Service to a just cause rewards the worker with more real happiness and satisfaction than any other venture of life. – Carrie Chapman Catt

It is absolutely true that oftentimes the people volunteering feel like they are getting as much out of it if not more than those they are supposedly helping. Why? Here are some of the most common reasons I’ve heard:

Knowledge. Volunteering can teach you things about the world that you didn’t even know you didn’t know, whether the experience happens on another continent or right in your backyard. You might discover something about a particular group of people that makes you rethink the previous views that you held, or learn how the ostensibly helpful systems we have in place are actually keeping certain problems from getting better. And I can’t tell you how many people say they feel like the experience of volunteering taught them a lot of things about themselves good and bad and showed them how to be better.

Skills. When you volunteer, you might come away from the experience knowing how to do just about anything it really just depends on the kind of volunteer work you’re doing. Builders for Habitat for Humanity learn a number of skills related to house-building, including carpentry and teamwork, but those who volunteer in other departments might learn transferable skills in administration, marketing, leadership, and more. Chances are, if you can think of a skill you might need in the workforce, it’s something that you might be expected to do somewhere as a volunteer.

Experience. Knowledge and skills are great, but what’s especially powerful about volunteer work is that, depending on the kind of activities you were engaged in, many employers look at almost as another type of job experience. Cooking in a soup kitchen for a year is great experience for someone looking to make meals in the food industry, especially if you can add to it some formal training in the classroom. In fact, this kind of experience can be incredibly important in times like this where jobs are scarce and it’s difficult to get an entry level position to get the work experience you need.

Joy. How can you beat the smiles of an entire village in Africa after you dig a well that will provide them with drinkable water for the next three generations? Or the tears of happiness shed by a family after you fix their home that was ravaged by a storm? Or the look of relief on the face of a mother as you hand her Christmas gifts so that she doesn’t have to tell her children that they won’t be getting anything that year?

Perspective. No one has an easy life, but if you ever start feeling like the world is out to get you and sabotage your success or happiness, I recommend volunteering. Nothing puts things in perspective quite like seeing families dig through dumpsters together or be thankful that they have a roof over their heads even though they live in a shantytown in Brazil where each family’s house is little more than a metal box. Most volunteers end up heading for home happier than when they arrive if for no other reason than they are thankful for all that they now realize they have.

Aileen Pablo is part of the team behind Open Colleges and <a href=””>InformED</a>, one of Australia’s leading providers of Open Learning and <a href=””>distance education</a>.

It is a passion for Jeffrey and myself to ensure that youthworkers feel well resourced. I have read on more than one occasion that a top reason ANYONE leaves serving in ANY ministry is they feel ill equipped and untrained. There are times when we are extremely blessed to have those around us purposing to build into us. However, I have found many times the growth process is up to me. This is why whether you are what they call a “reader” or not, I would say that books are an important part of the process. There are different areas where we need to get stronger, one is in general leadership.


Here are two of my all time favorite leadership books:


In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership by Henri J. M. Nouwenname of jesus

Reason: A great primer for what true servant-leadership is and how it looks.

Synopsis: “Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker with an unusual capacity to write about the life of Jesus and the love of God in ways that have inspired countless people to trust life more fully. Most widely read among the over 40 books Father Nouwen wrote is In the Name of Jesus. For a society that measures successful leadership in terms of the effectiveness of the individual, Father Nouwen offers a counter definition that is witnessed by a “communal and mutual experience.” For Nouwen, leadership cannot function apart from the community. His wisdom is grounded in the foundation that we are a people “called.” This beautiful guide to Christian Leadership is the rich fruit of Henri Nouwen’s own journey as one of the most influential spirtiual leaders of the 20th century.”

tribes 2Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin
Reason: A quick and easy read on learning who you are gathering with you to leverage your vision.

A tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). It’s our nature.
Now the Internet has eliminated the barriers of geography, cost, and time. All those blogs and social networking sites are helping existing tribes get bigger. But more important, they?re enabling countless new tribes to be born?groups of ten or ten thousand or ten million who care about their iPhones, or a political campaign, or a new way to fight global warming.
And so the key question: Who is going to lead us?
The Web can do amazing things, but it can’t provide leadership. That still has to come from individuals? people just like you who have passion about something. The explosion in tribes means that anyone who wants to make a difference now has the tools at her fingertips.
If you think leadership is for other people, think again leaders come in surprising packages. Consider Joel Spolsky and his international tribe of scary-smart software engineers. Or Gary Vaynerhuck, a wine expert with a devoted following of enthusiasts. Chris Sharma leads a tribe of rock climbers up impossible cliff faces, while Mich Mathews, a VP at Microsoft, runs her internal tribe of marketers from her cube in Seattle. All they have in common is the desire to change things, the ability to connect a tribe, and the willingness to lead.
If you ignore this opportunity, you risk turning into a sheepwalker someone who fights to protect the status quo at all costs, never asking if obedience is doing you (or your organization) any good. Sheepwalkers don’t do very well these days.
Tribes will make you think (really think) about the opportunities in leading your fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers. . . . It’s not easy, but it’s easier than you think.”


If you have read these pass them along to someone you know, or I would even say read them again!

(Both of these can be found at


Weekend Teaching Series: You Own the Weekend: Capo High School (week 3 of 5)

Sermon in a Sentence: We try to fill our life with so many things … but only Christ fills.
Service Length:
 63 minutes

Understandable Message: This week two students took on the message they had chosen – Nikki (I blogged a little bit about her last week already) and Bryce (the president of the school’s FCA). Both of them were incredibly comfortable on stage and did a great job teaching about the hole inside all of us that students try to fill with so many different things. They were both honest about their past journey and struggles and really helped students understand their searching for what they hope fills them is a perilous and in the end, empty pursuit. They did a great job!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Great environment this weekend – the coffee cup became synonimous with the idea that Christ fills, so the room was decorated with lots of cups and coffee beans. They also had a funny video about Jesus pouring water on people, helping them realize they needed His filling. Lots of student greeters and energy.

Music Playlist: Cups [Anna Kendrick cover], Go, Our God, God Above All

Favorite Moment: The inflatable cougar mascot head filling up our whole entryway. Love it. Oh, and the high school principal came to youth group. So awesome!

Up next: You Own the Weekend: El Toro High School (week 4 of 5)

DSC_0117Confession time. Too many times I have joined in with other youth workers to complain about the parents. Why can’t they be less:




Pushing their kids on us to raise.

For some of us it feels like the student is dropped at the curb in a drive by. Others are picking kids up and the parents are nowhere to be found. I came to believe the lie.

My opinions were formulated from a mix of observation, speculation and complication of the truth of their lives. I never realized maybe I was listening many times to one side of the story, the student’s. Often we take the facts they share and attach our own emotion and motives to the story. For the youth whose parents were just “too far gone,” I told them to simply “endure,” until they can move on and out.

There is a great flaw in this line of thinking however, hope is no longer in the moving of the Spirit or the power of Christ. Instead we believe only in what we can see. It is true that hurting people hurt people and broken people break people. Could it be true that healed people bring healing?


Here is the problem:


1. Our student’s are waiting for their parents to “show up.”

I remember this one student who had a horrific home life. His grandmother was raising him because his own Mom was a crack addict. His grandmother was so old she could barely care for him. They lived in a shack with no running water in the house, he “showered” with a hose outside. He had never met his father, but knew who he was and heard his name around town. You name it and this kid probably had gone through it. One day I thought I was taking “his” side when I made an off-handed comment about his Mom abandoning him. His response to me was, “My Mom loves me. Are you saying she doesn’t?” No matter how much of a failure how much of a failure his family had been he had a hope deep within. Perhaps, one day it would all change.


2. You never stop wanting your parent’s approval.

I know adults who are still hoping their parents will tell them they are proud of them. There is something about this person who brought you into the world telling you they love you and believe in you that makes a difference. There is power when a parent tells a child of their acceptance. This may never come. However, we need to tell students that their identity is in Christ. We need to remind parents gently how much their kids need to hear them say, “I love you.”

3. The Lord wants to restore the family. All of them.

No one is meant to “get by” in life. We are meant to thrive resting in the peace of Christ. The Lord looks into every heart and sees a lost child who needs to come home. I have three close friends who heard about the Lord, by their children going to youth group first. With each of them there was someone (along with their child) who reached out and said, “This is for you too, we care about you. This relationship will transform your whole family.”

I think it works this way:

Changed parent = changed family= changed neighborhood= changed world

When the parent knows who they are in Christ, everything changes. As the family unit transforms the light gets brighter to their friends and neighbors on where their hope lies. The cycle starts over and the world is made different.

For me I have been convicted I must stop focusing on what parents “aren’t. Instead I must see them with the eyes of Christ, and bring healing.

Recently, I got one of my good friends to help me co-lead my small group. Leading a small group is his very first taste of youth ministry and it has been such a cool thing to be a part of. One of the cool parts about helping him is realizing how much God has taught me about leading a small group over the past three years. I thought I would share three of the most important lessons that I shared with him:

-It’s all about the discussion! Small group isn’t the place the lecture. Too often, small group leaders take up their entire lesson sharing what they want to talk about. While I admire their passion for sharing what God has put on their heart, small group is a place where students learn and discover, and a part of the process is making them do a little work. Small group is a place for students to grow together as a group. They should be processing and engaging with each other. As a small group leader, we are simply there to facilitate a conversation. Always find a way to get them talking and engaging with the material. They should be speaking WAY more than you should be.

-Meet them where they are at. I feel like this is something that many first year small group leaders struggle with. Part of being a small group leader is being intuitive. You need to be able to feel out where your students are at. I think some first time leaders go into it expecting high school students to know a lot about the Bible already, so they plan lessons about advanced doctrine. The truth is, many students aren’t ready for that, many students still can’t even tell you the Gospel! We have to see where are students are at in their faith and meet them there. Don’t wait for them to catch up to where you want them to be, go back and help them get there.

-You have to invest in social stock. I was talking with a small group leader about spending time with students and he didn’t see the point of just getting lunch with a student without a deep, life-changing conversation. What he hadn’t realized yet is the power of social stock. You can’t expect every student to immediately open up to you. You need to build social stock. Every inside joke, every Starbucks run, every midnight Denny’s breakfast builds your stock with them, allowing them to learn to respect you, trust you, and feel comfortable being vulnerable around you. Social stock is what takes a student from just hearing you, to listening to you. It is what lets you speak truth into their lives. This social stock is one of the most powerful tools we have in relational ministry.

What is one thing you would make sure to tell a first time small group leader?

Colton [Email||Twitter]

2011-12-21_14-08-11_426I looked up from my seat on a crowded plane to see a teen boy followed by his Dad. Heading towards their seat, it appeared all the overhead bins were full. The boy calls out to the Dad, I think mine can fit here. Can you put it up for me? Dad barks back, “Just this once could you actually do something for yourself. I can’t help you, can’t you see that.” It appears this is not the first time this young man has felt the sting of his father’s words. Later as I visit the bathroom I notice both Dad and son wear matching scowls, sitting side by side, avoiding eye contact.

I was stuck in the middle seat on this 4-hour flight. On either side of me sat two more Dads. To my left was a man who had not seen his family in 4 months. He had four daughters the youngest of which was in 8th grade. He worked for the State Department fighting terrorists in 3rd world countries. This meant that he was stationed at an American embassy in the Middle East, for months at a time and then would come home for a month “off.” To my right sat a gentleman who worked for the national railroad commission. He ensures that trains literally don’t fall off their tracks. He is a father to three boys, the youngest of which was 15. His work took him away three weeks out of the month, then he was home for a week. Both of these father’s were away from home for extended periods of time. Both described themselves as “close to their families.” They would “Skype” nightly so that they could talk to their families face to face. While the time away was difficult at least they were home for a whole week or month with total focus. They were not climbing the “corporate ladder” for themselves; instead they felt like they were being good caretakers of their families. The man with the railroad lives on 10 acres and provides all his wife and boys could ever want. The State Department guy has already paid for two college educations and plans to pay for the two not yet out of high school. His greatest desire is to give his girls a leg up without starting their “adult lives” in debt.

It was obvious from the conversation both of these guys loved their families deeply. They believed with their whole selves that they “had to do this,” so they “could take care of everyone.” Yet, both hung their heads with regret. Although they joked about the way their wives like to “spend their money,” sadness crossed their faces. For one he said, “My son plays football however, I miss so many games. I can’t ever coach a team, and I barely see what they do, I feel so disconnected from their lives.” The other whispered, “If I can make this schedule for just one more year I will be able to be transferred anywhere I want. Then I can be with my family again. Honestly, I am not sure I can make it another year. This is just too much.”

Did you catch it? Regret, the common thread of this tale.

One father doesn’t know how to talk to his son. Another wants his family to enjoy life, but rarely gets to see them play. The last is making sure they are educated, while missing out on the day to day interaction of teaching life lessons.

Three families suffering under the weight of disconnect: physical, spiritual and emotional. Provision or a barked phrase is not replacing intimate relationship. Without Christ they genuinely believe this is the only choice.

We are bending under the weight of students growing up without Dad’s for one reason or another. I was convicted how some of these fathers are crippled by guilt in this.

My question would be if these students came through the doors of our youth group with issues would we immediately play the blame game? I might.

How can we reach out to Dads like this and let them know there is something else they could do?

How do we help?

Please share your ideas?

99_thoughts_for_guysThere are actually 3 dudes behind the book 99 Things Every Guy Should Know. JEFFREY WALLACE is the President & CEO of Front Line Urban Resources, MIKE HAMMER is a youth pastor and MATTY MCCAGE works on the youth ministry team at Group Publishing.

What’s the story behind the book, 99 Things Every Guy Should Know? The story behind 99 Thoughts basically came from the fact that Matty, Mike, and I are all fathers of boys and we all desperately shared the desire to do whatever we could to try and make sure they did not make some of the same mistakes we made growing up. We all agreed that if there was some type of manual, road map for young men, or resource out there, besides “true love waits”, when we were growing up, we may not have made some of the same decisions and mistakes. We also wanted to leave a legacy for our boys that they could look back on and be proud of and at the same time, help other young men who do not have a father in their life, a positive male role model, or just simply have typical male Adolescent issues and questions about the journey of life.

Matty, I know you had a lot of struggles you could share about growing up. Can you share one that was cut from the book? Growing up, my dad was in the house but he wasn’t totally engaged in me and my siblings lives. My dad believed in the saying, “do as I say, not as I do”. And because of that, my father never really talked to me much about what it meant to be a real man. Our sex talk consisted of him bringing a condom and a banana in my room, putting the condom on a banana and then telling me, “don’t bring any babies in this house!”. I learned about being a man from my older brother and hanging out with my boys in the streets. And as you can imagine, that wasn’t the best examples to have as a curious teenager. As a result of the way I was raised and the lack of guidance from my father, I got into any and everything. I struggled with what it meant to be godly man even though mom took us to church weekly and I honestly had a desire to be spiritual. I knew there was more to life than what I saw, I just didn’t know how to obtain it. As I got older, I struggled even more with making proper decisions when it came to my future, relationships, lust, sex, and struggles with porn, Finances and handling money, my education, and the type of people I should allow in my life….you name it, i struggled with it. I was totally lost and I had no one to guide me but my big brother, the homies on the block, and what Tupac, Biggie Smalls, and Jay Z taught me through their music. As a teenager, I equated success with things and masculinity with the number of girls I was talking to. Basically I had no clue! I so wish I had this book to give me some type of insight and perspective on the things I needed to know as a young man.

What would be the best way to use the book? Just give it to the guys and be done with it, journey through it together as a small group, graduation gift? This book can be used in small groups as discussion items or trending topics, gifts for rising ninth graders and graduating seniors, or for any young man that you know does not have a consistent role model or influential male voice in their life and they’re unsure about the answers to specific issues that they’re struggling with. They need help when it comes to their journey to becoming a healthy and productive young man.

What were some other topics you were hoping to cover that didn’t make the 99? Some other topics I would have love to cover in the book is how to recover from grief and tragedy, a deeper conversation about how to bounce back from rejection, disappoints, and set backs, and how to deal with being molested, abused, or abandon. I believe a lot of these hard issues are very much a reality for a lot more young men today then we know or believe.

If you could give one piece of advice to a freshman guy coming into high school this Fall, what would you tell him? My middle son Christopher is a freshman this year in high school and if I could give other freshmen a piece of advice, I will tell them like I told my son; enjoy the journey, but take it one day at a time. Take your time and develop a rhythm that works for you. Be true to who you are and don’t try to be something that you’re not. The investment that you make in your self today will dictate your journey and destiny tomorrow.

Thanks for your time, guys! Get the book here!


Had an interesting conversation with a youth worker this week about the pain of leaving his denomination over some issues they are taking different sides on. Made me think about my own allegiances, my upbringing and the state of denominations and youth workers. Inspired this week’s poll – vote now!