The Youth Cartel youth ministry

The Year of the Book

My new book: A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media

2012 will be remembered around the McLane house as, the year of the book. 

First, I partnered with Jon to write Good News in the Neighborhood which came out in May. Then I partnered with Marko to write A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Social Media which arrived yesterday.

If those two projects were bookend, starting a publishing line for The Youth Cartel was sandwiched in the middle.

From the very beginning, Marko and I talked about doing some stuff in publishing. But we didn’t necessarily see that as starting our own line of digital and physical products. We were more thinking we’d work with other publishers, helping shape a Cartel voice into a wide variety of publishing efforts. (Actually, something we do quite a bit of.) It wasn’t until last Winter that we decided to include publishing our own products as part of our publishing plan. I’ll be the first to admit that when we decided to go forward with publishing some of our own stuff I had no idea what I’d agreed to. 

Church Leadership

Baptism Video

I love the joy on folks faces as they come out of the water! What’s not to celebrate about such a big step of faith?

One of the cool parts about being close to the ocean is that churches don’t need a baptismal. You can just tell everyone to meet you at the beach. 

Speaking of baptism… I guess I’m kind of famous for one I made about 4 years ago. It was one of those things that was a funny concept but I don’t think I’d do again.

I like the one from Journey this weekend a whole lot better.

How does your church celebrate baptism?

Blog Highlight

Happy 7th Birthday,!

Photo by persocomholic via Flickr (Creative Commons)

On May 25th, 2004 I wrote a post called, “Why am I starting this?

Perhaps many people start a blog because they are trying to prove to the world just how smart they are? Perhaps others do it so they can feel like someone is listening to them? Perhaps others do it as a way to share what’s going on in their lives.

But why am I doing this? Mostly as a way to share with myself, just what is going on. I’m not going to use this as a platform for anything else but… Well, whatever I feel like posting. Quotes. Golf scores. Youth Group talks. Carry-over rants. Interesting articles. Stories about the kids. Whatever I want!

Seven years later not much has changed. I’m still going and I’m still writing whatever I want.

Some stats:

  • 3,549 posts in 2,555 days = 1.38 posts per day.
  • 6,260 comments on 3,549 post = 1.76 comments per post.
  • 3,549 posts averaging 500 words = 1,774,500 words I’ve published here.
  • Started on Blogger, moved to Typepad, finally now on WordPress.

Thank you, faithful reader

In the early days I was shocked if a handful of people read my posts. Then, a few years later, I remember the joy of noticing that I had hit 100 daily visitors. Then, living in Romeo, Michigan I remember bumping into people at church or even people at the supermarket would stop and tell me something they liked about my blog. Today? A good day sees a lot more than that. And I’m still just amazed that you show up.

Thank you.

Thanks for reading my thoughts– good, bad, and ugly– of a youth ministry guy just trying to figure stuff out.

Christian Living

Reward yourself

The reality is that no one is going to give you the rewards you deserve. You do so much for others that goes unnoticed. You sacrifice so many things that only Jesus knows about. And in doing so you grow weary. And if you don’t take care of yourself there is a 100% chance you’ll give up, morally fail, or just plain quit.

So sometimes you need to reward yourself.

Celebrate your own victories.

Give yourself a day off.

Buy yourself the book you are wanting to read.

Take a class to learn something new.

Give yourself a month from paying down your debt to go on vacation.

And leave the guilt at home.

You aren’t being selfish by rewarding yourself. In a way, it’s selfish to not reward yourself.

Jesus was the suffering servant. (Isaiah 53You aren’t. If your life’s pace has you constantly feeling like you give, give, give and you never take some time to take care of yourself… you might just be addicted to serving.

Even Jesus took time to rest, reflect, and relax along the way.

Your work is important. It’s so important that you need to pace yourself for life’s marathon.

So, if it’s been a long time and you haven’t been rewarded for your faithful service. Take 5 minutes and think about a way to reward yourself.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23


Introducing lent to the kids

Kristen and I decided to introduce lent to our church hating, Awana loving kids.

Our kids aren’t game for anything. I get jealous when I go to my friends house and their kids would walk across the desert for a glass of water just because mom or dad said it’d be fun and meaningful. My kids are the exact opposite. I pitch going to Sea World on a Saturday and they glibly respond, “OK. I guess. There isn’t any good TV on today anyway.

Knowing that– we still had this crazy idea of bringing our kids into our observance of lent.

Here’s how I did it.

Jelly beans. Yup, jelly beans.

On Sunday, I made a secret trip to Rite Aid and came back with a big 2 pound bag of fresh, delicious Brach’s jelly beans.

Then I waited for them to be in a good mood. A good & hungry mood, that is. After school on Monday was perfect. Both of them were chipper when I picked them up from school (rarity) and yesterday’s lunch at school must have been especially nasty because they were starving for snack.

On the way home I got them thinking. “Hey, have you ever heard of lent? Not lint like on your clothes… lent, the 40 days before Easter.

That got them thinking a little and asking questions about lent. By the time we pulled into the driveway they were curious and I had dropped hints that mom and dad wanted to talk about a lent challenge and that it had a reward on Easter Sunday.

Mom had hot buttery popcorn waiting for them. They grabbed a handful and started to munch. I interrupted them, “Hey, why don’t you guys go to the bathroom and stuff and come back. We’ll have a snack and talk about lent.

My jaw dropped. They were into it!

They came back into the kitchen and sat around our little island. That’s when I brought out the jelly beans. Their eyes got huge! They didn’t see that coming.

Hook, line, and sinker… let’s reel them in.

After that we talked about what lent is, why people observe it, why its important to sacrifice something important to us in preparation for Easter, etc.

The whole time we’re chatting they are munching on popcorn & jelly beans. The treats were the oil that is lubricating this conversation! This was reinforcing the kinesthetic learning in lent while talking about why lent was a connection between our 40 days of sacrifice and Jesus’ 40 days in the desert.

Mom and dad are each going to give up something important to them for lent. We’d really like you guys to think about giving up something important, too. It’ll be a great way for you to prepare your heart for Easter.” Then we talked about silly things to give up, like foods we don’t like or impossible things to give up like peeing or breathing. And we asked them if they thought other kids at school were going to give something up for lent. They didn’t know… so we asked them to ask around, because a lot of kids give up things for lent.

We ended our talk with a simple challenge. “Let’s talk tomorrow about what you want to give up. We aren’t going to tell you what  you should or shouldn’t give up. So think hard about it. Each of us will give up something different. And the only one who is really going to know if you’ve cheated is you. (And God) Lent starts on Wednesday.

I know this is a simple thing. 5 minutes. But for us, not having a lot of success at introducing Jesus into our family beyond praying for meals occasionally and going to church, this was a big success. Totally worth celebrating! And totally building our confidence.

Parenting + spiritual formation? Yes, we can do this!

Update: Click here for free, downloadable lent signs for your house

Christian Living Culture Good News

Nativity, Defined

Photo by Grand Canyon NPS via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Nativitythe process whereby someone becomes a native.

Christmas is one of the most confusing holiday’s on the planet. It’s half religious and half a celebration of solstice. The secular vs. religious scales have tipped back and forth over millennia.

That’s a historically accurate tension.

If you are feeling it this year. Welcome. You are in good company. Grab a glass of eggnog.

Some people think that Christmas is a religious holiday that’s been ruined by secularization. In fact, it’s a secular holiday that’s religious people have tried to hijack since the 3rd century when Rome turned to Jesus.

Sometimes Christmas is about revelry. And sometimes it’s about Jesus. Right now it’s a little bit of both, isn’t it?

Centuries ago, Christians strategically capitalized on a holiday which felt like it had something to do with the incarnation of Jesus. Every pagan group in Europe had celebrated some variety of a multi-day winter solstice festival, some marked by the giving of gifts, and as Christianity became the dominant religion in the area we just tried to rebrand it as being all about Jesus.

Every element of our modern Christmas celebration is irreligious and about revelry. The tree, the carols, Santa Claus, the yule log, the Christmas parties, the gifts, the traditional foods, family togetherness. These are all pagan festivities we’ve adopted into a pseudo-Christian hybrid holiday we call Christmas.

The tension you feel is because tension is the intention of the season.

Imagine how it must have felt as Jesus stepped out of heaven and into the arms of a teenage mother? Uninvited game changer. He ruined the reputation of a young woman. He entered the world as a family disgrace. And the political powers didn’t like who people said he was to become so they had every boy his age killed. Like it or not… Jesus’ arrival changed everything. His process of coming here was just as messy as the messiness you feel at a family Christmas celebration this December.

That is nativity at it’s core. The process of becoming a native. Uncomfortable. Foreign. Out of place. Contradiction. Frustration.

And just like Jesus dealt with the tension and contradiction of becoming a native, he asks us to do the same by doing things which seem counter-intuitive. Instead of Good News being about us, Jesus asks us to be Good News to our neighbors. Instead of Good News something we privately keep to ourselves, Jesus asks us to live a life worthy of sharing. Instead of living a life about our family, Jesus invites us into a community of new family.

There’s a lot of tension in this season we call Christmas. It is by design. The tension you are feeling is the tension of bringing Good News into a broken world.

Ask yourself today, “How am I being Good News today to my neighbors? What can I do to be Good News to the family next door?


Amidst the Rubble I Found Hope

It’s hard to believe that its been 6 weeks since we witnessed this outpouring of faith. In some ways it seems like I just got back yesterday and in other ways its as if it was several months ago.

When people ask me about my time in Haiti I always try to proclaim this simple truth: It wasn’t what I would have expected. I expected to see mourning and anger towards God. Instead I saw rejoicing and people giving their hearts to God in a way I never thought I would experience.

Two reasons you should go to Haiti:

  1. God is using the church to feed, clothe, and shelter the masses. In the U.S. we aspire to see our churches be a place like in the book of Acts. Well, its happening in exactly that fashion just a few hours south of our border. God doesn’t need you to go so you can feed His people, but He would love it if you would participate in what He is doing.
  2. The Holy Spirit is moving. Its hard  to shape into words what that looks and feels like. While I went to serve with open hands I was shocked to see that God brought me into the midst of a great humanitarian disaster to show me His glory. Amidst the rubble we found hope. Buried beneath the houses and building was the past. And what remained was people left with nothing but the clothes on their backs. At first it disturbed me, “Why aren’t they trying to make a shelter or create something?” Because instantly a nation knew that God is their provider, he is their protector, He is their shelter.

If only I had faith like that. Maybe mountains would move? Maybe relationships would be restored? Maybe God would pour out His Spirit in the same way?

Harbor Mid-City

Harbor Tailgate Party