Monday, October 09, 2006

Austin Was Good

This is my last post from Austin. What a week it has been. I have learned much about the use of video, photography and other multi-media. I have studied our new Youth Culture in a five hour course, I learned how to program big events and to have a "Smashed-Mouthed" ministry aimed at boys and this morning I will learn how to set aside time for personal and corporate retreats. Along the way I have worshipped with some of the best young bands in the country, heard some great sermons and talks about relevant topics and laughed a lot with comedians and "Skit Guys". Wow, I am tired!

But what I will bring home with, in addition to the above, is that I feel called to be doing what I am exactly where I am doing it! Thank you for allowing me to serve in your life and your child's life. I can't promise I will implement all of the stuff I learned just the way it was taught, or if I will do all of it. But I can promise I will love you and your children andwill teach them that Jesus loved them so much he died for them.

You know, I guess I learned a lot in Austin. Thanks for allowing me to go. Signing off from Austin and until I see you again, be blessed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

NYWC Day Three

It is lunch time in Austin at the National Youth Workers Convention and I thought I would fire off a blog entry before returning to our workshops. We just finished our general session which featured: Jars of Clay, Taylor Morgan (Comedian), The Skit Guys, Shane and Shane (worship leaders) and the featured speaker, Sharon Cohn. Ms. Cohn is from the International Justice Mission. This is a great organization that helps the poor, enslaved and those who cannot help themselves. Their website is:, check it out.

I am amazed at how, for lack of a better word, AWESOME this event is. It is first class in every way, from the entertainment to the speakers, to the bands, to the seminars right down to the facility. This Austin Convention Center is amazing, it is huge. I am just loving the whole thing. I have taken a couple of photos to give you an idea of how big and beautiful it is, I hope it gives you an idea. Youth Specialties have done an outstanding job with this whole event, bravo !

I was thinking this morning how "unchurch like" this event really is. I mean you have the hosts walking around in tshirts, shorts and flip-flops taking the main stage in front of 3000 giving a Bible message. You have youth workers hootin and hollerin from the floor, you have a comedian who uses puppets right before the main speaker. I mean I have actually laughed out loud, right out load on several occasions during the talks and music time. The building is not churchy and the feel is not churchy at all. So then why do I feel so connected to God? I think the answer to that question may help us answer the questions some of us have regarding the change that might occur in our little church at 3309 Neely.

I have to tell you that I have felt so connected to God since I have gotten here. I have had a great time, even though I have been by myself. I think the reason is because there is an authenticity here that is palpable. I have not thought about what to wear (t shirt and shorts is enough), I have not been self-conscious during worship(don't tell anyone but I have had my hand in the air, sometimes even two) and I have felt relaxed and engaged during the (get this, 45 minute talks) messages, even if I disagree with the speaker. Why? Because the spirit of the Lord is here! He is moving, differently for each person I suspect, but moving nonetheless with a ferocity that is beyond wordy definition.

Yesterday I went through an AIDS epitome that Compassion International has set up. They did an awesome job of setting up an experiential "thing" that made me more aware of the AIDS epidemic in Africa than anything I have yet seen. In fact, after I went through this they asked if I would like a bracelet to remind me of the crisis. I said yes, and not only yes, but yes and what can we do? I have had other experiences since I have been here that have spoken to me of the need of "EXPERIENCE". We can no longer talk about it, we must DO it.

The change that is coming is being done inside of me, not something I do, but something I am becoming. I urge you to consider this too as we begin the "change" process. I wish all of you could attend this event, or something like it, to fully understand what I mean because I think it takes us getting out of our comfort zone to want to change. It is not about what we do as much as about who we are. We all have journey to traverse, the church should be a help to you in yours. I encourage you to begin, I have started my journey, will you come with me? Until later, be blessed.

Another Great Day

Tonight it is even later than last night. It is past 12:30 am and I just got back from the conference. They have done such a great job of providing so many different opportunities to pick and choose from, almost too many. Tonight I attended the "late night offering" of comedy. They had three comics that were spectacular, I laughed so hard I was crying. I am going to miss some sleep, but what the heck, it was worth it!

Another great day. I attended two workshops on youth culture with Dr. Walt Mueller (check out his website They were both excellent! The worship was amazing again and I can't believe I have been here three days already. The days are long, but it doesn't feel long during the day. I cannot remember a more worthwhile event I have ever attended.

I am going to bed, I have to get six hours and if I go now I will barely make it. Tomorrow features some great "skit guys" (saw them today and they were incredible). Also Jeremy Camp, Jars of Clay and Kutlass all tomorrow. Is this awesome or what?

Goodnight, until tomorrow, be blessed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Day Two at NYWC

It is late, after 11:00 pm, and I have to admit I am tired. What a day! It was a day full of variety and emotion. The morning started in Austin traffic at 7:30 am and then the completion of my class on technology. That class was worth the price of admission all by itself.

Thankfully I didn't go home after it, but opted to stay. After a lunch on Austin's famous sixth street I attended my first general session. It was awesome! The Dave Crowder band played, Jared Hall performed some great tricks and we heard a sermon delivered by an incredibly gifted preacher from New Jersey by the name of, Buster Soaries. Google him he is a fascinating man that God has placed his hand on to do incredibly great stuff. I took a photo of the inside of the meeting hall, I hope you can see the setup in the picture I took. It is rather dark, but the stage and room are first class. There are almost 3000 youth workers here, amazing.

After the first session I went to a good seminar on outreach events and then took a break before returning to the evening session that featured a speaker from England, Mike Pilavachi. He was awesome as well. I had a treat at the evening session: Brian Langhoff is in town and I invited him to come over to hear the Dave Crowder band, it was good to see him. He abandoned me after the band played for his girlfriend, can't say as I blame him. After that I headed back to the hotel to take in all of what I have learned so far.

I have taken in a great amount of content, heard some great music, met some interesting people, laughed out loud, worshipped deeply and ate some really bad-for-you-food. But with all of that, the best thing was a surprise. I have come to feel as if I belong at OSLC doing exactly what I am doing. What a gift to have your calling confirmed! I could hear God speaking to me through the music, the prayers and through my seeking saying, "This is who you are Todd, go and do your work well". Thank you Lord!

I usually dread these conferences. Most of them are boring and full of speakers who drone on about their theories and I usually leave feeling pretty inadequate that you can't grow your group to 1 million in two months like they did. But this time it is different, the conference is refreshingly honest and designed for the user, me, not the speakers. I dislike being away from home, I always miss Missy so much and the kiddies too. And while that is true this time as well, I feel as if this is time well spent and worth the hardship on both myself and Missy (mostly Missy). When you see her on Sunday hug her for me please.

Better get to bed, it is almost midnight and I have to be up at 6:00 am. I love hearing from you, keep it up. More tomorrow, until then be blessed!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

I'm in Austin and My Head is Spinning

I made it into Austin right around 1:00 pm this afternoon. I got left a little later (I did have to stop for coffee a time or two though - see photo for my "coffee bar") than I wanted to, but did get in time to make it to the first seminar. Actually I am a day early. The conference doesn't officially start until tomorrow. Today they had what they call, Critical Concern, courses. These are seminars within the conference on timely and important topics. They had over 10 to pick from, so the choice was not easy.

I chose, digital discipleship: transforming teens through today's "techknowledgy". It was excellent! I fancy myself pretty "tech" savvy. Today I didn't think so! My head is still spinning from all of the information I learned. We had a five hour session today and will finish up tomorrow morning with three more hours. After which, the conference officially starts!

But back to the seminar today. We touched on several different technical topic. Among them, using technology to enhance your ministry - not replace it with techno gadgets, technical information on ports and other hardware on each computer and which is best and why, major ingredients of technology in ministry, presentation software and how to use it including incorporating audio and video files with it, how to use digital photography most effectively (got some great ideas here), avoiding common tech mistakes, and finally creating, shooting and editing video. This one was the most interesting.

It is amazing how much you can do with video in ministry, especially youth ministry. This has the potential to be a real catalyst to growth in numbers. So many of the youth and youth groups across the country are using this medium to add to their events and the adults events. I am eager to get going with this and begin to use it to create some interest and do some teaching.

One thing I did hear that made a huge impact on me was how important it is to be technologically relevant. Our youth have the biggest, latest and best of the electronic world. When they go to school they have the newest TV's, video systems, computers and audio equipment among other stuff. Then when they go home their equipment is even better plus most of them have the latest phone with every option available on it.

And then they come to church and see equipment (if there is any) that was outdated when their parents were teens. It sends the message that this place is old and outdated, what can it possibly have to offer to me? But on the other hand if they walk into a church with a good sound and video system (in the youth area too), plus a relevant presentation using the medium of today, then we say that we are relevant!

I agree with Jay Delp and Joel Lusz (today's presenters, check them out on the web) that effective youth ministry will be hard to do, not impossible, but an uphill battle if we don't recognize that we live in a era of technology and if we don't use it we will lose this generation. What do you think?

Well I better get going, early call tomorrow. It starts and 7 in the morning and it won't finish until midnight tomorrow evening. I did want to tell you that this convention center is enormous! There will be thousands of people attending 2 general sessions and choosing form over 20 different seminars tomorrow. This is an excellent event, wish you were here. Here is a picture of it, pretty cool isn't it?

Let me know what you think, see you in the blog tomorrow.

Youth Workers Conference

Good morning, if being up at 5:00 am is a good thing. I normally sleep in until about 6:30 and then get up and do my reading and get caught up on the news. But this morning is a little different because I am heading to a conference for youth workers. I invite you to go with me this weekend through this blog. I will post comments and photos to give you a sense of what happens at these events.

This conference is put on by a great group called, Youth Specialties. They are arguably the best Youth Training organization in the country. Many of the big names in youth ministry will be there with their latest (and old stuff too I hope) ideas and "stuff" to help kids and families grow closer together and closer to God.

So grab a cup of coffee and join me this weekend and be sure to post comments and let me know what you think about what I think. See you on the blog.