Posted in Uncategorized on December 10, 2012 by Walter

CBM-12-007 Youth Ministry PCLife is changing at breakneck speeds everywhere we turn. Tomorrow seems to be here today. The adolescents in our ministries seem to be the most affected by these changes. Research shows how the process of adolescence is lengthening both culturally and biologically.

How does the church respond best to these changes? How are youth ministries contributing to these changes? What is the best way to help our teens mature in faith?

Join other Youth Ministers, Elders, Volunteers, Parents of Teens and Church Leaders as we investigate these and many other questions at “Teen 2.0.”

Early Registration $68 ($80 after February 1) For every three paid registrations from the same church the fourth comes free! Includes lunch and continental breakfast.

For information, call 615-966-5787 or visit

.::Liturgy:Ritual as Adolescent Faith Formation

Posted in adolescence, church, Liturgy, Ministry, rant, spiritual disciplines, Teaching, Theology, youth ministry on May 14, 2012 by Walter

I grew up Catholic and the ritual of liturgy sometimes bored me, but many times it fascinated me, it educated me and it comforted me. I remember being bored many times by the repetitive nature of liturgy . . . saying the same thing week after week. This is only natural for a middle school kid who was fidgeting in an uncomfortable pew and a more uncomfortable polyester three piece light blue suit struggle just to stay awake, much less pay attention.

However, there were times when I caught a glimpse of the Divine. Those moments when the liturgy pointed to the Mystery of Faith. It was during those seasons where I understood at a rudimentary level that there was something Holy happening. . . that this was not just another week where we were repeating the same thing over and over. It was as if someone had poked me in my side between the 5th and 6th ribs and whispered intently in my ear, “Pay attention, this is important.” And I listened like I had never listened before. I may not have fully comprehended it. I may not have understood all the language. But I undoubtedly knew God was there.

It is through ritual and liturgy that we encounter the Divine in the ordinary.

Many years later, one Christmas Eve, I was watching Midnight Mass from St. Peter’s on television when my wife noticed that I was reciting the liturgy alongside Pope John Paul II. Somewhere in my adolescence, the words of the Mass had somehow become part of me. I took extreme comfort in this. In that moment I recognized another dynamic of my participation in The Church.

What does this have to do with Youth Ministry?

I spend a great deal of time in our introductory ministry courses exposing our students to the wonder and mystery and need for liturgy in the life of our churches. I let them peek over the wall to the other side of the Christian Tradition in order to get a glimpse of formal liturgy. We discuss how we all have liturgy, some more formal than others. We have three songs and a prayer, others have The Book of Common Prayer. We have potlucks & friend days, others have Ash Wednesday & Advent. We sometimes speak in plain language that is accessible, humble and approachable. Others speak in carefully worded language borrowed from generations past and deeply rooted in scripture that is deep, holy and divine.



Ivy Beckwith defines ritual as, “something we do over and over again as a way to remember or reinforce the values the ritual represents.”1 In modern youth ministry, we have segmented our young people off from the larger church body to such a degree that I think they might be missing out on the rich heritage that exists in the ritual of our faith communities. We have worked so hard to be so innovative with our young people we have tossed aside the story of who we are with our teens and they have missed a significant part of the spiritual formation–their identity.

Might we have been so innovative, so fragmented, so segregated, that they have missed out on the metanarrative of who are are? Might this be one of the reasons that they wander off from the church when they graduate youth group? Maybe our students do not possess and understanding of WHO they are in the midst of the larger, broader Christian community because they have missed out on the ritual and liturgy that lives out the story of our identity.

What are the things our youth ministries and churches are doing over and over and over again?

What values are those reinforcing?

What Identities are they forming?

What stories are they telling?

We need to have our students participate in and with the larger church’s liturgy. We need to be available to answer their questions of, “What does this mean? What is going on here?” They need to hear and experience the stories that the liturgy lives out in the midst of community.

1 Beckwith, Ivy. Formational Children’s Ministry: Shaping Children Using Story, Ritual, and Relationship. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010. 21

.::An Earthquake! . . . Really !?!?!?!

Posted in church, Life, Teaching, Theology on April 9, 2012 by Walter

Yesterday at Easter services we were looking at the resurrection story in Matthew 28 when I noticed something really interesting.  Look at the first few verses.  

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it.

Put yourself in the shoes of Mary and Mary.  That morning they are still in mourning over the loss of Jesus.  They are on their way to continue their mourning as they go to visit the tomb.  Perhaps to stil, to contemplate, to wonder, to lament, to begin to work through their anger, loss and betrayal.

Their pain is still fresh.  “He said he’d rise”

Their heart still aches. “I trusted him.”

The sting of death is still fresh. “He lost”

Their dreams are sufficiently dashed. “I left everything to follow him.”

Hope is extinguished. Now what am I supposed to do?!?

When it feels like things can’t get any worse, an earthquake hits.

Really !?!?!

It is as if the gods were mocking them with the first earthquake during the crucifixion there is another earthquake similarly mocking them in their misery.

I have always glossed over this part of the passion story.  Perhaps because it is so close to the empty tomb and I know things are just about to get better.  But can you even imagine what must have been going through their minds as the earth shook again?

“Why?” must have been echoing through their hearts.  Tears must have being to flow again mixing with the hundreds of others that have drenched their garments the past two days.

BUT. . .

Then the lightning came…the angel appeared…and the words that changed everything for them come,  “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.”




The pain turns to joy

The heart ache is transformed into love

Death is swallowed in victory.

The dream is ignited

Hope blooms.

So where are you in the Resurrection story?

Are you still at the foot of the Cross wondering what has happened?

Have you let yourself still live in the confusion and lonliness of Saturday?

Are you one the way back to the tomb to mourn the loss?


Has He Risen for you?


Posted in church, Ministry, youth ministry on February 1, 2012 by Walter

My good friend, Steve Argue, wrote an excellent post in this week’s Sticky Faith blog on Faith-ing…looking at faith as a verb instead of just a noun.  He says this:

“The downside to thinking about faith only as noun is that it can be viewed as a commodity one possesses. It becomes a static “thing” that, once acquired, is placed, even displayed in a prominent place in one’s life, often never to be touched again. Noun-faith assumptions reveal themselves when people are asked about their faith and they say that they “accepted Jesus in the 4th grade,” or that that they’re qualified to teach Sunday school because they’ve “been a Christian for ten years.”

I think he nails some of the shortcomings of just looking at faith as a noun.

“BUT If we think of faith as a verb, “Faith is also a verb, and as a verb is more associated with spiritual formation. It expresses believing and trusting in someone/something (John 3:16); is actively worked out (Philippians 2:12); is pursued (1 Timothy 6:11); and can be maturing (Hebrews 6:1).

At its very elemental level, faith as a verb is not a just Christian thing, it’s a human thing that people act upon. 1  Faith is the way human beings make sense of their world. People make meaning in order to connect and hold together the barrage of information they are continually learning and experiencing.”

So what are some of the ramifications of teaching and training our students to faith?  Here are a few:

  • Faith-ing is ACTIVE.  The church will need to let them USE their faith instead of just be spectators.  This means leadership enabling and equipping and sending.
  • Faith-ing is DANGEROUS.  If we truly make room for students to live out their faith, they will begin to share what they have with others, they will want to rech out the the disenfranchised, they will want to conquer poverty and distribute justice.
  • Faith-ing is RISKY.  This means the role of the the minister becomes more of equipping “his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Eph 4:12) Which means less time for us to be in the spotlight and more time for others to contribute their gifts to the body.  The church will need to shift paradigms from minister as subcontracted laborer to minister as equipper/coach/mentor.
Personally, I think these consequences this shirt present are exciting for the church.

I encourage you to  CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article.

.::Last Day for Early Registration for 3 Stories of YM

Posted in Life, Ministry, story, Theology, youth ministry on February 1, 2012 by Walter

Today is the last day to get the early registration rate for Lipscomb’s “Three Stories of Youth Ministry” event being held, Thursday, March 1 from 9:00-4:00.  We already have over 60 people registered from seven different states who will be here.

This is going to be a day where you come away with tools that will help you teach the Bible better, know yourself better, and lead your ministry better.

Remember you get one FREE registration for every three people from the same ministry!

A continental breakfast and lunch is included in your registration fee.

There ARE scholarships available, just e-mail for information.

You will not regret making the time to be here.


.::”The gospels are a poor representation of Jesus.”

Posted in Life, Teaching, Theology on January 31, 2012 by Walter

Tonight in my life group a good friend of mine said something really interesting and true, “The gospels are a poor representation of who Jesus was.”

Hear me out before you call me a heretic.

I think and believe the gospels are the best thing we have to understand who Jesus is and was. They are amazing, unequivocal works with nothing as their equal.


They still fall short of who Jesus really was. Because they are limited by word, diction, interpretation, culture, history, and understanding.  I get that the word, “poor” is probably not an adequate representation of what I am trying to say.

Yes we see more about God through the story, teaching, insight and character of Christ in the gospels than perhaps anywhere else.

Don’t hear me saying that they are inadequate source for those wanting to know the risen Christ.  I believe quite the opposite.  The gospels are out BEST source to understand who Jesus is.  What I am trying to say is the even though there is a limitation of language, interpretation, culture, etc.  IMAGINE just how much of Jesus the gospels can’t show us?

Imagine how much greater Jesus is than what we can read from the gospels? 

How much more of the persona, character and nature of Jesus was not able to be reflected in the gospels?

Again, don’t hear me saying that the gospels are in any way flawed or weak, I am trying to point to how much more Jesus is than what we can read of him in the gospels.  I imagine a much bigger view of Jesus and his divinity.  I come away from this exerise with a BIGGER view of Jesus.

Let’s look at this from another angle…Every technology has its limitations.  For example, when I am traveling and I have to be away from my family, I have several different technologies I can use to keep in touch with them.  I can use letters, text messages, phone conversations or Facetime.  Now I prefer texts over letters because of their speed.  I prefer calls over texts because I can hear inflection and context better.  I far prefer Facetime over phone calls because I get the added dimension of the visual to our conversations.  BUT I can’t hug my screen when using Facetime.  It is a limited technology.

Each of these technologies can and have helped me maintain my relationship with my family.  I get to know more about my wife and daughters through these technologies as different parts of their personalities come out through each of the different mediums.  They all teach me something about my family memebers in their own way.

BUT none of them come close to being face to face with them, hugging them, smelling them, feeling their presence.  This is what I prefer.  This is what I look forward to when I am away from them.  This is what I long for when I am separated from them.

This is what I can’t wait to experience in the Kingdom that is yet to come. When I can be face to face with Jesus.

I do thank the gospel writers and the Holy Spirit and the early church Fathers who show me more about Jesus than I could ever have of imagined.

.::You ARE Invited!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 26, 2012 by Walter

We invite you to bring your team to Nashville, TN on Thursday, March 1st, 2012 to join Youth Ministry Leaders from all over the Southeast who will gather at Lipscomb University to learn, train and think about “The Three Stories of Youth Ministry.”

I want to personally invite you to this year’s “3 Stories of Youth Ministry” event we are offering here at Lipscomb.  This year’s conference is going to be a TREMENDOUS opportunity for you and your team to really dive into the story of God.

Here is a bit of what we will be doing in each of our main sessions:

Teaching THE Story of God
–Michael Novelli, author of Shaped by the Story & Enter the Story, has developed an engaging, imaginative, interactive and creative way to involve your students WITH and IN The Story of God.  Michael will take you through how and why to teach the Bible narratively and leave you with a fascinating way to teach your students the larger story of God’s redemptive work through Jesus.

MY Story with God-
-Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkeytown will take us through the importance of our own stories and they way we read and interpret scripture.  She will delve into that how and why our own story affects what we choose to see and not see when we approach Scripture.  How might our family, our upbringing, our own experiences could what we want to know as truth and what we think is truth?
OUR Story with God--David Hutchens, author of A Slice of Trust, will guide us through the culture and climate that is created by our ministry’s history and values.  David is an expert in helping organizations determine their corporate story and he will help guide your team to look at how your vision, values and identity affect your ministry as well as get you on the way to articulating a bigger and better story for your ministry and church.
So won’t you join us?
CLICK HERE to register now!  For every three people from the same ministry the fourth comes free!  Early Discounted Registration Rate ends on February 1st. Scholarship are available, simply e-mail Walter Surdacki ( to request one.

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