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The First Day

Sunday, July 30, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Ok, I'm wiped out, but I'm going to try a quick post. One day this week I'll take some more time to completely explain our trip, but for now let me share about last night. I set up a separate blog (mainly for parents) that you can check out here if you're interested.

So one of the guys on our trip, Brian, wasn't feeling too hot when we got here yesterday. He skipped the rehearsal time last night due to this and when one of our guys was checking up on him, discovered that he was feeling horrible. Had trouble breathing and was shaking like crazy. They called me and me, Adam, Adam's dad, and Brian headed off to the emergency room. Long story short, we were there for about 5 and half hours. Doctor thinks it was just a stomach flu and Brian may have gotten a little panicky and was hyperventilating.

S0, we'd switched out a couple people and had two leaders (Claudia and Jennifer), Adam, and Brian's twin brother (Robbie) with us. We got back to the hotel at about 3am. Of course not before Claudia made an illegal u-turn and happened to be spotted by the Millbrae PD. Hilarious end to a long day. No ticket though. Oh, did I mention that we had to be up at 6 something this morning? So, I slept through my alarm and got ready in like 15 minutes. It's been a long day. I've caught up on some sleep but still need a full night. You can read the other blog for more details on the trip as I put them up.


Text Messages

Friday, July 28, 2006 by Mike Lovato

I received 19 text messages at one time from high school students today who were waiting for me so they could start a prayer walk. They all wanted to know where I was. Meanwhile, I was sitting on the toilet, text-messaging the real leader of the trip saying to meet me on another part of campus.

NOTE: I apologize to those of you who are offended at the thought of me sitting on a toilet. Chances are you probably sat on one today too.

Fluff Post

Thursday, July 27, 2006 by Mike Lovato

I've been crazy busy since we got back in Riverside. I'm sitting in a dorm lobby at CBU (with Austin Mathe) waiting for our little amazing race game to start. Hopefully I'll be able to post soon about what this mission trip is all about. Maybe tomorrow....or late tonight if I get my last two training sessions put together.

Heading Back Home

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Well, tomorrow morning at 8am we head back to Riverside. And tomorrow night, we start a two-day training for our San Francisco mission trip. We'll be staying in the dorms at CBU. More on the trip later. It's tough heading out of vacation straight into a trip...I'm actually planning on not taking vacation next summer. Too much going on in youth ministry. I'm highly in favor of fall vacations at the moment.

Books I'm Planning On Reading

by Mike Lovato

Here's the next couple books on my radar:

Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones
- I've been reading as much stuff out of North Point as I can. They have got it down when it comes to being strategic and streamlined in ministry. This book is all about preaching and speaking. I've read some of what they've said regarding one-point messages and am interested to learn some more. I think it could cause some shifts in my teaching style.

The Multi-Site Church Revolution by Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird
- More and more churches are turning to multi-site strategies as a way to maximize effectiveness and resources. If you haven't heard about churches doing this....don't worry, you will. Basically the motto of many of these churches is something like "One Church...Many Locations." Some of the best examples are Life Church, Community Christian Church, and Seacoast Church. I'm interested to learn more about this as it could impact my current ministry setting as well my future in ministry as well.

I'm going to try to pick both these up at Borders tomorrow afternoon when I get back to Riverside. Then I'll see if I can read at least one while I'm gone on our mission trip to San Francisco. I'll post a review of each when I finish.


Attack on the Lovautomobile

Sunday, July 23, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Check out Nicole's blog here to see what a couple high school girls decided to do to our car. And so it begins...

Staying Cool

Saturday, July 22, 2006 by Mike Lovato

According to weather.com it is 109 in Riverside right now. I'm so glad I'm in Mammoth and not there.

Shuffle Up and Deal

Friday, July 21, 2006 by Mike Lovato

My friend Josh has a feature on his blog where he asked a bunch of us what's playing on our ipod (or in my case - itunes). So, I'm featured this week. Here you go. The best part is one of the songs is a random one that came with the computer I think.

Mammoth Pics

Thursday, July 20, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Here's some pics from the trip so far:

Somewhere on 395

One of the many lakes we have seen

The whole crew

Me on a horse (sorry Allison, no hand motions)

More to come...


Wednesday, July 19, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Made it to Mammoth (took about 6 hours including 3 stops). And I discovered that they have high-speed internet in our condo. The condo itself is pretty sweet - 2 main stories plus a loft. We're up here with Nicole's mom (Cheryl), brother (Eric), sister (Lauren), and Lauren's friend (Kayla). As we pulled into the parking lot the car thermometer said it was 76 degrees. It is now 68 degrees here and 93 in Riverside. That makes me happy. There's also a ton of clouds and some on and off thunderstorms. We're hearing some thunder occasionally in the distance, but haven't much more than some light rain here.

Here's some of the plans for the week: horseback riding, fishing, riding the gondolas to the top of Mammoth Mountain, and meeting my parents in Yosemite for a day. Good times. With internet access, I should be able to blog fairly frequently.

Jon the Pirate

by Mike Lovato

Jon McWhorter, our high school intern and (as of a couple weeks ago) one of our church worship leaders, is now blogging. Check his blog out. He's a sharp guy and will probably have some smart things to say.

Jon - You should feel special because this is my 100th post and it's about you.

Why I Do Not Serve in Children's Ministry

Tuesday, July 18, 2006 by Mike Lovato

We're having Vacation Bible School at our church this week and I spent part of my evening doing hand-motions to songs. Anyone who knows me knows I hate songs with hand-motions. But the nice part is I was standing next to two other staff who also had no idea what they were doing so we just entertained the volunteers around us.


by Mike Lovato

Tomorrow morning we head out for a week's vacation in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I'm looking forward to the much-needed rest. Unfortunately, it's squeezed in the middle of all the other stuff going on so it may be tough at times to relax. I'll be trying to find the occasional spot to work on the training for our mission trip that starts when we get back. Today I pumped out the quiet time guide for the trip. I think it'll be pretty good. A week and a half worth's of devotions focused on the "one anothers." I'll also try to find some wireless internet up in the mountains so I can blog at least a few times. Nicole says she wants to take a picture of me on a horse. I'll post it if it happens.

Chick-Fil-A Mystery

Monday, July 17, 2006 by Mike Lovato

How is it that Chick-Fil-A can simultaneously have delicious chicken and the world's plainest tasting fries?

Student Leadership Conference Pics

Friday, July 14, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Doug Fields interviewing Austin Carty from Survivor

Our whole group at Fuddruckers

Fun learning activity

Me and Nickel

Julie and Christabel

Tug of War

Role Shift (for those in my life who care)

by Mike Lovato

Ok, I mentioned a few days ago I'd have a big announcement (at least for me) regarding my role at Magnolia. Since I started in September my title has been Minister to Students (fancy, I know). But the "students" in there only included jr. high and high school. We talked about the possibility of including college at some point in the future after the other two were solidified somewhat. Well, our college ministry point-person is needing to step down due to time constraints. So, my senior pastor asked me about a month or so ago if I'd be willing to consider taking on college ministry into my area as well. After talking it over with Nicole, running some ideas past people I trust, and praying about it I've decided to go ahead and take on college ministry as well.

So basically I'll be running lead on both the high school and college ministries. In order to not drive myself or my wife crazy I'll be reorienting some of what I do now. My goal is to lead from my strengths and do the things I love. Everything else will need to be handed off to other staff and volunteers. The details are still being worked out, but we'll be changing/shifting/adding some of our other internship stuff and high school staff. I'm excited about the shift.

Our college ministry has never really taken off (although it has been led by some incredible people) and now is the time to finally get serious about engaging and involving college students. Our church is located across the street from a Christian college of over 3,000 students. There's also a large public university in town, another private university, and a community college. There have been about 5-10 college students involved lately in our college ministry. So basically we're starting with a blank slate and casting vision from scratch. I love it. We also have a team of about 5-10 adults who are excited about getting involved in students' lives and helping launch this thing. I'm sure you'll hear more about this as time goes on.

Student Leadership Conference - Friday

by Mike Lovato

The conference finished off great. Dee Eastman shared on fellowship and Jim Burns talked about having a willingness to go wherever God had them go and to live their life according to the Jesus Creed. Then we had communion together in a pretty cool way. Josh started arranging bread on a table as different verses were read over the sound system. Josh's arranging was on the big screen and you started to see that it was a body....later on he covered it with a sheet and pressed down so the outline of Jesus' body was visible through the sheet. (Josh - post a pic of this if you have one or can find one). Then as we headed into the time of taking communion they took the bread from the body and placed it on the table with the juice....all while Allison is reading, "This is my body that was broken for you" over the microphone. Very cool.

All in all, the conference was great. I had very high expectations and it was even better than I hoped. Our students LOVED it. My biggest hope was that we'd be able to launch a student leadership team out of this week and I'm excited to say that this is going to be a reality. One of the things Erik Rees talked about was finding your sweet spot in ministry. We spent a lot of time with our students debriefing this session and our students are beginning to discover their uniqueness. It was cool to hear how different all of their passions and ministry skills are. I think we're going to be launching lots of cool new ministries in the Fall. Anyways, I'm stoked, it was a great week, Nicole's sleeping on the couch next to me, and I'm watching the World Cup of Softball again (currently my favorite thing to watch since I have an incredibly remote connection to a player). Time to relax for a day or so....nothing on the agenda tomorrow and I couldn't be happier.

World Cup of Softball

by Mike Lovato

Most random thing ever just now at 12:18am. The guys are watching the World Cup of Softball (I don't know why) and I hear "Jessica Mendoza is up to bat." I think, "I went to school with a Jessica Mendoza." Then I read, Hometown: Camarillo, CA. And I realize, "I went to school with THAT Jessica Mendoza!" Weird. I jumped up and yelled, "I went to school with that girl!" And as I typed this she rocked a home run out of the park for the first score of the game against Great Britain. Weird.

UPDATE: Did some googling and found out evidently I went to school with this girl who's an incredible athlete. She was on the 04 Olympic team that won Gold! Crazy.

Student Leadership Conference - Thursday

by Mike Lovato

Conference is still going good. I'm definitely feeling pretty tired at this point...feels like the night before we go home. I was telling someone today though that I usually get tired and ready to go home much earlier in a trip. I've been loving every minute of this one until the tiredness hit me this afternoon.

SIDE NOTE: I must be old or one of the guys in my room is pretty young-thinking for being 16. All he wants to watch is cartoon network (although right now it's Family Guy so that's not exactly a kid-cartoon). END SIDE NOTE

Back to the conference, morning session was just alright - the talks were alright and neither speaker seemed to connect with our students. So, no names will be mentioned here.

After lunch there were workshops. I led one on how to study the Bible on your own. The first one went mediocre...audience wasn't very responsive and I felt like I lacked on the delivery end. The second one was much more enjoyable. Few more students and they seemed genuinely interested. Of course, I noticed a bunch of things that I will change if I ever do this workshop again, but that's ok.

Evening session was a lot of fun. Fields led the world's greatest game of Simon Says that lasted for a good 20-30 minutes (or at least it felt like it). This was immediately followed the SLC version of Deal or No Deal. Also fun. The two speakers were Erin Kerr from Saddleback and Greg Stier from Dare 2 Share. I missed Erin because I stepped out for a few, but our group said he was good. Stier was great. He's very funny, yet challenging and practical when it comes to evangelism. Challenged me to initiate a conversation with someone in my life who needs to know Christ. To be honest, I realized that in the past I haven't really believed that God could make that change in his life. But...that's the power of the gospel.

Last, but not least. Briefly met Austin from Survivor this afternoon. Although not quite in the same way that Allison met him (but I was there to witness her embarassment).

Leadership Gold

Thursday, July 13, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Mentioned that I'd share some more from Erik Rees' session on ministry. He did a lightning-fast session, but in my opinion it was worth the cost of the conference. There's a section for our students that will be VERY helpful. I might blog about that tomorrow after we debrief it a little more. Here's the section that is going to be VERY helpful for me.

Grasp your role by identifying your sweet spot.

Give away the other roles by inviting others to serve.

Grow yourself and team members by investing in their SHAPE.

This could be huge for me. I struggle with handing stuff off, but I know that I desperately need to begin practicing this so our ministry can expand beyond me.

Student Leadership Conference - Wednesday

by Mike Lovato

Great day today again. Almost too much to mention. But I'll try to quickly do it. Matt McGill did a great job giving a quick 15-minute talk on discipleship followed by Kenny Luck talking about several core convictions (love God, love people, love God's Word) needed to be a leader. An event planner from Disneyland shared in the afternoon followed by Erik Rees talking about the purpose of ministry (more from him to follow). The night wrapped up with this guy Nick sharing some of his story of growing up with no limbs and a very powerful, but encouraging message with the students.

Not to mention the experiential learning stuff that had students running all over the campus and doing things like counting parking lot spaces, building a pile of sand, throwing frisbees, diving for pennies, and more. Whew.

Our students are still loving the conference and I'm having a great time. Tomorrow is two general sessions, workshops, and some free time. I'm teaching a workshop on how to study the Bible on your own. I'm feeling decent about it and hope it's helpful to students. We're also hoping to hit Laguna Beach in the afternoon.

Student Leadership Quote of the Day

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 by Mike Lovato

"If you're not growing at church, what's wrong with you?" - Matt McGill

The Point: If the right ingredients to grow (God's Word, heart to honor Him, other believers, etc.) are there, then spiritual growth will happen.

I'm tired of hearing students say, "I just want something deeper." I will listen and figure something out when that means something beyond "Deep = Verse-by-Verse Bible Study" and when they've applied all they've learned at church and when they're actively applying habits to grow on their own. Until then, "what's wrong with you?"

Student Leadership Conference - Tuesday

Tuesday, July 11, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Started off the conference on a great foot. Funny videos, fun game, and a great talk from Doug Fields on the make-up of a student leader. Our students are really enjoying it and seem to be getting a ton out of it so far. One crazy thing is that there's people here from all over the country and even international I think. We just drove about 40 minutes and that's it. I can't wait to see how the rest of the week is...but I'm tired now so I don't want to post much more.

Next Few Weeks

Monday, July 10, 2006 by Mike Lovato

The next few weeks are going to be a little crazy. Here's what my schedule looks like:

July 11-14: Student Leadership Conference at Saddleback with 11 high school students

July 18-19: Participate in the first two days of VBS (i.e. do whatever the children's minister tells me to do)

July 20-27: Vacation in Mammoth with Nicole's family (minus her dad on this one)

July 27-August 6: Going Public mission trip to San Francisco with 40ish high school students

August 13: Speaking in main service at church for the first time

Keep me in your prayers.

This Week

Sunday, July 09, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Nicole and I are taking a group of students to the Student Leadership Conference at Saddleback. I'm really excited about going. This is the first time they've done this and I hope it will be a great launching point for our students who serve in our ministry. I'll try to blog from the conference, but I kinda suck at that sometimes when I'm away. I'll do my best.

Also, at some point this week I'll be sharing some exciting news regarding my role at the church. Stay tuned...

Guys Day

by Mike Lovato

Yesterday we did a guys day and a girls day. Nicole headed up the girls day and took the train to Hollywood. I took the guys and we headed out to LaserTag, Pirates, and the SpeedZone. Now, it was a great day. But I have to say this. I often start events well and end crappily. Like the time we went to Disneyland and had a great day, but then ended up getting my first ambulance ride with a student who sliced his knee open in the parking garage on the way out. Or the time the student set off the alarm 2 hours before they went home after an all-nighter (oh wait, that was last weekend). So here's the crappy ending of this one.

At SpeedZone, I drove the dragsters and then went over with a bunch of guys to a go-kart track. Raced it, had a good time (except my car was lame at times). Anyways, at one point I felt like my rental van key might fall out so I checked it. Nope, still there. Then, I get off the go-karts and check for my key again....not so much there this time. The key fell off someplace. They had their crew looking for it with flashlights but couldn't find it.

So, we sent one van home while I waited with 6 students and Jon the Wonder Intern. Still no key. I call Steve and ask him to come back and pick us up (mind you, we're probably about 40 miles away from the church). Now, I had also earlier locked my personal keys and church keys in the now-locked van. So I had to call a tow truck to come unlock my van (which I couldn't drive) and get my junk out. Steve comes back to take us home. We were scheduled to be back at 10pm, but me and these guys got back about 12:30am. Crazy times.

So of course, we then had to go today and get a replacement key, drive back to City of Industry and pick up the other van. Now I am sprawled out on my couch trying to recuperate from another crazy weekend another great event with a crazy ending.

Giant Oranges

Thursday, July 06, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Chicago had its cows. Seattle has its pigs. And now my fair city has its oranges. A local arts group had artists paint 32 giant oranges and spread them all over downtown. Nicole and I took a little driving tour of this new art display in downtown Riverside tonight. I have to admit, I thought the idea was pretty weird, but it's actually pretty cool looking. We're going to go back and walk the main section of them soon. If you're local, I'd recommend checking it out.

Midweek at a Glance

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Series: Wisdom for Dummies - Why Wisdom?
Game: Way Below Average. Game? More like lame. We tried having fun with the whole mentos and diet coke thing in students' mouths, but it didn't work too well. Even though every time Jon and I tested it, it was awesome. I think they all cheated.
Music: Above Average. Songs: Forever, Here is Our King, Wonderful Cross, Rescue, Nothing But the Blood
Message Length: 17 minutes
Message Quality: Way Below Average. My first comment to my wife afterwards was, "my talk sucked." She says it was ok. Felt like the response was weak. My prep was weak. My delivery was weak. Oh well.
Volunteer Interaction: Below Average. I felt like they kinda kept to themselves tonight.
Student Response: Average. Seemed to participate in singing. Even enjoyed the gameness of lameness. Lots of bored stares during my talk.
Attendance: Average (I think). It's tough to gauge what average is because it's summer and our new freshmen just moved up. I would say, if we'd had this attendance 6 months ago I would have been very pleased.
1st Time Guests: Not sure b/c of new freshmen...haven't gone through the cards yet.

Overall, a fairly rough week. Our room setup wasn't ready so Jon felt stressed. The holiday threw off my prep time and I'm still sucking at managing my time. I think I'm going to take tomorrow morning to organize my office/life.

Ministry Weaknesses

Tuesday, July 04, 2006 by Mike Lovato

My friend Josh has a great post on some of his learnings after a month-long TV fast. I especially like his discussion of the four areas he realized he's been weak in. To some degree I've struggled in all four of these (especially C and D) in my first 10 months at Magnolia. Check it out here.

Promotion Sunday and Changes for a New Ministry Year

Saturday, July 01, 2006 by Mike Lovato

Tomorrow morning is Promotion Sunday at our church. We're changing things up quite a bit with our Sunday morning high school program. New curriculum...smaller group sizes....gender-specific groups. We're also cutting out a large-group opening we were doing with all the high school students. We're doing a similar deal still but it will be Freshmen/Sophomores with their own and Juniors/Seniors with their own.

I think we've worked through most of these changes fairly well with our leadership team. I do have some students though that I know may give me a hard time about some of it...specifically the gender-specific thing. I've heard through some of our leaders that one student said something like "We have to interact with guys at school so why change it at church away from that?" My response sounds like something like this, "It's an hour...not your entire life." On top of that there's a few actual serious reasons why we're making this change:

  • Gender makes for an easy dividing line in creating smaller groups.
  • Same-gender groups allow for better discussion of "delicate" topics.
  • Same-gender groups allow for better ministry "outside program time" (i.e. taking a student to Starbucks).
  • Same-gender groups allow certain students to interact more with the rest of the group when they hadn't before because of embarrassment, thinking they're too cool, etc.
I realize these types of groups aren't the best for every ministry, but they're the right move for us right now. Last thought, if you think about it, pray for more leaders in our ministry. I know every youth ministry needs more leaders. But we have a pretty serious shortage in high school at the moment and are looking for some quality people to invest in students' lives.

Freshman Frenzy

by Mike Lovato

Just got back a couple hours ago from our transition event for incoming high school freshmen. And, yes, I did rip the name off from my former employer.

  • Ice Skating - a section of my foot is a strange purple color now
  • Cosmic Bowling - always fun and we added a sweet section of crazy bowling with stuff like throwing backwards, spinning around 3 times first, or having your eyes closed.
  • Meeting new students - I knew most of the students at least by name, but got to know some of them better over the course of the evening
  • This was an all-nighter, but I prided myself on it being an all-nighter where you actually slept. The plan was to crash around 2am at the church. Let it be known that you don't sleep at an all-nighter. I finally fell asleep around 3:30 after kicking some of the guys out of the room I was set up in. Then I woke up at a little before 5 and went and told those guys to finally turn the light off and get some sleep. I think they got a little.
  • Being awoken at 6:20am by a student saying "Um, you're not going to like this, but I set off the alarm in the C building." Let me say this - we have 4 buildings (A, B, C, D). The two we were in were B and D. At no point did we go into the C building or say you should think about going into the C building. But this guy managed to unlock the door by sticking his hand through a mail slot so he could use a bathroom (a fact I will be passing along to the proper authorities.) So I went and turned it off. And went back to bed. And then was awakened when the police arrived. Anyways, all is good now.
  • Some girls decided to TP the men's room and then flushed a clogged toilet that proceeded to flood the bathroom. So we plunged the toilet and taught three freshman girls how to use a mop.
I realize the lowlights are longer, but it was actually a sweet event. There's just lots of random details to include on those. Needless to say, Freshman Frenzy may not be an overnight event next year.


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


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