Call Us Brave – Moving In with Your In-Laws

I just moved in with my wife’s parents. 

Here are a few things that haven’t happened:

  • No one’s marriage is in shambles
  • Nobody is broke or in financial jeopardy 
  • Nether of our houses have been foreclosed on
  • No one is crazy lazy
  • Everyone has a good job
  • Basically none of the reasons you normally hear why kids move in with their parents or parents move in with their kids. 

We just like each other a whole bunch. 

This is a living arrangement we’ve had before. Twice actually. Once while we were in Tennessee we had Kathy, Bekah’s mom, live with us while she worked and Bekah’s dad, Brian, tried to find a job close by. 

Nothing ever materialized so they ended up moving to Missouri where they both found work for several years, which was six hours closer to us than their previous home in Michigan. 

Then Bekah and I moved to San Antonio and jobs for both Brian and Kathy opened up very quickly. They moved into our 3 bedroom two bath home while they looked for their own place. For six months we were together and it was great. We ate meals all together. We played. We lived life. 

Then they found a home to lease five minutes away and moved out right at the time our third daughter needed to move into the room they had called their own. 

And for a year and a half we lived this way. Brian and Kathy were at our house for meals five days a week. We played. We lived life, but not quite together. Separate homes meant “nana” and “papa” left everyday. It made for fun sleepovers, but not quite for living life together. 

Then Brian and Kathy started looking for a home to buy. In the current market, what they thought they could get for a certain amount wasn’t quite what they see looking for.

So we started talking about buying a home together. All of us. In one house. We rise our price range and tempered our expectations and were actually very pleased with what that got us looking at. 

We found our home rather quickly in hindsight. A great house four miles from where Bekah and I lived and two miles from Brian and Kathy’s leased house. 

We prayed. We offered. We moved in. 

Since April we’ve lived in the same house all together. Brian and Kathy get the master suite so they can have their own space and get some sense of calm away from the kids if they need. 

Bekah and I and the girls all share a big bathroom. Sophie and Penny share a room, Ruth has her own (for now) and Bekah and I claimed the last one.

Four bedrooms, two and half baths, a trampoline and an above ground pool for seven people. 

Not bad. 

It’s been a fun journey. Our sorrows have been greater when they come, but so have our joys. 

Bekah and I made the decision to move in before our current house went on the market, which turned out to be a huge blessing as I’m typing this with a broken but recently surgically repaired ankle. If we had waited our workload would have been exponentially greater. 

Our house is now on the market thanks to the help of many good friends and, you guessed it, Bekah and her parents. 

Now we’re getting settled. instead of having to come over to another house to help with my bum ankle, Brian and Kathy are just here. It’s made me being laid up on the couch less difficult for the rest of the family. 

So now two of us get up to go to work every morning and the other two go to work only when they are scheuduled. The kids have mom and dad and nana and papa to love on them and bring them up. 

Everyone calls me brave for moving in with my in laws. That’s not the case. They’re wonderful Christian people whom I’m honored to have shaping the lives of my girls. 

I’m not the brave one. Imagine moving in with your grandkids who go to kindergarten and wake up in the middle of the night still when all of your babies are married with kids of their own? 

Plus, this way I get another guy in the house. Brian and I every now and then get to fix stuff and saw things and share tools and try to figure out how a car door comes apart. Not a bad gig. 

My mom swears this arrangement would wear her out. She doesn’t feel left out, especially after a week long visit to our crazy farm, which she does often. 

Bekah’s brother and sister both live close to their spouse’s family, so no one feels cheated there. 

We aren’t broke or desperate or crazy. 

We just really enjoy living under one roof. 


Call us brave.

I Loved Her First

64598_535644638502_300346_nI used to be a guy who could keep it together.

I used to be able to control those occasional onslaughts of emotion that would consume lesser men.

Then I had a daughter.

All emotional control went soundly out the window at the ultrasound when the nurse told my wife and I we were having a little girl.

All of a sudden I became a man who would get weepy-eyed at songs on the radio.

And movies.

And books.

And blogs written on the internet about boys who might one day become interested in one of my three daughters.

I want you to know that if the end result of you getting to know my daughter is that you one day fall in love with her, I want you to remember that you were not the first man to do so.

The first was me, her father. She had my heart the moment she was born. I held her when she cried. She fell asleep in my arms countless times. I was the first man who read stories to her, who delighted in her silliness, her playfulness, her laugh, her imagination, her beauty, her quick mind, her clever hands, her unique personality.

So if there ever comes a day when you decide that you love my daughter and you can’t live without her and you want to ask my blessing to marry her, if that day ever arrives, the one thing I expect is that before you would ever dare come to me and ask, that you would have at that point already shown me, over time, by your actions towards my daughter, that while I was the man who loved her first, you have become the one who has learned to love her best.

Douglas McKelvey – “Notes to a Young Man Interested in my Daughter”

Excuse me for a moment.

There’s some dust in the air that has gotten into my eye.

Faith in the Background – Remembering a coworker and friend

  Dianne Reed hated the spotlight, so far as I could tell. 

She only ever got behind a microphone during VBS or a child’s dedication service and one of those times were only because she was asked to. Most of the people who served at FBC Lexington knew the best part of having Dianne for a children’s director wasn’t for her flashy and up front antics. 

Dianne was a behind the scenes kind of leader. 

She served in the Sunday School classroom when the leader got sick. She rocked babies in the nursery when they wouldn’t settle down. She called person after person until she got her VBS spots filled. She kept meticulous notes and binder upon binders of programs. 

Most of the members at FBC thought the best part of their week was reading the only good part of our weekly mail out: Dianne’s ridiculous article. 

She never seemed to run out of real life struggles and circumstances that always ended up being hilarious. She shared these with the congregation at large and always ended with some short comment or announcement like “Don’t forget, tomorrow is the last day to sign-up for Centrikid.”

But I knew a different side of Dianne. 

I never knew her as a school teacher, though I hear she was too notch. I never knew her as my nursery worker, I was only slightly old enough to not be under her care when I came to FBC. 

I only knew Dianne as a coworker and friend. 

Unswervedly loyal to Christ and His Kingdom, Dianne was a constant and consistent Saint. 

When Penny had her open heart surgery, she had to be quarantined for three weeks. This was going to make grocery shopping a difficulty. 

But not with Dianne. 

She asked us to get her a list. She would do the shopping. What we didn’t know is that she was also going to do the paying. For three months she bought our groceries. 

We could never repay her for that kindness. Looking back, I’m sure there are other stories of Dianne Reed’s quiet and in the background service in God’s Kingdom. 

As we celebrate Easter here on earth, I’m grieved by the loss of a friend and coworker. But we who believe in Jesus have a future and a hope beyond this life. 

Though she has left this earth, Dianne is spending this Easter Sunday in the presence of her savior. She’ll be missed. For her wit, her way with words, her kindness and her grace. 

But mostly, I’ll miss her because she was a friend and a saint who showed us great love in a very practical and behind the scenes way. 

Healthy Ministry Measuring Sticks


My team of volunteers and I are reading through an AWESOME book for Middle School Ministry by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin.

I highly recommend it!

In the chapter we’re reading this week, they list out some healthy measuring sticks for ministry.

So many times youth workers know how to measure only one thing: numbers.

  • How many students were there?
  • How many students gave their lives to Jesus?
  • How many students were baptized?

These are all good things to track, but to measure a ministry based solely off of these numbers will miss the mark!

Here are the ways they suggest to measure ministry. Though they continually say that this is for middle school ministry, I think this has broader implications!

  • Are middle schoolers known? Do the kids in your ministry have an adult who knows them by name and is connected with them at a personal level?
  • Is our group inclusive or exclusive? Are there kids who can’t find belonging? Are new students welcomed and made to feel that their presence is valued?
  • Do kids (and leaders) in our group care about the things that God cares about? Does our group notice others, especially those at a disadvantage? Does our group care about worship and justice and serving others?
  • Are we actively walking alongside middle schoolers in their physical, emotional, and spiritual development? Are we normalizing their experiences and helping them understand how much God loves them?
  • Are we providing opportunities for real belonging, where middle schoolers can know and be known? Are we cultivating genuine communion (community with Christ in the mix)?
  • Are we engaged in the mission of God in the world? Are we discerning where God is active and present, bringing restoration and redemption, and are we joining up with that work?
  • Are we helping middle schoolers understand Scripture? Are we helping them speculate about how Scripture might implicate their lives? Are we helping them see the scope of God’s big story and how their lives connect to what God is doing?
  • Are we honoring parents in our ministry? Are we communicating well? Are we working to support parents in the spiritual work of raising their children? Is there anything we’re doing that could be counter to this value of supporting and building bridges with parents?
  • Are we, as leaders, modeling a life of Christ-connectedness? Are we pursuing God? Are we transparent and real about our pursuit, success, and failure?
  • Are we focusing on teens or programs? Which takes priority in
    our planning, time usage, and resources?

Oestreicher, Mark; Rubin, Scott (2009-10-06). Middle School Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide to Working with Early Adolescents (p. 333). Zondervan/Youth Specialties. Kindle Edition.

What would you add?

If you work with middle school students, this book is an AMAZING resource.


Check it out here.

photo credit: Dad’s Lufkin 386 Folding Pocket Ruler via photopin (license)

When Ministry Replaces Your Best Friend

2533996623_66a013fa41_nSunday was morning and evening church.

Monday night was visitation.

Tuesday was a Bible study for the committed teens.

Wednesday was Wednesday night youth group.

Friday night was a high school sports game of some sort.

Saturday was when Bekah would tell me that she (and everyone else in the family) missed seeing me.

And I can see why.

Everyone can fall into the busyness trap. Being busy is seen as a badge of honor. Like being busy means you’re getting a lot done. That you’re important. That you’re motivated.

But what about being busy with your family? When was the last time you had so much planned with your family that you had to say no to work?

When was the last time you let your church take the hit and you spent some much needed time with your spouse?

Why does your family always need to be the ones who suffer?

It came to a head when, one night after collapsing into bed, Bekah looked over at me and said these words:

“I feel like you’re my best friend,

but I’m not yours.”

It was time to cut back. I was averaging two nights at home a week.

That’s all.

It was time to have some difficult conversations, ask for schedules to be arranged, and minister to my family.

  • Are you at home with your family more nights throughout the week than you are doing ministry?
  • Are you so busy that you can’t take a lunch date with your spouse?
  • Do your kids act surprised when they see you come home?

Busyness isn’t a badge of honor. It does, however, show where your priorities lie.

Would your spouse say that they feel like your best friend…

…or not?

Here’s what we’ve committed to since that very difficult season and hard conversation:

  • Four nights at home a week, minimum.
  • One date a month, at the least.
  • Thursdays are off days. No meetings, no phone calls, just family.
  • Family calendar is done before ministry calendar is finalized.

What would you add?

photo credit: busy schedule? via photopin (license)

Who’s Behind Your Camera?

Have you seen this video?

Six photographers get told six different stories about the same person and their portraits of him look markedly different.
It’s pretty interesting to think about how others see you through preconceived notions.
But how do your students see themselves when they’re the ones taking their own pictures?
Do you see someone who is lonely? Brave? Scared? Precious? Popular? An outcast? Loved?
While we can’t change students’ perspectives of themselves completely, we surely can help them understand who God sees when He gets behind the camera.
Someone who matters.
We, as student pastors, have an amazing opportunity to show students who God really think they are.
Are we doing it?

Bummed in Ministry? Try These 4 Things

I’m bummed.

Not depressed.

Just bummed.

The short story is that I didn’t get asked back to help with a ministry I know and love.

No hard feelings, they told me, just a new direction.

That new direction left me feeling, well, bummed.

Discouragement in ministry can happen when you least expect it.

It might be because your numbers aren’t anything like the church down the street. Or maybe they just aren’t like last year.

It may be due to the students you thought would be apart of your leadership team seeming to lose their minds and have jumped off the deep-end.

Maybe it’s because that lunch you schedule with a parent turned out not to be a good time of encouragement that you had hoped for, but rather a time when your burger wasn’t the only thing that was grilled well past edible.

What do you do when you’re discouraged in ministry? Here are four things I’ve been trying to do and remember:

  1. Say it with me: You are not your job.

This one is tough for me. If I introduce myself to you, right after my name I’ll tell you I’m a student pastor.

Sometimes that hurts, rather than helps.

Your calling is huge and God given for sure, but don’t let sometimes critique of a program you’re doing turn into a critique of you. You aren’t your job. God’s love for you is not dependent on your job title.

  1. Spend time with your family and friends.

There’s an entire cheer section you have around you: your family and friends. They love you. Let them encourage you! Tell them that you’re feeling down and ask them to lift you up. You’d be surprised how willing others will be to come alongside you when you’re feeling blue.

  1. Keep your hobby game strong.

Do you go to the gym? Or play video games? Or write? Or golf? If you’ve been so engrossed in ministry for awhile that you’ve been neglecting some “you” time, take a break. If you’re like me, you’ve got vacation days piled up that you need to use anyways. Take one and do something you love. It’s time you should be getting anyways.

  1. Dive into the Word.

I put this last because it’s most important. When I first got the news I went to the Bible to find things that were true. About me and about God. Like that He loves me. That He’s always with me. That I’m His son. That Jesus died to save me. That things happen so that God gets glory. I read those over and over again to remind myself that while other facts can be disputed, these things are true. And I was encouraged.

Being discouraged in ministry can come when you least expect it. When it comes for you, remember what’s true: God loves you and is using you to impact others.

You got this.

That Kid in Your Ministry

I remember this one kid from student ministry.

He came pretty frequently on Sunday. During his junior and senior year he helped by playing bass in the praise band. He went on most of the trips and special events, and even helped out with some Bible studies at his high school.

But that kid could get flaky.

We didn’t have a big Wednesday night program like other churches in our area. Sometimes he would come, eat with his friends, and then leave for the bigger church down the road. The other church had the lights, the worship, and the high octane youth pastor. We had some volunteers leading a Bible study. Low octane for sure.

I had to pull him aside a few times when he did show for Wednesday night stuff.

He and some of the other kids had a habit of trying to get out of the Bible study by hiding in the resource closet or playing out on the playground and no coming in when it was time to get started.

As far as relationships, I saw him bring several girls to the church every so often. But then he would disappear to whatever church they went to as well.

I felt like I was losing him to his girlfriends or the bigger churches down the road.

We talked about changing some of the things we did at our church, but I knew it wasn’t the time to change. We were doing what we were good at with our ministry. Even though he talked about it several times, we just couldn’t make it happen.

He was an alright kid, I just wish he had been a little more committed to his own youth group rather than going to church all over town, chasing girls or the flashiest new ministry. I heard he became a youth pastor. And actually, he is me.* Hey youth workers: sometimes you won’t have kids attend your church because they’re attending someone else’s service. Are you going to be mad and frustrated, or are you going to be thankful that they are continuing their journey with Christ?

Sometimes, the students you think aren’t all that committed to your ministry might turn out to be committed followers of Jesus in their adult life. Don’t think what you see from a student in your ministry is their whole story. God is still at work in them.

And some of them might even become youth workers themselves.

Questions for you as a youth pastor:

  • What are you doing to teach the students you have when you have them?
  • Are you allowing yourself to become bitter and distracted when “your” kids aren’t around because they’re attending another church?
  • How are you encouraging your students to walk with God, even if it means they aren’t walking with you?

*Disclaimer – These are thoughts I know my youth pastor didn’t necessarily have about me. We’ve talked about my flakiness during my high school career and we’re cool. Well, she’s cool. I’m still trying to be.

Middle School Gatherings Part 3


Part one

Part Two

I underestimated how concrete middle school students think when I started. Now I have a better handle on it. I can’t just say “Well, glad we learned that. Now off to big church!” and hope the lesson sticks. I give my students something to do, touch, say or whatever that helps solidify the “So What?” of the lesson. For example, this last Sunday students walked around the room and wrote out on a poster board how they would step out in faith and show love to someone. Then they signed their name to it. Super simple, but allowed the lesson to end with some concrete application that they came up with all on their own (Okay, so I gave some examples along the way too).

(AKA, talk and pray time) At 10:30 am the students head home or to big church and I hang around in the room until it clears out. I talk with the new students, pray with any who need, and generally am present until the students are gone.

Some obvious things I see writing this out I ask a lot of questions when I teach
We have a large enough group so that answers can vary but small enough that we don’t have to run a mic around the room to hear answers. If we were larger I’d have students discuss in their rows or at tables. We have a TON of moving parts. Stand. Sit. Play. Watch. Sing. Stand. Sit. It can seem like a lot is going on with our service but I’ve been in the same room with the same kids doing less stuff and have had to watch the middle school riots begin. Having a lot to do helps wiggly kids not be so wiggly and get out their energy in a positive way. It’s more planning on my end, but I love the results! I’ve written a few activity and question heavy curriculum for DYM if this sounds like something that would benefit your group. Check out Gray, Awkward, Fresh and Killing the Clique. I feel like these lean heavy on movement but also help get the truths your teaching across as well!

A couple things I wish we did better Student greeters
I really want a dedicated group of students being the “main door holder/greeters” but haven’t nail that down yet. I need to get on it! Follow-up for new kids: We do great when a student gets to our ministry, but I want to do a better job of connecting with them AND their parents right after the service too. Maybe another student led team can do this?

Adult presence
Students running everything is great. Students never seeing other parents involved in the Sunday MS Service, not so awesome. I’m trying to recruit parents to be in the room with us helping me and loving on kids. I have one right now. I want a few more for reinforcements! Student sharing/teaching: I don’t ask students to get on stage often and teach. They come and play games or lead worship, but hardly ever talk. Maybe it’s because I ask questions a lot that I don’t do this. I want to see more students sharing from the stage, though.

So that’s our service. Controlled chaos? Most definitely. Completely rewarding? You bet!

What does your middle school time look like?

Middle School Gathering Part 2


Part One is here!

Bumper Video
I teach in series and will typically create some short 30 second to one minute long bumper video to go here so the band can get back to their chairs and we can transition anything if needed. Purposeful time to let students know we’re changing gears.

Teaching Time
We only have thirty minutes left in our hour before we dismiss and let kids go. Now if I were doing high school ministry I might teach for the whole time and then have one more song at the end for a response time. But this is middle school ministry and I want these students to come back next week. So what I do is I break up my teaching into roughly ten minute segments. Something happens at the end of those ten minutes to help give students a break before we dive back in.

Typically that means the first ten minutes is:

  • Explain main point of the lesson Ask questions/take answers.
  • Read Bible.
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and play a game.

Confession: sometimes that game is an awesome illustration that helps tie in lesson beautifully. Sometimes, however, that lesson has zero to do with the truth being taught and is solely used to help break up the time and give the sixth grade boys a chance to let out their wiggles. End confession.

The second ten minutes then is:

  • Read Bible. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Unpack truths. Ask questions/take answers.
  • Break and tell a story that helps relate to the main point.
  • Again, this is a time when I allow for silly adlib and helping the students see that this is the time to unwind for a minute. This could easily be a video that helps relate the truth of the lesson to students also.

Sometimes I see we’re running late at this point because of good conversation and so we drop a video, game, or story so we can spend more time on the next round.

The last ten minutes usually flows like this:

  • Read Bible or revisit main point
  • Ask questions/take answers.
  • Begin application.

PART 3 soon!