Category Archives: blog

RefTagger: a great Bible tool for your blog

Recently I ran across RefTagger when I was searching some information on www.carm.org. As soon as I saw it in action, I knew it was a feature I wanted to add to my blog.

What is RefTagger, you ask? Here is what the website says:

RefTagger is an amazing, free new web tool that instantly makes all the Bible references on your site come alive! Bare references turn into hyperlinks to the full text of the passage at Bible.Logos.com, making it easy for your readers to access the text of Scripture with just a click. Even better, RefTagger brings the text right to your readers by generating a tooltip window that pops up instantly when they hover over the reference. You can also have RefTagger add an icon that is hyperlinked to the passage in Libronix—ideal if many of your readers use Logos. So if your website says, “One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28,” RefTagger will instantly turn it into this: “One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 8:28.”

RefTagger takes citing Bible references to a whole new level. All you need to do is copy the customizable code that we provide for you below and paste it into your website’s template file(s), and it will instantly be applied to your entire site—all past and future content! It doesn’t matter how big or small your site is. RefTagger does it all instantly—saving you hours of time linking verses manually! Because RefTagger uses JavaScript, it doesn’t actually change the code on the content of your site’s pages. If you decide to remove RefTagger from your site, it’s as simple as deleting the code from your template file(s).


If you ever reference Bible passages on your blog (and you probably should every once and awhile) this little plug-in is a great addition to your blog. It will be a welcome improvement for your visitors who will not always have each passage memorized.

Reflections on: 999 posts (or Post #1000: a retrospective)

This is my 1000th post, and it took me a long time (compared to some bloggers I know) to get to this point. It has taken me a little less than 4 years to get here (May 26, 2005 was the first post). It took me more than 2 years to get to post #500 (Sept. 10, 2007). If you want to see some highlights from the first 499 posts, you will want to check out #500.

A lot has changed since that post; family changes, ministry changes, and changes to this blog. I know that 1000 is just a number, but it feels strange to have posted that many things to this blog. I know some of them were silly, some were time sensitive, some still make me laugh or cry and some should probably have never seen the light of day. But its all part of the journey and I am glad others have joined me as I reflect on what it means to be a youth minister, father, husband, and Christian.

Some of the most visited posts:
1. some quick thoughts on football’s overhead camera – almost 1 1/2 years old and still gets a good flow of traffic
2. warning labels on the Sesame Street DVDs – I still want to get these DVDs
3. discovery of part of Nehemiah’s wall – check the story out if you haven’t already
4. skit of Lifehouse’s song, Everything – is there anyone who hasn’t seen this yet?
5. Christian alternatives to Facebook – A LOT of people looking for some alternative
6. lessons to learn from teenagers enjoyment of fast food – I still wonder why fast food is so popular
7. 5 qualities I want in a President – applies to other areas of leadership, too
8. youth pastors in a negative light – some thoughts on youth ministry integrity
9. my tweetdeck review – it is a great app. to use with Twitter

Posts you might find useful/informative:
1. 2 customer feedback situations and your ministry
2. a few thoughts on starting a youth worker network – I might finish this series sometime 🙂
3. a quote by Stalin & evangelism – used this quote the other day with middle schoolers
4. a restickable glue stick – every youth worker needs one of these
5. open source living – a collection of open source software
6. how to make an invisible bookshelf – a cool addition to your office or youth room
7. leaving a ministry – thoughts on leaving a ministry
8. 25 White Elephant Gift ideas – can you ever have enough ideas?
9. 5 ways to use the Super Bowl in your ministry – it is the biggest TV event of the year, after all

My personal favorites:
1. SNL skit on money management – its so simple, yet a majority of Americans can’t do it
2. a 3 year old & money – thoughts on something that happened with my son at the store
3. 3 reasons to read a blog – not many other reasons to read a blog, in my opinion
4. signs of a good youth ministry blog – what does it take for a youth ministry blog to be useful? (a follow-up series of evaluating several blogs will be coming in the next few months)
5. 10 ways to appreciate youth workers – we can all use a little appreciation, can’t we?
6. a lesson on trust – my son taught me an important lesson on trust

Going back through some of these posts reminds me what ministry is about – following God where He leads you. It can be a lot of fun and it can be a lot of heartache. In the end, I would not trade any of it. God leads where He wants you to go and He puts you in situations that you need to be in.

May the next 1000 posts encourage, entertain, teach, challenge and cause you to think (as they do the same for me).

Poll Results: Next Blog Series

The votes are in. Overwhelmingly you guys want to see a series on budgeting. Both personal and church budgeting will be covered in two upcoming blog series.

Here are the poll results:

30% (3 people) wanted Youth Minister’s Budget (personal)
40% (4 people) wanted Youth Ministry’s Budget (church)
10% (1 person) wanted Small Town Youth Ministry
20% (2 people) wanted Youth Ministry Blog Reviews
0 % wanted Parenting Mistakes
(1 person) wanted “Your ideas” (added to list already)

Order of my next blog series will be:
Youth Ministry’s budget
Youth Minister’s personal budget
Youth Ministry blog reviews
Small Town youth ministry

If you have any specific questions or topics you want covered, just leave a comment or email me and I’ll answer/address them in the blog series.

New Poll: Next blog series

I have a few topics I want to blog about next, but I’m not sure which one to start on first. So I thought I would ask you (anyone who reads this) what you think. What series would you like me to write and post first?

Next Blog Series:
– Youth Minister’s Budget (personal)
– Youth Ministry’s Budget (church)
– Small Town Youth Ministry
– Youth Ministry Blog Reviews
– Parenting Mistakes
– Your ideas

I would love to hear your comments on any of these topics. And if you have another idea, just leave it in a comment and I’ll think about blogging about it.

Best of ’08: Websites

I use the internet a lot in both ministry and my personal life. The more I use the ‘net, the more I find I tend to use the same websites for a majority of my needs. I guess you could say I become a creature of habit, I won’t be offended. I like trying new sites and venturing to other corners of the web, but if a website works for what I need why would I stop using it?

According to what I needed most this year, here are my favorites.

Best of 2008: Websites:
Facebook (personal/ministry) – Facebook was a great website to not only stay connected to students, but also to connect with other friends. You can stay connected to students no matter where you in relationship to where they are (ie, even if you move away or go on vacation you can keep up to date with what they are doing). You can be my friend by going to my profile.

Twitter (personal) – Twitter is a fun way to stay connected with friends in 140 characters or less. You can tweet from the website, your phone, or using a number of apps. I discussed a couple twitter applications over a year ago, check out some of the apps you can get to enhance your twitter experience. My favorite application is Tweetdeck, here is my tweetdeck review. I really love the ability to know what people are doing, hear stories of their youth ministries and something just laugh. You can follow me by going to my profile.

Youth Ministry Exchange (ministry) – YMX has a great forum community, some great articles and reviews and a few other youth ministry specific resources. (and every once and awhile you can see a review I write show up)

YouthMinistry.com (ministry) – A great collection of articles, freebies and other resources. There is a lot of great content on here. I think they’ll publish anything, though (based on the fact that I’ve got some articles on there). Seriously, though, if you are in youth ministry, you need to check out this site.

Blogger (ministry/personal) – I use this site for both my ministry blog and my personal family blog. I like blogger’s ease of use and relatively small learning curve. Its a great site for beginning bloggers to get their feet wet. It is not the only option out there, but I have not had many problems or complaints – so I keep using it.

PBSKids.com (personal) – Now that my oldest son is 4 1/2, we’ve been spending a lot more time online with him. PBSkids is a great site for us, it has a bunch of the shows he loves and has some pretty good games for him to play or activities he can do on his own. If you have little kids, you need to check this site out.

Google.com (personal/ministry) – I use google for email (gmail.com), blog statistics (analytics), searching (google.com), writing (google docs), and maps. I’m on the verge of using it for my blog reader, too (google reader). There are so many ways to use google in your minsitry, which will help streamline your online presence. I won’t spend any more time talking about it, if you want to know more just leave a comment or email me.

Hulu.com (personal) – Because I am a father of 3 young children, I do not get to watch much TV when it airs. Neither my wife nor I watch much of anything on TV, unless it is a cartoon or something the boys also want to watch. So, we watch most of our TV online after it airs. We usually use hulu.com to do this. It is so easy to use and navigate and has great quality and quantity of content. And they have a growing collection of movies to watch, too. For me, this is a much better alternative to paying for some form of cable or dish.

Alltop, Christianity, & Me

If you are seeing this from a RSS feed, you probably have not noticed that this blog has a new little badge on the right side. What badge is it, you are wondering? Well, Reflections is now a part of the Alltop list of sites on their Christianity page. You can go to the Christian page on Alltop site and see the latest 5 posts from a number of blogs. Don’t know what Alltop is, go here to find more.

Youth Ministry Blogs Worth Reading

Last week, I wrote about some aspects I look for in a good youth ministry blog. I said I would share a few blogs I thought were worth a follow, so here are a handful…

YMIMexico.org
Shore Youth Ministry.com
Adam Mclane.com
Patti Gibbons.com
fusionlife.org
CoffeeWithChris.com

Before you get mad, I know that is six and a hand only has 5 fingers. You’re just jealous because I can fit six blogs in my hand and you can only get five.

I tried to pick a few that showed aspects of each of the 9 signs I wrote about. Together, these blogs do a good job at being good examples of what makes a good youth ministry blog. I also tried to pick some I thought you might not know about. Are there other great ym blogs, you bet. And you can bet you’ll see them show up in my series of posts reviewing youth ministry blogs.

Feel free to add a blog you would like to be reviewed. Just leave a comment and I’ll add it to the list.

Until then, Enjoy what these youth workers have to say.

3 Ways to Read a Blog

A little while ago, I wrote 3 reasons to read a blog. So, I thought I should follow that up with a post on 3 ways to read a blog.

1. Visit the blog
The original way to read a blog is to just visit it regularly. Basically you visit the blog anytime you want to. You can go to the site every day and only get 2 or 3 new posts a week. If this happens, you waste a lot of time looking at the same material over and over again. Unless you want to look at the same posts over and over. Or you can go the other route and only visit a blog once a week (to avoid reading the same stuff over and over) and miss out on some time sensitive material.

In comparison to renting videos, this is going to the video store every day to see if the movie you want is there. You can check very often and still come up empty. You waste a lot of time and gas searching for a movie you may never get to rent.

2. Get updates via E-mail
This method of reading a blog is one step removed from just visiting. With this method you sign up to receive updates in your email inbox whenever there is a new post. The advantage to this method is that you don’t have to go to another website to see if a blog has updated. You normally get your email at the end of the day or morning of the following day. This means you may not very time sensitive material. The disadvantage is that you can only get one blog update per email. So if you like reading 5 blogs (a rather small number to follow), you will get a separate email for each of the 5 blogs. This can start to clutter up your inbox.

In terms of renting a movie, it is like becoming a member of a video store. You are notified (aware) of new releases, but there can still be a wait period to watch the video.

This is a better method, as far as time saving, than just visiting a blog. Yet, it is not the best option available (in my opinion).

You can follow this blog’s email feed by signing up on the right side of this page.

3. Subscribe to a RSS feed
The easiest way to read a blog is through a RSS feed. This is when you subscribe to the blog’s feed and receive a notice when a blog is updated with new posts. So far, it sounds a lot like email updates, but it goes farther. Instead of getting an email with updates, you go to your reader and see all of the new posts for all of the blogs you are subscribed to. You will save a lot of time with this method of reading blogs.

In terms of renting a movie, it is like getting videos from Netflix. You only get the videos when they are available. When you use RSS, you only get notified when there is a new post.

A couple options for RSS readers: bloglines, newsgator, google reader, or search Google for other options.

You can follow this blog’s feed here.


In the end it doesn’t matter which method you use. Unless you want to save some time, that is. Once you find a method that works for you, go find some blogs to read. Search the net, ask some friends, look for topics of interest, follow links to other blogs.

Later this week, I’m going to share some youth ministry blogs I think are worth following. Maybe you will learn from them, like I have.

A few posts worth reading

Recently, there have been a few posts that I have read which caught my attention. Maybe it made me think, or laugh, or just said something I thought needed to be said. I thought I would share some of these posts with you.

5 posts worth reading:
1. Kent shares some results about How kids live in 2008 – a good read for anyone in youth ministry.

2. Listed under the “are you serious?” label, Jonathan shares with us what the good people at Disney didn’t realize was going to be an issue. High School Musical product pulled from shelves

3. Despite the fact that Ben links back to my blog, I think this post is a great read. Ben shares his reasons for not blogging so much lately. Are you playing the “game?”

4. Dennis shares 25 characteristics of a successful youth ministry. Read the list and see what you think. How does your youth ministry compare?

5. Mike wonders how we can get a Josiah Generation among our students. Some really good thoughts for youth workers.

Enjoy.

Signs of a Good Youth Ministry Blog

Over at 43 Folders Merlin Mann recently posted about what makes a good blog. After reading his thoughts, I got to thinking about what makes a good youth ministry blog. Why do I read some and not others? Why do some people read this blog? What makes a youth ministry blog worth your time?

Here are a few of my thoughts:

  1. The author has a heart for youth ministry. This is a tough one to know without knowing the person. But, I think you can get a good feel from the person’s posts how they feel about youth ministry. And lets be honest, no one is going to start a blog about youth ministry to earn money from ads. You have to have a heart for it or you wouldn’t take the time to blog about it.
  2. The blog is a source of encouragement. Whether it is through the stories being told, pictures being shared, or insights being discussed, a good youth ministry blog encourages others youth workers. You may not get this feeling from just one post alone. Encouragement will be an ongoing affect of reading the blog.
  3. The blog provides resources for ministry. I am not talking necessarily about a new lesson or outline each week (although who wouldn’t love that). A good youth ministry blog links to resources, shares what materials are worthwhile, occasionally provides a new resource from their ministry, and makes connections between events/news stories and the Bible.
  4. The posts are thought provoking. A good youth ministry blog has posts which cause me to think. I may not agree with the author about a certain topic of theology, but I am forced to think about the issue. All youth workers need to think about and wrestle with theology, priorities, purposes and all other items related to working with youth. Youth workers need to be challenged and finding a youth ministry blog that challenges you is a great way to stay mentally sharp.
  5. The posts make me laugh. There are days in youth ministry that are just rough. A youth worker needs to be able to unwind and laugh a little. If I can relax and laugh while reading your blog, I’ll read your blog. (This may seem to be the exact opposite of #4, but I think both are important). Some of the best youth ministry posts are videos, cartoon, or funny ministry stories.
  6. The blog allows you to catch a glimpse of the author’s ministry. You can follow along in their ministry journey. You get to read about the ups and downs. This can encourage you and remind you of the fact that you are not the only one going through it.
  7. The tone is positive. Even when the subject of the post is negative or frustrating, the tone of the post is not negative. Its okay to vent about an issue, but trust me a blog is not the place to do it. If you want to write about the experience, keep it informative and constructive.
  8. The blog is updated regularly. Now, this does not mean daily. It may not even mean weekly. There are times of the year where a youth minister’s life is completely crazy and expecting a regular post is out of the picture. There are a couple blogs I subscribe to that haven’t posted in a long time and honestly I forget I subscribe to them. If one day the author writes a new post, then I’ll know. But I’m not going to keep checking.
  9. The blog leads to connection. The best part of a good youth ministry blog is the connection made between you and the author. You can connect via a social networking site, email, Instant Messaging, phone conversations or even at a national youth ministry event. A good youth ministry blog allows you to share life with other youth workers.

What qualifications do you use in determining which youth ministry blogs to read/follow?

In the next few days, I’ll share some of the youth ministry blogs I think are worth following.