Faith lab: little things


Today I took a bike ride.  It was a very chilly ride that was much needed. It is just really nice to get out on the road rather than on a trainer. 

But if you take a look at the picture to the left you will notice that the saddle (aka seat) is not where it should be.  101_6278On my way back to the house there was a bump in the road that snapped the screw that held the saddle onto the seat post.  As a result I had to pick up the pieces and finish the ride without the luxury of a place to sit.  All because of a broken screw that is 1/2 the size of my pinky. 

Many in ministry times it seems like it is the little things that lead to big problems, seemingly overwhelming odds or heartbreak.  There are times where we need to ask some regular maintenance questions to our young people.  These might not me the most fun conversations or the most interesting, but asking the questions that tighten some screws before the come undone are worth more than we cold ever know.  John Wesley asked the question, “How is it with your soul” to his followers.  Are we doing this with our young people? Are we being intentional on asking our students about their hearts rather than just “How was your week?”  Asking questions about their devotional lives, relationships with the family allows us insight and opportunity to have some maintenance time with them .

Faith Lab: Age to Age

kindergardenIn the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” there is a conversation about getting older.  Morrie tells Mitch, the book’s author, “I embrace aging.”  He explains that if he were to stay 21 he would not know the wonders of being 22 or 54 or any other age.  Morrie goes on to say,  “I am every age, up to my own.”

A little while ago someone from my elementary school growing up found and scanned some of our old yearbooks into facebook and then tagged a bunch of us as like a remember when kind of thing.  I am the one in the top row second from the left.  As I look at that picture I think about all of the memories that I had then, but would never want to go back.  In fact Morrie’s words ring true for me.  I have had first hand experience of every age, up to 28.  How cool is that!  The trouble comes when we forget some of these ages.  We forget about parts of our lives that make us, us. 

In student ministry we should embrace the ages that we still are.  We are not just our current age, but we are all of our years.  When I talk to students who are going through a hard time or who make strange decisions I have to stop myself from thinking “What are you doing?”  I have to remember my teenage self.  I have to remember when my brain was literally not making connections the way it does now. 

Perhaps an extension of grace to our students is taking the time to remember the things that mattered most to us during our middle and high school time.  Telling an 8th grade guy to “suck it up” and essentially walk it off when he tells you that he broke up with the love of his life (a relationship lasting 4 days and a lunch shift) may not be the most pastoral thing to do.  Feelings and emotions are real and intense for our students. 

In the coming year make an effort to remembers your ages (all of them) and better connect with your students. 


Be God’s


Faith Lab: Beeline to the cross


More and more I can’t help but read the nativity story (especially where it concerns Mary) without thinking about the cross.  I am one of those people who likes to read the first and the last 2 chapters of a book before reading the text in its entirety.  So with that, I can’t help but think about this season without thinking about the cross. 

Charles Spurgeon once said that his preaching makes a beeline for the cross no matter where the scripture comes from.  The cross is the thing that changes the game for us.  Without the cross there would be no Christmas.  Without the cross we would not know, in such real terms, the love that God has for us.  Without the cross the world would be a very different place. 

So in this season, in particular, we are given an opportunity to share that God doesn’t just have the kind of love for humanity that sends the baby Jesus, but also that kind of love that leads to the cross.  May we all be blessed because of this Christ child who entered the world and turned everything upside down because of his life, death and resurrection. 

Be blessed this Christmas

Faith Lab: Getting the shot

Preschool papThis week I was fortunate to be able to go to my daughter’s preschool program for the end of the year.  After a 3+ hour car ride from Brunswick to Arlington VA (a trip that should have taken an hour and 15 min) we arrived just in time for the beginning of the program.  Eden was great, she sat with her class, wore her Santa hat, sang and did her hand motions just so.  I had my camera and snapped a few choice pictures of Eden and a couple of some of her friends. Then when the program was over the kids staid on the stage and parents could then swarm up close and get their pictures. 

Katie’s mom directs the preschool and wanted me to take some pictures of the parents taking pictures like paparazzi.  I am sure they were all taking pictures of my Eden because, well, she is the most adorable one up on the stage J/k Smile.

As I took pictures of the parents I thought about Mary and Martha.  There were parents who sat and enjoyed the program, while others only saw it through camera viewfinders and camcorder LCD’s. 

With all of the hustle and flow of Advent and student ministry in general, we must take seriously the words of Jesus to Martha to slow down and enjoy the present.  We can easily get wrapped up in the planning and execution of programming that we forget about the people who we put the programs on for.  Ministry can get lost in the production.  Make sure you are able to take some time (even if it means some little things will not get done) to be with your students. 

Be blessed and pause to take it in


Faith Lab: The Question

101_6245So the picture to the left is the current state of the Xbox360 at the Bishop home.  A little while ago we had the spinner go out of the Xbox and so the ability to play a disk became impossible (because it couldn’t spin).  As of late the Xbox has become a way that we stream Netflix to our bedroom because we don’t have cable there. 

Because of some recent game releases and my desire to play online with some friends, I have taken it upon myself to fix the beast.  The warranty is up and I don’t want to spend $150 and lose 8 weeks in official repair cost, so what is there to lose? 

101_6248Something struck me as I dismantled the sleek and nice looking case was that the core of the machine is a very simple computer of sorts.  So this got me thinking about the core of of a question Jesus asks his disciples. 

“Who Do You Say I AM?”

Our answer to this question will speak volumes about our personal witness and faith and the shape of our ministry.  Is Jesus a teacher, friend, guide, healer, redeemer, sustainer, revolutionary, or primarily  something else to you? 

Jesus resonates in many ways with many people and each way can be alright.  But then as people who work with student we MUST have an answer to this question and we have to be able to articulate it to our students, their parents and anyone else who asks. 

Take some time this week to write down who Jesus is to you and why you place your trust in God.  Then try and share this with someone (it could be your friend, spouse, cat…).  The more you tell it the more you will be comfortable and own it.  The first 5 times will be very hard, and the next 5 you will be able to go off script.  After telling your core story 10 times you will own it. 

When you can tell your story to those who care about you are are willing to invest relationship time with you, then they will be willing to consider responding to the relational invitation of God through the person of Jesus.  And in this invitation we are living our the call to journey with one another toward deeper discipleship. 

Faith Lab: Noise

Tis the season, for what?  It would seem harder and harder to sort our what the season is all about these days.  Sales and bargains begin earlier and earlier each year and the sales last longer and longer.

There are 24 hour specials every 24 minutes it seems.  After thanksgiving malls are packed Internet commerce is up and everyone is getting ready for the holidays.  I just heard that cyber Monday crossed over the 1 billion dollars spent mark this year in the US alone.

Is the Christmas season really about spending like it is our birthday rather than Jesus’?  There is so much noise swirling all around us and it is hard to think sort out all of the junk from the substance at times. In fact there is so much junk that it is easy to see how we can all be distracted.

But this time is about focusing on the way that God loves us so much that Jesus, God’s word made flesh, came to live and breath and encounter humanity in a very unique way.  All of the suffering, dirty diapers, embarrassing moments that we encounter…God’s been there through Jesus.

Let us not be deterred amid all of the lights of the Christmas season that we are getting ready for the living and breathing gift that didn’t come wrapped in paper or adorned with a bow or that had monetary value.  This is the gift of God’s grace made real and tangible in the person of Jesus.

As we continue to the manger this season take time every day to remember and give thanks for the coming of Jesus, the one who overcame dath so that we may have life.  As a youth worker journey with students and keep them mindful about this.  Help them sort out the noise and get back to the heart of why we, who are journeying toward a deeper discipleship, find hope, peace, love and joy in advent.

Faith Lab: Messes

american thanks

I came across this picture this week.  I thought about how this is not at all the feeling of thanksgiving day that I have ever seen.  First there is no disorder, mess, or stress in this picture at all. 

If there was a picture that captured your thanksgiving what would it look like?  The closest to this picture my family ever got when I was growing up was when we went to our house in Canaan Valley WV and we went to THE BEST thanksgiving buffet ever.  It had all of the fixings and then some because the owners were Italian and added their favorite Italian dishes to an already full offering.   There was no prep, on clean up and no stress. Yet there was also little appreciation for the effort that went into the special meal.  There was no conversation while in the kitchen making the mashed potatoes or cleaning the dishes. 

When I think about student ministry there have to be times where we prep and clean together because often that is where transformation happens.  If there are not messes that need to be cleaned up then something isn’t right.

Few verses in scripture get to the heart of ministry like Proverbs 14:4

4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

In student ministry talk this could be translated into “a church without youth will stay clean, but don’t expect to have a crop of young disciples in the coming years.”

Student ministry is messy.  Stuff breaks, spills happen and buildings are heavy used (but hopefully not abused).   In the end seeds are planted and disciples are made and the world is changed.  If you don’t want to deal with the messiness of ministry (keeping your stable clean) that is fine, but find another line of ministry. 

In the mess there is transformation.   Handing over leadership to youth is a risky and messy business but everyone is much richer for it.  It is a blessing to see the students making decisions about their future because of their faith.  I know that some of the most meaningful conversations I have had is when a young person discerns a call they feel on their lives because of how God has moved in their hearts.  I think back at the time we have shared, the silly games, the tears shed, the jokes and the thoughtful reflection and realize I wouldn’t change a thing. 

The next chance you get, go on and get messy!!