others in Jesus' name.

New Family Pic

Friday, November 15, 2013

No Shave November: Day 15 Pic

Brought a Student Home Smelling Like Beer … Another Good Night of Youth Ministry!

Last night when I got home at 12:30am I received one of the best Tweets ever …

In the words of the great Paul Harvey: "And now … the rest of the story."

A couple of days ago I got a call from a friend asking me if I wanted three tickets to the Knicks game. Seeing an opportunity to spend time with a couple of boys from our youth ministry, I said "yes" and invited Nathaniel and Connor to the game. Although the Knicks lost, we had a good time together. One of the things we will remember about the game is the drunk guy behind us who was just ranting the whole game.

As we were getting off the train, I grabbed Nathaniel's sweatshirt from the overhead rack for him and it was wet. I asked him what happened, and he said Drunk Dude spilled his beer and it ran down onto his sweatshirt. I smelled my hand, and yep, it smelled like beer! We joked and said he should wear it into the house and see what his mom said. As we were driving away from his house, Connor and I saw Nathaniel putting on his sweatshirt. "Is he really doing that?" Connor asked. When I got home, I received the Tweet from his mom and just died laughing!

O yeah, and Drunk Dude was kind enough to photo-bomb us so we would have the night indelibly marked in our memories. To me, this is youth ministry at it's finest. Building memories with students. Years from now we'll get together and say, "Hey, remember when …?" I hope the conversation will also include "I remember the conversation we had on the way home," but no matter what, I hope they remember that a caring adult who loves Jesus spent time with them.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Invisible Bike Helmet

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Somebody Took Jeremiah 16:15 Literally Today ...

Sr. High NYC Photo Scavenger Hunt Slideshow

The Song I Can't Get Out of My Head

It's been years since I experienced the presence of God in corporate worship like I did this past weekend at the Saturate Youth Conference at Elim. Of all of the great songs we sang, this is the one I simply cannot get out of my head. This video is a little lengthy, but I highly recommend you watch it all the way through!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Monday, November 11, 2013

One Last Important Visit Before Heading Home

Yesterday we enjoyed breakfast with Adriana's best friend Erika and the kids in Pittsford, NY and then drove to pay a visit to one of my dear friends from my youth, Jen. It was neat introducing my kids to Jen (she only saw Claudia as a baby) and reminiscing about our years in youth group. How our youth leaders survived is a mystery. We were total class clowns. (Note to self: Those kids who are always cutting up when you're trying to teach … stuff is getting through! Believe God is Big!) Such fun memories! Please pray for Jen. She is in her 3rd bout with cancer and can really use our prayers. Thank you!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Showing My Girls What We Did For Fun When I Was Growing Up

The video doesn't do justice to how awesome this road is, but the girls' reaction does. lol!

Trip Down Memory Lane: Day 2

This morning we enjoyed the final session of the Saturate Youth Conference and seeing many more friends from our college days at Elim Bible Institute. We then spent the afternoon with our very good friends the Lepores. Such a fun time reconnecting with our roots. See all the pics here.


Saturday, November 9, 2013

Trip Down Memory Lane: Back to My High School, Our College, and More

It's been …

20 years since I graduated Honeoye Falls-Lima High School,
17 years since Adriana graduated from our college (Elim Bible Institute),
14 years since I graduated from Elim (I took a few years off),
11 years since Adriana has returned to Elim,
6 years since Claudia and I have been at Elim,
and Natalia has never been to Elim.

So, we decided it was time to all come up to the old stomping grounds for a visit. The Elim Fellowship Saturate Youth Conference was a perfect excuse to make the trip up from Long Island. In addition to really, thoroughly enjoying the conference, we have had the fun of seeing several of our old friends and professors, and showing our kids where Adriana and I met, and where I grew up. It has been nostalgia on steroids, to be sure! We're looking for another great session at the conference tomorrow morning and reconnecting with more of our friends. See all the pics here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Changing of the Leaves

Fall is far and away my favorite season of the year, and we are currently in the middle of the changing of the leaves. Nothing like the fall colors here in New York. Here are some pics we took on Sunday. Beautiful!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Man Up!

Last night I had a bunch of the fellas from SRCStudent Ministries over to my house for food and football. We hard a lot of fun chowing down and watching the game. At half-time I took 5 minutes and shared with these young men something I heard years ago from my pastor. He suggested that there are 3 types of guys.
  1. Males. To be this kind of guy, all one has to do is be born with the Y chromosome. Pretty simple. 
  2. Men. To really be considered a man, one must demonstrate a certain level of maturity marked by characteristics such as courage, hard work, responsibility, etc. It is good, noble, and appropriate for boys to become men in this regard. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
  3. Men of God. But there is another level that we are all called to pursue, and that is to be the spiritual leaders God has called us to be. Men who don't just work hard and put food on the table, but men who seek to make Christ the center of every area of their lives, work with integrity, show honor to their elders, view and treat women with purity, gentleness, and respect, love their wives with a selfless, serving love modeled by Christ for the Church, train their children in the ways of God, and who are the spiritual leaders of their homes. (Matthew 22:37-40; Job 31:1; 1 Timothy 5:1-2; Ephesians 5:25-33 Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
The challenge to our young men last night was: During this transitionary stage of your life, embrace the not only the physical and emotional growth you are going through, but pursue spiritual maturity as well. The world is in desperate need of men. Not just males, not just men, but men of God! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Another Crazy Rap Video from My Boy Jake Rutenbar

Not a Seahawks fan, but I am a Jake Rutenbar fan. This is great!

Ja Rule Gets Saved At Hillsong Church

Friday, November 1, 2013

Retreat Week Day 5: Multi-Church Retreat

Day 5: Multi-Church Retreat

Purpose: To experience the promise of God to be uniquely present and bless those united and joined together in the name of Jesus.

Eight-and-a-half years ago I assumed leadership of a youth ministry at a large church. Just moving and getting acclimated to a new church was enough. On my first day in the office my assistant and I sat down together. The first order of business we needed to attend to, she told me, was the winter retreat. Winter retreat?! It was summer! Why in the world would we start working on winter retreat?

Come to find out, she was exactly right. Our church, I discovered, put on an annual winter retreat for a number of churches each January. I had no idea what an undertaking it would be. In fact, by the time I went to the retreat location to get setup, I already had my mind made up. This would be the last year we would do this major event. It took so much energy, and I just wanted to do something with our own students.

But then a strange thing happened. Hundreds of students from many different churches showed up. There was so much excitement in the air. By the time we were into our first session I was sold. This was something we had to keep doing, no matter how much work it put on us. The presence of God was so thick and palpable. God was pouring out His blessing upon our gathering. I saw students having a powerful encounter with the living God.

That year, and each successive year, we experienced the promises of God given to us in the Bible. Two Scriptures, specifically, came to mind.
  • "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! … For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever" (Psalm 133:1-3).
  • "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).
While there are certainly advantages to having youth retreats as individual churches, and there are sacrifices to be made in order to gather together with other churches with different theological bents and traditions, I am convinced that something powerful happens when we choose to find common ground and partner together to lift up the name of Jesus.

I would guess that for the majority of churches, a good 90-95% of our calendars and budgets are consumed with events that are "just for us"; that is to say just for "our" students to grow and build relationships. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with this, the reality is that Jesus only has one Church (Big "C") - the body of Christ, and the world needs to see unity between local churches (small "c"). Something like a winter retreat or camp or conference where churches work together is a chance for the Church to come together, build bridges, and create a true picture of the unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17:22-23, which says, "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me."

If you're near New York, we are hosting Youth Winter Fest in Mt. Bethel, PA January 10-12, 2014, and would love for you to join us. We currently have 12 churches gathering together, and we still have room for a few more. If you're interested in bringing a group, e-mail me. Here's a promo video:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Retreat Week Day 4: Team Retreat B

Day 4: Team Retreat (As a Leader)

Purpose: To deepen relationships and prepare our team to effectively minister.

Yesterday I shared about two team retreats I've been on in the past few months on which I was a participant. Today i want to share two other retreats I was on, which I was leading.

Adult Volunteer Leadership Team
In early September (I wish we could have done it earlier) we took our student ministries volunteers away for 24 hours to regroup after the summer and gear up for the new school year. We loaded up at 6pm (so our leaders didn't have to miss work on Friday), drove about 45-minutes, then stopped for dinner. We went to a fun burger joint called American Roadside. After dinner we drove out to Montauk at the end of the south fork of Long Island. We got settled into our rooms, then gathered together for a brief time of sharing followed by board games until almost 2am. There was a lot of laughing happening, especially when one of our volunteers cracked open the game Pretty Princesses.

The next morning, after breakfast, we had a devotional and a time of sharing. After that we had a time of getting into small groups to pray for each other. This time of sharing and praying for each other was much-needed by our team as was evidenced by the fact that we went quite a bit longer than we had planned. This could be seen as a negative thing, as it took away from the time that I was hoping to do some leadership training, but I chose to let it go because one of the things I have really come to value through the years is the importance of having good, strong relationships between team members. More than having skills to work with students, our team needs to model loving relationships. Jesus understood this. We never really read of Him giving his disciples leadership principles (although we can certainly mine them from His teachings). What He did do was spend time just living life with His disciples, and He told them that people would know they were on His team "if they have love for one another" (John 13:35).

After a short break was did a fun, interactive, challenging activity which required everyone to work to ether. Once they accomplished the task, we debriefed the teamwork exercise and talked about how it related to working together in youth ministry. Before checking out of our lodging, we talked through the student ministry calendar for the new school year. We then had a very nice lunch together and visited the bluffs and the Montauk lighthouse before driving home.

Student Leadership Team
In October we went away for 24 hours with our 2013-2014 student leaders. Another time I will tell you about how I handled our retreat speaker having her flight canceled on the day of the retreat, but for now, I'll just share what we did on the retreat.

Friday night followed the same pattern as above. On Saturday morning we had devotions followed by two interactive training sessions. We then had each one of the student leader come into the center of the circle one at a time, and we prayed over them. We prayed for them to respond to God and be the leaders He's called them to be this year. After cleaning and packing up, we drove into town, had lunch together, and visited the bluffs and the Montauk lighthouse before driving home.

As a leader of leaders I love these kinds of retreats. Creating opportunities to get away together gives us a chance to get to know one another better. The car rides are ideal for conversations and relationship-building. I actually prefer to get away for longer than just 24 hours for leadership team retreats (and will continue to work towards that end), but my experience has been that once we move to multiple nights away our attendance decreases as the demands of finding house-sitters, baby-sitters, pet-sitters, etc. increases - regardless of how far in advance the retreats are announced.

My Fall Office

This is my office today as I am finishing up my message prep for Sunday. I love fall!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

10 Years Ago The World Lost An Amazing Man ...

I remember sitting in my office 10 years ago reading the devastating news that one of the pioneers of youth ministry, Mike Yaconelli had died. I never had the chance to meet Mike, but his books, videos, and teachings really influenced me. I loved hearing stories about him from my dad who was likewise impacted by Yac during his years in youth ministry.

Here are 5 videos of vintage Mike Yaconelli:

Video 1 - Showing Kids You Love Them
Video 2 - Dealing with Struggles in Life
Video 3 - Building Sand Castles
Video 4 - Involving Parents
Video 5 - The Best of Mike Yaconelli

Receive Inspirational Quotes from Mike Yaconelli by following @YaconelliDaily on Twitter.

Retreat Week Day 3: Team Retreat A

Day 3: Team Retreats (As a Participant)

Purpose: To receive training, strengthen team relationships, and help with planning.

In the past 6 months I have been on four different team retreats. Tomorrow I will address the two retreats I led. Today I want to share about the retreats that I attended as a participant.

The first one was our church staff retreat. Back in the spring our entire staff flew to Wisconsin and enjoyed three days in a beautiful log cabin on a lazy river. It was a great opportunity (especially for me as the newest guy on the staff) to get to know one another outside of the office. It was also a time of our senior pastor to cast vision for our church and encourage us in our ministries. We also spent several sessions brainstorming and strategizing ways to effectively reach our community and disciple the people God leads to our church.

The second one was the IT3 Summit. Each spring Group Publishing puts on the Simply Youth Ministry Conference. What I love about this conference is that it's a conference for youth workers by youth workers. In the fall preceding the conference, I have the privilege of gathering with 50-75 youth workers from around the country for what Group calls "Breathing." For three days we have times where we inhale (receive ministry through experiential learning and interaction) and exhale (share our thoughts and plan the upcoming conference).

I personally find these kinds of retreats invigorating. Being away with other people who are passionate about Jesus and ministry really inspires me, and being in the think tank gets my creative juices flowing. I love the relationships that are established and the collaboration that happens.