Hello everyone!  Thanks so much for visiting this blog - those of you that are stopping by for the first time, and those of you that check back in from time to time.  

Just wanted to let you know that posts have been trickling out at a snail's pace lately because of several big projects I'm working on right now - one of them being a redesign of my church's website (which I'm in charge of).  Along with that, I'm planning on redesigning and relaunching this site.  Bear with me while I do some redesign and possibly move over to another blog provider.

Thanks for your support!
You can check out part 1 of our new youth series "EXODUS" by clicking right here.  I'd love to hear what you think!
Ran across a great article today called "How Would Jesus Teach?"  I really liked the thought behind it, as I have found discussion to be a powerful tool in my ministry over the years.  Read the excerpt below, and then click right here to check out the full article!

We cannot continue to fill our students’ heads with answers and hope they make it in college and beyond because of the sound theology they received. We need to shift our methods to encourage them to go deeper into a conversation with Jesus and Scripture.

Yep, we really did this.  So fun!
Fun video from our Christmas party!
This Friday we're having our youth ugly sweater Christmas party.  I thought I'd post the schedule for the party, in case it might be useful to you as you plan some holiday fun for your youth group!

7:00 - Kids arrive, pizza, snacks, music playing, meet and greet, guests fill out info cards.

7:15 - Big group games, videos, etc. in youth room.

8:00 - Practice for kazoo flash mob.  Yeah, we're doing this.

8:15 - Split into groups/teams and leave for local Wal-mart.  Instead of doing a gift exchange this year, we're having each student bring $5 and using that money to do a sort of scavenger hunt grocery shopping trip to stock our church's food pantry.  After the last group checks out, we're all meeting by the registers up front at Wal-mart to do a kazoo flash mob.  I'm so excited about this part!  We'll probably have about 30-40 of us kazooing Christmas carols.  EPIC.

9:30ish - Back from Wal-mart, count up and put away food items, devotion and prayer over food pantry.

9:45 - Dessert, four-on-a-couch and mafia (big group games) until the end (11:00).

That's it!  Are you planning a Christmas party or event this year?
For the first time EVER in my ministry, I have an entire month off of regular youth services.  Due to church activities and holiday cancellations, we will not have our midweek IMPACT service the entire month of December.  It's not the first time I've had a "break" like this in YM, but it's by far the longest one I've ever had.  

However, just because our regular services aren't happening doesn't mean I'm on vacation or that ministry has stopped.  In fact, I'm taking the opportunity to do several things, things I would encourage you to do as well anytime  you have a break from your normal routine:

- Get ahead.  So far I've already got an entire teaching series ("Exodus", a study of the book over 6 weeks, more on that later) mapped out for after the first of the year.  I also hope to have all the other service elements (games, music, videos, small groups) basically planned out for the first 6 weeks of 2012.  Along with that, over the next several weeks I hope to get our Sunday morning Bible Studies ready for January.

- Leader training/encouragement.  This break in services allows me the opportunity to spend time with our adult and student leaders and train them and encourage them.  We've already met once and planned out our activities for the first quarter of 2012, our summer mission trip, and spent time encouraging each other.  I hope to meet with them once more before Christmas to write cards to our students and do some more training on mentoring and counseling, and dream about the coming year.

- Assist/support other ministries.  Part of my "full-time" job status involves helping to lead worship.  I'm taking some of the extra time I have during the week that's not being spent on prepping for our midweek to work on a few things in the worship ministry, such as building up our instrumentalists, selecting new music, and updating some of our media resources.  I've also made myself available to our music minister as she works on the church's Christmas musical.  On top of that, I've been talking with our Children's Ministry Team to see what their needs are and I hope to plug some students in to helping out in those areas.

- Catch up on "side projects".  There are always a million little things on my to-do list that don't have a specific due date on them that consequently never seem to get done.  Some extra time means I can work through some of those and finally feel some accomplishment.  For example, I had several article/writing ideas on the backburner that I've had the chance to crank out over the last couple weeks, and hope to write some more in the weeks to come.

- Spend time with students.  A break from the routine means I'm almost forced into this one if I want to stay connected with our youth.  Luckily, they'll be on break soon and that means lots of hanging out, eating, and playing with students leading up to Christmas.  We all know that time spent with youth outside of church is almost always more valuable than structured program time, so I'm not mad about this at all!

- Time off.  Even though I said before that I'm not on vacation and ministry hasn't stopped, this "break" in YM is the perfect opportunity for me to burn through the remaining vacation days I have.  I have one day set aside already to play the copy of Batman: Arkham City that has been sitting unopened on my entertainment center for a couple weeks, I'm taking another day to spend with my son just sitting around the house in our PJs playing and doing dude things all day, and the last one I just tacked onto the end of our staff Christmas break so that I can stretch out our family's time together over the holidays by another day.

That's it!  There are a few other odds and ends I'm hoping to do over this break, including reading and studying for personal growth, and I'm excited to have this opportunity (even though I was honestly kind of annoyed with it at first).  

What about you?  How do you spend your time when you get little breaks from your usual routine?
Every year the good folks over at WorshipHouse Media offer their "12 Days of Christmas" freebies grab, and this year is no different!  In the past they've given away countdowns, illustrations, funny videos, and background loops.  You should check it out if you use media in any way in your youth ministry!

Click right here to bookmark a calendar that shows which days the freebies are available.
Follow the Five Rules:

1. Don't be so messy.
2. Don't be competitive at sports.
3. Don't spend so much time playing video games.
4. Spend less time trying to be cool.
5. Avoid irresponsibility.

Follow 'em!
This weekend we're starting a combined youth/college-age Bible Study based on the book and resources provided by the awesome people at Advent Conspiracy (click the name for their website!).

I discovered AC several years ago and absolutely love the message.  They also introduced me to Living Water International, a cause and people that I love.

Check out the links above for more info.  I'm looking forward to our study with our students at FBC!