What a year!


The Chinese have called 2016 the year of the monkey and that is fitting because this year has thrown some poo around!  This has been for many one crazy year.  Now I am not going to speak in hyperbole and say that it is the strangest year ever, or the most divisive year ever or even the most dangerous year ever.  That would be a slap in the face to all of my history teachers throughout the years.  It has been strange though.  Not armageddon strange more like a scene from the movie Inception strange.  Let’s look at some of the “highlights” that 2016 gave us, what we can learn from it and see what we can do to try to make 2017 a little bit more normal.

Let’s begin with sports.

It began with Denver Broncos winning the Super Bowl with Peyton Manning as the quarterback leading to his retirement.  They beat Carolina Panthers who had the young stud quarterback, Cam Newton who after the defeat famously pouted during the post game press conference.  This was what they call in the literary world as foreshadowing.  This would be emblematic of this generations reaction for the entire year.  Then there was the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the NBA championship and the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.  These two teams haven’t won a championship since the dawn of the television era!  It was a weird year!

2016 had it in for the celebrities!

This year if you were a famous singer, actor or celebrity of any kind you had a target on your back.  Here are just some of the celebrities that left us this year. Natalie Cole, Grizzley Adams, Prince, Glenn Fry, Muhammed Ali, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn, Alan Thicke.  All of these legends gone…and Kanye and the Kardashians are still around.  It was a weird year!

Bathrooms had a big year!

Thousands in unemployment, terrorism and war all over the globe and homelessness becoming a bigger problem than ever…however, we the bulk of the government and the press focused our attention on whether or not a transgender person can use any bathroom they want.  LGBTQ rights was on full display this year.  (by the way in 2015 the acronym was LGB, by Spring it included the T and by Winter it included the Q…as I write this post it now has 13 letters in it!).  There was huge debate and social media was all a buzz about rights and morality and bigots and homophobes and tolerance and intolerance for the intolerance…meanwhile…people still had no jobs, men and women were dying at the hands of a radical religion and homelessness continued to abound.  It was a weird year!

And of course the election!

After all the debates (there were like 127 of them) we ended up with Trump vs Hillary.  Were these are two best candidates?  No. Were these the best and the brightest our land had to offer?  No. But hey!  It is the year of the monkey so why not. It was a slimy political season and as a lover of government, history and our country it saddened me.  However, it wasn’t the slimiest.  It wasn’t the lowest in the gutter we have ever been as a country.  After seeing so much hyperbole on social media I wanted everyone to go back to 10th grade history and learn some stuff (Thanks Dr Causey).  It came down to the wire and after all was said and done…Trump is our next president.  That’s right…imagine saying that last January!  It was a weird year!


So what?

What can we learn after such a weird year?  Well we can learn that through it all God is still in control.  Habakkuk 3:17-19 says

“17Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
19The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.”

Though all this crazy stuff happened this year…I will still rejoice in the Lord.  Why?  Because he is sovereign.  Why?  Because he is my strength.  Why?  Because he is God and I am not.

So what about next year?

Next year is the year of the Rooster.  So, I guess that is good for the South Carolina Gamecock fans.  However, this is what I am planning on doing to make my 2017 a little better.

  1. Recognize that God is in control.  Know that nothing is as bad as the TV and Social media is trying to tell you it is.
  2. Be a better voice.  Defend those who need defending.  Speak only that which is helpful.  Be a voice not the noise.
  3. Do something. Help others, smile and finally
  4. Pray, Read, Serve and Tell – Pray daily, Read the scriptures, Serve others and your church and Tell others about the savior Jesus Christ.

Stick to this and maybe just maybe 2017 will be a little smoother.

What do you think?

MacGyvering the spiritual walk


So I am sitting here watching MacGyver (the new one).  I was a huge fan of the old series…I used to watch it when I was a kid.  My dad got me a swiss army knife just like the character on the show.  I was immensely disappointed when I realized that there really weren’t any emergencies that took place in my life that required that perfect little tool.  I still have one to this day, just in case I have to turn a fountain pen into a mac computer. However, the knife is the most compact and efficient tool that is out there.

Sitting here though, made me think of what are my emergency essentials that I keep with me…in ministry.  What is my swiss army ministry kit?

  1. My bible – Every year I get a new one. Fresh and ready for new highlights, underlines and notes in the margins.
  2. A journal – Sometimes I write thoughts in there, sermon ideas, doodles, prayers, notes from meetings…whatever.  It stimulates the creativity and is vital.
  3. A good pen – I have plenty of junk pens but if you really want to enjoy a good journal, you have to use a good pen.  On the cheaper side I use gel pens, however I was given a good Mont Blanc as a gift that I love writing with.
  4. 2 books – I try to keep a book on ministry or theology and a book on leadership at all times.  They both keep me sharp and thinking.

That is what is in my ministry tool kit.  What about yours?


To Santa or not to Santa


This year I have had more run ins with parents about the “Santa situation”.  To believe or not to believe.  It is a common question with young parents and so I wanted to post some of my thoughts on the old portly purveyor of presents.

There are two sides of Santa we need to remember…

Santa IS fun.

I mean c’mon he is a jolly old fat guy that brings joy to little kids.  He is a symbol of a season that is supposed to be a time of fun and joy.  In my home we “play” the Santa game.  Our kids know that he is not real but we play the game anyway.  We put out the stockings and the milk and cookies.  We make our lists.  It is just part of our fun that we do during the season.  We can have fun without guilt or diminishing the true meaning of Christmas.  We enjoy the movie It’s a Wonderful Life every year at this time…but I never get offended because of the poor theology about angels in the movie, thus banning it from my home.

There is a part of the Christmas season that is fun and there is a part that is sacred.  There is nothing sacred about ELF but I like it.  There is nothing sacred about the Christmas tree but I like it.  There is nothing sacred about egg nog but I like it.  There is nothing sacred about the current portrayal of Santa Claus…but I like it.  You can have fun and teach good history and theology AT the same time.

(Side note – for all of you “keep Christ in Christmas” folk.  Christmas is on a Sunday this year and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “I can’t make it we have family traditions.”)

Santa IS real.

However, we also need to understand that Santa IS real.  He was a real person.  He didn’t ride magic reindeer.  He didn’t go down chimneys and he didn’t lead an army of toy making elves.  He was a Bishop named Nicholas in Asia Minor in the 4th century.  His parents died when he was young and he inherited a lot of money and he used that wealth to help the poor, especially the children.

He was a Bishop that was invited to the Council of Nicaea in in 325.  This was an important council that was debating a topic that was pretty important….the divinity of Jesus.  Nicholas got in a heated debate with another Bishop present and it ended with him punching him in the face.  Nicholas was jailed but later released after the council ended and restored as Bishop.

You can say two things about Santa definitively.  He loved children and he loved Jesus.  THAT IS THE REAL SANTA.

I teach my children about the real Santa Claus.  I teach them that over the centuries he has become a legend simply because he was relentless in his love for Jesus and Children.  I teach them that we can make a difference that will last for generations too.  All we have to do is Love God and Love People.

To wrap this up…ha ha get it.

I won’t tell you to teach kids to believe or not to believe in Santa.  However, I think there is a way to teach them and play with them at the same time.  I think it is the best of both worlds.  I hope this helps some of you.  What do you think?

Vision of Surge

As I have stated we follow the systems/structure of the Purpose Driven model created by Rick Warren at Saddleback church.  In that model Warren uses concentric circles to illustrate the levels of commitment to the local church related to the programs directed toward that audience.  The goal is to move the people on the outlying circles to the inner circle.  The order goes, Community, Crowd, Church, Committed and Core.

Our ministry has programmed to all of these circles to some degree with a hope that some students will move from the Community to the Core over time.

For the Community  we offer community events like “Movies Under the Oaks” – this is a done outside and we choose good movies but not necessarily “christian” movies.  We also do several Family Events throughout the year.  Our Fall Festival on Halloween night is a huge community even as is our Easter Egg drop.  We are a presence at the HS football games and in other community festivals and events.

For the Crowd we focus on Campus Ministry.  At our HS we have a weekly study called “Jesus Pizza”. It is exactly what it sounds like…pizza and a bible study.  At our MS campuses we do a lunch study once a month and bring in Chickfila and do some games and bible study.

For the Church we have Surge worship which is our “big” meeting.  Music, relevant teaching and plenty of hang time.  We also offer a recovery program for teens called The Landing.  This program can be a 1st step into the church for teens who are struggling with addiction, cutting, self esteem issues etc.

For the Committed we have small groups that are age and gender specific, Sunday morning bible study and Huddles which is a part of our Surge worship experience.

For the Core we encourage our teens to be the church and serve the church.  They help in the kids ministry, tech ministry and other areas as needed.  We are also launching a leadership study for a few teens that show next level skills.

That is our process for striving to connect with the random kid in the school and move them toward commitment to the gospel and the church.


Your values shapes your culture

You can tell a lot about an organization by what they value. Walmart values cheap goods.  Chickfila values customer service.

Our Values at Surge help guide us and dictate what we do.  We used the name of our ministry as the acronym.

S – Safe Place – the term sanctuary means a place of safety.  Our ministry is a bully free zone.  Many students come from homes where they are berated by their parents, bullied at school and picked on by their siblings…we make sure this is one place where they are safe.

U – Understanding Culture – We strive to know what is going on…I passed young and cool a long time ago (actually I was never cool anyway) but we will want to know the landscape that our audience lives in so that we may minister more effectively.

R – Relentless pursuit of the lost – We believe that teens in our culture are what the International Mission Board refers to as an unreached people group…in that less that 2% are reached with the gospel.  That may be an exaggeration but not by much.  We are not satisfied until all students have had the opportunity to hear the gospel.

G – Growth of the Spirit – We encourage discipleship through Bible study, mentoring and worship.

E – Exciting environments – From the front door to the bathrooms we strive to make sure that the youth ministry environments are excellent.  We don’t have leftover couches and old tv’s sitting on folding tables.  We don’t do it at all if we can’t do it with excellence.

As students come through our ministry we hope that these values are evident.  We evaluate them several times a year and are not afraid to change, add or subtract something from our ministry if it begins to deviate from our values.


What is the mission?

Yesterday I began a series of posts sharing the strategy of Surge Youth Ministries.  I will take the next few days examining each part of it.  If you get anything out of it great…really I just like sharing it because it solidifies it in my heart.

The mission of Surge is to REACH the students, REDEEM the generation and RESTORE the family by RECOGNIZING our purpose and REVIVING our hearts through worship.

When I first got to James Island Baptist a few years ago Pastor Tom shared the quote that we were here to reach, redeem and restore a lost and dying world.  I loved that phrasing.  So I stole it, tweaked it and made it the cornerstone of my mission statement.

I believe we are here to…

REACH students – first of all that is at the core.  We are a youth ministry.  That is who are target is and who we strive to reach.  That audience guides our environment, teaching, training…everything.

REDEEM the generation – We believe that we have a responsibility not just to the individual student but to reclaim the generation for Christ.  We feel that we have the burden to speak to the widening cultural chasm between the the christian worldview and the secular worldview.

RESTORE the family – As much as I feel like a dinosaur in a world of twenty somethings as a youth pastor of 25 years I have earned the ear of the parents in my church.  My goal as a family pastor is to bridge the gap as much as possible between teenager and parent.

RECOGNIZING – we keep the purpose in front of all that we do.  Through God’s word and mentoring we constantly strive to keep our purpose as a ministry not simply an organization.

REVIVING – Great structure and organization is important…however burnout and scandal is sure to creep into our ministry if we are not powered by and led by the Holy Spirit of God.

Our mission statement shares what we are to do and how we should do it.  It is a broad statement that helps umbrella our ministry.  In the coming days I will share how we do it.

Surge Youth Ministries (an organizational structure)


Every successful ministry has to have a structure.  The pastors who wing it week to week will burn out and they nor their ministry will grow.  Every ministry I have led since the 90’s have been different in culture and style but one thing is constant they needed structure.  My church subscribes to the “Purpose Driven” model created by Rick Warren at Saddleback church.  So in our vernacular when referring to organizational structure we refer to our purpose and the audience.  The bases and the circles.  If you are unfamiliar with the purpose driven model then you should read the Purpose Driven Church by Rick Warren.

Surge Youth Ministries is the youth ministry of James Island Baptist Church.  This is the ministry that I was hired to repurpose, retool and relaunch.  It was not an easy task and after 3 years we are finally gaining some steam.  Much of the recent success is that students and leaders are beginning to buy into the culture of the ministry.  I’d like to share our organizational structure with you and maybe it will inspire you or reinforce what you are already doing.

Surge n. A sudden powerful forward or upward movement, especially by a crowd. 

What is the Mission?

To REACH the students, REDEEM the generation and RESTORE the family by RECOGNIZING our purpose and REVIVING our hearts through worship.

What are our Values?

Safe Place

Understanding Culture

Relentless pursuit of the lost

Growth of the Spirit

Exciting Environments

What is the Vision?

Community – Movies under the Oaks, Mega Surge

Crowd – Jesus Pizza

Church – Surge Worship, The Landing

Committed – Connection Groups, Discipleship Options

Core – Core Team

What is the Strategy?

Reach kids on campus, invest in them and invite them to Surge, Grow deeper in the faith through bible study and send them out to reach their friends and serve those in need.

What are the Goals?

June 2017 – worship 50, baptism 5

December 2017 – worship 111, baptism 15

Over the next few days I will unpack each part of the structure, how I came up with it?  Why is it necessary? etc