Monday, April 30, 2007

Who says TV isn't good for anything?

I have recently been discouraged after our youth events. It seems each time it has become more and more difficult to hold the attention of those who attend. And then I am concerned about those who didn't attend: why, are they not interested anymore, are they in trouble, do they not like the topic, should I change the way we approach Youth Group? All of these questions and many more have been floating through my head the past several weeks. I feel as if I have to "drum up" interest. That is not fun, for leader or participant.

And then from the most unlikely of places I found the answer to that little voice that has been nagging at me for weeks. The source? American Idol. Allow me to explain: Last week American Idol held a show where they highlighted the conditions in Africa, New Orleans, Eastern Kentucky and a Boys and Girls Club in LA. What did they do? They showed the need that each of these areas have. The one that hit me the hardest was the Africa Story. Every 30 seconds a child in South Africa dies of AIDS. I couldn't believe it! Every 30 seconds? In just one African Country?

As I watched with my two teenagers and wife, they were all equally moved by what they were watching. We saw how for just a few dollars lives could be saved. We couldn't believe that things were that bad, so we did some research and found that, yes, things are that bad. Here are a few stats:

  • In 2005, more than 2.8 million people died because of AIDS – that’s equal to a plague killing off the entire population of Chicago.

  • 15 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Think about it – that’s around the same as the total number of high school students in the U.S.

  • By 2010, an estimated 20.2 million children worldwide will have lost a parent to AIDS.
    In Swaziland, one of every three people is HIV-positive.
  • Imagine if that were true in your youth group? Your church? Your own family?


So what does this have to do with youth ministry and my life and possibly yours? This, we are not here on this earth for hedonism, even Christian hedonism. The Gospel, if it is to be pertinent to the next generation, must have legs. It must be active (because it is). It is not enough to tell a young person that "Thou shall or thou shall not" without the reason behind it! In other words, we are to be people of action, faith without deeds is dead! And I cannot believe that God is content with our being content when a child in South Africa dies every 30 seconds from a preventable disease. Dollars and action are what these folks need, in other words they need to have their felt needs met BEFORE anything else. When your child is ill with Malaria you need to know that those who profess to love you will help you with a four dollar pack of medicine to spare your child!

So in addition to hearing the word I am going to become a doer of it as well. What is interesting to me is that when I presented this to the kids at our church I received a pretty enthusiastic (at least for teens), "Yes, we're on board".

Dr. Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, has made it his aim to end this pandemic of AIDS in Africa, I don't know if he can get it done, but I am willing to help him by signing up the next generation to help him. If we say we love Christ but do nothing, that is not love, at least not the kind He showed at Cavalry. But hey, that is just what I think, how about you?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ft. Davis Trip

We recently went to Fort Davis as a family. It was great! We left Midland around 9:15 am and got into Ft. Davis before lunch. It was a quick trip, less than 175 miles if you go through Balmoreah on 17. I had never seen the Fort and was interested in seeing it and some of the town. We first went to lunch (my youngest son T.K. wouldn't have it any other way) and ate at the drugstore in town - The Old Texas Inn. It is an unique place. It has an old soda fountain and rooms upstairs. Each room has no phone or TV, although they do have a sitting room with a big screen TV, old school style that T.K. didn't recognize. I had to tell him what it was a TV. Lunch was good, mostly burgers, BBQ and comfort food. I did get a salad that was huge, they called it the "Wagon Wheel". The price was reasonable as well. For six of us the bill was just over $44.00. After lunch we drove around the town and got a feel for the houses and the neighborhood, we liked what we saw.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that during lunch we had a "visitor". A lady from the town came by the drugstore to order lunch, seems she was working on her house and didn't feel like cooking. She asked Todd Jr. to move over so she could sit down, only in a small town. We enjoyed her company though, she told us a little bit about the town and told us property had gone up quite a bit, but it was still a good town to live in, cool summers and mild winters. She got me thinking about it (just kidding Missy). We noticed how open and friendly the folks were; we were invited to go upstairs and check out the rooms they had. All were sincerely friendly, not that false politeness because they want your business, but rather a sincere joyful attitude.

We finally got to the Fort at around 2:00 pm. It only cost $3.00 per adult, I thought it was a great deal. We got an orientation from one of the Park Rangers and headed off to the movie that was narrated by none other than Kareem Abdul Jabar, he did a fine job. We saw barracks of the enlisted men, the commissary, the hospital (under renovation), officer's quarters and the commander’s house (on the right). I was struck at how "civilized" the officer's quarters or houses were. If the men were married, there was furniture, regular beds, books, china, sitting chairs and several other items that one would think could only be found in the East. Fort Davis is remote by today's standards, can you imagine how difficult it must have been to get this stuff to the fort back in the 19th century? The commander's house was especially impressive. This house was no "thrown together" endeavor. German stonecutters were brought over from Fredericksburg to do the brickwork and it turned out famously. There were two parlors, a dining room, a formal entryway, two bedrooms and sewing room. The kitchen was in the back in a separate dwelling for safety purposes. In case of fire, they only had to replace one dwelling instead of the whole house. I suppose if fish was on the menu you didn't have to smell it all day either.

The fort was operational from 1854 to 1891 and was part of the fort system in West Texas. It was abanded during the Civil War and then reoccupied in 1867. The 9th and 10th cavalries were stationed there. Those regiments were the Buffalo Soldiers, or black cavalry. The Fort also was the first duty station for the first black graduate of West Point. To see how they lived was amazing, it must have been very boring. The officers at least had their families and each other, while the enlisted men spent much time just outside the fort in "traditional" activities. I heard of one death in the fort when a corporal was shot by his Sergeant while he lay sleeping. Life was tough at Fort Davis. Several died with TB and others succumbed to dysentery.

I highly recommend the trip to you, short and much to do. If you wish more info on the fort itself here is the website, For the town of Fort Davis check out this website:

Besides taking care of my history fix, the trip had another benefit: family togetherness. We really did have a good time together. The kids did some hiking after their interest waned, and Missy and me got to spend some time together as well. I recommend taking these trips with your family, they are memory makers. I still remember some I took as a kid, build some memories with your kids, you won't regret it.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Our Youth

I just finished creating the calendar for the spring and summer for our kids here at OSLC. And I as look at it I pray that it is more than just a thing to do or a place to go. I mean, what is the youth ministry all about anyway? Why do we do what we do? Why do you let your student attend our events? Our programs? Is it because you want them to be raised to be "good" adults. I certainly want that for my own children, but I long for something more than that, something that has passion, value, purpose and the ability for them to look back and say, "That time shaped my life, made me a different person, the person I was designed to be."

So much of what we do in ministry is "busyness," a shroud that we are getting something done. We are competing with the church down the road that we have as many programs, or ours are better. So what? What if they are? Then what? No, what we need are relationships, forged in real life. To have (notice not create) real communion with each other without regard to what others are doing. But as parents and youth ministers, we are so concerned with making our kids "good" or making sure, they "own" their faith so that when they go to college or move away from home they maintain their trust and, I am sorry to say it, belief in God. So we create, make, design programs and events that will move them closer to becoming "good" kids.

But is that enough? Are we creating kids that are able to develop meaningful relationships with each other and with God? Or are we more worried about what we think, than the kids we are developing and leading? You can answer that question for yourself, but for me I know the answer, and I don't like it very much! Adults are scared of teens, they make us uncomfortable, they dress differently, talk differently and heaven knows they are better at technology that all of us. But did you know teens are afraid of adults?

In Mark Yaconelli's book, Contemplative Youth Ministry, he interviewed a group of teens about their observations about adults and he overheard this observation:

"Adults have no friend, adults have no passions, and adults are stressed out."

Sadly, I think this teen was on the mark for many of us. No wonder our teens don't listen to us, who wants to become this type of person?

I have a story from my own life that illustrates how teens and adults think differently. The other day I attended a basketball game with my 14-year-old son. We got the time wrong on the game, but did run into a friend. As it turned out it began to rain heavily. I asked my friend if she would like a ride to the other side of campus, where her son was holed up working on a video, she said sure. I drove her over and parked. As I was parking, I pulled to the curb and began to back up to close the gap with the car behind me, which just happened to be my friend's son's car.

I backed up a little too much and backed right into his car. I was horrified. Fearful I damaged his car, my car, worried about the cost to fix both, worried about my reputation as a driver, worried about how the car would be scarred and how bad it would look driving it around time, in short, I was "stressed out". So was my friend, she was worried about her son's car I'm sure. On the other hand, my 14-year-old son in the back seat found this absolutely hilarious. He couldn't believe his dad could be such a "goof" and back into a car I knew was there. As he laughed, I grew irritated and more worried. I got out of the car and found my care to be damaged with a dent and scratch, and thankfully his car unscathed.

I was embarrassed and stressed over what others might think, my reputation, my car, how could my life ever be the same (a little melodramatic I know), but my son continued to get a big kick out of it, in fact, he loved it.

Now this little story showed me how differently we think: adults worry, kids laugh. But something happens, the laughter stops and the worry creeps in. Is this our desire for our teens? I say no! But you don't understand, you say, kids do drugs, have sex, and they are so violent, we have to do something.

Curiously, that is not the case. According to authors, Bill Strauss and Neil Howe say the following:

Never before has there been a generation that is less violent. Less vulgar, less sexually charged than the culture being offered them. We fail to recognize it's the adult culture that is far more "at-risk" than the youth culture." (taken from the book: Millennial Rising: The Next Great Generation)

What do you think about this quote? I think it has a lot of truth in it. So our charge is to raise our kids to be self-sufficient, socially conscious, aware of others and in tune and connected to Jesus Christ. This isn't done with a program, just look at how many teens leave the church and their faith when they go off on their own. We need to give them authentic relationship, with adults, other teens and with God.

Interested? Let me know you want to get involved and together we can "git er done". Oh, almost forgot, please let me know how the calendar works for you and your family, and if you want to comment on my article, I would welcome it.