Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thinking about the BIG PICTURE

As we roll into 2010, I wanted to remind myself of why I do what I do. Our ministry, Teens For Christ, works in two counties in Pennsylvania (and some surroudning areas). A simple Google search gave the the following information:

There are 143,925 people living in Fayette County (we know that 12,000+ of those are teenagers). We would need all 150 churches in the county to have 1000 people in them in order to reach all of these people!

There are 361,589 people living in Westmoreland County (including 35,000+ teenagers). If the 300 churches that we know of in this area each had 1000 people in them, we still would not be reaching everyone in this county!

We all know that our church attendances (save 1 or 2) are no where near those numbers. And we know that not everyone will follow Jesus - the road is narrow and few are those that find it - but I believe it is God's will that every person hears the Gospel. So the fact is, we need EVERY CHURCH to make EVERY effort to reach EVERY person in EVERY community in these areas. If we don't make every effort to reach them, we might as well be saying "Go to hell" to all of those people. These facts, but more importantly the call of Jesus Christ (the Great Commission), should compel us all to reprioritize our lives and realign ourselves with the great mission of God in this new year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Help us bring TO SAVE A LIFE to western Pennsylvania

This amazing movie is coming to theaters January 22nd, and we are making an effort to bring it to southwestern Pennsylvania. As of now, we've made a deposit on 100 tickets sales but we need to guarantee 1000 ticket sales for opening weekend (so far we have 550 ticket sales pledged by 20 local churches). Next, the movie producers will decide soon if the film will be offered to our area and then they'll contact our local theaters to make it happen.

Please pray that God would open the doors for this movie to come to our area and powerfully impact the lives of literally thousands of teenagers, which I believe it will. And please ask everyone you know to watch the movie preview at Thanks very much!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Why We Work Together #6: Because it is a LOT of fun!

If you go to the Eat N Park in Murrysville, PA for breakfast on the second Thursday morning of the month, chances are you'll hear a group of guys in the back of the restaurant laughing their heads off. And it's probably the youth pastors in the Murrysville Youth Network listening to Lu (youth pastor at Murrysville Alliance - pictured right) telling some hilarious story of his youth ministry exploits. The guy just has a thousand funny stories to tell! We had a new guy come to our network meeting today and Lu's "Find the Youth Leaders at the Mall" stories were his introduction to our network. And I was loving it (I think he did too). There's just someone great about sharing those stories of the funny things that happen when you work with teenagers. If you ever meet Lu, ask him about his favorite game, "Dunking for Dollars". Unbelievable. We have another guy with great stories in our network named Frank. There's a story he tells that gets re-told every year at our annual "Welcome to the Area" lunch for youth pastors. It's so well-known that it's become sort of become an urban legend now.

The point is, people in ministry need friends they can share a laugh with. It's good for the heart, good for the soul, and you just can't buy entertainment like that!

Why We Work Together #5: Because the problems we face are just too big to solve on our own

Last night, I had the opportunity to hear a local pastor* teaching on Richard Stearns' book, "The Hole in Our Gospel." The pastor was talking about the 12 BIG challenges in our world today. The statistics that he shared in each of these areas were mind-blowing. Here they are...

1) Poverty (as he said, a very complex problem)
2) Hunger
3) Water (lack of clean water specifically)
4) Disease
6) Tyrannical Leaders (I was so glad he talked about this one)
7) Illiteracy
8) Sex Trafficking/Treatment of Women
9) War
10) Abortion (again, glad he mentioned this one)
11) Spiritual Emptiness
12) Apathy and Selfishness of the Church (OUCH!)

These 12 enormous problems demand our attention, but I also think they demand our cooperation. More and more churches seem to be responding to these needs these days, but as I sat there listening I could not help but think that these things are just too big for any one church or any one organization or even any one country to tackle on their own. WE NEED TO WORK TOGETHER to effectively address these big issues in our world today. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the stubborn insistence we have of operating independently from each other only exacerbates many of these problems. Duplication of efforts, redundant spending, overlap, and lack of adequate resources are just a few of the issues we could eliminate if we came to the table together, each bringing the resources that we have, and seeking God's solutions.

Anyone have further thoughts on this? I'd love to hear if you've seen cooperation among churches or organizations make a difference in any of these areas.

* Dr. Donn Chapman, Cornerstone Ministries, Export, PA

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Why We Work Together #4: Because we can't afford not to!

The Westmoreland County Youth Network has five community networks - one of those, the Penn Trafford Youth Network, started meeting last February. By summer, they were deep into planning an event to reach out to students in their school district. They decided to bring a BMX stunt bike team (ProTown BMX from Greenville, NC) to their area. Problem was it was going to cost $4500. (including the Crucified Ministries skateboard team). None of the three churches involved (another church joined in later) could afford all of that by themselves. But by combining their resources, as well as finding concerned adults who also made donations, they were able to do together what they couldn't have done alone. ProTown BMX (pictured below with our Youth Pastors and the Skateboard guys) came to Harrison City on Oct. 24th and they were AWESOME! They gave a great presentation of the Gospel and did some incredible jumps. We highly recommend them.

On a side note, we have to give praise to God - it was raining that morning, but stopped when the event was scheduled to begin. It took some time to dry off the parking lot (using towels and a leaf blower), but everyone got to see the show. The rain and wind kicked back in just when the event was ending. God is good to us!

Why We Work Together #3: To discover resources we didn't know were there!

Back during the summer, the directors of a local camp asked us how they could let youth pastors in the area know about the great climbing walls they have at their camp's adventure center. Our group of youth pastors in the Fayette County Youth Network had an event planned for October, but in early September those plans fell through. So we asked the camp directors if we could have our event at their place - that way they could show it off to the youth pastors in the area and we could still have our event together. 80 students from 10 youth groups got to experience the climbing walls and a lot of the other cool stuff that this camp has to offer youth groups. Our network youth pastors enjoyed the climbing walls as well as you can see pictured above. If we hadn't already been working together and if we hadn't been willing to work with these camp folks, we would have missed out on a great experience!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Why We Work Together #2: We've got great resources to share with each other

At our Greensburg Youth Network meeting a couple months ago (pictured above), we were talking and discovered that some of us had curriculum that others of us really wanted to use, but couldn't afford to buy at the time. So we started making a Curriculum list of stuff that the guys are willing to share with each other on our Greensburg Youth Network Facebook group (which needs updated right now) . There's so much great stuff out there and it would be impossible for any one church to buy it all - so why not share what we have. So that's another reason we work together - because we all have stuff that can be helpful to each other!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why We Work Together #1: We share the same burning passion

We find that youth pastors work together so well and so easily because we share the same burning passion - for teenagers to know, worship, love and serve Jesus. That drives us - it's why we do what we do. The desire to help students know Jesus simply outweighs all other things that might divide us.

Our youth pastor networks started out the 2009 school year with two events (same event different locations) designed to equip, inspire, and challenge Christian teenagers to share their faith with their friends at school, to look at school as if it were a 9 Month Mission Trip. Between the two events youth pastors extended that challenge to 800 students from 40 youth groups and at least that many schools.

Thing is, while helping teenagers know Jesus is a passion we all share, we all also know that Christian teenagers are by far the best ones to express the truth and love of God to their friends. So the passion that drives us, also motivates us to work together on the best ways to get this job done including equipping our students.

And the fact is, they will do that job better when they know they are not alone. There is strength in numbers - it's just a fact. It's the reason the author of Hebrews tells us not to forsake assembling together. We need the strength we gain from being together, and teenagers need that strength perhaps much more so.

There's just something empowering, strengthening, renewing, refreshing, energizing, and encouraging about coming together with those whose hearts burn with the same desire that your does - whether it's a group of youth pastors together over lunch or an auditorium full of worshiping teenagers.

Pictured top: Youth pastors from the The Murrysville (PA) Youth Network with Revive at their school year kick off
Pictured below: The Fayette County Youth Network's school year kick off with Rush of Fools leading worship

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I love days like today!

Today was an exciting day!

THIS MORNING - Youth Pastors in Murrysville got together to finalize plans for our School Year Kick Off event, IGNITION, which they sponsor at the beginning of each school year. Those guys are a lot of fun and they have a heart for the Kingdom of God. We're expecting a thousand students at that event.

LUNCH - Next I had lunch with the Greensburg Youth Pastors Network. Those guys love to share ideas, resources, as well as funny stories. They are praying about and considering doing a large scale outreach with The Freedom Experience - Brock Gill (Christian Illusionist), BMX stunt bikes, and more.

THIS AFTERNOON - The Christian Club at Franklin Regional Senior High in Murrysville met today. They have a lot of new students there and needed a little inspiration. So I arranged to have Frank Audia, a youth pastor and Christian Club coach of nearby Penn Trafford High School, to come and talk about the outreach events they do for different groups of students in their school (mostly sports teams). First of all, Frank is a tough, built, tattooed guy who is just really cool. And he is passionate about students reaching their friends for Christ. The students asked Frank questions and agreed at the end that they wanted to be serious about reaching outreach this school year.

I love days like today!

Monday, September 07, 2009

30 Ways that Adults Can Spiritually Impact Schools

We've heard the mantra of 'separation of church and state' for so long that we often think there's nothing we can do to make a difference. In fact, there's a lot we can and should do!

Prayer Ideas
1. Organize prayer walks at local schools (
2. Pray as you drive near/through school zones (
3. Start a Moms in Touch prayer group (
4. Make sure Christian students know about See You At The Pole (
5. Adopt a School (
6. Claim Your Campus (
7. Copy pages out of a school's yearbook and ask adults in your church to pray for a page.
8. Dedicate a bulletin board in your church to encouraging prayer for schools.
9. Create prayer magnets to remind people to remember schools in their prayers.
10. Plan a commissioning service at your church to pray over, encourage, and support Christian teenagers in your church as “missionaries” to their schools.

Outreach Ideas
11. Encourage Christian students you know to start a Christian Club, prayer group, FCA, Youth Alive, Club 121, or First Priority Club at their school (,,,,
12. Buy resources to help students have a successful See You At The Pole event (
13. Buy Bibles, Gospels of John, tracts, etc. for Christian students to distribute at school (,,,
14. Buy tickets to Christian concerts that students can give out to friends at school. ( – western PA only)
15. Buy pizzas for the Christian club at a local school to do an outreach to their friends.
16. Help bring school assembly programs to local schools (there are many out there sponsored by Christian ministries –,,,
17. Encourage Christian students you know to participate in Fields of Faith outreach event (
18. Encourage Christian students you know participate in MBA day on January 22 (
19. Equip Christian teenagers with knowledge of their legal rights on the public school campus (
20. Become a mentor to a teenager ( in your church or in your community.

Serving Ideas
21. Join your school district's PTA group.
22. Organize parent meetings on a regular basis to pray for schools, communicate prayer needs, resource needs, and volunteer needs.
23. Meet with school administrators and ask about ways to volunteer.
24. Run for election on the School Board.

Ideas for Youth Pastors
25. Make an appointment to meet with principals, guidance counselors. Ask them what help they need.
26. Work with other youth pastors to bring school assembly programs to schools.
27. Become an assistant coach for a sports team.
28. Do the Campus Checkup your students and other youth groups.
29. Sponsor an evangelism and/or campus ministry training event with other youth pastors in your community.
30. Connect with other youth pastors in your community to share ideas, create a common strategy, etc.

If you have other ideas about what adults can do, please comment below. To download a PDF version of these ideas, please go to

Monday, August 24, 2009

The 9 Month Mission Trip begins this week!

This is it! Students go back to school this week all over the country - the unofficial signaling of the end of summer, but the beginning of a great adventure. Teenagers see the new school year differently - for some it's a new football season, for other it's time for a new girlfriend or boyfriend, and for still others it's the beginning of a new prison sentence. We are challenging Christian students to see the new school year as a 9 Month Mission Trip. Think about it - transportation is already provided, students still get to eat strange and exotic food, and the people there already speak their own language. Our schools are a great mission fields and Christian teenagers are the best missionaries to that field. A girl from a local youth group (Lia Fischer) posted on her facebook status this week - "I'm dedicating this school year to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ! Who's with me!?!?" Please pray with me that God will raise up many more students like this in the days and weeks to come.

Find others going on the 9 Month Mission Trip - www.facebook.conm/9monthmissiontrip

Find upcoming Back-to-School events -
(Unleashed: Student Evangelism Conference, Ignition: School Year Kick Off event, and Connect: School Year Kick Off event)

Read our new resource - 30 Ways Adults Can Have a Spiritual Impact on Schools -

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What to do when your students go to another youth group

Just read a great blog post this morning from Neil Young, a youth worker in Ireland, on He's talking about what our attitue should be toward other churches in our communities. Great stuff! We all need to see the BIGGER picture!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

The brand new - very cool!

For all of you Youth Pastors, Youth Leaders, or Youth Workers of another kind, I want to invite you to check out the National Network of Youth Ministries' updated The new format makes it easier than ever to connect with fellow youth pastors in your community and around the country.

Our local youth ministry networks here in Pennsylvania are affiliated with the National Network of Youth Ministries, an organization filled with people passionate about building the Kingdom of God by connecting the Body of Christ.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

How to Avoid Train Wrecks in Networking

Nine years ago, I attended a conference for Youth Ministry Network Coordinators (people who help churches connect and work together) sponsored by the National Network of Youth Ministries ( One of the key things we learned was this: an effective network of youth pastors carefully balances strategy and relationships - like the two rails of a train track, they keep a network moving smoothly. You can't run a train without two rails and you can't lead a network of youth pastors without strong relationships and purposeful strategy.

I've seen this principle play out many times over the years since then. Sometimes you have a group of youth pastors who are all business - they want to get something done. I'm all for that, but without the trust and camaraderie that relationships provide, heavy-strategy networks seems to only last as long as whatever event or project they are doing and they leave people feeling drained, not refreshed.

I've also seen networks of youth pastors who were all about connecting and not much else. Those groups are a lot of fun, but I believe that they are missing out on so much that God could do through them. A relationship-only network becomes a little too me-focused (Am I getting something out of this? If not, I'm outta here). The strategy element keeps the relationships purposeful and missional.

One group of youth pastors we work with plans two events a year - the events are strategic and exciting (a school year kick off event attended by 700+ kids, and a baccalaureate service for graduating seniors). But the events really just provide an excuse for the guys to get together and hang out - and they have a GREAT time together. No notes are taken, no minutes, no agendas handed out. We just work on our projects as we can fit between joking around.

Another group of youth pastors we work with has several big events which they do together throughout the year, but all of that was born out of friendships and sharing the same passion for teenagers. That group of youth leaders also throws baby showers for each other, has dinners together, and constantly keep in touch via facebook and twitter. They make their work a lot of fun.

The two rails of relationship and strategy (or maybe they're more like the two ends of a balance pole carried by a tightrope walker) exist in a sort of tension, but carefully balancing these things makes working together work well.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

From a Senior Pastor's Viewpoint

Found this quote from Geoff Surratt, Pastor of Ministries at Seacoast Church, SC. This was from an interview with Ed Stetzer where Ed asks the question...

What are some other ideas you have for increasing the fruit of the local church and not just the growth?
"...Finally, fruit will be increased when churches lower their force shields and begin to work together. At one of our Seacoast locations we go out into the very tough neighborhood once a month to be a blessing to people who have very little in life. We take them clothes, food, work in their yards, pick up their trash, anything that will show the love of Jesus in a tangible way. The cool part of the deal is that we have several churches who join together every month to minister to this neighborhood. We aren't worried about where the people go to church or if we can win them for our scorecard; we're all just trying to be the hands and feet of Jesus. There is powerful fruit in dropping our defenses and joining hands to make Jesus famous."


Another story of youth ministries working together!

Check out this newspaper article (thanks again to Nick Arnold) about churches in Kansas City that are doing mission projects together. Imagine not only reaching our communities together, but reaching the world together!

Kansas City Youth Groups Partner to Serve Others

8 Benefits of Youth Ministry Networking

Wow! My blog was found today by someone with a similar passion - churches working together to reach teenagers for Christ. I want to recommend Nick Arnold's blog as a very nice youth ministry networking resource! (

Check out their recent article - 8 Benefits of Youth Ministry Networking.

Thanks Nick for connecting and thanks for your heart for the Kingdom of God and for reaching teenagers for Christ.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Dunk a Youth Pastor!

A couple Saturdays ago, our group of youth pastors in Fayette County did an event together which they called "FULLY ALIVE". The idea was to have something fun to do in the summer, yet something to keep spiritual fires burning. So we had inflatable games, food (of course), worship, a speaker (we recommend Nikita Koloff, former WWF wrestler!), and the highlight of the day - the Youth Pastor Dunk Tank. What was great about this was that all of us have developed relationships to the point where we all felt comfortable getting in that crazy thing and even made a point to dunk each other. It was great! I guess it's just one more way to see that youth ministry is FUN! But, even truer, doing youth ministry TOGETHER is WAY FUN! Until you fall into that cold, nasty water for the 10th time. :)

Pictured here is Ron Hudson, youth pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Uniontown. We want to say a special thanks to Matt Swenglish and Abundant Life Church, where Matt is the youth pastor, for hosting this great event for us!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Great blog posts about Youth Ministry Networking!

I came across three blog posts from - one from David Hertweck, a Korean youth pastor in Syracuse, NY about the benefits of youth minsitry networking and another by Mike Kupferer about what makes a great network, and another by Shawn Michael about not doing life alone! This is great stuff!

Networks Make You Bigger

4 Qualities of a Good Youth Worker Network

Get Your Act Together!

I couldn't have stated these things any better myself.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

"Intro to Youth Ministry" class starting this fall

I have the privilege of teaching a class this fall for the Westmoreland School of Ministry - "Intro to Youth Ministry". I'm really excited that this class will be available in our area (every Monday, starting Sept. 7 at New Stanton Assembly of God). The class will go for 13 thirteen weeks. Students can take it for three college credits or audit the class. I'm planning to feature a different youth pastor each week who is "in the field" - that will be fun. Just yesterday, I got hold of a couple of the textbooks of the class, one of which is pictured here - Starting Right: Thinking Theologically About Youth Ministry. Whether you're a college-age student who wants to works with students or if you're an adult volunteer who already is discipling teenagers, this class will help! Hope to see you there. You can download the schedule and registration information at

Monday, June 29, 2009

What I'm Reading This Summer

I'm working on two different books right now. The first is brand new - Evangelism Remixed by Dave Rahn (YFC VP) and Terry Linhart. What I love about this book is that it reports from actual research what youth ministries look like in which students are actively sharing their faith. The authors share what specific approaches are providing the best foundation for students to tell their friends about Christ. Very worthwhile read if you want to help your students reach their friends for Christ.

The other book I just started might not sound real interesting, but I find it fascinating - the 12th Edition Handbook of Denominations in the United States. We have so many different kinds of churches and since TFC works with many different kinds of churches, I wanted to increase my understanding of what different churches believe and where they came from. I think that's the most interesting part - how did we get to have so many different varieties of Christianity? It's pretty wild stuff. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. I learned a lot of this stuff in Church History class at MBI, but I needed a refresher course, having been out in the field for over a decade now.

So what are you reading these days? I'd love to hear about it.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

We Need Each Other!

These two videos share the vision and mission of Teens For Christ. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Youth Pastors Preparing for Next School Year!

Well one school year is ending but the next one will be here before we know it! So at our recent network meetings youth pastors have been making plans for working together next school year...

Murrysville - youth pastors are planning the next IGNITION school year kick off event.

Latrobe/Derry - youth pastors are working on a monthly youth worship night for youth groups to come together in their community

Fayette County - youth pastors have a series of events that they are taking turns on leading for the network including Connect, Fall Fusion, iPromise, 3V, and more!

Penn Trafford - youth pastors are working on a pre-school outreach with BMX stunt bikes, a fall tailgate party, and next year's post-prom event.

Mon Valley - youth pastors are talking about a school year kick off event at Belle Vernon High School

I am always amazed at the great things God's people can do when we work together! The 2008-2009 school year was one of the best I've ever seen. I can't wait to see what happens next year.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A short story of God's provision for us

It's one of those things that happens from time to time - our gas got shut off yesterday. I was waiting until I got my May paycheck to make a payment, but the bill was past due. So I called today to make a payment, but I didn't have near enough to pay the whole thing (not to mention to the reconnect fee). The woman on the other end of the phone said that, based on our income, we could have our gas turned back on for only $240.00. Amazing, I had just deposited $240.00 in the bank the day before (some gift money we had received). God provided exactly what we needed. Thank You Father God!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering Columbine - 10 Years Later

Yesterday was the 10 Year Anniversary of the Columbine shootings. I'd like to quote from the blog of my friend Nick Poole - Nick was a high school student (Derry Sr. High)I was working with at the time of the shootings:

"This event was formational in my life and it greatly impacted my future involvement in high school Bible Clubs both as a student and later a youth pastor. As a teenager and young adult, it was a reminder that life is short, we need to live it to the full! Ten years later, the world has continued to change. We are now living in a post-911 world. One of suspicion, uncertainty and violence. We don’t know what terror lies around the next turn. In the midst of all of this, I know I can have the same peace I had 10 years ago sitting in class. Regardless of what’s down the hall or down the street, I know that my God is on the throne. I can experience the peace that passes all understanding, not because of my power, ability, 0r insight, but because I serve a God who is greater and in the end has already conquered sin, death and the grave! Regardless of what terror or uncertainty you are facing today, remember God will see you through."

Here's a video that Nick shared on his blog as well. This is great.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Westmoreland County Youth Network is turning 10 Years Old this summer!

10 years ago I got a phone call from a guy in Latrobe, Pennyslvania telling me that there was going to be a Billy Graham Crusade in Latrobe (Celebration '99) and he asked if I could serve as the student ministry chairman. I had been with Teens For Christ full time for 3 years by that time and Pete Malik and I were busy helping churches in Fayette County work together to reach teenagers for Christ. Working with the great Celebration '99 people in Westmoreland County turned out to be very similar to what I was already doing - working with youth pastors and Christian Clubs in local high schools - but on a much larger scale! The first Celebration '99 meeting I attended was at Cornerstone Ministries. The first three youth pastors I met were Dan Knight (Latrobe First Church of God), Todd Nevue (Calvary Assembly Ministries), and Paul Peternel (Jeannette Assembly). Months of planning went by and in May we had David Nasser and Al Densen (yeah, remember him?) come to do school assemblies to help build up excitement. On April 20th, all of us were shocked at the news of the Columbine shootings and given a powerful reminder of why we were doing all of this. The actual outreach event, with Billy Graham associate Ralph Bell, took place in June of '99. The student day outreach featured a concert by Third Day, inflatable games, and thousands of pizzas! 300+ students came forward at the invitation and were followed up on by local youth pastors. Later that summer all the youth pastors who were involved in Celebration '99 got together and decided that they wanted to keep on working together. And so, the Westmoreland County Youth Network was born. For the past 10 years, we have continued helping youth pastors get to know each other, build friendships, and work together on all kinds of youth ministry events and outreaches. We've worked with hundreds of students in local schools helping them reach their friends for Christ (some of those students, like Dave Grimm and Tom Shrum, are youth pastors now!). So many students, and even many youth pastors have come and gone since that time, but working in Westmoreland County has been a great privilege and a lot of fun. I've met so many of my best friends over this past ten years and I met my wife there too (which made Sharon Poole very happy!). She was working at Majesty Christian store in the fall of 2001 and I walked in one day looking for a book and I found her. Over and over again, I have become more and more convinced that God does great and mighty things when His people work together. My thanks to all of those I've had the privilege of serving and serving with these past ten years.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

"10 Days to inTENtionally help your friends experience Jesus" begins today!

One of our goals as a youth network is to invite Christian students to connect with the bigger picture, with larger things, so that they have a sense of belonging to something much bigger than themselves. Hopefully, they get that at church, but it's one thing to say, I'm part of my church - it's a whole other thing to say, I'm part of something that MANY churches are doing. Our local network has been working with Youth Alive to challenge thousands of Christian students around Pennsylvania to participate in "10 Days" an intentional, near-the-end-of-the-school-year, Easter-based outreach which takes place at their schools. Students are challenged to do something different each of the 10 days to help their friends at school experience who Jesus is and what He is like. This year's "10 Days" ideas are based on Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus talks about the sheep and the goats and reaching out to the least of these.

10 Days began 15 or so years ago as a youth pastor's idea - since students have Spirit Weeks at school (usually in the fall), the idea was to do a "Jesus Week" as an outreach. Local youth pastors and high school Bible clubs in our networks have kept the idea going ever since.

Please pray with us that God will use many students in our region, our state, and beyond to share Jesus' truth and love with their friends. Students can see ideas and share their testimonies at

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Skillet comes to Greensburg, Pa.

Crowd Cam-Greensburg, PA 4.5.09

The Westmoreland County Youth Network partnered with Generation Exodus, a new and local concert production company, to bring the Comatose Tour with Skillet, Disciple and Decypher Down to the Palace Theatre in Greensburg, Pa. This was another successful example of the great things that can happen when Christians work together. The show was SOLD OUT! 1400 people packed the place out. And it was one AMAZING concert! We want to congratulate Jj Marconi, from Greensburg Alliance Church, for winning the electric guitar signed by Skillet. John Cooper took this video at the Skillet concert on Sunday night. God was good to us all that night.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Youth Pastors bring 3V school assemblies to their community - Part 2

Last night was the culmination of the 3V Tour which youth pastors in Fayette County brought to their area this week. 1000 students crowded into Uniontown High School gymnasium for 2 hours of dramas, a concert, and bmx stunt riding (and jumping). Paul May (from Clearer Vision Drama Company and coordinator of the 3V Tour) gave a challenging presentation of the Gospel and invited students to give their lives to Jesus Christ. 165 students responded! Now we begin the process of having youth leaders follow up on these students. Please pray with us and for us that we'll be able to get many, if not all, of these students connected with local churches.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Youth Pastors bring 3V school assemblies to their community - Part 1

Youth Pastors in Fayette County have been working together for several months to bring the 3V School Assembly program - vision, volume, velocity (coordinatred by Paul May - Clearer Vision Drama Company) - to schools in their area.

So far they have been to four schools (three more to go) and it's going great. The students are loving the hilarious dramas, the rockin' band, and the BMX bike stunt guy. Check out for pictures and a video of the BMX guy. Something like 5000 students will experience the 3V Tour before it's over this week. The culmination of the 3V Tour will be a huge outreach event at Uniontown High School on Wednesday, April 1st (we had a sneak peek of the big outreach last night at a local church and 10 students came to Christ! Way to go Mike and Starla!). We are expecting 800-1000 students to be there - they'll experience the dramas, concert, and BMX stunt guys as well as a clear presentation of the Gospel and an invitation to receive Christ.

We still need to raise $2000 to help pay for this event. If you could make a donation of any amount (large or small), please visit - we have credit card donation set up through paypal. Your help would be greatly appreciated! Please KEEP PRAYING! Thanks so much! I'll post again on Thursday to share how the outreach event goes.

One more thing - we want to thank Ron & Leigh Hudson and Art & Christine David, youth leaders at Calvary Baptist Church in Uniontown, for spearheading this network outreach for us. We love you guys!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Great youth network meeting last night!

Our Fayette County Youth Network met last night at the home of Larry & Michelle Georgiana - that had to be one of the best meetings we've ever had - it was just fun! This group of people (mostly couples) is really bonding together. It was like a small group meeting last night. There were youth leaders from five churches there and these folks are preparing for a huge outreach next week - the 3V school assemblies (vision, velocity, and volume). They've done several other things this school year including a school year kick off event in September, a fall get together, a Christmas party, and the iPromise purity event in February. I really believe that God reveals Himself in special ways when His people come together and work together for the Kingdom. I just want to say to my friends in this network, it is a great privilege working with all of you! And thanks for Larry and Michelle for opening your home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Exciting speaking opportunity

I had the privilege of teaching a couple of workshops at SPARK, the United Methodist Youth Conference at the Westin in Pittsburgh yesterday afternoon. I was talking with students about the fact that God IS present and working in their schools. They just need to look for what God is doing and join Him in that. I shared some of my story of how God called me to be a missionary to my high school (Go Turkeyfoot!) when I was a freshmen. There were probably 75 students between the two workshops. I hope that some of them will go and make a difference in their schools. Thanks to Renaye Hoffman for inviting me to come!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Why do we need denominations?

Occassionally, I hear the question asked, "Why do we even need denominations?" Although the primary focus of my blog is helping Christians work together across denominational lines, I do believe that denominations serve several good purposes. (DISCLAIMER: I'm making lots of generalizations here and these are non-research based opinions).

First, local churches need some kind of structure and accountability. Denominations provide local churches with an oversight, resources, and a kind of stability. And as I think about the history of the church, it seems like a de-centralized authority structure is necessary to provide checks and balances for the entire Body which we'll need until Jesus returns to earth. I think only Jesus could rule the entire Church.

Second, I think denominations help keep the whole church balanced theologically. When one part of the church emphasizes one aspect of the spiritual life too much, another part of the church brings emphasis back to forgotten aspects. It's so easy for us to go off on theological tangents that we need other believers to remind us of the other importants parts of the gospel (i.e., truth and grace, faith and works, God's part, our part, etc.).

Third, and this is similar to point 2, I think God uses different churches to bring good things to the rest of the body. Reformed churches have given all of us some solid theological thinking. Baptist churches remind us to keep winning souls. Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have given us fresh forms of worship and reminded us of how much we need the Holy Spirit. Anglican and Lutheran churches help us connect with our history (including emphasis on the practice of communion). Methodist churches have helped us keep our social conscience. Non-denominational churches have inspired us to stay on the cutting edge. My point is God has a lot of gifts for the whole body of Christ in these different churches.

Let me be clear that I realize there are tares in the wheat. Some people, some churches, and some entire denominations have left the faith. I'm just saying lets not burn the wheat because there are some tares in amongst it. Lets diligently stand for truth AND diligently connect with others who are doing the same even if they are in a different church. And let's appreciate what the different parts of the Body of Christ have to offer to the rest of us! Instead of focusing on what divides us, let's focus on how God has blessed other churches and what we can learn from each other.

Monday, March 16, 2009

churches reaching schools

The mantra of "separation of church and state" has so infiltrated our culture and even the church that many Christians feel like they cannot have any influence or positive impact on our public schools. Over the past several months, I've seen several examples of Christians (particularly youth pastors) reaching schools in different ways. 1) Youth pastors in Latrobe/Derry and in Uniontown are working together to bring school assembly programs to schools in their communities. 2) Youth pastors in Murrysville are helping coach local sports programs - and they aren't telling kids about Jesus at practices, they are building relationships with kids. 3) Youth pastors in Greensburg (pictured here) recently met with a local high school principal to hear about what is happening with students from her perspective - and it was really eye-opening. 4) Youth pastors in the Penn Trafford school district are creating a monthly bulletin-insert-size newsletter to share with their churches to encourage their churches to pray for the local schools and for the Christian students who are doing exciting things to reach their friends. 5) I, and a very good friend of mine, do a Release Time Education program for high school students in Brownsville (RTE is one of Pennsylvania's best kept secrets). 6) A youth pastor from Somerset is helping students in his youth group form a Christian club at their school that will focus on reaching their friends for Christ. There's a lot we can't do, but there is a lot that we CAN and must do for our public schools. This is where most of our students spend most of their time. America's public schools are a great mission field.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

In the spirit of Martin Luther, I offer my 9.5 theses

I suppose that, like Martin Luther five hundred years ago, most of us in ministry have strong feelings about what we'd like to change about the church. These are some of the convictions I've developed over the past decade of ministry. These are somewhat untried and untested ideas, but I really believe these things.

1. No one one church is or should act like it's the whole body of Christ.
2. The value of denominations is in what the uniquely offer to the Body of Christ not what separates them from the rest of the Body.
3. "When God looks at a city, He doesn't see many churches; He sees one church in many congregations." - Ed Silvoso
4. For the good of the kingdom and for the wise use of God's resources small churches need to join forces, pool resources, even merge together! (heresy, I know.)
5. God has blessed large churches to be a blessing to the rest of the body of Christ.
6. "The purpose of unity is not 'unity for the sake of unity' but to demonstrate that God's truth is true." - Mike King
7. A divided Body of Christ is a defeated Body of Christ.
8. Youth pastors and young pastors are the best candidates for forging unity (new wine and new wineskins and all that).
9. A church united is extremely difficult requiring, and thus demonstrating, the supernatural love of God.
9.5. This kind of love is what the world is waiting to see.

Those are my thoughts about building a better church. I'd love to hear yours.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The surprising thing that Doug Fields said...

Sometimes, you just wish that someone would see and really understand what it is that you are passionate about. Well that happened to me and some friends at the Doug Fields/Group Publishing "National Youth Ministry Conference" this past weekend. A bunch of guys from the National Network of Youth Ministries were there helping youth pastors connect with local networks back home in their communities. Group even had us do a workshop on youth ministry networking - that was very exciting. We were all blown away, though, on Sunday night when Doug Fields said from the main stage that he can't believe how many youth pastors he talks with who are trying to do youth ministry all alone. He said that he had been telling lots of youth pastors to go and connect with the National Network of Youth Ministries because he is a big fan of what they do. That was a very encouraging moment for all of us - someone who is that well-known gets the importance of coming together and working together. So, it's official, Doug Fields says youth pastors should get connected - thanks Doug for the affirmation and encouragement!(

Amazing group of students!

A couple Saturdays ago, Christian students from Hempfield, Penn Trafford, Greensburg Salem, Franklin Regional and Mt. Pleasant high schools in Westmoreland County came together to share stories of what God is doing in their schools. As we went around the table, we heard very different stories, but very encouraging - God is at work in our schools! My favorite part of this was seeing these students connect with each other and encourage each other. The video here is of three students from Penn Trafford talking about what they had done to reach out to different groups of students in their school.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Uniontown churches sponsor Fireproof movie event together

I had the opportunity to work with pastors in Uniontown on a special project - the churches in the community showed the movie Fireproof at the State Theater downtown. A single church could've done this easily, but at least six churches were involved and the result was that 800 people attended! The folks at the State Theater were surprised by such a great attendance. It just confirmed to me again that we can do so much more when we do it together.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Youth Pastors in Fayette County create purity event

I've seen this happen several times in my ministry - God gives a vision to someone that is too big for them to accomplish alone. So they bring it to their network of youth pastors - and find that some of them were thinking the very same thing. And then they work together on it and pull off something bigger than any of them could've dreamed! That happened this past weekend. A youth pastor's wife had a vision for doing a purity event, and she brought it to the network last fall. iPromise, as the event became called, far exceeded our expectations. We were hoping for 75, we had room for 140, and 189 showed up! It was a powerful evening of helping students grasp God's plan for love, dating, and sex. A city skyline was the backdrop for the worship, drama, speakers, and video. Appetizers, a chocolate fountain, fruit punch, and lots of mingling made up the front end of the night. A challenge to commit to sexual purity closed the night out. We want to say a very big thank you to Larry & Michelle Georgiana for all of their hard work on this event!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Travis Deans is resigning from Youth Ministry

I've been doing youth ministry for twelve years now (that's me this past Saturday) and every so often, usually a couple times a year, I start asking myself "Why am I doing this?", "What is it that I'm really supposed to be doing here?", "Why don't I go get a real job flippin' burgers or something?" I have to admit, discouragement creeps in at times! The pay is not good, things never go like you plan them to, people don't often see the "vital" importance of what we do, and youth ministry feels a lot like herding cats. Why should I keep doing this stuff?

Well, when those dark moods come over me, four big ideas keep bringing me back into focus...

1) "The local church is the hope of the world" - Bill Hybels

Of all our nations' institutions, the church offers something very unique. Schools provide education, doctors provide medication, hospitals provide operations, government provides legislation, prisons provide incarceration, but only the church offers transformation of the human heart through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, I believe with all my heart that every church needs a healthy, growing youth ministry - because every teenagers needs Jesus and a church family.

2) "When God looks at a city, he does not see many churches, He sees one church in many congregations." - Ed Silvoso

For the past four hundred years churches have been competing with each other. The splintering of the body of Christ into thousands of pieces has been a long, sad story. I believe passionately that someday the church will move away from competing against each other to completing each other - realizing that no one church/denomination is the whole body and that we will never fulfill the great commission alone. We must work together! Some competition is good to challenge us and keep us from becoming mediocre, but we need to see churches communicating with each other, cooperating with each other and completing each other in building the Kingdom. Therefore, I believe that every community needs a network of church youth ministries - because we can do this better when we do it together! Here's an article I wrote three years ago called "From Competing to Completing" if you'd like to read more about this idea.

3) "Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." - C.T. Studd

All missionaries have known for centuries that to reach a group of people you have to go where they are and the group of people that youth pastors want to reach spend most of their time all together in one place - school. Kids spend five days a week, 180 days a year, 7 or 8 hours a day (or more if they're in any kind of activity) at school. And all of our churches have students in public schools - what happens at local schools affects all of our kids. Therefore, I'm convinced that every school needs reached by a network of churches. When youth pastors/youth leaders come together one of big questions should be, "What can we do together to serve our local schools and to reach students in that place?" A youth pastor named Mark Moder observed in article called "Where Students Are" that if we are called to be fishers of men, we should remember that fish swim in schools.

4) "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. If they perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for." - C H Spurgeon

I love this quote - it just reminds me that we can never say "we have a lot of people in our church, that's good enough". Every person needs to hear about Jesus. I believe passionately that every students needs an opportunity to hear about Jesus and to get connected with a local church. There are 50,000 teenagers in this part of southwestern Pennsylvania - that's serious job security - I'm never going to run out of work here!

So, no, I'm definitely not resigning from youth ministry. I have four great reasons to get out of bed every morning and to keep doing what I'm doing. Most of all, I want to do it because Jesus loves me and calls me to follow Him no matter how hard it is, no matter what happens. Jesus is worth it all. Sometimes I just need to remind myself what this is all about. I have to say a big "Thank You!" to my wife, Judy, who keeps encouraging to do this and to my partner in Teens For Christ, Pete Malik, who helped me find God's calling for my life. And I thank you to for letting me express my heart to you in this post.

Youth Ministry Consultations

This past Saturday, Pete Malik and I had the privilege of doing a youth ministry consultation with members of Mill Run United Methodist Church who want to start a youth ministry at their church. In these consultations, we talk about building a youth ministry image, structure, and substance. The substance, which is communicating God's truth to see students' lives transformed, is what we want to get to, but the image/structure aspects of youth ministry help us get there. If your church's youth ministry needs a little shot in the arm or maybe a complete overhaul, let us know. We would love to come and help. The great thing about this meeting is that the guy who contacted us about meeting with them was part of our ministry when he was a teenager twenty years ago. Now he'll be doing youth ministry. It's amazing how things come full circle!

Fayette County Youth Pastors working on 3 projects

Youth Pastors in Fayette County are working together on three different projects - 1) iPromise semi-formal purity event for students, 2) 3V school assemblies and outreach, and 3) Benefit concert for Africa. This group of youth leaders did three youth events together this past fall as well. After not having a youth network in Fayette County for two years, the 2008-2009 school year is turning into an amazing time. The iPromise event scheduled to take place on February 21st, 2009 will be similar to True Love Waits events we used to do, but with some clever new twists. We love working with these great youth leaders!

Youth Pastors Summit - January 2009

On January 8th, 2009 youth pastors from around Westmoreland County gathered together to connect with each other and to do a little thinking about what we can do together to reach teenagers in Westmoreland County for Christ. There are 35,000 students in this county and we need to work together to reach them. Pictured here are youth pastors from Murrysville, Greensburg, Derry, Ligonier, and New Stanton. Just these ten youth pastors probably have at least 1000 teenagers that they have some kind of connection with. What powerful potential each one has, and what greater potential we all have when we work together!