Friday, June 25, 2010

BLOG TOUR: "Where Was God When...?"

It is a great honor for me to take an active role in a “blog tour” for some good friends of mine, Mike Calhoun and Ric Garland from Word of Life. As many of my readers know, I have had the privilege of co-editing 2 major anthologies of youth ministry along with Mike – and we were very thankful for Ric’s participation in both books.

I am not a Word of Life guy, per se, but I have very good friends within that organization and I grew up with some involvement in WOL clubs, WOL youth events (remember “Operation: Nightmare”?), and even had the distinct opportunity to hear the WOL founder, Jack Wyrtzen preach on several occasions. In my mind, Jack Wyrtzen is one of the legends of youth ministry. Without a doubt, he’s a member of our “hall of fame.” I often tell youth ministry students the accounts from the 1940’s of how Jack filled Yankee Stadium and other venues for what could be considered as the first youth rallies. I’m a fan of Word of Life for their commitment to the Scriptures, for their desire to reach a new generation with the Gospel, and for the development and training of youth workers all around this globe.

Mike and Ric have written and produced an incredible new tool entitled, “Where was God when…?” It’s an 8-part study on the attributes of God and how that truth shapes our understanding of tragedy. This book and DVD answers the hard questions this generation is asking by taking them back to the nature and character of God Himself. I highly recommend this resource to anyone who works with today’s youth. (

For their “blog tour” they asked some of their youth ministry friends and bloggers to write a brief and Biblical response to one of the student’s questions from the book. I’m glad to do it!

My dad left me when I was five. I know a lot of people can identify with my situation, of having your family basically fall apart. But sometimes I felt like no one understood. You see, my parents fought all the time. I remember one night in particular, when I stood behind the door with my ears covered as my mom and dad fought it out in the kitchen. Usually, it was just flying words, but that night my mom starting throwing dishes, too. When the third coffee mug broke against the wall, I just lost it. I said I would do anything for them to stop fighting. My dad looked at me like I’ve never seen him look before. He hugged me and explained to me that adults are bound to disagree sometimes. He used the “d” word for the first time—they promised they weren’t going to get a divorce. I don’t remember hearing that word before, but I got used to it soon. They did get a divorce. I remember that night, too. I grabbed onto my dad’s leg and sat on his ankle, begging him not to go.

"Marcus, that’s rough that your Dad left you when you were five. I feel badly about what you’ve gone through and the difficult situation facing your family.

Circumstances like this must drive us to the Word of God. God is our Heavenly Father and will never, never leave us. Take a look at Hebrews 13:5 “…For He Himself had said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” The author of Hebrews is actually quoting God’s own words to Joshua following the death of his mentor and leader, Moses. Moses was not Joshua’s father, yet their relationship was real and very significant. I’m sure Joshua felt loss and abandonment at the death of this close, older friend. The truth of God’s statement resonated deep within Joshua’s own heart. Humanly speaking, people might leave and even disappoint us, but God never will. No matter what Joshua would go through, God would be there. And Marcus, no matter what you go through, God will be with you as well.

Our Heavenly Father is absolutely dependable and faithful. His Word is very, very clear about that. For instance, take a look at 1 Cor. 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I want to share with you one of the Psalms that has come to mean a great deal to me. Take a few moments to read Psalm 18:1 – 19. This passage is actually a song of praise that David sang to God after facing one of the most difficult circumstances in his life. You can read about what he went through by reading the story in 2 Sam. 21:15 – 22. Then keep reading. This same song is also published for us in the very next chapter.

Now go back to Psalm 18. When we cry out to God and call to Him for help, He always hears us and will release all of the resources of heaven to help His children. I especially love the last phrase in the last verse in Psalm 18:1 – 19, “He delivered me because He delighted in me.” Marcus, please understand that the word “delighted” here has nothing at all to do with anything we could ever do to merit or deserve this response from God. He doesn’t help us because we deserve it. He releases the very resources of heaven because He wants to. God is your Heavenly Father, Marcus. He will never leave you and He’ll help you and see you through life’s most difficult circumstances because He loves you and is your Heavenly Father!"

You can order this amazing resource at:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Youth Pastor - Consider Joining Our Discussion at TLC

If you are a vocational youth pastor I want to invite you to participate in what I believe will be a strategic “think-tank” for vocational youth pastors during this summer’s Teen Leadership Conference at Baptist Bible College. The leadership team at TLC has given me the opportunity to meet with youth pastors during the workshop times to initiate a conversation on the important topic of teaching doctrine and theology to today’s teenagers!

Perhaps you’ve read Mark Driscoll’s new book Doctrine or maybe you’ve seen the recent Christianity Today series on how millennials have a passion for life-related truth. These authors are substantiating the comprehensive research done by Dr. Christian Smith and others that touts the idea that today’s young people are hungering for deeper, serious teaching in Biblical truth. Friends, I am convinced that we are working with a generation that wants to know what they believe!

  It is to that end that I would love to meet with a group of church youth pastors about this very, very important matter. I’d love to hear your ideas of what you are doing with your students. How are you helping your students internalize and personalize doctrinal truth? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to teach theology to teenagers. We’ll meet during the youth workers’ sessions at TLC, but our meetings will be discussion-driven and very interactive. Not only do I want to hear your input, but I also believe it will be incredibly valuable for our group of youth pastors to learn what other guys from around the country are doing.

If you have any curriculum or teaching materials that you have developed on the subject of teaching theology to teenagers, please bring a copy of it along. Part of our discussion will be to share these materials with each other – and maybe even open a discussion about publishing some collaborative material together on this topic.

Anyway, please consider being a participant in our group during TLC. We’d love to hear what you think and I know that other youth pastors will learn much from your thoughts as well. Thanks. I’ll see you at TLC in just a few weeks.

Baptist Bible College is located just up the road from my office here in Clarks Summit, PA. For more information about Teen Leadership Conference take a look at:

Thursday, June 10, 2010

New Web Address for My Blog

Check it out. The new address for my blog is:

A Generation that Wants to Learn Theology? (Part 2)

This is a continuation of an earlier post - see below.

Here are 2 other big-picture principles for incorporating doctrine into your church’s youth ministry:

Develop ways to reinforce Biblical truth in various educational settings.

My high school basketball coach was a master at developing a style of coaching that permeated the entire school system. Not only did the varsity team play one way, but so did the junior varsity, the freshmen team, and even the junior highers. The offenses were the same and the defenses were the same. Every basketball player in our community grew up learning that one style of basketball.

Likewise, our students learn effectively from consistent reinforcement of Biblical truth. Undoubtedly, this process starts at home where parents teach God’s Word to their children, but that routine must continue at church in the various educational ministries that reach and teach students. Consistent presentation of Biblical truth is a powerful, life-changing tool. Wise church leaders working in constant collaboration with Godly parents can and should develop a thorough and comprehensive curriculum throughout the church’s entire educational system that covers the “whole counsel of God” and that presents systematic Biblical truth.

Provide real-life opportunities for your students to think and live Biblically.

One reason that I am a big fan of youth ministry is that our ministries encourage our students to implement the truth of what they are learning into various life situations. The goal is for our students to be “doers of the Word” (James 1:22). I really believe that our teenagers will be more likely to continue on in their faith and will be more confident to stand up for what they believe if they have had guidance in applying Biblical principles to the various real-life experiences of their day-to-day lives.

Now it’s time to talk about “how”. How are you teaching theology to your youth group? Please send me your thoughts or materials ( - or post your specific, practical ideas below.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Surefire" Ways to Reach Youth

If you are trying to impact Millennials then the following principles from a youth marketing guru should ring true. The following 5 basic ideas can be applied to our ministry strategies as well:

Provide valuable content and information.
Isn’t it interesting that even secular marketers understand the importance of providing “valuable content and information”? As Bible-believing Christians, communicating “content” should be our specialty. We must present God’s life-changing truth in creative and relevant ways – and we must show our students how the Gospel relates and applies to their lives today and in their future. (This relates very, very well with our recent push on teaching theology to teenagers. They are craving this stuff!)

Have a social mission.
I wouldn’t call it “social”, but I understand the point. As Donna Fenn says, “…Millennials care deeply about social causes.” No wonder Alex and Brett Harris’s book Do Hard Things resonates so well with this generation. A recent issue of Christianity Today reported that about 1.2 million American high school kids go on social or missions trips each year. Youth workers, we should lead the way on this one, too. We must teach and train our students to live “missional.” You can read more about this idea in Matthew 28:19-20 and Acts 1:8.

Connect with their parents.
A recent survey revealed that the vast majority of this generation consults their parents on most or all of life’s decisions “large and small.” Our church youth ministries must become “parent-targeted”. We’re making a big mistake if we by-pass parents in our attempts to minister to kids.

Co-create with Millennials.
This is a generation that grew up with the Internet. Today’s young people often have entrepreneurial aspirations. For example, Mark Zuckerberg founded the social networking site "Facebook” when he was still a teenager – and he’s now worth around $4 billion dollars. (See Wikipedia.) It’s important that you involve your students in the fabric and in all aspects of your church’s youth program and give them ways to share and implement their ideas. Plus, they will be more effective than you are at strategizing how to reach their own generation.

Be edgy.
This is not a “business-as-usual” generation. They grew up in a time when technology was growing and developing at an exponential rate. (iPad’s anyone?) They thrive on chaos and creativity. Theirs is an MTV-influenced culture and their normalcy is different every week. I’m still thinking this one through, but I’m wondering if the “cookie-cutter” churches of my generation will be relevant for Millennials. They seem to be intrigued by “liturgy and contemporary” at the same time. I’m sure their churches will look differently in the future, but I’m convinced this generation is seeking truth and is very, very serious about their faith and their God!

The sub-points in this post were developed by Donna Fenn (author of Upstarts! How Gen Y Entrepreneurs are Rocking the World of Business) in her blog article Five Surefire Ways to Reach the Youth Market.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your reactions.