Picture for Seminary Assignment…

February 21, 2017

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Uncertainty, Clarity, and Flexibility…

November 21, 2009

This is part two of my day one blog. Later on in the day, at the Big Room event (the main session where everyone is together), Andy Stanley brought an excellent message about uncertainty that I will not soon forget! Now I know that Andy usually preaches pretty fast, but what he brought was like a machine gun with the trigger held in. It was non-stop goodness. I typed over four pages of notes on my computer and my fingers were aching afterwards.

Andy started off by giving us the following statements: “I may be in charge but I don’t always know what to do. I may be in charge but I don’t have all the answers. If I knew what was going to happen, then I’d know what to do. Every leader to some extent is clueless (we just don’t want the people following us to figure that out). When it comes to leadership, there is so much uncertainty and it never ever ever goes away!” He went on to say that we will always have limited information and we will never know what the future holds. And then he had us repeat the following statement: “I will always be uncertain, I’m certain of it!”

One of Andy’s main points was that we will always face uncertainty as leaders. It is a normal and permanent part of leadership. If everything was predictable then there would be absolutely no need for pastors (leadership). God always got the best mileage out of uncertainty. When God does amazing things, it usually isn’t during a day when nothings is going wrong…it’s usually when there is some degree of uncertainty.

In the midst of uncertainty, Andy said that there are two things we should turn to: clarity and flexibility. In times of uncertainty there is a need for leadership to retreat back to being clear and flexible. Clarity trumps uncertainty in an organization every single time. When times are uncertain in our local church, family, organization, etc…that is the time for the leaders to step up and be absolutely crystal clear about what God has called us to do. Clarity in the time of uncertainty is what positions and surfaces leaders in an organization. An illustration of this comes from the scriptures in the transition between Moses and Joshua. Joshua was good at wondering because his mentor was (Moses). And then God wanted him to lead an army into battle. Talk about uncertainty!

Joshua had no clue what to do so he told the people that there is stuff that he doesn’t know, but in three days they would be crossing the Jordan and taking the land that God has promised them. That’s leadership in uncertain times! It’s the definition of pure leadership! Next, Andy gave us a quote/philosophy/vision from Steve Jobs (former owner of Apple) that said: “We’ve got to focus on what we can be good at and stop everything else…we are going to build easy to use computers.”  Steve Jobs did what every leader has to do in times of uncertainty. He stepped back into what he knew for sure…stepped back from the numbers and chaos of a hurting/dying company and reinvigorated them!

What has God called us to do in our ministries? What has God called our student ministries to do in our communities? What has God called our church to do in our community or our world?

Andy said that clarity in times of uncertainty will move your organization forward. You don’t have to have a cute phrase for your vision, but you also shouldn’t have a huge paragraph. We need to figure out what the one thing that God has called us to do is. For Steve Jobs, it was to build computers that are easy to use! Certainty around the calling of God is extraordinarily powerful, and that’s where we have to retreat. It has to be crystal clear what God has called us to do, in our mind and on our lips!

Next, Andy talked about flexibility. In times of uncertainty, there needs to be incredible flexibility. Plans change, but vision should stay the same. What Andy said next was great. He said: “Fall in love with your vision, but date your plans. Marry your vision and just fool around with your plans. You’ve got to stay extraordinarily committed…plans are going to change!” If we ever confuse our vision with our mission, we are sunk…because plans WILL fail!

Another quote that jumped out at me was: “Fundraising is a plan; church planting is a mission and a vision…if you get them confused, you’re in trouble!” We can’t abandon the mission and vision because of a failed plan.

We must help our leaders, elders, and deacons to understand the difference between vision and approach. Approach may change numerous times…plans change…but vision always remains the same! Andy says we need to be stubborn with our vision and flexible in our plans.

There was so much good content in Andy Stanley’s message to youth workers but one of the most important things that I snagged up from it was what he said about leadership. He said that leadership is not about making decisions on your own, but standing up and owning the decisions as a team. He went on to tell us about the wisest man in the world (Solomon) who had the most to say about seeking counsel from others. Even though he knew the most out of anyone ever, he still saw it wise to seek the teams’ advice on things. Leadership is about owning decisions once you made them with a multitude of wise counselors, not alone!

–          paulg


Story, Experience, and Collaboration…

November 21, 2009

Wow, what a day! I won’t be writing about everything in this one post. That would be way too lengthy. So I have decided to break it up into a few separate posts.

Today was the official first day of the youth specialties convention in Atlanta. I have been here since Wednesday night though. I planned to arrive early so I could attend the pre-convention intensive training seminar that was offered. The one that I chose to attend was taught by Mike Novelli, Mark Novelli, and Kelly Dolan and was called “Story, Experience, and Collaboration.” It was a six hour course (split up in to two three hour courses), thus the term “intensive” before the training seminar! I chose this one because one of the presenters was the guy that wrote the book (Shaped by the Story) that I recently bought and started reading. This new method of teaching has intrigued me for some time now and I was continually told by many of my youth pastor friends to get the above-mentioned book. Whenever I found out the author of the book was leading the seminar, I knew that it was the one for me.

Mike and Mark are twins so half of the time I never knew which one was speaking, which is why I liked when Kelly spoke; it was easy to distinguish who he was! The seminar started off with Mike showing a clip of Louis CK from Conan O’Brien called “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy.” The clip was a comedic one that basically stated that we live in a world where everything is amazing (we have everything at our fingertips/disposal) but no one is happy. He showed this to illustrate that this emergent generation are not idiots, but their expectations have changed. How we learn things, how we view the world, and how we interact with each other have all changed. Typical forms of worship, engagement, faith formation, and spiritual community do not work well with these students. As a result, this should change the way that we do ministry.

Mike told us a story of how he noticed that most of his students were very busy, but not very deep. To try to solve this, he tried his favorite method of inductive Bible study (an analytical method of looking at a specific text). In this method, you ask specific questions to learn. Mike then told us a story of one of his students that when asked what he thought about the new method of learning, said: “I like that we are learning the Bible, and I think that it is important that we do, but I don’t think that this is the way that I learn!” This blew Mike away and got him to start thinking: “Is the Bible intimidating, boring, or irrelevant?” and “when do they begin to experience, interact with, and enjoy this story (of the Bible) for themselves?”

At Mike’s next church, he tried a new form of teaching with them that he learned form a missionary in Uganda. He tried a method of teaching known as “storying.” In storying, learning is now the hearer’s responsibility. Storying is not about memorizing Bible stories, but it is about it becoming their own story! They can see themselves in the people in the story and how they should and shouldn’t live! One student’s comment about storying is as follows:

“It made me realize…I need to live for the author! God has a story for my life and I am excited to discover and I want to share it with others. God’s amazing story is what we’ve been waiting for our entire lives.” – Michelle (High School Junior)

Mike saw a breakthrough and that the story was really rooted in these students (like Michelle). The students knew where they fit in to the story and that they are a continuation of that story. Something changed in his students; something lasting…there was formation in it!

This idea of storying has really got me thinking and trying to find ways to incorporate it and use it in my youth ministry. One of the main reasons I want to try to implement this is because of the following statistics:

We retain:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what we experience personally
  • 95% of what we teach someone else

If our students can experience God’s story personally and then teach it to others, imagine how drastically different our youth ministries, churches, and world would be!

– paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 7…

August 18, 2009

I guess the saying that “all good things must come to an end” is true! This week has been an extremely exhausting time for all of us due to the busyness, chaos, and heat! Although it was all of these things and more, it was still an incredible trip that we were blessed by. As I mentioned in a previous post, I doubted at first if this trip was from God or from me. Each day confirmed that this WAS from Him. We loved every minute of it and I am praying that we made an impact in those foster children’s lives!

I went to two morning activities (fishing/boating and the sports pavilion). The former activity went off without a hitch while the latter was another chaotic event for my cabin. We had to make at least five different kids sit out from playing for a while so they could calm down and think about what they did. Being that it was almost the end of camp; most of them were out of control. Kids that had been perfect angels all week were acting up. It was as if a switch was flipped in them over night and I got to see what they were really like. Most of the time, when we made a kid sit out; I saw tears and true sadness in their eyes. It broke my heart to see such sadness on those kids faces. I can’t begin to imagine what they have been through in their lives and the tough situations they have been dealt and forced to live in.

We started packing up before lunch on Friday and then ended up leaving the camp around 2:00 PM (Texas time…which is one hour behind PA). We got to the airport around a little before 3:00 and were on our plane shortly before 4:00. Before we even took off in Texas, I was already talking to my group about the possibility of coming back next year or the year after. This was the most surprising thing to me about the trip. I went there uncertain of whether or not we would make an impact, and left KNOWING that we did and that I myself was impacted.

We flew to Atlanta for a layover. After we boarded our plane in Atlanta, we sat there for nearly two hours as the technicians were trying to fix a problem that the plane was having with some hydraulic system. They attempted to fix it but were unable to do so, so they de-boarded us, and then boarded us onto another plane. As we were sitting in the new plane, I reached into my bag and tried to find a youth ministry magazine that I had been reading, and then it hit me that I had left it on the other plane. I told Keith and the rest of my group and laughed about it, and then Keith brought something else to my attention. He said “did you get your iPod?” AHHHHHHH, I immediately realized that I didn’t. While we were on the first plane, I didn’t imagine that I wouldn’t be on that plane until I got to Harrisburg, PA. I was a bit upset, but wasn’t going to let it get me down. It was just an iPod and magazine and I could have bought another one of each.

Here is a conversation I had with the flight attendant after I realized I left my iPod on the other plane:

Me: “Excuse me…I have a problem…I left my iPod and a magazine on the other plane in the back of the seat in front of where I was sitting…”

Flight Attendant Lady: “you’re kidding me?” then she rolled her eyes and started to walk away saying “I’ll be right back!”

What was funny/frustrating/ironic about this is that I was actually going to say “can you have the airline mail them to me?” but she cut me off before I could get to that part. She got off the plane and walked 5 or 6 gates down to get my iPod off of the other plane. She couldn’t find my magazine (because I had it placed behind the fold down tray table). All is well now though because I have my iPod back, and I called the magazine today and they are going to ship me out a new one tomorrow morning…free of charge! God definitely answers prayers, even ones about lost iPods and magazines that seem insignificant!

In closing, this past week was an extremely amazing week of ministry. I got to work alongside of my students, and they became my co-workers for a week. I enjoyed it and learned new things about them all. I also developed a heart and compassion for foster children. I didn’t know much about them before this week of working with them, but after, I know that I want to help them more in the future. Although the kids were cruel towards each other and a bit hard to handle at times, I loved every minute of getting to know and working with them. If we come back, it wouldn’t surprise me if I asked to be placed in a cabin with the same kids next year (or the year after…if next year won’t work out)!!! I developed a bond with those campers and I will definitely be praying for and thinking about them all!

Lastly, I want to thank all of you for your interest in what our group was doing down in Texas and for all of your prayers! I am certain that we wouldn’t have made as much of an impact as we did if we didn’t have people back home praying for and thinking about us!

Thank you so much!

– paulg


More to Come…

August 15, 2009

Hey everyone,

I just wanted to let you all know that I will be adding more posts about the rest of our trip sometime in the near future. The last few days were very busy and I didn’t have time to write.

We got back to Altoona at 4:30 AM on Saturday morning. Once I am recovered and energized, I will finish up blogging about the remaining days in Texas.

Thanks for reading!

– paulg


Texas Missions Trip: Day 4…

August 12, 2009

Yesterday morning we began our training. It lasted from 9:30 AM until around 2:00 PM. We learned about each of the campers that we would be in charge of. We got to look over their files and ask questions to the case workers so we would know what and who we would be dealing with. Most of the kids come from troubled pasts and backgrounds. Mrs. Sheryl, or “Mama Bear” as she has the kids call her, led some of the training. Something she said really stuck out to me and I wrote it down so I could include it in this post. This is what she said:

“These kids are not foster children. They are just children who happen to be living in the foster care system because of what they had to live through and because of the adults that are in their lives. It isn’t their fault or something that they did, it is what they have been dealt (sexually abused by parents, drug and alcohol abusing parents, neglected, had to find their own food and survive on their own, etc).”

I really saw her heart for these kids and it was something worth admiring. I hoped that my students and leaders (from AAC) would adopt this attitude towards these children as well!

There isn’t much free time here; well…there is actually no free time at all. It is a 24 hour, on the clock, type of ministry. A lot has happened since yesterday afternoon and I don’t know if I’ll have time to write about all of it, but I will try…

As I mentioned, the campers arrived at 3:00 PM. Keith is in his own cabin with his own campers and counseling team. He and I are what they call the “House Dad’s!” Basically what this means is that we are the main adult figure in the cabins. We say what the rules are, we lead the devotions and Bible studies, and the counselors come to us if they need any help or advice. In our cabin (cabin #1), Jordan and I were the counselors that got to stay to greet the campers, and help them get settled in as they arrived. We have the largest cabin with 20 people total: 14 campers and 6 leaders. One of the leaders is a Jr. Counselor (high school student who was a camper during the high school boy’s week). We have a great group of counselors and we’ve been able to handle everything pretty well so far. Some of our students are a lot to handle, but they all need love and we are here to show it to them!

Despite the intense heat, our kids insist on running to every activity. It must be that they are from Texas and the heat doesn’t bother them, but for me…walking will suffice!
After the kids arrived, we played some get to know you games and attempted to get to know each other. The games purpose was to get the kids to know each other’s name. We thought that it went well, but ever since then, they have been calling each other “hey kid” or “hey dude!” Maybe by the end of the week they will know each other’s names!
After that, Jordan and I took our group to the lake for boat riding, fishing, and cooking around the campfire. The kids and leaders had a blast. After the lake, it was time to go swimming. Anytime swimming is offered, everyone is extremely excited (because of the heat). But sometimes, the pool is so hot that it isn’t very refreshing.

After swimming, we headed to the dining hall so the kids could take their medicine, have snacks, and refill their water bottles. Then it was time to go back to the cabins, have devotions, and go to sleep. Devotions were a nightmare! The kids listened and read along in their Bibles, but comments were flying every which way and we couldn’t get them to focus for more than a minute at a time. We were studying James 3:1-12 (about taming the tongue). This was a great devotion to do considering most of our kids have a problem with insulting each other and cursing. The lesson took way longer than it should have (because of the constant talking) and just as I finally though that they got the point of the lesson and I was about to pray, one of the kids insulted and swore at another kid who let a bodily function out a little too loudly!

Bed time was not any less chaotic than the devotions were. It took almost 2 hours to get everyone quiet and to sleep! Needless to say, all of the counselors were exhausted in the morning!

Due to the fact that the campers are here, Keith, Jordan, and I are off doing our own thing with the campers. Tyler is working with the recreation team and water refilling team. And Abby, Katelyn, and Kristen are helping out with crafts, recreation, and a few other random things. I see those four a few times each day and each time I see them, they have big smiles on their faces. So I know that they are having a blast.
I don’t know when the next time I will be able to write will be, so check back randomly to see if I have posted any more updates. It is very hard to find free time. If worse comes to worse, I will just post all of the updates (from each day) whenever we get back from the trip!

I heard someone say something yesterday and I would like to close with it.

“When you put yourself out there on the front line and let God use you as his instrument, He will do as much changing in our hearts as He will with any child that walks through the gate of this camp and the doors in the buildings and cabins!”

This is my prayer four our youth group and leaders, that God would change our hearts just as much as He changes the campers hearts. I pray that God would work through us and use us in mighty ways.

Please continue to pray for us, as I know you will!

Until next time…

– paulg


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