Witness to an Adventure


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Michael had it written all over his face. He was done. Ninety minutes into our four-day hike, he was whipped. Michael was not really an athletic kid, a tad overweight and sweating profusely. He was wearing blue jeans and seemingly unprepared to climb a mountain. As an at-risk high schooler on our 12-day adventure called Leadership Pursuits, Michael already had accomplished way more than he probably dreamt he could. He’d gone whitewater rafting and kayaking. He belayed off a rock face, ridden horses, built a campground, and now was on a four-day ascent to the summit of Mt. Adams, a 12,280-foot volcano in Southwest Washington, adjacent to the infamous Mt. St. Helens; and he was ready to quit.

Greg Johnson, the trip leader and our most seasoned mountaineer in Youth Dynamics Adventures, pulled the group of 12 into the shade of some old-growth cedars for a short break and went over to Michael to assess the situation. Michael plopped his 60-pound pack onto the ground and collapsed in a heap onto a log. After we had rested for 10 or 15 minutes, we needed to get back on the trail, but we had a decision to make. Should we continue on with Michael or without him? It was to be a four-day hike to the summit and back. We really only had two options: Either we could pull one of our leaders off the trail, and he and Michael could sit in the parking lot and wait four days for us to return, or we could try as a team to get Michael through the next several days. We let the team decide. They rallied. The team wanted to help Michael complete the journey to the summit and back.

Greg immediately began to rummage through Michael’s pack. He discovered a family-size Bible, some blue jeans, some other heavy items he wouldn’t need, and promptly buried them. (We retrieved them on the way back.) Other members of the group volunteered to take some of his other gear so Michael’s pack would be lighter. Would it be enough? Would he last the day? Would he last four days? Only time would tell.

Our little caravan started back on the trail with me in the lead, followed by six high school boys, with three leaders interspersed, and Greg planted directly behind Michael bringing up the rear. What followed was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. From one pit stop to the next, Greg was right there with Michael chirping in his ear. “You can do this. It’s just around this next bend.” Or, “Let’s make it to that big tree. Just 10 more minutes, then we can rest.” Sometimes Greg would encourage Michael; other times he was stern with him, prodding him forward. Step by step, Michael walked up that mountain. We hiked through the trees in the morning; beautiful forests of pine, cedar, Douglas fir and blue spruce. We emerged through the tree line just after lunch. We were encouraged, spirits were high. Then we encountered a section of the mountain that might as well be Mordor. Straight out of Lord of the Rings, it is a large field of lava rock, and it is brutal. Michael persevered and made it to our campsite above the lava rock at the base of mountain’s face. We spent the night at the snow line with our tents pitched mostly on rocks.

We took most of the evening and the entire next day with lessons about life and leadership and how God fits into the whole picture. We also spent a significant amount of time in snow school, learning how to climb safely in the snow with boots and crampons, how to properly use our ice axes, and most importantly how to stop ourselves if we fell, while not stabbing ourselves with our axes in the process!

The morning of the third day, we awoke early for a mountain ascent, leaving at 2 a.m. so we could summit and climb back down before the snow got soft and dangerous in the afternoon sun. We set out with our headlamps in the dark of the early morning, climbing in a line, one after the other, in a zig-zag pattern up the steep face of Mt. Adams. The face itself is about 1,500 feet of vertical, and it feels as if it’s straight up. Each step was taken carefully, with our ice axes in our uphill hands, planting them firmly in the snow, then scraping out a level foothold before taking our next step—then repeating the process. After three or four hours of climbing, we reached the top of the face, exhausted, coming to grips with the reality that we had only reached a false summit. False because if we hadn’t known better, we would have thought it was the summit while we were climbing only to reach the top and realize the summit was still beyond us, and we couldn’t see it from where we were climbing. While we waited for Michael and Greg to join us, we enjoyed a snack and took in the expansive view of the mountains below us as the sun had risen during our ascent. After a good rest, the team was eager to take on the final push. We set out on a free for all, traversing horizontally across a ½-mile flat field of snow and reconvened at the base for a final ascent of the last couple hundred feet of vertical. The team decided to wait and let Michael lead the team up from here. As we made the final push, here was Michael, the kid I thought was going to quit an hour into our hike, leading the team to the top. As he reached the summit first, a wide smile came across his face as he jumped up and down and shouted at the top of his lungs. It was in all aspects a pinnacle moment in his life. He had accomplished something well beyond what he believed he could do, something no one ever would be able to take away from him, and learned some things about himself that no doubt will stay with him for the rest of his life.

I have witnessed moments such as this again and again with teenagers while climbing mountains, whitewater rafting or rock climbing. The medium really doesn’t matter as long as the elements are the same. Take someone outside his or her comfort zone, include challenge and some risk, create an environment where he or she must exercise faith and dig down inside him or herself to accomplish something that previously seemed impossible, while a team of people surround and support the person. It’s an amazing thing to watch.

~Mark

Originally Published in YouthWorker Journal, March/April 2016

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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

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.”

Leader: Are you coasting?


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“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

 

I Need a New Mirror – Youth Ministry made me fat!


So I’ve been largely absent from my blog over the past 6 months in case you’ve missed me! And here’s why… I saw myself in the mirror. Honestly. One day I saw myself, really saw myself. Not the way I have always seen myself, but the way everyone else sees me. I finally saw myself the way somebody that just met me would see me. And I got mad. I got really angry with myself. My belly was bigger that it had ever been. I was flabby and overweight. I decided that was it. I drew a line in the sand and said this is the worst shape I will EVER be in for the rest of my life. I got a coach, spent some $$ on a workout program (p90x), and I created some space. I carved out both a physical space to workout in in my basement and made room in my schedule (bye-bye blog). I told some people (created some accountability), and I worked my butt off, 60-90 minutes a day; every day, for 90 days. EVERY DAY. It was a big commitment, but honestly looking back, I can’t believe that it only took 90 days to flip my life on its head. 3 months! I’m 48 now, what’s 3 months? I spent decades eating pizza and junk food while in youth ministry to get to where I am. I am now 6 months into working out, and am in the best shape of my life, no question about it. And I owe it all to my mirror.

Accurate self-perception is a gift. When we see ourselves the way we really are, versus the way we think we are… it’s rare. Sometimes one of our co-workers tries to hold up that mirror for us. Sometimes its a loved one that tries to get us to see ourselves the way were really are. And sometimes the Lord has to show us. Often times we get defensive and make excuses, but in reality we need to say “Thank You” to people who are willing to risk holding a mirror up to us. And then we need to start making some changes.

How about you? Are you who you think you are? We judge ourselves by our intentions, others judge us by our actions. I was fat and out of shape and I couldn’t see it. Until I did.

In what areas of your life could use a new mirror?

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I waffled as to whether or not to post this. I decided the ultimate accountability is to post an embarrassing pic of yourself on your blog. Haha… There’s no going back now!

 

p.s. The best thing about being in shape isn’t the way I look, or the fact that I have more stamina. It’s that I don’t feel defeated anymore. You know that feeling when you should be doing something that you’re not doing, and the only reason your not doing it is that you’re not disciplined enough? That feeling is gone! And it’s fantastic to look in the mirror and not feel defeated. I feel exactly the opposite.And I highly recommend it!

Next challenge? Writing. I know I should do it. I’m supposed to do it. I feel defeated because I’m not doing it. I just need to be more disciplined and DO IT! Is there a p90x for writing? or prayer?

Ya. I should invent that.

~M

 

 

 

 

Why aren’t there any HS Seniors in the Youth Group?


grad ballonsAre you asking yourself this question as graduation season is in full swing? Where are all the HS Seniors? Why don’t we have any upperclassmen in our youth ministry? It’s a legitimate question to ask if yours are absent.  It’s not just that they get girlfriends, jobs and driver’s licenses. There are other reasons our HS Seniors have left the building.

Here are a few diagnostic questions to ask yourself:

1. Have you involved Upperclassmen in the leadership of your Youth Ministry?

Is it realistic to think that kids are going to come into your youth ministry at 11 or 12 and sit and watch for 7 years? Upperclassmen must be involved in leadership to stay engaged or youth group gets old for them. Youth Ministries that unlock this key will find that students who take ownership of the youth group, will grow faster personally and help the group grow as well. High School’s trust upperclassmen with leadership. Are you secure enough in your leadership to do this? Or do you want to do everything yourself? You say its about quality control, but what if it’s just about control?  Do we want a student’s greatest leadership challenges to come only from their coach or their teacher?

2. Have you been in your church for less than 3-4 years?

Youth Pastors in transition are one of the most common reason that youth ministries don’t have upperclassmen in them. When a new youth pastor comes, it’s easy for the older students to disconnect. It’s nothing personal, you just aren’t their youth pastor. Their’s just left. Meanwhile, the middle schoolers who felt second class to the old youth pastor, often seize the opportunity to have a youth pastor of their own. These 7th and 8th graders will be the nucleus around which your youth ministry legacy will be built. If you stick around 4+ years, it’ likely they will as well.

3. Is it possible that they might not need your youth group to be spiritually healthy?

It almost seems sacrilegious to say it, but is it possible that all teenagers need to come to your youth group to be spiritually healthy?  Do you believe that? If so, you are mistaken. I remember when I came to grips with this thought years ago, that every kid may not need my youth ministry to grow mature in their faith. It was a hard pill to swallow. But strong families, private schools, para-church youth ministries, serving opportunities, even being involved in the main congregation can provide fantastic opportunities for teenagers to find community, accountability and spiritual growth. Do not try to guilt those teens into coming back to youth group, rather try to discover what they are missing, and fill in the gaps. Maybe they have enough big group stuff but are lacking accountability. Maybe they would like to be in a small group with you and a few of their friends, or simply meet with you for coffee occasionally. Yes, culture has changed the youth ministry game in our country. People are busier than ever, and there is nothing busier than a High School senior. My wife and I have one of our own graduating next week. He is one of the more mature spiritual kids I’ve known, and I’ve watched him slowly disconnect with his high school youth group, and the youth pastor he loves, as he moves to the next phase of his life. And it’s normal stage of adolescent development…

1 Corinthians 13:11 (NIV) When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.

 ~Mark

Youth Dynamics – Scholarship Video


Take 3 min to watch this and help a teenager. Other than a missions trip, nothing in my 28 years of youth ministry has as much impact on a teenagers life as an extended adventure trip in the wilderness!

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Pregnant for 2 yrs? You gotta be kidding me.


A few years ago I had a kid from one of my old youth groups track me down through social media. “Hey Mark, this is James, can I buy you a cup of coffee?” I remembered James well. His single mom had drug him to youth group and church every week when he was a teenager. He had a tear drop tattoo near his eye, and fashioned himself as a tough kid. He went with me to Mexico on a missions trip once. He played bass in our little band. I remember the day he brought a huge bag of weed down to the church during lunch because the school was doing locker searches next door. I helped him get rid of it. And no, we didn’t smoke it. 🙂 I hadn’t seen or heard from James for a dozen years. “Sure I’ll let you buy me a cup,” I told him. So, the very next morning he drove 5 hours so that he could talk with me. As we sat down, He began to share his story, “I was a punk a** kid in High School. I only came to youth group because I had to. I’ve been in and out of jail for the last 12 years. I have 3 kids from 2 ladies. I was addicted to drugs. But I want you to know that I’m clean now. I’m in AA. I’m playing on the worship team for 2 churches. And I love Jesus. I felt like I needed to track you down and tell you thanks. Thanks for loving on me when I was a punk, and didn’t want to hear it. Thanks for not giving up on me.”

We talked for a while more, and when we were finished, I gave him a big hug and he drove the 5 hrs home. I haven’t seen him since.

One of the blessings of being in Youth Ministry for over 25 yrs is that stuff like this happens to me every now and again. The problem is it doesn’t happen until years after the fact. Its easy as a youth worker to get frustrated because you don’t see the results you were hoping to see. You wanted to change the world, but nothing seems to change except you. You’re tired and disillusioned, and for good reason, it’s a tough job. The average youth worker only stays 3.9 yrs in this carreer field. And it’s too bad, because the chances are you’re doing a fantastic job, but you won’t know it for years. Galatians 6:9 comes to mind, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (NIV)

The gestation period for a rabbit is 31 days, for a cat it’s 63 days. Horses are 330 days, and elephants are an unbelievable 616 days. Can you imagine being pregnant for almost 2 years before finally giving birth?

The gestation period of faith in teenagers is unpredictable and varies from kid to kid. Don’t give up. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean God isn’t doing something in their life.
Their faith may be germinating somewhere there under the surface.
-Mark

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.

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