The Youth Cartel and Generation514 are teaming up on some projects, one being our NEXT curriculum.  Recently they asked me to write a blog for them about our conference and how it might help be a contributing factor in helping students thrive into adulthood.  I'd love for you to take a look at it right here.

We are very excited to announce our teaching curriculum has officially been released this month by The Youth Cartel Publishing.  Please take a look at the first months topic on Evil and Suffering here, and the write up below - its been a lot of hard work for our team and we couldn't be more pleased!   
I remembering talking with a prominent and influential church a few years ago about possibly coming onto their staff.  This was a white mega church in the South and in the midst of our conversation the topic went to diversity.  They mentioned how they'd love to have more diversity at their church, but that it just hadn't happened.  
My response, "Have you ever thought of hiring more minorities?"  Their response, "Well, our philosophy is to hire the best and most qualified candidate."  Which makes sense, unless you're a minority. 

It would be like if every NFL team's coach was an African American.  White people around the country would think, "huh, that's weird."  And then they would challenge that system by saying, "Don't you think their should be more diversity at the head coach position?  The NFL would respond, "Well, we just hire the most qualified."  Then why are all of the "most qualified" coaches black?

This is why the Rooney Rule is in affect - every NFL team, when hiring a coach, must interview minorities.  You've got to at least give them a shot.

So here's just a thought:  next time you go to hire someone, make sure you interview a diverse group (including women).  It's about being intentional - diversity doesn't just happen.  If you want an array of cultures and colors at your church or at your youth group, then you might want to look like who you want to attract.     

There is a popular video that has made the rounds on Facebook recently.  A guy by the name of Glyn Barrett tells a story about being invited to a university "in Cambridge" to talk about the existence of God.  He goes on to say that the first speaker spoke for 15 minutes showing how God didn't exist and that he was supposed to follow him and argue from the other side.  Instead of presenting any facts, this is what he did:  (you can cut and paste to watch it) https://www.facebook.com/godtv/videos?fref=photo  

When I first watched the video, I immediately struggled with it, but I thought maybe I was way off because people that I really respect posted it or commented on it...  For whatever reason, it just didn't sit well with me.  Basically Glyn Barrett's argument (before which he states he can prove the existence of God in 2 minutes) is that the atheist professor doesn't know everything there is to know in the universe (the professor agrees to this) and since this is true, then God just might exist but the professor just doesn't know this because of his limited knowledge.  Boom! Drop the mic!  

Under this logic then I'm guessing its very possible that 
Unicorns exist, 
Mermaids are for real, 
and of course, Big Foot lives right down the street (or in Montana).

Now for sure, Barrett is right, we do not know everything - this is true, although I'm fairly certain this professor might know quite a bit.  But there are serious problems with the whole video in my opinion - especially in Glyn's posture and tone.  Problems that have caused a major disconnect between today's emerging post-christian world and the Church.  If you were able to see the video then you may get what I'm talking about.  
So here are three quick things that I thought when I first saw the video.  

1. Arrogance - this is really why initially I was put-off.  Christians speaking with zero humility.  It's arrogant, dismissive, yuck!  No wonder some of my agnostic and atheistic friends are not interested in the faith.  No wonder students are walking away from the Church - this just isn't attractive, warm, or, dare I say it, loving.
2. Anti-Intellect - Why not deal with what was presented in a way that shows the faith is reasonable, historical, logical...?  Take a shot and wrestle a bit with evidence.  Say something that helps those in the audience actually see that Christians have something to say - that we can contribute to life's biggest questions.  Go ahead, you were invited to have a seat at the table - so sit down and humbly contribute.  Listen, listen, listen, and then respond with humble, not loaded, questions.

3. A safe one-sided story - I'm not even sure if this story is true, but at any rate, he is talking to a room full of laughing and applauding people.  But the other side isn't being fairly presented on the stage (at least not in this short video).  This is what tends to happen in the Church.  But I guarantee that there are some skeptics, doubters, and struggling believers there in the crowd.  I wonder if they are feeling dismissed?  I wonder if they feel safe to ask a question?  I wonder if they leave thinking that there isn't room for them in the church?  
Christians have to relearn what it is like to live in a world that is no longer sympathetic to their faith.  We can't act like we are the dominant voice and influence any more.  

Honestly, there is much more to say here.  And maybe I'll talk more a bit later, but if I was put off by this video, I wonder what my agnostic friends are thinking?

There are great Christian thinkers who are humbly engaging with todays world in ways I hope many of us follow.  They are brilliant yet humble and are making inroads on very tough terrain.  I can think of Ravi Zacharias, N.T. Wright, and others...  

To read more about the post-christian world and how we might respond, check out: Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World.

By: Kelsey Morgan
I have such fond memories that center around retreats, camps, and trips with students.  The car rides are often full of bonding time, though sometimes interrupted by a car sick student’s emergency stop, that lasts the rest of the trip.  But friendships are often begun and solidified as the week moves on.  These times away are always fruitful and rich with experiences that connect us together.  

The question I have about these times is not really about their value, because I certainly think they are very valuable, but more about their actual effectiveness in the long term.  We all see the stats concerning our youth and sense the underlying issues of busyness and relevance of our faith in a complex world.  This has given us pause and formed questions in our minds around what the future of youth ministry in the church looks like.

(see it hererecently put out an article concerning the perceived and real priorities of youth ministry across the country.  The article articulates the frustrations that youth workers are facing nationally in their ministries and, while many are “business as usual”, there is an uneasiness about where we need to be headed. The findings point out that churches and ministries often base the value of youth programs on perceived immediate outcome, even though we are aware that what used to “work” may not be working any more.  Camps, retreats, and attempts at student leadership may act to restrain the inevitable, but cannot stop the losses that Church is sustaining.  Flourishing faith in young people may require new methodologies and creative approaches as the tide continues to shift.

The article mentions that steps may need to be taken in a different direction that could lead to greater commitment to faith and set a firmer foundation.  It makes a few suggestions such as deeper student leadership and gap year programs.  We agree with this assessment and Generation 514 is all about setting students up to own their faith.   The Amazing Next Conference is an experience that leads to long term investment.  We provided a conference that reframes the gospel, making it accessible and comprehensible for today’s students.  We will send youth workers home better equipped through training and with 10 months worth of curriculum (here's month #1)to help reach their students in the daily grind.  We strive to meet the holistic needs of students, to not just know about God or emotionally feel God, but BOTH.  

It is our hope that in the next couple of years our Gap Year program will be up and running.  It will be right here in the States, in a setting that is real.  This is not a one-off experience, but instead a chance to be shaped by ministry and vocational training while living in community with other students and their surrounding neighborhood.  The Gospel of Christ made tangible.

Consider this: innovation must happen within the world of youth ministry and the Church.   Generation514 is out to be a part of that change.  Are you interested in what the future of your ministry might look like?  We would love to be a part of shaping the culture of your ministry and your church.  Please feel free to contact Brock for consultation or to bring him to your church.  We are excited to partner with you in the coming years! 

We moved to Washington, DC this past September, and ever since then I've become obsessed with history.  Really, you can't help yourself,  it's just in the air here.  I love walking the mall in D.C. and just soaking it all in.  Lately I've become really interested in looking at the legacy of our nations presidents. It really is an amazing study.  Currently I am reading a book about George Washington and his deep and rich Christian faith.  But somewhere in the midst of this I stumbled upon John Quincy Adams.  

Apology in Advance for a Brief History Lesson:

As you may know, John Quincy Adams opposed the removal of the Native Americans from their land and he fought passionately against slavery.  Now, he was always quite hostile to slavery, but he grew even more hostile to it later in life.  Adams even became a leading opponent of slave power and articulated a theory whereby the president could abolish slavery by using his war powers (smells a bit like what ended up happening with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863).  But after a lifetime of fighting for the rights of others, on February 23, he died with his wife and youngest son at his side in the Speaker's Room inside the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  An obscure one-term congressman named Abraham Lincoln was assigned to the committee making his funeral arrangements.  


We don't know why Abraham Lincoln was assigned to handle the funeral, but I wonder if he asked to be on the committee.  Because what John Quincy Adams fought for, Abraham Lincoln continued.  He picked up the mantel and marched onward.  
That's influence, that's legacy.   

                                                                       Outlive your life! 
                                                                                 ~ Max Lucado

This is what we do, we out live our life.  Whether its our own children, students we minister to, or the friends and family around us.  We influence, we pass on the mission.  We carry the vision of Jesus' passion.  Don't forget today who you are and the influence you have.  Live it out and pass it on.

Quite a few people asked me about Mike Yaconelli yesterday. 
So I'll just put this video here and let him speak for himself.  
I hope you watch this and allow it to just soak in.  
Man, we miss you Yac!

I remember being a young youth worker and hearing the late, great Mike Yaconelli talk at NYWC  about the importance of play.  He told a story about a time when his family was on vacation and he was sitting on the deck of a beach house watching his adult-daughter twirl and dance and spin in the shallow ocean water.  He watched her skipping and playing for about 30 minutes and then finally she came up to the deck where he was sitting.  He asked her with a warm smile, "So what were you doing?"  She said a matter-of-factly, "Oh, I was playing."  
I remember the joy on Yac's face as he told us this and then he looked at us, like only he could, and said,  "Never Stop Playing!  Don't Lose Your JOY!  

Hearing him say this was perfect timing.  I had been feeling the weight of my job and I sensed myself losing my joy.  I couldn't remember what it was like to just be a kid.  But I remember sitting there listening to him and really being moved, challenged, and inspired. It's probably been about 15 years since then,  but I have to tell you, I have worked hard to keep the kid in me alive and I've done my best to pass this on. 

Tonight we were sitting on the front porch as a family and all of a sudden it started to rain.  This was a massive down poor that soaks you to the skin.  My daughter immediately ran inside of the house.  About two minutes later she came out with her rain boots and rain coat and started playing, dancing, twirling, and running all around the front yard.  Now, I have to tell you something: she turns 19 years old this month.  Yep, that's my girl. Kelsey and I watched her with such joy!  

The daily grind can drown the life out of us and steal the joy away from us.  It's not truly living unless we are living like free people, exercising our God given right to practice sabbath, to share celebrations, to recapture the joy in life.  Here is the honest truth: We are never too grown up to play in the rain.  May the gift of child-likeness overtake you this week and may His joy be your strength. Now get out there and PLAY!        

So here's a video of a family that took their autistic son to see his favorite band, Coldplay.  The love is palpable, the emotion real, and the journey this family is on, amazing. 
I love humanity!
I left my church about a year ago to start a new ministry.  As some of you know, transitions can be difficult and my leaving wasn't an easy one.  They did their best and I did mine, but there was awkwardness galore which, naturally, led to some hurt.  We, and I mean the church, aren't very good with things like this.  Regardless of the transition there was hope as a new and exciting dream was being born with Generation514. Launching this new ministry did not mean there wasn't a residue of pain.  This pain, and then the burden of our new ministry, led my family and I into something that I wish we had done more consistently in the past.  We started praying.  It wasn't that we didn't pray before - we did - but we started a new rhythm of prayer.  We come together for about an hour every night on a prayer walk and just try to become aware of the God who is with us.  
I needed some healing and we needed guidance and direction. Frankly, we were desperate. The prayer was simply "HELP!!!" at times.  Though I would hope that prayer times would be less self-centered than this, I cannot help but think that God heard us.

I recently saw someone tweet, "we don't pray to change God's mind, we pray to have our minds changed."  Now I've heard a variety of something like this before and I've said something like it in the past, but after a year of nightly prayer walks I'm not sure I fully agree with it anymore.  Or maybe it's just too formulaic for me.  I think prayer is much more communal and mysterious and messy than that, and I don't think it's so one sided.  Jesus even said that we have not because we ask not.  That statement alone can screw with your theology.  But I just wonder if prayer might be a complex, relational mash-up that unifies are hearts, minds, and souls with the creator and with those we pray for and with.  I wonder if prayer really doesn't just make a difference in our lives or in the lives of the people around us, but somehow, mysteriously, God is moved and impacted by His connection with us?  I know this is a slippery slope and I'm probably going to Hell, but there's just so much we do not know.  What I do know is that, practically speaking, prayer has not only sustained us, but it has brought us into the middle of all kinds of crazy God-stuff.

On one of these such prayer walks my wife, daughter, and  I felt like God was calling us to Washington DC and, specifically, we felt God wanted us to be there by September 1st, 2015.  Now that's pretty specific, so we decided to pray into that a bit.  We knew we'd need more funding and we'd need free housing...  Ugh!  This was no easy ask, but we just kept praying about it.  Well, a couple of months went by, it was late August and there wasn't a single lead in DC... nothing, not one!  Zipo!  Well of course, I started to freak out a bit  and  began to doubt everything.  

We started out on a prayer walk one night there in late August and a name came to my mind that I hadn't thought of in years.  He was a man who was friends with my father and lived in the DC area.  This man's name wouldn't leave my mind, so I called my father and mentioned him.  My dad said, "That's funny, his name has been on my mind all day as well."  So my dad called him, told him about our situation with our new ministry and this man said that he had a rental property that, for some reason,  he couldn't find a renter for, and that we could stay in this place for as long as we needed to.  Say What!?  

We moved to DC September 1st - which to us was a huge sign of God's leading.  There have been story after story of God being there in our midst - crazy, wonderful, God stuff!  

But ultimately, this nightly ritual has become our peace.  This year has been fairly stress-free - which is a miracle in and of itself.  Starting a new anything is never easy and leaving our church was difficult, but getting with God each evening and throughout my day has brought to us some of that fruit that we are all longing for:  
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.  

I've always prayed, a bit,  but diving into the deep-end of a more communal life with God's spirit has opened up my life - it has opened my family's life.  I've seen it change my daughter's life!  Don't pray alone. Well, do that, but also make it part of how you interact with friends, family, your children and co-workers.  As I'm finding from what I've been reading, all movements have begun with prayer and I'm longing for a movement.   

Are there unanswered prayers?  Yep.  Is everything just smashing? Nope.  But life is so good - it's adventurously expectant!  The more I hang out with God the more I trust.  The more I'm with him the more I feel free to risk - to just jump first and to fear later knowing that, either way, he's got me.

May you be overwhelmed and drawn into God's presence throughout your day and may your life be a ceaseless communion with HIM and with those around you.