Sunday, November 29, 2015
Saturday, June 27, 2015
I've had a pretty great couple of weeks.
last week we had our annual elevation summer camp- and it went perfectly. great weather, great leaders, great students. it was the perfect mixture of fun and serious.
like every year, we spent a lot of time at the lake, we went to the outdoor movie theater, and we had out door teaching and music. we also had jiffy pop and smores over an open fire.
this year I taught on joseph, and talked about how God gave Joseph a dream for his life- and how Joseph got clues of God's dream when he was a teenager.
at the end of the camp, I urged the students to dream and consider what God's dream might be for them and their lives. I encouraged them to paint a picture of how God might use them in the future. the students sat quietly for about 15 minutes and painted their pictures. I walked around and peeked over some shoulders to see what they were making. some drew teachers, some drew doctors, and one drew...me. it was a painting of my little green youth room, with tvs on the wall with the (678) logo on them- and at the front of the room was a man teaching the students- except it wasn't me- it was the grown up version of himself.
his dream was to be like me.
how cool is that?
when I was a teenager, my dream was to be just like my youth pastor, and by God's grace- that dream moves past me and forward to this student.
when I got home from camp, I got this cool father's day card and went to Malibu grill to get ribs and French fries! I think the painting is supposed to be of me- even though I don't like wearing ties.
jane got to go to her last VBS this year- and she didn't get sick this time! she loved all of the teaching and the music.
on the second to the last day, we got tickets to go to a giants day game, but she refused to leave town until VBS was over. she said, "VBS is more important than sports, DAD!" I told her that I agree 100%. The game was a blast, and it was so cool to go to the place that we have seen so many times on tv.
the other day we were driving to dinner and we saw a news reporter outside of our house- jane was so excited and we stopped to meet her and to take a quick picture- she showed us her news van and told us how she films her stories:
Posted by rob's thoughtful spot at 1:15 PM
Tuesday, June 2, 2015
recently I was leading a bible club at a local middle school and I was handing out candy to some students. there were some youth workers there from another church- I said to one of them: "it really bugs me when I'm handing out candy to students and they grab at it like savages."
we were borrowing a classroom from a Christian teacher. she overheard what I said and said, "you know why that happens don't you?" in an instant I thought to myself, "no- I don't know why it happens- does she know?"
she said, "you have trained them to have that behavior by repeating it and rewarding them with candy. you need to manage your class through clear expectations. In the future I would say, 'I have some candy for students who are sitting and listening.'"
for a second I thought, "why are you listening in on my conversation? and what do you know about youth ministry?" but that was just a second. I quickly realized that this lady is a WEALTH of knowledge about how to manage rude students. I said, "that is genius. tell me more. I want to know everything that you know about classroom management!" she didn't give me anymore free advice.
a few weeks ago I took some students to the boardwalk, and we rented a big school bus. we were cruising down the road, and one of the leaders was talking about how she had just got her driver's license and how she was a little unsure about driving on the freeway and changing lanes. I started giving her some driving advice (because after all, I DID used to drive a little church bus!) but the bus driver chimed in, "you know what I do to change lanes?"
and again, I thought, "why is she listening in on my conversation?" but that lasted only a second. after that I thought, "what DOES she do to change lanes?! I'm curious!"
she said, "I listen to my blinker. when it has clicked ten times, then I feel like I have given the people behind me plenty of notice that I am about to change lanes. so after ten clicks, I just make my way over." then she said, "here is another tip: don't worry about the drivers behind you. its not your job to keep them happy. if they think that you're driving too slow, they can pass you- but don't drive faster just to make them happy." she had a few more bits of advice that I didn't really catch.
in both of those situations, I got some pretty good advice! I wasn't looking for it, but I found it and accepted it. people like to tell me what I'm doing wrong from time to time, but rarely do they share what has helped them, and what can help me. I think at some point, you get to an age when people don't think you want to be coached anymore- but when I am getting coached by someone who is clearly smarter than me, its refreshing.
there is a story in the book of genesis, when the king of Egypt had a dream that the land would have 7 good years followed by 7 bad years. he didn't know what to do with this information. but a Hebrew slave that had just been plucked out of prison said, "why don't you save up for 7 years to plan ahead for the 7 bad ones?" the king could have easily said, "what do you know? you're a slave that was just pulled out of prison!" but instead he said, "that's genius!" and put him in charge of the whole operation.
well if the king of Egypt can accept advice from an unlikely source- why can't we?
we need to be on the look out for wisdom. you never know where you may find it. a school teacher and a bus driver gave some advice to a youth pastor and now I'm better for it. where will you find wisdom? the book of proverbs says, “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.”
there is a treasure chest of wisdom out there- you can find it in books and teachers and seminars- but you can also find it in everyday people and in everyday life- if you tune your ears to it.
God is love.
my kid is a home schooler-
every year during her promotion story she reads one of the books that she had written in the previous year- here are the books and their presentations:
jane's graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.
amanda pig and the lemonade stand from rob walter on Vimeo.
amanda pig's slumber party from rob walter on Vimeo.
3rd grade graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.
and just last week- 4th grade-
4th grade graduation story from rob walter on Vimeo.
you can see how she gets taller each year, and how she grows in confidence as she reads. this last year she seemed a little self conscious- but what do you expect? she's a pre-teen now!
sigh. my little author!
being a dad is fun.
Posted by rob's thoughtful spot at 4:12 PM
Monday, May 18, 2015
this works with work projects too. get organized. write things down. make a list. make a chart. whatever helps you to think straight. clear out the clutter on your desk. do the things that will help you think clearly.
again- this helps with a project too. instead of aiming to finish the project, aim to finish the first part of the project, then the second. make a list of what the parts of the project are- and then cross them off one by one.
when I’m working on a project at work- sometimes I get stuck on those too- it helps to see things from a different angle. step back and look at the bigger picture. look at things as if you were your customer- or your employee or volunteer. ask a friend to look at things- what do they see? often times a different way of looking at things is the perfect way to get unstuck on a project.
it’s the same for projects too- every detail is important. and if you get careless and miss one- you may discover that the detail that you lost was a very, very important detail! and losing it leaves a big hole in the project! so treat every detail like a piece in the puzzle and make sure it get the attention it deserves.
when we work on projects- try to include others on every aspect- the planning, the execution and the review. include others in the resource gathering. ask people for their help and advice. its doesn’t make you less competent- it adds to the experience and makes everything go faster.
7. resource yourself.
there was a moment when we discovered that we weren’t just casual puzzlers anymore- we were serious puzzle experts. so we decided to invest in our puzzle-habit. we got a portable desk lamp to attach to our puzzling table so we could have good lighting even at night time. we got magnifying glasses. we got one of those puzzle mats so you can move your puzzle- although we decided we didn’t like it.
in your work projects- resource yourself. get the tools you need to finish the job well. get the software and the hardware you need. get a book on the subject. take a day trip with your team to get on the same page. upgrade your workspace. if you need it, get it! sure its expensive; but once you have it, you’ll have it for a long time and that resource will pay off in the help that it gives you.
when you’re doing a project, do the big parts first. get the date on the calendar. rent the facility. order the supplies. then take care of the smaller details.
when you finish a project at work, take time to celebrate it. have a meeting with everyone involved. tell stories. laugh. eat cake! you did a good job and that needs to be recognized before you move on to what’s next.
Posted by rob's thoughtful spot at 3:24 PM
Friday, April 17, 2015
Posted by rob's thoughtful spot at 9:50 AM
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Posted by rob's thoughtful spot at 7:22 PM
Monday, March 23, 2015
I started writing notes to students years ago, and found some success with it. it gave me a midweek connection with students, and it was like sending ministry to their houses, something tangible that even their parents could see. some students absolutely loved it- others didn't seem to care much. sometimes I sent letters to students that needed some encouragement- or were there for the first time- but in recent years I've upped that game- and right now at least, I send a handwritten note to every single student (that fills out a card) every single week. is it expensive? it is. is it time consuming? oh yes. does every student care? some really do- and their parents love it too. others, I can't really tell. one student told me that she has kept every one- and receiving a green envelope in the mailbox was the highlight of her week.
some people have been curious about my correspondence with the middle school students at church- and so I thought I'd share how the whole process goes.
it all begins with these "prayer cards." they sit on the chairs in the youth room, and while I'm talking through the announcements, they fill them out and turn them in. a local print shop prints these for me. I don't use them for attendance- only for praying for the students and sending them letters. the students know that if they give me a prayer card, that I'll send them mail.
each envelope gets a stamp on the front, and a stamp on the back.
be awesome today is our motto- its also on the postcards I send. the same print shop that makes the prayer cards makes the postcards.
each envelope is hand addressed and gets a 70 cent stamp. I have to pay extra because of the stuff I put in the envelopes- more on that later- you have to be careful to write out the address clearly, or the mailman will send it back. I get so annoyed when I go to all of this trouble to send someone a note, only to get it sent back. I am shocked at how many middle school students do not know how to spell their street address or know their zip code.
there are times when I'm tired or frustrated or impatient; and those are not a recipe for good student ministry. sometimes when I feel this way I watch this clip of Fred Rogers connecting with a wheelchair-bound boy named Jeff.
sometimes I like to go through and watch all of the things Fred does RIGHT; and really the things I want to do when I meet with students:
// Fred gives Jeff his full focus.
// Fred refuses to get bored with the conversation or to feel awkward, even when Jeff is not the best conversationalist
// Fred chooses to intentionally bless Jeff
// Fred clearly communicates to Jeff that he likes him- which is the primary question that every middle schooler wants answered from every adult they encounter: "do you like me?"
// Fred smiles, he listens, he encourages and he gives Jeff a moment that he would never forget.
I can't do all of those- and I would never sing a song to a student- but I do want to give them all of these things- and I'm sure you do too-
I want to leave them with a sense that they have had my full attention and concern. I want to leave them with a sense that I like them, and that I believe in them. I want to leave them with a blessing. I was to be the middle-school-pastor version of Fred Rogers. watching this clip puts my head in the game and reminds me to slow down and give students a personal blessing. I saved a photo from this clip and printed it:
I laminated a few and keep one in a few places that i'll see when I'm working with kids. you may not be inspired by fred rogers- but if not him then who? who inspires you to give good ministry to others? maybe you could print their picture and inspire yourself to give it your best in every interaction.
Saturday, March 21, 2015
the other day I was at lunch with some youth pastors and I was chatting and throwing out ideas and tips and this one friend said, "that's like a wise saying from rob! its a proverb- no, a RO-verb!"
of course I loved it.
here is a roverb for you-
I talk with a lot of youth workers who tell me how they are working so many hours and how they don't see their family much, but they are doing it for the church, and for the Lord, and someday this season will pass- and then I give them my like you vs. need you speech.
I tell them that at my church, they like me. the students like me, the parents like me, my co-workers like me, the volunteers like me. its nice to be liked. some may tell me that they love me, but really, they just like me. when I'm gone, the church will get a new worker- and they will like him or her too. that worker will be a good worker, and they will likely be an even better worker than me. they might miss me for awhile, but pretty soon, they will be so into the new worker that my memory will be long gone. that's because I'm replaceable. everyone is.
but then there is my wife. she needs me. she can't replace me like the church can. I'm the only husband she has. there is no one else that can do the job of being her husband except me. I wouldn't even want to think of anyone taking my place in being her husband.
and then there is my daughter. she needs me. she can't replace me like the church can. I'm the only dad that she has. there is no one else that can do the job of being her dad except me. and I wouldn't even want to think of someone trying to be her dad except me. that job is on me alone.
and everyone can make a list like this. there are people who like you, and people who need you. so as you think about your life, and the roles in your life, and the legacy that you will eventually leave, where should you spend your BEST time? with the people who like you (and will eventually replace you) or with the people who NEED you (and CAN'T replace you?)
why would I give all of my time and attention and focus to some people who will forget me not long after I'm gone? why would I ignore the roles that only I can fill; and the people that are counting on me? it just doesn't add up.
and when I see youth workers giving away time that belongs to their family, just to keep a group of people happy, it makes me shake my head. of course you need to do your job, and earn the money that you're paid; but there is no amount of money (NO AMOUNT OF MONEY!) or position, or title, that is worth selling out your family. and in the end, when its all said and done, no one will care how hard you worked or the hours you tirelessly put in; but they will remember that you loved Jesus, and your family, and the people you worked with.
so when they ask you to give up your day off (again), and you find yourself promising your family that they will get your time eventually, do everyone a favor and take some time off. look at your family, talk with them. go on a walk. go and get sweaty. have a life! work with your hands. read a book that has nothing to do with your job. eat some delicious food in a quiet setting.
because you are more than what you do.
and your family is way more important than your boss. and your job. and the students. and that one committee.
and being important is not that important.
God is love.
Sunday, March 1, 2015
in the 70's, when sesame street was just starting out, they had these little videos of a boy named john-john interacting with their muppets. super-duper-cute videos-
there is one that I often remember, that I have included below:
Grover says, "you know what john-john? I love you."
and John-John says, "you love me? ... Grover? DO YOU LOVE ME?!"
and Grover says, "yes- I love you John-John"
and John-John says, "yeah! count this penny."
and Grover says, "one."
I keep a photo of Grover and John-John on my desk- it reminds me that everyone (especially my middle school friends) have the same basic question that John-John does: "how do you feel about me? do you like me? do I annoy you? do you have time for me? are interested in me? do you care about me? do you love me?"
and when someone feels that you do in fact, like them, then we can start talking, and begin a friendship; but until that question is answered, there is no friendship or trust.
have you ever been around someone and you could tell that they didn't like you? or you could tell that they thought that they were more important than you- or that you bothered them? I know I do! you don't have a relationship with people like that.
is there someone who makes you feel appreciated? special? liked? loved? I certainly do! we trust people like that. we like people like that. we gravitate to people like that; and we need to be people like that.
you don't have to say it with your words- but you need to communicate with the people that you interact with that they are not a nuisance- you're not too busy for them- but you like that they are there- and that you like them.
I know some people that do this instinctively. and I both love them and am jealous of them because of it. some of us are not so instinctive- and we need a little coaching.
how do we do this? here are a couple ideas:
// you need to remember their name- and use it-
// you need to smile when you see them-
// you need to remember things about them and ask them about it-
// use eye-contact when you listen to them
// if its appropriate- you can greet them with a hug
// you can be excited and enthusiastic when you see them-
// you can be focused when you talk to them and not distracted- leave your phone in your pocket- and keep your eyes off of the clock.
(this is one reason why I have clocks posted everywhere- so that no one ever catches me peeking at one).
what are ways that we communicate that we don't like someone?
// talk about yourself only-
// tell them that you don't have any time to talk
// communicate that your phone is more important than the conversation
// roll your eyes.
// have low energy.
// complain about how busy you are.
// make fun of them.
// be in a hurry to end your conversation.
the list goes on and on.
as Christians, we believe that even though God is busy running the entire cosmos that He has individual time for each of us- and that He is listening to each of us with His undivided attention. that's one of the things I love about Jesus in the gospels- how he could interact with kings and captains, but He could also give blind and mute people His undivided attention. When we ask God, "DO YOU LOVE ME?!" He always answers, "yes- I love you." and when we communicate our care and concern for others, we are being imitators of God.
here is a challenge for you and me: after each interaction with someone you work with (or live with) ask yourself: "what did I communicate to that person? did I communicate that I like them- or did I communicate that I was too important for them?" and grade yourself; and ask yourself how you can do even better the next time.
do this- and your likeability factor will skyrocket-
and so will your influence and impact.
God is love.