Pres Debate #1

September 27, 2008

I enjoyed watching the McCain / Obama debate last night, despite my natural aversion to confrontation.  I would liken it to the great Ali / Frazier fights of the 1970s.  Ali (Obama) was the prettier and more polished fighter; dancing around the ring, landing his jabs and combination punches with seemingly little effort, and able to execute his pre-fight strategy to near perfection.  Frazier (McCain) was raw and aggressive, trying to end the fight with one powerful knock-out punch.  He would stand toe-to-toe with his opponent, taking Ali’s best shots and showing the resolve of a true warrior.  Everyone knew that Ali was the better fighter, but Frazier was able to hang with him and stun Ali with his strength and tenacity.

Overall, I give Debate #1 to Obama…but not by much.


I’m Still Unclear

September 26, 2008

I wish Jack Cafferty would quit beating around the bush and tell us how he really feels about Sarah Palin.

Letterman Lights Up McCain

September 26, 2008

The best part is when they cut away to a live feed of McCain getting make-up put on his face prior to an interview with Katie Couric – WHO WORKS FOR THE SAME NETWORK!  Did he really think that Letterman wouldn’t figure out that McCain blew him off for a better interview…with CBS, no less?  This is odd…

Youth Auction, Part 2

September 22, 2008

Youth Auction, Part 1


Once the word is spreading about your upcoming Auction event, you can sit back and watch your sign-up sheet fill with lots of different donated items.  It’s good to continue planting seeds among your church members – especially your youth – to think creatively about things they can donate.  Here are some of the items that tend to bring in the large donations:

  • Home-cooked meals for 6+ people
  • Babysitting (especially overnight)
  • Yard Work / Snow Removal
  • Made-to-Order t-shirt quilts
  • Cookie / Cake / Pie of the Month
  • Round of Golf at local private courses
  • Tickets to sporting events (unused by season-ticket holders)
There are LOTS of other ideas for things that can be used.  It really depends on (A) what is popular in your local context, (B) the spiritual gifts of the congregation members, and (C) how generous people are willing to be.  Typically, I “require” youth to donate two items – one tangible and one non-tangible.  I will also seek out specific people for some out-of-the-ordinary donations that might draw people to the event.  For example, we have a gentleman who likes to fly 2-person airplanes.  He donated a 2 hour plane flight for one person.  Over 10 people showed up just to bid on that one item.  This, of course, jacked up the bidding AND increased the numbers of people who came ready to part with a large amount of money…so they ended up bidding on other items instead.
You’ll want to keep getting a list of the donated items in front of your congregation members.  Let them know that there will be quality items worth bidding on…and, at the same time, keep encouraging people to think creatively about items they can donate.  (Typically, events that bring people together will generate larger donations than tangible items.)  Post donations lists on bulletin boards, newsletters, worship bulletins, and websites.  You will want to not only have a large group of people gather, but you’ll want a diverse cross-section of your worshipping community to attend.
The day before the Auction, you’ll want to divide up the list among Live Auction and Silent Auction items.  At our church, anything that is a tangible item is placed on the Silent Auction, and everything else is on the Live Auction.  We set up tables around the perimeter of the fellowship hall to display the Silent Auction Items.  Each item has a bidding sheet that includes a brief description of the item, name of the donor, and a minimum starting bid.  Beneath these items, you will want to provide 10-12 blanks for people to write their name and the amount of their bid.
For the Live Auction items, you will want to create a classy-looking certificate that includes a brief description of the item, name of donor, and two blanks — one for the name of the winning bidder, and one for the amount of the winning bid.  It’s also imperative that you find a real auctioneer that can call the Live Auction.  Finding someone from within the congregation is ideal…but if nobody fits the bill, you can call a local auction company.  Sometimes their employees will donate their time for a church Auction.
At this point, you should be able to get through the final days leading up to the big event.
Check back later for Part 3 – How to Pull Off the Auction.

Youth Auction Part 1

September 17, 2008

One of the coolest things that I inherited at the church I work at is a fundraiser called the “Youth Auction”.  Over the next few days on this site, I’ll try to give youth workers everything they need to know about how to pull off a quality auction.  (Props to my friend, Jake, for suggesting this post.)

First – a disclaimer.  I HATE FUNDRAISERS! They are a nuisance.  If there was one thing that could drive me away from youth ministry (other than dumb parents) it would be fundraisers.  Philosophically, I think they have no place in churches.  If the church thinks it’s a good idea for youth to go on a mission trip, it should be covered in the budget…just like all the other expenses of the church.  If youth have to wash cars, bake pizzas, mow lawns, etc. so they can go on a church trip then the Altar Guild should have to do a bunch of bake sales and rummage sales so they can buy candles and communion wine.

All that said, the reality is that fundraising remains a necessary evil in 21st century youth ministry.  If you have to generate funds for your ministry, the best way to do it is by having events that bring the congregation together.  Any organization (secular or sacred) can sell you stuff you don’t need…but not every organization allows an opportunity for Christian fellowship and an actualization of the individual gifts within your congregation, all while raising a ridiculous amount of money for your youth ministry.


Let’s start with your purpose for the event.  The primary goal of this event is to create community – NOT to raise money.  If you stray from this purpose, you won’t end up raising money or creating community.  At that point, you’re back to looking at bake sales, car washes, and other lame projects that generate significantly fewer funds for your ministry.


You start by asking some of the core active members of your congregation to consider their spiritual gifts.  “What are you good at and what do you like to do?”  Once they have figured this out, ask them to think of one way they could use those gifts for the Auction.

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Jean loves to cook and has a beautiful formal dining room in her house.  She offers a “Fancy Dinner for 4 people” at her house for people to bid on at the Auction
  • John’s wood carvings win 1st prize at the State Fair every year.  He offers a handmade bird carving.
  • Lisa offers to bake 2 dozen cookies each month for a year.
  • Larry offers 4 hours of yard work
  • Jim & Tina are empty nesters.  They offer “overnight babysitting”.

Once you have 6-8 quality items lined up, put those on a sign-up sheet and post several dozen blanks below it for others to write their donated item(s).  Do this at least 1 month before the event.  Put announcements on your website, bulletin, newsletter, email lists, etc. for people to donate their items.  One thing I’ve learned, especially when starting something new – don’t post a blank sign-up sheet.  Few people (especially Midwest protestants) want to go out on a limb and be the first to sign up for something they don’t know much about.  However, if people see some of the more active members of the congregation are supporting the Auction, they’re more likely to jump on board.

All for now.  Later, I’ll let you know what you need to do in the days leading up to the Auction (part 2), what happens during the Auction (part 3), and how to put the finishing touches on the event.

Good Times, Great Videos

September 16, 2008

Last night a group of insane youth ministers (is there any other kind?) stayed up until the wee-hours of the morning to register our youth groups for the 2009 ELCA Youth Gathering.  It was an unenjoyable task; but one that was made a lot of fun because of the people who were there.  (And, possibly, because of the presence of beer & pizza.)

While doing meanial data-entry for a few hours, we shared stories, told jokes, and listened to music, and watched a bunch of YouTube clips…including the epic SNL cold open, which I referenced earlier today.  (I can see Russia from my house!)  Two of the videos we watched brought back memories of my childhood.  They are found after the jump.

It takes me back to a time when Michael Jackson wasn’t creepy and Steve Perry was considered handsome.  I remember being profoundly impacted by these videos as an elementary school student.  The frustrating thing is that we’re still dealing with a lot of the same issues reflected in these videos…if not more!  I’d like to believe there’s hope for a change in my lifetime.

On a lighter note, here are my reflections on the USA for Africa video:

  • 0:07 – The opening chord / bell chime has always seemed waaaay out of tune!
  • 0:25 – Signatures of all the musicians…classy.  I wonder if they used one of those four-colors-in-one-pen things, and just passed it around the recording studio.  Those were popular in the mid-1980s.
  • 0:45 – The Immortal Paul Simon…with Kenny Rodgers dialing up the 4-3 suspension
  • 1:09 – Tina Turner must have been up to three packs of Camels at this point in her career
  • 1:20 – Michael’s diamond-encrusted leg warmers (why is he all alone in the room?)
  • 1:51 – Dionne Warwick’s Psychic Hotline
  • 2:07 – Willie Nelson’s butchering of the word “by” – always made my sisters laugh
  • 2:14 – Terrible editing!  (who is the guy singing?)
  • 2:30 – Welcome to Mullettville, population: 1
  • 2:54 – Whatever drugs Cyndi Lauper is taking, I’d like some
  • 3:13 – Good thing Maestro Quincy Jones is there to conduct
  • 3:46 – Tito & LaToya Jackson (insert your own joke here)
  • 3:50 – How does Bob Dylan get the invite?  Did he have a big following after 1972?
  • 4:22 – Legendary musician, Dan Aykroyd.  What the hell?  Did Chevy Chase back out at the last minute?
  • 4:55 – Did they send the blind people into the same room for a reason?
  • 5:30 – Why does the Boss need to spend so much time studying the music?  Isn’t he just repeating what Stevie is saying?
  • 5:55 – Bette Midler makes an appearance…making me hate the fact I had red hair as a child
  • 5:57 – Harry Belafonte….easy, brosef
  • 6:48 – Thumbs Up, Lionel!
  • 7:03 – Best part of the video…posting the really complicated lyrics of the refrain we’ve heard over and over for the last 3 1/2 minutes.  Very helpful, gang.
  • 7:15 – I wonder how many people went to in 1985?  Had Al Gore invented the Internets yet?

Enough silliness.  Time to schlaff.

New Phone Dilemma

September 15, 2008

I’m ready to upgrade my cell phone…I think.  I’ve been doing a lot of texting lately, which sucks with an old phone like the one I have.  I am also realizing how much more efficient my church work (and life in general) would be if I took fuller advantage of modern cell phone technology.  Initially, I was just going to get a phone with a qwerty keypad.  But then, while shopping at the Sprint store today, I found I can get a kickass Palm Blackberry phone for a little more money.  THEN, I found out that I can use that kickass phone to watch live TV, use turn-by-turn GPS, surf the Internet, do email, and practically bring about world peace.


Of course, I don’t need any of this…I could just as easily cancel my cell phone service and function like a normal person.  This is my neverending dilemma.  Do I upgrade my current Sprint phone…and my Sprint plan?  Do I make the leap to an iPhone?  Do I just leave well-enough alone?  Any thoughts???