Simply Insider

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4% of his time.

It had been almost 40 years in the making, this moment. I was about to “taste the magic” of the self-proclaimed “Most exciting restaurant in the world!”

Casa Bonita is a massive mexican restaurant/dining experience located near downtown Denver. I spent the early years of my childhood in Aurora, a suburb of Denver, and dreamed of someday eating there.

Why? Because Casa Bonita promised to deliver an experience like no other, complete with indoor Acapulco cliff divers, fun stage shows, music and more! Over and over again I asked my parents if our family could eat there, and was reminded over and over again that the Johnston’s couldn’t afford such luxuries (We ate out about once a year, usually at Arby’s).

Last week I attended the Thursday night Broncos game in Denver with some friends. We arrived a day early so we could enjoy some time together, and the idea struck like a lightening bolt from Heaven: “Guys, we have to eat at Casa Bonita! It’s the most exciting restaurant in the entire world!” So we did. And it wasn’t. I was devastated. A childhood dream died a brutal death at the hands of horrific Mexican food, and the worst cliff diving show I’ve ever witnessed (Okay, it’s the only cliff diving show I’ve ever witnessed, but I’m confident there isn’t a worse one out there).

The Food: Cafeteria style grub that was about two tiers below Taco Bell.
The Cliff Divers: One high school student in board shorts doing a couple fairly basic dives from 15-foot cliffs.
The Entertainment: The same high school student free-styling skits with a female cohort; sometimes in an ape costume.
The Highlight: The same high school student trying to juggle flaming torches. Emphasis on TRYING. He sucked.

Two Takeaways For You Today:

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1) Take a look at your youth ministry. In what areas do you over-promise, but under-deliver?

2) If you are ever in Denver, go to Casa Bonita. If you go expecting the cheesiest, most campy dining experience of your life, you won’t be disappointed.



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  • Joel says:

    KURT! You’re right on all counts, but… Casa Bonita WAS where my youth group ate for almost every Rockies game and Six Flags outing when I was growing up near Denver. It was awesome every time, as long as you didn’t eat the food, pay attention to the divers, or watch the magic show. The thing is, if my youth pastor didn’t take us there when given the chance, we probably would have tried to have him fired. Now that I think of it, he probably hated it as much as you!

    To address your takeaways, though, another good question to ask is “in which areas do you both UNDER-promise and under-deliver?” I think more times than not, supporting spiritual development in the home (i.e. supporting parents) gets too little focus. That aspect of the industry is under-promised.

  • Eric says:

    Its Mexican food in Colorado. What did you expect? Great takeaway for youth ministry though. I think many times we try to sell sell sell and kids end up disappointed with the lack of delivery.
    Maybe I should bring in a diving show to the church…

  • Tony says:

    You must really have been blind. I took my little league team and the loved it. It is simply the coolest restaurant in the world, and I have been all over this world. A waterfall in the center, caves, the food was ok, but the main thing is having fun.

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