Thursday, January 31, 2013

Prepping for a camp

Now I am pretty sure there is no manual on how to prep for speaking at a camp.  I am not even sure if what I do is the best but here is how I have learned to best prep for speaking at a camp.

Study the Outline
Normally when you speak at a camp you will be given an outline, or some sort of document, that will help you understand the theme of the camp.  Study this!  If the camp wants you to preach on X,Y and Z then you better be familiar with X,Y and Z.  From my experience the camp will give you some direction on where they are heading and the theme they have.  The nice thing is the directions normally mean I get to use the freeway (I have lots of room to work) and normally don't have to take the country room (less room to move in).

Prepare Ahead
If the camp gives you the material 6 weeks out; start studying.  If the camp gives you the material 6 months out; start studying.  I have found that the longer I can just think about the text, direction and theme the better I am.  I am not a natural thinker so I need more time than your average person.  When I get an opportunity to think ahead I am much more creative, know my Bible texts better and have way better stories to tell! I have time to try the illustrations that I want to use and make sure the movie clips fit the direction of the message.

Map it out
Know where you are heading and make sure its clear!  I like to get a big piece of paper and write out the title of the night, the main text and my big idea down (see picture below).  Once those are clear I can start outlining my messages for the week.  When I am able to see it clearly written down I can process it better and make sure I am being crystal clear in what I'm teaching and how I'm asking students to respond to God.

Own It
If you don't own it how will anyone else?  If you don't know your material, by heart, how can you expect a student to remember it.  Now you may think this is harsh or too much to ask but I don't.  I always do my best to memorize my material, the flow of the night and how I will close the message.  My hope is that if a student ran into my 6 months later that I would know enough of the messages that I preach to still have a lasting conversation about them.

So this is what I'm doing right now; what are you doing so I can learn from you?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What Up?

This weekend I was preaching at a camp in the San Bernardino Mountains.  I have had a great time teaching at this camp for the last couple years and I am very thankful for the ministry of Pondo.
The theme of the camp was "What Up?" and all weekend we used different UP themes to help students grow in their faith.  I don't have the messages recorded to share with you but I do have some thoughts after being a student ministries pastor for almost a decade.

Ministry to Students Matters
This weekend I hung out with a bunch of student ministries pastors, adult leaders, camp leadership teams and a great worship team.  All of these people invested HOURS into making an amazing camp experience for this camp.  Students came to camp because their youth pastor believed in them.  Students found Jesus at camp because their leaders had been praying for them and God worked in their hearts.  If you are not working directly in student ministries you need to figure out how to have a finger in their because it matters.

Ministry to Students is Time Consuming
When you work with students on a full-time basis or as an adult leader it is time consuming.  This weekend I saw many adults staying up way past my bedtime.  I had conversations with leaders who had students that stayed up late (and most of them were because the kids just had massive amounts of energy).  Leaders helped carry bags, stack chairs, clean up cabins, and take kids snowboarding (suffering for Jesus).  For me; I took many nights sitting at my kitchen table writing messages with the intent to help students find Jesus.  I left my family for the weekend and took time to make the camp happen.

Ministry to Students is Worth It
Ministry to students matters, its time consuming but in the end it is all worth it.  On Saturday night there were many students that made a profession of Christ as Lord.  Students trusted Jesus with their entire heart.  Students took a step of faith, got out of their comfort zone and placed their trust in God.  As a former student pastor I can say that its all worth it!

I say that because this weekend I met up with some of the boys who were in the student ministry I lead and went snowboarding.  They are young men now and I had a great time with them as freshman boys, senior boys and now young men who are living for Jesus.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Expository Preaching

I'm learning a new style of preaching... I think (I say I think because I am doing my best to learn)

See I kinda think that when I first started preaching I used this style of preaching coming from a Calvary Chapel background but I never had the help that I am getting now.

Most of my years of preaching I did that majority of the research, preparation, sermon development and delivered the message.  When I first started preaching on a regular basis (at Hope Church) my pastor gave me a stack of CD's from Rick Warren on how to CRAFT a message.  That was very helpful in my initial years of preaching.  I think that I used that style for many years.

About two and a half years ago I took a class in seminary that rocked me.  See I thought I was a pretty good preacher... until I took a preaching class.  The bummer is that for years I had been preaching and NEVER took a preaching class.  Rod Casey was a great, gentle, understandable pastor who taught me how to preach better.  He taught me how to preach effective messages for life change.  In fact we worked through an Andy Stanley book call "Communicating for a Change" and I think that helped me communicate more clearly.

For the last five months I have been using a preaching style called "Expository Preaching".  The word expository is an adjective that means:
Explanatory, descriptive, describing, explicatory, explicative, interpretative, exegetical. 
I'm going to pretend that I fully know what I am talking about but what I am thankful for is a pastor who is helping me develop my speaking ability.  Over the last couple months I have had an opportunity to preach to our church a few times and that has been really cool.  After my preaching my pastor has taken the time to help me develop into a better expositor as I learn how to preach better! 

What is your preaching style? 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Confessions of a Pastor: Final Confession for 2012

I have a final confession to make for 2012...

I read the Bible every year from cover to cover

I feel much better now that I got that off my chest.  I know some people prefer to read one book of the Bible and take multiple weeks to read it and read it and read it again but that just doesn't work for me.

I am not one of those people who can just open their Bible and read whatever page that I turn to.  I find it too difficult not completely understanding what is going on when I open to the middle of a book.

To be honest I really can't remember who invited me to read the Bible from cover to cover or how I started this reading plan.  One year I gave up reading cover to cover and ordered the Chronological One Year Bible off Amazon.  I found that an enjoyable way to read the Bible but after reading it I passed it onto my mom to share the goodness.  In an effort to switch it up I went back to cover to cover and had done that ever since.

One year I decided to switch it up again and read the New Testament first and then went back to the Old Testament.  That was about two years ago; I'm back to cover to cover.

The confession gets better...

I don't read the Bible on my phone or iPad.  I read the Bible in paper form so I can underline passages and make notes.  I know I am so not 21'st century or hip.  I do love the youversion app and I know many people who use it to read the Bible but I just can't seem to focus... Maybe that is my problem; I need to focus and I want to be intentional with my walk with Christ so I read the Bible from cover to cover so I can know the whole truth of God.

There I said it!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Santa Cruz: Day Trip

On Friday we went down to Santa Cruz with my: kids, wife, sister and two nephews!  Charity and I had so much fun down there for our anniversary that we thought it would be a good day trip with the family.

As we drove onto the Wharf I looked to my left and noticed a sea otter swimming near the surf!  The Wharf is teeming with life; something that I missed being in the desert for the last 8 years.  After parking I took my girls over to look at the sea otter.  After that we walked around the entire wharf looking at sea lions, seagulls (nasty) and pelicans.

I think all the kids enjoyed walking around the wharf and seeing the sea life.  There were actually less sea lions there this time than the time before.  All of the kids thought it was great trying to find the sea lions and looking at the birds in the water.

(taken with iPhone 5)
After walking around we found a great place to grab lunch.  Instead of having lunch on the benches we decided to eat on the second floor where we could see the bay.  We had a great lunch and I snuck outside to get a shot of the sunny day we had!  After lunch we headed over to get an ice cream cone before heading home.

As I reflect on the day I think about how much fun I had with my kids, wife and sister.  It was great having my sister in town for the weekend and so much fun that we can do a half-day trip like this.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Follow Jesus Series

This Sunday our church started a new series called Follow Jesus.  Mark started out the series talking about the passage in Luke 9 where Jesus asks the disciples to give Him and update on what people are saying about Him.  Right after Peter confesses Christ as the Messiah Jesus goes into sharing about how He will soon die (probably not a fun conversation).

The message really impacted me as Mark talked about that there is no difference between being a Christian and being a Disciple; Christ never meant for their to be a division between those two words.  At the end of Mark's message we transitioned into a time of communion.  At that point Mark asked us to take a few minutes to think about what is in our life that is holding us back from being a Disciple.

To be completely honest, when those times arise, I normally pray for people in our church that God would speak to them.  But this Sunday I didn't do that.  I asked God what was holding me back from being a Disciple.  To that I felt God speak four things to me and then I asked Him to repeat them so I could remember them by using my fingers to mark a point.  Well when I did that I only got three things that I need to work on and here they are:

1. Watch less TV
Believe it or not this is a problem for me.  I love watching: Gold Rush, Parks and Rec, American Hoggers, Survivor, Duck Dynasty, Storage Wars, Football, The Office, Parenthood, Alaska the Last Frontier, Up All Night, Yukon Men and probably more!  I can sit in front of the TV for hours and just love it.  It allows me to veg and not engage life.

The truth is I can't live like that anyone.  I need to be engaged in life which I think leads well into the next thing I am going to work on this year.

2. Be present
I have struggled with this for years and have written about it before.  Once, while meeting with my counselor, this topic came up.  We talked about how I have the personality type that can always think ahead and miss out on today.  She encouraged me (warned me) that this will be something that I will have to fight against in my life; she wasn't kidding.  I have to fight to be present.  I can day dream in conversations, think about other things and turn the conversation to what I want to talk about.

This year I am going to FIGHT to be present more often; especially with my kids. 

3. Be a better parent 
Its tough to admit but I don't think I am the best dad.  I think I am good dad but I think I could do better.  For most of my children's life I was in seminary.  While in seminary I was able to skip out on dad duties in the name of conquering school.  Well the truth is that school is done.  I don't have an excuse anymore to be a disengaged parent.  I have written papers on how to be an involved parent so I am going to go back and take my own advice on what I need to do.

I am not writing any of this to show how Godly I am.  In fact it may be the opposite.  I am writing this because I need prayer.  I want to be a better dad.  I want to be more present in situations.  I need prayer.  I need others to come alongside me to help me be the man that I think God desires for me to be.

If you want you can watch the message that Mark preached here on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


One of my favorite questions to ask people at Central Peninsula Church Foster City is
"How long have you been at CPC?"

For the first two months I was shocked at the responses I heard

Here are some of the answers I received from this question:
"About 22 years" 
"Since before Mark came, so 25 years" 
"I think about 27 years now" 
"At least 30 years" 
"32 years" 
"Before Mark went gray" 
Most of my pastoral experience has been in church plants so to hear responses like this left me speechless.  It has been such a blessing to hear the stories of longevity of the people at our campus, and on our staff!  There are staff members that have been around since before I gave my life to Christ!

Monday, January 07, 2013

8 Years of Marriage


What can I say about marriage?  What is something that would stick out? Something that grabs your attention and captivates?  Something that changes your perspective on marriage by sharing how awesome my marriage is?

When I was 17 years old I never thought I would live to see my 18th birthday and now I am talking about being married for 8 years.  As I reflect on the last eight years of marriage I am not going to give three points to a better marriage.  I don't have the top ten moments of our marriage to share with everyone.  Actually as I reflect on our marriage, today, I am just thankful.

To be honest we have been through some rough times in our marriage.  Charity has had to deal with my craziness for over eight years now; if you know me I am a little crazy.  I love to tell people about Jesus. I constantly think ahead which means I have to be intentional to be present.  I love to dream.  I like to save money.  I love animals.  I frequently think about snowboarding. Now add to all of this the fact that for most of our marriage I was working on Seminary (only took me six years to finish a three year degree).

In addition to my crazy stuff we decided to add kids to the mix.  Did I mention that our first daughter didn't come home with us from the hospital?  Ya, she was born and then taken immediately to NICU: do not pass GO, do not spend time with your parents, do not breastfeed, just go directly to baby jail.  Somehow, after that, I was able to talk her into having another kid!

As I reflect on the last eight years I am in AWE of the love of my wife for me.  I am so blessed to be married to such an amazing women.  I think about all the fun that we have experienced together.  I think of the adventures that we have taken.  I think about going to: Jamaica, Mexico, Italy, Africa, Disneyland, and Washington.  I think about how supportive you are that you left everything to move to Vegas and San Mateo when I felt God was calling us there.

I guess the one thing I would say about the last eight years of marriage is that I am lucky.  I was able to marry my best friend and the person I want to do life with.  Thanks for doing life with me Charity Benson!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Years Goals

Like most people I make some goals for the New Year.  I wouldn't say I spend an obsessive amount of time on them and probably could do better with them.  I don't like to call them resolutions because I like to have goals.

For example one of my goals is the opposite of most Americans.  I actually avoid the gym for the month of January.  Yep, I avoid the gym.  I avoid the gym for the first month while everyone is on their "get healthy" plan then once the month is over I return to the gym to find it peaceful like always!

This year I kept my goals pretty simple.  I am not sharing my ministry goals because I haven't worked on those yet (I've prayed for wisdom but feel like I am still learning so much so that will most likely be my goal).

Goal #1
Read the Bible from cover to cover
This isn't a new goal for me.  Since becoming a Christian I have had a strong desire to read, and understand, God's word.  In a men's small group I had a man challenge me to start reading the Bible on a daily basis and that has turned into me reading the Bible on a yearly basis for about the last 9 years.

Goal #2
Utilize the "Parent Cue" app from Orange.
Our church has been using the Think Orange curriculum in our Children's Ministry and I have this app on my phone.  The bummer is I paid for it and NEVER use it.  That is changing this year.  I feel like I need to know what we are encouraging families to use and I want to see how this app works.  I also want my kids to grow spiritually so its a win win!

Goal #3
Stop drinking Soda
This one may be tough!  I love me a good soda pop.  I don't drink caffeine so my soda options are limited but this one will be tough for me.  Not totally sure why I am doing this but its been on my mind for a while.  One of my former students, Jacob Dunne, actually has inspired me on this one.  I love his dedication to not drinking soda and I think it will be a little healthier for my life.

What are your goals for the New Year?