Hey, Youth Ministers!

1

SowerLast week was the St. John Bosco Catechetical Conference and it was such a joy to see people from America, Canada, England, Ireland, and even Australia come together to celebrate the faith and be equipped to pass it on more effectively.

Of course, the group I got to hang most with are the youth ministers, and my gratitude for all of you who endured the difficult schedule. It was a blessing to share what little time I could amid the numerous workshops, worship music, and baby at home.

The conference made me realize that I’ve been a bit deliquent on putting articles I’ve written for the “Sower Magazine” on my website—hadn’t updated that since last year! So here are the most recent ones, and if you’d like a full list of articles, you can check them out HERE.

“Proclaiming the Bad News to Teenagers,” April 2013. Talking about hell can pose a challenge for those who work with young people today. But if young people don’t understand the horrors of hell, they can never appreciate what Christ went through to bring them to heaven. Or to put it another way, the Good News isn’t really good unless the bad news is really bad.

“Thinking Win/Win with Your Volunteers,” October 2012. Attracting volunteers to your ministry is a daunting challenge, but it can be done. One way of doing that is to think “Win/Win.” A ministry that is as concerned with the positive experience of its volunteer as it is with it’s ministry to young people becomes a dynamic and enticing environment that attracts both youth and adults alike.

“Will You Love Me?” April 2012. When St. John Bosco famously said, “Love, and they will follow you anywhere,” he wasn’t talking about relational manipulation. He was speaking the truth. Teenagers, then and now, desire true friendships and respond to real love. One thing is sure: postmodern teenagers feel more than they think.

“Not Young Adults, but Emerging Adults,” January 2012. What is a “young adult?” Christian Smith, author of Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults, suggests the term young adult is a misnomer. He proposes we call this age group emerging adults.

“Saints and Superheroes,” October 2011. Movies and stories about superheroes are all the rage with young people today. As catechists, we can use those stories to point them to the real superheroes—the saints.

In other news, the Kickstarter campaign is going great! Thanks to everyone’s support, we’ve gotten past the minimum goal and are pushing towards an even better product. More on that (with new music video) tomorrow.

Prince for a Pauper

Screen Shot 2013-07-16 at 5.17.43 PMThis is another instance of how the idea behind the song ended up nothing like the song itself.

Believe it or not, the inspiration for this song came from wanting to write something beautiful about the liturgy. But I imagined it to be, well, more liturgical. To be clear, this song might be about the liturgy, but it is certainly not for the liturgy!

I was at Mass one day and the words of the Eucharistic prayer really spoke to me: “May you see and love in us what you see and love in Him.” At Mass, we participate in Christ’s perfect prayer and sacrifice to the Father.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son” (John 3:16.) Hardly a fair trade! The Father gave the Prince of Peace for lowly paupers like us. I started getting so excited about this incredible act of love that my brain went from “reverent worship” to “excited punk rock.” And that’s how this song came to be.

I’m hoping to record this song on my next CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I need your help. There’s two more weeks of the fundraising campaign and we’re almost there! So if you can, please make a donation to create the CD. You can get an autographed CD, exclusive T-shirt, or even your name in the CD insert!

I want to thank the many people who worked hard to make this video. First of all, there’s my amazing band: Amanda Enriquez and Emily Mislan on background vocals, Andre Villenueve on keys (he’s just there to look good,) Matthew Fox on violin, Dan Bozek on bass, Andrew Laubacher on guitar, and Kevin Mahon on drums. Thanks to the people who ran the cameras and Kelly Butler who put it all together. But the folks who  make the video rock are the 2,200 amazing teens who really got into it! Thanks everybody!

Gratitude

5

HSY2 19It’s been an amazing few weeks for me and my family. If I could sum up what I’m feeling in one word, it would be: gratitude.

I just finished my fourth and final youth conference of the summer. I always struggle to find words to express that experience: awesome, life-changing, unforgettable. Even though the theme and the content is consistent, every weekend is unique. The teens are different each conference and the group takes on its own “personality.” Some like to rock. Some are more contemplative. Others are hesitant but then they jump in.

IMG_2362These past few weekends gave me the opportunity to see a lot of amazing young people who are trying to boldly live their faith. I love taking pictures and signing autographs, but it’s the small conversations with someone who has been really touched by something I’ve said, sung, or written that warm my heart and encourage me to keep doing what I do.

One of my most special moments was when I met three teens who made me this amazing t-shirt! If you can’t see, it’s got the “at the intersection of Catholicism and culture” sign from my blog, a bow tie on the neck, and “Between the Savior and the Sea” at the bottom. On the back it says, “All for the Love of God,” has their names, and they also wrote “35 Day Spiritual Workout since 2011!” So thank you Jenny Schmid and Sarah and Michelle Sherman for such a thoughtful gift. I’m thrilled to have blessed your life!

Speaking of the 40-Day Spiritual Workout, I’m told that almost ten thousand teens have signed up and are doing it right now! That’s amazing!!! I’m praying for all of you who are growing strong in your faith through it, and so grateful that something I did is blessing so many.

You never know how what you do can impact somebody. I was blown away when I was being interviewed by Mark Newman, the founder of Cross Roads Radio, when he said that my music was one of the major inspirations for starting that station! Wow. (If you haven’t checked them out, you really should! Click HERE for great music.)

Since I’m on the topic of music, I’m thrilled that my kickstarter project for “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice” is 87% there! It’s been fun to play the music live (new video coming tomorrow) and get such great feedback. I feel pretty confident it’s going to be successful and the thought of creating a CD debt free really blows me away. A few months ago I despaired that it wasn’t going to happen (the money I had saved up had been eaten by medical expenses.) And now, thank’s to the goodness of God and the generosity of folks like you, I’ll get to record music that blesses lots of people. Especially my family!

But the music is only as good as the musicians and I’ve been blessed all summer to play with not only amazing musicians but incredible people: Andrew, Amanda, Andre, Dan, Emily, Kevin, and Matt. They’ve also been super helpful with creating the music videos I’ve been posting every week to promote the album. Thanks guys!

Not only do I play with amazing people on stage, (see how much I have to be grateful for?) I also get to hang with some of the coolest folks in Catholic ministry. Some are friends I’ve been connecting with for years, others are new friends I look forward to doing more ministry with in the future. I was on the phone with a friend of mine who used to speak at conferences and is now full time in homeless ministry. He said, “I don’t miss speaking at youth conferences, but I do miss the community of it.” Though I travel around the country throughout the year preaching and singing, I’m usually the main event. The conferences are a cool time where I’m part of a great team of people who do the same thing I do. It’s really special, and I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

IMG_2364As I mentioned in an earlier blog, this is my 20th summer doing youth conferences. They have been a source of God’s blessing for me. That’s what brought me to Steubenville in the first place, where I met my wife, got me involved in national ministry, and now I work here! If you would have told me 20 years ago that I was going to end up moving to Steubenville, get a Master’s degree, be a college professor, speak nationally and internationally, write books, and lead worship for over ten thousand people each summer… well, I don’t know what I would have said. It would have been more than I could have hoped for.

But all that pales in comparison to the blessing that is my family. Yesterday was my oldest son’s 15th birthday, and a week ago was my youngest son’s birthday. Being a husband and father is, by far, the second greatest blessing of my life.

The first? That’s easy. Being loved by God.

“How can I repay the Lord for all the great good He has done for me? I will offer a sacrifice of praise and call on the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 116:12, 17.)

The summer’s not done yet! I’ve got three more great adult conferences that I’m looking forward to and I’m excited to see how the “Gospel” CD will turn out. But this seemed like a great moment to praise God for everything He’s doing in my life and thank all of you who support what I do with your encouragement and prayers.

I’m so grateful!!!

2,000 Years Ago

2

Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 9.15.35 AM

“My old heart that loved sin died 2,000 years ago.”

I was mentoring a friend through a bible-study designed for people with addictions (settingcaptivesfree.com,) and that phrase jumped of my computer screen and pierced my heart. It was a reflection on the famous words of St. Paul, “I have been crucified with Christ, yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me,” (Galatians 2:20.)

This was a common theme of St. Paul. In his letter to the Romans, he wrote, “We know that our old self was crucified with him, so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person have been absolved from sin,” (Romans 6:6-7.)

A dead person has been absolved from sin! We are freed from the sting of sin and death because we already died—2,000 years ago with Christ! St. Paul exhorts us, “Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as being dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.”

This song, “2,000 Years Ago,” is a celebration of that great truth.

Thanks to Andrew Laubacher on guitar and Dan Bozek on bass. And special guest was Tim Hepburn, my former drummer who now plays with the kickin’ Celtic band, Synthian. It was fun to play with him again.

And here’s the obligatory pitch: I’d love to record this song on my new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice,” but I need your help! Visit my kickstarter page and help if you can. You can preorder the music, get an autographed copy, get an exclusive t-shirt, even get your name in the CD!

I’ve been thrilled with the donations this past week. We’ve passed the half way mark and are almost at $6K of the $9K goal. The fundraising ends July 31st, and if I don’t hit the target, I’ll get none of it. So please, donate if you haven’t yet and spread the word to people you think might be interested in supporting Catholic music.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to all who have supported the project so far! Enjoy the song!

20 Years Later

6

Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 2.03.34 PM

It was the summer of 1994 when I first set foot on campus at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. I had been hired to speak at a Steubenville Youth Conference, something I hadn’t even heard of until a few months before. At that time I had been playing concerts and working at an improv comedy club in Orlando, Florida, “The City Beautiful.” So pulling into the polluted air of “The City of Murals” was quite a shock. “I could never live here,” I thought.

And somewhere up in heaven, God laughed.

That was the first summer Steubenville had two youth conferences. Other locations for youth conferences hadn’t started yet. I was there to help a group of students called the “Work Crew” (which later became “Young Apostles”) and do some comedy to lighten the mood of the weekend. I and another friend dressed up like friars—I was Brother Steub, he was brother Ville, and together we were Brothers Steub and Ville. We kept saying things like, “Back in Vatican I, before there was a sequel, we didn’t kneel on grass. We knelt on broken glass! And we loved it!” Oddly enough I got asked back the next year. And the next. And I’ve been involved in youth conferences in almost every different role a guy can do (speaking, hosting, entertainment, giving workshops, speaking at men’s sessions, I even spoke at a women’s session once, and leading music)  for the past 20 summers. It has been one of the greatest blessings of my life.

That first summer, I heard our blessed Mother speak to my heart while I was praying the rosary. She told me to drop everything and move to Steubenville. I didn’t hesitate—I knew God’s will was always the best. I thought it was to do youth ministry, but God had even more planned for me. I completed my Masters in Theology and met my wife, who I married in the campus chapel in 1997. And after 7 years of youth ministry in Latham, NY, Franciscan asked me back to be a part of the faculty to teach about two things I was passionate about: Scripture and Youth Ministry.

I took over the music ministry for the on campus conferences in 2005. Once again, it was something I never expected to do. I had done plenty of concerts before, but lead an entire weekend of worship? I had spent the previous years hosting conferences and really enjoyed doing that. But once again, I knew God’s plan was the best, and I’ve been so grateful to play music that has blessed tens of thousands of people!

This summer the conference office wanted to audition a new worship band and asked if I wouldn’t mind hosting the conference instead of playing it. I love doing music but I was thrilled to have a chance to host again—I hadn’t done it in eight years. And by God’s providence, that was the first conference that my oldest son was attending. Jon Niven (the musician for that conference) invited me on stage on Sunday AM to play one of my “classic” songs: Behold the Lamb, the theme song from 1997. For me, it was the perfect ending for that weekend, and a great moment of nostalgia as I thought about the 20 years I’ve been blessed to sing and speak from that stage.

I few years ago, I got over the shocking revelation that I had been doing ministry longer than all the teens in the room had been born. I don’t feel old at all—I feel young. I love sharing the love of God with young people, using every talent I’ve been blessed with.

I got asked a number of times, “which do you like better, hosting or leading worship?” Do I have to choose? I’m thrilled to do them both. But I have to admit, there is nothing more exciting for me than to tell people about how Christ died for them and be the person who gets to invite them into a deeper relationship with Him. I had a chance to do that this summer, and I’m grateful for the friendly folks at steubenville.org who caught it on tape:

I know that many people are blessed by the Steubenville summer conferences, but I can’t imagine anyone more blessed by them than me. Praise God!

The Sounds of Summer

13

YouthCon005Last weekend, the Steubenville Summer Conferences began with the Catholic Charismatic Conference, and tomorrow over a thousand young people will come to campus for the summer’s first youth conference. People who went to the conference last weekend asked me about the new music I played, and people coming to the youth conferences have been asking what I will play, so I hope this blog will satisfy both those questions.

At the Catholic Charismatic Conference, here are some of the newer songs:

“Whom Shall I Fear? (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin

“Great I Am” by Jared Anderson

“Consuming Fire” by Tim Hughes

“Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher

“Christ Has Risen” by Matt Maher

“Our God” by Chris Tomlin

“Revelation Song” by Jennie Lee Riddle

I also played, “Never Been Disappointed” which is off my new CD project, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.” You can CLICK HERE to find out more about that.

This weekend, I’ll be playing all of the above, plus a few more key songs:

“One Thing Remains (Your Love Never Fails)” off of Passion’s “White Flag” CD

“Lord of Lords” by Brooke Fraser

We’ll hit the “classics” that we usually play: “How Great is Our God,” “How He Loves,” “From the Inside Out,” “Days of Elijah,” “Marvelous Light,” “Blessed Be Your Name,” “No One Like You,” and other songs like that.

And then there’s my stuff: “The Lord Is,” “Little Guy,” “Always You Are Faithful To Me,” “Open Wide,” from the CD “Everybody’s Got a Song to Sing;” “Heart of Jesus,” “You Came to Me,” and “I Shall Be Healed,” from the CD “I Shall Be Healed;” and a few new songs—”Never Been Disappointed,” “Thesaurus of Praise,” “Prince for a Pauper” from the new CD, “The Gospel Accordion to Bob Rice.”

Any summer requests? Leave a comment! And please say a prayer for the Steubenville Summer Conferences—God does great things through them, and I am honored to lead worship there!

Just in Time for Lent

3
The 40-Day Spiritual Workout! (Wampa not included.)

The 40-Day Spiritual Workout! (Wampa not included.)

Look what arrived in the mail last week! It’s the brand-new, fancy-looking “40-Day Spiritual Workout.” Now on paper!

I’ve got a tell you, I am really impressed with the way Servant Publications put this thing together. The cover looks cool, the layout inside is sharp, and the whole book is square! Not “square” as in “un-cool,” but square from a geometric perspective.

And in this case, it is hip to be square.

You might wonder why you would spend nine dollars to buy a book that you can get in a free iPhone app, or a free daily email through Steubenville.org. That’s what I wondered about when Servant Publications approached me to do this book. I told them a free iPhone app and email was in the works, and I was even working on a podcast. But they still thought there was a market for it.

Now that I am holding the book in my hands, I understand what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of really cool things I like about the book even better than the iPhone app.

The thing I like most about the book is there is more Scripture in it. Due to copyright restrictions, I was limited as to how much Scripture I could put in the iPhone. But in the book it’s all there – everything I intended it to have in the first place.

By “all there” I mean the chapter and verses, but not the text itself. And that’s another thing I really like about this book. It makes you open your Bible and read the text directly instead of reading a snippet of it. That way, if you want, you can read what came before or came after the text. I think it is so important that people get comfortable flipping the pages of their own Bible.

I included the Scriptural text in the iPhone app (as well as the daily emails) because those are designed for people on the go. But someone reading a book is more likely to be sitting down and taking time to read — which is also more conducive to a deeper prayer experience.

Finally, and this point probably only pertains to me and the English nerds out there, I like the book because it is written better. Servant Publications had a great copy editor who went over everything I wrote and helped fix all the grammatical mistakes.

I’m so excited that the 40-Day Spiritual Workout is now available as a book, an iPhone app, and a daily email devotional. Hopefully by this summer I’ll have an audio version of it as well. The app has had over 2500 downloads, and about 1000 other people have signed up for email blasts. People frequently share with me how blessed they were by doing that devotional, and I can’t tell you how happy I am to have helped so many people have a deeper prayer life.

If you haven’t done it yet, give it a try! Just in time for Lent.

To buy the book, go here.

Download the free iPhone app, go here

To sign up for daily emails, go here.

PS. The name of the book is “40-Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics.” The name of the iPhone app is “40 Day Spiritual Workout for Catholic Teens.” But the content is the same—the app isn’t a “teen” version of the book.  The iPhone developers created it as a follow-up resource for teenagers at the Steubenville Summer Youth Conference; the book publisher wanted to brand it for a wider audience. And I guess “40-Day” is more grammatically correct than “40 Day.” Oops.

Now I’m an “Award Winning” Script Writer!

1

Or at least I can say I’m a script writer of award winning films :)

Last week the John Paul II Film Festival in Miami, FL awarded the video, “Zombies Vs. Jesus” an award for the best short film. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was the main script writer for the video, even though it turned out to be different (and better!) than I had imagined it.

This is the second time a short film I was a part of has won an award! Last year, the short film Palm Sunday won a Telly Award for best religious short film.

Two things in common with both films: Eric Groth of Outside Da Box produced it, and Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Studios directed them. As a script writer, it’s exciting to work with people who have a great combination of faith and creativity to pull of the hard work of bringing stories to the screen.

But the best thing about winning awards is it gives people (like me) an excuse to promote the films again. In case you haven’t seen them, take a look!

Evidence that Demands a Vertict

2

Another script has come to life! Man, I love seeing what people do with the words I type.

When I wrote this back in January, I intended the idea of being put on trial for being Catholic as an obvious fantasy. But these days it seems closer to reality than before, doesn’t it?

Regardless, that’s not the point of the video. The question is: do we truly live what we say we believe? I remember when I was a teenager someone asked, “If being Christian was against the law, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” That question always resonated with me, especially with all the legal “loopholes” that are present in our society today. So I thought it would make a cool video and hope it allows the viewer to reflect on if they are truly living their faith in a public way.

What do you think about it?

Thanks to the amazing folks at Outside Da Box for doing such a great job with it.