The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Movie Reviews (Vol. 3)

So this week there are a few more reviews than last week. But I didn't make it out to all the movies I wanted to see. Blame? The middle school retreat I am on this weekend. (Hopefully next week I can play catch up with Reign Over Me and Shooter. The current Netflix selection is Casino Royale, The Heart of the Game and Buffy, Season 2, Disc 4.)

Saturday afternoon I saw the new film Pride which stars Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac. And to tell the truth, I am biased for films like this. I guess the idea of a person who comes in and inspires a group of people towards a common goal rings a little too close to home for me to be objective. That being said, here is my review.

I think Pride is an good film with some great performances that tells a true story. The story is of Jim Ellis, a collegiate swimmer during the Civil Rights movement who moves to Philadelphia and serves at a run-down, soon to close, public recreation facility. From there, he grows a team and teaches them about swimming, competition and pride. On the whole, I think it is a good film worth watching. Howard gives a great performance and continues his streak of picking good roles. (Though, he is scheduled to play Jim Rhodes in Iron Man, a film I am skeptical about because of Robert Downey, Jr. playing the lead. But, hey, everyone's got to get paid sometime...)

Saturday night, I opened up a Netflix envelope and watched the film Stranger than Fiction. And I have to say, it is a very, very good film with some strange-ness that could be distracting but I found to be immensely endearing. For starter, Will Ferrell plays a comedic role that is a far cry from the kinds of characters he has played in films like Talladega Nights and Blades of Steel. And he does it extremely well. Additionally, I now think that Maggie Gyllenhaal was jobbed out of an Oscar nomination for her amazing portrayal of a woman that is smart, funny, sexual and intense. (And as long time friends know, I have always had a little thing for the ladies that are a little odd. She fits the mold.)

The premise is that Will Ferrell plays an IRS agent who can hear a woman who is writing a story about his life and his impending death. It feels a little bit Ground Hog Day-ish but it works and is smart. The author, played by Emma Thompson, eventually comes to realize that the character is a real-life person after he has fallen in love and begun to live a life outside the mundane life that he had lived. I highly recommend this one, as it shows Ferrell has some better chops that we give him credit for, and the story is smart, funny and odd, which is unusual from the Hollywood establishment.

I also saw the recent film A Good Year, starring Russell Crowe. It is a decent film, but not great. I generally file it in the category of movies where the "adult-you" is somehow confronted by the "child-you" and comes to the realization that you are a jerk. Pretty basic and simple. There are some interesting plot twists and turns but on the whole, catch it on cable.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yeah, he's THAT good...

So my buddy Turff, who has accused me of ruining his life by giving him the youth ministry bug (I plead guilty...) is now the youth director of a start-up UMC in Peachtree City, GA. And in addition to being my friend, still a partner in ministry (He has mad drama skills) and more...he is a great youth worker. Want proof? This picture ran in his local paper...of him and some kids, all muddy from their recent retreat.

So here is a shout-out to all volunteer youth workers, who let Jesus "ruin" their lives , who put up with idiot youth directors and more. And even more so, a HUGE shout-out to volunteer youth directors who lead a youth ministry. No one rocks harder than you all....

Awkward Youth Ministry Moments...

So on Mondays, I go pick up about 10 students from the closest middle school, bring them back to the church, have a snack with them and about an hour later, we have Confirmation class, once some kids from other schools arrive. In the meantime, we play basketball some.

So this week, I am playing with the kids and generally goofing off. One kid in particular talks a bunch of smack, so I talk a little with him. So this kid somehow got a rebound and ball faked me. And, unintentionally, I mugged him. Like had to hold him up by his shirt or else he would have smacked a wall kind of mugging. (It was a good fake.)

And of course right as this is happening, a mom is dropping off her kid. Yeah, I am the youth director that assaults 6th graders...

Jason's Productivity Tip #3: Firewalling...

Okay, again this isn't a new idea. I think I first learned the term and explanation from Merlin Mann. But firewalling has become a regular part of my approach to getting projects finished. So what is firewalling?

Essentially, firewalling is when you clear your space and work from all distraction and knock things out. Essentially, you unplug from the world, remove all the outside influences and get to work. Here is how it works for me:

I have found that the best time for me to firewall is early in the morning. I beat everyone to the office, look at or make a to-do list and get to work. I make sure the wifi is off on my computer, make sure my door is shut and set aside a certain amount of time to be firewalled. For me, I find an hour usually gives me the most productivity. And then I get to work taking on tasks and getting things done. So what do I tend to do in my firewall time?
- Plot calendar stuff for the next stretch. What is important that I need to be at and what things can I remove?
- Brainstorm lessons and series. I am in a venture where I write stuff not only for my youth ministry but for others as well. So I am constantly draining the brain-juice working up ideas for my youth group, the curriculum company or speaking engagements that I have coming up.
- Write cards and letters. I owe lots of people thank-yous and I use firewall time to get caught up.
- Clean and organize. As hard as I try to keep my work areas clutter free, I always need to revisit, clean and throw away.
- Busy work, like calendars, newsletter articles and more...
- Pray. Especially during firewall time in the mornings, I pray about what is coming up on that day and that God will give me wisdom in knowing how to deal with each situation.

And of course I have some advantages over others in regards to firewalling. I have my own office, I control my own hours and I have the ability to un-plug from things for short periods. I imagine if I shared space or worked in a cube farm, it could be a lot more difficult. But it is one of the ways I get things done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


So I am getting ready for a summer speaking engagement where the Big Idea is that while life is sometimes painful, God is with us throughout it all. I thought the video clip of Johnny Cash's rendition of the song Hurt might be a useful media piece for the talk. And in the search for it, I found this. Which made me laugh...and it does contain some language...

More on Horror Movies...

So I had no idea that this would break this week, so it is interesting that my post hit this week. A movie coming out soon falls into all the negatives that I mentioned about horror movies and set off quite the firestorm with its advertisement. Jill Soloway has an excellent post about it here.

And like Clave posted in the comments on my post, Joss Whedon weighed in as well. Now, I am a Joss Whedon fanboy. Pretty much everything of his I have ever seen has been pure gold, from Buffy to Angel to Firefly and even Toy Story. So it was awesome to see this in Soloway's post:

From: Joss Whedon
Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2007 10:17 PM
To: Advertising

To the MPAA,
There's a message I'm supposed to cut and paste but I imagine you've read it. So just let me say that the ad campaign for "Captivity" is not only a literal sign of the collapse of humanity, it's an assault. I've watched plenty of horror - in fact I've made my share. But the advent of torture-porn and the total dehumanizing not just of women (though they always come first) but of all human beings has made horror a largely unpalatable genre. This ad campaign is part of something dangerous and repulsive, and that act of aggression has to be answered.

As a believer not only in the First Amendment but of the necessity of horror stories, I've always been against acts of censorship. I distrust anyone who wants to ban something 'for the good of the public'. But this ad is part of a cycle of violence and misogyny that takes something away from the people who have to see it. It's like being mugged (and I have been). These people flouted the basic rules of human decency. God knows the culture led them there, but we have to find our way back and we have to make them know that people will not stand for this. And the only language they speak is money. (A devastating piece in the New Yorker - not gonna do it.) So talk money. Remove the rating, and let them see how far over the edge they really are.

Thanks for reading this, if anyone did.
Sincerely, Joss Whedon.
Creator, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

Lastly, there is a campaign at work against this particular movie and how they violated MPAA standards. (The MPAA gives movies their ratings and has to approve advertisement for films.) You can find out more at the Remove the Rating blog.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Horror Movies Bore Me...

So Turff sent me an interesting article from MSNBC about horror movies that you can read here. And I am using this as an opportunity to do a little rant on the state of horror movies and the general dung being produced by the current Hollywood establishment.

For starters, there is something horribly wrong when horror movies that are incredibly violent are being marketed to teenagers. Don't believe me? Weekly Entertainment Weekly does a best guess as to which movie will win the box office each weekend. Many, many weeks they pick the current horror movie and follow it with the thought of "that is where the kids' money will be." And to that I say, do we really need to be working hard at screwing up kids even more than the world already does so? Marketers need to be forced to deal with real kids in real circumstances. Too much of their "plans" are at the expense of real kids with real problems that don't need to see the latest film where we watch blood get splattered on whatever hot WB star is in it. I guess that is what happens when you live deciding how to live based by the dollar.

Second, horror has degenerated into gore-fest and has nothing to do with suspense. Now, one of the last truly great, adult (non-porn) horror movie was Silence of the Lambs in my opinion. What made it great? Suspense, not gore. Is Hannibal Lecter scary? Yes! Want to know why? Because he isn't the raving psychopath running around with a chainsaw. He is a scary because there is a part of him that could be the guy down the street from you who just goes off the deep end. Know why suspense has fallen from the genre? Because it is easier to play the t-and-a card, splatter a bunch of blood on stuff and cash a paycheck. I am waiting for the first film that forgoes any semblance of plot in favor of just saying "Hey, let's watch smoking hot girl get chased by a psychopath and have some wet t-shirt contests with blood." Some would argue that this already happened.

So how would I fix it:
1. Hire smart writers. Seriously, make the plot be what drives the film. Tell a good, interesting suspenseful story. If you can't tell a good story, then don't make the film. (Examples of a "horror film" with smart writing: See 28 Days Later.)
2. Move away from hiring cheap starlets. There is almost the theory that if you can survive until the age of 35, then nothing scary will happen to you according to Hollywood. Someone ought to write a smart, intriguing movie about a nursing home. (In fairness, I hear the independent film The Descent broke this mold somewhat but I haven't seen it yet.)
3. If you want to go a gore-or fest, then don't market, sell or allow kids to see it period.
4. Quit making the evil people the heroes. This means quit doing ridiculous sequels where the only loose thread connecting them together is that the same killer is present in them. Be intelligent enough to

Other notes:
-If you write a good horror flick, don't sell away your sequel rights. Some interesting films (Blair Witch Project for instance) was doomed to a horrendous sequel that had little input from the original film makers.
-If you are a parent, refuse to let your children participate in this culture of gore and misogyny. I know middle schoolers who can't sleep at night because they have seen stuff that there is no way they should have ever seen.
-If you are fan of this type of movie, can you tell me why? I mean, seriously, do a deep self-inspection and ask yourself why do you find pleasure or joy or entertainment from such profane things?
Getting down off my soapbox...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Friday Movie Reviews (Vol. 2)

I know, I know, I am a day late. But I was in Macon hanging with some friends and then on the road last night. But here are the reviews for this week, which was slow, as I only saw two movies.

First up, on DVD I watched the film Idiocracy. Now, first off, you need to know that this film has a bit of a controversy attached to it. The film was made by Mike Judge, who is the writer, director of the cult classic Office Space and the creator of Beavis and Butthead. So on the buzz created by that film, Judge directs this film, which then was essentially buried by the company that paid for it, released in as few theaters as possible and then sent to DVD. All of which is interesting when you realize that the film's content probably irked some higher-ups.

The basic plot of the film is that a do-nothing Army soldier and a prostitute are part of an experiment where they are supposed to be frozen for a year and brought back. What happens is that they are forgotten and wake up 500 years later. And the "evolution" of the world is actually de-evolution. So suddenly, they are the smartest people in the world. Hilarity ensues.

On the whole I liked the movie and its approach. It has some pretty stinging commentary about how our society caters to the least common denominator and where that ends us. (For example, the favorite television show of the future is "Owww, My Balls" where one man is put in as many different positions as possible to take a shot to his male regions.) It is crass in some places, which would rule it out of youth ministry film but it definitely is a decent comedy that makes you think.

Next up, on Thursday in Macon, taking a break from writing curriculum, I went to see the film The Last King of Scotland. Now, Forrest Whitaker recently won the Academy Award for Best Actor for this film and I have to say it was well-deserved. His portrayal of Idi Amin and his descent into madness is amazingly well done.

The movie is about the following of a fictional Scottish doctor who comes to Uganda during the coup that leads to Amin seizing power. Soon after, through circumstances, he meets Amin, fixing his wounded hand and from there begins a relationship which grows as he becomes the doctor and advisor to the the leader. Slowly and surely, he becomes aware of Amin's failing mental health and gross human rights violations. (It is estimated that during the 8 years Amin had power, some 200,000 people were systematically killed.)

I would say it is a good film, but not a great one. The failings of the main character at times made me want to root against him and the unlikely turn at the end of the film was too unbelievable for me. A decent rental movie.

For next week: The theater is suffering from a glut of good theatrical releases this week, so I will be hoping to see Pride, The Shooter, Reign Over Me and TMNT. Anyone want to fund this movie habit of mine?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Quote of the Day...

My brother Will in reference to Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, in reference to Pat's ridiculous claims to leg press 2000 pounds, as told in his attempts to sell you his protein shake:
"Geez. I hope I get to see Jesus pimp slap him."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Vision in a church...

One of the things that I think is so incredibly important in the life of a church is the need to continuously put a vision in front of people about what the church is called to do and to be. It is admittedly one of the harder jobs that I think pastors have. How much is too much? How far do you push your people? Where is the healthy balance between loving the people in your care but being driven to reach those outside your church? Tough questions all.

But one of the big things that I think helps is having people share their stories. The more we can draw the lines between people being broken and wounded and their finding help through God's work in the church, the easier vision casting becomes. So, when I stumbled into a website recently, I was amazed to see what a Granger Community Church in Indiana was doing.

Now, I am not sure that GCC got their idea from here or not, but I think they may have. A popular blog on the internet (which has since become at least one book) is a site called The site is designed that people write their secrets on to postcards and send them to a PO Box and then some of the cards get put on-line on Sundays. I will say, at times it is a heart breaking site to read, as it is full of pain caused by some of the most evil that there is in the world. It is raw, graphic and sincere. (And not safe for work most weeks.) So when I do check it, it has always been a source of prayer for the people who write in but even more so for the people who are going through the same things but not writing in.

So, in the midst of trying to cast vision, GCC took the same kind of idea and wanted to flip it. People can pick up cards at their church and share what life has been before they came to the church and after. And out of it have been some amazing, powerful, creative expressions of the truth of God using their church to build his kingdom in the lives of people. It is really amazing and you should check it out.

Weekend Wrap-Up

This weekend marked the start of Spring Break around here. So in the massive wisdom of our church leadership, we scheduled helping a food drive on the first day of Spring Break. Now, you need to know- EVERYONE around here heads out for Spring Break. Second, the last time we did this, turnout was horrible and that was on a good time. So what happens? Our people prove us wrong and show up in droves to help sort and pack food for the poor in Williamson County. It was really amazing watching everyone get after it and knock it out. And about half the folks were youth and youth families, which was encouraging. So we packed 217 boxes of food that are going to be distributed closer to Easter. And some of the guys even stuck around for a long time for the pick-up trailer to arrive.
Sunday School was uneventful. Small crowd due to the holiday.
Sunday night we played some hoops for MYF. I once again amazed the kids by having a Charles Barkley (post-retirement) body and a Reggie Miller jumpshot. It was fun and I was proud of how my older guys included and encouraged the middle school guys who were playing with us.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A couple decent youth ideas...

Okay, here is a couple decent youth ministry ideas/stuff that I have done recently.
Game idea: Make up a bunch of clues that you would use for the games Charades or Pictionary. Mix them all up. Then divide your group into teams. As each kid comes up, they pick a clue and then roll a dice. Odd = Pictionary, Even = Charades. It can be fun when they get a clue that would be easy in one and hard in the other and crap out on the roll. Just a fun game.

Bible study idea: I had my high school students write down at least 5 things they would say or describe themselves as. Then on the other side I had them write at least 5 things they would like to be in 10 years. One, it provided me some good insight into kids that I wouldn't have gotten without it. Second, I did the exercise and they gained some insights about me. Lastly, we wrapped it up with a discussion of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5) and how to work and ask God to grow those fruit in our own lives. I also liked it because it was pretty low commitment level for kids, i.e. it was easy for every kid to participate and be genuine.

Just thought I'd share.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Friday Movie Reviews (Vol. 1)

So rather than spreading out my movie and DVD reviews over several posts, I am going to start trying to consolidate them into one post each week.

So this week, we have a movie with a surprising twist, an overrated gladiator movie, a funny film that I don't think is as funny as everyone else and some dang fine television.
For starters, Billy Bob Thornton has an amazing gift of picking roles. Now, obviously sometimes he does movies that are downright rancid (see: Bad Santa) but sometimes he does incredibly moving, well crafted roles that tell a good story. In the film The Astronaut Farmer, Thornton leads a great cast that tells the amazing story of a former NASA level worker, who left the program to take care of his family and wants to go into space. And out of that framework, there is a great story about dreams, family and small town life. And it isn't Disney-fied. It has some sudden twists that I wasn't expecting and because of that unpredictability, it may be the best movie I have seen so far this year. Thornton deserves some Oscar-buzz for his role but likely won't see it because of the film's early release date. The rest of the cast also does remarkable work, including Virgina Madsen who plays Thornton's wife. I definitely think the film is worth watching and (for you youth ministry folks) it would be a good film for the dreaded long bus rides on trips. I am hoping it will release on DVD before our annual choir tour.

Next up, on the advice of a friend, I went to see the film 300.Now in the interest of full disclosure, there were many things going into this movie that would bias me in favor of it. For example, I find this genre to be home of some great movies (Braveheart) and some good movies (Gladiator). Second, way back in the day, I was a comic book nerd and would be again if I could afford it. And this movie is based on the work of Frank Miller, a well known comic writer and artist. (For my money Miller's work on Daredevil in the 1980s is unparalleled and I can still remember the joy I had when I found the complete run in a bookstore in Panama City, Florida for like $10. The guy had no idea what he had...) That being said, I think the film 300 is good but flawed.

This film does an amazing job of explaining itself in historical contest and then deriving itself down to a story that everyone can relate to. Some of the buzz of the film has been that the film is a current political allegory, which I dismiss. I just think it is a story where you can read more into it if you like but don't have to.

So the flaws of the film? A complaint I have with a lot of modern movies, which I call the "Just because you can doesn't mean you have to" rule. In essence, sometimes technology and the world's skewed sense of decency means that you can get away with far more in the movie-making industry than ever before. And because artists feel like they can, they sometimes needlessly push the boundaries, calling it realism. And, in my opinion, this movie falls into that trap. For example, there are a couple of brutal beheadings that are shown in graphic detail and their inclusion doesn't strengthen the plot. Additionally, there are a couple of odd 90 second runs of nudity that don't seem to answer any plot issues or further the plot along. And, for me, it distracted from the general essence of the film. (Youth Minister's note: Take 300 off the list of films you can watch with kids...)

Next up, via Netflix, I watched the critical darling comedy Little Miss Sunshine. And I have to say: Eh. It isn't the worst comedy I have ever seen, nor is it the smartest comedy I have ever seen. It is definitely a dark comedy and lives and dwells in its darkness. The closing sequence is funny but in a weird way. RANT ALERT: I did find it interesting that the closing sequence is made in such a way that condemns the beauty pageant culture (and deservedly so) but juxtaposes that culture by having a little girl do what is in essence a strip club routine (taught by her grandfather!) to the song Super Freak by Rick James. Talk about confusing and mixed messages. I mean, I realize that we live in Bizarro world, but do we really have to glorify it?

Lastly, I am a couple discs deep into Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 2. Again, I must say that I am deeply impressed with the show. Season 2 seems to be when things kick it up a notch. For starters, Spike, a long running character, gets introduced. Second, the characters seem to really come into their own. My personal favorite is Xander, who is average in every way, except heart. No powers, not smart like Willow or wise like Giles but still seems to be the one who pushes and moves the Scooby Gang on. If you haven't seen the show or thought it "kiddy" I can't recommend it to you enough. (PS- Season 8 of Buffy, as told in comics hit the open market this week and promptly sold out. Joss Whedon is the idol of nerds everywhere...)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Uh, my church isn't like this...

But maybe it should be...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Random things from me...

My Final Four picks- Texas (because of Durant), Florida (because the NCAA couldn't have given them an easier bracket unless they put them in the women's tournament), Pittsburgh and Ohio State (because of Oden and Conley, Jr.) Team that will make some unexpected noise: Davidson will make the Sweet Sixteen.

Books in my Amazon to get basket: 42. I miss my book allowance from the ATL.

Upcoming speaking gigs:
April- Panama City, FL- youth group retreat
May- Macon, GA- youth worker training
June- Cocoa Beach, FL
August- Minnesota it looks like...

Things I wish I owned: A video ipod.
What I am doing with my money instead- paying down debt.

Why I Will Never Be Addicted to Smack...

So in the midst of having some tests run, I realized yet again that I will never be able to be an IV drug user. Stupid veins! (PS- The other arm has holes too.)

Prophets or Priests?

One of the things that I have definitely been wrestling with is the idea of being a prophetic voice in the midst of a church culture. Sometimes I have thought and heard that it would be easier to lead as a general congregation member than as a paid staff person.
In my blog reading, I stumbled into this great article which has some fantastic gems like this:
A prophet by definition is going to disturb the status quo, make people uncomfortable, and rock the boat. But when a pastor with a prophetic function is completely dependant upon the congregation for his/her livelihood it creates a conflict of interests.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Buffy...10 years ago today!

So in a strange coincidence, I just started Netflixing my way through the seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I had seen parts of it on and off again and always thought it was good. I mean, it does have Joss Whedon, who is like the modern day guru of funny, well written shows. (See Firefly and curse Fox for canceling it.)

So I just finished season one, which is a 12 episode run because Buffy started as a mid-season replacement on the WB network. And it started 10 years ago today.

(And FYI, just for fun, I am writing some Bible studies based on some of the episode, though as Turff has pointed out, it will get kinda strange when the pagan lesbian issues arrive...)

Trading the queso for Starbucks...

So back when I lived in the land of Georgia, I had an awesome group of people that I met with for lunch pretty much weekly. It was full of folks like this guy, these guys and this lady. And ever since moving to Nashville, I have really been struggling with the camaraderie, the support and the love that came from that group.

Well, this week, I took a break from my gastrointestinal issues to hang out with a couple guys that I have meet. And it was great! It felt like the same sense of being in the same trench together that I used to have. So, instead of the Chili's Skillet Queso, I guess I will be drinking Green Tea Frappucinos every week. And I think the change will be worth it...

I used to write funny songs like this guy...

Mark DeVries- Youth Ministry Guru...

Over the course of the last year, I have had the chance to read, interact and talk to Mark DeVries, who both serves the local church at First Presbyterian Nashville and also heads up Youth Ministry Architects, a fantastic consulting group that did and has continued to do some work for the congregation that I serve.

Mark was recently interviewed at Church Central and had some great things to say like:
Most churches are vastly undercapitalized in their youth ministry and are getting the results they pay for. They don’t have a long-term plan, only short-term hires. Churches think the secret to a great youth ministry is to hire a great youth minister—a superstar. Sometimes they hit on a superstar, but in between times they have nothing. Often, even if a church hires a great youth minister, they have no infrastructure for a ministry that this staff member can work with—no floor for the superstar to dance on.

For more of his awesome wisdom, you can read the rest of the article here.

Church builds...

Recently in the magazine Fortune, they ran an article that dealt in part with Apple, Inc. and their initial push into having their own retail stores. From the article, I found this passage particularly interesting:
"One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn't work," says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus. "Ron and I had a store all designed," says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a "hub" for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category - in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. "We were like, 'Oh, God, we're screwed!'" says Jobs.

And I have to say, though I know it is almost entirely not possible, this is some advice that churches ought to consider before building new projects. In large part, churches try and take ideas from other churches, without understanding why they work. Now, I am a fan of church architecture and even what it says about our theology. However, I also think that at this point, function is more important than form.

I have said on occasion recently that if I were ever to start a new congregation, that a building wouldn't be on my radar. I would much rather buy a large old retail space and adapt it to our needs. Here is why I think it would work:
1.Large retails spaces have high ceilings and few walls. Which means in a given season of the life of the church you put up and take down walls with ease. A few pieces of lumber, some drywall and paint and you can adapt it as you need. And if you build and decide it isn't working, it is easy to fix.
2. You would have storage. Every church I have ever served in had a storage problem. Now, admittedly, some of that issue is because churches hold on to things but a large retail space would give you the flexibility to store a ton of stuff.
3. Parking...duh! Taken care of...
4. Community-wise, it takes a vacant building and renovates it and puts it to a good use. Retail stores are built in high traffic areas, so people will know where you are!
Just some thoughts...


I am very thankful for places like this. Particularly in my own current circumstances.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

People Who Don't Work that Hard (Vol. 1)

The guy who close captions "Jeopardy."

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Jason's Productivity Tip #2

Okay, so I am generally considered a somewhat organized person. People admire the organization of my office, of how I keep things, etc. And because of that I was recently able to help a mom of a student out. She was overwhelmed trying to keep up to date with all her kids' stuff, etc. So I shared with her a key element to being organized and keeping things together:
One list and one calendar.
Now, I am certainly not the first person to espouse this idea but the best way to be organized is to limit yourself to these two key ideas.

What do I mean by one list? I know of tons of people who try to manage their lives by listing out all the things they have to do. And then stockpiling lists upon lists and can't manage them. You need one list.

What do I mean by one calendar? Simply put, one calendar. Your life doesn't really have compartments. Your work, your kids, etc. all exist in the truth of your time. Trying to manage life with multiple calendars is a terrible idea because you can never juggle or manage them all. You will ultimately lose something. So you need one calendar that contains it all.

So how do I do this? I use Microsoft Outlook, not because I think it is the best option but because it works with my phone, which makes my list and my calendar mobile . There are some great other tools out there to use if you are just starting.
For example, you can set-up your own Google Homepage: and then use various "To Do" lists and Google Calendar and set that as your homepage for your web browser. Or get a nice moleskine notebook and divide it into two sections. Like I said, there are many, many ways of doing it but you want to get it down to this: one list and one calendar.

So I helped a mom learn that principle and she reports it is really helping her and her family manage all that they have going on. One list, one calendar and way less headaches!

Random Quotes...

In my job, sometimes you run into the funniest quotes:
"Are all these kids yours?"- the very helpful waitress at the Nashville Pizza Company as I hung out with 7 of the sixth graders in our Confirmation class. I was somewhat thankful that I could be considered enough of a playa to have 7 kids within a year of each other as my kid.

"Jason- you are the beastliest youth minister" which is the current middle school way of saying "You're cool", at least around here.

"You have an enormous capacity to love" which came from a friend in admiring my work in some recent situations. (And which may be the best compliment I have ever been given.)

"It's okay that you can't park the church van, you do other stuff great" from a sixth grader who watched me try and park the church van for 5 minutes with little to no success at the Bishop meet and greet for Confirmands last weekend.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Conflicted about Confirmation...

As I write this, the church I serve at is about 1/3 of the way through its annual Confirmation program. Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Confirmation, it is a program designed to help students understand the faith and ultimately make the decision to become an adult member of the congregation. Some would say it is also to help students embrace the decision to be a follower of Christ, though I definitely have my doubts about that aspect.

So here are some of my most random thoughts in regards to Confirmation…

1. We do it too young. Most churches take on the task of Confirmation in early middle school. So, we are trying hard to teach 11 and 12 year olds some important things (baptism, sacraments, worship) and some less important things (denominational heritage). And I have to say that this approach seems incredibly backwards to me. As it stands now, in a couple weeks I will be teaching the students in Confirmation about the denominational heritage. It is an interesting, fascinating history and one worth knowing; just in my opinion it is worth knowing when you are older and care about these things.
This week, I also taught some high school students (mostly 11th and 12th graders). In the midst of our conversations, they are extremely confused about what we believe and even more importantly, what they believe as individuals. The juxtaposition of the two groups was pretty evident to me. Maybe Confirmation should answer questions when appropriate.

2. We treat Confirmation Sunday like graduation. In my current position there are two things we do banquets for: Confirmation Sunday and honoring high school graduates. That isn’t to say that these things aren’t important. But, we have seem to run the ship aground in having kids experience Confirmation as a rite of passage and less as an affirmation of faith.
For example, this week as I drove some of the students from the middle school to the church facilities, several of the regularly involved students were asking some of the less involved students “Why don’t you come to youth or Sunday School?” And the answer was generally “It isn’t important to me. I am doing this Confirmation thing and my mom said she would get off my back.” The structure of Confirmation makes it too easy for us to treat it like a thing to check off and less about a relationship (with Christ and His church) to be entered into.

3. We set the bar too low. Let’s keep it real here- we are asking students whether they want to enter into a relationship that will continue for their entire life, change the course of their life and ground them for the rest of their days. And we do it as a 10 week course. While I am all for the idea that admission into the kingdom of God has been made easy through the love and sacrifice of Jesus, I do think we are maybe giving it more than a little disservice when we place so little importance on it. The process of Confirmation ought to cost us something because following Jesus costs us everything!

4. We do it as an age based thing. Simply put, we treat it as something everyone is ready for when they are a certain age, which I can’t find contextualized anywhere in scripture. I went through Confirmation as a 16 year old with a bunch of sixth graders. And I am thankful that I did. Because Confirmation helped me answer and deal with some questions I had a young person investigating Christianity. Was it awkward for me? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely. (And why aren’t there adult Confirmation classes? If we think the things we teach and share are important in the lives of young people aren’t they important in the lives of adults as well? Seems to me that there should be similar processes.)

5. We ramp up and create “special” items out of things that ought to happen well past Confirmation. For example, at the church I serve right now, there is a Confirmation “mentor” program. Essentially students are asked to find an adult that can mentor them, share with them and help them contextualize their experience. At the same time that this “mentoring” is happening, I am having a tremendously difficult time in finding adults that will do those same things with other students involved in the youth ministry. I feel like we are having a major failure to communicate because after confirmation, students need just as much shepherding, caring adults involved in their lives, if not more. It just doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.

6. We don’t extend Confirmation involvement. If I have done one thing really well with this year’s confirmands, it is that I have used the class to expose them to and encourage them in some things that are happening in the life of the whole church and its youth ministry. In fact, it looks like around half the class will be going on our upcoming middle school retreat. But I have also had parents say things like “She won’t stay involved” or “Their family will go back into the woodwork.” Now, I am the king of the pessimists but can’t be work hard and assume that maybe the Holy Spirit can use something like Confirmation to change people’s hearts? Do we have to assume that the end of it is boys in men’s suits and young ladies in white dresses that return from whence they came? It is disappointing…

So again, my random, thinking out loud writing about what conflicts me about Confirmation.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Movie Review: World's Fastest Indian

I have long been a fan of Anthony Hopkins and for the most part, he does a remarkable job in picking films that allow him to use his acting skills in amazing ways. The film The World's Fastest Indian is no exception to that rule.

In the film, Hopkins plays real-life New Zealander Burt Munro and his quest to set a world landspeed record on his 1920s motorcyle, an Indian. It is a really well done film that demonstrates the determination Munro had and the adventures he had on his quest.

Set in the early 1960s, the movie is a bit preachy at times. For instance, Munro has an encounter with a soldier home from Vietnam that is a bit over the top in terms of its "We all know that doesn't turn out well" node to the film's modern audience. But on the whole I did enjoy the movie, the roles played and the true life nature of it. I definitely recommend it. IMDB gives it 8.1, which in this case, I think it pretty on the money.