Making a Difference in Lynn, MA – DUMC High School Missions Trip…

July 20, 2011

This past week I had the privilege of leading my first Missions Trip with my new youth group. Five of our adult leaders and I took a group of 39 High School-ers to serve the community of Lynn, MA (right outside of Boston).  It was a phenomenal week and one that I will never forget. I was blown away (again) by the way my new students welcomed, supported, and loved me. I wasn’t sure of what to expect going into the trip, but now that it’s over I realize that I had no reason to worry. I believe that bonds were formed, friendships were strengthened, and lives were changed because of this trip and I am so thankful that I was able to be a part of it all!

The leaders and I picked up the vans the day before we left and we had the students meet at the church the night before to load the vans. This was an exciting time because we all knew it meant that we would get to leave soon! We also spent some time decorating the windows of the vans to let people know who we were and what our purpose was (to spread the love of Jesus)! Once we had the vans packed, and the names checked off on the list of attendees, we all got to go home and get a good night’s sleep before we embarked on our journey to Massachusetts. We pulled out of the church at 8:30 AM and after two bathroom stops, one of which was extremely long (on account of the Starbucks that distracted our kids), and one lunch stop, we made it safely to the church we stayed at in Lynn, MA.

On our first night in Lynn, we had a leaders meeting where we spent time assigning all of our students into the work groups/locations that we thought would best fit them. Being that this trip was my first time meeting some of these students; it was a very difficult/stressful thing to figure out where they best fit. Thankfully, I had some veteran youth leaders there with me who were able to help me out.

Surprisingly there were no problems with the groups or who the students were paired up with. A few of the students weren’t happy with the work that they were actually doing and expressed to me that they would rather have been doing something different but I just used that as an opportunity to stress to them the importance of stepping out of their comfort zones and sticking it out to make a difference in peoples’ lives! I told them that we weren’t there that week for us, but for the people of Lynn, MA. These students really stepped it up after this and I was very impressed with them.

Being that I am the youngest leader in our group, I got assigned to do sports camp where we played football with community kids aged 10-14 all week. I got to take 6 of my students to the sports camp to help lead with me. It was great to see my students stepping up and being a positive influence in the lives of these community kids. I saw tremendous leadership qualities in all 6 of those guys and I think they learned a lot from the experience. Some of the community kids we worked with were tough and did not want to listen or follow rules, but overall it was a great experience for everyone involved. After we were done with sports camp each day, both I and Steve (the youth pastor from the church in Minnesota who was on the trip with us) drove the community kids back to the church. This was one of my favorite times of each day because as the kids were piling out of the van and we were waiting in the parking lot, I had the opportunity to sit and watch/take pictures of some of my other students loving on their group of community kids. It is great to see true ministry taking place and the love of Jesus being shown!

Each night, after we finished our work for the day, we got to do a fun, evening activity. On Monday night we got to go to Nahant Beach. It was a beautiful beach and provided for a great group photo.

If I could do one thing differently about this beach trip, I would make sure guitars do not get left at the beach. We had an incident where a guitar was left at the beach and no one told me it was missing until three days after the fact. By that point, kids had convinced themselves that it was brought back and was either stolen or hidden in the church somewhere. Long story short, the guitar was found and turned in to the police station and the student’s father will be picking it up during his already scheduled trip to Boston in August. On Tuesday night we got to ride the subway into to downtown Boston and spend an hour shopping and exploring the city. This was probably one of my favorite evening activities that we did. I got to walk around the city with 17 of my students and see all that that part of Boston had to offer. We also got a plethora of pictures and videos of a few of my students doing “The Bernie.”

For those of you that don’t know, “The Bernie” is based on the moves of the dead guy Bernie from a movie made in the 1980’s (Weekend at Bernie’s). Apparently it is a new dance craze that is sweeping the South…and apparently it has made its way to Doylestown, PA and now Boston, MA! Our group loves “The Bernie” so much that we got all of us together for a “Mass Bernie-ing” and recorded it with an intro tutorial! And yes, it will make an appearance in church whenever we talk about our trip!

On Wednesday night we got to go have dinner with people from the community at a soup kitchen called “My Brothers Table.” It was great to see my students and leaders sitting and eating with the people we were working with all week. And on Thursday we got to go to Gloucester, MA for a cookout/hangout time at the beach. We got to swim, play football, play volley ball, and climb rocks. It was a beautiful place and everyone had a blast. I treated everyone to ice cream in Gloucester and I think I won everyone’s heart because of it! haha

After we got back from the beach cookout, we had a worship service followed by a foot washing ceremony. This was one of the most powerful things from the entire week. YouthWorks washed the adult leaders’ feet and then we washed our students’ feet and prayed with each and every one of them. After some of the students’ got their feet washed, they went around the room and prayed with their friends. It was a very powerful and emotional evening and I was blown away by it.

A parent of two of the girls in my youth group asked me if I would have done anything differently. Now that I think back on it I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing. It was a great experience and a huge trip for me in terms of getting to know the students and building relationships with them. I am so thankful that God had His hands all over this trip!

A Special Thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna!

Special thanks to Katie, Joel, Dan, Meredith, and Jenna for providing an amazing trip for us!

Now I have the Middle School Missions Trip to Charleston, WV to look forward to. We leave this Sunday. Woooohoooo!

–          paulg

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for the worse, for the better…

April 30, 2010

“Lookin back at the moments, black and white…I wouldn’t change a thing that changed my life, for the worse, for the better…”

Those are the lyrics that have been running through my head all day. Today was my day off and by the time 2:30 in the afternoon rolled around, I was bored out of my mind. Being that it was a nice day, I decided to get in my truck and go for a ride up to my camp (about 38 miles away). I grabbed my Bibles, some books, and my laptop. The other thing I took with me was already in the truck, but we’ll get to that in a bit! 😉  It was a beautiful day for a drive. On the way there, the above-quoted song came on the radio. It’s a Kenny Chesney song called “Ain’t Back Yet.” I’ve heard this song many times before, but I’m pretty sure that God wanted it to get stuck in my head on this particular day!

Once I got to my camp, I took my gun out of its hiding place, attached it to my hip, and went for a long walk into the woods behind the camp. I love exploring in the woods, and I love shooting my gun (which is something that I haven’t done in a long time), so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone…or should I have used a bullet? Hmmmm?  On my walk, I did a lot of thinking and praying (when I wasn’t shooting stuff). I thought a lot about how things haven’t really been going well for me as of late, and I started to get a little bit down on myself because of that. But as I started to pray, the line from Kenny Chesney’s song popped into my head and I realized how true those words are.

As I look back at the moments of my life, I realize that I wouldn’t change a thing because everything that happened (both good and bad) shaped me into the man that I am today! Yes, some of those things were very painful and still are, but I learned from them, I grew from them, and I overcame them with God’s help. And if I’m being honest, there are things I’m going through now that I am struggling to find out what God wants me to learn from them. It’s not always easy to see, but I do trust that He’s doing something amazing in me!

After I got back from the woods, I went into my trailer/camper and started to read a book that a lady from my church gave me a few days ago. The book is called Be Encouraged and looks like a book that I would never even think to read. The saying goes that we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, but let’s be honest, sometimes we do. This book looks like it was printed in the 1950’s and didn’t catch my interest at all, but it was in my truck and I needed to be encouraged, so I started to read. There are a few things that stuck out to me that I would like to share with you:

“God does not pat us on the head and give us a piece of candy or a toy to distract our attention from our troubles. No, He puts strength into our hearts so we can face our trials and triumph over them.”

Why does He do this? Because He knows that we WILL face trials and troubles in life; He permits them to come (read the book of Job and see what God permitted to happen in Job’s life and you will think that you have it easy)! God permits these trials so that we may grow, learn, and trust in Him to get us through it! Later on in this book, the author says

“God has to work IN us before He can work THROUGH us!”

This is saying that sometimes God needs to allow us to go through trials so that He can do a work in us before He can use us to do work for Him (Him working through us)!

So if you are anything like me, then I want to encourage you to look back over your life and ask God to help you see how He brought you through your trial, how he brought you through your good and bad circumstances at times, and how He strengthened you and helped you to learn and grow!

I already told you that, like Mr. Chesney, I wouldn’t change a thing that changed my life because those things were crucial in bringing me to where I am today! What about you? What would you change? Or do you realize that everything (the good and the bad) is part of God’s plan to bring you to where you are today, or to where you are going tomorrow?

–          paulg


Alexis Update: Day 4…

December 7, 2009

Hey Everyone,

For those of you not familiar with what is going on with Alexis, please go read “Alexis update #1” and “Alexis update #2

Here are a few updates from the last few days, thanks to Alexis’ Aunt Sara from Alexis’ Care Page.

These next two are from December 5, 2009

“Just got off the phone with Alexis’ Papa. They just got back from the play room and Alexis was running wild! She is going to rest for a bit and receive some more blood. They will have to give her a new IV for the Chemo she will be receiving soon.”

“Just talked with Ashley, Alexis finished her first treatment! Ash said that it was really fast, right through her IV and Alexis did great! She will have several different types of treatment over the next 6 months and then maintenance treatment as necessary. I will keep updating as possible!”

These next three are from December 6, 2009

“Words can’t even explain… Just got off the phone with Brandon, Alexis’s daddy. Alexis had her first dose of Chemo last night and is doing very well today. She has been wiggling her toes and giggling saying “piiiigggiieess!!!” Hehe what a doll!!”

“The doctor’s report this morning says that Alexis’s hemaglobin is back to normal at 100% with her platelet count right behind! Oh the power of prayer!!!!”

“She is scheduled for surgery tomorrow for port placement. The port is used for her future treatments for easier access, so that she won’t have to endure endless IV procedures.

Also later this week she is scheduled for another round of Chemo as well as another Bone marrow biopsy and spinal tap to reassess her counts. She is doing very well and could be released from the hospital by Sunday.”

The cutest little girl I have ever seen!

I got to talk to Ashley this morning for a bit while Alexis was in surgery! She was very optimistic. Just now (January 7, 2009 @ 1:31 pm) I received a text that the port placement surgery went extremely well and Alexis is in recovery. Can I get an Amen?

Alexis in recovery after her port placement surgery

Alexis in recovery after her port placement surgery

In regards to the post from December 6, 2009 about her hemoglobin being back to normal with her platelet count right behind, I just want to make a quick comment to give God the praise. During church that day, I stood in the front of the church and received prayer for Alexis and the family because no one else was there to do it and I have an attachment to them. So many people prayed…and then after church, I received the text with that wonderful information. Isn’t it wonderful when God answers prayers? And answers them fast?

I want to also urge you to pray for Ashley. She is going through so much and such a young (25) mother should not have to go through this…any mother for that matter! Ashley is overwhelmed, stressed, and freaked out about everything. Changes are taking place in her life and her world was rocked, but she is being strong for her little girl, and that is so very impressive and an example to all of us! I am amazed at how awesome Ashley is and how strong she is being! Continue to pray for Alexis and Ashley and the rest of their family! Pray that they can get rest, eat well, and stay healthy!

Alexis’ Aunt Sara closed her last update with these words, and I want to use them as well:

“Thank you so much for all of your support and prayers! I will continue to update as needed! Keep praying!”

– paulg


Perry Noble’s Prayers for Youth Ministry…

November 25, 2009

By far, my favorite thing about the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta was Perry Noble’s message to youth workers. Perry spoke on Saturday morning and left most people in the room feeling encouraged, energized, and pumped up for youth ministry. Perry Noble is a 6’ 6” 230 lb. Senior Pastor from New Spring Church in South Carolina. He started off by making a joke about his southern drawl. He said that in heaven, everyone will have a southern drawl, if you don’t believe that, you may not be going to heaven!

Perry’s message was based out of Acts 20:7-12. I’ve spoken to a few different youth workers at the convention and have heard mixed reviews/feelings about this message. The reviews/feelings ranged from “he nailed it,” to “he took the passage and made it apply to his topic!” When someone takes a passage and make sit say what they want it to say, it is known as “eisegesis.” Eisegesis is when you put your own ideas into the text to make it mean whatever you want it to.

For the record, I do not know where I stand on this matter! I loved what Perry had to say but I am not a Bible scholar so I don’t know if it was eisegesis or not.

Anyway, regardless of how you interpret the passage and the message he gave us, it’s time to move on. Perry went on to tell us that he believes there is a breakdown in communication with youth pastors and the church in general. He and many others believe that youth pastors are viewed as glorified babysitters in that we are supposed to watch the kids, teach them a few things, and when they are old enough to attend big people church and tithe; then they matter to the church. This is not the case and it should never be viewed as such. Perry was not saying that this is the case in all churches, but it is definitely something that he has seen happen occasionally. But regardless of whether your church falls into either of these categories, an alarming statistic is that around 80% of students are walking out the door when they turn 18, and many of them are never going to come back!

Youth ministry is a hard and vital job. Most people will disagree with that, but that is because they have no idea what it means to be a youth pastor. They think we get paid to hang out and play video games all day, but that is 100% inaccurate. There are days when we go home from youth ministry and it isn’t “Thank you Jesus!” it’s “Help me Jesus!” Rest assured…there is hope! Perry said that we, as youth workers, are game changers. We work in the ripest harvest in the world and if we can get our minds (senior pastors, youth pastors, volunteers) around several of these soon to be mentioned concepts, we could see a revolution in youth ministry and the local church. When youth ministry catches on fire through the local church, nothing can stop it!!!!

Perry and many of the other speakers who were senior pastors were very much in support of youth workers. Perry has four prayers that he is praying for youth ministry. Those prayers are: For Attention, For Submission, For a Biblical Foundation, and For Stewardship.

For Attention:

In the Bible passage that Perry spoke from (Acts 20:7-12), Paul was speaking to a group of people late into the night (because he intended to leave the next day) and basically had a long message planned for them. There was a young man (a youth) sitting in a window seal in the back of the room who fell into a deep sleep as Paul was preaching. Eutychus fell to the ground from the third story and died. Yikes! Perry said that in this story, Eutychus fell out of the window because no one was paying attention to the youth ministry of that church. When a church refuses to pay attention to the youth ministry, kids fall out of the window and die (a.k.a. – leave the church and never look back) each and every day.

Youth ministry is important, not just for the teenagers but for also for the church as a whole. The youth aren’t the church of tomorrow, THEY MATTER TODAY! Perry said “The kids that we are called to ministry to matter today and the church better wake up and smell the Starbucks because if not, the kids will fall out of the back window and die.” Perry’s philosophy is that you can tell if a church is paying attention to the youth by looking at how much money they spend on them. He says that you can never spend too much on your youth and children. I understand the premise of what he was saying, but I don’t know if it applies to every circumstance. Some churches simply can’t afford to put a lot of money in the youth fund, and they could be the church that supports their youth way more than the church with the large youth fund. Money shouldn’t matter and shouldn’t be a deciding factor on whether or not a church is paying attention to their youth (my thoughts).

Perry does something cool in his church. I don’t think it would work at every church, but it is something to hope for I guess. Perry believes that a youth group should never be asked to do a fundraiser for anything. He doesn’t allow the youth group at his church to do fundraising because he believes that the church and the older people should support them to show that they care.

If we want attention in our youth ministries, we need to start reaching kids for Jesus and seeing lives change! If the adults come into the sanctuary and have no place to sit because of the youth, the older people will pay attention and take them seriously. The last thing that Perry said about this first prayer for youth is that we need to not bang the budget drum, but we need to bang the kids need Jesus drum and change their lives!

For Submission:

The way a youth group gets noticed in the church is when they are completely submitted and sold out to Jesus! Perry says that we need less strategy and more spirit in our youth ministries, and I couldn’t agree more! Not only do we need submitted and sold out youth, but we need leaders who are as well. When God asks us to do something unbelievable, we need to say “Yes Lord!” In the Bible passage, Paul was so submitted to Jesus that he was willing to declare the impossible (that Eutychus was alive). We need to have complete submission.

In order to be completely submitted to God, according to Perry, “you have to be you!” We shouldn’t have the desire to be someone else or do ministry as they do it because you think they’re better than you. When you do this, it is known as ministry envy. You can read a post of mine about ministry envy by clicking here. Perry says that the problem with churches today is that there is too much imitation and no more revelation. He also said that youth pastors have a disease that he invented called “destination disease.” Destination disease is when people in ministry want to be over there (at the other church/ministry) because they think it’ll be better there. This is not true though because you take you with you and it will be exactly the same. You are you!

When we get to the point where we get it all figured out in our ministry, God will say “you don’t need me? Fine…go ahead!” We need to be in complete submission to God. When we do this, it is unbelievable. Leadership is as easy as listening to God and doing what He says! Perry’s prayer is to have a generation of youth pastors and workers completely sold out for Jesus. We are the ones who set the pace for what youth ministry will look like in 10-20 years!

For a Biblical Foundation:

After Paul (with God’s help) brought Eutychus back to life, they went upstairs again and broke bread. Paul got carried away preaching, the youth died, Paul declared something supernatural and brings the kid to life, and then comes back up to keep the focus on Jesus. Paul never stopped focusing on Jesus or teaching about him. This is an example to us. We need to never quite proclaiming who Jesus is to students. They need to know who He is and it is our job to tell them. Some people think that if we focus on only Jesus, then we won’t be relevant. Perry says that we won’t be irrelevant, we will be impotent! We’ve watered our youth ministries down with these next three things and the kids don’t even know who Jesus is when they graduate from or leave our youth groups. 1. Morality – we teach our kids to be good…problem is, if we teach our kids not to watch rated R movies or listen to “bad” music, they can become morally superior to everyone and no one likes them…we can’t teach them to be moral without Jesus. 2. Compromise – Everyone gets caught up in this game. We think that if a lot of kids come to our group and we do all kinds of fun things, we have a great ministry. But in reality, we are compromising who Jesus is to have a great crowd show up. Sometimes, youth ministries let kids show up and say it’s ok to do what you are doing and not repent. When they do this, they are leaving Jesus out of the picture…allowing compromise to creep into that ministry. 3. Personal Agendas – Don’t ever let your personal agenda trump the Gospel! We make our own personal agendas the agenda of the youth group. If we put anything in front of the cross, it becomes an idol in our ministry. Let’s worship God in splendor and majesty rather than trying to boil him down to fit into our social agendas.

For stewardship:

Perry’s prayer is that our prayer would be that we look at God and say “give me the ball…I’ll be hurt and play hurt, but I’ll do whatever it takes to push the ball down the field…I want the ball!” Perry said that in Acts 20:12, the youth ministry got brought back up and the church embraced stewardship…they said they want the ball.

We can do it, no matter how small our budget is. But if our attitude is that we want the ball, money doesn’t matter. It doesn’t happen because of lights, sound systems, looks, but because there is a sold out man and team saying give us the ball…and they are sold out for Jesus. Perry says that the senior pastor needs to make sure the youth ministry has everything they need and the youth pastor needs to sit down with his senior pastor and find out what his vision is…and then line up with that.

God’s plan is that youth ministry will thrive in the context of the local church to make a difference. When the church gets that right, it is on fire and is an unstoppable force!

Perry closed with the following comments:

“It’s always hard when we do what Jesus calls us to do. When we think it’s hard, may we think of Jesus hanging on the cross and bleeding! If no one else tells you this, I (Perry Noble) believe that you are the difference makers. Out of your ministries will be the next Billy Graham and other amazing church leaders! We will not fall…we want the ball!”

–          paulg


What Mask Are You Wearing?

November 3, 2009

On Saturday (Halloween) night, I took some students and leaders from my youth group to my home church for a lock-in/all-nighter. The youth pastor there is one of my good friends whom I have known ever since I was in 8th grade. We had been working together to plan this event for a few months and we were both excited that it was finally happening! There were between 50 and 60 students and 10-15 leaders there and we all had a blast!

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The lock-in was called “Unmasked ‘09” and was a perfect message for Halloween night. The message that my youth pastor friend brought was not to condemn Halloween but to illustrate the fact that we ALL wear masks to hide who we really are from other people and God! We often get comfortable putting on this façade that we have our lives together and that we are perfect, when in reality, we are not perfect, we don’t have our lives in order, and we are hiding who we really are from God and the rest of the world.

The night began with a video I put together, which included a sweet three-minute countdown, an animated announcement puppet, rules given by the announcement puppet, and a video about all-nighters. After that, everyone played a game of “Deal or No Deal” in the church sanctuary. The announcer for the game was one of my friend’s energetic/crazy youth group members. He dressed up in a Mexican sombrero, a cape, and some strange facial hair (it was actually drawn on with a sharpie)! The kids love it and had a chance to win up to $50. Two of them won prizes: one won $7 and the other won $5. Both of their winnings basically off-set the cost of the lock-in! Needless to say, my friend wasn’t too upset that he didn’t have to give away $50. After the game show, everyone went across the parking lot to the event center, where we would stay for the remainder of the night. For me, the cool thing about being in the event center was that I helped build it two summers ago when I did my internship there! It was awesome to see the finished product of what used to be a big mound of dirt and rocks!

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After our arrival at the event center, we had the opening service. The service was entitled, “LOL,” which stands for “Live Out Loud.” It is the service that my friend does every Saturday night and Sunday morning at the church. The service opened with some up-beat/energetic worship led by a high school student who God has gifted with an amazing voice. After worship, we heard from a heavily tattooed man named Tom. Tom was a 50-something year old man who was a drug addict and dealer from the time he was 12-years-old until the year 1991! He told his story of how God continued to save his life over and over again, even when he felt that he was unworthy of living and meant to die. He told stories of getting stopped at customs when trying to re-enter the country with hundreds of pounds of marijuana in the trunk of his car, and how he didn’t get caught. He told the story of how he tried to end his life by shooting himself in the chest, and how he lived. And he told the story of how he got busted by the DEA with $70,000 worth of cocaine taped around his stomach and back. God saved him from all of these things and he finally gave his life over to Him. His message was to encourage the kids not to get involved in things that are ungodly, and to teach of God’s grace and mercy. Everyone in the room was silent throughout Tom’s whole testimony. For lack of a better phrase, you could have heard a pin drop in that room!

After Tom was finished speaking, everyone clapped and some gave a standing ovation. Then my friend started praying before he jumped into his message. Throughout the prayer, I was trying to figure out why my friends’ voice was muffled, but I just couldn’t figure it out. At the end of the prayer, I looked up and saw that he was wearing a mask. “Genius,” I thought! He then began to teach from Genesis 3 about the deception that took place in the Garden of Eden. He talked about how Satan deceived Eve and convinced her to disobey God and eat from the tree in the middle of the Garden. He tied this in to the unmasked theme by saying we all deceived ourselves, each other, and God by pretending to be something we are not and hiding behind masks of alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, pride, jealousy, etc…

He ended by telling everyone that there is freedom from the bondage that is created by the masks that we wear, and that freedom’s name is Jesus. He took his mask off and then told the story of salvation and let the kids know that we (the leaders) are there for them if they needed to talk or if they had any questions. It was a powerful message and it inspired me to get more creative with my teaching and to re-think the way I do things in my youth ministry.

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For the remainder of the night, we had the option to play basketball, dodge ball, video games, board games, group games, and watch movies. It was a long night. We ended the lock-in with a short LOL service that served as a reminder to the students to keep their masks off and turn to Jesus whenever they feel the need to create one or put one on.

This message/theme for the event got me thinking, and I would like to hear from you. What kinds of masks have you seen students and leaders wear in your youth ministries (or other professions)?

–          paulg


Night of a Thousand Memories…

October 26, 2009

Last night was the yearly pastor appreciation service that my church holds for its pastors. Being that I have only been on staff here since February of this year, I have never experienced one of these services (or maybe I should say “roasts”) before. The theme of the night was, “Night of a Thousand Memories,” and it definitely did provide a thousand memories for me. Some were scary (as you will soon read) and some were encouraging, but they were all good!

The evening opened up with a dinner (soup and salad) and then moved into the sanctuary for the pastor appreciation service. The worship band opened with a song my senior pastor picked (God of This City) and one that I picked (Revelation Song). Then one of the MC’s for the night (the head elder) read through and spoke briefly about each pastor’s favorite Bible verse/passage. After the serious stuff was out of the way, the laughs began!

Two of my youth group leaders came out and said a few nice things about me and how they’ve enjoyed working with me for the last 8 months. After they were done with the nice compliments, they presented me with my gifts. I got two garbage cans, some hand towels for my bathroom, some hand towels for my kitchen, and some sponges. I received these “gifts” because I let the girls in my youth group and the female leaders use my apartment a few weeks ago for a “girls only dinner and a movie night!” Apparently, they were not too impressed with the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of my apartment. What did they expect? I’m a 24-year-old dude that lives alone!! It seemed clean to me! Everyone at the service got a good laugh out of my gifts and the stories behind them. After that, a parent of one of my students (also one of my leaders) introduced the next guest. She started out by saying that it was one of my favorite artists/movie stars and that I have been in the fan club for quite some time. She then announced that this artist/actor was a teenage girl named Hannah Montana. After that, our office manager came parading out dressed up as “Olga Oklahoma” (Hannah Montana’s made up cousin)!

Some background info:

I will admit (and am not ashamed to do so) that I went to see the Hannah Montana movie when it was in theaters. I took my friend (now girlfriend) to see it in exchange for her going to see a manlier movie with me sometime. I saw it as an opportunity to hang out with a potentially awesome girl, and to get two dates out of one!!! It was our first time hanging out and the movie wasn’t as bad as people make it out to be. There were a few different country stars that made a cameo appearance in the movie, one of which was one of my favorite groups (Rascal Flatts)! In the movie, Rascal Flatts performed their hit songs “Bless the Broken Road” and “Backwards,” which are very good songs! I really like movies with a down home, country feel to them, and this movie provided just that.

Now that the background info and mini movie review is out of the way, allow me to get back to the service recap from last night!

After Olga Oklahoma made her parade around the sanctuary, I got called to the front to receive a hug from “her.” She then said, “Pastor Paul, is it true that you need a little help with your Sunday wardrobe?” To which I answered, “hmmm…not that I know of!” “She” then went out of the room and came back with a brand new suit that the church purchased for me.

Side note: I do not need help dressing nicely for church. Olga Oklahoma was just doing ad lib and had nothing planned to say. I learned this today when the above mentioned parent/leader called me and made sure I wasn’t offended by Olga’s comment!

Regardless though, it is a very nice suit and I’m happy to have received it.

This was the last of my humiliation for the night. Oh wait, no…it definitely wasn’t!!!! After I got my suit and Olga thanked me for being a fan of her cousin Hannah, “she” put her hand on my shoulder, paused, and then gave me a kiss on the cheek! It was very sweet of “her!” How many other youth pastors can say that they got a kiss from their male office manager while they were dressed up as a female?

At the end of the service, the head elder had both of the pastors come up front and take our shoes off. He then asked those from the church who are willing to support us and go on the journey with us to bring their shoes up front as well. Everyone in the church was shoeless to show that they are along for the ride, no matter what! They showed that they are willing to follow their shepherds and walk with us on the journey. Then he had everyone gather around their pastors to pray for them! It was an excellent ending to an excellent service. It was awesome to see and experience the support that my church shows to its pastors!

I am extremely blessed to be a part of a church that loves its pastors so much. I’m glad to be here and I know that I am where God wants me to be! Thank you!

– paulg


Handling Distractions Well…

September 23, 2009

Last night (I wrote this on Monday) I had my youth group over for a football watching party and youth group lesson. I didn’t want to miss the Steelers game, and I definitely didn’t want to miss youth group, so I had the genius idea of combining the two and teaching the lesson at half-time! I had the game playing in my living room (on my 60-inch TV that was given to me for free) as well as in another room on one of my leaders 42-inch flat screen TV’s! It was a great event and everyone seemed to have a blast. I had the opportunity of teaching in front a wide spectrum of ages (from 9 months old to 50 years old). I got to teach in front of other people besides just my youth group kids. There were about 17 people there total. Good thing I have cool neighbors and they don’t mind the noise! The reason I am writing though, is to talk about distractions in youth ministry…

When I think about a distraction, the movie “Shooter” immediately pops into my mind. The part I think of is when Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is training Nick Memphis (Michael Pena) to not be distracted while being a sniper. He tells him to look through the scope at his target and to never let anything distract him. Right before Pena’s character is about to pull the trigger, Wahlberg’s character sets off and explosive charge he has placed inside of a watermelon 20 feet from the target that Pena’s character is attempting to shoot. Pena’s character jumps off of the ground and gets distracted of course and Wahlberg reminds him that he is not supposed to let distractions distract him.  I guess that’s easier said than done when watermelons are exploding all around you!

shooter1

Anyway, back to my topic of distractions in youth ministry…

In the span of about an hour this afternoon I received two emails complimenting me on my ability to handle distractions well. The reason for this is because there were a few distractions at youth group last night. Some of those were: people arriving late and someone from my group needing to go down to let them in, a baby crying, some students talking and not paying attention, a student breaking my sliding blinds, etc… Although some of the distractions were, well…distracting, God took control and did what I asked him to in my prayer time before the lesson; to speak through me and accomplish what He would want accomplished that night! And I believe that God did that. He spoke through me and I felt 100% comfortable with teaching my lesson in front of all of the visitors that were there!

One of the emails I received was from my pastor and the other was from a parent that was in attendance at the event. They both had some really encouraging words for me, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. I have been feeling down and a bit discouraged as of late due to certain reasons that I will not be discussing publicly and these emails really lifted me up! One of them said:

“I was IMPRESSED with how you handle the youth….last night I got to sit in on a little bit…how you handle the word, the group, distractions, and go with flow! I told the folks at church that our youth are in GOOD HANDS with our Youth Pastor and sponsors….”

And the other said:

“You have a good group of kids to work with – and you handle the minor distractions that you seem to have every week very well.  : )  ”

I’m not writing this to brag or anything, but I am writing to let you know how awesome God is! I was in need of some encouragement, God saw that, and sent me two very uplifting emails…well, God didn’t actually send them, but you know what I mean! God has blessed me with patience beyond belief. Whenever things get out of hand or kids act up, it doesn’t bother me. God geared me that way and trained me by allowing me to be the pastor of a group of 30 crazy middle schoolers for a few years in New York!

I don’t have an amazing and powerful closing to this post, but I would like to hear from others on how you handle distractions in your youth ministries (or in your particular business setting)? Comment and let me know!

–          paulg


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