10 Ways I approach a Retreat as a Speaker

I am in no way an accomplished speaker or a speaking guru…I’m just a guy that God’s tapped on the shoulders dozens and dozens and dozens of times over the last5z491qkq5iiws8o_450_fill 15 years to speak on retreats and at conferences.

I’m so blessed for every opportunity I’ve had.

Retreats have always held a very dear place in my heart. It was on a retreat when I was 13 years old that God gripped my heart and used my youth pastor to speak the truth of God’s word into my life and heart.

That moment changed the trajectory of my life. 

When I was 19, I was asked to a youth pastor and I wanted to create those moments for students the best that I could and for 15 years as a youth pastor I poured every once of energy and resources into making our retreats the best they could be.

Then, in 1997 I was asked to speak on a retreat. I had never been asked to be the official ‘speaker’ and I was so nervous and so excited. It was great and I had the bug to speak and to teach.

Shortly after that somebody else asked me to speak and then somebody else and then somebody else. 15 years later I have been blessed with the opportunities to speak at retreats and conferences all over the country.

Here’s How I approach a Retreat…

1. I absolutely cover it prayer. The day it’s agreed I will speak…I begin praying. I pray for the person who is leading the retreat. I pray for the students who will be attending. I pray for all the youth pastors who will be attending and the volunteer youth leaders. I pray for the camp.

I pray that Jesus will become famous in the lives of students. That they will serve Him, Love Him and give Him their all.

2. I get to know the camp and the theme. I know the camp or retreat center spends a lot of time dreaming and planning all the creative elements to the theme and I want to represent that the best I can. So, I read the camp website. I go over their doctrinal beliefs. And…I ask a lot of questions about the theme.

3. I prepare. Sounds simple enough, right? But, I believe how you prepare determines the outcome of your speaking. Yes, God can use you if you didn’t prepare anything. But, I also know, that preparation honors God. I know that as a teacher, it’s my responsibility to study scripture. So, I prepare.

4. I get alone. I spend a good deal of time alone thinking through the weekend. I spend time a lone and I think through my talks, the schedule and the different elements.

5. I suggest a few things. There are a lot of things I’ve learned over the years to help make a retreat success. If I have the right opportunity, I will share them with2012-11-04 10.42.36 the people in charge.

Like: I always encourage the camp to set up chairs. I’m not a fan to speaking to kids sitting on the floor. More on that later…but it’s just a bad idea.

Like: I always encourage the camp to turn up the house lights during the message. Too often, kids are dozing after long nights and constant activity.

Like: I always suggest having Bibles out for the students. Too often kids leave them at home or in the cabins. The older I get, teaching kids how to look up scripture is a valuable tool and a gift to them.

Like: I always seek out the program director and make sure I know all my cues. Some camps are program heavy, some are program light. Regardless, I have a conversation with the person in charge so I know what’s expected of me.

6. I connect with as many adults and students that I can. Relationships change everything. Even if there 1500 students at an event, I seek out kids and learn names and ask about their lives.

7. I follow up as many conversations with a thank you card or message. Obviously I don’t send cards or personal messages to kids…unless kids friend me or message me. But, if I talk with youth pastors or camp staff, I try to send cards or messages to remind them that I’m thankful for what they do.

8. I call students to a decision. I tell a lot of stories. I hope kids will laugh with me. Once they do, I believe some trust is built and as the weekend goes on, I challenge them more and more.

9. I pray with as many adults and kids that I can. I’ve heard thousands of stories over the years and one day I decided I was going to start praying for people right then and there. It changed things!

10. I pray Phil 2:5 before I speak…EVERYTIME! I started this about 10 years ago, but I pray that Jesus would be famous, not Jason. That I would consider them all better than myself. I ask for God’s help to step out of the way.

I still have a lot to learn. All these things don’t happen every time, and I do the best I can.

What am I missing? What have you learned?


Would you Help?

I have two very giant requests for help. 

If you would consider helping with either one…that would be a HUGE blessing.

Here they are:

1. Pray. Would you please pray for me this weekend? I’m teaching at a youth retreat for Grace Adventures Camp and I would be honored if you would pray for me.

Pray for…strength, clarity, attentive ears, favor with youth leaders and students, and for students to hear the hope of Christ.

I have spoken at more retreats than I count over the past 20 years and every one is like the first one! It is a tremendous honor and I’m praying God would use me to speak His truth.

Plus…I’m bringing my boys with me and that’s a first! I’ve taken them separately, but never together. Going to be a blast!

2. Spread the word about our Live Now T-Shirts. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s HUGE. Live Now Leadership is a non-profit organization and we only exist because of the graciousness of individuals who donate and help with things like buying shirts. CKOBjasonraitz2

Not only can we spread our message of Choosing Kindness and No More Bullying with our shirts, but they help us raise the needed funds to keep Live Now going and helping others.

On a daily basis we provide resources for students and parents to deal with and overcome bullying. We talk with teachers and administrators about creating a climate and culture of acceptance in their schools. We lead assemblies and workshops for parents and students and teachers and none of this would happen without an incredible amount of support!

So, please consider buying a shirt for yourself, your kids and your friends.

Oh…we’ve extended our $10 T-Shirt sale to today as well!

Choose Kindness Over Bullying

Celebrating Live Now in 2012 and Looking Forward to 2013

Live Now Leadership has been existence since April of 2012 and so much has happened in that time! Yesterday, I sent this email to our supporters and prayer Live Now_nobgpartners and I thought I would share it here as well.


Hi Friends!!

I hope and pray you’re doing well! I just wanted to remind you how thankful I am for each of you and all of your support, care, prayer and love. 

My family could not have made it through this year without your support. There have been ridiculously amazing highs (starting something new) and there have been really tough lows (starting something new), but we are constantly amazed at how good God is to us and how blessed we are to have friends like you who support and pray for us.

Celebrating the ministry of Live Now in 2012

  • Thousands of students were encouraged, motivated and inspired to Choose Kindness over Bullying. What a Blessing!
  • Hundreds of parents were trained and encouraged at our ‘No More Bullying’ and ‘The Sacredness of Parenting’ workshops. What a Blessing!
  • I met 1 on 1 with hundreds of teachers and administrators. Interviewed them, built relationships and even had opportunities to share the gospel! What a Blessing!
  • I had the privilege of sharing the gospel to thousands of students adults in MI, OH, LA, IND, KA and IL and decisions were made for Christ. What a Blessing! 
  • I was asked to write a 30 page ebook on bullying for parents. It will be complete in January ’13. What a Blessing!

Preparing for the ministry of 2013

  • I will be speaking (Choose Kindness over Bullying) to the students, staff and parents of:
  • St. Ignace Lasalle, MI (K-12), St. Ignace, MI, Sacred Heart Academy (K-12), Mt Pleasant, MI , Petoskey High School (9-12), Petoskey, MI, South Adams School (K-12), Berne, IN
  • I will be speaking at Retreat Centers in MI (Grace Adventures, Cran Hill Ranch, SpringHill) and CA (Forest Home), AL (Behold Retreat), MO (CIY MIX).
  • I will be preaching at The River Community Church in Hartland, MI.
  • I also have the privilege of speaking at student hosted rallies in high schools in IL as well.
  • Plus, I will continue working on my book projects: ‘Live a Great Story, Now’, (student) ‘Choose Kindness over Bullying’ (student) and ‘The Sacredness of Parenting’ (parents).

WOW! WHAT A HUGE BLESSING! It’s hard to even comprehend how much help and support it took to make it to this place. Here’s a glimpse:

  • Dozens of friends and family have let me borrow their vehicles so I could travel to speaking engagements!
  • Friends have donated computers, graphic design and video editing experience, office furniture, printing, stamps and so much more.
  • Dozens of friends have given financial gifts to support our ministry.
  • Friends have hosted ‘Meet Live Now’ nights and have organized fundraisers.
  • Dozens of friends have told their schools about Live Now and their Churches about my speaking ministry.

Absolutely none of this could happen without you! Your sacrificial financial gifts, your prayer, your help and all your support has made all this possible! Thank you!

2012/2013…Prayer Needs and Goals

1. Our hope and goal is to raise $4350 by years end. Even in the midst of all this amazing ministry, we’re praying for a financial miracle. We’ve consistently fallen short of our fundraising goals and my hope is to raise $4350 by years end. Our monthly fundraising goal is $3000 and currently we’re at 23% of that goal.

*If you would like to help us immediately, you can give online or by mail.  Your gifts help keep our ministry alive and devoted to helping students and parents.

**Also, you could help by sharing this link on your facebook page to spread the word about supporting Live Now.

2. Our hope and goal is to sell 200 T-Shirts. We are officially launching our online store tomorrow! Every purchased T-Shirt helps raise funds for our ministry.

*If you would like to make an advance purchase and give some great Christmas gifts, head here now!

3. Our hope and goal is to find donated office space for 2013. Our Live Now office is currently in our unheated, unfinished basement or Panera Bread! A quiet space to write and to prepare is a giant need. We’ve found great space, but we can’t afford the $250 a month rent. Praying for donations or donated space.

4. Our hope and goals is to find donors for a few big projects:

  • I’m in desperate need for donated airfares for (2) to AL in January and CA in Feb.
  • Live Now is at it’s last step in our 501c3 process and is trying to raise $850 to finish our IRS regulations and application.
  • Praying for the cost of travel to and from IL to speak at student lead rallies in Jan.
  • We’re in need of a computer monitor and a Macbook Pro for our events and design intern.

5. Our hope and goal is to find additional monthly donors to support our ongoing work. 

Thank you for your support, your help and your prayers! Please know I am so very thankful for each of you!

If you have any questions or have any ideas you would like to share, don’t hesitate to email or call (847 532 4553).



National PKU Day

This past Monday was the first ever National PKU day.526890_4380736631195_539369327_n

It was a VERY big day for my family. Why? Because PKU is a big part of our lives.

Our 8 year old (Zach) and our 4 year old (Madison) both have classic PKU.

What is a PKU Day? 

Here is the official congresstional resolution describing the tremendous work from Senators Johnny Isakson from Georgia and John Kerry from Massachusetts!

What is PKU?

Here are some really simple sheets (here and here) to download that will give you a great foundation for what PKU is and how you can help. And, here are two great videos (here and here) that will help you as well.

More Information on PKU

National PKU Alliance

PKU Advocate Kevin Alexander

2012-10-18 16.29.48

Michigan PKU

Our Story

It was on June 17th, 2004 that our lives changed forever. Zach was born just a few days earlier on June 9th and I remember sitting in my office and getting a random phone call from a person from a clinic at the University of Michigan hospital.

Her call took me by surprise. Zach was born in Royal Oak and I didn’t know what she was talking about. She had been trying to get ahold of us and had tried for a day or two. She was actually getting ready to send law enforcement help to our house to contact us. I don’t remember much about the phone call, but I remember her telling me that my brand new baby boy had a genetic disorder called PKU and my wife and I needed to bring him to the clinic that day.

Well, like most people I immediatly googled PKU and was in shock. I had never heard of it and I began to read stories about it. I called Tracie and tried to explain the phone conversation that had just happened. I do remember calling my dad and telling him and my dad is such a man of wisdom. He is a man of great patience. He is a man after God’s own heart. And that call helped calm my fears and remind me that God is control and has a plan.

We took Zach to the clinic and were ushered back into a room as soon as we got there. A great team started giving us the ‘PKU 101’ talk. It’s hard to even describe the feelings that we had. Kind of like what I imagine it would be like to be by a bomb that goes off near you…everything seems to be out of sync. Kind of like that.

I remember them telling me that my son couldn’t eat meat and I got really sad. I remember telling us about blood tests and weighing food and special formula’s…wow, I wasn’t ready for all that.

Actually, shamefully so, I let my wife handle the details of PKU for years. And, really, I she deals with the bulk of Zach and Madie’s diet.

But, I wouldn’t deal with it emotionally. I wouldn’t think about it. I just wouldn’t process it. I can actually remember sitting with his Kindergarten teacher, principal, school nurse and Tracie before he started school and not being able to talk about it. I let Tracie do all the talking.

And, I actually just cried.

It’s funny, all these years later, I still cry.

Yesterday we went into Zach’s class to tell them more about PKU. It was a blast. Tracie made some of Zach’s favorite food and we gave the kids a chance to try them and they loved it. It really helped Zach….I think. Every time he starts to talk about his PKU lately he starts to tear up. And at one point yesterday, Tracie was explaining to the kids that it meant Zach couldn’t eat things like Meat, or Dairy or Chocolate and this sweetest girl puts her hand on his shoulder and says…I’m sorry Zach. Well he teared up a bit and I’m over in the corner crying like a baby!

I look at Zach and Madie and I’m just in awe that God has given me the privilege of being their dad.

PKU is a part of our lives and I’m glad we have a great support system.