• Tonight was my last normal HSM Wednesday night during a school year.
  • We will have some bonfire Bible studies this summer but those aren’t the same and you never know who will be at what.
  • The whole night was surreal since I am not leaving tomorrow, but in many ways it was the end of programming.
  • I did some math and I think I have done somewhere close to 196 Wednesday nights over 7 years.
  • I’ve never wanted our ministry to be about me and I hoped tonight was no different. I tried to go about things normal and I think it went well.
  • There some welcomed interruptions though and Josh, Sarah, Kristin and I felt honored.
  • Our students made photo books behind our backs and they are awesome and really a perfect gift that I can always look back on.
  • Sam Moore also wrote a celebratory verse for me to kick the night off. I told him that was the moment I knew we had lived out II Timothy 2:2 and my hip hop work here was done.
  • I thought about my final lesson for a long time and settled on II Corinthians 5. We talked about the fact that Christ’s love should compel us and we should reproduce ourselves (people, as leaders, and churches).
  • I ended the night with some stuff that I think every outgoing person needs to say to honor the person coming in.  I had a different situation since Kary Oberbrunner wasn’t going anywhere when I came, but nonetheless he was nothing but gracious and set me up for success. I want the same thing for Seth and hopefully I began setting the table these last few weeks.
  • Like I said I didn’t want to night to be focused on me transitioning because I am not the body of Christ and ministry or the church doesn’t revolve around me. I do want to thank many great people who deserve it, so Delores, Jim, Kelly, Heather, and many student leaders will be getting some incredibly sappy handwritten cards in the next few months.
  • Tomorrow my day to day stuff switches up in many ways. I now go into summer trip/conference/camp mode and begin setting the table for transitions in t-minus 75 days.


Seven years ago two churches came together for a retreat at the Kalahari Resort.  One year later we (HSM and The Zone) jumped in.  In the last six years we have grown to 1475 people and 25 churches.  Every year I love the Kalahari retreat more and more because of the way I see God move in my students and the overall weekend.

Sounds like a reason for a mind dump…


  • This year we finally were able to book Clayton King as our speaker.  I first knew of Clayton through his connections with Steven Furtick, Elevation Church, and Perry Noble and Newspring Church.  He is also a campus pastor at Liberty University.
  • I loved Clayton’s style.  He is a seasoned communicator and connected when he joked and in his teaching. I think he gave the best presentation of the gospel I have ever heard in a corporate setting.  We saw many commitments including around 85 first time decisions and more recommitments and students deciding to not date for a year. We have already booked Clayton for next year.
  • As has been the case for the last 3-4 years, we had Exodus also from Liberty University lead worship. They lost everyone but one guy from there team last year but totally reloaded and were just excellent.
  • If you haven’t noticed a trend Liberty University is pretty awesome and also puts great effort into networking themselves with top notch people and also providing ministry teams at a fraction of what they should cost.
  • Because of Liberty’s arsenal, we also brought in their trampoline dunk team Soar Dunk. It was just as cool as it sounds. It brought out my inner 10 year old and my mouth was hanging open most of their show. I also may or may not have snuck in the room when no one else was in there but me and the trampoline and hoops and recorded myself dunking on my phone.
  • Sessions went great this year. Ben Framstad worked his butt off and did a great job at coordinating everything from concept to execution. There were so many creative elements and great flow.  I loved the testimonies, choir and art involvement, and games he planned.
  • We flipped the room and went horizontal for the first time ever. It had some drawbacks and but it gave us the law of immediacy and put every close to the stage and Clayton as he spoke. I know it lead to greater engagement.
  • The tech this year was one of my favorite upgrades. The lights were just incredible.  Zack Pinkerton brought in some great lightbox concepts that took our stage to great heights.  I am glad to be in the LED light era.
  • I have been blessed to be apart of Kalahari’s planning but Wooster Grace (Nick Cleveland, Ben Framstad, Rachel Snyder, Dave Rhoad) does easily 80% of the work…and it might be closer to 99%.  They birthed this thing, have grown his thing and handle the finances, administration, and legal liability. I just want to publicly say thanks to their staff and church for that unsung investment in my students and the other churches. That is kingdom minded.
  • I know I already mentioned a ton of stuff but the thing that makes Kalahari work is that on top of all this it is a top-notch hotel and the biggest water park in North America. I enjoyed my usual time of water basketball with my brother Danny and some time in the Lazy River.
  • I got to host with my friend Jordan Muck this year. He is a great thinker on his feet and reminds me of Ashton Kutcher so of course he made a great emcee.
  • Kalahari is close to my heart because of what it represents. I love seeing the Church come together and be the body of Christ. I love seeing growth in ministries of my friends and breakthroughs. I love seeing Marysville’s youth group grow and have to get a bus for the first time, I love seeing our students connect with people in our backyard at Heritage over in Westerville, and I love seeing people come to know Christ because of the efforts of many.
  • If you want to check out the hashtag #kalahari12 on twitter you can track all that went on HERE.
  • Next years Kalahari retreat is Jan 4-6, 2013.



MIND DUMP 2-9-11

  • Last year I felt like every year I was gushing every Wednesday and coming home to write a mind dump. That hasn’t been the case this year but tonight was easily our best Wednesday of the year.
  • We went through a hard identity crisis this fall. It was from turnover of people, a senior class for the most part that is M.I.A. and it all lead to no group identity and no leadership.
  • We have risen from the ashes of that and for the first time this year I could see obvious momentum and see who we are and where we are going toward next year.
  • Tonight was week 2 in our James series.
  • Sarah Knepper taught tonight and freaking tore the roof off the place. It was so good I am going to start getting resume togetherJ
  • Tonight for a game we just showed this video and had everyone dance along to the prompts. I can’t wait to do it at Momentum with Dave and 1500 friends. It connected really well.
  • Everything is better post-Kalahari
  • Had some great conversations with people tonight. Finally seeing the prayer patio be what we wanted 2 years ago when we started it.
  • The Beckley’s are coming over tomorrow. I love them. If my sons don’t marry their daughters my world be shattered….seriously.
  • Some great conversations at staff meeting this week. The last year has been weird and I think Grace Church is emerging on the other side of that.
  • I met with Andrew Siders today for discpleship. We had to throw our plan out the window and go help someone in need. That is discpleship too.
  • One of the best parts of my job is the moments when you remember the younger version of someone and are able to see how far they have come. Will Hejduk played drums for the first time tonight. He played his heart out and is still only a freshmen but its neat to know he has been working toward that for years. Kenzie Muckway is becoming quite a worship leader. I can’t help but wonder what we could become in college at some great church in Texas.
  • So much going on right now. I wish I could work an extra 10 day this week and do it all. Right now I am deciding what can go undone, but I really need to do it all.
  • Today was Malachi’s 3rd birthday. I think he only half understood the concept but it was so fun to celebrate with him.
  • I am going to get some fake black rimmed glasses and rock them better than Dwayne Wade and Justin Bieber combined….get ready!



I don’t want to promise an entry and not do it but you can enjoy these videos either way…..


Kalahari Parody Video #1 “Flip Flops” (Tik Tok parody)  

Kalahari Parody Video #2 Kal-a-hari (Black and Yellow Parody) 


Kalahari Parody Video #3 “Love the Way you Slide” (Love the way you lie parody)  

Kalahari Parody Video #4 “Kalahari Gurls” (California Gurls parody) 


Lots going on, lots on the mind. I’ve been avoiding writing a mind dump because I have been watching lots of things unfold and processing.  More than ever I don’t have answers, but here are my thoughts and things rolling around in my head.

  • This is the weirdest year I have had in student ministry, not a bad year but a weird year.
  • Our senior class has been the class our ministry has been built on.
  • Everyone’s first year at a church is just getting situated and so this class is the first class we have brought through in our current configuration.
  • When our numbers went up it was them, they are a big class and they have always brought friends.
  • This year they are M.I.A.
  • Our numbers have taken a hit and its noticeable but that isn’t the issue.
  • What I am ready to cry about is when I start taking mental lists of people we used to minister to and I used to see loving the church who are gone.
  • I guess that is a part of being in ministry and it happens every year and I have seen this before but this year it is epidemic.
  • There is no rule that says if someone doesn’t come to a Wednesday night or a small group for a semester they can’t get into heaven, but it breaks my heart.
  • If you love God you will love his church and it is hard to see them not worshipping or fellowshipping with believers and not be concerned.
  • Naturally this has made me get introspective at our discipleship process.
  • Don’t worry I am not down on my self, I still have problems with liking myself too much, but here is what I am processing and wanting to evaluate fairly.
  • Last year at a conference I heard a pastor say that if Hershey’s had empty wrappers coming out at the end of their factory they would be looking at the process.
  • Our leadership development must get better.
  • Our grace (small) groups must get better. Having said all this we have an amazing core of students on Wednesdays, 7 different small groups, and a great staff.
  • Our worship planning needs to get better and involve more personalities and giftings.
  • I don’t want my schedule, administration, management, creativity, or anything else to bottleneck our ministry.
  • We have all played critic when we see this for someone else and I want to be honest of the ways I am setup to let it take place.
  • Next year we are transitioning to a team that will have elders, deacons, staff, and leaders that will lead our student ministry team and I have been asked to lead that team.
  • I/We need to ask these questions now before the inadequacies in our ministry effect middle school and high school students and staff.
  • The good news of this stuff is that when we are aware of our own shortcomings we see things they way they are and know how much we need God.
  • I am praying for God’s wisdom.


Not every idea I have is a good one, but every once in a while I stumble on something I think is worth sharing.  This concept isn’t rocket science, but it has worked well for us in the stage our high school ministry is in.

I think my setting is unique being in a church of 1,000 people. I have shared it before but we are big enough that there is an expectation for excellence and “big church” things, but we are small enough that people still expect the intimacy and relationships of “small church” culture.  Every church, size, and ministry has its unique challenges and we the youth pastors still have to figure out how to respond.

As our student ministry has grown it has become harder and harder to know everyone personally and still know where they are at in their walk. I can’t talk to everyone on a Wednesday night and I don’t have everyone in my small group anymore. (in fact I don’t even lead a small group, but that is another post for another time)

I decided that I wanted to as best I could, once a year, to have some one-on-one time with as many students as I could. I want to ask how their relationship with their parents is, what God has been teaching them, how their small group is going, where God is taking them as a leader etc. This sounds cool, but lets just say it; your average student won’t make this happen. I can get my student leaders and some others whose parents want me in their life to talk to me, but to have a snapshot of our groups I need to reach the majority.  The majority of our Wednesday night audience doesn’t have time, won’t make time, and/or doesn’t think I am cool enough to meet with on top of already attending Wednesday nights, being in a grace group, and serving weekly.

The solution is dangling a carrot in front of them to make the meeting worth it.  For the last two years I have offered an exclusive t-shirt available only to those who meet with me in these meetings.

I am a t-shirt snob so I got out of my way to make these cool. I get a great design from my friend and even budget to print it on a shirt that people will want.  Here is this years design. American apparel with the cherry on top of foil printing on the shadow.

I put meetings before Wednesdays, after Wednesdays, on Sundays and every day of the week after school. It fills my schedule but it is invaluable to have intimate conversations with that many people and know where they are at, let them know that I value them, and know where they are as it comes to teaching and shepherding the masses.

What do you do to make sure you know your entire ministry as well as possible?


Ministry is often an ego contest. I would be lying if I said I don’t compare myself to others.  That is not a good idea; all you can do is make sure you are being faithful with what God has given you.  I THINK THAT MIGHT BE A STORY IN THE BIBLE.

For that reason WE track the percentage of growth in something since the previous year.  Sometimes stats can look good or bad depending on the context and story. Here are those numbers and some things that HSM is doing well or may need work on based on what we are looking for.

FIRST TIME VISITORS                   UP 5%

(This is up, but not at the level of our overall growth, makes me wonder if we are developing a core, or if we are becoming an aged group whose outreach is slowing down?)

REGISTERED STUDENTS                       UP 26%

(This is the core I talked about. This is great, but must be looked at with outreach. We don’t want a stagnant core.)


(this is just the way of measuring our target audience, no real commentary since it is a combination of the other two above)

ADULT INVOLVEMENT                 UP 61%

(You could look at this and think it is great, and it is, but the reason it is up so much is because we were way understaffed the year before and this was just catch up. We have a long way to go before we are on pace.)


  • I am very aware how lucky I am that I get paid to do what I do for a living. Feeling so blessed and grateful for the ministry God has given Kristin and I.
  • Tonight was the last HSM Wednesday night of the school year.
  • Closed out our facedown series with God is love.
  • I talked out of I Corinthians 13 and talked to our seniors for the last time.
  • We talked about living out love as a response to the love God has shown us.  That means loving yourself as God loves you and loving others as God does.
  • I finally got to tell them that the worst part of my job is seeing them put pics up on facebook in college of beer pong, slutty Halloween, and spring break stuff no one should see.
  • These are not cases of loving yourself as the image of God or loving others.
  • The world cannot see us living empty religious love. That is a clanging gong!
  • Time got away from us and I didn’t get to embarrass our worship band and hospitality staff and tell them what an amazing job they do week in and week out.  If you guys are reading this THANK YOU!
  • Jim Heffner got on the mic and embarrassed me.  He said everyone had to give me a hug before they left.  I was honored and I am a hugger.
  • We have so many great students I am going to miss. The bittersweet part of the job.
  • They aren’t gone forever, it was awesome to have tons of our college people back and coming to the house the last two weeks. Awesome to see them grow up and start talking about marriage counselingJ
  • I mentioned that we pause Wednesday nights for the summer.  Let me explain more….We still have our grace groups meeting and they are student lead, we have 5 different trip options for students, and we have monthly gatherings for large group.  Things do not slow down, they just look different.
  • This time of year is so busy. I actually have a yearly list of things I launch into after our last Wednesday night.
  • Tomorrow Dave Nicodemus and I will have the big Momentum planning session for our pre-session antics.
  • In the next week I will also do major work at clarifying the systems, positions and job-descriptions for HSM next year.
  • This is also the time of year that we do the teaching calendar for next year and gather resources and teaching series ideas. Any ideas from someone reading this?
  • We are also launching into our college ministry for the summer. Excited about the people HSM has developed into this next stage of life.
  • Also going on the yearly shopping trip to try and make our basement music/sound and game room stuff functional again.  Some people are of the persuasion that pool sticks need tips, and mic stands should hold mics. I happen to be one of those people.
  • Doing some big planning for the 2010 Kalahari retreat in the next week too.
  • Finally diving into the world of a mass texting service. We dabbled in it before but are now committing money as email, facebook, and websites just aren’t getting it done. Shoutout to Kelly Coville for doing the admin work as it was no small task to input 500 numbers and find out their cell carrier.
  • 7 years ago, I did an internship at Wooster Grace and lived with Jake Workman’s family. This summer he is interning in Columbus so I found him a family to live with. Can’t wait to hang out with him and put him on some blind dates.
  • I actually have at least two other blind dates brewing between friends of ours I want to meet. That is definitely me and Kristin’sguilty pleasure.
  • I am so pumped for the MTV movie awards this summer. I am really digging Aziz Ansari’s comedy and writing and expect this to be a breakout night for him.
  • I mentioned a few months ago I realized I am not using creativity enough in my life. Over the next months I have arranged a coffee house show, hope to write some songs. Hope to oil paint, am going to dabble in comedy writing and filming some videos for ministry stuff. Not sure what any of it will lead to but I am excited.
  • Graduation party season is right around the corner.  Youth pastors don’t have to buy groceries for these 3 weeks.
  • So much more I could write, but I want to eat a bowl of cereal instead.


I am so far behind on life thoughts. Easter Sunday, Worship Night, and re-doing a whole house on top of normal life leave me no choice but a little mind dump to catch up.

If you follow my Twitter you already know most of this in shorthand.

Easter Sunday

  • Second year in a row I got to lead worship on Easter.
  • To say that it was tiring would be an understatement.
  • We did 3 services like usual but they had a whole lot more people in em.
  • Second service was the fullest our building can handle. I’m glad no fire marshals were in attendance.
  • We kept with what we have been doing on holidays recently and wove music and the message together. The longest Rick ever preached was 7-10 minutes in 3 places.
  • After the services we drove to My Grandma Sands’ 85th birthday party. I missed her 80th when we lived in Indiana during seminary and I was able to redeem myselfJ
  • We also got to hang out with Meme my other grandma.

Home Improvement

  • If you thought this section would be about a crappy sitcom featuring Tim Allen and JTT I apologize. (I bet that comment offended Josh Atkins and Jeff Beckley)
  • We finally finished our woodfloor install. In total it pretty much took four days. Now I just have to put the quarter round on by the base boards but it can wait a while.
  • We also painted the kitchen and back dining room wall a color of gold.
  • We got new countertops. Just laminate nothing special but way better than the butcher block ones we had before that were twenty years old.
  • Didn’t get new cabinets, but we are finally switching out the hardware to something silver from this decade.
  • Tonight I just have to do a ton of clean up and put the fridge back. I can see the light at the end of the home improvement tunnel.

Carrie Underwood

  • Yes I took my wife to see Carrie Underwood. A concert seems to be the best way to trick her into a long date within 6 months of a baby.
  • She was in heaven and I must admit it was a really great show.
  • I didn’t know who the opener was but it turned out if was Craig Morgan so I loved that. He brings out the hick in me pretty quick.
  • Every concert we go to I love to check out the production.
  • I counted at least 90 gobo smart lights in Carrie’s rig…..they probably cost 10k a piece.
  • She also had a giant tree limb drop from the celing…and a rope swing too.
  • The coolest thing she did was have a truck with the bed as a stage go the whole way around the outline of the floor on a cable. Great gimmick to be close to people but still be on a stage and not take up floor seats.
  • I knew that Carrie Underwood was a believer but have recently become more impressed by her faith walk as she gets to write more of her songs and control her artistry. I was really impressed with the overall night including her doing a medley with her new single Temporary Home (talks about being aliens in this world as Christians) into a knockout version of How Great Thou Art.

NCO District Worship Night

  • NCO district worship night on Wednesday was awesome. Here’s a video.
  • We had about 350 people and collected 1250 dollars for student ministry in Africa.
  • Not sure why but my own students didn’t really come out to it; easily our lowest night of the year.  What’s up HSM?
  • The band was great.  Big ups to Jeremy and Terra Bury.
  • Jeremy because he had his licensure exam that morning and handled the stress well.  He is a young theologian.
  • Terra is like 9.5 months pregnant so she deserves a shou tout too.
  • Chris Solyntcjes drove down. That guy has forgotten 10 times more about music, tech, and worship than I will ever know. It was great to see him.
  • My NCO small group friend played bass. He is a young Phil Collins.
  • Vickie Darrough and her team knocked the food out of the park. Hopefully it gives some other ministries a vision for what they can do. Check out this pic

And now, you’re up to date!


Last week I attended the CE Leadership Summit (CELS) for youth workers.  One cool thing they do is collect resources beforehand from people attending and make them available to those in attendance.

One resource I contributed was the yearlong planning sheet we use to plan our Wednesday night teaching and curriculum for the year.  You can view or download the sheet here.

I got some great response and feedback on the sheet so I thought I would put it up. I also thought I would paste in an exchange I had with a friend about it…

1. Is this something you do by yourself or with a team?

I plan that sheet mostly by myself. I mean I pull in Dustin and other many leaders and get their feedback but if I am being honest up until now it has been mostly me. That is not a good thing, I have kept this close to me since it is a passion and strength but this next year I need to involve others in this process.

2. Do you just “re-use” this sheet as a template each year (obviously changing the dates, etc.)?

I do re-use the sheet every year and change things. This was the first year it has had all the stuff as it appears now. We didn’t always do testimonies every night etc.

3. How much time does it take for you to compile all of the series ideas?

I am a blog guy and always checking out sites of curriculum, and what other churches are doing so I am compiling ideas and lists as I see them all year.

When our Wednesday nights settle down in May before Graduation I usually try to hammer the next year out in a week. It obviously gets revised and things change. I will email it to my big 3 volunteers after I have it in the first try form. We use the 7 checkpoint Andy Stanley wrote a book about as a guideline so while a title or direction can change it is pretty solid that in certain blocks we will do a book study.

4. Do you find it pretty easy to stick to it the entire year or do you end up making quite a few series adjustments along the way?

It can be hard to stick to things for the whole year for some guys, my biggest flaw is that I am a planner and usually can stick to a plan too much. This year one of the ways we helped stay flexible and adapt to our students was we put in a series called youpick and let students pick what they wanted us to talk about. So I knew that we were addressing wherever they were in the month of Feb-March. Other than that I think I usually have a pretty good idea going in what we will need.