Transformation Tuesday

31864_401918224827_3062487_nYes – I know it’s Wednesday.  Someone doesn’t know how to accurately set his auto-publish feature.

If you read this blog much, you know I love youth ministry.  It was a life changer for me.  I was a kid who was drowning in an ocean of dysfunctional household and awkward hormones.  A youth pastor stepped into my life and God used him to change everything.  My life – my entire life – was transformed because of that relationship.

Tuesdays heretofore (whatever that means) will be dedicated to those stories of transformation.

Your story might be similar to mine – how being in a youth ministry changed you.

Maybe you’re a youth worker, and your story of transformation comes from serving students.

Perhaps you’re a senior pastor or a church janitor – I’m sure you’ll have profound stories of how youth ministry has altered you!   :)

I want to hear it!  EMAIL ME – let me share your stories of transformation.  Here’s mine:


My household was crazy.  My dad was pretty mean.  My mom was pretty victimized.  And we grew up seeing all of it.  Because of the impact of my grandmother and her little country church, I decided to be a Christ-follower at a pretty early age.  But as a young teenager, I found myself walking (probably tripping is more accurate – I was clumsy and growing) into a larger church that had a youth ministry – something I had never even heard of.

Most of the kids were jerks (hey – I don’t judge – it was the 80’s).  And I distinctly remember one evening after church calling my dad to see how he wanted me to get home.  He was at Elmer’s Tavern – where he was most nights – and I never thought two things about that.  Unbeknownst to me, some of the church kids had picked up another phone receiver in a different room and heard the barkeeper answer.  They descended like vultures – laughing, teasing, mocking.  It wasn’t uncommon – I was pretty awkward anyway and spent most of my time deflecting the crap my peers slung at me, church-goers or not.  Today, we’d most definitely call it bullying.  Back then, it was just kids being kids.

I left church feeling shamed and dejected.  I had kept my ‘so-called life’ out of the public eye and now everyone knew.  My family was crazy.  A lesser man would not have returned.

But the love and kindness of the youth pastor beckoned me.  I’d love to tell you it was all about Jesus and being holy.  The truth was – the leader was a man who was kind to his children and didn’t beat his wife – and that was a compelling story for me.  So I kept going.  I kept enduring the ‘cool’ kids so that I could get a glimpse of what real life could look like.  And somehow, those kids started being nicer to me.

About six months later, a confession was made.  I don’t remember the circumstances, but I’ll never forget the moment.  One of the students who had been my tireless terrorist had turned soft.  He (along with many of the kids) was befriending me.  And after Bible study one night, the truth came out.  The youth pastor had been ‘in the know’ about the night I called the tavern for my ride.  He had been watching how students were treating me all along.  This teenager confessed, “One night you were gone.  After Bible study, Mitch lambasted us and told us if we didn’t stop harassing you, you might not ever come back.  Then we found out you weren’t half bad.”

Somewhere in there I should have probably been offended.  But all I remember is how it felt to have a grown man advocate for me.  It was the first time in my life that an adult male had tried to create a safe place for me.  My life would never, ever be the same.   And I knew that God’s calling on my life would be creating that same space for teenagers.

I love Mitch Jackson.  He will always be my youth pastor.  And I am so grateful that he showed me (and all of us 80’s, snarky, apathetic, depressed teenagers) how Jesus advocates for us, loves us, holds us.  My life has been transformed.

How has youth ministry transformed your life?  Share your story!  And be a part of SYMC: Stories of Transformation!!



Shrewd is NOT a 4-Letter Word

Nobody unpacks Scripture like Rick Lawrence. With unfaltering precision, he can dissect one passage – one verse! – like a skilled surgeon using an implement the rest of the world has yet to even try!

Shrewd – like his first work, Sifted – takes a long look at a short verse in a way most Christians have never considered.

And Shrewd, also like Sifted, does not disappoint. The leadership principles contained within will revolutionize the way people think about themselves, their relationships, and their circles of influence.

I opened the book believing that being ‘shrewd’ was merely a buttercup word for manipulating, conniving, disingenuous opportunist.  I closed it realizing that shrewdness is little more than the development of  and appreciation for the spiritual gifts of discernment and wisdom and using them in tandem… like training wheels that keep a bicycle upright as one navigates the asphalt of true leadership.  And I was never so stunned by Scripture or Jesus than when I found out it was a directive given to His disciples….

Though the book is based on Scripture, the wisdom contained within is completely user friendly – regardless of where one’s faith-base lies…or if they even have one, at all.

Grab a copy – and be prepared to wrestle down the way your approach every relationship in your life….or make a comment on this blog, my Facebook page, or via Twitter – and win your own digital copy!  (I’ll draw the winner from all entries throughout the week.)

Or just buy a copy!

Real Stories from SYMC #10

Thom & Joani Schultz.

Let’s talk about a commitment to student ministry, shall we?  Thom Schultz started a little youth ministry newsletter a few years back – maybe you’ve heard of it….Group Magazine.  Through Thom & Joani’s hearts for teenagers, kids, and the adults who work with them – and by the blessing of God – youth and children’s ministries have never been the same.  Their knowledge and passion for developing usable, engaging resources for adult leaders is only outweighed by their love and passion for the leaders themselves.  Though they lead one of the leading ministry resource companies in the world, they still serve and know youth workers.  I’ve never been to an event at Group Publishing where Thom and Joani did not invite the youth workers to dinner in their home.  (Which we all know is like inviting a rhino to a tea party!)  Once, Thom even cooked for us.  (At least that’s the story – he could have done what I do…buy something really amazing and then put it on my own plate so it looks like I’m an Iron Chef.  But I don’t think so.)

Let’s face it.  Without their zeal for youth ministry, the Simply Youth Ministry Conference would not exist.  So thank you Schultz family – for loving students, their leaders, and Jesus enough to sacrifice your entire lives for the cause.  I hope I can run the race as you have.

You can run your race better by attending SYMC.  You’ll meet Thom and Joani there, as well…or you can find them online by clicking on their names.

Real Stories from SYMC #25

Sherri Smith.

Let me tell you about Sherri.  Sherri is the kind of person who could find my car keys in Texas from her desk in Colorado.  You may or may not see Sherri at the conference….but you’ll see her hand all over the details.  (And when you DO see her, she’ll have a smile on her face.)

Sherri brings a fierce joy to the table.  She reminds me of one of those dogs that’s a good natured, faithful pet…but don’t act like you’re threatening the owner.  Know what I mean?  Sherri is a soft-spoken, smiling force to be reckoned with when it comes to youth workers. She fights the good  fight on our behalf to make sure we are well cared for and well loved at SYMC.  She’ll accomplish her task with a smile – but make no mistake, she WILL accomplish the task!

That’s why you should register right now!  You have less than a month before the conference begins.  You can find Sherri’s smiling face there or here.

Real Stories from SYMC #32

Andy Brazelton.

Andy embodies someone who is called to youth ministry – and knows how he should express it.  I love that Andy embraces his call in a unique way.  I love that Andy’s method of impacting students comes through quality resources and equipping the adults who lead teenagers.  And I especially love that he has leaned into that calling – embraced it – without apology.  (You can tell every time he gets called to stand in front of people how much he embraces his ‘behind-the-scenes’ life.)

But I want to bring Andy out front today.  It’s his commitment to youth ministry and heart for youth workers that make The Simply Youth Ministry Conference happen.  He has become a good friend – and he is a really good man – and a great youth ministry.

Meet Andy at SYMC this year.  Get familiar with his more ‘distinctive’ qualities on his blogFacebook, or Twitter.