Keep Pushing Play – My One Year Workout-iversary


One year ago today I was fed up.

Fed up with my weight. Fed up with my belly. Fed up with the way I looked. And I decided to make a change. One year ago today I pressed play for the very first time. I had received my P90x DVD series in the mail, bought a few dumbbells, a yoga mat and a pull-up bar. I created a little area in my basement and determined to get up early every morning, put in the DVD and push play. I did just that. And it was hard, REALLY HARD.

But I kept pushing play.

Every morning, I got up, drank a couple glasses of water and went downstairs and pushed play. I didn’t miss a single workout. Sometimes I had to do it on the road, sometimes I had to do it late at night, but I did it. Every day. Every single day. I finished p90x in September and took a little break, then did the follow up series “P90x Plus” off and on through the holidays, waiting for the next hole in my calendar that would allow me to begin another program. I began BodyBeast at the end of January and have been lifting 6 days a week since. I feel great. I haven’t been sick a single day in over a year. I don’t have allergies for the first time in forever. And it’s still work, but it’s firmly embedded in my lifestyle now. My son asked me if I was addicted to working out, and I responded. “No, but I am committed to it.”

I am very pleased with where I’m at compared to where I imagined myself to be one year ago.

I would stare in the mirror, suck in my belly and say, I’m going to look like this someday. I now I do. And I don’t starve myself, in fact, I eat more. I had pie twice this week. But I don’t eat stupid stuff, like potato chips and fast food. And I don’t miss it. I don’t eat breaded chicken, I have Fro-Yo instead of ice cream, eat brown rice instead of white, drink water instead of Coke. Stuff like that. I take the stairs instead of the elevator and sometimes I park further away than I need to.

Little choices add up to big change. Manageable, incremental, sometimes seemingly negligible choices that equal tangible, real, measurable change.

The one thing that I still have to figure out is where to put my devotional life.

I will admit that it’s the one thing that’s suffered in all this. But before you judge me, remember that for thousands of years, Godly men and women have served The Lord faithfully without reading the Scriptures regularly: Moses, Abraham, David to name a few. Thankfully we at least have the option of reading our own copy these days. And I did read the Bible through every year for the 3 years prior to this year, so I felt okay with taking a break to get myself healthy, BODY, SOUL and SPIRIT. And I still connect with God through worship and prayer regularly.

Next year at this time…. I hope to have fully integrated both worlds.

But, please don’t judge yourself by my actions either. I’m in a new season of life. There were lots of years when our boys were little where my devotional life and my physical fitness looked a LOT different that it did does now. I remember having barely anytime for either! But I am full on empty-nesting now and I have more discretionary time than perhaps I ever have and I am adjusting accordingly. The overriding principle here is that through every season, hang on to the things that are valuable to you. The time you are able to commit to those things (significant relationships included), will morph and change throughout the seasons of life, and they should. Try to keep those commitments strong, but let them stretch like elastic. Do not let them get brittle and break.

Well let me restate that. Keep almost everything elastic, everything that is, except your waistband.

Don’t quit. Just stay in the fight friend, that’s how winning is done. Keep pushing play.
~Mark

Me pushing “Stop” after a workout. 🙂

If you liked this one you would like my related blogpost: “I need a new Mirror – Youth Ministry made me Fat!” plus you can see my before and after pics from p90x…

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Growing Leaders


Yes. I feed them both my leftover coffee. It's a little cannibalistic, I know.

The bamboo plant in my office used to be the size of the coffee plant on my desk…

So, I have this bamboo plant in my office…

It sat on my desk for several years in a 4” pot. It grew to a certain height and stayed that way forever. Then one day I had an idea. What if I put it in a bigger pot? Would it grow? Would it die? I decided to give it the opportunity to grow. And did it ever!

Today that bamboo plant is too big for my desk. Actually it sits on the floor and is now taller than my desk by a foot or more. All I did was give it room to grow, (and a lot of cold coffee).

In Youth Dynamics (YD), we try to do the same thing with teenagers. It’s easy for people to get stuck.

Teenagers especially get put into a box, told by someone that they are this or that, defined by words that people threw carelessly at them.

In relational youth ministry we give students an opportunity to break out of those molds. As we build relational trust with kids, we challenge them to grow beyond where they find themselves.

Adventure ministry often times gives us a framework for those break-out moments.

It’s so great to see students step outside themselves, to risk failure only to find that they can do way more than they ever thought they could, and grow in the process.

In the 6 years that I’ve been with YD, I’ve seen our YD kids blossom and grow. Some have grown to the point where they’ve become interns, others have joined our summer staff teams and a few even have joined us as full-time missionaries. We try to do the same thing with our staff. Create a culture where they can step outside themselves and grow. We desire to create an atmosphere where it’s okay to make mistakes, to dust yourself off and to try again.

Parents and organizations alike would benefit from creating a culture that provides enough relational security for people to feel safe to step out and try things; to know that their acceptance does not depend on perfection.

One must do this with an open hand however, and a Kingdom mindset.

Your staff may outgrow your job and your organization. Is that okay with you? Your child may grow to become something that you did not have in mind for them to be? Are you alright with that? If you have a Kingdom mindset you will be. You will recognize that Christ has designs and plans for their life that likely differ from your hopes and dreams for their life. Hold them loosely. Develop people anyway. It’s what Christ calls us to do. “Go and make disciples.” And let them go take their place in God’s Kingdom, wherever that may be.

~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

 

Is your teen suffering from “Affluenza?”


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Lawyers for a teenager in Texas whose blood alcohol was more than three times the legal limit when he crashed into a group of people, killing 4, claim the teen was a victim of “affluenza.” Having grown up in a home where he was coddled by his wealthy parents, he developed a sense of entitlement and poor judgement, they theorized. His defense team even produced an expert witness who claimed the 16 yr. old was a victim of “affluenza;” spoiled to such an extent that he had never before faced legitimate consequences for his actions.

Dr. Richard Ross, professor of Youth Ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a legend in youth ministry circles, spoke on this very issue this week, in a Ted-Talk style presentation to the Youth Ministry Executive Council (YMEC). ymec2014

Dr. Ross contends we are raising a nation of wimps, with parents who have removed all consequences from their children’s lives. We have reared a generation who all got a trophy for participation, where everyone’s always a winner, and where the possibility of failure has virtually been eliminated from their lives. Helicopter moms of university students will even call professors to argue grades for their adult children. Is it any surprise then, when asked the question, “Are you an adult?” that 50% of all 25 yr olds responded definitively, “No.”

As parents of two young men, (now 19 and 22), my wife and I have learned that failure can be a fantastic teacher, if processed appropriately. In fact, some lessons, can only be learned through failure.

When parenting, you must resist the urge to protect your children from the natural consequences of their actions. Of course, there are times where wisdom dictates that you step in and keep your kids from drowning, but children must learn that there is a cause and effect to their actions. Christian parents especially tend to attempt to over-control their teenagers lives, to protect them from everything bad. But too much protection can actually harm your teenagers ability to succeed after they leave home, (if they ever leave).

Teenagers need to experience risk and reward, failure and consequences in appropriate ways. Richard Ross asks the question: “Where does risk and challenge exist in our society today for teenagers?” I agree with Dr. Ross. It is the reason I so believe in Adventure-Based Youth Ministry. Teens need to get out and experience the challenge of doing something outside their comfort zone. White Water Rafting, Rock Climbing, Kayaking, Hiking, Mountain climbing, Horse pack trips, Ice Climbing, Snowshoeing… Youth Dynamics and YD Adventures do all these things and more. I’ve watched my own boys grow in their confidence in themselves as well as deepen their personal relationship with God through adventure ministry. Let’s get our kids out from behind their screens, to experience LIFE and LIFE TO THE FULL!

~Mark

Read more about the story…“Teen paralyzed in ‘affluenza’ case to receive millions” by Todd Unger, USA Today, May 6, 2014

 

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?


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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!

U2 and Larry Norman recordings immortalized as part of the the Library of Congress


U2s “Joshua Tree” (1987) and Larry Norman’s “Only Visiting this Planet” were included in a group of 25 albums to be part of the Library of Congress as quintessentially representative of the aural history of the 70s and 80s.

Bono’s album is a no brainer, but many will wonder who Larry Norman is. His “Only Visiting this Planet” from 1972 remains only one my all time favorite albums still today. It belongs not just because of the content but because of it’s significance.

Larry Norman pioneered a whole new genre of music, Christian Rock, and was not allowed to play in churches, labeled an apostate by many, but a hero to those like me, who identified with his music.

What a cool honor to have his 1972 album inducted into the Library of Congress. To bad he’s not here any longer… He was only visiting after all, and went to be with Jesus in 2008.

If I had the privilege of choosing a list of my Top 10 Christian albums from yesteryear for their significance in my life, I would have to include:

  • Randy Stonehill’s “Welcome to Paradise” (1976),
  • Keith Green’s “So you Wanna go back to Egypt,” (1980), because he gave it out free through the mail for any donation.
  • Petra’s “Never Say Die” (1981),
  • Benny Hester’s “Nobody Knows Me Like You” (1981),
  • Steve Taylor’s “I Want to be a Clone” (1982),
  • Amy Grant’s “Age to Age” (1982),
  • the 77s “All Fall Down” (1984),
  • DC Talk’s “Jesus Freak” (1995)
  • and Audio Adrenaline’s “Bloom” (1996).

What’s album did I leave out? What did you absolutely wear out as a new believer?

Read the ABC News Article here.

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. 

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


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Or they’ll ask you to resign, or something like that. Maybe it will be your fault, maybe not. Most likely it won’t be over one big glaring mistake. And most likely there will be the public story and then there will be the story behind the story. Or maybe not, but people will wonder… “what’s the real reason?” I’ve had several friends lose their ministry jobs this month. Some ended well, some didn’t. Over the past 28 years of youth ministry, I’ve watched a lot of people come and go, and one thing I’ve learned; your job will end someday, and it’s rare when it ends well. The question is: How will you handle it, and what will you do when it does end? I remember when I got fired from my dream job. I had built a youth ministry from scratch at a megachurch.

The new Sr. Pastor took my wife and I out for breakfast one Saturday and out of left field told me I was finished. He used words like “unqualified, ineffective, too old.” I was shell-shocked. Blind-sided.

We’d been there 5 years and had seen phenomenal numerical growth and lots of transformational life change. It made no sense. He would let me resign, but I couldn’t tell anyone for 3 months and I needed to finish out the school year. It was brutal. Years later the man took me out for coffee and apologized, and said he was wrong for firing me. It’s been 14 years, and while I’ve long been over it, I remember it like it was yesterday.

Why does getting fired from a ministry job hurt so much?

Very few jobs are so intimately connected to your heart like a ministry job. Not only does getting fired make you question your work ethic and the quality of your work, but a ministry job is all tied up with your heart and your dreams, even your very relationship with Christ. We pray, we cry, we dream, we plan, we risk, we put everything we have into it. Like the Apostle Paul  we have “poured out our life as a drink offering.” So when it all goes south, its very difficult not to take it personally and feel like we are a failure as well.

As if that wasn’t enough, often times many of your closest friendships are in the church, for both you and your family, and there’s a tearing away, almost like a divorce, as friends decide if they will keep you in their lives or move on.

And then there’s that feeling of betrayal from the leadership, of promises broken, the disillusionment, the loss of innocence and idealism that you once had regarding the Church. At times those same feelings even bleed over into our relationship with God.

“I served you in this thankless job, and this is what I get?”

Here’s what I’d like to tell every Youth Worker to help you survive and to prepare for the day you get “resigned.”

Not to be too pessimistic, but if you go into ministry with correct expectations, it will be easier when you leave.

1. It’s part of the job.

If you’re going to be a pastor, youth pastor, worship leader, children’s pastor etc… getting fired comes with the territory. Like being a professional football coach or something, coaches come and go. You get your shot at building a successful program, but there comes a time when it needs to be someone else’s turn. Coaches usually get too much of the credit when a program wins, and too much of the blame when teams lose. Don’t take it personally. It’s part of the gig. It’s rare when the coach goes out on top to fanfare and celebration.

2. Take the high road. Always.

Don’t engage in finger pointing, in lashing out, in defending yourself. Don’t post something scathing online. Doing so never does what you hope it will, in fact, it does exactly the opposite. It diminishes you and your character. You are above that. Leave with class. If there’s judgement to be meted out, if there’s truth to be told, it’s not yours to deliver. Leave it to the sole Arbiter of Truth.

3. Learn the nugget of truth in your firing.

While the bulk of the reasons you got let go may not have merit, there is likely some core truth the Lord is trying to bring to your attention. It would be a huge mistake not to take full advantage of this teachable moment in your life. And when you’re good and ready, ask The Lord to show you what He’s trying to teach you. And if you can’t hear it from Him, ask your spouse or a really good friend!

4. Let the rest roll… like water off a duck’s back.

Take the core truth in, but let the rest of what’s being said bead up and roll off you. Do not absorb the rest of that polluted water into your being. Everything being said in this storm is not true or beneficial. Take the nugget and let the rest roll.

5. Refuse to get bitter.

Satan will lie to you and try to plant that bitter seed deep down in your soul where it will fester and grow. I did not want to be that guy who spat vile whenever the conversation touched that topic in the future. I refused to let Satan diminish the eternal work that was done while I was the youth pastor there. But refusing to get bitter is not a one time decision. Those bitter thoughts come daily, even hourly at first. Over and over you will have to make a conscious choice to not take in that bitter seed. Spit it out, every time. Lastly, don’t let it negatively impact your relationship with God or let it sour you on the local church. You work for Jesus, not for people. We are called to serve them whether they appreciate it or not. And in some sense, when you suffer pain at the hands of the Church, you are sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Like the Apostles, Luther, Bonhoeffer, Yaconelli… who all suffered abuse at the hands of the church. You are in good company.

Both of our sons have talked about going into full time ministry someday. They have had a front row seat to both the good and the bad in the church world. They’ve watched their dad have both success and failure, been treated well and mistreated. And they’ll serve anyway. And that’s my hope for you.

I know this. It always ends. And it very rarely ends well. Shake off the dust and serve anyway.

We are not looking for “Well done good and faithful” from their lips, but His.

~M

Related Post: “Lessons I learned in the backwash of being fired.”

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”.

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