2019 Renew Student Conference highlights

Last March we launched the Renew Student Conference, a local discipleship event hosted at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church, with two goals; (1) to get young people from all over the region in the same space worshiping and learning together, and (2) to see it led by voices from leaders from a variety of churches and student ministries.

Our first year was a big roll of the dice. The goal was to see if we could 150 people to come out; that felt like the threshold for pulling the trigger on future years. We brought in Illijam, a hip hop artist, and the Skit Guys, as well as invited four local youth workers to teach and two local student worship bands to lead worship.

We were blown away by the response; 19 churches participated! 320 students and youth leaders came out! We had an amazing two days … and learned a LOT about how to organize a conference event and where we could improve.

The 2020 Renew Student Conference is going to be March 6-7. It’s still five months away, but I’m starting to get really excited. We’ve added breakouts this year which opens the door to getting a lot more local youth workers leading, as well as more opportunities for teens from different churches to connect. With Andrew Stanley coming to do a comedy set and Propaganda (!!!) coming to do a concert and be one of our speakers, it’s shaping up to be an even more amazing year. I can’t wait to see how it comes together!

Highs and Lows of Ministry

MAD Man 2009

This photo was taken almost ten years ago on a service weekend in Philadelphia. I stumbled across it last week; it has a lot of emotions tied up in it.

It was a fun moment. I love Rocky, I loved getting my picture at the statue, loved having fun with these students, loved seeing them serve. I was their new youth pastor and excited about the future.

A few years ago I attended the funeral for one of them. A few weeks ago, I performed a wedding for one, and a week ago I officiated at the funeral for another. One of the best moments followed by one of the worst moments.

Ministry is full of joy and heartbreak. A long youth ministry tenure only heightens that. It is a gift to involved in people’s lives, to be invited into their best and worst moments. It is energizing and exhausting. It’s often times overwhelming, but I’m thankful for the calling.

Ten Years at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church

Melissa and Zach pulled off a massive surprise for Heather and I at the fall retreat this year; we had no idea they had been collecting videos, notes and pictures from current and former students and leaders to put together a video (see above) and a memory book to honor our ten years at Brandywine Valley Baptist Church (August 24th marked the official ten years since I had started). It’s not often that I am that caught off guard or speechless!

All that to say, I really, REALLY appreciate everyone who contributed to it and a huge thank you to Melissa and Zach for making it happen!

Apologetics Summer Series

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The summer series on Apologetics is a wrap! I enjoyed putting together this adult class and am really happy with how it all turned out. Overall, I hope it was a great resource for people, and ultimately, helped those who attended have a greater understanding of the scriptures and their calling to be a part of God’s plan for reaching the world. The audio and powerpoint/handouts are all available for those who want to revisit the series, or dive into weeks they missed:

Here is the outline for the ten weeks:

  • July 1: Introduction to Apologetics, Dr. David Lamb
  • July 8: Existence of God, Dr. David Lamb
  • July 15: The Problem of Evil, Dr. Bo Matthews
  • July 22: Reliability of Scripture, Dr. Marilyn Button
  • July 29: The Resurrection, Dr. Bo Matthews
  • Aug 5: Postmodernism and Culture, Dr. David Hard
  • Aug 12: Postmodernism & Defending the Faith, Dr. David Hard
  • Aug 19: Journalism: A Search for Truth, Dick Lawyer
  • Aug 26: Journalism: Connecting the Dots, Dick Lawyer
  • Sept 2: World Religions, Rev. Matthew McNutt

Life, The Universe & Everything

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We just concluded a series a couple weeks ago in our Sunday morning high school group that I had a lot of fun putting together. Over the course of three weeks we tackled the question of faith and science. For me, there was a basic, underlying purpose to the series as a whole; we know that, depending on the survey, something like 60-80% of young people disappear from the church when they finish high school. We also know that the number one reason given for this is over the issue of science and faith; that for many young people, their church’s present it as an either/or scenario, that you can only choose one. And when they see compelling evidence for scientific claims that conflict with what their church’s taught them growing up, they feel like they don’t have a choice. My goal was to help reframe the question, to give students room to reconcile faith and science without dictating a ‘right’ answer.

I’m a nerd, so yes, I lifted the title, and the weekly titles, from ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” I also used Doctor Who and A Wrinkle in Time as well. More importantly, I drew on a LOT of theologians who have done far better work on this topic than I ever could to help shape the content. Here’s what the three weeks looked like (click the title to hear the audio):

  • The Ultimate Question: We kicked off the series by wrestling with the question of whether or not we are asking the right questions when it comes to faith and science. What is the ultimate purpose of scripture? Does our cultural values give us unexpected bias while we read these ancient documents?
  • Don’t Panic: We continued the series by taking a closer look at different theories of origins, ancient cultural values and beliefs, and Genesis 1. Is it possible to have different beliefs regarding origins and still honor God? How would the ancients have understood the first chapter of Genesis, and how should that inform our reading of it? Whatever you do, don’t panic!
  • Mostly Harmless: We concluded the series by comparing the creation narratives of humanity in Genesis 1 and 2. How do we explain the dramatically different order of creation found in these opening chapters of the Bible? In exploring how the ancients would have understood the Hebrew terminology used in both accounts, reconciling the two accounts is possible.

Anyway, it was a fun series to work on … and I’m hoping to continue to refine and adjust the content in the years to come.

2018 Winter Retreat Recap

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This past weekend was my tenth (!!!) winter retreat with Brandywine Valley Baptist Church; it was definitely one of the better ones! We had a great time. I actually went into the weekend a little worried; the weather was so mild in the weeks building up to the trip that there was no snow on the ground and the frozen pond … wasn’t frozen enough to play on.

So we changed it up. Saturday morning the group went on a hike to the top of a nearby hill, which they were surprised by how much they loved doing. That afternoon we went to an indoor water park; always a big hit in the middle of winter. Our theme for the weekend was “Run.” We had some fun with the children playing signs in our region that bear a striking resemblance to our intern, Zach, pointing out that they aren’t “no running” signs, but rather, alerts that someone IS running. That for us, those signs are now a reminder that we are running after Christ. We even made stickers and shirts to give out as reminders and prizes, which were a big hit.

zach sign

Over the course of the weekend we had three messages; Melissa kicked off the weekend, Pastor Nate spoke Saturday night, and I wrapped it up on Sunday. You can find the messages on our podcast on iTunes, or listen to them with these links:

All in all, it was a really fun weekend. The messages really seemed to flow together and the teens seem to resonate with what they were hearing. It was the largest turnout we have ever had – we literally ran out of beds and maxed the place out! And no injuries! If you want, you can check out the photos on our Facebook page.