Legacy.


Herbert, Caleb, Shane, Scammell and Moder

Cameron’s Wedding – Spring 2015, 20 years of NLCC youth ministry representing!

20 years ago I had just stepped into the biggest job of my life. Even though I had 9 years of youth ministry under my belt, it had all been at small churches of under 300 in size. Somehow, I had landed the best job in the region, working for Bruce Miles, a leader’s leader, whom everybody in my tribe wanted to work for. Bruce had planted a new church in N. Idaho that just exploded with growth. It’s first Sunday saw multiple services and over 400 in attendance. By the time I joined the staff, 3 1/2 yrs later, the church had 1800 people coming each weekend, and I was to be their first full time youth worker.

I got to build a program from the ground up. There were only 5 full time pastors in our entire church at the time, and we worked our asses off to try to keep up with growth. Our boys were 3 yrs and 6 months old at the time, I had no concept of how much the people I would do life with over the next 5 years would impact me and my boys for the rest of my life. This is my 30th year of working with teenagers, and I value every place I have worked, but those 5 years and the relationships we built there continue to be many of the most valuable relationships I have today.

During those 5 years we saw thousands of teenagers come through our youth ministry. I took Polaroids of every kid and used them as flashcards to help me remember names. I spent a ton of time with students, going to lunch at school every Tuesday, sitting on the bleachers at games, playing video games in their homes, having breakfast at Granny’s Pantry every Saturday morning, going on trips together…. so many great memories.

The picture above is from my son Cameron’s wedding a few months ago. It was held at that church, which he stayed at long after I moved away. The men in that photo represent 20 years of continuous youth ministry at New Life and were all involved with me during those 5 years I was there.

A few years ago, I was privileged to speak at a city wide youth rally back in town, a rally I first gave birth to years before. It was standing room only, full of teenagers and youth groups from all over the city… and I recognized at least 6 youth pastors who had been in my youth group as kids themselves.

In the moment, I never knew what kind of impact I was having on those teens, and I’ll bet they don’t remember a single sermon I preached. I see youth workers today and I wonder what kind of legacy they’re leaving. Are they just providing programming during the week? Or are they vested in the lives of their students? I heard Jeanie Mayo once say “The one who spends the most time with a teenager, wins.”

So many youth workers only stay in their role for a couple years before they get chewed up or burned out. It’s hard, I get it. And I know that my career field has topped out and is in decline. It’s sad really, because as much as the world has changed since I started in youth ministry with my ClipArt Books and my Overhead Projector; some things never change…

Teenagers need loving, caring adults in their world, who don’t leave. 

If you do that, you will find, unexpectedly, that they will give back to you much more than you ever thought possible. All of those teenagers are in their early 30s now… and I talk to many of them every month. And when we see each other, it’s so rewarding… they are now the age I was when I first met them in middle school. Most of them have families and are still in church and soon, middle schoolers of their own 🙂 Our conversations flow easily, as we process life and pain and faith. And it’s so very rewarding. I can’t imagine my life without them.

This pic was taken for a feature that Campus Life Magazine did on our youth ministry "The Student Body"... there's another one out there somewhere with me with bleach blonde hair haha! Oh the 90s.... :)

Summer time youth group on the Rathdrum Prairie. c. 1998

~Mark

Leader: Conflict is an Opportunity?


 

Aaggghhh!

For the last time… Do your homework!

I used to be afraid of conflict.

I didn’t often show it, but in the middle of a conflict I could feel actually feel the blood leaving my extremities and running to my core. My arms would get cold and clammy as the conversation progressed. I was a leader, how in the world could a leader be afraid of conflict?

Leader, if you are a “people-pleaser” or if you believe that conflict is ungodly, you will find it difficult to lead.

Eventually, I learned not to avoid conflict as a leader and to deal with it sooner than later, because in simple practical terms, things only got worse if I ignored it. And at some point, I’d have to deal with it, and there’d be more of a mess to clean up at that point. So, reluctantly I learned not to avoid conflict, but it was many years before I became comfortable with conflict, even looked forward to it.

A few years ago I was in a meeting where a two of my leaders were working their way through a deep rift. It was tense; pointed questions were being asked, and honest, difficult statements were being made. I saw it as a beautiful picture of two mature believers dealing with a deep wound between them. But as I looked around the room at my other leaders, one of them was bent over, standing with his head down, almost rocking back and forth. You could tell he was not comfortable with conflict at all, his body almost had a physical aversion to it.

While people may not always show it, I’ve discovered that many Christians believe that conflict is wrong, that somehow conflict is ungodly. I do not believe this at all. Jesus was involved in many conflicts with people. In fact, often times Jesus even initiated the conflict!

As a young leader, I worked for a Pastor who was insecure, and who led from a place of fear. Intimidation was his go-to card to try to keep control. He bull-dozed all conflict into the ground. It was his way of avoiding conflict. Conversely, several years later, I got the opportunity to work for a leader’s leader, Bruce Miles. He led from a position of strength and confidence. Bruce didn’t run from conflict, in fact we used to joke that he went looking for it! Not to squash it, but Bruce saw it for what it was, an opportunity.

As a CEO I have leaned to see conflict from Bruce’s point of view. Here is how I view conflict now.

1. Conflict is normal.

In a marriage, in business, in a church, it is normal for there to be conflict and misunderstandings between people, even between Godly people, even people in love.

The Apostles Peter and Paul had rifts that had to be worked through. Were they not mature believers? Why should we be any different?

 

2. Conflict is an opportunity to build loyalty with the rest of your team.

If you don’t deal with conflict, it won’t go away. In fact, it will get worse. And eventually it will create a culture in your organization of not dealing with stuff. This will be like ingesting poison into the health of your organization. Good leaders will not stay in a culture that does not deal with its stuff. If bad employees or bad volunteers are allowed to operate unchecked and unconfronted when they run afoul of the rules, it will eventually run off your good ones who are trying to do it right but feel no support from the top.

3. Conflict is an opportunity to reinforce the culture you are trying to create.

People have different ideas of how things should be done. You need to have a clear vision of the culture God has called you to create. Conflict is an opportunity for you to shape their thinking to the culture you desire. I remember a time where an angry older lady called the church to give Pastor Bruce a piece of her mind. “We don’t sing hymns anymore!” Bruce didn’t get defensive, (yes we do?) or insecure (we’ll do better!), but instead, he calmly explained how he too loved hymns, and often sang them by himself in his car, but that God had called this church to reach the unchurched, and how unchurched folks didn’t relate to hymns at all. He then lovingly explained to her that she would continue to be frustrated attending our church and that there were many other fantastic churches in the area who loved to sing hymns. “In fact, would you mind if I called my friend Pastor Bob and gave him your number? You would love his church. He’s a fantastic pastor and I know they love hymns” I had never seen leadership like this. And it wasn’t a case of “don’t let the door hit you, where the good Lord split you.” Bruce in that moment, really was caring for her pastorally. He knew who he was and what God had called his church to become. And it wasn’t congruent with who this lady was or wanted to be. I saw him do this time and time again with congregation members, volunteers and staff. Without malice or angst, out of strength of conviction and a caring heart, Pastor Bruce would explain the culture God had called him to create. And while people didn’t always agree, they appreciated the clarity and would either change their behavior or leave. Ultimately, there was very little conflict in what became a mega-church that reached thousands of unchurched folks, because division found no place to fester or take root.

Lastly,
4. Conflict is an opportunity to show your commitment to the relationship.

I have a friend who says “I don’t know how much you care about me until we’ve had a fight.” It took me a long time to understand this. But, conflict is bound to happen, it’s how you handle it that shows your character and your commitment to the relationship. Will it break the relationship when we fight, or is this relationship worth fighting for? As a youth pastor, I had angry parents call frequently, now in my non-profit its an angry donor that occasionally calls. I don’t fear these calls anymore. I relish them, because I know that it’s a rare opportunity to strengthen the relationship. In fact, it may be the exact opportunity I’ve been praying for, and a chance to show them my heart.

And if we can’t resolve it, at least there is a mutual understanding between us, and a sense that perhaps God has called us to separate things.

And either way, that’s okay.

~Mark

Manhauling and Leadership. Life and Death Leadership Lessons from the Race to the South Pole


scottmanhauling2I just finished a fantastic book about the race to the South Pole that happened over 100 years ago. You may be familiar with Shackleton and his incredible story of survival, but this story is primarily about the other two principal explorers in this  epic battle for adventure supremacy, Roald Admundsun and Captain Robert Falcon Scott.

Scott was from England. Scott believed England always did it better. England was perhaps 25-30 years past the peak of it’s colonial power, and was trying to hang on to it’s world dominance. Amundsen in contrast, was from a tiny country, Norway, on the cusp of it’s independence. He believed he could learn from anyone, and spent months with a remote tribe of Eskimos near the North Pole to learn how to survive in the extreme cold. He learned how to dress, build igloos, even how to create a thin layer of ice on the runner blades of sleds by spitting on them, varying the thickness of the ice with the weather. It turns out that one of the most important lessons he learned, was how to use sled dogs. It seems only logical to us today that one would use sled dogs to pull sleds in the extreme cold over ice and snow, but at that time, the use of dogs was new technology (to everyone except the Eskimos). The use of skis for Polar Exploration was in its infancy as well. The old school of thought was to “man-haul.” This meant strapping leather harnesses on men, and having them haul sledges over the ice and snow, up mountains and over crevasses. It seems crazy, but this was the accepted practice for Polar Explorations, especially those from England. In fact, Scott thought there was something glorious in “manhauling.”

“In my mind no journey ever made with dogs can approach the height of that fine conception which is realised when a party of men go forth to face hardships, dangers, and difficulties with their own unaided efforts…Surely in this case the conquest is more nobly and splendidly won.” -Captain Scott

Somehow Scott thought it was almost cheating to use dogs or skis. It had to be done the way they had always done it, by “man-hauling.” You must understand the scale of this madness. It was nearly 1500 miles to the South Pole and back from their main camp, with over 10,000 ft of elevation gain. Four men to a sledge, pulling 9-10 hours each day, step by step, in subzero temperatures, for months on end. Amazingly, both teams made it to the South Pole, Amundsen arriving more than a full one month ahead of Scott.  Amundsen was meticulous in his planning. Leaving supply depots as he went, Amundsen religiously marked his supply depots with flags pointing to them for miles on either side of each one. He only allowed his team to do cover 15 miles each day, which most days only took 4-5 hours, pacing themselves for the long journey. They took blizzards as a sign from God to hunker down and rest.

“I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.”  -Roald Amundsen

Captain Scott in his arrogance did not plan ahead. He gloried in improvisation. He took only the bare minimum amount of supplies, leaving no margin for error. His dumb luck only encouraged him in his arrogance. His team would manhaul in any weather, manhauling for 10-12 hours on most days, sometimes covering only 1/2 the distance that Amundsen and his team did. They wore ill-equipped English clothing that trapped in the sweat which then froze to their bodies, with boots that froze to their feet, literally. Although Scott and his team eventually made it to the South Pole, on their way home, fatigue and lack of planning finally caught up with them and they could not find one of their supply depots only a few days journey from their home base. They died together in their tent, freezing to death only a few miles from supplies that they could not find.

 Here are a few leadership questions I culled from this story:

  • Am I more like Scott or Amundsen? 
  • Do I take the time to plan well or do I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants?
  • Am I overconfident because of past success? 
  • Am I resistant to new ways of doing things? Am I forcing my team to manhaul, when there are obviously new means to do it? (Work Smarter not Harder) 
  • Do I somehow glory in heavy lifting; in “suffering for Jesus?” 
  • Do I have a teachable spirit? Am I hungry to learn?

Lots of good food for thought here, but I’ll leave you with one final interesting tidbit from the lives of Amundsen and Scott, perhaps the most surprising fact of the story. Both men had the same mentor. That’s right, a man named Fridtjof Nansen. Both men greatly admired this legendary Norwegian explorer and in some ways each wanted to be his successor. The big difference was that Amundsen listened to Nansen whereas Scott, ignored his mentor’s advice to bring “dogs, dogs and more dogs.” And that was perhaps indicative of Scott’s greatest downfall. His arrogance and overconfidence eventually cost him his life and the lives of his team.

Are you listening to the people in your life who are pressing you to change? Or do you continue to manhaul, causing both you and the people around you to suffer needlessly?

~Mark

 

Some of my favorite quotes around the topic of Rest & Renewal


Enjoy!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
John Lubbock

“Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.”
Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.”
Ralph Marston

“You are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.”
Ruth Haley Barton “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” p 29

“When we live without listening to the timing of things, when we live and work in twenty-four-hour shifts without rest – we are on war time, mobilized for battle. Yes, we are strong and capable people, we can work without stopping, faster and faster, electric lights making artificial day so the whole machine can labor without ceasing. But remember: No living thing lives like this. There are greater rhythms, seasons and hormonal cycles and sunsets and moonrises and great movements of seas and stars. We are part of the creation story, subject to all its laws and rhythms.”
Wayne Muller, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Jesus

“Some of us learn from other people’s mistakes and the rest of us have to be other people.“
Zig Ziglar

Seriously, Why don’t we Rest?


20140505-154040.jpg

Why don’t we Rest?

I just got finished with three Rest and Renewal type events in April. I put on one for our 45 Staff (and their spouse if they’re married), hosted one for Youth Workers in the region (Soulitude), and finally, attended one (Solwatch) for my wife and I to fill our tank.

Why do I do it?  Because I truly believe in the Value of Rest and Renewal.

#1) Our culture does not know how to rest. People in ministry especially do not know how to rest.

#2) Youth Workers need a place to decompress – I want to help keep you in youth ministry longer. I don’t apologize for times of rest. You shouldn’t either. Ministry is hard. Rest and Renewal are essential to maintaining your effectiveness over time.

But sometimes I get the feeling that in ministry we feel like we can’t enjoy life. Like somehow we think our congregations wouldn’t be happy with us if they knew we were taking a vacation or something. Personally, I never took a vacation in the summer until I’d been in youth ministry almost 10 years. In retrospect, that was not just ridiculous, it was foolish.

I had taken a job at a large church, and the Sr. Pastor had told me no matter how much we grew, I would be the only youth pastor on staff and I needed to learn to utilize volunteers. A few years later I was running separate midweek services for Jr High and High School, running Sunday School for both groups and had Student-led campus clubs going on in all the area High Schools. I was speaking 4 times a week, leading worship 3 times a week, recruiting and training a team of volunteer youth staff for both groups, planning and running events and had no secretarial or other staff support. Crazy, I know. It all came to a head one September after three consecutive weeks of working 90 hours a week. Exhausted and feeling like a failure, I walked into the Pastor’s office and with tears in my eyes said “I’m not going to quit, but I can see the edge of the cliff from here.” That was my come to Jesus moment with burnout.

How full is your tank right now?

Full, ¾, ½, ¼, or Fumes

“How long have you been running this way?”

Let me remind you of a few things you already know…

God rested.

Genesis 2:1-3
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

He commands us to rest.

Exodus 20:8-11
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Exodus 31:13 “Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy.

Exodus 16:29  “Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath…”

Who is the Sabbath for? Reread that last verse again. For Him? No, for you. The Sabbath is for you!

So if God modeled rest & renewal, and he commands us to rest… then, why don’t we rest?

Ask yourself:

Why don’t you rest? In your world, what is it that prevents you from resting more?

All of Creation models rhythm & cycles; rest and renewal. The sun, moon & stars each have a cycle in relationship to the earth. The Seasons all have a rhythm to them: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring again. The tides ebb and flow. Each day, each week, every month, all year, every year; has a cycle. Bears hibernate, salmon migrate, birds make their nest outside my office wall every spring. There is a rhythm and a cycle to all of life. When you run contrary to that cycle; life runs rough; and it takes it’s toll.

But Jesus offers us rest.

Matthew 11:28-30  “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

So, if your yoke isn’t easy and your burden isn’t light; then whose yoke are you bearing? And who put it on you? Because God didn’t. Was it you? Was it someone else?

Ruth Haley Barton has several works that have been of immense help to me with this issue.

From her book “Invitation to Solitude and Silence” she recalls a conversation with her Spiritual Mentor regarding her inability to rest. She told her,

“You are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” (p29)

Rest is Biblical. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a command.
Don’t apologize for a healthy pace. Model it for your family, model it for the other staff at your church, model it for other Christ followers. and model it to the teens you work with.

Don’t wait. Rest, Renew, Refresh. Recharge. There’s never gonna be a time where there’s not more ministry to do. Put something rest and renewal on the calendar anywhere in the future and stick to it. You wanna know the real key to longevity in Youth Ministry? Pace yourself, it’s a long season.

~Mark


This was at Soulitude just a few weeks ago with 40 youth worker couples… ask me if you’d like to join us next year!

Lessons I learned in the backwash of being Fired by the Church.


I got fired from my dream job once. Well technically, I was “resigned.” If you’d been in ministry, you know how the all too familiar story goes, the details of my story are inconsequential. What’s important, is what I learned in failure’s wake. At the time, “getting resigned” was the most painful experience in my life to that point. I was hurt, defensive, disillusioned, disoriented… and I had to finish out the school year, 5 months away. It was brutal. For me, getting fired, even though I felt it was completely unjustified, taught me some valuable things.

1. Perspective is Everything

When I got resigned, it felt like it was the end of the world. Months later, I could see I was wrong. What looked like a really bad thing, in the rearview mirror, was actually God protecting me from a horrible chapter that was coming to that church. Even when it seems like God is not acting in our best interest, He is in fact, in that very moment, acting in our best interest. We just can’t see it yet.

2. I’m a Pastor whether I get paid for it or not

Getting fired, helped me discover that I was a Pastor whether or not I had a title or an office. I started to go to the same coffee shop every morning after I got resigned, and guess who became my congregation? You guessed it, the people in the coffee shop: the baristas, the owners, the customers. I naturally started to meet the needs of the people I came in contact with every day. I ministered to people I talked to. I prayed with some, counselled others. I even did a wedding for one of the baristas. I discovered  that I am a pastor because that’s what God wired me to do, not because I got paid to do it. My job no longer defined me. That was a fantastic discovery.

3. Getting fired humbled me a little.

It’s so easy to become arrogant in ministry, and it’s such a turn off. You get some success and you start to feel like it’s you.  You start to think you’re special. Your logical mind thinks “Sure, everyone is special, but I’m extra special because my ministry is growing more than everyone else I know.” That’s hogwash. It makes me wanna throw up. I can’t stand it now when I see guys in the pulpit who are full of themselves. Get fired and you’ll see. Ministry will go on without you. Yes God chooses to use you. But He could choose anyone. God allows us a front row seat for a time. It’s such a privilege to get to play a small part in eternal things. Don’t take it for granted. It may stop some day. And you know God can’t stomach arrogance either. (James 4:5-7)

4.  Some things you only learn through failure.

Failure can be a great teacher if you allow it to be. When I coached Jr. Tackle football, I remember during our practices, trying to get my son, who played cornerback, to make his first step backward on the snap. He was aggressive and very quick, and he wouldn’t listen. I warned him he would get burned someday. During our next game, it happened. A lightening fast receiver sprinted by him and wide open, caught a pass for a touchdown. My son came over to the sideline, head down, knowing he had failed, and was finally ready to receive instruction. I didn’t even need to say it. Failure was the teacher he needed to learn his lesson.  He never repeated that mistake again. He had learned his lesson through failure. In fact, I believe, there are some lessons we only learn through failure.

Lastly, remember, regardless of the human reasons that you “got resigned,” God’s hand is in it, guiding and directing you.

You can’t see it now. But it’s true. You will likely look back someday at this situation and think, “God’s hand was in this,” and “good stuff came out this super painful time.” I hope that encourages you. This doesn’t have to be fatal. God can redeem any pain for his glory. And He will, if you are faithful to go through the healing process.

I get a good laugh when I remember back to when the pastor who “resigned” me said I was too old for youth ministry. 14 years later, I’m still in Youth Ministry. Thank God I didn’t let anyone else’s word for me, define my calling.

Don’t let this define you. Get up. Brush off the dust, and keep going. You’re going to be fine. I remember an old youth pastor once told me, “you’re no one till you’ve been fired.” Welcome to the club my friend. You are not alone!

~Mark

Related post Youth Worker – You’re going to get fired someday. 

The Hardest part of Change


Change is never easy.      change

Organizationally we are in the middle of a HUGE strategic change. After 44 years as a non-profit, Youth Dynamics (YD) is reorganizing in order to maximize our Kingdom Impact. It’s been almost 2 years since we started the process, and I believe we have just passed the tipping point. Change is imminent.

Personally, after 47 years of eating pizza, I started working out for the first time since High School. I completed p90x this summer and 30 days ago just began a a new workout program called Body Beast.

With all this change happening in different areas of my life this year, I’m discovering a few things about CHANGE that I thought I should share.

1. Deciding to CHANGE was the hardest part

When I made the decision to start p90x I had gotten to the point in my life where I was completely fed up with things the way they were. I was overweight, I didn’t like how I looked, almost to the point of being disgusted with myself. With my organization, coming to the conclusion that our mission was being compromised by things staying the way they were was critical. I had to get to the point that I could not live with things remaining the same, knowing that a change would make a difference in thousands of teenagers lives. And then I had to convince my organization of the same. Organizational change is more difficult than making a personal change, but both begin with you deciding that change needs to happen.

2. Change doesn’t happen as quickly as I’d like

In my exercise programs, you only take your measurements every 30 days. I was so excited for my first measurement in p90x, I felt so strong, so healthy. I was excited to finally quantify the results. Day 30 came, we took my measurements… and to my great surprise there was not much measurable change. I was so disappointed. I was eating healthy, I had worked out 30 days straight. Where was this change I was promised? Then my 21 yr old coach said something profound to me.

“Just keep doing the work, the results will take care of themselves.”

I had to trust the process. We say it all the time in YD. Do the work. Trust the process. I couldn’t quantify the results yet, but I knew I was in the middle of a massive change. And sure enough, it wasn’t long after that the weight started peeling off. Yesterday was my 30th day of this new exercise program, Body Beast; and the same thing happened after taking my measurements. I have some tangible results, but not near what my expectations were. But after my success of completing p90x I now know this is normal and I am not nearly as disappointed. I will keep doing the work, and let the results take care of themselves.

3. For me the hardest part of change happens way before the battle even starts.

I expect change to be hard work. I expect there to be obstacles. But in my life, the battle is won at the beginning. Deciding I need to change, then determining what changes need to be made are the biggest obstacles to me making a change. But once I lock onto something, I will see it through to completion. And there will be tearing of flesh to get me to change course.

How about you? Is there a change that needs to happen in your life? What part of the process is most difficult for you?

~Mark

Read more about my change in my blogpost -“I need a new mirror – Youth Ministry made me Fat”.

Leader: After the Big Event “Watch What you Say!”


20140124-154207.jpg

You’ve been planning and talking about this big event for months. Now it’s finally over and someone asks you “So how did it go?”

You have two choices:
Option 1) Tell them about a problem and what didn’t go well or
Option 2) tell them a story of success tied to the event. It sounds so simple, but listen to yourself and you’ll be surprised how often you choose Option One and tell people “It went good, but…” The problem is when you choose Option One, you’ve just made that problem the story that circulates. “It was a great fundraiser, but it went really long and we fell short of our goal.” Or, “It was a great retreat but Johnny got hurt.” This story then becomes what those people share with others when asked… “Hey do you know how the fundraiser went?”

Instead you should almost always choose Option Two. What if instead of sharing the problems, you instead chose to share a story of life change that was connected to the event?

So instead you might say something like: “The fundraiser was fantastic. “This teenage girl talked about when she was incarcerated and how the program changed her life… It was amazing!”

How much better to have that become the story that circulates by word of mouth? When that happens, it tells people what you value. When you say… “The fundraiser was just okay. We only had 46 people there and barely raised $3,700.” You are telling people how you evaluate success. In other words, you are telling people not enough people came and not enough money was raised. They think to themselves, “I’m glad I didn’t go and waste my evening.” Instead you want them to think “Wow, I would have loved to have heard that; I need to make sure I don’t miss out next time.”

When I was a youth pastor I used to hate it when after a big retreat or missions trip my senior pastor would stop me in the hall… “Hey, how did it go?” Did anybody get hurt? Did you make budget?” That made me feel like that the bottom line was the only thing that he really cared about, (which I knew wasn’t true). So after a few years I figured something out. On our our way back from the retreat I would find a kid story from the event. I would then I’d send out an email to the rest of the staff talking about the story of life change. I’d also tell all my leaders who went to share this story when they were asked how the event went. This created such a positive buzz about the event. We learned to help shape the story that was told. Before I started doing that, a kid might get hurt and that became all anyone talked about after the retreat and it would totally hijack the attention away from all the amazing positive stuff that happened.

It’s not manipulation, it’s simply being intentional about your words. The stories you share become the narrative that people repeat. Make sure the story that’s told, is the one you want.

-M

Leader: Are you coasting?


20140121-111353.jpg

“Mailing it in” is what we used to call it in sports. Its the term you use when you get to the place in your life where you’ve done all this before, and honestly you’re bored. You’ve stopped pushing, you’ve stopped growing, you’re leaning hard on your vast experience, and you’re not giving it your best. You’ve starting repeating old messages, not prepping like you used to. You’ve begun a new habit of leaving a little early from work, and you’ve started coming in late. You’re basically going through the motions. You’ve stopped dreaming. You’re clocking in and clocking out. What used to be a dream job, had become just a job. It’s a horrible place to be in life, but especially sinful in a ministry context. Remember what it was like to be nervous to stand in front of a group of kids and deliver a message? Remember when you led your first parents meeting and the feeling you had in the pit of your stomach that someone was gonna figure out that you didn’t know what the crap you were doing? What happened to that? You used to dream about God doing stuff, but reality has sucked the life out of you. You no longer have any dreams. You’re mailing it in.

As a veteran youth worker I’ve been there a time or two. It’s natural to get comfortable with things after you do them over and over. And it’s okay to not get as nervous as you used to. But you must fight the urge to let lethargy creep in as you gain experience. It will lull you to sleep like anesthesia. And your people will follow.

I remember when our youth ministry had grown to a place where it needed another level of leadership. I had some very talented youth workers that were trained up and ready to take over both the Middle School and High School programs. I wasn’t really ready to let go, but they were chomping at the bit, young bucks with talent, energy and passion. I knew as a leader, I needed to step aside and let them run. So I added an extra layer of leadership, and put each of them in charge of Middle School and High School respectively, and I oversaw the vision, mission, direction of the whole thing. My mistake was not holding onto any direct contact work with teenagers. I didn’t mandate that I speak every month. I started snowboarding more. I let the youth workers dream about the youth ministry, and I started dreaming about fresh powder. My create energy and passion migrated to this new area, while my heart for youth ministry languished. I got bored with my job. Something else had captured my heart. Here I was at a megachurch, one of the most influential churches in the Northwest, and I was bored.

By the time I realized my mistake, it was too late. I had given the keys to the car away to the new youth guys, and there was no taking them back. And after several conversations with my boss and Sr. Pastor, who were both close friends of mine, with tears in our eyes, we realized that I needed to move on. I resigned, and started the process of dreaming again. I left the comfort of the big church with the nice salary and good benefits and started over.

It was terrifying. I had to ask the question, “What would I want to do if I could do anything?” I had to reengage my heart and connect it to my mission again. While it was scary and uncertain, it was exhilarating at the same time. We are not designed to mail it in. We are designed for greatness, to achieve more than what we thought we could. We were created to chase dreams, God’s dreams, to grow and develop, to do hard things.

If your heart has become disconnected from your job, you owe it to God, to your people, to your family… Most of all you owe it to yourself, to re-engage. Start the process today.

Your life depends on it. You were not created to mail in a mediocre existence.
You were designed to dream God dreams. Get to it.
-M

 

Leader: When facing a fire do you add fuel or water?


Youth Leader, has this happened to you? A student comes to you with a secret.  A parent calls and is concerned about kids smoking outside the church. The pastor is angry about the mess you left in the kitchen after your event. What do you do? As a leader you carry a bucket in each hand. One bucket is full of water, the other is full of gasoline. The job of a leader is to determine which bucket to pour on each fire that arises, and to train your volunteers to do the same. Some leaders always use the same bucket. To them, every situation is an emergency, and they add fuel to every issue that arises. Other leaders try to minimize everything. They pour water on every issue that is brought to them. Both of these leaders are exercising  poor judgement. A wise leader has learned which situations need fuel and need to be ramped up and which situations need water, and need to be diffused.

Once as a youth pastor I was running a HS Camp where one of my volunteers came to me with a concern. A volunteer was seen giving an extra long hug to one of the teenage girls.

Decision: Fuel

I confronted the volunteer, without accusation, “This was seen… it is true? What is the extent of your relationship? Don’t do it again. Stay away from her.”

End result: The volunteer continued to exhibit physical behavior toward this minor. The leader was sent home from the camp and removed from leadership. It was discovered soon after that they had a sexual relationship prior to the camp.

Fuel was the correct bucket for this situation.

Most other times a hug is just a hug. How do you know when to add fuel and when to add water?

1. Fuel – Don’t ever ignore safety concerns. If someone brings you a concern regarding safety or health, treat it seriously. If after investigation you determine that the issue is overblown, then you can add water. But always err on the side of protecting students.

2. Water -In general, I pour water on issues of conflict between people, where motives are being assigned and assumptions are being made. I pour water on gossip and slander when it comes to me. I do not allow an atmosphere to be created that allows or encourages that sort of fire to smolder under the surface. Pour water on the gossip and actively engage in resolving the situation where appropriate.

3. What if I’m unsure which bucket to use? Solicit advice from an older / wiser figure in your life. This may be your pastor, or a mentor, or simply a parent you respect and trust. Ask around “Wisdom is found in many counselors.”

Part of developing as a leader is knowing which bucket to use when. To make a mistake in this area can have a high cost attached to it. Take the time to seek wisdom when you’re unsure. And maybe even when you are…

~M

%d bloggers like this: