GIVEAWAY: As for Me and My [Crazy] House

What is it…

It’s a book by my friend Brian Berry. Brian has been in youth ministry for 20 years. Literally, his kids know no other life than being the youth pastor’s kids. Speaking of kids– Brian has 5 of them! My kids LOVE going over to their house and seeing them at church. Somehow they managed to have 3 kids between Megan and Paul’s age. (OK, so 2 of them are adopted!) Somehow– not accidentally– Shannon and Brian have figured out how to keep their sanity while serving in ministry. I’m not saying the Berry family is perfect or problem free. But they have figured some things out and are worth learning from.

Who is Brian…

Brian is my compatriot, high school guys co-small group leader, and generations pastor at my church. He’s got a great big job, a great big family, and the biggest pick-up truck you’ve ever seen. Seriously, I drove it and it was as big as a short bus. More important than all that stuff– Brian and Shannon have great big hearts. They’re the kind of people you meet and want to hang out with more. If you’ve been to NYWC, SYMC, YS Palooza… or read a youth ministry magazine in the past 3-4 years than you’ve probably met Brian. (Read between the lines: I think Brian is legit. Does it show?)

Why I like it…

It’s a shame that this book has mostly been marketed to youth ministry people. Sure, Brian is a youth ministry dude. BUT this book is important for any Christian family trying to figure out how to balance life. Brian is an excellent communicator. I call his style “staccato.” When he’s got something to say it comes quick, in bite size, highly comprehendible bursts.

There’s a ton of books in the “Christian family” category at any Christian bookstore. There is a lot of crap on the market in this category, we all know it. Everything Brian does is “anti-crap.” This book is no exception.

You get the idea, I like this book because I like Brian.

How to get it…

BUY IT… Head over to Simply Youth Ministry and buy a copy. You can either download it in your favorite eReader format or pay $2 more to get a printed version.

WIN IT… Leave a comment on this post by midnight tonight and you’ll be entered to win a free copy. Check back on this post tomorrow, I’ll edit the post to announce the winner.

WINNER... James Hauptman – hey James, email me your address and we’ll ship it out!

youth ministry

Desert Man Trip

I’ve been around a few types of “manly men” in my lifetime.

  1. Dude’s who hang out at country clubs, play sophisticated sports, and have sophisticated tastes.
  2. Dude’s who smoke big cigars, enjoy fine beverages, and gamble big bucks. (Either gambling or on business deals)
  3. Dude’s who shot guns, kill things, and could live for months self-sustained from things in their garage.
Not a good place to sit

I wouldn’t consider myself firmly in any of those camps. And I’d hardly consider myself a manly man. I’m more of a floater man who likes all of those things but never enough to go all in.

This past weekend I spent 3 days with group #3 while serving at the Encounter mens retreat. All told there were 57 young and fully grown men in the desert for 3 days of playing hard, eating good, and playing with fire. (Bonfires, flame-throwers, explosions, shooting range, paintball, and more explosions.)

As we were packing up I told Brian… “This is clearly the most red neck thing I’ve ever done.” I’m a city slicker whose idea of country boy is a bike rack on his car. I’m not really a big fan of guns– much less teaching young men how to shoot them. There was lots of irony in that I spent the last three years in an urban high school ministry trying to show young men that loving Jesus meant putting guns down (gangs) and now we were going to do just the opposite.

I had convinced myself to come into the weekend with an open mind. I have huge respect for Brian- a top 5 nominee for the brightest youth ministry veteran I’ve ever rubbed shoulders with. On top of that Encounter is a ministry to high school students in East County of San Diego. (For those not familiar with San Diego, anything east of La Mesa is referred to as “East County.” East County San Diego bears more reflection on ranching than it does big city. If we go 10 miles from our house you quickly get into horse, cactus, and big pick-up truck people.)

This kind of trip made me nervous from a city slicker perspective but was completely culturally relevant to the young men Encounter ministers to.

To the desert

Getting stuck on the way in

We drove out to Ocotillo and quickly got off paved roads and into the back country. (Map) Just getting back to the canyon was an adventure. We got there about 30 minutes before it got dark and quickly established camp. You can’t even call this area a campsite as it was completely undeveloped. (No electricity, no cell services, no water, no toilets… just a cool canyon in the desert.)

It’s all about the content

In reality, while this trip is über manly man it really is a youth group retreat about calling these young men to follow Christ. Our culture does it’s best to emasculate young men and treat them like boys. This was a wake up call for them that becoming a man is up to them. We are ready to look at them as men… maybe the first time they were told that?

The content for the weekend was wrapped up around this central thought: You are dangerous and you can use that danger for good or evil. Topically, we reenforced that with lessons (and sweet object lessons!) about danger, their mouth, sexual purity, their choices, and perspective. It was a great chance for them to wrestle with the reality of their personal decisions.

It’s all about being hands on

Where is Starbucks?
Where is Starbucks?

We live in a world where we are in community only when we choose to be in community. Moreover, we can walk away from anything that makes us uncomfortable. While that is safe and lawsuit conscious it is leading to the neurosis of a generation.

God never intended us to be lone wolves, the enemy did. (Look at Genesis 3, it’s always been a divide and conquer strategy) Satan builds strongholds as we delve further and further into isolation. We don’t think our actions have consequences. We want to talk about blowing things up but not the people who are harmed. We want to say nasty things to other people through a video game. We want to look at pornography and pretend that doesn’t hurt anyone. We want to focus on our friends and not our community. On and on, culture pushes us into being alone while God calls us to something more complete.

Isolation is the enemy of communion. Jesus’ call for communion was never a call for individuals to come to Jesus as individuals on their own terms. That’s a perversion of our individualistic culture. Faith that lasts is almost never “just Jesus and me.” Our culture lies about that, our church culture lies about that, and youth ministry (too often) preaches that.

Sharing communion in community under the hoppa

So 57 men of all ages went to the desert for an encounter with Jesus. To be communal, to live in commune, and to commune with their Creator.

My prayer is that as we shot, burned, and blew things up that those were symbols of the battle against the enemy. Three days per year of communion is not enough. I hope that for some of those young men they walk in communion with one another, in rejection of individualism, for the rest of their lives.

Blog Highlight

Highlighting a few friends blogs

Here are three blogs worth checking out. Only one of them is a youth ministry blog, per se. But all of them have strong ties to a vibrant life with Jesus and in one way or another, they have done student ministry. More importantly they are all friends of mine and if you like my writing you’ll probably like theirs.

Becky Daye – Becky went to college with Kristen and I. She and her husband Dave have served in local churches since they graduated, they now live in Connecticut. We don’t get to hang out with the Daye’s very often, but when we do it’s like we haven’t seen one another in 2 days instead of 5 years.

What I love about Becky’s blog is she weaves together her life as a mom, her love for her husband, and most importantly her love for God and His Word. When I read her stuff I am impressed by the depth and clarity. So solid.

Zoe Reyes – Zoe and her husband Manny joined our community group last fall. It took me a while to figure them out but I’m glad they stuck around long enough for us all to fall in love with them. They moved to San Diego from the Bay area for a year, mostly so Manny could do some post-doc work at UCSD and they’d be near family with the birth of their first child, Sofia. And before long they are off to a new adventure in Maine. Crazy!

What I love about Zoe’s blog is the way she draws your empathetic senses in with her descriptions. She walks with Jesus in a deep way that I’m captivated by. Zoe writes when she has something to write. And when she does she really draws you in. So when I get a notification that Zoe has a new post… I go and make a cup of tea.

Brian Berry – I’ve been getting to know Brian steadily more over the past 3 years. The more I get to know him the more I respect him as a leader. Not just a leader in youth ministry… like, he’s a strong dude that I learn a ton from each time we hang out.

What I love about Brian’s blog is that he’s both a thinker and a doer. His role at Journey is HUGE. And yet his mind is wired in such a way that he can take the challenges put before him and describe what is happening and what needs to be done. With about 20 years experience in and around youth ministry, his blog is super helpful.

These are new blogs (writers) I’m enjoying right now. Who do you want to highlight?