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Tales of Adventure Blog

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.


Filtering by Category: Guest Posts

Innovators Guest Post #8- "Go Fish" and Rev. Matt McNelly

Matthew Overton

About a year ago, I received a call from Matt McNelly who pastors at 1st Presbyterian Church in Pullman, Wa. Matt called to let me know that he had been reading about some of the ministry I was doing through my online postings here and some other articles that had come out. He was considering launching his own social enterprise based ministry and also considering going to the Hatchathon at Princeton.  I have been asking Matt to work up a post on his ministry that is built around fishing and the Rule of St. Benedict for some time. In the end I shot him some interview questions to give us a flavor of how he is doing youth work.  This is a really cool ministry and one that is both risky and innovative. Very cool!

Name: Rev. Matthew McNelly

Church: Pullman Presbyterian Church

Position at Church: Senior Pastor and Captain of the F/V Suzy Q

Number of Years at the Church: 11

Name of Social Enterprise: "Go Fish"

1. What do you call this new ministry and how did it get started?

Our new ministry here at Pullman Presbyterian Church is called “Go Fish!” The basic idea of the ministry is that we use a program sponsored by the State of Washington called the Northern Pikeminnow Sport Reward Program as a vehicle for doing youth ministry. This program, which runs from May 1 through August 31, pays anglers from $5 to $8 a fish to catch and remove approximately 10%-20% of the Pikeminnow population each summer.

The Northern Pikeminnow is a native fish of the Columbia and Snake River systems that aggressively feeds on juvenile salmon and steelhead. When the dams were installed on these rivers it created the perfect environment for the Pikeminnow populations (previously known as the Squawfish) to explode in numbers. State biologists report the Northern Pikeminnow consumes millions of salmon smolts a year, significantly reducing returning salmon populations. So essentially the youth involved in our program become piscine bounty hunters.

Go Fish! equips kids between the ages of 10-15 years old with everything necessary to participate in this fishery. Through a combination of grants and generosity from church families we were able to purchase fishing rods and reels, tackle, lifejackets, boating electronics, and most importantly; a 24ft pontoon boat we dubbed the “Suzy Q” (named after one of our supporters). Twice a week during the summer months myself and other mature Christian adult volunteers from the congregation take kids out on the “Suzy Q” for day-long fishing trips on the Snake River in search of Northern Pikeminnow. Whatever regulation size Pikeminnows the students catch they turn in to the check station and receive the monetary reward.


2. What made you or your church decide to do this?

My wife and I both serve on staff as pastors of our church and it became apparent that the leadership of the church needed to reduce personnel costs. Because we are located in a college town, all of our programming for the year happens when Washington State University is in session. Taking into consideration that our summers are so low-key I volunteered to move from full-time to ¾ time, only working one day a week at the church when school was out of session in the summer. With my schedule suddenly opened up and needing to earn a little extra cash I had decided to try this bounty-fishing program myself.

Then it hit me. I could take kids from the church fishing WITH me on this crazy adventure! The idea of Go Fish! Ministries took off. Instead of structured, time-limited weekly programming with our youth, we are inviting them to do faith and life out on the river in the pursuit of fish.

The “theme” verse for this endeavor comes from Matthew 4:19, “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” What if in following Jesus to fish for people we are being invited to get back in the boat and fish…for fish?


3. What is the overall goal of what you are doing and do you feel you are accomplishing that so far?

The goal of our program simply put is to get kids “hooked on Jesus.” We want youth captured by Christ’s love and become His disciples; and then become fishers of people themselves. We accomplish that through a multi-faceted approach. We don’t simply want to tell kids about the grace and love of Jesus, we want them to receive and experience it through relationship mature Christian adults. The fishing activity is simply a framework for the hours of conversation and incarnational witness as adults and youth do life together. As followers of Jesus how do we deal with disappointment? Success? Conflict? Adversity? If you have ever spent time fishing, you know that there are countless opportunities to navigate all these scenarios!

To help guide our communal life we actually look to the Rule of St. Benedict. There are so many parallels between living in a monastic community and being part of the crew of a boat. In both situations order is necessary for the safety and well-being of the members of the community. Particularly on a boat, safety is paramount. And like a monastic community there is a hierarchy in place to keep order and the members all on task. A boat is not a democracy; the captain is in charge. Period. The role of the Father or Mother of an intentional faith community operates in much the same way. We seek to have two adults on the boat at a time for the maximum of 5 kids per day. Throughout the day we have times of prayer and scripture reading, a simplified form of praying “The Hours.”

This summer of 2016 was a pilot season for the program. We took out kids 3 separate days and the initial results are very promising. The kids who went on our fishing trips had an overwhelming positive response. We caught a lot of fish (only 3 keeper money fish) and the kids were engaged. There is great anticipation for this coming summer when we will offer fishing trips twice a week for 8 weeks.

4. Risk is a part of gospel faithfulness and a necessary part of doing anything missional. Where have you seen God’s faithfulness in this journey and where have you had to radically trust God?

When we started this journey we had no money, no boat, no fishing experience, and no model to draw from in launching this ministry. The entire venture has been one of risk without the possibility of reward. And there were many days when I was fishing out on the river by myself trying to get the hang of it and simply failing. And failing hard. As in, spending the whole day on the river, costing gas, time away from family, bait, and catching one $5 fish. My wife at times was starting to get very anxious because I was supposed to be making all this money catching fish and we were losing money.

But there were a number of instances when it became apparent that God and the people of our church were heavily invested. The congregation paid for me to attend the Hatch-A-Thon put on by the Princeton Institute of Youth Ministry. I was able to learn so much about how to get started with entrepreneurial ministry endeavors. I came away from that experience with a boatload of ideas (pun intended). Our Presbytery gave us a grant of $5,000 to purchase equipment for this missional initiative! A couple families from our church donated the money to purchase a used pontoon boat for $4,000. This pontoon boat has a great story behind it. The boat was used the previous season by a local fisherman in our community who made $21,000 with this boat the summer of 2015. Meeting this fisherman was also very much a “God thing.” He showed me the ropes of fishing and saved me hundreds of hours of frustration (beyond what I was already experiencing).


5. What kind of folks are accompanying you on this journey? Who have you had in the room helping you plan and envision where this is all headed?

We are so blessed to have a number of people supporting this endeavor. First we have men in the congregation who have volunteered their time to be on the boat ministering to the kids. Guys are taking days off of work to join kids on the river. We have the families that have donated the money towards the purchase of the boat. We have a farmer in our congregation who has donated space on his property for us to store the boat during the winter months to save money on moorage costs. We are so fortunate to have folks in marketing and advertising that are helping us put together a website, logo, and branding so we can get the word out on the ministry. And of course all the parents and congregants who have supported this ministry through their prayers.


6. What would you say to others who are trying to envision different ways to do youth ministry? How can they begin a process of trying something different?

Start by asking yourself what you are passionate about. What do you love to do? How might you invite youth into some endeavor you have been itching to try personally. What are the needs of your community? We have a number of kids whose parents both work but cannot afford the day camps available during the summer. Most of these kids end up wandering the local streets and or spending all day in the library on the computer. We are able to provide an opportunity to get out into creation, make some money, and encounter God’s love.


7.) What are some things you are learning through all of this project and what about it is life giving?

I am learning that you cannot be afraid to fail. A lot. I don’t think it was an accident that Jesus chose a group of fishermen as his first disciples. Fishing is full of disappointment and failure. And to make money at it you have to really be able to navigate the failure and continue to pursue the prize even when it is really hard. Discipleship is an exercise of the will, a decision to follow Jesus even when you don’t feel a deep connection or emotional/spiritual high.

I am an aspiring mystic and simply cannot get enough of witnessing the wonders of God’s creation. Fishing on a daily basis gets you to marvel at the genius of God’s created order. Having the chance to introduce others to this way of seeing the world is a gift. I love to fish and I love a challenge. I love to build things and this endeavor has fed all those elements of my person. Most importantly, I love Jesus and was blessed during my adolescence with significant adult mentors and spiritual fathers who left a lasting impression. I want to pass on that to the youth of our community; starting with my own four kids.



The Church has a Role in America and it Might Look Like This...

Matthew Overton

This is a video from my friend Nate Phillips on a small entrepreneurial revival happening in his hometown. Their story is the story of 1,000 other communities.  A story of industry that sputtered out and the subsequent economic and social struggles that have resulted.  While we tend to focus on social entrepreneurship as it relates to youth ministry in this blog, this is a video worth watching for anyone in the church. You can immediately see why entrepreneurship can be Kingdom work. The web of redemptive relationships and the cascading  effect of small positive economic dominoes here is encouraging. At first, it might not seem like there is direct social entrepreneurship going on here, but there is no way to not see how this is redemption work. American culture and the American church were built for just this sort of work!

Innovators Guest Post #7- Starting an Innovative Youth Ministry from Scratch

Matthew Overton

As a youth leader, have you ever thought or dreamed about starting up a youth ministry from scratch?  Maybe that represents a personal nightmare scenario, but for some youth workers it is a an experience that they have always wanted to try on for size.  Chris Cummings, who is our guest poster today is doing just that through a church plant in Tennessee.  Chris has been reading the posts on Youth Ministry Innovators for some time and gave me a call a couple of weeks ago.  Chris is in his most preliminary missionary stages of entering a new gospel environment. He is just beginning to discern what God might be calling him to do or not do in his new context.  Here is what he has to say.

"Hi, I’m Chris and I’m a Youth Pastor. 

I wanted to share about the new adventure that I am on, that I am not sure of the destination or even the journey to get there.  

Five weeks ago, I started at a new church plant in south Nashville,  The church launched in Jan, but I was just hired mid August to start the youth ministry from scratch.

I have been in youth ministry for over 10 years now, but I have never started one from scratch.  As I started to pray and dream about what God wanted this to look like, I knew that it couldn’t and shouldn’t look like just another youth ministry.  The mission of the church is to connect people who have left the church or have never connected to the church to make disciples who make disciples. 

If you are going to target people who have either left the church or have never been connected to one, it is pretty obvious that just doing the same ol’ thing isn’t going to cut it.

And here is where I find myself, in an amazingly missional and active church, without a building; planted in the middle of a fast growing area, hoping to reach as many teens and families as possible for the sake of the Kingdom.

As I have been working through what this is going to look like, I have come down to a couple things that I think God always uses to help guide us, which Frederick Buechner said so well: “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.”

1. DEEP HUNGER - What are the needs of the community?

In order to know this, we need to be go where people are and become great listeners.  We need to listen to the spoken needs and also the unspoken ones they might not know to express.  Asking questions like “What needs to be set right again?”  “Where is there brokenness?”  “What are the places that need a Band-Aid while also figuring out what system is causing the wounds?”

We hope to spend this fall and into the winter as listeners.

2.  DEEP GLADNESS - What are the gifts of our church?

We hope to spend the next few months gathering our group of teens and leaders, helping them discover their gifts, and then practicing them and looking at how they might meet the needs of our community.

What if we, the church, are gifted in each of our contexts to specifically meet needs in our community?  What if it is exactly as this intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness that we find our vision, purpose, and direction?

“To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor 12:7)

So this is where I am, we are, on a new adventure of seeking where God is at work and joining in for the redemption of our community and world.


I can’t seem to shake everything that I have always known as youth ministry.  Youth Group, small groups, mission trips, fun nights, etc.  And I know that none of these are inherently bad, but I don’t want them to be the goal or even focus.

How do I lean into the intersection of deep hunger and deep gladness, while also creating a space for teens to grow as disciples that make disciples?

This is the question I am asking myself all the time, and it is the one guiding our choices.  What would you do?"

Young Entrepreneurs and the Church: Guest Innovator Post #4

Matthew Overton

Meghan Easley is the Project Coordinator at the Fuller Theological Seminary Youth Ministry Institute.  She is also a graduate student at U.S.C working on a Masters Degree in Social Entrepreneurship. She has agreed to offer her perspective on social entrepreneurship/impact investing and the church. She also reflects on why the church needs to incorporate this way of thinking about it's missional identity in order to reach young adults who desperately want to impact their world...and remain a part of the church they have loved.

I write from a myriad of perspectives, to a myriad of audiences. I'm the 24 year old you desperately want in your pews and engaged in your ministries. I am the graduate level student of theology, social entrepreneurship, and young people. I have my fingers on the pulse of the academic side of church, impact and young people, and breathe it in everyday as a young adult that all of my professors are writing and lecturing about. I'm the fly on the wall, engaged in two worlds oftentimes disconnected but looking for a bridge.


While we're mostly a group of dreamers with unrealistic visions for how early adulthood is supposed to unfold, my generation of young people are desiring to make a difference. Both Millennials and women are entering the global workforce in larger numbers than ever before, and within a few decades, baby boomers will transfer $30-40 trillion of their wealth to this new generation. With the majority of wealth control in the hands of young adults and women, and their commitment to jobs that are focused around creating value, the marketplace can't help but stop and listen to the growing noise in this arena. Few can deny that young people are eager to make a difference, and the church would be foolish not to stop and pay attention.


There is the undeniable fact that the church has long been a place of community, spiritual formation, and support for people. I grew up in the church, and have many wonderful memories of the bonds of true community I found there. The spiritual growth I experienced is truly something church does well and reminds me of each week. But as a young person looking to discover a career and a calling, the church has largely abandoned me. Less than a year into a degree I thought would lead me to a pastoral staff role, I realized I did not feel called to dedicate my life in a predetermined course of ministry. I began studies at the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California Soon after, which revealed new sides of myself that tied my desires for social impact in with a marketplace-driven formula. This has changed everything for me, and I know I am only one among many in the younger generation that is seeking after impact with creative and sustainable manifestations. 


Yet my church continues to be a place for my heart. I am engaged in activities of service where I can support the spiritual development of my peers or youth, I can paint a sidewalk for a service day and I can usher on a Sunday service greeting team. Is there a place for me to wrestle with my desire to live a meaningful life, faith and work?


My everyday life demands a place to wrestle with the large questions of values and vocation. I sit in class after class at business school surrounded by people longing to make a difference, live a full life, and care for the people and places that are most important to them. Most are not people of faith, but are driven by the gut-wrenching feeling that they can do something to change the world. It is admirable, and they are constantly proving they have what it takes to impact others through development and impact enterprises. But I can't help but realize their desires to help are in no way driven by a vision of God's kingdom or the goodness of his created order.


Why such disconnect? Why are the most passionate people about changing the world not in our churches? What is it about church that does not resonate, that causes the chasm between the impact enterprise world and the churches in our communities? My church inspires me to examine my life, my faith and the ways I am embodying the life of Christ. But, for the most part, my church does not care about how I use my career.


In my mind, this is a shame and is a continued nail in the coffin of the growing irrelevance of the church to emerging adults. We do not want more programs, more volunteer days, or more Sunday School classes. We want causes, we want innovation, we want spaces crafted for us to dream, reflect and do the things we are most passionate about and cannot not do with our lives. We want the intersection of should and must to carry the great weight of both our faith and our work. What happens when they don't overlap? In some cases, young people feel the pull of the Monday-Friday workweek carrying greater significance than sticking around for a weekend church service.


My hope is that whether you are a senior pastor, an elder, or the college or youth pastor, is to look around you at the emerging adults in your midst. Look at the passions they have, the books they are reading, and the things they post about on Instagram. These young people, the ones about to accept the biggest wealth transfer in history, will be making significant decisions about the life of the church with their wallets and how they spend their time. Their values matter. Their voices carry increasing weight, and it is to the detriment of the church not to listen to what they most value and want to spend their time doing. This is not about getting us back into your pews. This is about forming us into your communities to grow, build and dream with both young and old. This is the revolutionary concept of social entrepreneurship in the church: our communities have older generations with a lifetime of professional business experience seated next to the young people looking to make a difference in the world. It gives opportunity to tap into the gifts of the older generation along with the budding talent of emerging adults. To shape a vision for life that is not categorized into church here and my work over there, but a vision where our lives and deepest passions can bring economic and community development from within the walls of our churches.


Church, I am your biggest supporter, the one rallying behind you and recognizing that you have played a significant role in who I am and what I choose to pursue with my life. But if you want to keep me around, you have to prove to me that you care about my passions and the career I am seeking to develop. We have the potential for great partnership, but I need to know that you care and are willing to devote the time and resources necessary to make it happen. I propose that the untapped field of social impact is the very place for us to play and innovate together, crafting a holistic picture of transformed lives and communities.

Let the dreamers and doers in your congregation find space to delve into their deepest passions, to figure out what they must do with their one life and make it a sustainable reality.