Thursday, November 20, 2008

A legend of Youth Ministry visits our area

Okay, I'm sure Duffy Robbins would disagree, but I don't think I exaggerate when I say that Duffy Robbins has 'legendary' status in the world of youth ministry. Yeah, I know, you shouldn't put people on a pedestal, but Duffy does have that "youth ministry guru" aura about him. Anyway, we were able to have him here on November 15th to do an "Understanding Your Teenager" workshop (attended by 150 parents who were laughing almost 3 hours straight) and he spoke at our 2nd Annual Youth Pastors Appreciation Dinner at the Word of Life Banquet Room. His message to us that night was that even in the ugly, messy things that happen, God can be creating new life. God works in the most surprising ways and when we least expect Him to do so. About 60 youth leaders were present and were encouraged to not let what you see keep you from experiencing what God is doing where we can't see. Duffy is pictured here with two of our newest youth pastors in the area - Stevan Sheets at Armbrust Wesleyan and Rigel Holmes at Greensburg Alliance Church.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hanging out with youth leaders

The National Youth Workers Convention has been a blast these past couple of days. It's been great to see so many youth pastors and youth leaders from our area there enjoying themselves and learning tons of great stuff (like how to make money eating hot peppers which the Murrysville Alliance Church youth leaders did on Saturday - pictured here) and it's been great to catch up with and meet with other youth ministry folks from around the country such as a college professor I had at Moody Bible Institute, Dave Veerman. He was one of my youth ministry professors. Francis Chan's message this morning blew me away. That was powerful. Two days left and I can't wait to experience it all.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I'm at the National Youth Workers Convention

A few thousand youth pastors/youth leaders are descending upon Pittsburgh this weekend for the National Youth Workers Convention sponsored by Youth Specialties. I'm on the volunteer registration team so I'm excited about maybe seeing a lot of my youth pastor friends this weekend. I'm praying that God will encourage, strengthen, and provide all that youth workers coming here need to go back and keep working with kids. NYWC is a great place for networking (hobnobbing as my wife likes to call it!). I'm expecting to see friends from all over the country. It's gonna be fun!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why we do this

The Murrysville Youth Network met last Thursday and what struck me was our brief discussion about why we network together. Jon Price who has been with us three years now said that for him, it wasn't about events, although he loves the Ignition event we do, but he just likes being together with the group. Lu, the veteran of group appreciates the fact that we don't talk about how many students we have in our groups - in fact, there's no comparison's at all, except for how we're all jealous of Brent Squires' new student facility. :) Anyway, the point is, we gain strength and encouragement from being together - plus it's so dang fun! We welcomed a "new" youth pastor to the group that day. Tom Shrum who is the new guy at First Presbyterian in Murrysville. Tom was part of our Greensburg Youth Network for a few years. There's nothing as much fun as hanging out with youth pastors!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Frustrations with the church

Among many frustrations that one could mention about churches, the one that gets me the most is that nearly all churches/denominations function as if they are the only church that God is using or cares about. I know most churches wouldn't say they feel that way, but I noticed it again today. A church I work with is making plans as if there are no other churches in their community and I have to say, that is frustrating. Of course, I have not walked in those people's shoes, and I believe that God does bless some churches and not others in ways that that I don't understand. I'm just weary of the idea that what our church is doing is all that matters. There is a great big body of Christ out there and we should all care about what is good for the entire body, not just our little chunk of it. I apologize for the rant, but I believe God has great blessings in store for churches who want to be a blessing to the other churches around them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

youth pastors begin working on school assembly outreach

A couple Tuesdays ago, Judy and I met with youth leaders from a church in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. They had a vision of bringing Bob Lenz (Life Promotions, WI) to do school assemblies and an outreach event in our area, but they wanted to work together with other churches to make it happen (it will take $9000 to pull this off and many students will need to be followed up on at the conclusion of this thing). The very next day, by God's providence, it worked out that I was meeting with three other youth pastors in the Latrobe/Derry area who all said they were on board with making this happen. Incredibly, one of those youth leaders, a school teacher, has already gotten the assemblies booked at Latrobe and Derry middle and senior high schools - amazing! And $2000 has already come in from local businesses to support these assemblies. IT IS AMAZING TO WATCH GOD WORK! So today, we had a our first "team" meeting today to strategize. We'll be meeting the 2nd Monday of each month to and we'll keep you posted on how this "experiment in the body of Christ working together" goes.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Doing together what we couldn't do alone.

Last March, a group of youth pastors who barely knew each other met together at Applebees for lunch. After a couple monthly lunch meetings, we sensed that this was a group of believers who wanted to work together and do some big things for the Kingdom. So we asked them in May to consider doing a school year kick off event. We had an idea for a band. That idea didn't work out - but something better did. One of our youth pastors, Larry Georgiana from New Life Covenant Church of God in Markleysburg, had seen a band at Acquire The Fire and had contacted them about coming to his church. However, his church was too small and the price tag too large. So he brought the idea to the next youth network meeting (June). We agreed that this was the band we needed to pursue (Michael Gungor Band) and found out later that they were actually the opening band for Downhere and that our event would be the first stop on their tour. Another youth pastor used his connections to get us a great venue at a fraction of the cost and that fraction was covered by someone he knew. Then we needed a little more help - a downpayment of $1750 was needed to secure the bands. That was half the total fee. So we asked churches to pre-buy 10 tickets at $10 per ticket. Around 10 churches did so with some of those purchasing more than 10. That enabled us to pay the deposit - praise God! After this, we divided up the work (many volunteers were needed) among our churches and that night 350 students came (exactly what we needed to pay for the bands. A local Christian University, Waynesburg University, co-sponsored the event with a generous grant that covered the lodging and meals. At least 20 youth groups brought students who were challenged to participate in See You At The Pole (we had some of our highest numbers ever this year) and to pray/reach out to their friends at school who don't know Christ. No one church could've pulled all of this off, but God blessed the efforts of His people working together!

This same basic thing has been done by a group of four youth pastors in the Murrysville area for the past three years now. That event is called IGNITION and we had 700 students from 30+ youth groups at the one this past September. These guys have proven that working together over the long haul is even more effective. This has become a $6000 budget event - and we've made a profit the past couple years! Together, these two events impacted 1000 students - our vision is to see that thousand take the gospel to school with them everyday this school year and to impact thousands more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

See You At The Pole 2008

This morning was exciting! I got at least 50 text messages within a half hour time span! See You At The Pole was different for every school, but it really sounds like God was present today. Below are some attendance #’s as well as some testimonies students shared this morning. Also, there are links below for pictures from today's SYATP at different schools as well as a video from Laurel Highlands High School. If anyone has more #’s, pictures, or videos, please e-mail, facebook, or text us! (724.322.1130). Also you can share testimonies and pictures with the national See You At The Pole office by going to

39 – Albert Gallatin
6 – Albert Gallatin North Middle
44 - Brownsville
1 – California
20 – Laurel Highlands
20 – Uniontown
18 – Belle Vernon
15 - Penn State Fayette Campus

20 - Apollo Ridge Senior High
12 – Burrell Senior High
35 – East Allegheny
32 - Franklin Regional Senior High
6 - Franklin Regional Middle School
8 - Jeannette Senior High
70 – Kiski Senior High
23 - Hempfield Senior High
82 - Latrobe Senior High
35 – Mt. Pleasant Senior High
23 – Norwin Senior High
17 – Norwin Middle School
90 – Penn Trafford Senior High
12 - Penn Middle School
17 - Plum Senior High
12 - Yough Senior High

“See You At The Pole went so amazing. So many showed up!” - Penn Trafford Student

“I wanted to let you know that we had 87 kids this morning at the pole and that’s like half our high school. How awesome!” – Hannah, Trinity Christian

“Hey! Our See You At The Pole was awesome! We had 70 people show up!” – Kiski student

“Dear Ignition, See You At The Pole was sooo AMAZING! I met people I have known for years and I didn’t even know they were Christians! We read Scripture and did so many amazing things! It was such a witness and it was great! PRAISE THE LORD! GOD IS SO GOOD!” – Annie Polka, East Allegheny High School

“See You At The Pole went well. There were 12 of us…we sang and read a little from the Psalms and then we prayed. The bell for first period rang or we would’ve kept going!” – Tyler Menhart, Burrell

“See You At The Pole went great at Norwin Middle School and High School.” – Kelsey Gibbs

“I just got back in my homeroom from c u at the pole. it was just me and Jesus.” – California Senior High Student

“Hey we went to the pole this morning and we had about seventy people it was really awesome. Kids walked past laughing at us. But it went well.” – student from Kiski Senior High

"See You At The Pole ent great. We got to pray about our school and Bible Club and churches and also connect with other Christian students." - Dominic Clifford, Uniontown Senior High

"I went to See You At The Pole this morning and we had about 70 students show up. It was awesome to see all the people that wanted to worship on a school campus. We got asked a lot of questions about why we went, but over all it was awesome!" - Jess, student at Penn Trafford

All of this is just the beginning of a 9 Month Mission Trip - please continue to pray with us that God will use Christian students to make a big impact for the Kingdom of God this school year.



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IGNITION 2008 school year kick off event

On September 20th and 21st we had 2 school year kick off events - CONNECT 2008 in Uniontown on Saturday and IGNITION 2008 in Murrysville on Sunday night. Between the two events, we had 1000+ students that were challenged to reach their friends and schools for Christ over the next nine months. Below is a video from IGNITION.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The 9 Month Mission Trip begins...

The 4th annual Unleashed conference was this past Saturday in Irwin. Our Norwin Youth Network and other local youth pastors equipped 30 students from 7 local high schools to share their faith, defend their faith, and to lead campus ministries/outreaches in their schools. The day included workshops, strategic planning time, great resources, and lunch of course! As we said to the students at the end of the day, this was the beginning of a 9 Month Mission Trip for them - to a place where they already have to go, it's already paid for, they have to eat strange food, and there are tons of lost people who need to hear about Jesus. Our goal is to help Christian students see the coming school year as a calling to serve God by loving their friends in Jesus' name. I want to thank Bo Pratt and the other youth leaders who helped plan this event as well as the youth pastors who taught the workshops - James Llewellyn (Murrysville Alliance), Frank Audia (Community United Methodist), Wayne Heckman (Calvary Assembly), and Paul Peternel (Jeannette Assembly of God). I pray that at the end of this school year we will have some amazing stories to tell of the great things that God has done through these students.

The Ebb and Flow of Youth Ministry Networking

Depending on the year we have a varying number of Youth Pastor networks with which we meet. From 2000-2005 we had a great youth ministry network in Fayette County. Then three key youth pastors left and we had no network until this past March when, seemingly from out of nowhere(!), a group of youth pastors came together and now we have a big school year kick off happening in September in Uniontown. It happened without us doing anything - it must've been God.
On the other hand, we have had a great network of youth pastors in Greensburg for a few years now and within the past six months three key youth pastors have left and that network is, for the moment, gone! In some ways, the body of Christ is ever flowing, ebbing, the tide going in and out. Sometimes nothing is happening, sometimes we can't keep up with it all! This September we have three school year kick off events taking place - for Westmoreland County, Fayette County, and the Mon Valley. It is just fascinating to watch how God works.
Unfortunately, I know that some of the changes we see in youth ministry in our area is not the result of the will of God, but the poor value people place on youth ministry and youth pastors. Nevertheless, God uses it all for good. I am happy for my youth pastors friends who have left and found better youth ministry situations and are happier in them. It was hard to see them suffering. May God bless you guys.
We never know what it's going to look like from year to year, but we always enjoy making new friends and, inevitably, we know we will have to say good-bye to some old ones. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away - blessed be the Name of the Lord!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Mission Accomplished

May 15th, and 16th was the culmination of a whole year's worth of work. We began this past school year last August with Unleashed: the Student Leadership Conference, equipping students to be spiritual leaders in their schools. Then we had Ignition 2007, our school year kick off event at which we were mobilizing almost 700 students to participate in See You At The Pole and to pray for 5 of their friends who don't know Christ throughout the school year. In January, we had the Campus Checkup events at which students, teachers, and youth pastors got together to talk about the spiritual condition of our schools. The purpose of the campus checkups was to encourage students to finish the school year well. And last Thursday and Friday nights we had Released to Reach the World dinners in Uniontown and Greensburg - we were celebrating the end of the school year. It was amazing to hear students at both events share what God has been doing in their schools this past year. I think the adults who came were amazed to hear such things coming out of such young people (I know, I sounded old right there!). In between those events, we and youth pastors in the area have been busy helping students lead their campus ministries, doing outreach events, and helping new Christian clubs get started.

And now we are busy preparing for next school year - another year of equipping, mobilizing, encouraging, and celebrating with students as they see God work through them to reach their generation for Christ.