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


Jumping Off of the Cliff…

November 30, 2009

“There’s a faculty built into the human brain that makes every cliff seem twice the height when you’re looking down from the top and everything in you says, ‘Don’t even think about it’. So you don’t think about it, you just hurl yourself off out into the middle of the canyon, and then you free-fall for what feels like enough time to recite the Gettysburg Address and all your senses are on maximum alert as you plunge into the cold water. When you come back up the crowd is cheering and something in you is also cheering because you did it.

In his book, Wild at Heart, John Eldridge re-tells the story of a time when he and his family went on a cliff jumping adventure. The quoted paragraph above is from the 11th chapter of this book. Eldridge goes on to say: “After that first jump you have to do it again, partly because you can’t believe you did it and partly because the fear has given way to the thrill of such freedom”

When I first read this book a few months ago, I was blown away by something that Eldridge said shortly after the quotes from above.

“I want to live my whole life like that. I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first. I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I want to charge the fields at Banockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.”

I think of youth ministry and can resonate with Eldridge’s words about wanting to live his whole life as if he were jumping off of a cliff. I, too, wish to live my life loving with abandon and without having to wait for others to show me love first. I, too, want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God. I, too, want to charge the fields in a major battle, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the raging sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.

As I have been thinking through this for the past few weeks, I have been attempting to ask myself how these things can apply to youth ministry. Here is what I came up with:

Loving with Abandon:

“I want to love with much more abandon and stop waiting for others to love me first.” Many times in my life, I would wait until someone showed me love before I would show them love. I have been hurt many times in the past by doing it the other way around and, in a sense, I was afraid and unwilling to do it anymore, so I closed myself off to this approach. However, I have changed my approach over the last few years. In youth ministry, it can’t be about waiting until a student will show you love. Your ministry will not be successful that way and you will not be able to show that student the love of Christ! We can’t sit around waiting for students to show up and start loving us; we need to go to them. We need to go to where they are, build relationships with them, love on them, and show them what it means to have a relationship with Jesus! In my experience thus far in youth ministry, I have found that students today are hurting much more than they were when I was their age. They have so many more influences and experiences that simply weren’t present 10 or 15 years ago. With that being said, it’s ridiculous for us to think that a student is going to magically come to us and start loving us on their own. Many students have no example of love in their lives; therefore we need to be that love!

Jumping In:

“I want to hurl myself in a creative work worthy of God.” To me, this quotation is saying that it is beneficial to dive in to something creative that will glorify God. This is why I attempt to always change and adapt my ministry in new, innovative, and creative ways. Ways that will take the attention off of me and my leaders, and place it where it needs to be…on God!

Charging, Following, and Praying:

“I want to charge the fields at Bannockburn, follow Peter as he followed Christ out onto the sea, and pray from my hearts true desire.” Although I don’t know much about the war of Scottish Independence known as the Battle of Bannockburn (I had to Google it to find out what it was so I can make myself sound intelligent on this blog), I can picture what it would be like to charge out onto a battlefield ready to fight for what I believe in. I’m ready to fight for the souls of my students (both current and future). I’m ready to meet the enemy head-on and make him aware that these students have been bought with a price…the Blood of Christ!

I want to know what it would be like to be right behind Peter as he took that first step out onto the raging sea towards Jesus! I want to know what it looks like in my ministry to step out of my boat (my comfort zones) and step into the unknown (the dangerous, unknown, and chaotic waves of ministering to teenagers). These things don’t scare me because I know that if I keep my eyes on Jesus, then I will not be shaken!

I want to know what it means to pray from my hearts true desire. I’m very real with God when I am talking to him. I want to be able to be real with him about my students (current and future) as well, but in order for this to happen; I need to continue to be there with and for them. I need to show them love. I need to do everything that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago in order to love with abandon. My prayer for youth ministry is that students would have the desire to open up and be real with their youth pastors and leaders, just as those same youth pastors and leaders are real with them!

In closing, I would like to find out what these things look like in your youth ministries, lives, and careers! Can you relate to these things? Are you the person who sits back and waits/hopes that people will come and start loving you? Or have you seen yourself as the person going all out and jumping off of the cliff?

–          paulg

YouthWorks takes over Youth Specialties…

November 21, 2009

For the last month or so, there has been much uncertainty in the youth ministry world as to what would happen to the youth ministry giant Youth Specialties after 7-year president Mark Oestreicher was released from the company. Marko was released and all the info that was given to the youth ministry world was found at this link: Statement by Moe Girkins, President and CEO of Zondervan.

This is my third convention and because of the uncertainty of what was going on with Youth Specialties, I had mixed feelings about coming to the National Youth Workers Convention this year. I didn’t know how it would be without Marko and Tic Long and I honestly wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out. But I came (obviously) and I was very glad that I did. After Andy Stanley’s message to us about uncertainty, the announcer for the convention (who I think was Mark Matlock) called a youth worker named Paul Bertelson up onto the stage for what appeared to be one of their normal interviews where they ask long time youth workers questions and give them a huge round of applause and a thank you! But this was different. After we found out that Paul was a 38-year youth ministry veteran who started his own company (YouthWorks) to help youth workers get the resources they needed. After we found out a little info about who he was, the announcer then called out another special guest, Moe Girkins, the President and CEO of Zondervan.

The announcer then proceeded to ask Moe some questions. He started off by saying that there are a lot of youth workers out there who have written nasty blogs and said some harsh things about her and her company after they released Marko. After that, his main question was: “Does it suck to be Moe Girkins right now?” She answered that yes it does suck to be her right now, but not always. She then said a few nice things about Tic and Marko and thanked them for how much they meant to the company and the youth workers all over the world. She announced the opportunity to write Marko and Tic a note to say thank you. Now (the day after), there are boxes set up for both of those guys and they are filling up pretty quickly. After that, Moe began to announce the shift that is going to take place where youth specialties will be sold to YouthWorks. The link to this acquisition can be found here: – – – -> YS gets sold to YouthWorks

When I first heard this, I was a bit skeptical. And now that I’ve had a few days to think about it, I realize that it was for selfish reasons. I love YS the way it is and the way it has been since I have started coming to their conventions. I did not want to see change, and I honestly (along with other youth workers) thought that it was going to be a change for the worse. But after doing some searching around on the internet and reading some of my youth ministry friends’ blogs, I found a very encouraging note about the deal between YS and YouthWorks. It comes from YS’s Online Marketing and eCommerce guy, Adam McLane. Adam said this:

“So the news is out. I am very happy the news is out. When I saw the presidents of Z and YW together yesterday I really hoped that the news would come out. It was a very exciting/somber (and a bunch more adjectives/adverbs) moment to be a part of. For me, the bottom line was that the news was getting out and that is good.

The people at YouthWorks are good people. (That’s been clear in the blogs/twitter/Facebook) The people at Zondervan are good people. (That hasn’t been clear, but trust me when I say that they are good people, too.)

Now… this weekend isn’t about Youth Specialties, YouthWorks, Zondervan, or even me. It’s about serving and encouraging youth workers!”

To see someone on the inside of Youth Specialties say such encouraging words is a great thing. It certainly changed my outlook on the whole deal and now I am hopeful for the future of the company and conventions that I learn from, grow during/from, and love so much!

It backed up Andy Stanley’s message that uncertainty is always going to be a part of ministry. My post about that message can be found here.I don’t know what the future will hold for these two companies, for the conventions, and for the thousands upon thousands of youth workers who attend the conventions each year. But I do know that it is a necessity for us to pray for them. So regardless of our negative thoughts/opinions on the whole ordeal, let’s leave it up to God and start/continue to pray for it and all the people that are involved!

–          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

An Unexpected Visitor…

April 20, 2009

We had an incredible night at youth group last night. We had 20 students and 5 leaders. Played some soccer, had a lesson on temptation that the kids seemed to learn form, and had an ice cream sundae party. We had teams of 5-on-5 for soccer and had enough students not participating and/or waiting to be subbed in that it even looked like we were at a real soccer game with an audience and fans.


One of my 12th grade girls brought 4 friends. Along with those 4 visiting students, we had one other visitor that I couldn’t quite figure out why he was there. He clearly did not fall into the category of 6th-12th grade and he didn’t look like he belonged there. I introduced myself to him and asked him some questions. What I got was not what I expected. I will leave his name out for confidentiality purposes. Here is a brief glimpse of how the conversation went:

Me: “Hey man, how are you? My name is Paul and I am the youth pastor here!”

Guy: “Hey, I’m ________ but I don’t like to talk to people ever since my dad died three years ago! I haven’t really talked to anyone since then.”

Me: “Ok man, I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m sorry to hear about your dad.”

Guy: “what I don’t get is why he had to kill himself in front of me…I mean, couldn’t he have waited until he was alone?”

Me: “wow…again man, I’m very sorry to hear that and that you had to go through that!”

Guy: “yeah, that’s why I’m trying to be a better father to my children than my dad was to me…”

Then he pulled out his phone and started showing me pictures of his kids. One was 3 months old, one was 2 years old, and one was 5 years old. After finding out this information, I did some quick calculations in my head and confirmed that this guy was in fact not in the category of 6th-12th grade. Even though I knew from the beginning that he was in his mid-twenties, I thought I should ask how old he was. He said he was 25. The question running through my mind this whole time was, “Why is this guy here at my youth group?”

After our few games of soccer in the gym, we all went into the library (our temporary youth room for the night…so we could be closer to where the ice cream would be served) for the lesson. During the lesson, out of my periphs (peripheral vision) I kept seeing the guy walk back and forth past the youth room. One of my leaders went out to see what he wanted. I didn’t see my leader for the rest of the lesson. When we went into the fellowship hall for ice cream, I saw the leader and this visitor sitting there and talking. I was very proud of him for seeing a need and attempting to fill it. It turns out that the guy was looking for help and just needed someone to talk to. The conversation didn’t last very long, but from what I gathered they talked about how the guy thought he was too messed up and bad for God to love Him. I hope that the youth leader who talked to him made an impact in his life and that he will realize that it’s never a bad time to turn to Jesus, no matter how bad or messed up you are!

The reason I write all of this and have been thinking a lot about it since last night is because I strongly feel that God brings people into our lives for a reason. I couldn’t understand why that guy was there, and I was very uncomfortable with him being around my students, but it ended up being ok and I hope that God spoke to him through one of my youth leaders! Sometimes people just need someone to talk to or someone to listen to them. That guy told me that he doesn’t like talking to people but after I asked a simple question, he just started unloading all of this information (about his past, his dad’s suicide, his kids) on me. I didn’t know the guy, but maybe God sent him to my church last night for a reason.

I would like some feedback about this, so please respond with your thoughts.

I’ll leave you with this: Are we making ourselves available to be used by God in the simplest of situations? If you ran into this situation in your youth ministry, how would you respond/what would you do?

– paulg

Bad Ideas in Youth Ministry #1…

April 1, 2009

If you are a youth worker, you’ve probably been in a situation before where something happens and you realize that it probably wasn’t such a good idea that you let it happen. I will be continually adding to this “bad ideas in youth ministry” topic, though if I don’t, it means that things are going great and I am a perfect youth pastor. But I’m not, so I will most definitely be continuing this topic…

With that being said, allow me to begin the first installation of my bad ideas series…

After I was done teaching youth group last Wednesday, some of my students asked if they could go play dodge ball in the gym until their parents were ready to go. I saw nothing wrong with this. Dodge ball is always a good time no matter what age you are. When I got downstairs though, I saw that it was a two on two dodge ball match. Two older students against two younger students. Ok, no problem there. Wait, yes there is. One of the older students is an extremely good baseball player. A good baseball player means a well developed arm that is capable of throwing fast moving balls. As soon as I walked in, I saw the ball whip past my line of sight and knock one of the younger students onto the ground. I laughed, as most people probably would…because it looked funny and everyone else was laughing.

dodgeball_logo4001The hurt student was pretty shaken up. It looked worse than it actually was.

The moral of this story is…don’t let your older youth group members who play baseball fire the ball at a younger student. Make sure you pick even teams. This has been an installment of Paul G’s bad ideas in youth ministry. See ya next time…

– paulg

Ministry Envy…

March 29, 2009

Two years ago at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, I attended a general session where Doug Fields spoke on the topic of “Ministry Envy.” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last week or so about how I used to view things in youth ministry as opposed to how I currently view them. I am a totally different youth worker now than I was back then. And that is a good thing…

When I think through my career thus far in youth ministry, I realize that I have been very envious at times. If I would have let that envy continue, it could have destroyed my future in youth ministry. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, ministry envy is simply being envious of other youth pastors, youth workers, or youth leaders. It is seeing the awesome things that they do (teach, lead games, perform skits, write, preach, relate to students, lead Bible studies, etc…) and wishing that you could be as awesome or as good as they are. It is seeing a youth worker that you view as better than you are and getting upset with and down on yourself.

I’d love to say that I never struggled with this, but that would be a lie. I’d love to say that I only struggled with this with youth leaders that I didn’t know (those I read about or saw at retreats or events), but that would also be a lie. The truth is, I was envious of the way that many of my close friends and co-workers did ministry. I wanted to be like them and do the things that they did. I wanted to be the kind of youth leader that they were/are.

If I could talk to myself then as myself now, the conversation would look something like this…

Me Now: “If you want to be like them, what is that saying about the youth leader that God created you to be? Aren’t you, in essence, saying that how God created and gifted you isn’t good enough?”

Me Then: “You know what Paul from the future? I think you are right! Maybe I shouldn’t waste my time trying to be like them and just focus on the skills and abilities that God gave me to do youth ministry.”

Me Now: “You sir, are a genius!”

Me Then: “Yeah, that’s true! Before you go back to the future, do you have anything else to tell me?”

Me Now: “Yeah, don’t try to tow an empty u-haul trailer early in the morning on February 5th, 2009. If you turn around when it starts snowing like you think you should, you won’t get into an accident that results in your truck being totaled!”

Me Then: “Thank you kind sir!”
So…as you can see from the conversation I just had with myself, I learned to overcome ministry envy. The session that I attended on this topic served as an eye-opener for me. I never knew that I had this problem and I am very glad that I found out earlier rather than later.

Now, don’t get me wrong…It is ok to see what others do and to admire those things…and maybe even steal a few of them (a.k.a. borrow some ideas from them). But it is not ok to do everything in your power to be like them. It is not ok to obsess over how good they are and beat yourself up for not being able to do what they do.

Everyone is geared differently. I am geared to be a different kind of youth leader than my friends, co-workers, and mentors. I can’t be like them in some aspects because God made me to be me. He geared me to do ministry the way that He intended, not the way that I think I should do it.

I’m glad that God created me to be me.

– paulg

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