Common question I get from families…”what filter can I use at home.” That is an easy answer. openDNS. This company has just past a decade in existence. Think of it as a bouncer at the door where you ilogo-opendnsnternet comes into your home. Many of our homes are filled with devices that have access to the internet, either hardwired or WiFi…be smart and plan ahead. openDNS is a free service that extends the Domain Name System by adding things to keep your family safe. There is a pay upgrade that offers even more options for you. It filters content and has the added benefit of protection from phishing bad guys. You can select what level of protection you want for your home. Here is a great post about the benefits of openDNS from Alex Tran. We share a common friend that speaks highly of this guy. This post even has a bonus review of uBlock, it’s awesome too. We use openDNS in our home. As a youth pastor, I want to know that babysitters, students visiting my home and my children are protected from even accidentally stumbling onto the dark side of the internet. If you are a member of 2BC or are local and would like help setting it up for your home, I am available to help out.

I wanted to address something that is very important to me. Networking. Call it what you want, I call it survival. After many moons of student ministry, the things that I treasure most apart from my savior, my wife and kids, and XBOX Live…is my networking relationships with other Youth Pastors on the frontlines of student ministry.

There is a funny illustration that one of my good friends used while he was talking to one of my former students. I am sure he ripped off the story, but it went something like this. “A reporter was at a small paper and wanted to impress his friend by telling him that he had gotten an interview with the town mayor. His friend Bob was happy for him and said, “hey, when you see the mayor, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was obviously disheartened when he found out that his friend already knew the mayor. Sometime later, after the reporter had moved up in the world of reporting…got an interview with the president. He phoned his friend Bob and let him know what he was up to. Bob was excited for his friend and said, “hey, when you see the President, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was disheartened once again. Finally the reporter reached the zenith of his career and landed an interview with the Pope. He quickly dialed his friend Bob to let him know what he was doing in the hopes of impressing Bob. Bob was very excited for him. When the reporter got to the Vatican there was a large crowd gathered as the Pope was coming out to greet the people. The reporter was floored when he looked up and saw Bob coming out with the Pope. He looked at the guy next to him and asked, “hey, who is that guy with the Pope?” The man replied, “I don’t know who the pope is, but that guy next to the guy with the funny hat is Bob!” A funny story. My friend was telling my former student that I was Bob…referring to the fact that he thought I “knew” everybody. I was flattered, but I would like to think that it is because I genuinely try to connect with those that I have been blessed to run into during this fun ride called life.

Networking with others is essential in this thing called student ministry. We cannot think that we have it all figured out. We don’t. We don’t always have the best ideas. The moment I realized that I can learn much from colleagues, mentors, and friends…that is when I began to figure it out. Here are some tips for expanding your network and by default, expanding your influence and the influence others have on your life and ministry.

· Be humble. Be the first to pick up the flag of another individual with great talents and ideas and wave it high. This is the same if they are youth pastors in other towns or even in your own community. If they feel you are genuinely interested in them and their success, it makes it easier to work together and squashes any “turf” issues from the beginning.

· Stay connected. Don’t let the only time you call/text/message that person to be when you are “pimping” your own stuff or events. Get to know their families, let them know that you are accessible and available to swap ideas.

· Pray for them and their ministry. Rejoice in their victories and encourage them in their “bumps” in ministry. I know I appreciate it when a friend that really “gets” what I am doing shows his/her support. Sometimes this is a thankless job and to know that others have an idea what we are going through really helps.

· Be Real. At the end of the day, we have all had a tenth grader we have invested in for months or years decide to just check out and try their hand at the world, throwing to the wind everything you feel they have learned in your ministry. It is a tough job. So be transparent in your dealings with others and they will feel more comfortable networking with you.

· Be sensitive for God’s timing. I can’t tell you how many times I have met a fellow youth pastor and it has been just what we both needed at the time. God has a way of bringing the right people together to swap ideas and encourage one another to further His kingdom. So keep your eyes open for “resources” that He puts in our paths.

· Don’t be discouraged if you don’t “click” right away. Sometimes the closest friends in ministry may start rocky. My best friend in ministry, Scott Quimby, told me that he didn’t like me very much when we first met.  I am not sure why, maybe it was because he is an only child, but our differences have helped our friendship strengthen over time.  Sometimes youth pastors are  hesitant to engage with other ministries. Maybe you or the other have been “burned” by some 6 month flame-out and they are licking their wounds.

· Pick up the phone. Call around and see who is working with students in your area. Have lunch and share passions for students. Don’t worry if they are in a different denomination. The majority of us have the common ground of Jesus Christ. So start there first. Find out why they do what they do and then see the first recommendation above. Don’t wait for others to call you. Make that first step out in faith and see what God has planned.

· Use these connections to share your concerns and/or “vent.” We often have to be careful sometimes in ministry by being perceived as “complaining” by members of our own churches. I get advice and bounce ideas about situations with my colleagues without getting into a gossip session. It helps a ton and I am a better youth pastor because of it.

· Share resources. I have many friends that are in churches that may not have the budget that I have. We have all been there, trying to stretch a budget. So give freely when you are blessed. Loan books, share props, large ticket items, and resources. Don’t be afraid to ask either. Take interest in their ministries and I have found they will take interest in yours. Recently, I have had several conversations with guys/gals that have struggled with tragedies in their ministries. This is a great time to share resources, experiences, and wisdom that battle scars from years of ministry leave us with. It is a blessing in the end, it doesn’t seem like it when you are going through a church split, firing, or the wisdom we gain from laboring through the loss of a student’s life in your community and ministry. We all have “I will never do that again” moments and if that wisdom helps someone else from making the same mistake, then that is a win-win situation.

· One final thought for now. Go to conventions and conferences. Even ones you may not necessarily want to. These are great places to network with like-minded people. The network of youth pastors that I have now have been my shoulders to lean on during my ministry time. Some of them have grown into wonderful mentors that can speak wisdom into my life and ministry. Give them the freedom to do just that, have a few people that you can rely on to speak the truth into your life…even if it hurts sometimes. We all need our card pulled sometimes and it is much easier coming from someone that you have a close relationship with and not just someone taking pop-shots at you from the peanut gallery. Networks of friends help you make it through the peanut gallery days.

As I am gaining altitude in a jet that seats about 60 people, I am grateful for space.  I am in a two-seat row by my self in the back of the plane.   Good times.  I just left the airport in Little Rock on the first leg of this trip to Germany.  On to Chicago and then to Frankfurt, Germany!  My friends Jens and Steffi will be picking me up tomorrow sometime I hope.  I will be speaking at Teenagerfreizeit Rehe 2011.  I was told there were approximately 90 students from all over Germany attending this annual event that is sponsored by Wiedenest Bibleschule.

I can hear many of you thinking…I didn’t know Dustin spoke German.  Well I don’t.  I can butcher the language with the best of you.  But about 10 years ago I was privileged to make a connection with my friends in Germany while I was a Youth Pastor in Florida.  A pastor that was on staff with me in Titusville, FL had also served in Germany.  An acquaintance of his had a friend that wanted to learn about student ministry in the united states…with a few phone calls and favors being promised to me, batta bip…batta boop, Bob’s your uncle and I had my very own German!  I took care of him and loved him and called him Toby.  Toby stayed with my wife and I for 6 months or so, working alongside me and absorbing all he could about ministry in the USA.  This was the beginning of life long friendships and investment in the next generation of leaders in Deutschland.Continue reading

What an important reminder that youth ministry is happening beyond our own little circle, our town, our state, and even our country!  This is a global thing, and people need to know Christ!

Dustin Sams is now in Germany, and will be speaking for “Teenagerfeizeit Rehe 2011”.  Dustin will be there from July 21st – August 1st.  He is bringing the Word to teenagers throughout the week by way of a translator.

This is an exciting opportunity to share Christ with teens and young adults who desperately need to know Him.  This will also be a great way to inspire those in Germany and introduce new and exciting ways of doing youth ministry.

While teaching at “Teenagerfeizeit Rehe 2011”, Dustin will also be speaking a few times at a local church, and meeting with other student ministry leaders to “brainstorm” youth ministry ideas. Through this they will be able to share ideas with each other, gaining insight about what is and isn’t working.  As any youth pastor knows, building relationships and sharing knowledge with other youth pastors is invaluable.  There is so much to learn from each other.

With all of this exciting news, lets take a moment to pray for Dustin as he speaks to these teenagers and young adults.  Pray that what he speaks will be translated clearly and accurately, and that the Holy Spirit will be the author.  Pray that the students will be receptive to the Word and that lives will be forever changed, that they will become new creations.

Lets also pray for the area youth pastors in Germany, that through meeting with Dustin, they will gain insight about how to better reach their students.  Lastly, pray that though these youth pastors are in Germany, relationships will be built, giving us new people to share our passion and ministry with.

To keep up with what Dustin is doing in Germany this week, be sure to follow him on Twitter: @dustinsams

Stay tuned for more updates as Christ speaks through Dustin, and lives are changed in Germany!

Got a report back from our new friend Jens Kehlen from Germany.  I asked him to write up a report of his trip for me to share here.  If we get to see positive results when mentoring, then it makes it all worthwhile. Enjoy DVS

Nearly six weeks have passed since my wife and I have returned to Germany from Stuttgart, Arkansas, USA.  We had the great opportunity to spend seven weeks with Dustin Sams, the youth pastor at First Baptist Stuttgart.  I really miss the time there, because I have seen a lot of changes in my faith and myself during our stay. The seven weeks in the U.S. were a great experience for us and we will never forget this awesome time.

I could not exactly identify what the reasons were that changed me so much, but i still recognize a new and fresh way of life and an increasing desire for youth ministry.  Maybe it was the influence Dustin had, the daily life with the church family there, or the different culture or all together. You have to know, everyone who spends time with him will never be the same:-)

Dustin became a great role model for me.  How he lives his faith and shares his life with his students, the church members and his family. He is a guy full of a spiritual mindset and he lives a faith that is very attractive for the non churched. He has a lot of experiences in youth ministry and he was a great mentor and friend to me.

I will let you know the most important things I learned and which things influenced me most:

  • The first and most important fact is my spiritual life. I received a new and fresh desire for my ministry and especially for Jesus. I amactually not sure why my relationship with Christ became deeper, but now I love to spend silent time with my Lord.  I learned how dependent on Christ a successful youth pastor has to be in order to lead a group in a healthy way.
  • I found out that the staff of First Baptist live all very jesus focused lives and they always keep praying that God shows them his further steps with the church. And if you ever had the advantage to work with one of them you will agree that they serve and work in knowledge that they are dependent on the Holy Spirit.
  • Beside my spiritual life, I learned a lot of useful tools for creating an impact on students with ministry. For example the use of technology, videos, contemporary worship music,  etc.  These things are  not only a nice accessories.  These are useful things that make it easier to reach the students with the Gospel.

At this point i will share an excerpt from Dustin: “Do not change the bread of life (the Gospel) but you can put jelly, butter, cream, strawberry jam… to make it more appealing for the younger generation.”  But more important than any tool is the relationship with adults and especially with the students.  In my opinion this is the basis for a healthy and a growing youth ministry in a church.  I learned from Dustin to share your faith not only on Wednesdays nights with the students but to actually be part of their lives.

A network with other youth pastors is so important for encouragement and to learn from each other.  I remember one sentence from Dustin which burns deep in my head:  “Do not only call a friend (or anyone else) if you need something. Call him or her anytime you just think about them and let them know you are still a part of their lives and not only a number in their notebook.”  I am so blessed that God gave us the opportunity to travel to Arkansas for our Internship with Dustin. This was honestly the best summer of my life.

Best Regard, Jens

Hit Jens up on Facebook: Jens Kehlen, he’s pretty much the only one on Facebook named that.

Jens and his wife Steffi are from Remscheid, Germany.  They were married this past summer and Jens is finishing up his degree at Forum Wiedenest Bibelschule near Cologne, Germany.  Steffi completed her degree and now looking for a job. Please pray for them.  It was great joy to have them with us for their Practicum and we look forward to hearing about the great things that God will do in Germany through them.

I wanted to address something that is very important to me. Networking. Call it what you want, I call it survival. After many moons of student ministry, the things that I treasure most apart from my savior, my wife and kids, and my XBOX is my networking relationships with other Youth Pastors on the frontlines of student ministry.

There is a funny illustration that one of my good friends used while he was talking to one of my former students. I am sure he ripped off the story, but it went something like this. “A reporter was at a small paper and wanted to impress his friend by telling him that he had gotten an interview with the town mayor. His friend Bob was happy for him and said, “hey, when you see the mayor, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was obviously disheartened when he found out that his friend already knew the mayor. Sometime later, after the reporter had moved up in the world of reporting…got an interview with the president. He phoned his friend Bob and let him know what he was up to. Bob was excited for his friend and said, “hey, when you see the President, tell him Bob said Hi.” The reporter was disheartened once again. Finally the reporter reached the zenith of his career and landed an interview with the Pope. He quickly dialed his friend Bob to let him know what he was doing in the hopes of impressing Bob. Bob was very excited for him. When the reporter got to the Vatican there was a large crowd gathered as the Pope was coming out to greet the people. The reporter was floored when he looked up and saw Bob coming out with the Pope. He looked at the guy next to him and asked, “hey, who is that guy with the Pope?” The man replied, “I don’t know who the pope is, but that guy next to the guy with the funny hat is Bob!” A funny story. My friend was telling my former student that I was Bob…referring to the fact that he thought I “knew” everybody. I was flattered, but I would like to think that it is because I genuinely try to connect with those that I have blessed to run into during this fun ride called life.

Networking with others is essential in this thing we do called student ministry. We cannot think that we have it all figured out. We don’t. We don’t always have the best ideas. The moment I realized that I can learn much from colleagues, mentors, and friends…that is when I began to figure it out. Here are some tips for expanding your network and by default, expanding your influence and the influence others have on your life and ministry.

· Be humble. Be the first to pick up the flag of another individual with great talents and ideas and wave it high. This is the same if they are youth pastors in other towns or even in your own community. If they feel you are genuinely interested in them and their success, it makes it easier to work together and squashes any “turf” issues from the beginning.

· Stay connected. Don’t let the only time you call/text/message that person to be when you are “pimping” your own stuff or events. Get to know their families, let them know that you are accessible and available to swap ideas.

· Pray for them and their ministry. Rejoice in their victories and encourage them in their “bumps” in ministry. I know I appreciate it when a friend that really “gets” what I am doing shows his/her support. Sometimes this is a thankless job and to know that others have an idea what we are going through really helps.

· Be Real. At the end of the day, we have all had a tenth grader we have invested in for months or years decide to just check out and try their hand at the world, throwing to the wind everything you feel they have learned in your ministry. It is a tough job. So be transparent in your dealings with others and they will feel more comfortable networking with you.

· Be sensitive for God’s timing. I can’t tell you how many times I have met a fellow youth pastor and it has been just what we both needed at the time. God has a way of bringing the right people together to swap ideas and encourage one another to further His kingdom. So keep your eyes open for “resources” that He puts in our paths.

· Don’t be discouraged if you don’t “click” right away. Sometimes the closest friends in ministry may start rocky. My best friend in ministry, Scott Quimby, told me that he didn’t like me very much when we first met.  I am not sure why, maybe it was because he is an only child, but our differences have helped our friendship strengthen over time.  Sometimes youth pastors are  hesitant to engage with other ministries. Maybe you or the other have been “burned” by some 6 month flame-out and they are licking their wounds.

· Pick up the phone. Call around and see who is working with students in your area. Have lunch and share passions for students. Don’t worry if they are in a different denomination. The majority of us have the common ground of Jesus Christ. So start there first. Find out why they do what they do and then see the first recommendation above. Don’t wait for others to call you. Make that first step out in faith and see what God has planned.

· Use these connections to share your concerns and/or “vent.” We often have to be careful sometimes in ministry by being perceived as “complaining” by members of our own churches. I get advice and bounce ideas about situations with my colleagues without getting into a gossip session. It helps a ton and I am a better youth pastor because of it.

· Share resources. I have many friends that are in churches that may not have the budget that I have. We have all been there, trying to stretch a budget. So give freely when you are blessed. Loan books, share props, large ticket items, and resources. Don’t be afraid to ask either. Take interest in their ministries and I have found they will take interest in yours. Recently, I have had several conversations with guys/gals that have struggled with tragedies in their ministries. This is a great time to share resources, experiences, and wisdom that battle scars from years of ministry leave us with. It is a blessing in the end, it doesn’t seem like it when you are going through a church split, firing, or the wisdom we gain from laboring through the loss of a student’s life in your community and ministry. We all have “I will never do that again” moments and if that wisdom helps someone else from making the same mistake, then that is a win-win situation.

· One final thought for now. Go to conventions and conferences. Even ones you may not necessarily want to. These are great places to network with like-minded people. The network of youth pastors that I have now have been my shoulders to lean on during my ministry time. Some of them have grown into wonderful mentors that can speak wisdom into my life and ministry. Give them the freedom to do just that, have a few people that you can rely on to speak the truth into your life…even if it hurts sometimes. We all need our card pulled sometimes and it is much easier coming from someone that you have a close relationship with and not just someone taking pop-shots at you from the peanut gallery. Networks of friends help you make it through the peanut gallery days.

Me and 4500 other bloggers are writing about water today.

The majority of us in the United States have clean, cheap tap water running out of a fixture somewhere in our homes.  Some of us have just a normal, run of the mill faucets…others have fancy waterfalls that run into bowls that seemingly have no outlet for the drain…yet, the water goes somewhere.  I am thinking it indeed does go somewhere, but that is just a hunch.

I look in my cabinets and I can find at least 15 containers that my family uses to carry water, kool-aid, chocolate milk, or the solid chunks of smelly stuff that appears when you leave that container of said chocolate milk hidden behind a car seat in the car for a few weeks.  I can also buy a crazy amount of neatly packaged bottled water at any store or quick-stop I go into.

Here’s the thing.  When I need water. I get it. I don’t have to walk far for it. I get it.  I don’t have to wait in line. I get it.  I don’t know the first thing about what it is like to go with out.  Yet, often I think, pray, wonder about those precious men, women, and children around the world that have to struggle to get something that seems so simple, clean drinking water.Continue reading