the blog

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Faith, Hope and Love :: Some teaching


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We’ve spent the summer with our students at Christ Church walking through 1 Corinthians 13, specifically the virtues of faith, hope and Love.

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This Sunday is the final message in that series. I’m really excited to share with the students the finale and what everything has been pointing to all along.

Some verses we will be hitting…
John 14:6 (1-7) — Philippians 2:5 (1-11) — 1 John 2:1-6 — 1 Corinthians 2:1-6 — 1 Peter 2:21 — Matthew 5:48

We might not get to them all but you get the picture. Any guess what we’re gonna talk about! 😉

I’m hoping to post more often on this blog some of the things I’ve been teaching. I might even offer some resources and study guides every once in awhile. I may even get crazy and post some audio & video… who knows!
I’m start with the Faith, Hope and Love series we’ve done. I’ve been able to share 4 times during this series, I’ll post some of my notes, thoughts and resources connected to this teaching. The idea is to do this every Wednesday but that I probably shouldn’t even tell you that. I try not to set myself up for failure to often! Even this post isn’t on a Wednesday, #FAIL! But you’ll be able to use the category tag “Wednesdays Word” regardless.

An even better questions :: Is anybody actually interested in this kind of  thing? What would be most helpful to you pastor type folks?

Peace (and pray for my students and for me as we dive in and hopefully find Jesus in the deep end!)

Discuss

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RHYTHM :: Life, Love and blogging…


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I had an amazing time at camp this past week! Our theme was RHYTHM and I look forward to sharing more about that with you! I had a few people at camp ask me about my blog… WHAT?!?!  I didn’t think anybody even read this thing. I’ve been trying to hit my blog once a week for the past few months. Don’t look back to far, you’ll see my failure!  But i’m gonna keep trying to hit this about once a week. Some times it will be more and sometime I might even miss a week (don’t give up on me — i’m giving you opportunity to practice Christian love, patience and persistence.)  😉

I’ll be blogging on ministry, music, life and other thoughts and pondering.
I have a couple writing projects that i’m working on and starting to work on. I’d love to run some of that by you!

Basically i’m always thinking, working and creating.
The more voices, the better the conversation! So let me know what you think.

The next few post will about about camp. And some of the things I shared there. Our these was RHYTHM. So much fun!!!


Stay tuned for the conversation! I’m loving it!!!

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Summer Camp & My Philosophy (and a few memories)


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For the past 14 years I’ve been speaking at summer camps! Haven’t missed a summer, at least 1 camp for the past 14 years, WOW! And for a good stretch of that time I was speaking at 5, 6, 7 — I think my record was speaking 8 camps in a summer!

I remember one summer having an open week and as I was traveling from New York back to Nashville for my week off when I received a call from a fellow camp speaker and friend, “Erik, I’ve got car problems. Can you go to West Virginia this week and speak a camp for me?” I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. My answer, “HECK YEA!” I turned around and headed to West Virginia for an amazing week of camp.

I LOVE CAMP!

I’ve grown over the years in how I understand camp and how I see my role at a camp when I’m the speaker / camp pastor. I understand the importance of the role and believe it to be a sacred privilege to come along side youth pastors and camp programmers in the ministry of summer camp. And the amazing opportunity to connect with students, if even for only a week, on their spiritual journey is absolutely trilling!

I also feel like I understand this in a deeper or at least different way now that I’m also a youth pastor who takes students to camp. I understand a bit better the hopes and prayers of those youth pastors sitting next to their students whom they’ve loaded up and driven hundred of miles to camp. Youth pastor and volunteers who have taken time away from their families and are sleeping on poorly padded slabs of plywood and eating less then desirable food all with the hope that these students they love and are invested in will encounter God and be transformed to live their faith when they get home!

I GET IT!

These days I speak at 1 or 2 camps in a summer. It’s perfect!

Life is busy. I’m a full-time youth pastor, which I love and is my ministry priority. I have a growing family, which is actually my highest ministry and priority. I’m writing books and blogs and dreaming about the future God has for my family and me.

Life is busy but I am so very thankful that I still get to do camp ministry as a speaker!

This summer I’m speaking at 1 camp. It’s only an hour from my house, which is awesome!
(Although I love traveling – which I don’t get to do much these days.)

I was emailing with the camp director the other day and was trying to communicate with him about my philosophy of camp and something like this is what came out…

“My philosophy of being a camp speaker / pastor is that I’m at the disposal of the director of the camp and the youth pastors of the camp. Whatever you need and however you can use me to make the camp experience what you are hoping for, I’ll do my best to deliver that! I don’t see myself as a hired gun who comes in with a prepackage set of messages that may or may not work for your camp. I’m crafting message specifically for you, your students and the experience you are trying to create, trusting with you that God will be encountered and transformation will be set in motion as we come along side God and what He is wanting to do! So let’s do it!”

That’s my heart!
I love it!
I can’t wait till next week!
It’s camp time!!!

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As I write this blog I’m remembering some of my favorite camp experiences!
I’m thankful for these people and places! Thought I would share…

#1. Manville Nazarene Camp – NWIL Camp :: This has to be number 1 because it’s the camp I grew up at and it’s the place and the people who God used to draw me to himself. I remember getting the opportunity to be the camp speaker. I was probably 22 or so and in absolute awe that God would bring my life in such full circle. From being the little middle school student with no clue of who Jesus was to now being the speaker He was using to tell those squirly students of who He was and the good news of a relationship with him and the abundant life He was leading them into! WOW! So awesome!

(no order for the rest of the camps)

* Alaska Naz. Camp :: 2 weeks in Alaska, hanging with students, sharing Jesus and doing a lot of really cool experiential exercises in faith and growth. Bob Sugden, the camp director is a stud who really loves students and puts on a GREAT low key and transformational camp!

* Youth Front / KC Naz. Camp :: The Youth Front people are some of the coolest folks I know. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE what they are doing! They would probably be my highest recommendation if I were to asked by a youth pastor “where should I go to camp.” (With camp Illuminate & Bryant Underwood a close second, even though I haven’t spoke for Byrant.) Youthfront is doing some different kinds of things these days, still LOVE IT though. Micah Thomas and Mike King are some of those people who I really wish I could spend exponentially more time around!

* Edge Camp :: Bob Swan is probably one of the best youth workers I’ve ever crossed paths with! A veteran – lifer youth pastor! He puts on a RAD camp for sure!!!

* IL Naz. Camp :: Spoke at this camp many times! Have make many friends at this camp that I still keep in touch with! Amazing people like Jamie Toolen, Brad Grinnen, Todd Holman, Erin Murphy and more! I’ve also had the weirdest camp experience ever at this camp. That’s a story for another day 😉

* Barefoot Republic Camp :: This camp has one of the coolest missions ever as they seek racial, economic and denominational reconciliation. I had an amazing week with them despite rooming with the loudest snorer I have ever encountered in my life! Tommy Rhodes is doing an amazing ministry here!

* Fuge Camp Belmont :: I don’t often get to hangout with the Baptists at camp but the handful of Fuge camps I’ve had the opportunity to speak at have been really great. They’ve all been mission camps, working and participating in God’s mission during the day and connecting your actions to God’s Word at night. Love that model! Jerod, Kyle Cravens, James Jackson — such great camp hearts and minds!

* Fuge Hawaii :: Hawaii — enough said! But it was also a great camp. Got to dig in with students in Bible studies and activity groups. Exhausting week but really great and did I mention it was in Hawaii!!! And Lori Mangum, Brad Puckett and Eric Vinson were amazing to do ministry with!

* NY Metro Naz. Camp :: Hanging and sharing at such a diverse camp was a really cool experience. And the pranks were EPIC! 😉 Lou Zambito and Darren Ojeda are amazing dude and the Morales crew are simply amazing people!!!

* Smithmills Camp :: I been to Smithmills a couple times, such a great family experience! A very primitive camp, open air tabernacle and all the trappings that remind one of the “good old days!” And really great people and the best seafood ever! Bill and Jayne Eklund and all their amazing student leaders! Amazing place, amazing people!

As I make this list I just realize i’ve had so many amazing camps experience and I can’t even remember them all! Chicago camp, So Cal Camp, Virginia Naz Camp, Ohio Camps and the list goes on! Thankful for all the people and places God has introduced me to!

Discuss

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Summer Camp 2013


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That was summer camp for us. And it was awesome!

For the Student Pastor of any church summer camp is something you really look and pray forward to! For me that is definitely the case. Considering I committed my life to Christ at a camp i really believe in the space that camp creates for students to encounter Christ. Camp forms bonds in a unique way and is such a huge spring board to authentic community that it’s an invaluable experience in the life of any student ministry.

There is however a dark side. 

It’s freaking exhausting! Especially as a leader / pastor / guide for the week camp is really taxing! I spent 4 summers, 10 weeks each summer, as a counselor at youth camps. They were amazing summers. I have many memories that shape me to this day from those summers (good and bad). I also remember how absolutely exhausting they were. Turn the volume up on that 2 or 3 notches and that’s what camp is like for youth pastors.

So yea, camp is amazing, i wouldn’t give it up for anything but i sure could use a few days of rest; vampire in a coffin, dead to the world kind of rest. But because of the time of year and way things are in my current ministry context that isn’t really an option. Don’t worry, i’m not going to blog cry on you right now. Just a brief vent… i’m done!

The camp we participated in this year was Illuminate Summer Camp. The owner / director fellow is a friend of mine, Bryant Underwood. Bryant is legit. One of those guys with a great heart for God and kinda oozes authenticity. I was stoked to get to partner with this him this summer! All the speakers were from his church in Chattanooga and they were all really solid. Worship was lead by AJ Cheek and Aaron Gillespie (formerly of Underoath and currently The Almost) lead one night was well, which was awesome and crazy all at the same time.

One of the great components to camp this year was the mission aspect. Now i’ve spoken at mission camps for Fuge, the M-Fuge camps but have never taken my own students to this kind of experience. It was awesome! The work adds something to the camp experience that allows students to solidify the thoughts and commitments immediately. You don’t have to wait to get home to start living out the commitments you’ve made, you just have to wake up and go to your work sites. That is amazing! I loved it!

There are a few highlight i have. Getting to pray with my small group of 8th grade guys as they were being stirred by God to lived consistent, committed lives for Christ. That was awesome! Our camp was also on the beach—VERY COOL! One afternoon i was swimming with a bunch of guys but was able to have a one on one conversation in the ocean with one of my students i had been praying for. It reminded me of living in California and sitting in the water on a surf board. The ocean seems to facilitate great conversations! This particular student hadn’t responded like the others. He didn’t get emotional, he hadn’t talked about his feelings or commitments. We were able to have a really good conversation, really more me talking about how it was ok for him to respond unquily to God. That i was ok if he doesn’t get emotional like some of the other and that everybody interacts with God in their own unique way. He didn’t say much but toward the end of our converstaion he paused and said, “That’s good to know” In a very thoughtful and matter-of-fact kind of way. I had prayed to have a good one on one conversation with this student and God facilitated that conversation. It was very cool!

You can read a little more about camp over on our churches blog. I did this write up for them, it tells a cool story and gives a few more pictures if you’re interested check that out. And here is a link to a bunch of our camp pictures as well! Check em’ out!

Now i’m praying that God continues the momentum we built at camp as we approach a new school year.
May the Lord be with us as we all seek to follow him and encourage our students to do that same!
Grace and peace
Erik

Discuss

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Preaching from the eye of the storm…


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Wondering…

How do you in healthy ways communicate your own doubt and struggle?  As a leader and preacher, to adults but especially to students, how do you approach this stuff when your in the middle of your own storm, when life and struggle seem to be at their peak and when your wondering if this stuff is even true.

I mean ALL leaders, or all honest leaders have times struggle and doubt, right? I read through the scripture and there seems to be a pretty strong embrace of biblical characters who doubted and struggled. The Psalms seems to highlight this especially.

So how do you engage these text that are full of promise and proclamation and them share these things you think are probably true but are struggling with yourself.

It’s funny that i’m wondering about this at i begin to share this series of messages entitled UNBROKEN because right in the heart of the opening verses i’m sharing is this…

“For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8:24-25)

Maybe there is some answer there.

But in the middle of life and questions and calamity verses like Romans 8:28 are a bit hard to swallow sometimes.
“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

John Wesley talked about a time when he was struggling to have faith and he decided to preach faith until he had it. I like that. It does stir some tension and questions in my head and heart but i like it.

Just woundering…

(PS : This was a blog i wrote and save as a draft a few month back… just saw it and figured i probably should post this action. Oppps…)

Discuss

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From Brokenness to Belonging…


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This Sunday i shared the first message in a 4 week series i am doing with my middle schoolers called “UNBROKEN”. The goal is to talk about the ways in which God wants to take His creation from being broken to becoming whole.

The first message is entitled From Broken to Belonging. 
We talked about groaning, adoption, and redemption out of Romans 8. Some really great and tangible imagery for our students to grab ahold of.

Groaning :: when we are hurting or broken groaning is our natural response.

Adoption :: taking our broken pieces and putting them into a proper place. Going form broken to belonging, maybe that is what adoption is all about.

Redemption :: The idea that in some way God wants to give value to the garbage of our lives. Redemption is all about God spitting in the mud and helping us see.

Romans 8:22-23 & 28
“For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And now only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” & “We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

I was going to use this resource / curriculum [ A World Unbroken ] but decided to save it for another time. They do have a cool work book and things but i think we’ll charge that another time. For now we’ll just dive into some scripture.

{ another post connect to this one will be coming soon…
How do you preach on Brokenness when you are broken yourself? }

Discuss

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Focus more on middle schoolers…


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I’m a middle school pastor! I get to interact and walk along side students who are in 6th – 9th grade. It’s really is great. Yea, it has it’s challenges but man, i don’t think there is a more important age specific ministry in the church.

I was listening to NPR today and they were talking about education reform and specifically about high school drop outs and productive economic contributors in our world. The revolutionary idea that all these really smart people came up with to decrees high school drop out rates and to increase the healthy adult participation in the economy and culture was… wait for it… focus more on middle schoolers.

I think it’s really cool when sociologists and economists come to the same conclusion as the church. It’s even better when the church is ahead of the curve but lets be honest, most of the time we are not. 

I’ve been reading some books like Not Much Just Chillen and listening in on these kinds of conversations. I think these kinds of conversations should be really encouraging to middle school youth workers. We relevant and on the right track!

Some of things they were talking about on the radio programs where trying to provide a positive interaction, often on a mentoring basic for each middle school student. YES! As i have worked over the last few months to recruit and train adult volunteers this is the vision. Students need that positive influence other than their parents. This translates perfectly into our discipleship efforts and is really something we are already trying to do in a lot of ways.

They also talked a lot of about retention essentially. The way we keeps kids from dropping out of high school or from failing to be productive adults is by really investing in middle schoolers. LOVE IT. Well in the church we talk about the same things. Our students are falling off the radar left and right. Some in high school but when it comes to college students you might think the rapture had already happened because they are no where to be found in our churches. Hint, go to the friday night party, they haven’t been taken up in the clouds, they’ve been wandered into the pit.

All this to say that i continue to believe in middle school ministry and think that the church has to continue to invest and believe in middle schoolers.

All this and i didn’t even have time to go into all the developmental reasons why middle school is key in the discipleship of a student.

Grace and peace

Discuss

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A Summer of Prayer (The Lord’s Prayer)


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This summer i’m leading the students of Christ Church Plano, where i am the middle school ministry, through a series on The Lord’s Prayer.

I’ve taught quite a few time on this prayer. Studied pretty extensively and read much more than i can even remember about this prayer Jesus gave but i’m still excited to teach it again, to rehash and restudy, to re-member for myself how to not just say this prayer but how to really pray it! I’m even more excited to lead my students on this journey!

Here’s what we’re working with…

These are some slides (bunched together) to show you what we’re working with. We’re breaking it down line by line, idea by idea and walking through it together. I think it’s going to be a great summer!

I added all the text and stuff but the backgrounds for these images i got over at Creation Swap! TONS of FREE artwork! And a lot of it is REALLY good! And pretty much as long as you’re not making cash off of it you can use there stuff for your ministry. GREAT resource. Check it out if you haven’t already.

What are up to this summer?

Discuss

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Factoring In Failure


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Just to be honest last week was a failure. I got busy, I got distracted and totally got out of my Lenten rhythms. I FAILED!
We are also at about the half-way point in our Lenten journey.
For both of these reasons it’s the perfect time to post this little ditty. This is the appendix in our Lenten devotional guide and a great reminder that doing things perfectly isn’t really the point anyway. I hope it encourages you and i hope you will join me in getting back on track with your Lenten disciplines.

.:: Factoring In Failure

Maybe you’re not like me. Maybe you are extremely self-disciplined and whenever you set your mind to do something, you do it flawlessly!  AWESOME! You probably have some other things you need to work out with the Lord, but definitely not the same things I do. You see, me—I’m a failure! I regularly fail at things I say I’m going to do… waking up in the morning to pray, reading my Bible every day, not doing this or that… FAIL, FAIL and #FAIL once again! (hash tag for public emphasis—only Twitter peeps will understand!)
Lent is a time of self-denial, of extra spiritual focus and discipline… BUT if you do it all perfectly and fail to be engaged in your humanity and this journey toward the cross, well, you have failed! It’s not about failing on purpose, but it’s about realizing that if you do mess up, slip up or eat up one day because you just didn’t think about it, or because you just HAD to see that show, or because you couldn’t go one more moment without a smoke or a drink (coffee or otherwise)… IT’S LENT! Maybe in your failure, you can “get it” even more, in an even deeper kind of way.

So, I don’t plan for failure; I don’t put an X on my Lent calendar to mark the day I will fail, but I pretty much factor in the fact that I will fail—there will be a day I utterly fall on my face, whether it is with my Lenten discipline or in some other area of my life. And in that moment, I stop, pray and remember that I am nothing but DUST! I know that I journey in the desert of temptation with the only person who has ever done it perfectly. Jesus is my only hope! I continue to follow Him through the desert to the cross and ultimately participate with Him in the resurrection!

Factor in some failure this Lent! Be ready for it so that when it happens, you’re ready to pray, think and continue on!

“THE GOAL OF LENT is not to make a plan for change and follow it to the letter. Rather, the goal is to make a change that sinks deeply into life, drawing us closer to self, others, and God. Lent is about intentionally opening ourselves, preparing to receive God’s goodness.”
— From A Clearing Season: Reflections for Lent by Sarah Parsons

Make sure to check out www.LentWebGuide.com for more Lenten reading and reflection.

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