Love in Uganda

Last night, I shared a little bit of Katie Davis’ story with my students. Katie was just out of high school when the love of Christ compelled her to go to Uganda and love people there. A three week trip over Christmas break turned into a year teaching Kindergarten at an orphanage before going to college, which turned into… so much more. Check out her story. It’s awesome to see young people who are willing to walk away from comfort in order to show Jesus’ love. It gives me great hope for the future of the church.

You can find more of Katie’s story at Kisses From Katie, or at Amazima Ministries (the organization she founded and leads to touch the people of Uganda with God’s love).

Life is like a vapor. What are we doing with the time we have?

The Bright Side of Impulsiveness

One of the things I love about working with teens is their impulsiveness. It keeps things interesting! While it can be troubling, it can also be amazing and powerful when a student is willing to jump at an opportunity God puts in front of them. This kind of kid always keeps things interesting and exciting – you never know when they’re going to introduce you to a friend they’ve been leading to Christ… or to the nice officer who they met last time they burned something down.

Do you need to take some action today? What are you waiting for?

I just heard from a parent here at WestWay that his son had just gone out and bought a book shelf full of Bibles. “Like at a garage sale or something?” I asked. No, he went and purchased about 20 brand new Bibles to have in his house so he could give them to friends when they come over to study the Bible! I have to be honest… when I was a junior in high school, this is about the last thing I would’ve been thinking about spending my money on.

But this kid has felt compelled to share the love of Christ with people who don’t know Him and who’ve never read about Him in a Bible. So he bought a bunch of Bibles for his friends. This is exciting! I can’t wait to hear what comes of this impulsive response to God.

Is your spiritual life getting a little dull? Try acting on a God planted impulse and see what happens…

If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.


What’s His love compelling you to do today? Does it look a little crazy? Do it anyway and enjoy the reconciliation that will ensue!

He Still Eats With Sinners

Sometimes, ‘evangelism’ gets pigeonholed into some kind of special niche that’s reserved only for those Christians who have certain gifts. As if it’s just for people who are great public speakers, or are good at arguing a point and convincing strangers that their side is the right side… either that or they’re really skilled with a bullhorn. But if the words of Jesus (and the writers of the New Testament) mean anything, evangelism should be part of the life of every believer. In fact, it’s why we’re here.

I just finished reading Eats With Sinners from Arron Chambers. It’s not just a theoretical book about what might work or what should work to reach people. It’s a great look at what Jesus did to reach people and what happens when His people today do what he did a couple thousand years ago. It’s not just about a strategy or a method, but about living a life that reveals Jesus to people who don’t notice Him.

And it’s not just some best-case scenario concept, either, Arron is living what he’s advocating and leading a congregation that does the same. A couple years ago, I met the youth pastor where Arron serves and arranged to visit with him for a couple hours. As it turned out, we went to lunch with Arron and several of the Journey staff. As we joked and talked our way through buckets of Chinese food, I loved seeing the camaraderie that had developed there and was excited to hear about the ministry that was being catalyzed through those relationships. One weekend last month, I was able to visit his congregation. Though Arron was out of town, the church he so joyfully serves gave evidence that His message has sunk in deeply there. Their joy and genuine excitement at being available to God to touch lives in their community was impossible to miss.

Unfortunately, many churches don’t function that way. The church in our part of the world today is anemic and weak when it comes to evangelism. We’ve misappropriated the task and delegated to a select few what all of us are called to do. Many Christians would be unable to articulate how they are sharing Christ with the people around them or to name even 1 single person that they’ve led to Jesus. This can’t continue. Check out Eats With Sinners to be challenged to do what Jesus has called you to do – and to gather the necessary ingredients to build relationships like Jesus did.

A Kingdom View of God’s Church

Youth ministry that is transformational for life has to build  a kingdom view of God’s church. The church is bigger than me and the way I do things. It’s bigger than our particular way, place, and group. What is God doing in His people throughout the world?

Too many times, youth ministry can become some kind of separate entity operating as an attractive sideshow of the church. “The young people want something different and don’t seem very interested in church, so let’s develop some attractive new ministry that’s geared just for them – and we can keep doing our own thing as well.” There’s less conflict that way, everyone seems to be getting something they want, and the messes are contained to their designated areas. But after 4-6 years of growing in this kind of bubble, students graduate with a set of expectations that they will place on the church outside their bubble. In the best cases, these expectations are healthy and will challenge the church to grow and stretch and re-engage discipleship muscles that may have had little recent exercise. But often, the expectations carry the weight of a self absorbed consumer mindset that is shocked when it doesn’t find the desired product.

Don't let your view of the church be limited by your own steeple.

I worked at a car lot for a few months right after graduating Bible college. Probably not the most natural career path, but it forced me out of my shell and kept food on the kitchen table (which was given to us by some very generous extended family for free). It’s a good thing the table was free because I was not a great car salesman. See, I had this idea that people would know what they wanted to drive when they came to the lot… or at least have a vague idea what they wanted. My first sale was easy. An elderly couple pulled in with an old Lincoln Town Car and wanted a less used Lincoln Town Car. We had one. They didn’t want to fight about a price… they must have felt sorry for me looking so young and uninitiated on my first day on the lot. The deal was done. But every other deal was a reflection of a larger reality in the car buying universe: the Sales Manager and the Dealership Owner thought that every car on the lot was gold plated and perfect for every Schmoe that walked on their pavement. Since I disagreed and wasn’t about to lie to convince a customer that “this car is what you really need” so I could make a few bucks… the arrangement was short-lived as I left to be a waiter at Perkins.

What? That’s not the normal career ladder?

As a waiter, usually my customers knew what they wanted to eat, but occasionally someone would ask to know what I liked on the menu. It was hard to share my favorites, because my favorites were all specially made variations that didn’t appear on the menu. (Servers, be good to your cooks and you’ll enjoy your lunch break so much more!) On other occasions, adult customers would want to order off the kids menu to get a better deal. They were asking for options that they could not order.

Have we set up our youth for a disillusioned exodus from the church by letting them think that the way we’ve done youth ministry with them is the way the whole church functions as well? Are we selling them vehicles that aren’t really what they need to go where God is calling them to go? Dangling menu items that the church won’t offer them in a couple years after they graduate? In short, are we teaching them that church is all about what they want?

I think the way out of this dilemma is to bring our students to see a bigger picture. Help them see the youth ministry as only a piece of what God is doing in the world around them. And even beyond that, to see the church they are a part of as a piece of His Kingdom, and recognize that throughout the world that kingdom functions in creative and unique ways to further the one mission for which that kingdom has been established.

Here are a few practical ideas for helping our students develop a kingdom view of God’s church: (Add to the list in the comments section.)

  • Guest Speakers – Don’t let your voice be the only one heard. Bring in speakers with varied experiences to share.
  • Video Teaching – You probably can’t bring Francis Chan to teach your youth service, but you can show the Basic Series, where he paints a great picture of the Kingdom.
  • Mission Trips – Take students out of their nest to serve and to see what God is doing in other locations.
  • Love Costs Every Thing – This film is an eye opening glimpse into the persecution of the church globally.
  • Child Sponsorship – Encourage students to band together to sponsor children through Compassion and be a part of what God is doing in poorer places throughout the world.
  • Connect Students with Adults Locally – All missions are local somewhere. What are your local missions in which your students and adults can partner?

What else would you add to the list?


Here are the links to the rest of the Foundations of Youth Ministry series. Check out the other posts and be sure to use the subscribe field at the top to get new content via e-mail:

5 Marks of Youth Ministry That Makes a Difference

A Permanent Attitude of Worship

A Passion for Revealing God

A Commitment to Service as the Church

A Hunger for Depth in Relationship With God


Perhaps we have underestimated our capacity. Maybe being created in the image and likeness of the Creator God still means something…. Is there a conspiracy of mediocrity? Are we unwitting enemies of nobility and heroism?

We choose to live where apathy is normal and average is the goal. Occasionally, some refuse to cooperate. They rise out of the rubble of decadence and conformity, and by the power of God, they show us a new way. They shock us into reality. They force us to accept responsibility. They inspire and require us to consider a new way to be human.

-Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force

Are we guilty of this? Have we misunderstood what it means to be human? We think that means we’re prone to make mistakes, to mess up from time to time, right – but what if being human means something so much more? What if being human means being made by a Maker, who placed His image at the heart of humanity? What if being made by someone means we’re made forsomething? I believe being human is about more than being flawed – it’s about rediscovering the One whose image those flaws are covering and knowing the One who can heal our brokenness. I believe we are made for something – for Someone. It is time to raise the bar – to create works of art and works of ministry and works of good that direct attention to our Creator and His view of humanity.

The best has not yet passed.

Refuse to slide into the sinks of the standstill, paint by number patterns of this world.

Become all human.

Become all His.

Stand up from the fray and the debris of decay that threatens the momentum of your life.

Begin to move.

Begin to breathe.

Implore Him to clear away the complacency packed dust that has stuck on the image He once stamped deep within you.

Be renewed.

Be new.

Inspire another to know Him and make Him known in all the dark corners of the inert, where the passive seem to settle.

Bring hope.

Bring love.

Bring faith.

The Aftermath of a Great Event

Despite a few unexpected changes and last minute glitches, we had a great weekend here at WestWay during this year’s Spring Thing. I want to thank everyone who made the trip to Scottsbluff and everyone who worked behind the scenes to make the event functional. It was a pleasure to host students and youth leaders from 16 different churches in 5 states (though we did miss our CO friends). I can’t speak for everyone, but the Jordan Howerton Band leading worship was definitely one of the highlights for me. So much so that I’m counting them as the 5th state! If any of my youth ministry friends are ever looking for a band to come in and lead worship (not just play songs), I’d recommend them without reservation. They were easy to work with, did a great job, and were just fun to hang out with.

Here comes Ryan...

The atmosphere was pretty charged all week long with some great times of worship, awesome food, a ton of fun, and digging in to John 13 – 17. I enjoyed speaking, but trying to do all the planning and speaking for a weekend event like this was a lot. I felt like I was juggling swords all week long last week, and wondering which ones I’d forgotten were still in the air. I may still need a couple more days to recover, but overall I think it went all right. (No one threw rotten melons or anything – though there was this kid with a hammer…)

I loved having the regular WestWay service combined with our last session this year. It is so important for generations in the church to realize, we are a part of the same mass of humanity that is gaining velocity together in Christ. There’s some serious, hell shattering momentum attainable when we can be fused together by His blood into one crash, storming ahead wherever He leads us all!

I hope this weekend will prove to be formational for the church in our region. Students are going home to try to share what happened with people who weren’t there to experience the moment. Pray with me that God would speak through them to strengthen His Imminent Crash. This Crash is not an accident & it’s no wreck – it’s an unstoppable Kingdom that is being led deeper into His Mission and being empowered by His Spirit to trample the gates of hell that are keeping people separate from God.

If you were here for the weekend, share your favorite moment in the comments below:

Please Pray…

This is the beginning of a crazy week for me. After lunch yesterday, LuAnn and the kids took off to visit family for a few days while the kids are out of school. If it weren’t for the upcoming Spring Thing event this weekend, I’d be with them, but as it is, I’ll be pulling together the last few things before students show up on Friday.

So naturally, I started out the week with an all nighter in our empty house watching Lord of the Rings with a couple of my students. One of them hadn’t seen it yet, so we had to fix that right away! They both fell asleep sometime around 1:00 AM, just before Helm’s Deep was occupied – so we finished this morning when I got home from a 6:30 prayer meeting. (Just a side note: “Mercy” is falling asleep at the youth minister’s house while he’s still awake – and being able to leave the next day with your eyebrows still intact! You guys can thank me later.)

The point of this post is actually to ask you to be praying for my preparation time this week. I’m pulling together thoughts that God has been bouncing my way for about 10 years into 4 messages, so there’s way more content to pare down than a weekend’s worth of attention span can handle. Distillation may not be my strongest attribute – I’d rather take a seed and extrapolate the potential branches. Please be praying that what is left when I’m done hacking away at the myriad of impulses etched on my gray matter would be only whatever God wants to use to penetrate the hearts of His people who gather this weekend.

With no family at home, and my weekly routine completely out the window, also pray that I’d stay focused enough to line up all the ducks – and relaxed enough to shoot them when the time comes. I’m not above losing large chunks of time to distraction, so I’d appreciate that not happening this week.

On a somewhat related note, I’ve been contacted twice in the last couple days regarding a request for an insurance quote for my ’92 Volvo; they have my name and number right, but I’ve got no Volvo to insure. I’m hoping this is just a case of sloppy data entry, but just in case it’s more of an ID theft issue, if you see me this week ask me for the super secret handshake just to make sure it’s really me!

Thanks for your prayers.

Reorienting Momentum

For the past couple days, I’ve been thinking about momentum. It’s awesome when momentum is carrying you in the direction you need to go, right? It seems like everything functions more smoothly, obstacles are obliterated with ease, no problems arise that can’t be dispatched with a little sunshine and rainbows… Ok, maybe that’s taking it a little too far, but that’s what momentum does – it carries us further than we thought we could go.

Or not.

Momentum can just as easily carry us away from  the direction we need to be moving. We can get trapped in the patterns of the mundane or distracted by monotony, and it seems like every movement (if there are any) only takes us deeper into the quicksand. Eventually, we can find ourselves just rolling through each day, slowly giving in to an inertia that sucks the joy out of just about everything.

Since momentum is such a powerful thing, we need to pay attention to it in our lives and ministries. The teams we lead and are a part of will be deeply affected by the internal momentum we are experiencing. Where is your momentum taking you right now? If you are not moving deeper into the heart of God, you won’t be able to sustain any kind of relationship that would help someone else do so. As I examine my own life lately, I think I have been experiencing a lot more of the negative side of momentum. Things seem to be dragging. Some kind of internal inertia makes it more than difficult to roll out of bed every day. Less than ideal circumstances bother me more than they should, and obstacles that shouldn’t be a big deal loom like walls of slate threatening to halt all forward progress. Just to be clear, this is not a healthy place to be in when you’re leading people. It’s bad for the leader, and it’s bad for the people.

I have to admit that sometimes I’ll tend to wallow – to give in and just let the wheels spin without traction. But yesterday, I thought about this guy that just laid around, waiting for someone else to change his momentum. Day after day, he waited. He was stuck. Oh, he had himself in the right place, but every time the right moment came he missed it because the help he was waiting for wasn’t there. Maybe he could have anticipated the moment better… Maybe he needed to be a better friend in order to have the help he needed… Or maybe there was nothing he could do to get himself unstuck… But then God entered the scene with a simple question:

“Do you want to get well?”

Who doesn’t, right? No one really wants to be helpless, do they? The difficulty is, no one else can change your momentum for you. They can change some circumstances, they can maybe even remove some obstacles for you, but the trajectory of your inner life is up to you. And mine is up to me.

“Pick up your mat and walk.”

The question then, is “What am I doing to reorient the momentum of my life?” Jesus miraculously intervened in this guy’s life, but it was still up to him to roll off his backside and and walk upright. He could have stayed there and whined about not having any friends to help him or how far away he was from the water he needed or made any number of excuses that would have made a lot of sense. But instead, he set all the reasons/excuses aside and reoriented the momentum of his life to get into line with where Jesus needed him to go.

Is the momentum of your life carrying you where Jesus is leading you? If not, your momentum needs reoriented. Here are a few things to try:

  • Try something new. Take a class or dig into a study of something that you don’t know anything about. Sometimes, a trickle of new information in our lives can be just what’s needed to get things flowing again.
  • Read something out of your usual genre or topical preference. A couple years ago, our local librarians probably thought I was experiencing some kind of episode of multiple personality disorder. What else could explain a youth minister checking out books of historical fiction, a Tesla biography, running books, business books, a couple Gladwell books…? If your reading list is looking a little too homogenous, mix it up a bit. Don’t limit this to books, either. Explore some new blogs, magazines, trade journals outside your trade, etc.
  • Get moving. Our society is way too sedentary. If your job requires you to spend a lot of time within a few walls or a cubicle (like so many do), make sure you’re doing something to exercise. Your body needs to move.
  • Be still. I know, I just said get moving, but we also need to learn to be still. One of the ironies of my life is that sometimes I’m best at being still when I’m out for a run. Being still doesn’t mean doing nothing – it means a calmness in which God is given every bit of our attention. I’m easily distracted, so just sitting physically still does little to ensure that my attention is directed anywhere in particular. For me, though, the rhythm of a good run can often help me focus and listen.
  • Stop avoiding that confrontation you’ve been dodging. This may be my problem right now. I have issues that are going unresolved because the path to resolution is littered with the possibility of hurt feelings. But as long as I let the elephants hang around, they just keep dumping stuff all over the place, creating a negative momentum all their own – and it stinks.

Try a few of those ideas and see what happens. I will, too. Share your own ideas in the comments below. What are you doing to reorient the momentum of your life?