Where do we go from here?

70% of students will leave the church for at least one year after leaving our student ministries, regardless of how involved they have been (http://feeds.feedburner.com/cnlpodcast – episode 69).

Let that sink in – 70%…

Two things come to my mind, knowing that:

  1. Why do I even try? Seriously, if you are invested in NextGen and student ministry, the question is real.
  2. Can we do ANYTHING to combat this?

The good news is, we can cut that number IN HALF if their small group leader “goes with them to college.” What does that mean?

The one half statistic holds up, if that high school small group leader sends their freshman in college/out on their own students one text per month in that first year. They stay engaged with just one text per month. That’s why we try.

As student ministry and nextgen leaders, we cannot disengage just because our local school system tells us our students are done. The discipleship of our students and the future of the Church depends on it.


2016:Discovering more of God

Over the past several years, as New Year’s Eve approached, I would pray and consider a word that I thought that God wanted to work in and through for the year to come. This year, I’m doing something different. As I prayed, I felt like God was asking me to focus on Him more – that leaning into Him will pull the veil on discovering more about me.

So, over the next year I am committed to spending time focusing on the names of God. I want to learn as much about Him as I can. Revealing truth about God will reveal truth about me – his creation.

I invite you to join me as I walk this journey.


What’s our end-game?

My ministry to students has changed in the last year or so. 

Before I had a teenage daughter in my ministry I looked at parents differently. I didn’t understand why it was so hard. Discipling their teens, that is. Now that I come from the other side of this scenario, I understand the struggle.

handmade-791693_640Often, as I spend time with my kids, it becomes easy to throw a bunch of things out there, not knowing exactly what the target is or looks like. What am I really trying to accomplish as a parent? As parents, we have to know what our end-game is. Is our goal to have culturally well-rounded students? Are we cultivating star athletes? What about Christ-following, Gospel centered, Kingdom focused young adults? Is that our goal?

In the book, “Almost Christian: What the Faith of our Teenagers is Telling the American Church,” a social study of Mormon students shows that one of the difference between Christian teens and Mormon teens is how their parents approach parenting.

Parents take to heart their responsibility to get their young people ready.

I say I take this to heart. I say I know what my priorities are as a parent. The more I look critically at it, the more I realize that I can easily prioritize my kids extracurricular activities over their discipleship. I look at all the things I didn’t do as a teen or ways I wished I had succeed and didn’t. I have a knack for making people I love in my own image – or the one I wish I had.

We generally approve of teenagers who let us socialize them into younger versions of ourselves.

Ouch. The question has to become what the writer of Proverbs says –

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.

How can we raise our students to a genuine, life-changing relationship with Christ? Maybe it begins with us finding our own genuine, life-changing relationship with Christ – so we can raise them in the way THEY should go and not the way we went or wished we’d gone.

My One Word for 2015

Several years ago, I gave up on resolutions. I never kept them and there were always too many to really attain. The list gets so long and honestly a year is just too short. If we look at our lives with real clarity and understand how discipleship really happens, we realize that God doesn’t ask us to get it all together in a 365 day period. That’s just not how our walk with Christ operates.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250Since I started really, prayerfully considering the one thing God wants me to focus on each year, I’ve been able to recognize God’s hand shaping my life. One Word flies in the face of the typical year end look at a long list that had more unattained than accomplished – more regret than growth.

The greatest example of this came in 2014. God moved and shaped me more in 2014 than in any year I can remember, but I don’t believe it is because 2014 is the first year He actually moved in me, but because I was actually looking for Him in a quantifiable way.

For 2015, I began to pray and seek God in where He planned to devote His energies in my life and not just where I wanted to see him move. The word the came to mind was “invest.” As I prayed and thought through it, I wasn’t satisfied that “invest” focused closely enough where God wanted to be in me in 2015. As God stretched and pulled at the word “invest,” He placed the word “devote” on my heart. “Invest” has a strong financial connotation in our culture, while “devote” is a personal, deeply relational word.

Devote: give all or a large part of one’s time or resources to (a person, activity, or cause).

In the book of Acts, we are told that the Church, “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The Church gave themselves to the mission that Christ left to them. In Romans 12:10, Paul tells the church in Rome to “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”

Devotion is the Biblical term for personal investment. We are called to give of ourselves so that others might grow. We are asked to give ourselves fully to God. He wants our devotion to Him first and to others second. How often am I devoted to me and my agenda? How often do I devote my resources to the cause of me?

In 2015, I will seek God to become a more committed follower of Christ. I will seek God to become a more devoted husband. I will seek God to become a more devoted father to my kids. I will seek God to become a more devoted pastor, who gives time and resources to see those I lead become devoted themselves. The thing I know in all of this, is God is able and willing to lead me here.

One Word 365 – 2014

My One Word for 2014 was “New” and my prayer in choosing that word was that God would “make all things new in me” in 2014. God answered that prayer BIG TIME.

ow14_250x250_custom_250x250I got married in 2014. Gina and I have been navigating “new” for the last 8 months. It has been an amazing journey together and I don’t want to fall into ordinary. I want to continue to move and grow towards stronger, deeper and new with her.

With marriage, comes all the new you’d expect. I moved into a new community, neighborhood and home in 2014. It has been awesome to grow relationships with new family that I’ve added this year. I love my new family.

We also entered into new relationships with a small group in 2014. This group has become some of our strongest friends and where God has provided our core support system. God used these relationships to introduce us to Tony, the Campus Pastor at Austin Christian Fellowship – Brushy Creek.

This last fall, God opened a new door to a new full time ministry for me at ACFbc with Tony. Watching God move on our behalf has been truly amazing and a blessing. God answered my prayer in 2014.

Last December, I felt like God was stirring and moving in a new way and I resolved to pray for that movement in a big way and that is just what he did. I can’t wait to see what God does in 2015. I’m praying for God to lead me to pray with boldness again in this new year!


Good Gifts

For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”
Good gifts. We ask, God provides. That’s how this thing works, right? TV preachers, for years, have been saying that God wants to give us blessing and wealth; riches and all the good stuff. And that seems to be what Jesus is saying here, isn’t he?
What happens when God doesn’t give us all that STUFF? Does He hate us? Did we do something wrong to make Him mad? Is He withholding the blessing because we crossed Him?
Sunday, I preached on suffering with Christ. This seems to be a real part of being a true follower of Jesus Christ, yet here in the United States of America, Christianity has found its own brand of discipleship. A place, where the American Dream is directly correlated to the blessing of God. Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing is given or taken away, except by the hand of God. He is involved in the blessing process and nothing happens in this little universe without His knowledge.
when we begin to associate our faith with material blessings, that faith is shaky at best and at its worst, is no faith at all. This “health and wealth” gospel as many call it only holds up as long as life is peachy and the sun is shining.
What happens when the rain comes and life is challenging? True discipleship happens in the tough times. Faith is strengthened by suffering. Paul and Peter both talk about how true faith is found in identifying with Christ’s suffering. Iron is sharpened in the fire, muscles are made strong by putting them through the wringer. Use whatever analogy you like, tough stuff makes us stronger if we are willing to walk through it with Jesus.
So what is Jesus talking about with these “good gifts”?
God’s idea of good gifts and our idea of good gifts, is a totally different discussion. Most times, in the USA, we aren’t even coming at this thing from the same solar system. We are world’s apart. God gives us, as Paul describes in his letter to the Galatians,
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Yes, sometimes we get some of the things that this world values – but God is most concerned, like any good parent would be, with our character and not our material lifestyle.
I’m still learning to live like this. Trusting in God’s brand of spiritual development, and not our Americanized version, is tough. How has God shaped you into who He desires you to be by allowing you to walk through tough stuff?

One Word for 2014

I am a fan of AT&T’s current ad campaign. Who doesn’t love kids saying hilarious things on TV? The newest commercial began airing recently and I found it less funny yet more profound. 

Maybe unintentionally AT&T is onto something here with our New Year’s Revolutions.

Several years ago, I jumped on board with my friend Alece Ronzino’s One Word 365 movement. It truly has become a movement. I believe that so often we sit around and make list after list of things we want to change about our lives leading up to a new year and the complexity and vastness of the list actually hinders our ability to focus on what’s most important. We lack focus in the area that God truly wants to concentrate His efforts in us.

Isn’t that what’s most important anyway? Shouldn’t our priority be what God wants to do in us instead of the list of things we want to do in our own strength? It is the struggle of all struggles, after all, what we can do versus what He can do…what we want versus what He wants.

I heard a message from Austin Stone Downtown Campus Pastor, Jeff Mangum last week about how, just maybe, God wants to work in the small, dark places of our hearts that we haven’t even examined in awhile. That message helped me unpack what God had been speaking to me quietly for a few weeks, my One Word for 2014.

My word for this year is…NEW.

God isn’t in the business of cosmetics. He’s in the business of reconstruction…Complete tear downs and rebuilds. God does his best work from the ground up.

The Book of Genesis is a perfect example. God started Mankind’s existence from the dust. There wasn’t anything he had already made that he felt he could just improve on or modify, he just made something new. God is an expert on new.

In Isaiah 43:19 he says,

For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

It is in this passage where I see the connection between Jeff’s point on small, dark places and new. There is a phrase we use about others, but seldom about ourselves, “He/she is rough around the edges.” We all have rough edges. Our lives are so full of hurt and pain that life is bound to scuff a few edges. Often times that comes in the form of poor choices we make and other times from no fault of our own. Regardless, how we smooth those edges is our choice. Many times we are disinterested in doing anything at all. Sometimes, we’ve become so accustomed to the roughness that we don’t even realize it is there anymore.

What we tend to want to do is to throw on a mask, or put new clothes on the rough spots. That’s not what God does. He takes the masterpiece that we already are and he begins to sand us down in the carpenter’s workshop. He planes us down to our foundation and resets our basis. From there He remakes us into a new creation.

The thing I’ve discovered in the last few months is that God doesn’t just smooth out the rough edges, the tough stuff. Starting from scratch also means the edges that were already smooth also get remade. Sometimes we hold onto good too long. We can let good get in the way of new.

Only God can do this stuff. Only God is creative enough to be able to make new the human soul. Only God can cause someone to be reborn. Only God can make me new.

My focus in 2014 is on allowing God to make me new. the crazy thing is that God just doesn’t do this new thing one time. Remember the Isaiah passage? He is in the present tense, always now, making new. It is a daily newness that comes from walking with Christ. I am so looking forward to what God is going to do in 2014 in every area of my life.

Just maybe AT&T is onto something with this New Year’s Revolution thing. God isn’t into a resolution in our souls, he’s into starting a revolution of newness in us.