Maybe it is not the best but it is FREE.  I really like the idea of “Open Source” software and “Freeware.” I have a few lists here of some things that can be very helpful. That said, not all FREE software is great…just FREE. Here is a well organized layout of open source downloads. Some of this is better than stuff you pay for but sometimes you get what you pay for…


And the winners of the ThinkGeek Shock Ball are…

This weekend our team made a funny video about making a funny video. Made me laugh …


I’ve been a Youth Pastor for nearly 20 years now and for almost every one of those years I’ve taken my students on a mission trip. I’ve taken large groups and small groups, affluent teens and homeless teens, football star types and head banger types, and just about everything in between. I’ve seen the football player types pray with the headbanger types then break into a game of Ninja with some math Olympian types. I’ve seen affluent teens with everything in the world stand in shocked silence at the realization that not everyone lives like them. I’ve had shy, I-can’t-do-anything-right sort of kids turn into I-did-it sort of kids when they stand back and watch with pride as their resident wheels down the ramp they built. I’ve had many, many teens give their lives to Christ on a mission trip. I’ve come to expect that the lives of my students will be changed by their experiences on a mission trip. This year though, I got to experience a different side of things. I learned first hand how a Group Mission Trip can change not only the lives of the students who attend, but the church as a whole.

Last year, my church became a lodging facility for Week of Hope – which means that we hosted teens from all over the country during the months of June, July and August. There were teenagers everywhere. Shower tents were setup in the parking lot, the dumpster overflowed with trash, on any given Sunday morning you were sure to find towels, t-shirts or boxers left to dry on the bushes. One day someone sat on a table and it split right down the middle. Another person stuck their foot through the glass door. On the very first Monday of the summer every single toilet and drain in the whole church over flowed….at once. As we were running around trying to stop the great flood of 2011 a burning smell came from behind the sanctuary and the power went out in one side of the building. A few weeks later the air conditioning went out. It was July. In Florida. This was not good. Our roof is now permanently littered with Frisbee’s and our once pristine parlor..well…isn’t.

It was fantastic!

If the fact that our almost 60 year old building survived isn’t proof enough of God’s divine intervention in the world, the reaction of our older members surely is. When arriving at our very traditional, stained glassed building on Sunday morning to find someone’s forgotten boxers lying across the courtyard wall, our senior members would smile, pick them up, bring them to me and say, “Looks like they worked their pants off this week.” When asked to move every single meeting and gathering of every single group in the church to another location for the entire summer, our oldest members said, “Well, let’s meet at Sue’s house and call it a party.” As I stood on the sideline I watched as my congregation opened their arms to strangers, happily changed their regular schedules and graciously over looked the crumbs in the classrooms, stains on the carpet and grease in the kitchen. Instead, they focused on the hearts opened, lives changed and love given.

Was it a challenge for my church? Yes. Was it difficult at times? Yes. Would it have been easier not to have so many teenagers living in our church? Yes. Would we do it again? Yes, in fact we are this summer. My church is a changed church. No longer a sub-group of the church, teenagers are now embraced and welcomed as a vital part of the larger church. As a result of this welcome, the number of teens in our church has doubled. The mission work of our church has moved from collections and check writing to personal, relational service. Our folks have been praying for this years’ teens, adults and staff all year long. Our focus isn’t on what might break or go wrong, but on all the ways God will show up in the chaos.

Jennyfer Norvell has been in youth ministry for about 20 years.  She currently serves alongside her husband at a church in downtown Orlando, FL.  She takes her students on a mission trip nearly every year and this past year led her church to become the host location for an entire summer mission trip experience.

I contribute occasionally to the Slant33 blog where they ask 3 youth ministry voices to chime in on the same topic. This week’s topic is leading from the middle and Kara Powell, Chris Folmsbee and I all discuss it. Here’s a clip from my section, head there for all three takes:

Leading up helps those above see a missing perspective. Here’s why you need to lead from the middle: Your senior pastor isn’t seeing the full picture. He or she has blind spots in areas that your perspective lets you see perfectly. How dare you let them fail while predicting the net failure quietly from the silent middle? I am fully aware of the problem of senior leaders who don’t listen to their people. They exist in every church, and I’m guilty of it too. But that doesn’t mean you should stop leading from the middle.

A few parting thoughts about leading from the middle: It may be interpreted as insubordination at first. In fact, it probably will be. Some people will wish you would take a rowboat back to Youth Ministry Island and never come back. If you bring up problems, you better have some ideas that may work as solutions. Your church will be healthier when you lead up.



 —  April 27, 2012 — Leave a comment




A sweet and dear friend of ours died yesterday. Cancer stinks. It is an injustice. It is not fair, not good, not right. It leaves us with more questions than answers, more confusion than comfort. There are no words that can heal. There is nothing more to be done.

So we gather together. We sit. We pray (mostly we acknowledge our own quiet tears as sacred unspoken prayers).  And we look to those who make Jesus feel more accessible- even when we feel like he is hiding from us in our desperation.

I am learning that it isn’t always necessary to  find the solution and understanding in life. But to just BE. To be quiet can be the kindest act of Jesus, to be still can show the most compassion and comfort. And to offer the strength of my arms to carry or hold my friend that has fallen can be the closest thing to Jesus that I can be.

As God is constantly realigning my heart for ministry I want this to translate as I encounter hurting people in my life. The learning is painful.  But there is such beauty in the hands and feet of Jesus.


OK, so I was radio silent for a bit because I got hit with a major flu and am I thankful to God! I mean, because  it happened while I was home for 8 days and not while on the road. God cares about us so much that He even watches out for the little things. It was so much better, declaring my impending death while wheezing/sneezing from my own petri dish bed than in a strange hotel somewhere, under the pressure of someone having paid me to present my infectious self.

Speaking of dropping out…we’ve all got grads in our lives that didn’t so. So before my quarantine, I said I’d be posting my grad ideas. Here’s the next round:

1) GRAD PILLOW: Youth members write notes of encouragement on a pillowcase for each grad. Present the pillowcase (with pillow!) to each grad for sweet college dreams.

2) GRAD MORNING COFFEE CAKE: Using ready-made mixes, have your youth bake a coffee cake  for each grad. Deliver it to their door early on Grad day with a note: “To start your big day off right.”

3) GRADUATION CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT: Jump start each grad’s personal Christmas ornament collection by having your group make “2006 Grad” ornaments. Provide plain ornaments, paint pens, sequins, ribbons, etc., or customize each ornament with computer-generated clear labels.

4) GRAD THEATER: Put your media techies to work! Shoot secret footage of each grad or get family videos and make a short movie. Beg a local theater owner into showing the film during an off time and invite your church. Offer the theater owner free advertising in church publications or guarantee lots of snack sales.

5) GRAD PARENTS: Ask parents of past graduates to share grad ideas with this year’s parents. Topics could include party ideas, available decorations, ways to support their grad, tips for getting past “empty nest” syndrome, etc.

More to come, my friends.  A fellow Youth Ministry Architects consultant just published a new book for grads and so I’m going to send you the link and review as soon as I get it.







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