Birthday Week

It’s birthday week at the Schulenburg home. 14 years ago today, Cyndi and I were at a homecoming football game at Williams Stadium in Lynchburg, Virginia. We were expecting our first child any day. That night, Cyndi began to go into labor, and on November 1st, our beautiful Breanna was born. Our lives have never been the same! The moment I saw Breanna, I was instantly in love. She is so precious. 14 years later, I consider myself the most blessed dad in the world. How did I get so lucky? Breanna, I love you. God, thanks for the gift of my girl, Breanna.

It was 12 years ago today that Cyndi went to the doctor and was told to go straight to the hospital. She was ready to have baby number two. Cyndi disobeyed doctors orders, wnet home, got her bag, called me and said, “Let’s go have a baby.” Then Christopher was born. Instant love again. I had a boy! It was hard not to project my feelings of baseball and basketball superstardom on to him from the time he was a baby. Now, hundreds of video games and baseball games later, I have to admit that God has really, really blessed me. Chris, I love you. God, thanks for the gift of my son, Chris.

Eight years ago, Cyndi was starting to feel labor pains. She said, “There is no way I’m having baby number three on either of his siblings birthdays.” So, somehow, Cyndi delayed labor for two days, and on November 2nd, Jeremy was born. We had lost a child in between Chris and Jeremy, and so when he was born we named him, Jeremy, which means, Appointed by Jehovah. We knew that God has something special planned for Jeremy, because had his brother been born, Jeremy wouldn’t have been here. Jeremy was born, and instant love once again swelled from my bones. I love that boy. I love his smile that lights up any room he walks into. I love his contagious belly laugh. I love his passion for life. Jeremy, I love you. God, thanks for the gift of my son, Jeremy.

I could have never imagined how much my life would change in the past 14 years because of these gifts that God has brought my way. Zachary, our youngest is five. His birthday is in May. For the past few years he’s wondered why he doesn’t get gifts this week like the rest of his siblings. This week, he’s been finding gifts from his room for his brothers and sister. He’s learning that it’s better to give than to receive. One of these days, I’m going to have to give my children away. Psalm 127:4-5 says, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” God, you’ve given me an incredible gift in my four children, but they are not mine to keep. Lord, use Breanna, Chris, Jeremy and Zach for your glory and honor. Let them be a light in their generation. Keep them close to you. Help Cyndi and me to be godly role models and to trust them to your tender care. As we give them birthday gifts this year, let our greatest gift be a passion for you that we share together.

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I Love Youth Workers!

I just returned from a couple of days in Austin, Texas at The National Youth Workers Convention. What an awesome time with 3000 of my fellow youth workers. While there, many youth workers shared their hearts with me.

Some were down. They were tired of being misunderstood by other adults who look at them suspiciously because they have chosen to dedicate their lives to a generation that desperately needs love and affirmation, and most importantly, Christ. While speaking on the MySpace phenomenon, many youth workers shared with me how difficult it is for them to even bridge a gap with students because parents are suspicious of this strange breed of human being that would choose to spend time with teenagers. They were tired of reading articles like the one that appeared in the The New York Times on Friday, declaring youth ministry as ineffective and proclaiming that the church in America is losing the next generation. Most of the youth workers that I talked to took offense at the article. They were vocal when the The Austin American Statesman newspaper interviewed them about the present state of youth ministry.

Some were tired. Youth minstry is hard. It is a calling that is demands long hours consisting of morning, night and weekend hours. It pays very little in most churches and junior and senior high students are not very quick to affirm you in that calling. I spoke to many youth ministry couples that were on the verge of quitting. They were ready to chuck it all for more lucrative careers and less headaches. By the end of the conversations, these same youth workers came to the conclusion that as much as they sometimes dream about doing something else, they are called to serve students, and they know nothing else is as important.

Some were ecstatic. They were being ministered to. They were singing songs with David Crowder, not just David Crowder songs performed by their youth band. They were rubbing elbows with Doug Fields, not just reading his books. It was so much fun to watch some of the leading youth workers in America taking time to listen, talk, and minister to their fellow youth workers. It was a great weekend.

The Austin version of the National Youth Workers Convention ends tomorrow. Join me in praying for these 3000 youth workers as they head back to their respective ministries. Join me in praying for teenagers. Pray that God will continue to do His new thing in this generation. Pray that churches will have the courage to invest in youth ministry, no matter the cost to tradition. Pray for the 10-15,000 other youth workers that will be going to National Youth Worker’s Conventions in Cincinnati, Charlotte and Anaheim this year.

When I was in college a pastor once said, “Satan possesses a double-edged sword. On one end is doubt, on the other is discouragement.” It makes me shudder to think of great youth workers on the brink of leaving ministries over their own doubt and discouragment about ministry. This is clergy appreciation month. Why not show your youth worker how much you appreciate him or her this month? It may be just the encouragement he or she needs to make it through another year.

One more thing: Mark Oestreicher, the president of Youth Specialties has a blog. It’s a great one. He regularly posts entries on the changing face of ministry to students. He has some great thoughts about the future of youth ministry here too. Check it out.

God bless.

MySpace and Going Deep in Austin, TX

I’m headed off to Austin, Texas on Friday morning to speak at The National Youth Workers Convention. I’ll be speaking in two sessions. The first session is entitled, How MySpace, Facebook, Xanga and iPods Are Changing All The Rules In High School Ministry. The second session is entitled, Going Deep: How To Get High School Students Talking About Spiritual Things.

Both of these sessions will be heavy on practical ways that youth workers can engage in the lives of their students. Please pray that God would use these sessions to make a positive impact on ministries all over the world.

You can find out more about The National Youth Workers Convention at Youth Specialties.