Tyler Braun is a pastor from Portland, Oregon whose first book, Why Holiness Matters, just released. Learn about an exclusive offer for purchasing the book. You can find Tyler on Twitter or his blog, manofdepravity.com.

What inspired you to write the book?

Almost two years ago I began to think about what I lost in not valuing my innocence throughout my adolescent years. I began to think about how Christian culture places such a incredible focus on authenticity and brokenness about sin that we can easily have people believing they need a past in order to fit in.
From there I had a conversation with an author who told me she was concerned about my generation’s lack of desire for holiness. I immediately drew the connection between my lack of innocence to my lack of holiness. And I saw how my own life story of not valuing innocence, getting comfortable with sin, and then waging a war with my shame, was really a story about holiness (or lack thereof). This is what inspired the book.

What has been your experience in the church personally and what are your hopes and dreams for what it could become?

Having been a pastor’s kid my entire life, all I’ve ever known is going to church and being involved at church. Whether it be Sunday morning service dramas where I had to wear make up or the endless amount of youth group all-nighters, I’ve done almost every crazy thing there is to do at the local church level. More than that though, I’ve grown up in the church growth movement where focus was given toward how to do church rather than why to do church.
My dreams for the church are to continue getting the why down right before we ever consider how to do church. The church is the hope of the world as long as the relationships within lead closer to Christ. We need churches that continue to sacrifice themselves for the sake of allowing those without hope to have hope.

What is most frustrating to you about the faith of the Millennial Generation?

We want to do a lot without being anything. I think we’ve gotten the Christian life flipped around. We focus so much on activism and being engaged in the world around us that we can forget who has sent us out. Church becomes unnecessary when the entirety of faith is about what we do. And we’ve seen this reflected in the gaping hole most churches have between the ages of 15 and 35.
Someone recently told me regarding our cultural engagement efforts, the fruit looks great, but we’ve lost the vine, which is Christ.
Allowing Christ’s love for us to push us out into loving others can often become a human effort where we love others in order to impress them and God. Rather than seeing where we messed this up, we instead blame the church for being out of touch. We must come back to Christ and begin by allowing His love for us to shape us.

Tell us an authentic story about yourself to prove you’re not a robot.

In college I played intramural basketball with a bunch of my friends and during one game the other team had a girl who decided to guard me. She told me just to play my normal game. I’m a competitive guy so I didn’t think anything of it. I was going to make the team pay for putting a girl on me.
I went off in that game. I’ve had some hot shooting streaks in my day but nothing like this. I made 11 three-pointers that game. It felt as if I was playing NBA Jam circa 1998 in real life. But more than all those made shots I remember this girl guarding me tough when I was in the corner. I weaved the ball around and my elbow just clipped her nose. In the midst of the best game of my life I managed to become the schmuck who elbowed a girl in the face. I think I apologized to her 25 times that night.
But it worked out because that girl became my wife 3 years later.

I assume a follow-up book is planned or you’ve got something coming up next. Fill us in!

I’m going to be releasing an ebook on mentoring tentatively titled, “How to Find and Thrive With a Mentor.” The set up is my own story of going mentor-less for over 5 years, and then I provide some needed principles for a Millennial to seek after and then find someone to speak into their life. I think it’s a practical but needed guidebook for many based on tons of conversations I’ve had with others who want a mentor but can’t find one.

Beyond that, I’m kicking around some ideas for a 2nd book to follow up Why Holiness Matters, but nothing is set in stone right now. I’ll continue to serve diligently at my church, and write as time allows. I believe God calls us to speak into the vast emptiness of our world. That work never ends.

Thanks, Tyler. Looking forward to reading your new book!


One of our camp speakers this past week, Mark Moore, encouraged us to share a teaching he gave about boys becoming men. Thought there was some good stuff in here as well as something you could adjust/base a great guys trip or man challenge on:

  1. His Person:
    1. Honor vs. Selfishness—Are you a man of honor? Like a Christian Jack Bauer, you are driven by a higher code, a vision that calls for a whole-life sacrifice. You are willing to lay down your life for a higher cause, particularly the least and lost of the nation. Characterized by:
      1. a)  Obedience to law (esp. honor your father and mother)
      2. b)  Patriotic—you are moved by sacred moments in worship, preaching, ceremonies, etc.
    2. Respect vs. myopia—While honor is about you as a man, respect is about the other. You have the capacity to look beyond your own little world to recognize who is standing before you and the life they have lived that merits your attention, respect, and subservience. Characterized by:
      1. a)  Respectful address (Sir/Ma’am, titles, respecting elders, women, etc.)
      2. b)  Opening doors, not cutting off elders.
  2. His Possessions
    1. Gratitude vs. Entitlement—A man doesn’t expect grants, privileges, advantages, or handouts. The only thing you have the right to expect is the opportunity for an honest day’s work. Characterized by:
      1. a)  Profuse thanks.
      2. b)  Notes of gratitude.
    2. Financial integrity vs. greed—You manage your finances well and are generous.
        1. a)  Tithe
        2. b)  No debt
        3. c)  Generous giving—gifts, tips, tokens
  3. His Practices
    1. Discipline vs. unreliability—You are regular, reliable, and consistent in your rhythms of life.
      1. a)  Study, work, play, exercise like clockwork.
      2. b)  Sleep and eat on schedule and with disciplined balance.
    2. Priorities vs. frivolity—A man attends to the important business of life without getting sucked into the vortex of computer/video games, technological gadgets, addictions, workaholism, outdoor recreation, etc.
      1. a)  Do the hard things first.
      2. b)  Fast from food, media, technology, etc.
  4. His Postures
    1. Humility vs. arrogance—Biblical humility is not so much how you feel about yourself as how you treat the other person.
      1. a)  Pick up litter on the ground, take out the trash
      2. b)  Eat with freshmen, serve in the nursery
    2. Honesty vs. deception—“A lie is any deceit in word, act, attitude, or silence.” Are you a man of your word?
      a) Correct every deception in your life.
      b) Keep your door unlocked.

      5. His Purposes

  1. Purity vs. “swayability”—are you the same person in the locker room, bedroom, dinner table, and girlfriend’s house?
    1. a)  Carry a Bible
    2. b)  Provide your mentor with a short list of questions to hold you accountable.
  2. Wisdom vs. foolishness—Do you make healthy decisions?
    1. a)  Read and digest Proverbs
    2. b)  Grill men of wisdom
    3. c)  Guard media
    4. d)  Filter friends through parents and spiritual mentors

Mark Moore is the teaching pastor at Christ Church of the Valley in Arizona and is a regular speaker at church camps and Christ in Youth events. Follow him on Twitter right here.

Weekend Teaching Series: Workshop Weekend (1-off)
Sermon in a Sentence: 4 different options for messages – choose your own message weekend!

Service Length: 39 minutes + 40 minute workshop

Understandable Message: This weekend we had the first 1/3 of our service together then for the message divided up into 4 different workshops. We tried to have a good cross-section of topics, here they are:

  • COPYCAT: What does it actually mean to be a Christian?
  • SPIRITUAL WARFARE: Putting on the whole armor of God
  • THE CHRISTIAN CONDITION: Lukewarm living
  • UNPLUGGED: When you feel disconnected from God

Each of them was really great – I got chance to bounce around to all of them and it was super fun to hear different voices teaching biblical truth. Each speaker had a handout and was well-prepared for their message. All in all a total success!

Element of Fun/Positive Environment: Chip Bragg (one of our key volunteers) kicked things off with a great welcome and greeting time, in honor of prom [3 of our biggest schools all had them this weekend] he came out in his tuxedo and wowed us all. So fun! We also welcomed our summer interns and had a little fun with them on stage as well.

Music Playlist: Rise and Sing, The Earth is Yours, Forever Reign

Favorite Moment: We did a Rwanda mission trip commissioning at the 6:30 service and it was really special. Loved seeing the students who have given so much time, money and energy to go on this trip be prayed over by their peers, parents and HSM team. Such a great time!

Up next: Senior Weekend (1-off)

Developing a spiritual growth plan for students sounds like a great idea, but its execution can be difficult. I’ve talked to some youth workers whose experience actually rivaled an execution. But don’t give up–it is possible. Part 1 in this series emphasized creating a healthy ministry environment parents can support, and part 2 offered strategies on how to overcome the challenges in doing so. This post features many of the additional questions that arise from the process:

How do I generate an interest in discipleship?
You don’t. Only God’s Spirit can truly cause people to desire to grow in their faith. You can, however, whet their appetite. Cast vision constantly for what a faith-filled life looks like. The ideal examples should come from your team and others in your church. Tell stories of what God is doing in your life, but be sure to include plenty of failure stories. You want to give students a picture of what to strive for, but we all know you’re not a super hero. So let someone else massage your ego and help students know how a Spirit-filled believer responds to failure. Everyone identifies with failure. You want students saying, “God can even use him? There’s hope for me after all!”

What do I do when my pastor doesn’t like my spiritual growth plan?
Be careful on this one, from two perspectives. First, are you sure your pastor doesn’t like it, or are you disappointed because he/she challenged a few areas? There’s a difference. Second, use this as an opportunity to discuss spiritual growth with your pastor. Is there already a plan in place for the church? How can you support that? If not, ask your pastor if you can run a pilot program with the students.

What do I do when parents ignore my efforts to disciple their kids?
Parents want the best for their kids. That’s why they yell and scream and argue with referees at games. (Also likely why they may have yelled and screamed at you.) Don’t assume their disinterest in your program means they don’t care. It’s possible they just don’t understand what you want from them or their student. They might also be intimidated. While you’d expect parents to be excited to see their kids grow spiritually, it might also threaten them, as that’s one area for which they have no control. The best response is dialogue with the family. Find out what they think of the spiritual growth plan and whether or not they have feedback.

What is spiritual maturity?
Ah, an excellent question! Always good to define terms; otherwise, we’re aiming at a moving target. I’m a big fan of a book called Personal Disciplemaking by Chris Adsit. He offers the following definition for a Christian disciple:

“A disciple is a person-in-process who is eager to learn and apply the truths that Jesus Christ teaches him, which will result in ever-deepening commitments to a Christ-like lifestyle.”

I like it. Short and sweet. You’ll find a variety of definitions but for me two key phrases are “person-in-process” and “eager to learn.” We’ll never be done. We’ll always be growing, or have areas in which we can grow. But take time to identify the one or two or nine key areas you want to develop in the lives of students.

I’m the only youth worker. How can I disciple all the students by myself?
You can’t. Don’t even try. Love and encourage all the students, but focus on 1 or 2. Talk to people in your church. They may not be ready to commitment to being part of the youth team, but they might agree to invest in the lives of one or two students. Pray for additional teammates, and don’t be afraid to invite people you work with or live near to be part of your team. It’s not easy being the only person, but you’ve got a vital ministry.

There are many more questions to be asked. Is there a youth worker network in your area? Take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people. There are more questions about ministry than there are answers, so don’t be afraid to ask them. And there’s never a perfect answer, so learn all you can, pray like crazy, and do you best. Thank you for your investment in the lives of students and their families!

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!

Creating a culture of spiritual growth is hard work. It’s easy to talk about but quite a challenge to do so. It is a bit odd (and sad) that churches aren’t more open to spiritual growth, but any resistance is simply human nature doing what it does best: fight

Of course, even when you prayerfully and methodically take time to establish that your church and ministry is indeed a “spiritual growth zone,” be prepared for the following three obstacles. But take heart, there are solutions.

Challenge #1: Busyness
I addressed the topic of misplaced priorities in another entry, “spiritual maturity: a note to parents.” While I don’t have time to address it thoroughly here, it’s a big deal. And as a parent, I can tell you I am often guilty. I’ve got plenty of good reasons why my children are involved in a million and one things…to the detriment of their spiritual growth…so I can use a friendly (read: kind) reminder from time to time

More and more kids are growing up in single parent homes, and for those with two parents at home, more than 60% of them have both parents working outside the home. As a result, many families try to keep their kids busy. Some declare it’s just to keep their kids out of trouble, while others believe kids need as impressive a resume as possible in order to get into a good college. Regardless, quite often, both kids and parents end up exhausted, emotionally and physically. And since time often doesn’t allow for spiritual development, families deplete themselves in that area, too.

Solution: Focus on the parents. When families are over-committed, they’re also likely feeling guilty, so be sympathetic and encourage them. Celebrate any effort they make and work hard to establish a “guilt free” persona. You want parents feeling refreshed when they talk to you, not beat up. Once a month, provide a brief overview (no more than 1/2 a page) of upcoming lessons, along with 2-3 drive-time or dinner-time follow-up questions. Think short and sweet and be encouraged by any spiritual conversations they have.

Challenge #2: Laziness
I don’t think many people are lazy. We just find too much fulfillment in sedentary activities. How can I do a Bible study when I need more time to beat my friend’s video score? Why should I serve at a retirement community when I am intimidated by older people?

Solution: Students need vision and a challenge. First, it’s important to be sure you are providing worthwhile reasons for spiritual growth activities…more than “WWJD.” Secondly, students need to be challenged, followed by more challenges. Or they need to be challenged, followed by encouragement. The different strategy depends on the personality of the student and the relationship you or another leader has with that student.

It’s important to handle this distinction with prayer, because your attempt at motivating a student could drive him or her away. Still, don’t allow fear to paralyze you. As long as students know you care and are ready to engage with them when they’re ready, you’re in good shape.

Challenge #3: Disinterest
Face it: some students could care less. They only show up because they’ll be grounded if they don’t, so like a prison sentence, they’re doing their time.

Solution: Love and encourage them. Essentially, disciple from a distance. Students may not want to have a relationship with you or God, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything possible to build into them. Write notes, go to their games, plus any other ministry means that will allow them to see the love of Christ through you. You may never get a ‘thank you’ note from them, but you probably don’t get many anyway, so show and tell the love of Christ with great abandon!

Youth workers are resilient. Remember that the next time you’re discouraged! And also keep an eternal perspective–or at least 5+ years–so that you can continue to lay a foundation of faith, one brick at a time. Now, if we could only do something about those people moving our bricks….

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!