Tag Archives: ministry

Think like a Youth Pastor

It’s good to be your own target audience.

I am currently striving to market these custom LIFE Group shirts to youth pastors and group leaders who will be attending the massive 6000 person conference.  I need to understand their perspective.  I need to think like a youth pastor…..

Actually, that shouldn’t be all that difficult, as I peer up from my computer screen to see various junior high centric games, odd costumes, event posters, and countless shirts that remind me of my current position as youth pastor of Chippewa Alliance Church, a position I’ve held for 8 years now!

I am striving to make the often arduous task of getting custom shirts for groups a painless, easy affordable process.  Thus I’ve created various design templates and mockups of all difference genres and styles that will hopefully appeal to youth groups from the Pacific Northwest to the Heartland of America to the East Coast and everywhere in between.  It is incredibly simple to plug a name, church logo or anything else into the design!

I’ve wracked my brain for weeks, doing hours of research concerning design trends, apparel options and custom logo work.  I’m trying to prepare myself for the deluge of youth groups clamoring for unique shirts that will enhance their identity and become a keepsake of a fun filled journey that they will remember for years to come.

I know that youth pastors need an easy process when it comes to getting shirts (they are already pulled in too many different directions, T-shirt aesthetics should not have to be one of them).  They don’t want their kids to be embarrassed of the shirts that they order.  They want options and the ability to add their unique elements to the apparel.

They’ll have to see these shirts for years to come as their leaders and students wear them to youth group, retreats and all nighters (and eventually have them sewed into quilts reminding them of those wonderful high school years).

They might as well be really, really cool!

Awake FinalAwake

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A Plethora of Shirt Options

I’ve realized through my interaction with those taking their students to LIFE that there has arisen a misconception concerning the LIFE Merchandise (that will be sold physically in the store in Kansas City) and the custom shirts that LIFEMERCH is designing and printing for groups.  Many people believe that everything I’ve produced will only be available in the actual store, however that is not the case.

I had to find a way to convey that “Custom Group Shirts” means that I can create anything for the various groups headed to the LIFE Conference in July, it’s just a matter of preference for the leader as to what they want their shirt to look like.  It’s incredibly easy to make the name of the group stand or to make “LIFE 2016”  the focal point.   It all becomes a question of taste and desired outcome.

Thus I polled a few Facebook Youth Pastor Groups to find some current, catchy youth group names circulating through the broader spectrum of Christianity today. I then spent quite a bit of time doing potential mock ups with those designs to show the varying styles that we can tap.  I was trying to give a clear visual indication of the versatility that LIFEMERCH is capable of.

Hopefully this time investment pays off and the group leaders see the great shirts that their youth groups could be wearing to LIFE!

The enormity of the LIFEMERCH project is daunting….

6000 people at a conference with wildly varied tastes, differing backgrounds and sky high expectations of what the apparel ought to be.  There is an excitement buzzing around the project, many friends and leaders sending appreciated well wishes and encouraging words.

There is a pressure to deliver that builds day after day.

For the past few months I have been churning out designs (56 to this date), striving to find which firecrackers will go off and which ones will be smoldering duds.  I believe that I am finding my way, narrowing my search and refining my style through this process.

July has never seemed so close in January.   Seven months out I feel as if I am running out of time; the clock is ticking, hours chiming away as I struggle against sleep, entrenched in the earliest moments of the day and the quietest times of the night.

The potential behind this endeavor is staggering, the hours toiling away at a project of this magnitude have flown by and the dreams are unfolding.  Through the research and demand I have found myself growing as an artist, striving to work outside of my comfort zone, searching for a way to appeal to the vast majority instead of a solid niche (while still making all of the varied demographics happy).

It’s January, but July is coming.

Vertical LinesSpaceship without number

You ARE what you Fantasize About

In October we put the Masks on. Young and old alike slip into different costumes and attires, some more ornate than others yet all with the intent of becoming somebody who we are not for a brief moment of frivolity and escape. We laugh and giggle as we attend the parties, walk the streets and revel in the differentness of the moment. We get to be somebody else for a few seconds, appearing as another of our own choosing.

What if we weren’t becoming somebody else? What if we were more accurately expressing who we really are? What if the mask we put on was more of a complex portal peering into who we truly wanted to be?

I think back to my early Halloween costumes. Various super heroes, each year’s get up determined by the stage I was in and the feeble materials I could weave together to construct my disguise. I remember a year that I dressed up as Zorro, wearing a black garbage bag as a cape and my father’s black cowboy hat. I painted on a massive mustache and wrapped a piece of cloth around my head with two poorly placed eye holes cut into it (I could barely see out of that thing). I grabbed my plastic sword in my right hand and giant eagle bag in the left as I rushed out of the house to trick or treat in the cold of October (finding out that garbage bags do very little to insulate oneself against Western PA’s frigidity).

As I grew older, during tumultuous teenage years I would brandish a brown trench coat of my father’s, tie a piece of fabric around my head pushing the bowl cut flowing locks out of my eyes and carried a bo-staff I had broken off from the big sycamore in the front yard. I had whittled away at it with my pen knife making it as straight as I could, covering it with black electrical tape. A few playing cards later and I would be Gambit of the 90’s X-Men fame.

As I look back on those costumes I realize that they said something about my heart at the time; a thermometer dipped into my psyche. When I was very young I wanted to be a dashing hero, potent and wise, saving the day and disappearing into the night.  I was not very brave, in fact I was downright cowardly, I dreamt of being the opposite. During my tumultuous teenage years I wanted to be a smooth talking ladies man who was charming and confident. The mere thought of talking to girls put my stomach into knots, the acne, braces, thick rimmed glasses and deep lack of anything that resembled self esteem or confidence constantly reminded me I was indeed nothing like Remy LeBeau.

Gambit David

I desperately desired to be these symbols as I was hilariously lacking their attributes. On lonely bus rides to and from my prison known as school I would imagine myself to be these heroes, decimating my foes, winning the woman and righting all of the perceived wrongs in my tiny little world.

I believe on a heart level, what we dress up as, what we fantasize about is more real to who we are than almost any other factor. Consider how limited we all are by our genetics, environment and resources. Would Bruce Wayne be Batman if he wasn’t a Billionaire son of an ambitious doctor, who experienced the death of his parents at an early age? Who would Peter Parker be if he were not bitten by a radioactive spider? Even to some extent who would Peyton Manning be if he were not Archie Manning’s offspring, growing up immersed in every element of football. There is a sense of fate and destiny in all of those stories, fixed outcomes that many of us just don’t have the gifting to achieve.

But we can do anything in our minds. Any. Thing.

In our fantasy worlds we can be anybody we want to be, that is why it’s is so appealing. We can get utterly lost in it, burning through hours playing role playing games, reading comics and watching movies. But does that make it any less “real.”

There becomes this expectation that during our culture’s month long celebration of Halloween (or all year long at Comic Book Conventions) you can dress up as anything and it really has no bearings on who you are, you’re just having a little bit of fun. That is why if you head to a costume shop of any kind you will be assaulted by all of the sexy outfits that exist. Sexy Nurse, sexy fox, sexy cow, sexy serial killer……

There is a desire to be sexually adventurous at least for one night, at one event. It really doesn’t mean anything does it?

People think that they are dressing up as somebody who they are not; yet in reality they are probably showing us more of their true selves more than they realize. Just the selves they would be if it weren’t for those pesky societal norms and moral expectations levied against us.

It becomes scary when our true selves become obsessed with the dark, with vengeance with killing maiming and devouring (most of our first person shooter game). Let’s be honest our fantasies can take us to some chilling places. If I were to plug a flashdrive into your brain, download the content for a day and upload it to Vimeo (let’s be honest, there’s not way we’d get that stuff past Youtube’s filters) how would that make you feel?

Ask Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold if their fantasies ever became realities. Don’t know those names? Does the word “Columbine” stir up any memories?

Chilling thought huh?

From my understanding of Scripture, when Jesus tells us if we lust after a woman we are committing adultery with her in our hearts, or when we hate our brother we are guilty of murdering him he is not merely making life harder on us; heaping more archaic rules on our weary shoulders. Jesus is pulling back the veil and showing us the reality of the human soul. He is showing us that our true selves is that which we fantasize about, that which we would do if only we had the resources or if nobody else was looking.

No affair starts without a fantasy, no murder without hate. It doesn’t have to go that far to define us. May our heroes be true, may our true selves seek to do good. May the intent of our hearts be to strengthen and protect.

It says much of us if when we desire to be Spider-man giving it all, Superman swooping in and Captain American standing up for what he believes in.

God looks at the heart.

Our Masks are portals into our soul.

the C Word

My family will remember the date of July 27th rather well. We have gauged most of contemporary life as “pre” and “post” July 27th 2014. That day that we all sat around our humble kitchen table and heard our beloved, kind, compassionate mother utter the C Word. A word that you never expected to hear (because, in your mind it only happens to other people) an ugly, terrible word that injects fear into the hearts of loved ones. The more you love that person, the worse the word is.

“I have Cancer”

It’s like a terrible villain from a movie, an amorphous evil that has no shape or face but merely a dark, inky presence; as real as sin, as thick as tar. I’ve worked with teens my whole adult life and have heard every vulgar, explicit, profane word and their various creative incarnations yet no word is as filthy as this one.

You know that feeling you get when you see somebody fall and get hurt; that shot that goes through your body, that odd empathy that you (should) have for another human being? It’s the reason that people cringe at movies when a person is visibly, often times creatively injured and you wince at the act. In times of great visual agony the matching appendage on your own body may tingle as if you are being similarly afflicted by the world of pain they are living in.

When I heard the C Word it was as if my whole body was afflicted. As if my very soul was covered in malignant, fast reproducing cells seeking to ravage, consume and destroy. It felt as if tiny little spiders were ripping me apart from the inside.

I felt as if I was going to vomit, as if the world was spinning. I realize now why in old movies they ask the person on the other end of the phone line if they are sitting down when they receive terrible news.

Every time I have to say the word Cancer now it feels like I am cursing, like I’m using the big daddy of foul language, a noun that makes the F word look tame, feeble and silly in comparison.

You soon learn that there are other variations of, and additions to the C Word, like acne covered junior high boys trying to impress each other with their vast vulgarity. Tumor. Stage 3. Chemotherapy.

I remember my art teacher in High School trying to explain what it was like trying to battle a brain tumor in his younger years. I’ll never forget his odd description of Chemo “They kill you, and hope they kill the cancer at the same time.”

Fighting sickness with poison.

As I type these words my mother is receiving her first dose of Chemo. They are pumping poison into her blood stream to try and kill the remaining cancerous cells that have spread to ravage and destroy. She was so nervous last night when I talked to her; choking up at the mere mention, begging to talk about something happier like her grandchildren, or how my sermon went that morning. She asked “Can we just talk about something else?”

It would seem that everybody has a C-Word Story that they want to share with me. I am consistently amazed at the lack of tact and common social understanding that logical adults exhibit in many of these instances. I do not want to hear about your grandmother who was given a clear bill of health after her Chemotherapy only to find that they didn’t get it all, that it had spread and she died in agony a month later. That is not something to tell me and my family right now. We know what can happen. I know that you are struggling to deal with the loss of your loved one and you need to cathartically share with others to continue to work through your tragedy.   However we are in it; we know the danger yet we need to claw through the dirt toward that faint light, that glimmer of hope.

We pray. I don’t know what we would do if we couldn’t pray.

Can God heal my mother? Yes.

Will He?

I do not know.

We pray and huddle together for warmth as winter approaches.