Youth Ministry

You're more beautiful than you think you are... I have been having many interesting conversations with both students and adults, of both genders, about what really matters to them in life. It seems that many people, myself included, live by the fear of man rather than the fear of God. It's as if we are slaves to what other people think of us and we become hindered and paralyzed by this. What's interesting is that many times how we think people see us and what we think about ourselves has become convoluted and twisted. How I see myself isn't necessarily how someone else sees me.

A friend of mine is getting married in a couple of weeks and I'm in the wedding, so this morning I went to get fitted for my tuxedo. As an employee called out my measurements to the another who was taking the measurements down, I became quite uncomfortable hearing the numbers called out aloud... Yep. I could stand to loose about 5, 10, okay about 20 pounds... In the midst of this my mind started racing. I was thinking that if I lost all that weight, I might look like James Bond from the film Casino Royale. How would people see me? Would I draw a lot of looks from the ladies (I say this in jest, just in case my wife reads this)? Would the guys envy me and think I have one of those cool cars parked in the parking lot? Then as the excitement and reality settled in, I came to the conclusion that I am who I am; and that while I do need to loose some weight, I should really be focused on the fact that I just spent the duration of getting fitted for my tuxedo wishing I looked like 007 from Casino Royale, something internally isn't right.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. To be honest I was dreading about getting fitted for a tuxedo. I was embarrassed about how out-of-shape I am. The first jacket they gave me to try-on was bit loose. I knew it! Instead of looking like James Bond, I was going to look like (insert embarrassing description here), and my dream of looking good was crushed!. I was getting a little self-conscious. Then the guy helping me shed some sunlight on my overcast moment; he said that it was much to loose on me and that I had a good physique which needed a jacket that would fit tighter. I realized that how I see myself isn't always the way how others see me. If we could be free for a moment with our thoughts and words we would admit that we are more judgmental about ourselves than others are with us.

Beauty is as much an inner thing as it is an outer thing and probably even more so. Many times we feel outward appearances are the factors in which we are either approved or disapproved by people. So much time and money is spent trying to improve our outward looks that we neglect what really matters and that is our heart. If we come to understand that the heart is where beauty truly is formed then what we look like on the outside really doesn't matter (Please understand that I do believe we need to take care of ourselves physically as well - I'm not discounting that). 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that God does not concern himself with the things that man uses to judge someone's worth which is the outward appearance. Instead he deems someone worthy by looking at their heart. Jesus said it another way when he addressed the religious leaders, who by the way were more concerned with outward appearances, by telling them that it's not what goes inside a person that makes them defiled (outward appearances), but it is what comes out (the heart) of a person that defiles them.

Jesus said, "For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” - Mark 7:21-23

Our hearts drive our true beauty both inward and outward. Jesus came to mold our hearts into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16-17). And because of this God sees us differently than the way we see ourselves. Just like at the end of the video sometimes we need to ponder how other people see us - You're more beautiful than you think you are.


Now this might news to some of the readers of this blog, but I recently resigned my position as Lead Youth Pastor at LifeBridge Christian Church. Fortunately I am not leaving the church. I am transitioning out of the student ministry and into a new role at LifeBridge. Our church is moving towards a neighborhood emphasis and I will be one of the Neighborhood Pastors. I started this transition back in January, which will come to complete closure in mid-May. We have hired a new Lead Youth Pastor and I will assist in his transition as much as need be... I will write more about this transition later and about our journey of being a Neighborhood Pastor and our church's emphasis in the neighborhoods of Longmont as we go... Below is the resignation letter we sent to the staff, parents, and students. I did not add the portion that contained the bio of our new Lead Youth Pastor... Please pray for me, my family, our students, their families, Luke Pinder and his family (New Youth Pastor), our youth staff, and our church during this transition...

A note from Joe Puentes, Director of Student Ministries:

Over the past nineteen years, I have been blessed to serve and lead students in helping them discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully. These past five years, I have had the privilege of leading the student ministry at LifeBridge, which have been some of the most exciting and fruitful years of ministry for my family and me. We have been blessed with rich relationships with both students and their families. Without hesitation, I can say these have been some of the best ministry years I have experienced.

A little while ago, I went to Rick telling him that I felt God was stirring in my heart a passion to be more involved in the neighborhood focus of our church, and that I was feeling a sense that it might be time for me to move out of student ministry and begin a new ministry journey, exploring other ways to serve in God’s kingdom. After sharing our thoughts and concerns about me moving out of the student ministry, Rick asked me to pray about the opportunity of becoming a Neighborhood Pastor. After praying for a period of time and having conversations with my wife, I have decided to resign my position as youth pastor and accept the neighborhood pastor position.  I’m able to do this in part because I have a peace that our students and the ministry will be cared for and led well by the other associate student pastors and our volunteer youth coaches.  This is one of the best student ministry teams I have had the good pleasure of serving alongside.

I want to thank the leaders of LifeBridge, our students, and their families for allowing me to serve and lead them these past five years. I have been tremendously blessed by all our past and present students. We can trust that our students will continue to discover grace, grow in grace, and live gracefully during this transition (I currently have two of my own kids in the high school ministry). We can also be sure that the leaders of LifeBridge have done everything humanly possible through the guidance of the Holy Spirit to find my replacement to lead our students. I am excited about the future of the student ministry being led by our next youth pastor. Once again, thank you for the honor and privilege of being a part of your family’s journey of growing in your relationship with Jesus.

Grace & Peace,


A note from Kevin King, Administrator:

We are thankful for Joe’s leadership provided to the Student Ministry here at LifeBridge over the last five years.  He has built a solid team of staff and coaches that will help carry us forward to the next phase of Student Ministry and will provide our new director a great foundation on which to continue building.  Please be praying for Joe and his family as he transitions from Students to Neighborhoods.

“youth group isn’t everything or shoot most of us can’t stay at a church beyond 2 years....”

Youth group isn’t everything... I read something the other day that has me thinking a lot. I read a tweet that remarked about how a student could’t go to youth group because the student was grounded. I don’t know why or the reason for youth group being taken out of the equation, but it is irrelevant for what I am writing about. I’m not ragging on the person who posted it on twitter, because I have said it myself many times in the past and I know many others who have said the same thing. I have felt the same frustration as the person who posted the tweet. What I am questioning is the thought pattern that myself and others have about the extreme importance of youth group verses the discipline of parents (I must say that the person who posted the tweet was no way implicating this). What I mean is that I have felt many times that if the student only came to youth group more they wouldn’t be a problem at home or at school. I have thought that the program, the youth coaches, and myself are the ones who can disciple the student away from their moral degradation. What they need more of is Jesus and we are the ones to give it to them (Moralistic therapeutic deism). What the student really needs is to model Jesus to their parents or “honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 19:19...

Seriously, since when did youth group and youth ministry programing become the only mechanism that students get discipled? I know I am probably going to piss off many of my professional youth ministry colleagues with this post, but the reality is we and our programs are not the center of discipleship for our students; the parents are, and if they are not we need to figure out a way to get them there. Ultimately, the parents will be the ones involved in the students life for the long haul, not us. Shoot most of us can’t stay at a church beyond 2 years. Youth group isn’t everything... Youth ministry needs to be holistic.

SO what if a student is grounded from youth group! It’s not like they are going miss out on being at church, because they are the church. Hey look at it this way; when this happens, we add to the adolescent penchant for rebellion and this will make them want to come back from more...

Heck, I’ve even grounded my own teenagers from youth group, and I am the youth pastor.

Conversation on Acts-like insurrection strategy...

Recently, I posted about a conversation a few others were having about a new strategy for discipleship and church growth (the original posted can be found here Adam McLane). Within the blog post and ensuing conversation, I commented some of my thoughts to the blogger of the original post... I thought it would be helpful if I shared my thoughts on the conversation. Also, this whole conversation started with a blog post he did on reaching parents of students - The Parent Gap. Below is what I posted in the comment area in response to Adam McLane's blog post on finding a new strategy...

"As a church, we have been praying and thinking about the command by Jesus to in-short “love God and love our neighbors.” Through this, it has caused us to rethink the how we do church, our measurements for success i.e. “wins” and over-all strategy. We are nowhere near having things figured out, but the conversation of being the best neighbor our neighbors have ever had, and loving our neighbors not because we want them to be Christians, but because we are Christians have caused us to have deeper discussions of how church would look different, be different, and act different.

I recently launched a home Bible study this summer in my house for high school students. The book we are studying is the book of Acts. I started off the study by telling the 30 high school students it would be great that if one day “soon”, they were the ones leading a Bible study like this in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools and not me! One student said, “then we would be doing your job and the job of our adult leaders. You would be out of a job!” My response was that it would be great if that happened, because then they would all be doing what Jesus commanded and that is to make disciples, and not just me doing it…

Its hard for those of us who are paid staff to think about “new strategy’s” for church, because it can cause disruption and uncertainty in our own lives and livelihood. I have been on staff as a youth pastor on a couple of mega-churches, and I am currently on staff at a mega-church. I know the leaderships' heart is to make disciples, and to see people fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20. However, realizing that discipleship really begins with depth, which leads to numerical growth, and not the other way around can be daunting and paralyzing for churches of all sizes… It is a cultural thing in many ways.

One of the commentators above stated this about the America church, “They are looking for ways to “keep” people in church, upping their numbers. The church in America has basically been stagnant for decades.” This can true for many churches and staff persons in the U.S.. However, I am encouraged by bloggers such as yourself, others, and conversations similar to this that are popping up all over the country. I am excited that the Father seems to be moving in the U.S church and the hearts of His people, both big and small to realize His plan for the kingdom."

I hope by sharing this with you, we can continue the conversation and seek to BE the church and not just play church..

Intentional Moments

I can't tell you how many times I stood at this spot (look at the picture to the left of the screen) or somewhere close to it, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge leading into San Francisco. Growing up in the Bay Area, I came to take for granted the times we would go into "The City" to visit family, catch a Giants game, hang out at Fisherman's Wharf, go to Pier 39 where I would hangout at the magic shop and play with all the gadgets and magic tricks for countless minutes (Yes, I said minutes not hours. I wasn't allowed to be by myself for very long). What I realize now that I didn't back then was to capture all the moments around me and appreciate my situation and surroundings. There was no intentionality within me during those moments I had in The City by the Bay. Maybe because I was only 1o years old or younger at the time, but nonetheless I was to busy complaining about being tired, complaining about my sister, about being hunger, and whatever else I could find - I was focused on me, myself, and I, not on the beauty and wonder around me. Isn't that how it is with us sometimes? We bumble through moments and fail to be intentional geographically, situationally, and relationally. You know what though, I think we as parents do this with our kids more than anything else. Recently, some friends of mine had their first baby, and this started me thinking about the time my oldest daughter was born. I had to reach way back into the memory banks to recall any moments during that time and was hard-pressed to recollect anything. Oh, I remember that I drove to the hospital in a gray 1970 two door Impala, which had a driver's door that wouldn't open.I remember it was raining and my wife telling me to slowdown, because the roads were wet. I also remember the "deer-in-the-headlights" look on the doctor's face when she realized that this was really it (she was a very young and new doctor). I have some recollection of my daughter's face when she was placed on my wife's chest for the first time right after her delivery, my daughter had the look of doubt and uncertainty of whether she wanted to be there or not. And you know what, that's it! From that moment on, I don't have a lot of memories of those early time. It is also the same thing with my other two kids. Call me a bad dad  or whatever, but I bet it is the same with you. If not with your child(s) birth, it is with something else that pertains to them. We all do it, we all miss intentional moments with our kids. The thing we need to do is to savor the ones that we do catch, and to create new ones that have yet to be.

This year marks three different milestones for my family. We will for the first time have three teenagers in our house, our youngest turned thirteen years old this past January. Our son turns fifteen years old in may, which means he will be at the halfway point to thirty (plus he is going to shave his chin and upper lip for the first time). And our oldest daughter will turn eighteen years old in October. I got to be honest, I am a little behind in the intentional moments category when it comes to capturing those times with my kids. I was busy "making ends meet" and establishing myself in the world as an adult. My strategy now is to pay attention to those moments where I can have intentional moments and conversations with my three teenagers (Unfortunately, I am still trying to "make ends meet" and establish myself as an adult), even if they are small ones at that. I just want to capture with my kids and teach them to perk their ears to the sounds, flare their nostrils to the smells, and focus their eyes to the sights, and savor the moments that we do catch and create new moments that have yet to be...

So after sitting and contemplating these things and thinking about my friends who just had their first baby, I was compelled to send a text message to my friend telling him to capture every moment with his baby boy and wife. Even the mundane moments. I told him to capture them and be intentional in savoring those moments, because before you know it time passes and you end up bumbling it away and those moments become a blur. My memory of my kids when they were little and the moments in "The City" aren't very clear, but one thing I do know are the intentional moments that I'm catching now and the intentional moments that I'm creating that have yet to be are not a blur.

identity shift...

"Unlike Boomers Gen Y doesn't have to push for change. Change is thrust upon them and sets the pace ahead of them. There is no identity. Identity is what you need to be to survive the situation you're in. You're identity will shift multiple times to survive in a week's worth of living for Gen Y. - Chad Swanzy" I recently read this quote from a Twitter friend that I follow. This guy is a student ministry resource stud... His site helped me in a time of crisis awhile back when I needed to take over one of the ministry areas that I oversee.

Alright enough of that! So I read a post that contained the quote above (It also had a video that accompanied it - a must see vid for anyone who cares). As I watched this video and especially as I read the post, it got me thinking about the state of Christian formation for Gen Y. So much shifts and pushes for change in the lives of Gen Y that it makes wonder if our methodology of shaping their hearts and minds is archaic at best! Do the methods of old still hold relevance for this generation? Is it time for a paradigm shift in methodology of Christian Formation, one that is fluid and can push for change rapidly? It definitely needs to be an approach that will help Gen Y Christians get an arm-bar hold on their faith, which should be their identity they need to survive the situation they're in, and will help them survive and thrive in a week's worth of living...

Thoughts, ideas, questions... You tell me.

Below is a link to the post and the vid. Check it out...