The McBlog

Practical Resource :: Recommendation Letters
March 25, 2010, 8:01 pm
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Something funny happened a couple years ago. Within a span of 24 hours, I was asked for 2 vastly different recommendation letters from 2 vastly different students.

Student A
This student was a top-of-his-class salutatorian with a 4.5GPA, a dedicated student athlete who was (and still is) completely sold out to Christ and a HUGE blessing to our student ministry & local church. He was applying to several colleges and was in the running for several scholarships and needed a recommendation letter

Student B
The second student was, let’s just say, on the other end of the spectrum. He needed a recommendation letter as proof of completion of court-ordered community service.

By the way, juxtaposed stories like this are why I LOVE student ministry.

But the irony of the contrasting letters aside, I still had to write them, and I had a hard time doing this. I remember thinking how awesome it would be if I had a resource with a couple solid examples that I could look at.

So I want to start sharing with you guys some practical resources that you can use in your everyday operations of student ministry. This resource folder contains a couple examples of recommendation letters that I’ve written (Word & PDF versions). Have at it. Love you all.



Guest Blogger: Brandon Miraflor “Who Needs a Creative Pastor”
March 23, 2010, 7:21 pm
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Hey McBlog readers. I wanted to introduce you to an awesome blog if you haven’t already come across it. The blog is called “The Uprising”, written by one of my best buds, the one & only Brandon Miraflor. This blog is about “Creative Pastors”, and if you have a question about what exactly that is, just read the post.

At the end of his post, Brandon shared some links to “Creative Pastors” & I’d like to add a couple:
Russ Cripps
Amado Huizar
Tauren Wells
Paul Povolni
Paul Price

Enjoy. Love you ALL! -David

Who Needs a Creative Pastor?

“Hi there, I’m so-and-so the new Creative Pastor down at such-and-such church…” You hear it more and more but what does “Creative Pastor” really mean? It seem to be this new buzz phrase that churches across north America are adopting to describe this new breed or type of pastor.

Before anyone gets upset and stops reading because they think I’m opposed to the idea, let me say this: I personally think that there is a pressing need for us to have these types of pastors amongst us. Here at CLC {Christian Life Center} we have an amazing creative pastor on staff named Josh Rivas. Josh might not be known nationally but he will spend anywhere from 40-60 hours a week just on design/presentation/creativeness for our church.

So… we all know what it means to Pastor. But what does Creative Pastor mean? Let’s look at the word for a second.

cre·a·tive adj.

1. Having the ability or power to create
2. Productive; creating
3. Characterized by originality and expressiveness

This definition seems like it should define all pastors. However, this is not the always case. I believe we sometimes lack the ability to think creatively because we’ve been taught that people who are creative are liberal and generally not saved. But thinking and being creative is something straight out of the Word of God.

In the beginning God created…

There is a need deeply rooted within our spiritual DNA for us to create. But so many times we find ourselves in a box. Whether we put ourselves there or whether it has been projected on us, none-the-less we can find ourselves stuck.

I once asked Wayne Francis, “What do you do when you find yourself in a box?” His reply was simple, “If I’m going to be put in a box, I’m going to make it a plaid box”. In other words be as creative as you can in every situation God places you in.

Many times we don’t have the time to be creative. We become arrested with so many other important things in the word of the Lord that creativeness gets put on the bottom of the pile. Lets face it, each week there are things we need to do and things we want to do. Sometimes it’s just easier to just stick with the bare minimum. This is where you can develop a young productive, expressive, creative pastor.

However I have often observed that young creative youth workers are perceived as worldly or loose if they are trying new and appropriate methods of reaching this generation. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about altering the message of the gospel, Acts 2:38, the oneness experience, etc. and the values that our elders have fought to preserve. I’m referencing to method.

Take the example of Twinings Tea. For the past 300 years, Twinings has influenced tea drinking and continues to be a leader in the tea industry. Stephen Twining, the 10th generation Twining, was asked how Twinings has continued to be successful over the long haul. He said, “It was our founder Thomas Twining’s philosophy to focus on high-quality tea and innovation to give our customers the best tea-drinking experience possible.” He went on to say that in the 1930’s when tea bags were becoming popular that Twinings didn’t reject the technology, but embraced it by saying, ”How can we make the best tea bag possible without changing the tea?”

I think sometimes we are afraid to embrace the “new”. There is the feeling of uncertainty. Will the bag change the tea, will the medium/method change the message? And the answer is, no. We serve a God the is bigger that technology, bigger than our traditions. His desires us to follow him and be creative – God’s word is true.

{For more reading on the whole method and message read this post by my friend David McGovern – THESAURUS }

So you see, having the ability and power to create, to be productive, being characterized by originality and expressiveness is what we need in this hour. WE DO NOT WANT TO BE LIKE THE WORLD!!!!! We just want to reach this generation. If we don’t, who will?

Who needs a Creative Pastor?… You do!

– Brandon

PS: Here are just a few creative pastors I follow. Who are some creatives you know?
Jason West
Jacob Pereida
Josh Rivas
Mitch Rose
David McGovern
Brandon Shanks

And since I had so many requests for more Jesus Culture, here you go.

March 22, 2010, 11:27 pm
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I love youth workers. Absolutely positively LOVE youth workers. If you’re a youth worker, odds are you’re overworked and underpaid, but hopefully never under-appreciated. I’m entering my 12th year in youth ministry, and with each passing year I get more & more passionate about helping the next wave of student leaders.

If you’re a youth worker (whether you’re the youth pastor, a staff member, a sunday school teacher, a bus driver or anything in between) YOU ARE MY HERO. YOU ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. Don’t get weary in well doing. Keep working. Keep reaching. Keep dreaming. Keep loving those crazy teens.

You’re doing EXACTLY what you’re supposed to be doing & you are EXACTLY where God called you to be.

I came across this humorous, albeit abstract, video called Youth MiniSTARS. Laugh a little bit & be encouraged. You’re making an indelible impact on this generation & the future. You may not feel like it, but you’re a ROCKSTAR in my book.

Love you all.

New Resource
March 16, 2010, 7:28 am
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Hey all my Student Ministry / Youth Ministry peeps! Just wanted to share a new resource with you. “Minute to Win It” is money! It features TONS of powerhour games /crowdbreaker game ideas, and even has cool video intros for each game that you can play if your media booth can project online video.

Check it out here.

Disclaimer / FYI – “Minute to Win It” is a “reality game show” that is broadcast online, and also on network television. It is a “show” produced for entertainment. But if you check it out, you’ll see that it definitely has some cool, fresh, youth ministry style games.

There you have it. No more excuses for doing Chubby Bunny the zillionth time!

Love you all.

Seven (plus or minus 3)
February 23, 2010, 7:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In 1935, Henry Gustav Molaison was an average 9-year-old boy riding his bike down his street. Suddenly, as 9-year-old boys often do, he crashed. But tragically, Henry hit his head and suffered significant brain trauma. From that day forward, Henry’s life began a course plagued by frequent epileptic seizures.

Before you give up on the story, you should know that it has a pretty cool ending. In fact, Henry would go on to make great contributions to cognitive psychology and marketing. Oh, and by the way, Henry was the guy who influenced the length of our phone numbers.

After his traumatic bike accident, his doctors attempted to localize his seizures, so they removed part of Henry’s medial temporal lobes. The surgery left Henry with severe retrograde amnesia.

Here’s the thing about Henry: he could remember everything prior to the surgery, but his brain could not encode new long-term memories. Although he could never remember anything from 5 minutes beforehand, the last 30 seconds were crystal clear to him at all times. Henry’s curious case provided science with the first pieces of evidence that humans have a uniquely powerful yet concise short-term working memory. But here’s the kicker: our short-term memory has a finite capacity.

In 1956, cognitive psychologist George A. Miller suggested that this capacity was SEVEN (plus or minus 3) items. Decades later it was determined to be roughly 2.5 seconds of information. In English, that equates to SEVEN (plus or minus 3) words.

The implication is that people are remarkably better at remembering messages with 7-10 words or less.

The concept of “7 words” is so powerful that some marketing boutiques, like BluePrint, do nothing but help companies arrive at 7 words or less to answer the question, “Why should I choose you?”. Because while companies like Southwest become successful with their consistent answer, the fact of the matter is most organizations lack a concise communication of their purpose.

The challenge for student pastors is this – know your 7 words. Spend some time thinking about some simple words or phrases that clearly communicate what your student ministry is, what it does, and why it’s important. At Solid, we have what we call “The Solid Life”. The Solid Life is a foundation of 7 (plus 3) simple words that define our student ministry. From the time a student enters Solid in 7th grade, until they graduate from Solid in their post-high-school years, at the very minimum, each student should have a firm grasp on these 7 (plus 3) principles and see them in consistent practice in their everyday lives. (Andy Stanley’s “7Checkpoints” and Jeremy Gutshce’s “Exploiting Chaos” helped me out alot with this!)

1. Fearless Faith
2. Disciplined Devotion
3. Moral Boundaries
4. Real Relationships
5. Wise Choices
6. Spiritual Authority
7. Selfless Service
8. Unapologetically Evangelistic
9. Living Worship
10. Apostolic Identity

What are your 7 (plus or minus 3) words? I’d love to hear em. Love you all.

What is Emerging?
November 30, 2009, 7:39 pm
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Hey people… I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. OK, I’ll admit it, I’m not a natural blogger, but I will attempt to do better than once a month. I created this blog out of a desire to share resources and thoughts that benefited me, so for this post I simply want to step aside and give you some excerpts from, and then the link to a great blog post I read this morning on the topic of emerging / emergent.

I’ve been troubled as of late to see these labels thrown around so flippantly at anybody who attempts anything even slightly untraditional, so I hope this well-written and thought-out article by Rodney Shaw will be as much help to you as it has been to me. Thanks Bro Shaw for once again articulating a great deal of clarity to such a foggy topic.

Here are a few excerpts to whet your appetite. I encourage you to read the full article.

“There have always been generational transitions. Older generations tend to be skeptical about the preferences of successive generations, and successive generations tend to be bored with the preferences of their predecessors.”

“Approaches to leadership are changing too. Young leaders have grown up in this tumultuous environment (although they would not call it tumultuous). They view the world differently, and they also view leadership differently. They do not lead from a command-and-control, CEO-style of leadership, nor do they follow such leaders well. They prefer collaboration and community over the CEO model.”

“Here is the question: What does one call a church that is established in this cultural milieu? For many the obvious label is to call it an emerging church. In this sense, the term has nothing to do with theology. It has everything to do with leadership style, architecture, music, service format, use of the arts, community involvement, and approaches to building community. An urban church planted in 2010 is likely to look entirely different from an urban church planted in the 1970s or 1980s and much more so than one planted in the 1950s.

“Before we use these labels—emerging and emergent—for others, we need to fully understand them and then use them appropriately. For example, Bill Hybels and Rick Warren are neither emerging nor emergent. (They are part of an older church growth movement.) Andy Stanley and Ed Young Jr. are neither emerging nor emergent. (They were doing what they are doing before the emerging church movement began.) Mark Driscoll is part of the emerging church movement, but he is a conservative Evangelical from the Reformed tradition who takes strong positions on morality, Reformed orthodoxy, and other conservative issues. (He recently debated Carlton Pearson who has adopted a universalist approach to salvation.) Driscoll has spoken out loudly against the emergent church. This, of course, is no defense of Mark Driscoll. He is from a different theological tradition, and we do not agree with his doctrine just as he does not agree with ours. However, to use emergent or emerging to indiscriminately paint Driscoll, McLaren, and a young UPCI church planter with the same brush would be inaccurate at best, and it certainly would not be helpful.”

“The point here is that it is unhelpful to use emerging or emergent as a pejorative reference to our younger ministers who are trying various methods to reach a contemporary world. In a literal sense, they may indeed be emerging in that they are not utilizing traditional methods to reach the lost. However, it is disingenuous if by emerging we are implying that they no longer believe in the new birth, the oneness of God, or a separated lifestyle. No doubt some may not believe our message in its fullness any longer, but this does not make it appropriate to use the emerging label indiscriminately for anyone who merely has a different approach, if by using the term we mean that they are less than apostolic. This is in the spirit of McCarthyism, and it harks back to recent decades when charismatic was the catch-all label that was used to brand everything we did not like, no matter that the label often was inaccurate.”

“The apostles lived in a climate that was more pagan and equally as hostile as our ours. If they were able to thrive in a hostile culture, so can we. If they were able to thrive while standing against the tide of worldliness, so can we.”

Again, those are only a few excerpts, for the full article, click here.

September 16, 2009, 2:29 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

In other words…

Forever O Lord, Your Word is settled in Heaven. Psalms 119:89

I really dig the way The Message uses some other words to communicate that scripture: “What you say goes, God, and stays, as permanent as the heavens. Your truth never goes out of fashion; it’s as up-to-date as the earth when the sun comes up.”

In other words, God’s truth is as timeless as eternity and as constant as the sunrise.

Timeless. In other words, divorced from the shifting parameters of moments, instances, eras, periods, and the incessant changing of times.

Check this out; in 1907 women washed their hair about once a month using the two most popular products of the time: Borax or egg yolks. Yeah, you heard me correctly… Borax.

And the maximum speed limit in 1907 was 10 MPH.

In other words, times change, things change, culture changes… we change.

Now, I don’t know about you, but one of the most constant and prevalent challenges I face as a student pastor, and a ministry leader in general, is finding timely methods to communicate timeless messages.

I like to think of student ministry as writing a story. I really tend to embrace the literary connotations of an unfinished book, of which Jesus is author & finisher, but also of which our students have the ability to influence the narrative through choices, decisions and actions. In other words, the biographies of our students lives are being written daily by an author who is present in everything, and as a student pastor, I am charged with the humbling task of influencing my students to pursue the author’s desired conclusion.

Being so closely involved in a process this critical, it’s simply not an option for a student pastor to NOT utilize every available method to draw students into an intimate walk with their creator. I am reminded of Paul’s enduring words in 1 Corinthians 9:22 “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” or in other words as The Message puts it: “I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life.”

The onus on student pastors is to communicate old truths in new ways. In other words, we must find our “in other words”.

In literature, there is a reference tool called the Thesaurus. Any studious writer, researcher or pupil keeps a thesaurus handy when crafting paragraphs, papers, essays, articles or books. A thesaurus is simply a book of relation. It’s a tool whose sole purpose is to find new things related to, and similar in meaning to, old things. When you employ the thesaurus, you are looking for new words, or synonyms, which communicate the same message as the original statement.

In other words here are some possible thesaurus scenarios for student pastors:

-Talk to other student pastors and find out what new methods they’re having success with.

+Three student pastor friends who continually inspire me and stretch me to be a better student pastor are:
Brandon Shanks
Jason West
Amado Huizar

-Spend time fostering creativity. Draw. Paint. Visit websites. Visit a museum. Write. Sing. Walk. Think. READ.

-Spend time honing your craft. Preach your message to your mirror, your spouse, your staff, or anybody who will listen before you preach it to your students.

-Don’t worry about concocting the next big “new” lesson or series. We weren’t called to reinvent the wheel. But we can spend time referencing a “thesaurus”, and take a stab at trying to come up with fresh, creative ways to express old things. Last week I taught an extremely old lesson on The Anointing, but we put a new spin on it. It turned out to be one of the most powerful midweek youth services we’ve ever had.

-Be adventurous. Change the order of your service. Change the seating arrangements. Do things out of the ordinary.

-Call on some students to help you speak their language. Ask them what their “In other words” would be.

-Find resources that communicate the message, and make them yours. Find new ways to do old things. Don’t be afraid to use resources! There’s nothing new under the sun. If it communicates your message, use it.

+Here’s a website you need to bookmark: – this website allows you to download YouTube videos. Find a video that’s relevant to your topic, KeepVid it, and use it as an opener. (One of my best buds, Jason West, an incredible youth pastor in San Jose CA showed me this website.)

+Free designer fonts: // Free stock photography // there are so many free resources available to help you be more creative in your presentation… I’ll list my favorites in another blogpost, but with so many resources available, we have no excuse for outdated presentation!

-Lastly, and most importantly, PRAY. We have not because we ask not. I pray as often as I can for God to help me communicate timeless truth in a timely manner.

Inscribed on his statue in the writer’s hall of fame, is this famous quote by Mark Twain: “Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”

In other words, things change… so must we.

And in the spirit of communicating a timeless message with timely methods, I invite you to watch this video of the Jesus Culture worship band doing an “in other words” to one of my favorite old gospel hymns, “We Exalt Thee”. Hope it inspires you.

Love you all.