The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Friday, September 29, 2006

The youth website is live!

The youth website is live!

Big thanks to my little brother, Will, who put together this great website for the youth group I lead. It uses WordPress and the picture section is integrated with Flickr.

Thanks Will! You rock!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sunday Wrap-Up...

This morning the youth choir sang at the early service, which meant a really, really early morning. There is a bit of a controversy going on at the church right now, so that showed up and was volleyed about. I just know that I am called to love God, love kids and find other adults that love both those things as well. Sunday School was interesting. We did our check-in (goods, bads of the week) and kids had to fill in the phrase “Sometimes Christians irritate me because…" There were some really thoughtful, deep answers. Then we looked at the Rob Bell Nooma film “Bullhorn” which dealt with a great deal of what we talked about. Then 11 AM church. Afterwards, I went home and watched some of the Titans game and played some X-box.

This week at youth group was one of those weeks where I took a deep breath and say “Thank you for putting me in this place and this job.” Nothing major stuck out, but it was just a good week. For starters, we played some serious “4 on a couch” a youth ministry classic. The high schoolers took both games.

Then I taught the third week of the Team series. Two weeks ago, I taught about the need of Jesus to be in control of our lives. Last week we dealt with the need to be involved in the local church and this week we talked about the need to be involved in a small group. It has been good stuff. Next week, I end it with the idea of accountability and being mentored. It is definitely the deep end of the ocean of what I have taught here so far, but it will be worth it if folks buy in.

Then we moved to the gym and played indoor kickball. Basic rules except regular bases, no foul balls and you can play the ball off the wall. It kept getting crazier and crazier until I just called it because of time. And kids were left wanting more, which is great. Things are coming more and more together. Slowly but surely…little by little God is rebuilding and growing us into something more. Senior high small groups start in a couple weeks and then our big outreach event happens at the end of October.

Maybe the greatest reality television moment of all time...

Listen, I am about to admit to something that I am not necessarily proud of. But I am also not ashamed. I love the television show "Cheaters." It is a genius idea with a host that has just enough spunky sarcasm to make it awesome.
But his crowning moment as host can be found here:
Cheaters clip on YouTube.

Idea I never got around to: Youth Group Cheaters. A filmed sketch with a jilted youth director confronting some kids who went to another youth group. It had (has?) some potential. Just imagine:
"We put in a disco ball because you all wanted it! A...DISCO...BALL."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

I broke the Friday rule...

So as I have mentioned previously, I try and have everything done for youth group before I leave on Friday. (That is what the aforementioned Friday rule is.) Because of a variety of reasons, I didn’t get it done this week. So I am a couple hours away from kick-off and working on games. And I am using my usual list of resources: books, websites, a massive games list I made when I was on Crossfire (UGA’s Wesley Foundation's summer youth ministry team.) And suddenly it hits me. Bethlehem has a gym!

After years of avoiding large area games because of space issues, I can do any large game I want. So tonight, we are playing some indoor kickball and maybe some dragontail dodgeball. Now if only we could figure out how to fix the acoustics so you could explain the game in the gym instead of in another room and then playing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The rare Saturday afternoon blog…

So this morning I got up to work on one of the Lesson’s Learned From Cornerstone ™ into practice- working the public relations machine better. Now, it isn’t that I am doing it just for public relations purposes; I really enjoy the opportunities. But when I get busy (and thus become less intentional about it) it is a easy thing to put on the back burner and to quit doing entirely.

So, I rose up early and went with a senior’s group from our church out to breakfast. We went to a restaurant not too far away and it was great to get to know some of them and have them share their stories. It is a good mix of people, folks who grew up in Franklin or nearby as well as folks who are new to the area. Some of them have grandkids in the youth group but most don’t. But it was a great time just spending time with them and saying “I value the whole church, not just my piece of it.” Afterwards, they were all extremely gracious and expressed thanks. And they made sure that I knew when their next month gathering was, which I took as a good sign.

Then I did some work here at the church and waited for some folks to come pick up a foosball table. We recently came into some new gaming tables and rather than chuck the old ones or donate them to Goodwill, the conference youth coordinator was gracious enough to advertise. So, a small church now has a good foosball table for their ministry. And it turns out it was the church of one of the new friends I met on last weekend’s youth minister’s retreat. It made me feel good about taking the time to try and bless some other folks’ ministry rather than chunking it away. Hopefully this week someone is picking up a ping-pong table and someone else is getting an air hockey table.

Tonight, I am headed to Turff’s parents big annual BBQ shindig. I hope that we don’t get rained out, though it definitely looks ominous. Oh well, it will still be cool, come rain or shine…

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Randomness...

So here we go…random thoughts from the week….

  • One of the churches that I had an interview with in has already let go the youth worker they decided to hire. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say it was an integrity issue but not like abuse. Just watch what you put on your myspace. And in the Jason Sansbury Sweepstakes, you snooze, you lose!
  • Next week I will do my Atlanta Hawks preview. Speedy Claxton broke his hand though. Dang! And I now have a Western Conference team I can route for. Just a couple hours down the road are the Memphis Grizzlies. Yet another franchise I can hopelessly cheer for!
  • Congratulations Chan Gailey! You finally discovered that Calvin Johnson may be the best wide receiver in the country and if you throw him the ball, good things tend to happen! And it is clear that the rumors are true…the Virginia Cavaliers are terrible!
  • Last year, Dan Hawkins brought the Boise State Broncos into Athens, GA and got spanked. This year Dan is bringing the Colorado Buffalos into Athens, GA. Same thing…looking at Georgia’s schedule it appears Dan may be moving on to Western Carolina for 2007. (And if you love me, pray that UGA beats Tennessee. I don’t know if I can live here if the Dawgs lose…)
  • My books have arrived. I think I am going to start with Deep Ministry in A Shallow World. Looks solid and challenging. Expect a review next week.
  • Proof some people don’t get it…The newest issue of Devo-zine has a Backstreet Boy on the cover. All the 25 year olds are swooning…if they read a devotional aimed at young teens.
  • Turmoil is never good.
  • This weekend’s movies: Hustle and Flow and Brick. I love my Netflix.
  • Quick mini-reviews of entertainment:

The Illusionist- Okay. A painfully obvious ending. Ed Norton reminds us of the fact that he may be the best actor in his generation. I mean, he makes Jessica Biel seem like a good actress. Paul Giamatti was excellent as well. Solid.

Veronica Mars, Season 2: My favorite show right now. Good acting, solid long range plot development and some great guest stars. I just love the show, even though every time I see Enrico Colantoni as Veronica’s dad I have to go “I can’t believe that is the guy from that crappy show, Just Shoot Me.” Plus the next season seems to revolve around Charisma Carpenter. Ain't nothing wrong with that...becasue she is a great actress.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Just a random update...

The state of Tennessee is convinced that I am an illegal alien. Despite having a valid Georgia’s driver’s license, a current Social Security Card and proof of residency in the state, I can’t get a Tennessee license. Because you know all the illegals are coming to the States and snatching up the youth ministry jobs. Goofiness. I think it is just because I am a UGA fan. (And by the way, the Dawgs are killing people now that the Matthew Stafford era has begun!).

Youth is moving along. I had my first challenge to my authority by a kid. Everyone is still safe and sound. J (That’s a little joke folks…) Taught this week about the need to belong and serve in a local church. Not my greatest lesson but not my worst. Still using clips from the movie “Remember the Titans” so that is a great introduction device.

We have scheduled some service opportunities. Love and Justice (which is current church for “Missions”) is a pretty big deal around here, which is awesome. I am hoping to see some kids show up and help. I am blessed to have one couple that is really spearheading that ministry and handling details.

Also I got some new bookcases in the office. So all the books I had to put here at the office are now here and there is room for the 3-4 boxes I still have left at the apartment. Sweetness!

Well, back to life, back to reality.

Oh yeah- First Contest update: Turff was correct on his guess of the church with the weird singles ministry link being a PCA church. Awesome Aunt Shirlee also was correct but Kevin was first and can claim his prizes: a smoothie and he can select a topic that I must blog about within a week. Could get very interesting. And Lauren- I got some thoughts from my monk friends that I will pass along to you about the Apocrypha.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Keep on moving and don’t stop….

So it has been a busy few days. Wednesday night I met with my middle school girls. I also had a high school girl join us who is interested in serving as a mentor. It will be interesting to see what happens with this group, as God isn’t really sending us a leader right now other than me. But a good discussion was had and great questions were answered. After group on Wednesday, I rolled on down the highway back to Newnan. (Arrival time: 1:45 AM EST.)

Thursday it was up early. My friend Jeremy and I are writing youth ministry curriculum. Over the last year, we have worked hard, edited each other’s material and used it in front our youth groups. Now it is the hands of some other people and we are looking at selling it reasonably to youth workers for their youth gathering or Sunday School. So Thursday Jeremy and I got together to work on a retreat we are coordinating (Youth Celebration for the South Georgia UMC Conference) and to make sure we have a full year of material done. Then we had lunch with my friend Brian, who is the speaker for Youth Celebration. It was a good time to talk, share and I realize how much I miss having those guys close enough to easily get together and hang out.

That evening, I hung with Turff and his family. They are awesome and great friends. Turff recently got a new job, which will keep him in Atlanta, much to my chagrin. I was hoping we could begin to reunite the dream team in Nash-Vegas. Oh well.

Friday morning up and rolling by 5:30 AM EST. Got to Nashville around 9 AM. Packed, cleaned the house some and watched some Veronica Mars. Then headed out to the Tennessee Conference youth workers retreat. It was good. I was disappointed that none of the larger churches seemed to support it. But it reminded me of some of the things I loved about doing events when I worked with Crossed-Up, loving volunteer youth workers. I met some awesome folks who are sharing with kids, fighting battles in their church and just keep on making it happen. I love folks like that! In all honesty, people like me (full-time paid youth workers) have it easy compared to what these folks make happen in small, stuck in their way churches.

Then I left that early, worked some more on cleaning up the apartment and did some more clothes. Tomorrow is another full Sunday so I am looking forward to some rest tonight and getting involved in the morning.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Current Podcast list...

Ask a Ninja. Ninjas are awesome!

Barenaked Ladies podcast. Okay, so they are Canadians. They are hilarious and they have a new disc out this Tuesday.

The Catalyst Podcast is a fantastic show that includes interviews by some great people in leadership in ministry. (They are affiliated with the Catalyst Conference I am going to in October.)

CommandN. Again, Canadian, funny and they give some great tech stuff information.

Ctrl-Alt-Chicken. A podcast about cooking made by people who can’t cook.

Defining Moments. A great podcast on leadership from the Willow Creek folks.

Diggnation. Tech news and humor. Not for kids. It is good tech stuff and it puts me to sleep. (I am betting that endorsement won’t make their website…)

Ebert and Roeper. I dig movies and this is a great movie review show. Essentially it is an audio feed of the weekly television show.

ESPN: PTI I miss cable and ESPN in particular. This gives me a great overview of sports daily.

Inside the Net. Leo Laporte and Amber MacArthur interview some great Web 2.0 company heads.

KFI Tech Guy- Leo Laporte answering calls and talking about technology. It is great for road trips. It is a podcast of his radio show with commercials and newsbreaks edited out.

NPR: Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me is a fantastic game show that uses current events. The podcast is marked with some very funny people, great call-in guests and strange prizes.

Simply Junior High Podcast is a great video teaching tool from Kurt Johnston. The training is very practical, reproducible and short. A great idea and I definitely will be using it in helping train adults!

Simply Strategic Show is from Tim Stevens and Tony Morgan, pastors from Granger Community Church. The show covers different areas of ministry in a funny way and it is short. It is my “In case I ever run a church” category.

Simply Youth Ministry podcast. Some days I am okay with it.; some days I have to hit fast forward as it degenerates into weirdness and put-downs.

The Relevant Podcast is put on from the same folks who put out Relevant magazine. It is funny, has jokes that work for my age group and, when they take on serious topics they do it extremely well.

The Signal. If you don’t know about Firefly and Serenity, then you are really missing out.

This Week in Tech is a weekly roundtable breakdown of technology stories by folks like Leo Laporte, John C. Dvorak and Patrick Norton. Think of it as TechTV for the podcast world.

Sunday Wrap-Up...

So this Sunday was a busy one at my new job.

The Youth Choir sang at the earliest worship service. The Youth Choir here is a unique creation. It sings mainly praise choruses and with a band. (I am everyone’s favorite acoustic rhythm guitarist.) We sang the Tim Hughes song “Here I am to Worship.” It went well.

Then we headed on to Sunday school. Currently, we are using the Nooma video series and it seems to be okay. I am personally a huge Rob Bell fan, even though I am fairly sure he cost me a job in my search. (The long and the short: an associate pastor asked me some of my favorite recent reads and I mentioned Bell’s Velvet Elvis. She began scribbling notes furiously and as I left mentioned that I should consider reading more classics…Ah, the joys of church.)

Then I headed to church. And this week was the first time I did my monthly spot in the children’s sermon rotation. I used a visual aide and everyone seemed to speak well of me, even as I declared my undying love to the best football team in the country- UGA! I will post some more about it tomorrow, for a reason to be announced later...

As my dad was in town, we hung out that afternoon. Lunch was at a really, really bad Chinese restaurant and then Dad napped while I unpacked. Sorta. It was good to eliminate a Chinese place from my list of "Places to try out." Dang I miss Chin-Chin's, Atlanta's finest Chinese food by far. Makes me grateful to be headed to Atlanta this Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

Back at the church, I began a series on life in the church. My friend Jeremy and I wrote it last year and uses some scenes from the film “Remember the Titans” to introduce the ideas. I didn’t teach it last year at Cornerstone but I am enjoying digging in and teaching it this year. During some discussion afterwards, we stumbled into the dreaded “C” word- cliques. It was an interesting discussion where I worked hard to play neutral moderator. The long and the short of it is that we still have some work to do to make the youth ministry (and its participating students) as welcoming and as long as we can.

We ended the night with a fast and furious version of Elbow Tag. The level of engagement in games is going up, which seems to mean kids are having fun and feeling free to be kids, which is an important core value for me personally.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Singles Ministry Update and a contest...

Okay, so realizing I probably need a smaller group to connect with, I have been looking at some churches near my house for information on singles ministries. Mainly larger churches.
A fascinating thing happened today. I clicked on a link that said Singles Ministries and it pointed to
Yep. It really pointed to a marriage site. The best part? The link was broken. Something fascinating about what that says but I am not sure.

So here is the contest- First person to guess the denomination of said church gets a shout-out, can pick a topic that I HAVE to blog about within the week and a promise of a free smoothie the next time we hang.
(Be specific, ie Baptist won't win. Southern Baptist might.)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Middle School Girls...

So tonight, I was pinch hitting (hopefully not for the whole season) as the middle school girls Bible study leader. I am looking, lots of people are praying and I wish I could import some of my Newnan talent up here. (Brianna are you really happy in Statesboro? Would you consider Belmont or Treveca? Youth ministry degrees available. I definitely got some girls that could use your help! Be the first in the Coweta to Nashville pipeline.)

Some things I learned:

  • There is some major disconnect. As we did our discussion, girls would go into details about things people did that were very wrong. And then 3 minutes later do the exact same thing.
  • They were vicious. Now, I haven’t had to run an extended small group for girls in a long time but, dang, they were brutal to each other. (Side note: Early on there was much discussion about how there needs to be more girls in the youth group. So in the midst of a particularly vicious episode, I simply asked this question: Could this be why there aren’t more girls here? Their stunned silence and sudden realization that maybe the new guy had a point was a pretty good “A-HA” moment.”)
  • As frustrating and as disappointing as some aspect of our conversation was, there is a real sense of wanting something more, of a stronger sense of community and a place where they can be themselves. And they love the church and want it to be better. That can carry us a long way.
  • I am committing myself to really praying and seeking them a new leader. I am a decent pinch hitter and they really need a long haul shepherd.

Thankful that not everything is in my hands...

My Fall Reading List...

So every season, I order books to be on my reading list. Here is the list for this fall, ordered today. (Not in any order of importance.) I will do a review of each book as I read it. As I have said previously, I am a reading freak. Here are some keys to becoming a great reader:
1. Don't have cable TV or reliable internet at your house. You'd be amazed at the time you find on your hands.
2. Read to learn and for enjoyment. As you can see, I have a wide mix of books, from ministry specific to business world books, mainly because a certain pastor told me I need more business books and less Brennan Manning. See I am growing...becoming more corporate. I can't wait until my three piece suit arrives. And my pocket protector. And my Dale Carnegie library.
3. If you hit a wall, stop and do something else. People who read and feel like they aredrudging through something need to take a break. And, if something stinks, quit reading it and move on. Too many good books in the world.
4. Read what you want and what interests you. Don't try and read a ton of major philosophy books if that isn't what interests you. You'll do better reading for yourself and your own growth. Pick books that will stretch you sometimes but don't read books that don't interest you.

Until they get here I am reading liberally from my Eugene Peterson Pastoral Library. I forgot how great and challenging Peterson's thoughts are to me! I may post some quotes in the coming days...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Why I Go to Conferences...

So this last week, I got approval to attend some conferences and events. Here are some random thoughts.

Tennessee Youth Workers Retreat
I am looking forward to meeting some folks, getting to decompress and see what is happening. Being new to the conference, it is a bit of a leap of faith but I am willing to take it.

Catalyst Conference
Last year I was a part of a church that was using the curriculum provided by Dash Student Leadership. As part of being a partner with them, they send you books, a newsletter and some other things. One of those things last year was a reduced rate to be a part of the Catalyst Conference. So I went and it was great.

Catalyst is designed to help young leaders, be it in business or ministry. I would guess their target demographic is 18-35, and those who vibe with them. It attracts others, I think in large part because of Andy Stanley’s involvement along with some other Northpoint folks and Injoy Ministries. Having some of the older generation there creates some awkwardness sometimes, as when people got up and left Erwin McManus’ talk last year when he touched on the idea of interracial marriage and it being okay. (It was a throw away and not the whole focus of the talk, just FYI.)

I want to go back to Catalyst because I really believe in what they are doing and, long term, I don’t know what is next for me. I hope and pray to be doing youth ministry a long time but I also got some gifts that a lot of people think will lead me to a larger stage. We will see. Regardless, I want to be the best leader I can and Catalyst stretched and encouraged me last year.

National Youth Workers Convention (Youth Specialties)- This year- Charlotte
A long time ago when I was working at Trinity UMC in Waycross, GA, I was encouraged to attend my first Youth Specialties convention. I have been nearly ever year since to whichever one is closest in the southeast. Here are some of the reasons I go:
1. It is challenging. Sometimes a lead speaker or something I hear in a seminar really causes me to thinker harder or stretch my brain and faith more. I really like that aspect of it.
2. I see people I know. Now that I am out of the big time youth ministry event production business, it means I don’t get to see folks in ministry as often as I used to. So it is a great time to see people, catch up and grab a bite to eat.
3. Worship. When you are professionally religious, you always feel like people are watching, thinking and eyeballing you. All the time. There is something incredibly freeing about being at the YS convention and being able to rest, worship unashamedly and do some much needed care for your soul.
4. You get to stay in swank hotels.
5. I need to be reloaded. The truth is that things sap you. This year for me especially, I have gotten the crap kicked out of me and I need some time to reload. It has been slowly happening but some dedicated time to do it will do me a lot of good. In fact, I think I am going to take advantage of the spiritual direction and convention pastors that have always been available. The last couple years I was tempted and probably should have but I was always with my volunteer staff and worried about looking “weak.”

So, all of that to say, it is a great investment to make. All total it will be an investment by the church that is the equivalent of about 5% of my salary. But the renewal it provides and the skills that it builds in me are well worth it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The trailer park side of the family...

Okay, so in everyone's family there is that portion of the family that you don't like to really talk about. The crazy cousins. (In my case, the crazy cousin is me. Makes life much easier.) And God's family works that way too unfortunately. And recently my friend Turff sent me an email with a link to an upcoming film: Jesus Camp. Here is what I emailed him back:

Propaganda takes many forms.
Pastor Becky and her focus is on trying to get kids to buy into the scary idea that the left wing has an agenda to destroy anything in "Christian." This movie may be propaganda of the other sort, despite its promise of being "even handed" in that is tries to take that experience and show it as a "normal" Christian one.

Lots of people have had lots of thoughts that fundamentalism looks the same regardless of the tradition you come out of. When she says that she wants to essentially create a generation of suicide bombers for her side, then it isn't far off to think that such an assessment is correct. I mean, I have been places and sat in places where they kind of thing is pushed. You use kids to start because kids want to please adults and they lack the ability to think critically. Teenagers start to push back so you brainwash them before they get there. Ghetto them up, cut them off from the real world, hang with only Christian people and only the "really" Christian people. I mean, listen, the ghetto exists. Sad as that is but it is real. Much like we hear non-fundamentalist Muslims say, "They don't speak for us all." and saying that radical jihadists aren't the whole of the Muslim experience.

And the end result is that it isn't good theology in the Christian context. One of the clear central messages of Jesus is that His life is an example for us. Colossians talks about He is the visible image of the invisible God. And as I understand it, Jesus wouldn't be a part of such a thing. Because ultimately Jesus understood and taught the war isn't what and who is in front of you. It is why He picks up the ear and replaces it when Peter goes hack-a-guard. It is why He gave up being the king of Israel and choose to be the prince of peace. It is in how He affirms the one who picks up the towel to serve over the one who wants the power seat at the table. Pastor Becky is forgetting that politics has never and will never lead to salvation. Because you can win a political battle and lose the war. Repeatedly. Christians have unfortunately proven that time after time.

I love the way Eugene Peterson puts a passage in the Message:
"And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we'll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You're up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it's all over but the shouting you'll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You'll need them throughout your life. God's Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other's spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out. "

The battle isn't against people, be they godless homosexuals or crazy women preachers or fat youth directors. It is against something bigger and once you know your enemy, it changes how you fight.

Now, I can't watch this and be serious the whole time. So, here is the humor portion of the show, which you can ignore if you want.
What is the deal with the kid with the extended mullet? Has his mom's Flow-Bee just not come in yet? Is he some kind of random radicalized Messianic Jew? Is his name Samson?
What kind of people would send their kid there? I mean, it is like weird. The kid in camo doing the wild VBS dance. Uh, I was half waiting for Major Payne. "Killing demons is my business and business is goooood."
And truthfully, aren't you a little nervous that you are going to watch the movie and recognize some kid from your school? Be honest...
Did you watch the ridiculous attempt to justify "sacred dance"?