Confirmation Materials

February 13, 2012 3 comments

From time to time I get requests for the materials I use for Confirmation.  I’ve finally gotten around to posting these files.  Here’s what I’ve got:

  • The first is the YDP Booklet (YDP Booklet 2011-2012)  This is the papers that I print out and put into binders for my students.  I’ve posted it in Word format and assuming that the fonts don’t get completely messed up you should be able to download it and adapt it to your wish.
  • The second is an introduction to the program that I mail to my seventh graders in the Spring of each year before our informational meeting (YDP Introduction)
  • Also – I gave a presentation entitled “Building Bridges to Adult Membership” in which I talk a lot about our Confirmation program.  You can find that here
Categories: Main

Lectionary Information

January 23, 2012 Leave a comment

In my sermon yesterday I talked about the usefulness of the daily lectionary as a way of being faithful in our daily bible reading.  Here are a couple resources to help you:

There are other great resources out there to help you read your bible including a customized bible reading plans ( and BibleBase Daily Bread (an App)

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The Value of Immersion Experiences…

January 12, 2012 1 comment

This is my article from our February newsletter.  

The Value of Immersion Experiences in Faith

Pastor Brian Wallace

My senior year of college I was a part of a housing group (similar in concept to a fraternity) at Grove City.  Like many college seniors we wanted to go south for spring break and escape to some warmer weather.  As we kicked around some ideas I suggested that we look to turn our trip south into a mission trip which would give us the chance to raise funds for the trip instead of having to pay for it ourselves (admittedly, not the best rationale).  In the end, we went off to Charleston, SC to work with Habitat for Humanity for a week with 23 college-age guys and we had a great week.  Unfortunately, that was my first mission trip ever.  Since then I’ve been on a few more in seminary (The Dominican Republic and Gulf Coast post-Katrina) and many more since arriving at HPC (this summer will be my 12th and 13th mission trip since arriving at HPC).  In addition to mission trips I spent a lot of time on retreats each year – Jr. High, Sr. High, 30 Hour Famine, and Confirmation retreats are annual events on our youth ministry calendar.  But if I’m honest, these events take up a ton of my time and energy – and they cost a lot of money!  So what is the value?

“Immersions experiences” like mission trips and retreats are valuable for a number of reasons, but two stand out (1) They develop a sense of belonging (2) They take us away from what is normal.  When you go on a mission trip or a retreat you spend a lot of time together – in fact, you’re together for at least 16 hours each and every day.  You share meals together and go through new experiences together.  This helps bond the members of the group to one another.  In my experience in working with youth I always find that after a mission trip or a retreat I feel like I actually know a student, regardless of how long I’ve known them.  All of this really contributes to a person feeling like they belong within a community simply because they feel like there are other people in the community who they know and know well.  In my experience, nothing has the power to break down boundaries (for example, going to different schools) like going on a mission trip or retreat together.

The second reason that mission trips and retreats are so valuable is that they take us out of what is normal.  Our lives tend to be dominated by the normal everyday items of life: work/school, family, activities, etc.  Usually we only spend a very limited amount of time (really a matter of a few hours a week) focused on our faith and our faith community.  Retreats and mission trips allow us to break out of our normal cycle for a few days and focus on building those relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ as well as deepening our relationship with God.  I know personally I value retreats because I leave feeling refreshed in my faith and more focused on what I need to be working on in the months ahead.

While mission trips and retreats require us to step out into a new experience the value of them is tremendous as they allow us to experience a sense of belonging and provide an opportunity to focus on our faith in a way that is unparalleled.

Categories: Main

When Do We Become Adults?

December 2, 2011 1 comment

This is the article I put in our Newsletter January 2011:

“I promised I’d never let anything happen to him”  “Hmm…. that’s a funny thing to promise”  “What?”“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him.  Then nothing would ever happen to him”

In the movie “Finding Nemo” Marlin and Dory have a conversation late in the movie.  Marlin is a classic overprotective Father who tries valiantly to defend his son from anything bad ever happening to him.  Dory rightly questions Marlin’s parenting decisions as being counter productive.  If I had been talking to Marlin I would have asked him, “Do you want your son living in your basement when he’s 35?”.  The irony of that statement, is that more and more that’s what’s happening.  In fact, Psychology Today reports that the number of individuals 25-34 who had not moved out of their parent’s house has increased 20% since 1982 and the number of individuals under 25 living with their parents is now at 50%.  There is of course a technical name for this, “extended adolescence”.  The question, why is happening and is it a good or bad thing?

The answer is, like most things, both good and bad and it’s a function of a lot of different factors.  First, the good.  In many cases “extended adolescence” means that college graduates are being conservative when they first graduate from college and get a job.  Instead of going out and taking on their own place right away they return and live with mom and dad for a while before moving out on their own, allowing them to save money.  For others, it’s a function of the difficult economic times we find ourselves in where many college graduates for example as a Ad Agency Spokane, they are finding it increasingly difficult to find employment after college.  This “boomerang” effect as it’s known is a new phenomenon it is certainly understandable and in some cases even a good thing.  But many times it’s not, as the arrangement continues on and on.

Dr. Robert Epstein, currently an editor at Scientific American Mind, has done extensive research in the field of adolescence and believes that extended adolescence is a social disaster.  One article summed up his view this way:

He believes that emerging adulthood is a problem to be fixed. To him, the immaturity and delay of adulthood means that our social structures are broken. We need to change our parenting methods and our educational system to stop infantilizing young people and make them take responsibility for their actions while teaching them the competencies they need in order to make it in the world. (emphasis mine) (See for the full summary)

The irony is that often overprotective parenting actually does more harm than good for a child because they are never given the opportunity to take responsibility for themselves.  Therefore they never have the basic opportunity to learn how to be on their own at a young age.  Therefore, it should come as no surprise that as children they are reluctant to take on responsibility for themselves.  In essence what a lot of parents are doing is letting kids get through childhood without ever taking off the proverbial training wheels.  Yes, once training wheels come off the chances of a child falling off and getting hurt increase but in part, but do you ever learn to ride a bike without taking them off?

The other area Epstein identifies is how we as a culture view middle adolescence (the high school years).  From my view, he’s right on.  Think about it: we give teenagers power over life and death when they’re 16 but don’t declare them to be official adults until they’re 18, and they can’t legally drink alcohol until they’re 21.  In my view, as soon as you can drive a car on your own you are an adult and deserve to be treated as such.  We’ll often here people say “well, kids will be kids” or even worse “boys will be boys” which is really our way of excusing ourselves from providing real accountability for teenagers.  I will often hear kids (often in Confirmation) turn the blame on their parents when something wasn’t complete on time.  To me this is unacceptable.  At 14 years old our teenagers are smart enough and old enough to be responsible for themselves.  The question is simply this: are we willing to let them?  Or do we want to encourage them to live at home until they’re 35?

Categories: Main

On Short Term Mission Trips….

July 28, 2011 4 comments

So it’s been forever since I’ve blogged about anything of substance – primarily because my kids are more interesting than my blog.  But lately I’ve found myself thinking more and more “I should blog about this….”  So here goes….

I’ve been leading youth mission trips now for five years – I’ve done 6 Sr. High trips and 5 Jr. High trips since I started my time at Hampton so I’ve got some experience when talking about this subject.  I’ve been in some circles where it is popular to talk down about short-term mission trips and some of this critique is fair.  Namely, youth mission trips cost a ton of money, a week is inadequate amount of time to develop cross cultural connections, etc.  I’ve even been around people who have gone so far as to say “We shouldn’t do short-term mission trips with youth.”  Well, I agree that short term mission trips are fraught with challenges but as a counter argument I present the following:

  • “This was one of the best weeks of my life”
  • “Now that I’ve gone on one mission trip I’m going to go every summer”
  • “Thank you so much for bringing me on this trip – there’s been a lot of points where I’ve doubted whether God really existed but after this trip I feel so much more faithful”
  • “After this trip I really understand how fortunate I am”
  • “I used to have an idea of what homeless people were like but this trip showed me that I was wrong”
These are just a sampling of the comments that I got at the end of this year’s mission trips and aren’t by themselves evidence of transformation – after all, it’s just a week and after an long week kids are a little hyper-emotional and will say anything.  But… I think part of why youth mission trips get a bad rap is that they are planned and done poorly.  Here are some of my thoughts on successful youth mission trips
  • Choose non-profit organizations to go with.  I’ve learned that there are two types of organizations that sponsor youth mission trips.  Some are part of for profit companies where at the end of the day they’re trying to make money off of you.  Others, are non-profit organizations that are focused first on their mission.  In our case, we’ve found two organizations that we’ve developed a good work relationship with.  The Pittsburgh Project is a local non-profit organization that has been sponsoring youth mission trips for years and is – bar none – the best at it.  They’re a permanent organization that develops relationships with homeowners throughout the year as well as during the summer.  Their camps are well staffed by experience professionals and young college students.  I really can’t say enough good things about them.  The other organization we stumbled upon a few years ago when we were looking for someone to go to New Orleans with: TEAMeffort.  TEAMeffort is a non-profit national organization that sponsors trips throughout the country.  For our group (and for my preference) they are a great fit.  I think what I appreciate the most about TEAMeffort is that they keep their camps small.  I’ve never been at a team effort site where there were more than 50 or so people and they always have four staff people.  What this means is that they can prioritize your group and provide support.  Most notably, I’ve never been left on a job site without a TEAMeffort staff person there working beside us or at least in the very close area.  This is a great help in making your time on the job site effective.
  • Work with organizations that partner with other organizations in the community – The first mission trip I went on we did a VBS by ourself – no connection to any community church, and that bothered me.  We didn’t help build up any lasting connection so largely our work was in vain.    TEAMeffort is great at this.  This summer when we were in DC we did homeless ministry but it wasn’t random.  We met up with an representatives from an organization that works with Washington’s homeless population year around.  We were supporting on-going ministries rather than starting from scratch and I think for short-term mission trips this is essential.  In the same way we worked at a VBS program sponsored by a local church and the goal was to build connections between members of the community and this church.  The Pittsburgh Project is an community organization in and of itself.
  • Theologically narrate the experience – one of the things I am steadfast about is every evening on both my Jr. and Sr. High trips we meet as a group and talk about what we are experiencing and learning.  The main reason for this is to keep focused on Christ and what he has called us to do.
  • Keep the focus on Christ – One of the things that happens on mission trip is they become about personal stuff rather than Christian service.  Whether it be pranks, flirting, fun and games, etc.  Now I can’t say my kids are perfect in this department – but I try my best not to encourage that type of behavior and to deal with it quickly when it occurs.  As an example, last year I had a few individuals make some poor choices on a mission trip.  Those individuals were not allowed to come this year and most likely will never go on another mission trip again.  While that statement may sound harsh (and it is) when participants make choices that demonstrate that they are going on a trip for the wrong reasons they must be removed and not allowed to participate again until they demonstrate that they understand their mistakes and have earned another chance.
    • One clarifier – I am not saying that mission trips shouldn’t be fun or that kids shouldn’t be allowed to have fun.  In the Bahamas, we spent two days on the beach once our work was done.  In New Orleans we visited the French Quarter and went dancing.  In DC we visited the monuments and museums.  And yes – I let me kids play four square, cards, go swimming, etc. on all my trips.  My point is that these things aren’t the point.
  • These trips are more a communal pilgrimage than a “mission trip”.  Part of the problem here is that definition of a mission trip is a moving target in and of itself, but these type of youth mission trips in many ways are more about the individuals who go.  That might sound selfish but let’s be honest – if we took the money we raise and spend to go on these trips and (1) gave it to trained contractors (2) send it directly to the organizations more “work” would get done.  But there’s a value in these trips for the individuals and the group.
    • For the individuals, mission trips offer a different perspective and different opportunities than they normally have.  For a week, they live life differently than they do the rest of the time and this gives them a chance to learn and in my experience – be attentive to the Spirit in ways they aren’t normally.  I think this is really important, especially for suburban kids who develop stereotypes about everyone who doesn’t look and live just like them.
    • For the group, these trips allow them to do “life together” which is so crucial for adolescents in gaining a sense of belonging within the Christian community.  As an example – there is a girl in my group whose parents make church a priority.  She and her brother are there every Sunday and faithfully attend Sunday school.  But, she definitely did not feel a sense of belonging.  Then she went on last year’s mission trip.  This year – a totally different story as she attended youth group every week, went on retreats and special events, etc.  That trip enabled her to develop the connections to other individuals in the group that she needed in order to feel like she belongs.
  • Mission trips allow students and adults to establish relationships.  Non-parental adult relationships are crucial in adolescent faith development, in particular for establishing the sense of belonging that is so critical.  Mission trips allow students and adults to spend time together and establish the trust between them that allow these relationships to build over time.
So, the long and short of it is this – while short-term mission trips do have huge potential downsides, they also present huge opportunities for the Kingdom if done well.
Categories: Main, Mission, Youth Ministry

The Wallace’s Kids Summer

August 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Meredith and Andrew’s Summer – Andrew and Meredith had quite the summer!  Here are some of the highlights!

Meredith is walking, but also has learned to play games and sell online have a sneak a peek at these guys.  In the highlight video from Chicago video screens you’ll see a little clip of Meredith playing a game of hide and go seek with her Mom.  Here’s the full highlight:

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Spring 2010 Videos of the Wallace Kids

June 12, 2010 1 comment

Three videos for your viewing pleasure (Links corrected as of 6/15/2010)

The first features Andrew riding on a motorcycle balloon:

The second one is from Easter weekend when Andrew got to play in a creek

The last one features Meredith making good use of her brother’s chair

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About the tree falling on our car…

So I’ve gotten lots of questions about the tree falling on our car yesterday – so here’s the story:

We had gone last week to look at a new Kia minivan and we found one we liked, but they could find the key for it.  So we test drove the same year and model.  When we went to pick up the car yesterday we were going to drive the one we actually were buying. All was going fine until we drove by an Allegheny County public works department crew that was trimming trees – and you guessed it – they dropped a branch on our car.

We pulled over and the only damage to the car was scrapes (there were lots of leaves on the branch).  After filing a police report we went back to the dealer where they promptly went down and buffed out all the scratches.  So no one was hurt (not even the car) but it sure is a good story!

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Better than I could ever say it…

Last month our congregation awarded it’s annual Tom Ablauf Scholarship to Katherine Baker, a Senior @ Hampton High School and a member of our congregation.  That Sunday she spoke to the congregation and said the following:

Brian gave a sermon recently that really hit home with me.  He reminded all of us how much more important it is for parents to bring their kids up to be Christians than to bring their kids up to be Steeler’s fans, and it made me realize how thankful I was that my parents have done just that in raising me.  Coming to church and Sunday School has never been an option for me, and I always went to LOGOS as a child.  In middle school LOGOS changed to SWAT and then to JAM in high school.  In my family church involvement has never been something I’ve questioned, and I am glad that my parents have instilled such strong Christian values in me. (emphasis mine) They have brought me up to be a strong student and a well-rounded person in life as well.  The option to not do my homework or try my hardest on all my exams was never presented to me, and these values have stayed with me through high school.  My dad has also prodded me to try new sports and activities, and to prove to people that I can succeed at as many things as possible.  Next year I will be attending Houghton College and I would never be where I am now without my parent’s strong guidance and the support of my church family.  I did not know Tom personally, but from seeing his extended family every week at church I know he was raised with the same strong ideals.  It is such an honor to receive this scholarship, and I only pray that I will live up to the high standards that Tom Ablauf set not only in academics and athletics, but also in his faith and his life.  Thank you.  

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Andrew and Meredith “Talking”

So Meredith communicates by going “bllllrrrrrppppppppp……”  Yesterday she and Andrew had a nice conversation…

(The previously broken links have been correct as of Sunday @ 9pm)

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