A Powerful Moment at Camp

*I wrote this post last Wednesday night but am just now getting around to posting it.

The last two weeks have been a blur. photo

I’ve slept in my own bed once in the last 10 days.

Why? Because I have been a part of 2 amazing summer camps for students as the speaker.

Last week I was one of the speakers for CIY MIX and this week I’ve been the speaker for Camp Velocity. Both are amazing camps. Both do an amazing job of pointing students to Jesus.

This is my second year of being a part of MIX and believe it or not, my 7th year being a part of Velocity. My first year was 10 years ago!!! How crazy is that?!?

For some reason, one that I can never figure out, God keeps opening doors for me to passionately share scripture and Jesus with students. It’s an honor and a blessing that I do not take lightly.

But, right now, I’m typing this during an amazing time of worship. Yes, I know I should be focused on worship, but I just had to get this post written because of what I’ve experienced this week.

Not only do the leadership of Camp Velocity do an amazing job, our worship leader this week (@philwing) has just killed it in leading us toward Jesus.

If you’ve never been in a room with hundreds or thousands of students worshipping, you are missing out!

These powerful moments are incredible and remind that there is a BRIGHT future ahead for the Church!


To Thrive Church and the Thrive Volunteers

To Thrive Church and the Thrive Volunteers,

I love you. I really do. And, I so proud of our church.

Today we are taking a HUGE step for a church our size. We’re hosting an event that has the potential and power to reach an amazing amount of people…especially men. Which is HUGE!

And, we’re doing this today even though were missing some of our regular high impact volunteers.

To be honest, there were a few times this past week that I let the anxiety of hosting this event get to me. I had to keep going back to the basics:

  • Taking a prayer walk
  • Opening up God’s word
  • Reading God’s word
  • Believing God’s word
  • Thanking God
  • Listening

You have been amazing. Praying. Praying some more. Texting me that you were praying. Inviting friends and family. Inviting some more. Praying for them.

Many of you have worked your butts off for today!

  • Filling water balloons
  • Making food
  • Buying food and drinks
  • Working on details
  • Making calls
  • Setting up

Here’s what I know…we’re not doing this in vain! There are men, dads, grandpa’s, uncles, moms, kids, women that are coming today that would have normally never come to Church…That’s just HUGE!

Let’s be praying. Let’s humbly seek God and ask Him to pour open the floodgates of heaven today.

We are only 9 months old, but God is up to something HUGE in our midst. Keep trusting Him, Keep looking to Him, Keep crying out to Him, Keep calling out to Him and Keep looking outward!!

Again, you’re loved!



Parents of teens…Yes, YOU Should be checking their phones

I love being a dad.

I love being a parent.

I really believe its one of the greatest gifts God has given me.

My family is my life. Some days I think I’m doing pretty good as a dad. Other days, I think I’m not not doing all that good.

Regardless of how I feel I’m doing, I have a tremendous privilege to parent my kids and I love doing that with my wife.

But, it’s really hard. And, I find, it gets harder the older my kids get. I know you’re probably saying…’no duh sherlock’, but it’s hard.

Why is it hard?

Life is crazy. Intentionality is tough. You have to be consistent. Kids grow up. They question. Friends influence them. They crave freedom. They’re becoming more independent. Life is busy. Life is rushed.

There are so many reasons its hard. But, I’m finding in the midst of all that, I can’t take my foot off the parenting pedal.

One of the areas that has been pushed to the top of the parenting importance list is…

My kids cell phones. 

Yes, two of my 4 kids have cell phones. My 14 year old daughter and my 11 year old son. They obviously love having iPhones. Although, they have older models and remind me of it all the time…but, I really don’t care. hah!

But, I love technology. I mostly got them phones for our convenience and so we could get ahold of them whenever we needed too.

Obviously, that’s not out of the ordinary now a days with 83% of middle school students having a phone.

So far, it’s a good investment. I like having that safety net when they’re staying at friends houses, when they have practice after school or when I’m late at picking them up from school.

It’s worked out well so far.

But, as I lead parenting workshops and talk with parents, there is a common questions that comes up…

Should I be checking my kids phone?

And my short, quick and loud answer is always…

YES! Yes and more Yes! 

I’ve had parents tell me that their kids wouldn’t like that. NO DUH!

It doesn’t matter. You have to check their phones. And, more than that, you have to lay down the phone expectations. And, do it continually. Remind them that you pay the bill, they are under 18, your job is to protect them and you will be checking their phones whenever you want.

If you’re new to this idea, here’s a couple of starting points to think about:

1. Realize that you’ve given your kids a computer. They will only use 10% of the time to actually talk! And, I don’t know if you call what they do on the phone talking! Unless, you’ve given them a flip phone from years past.

But, today’s phones are computers. So, you must set up some internet protection. You can do that right on an iPhone.

Recently, one of my sons friends looked at something inappropriate on youtube on their phone. As soon as my son came home, he told me about it. Why did he tell me about it? Because I’m talking to them all the time about what’s appropriate and inappropriate. Make sure you are protecting them by setting up some internet filters.

2. Talk through the privilege of having a phone. And, don’t just do it once. Do it all the time! Recent surveys are showing teenagers would rather give up their sense of smell or their pinky finger than give up their phones! It’s important to them.

It also should be important to you. Every single week, remind them that you pay the bill and it’s not free. That means they need to help around the house or whatever you come up with. Remind them that you will be checking it.

3. Teach your son or daughter phone etiquette. Teach them how to be respectful on the phone. Teach them that even though they can’t see the person they’re texting, that doesn’t give them the right to be nasty, mean or a bully. Give them the skills to use their phone properly.

It’s really a big deal. Mom and Dads, I can’t implore you enough, be checking your kids phones.

A privilege I do not deserve…being a guest speaker

This past weekend, I had the honor of being a guest speaker at SpringHill Camp.IMG_4425

Honestly, I know this is a GIANT privilege that I do not deserve! I know there are so many more qualified men and women, but for some reason God keeps tapping me on the shoulder and has been giving me these opportunities for the past 15 years.

Yeah, 15 years. Crazy! 

I can’t even express how heavy the responsibility is to be a guest speaker. For years, I wanted that responsibility and I DREAMED of having opportunities to go and be the speaker. Then, after about 5 years of having more and more of them, the reality of the weight and privilege began to sink in.

I mean, holy cow! I get to stand in front of a lot of students and present Jesus. That’s something that I do not take lightly.

It’s something that I cherish and I love, but it is also something that I take very seriously.

I know it’s amazing privilege and I hope that I’m stewarding it the best that I can. 

Now that I’m Thrive Church’s full time pastor, I am definitely speaking less and less away from home. Actually, I hate to miss Thrive on Sunday’s. Why? Because I just love my Church. I just being with the Thrive Community. And, I love the privilege of teaching our community at Thrive.

But, a few times a year, if I’m asked, I will travel and continue to speak. Why? I just love telling people about Jesus. And, right now, I’m blessed to be in a place where I have more opportunities to pick from that I can go and do. That could change overnight and I may not ever be asked to speak again somewhere else. And, that’s ok!

So, for now, I will continue speaking 3-5 times a year away from Thrive. Whether it’s a retreat, a camp, a conference or a parent seminar.

I will continue to to respect and thank God daily for giving me these tremendous opportunities to be the guest speaker. I will continue to learn, and to grow and to develop my gift.

Thank you God for blessing me with this tremendous privilege.

Can Students help Lead a Church?

So, today at Thrive Church I witnessed something amazing.

Now, let me preface that by saying, most Sundays I have an extraordinary seat to witness some amazing things.

I hear all kind of incredibly cool ‘God’ stories every Sunday. I have the privilege of listening and hearing all kinds of stories week in and week out.

But, today was special. Not because of a story I heard or something someone told me, but because of what I witnessed.

What did I witness? 

I was able to experience students helping lead a church. 


Today, our production was primarily set up and run by two high school seniors. Actually, they are there every single week. And not just ‘there’.

They show up way early and stay way late.

They unload the trailer. Set up. Run the production. Tear down. Re-load the trailer. EVERY WEEK!

They have been mentored and discipled by an amazing man, Jim Burkhart. Jim’s poured into them and he’s showed our church how to replicate and disciple. It’s just truly awesome!

Oh, our sound guy this morning turned 18 today! He came in at 7am! Man, his dedication puts some adults dedication to shame!

So, yes, students can and should help lead a church. 

And, at Thrive Church, it will always be a priority to invest and pour into students and release them to lead.


2 Reasons why Pastors should hang out at retreats

This weekend, Thrive’s student ministry went on their first weekend retreat. Woo Hoo!

We took a group of 23 students to SpringHill Camp.

I couldn’t be more excited.

I mean, I am VERY excited! 

Just as I type that…I think about how life changing retreats have been in my life, and my eyes fill with tears.

I have been praying so hard for this retreat. I have been praying for students to have an unbelievable amount of fun. I have been praying for students to meet new friends. I have been praying for students to deepen their faith. I have been praying for students to meet Jesus.

I so wanted to spend the entire weekend with our students and leaders. A few reasons for that.

First…It was our first retreat! That’s just exciting!

Second…I believe in retreats as catalytic life changing moments.

Third…I was a youth pastor for 15 years.

2 Reasons why Pastors should hang out at retreats

Being at the retreat got me thinking, shouldn’t this be a regular occurrence for me. I mean, our students are a vital part of our church and I don’t ever want to be in a place where I have lost touch with them.

So, here are 3 reasons why I will always make it a priority to be a part of their retreats…somehow…

1. Our students matter. They are terribly important to the culture, community and dna of our church. Even a few hours of talking, laughing and listening is a huge investment.

2. Our adult leaders matter. The adults who invest into the lives of students deserve to be thanked, listened too and loved on.

That’s enough for me. At least once a year, as the Pastor of Thrive Church, I will hang out at retreats with Thrive’s students and adults.

3. Our

Thrive Church will ALWAYS make Students going on Retreats a priority

Thrive Church exists to help people find and follow Jesus. One Youth Profile

Yes, it’s that Simple!

We’re we put our most energy is into our Sunday experience, our Growth Groups and our Impact on Central MI.

Of the same importance, if not more, our kids ministry and student ministry are so most important  to Thrive Church! 

One of our HUGE values at Thrive is not to give our kids and students any left overs or scraps.

That’s why we’re launching a student ministry in a few weeks and that’s why we’re sending any student who needed financial help on this winter retreat weekend!

Here’s what I believe to my core and I know I am wired this way because of my 15 years as a youth pastor:

Retreats, more than anything else, have an amazing catalytic power that can change lives DRASTICALLY!


1. Students get away! Yes, this is a good thing! Today’s students are busy. They have so many voices that are bombarding their heads all the time. It is great for students to be able to get away from the regular rhythm of life.

2. Students get to have fun! I know the cynical adults are saying, life isn’t about fun…it’s about working hard. Yes, I believe that too. But, kids are growing up way too fast now a days. They need to be able to have weekends where they can just have fun. Retreats provide that in an amazing way.

3. Students can make new friendships. Ok, maybe they won’t, but I think, 60% or more of the time, they do. And, that’s good! They need to broaden their inner and outer core of friendships. Learn to be there for people that are different than themselves. Retreats can provide that!

4. Students can and will meet Jesus. Over my almost 20 years of church ministry, time and time again, as I talk with Jesus followers…as the question comes up…where did you meet Jesus…

More often than not, people say they met Jesus when they were a kid or a teenager and so many times people say it was a camp or retreat or conference!

5. Students have an entire weekend to be poured into from an adult other than mom or dad. And, that’s HUGE! It’s so important. I can say a million things to my kids, over and over, and then an adult can say something to them and it clicks! I’m praying for the God conversations that will happen this weekend!

I just can’t for the life of me understand why youth pastors and churches willingly don’t send students on retreats! I’ve heard all the excuses…it costs too much, no one would go, etc.


There’s too much at stake. Do what it takes to get students on retreats. 


1. Pray like crazy while they’re at the retreat.

2. Thank the adults who went with them like crazy!

3. Cast vision to students the entire weekend to think outside of themselves.

4. Beg God to move in students hearts.