Archive for Ministry

.::Faith-Forward Conference

Posted in adolescence, Parenting Teens, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , on August 15, 2014 by Walter

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 4.21.22 PMA few years back I was on Twitter and started seeing all sorts of posts from a conference that was called, ““Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity.”  I was disappointed that I had missed any promotion of it.  Well CYANKC was rebranded Faith Forward.  I had the privilege to present a session at the conference this past May as it was held here in Nashville.  It was one of the highlights of my conference-going (and I have been to a lot of conferences!)  During the three day conference fresh ideas swirled around session after session, but there were several things that remained at the core of Faith Forward:

  • Children and Youth Ministers Gathered for Collaboration–So often we tend to operate in silos unaware of what the other is doing.  Collaboration is so vital for success.  The diversity of people Faith Forward has brought together was one of my favorite parts of this conference.  I got to meet and network with people from countless backgrounds with amazing ideas that helped sharpen me.
  • A Refocusing on Family Connection to Ministry–Student ministries have left out mom and dad and other generations for far too long.  It is refreshing to see intergenerational, family ministry discussion come into the main stream conversation.  Faith forward has brought people like Brian Mclaren, Tony  Campolo and Phyllis Tickle to speak on this vital issue for the church.
  • A BIG emphasis on Theology…bringing the question of “Why?” to our ministries–Youth Ministry needs to be able to answer the question of “Why?” in order to take our families to the depths that are available to us in Christ.  Faith Forward is bringing some great theologians together to share their work.

If you are looking for a conference that is fresh and full of new ideas to give you vision and substance, then I would recommend that you consider attending Faith Forward in 2015 in Chicago.


.::Discovery as Faith Journey

Posted in adolescence, church, Life, Ministry, Teaching, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2012 by Walter

“People are better persuaded by the reasons they themselves discover than by those which have come into the mind of others.”

–Blaise Pascal

I came across this quote during a class on mediation I am taking this semester.  The goal of mediation it to help two parties who are in conflict come to a decision or solution on their own terms as opposed to having a third party make the decision for them.  In other words, a mediator is there to help them discover information rather the tell them what they need to know.  This got me thinking about how youth ministers and parents can become more of trail guides for teens and less of indoctrinators?

Again, this is an integral part of the adolescent process where students need to know that their choices matter.  Discovery for a teen gives them and their lives meaning.  You have heard the old adage, “You can lead a horse to water . . . but you can’t make them drink.”  As we work with teens we do need to give them tools and opportunities to discover for themselves.  Truth be told, I much prefer to tell teens what I think they need to hear rather than give them the freedom to discover truth for themselves . . . after all aren’t I the expert?(sarcasm)

I think this concept has several applications in the way we might do ministry:

  • Let students have substantive opportunities to learn Truth for themselves:  ALL of the best research out there* that is asking why young adults leave church or what keeps teens in the faith point to the fact of whether or not they had a safe environment to express doubt.  Do our ministries provide sanctuary where teens are allowed to express doubt and differing opinions on faith, God’s existence, sex, social justice, poverty, homosexuality, and other dangerous topics?  Another way of asking this question is to answer, “What are the topics that are ‘off limits’ in our church?”–Let’s talk about those. . . not to be controversial, but to give voice to those issues that are probably on the hearts and minds of our young people.
  • Do students leave our teaching with more Answers or more Questions?  I believe a good education gives you the tools to ask more and better questions rather than simply delivering the answer.  “The Bible says is, I believe it, That settles it.”  Is an attitude we may need to depart from in order to give our students the space and ability to ask difficult questions of faith, religion, the Biblical text, and more.  What kinds of tools are we giving our students that allow them to investigate and journey in their faith that will guide them to answers as opposed to spoon-feeding them with answers?
  • Can we say “I don’t know”?  Is our own faith as leaders big enough to have the confidence to appropriately express our own doubts and still allow God to reign?  Do we have to have an answer for everyquestion that comes up or can we simply say, “I don’t know.”  I am not professing allegiance to a blind, uninformed faith.  Rather, I think being able to say, “I don’t have every answer, but I am still searching” is far more authentic and communicates Truth better than a weakly formed, proof-texted apologetic.  Look at Paul’s own struggles with doubt in Romans 7.  Surely, if Paul is wrestling with these issues at the end of his ministry, surely we have the freedom (or necessity) to have our own doubts?

Those are just a few ideas…any others?  I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section…

*For more see Sticky Faith by Kara Powell, Soul Searching by Christian Smith, You Lost Me by Dave Kinnaman.

.::LIPSCOMB STUDENTS: Be a Youth Ministry Intern

Posted in adolescence, church, Life, Ministry, Teaching, Theology, What is Technology Doing to Our Souls?, youth ministry with tags , , , , , on November 14, 2011 by Walter


  • Don’t know what you want to do with your summer?
  • Want to make an impact in the lives of young people?
  • Want to have a ton of fun?
  • What to have your life changed in immeasurable ways?

Then a YOUTH MINISTRY INTERNSHIP may be for you.

I want you to consider serving this next summer being a youth ministry intern for a local church. This is a GREAT way to spend your summer and make a difference in the kingdom of God.

ON Tuesday, December 6th, Lipscomb University’s College of Bible & Ministry is hosting a Summer Youth Ministry Intern Fair where you can where you can interview with over 15 different churches from all over the Southeast. These internships come with a weekly salary (Usually around $300-$500/week) and include housing and expenses. There are a number of internships for both males and females.

1. Let Dr. Surdacki Know Send a quick e-mail so I have you on my radar. (
1. PRAY ABOUT IT: Don‘t think this is for you? I challenge you to pray about it first… God might change your mind.
2. Get a resume together: Go to the Career Development Center and let them help you put together a resume between NOW and the end of the T-giving break.
3. TELL A FRIEND: You probably have a friend who might want to do something like this too…please forward this e-mail to them NOW.
4. RSVP on the Facebook Event Page: Go to This way you’ll get the most up to date info.
5. SIGN UP FOR INTERVIEW SLOTS: AFTER the T-giving break, go by Career Development Center and sign up for the churches you want to interview with.

Summer Intern Fair
Tuesday December 6th
Hall of Fame Room Allen Arena

.:Dirt Community

Posted in adolescence, church, Ministry, Theology, youth ministry with tags , , , , , on November 7, 2011 by Walter

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

Confession time: I have far too often in my ministry leant too far on the side of truth. What I mean is that I have really wanted to get to the depth of ministry, faith, study and worship and felt little inclination to focus too much on the community side. I have a fear that I have far too little time with students that I want to cram all the important things in in the few hours I get with them a week. I think that if we spent 15 minutes just, “hanging out” that we are wasting time. But that isn’t true.

Community is the fertile soil in which we can experience grace.

If there is no community, then our students don’t feel that safe haven. . . That refuge. . .That sanctuary. . . Where they can be themselves. A place where they feel like they don’t have to put on a façade to impress or fit in with others. Without this culture of community and safety, then the message of the gospel falls on deaf ears. Belonging precedes grace.

Look at Jesus. Jesus offered belonging far before he expected them to behave in certain ways. I believe this is to fertilize the soil of community and belonging so that those He encounters can truly experience the grace and love and mercy He offers.

We have to remember that one of the main tasks of adolescence is to find a place of belonging. To know where they fit in. This is one of the markers of adulthood. In other words, as an adult I know I don’t have to act a certain way in order for people to get to like me.

So I look to the ten to fifteen minutes we spend before youth group “hanging out” and “wasting time” as an integral part of our programming.

But there is a warning we have to heed, for the opposite is also true. Bad community is toxic soil that that can kill a student’s opportunity to experience grace.

I imagine a junior high girl trying to find a peer to just give her the time of day before a youth group class. Ten minutes of getting ignored feels like an hour to her. By the time her class starts, she will spend the remainder of class doubting herself, wondering what is wrong with her, questioning her worth instead of experiencing God’s grace that is being proclaimed. Furthermore, she may also actually DOUBT that God’s grace with worth ANYTHING if she hasn’t experienced community in those ten minutes before class.  Therefore, we must have a corps of volunteers who are vigilant to look out and make sure EVERY student is being draw into community.  If we simply rely on her peers, chance are, they will fail her.  Therefore we MUST have an army of other adults who have the sensitivity to reach out as well as be available to students.  These adults must be drawn from a variety of backgrounds, age groups, genders, socio-economic demographics, skin colors, etc. in order for every student to have a few options to go to.  In other words, lets not just draw from the twenty something hipsters in our churches.  We need spiritual moms, dads, aunts, uncles, grandparents as well as big brothers and big sisters who will till the soil of community and create a fertile garden for grace to grow.


Posted in church, Ministry, Teaching, youth ministry with tags , , , , on August 27, 2009 by Walter

Okay, I have to start with something that sounds really, really terrible, but I feel I have to blog about it. Now with that disclaimer out of the way, I remember dating a girl in college who after about a week or two into the relationship I realized she had a really “small” life. What I mean is that she had little ambition, no desire to travel, no real career goals, didn’t care for school, wanted to stay in College Station, and the list continued.
Granted, I didn’t have in mind what I really wanted to do with my life, but I did have Goals that I wanted to accomplish, I had Dreams that I wanted to see come to fruition and if I continued with this relationship, I felt that I would have been held back by this girl.
Now I do need to say, she was a really nice girl, it just wasn’t a good match for how I was wired.
But here is the deal, as I start another semester training and equipping men and women for the vocation of youth ministry, one of my prayers is that THEY would have Dreams and Goals for their own lives that are BIG. Dreams that take them to places with God that are new, exciting, little traveled, and even unpopular.  Now I don’t mean literal places like New Jersey; but places like sacrifice, solitude, simplicity and celebration.  Places the dig DEEP into their souls as they in turn try to help others dig deep into their souls and quarry a depth of faith and character that is lasting and significant.

However, I also hope that they would have BIG dreams and Goals for the ministry that God calls them to.  I hope they don’t settle for the small lives that many of those who come to church or even lead our churches are satisfied with.

  • I hope they have BIG dreams that take their students to the inner city and develop an everlasting compassion for the poor and disenfranchised of their world.
  • May they NOT be ear ticklers in their classes and their lessons, but that they might be prophetic in their words calling the church to a higher level of commitment and passion.
  • May their passion for teaching, reaching, serving, caring, loving be always increasing as they are serving on the front lines of God’s kingdom.
  • May they not be satisfied with the small dreams and tiny program that are mediocre and instead, join long with God and be part of something GINORMOUS and TREMENDOUS.
  • I hope they have big dreams that inculcate a love for the lost in their young people that God would put into their lives that SHOW the love of Christ before they even begin to talk about the gospel of Jesus.
  • May they NOT be dragged down by the small or even nonexistent vision that exists in many churches, but keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.

I have been saying on Facebook the past few weeks that “Lipscomb is where it is at.”  I believe it.  God is doing something incredible here with the faculty and our student body.  I am so impressed with the dedication and devotion of our ministry majors here.  I feel such a kindred spirit with them as they in turn desire to serve God through ministry.  Here is to a new year of hopefully doing something BIG.

.::Three Years

Posted in church, Life, rant with tags , , , , , , , on April 17, 2009 by Walter

Today in my disciplines class I had my students do an exercise that Stephen Covey talks about in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.  I had them visualize their funeral three years from today and what they would want their loved ones to say about them at their funeral/memorial.

So here is my first stab at the exercise:

  • I would want my wife to say that I loved her unendingly, exceedingly.  That I was a faithful husband and a caring companion.  I would want her to say that I sharpened her in her fiath as she sharpened me.  That I reflected joy in our time together.
  • I would want my daughters to say that I was a father who never ceased to tell them that I loved them.  That I was a dad who SHOWED them what a Christian was far more than simply TELLING them what to do in their faith.  And by being such an example, they desired themselves to follow Jesus because of what they witnessed.  They knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that I cared for and helped protect them.  That I showed them that while I wasn’t perfect, I was one who would be quick to ask for forgiveness when I blew it.  That I showed them how to really “Carpe Diem” as I gave them a love for worship, laughter, roller coasters, the church, the ocean, skiing, travel, music, Sabbath, and ministry.
  • I would want my students who’ve I had the privilege to minister to to say that I was a person who always directed/pointed them to Jesus.  I was a sign post directing them away from me to Jesus.  That I cared and loved them but his PASSION for Jesus and the Journey was infectious.  He taught me to THINK about faith and gave me “out of the box” ideas as to how to live out my faith.  He never gave me a pre-packaged, marketed, simplified, consumer faith, but was AUTHENTIC about what it meant to follow Jesus.

I know I am not perfect.  I won’t be until heaven.  I don’t want to delude myself into thinking I am.  But what I strive for most is AUTHENTIC FAITHFULNESS.

What is great about an exercise like this is that is gives me a concrete target to strive towards with my faith, my character and my behavior.  So I have to go now and get my wife some flowers and make my daughters a play list for their iTunes of “Music they Must Love.”

.::The Echo Within

Posted in Ministry, Teaching, Theology with tags , , , on February 11, 2009 by Walter

trashYesterday I received and read “The Echo Within: Finding Your True Calling” by Robert Benson.  I devoured in in about an hour and a half.  Its an easy read and an insightful journey that take the reader through various steps of discerning and reflecting upon Calling in one’s life.  I am going to be requiring it of one of my ministry courses next year as we talk a lot about calling and ministry.

He reflects upon thos who poured into him and impacted his journey in such a way that it affected the course of his walk.  Encouragements, lines, phrases that stuck with him.  He reflects:

“The people who said them never remember they said them.  Whenever I tried to thank them, they invariably replied, ‘I said that?’

Most sentence are ordinary.  And not one of them was said to me while I was talking to these people about vocation or calling.  In some cases the meeting itself was an accident.  In others it was one brief encounter, a few moments that changed the life I have lived from that moment on.”

I think about those lines and those poeple in my life that drew me to my vocation of ministry.

  • Father Ed from  Christ the Good Shpeherd Catholic Community who never spoke to me personally about vocation, but SHOWED me a life filled with JOY as he served God faithfully.  He was a man who took his calling seriously, and yet ENJOYED it so much.
  • Bob Davidson who one Sunday night in his office and “nudged” me forward in my walk and said “You just have to do it.” He was right.  And that night I gave my life to Jesus and he baptized me.
  • Guys like Jim Reese, Phil Ware, James Thompson, Dan Anders, . . . there are just so many to list that nudged me in their own way, whether through word or example drew me towards ministry.  For that I am eternally thankful.  Most of them never knew the impact they had on my soul.

How great it is to be surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses as I see leaders all around me who live out their faith in true authentic ways.

May we be a community of faith that is drawing people towards the service and ministry that God “wired” them for.  We we hear those still small voices of Yahweh drawing us closer to the vocation, the holy wpro he is calling us towards . . . whether that be youth minsitry, preaching, accounting, motherhood, graphic design, serving the homeless, taking in a foster child, construction . . .