Tag Archives: #disciplingyouth

Investing in Youth for a Better Future

By Charlotte “Spider” (Keenon) Fish

My name is Spider Fish and I run a gap year program at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado for youth that are between the ages of 18 and 24. People frequently ask me, “Why do you do what you do?”

I cannot answer this question without giving credit to the fact that back when I was just a young, punk of a kid, people stepped into my life to support, encourage, and invest in me.

They opened their homes to me, shared a meal around a table, came to my soccer games, took me with them on errands, gave me responsibilities, asked me hard questions, held me accountable, inspired me to dream bigger, introduced me to Jesus, showed up, and were present in the moment.

They shared life with me and taught me that life is not always perfect. In fact, life can be ugly and messy and sometimes hurts, but they showed me that, in those difficult moments, I didn’t have to go it alone.

They believed in and saw something of value in me, and that made the difference for this misfit that was trying to find my place in the world. And now, because of the blessing those adults were to me, I can be a blessing to the youth that God brings into my life.

With all that we are seeing in the media these days, I am inclined to believe that perhaps now, more than any other time, adults need to be pouring into the lives of youth by coming alongside them, asking those hard questions, holding them accountable, and loving them where they are in the moment.

Even though I grew up in Texas, many of the adults that poured into and encouraged me were people I met through Christian Endeavor in Pennsylvania. I spent 14 summers traveling to PA to attend Summer Assembly and many of these adults invited me into their homes before or after the conference. I have no doubt they had their own busy lives to live, yet they still made time for me.

Words are not enough to express my gratitude to: Jeff and Geralyn Peiffer, Bob and Barb Wurgley, Dave and Janet Wenker, Charlie and Esther Popjoy, Greg and Jan Trievel, Bruce and Cheryl McMordie, and so many others.

My question to you would be: Why do you do what you do? Are you living a life of purpose that has a lasting impact? If not, what are you waiting for?!!!

Draft Day

Jameis Winston
Yesterday the NFL draft began. Millions watched as Florida State’s Jameis Winston was chosen first overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The next player chosen was Oregon’s Marcus Mariota who went to Tennessee. Both of these players are 6’4” and weigh over 220 pounds. They are intelligent, athletic and have arms that resemble cannons when throwing a football. Anyone with football sense would say both these players are guarantees for pro football greatness. History seems to say both these young men will probably not excel. NFL teams view films, study statistics, and hold private training sessions. They hope they can discover what makes a person a valuable choice.
Many student ministries treat youth discipleship like it is the NFL draft. God has provided incredible stories like David being chosen as Israel’s future king even though his outward appearance did not make him a typical draft choice (1 Samuel 16:7). However, youth workers look for the brightest and the best students in their churches to act as leaders amongst their peers. I hear many adult youth ministry leaders dream out loud. They wish and hope for one or two key students who can help transform their student ministry into a disciple-making factory. Look at the motley crew Jesus chose. How many disciples would have been chosen if there was a disciple draft two thousand years ago? Probably only one! He would have been chosen because of his talent and eye toward upward mobility- Judas! How many kids have you met named Judas? The other eleven would not have gone as high draft picks but Jesus saw the heart. Through these men He changed the world.
Picture a discipleship draft in your church’s student ministry. Consider how you would conduct this draft. Would you use an NFL system where people are selected because of their outward skills, appearance and mental sharpness? Maybe you would give everyone a chance. This can be equally ineffective. The godly way forward encourages people to look at the heart. Christian Endeavor has an exciting process helping churches to take this step. So before you conduct your next youth ministry “draft” consider going to www.cemidatlantic.org, click on the “Get Started” button, and learn a different way of doing youth ministry.


superbowl2015“Absolutes.” The concept is radically impacting youth and their families. Two examples from the past few weeks will help demonstrate this. Absolute truth is what Bible believing Christians contend is available for all people at all times through all of history. However, anyone believing in any kind of god needs to believe in absolutes. Recently, the sports world brought one of the greatest absolute value clashes between three cultural gods in recent memory.

Cultural god number one is sports. This god’s absolutes are called rules. These rules help guarantee that all participants have a fair chance in the competition. Every sport has a clearly defined rule set.

Cultural god number two is called relativism. This god says that an individual can make up his or her own absolutes. One person can believe anything he or she wants to believe as long as another person has the right to believe something different.

Cultural god number three is money with a close relative to this god being power. This god’s absolute says any course of action is acceptable provided more money is acquired.

Now that I’ve given a brief definition to these cultural gods, let’s examine two sports events that allowed these gods to clash. First is the Super Bowl. Over one billion people tune in to watch this new holiday event. The half time show is lauded as the year’s biggest annual concert where Katy Perry was hired to strut her stuff. Advertisers pour $4.5 million per commercial in order to grab the viewer’s attention for their products. Football, like all sports, is designed with absolutes. It was learned on the Monday following the New England Patriots winning the AFC Championship that they cheated. What is worse is that the team they played the week before had given tips that this cheating had occurred, meaning it was not a one time event. Let the “god” clash begin. Sports need clear rules in order for this god to exist in its most true form. Violating the rules means absorbing penalties. However, god number two quickly stepped into the picture. People were heard on live television making statements such as “deflating the footballs didn’t change the outcome of the game”, “the Patriots would have won anyway”, “it wasn’t that big of a deal”, “everybody cheats; they just got caught.”

Contrast this event with the disqualification of Jackie Robinson West and the title they won in the Little League Championship series. JRW had illegal rostered players because adults recruited players outside the legal boundaries for their team. The Little League organizers acted quickly and took away JRW’s crown. The response from commentators and media specialists allowed relativism to emerge once again. The comments heard on the news were, “those poor boys have to suffer for the rest of their lives because of a few adults.” The reality is that these boys will remember this for the rest of their lives. There will be disappointment, but there will also be a lesson about ethics and morality.

So why did JRW get disqualified but the New England Patriots didn’t? Enter cultural god number 3. In time, sanctions may be handed down upon the Pats, but imagine what would have happened if one of the titan football teams headed to the Super Bowl championship had been disqualified. The implications could have put advertising dollars at risk. Viewers may have boycotted watching the event. Instead, nothing was done immediately and now three weeks later people have moved on. By the time any discipline is handed down, it will be a small matter. When money and power were not an issue, the absolutes of god number one helped make the JRW decision a simple one.

As we live in a culture wrestling with many gods to follow, I’m reminded of Paul’s experience from Acts 17 in Athens. He said, “I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: To an Unknown God. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.” We live in a culture wrestling with many gods. The church buildings and occasional crosses we see hanging in prominent places have become altars to an Unknown God for the 50% of our population that doesn’t have a thought about God in a given day. (statistic from Dr. Gary Davis, New England Evangelistic Development, Inc.) As we continue to live in this culture, recognize that opening people’s eyes to the one true God is opening their eyes to an Unknown God amongst many.

Hit the Target- Take a Risk

targetUnusual gifts randomly appear at Christmas time in our home. Our 10 year old, Zach, was given a set of lawn darts. No, they aren’t the original lawn darts that impaled many an innocent picnic by-stander and brought lawsuits upon American toy makers. These lawn darts have safe hard rubber tips and would be hard pressed to impale a small mammal let alone a human being. We tried all kinds of throws in our attempt to combat the wind and land our dart inside the orange circle. Eventually, Zach and I both had success hitting the target.

My time playing with Zach reminds me of youth discipleship in three ways. First, it is important to understand this target. For those of you in youth ministry, it is easy to become distracted and begin aiming at targets that do not have a purpose. Discipleship is the goal God calls us to in Matthew 28:19-20. This is more important than building the biggest group and conducting the most impressive community service project. Parents and Guardians, this is our goal as we raise our kids. Sure it would be great if our children go pro in whatever hobby they enjoy. But at the end of the day, we need to ask if we’ve hit the mark of guiding our children as disciples of Christ.

Second, it will take some risks in order to hit the target. Look at Jesus. He used all kinds of unique teaching methods to get His disciples’ attention.  We have started a New Year, what unique methods can you use to grow teens in your church closer to Jesus? Consider how teens in your family or extended family can be challenged to grow as a disciple by you doing something unique to capture their attention.

Third, and finally, discipleship happens on the journey. It is both the end goal and the essence of what happens along the way. The time I invested with Zach playing lawn darts was just as important as the goal of hitting the target. As you invest time in teenagers’ lives they will see how you model Christ. Your commitment to Him will open doors for teens to grow closer to God as you steer them in His direction.

May God bless you as you begin 2015. May you Hit the Mark, Take a Risk, and avoid being impaled by any flying objects in the process!

I Used to Enjoy Election Time . . .

voteI used to enjoy election time. Energy and excitement flowed from candidate’s messages. Rallies were held. Hands shaken. Speeches delivered. On election night I would be glued to the television anticipating the results and how they would impact my life. I leaned out of my seat. Waiting, waiting, until finally the announcer would say, “The polls are in and we are projecting that the Winner is . . .”

I used to enjoy election time. Today I’m jaded by constant mudslinging. Elections now come as more of a burden than a joy. Mudslinging began in the late 1700’s and was much more vicious years ago than it is today. What makes current mudslinging frustrating is how many media outlets are available for negative campaigning. The average US citizen is bombarded with negative messages for months by phone, mail, e-mail, social media, lawn signs, billboards, and anything else a candidate can derive.

I used to enjoy election time. Someday maybe I will enjoy it again. In the meantime, let’s consider what messages we teach our teenagers through the voting process. I teach my children responsibility through voting at every election. Our society teaches teenagers about values, current events, democracy, strategy and communications through campaigning. We also teach teenagers that “the ends justify the means” when mudslinging is used.

I encourage you, as you serve the teenagers in your church or care for the teenagers God has blessed you with in your home, to talk with them about what elections mean. Ask them about government policies, current events, and even mudslinging. Ask them how they think God views the candidates. Ask them what they would do if faced with an “evil” opponent in an election. Would they justify telling the world about a person’s shortcomings in order to gain votes and popularity? Would a great emphasis be placed upon sharing personal strengths or tearing an opponent down by exposing the person’s faults?

Ephesians 4:29 reads, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

This verse challenges me. It helps me realize why I used to enjoy election time but find frustration in it today. Election time does serve as a reminder that I need to grow in my ability to build others up. I need to encourage them according to their needs in order to benefit anyone who is willing to listen. God, grant us the ability to carry out this difficult task as we live each day for you.

Running the Race . . . Correctly!!

Zach Getting Ready to Fly
Zach Getting Ready to Fly

I love sports. I love playing sports, watching sports, talking sports . . . I’ve even been known to dream about sports! I learned through years of coaching that challenging young kids to do a little conditioning or running over the summer helps them prepare to play. I realize that many kids will decide not to run at all. A few will begin training within a week of practice starting. Another group, however, will really work at it. So I challenged my U-10 soccer team to prepared to run the mile.

My nine year old son, Zach, was one of the players I challenged. Yes, we had to push him a little bit at times to run but for the most part he really worked at it. He even decided to run a 5K while we were on vacation that he finished in under twenty-four minutes. Zach’s soccer team gathered to run the mile and I expected him to blow everyone off the track.

All the boys started running. To my surprise, Zach held back. He ran with one of his teammates encouraging him along the way. With about two hundred meters to go Zach ran out of the middle of the pack. He finished first just a few seconds in front of the next person.

Later that day I asked Zach why he didn’t run his fastest time. He looked at me and said, “Dad, I know I could have run faster, but that would have discouraged everyone. This way I was able to help them along.”

Ironically, about twenty-five years ago after training for two hours in 100 degree heat at college soccer camp, my team was running full field sprints. We had run the entire length of the field and back nine times. We were all dead tired. The coach said we had one sprint left if we did our very best. I took the coach literally. I mustered every once of strength left in my body and lurched forward, at the other end of the field only one guy was still with me. I touched the line and ran like my life depended on it. About fifty yards from the finish line the Assistant Coach sprinted toward me and started chewing me out for discouraging my teammates. I turned around and realized I had left my teammates way behind.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 explains that in a race all the runners run but only one gets the prize. It then says to run in such a way as to get that prize. As the verses continue they go on to explain that we are to go after God as if we are in a race, but that we are to encourage others so they can win the race too.

My son, Zach, recognized something at nine that I didn’t learn until I was reprimanded in college. Sometimes acts of Godliness come from listening to the Holy Spirit. Other times God uses people around us to get us in line. Regardless of your path, preach the Gospel so others can know about Jesus Christ . . . and then run toward Him with all the strength you have!

Missed the Memo in South Korea

You’ve probably heard the phrase “I missed the memo.” It refers to a person caught in a situation where everyone appears to be prepared except you. I enjoyed the last week in South Korea at the Christian Endeavor World Convention. Three thousand people attended. Lifetime memories were made. Exciting experiences were encountered. God brought blessings in plain view and in disguise.

One blessing was being informed that I had been nominated and accepted as a second term board member for World Christian Endeavor. The challenge was sitting in the closing worship session and finding out the new board was being announced on stage at the session’s end. I started looking around the room. One by one I spied other board members. Virtually every person was wearing a jacket and tie. I had “Missed the Memo!” I didn’t know this was happening. I looked down with dismay at my polo shirt, khaki shorts and tennis shoes. I could have dressed up, but I chose to be prepared for our three-hour bus ride and return trip to Seoul.

I was embarrassed because I “Missed the Memo.” It made for some great laughs with friends in person and virtually through Facebook. The experience reminds me about how important it is to be prepared. I’m not talking about carrying a utility knife in my pocket or duct tape, tools, and jumper cables in my car trunk (though I regularly do these things). I’m describing the importance of the memo all people receive through the Holy Spirit’s yearning to follow Him. Those who respond to Jesus Christ through this yearning will have eternal life that begins today. Matthew 25:1-13 describes ten women who needed to get oil for their lamps. Five traveled to take care of this important task before the bridegroom would arrive. The other five decided to put off their responsibility until later. The latter five hadn’t received the memo describing how the bridegroom frowned upon people not being prepared. The five women with oil in their lamps entered into the banquet, where the others arrived too late and were left outside.

In our day-to-day life, “Missing the Memo” brings embarrassment to ourselves and often to those close to us. “Missing the Memo” spiritually leaves a person unprepared to accept eternal life. It is a joy to work with Christian Endeavor as we and many other Christian ministries share the “Memo” so that people can embrace the invitation Jesus has given to be with Him forever.

Teens Can Make it Happen

Made It Happen!
Made It Happen!

I believe in the ability God has given teenagers to make a difference today. I also believe society at large underestimates young people’s talent, initiative taking potential and general ability to make it happen.

A few weeks ago a fifteen-year old boy, who plays for a soccer team I help coach, discovered we had been placed in a tournament’s second flight. Our team was about to play for the Eastern Pennsylvania State Cup championship, had won tournaments in Virginia and Maryland besides going undefeated in winning the regions strongest fall league. Getting anything less than the top flight felt like a slap in the face. Instead of pouting or complaining about the team’s tournament status, the boy decided to make it happen. He sent an email to the tournament director and spoke with swagger as he listed the team’s accomplishments. Within the next few days the team was moved up to the top championship bracket! Not only was the team moved up, it beat three highly ranked teams to win the title that goes along nicely with its State Championship.

I could miss the point and use the rest of my lines to talk soccer, but there is a much deeper principle to be reinforced than how to appropriately kick a ball. One of the most difficult leadership characteristics to develop is initiative. Every leader needs it. Every leader trying to nurture other leaders needs trainees to want it. Ultimately, if the person being trained doesn’t have a “fire in the belly” to make it happen then action doesn’t take place.

Jesus recognized this and spoke about it in Matthew 7:7-8. The Bible reads, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.“ When we knock on doors we receive direction. When we ask questions we receive answers. God, through the life we live does not always give the answers we want or the prizes behind the doors we are looking to find. Knowing us better than we know ourselves, He provides exactly what is needed at exactly the right time so He can make it happen through us.

So the next time you see something in the world that seems out of place or just plain wrong, remember to Ask the Lord God to make it happen. Seek to make the world a better place. Knock on doors that hold opportunities for you to experience. Take the initiative. While you’re at it, don’t be surprised if God uses a teenager in the process!

Houston, We Still Have a Problem!!

Less than six hours into a nine-day journey and my daughter, Kendra, and I had already seen God at work. We landed in Houston’s International airport en route to Merida, Mexico. Houston, the famous home of NASA’s station where Apollo 13’s mission went awry bringing the famous line, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Exiting our plane we found our bearings and headed straight for the international terminal. 744px-Apollo_15_launch_medium_distanceBefore long our trek took us to a long escalator. We looked up in time to see an elderly woman crumple on the escalating steps and begin tumbling toward the bottom. Fortunately she stopped after several steps but blood gushed from the sharp steps that cut into her lower leg. Jumping several steps at a time I dashed toward the woman and was able to lift her before sustaining further damage as the escalator stopped at the top. The amazing thing . . . no one else reacted except us. The grandmother’s family didn’t react, other people didn’t react, the woman herself barely reacted! Blood was visibly seeping through her wounds and soaking her pant legs and all she could say was, “We need to catch our plane.”

I processed what we had witnessed there in Houston. I began to rationalize the other people’s lack of action. They must not have seen her fall. The woman must be in a state of shock and embarrassment from her accident. Or . . . did Houston Still Have a Problem?

Kendra and I boarded a train for our next terminal while my brain continued processing the event. We exited the train, walked a few hundred yards, and then, “BANG!!!” Startled, we twirled toward the sound finding a young Latino man pushing a Famiglia Restaurant food cart. The cart contents had tipped and slammed to the floor spilling lettuce, pepperoni, garlic dumplings, large Chocolate Chip Cookies and other food containers over the terminal floor. Kendra and I rushed to help. Two other men joined us. The five of us worked feverishly while dozens stared and scores of others turned and acted as if nothing had happened at all. Houston . . . what are you doing?!?

OK . . . after the first incident I gave people the benefit of the doubt. But after the second incident I needed to say, “Houston, WE STILL HAVE A PROBLEM!!” What has occurred in the hearts of people that we cannot stop the rush of our precious lives to help a person in need? Houston, What goes through your minds? I’m too busy. Be more careful next time! I’m not getting my hands dirty! Luke 10:25-37 is a story where Jesus describes a person being brutally beat and left for dead along side the road. Highly respected people begin to pass the person’s mangled body until a foreigner sees him, stops, and does everything he can including spending his own money to help the person be safe and healed. Houston, we don’t have to live with our problem. We can choose to open our eyes and see the needs of those around us. Houston, you have everything you need to make a difference. Houston . . . Houston . . . Hello? . . . Houston, do you read me? . . . Houston?

What Saved Mr. Banks




Everyone loves a good story.  Last night my bride of nearly twenty years and I went to an evening showing of “Saving Mr. Banks”.  This movie was a fantastic story and I recommend it to every parent and youth worker.

This story portrays characters brilliantly with all their strengths and flaws. I found myself making judgments regarding whom I could relate to and which people I would like to never meet. As the story unfolds, the two lead roles, Walt Disney played by Tom Hanks and Mrs. Travers played by Emma Thompson, reveal secrets about their past that influence who they become as adults. Once the secrets are revealed I began to empathize with the pain the lead characters endured. Minor characters revealed secrets as well causing me to care about them and understand them because I knew their story.

Every person has a story. Mr. Banks, the main character in Mary Poppins written by Mrs. Traver’s, was believed to be mean and grouchy by the Disney artists. Mrs. Travers helped them see they had totally misunderstood him. They didn’t know his story.  What saved Mr. Banks was an author willing to explain his story. People usually don’t have an advocate to explain their story today. Judgments come quickly based on how people look and dress, what people say, how they act, and upon what they spend their money and free time. The challenge is that until a person’s story is known, “X doesn’t always mark the spot.” The behaviors a person reveals do not always make sense because their story is not known.

Parents and youth workers benefit by pealing away the layers and seeing the story that lies underneath their own kids or students they serve. Instead of complaining about your child’s behavior, seek to understand what is going on that is causing the behavior. Instead of being critical of the student who annoys the rest of the group, seek to understand more about that student’s story.

God directed Samuel as he was choosing a king to anoint for Israel in 1 Samuel 16:7, “Don’t be impressed by his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The next time you interact with students, look at the heart. Take the extra step, invest in their lives, and learn their story. It saved Mr. Banks. It saved Mrs. Travers. It might just help you save the students you love and serve.