Are you in your “Sweet Spot?”


“The Sweet Spot”

If you are a baseball fan you know what “The Sweet Spot” is. It’s the fat part of the bat where you get the most “pop” if you hit the ball there. To hit the ball period is a good thing. Even the very best baseball players only get a hit once out of every three times at the plate. But if you hit the ball in the sweet spot, the ball will literally jump off the bat. It goes faster and further than hits on other parts of the bat.

In our ministry, we’ve had more than our fair share of hits over the 43 seasons that Youth Dynamics has been in existence. We strike out occasionally, but we always try to put the ball into play. Over the years our ministry has tried to reach teens in a variety of ways: Teen Moms, Native Ministry, Family Counseling, the list goes on and on. Over 10 years ago we paired our ministry down to 2 anchor branches: Communities and Adventure.

We decided that, while the other things we were doing had value, they were not what we were best at, or what God had called us to do. We often talk about our “sweet spot” as an organization. From the first moment I came to YD, I heard about this “sweet spot.” It’s simply this: taking a teenager we are in relationship with on the Communities side of our ministry, and getting them on an extended Adventure Trip.  This is where the magic happens; the “pop” off the ministry bat as it were. If you wonder where we are headed as an organization, this is it. We are trying to make this happen frequently, so that we can operate in our “sweet spot,” more often than not. It’s where our organization really leverages our unique giftings for maximum Kingdom Impact.

Have you ever wondered where you’re “sweet spot” is?  It’s worth discovering, because you’ll come alive when you do.

I’m so tired – How long can I keep running like this?


Soulitude: A retreat for Youthworkers Apr 28-30, 2013

How are you really doing?  When I get a chance to ask a friend this question, it seems like more and more the answer is something like: “I’m good, busy, but good. I’m tired, really tired.” Whether you’re a mom or a student or a youth worker… western culture today is unreal. We are running ourselves ragged trying to do it all. The expectations that we place on ourselves can be overwhelming. Smartphones have made us accessible 24/7 and that’s both a wonderful thing and a horrible thing. I can respond to an urgent email or text right now, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. And on the other hand, now people expect me to. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, are all fantastic to a point, but how much dissatisfaction is it creating in me because my life is not as good as everyone else’s seems to be?

We are so busy. Where is the margin in our lives? Where is the white space? It’s like our lives are a Middle School band on crack. Noise, noise, all the time, noise. Not to malign Middle School bands, but most have not yet learned to let the music breathe. From the first note to the last measure, every instrument seems to be in and running at full speed. Have you ever sat in the audience at a Middle School band concert and wanted to claw your eyes out? Why is it that a symphony can play the same piece of music, and it so beautifully gives life to the room, and to your soul?  Pauses, rests in the middle of the piece, let the music ebb and flow. Music’s life is found in it’s breathing. We are no different.

Have you forgotten how to breathe? When was the last time you took time to rest, really rest?

Rest and renewal is a principle that is found in all of life. The earth does it with it’s seasons. The calendar does it with weekends. Our muscles even need it to build strength: workout, rest, renewal. God tried to embed this in our culture from the dawn of Creation, literally, by creating the Sabbath. The Sabbath wasn’t for Him, as much as it was for us. He knew we needed to rest. I’m not promoting that you try to go all Old Testament here and do NOTHING one day a week. No cooking, no cleaning, nothing that even sniffs of effort… I’m not suggesting you do anything that radical.  But what would it look like to incorporate the Principle of Rest and Renewal into your life? What would that look like?

There are busy seasons in our lives, no question. When I worked harvest in the wheat fields of E. Washington, we’d work from sun up to sundown, 15 hours a day, 6 days a week, until the harvest was in. But you only did that for weeks at a time, not for months or years on end. 

If you are in a busy season, hang on. This too shall pass. If your busy seasons tend to go on indefinitely, then “Houston, we have a problem.” And it’s likely you. Maybe it’s your job, or your career field, but maybe the truth is that you kinda like running this fast! The question is: “How long can you run like this?” “Is this pace sustainable?” How long can you keep this up?

When I ran X-Country in High School, inevitably in every meet  there was a jackrabbit who would sprint as hard as he could right from the starter’s pistol, while he was in full view of the crowds. And every time, the pack would eventually catch up to him, a mile or less into the race, doubled over in pain, unable to continue.

Is this you? Are you running at a pace that is unsustainable? Is this a sprint or a marathon? Only you can decide which it’s going to be.  You cannot sprint forever. There is a price to be paid for your lifestyle. 

What is the real cost? Who’s paying it?

Is it your health? Your family? Your future? What is the real cost of your lack of boundaries?

Do your future self a favor and set aside a day, or an afternoon, in the next week or two, to rest and renew you soul. Do something that feeds you. Go for a walk in the woods, sit at the beach… read a book, sleep, breathe deeply. Turn off the world, just for a day or two, or even just for an hour or two. It’ll be there when you get back.

This is my 28th year of Youth Ministry. I decided a long time ago working with teenagers was going to be a marathon for me and not a sprint. If you are a youth worker, we have a Soul Care retreat you should come to. It’s called Soulitude. It’ll help. 

I know, you’re too busy, there’s no way you could take some time off right now. Sure, I get it.

If you don’t start now…. when? Put something on your calendar today… somewhere in the future, anywhere in the future. And STICK to it! Trust me, you need the rest.

~Mark

 

(Soulitude: A retreat for Youthworkers in the NW Apr 28-30, 2013)

$41 million judgement for teenager on a foreign trip with school


Youth Pastor, if you take teenagers overseas you better pay attention to this lawsuit.

5 years ago, Cara Munn, then a 15 yr old girl at her boarding school in Connecticut, contracted a tick-borne illness while on a trip to China with her school. (an excerpt from the linked article is below)

“On the trip, Munn and fellow students visited an area considered high-risk for tick-borne illness, and, upon her return, she was hospitalized for the disease that ended up ravaging her system and inflicting permanent brain damage.

Antonio Ponvert III, a lawyer for Munn, said of the $41 million award that the school was negligent in not only failing to manage students and protect them but also for neglecting to notify the woman’s family of the extent of her illness.”

“Hotchkiss failed to take basic safety precautions to protect the minor children in its care … I hope that this case will help alert all schools who sponsor overseas trips for minors that they need to check the CDC for disease risks in the areas where they will be travelling, and that they must advise children in their care to use repellant and wear proper clothing when necessary.”

Ponvert added: ”Cara’s injuries were easily preventable.”

While you cannot and should not ever guarantee safety while on a trip, negligence by definition IS preventable. Make sure you (over) communicate to parents and teens about the risks associated with the locations you are attending as well as the activities you will be doing, so that both can make an informed decision regarding their participation and the precautions they may want to take as attendees.

It’s hard to believe that something as simple as bug spray may have prevented both the $41 million judgement, and more importantly, Cara’s health. Save yourself some grief while you’re helping save the world.

Lead well,

~Mark

Teen Gets Sick On School Trip, Awarded $41M – link to original article

House on Fire


It was my fault.

Our house burned down in August 2006.

“Dad, dad. The house is on fire! It’s huge. I’m not even joking. Call me back. I’m scared.” The fear in my son’s voice was unmistakable. Now I was scared. I raced from the church to the house, breaking land speed records, and violating most traffic safety laws in the process. It only took most of 20 minutes, but by the time I arrived the house was gone. Twenty-seven firefighters, three firetrucks and a helicopter, had gotten on the fire in a hurry and thank God, kept it from spreading to our neighbors and the trees which surround our house. I quickly took in the scene. The house was in ruins. Smoked poured from what remained of the structure as firefighters continued to pump water into the rubble. Emergency vehicles, firefighters and hoses peppered the landscape. Dozens of lookeyloos were already in place, taking in the show. Photographers, newspaper reporters, concerned neighbors. It was quite a scene. Right away I spotted one of my friends. Actually, it was my builder, Greg, who also lives in the neighborhood. “We’ll take care of you guys, Mark. We’ll rebuild. It’s gonna be okay.” It seemed like we had just finished building our new house, even though it had been almost 2 years since we moved in. I didn’t want to think about all that needed to be done. I was told our boys had been taken to a neighbor’s house, which had been set up as a temporary staging area of sorts. I made my way down the street to their house where I was reunited with my family. My wife had just arrived as well, making her way from her office in town. We all hugged and prayed together, thanking God for His protection. About 20 friends were already there, looking somber. I was struck at that moment that this would be the same scene, with the same people in the room, had any of our kids died in the fire. Thank God it wasn’t a real tragedy… it was just a house. Sure it was “OUR HOUSE,” but in the end, it was replaceable. Still it’s been hard.

That was 9 months ago. The new house is almost finished being rebuilt. All that remains to be done is to build our deck and a finish a few other small things. I am actually writing this from the house today. It’s weird to be here… the last article I wrote was only a week after the house burned down. It seems appropriate that here at the end of the process, we put a cap on the story. People like happy endings. I hate going to movies where there is no resolution to the conflict. It even bothers me when we sing songs that don’t resolve, (finish with the chord you started with). You can call me a “type A” or write it off to me being a first-born, but I think that secretly we all want to believe that the world is fair. Or that at least God is fair. It makes it easier to deal with our personal pain that way. It gives us hope.

The problem is it doesn’t always work that way. Life is unfair. It seems arbitrary at times. Why does the tornado hit this house and not that one? Why does one die in a car accident, and another does not? I have more questions than answers. Maybe someday I’ll understand; but probably not.

Honestly, this has been a year of pain for us. And the house burning down is probably 3rd or 4th on the list of most painful things that we’ve had to go through this year as a family. A year ago we had to leave staff at the church we loved, and my wife stopped sleeping for weeks on end. Then this summer, her mom got cancer. Our house burned down in August, and two weeks later our Dalmatian of 12 years died. I know, it seriously sounds like a country western song waiting to be written. You know what happens when you play a country-western song backwards don’t you? You get your wife back, your dog back, your house back…. Lol. I wish it were that easy. Anyway, it’s been quite a journey this year that’s for sure. My wife had the hardest time with our job transition and with her mom’s cancer. For my oldest son, it was our dog, Sebastian, whom he loved dearly. For my youngest, it was being separated from his best friend, who was our next door neighbor, and feeling he was being replaced at times. And for me the greatest pain has been watching my family go thru their private pain and not being able to do anything about it. I could rebuild the house. I could get new furniture. I couldn’t bring the dog back to life. I couldn’t fix my wife’s sleeping disorder. I felt helpless at times. Men want to fix stuff. It’s our role, as provider, as protector; it’s innate, it’s built into who we are. For me the breaking point was the dog. If you’re not a dog lover you won’t understand, but it’s like losing a family member. I’m tearing up even now, just thinking about him… I can’t believe it’s still that raw. God and I had some frank “discussions” after that. Meaning, I would go for walks in the woods and yell at Him. I felt He was being unfair. I felt He didn’t care. I felt like He was piling on. Someone should throw a flag here. I mean, come on, enough is enough. Just how much are we supposed to be able to handle?

And therein lies the rub. I was broken. Truly broken. For maybe the first time in my life I could not pull myself up by my bootstraps and dig myself out. This was way beyond my control, beyond what I could handle. I needed help, and though I hated to admit it, I needed God’s help. And I was going to need help from other people. I think that’s hard for most men to admit, maybe even more so for Godly men.

I’ve learned a few things through the process. Things I knew in my head before this year, but now I know through experience. It’s completely different.

Pain is part of life. We have been led to believe a lie as Christians in the U.S. We think that we can create a little piece of heaven here on earth; a relatively pain-free, suburban lifestyle, with 2.3 kids, a minivan and a dog. Happiness and the pursuit of it is our birthright as Americans. We think we deserve it. That life owes it to us. But Scripture says, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike.” We live in an outdoor world. And when it rains, we all get wet. The pain some people have to walk through is unbelievable at times. Have you ever had to do a funeral for a teenager? Counseled with someone who doesn’t want to live? Sat with a kid whose parents have just split up? Throughout this year I’ve held onto Psalm 23… “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” This verse reassures me that I’m never alone in my pain, which is half the battle by the way, and reminds me that the pain is not permanent…. God is walking with me through the valley. And your valley does not extend indefinitely. This is just a chapter in your life. It is not the whole book.

Whatever your pain, let God be your source. He will bring good out of bad if you let him. One of the youth pastors I’m coaching said something the other day that I’m going to hang onto… “you know God doesn’t waste anything.” I love that. In our situation God is bringing “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning.” I don’t really believe backward masking has invaded country music… but we are getting our house back, our lives back, and we have a new puppy.

~Mark Moder

Originally published in Network Magazine – Fall 2007 (a publication of National Network of Youth Ministries)

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