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Mexico is Coming

Thursday, March 30, 2006 by Mike Lovato

I'm sitting in class right now (listening carefully of course).

We leave for Mexico in 48 hours.

It's been a long week.

It's going to be a good trip.

So, the next day or so are full of last-minute details, cutting off most of my hair, hanging with Nicole, finishing a paper that's due Saturday, and trying to get some rest. Should be fun.

PDYM - Friday

Sunday, March 26, 2006 by Mike Lovato

The morning consisted of a good session on volunteers, an area we're decent at but have plenty of room for growth in our ministry. Actually I'd give us a B- for our recruiting process, an A- for volunteer meetings and training, and a B- for individual care for volunteers.

Then we finished up with one last time of worship and communion. This time was cool for me. I hadn't mentioned it much yet, but God really refreshed my soul this week. I went into the week physically, emotionally, and spiritually drained. It was cool to come out of it with a fresh taste of God's grace and goodness.

Not only was I personally refreshed, but I feel like I've been recharged for ministry. I'm excited about this upcoming year. I'm excited about taking a handful of students to the PDYM student leadership conference in July. I'm excited about going to Mexico next week and building a house. I'm excited about launching small groups. I'm excited about retooling our Sunday morning program. I'm excited about the students who are going to find Christ through our ministry in the next few months. It's a good time.

PDYM - Thursday

by Mike Lovato

Had to go to my pastoral ministry class up in Brea that morning. I wasn't thrilled with that, but got to carpool with Jeff Boxell who's finishing up a Saddleback internship and that was the highlight of my morning.

Got to the conference at lunch-time. Sat in on a high school Q&A. Some decent questions, but mostly stuff I was familiar with from my time there. Went to a couple different "How We Do It" breakouts that afternoon. Really enjoyed on that Kurt and McGill did on Worship. It wasn't so much a program-type breakout, but more of just some cool thoughts on worship and some different ways those have fleshed out. I enjoyed it. Had to poke Jon with a pencil when he started to fall asleep.

Took Jon and Lucas to Fuddrucker's to debrief the conference. It was a really good time for them. In Jon's words "Now all that stuff you've been talking about the last 6 months makes sense." Good to know my communication skills got through :) There were a few things that jumped out at us as a team from the week:

Small Groups - This is our weakest area and we have to get it going. Right now everything in our ministry is medium to large and there is not a great place for students to build below-the-surface relationships. We're moving pretty aggressively on this for the Fall, but that's for a later post.

Programming - We've made some good strides in our midweek programs this year, but it's time to take them to the next level with better use of video and a dash more creativity.

Parents - Lucas is a stud at this. Seriously, he's so much better at me about keeping this on his radar and on the front burner. But we have to get better at it in high school too. Some ideas include a video-driven "Parents of Teens" small group and a "how to prepare your kid for college" type seminar.

There was a concert that night, but we ditched. Sean and Lucas headed over to Kurt's house to mingle with a bunch of jr. high pastors from all over the country. Jon and I went to the Spectrum. Spent some good times at Brookstone, way too much time for two dudes to look at shoes, and got some Coffee Bean. Then we headed back and watched The Office at the hotel. A good end to a good day.

PDYM - Wednesday

by Mike Lovato

So, after a night of sharing a slightly small hotel room with 3 other dudes and a bed with one other dude, I was ready to hit the first full day of the conference. I skipped a big chunk of the first session and spent some good time with my friend and former boss, Kurt Johnston. It was time well spent. I always come away from talking to Kurt feeling very filled up. Love that guy.

Spent some time actually going to the session and it was good, but not too much to comment on there. Went to two different breakouts in the afternoon. The first one was called something like "10 mistakes I made in my first decade of youth ministry" with Brian Berry. I have a couple weird connections to Brian through two different people I interned with at two different churches. But that was the first day I'd met him. Cool dude. Some good stuff to say. Nothing earth-shattering but some good reminders in areas like keeping my family the first priority. He talked about how you have to be able to go to bed at night and rest peacefully even though there's always more people to minister to and another task to be done. I resonated with that because in ministry, there's always something else to be done. I'm getting better at being ok with that, but it takes awhile.

The second breakout I went to was on parent-friendly ministry with Jim Burns. Actually I came in late and only caught a few minutes of it, but got some great practical ideas on some ways to resource and equip parents. I also got to play sound guy for a couple minutes when the DVD sound didn't work.

Got to connect with Brent Deffenbacher and some of his team from Northwest Church in Fresno that night over a delicious BBQ dinner. I've known Brent for several years now and always enjoy hanging with him.

The last session that night was a worship night with Becky Tirabassi speaking. It was a cool time. She's one of those very outgoing, quirky, slightly ADD speakers, but she had some great things to say about revival, prayer, and the confession of sin. She called people to confession from some of the junk in their lives and it was cool to see literally hundreds of youth pastors flood the front just to talk to someone about what's going on. It's amazing how quiet we feel we have to be about our struggles in the church sometimes. So, when an atmosphere of freedom finally happens, God works. We cruised by the worship center an hour or two later and there were still 5 or 6 people there waiting to talk to and pray with Becky. Very cool night.

Wrapped it up with some HALO 2 in which I dominated one game against some youth workers, but then some church had brought some high school students who played us and kicked our butts. That was my cue to leave. We bailed, got some late night In-n-Out, and went back to our cozy room.

PDYM - Tuesday

by Mike Lovato

Ok, so I didn't blog at all while I was at PDYM. There's several excuses for that, but reality is I was just seriously enjoying myself and didn't feel like it at the moment (my apologies to Ron and Brian). So, let me go day by day to give you the run-down of the conference. Here's Tuesday...

Put in a crazy half-day of work. Budgets were due on Wednesday but we had to be in OC on Tuesday which meant I had to work an entire day in advance to get the budget for next year done. We (me, Jon, and Lucas) cruised out around 2:45 (goal was 2; never happens with me). Checked into our hotel which Jon described as both looking and smelling somewhat like his grandma's house (I'm not sure if that's good or bad). Then we were off to pick up Sean Meade from Stuck in the Middle at the airport. I think I can honestly say that all of us clicked with Sean immediately. About 10 minutes down the road I felt like I'd known him a long time and we were all joking and discussing 24 (which made me like him even more).

Got to the conference. Ran into about 50 people I knew in about 4 minutes. I SERIOUSLY miss the people I worked with at Saddleback. They're just all such great people. Went and got a hot dog at the Beach Cafe. During my internship, I spent about 3-4 months working at that thing every Sunday afternoon till about 2 or 3pm. I just refer to those few months as "character-building."

First session, Taffy and the band were great. Lots of fun program stuff happening, including a senior pastor (I believe the only one in attendance) getting handcuffed to a lovely character named Terry. This was my first time at PDYM not working at the conference so it felt great to kick back and just enjoy it. Fields talked that night about how each person there brings somethign to the youth ministry table. But, sometimes we rely on what we bring to the table (charisma, programs, or activities) rather than the power of God. I'd heard him give similar talks before but it hit home more this time as I'm 6 months into my first full-time lead youth pastor role. It's VERY easy for me to begin relying on myself, my training, and my gifting rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit. Needless to say that gets old quick and I get drained quick which I think is partially some of what I've been going through the last several weeks.

Ok, that was Tuesday. More to come later.

PDYM, here I come!

Monday, March 20, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Tomorrow night at this time, I'll be back at my old stomping grounds of Saddleback Church. I can't wait! I need a week of refreshment, both personally and professionally. I also can't wait to hang out with some old friends. Going with me is Jon (our high school intern) and Lucas (our jr. high pastor). I'm looking forward to really getting away and bonding as a team for the first time. Also, crashing with us will be Sean from Stuck in the Middle. It'll be cool getting to know him and hearing more about SITM's ministry to middle school students. I'll try to blog from the conference each day if I can.

Life in the Valley

by Mike Lovato

No, this is not a post about my time spent living in Modesto.

The last few weeks have been tough...really tough. I feel like I've been going through a valley. And as of right now...I feel like I may be towards the end of the valley. Or it could be just the entrance to another one. Without going into all the details, let me give you three things I've learned and am clinging to right now.

It is not possible to change the past - There's no way to do it. All of us have moments we wish we'd handled differently, mistakes we've made, and things we'd love to erase. Unfortunately, Doc Brown and his time traveling Delorean just don't exist.

God has completely forgiven my past - Even though I've been following Jesus for 20 years now, I still struggle with getting this at times. It just seems like I should have to do something to pay for the past. But that's the mystery and beauty of grace. God takes care of it.

So, if the previous two statements are true (and I believe they are) then...

I must ruthlessly avoid living in the past - I say this, but sometimes I don't get it. My human nature desperately wants to go back and dwell in the past and live with my shortcomings. But if it's true that I can't change the past and God has forgiven my past, then I must move on. It's easy to get paralyzed by "woulda, coulda, or shoulda." I must learn from the past, but I cannot live there.

The valley has been tough. I look forward to moving out of it. But, I also know that God does a lot of work in the valley. He changes us. He shapes us. He begins to make us into the people he wants us to be. So, while I can't say I've enjoyed this valley, I do know that God has given me a deeper understanding of Himself through it.

I Love Technology...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 by Mike Lovato

I was talking with a friend today about technology and ministry. The discussion led to this question: With all the technology available today, should investing more time in technology start to replace investing time in "real-world" relationships? My answer: absolutely not!

Don't get me wrong, I believe the church has a responsibility to make the best use possible of the available technology. And I think technology right now has some cool applications for ministry (i.e. blogging, podcasts, MySpace). But as that technology continues advancing, relational ministry is more important than ever before. Students today can completely shut themselves off from the world around them if they want to which means there is NOTHING more meaningful to them than sitting across from them with a cup of coffee and talking about life.


by Mike Lovato

Ok, so I read quite a few blogs. And quite a few people are blogging today about last night's 24 episode.

Now, I'm a HUGE fan of the show and have to say I'm disappointed. Not in last night's episode but in several people's surprise at what went down. First of all, everyone says they didn't see Jack shooting the guy's wife in the leg coming. Come on people, this is JACK BAUER we're talking about. He shot his former boss in the head. He kills dozens of people each week. And you're surprised that he he non-fatally shoots a suspect's wife in the leg to get some intel? Have you forgotten what show you're watching?

Second, you had to see the Edgar thing coming the second he goes to check on Carrie. Nice knowing you Edgar. Now, I didn't like Edgar at first, but he has grown on me. In fact, I dressed up as Edgar at last year's season finale costume party (side note: I realize I just lost respect with many of you, but yes, I attend a finale costume party each year). So I was sad to see him go.

24...all about expecting the unexpected.

Lead From Your Strengths

Monday, March 06, 2006 by Mike Lovato

In the last few weeks, I've been reminded of a fact that I've known for a while, but never completely put into practice. Andy Stanley in his book, Next Generation Leader, talks about how as a leader I need to only do what only I can do. The reality is, I do a lot of stuff that other people could be doing. And then, I get frustrated when I'm not able to spend the time on areas where I feel my giftedness is strongest in. For example, speaking/teaching is one of my favorite parts of ministry. And I feel that God has gifted me in that area. But, since being back at Magnolia, I don't feel like I've been able to give as much to developing this part of ministry as I'd like to.

Why not, you might ask. Well, I spend a lot of time doing other things. Good things, mind you. I've spent a lot of time putting together our upcoming Mexico mission trip, trying to set up our process for new volunteers, and just keeping up with the week-to-week stuff that goes on in our church. All of that stuff is good stuff. But as the leader, I am coming to a growing realization that there's a ton of stuff I need to be handing off.

As the leader, there's certain things that I must do. For instance, I need to interview our new leaders. But, I don't need to oversee every step of their paperwork and references. I need to lead and cast vision for our Mexico trip. But I don't need to dig through the storage container to inventory all the tools. Whenever I say yes to one of these good things, I am saying no to something that is potentially more in line with my gifts and vision.

As a church staff, I feel like this topic has been an emerging theme. All of us are busy. All of us do a lot of stuff. But are we doing the right stuff? There's literally hundreds of people in our church with gifts that would excel at doing some of the things we're holding onto. My plan for myself is to develop an Excel sheet that will help me evaluate what I'm great at doing and what I'm bad at doing. Also, it will help me see what I love doing and what I hate doing. And then the first step will be to hand off the things I'm bad at and hate. And then the things I'm bad at and love. And then the things I'm good at and hate. And so on and so on...


Mike Lovato is a follower of Jesus, husband to Nicole, daddy to Addison, and pastor to teenagers in Riverside, CA.


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