Middle School Is Complicated

As a youth pastor, I work with different middle school students on a weekly basis. Myself and other adults sometimes respond to a middle school student in a lost sort of way. We do not understand the reason they are emotional over some small thing that happened at school or something someone said. As adults, we sometimes want to simply say, “Get over it. When you get older you’ll realize how ridiculous you are being.” The problem is, it is not that simple.

Middle school is complicated.

timthumbLast week, I listened to a podcast titled “This American Life.” The week’s show focused on the subject of middle school. They decided to have a show looking at middle school students because a young girl, who had just graduated from middle school, wrote in asking if they would look at the subject and see if other students had a similar experience as she had during those years. The common theme heard from students was how middle school was and is terrible. Why? (You can listen to this specific podcast here: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/449/middle-school)

As I listened to the six stories during this podcast, I was brought to moments of laughter, intrigue and even heartbreak. I was left feeling worried for my three children who will one-day adventure into the world of middle school. This podcast also caused me to realize, once again, how the minds, hearts and lives of middle school students are not always as they seem.

In youth ministry, I am commonly called crazy for being willing to work with such crazy students. At times I think I am crazy as well, but what keeps me going is being able to see beyond the surface level craziness and discovering the heart of a student. Middle school is a rollercoaster of life development, physically and mentally. If we are not prepared to ride the rollercoaster with them, the middle school students are left to fend for themselves. We cannot let that happen. We must be prepared as pastors and as parents.


Several years ago Cynthia Tobias and Sue Acuna wrote a book titled: “Middle School: The Inside Story.” I cannot recommend this book enough to youth pastors and parents. Tobias and Acuna look at what is taking place in the world of our middle schoolers today, the physical changes and the mental changes. The authors also give sound advice for how to parent during these transformational years. My oldest son just turned four years old, but this book has already given me insight for how to journey with my son as he draws closer to the middle school years.

As parents and youth pastors, let us not abandon our middle schoolers on the rollercoaster of pre-teen life. Let us ride the coaster and show them the love of God along the way.

You can become more prepared by pick up a copy of “Middle School: The Inside story” at Amazon.com.


Uncharted 4 and Life Priorities


As I am writing this blog post, there are only 21 days until the release of Naughty Dog’s next entry in the Uncharted series, “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.” It should be said that I am a huge Naughty Dog fan and a huge fan of the Uncharted series. I have played through the first three games and I am half way through the PlayStation Vita title, “Uncharted: The Golden Abyss.”

If you are someone who has never played or seen an Uncharted game. The games are story driven and focus on the character of Nathan Drake. Each story is one of grand adventure, much like an Indian Jones movie. Drake finds ancient treasures through exploration and many different shootouts with the bad guys of the game.

In preparation for the fourth and final Nathan Drake story, I have been playing through the first three Uncharted games again. As I have been playing through these games and have watched the different promotions for Uncharted 4, a common theme began to clarify in the overarching story of Nathan Drake. This theme has been made even apparent by the most recent Uncharted 4 trailer:

To me, the theme is one of life priories. At the beginning of the Uncharted series, Drake is in the search for Eldorado and its treasures. In the process he meets and starts a relationship with Elena Fisher. Throughout the next two games, his relationship with Elena (SPOILER ALERT) continues to be an up and down style of relationship. Part of the reason for this rocky road of a relationship is Drake’s obsession with risking his life for certain treasures. From the trailer above, it seems like this theme is going to carry over into this final chapter in Drake’s story as well.

This has caused me to look at my own life. Are there things in my own life that I am perhaps pursuing at the possible detriment of those around me? As a Christian, am I pursuing my own personal goals to the detriment of my relationship with Jesus?

Matthew 16:25 states: “All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them.”

Whether you are Christian or not, it all comes down to the priorities of our life. What is the most important thing? I cannot wait for later in my life to begin to build the habits and priorities I desire for my life. If I want to be a better writer, I need to start now. If I want to exercise more, I need to start now. If I want to make church and my relationship with God a priority, I need to start now. Every day that I let something else take the place of what I want to give a high priority to, is a day that I am changing my priorities to the them replacing the first priority.

More than likely, you and I will not end up in a situation where we have to choose between family and treasure, like Nathan Drake, but we might have to make a choice between those we love and something else. By the grace of God may we always make the right choice.

Uncharted 4 releases May 10th. Click here to learn more about the Uncharted series and purchase your copy today.


Uncharted add

A Youth Pastor’s Must Read: Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World



I have been a youth pastor for six years now. One thing that I have learned from these years of ministry is that part of being a good youth pastor, or a good pastor in general, is the ability to be a continuous learner. I never assume what I know and understand about youth ministry is the best or even most satisfactory way to minster. Youth ministry is a constant race to keep up with your students.

A few years ago, I sent a message out to some of my fellow youth pastor friends asking for book recommendations. A friend recommended a book, by Brock Morgan, titled “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call.” I proceeded to purchase it, but it sat on my kindle for a year and a half before I finally sat down to read Morgan’s book.

In case you are someone who doesn’t like reading a lot of writing or you are skimming this post, I want to make this clear from the beginning. If you are youth pastor in the United States and have not read “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call,” GO AND PURCHASE IT AMAZON NOW and read it.

I genuinely believe it is a must read for any youth pastor and even some lead pastors. Morgan does an amazing job of painting a picture of the world and mindset of the students in our youth ministries. Further, he explains why the methods of our youth ministry past might not be working any more.

He touches on subject like:

  • What defines the post-Christian world (as I am sure some of you are already asking, but I don’t want to take away from his book).
  • What are post-Christian world students looking for in faith?
  • How to properly define success in youth ministry
  • How to keep your focus and keep going

Ministry is a constantly changing field. Even more so when it comes to the youth of our churches. As youth ministers, we sometimes bear the heavy burden and expectations of keeping students in our churches. If we hope to even succeed, we best understand our ministry purpose and the students we are ministering too.

This post is not really a book review. This post is a book recommendation. If you are interested in reading Morgan’s book, you can click here to head over to amazon and purchase a physical copy of kindle version.

I want to close this recommendation with a quote from “Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call.”

“The essence of youth ministry is to create environments where students can experience the warmth of God. With every talk we give, every game or activity we lead, and every time we run into students at the mall, they experience God’s warmth. And that’s because our relationship with Jesus is our ministry.”

Morgan, Brock (2013-09-24). Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World: A Hopeful Wake-Up Call (Kindle Locations 159-161). The Youth Cartel. Kindle Edition.



Dance Party For The Win! – Walk To Mt Doom Day 1 Reflection

Five miles a day is a lot!

I am now one day into my journey to Mt. Doom, with my friend Levi. Yesterday I successfully walked 5.34 miles. According to my Vivofit 2 that is a total of 11,796 steps. At the end of the day my thought was… that’s a lot of steps!

As I was racking up the steps today, I discovered a few things.

First, I realized that Sam never left Frodo’s side. If I am to journey with Levi as my Sam, we need to always be together. Now.. I don’t be literally. What I realized is that my milage tracker did not have us journeying together, but taking two different journeys. Depending on how many miles we each walked, one of us could be ahead of their other and not be together on the journey.

I figured out a fix. The journey to Mt Doom is 1779 miles. In order that we are journeying together, I double the total miles and subtract our combined miles to determine our location on the journey.

This does two things. 1. We will always be together on a journey and 2. We are now actually working together to get to Mt. Doom.

The second thing I discovered today is how much work it takes to get to five miles of walking. This is what has lead my to my post title. After dinner, I realize I had a little over 2,000 steps to reach my 5 mile/11,000 steps goal for the day. I did not see how I could possibly get these steps in. I had already took my walk for the day.


The beauty of my two young sons is how they love to have dance parties. I turned on some epic music (the Ultimate Toddler Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/1255864681/playlist/6wYvSZWkm2GtuRK5coPIgW) and we danced out hearts out!

I danced the rest of my steps with them and reached my goal of 5 miles. Thanks boys! You got me there!

It was a great first day! I reached my goal of over 11,000 steps and had a great walk with my boys for a couple miles! Now on to day two. It will be a work day. I’m interested to see how my work schedule impacts my walking distance. Only time will tell.


My Walk To Mt Doom

I should make something clear from the beginning of this. I love the Lord of the Rings movies! I like them so much, when someone asks what my favorite movie or movie series is, I usually don’t say Lord of the Rings, because in my mind they are in a league of its own. It was the winter of my sophomore year of high school when the first movie was released. I had never heard of the books or the great adventures of Frodo and the fellowship of the ring. The other day I took my son, Wesley, to the dentist. The dental assistant was wanting to know how much Wesley weighed, but Wesley did not want to stand on the scale by himself. I quickly came up with a solution to this problem. I picked Wesley up and stood on the scale and looked at the number. Then I placed Wesley on the floor and look again at the number. We figured out Wesley’s weight, but more I was surprised by the number for my weight, 180lbs.

A lot has changed since the first time I watch the Lord of the Rings film, I am now a thirty year old man and probably 50 lbs heavier than I was then (I am purely guesstimating the weight of my gangly high school self). It might seem like I am making a big fuss over a small amount of weight, but it is a big amount to me. It was at that point I decided, something had to change.

It has been said, “One does not simply walk into Mordor,” but if you have seen the Lord of the Rings movies or read the books, you will know that walking into Mordor is exactly what Frodo and Sam did. I think that if they can do it, I can do it! I am setting out on an adventure to walk to Mt Doom as Frodo and Sam did.

I am doing this for a couple reasons. First, I want to try and be healthier and exercise more. Second, I like having goals in front of me to achieve. Lastly, I love Lord of the Rings and think it will be a cool challenge to take on.

Thanks to EowynChallenge.net, I am able to know the number of miles walked by our adventures:

458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.

462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell to Lothlorien.

389 miles: Travel through Moria and down the Anduin from Lothlorien to Rauros Falls.

470 miles: Follow Frodo and Sam on the quest from Rauros to Mt. Doom.

This makes for a total trip of 1,779 miles.


Here is the plan!

1. Everything counts! 

I purchased a Garmin Vivofit 2 on Amazon. This will track each step I take and how many miles I have walked in the day. I am counting every step I take towards this journey and the Vivofit will track it while I work. The average person walks 2 to 3 miles a day. My goal is to reach 5 miles a day. I will be making up the difference with walks around my neighborhood.

2. There and back again! 

As Bilbo recorded his adventure, I will be blogging about my adventure as I go. I will write about my possible thoughts, struggles and maybe even things I learn about walking.

3. I need a Sam! 

If I am going to go on this grand adventure, I need a Sam. My friend Levi is going to be taking this walking challenge on as well. Together we will walk to the core of Mt Doom and depending on how this goes… Maybe we’ll even walk back.

(Can you see how we are sad from the weight of the one ring?)

4. Know the full story.


Click to view in Amazon


Click to view in Amazon


Click to view in Amazon

I have never read through the books of Lord of the Rings. So, I will be listening to them on audio book as I go.

5. Know where I am.

I will be tracking my progress along Frodo and Sam’s journey on a map of middle earth. You can see the picture below to see the path and key locations.

(each nick is a distance of 50 miles or so)


This is the adventure that is before me and I am excited to take it on. Perhaps you are like me and are wanting to find a way to maybe exercise a little bit and get a healthier, than I would invited you to consider starting your own adventure and join me in my walk to Mt Doom.