In Case You Missed It: Student Ministry Info Meeting


Sunday’s Student Ministry info meeting was a success! I want to extend a special thank you to all the parents, students, and other interested folks who came together to hear all about the high school and middle school ministry. In case you missed it, we talked about three things: The Who, The Why, and The What of the student Ministry. For the sake of conciseness and poignancy,  allow me to summarize…

Staff: The Who

It’s a special season for our Student Ministry intern staff. Such an experienced and knowledgeable team hasn’t existed! 4 College graduates—one an aerospace engineer, another a chemist, and two ministry experts with experiences beyond their years—working together to bring students closer to Jesus as they live out their calling to be ministers of the gospel. I couldn’t be happier with the good work they’re doing, which ranges from planning our weekly meetings, to meeting one-on-one with students.


When a senior graduates high school, they have become a fully-devoted follower of Christ, equipped to grow beyond our ministry.
This vision is what we believe our students could be and should be. We care about nothing more than helping students fully-devote their lives to Jesus; it’s what we are committed to. There is great joy in seeing a student graduate from high school knowing that they have a thriving and robust faith in Jesus. With this vision in mind, we propel ourselves forward knowing the potential our students have in pursuing Christ.



To teach & share the gospel, and to disciple & fellowship in the gospel by building Christ-centered relationships with students.
A strong desire our staff and leaders share is to model for students how Jesus lived his life. The four key words say it all: Teach, share, disciple, and fellowship. The framework in which we do ministry is summarized by those four words.



Building relationships is the key component to all programs, events, and activities.
Our programs are designed primarily to accomplish relational goals.

Asking the right questions, not giving the right answers.
Growth comes when students are free to think for themselves and explore faith without being given the answer. Offering the right answer is not the business we are in; but rather helping and aiding self-discovery through the likes of a well-thought question.

Integrating our students into ministries outside of their own.
Canyon Creek Church believes strongly in the power an intergenerational, multi-ethnic community has to communicate and live out the gospel. That truth does not end with the student ministry. Whether it be with the kids’ ministry or the widow’s ministry, we believe that teenagers should involve themselves in other areas of the larger church body.

The health of our community is greater than the growth and size of it.
The size of our middle school or high school group takes a backseat to other key factors relating to the health and stability of the group


The What: Our Programs & Events

Onto the tangible stuff now… The What. Our programs and events can be categorized into three main categories: Weekly events, trips & retreats, and leadership involvement.

View the High School fall calendar
View the Middle School fall calendar


Weekly Events

For high school, this is Tuesday nights and Sunday mornings at church. For middle school, it’s Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings.

At these weekly meeting we play games, share in small groups, worship and listen to speakers. The mid-week meeting is a place where students can learn and know what it means to be a Christian on today’s high school campuses. It’s a great place to bring friends!


Trips & Retreats

Once a season, both middle school and high ministries pull away from the regular schedule to spend time  outside of San Ramon. These are opportunities for the students and their leaders to grow closer to each other and in their relationship with Jesus. This season’s trip is to Fall Frenzy weekend at Mount Hermon Camps. Register today!

Register for MIDDLE SCHOOL Fall Frenzy (pdf)
Register for HIGH SCHOOL Fall Frenzy (pdf)

Leadership Involvement

A third and highest level of involvement of our ministry is by choosing to commit to take that next step of leadership and growth in faith. This looks different for each individual and can range from joining a bible study, volunteering as a leader, teaching children on sunday morning, playing on the worship team, planning outreach events, or becoming a ministry intern.


There you have it!! Canyon Creek Church’s Student Ministry 101. I understand that there’s so much more to say about the who, why, and what of the ministry, (trust me, I had trouble keeping it from becoming a novel!), so if there’s anything you’d like to know about the middle school or high school ministry, don’t hesitate to reach out!

One more thing–stay current with us and subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates.

In Christ,
Chris Varela
Student Ministry


Social Media: 3 Temptations and 4 Suggestions

Last Tuesday, the high school group at the church I work at discussed the question “How do we honor God on Social Media?” We concluded that although Social media is not inherently bad, sites like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook confront us with some unhealthy desires that pull us away from the gospel of Christ.

A few months ago, I experienced these unhealthy desires while posting a photo. Here’s what happened:
>>One of my friends took a picture of me that I thought was cool
>>I spent an embarrassing amount of time editing it on my phone
>>I posted it only to be let down by the number of likes it received.
>>My letdown was then compounded by the next posts in my feed of dumb selfies that received over 200 likes.

It’s not a stretch for to say that you have experienced this same thing. What a tragedy that we get trapped in living our online lives fueled by unhealthy desires! Social media tempts us to give into unhealthy desires, which turn us into addicts.

Three Temptations

1. Social Media tempts us to create the most perfect version of ourselves.

I would like to know the average amount of time an Instagram user spends choosing the perfect filter, adjusting the exposure, cropping this, brightening that, and meticulously crafting the perfect words and hashtags to describe their pictures. It would be an embarrassing answer, but it’s telling of a greater, tragic truth: in situations we can control, humanity seeks to appear as perfect as possible. Social media provides the perfect avenue for us to show the world that we indeed are “perfect”. The Good News: For us, Jesus lived a perfect life that we are incapable of living. Philippians 2:6–11

2. Social media tempts us to have an unhealthy desire for others’ approval.

How easy is it get caught in the “get as many likes as possible” game? An underlying motivation in most people is the truth that we are seeking for others’ approval. We all want to be liked and on social media we are given a very tangible vehicle for testing how many people like us. There is a temptation to put ultimate value and worth in how many followers we have, how many likes we get, or how many times our tweet is favorited. As soon as we work for man’s approval, we are no longer servants of Christ. The Good News: Jesus shows us how much he approves of us by dying on the cross regardless of how “cool” we are. Romans 5:23

3. Social media tempts us to want what others have.

The public nature of social media gives us an instant accessibility into the lives of our friends. And as soon as we look at another person’s profile or page, the comparison game is destined to begin. Questions like, “How many followers to they have?”, or “What cool things have they been up to?” or even “How pretty is their girlfriend?” send us into a spiral of insecurity, bitterness, and destruction our self-esteem which fosters inside us an envy and jealousy that can have a real affect on the way we interact with our friends. The Good News: Jesus promises us that in him we have everything we need. 2 Peter 1:3

Four Suggestions to Honor God on Social Media

1. Post about others more often than you post about yourself

According to asapSCIENCE, 80% of all social media communication is self-involved. How would social media change if that number was only 25%? I’d like to find out.

2. Don’t say anything on social media you wouldn’t say to your mom

Would you be embarrassed if I took your last tweet and read it aloud to your mom? Some opinions, thoughts, rants, political views, and gossip topics are just not meant to be shared in a public online setting.

3. Posts encouraging, appropriate and productive things, without being overbearing

I can’t even begin to count the amount of posts I see about some ridiculous worldstar hip-hop backyard fight, or a stupid meme about “betches”. As funny or entertaining as they may be, why not post an encouraging article, an interesting and inspiring thought, or raise awareness of an issue or humanitarian crisis the world is facing?

4. Consider “fasting” from social media from time to time

One of the healthiest things a person can do is disconnect from social media for a period of time. There’s a clarity that comes with living in the moment, experiencing the world without feeling the need to document what you’re doing to share with your high school acquaintances online.


This topic is part of a series about how evangelism is more than a conversation; it’s a lifestyle. Social media is tricky because we face a constant temptation to allow that evangelism lifestyle to get lost in translation when we post. As we become aware of these temptations, I would contest that Christians could be seen in a completely different light than the rest of the world. Join me in resisting the temptation and doing social media differently!

In Christ,
Chris Varela

5 Reasons Why You Need to Go on a Mission Trip


Mission trips are worthwhile, there’s no question in my mind. Here are 5 reasons why:

5. To experience a new culture
Matthew 28:19-20 | Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
I’ll never forget the first time I crossed the Mexican border. I had been stuck in a crammed van for what felt like an eternity. My bladder was full, and I was getting sick of sitting in that darn van. We crossed the border, hopped on the highway (which was probably one of the bumpiest roads I had ever been on) and travelled through an urban area of Tijuana. We soon exited the city, and our surroundings drastically changed. Silence swept through our van as we stared outside. Sheet metal shacks (some cardboard ones!), trash everywhere, stray dogs, tattered clothing hanging on rusty clotheslines, poorly kept dirt roads, abandoned cars. It was a slum. The first slum I had ever encountered first-hand. I was shocked. What a small view of the world I had! My eyes were opened to what life was like for some outside of the United States, and I didn’t know how to respond…
It was only after much reflection, and a pivotal conversation with my pastor, that I realized what God was showing me. He wants me, us, to be able to go anywhere and share the gospel. He wants us to be able to learn a culture, understand people there, and let His power guide us as we share His love with them. Part of going on a mission trip is learning what that process looks like. Literally learning how to go to another culture and letting the gospel shine through us. What an experience.

4. To go outside your comfort zone
Exodus 4:13 | But Moses said, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.”
In Exodus chapter 4, God calls Moses to Lead the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. During Moses’ first encounter with God, do you know how many different excuses he makes to God to try to get out of his calling? FOUR. Four times, in one conversation, God essentially told Moses that he had no option but to go out of his comfort zone to follow God’s call. So Moses obeyed. And, well, you know how that story ends.
God encourages us to take steps of faith, steps outside of what’s comfortable, to serve Him. When Christians go to a foreign place to serve Him, you better believe it’s going to be uncomfortable. Simple things like cell phone service, running water, plumbing, hot food are often stripped from us when we go on a mission trip. And guess what. It’s a good thing. It gets us out of our comfort zone, and that’s exactly where God wants us… in a place where we have to trust Him.

3. To experience true community
Romans 12:10-16 | Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

The community that is created during a mission trip is unique. Why? Because you and those you’re with are there with the same goal in mind. You’re in one accord, in one spirit, united for a common cause. And this is not just any cause. This cause has an eternal impact. The result: an eternal bond. In other words, you get a whole bunch of new best friends.
At the end of an annual mission trip my church goes on, we have a debrief time where people share how they saw God work on the trip. These tear-filled debriefs are an extremely powerful indicator of the kind of community that is created when people unite to “love one another with brotherly affection” and to “live in harmony with one another.” In that debrief, we get a tiny glimpse into how things are supposed to be: Perfect. Harmonious. United.

2. To learn how to serve others
1 John 3:16 | By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
Mission trips are always centered around one thing: service. Whether it be building a home for someone, or simply making lunches for a poverty-striken area, the name of the game is the same—It’s all about service. Anyone can serve, you don’t need to be a Christian to do that. But what makes a Mission trip different is the “why”. Christians go on mission trips because they understand one simple truth: Jesus did the ultimate act of service and love by dying in our place to save us from eternal death. Christians emulate his life by serving others.
On a mission trip, you’ll serve others in a unique, challenging, and usually rewarding way because, odds are, you’ll have to sacrifice something to go on the trip. Money, time, your well-being, comfort… you name it. It’s out of that unique sacrifice that we begin to understand just how much Jesus did for us. On a mission trip, your eyes are opened to a new level of service, a new level of loving strangers that we didn’t know we were even capable of loving. Service and sacrifice point us to Christ, and it’s profoundly life changing.

1. It will change your life
Romans 12:2 | Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
People who go on mission trips rarely come back unchanged. I always tell my students, “You can’t undo what you experienced on a mission trip,” because what happens on these trips will impact their life, forever. They’ll always have a special place in their hearts for the trip they went on.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of seeing someone give their life to Christ while on a mission trip. Literally right before my eyes, I was witnessing the Holy Spirit enter into this student. God became so real to him, and he was forever changed by it. He came home from that trip a follower of Christ, and I got to see it unfold! What a blessing! A couple weeks after the trip I remember him telling me that everything was different. He saw the world through a completely different lens. His priorities, his friendships, his attitude, were revolutionized. He was no longer “conformed to this world,” and there was no question that he had changed. That mission trip forever impacted him, because Jesus had been revealed to him.

Make no mistake—a mission trip is not just about God changing the lives of those you’re serving. It’s also about God changing you. That’s why you need to go.

Spring Flings: The Strokes, Radiohead, and Cold War Kids

Dearest Listeners,

It’s officially spring. The birds are chirping, the sky is blue, and a revival of musical interest is in the air! I’ve been searching recently and have come across some interesting stuff to bring in the new season..

Don’t let the fact that you’ve heard the stuff these artists have put out in the past, because Here are three albums I’ve been listening to.

1. The Strokes – “Angles”
An established, indie-kid favorite comes out with a new, and original album with tracks mostly in the upbeat pop area. Not neccesarily my style, but hey it’s spring time, a time to be happy!

Listen to my favorite one from this album:

Ah yes, this is a great album to celebrate the change of seasons.

2. Radiohead – “In Bloom”
Indeed, another staple from the indie-kid itunes library. Radiohead’s new album features some interesting tracks that include drone-like rhythms, and unique percussion. Fun stuff. Explore this song:

3. Cold War Kids – “Mine Is Yours”
A lesser known, yet talented group, Cold War Kid’s new album is upbeat and catchy. It won’t be long before you’ll be humming along to some of the melodic tracks offered on their new album. Here’s my fav:

Welp, hope these three songs will jump-start your quest to find new music for the new season!

God Bless! And Go find more music!
Chris Varela


The Morning Benders haven’t been around for very long, but man they have made a big impression on the ears of many. They released an album in 2010 called Big Echo (that explains the corny post title..), and I love it.

You know my policy: I moisten your pallet with a brief description of this band and why I love them, then leave the exploring up to you.

Here’s a brilliantly composed song sung live by them, just for you!!
(Also, if you don’t want to hear what he has to say about the song skip to about :56 in)

Here are some more:


“Wet Cement”

“All Day Day Light”

Check it:


Chris Varela

Travis Oberg: Santa Cruz’s Finest

Travis Oberg is an excellent musician. I don’t know much about him because he’s not very popular (YET!), but I do know that his type of music is right up my alley, so you’ll love him too..
Travis Oberg = folk, harmonica, banjo, and a soothing voice. What more could there possibly be?
Coincidentally enough, he’s similar to Peter Bradley Adams. He incorporates a female vocalist in some sweet ways, just like PBA does. Gotta love that stuff.

I can’t find a good youtube video of one of his songs, so let me give you some instruction to listen to Mr. Oberg:

1. Go to
2. On the bottom left corner will be a music player. Go to the second song, titled “Redemption”
3. Listen to that song, and the others.
4. Buy his album..

That should be straight-forward enough for you to get a taste of his music.

I’ll let you do the rest of the exploring. Buy his album and support this man. He’s got some legit music.

These links should help:

Don’t Stop Listening!

Chris Varela

If Only His Last Name Started with a “J”!

Peter Bradley Adams. Just one letter away from having the same initials as a delicious sandwich. Such a shame. But you know what’s not a shame? HIS MUSIC.

One of my good friends (Yes you, Nathan) introduced me to this guy last month and my ears haven’t been able to get enough since! (just look at my profile and you’ll see exactly how much I’ve been listening to him)
Born and raised in Alabama, he is folk to the core. He has three albums out, all of which have a distinct folksy style to them. His latest, “Traces” is the one I’ve been all about lately. You’d like it..

Let his soothing voice and beautiful finger-picking swoon you, trust me on this one. You’ll see. Just one listen to the song “For you” should have you in a state of infatuation by the time it’s over.

Go and get “Traces.” Add it to your Christmas list or something. You could even buy it for one of your friends, then borrow it and put it on our computer.. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as you GET THAT ALBUM!!!!

Listen and decide for yourself. This is my favorite song by him:

Here are other notable songs from his album (links to youtube):
“Family Name”
“I Won’t”
“Heart of a Girl”

Seriously, get “Traces.”
Consider this gem of an artist my Christmas present to you. 🙂

Merry MUSIC-mas!
Chris Varela