Turning Your “To Do List” Into A “To Be List”

I love a good list. I love checking things off because my dopamine spikes when check something off. The problem with to do lists is that they don’t turn into “to be” lists. The things on my list are not translating into a more fuller life. Just recently, I was reminded of that.

I had had a full couple of days and today was no different. My Facebook told me I  was invited to a birthday party of a former student. I hemmed and hawed all day about whether I was going to go or not. I had other things to do the I thought were more important. God had other plans.

I went to the restaurant, where it was being held, and sat and watched as people interacted and I sat and caught up with an old acquaintance who was having some health problems.

Our serve arrived and to my surprise, it was another one of my former students. When she was young she and I had a special bond. She was full of life and joy. I can remember when faux-hawks were a thing and she decided I should have one. Reluctantly I let her shape my hair, what little I had, into the then trendy faux hawk. I’m glad the trend did not last because I looked only slightly silly in it.

After I moved on from the church, this young lady fell into a the trap of drugs and addiction. She had gone through a few programs and a life time of hardship. Today she was refilling my water and we laughed about life, church, and faux hawks.

Before leaving, while looking of the restroom, I saw a man whom I knew from church. He was a new Christian and had not been to church in a whole due to work and the fact that I wouldn’t just let him hang out in the youth room during youth group. I could sense that uncomfortable distance you feel when you haven’t seen someone in a while and they may or may not blame you for why they are not in church. He looked up, saw me, and acknowledged me so I took that as an open door to re-connect.

His son still comes to our youth ministry and I have been trying to involve him more and more. We talked briefly and then his dinner arrived. I left feeling like there wouldn’t be as much awkwardness the next time we saw each other.

All of this connection from one thing that wasn’t even on my list. I guarantee you that the other things on my list did not allow me to have these kinds of encourager and remind me why I was glad I had stayed in ministry as long as I have.

My encouragement is to leave room on your list (or just toss the old one) to

be kind

be generous

be human

be friendly

be you best self

and then find ways to match being with your doing.

How can you be more kind while picking up the dry cleaning?

How can you be more friendly with a new client?

Remember though, as I was reminded, the things that help you BEcome more, aren’t even on your list. Leave room for the unexpected and you’ll feel more accomplished than ever.

 

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The Day I Realized This, It Crushed Me

des·ti·ny ˈdestinē/ noun
  1. the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
    • the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Today was a hard day. Today I gave up on destiny. For years I believed in a personal destiny to become what I thought God had intended for me. It seems like God has other plans, but I have no idea what they are. This is both a blessing and a curse.

When I finally said it out loud, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had believed so hard for so long, it was just crushing. The idea of destiny was a torch I’d been carrying for a long time, and it was a relief to just let it go.

The curse part of this revelation is that I’m left with nothing to base my future on. My ideas are gone. My sense of direction is gone. My motivation is gone to achieve what I thought was mine by “right”. So, where do I put my time and energy now?

There’s a blessing in tossing away my destiny too. Truly, I have nothing left but faith, which isn’t such a bad thing. Where I once looked for signs of achieving my destiny, I look to Jesus and ask, “What’s next?” It’s kind of a relief.

As my journey as a full time youth pastor begins to wind up, with my “destiny”  in the wind, I find myself back in an adventurous place; something I have not experienced in a long time. Rather than looking for my destiny, my heart is open to whatever God should bring me.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare for new adventures.

Do you believe in destiny?

Could your belief in destiny be holding you back?

 

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3 Reasons I Live Stream Our Youth Service On Facebook

 

I have Live Streamed our youth service several times now, and I love it. Do we live stream because we have the greatest, hypest, most lit, youth ministry in the universe? Nope. In fact we are exactly the opposite. We are the most awkward 15-20 people ever and we gather to worship God just like 95% of other youth ministry just like ours.

Here’s why I livestream our youth service

I want to be an inspiration to the other 95% of youth ministries, just like ours. Our youth group is the standard in America. The hype machines, the 500 theatre seat youth rooms, etc. are anomalies. Demographics, good marketing, charismatic speakers, church infrastructure, etc. all play a a part in what we’re seeing in those videos. That is not to say that God is not in or moving in those youth ministries, because He is and will continue to.

These videos are seductive and Satan capitalizes on our insecurities to have us second guessing where we are and make us feel like “if only…”

I say “Embrace who you are. Embrace your context. Love Jesus together and don’t worry about the 1% of youth ministries are doing because you will never be like them.”

I live stream because I want youth workers to see the good, the bad , the ugly, the awkward, the rawness of what it means to do ministry with (not for) youth. I leave all the boring parts in the video because that’s real life. I know how to cut and edit video to make a youth meeting look more awesome than it may be in reality, but that’s not real youth ministry. Real youth ministry is not a highlight real of greatest moments. It is down and dirty work, day in day out and it’s the reality I want young youth workers to experience before reality punches them in the mouth.

Streaming our services serves the kids who cannot make it. Granted, most of our kids are on Instagram, but their parents are not. If a parent wants to share the service with there kids, they can. Now, many kids are not off Facebook entirely. There are plenty of young people hanging around, because they comment.

I have kids who are in the military who tune in or kids who’ve moved away watch. I have kids who have graduated out of our church, or church entirely, but not their faith and they watch to remember the good times they had in our youth room.

I might capture someone’s attention. We are a small church in a small town and there are a ton of kids who do not go to church anywhere. I think our community of students are awesome! We are not building a Pharisee Factory where pump out kids who all belive the same thing and can quote John 3:16. We are are planting a farm where, if kids will hang around  long enough, will become lifetime followers of Jesus and not just momentary believers.

Granted, I know a lot of students are on Instagram and, if I had another phone, I’d be streaming there as well. For now, I am doing what I can, with what I have, with the hopes that some kids or parent sees a game we play, a song we sing and a word I share and think., “This is a community I could belong to.”

If you want watch me share these thoughts, and a few more, you can click the video below. If you want more FB Live vids follow me on FB

Lift Youth Service

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The Wrong Kind of Busy

If you’re busy putting out fires…

If you’re spending more time online complaining and defending …

If you’re constantly having to argue over what you can’t do…

You’re the wrong kind of busy. 

Spend your time investing in others and those fires will diminish

Use your online presence to inspire and teach and ignore the haters.

Do what you can while you wait for other doors to open.

It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?  – Henry David Thoreau

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Growing Older In Youth Ministry Sucks

I hate to disappoint you youngin’s in ministry who, like me, romanticize youth ministry. You may think it’s great being the grizzled veteran whose seen it all only to sit with a bottle of scotch at night smoking cuban cigars and wondering where the time went…ok the last part isn’t true. well, partially, I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which, I just felt like monologuing my own youth ministry noir.

I’m 49 on my way to 50 and I’m not happy about it. I called a childhood friend tonight so he could cheer me up and that level was unlocked. He asked me how my journey towards 50 was going and I told him it sucked.

I basically feel like I’m semi-re-tired. I have way too much free time, other than making youtube videos, podcasts, etc. My youth group and church isn’t very needy so I’m left to my own devices. Growing old sucks, but growing old in youth ministry, at least right now, in this moment, isn’t great either.

I lack the desire to do do many of the things I used to like to do in YM which is normal in the aging process. Maybe I just need a testosterone shot or maybe God is doing something else. I’m prayerfully considering both options but that isn’t all I’m struggling with.

I came to the realization today that I don’t believe in destiny. I don’t believe there is a fixed point in time that I am supposed to reach. I still believe in God’s providence and His presence in all things, but my reality is what I make it. There’s no “big break” coming, no matter how hard I try,

I feel like Barry Allen in the Flash trying to get faster so he can save Iris from her death that he saw in the future. Flash finally taps out and admits he can’t do it.  Whatever future I saw for myself as a young man, it’s just not going to happen and I’m spending much of this year coming to terms with that, but It’s not easy.

I wish I had some words of wisdom for you. Maybe when I hit 51 I’ll have better perspective or maybe I won’t. My journey through Ecclesiastes is helping.

Verses like

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun. Ecclesiastes 8:15

and

A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, Ecclesiastes 2:24

are certainly helpful.

I still wound’t give up all the memories and God moments I’ve had with students and maybe that’s the normal progression, or rather regression, of aging.  Maybe I need to take more time to reflect and less time trying to get somewhere. I don’t know. I’m still working that out.

I hope you don’t mind a little bit of honesty and a little less How To. This is the disciple project blog and aging in ministry is part of my journey as a follower of Jesus and if you’ve read this far, thanks, I appreciate it and there may be even more honesty forthcoming. I hope it serves you well in your life and ministry journey.

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The Danger of Study, Preach, Repeat

I know it can’t only be true for me, but there was a time where I would only read the Bible to “get a message” for my students or congregation.

Sad, I know, but I think it’s because of the way I viewed scripture that caused me to treat it in such a way .

I thought the Bible was a textbook for my job and, like a student, I had a test every week I had to prepare for. I thought I had to know all the answers and ace the test. I made the Bible about me knowing things for other people rather than enjoying the Bible for myself.

That’s the danger of study, preach, repeat; we see study/preaching as a job rather than an authentic way of living.

It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and be as spiritually dry as a bone. How can we, as youth pastors, balance the reading and study of scripture for work and the devotional side of scripture which grows our own soul?

Plan Growth Into Your Schedule

Some people plan a study time, maybe 2 hours to work on a message. I know there are all kinds of ratios of how long is the message versus how much should I study, but that’s not me. Growth is a 24/7 endeavor for me, so sectioning off time tells me there’s a stopping point when I don’t believe there is one.

Just like when we pray, we say amen at the end but that doesn’t mean we won’t pray the rest of the day. I know we have to have some hard core time for study, I just don’t limit that time.

I plan study into my day in different ways.

Daily Study/Sharing Versus Message Prep

  • When I go for a walk I listen to scripture through the YouVerion Bible App
  • I do a FB live devotional on Facebook from 9-9:30 a.m. . I read, study, and pass it on which means it comes back to me through my own ears. Doing this daily means accountability and doing it live means I better be engaged with the Word I am reading.
  • I post scriptures on my Instagram with a short devotional.
  • I use websites like www.biblehub.cc when preparing so I can look up Greek/Hebrew  words to get context and understanding.

I can’t say enough about learning and sharing on a daily basis. I love doing this  because it keeps me from becoming a Wednesday and Sunday Pastor (or Christian). It shows my community that I am all about the daily living and not about preparing for a once a week meeting.

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.  – John C. Maxwell

Meditate and Reflect

Just like I build in study time, I build in meditation time, think time.  I like to chill and listen to podcasts like Pray As You Go  witch is like an audio Lectio Devino which asks me to think and pray and engage with God.

I don’t put pen to paper, as far as a message, until I have fully thought through the scripture and have

  • asked “what is means
  • asked “what it means for/to me?”
  • ask, “because of these revelations, where do I need to take my students.

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Psalm 119:15

Practice What It Says

We cannot divorce the preaching and the doing. When I am prepping my message, I try to figure out how to put myself in position to practice or obey what I’m learning.

If I’m talking about forgiveness, I have to find ways to be forgiving or reflect on if there’s anything to be forgiven of by God or others.

If I am talking about giving I have to look at my giving and ask God how this principle needs to be reflected in my life and how do I demonstrate this to my students.

In the practicing of scriptures, we won’t have to look up good illustrations for our messages, we can share from our personal experiences.

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. – Mahatma Gandhi

I judge no one but me. I know me and you know you. I would ask you to consider your current spiritual practices and if they contribute to, first, your daily growing, and secondly, to the growth of others.

Growing others without growing yourself  is to water all the plants but one. Soon, that one plant will die and then who will water the other plants?

Grow your own soul and you’ll have no problem growing others.

I recommend these books

Soul School (Enrolling In A Soulful Lifestyle)

Nurturing The Soul Of The Youth Worker

Soul Food For Youth Workers

 

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The Number One Reason I’m Not Ministering To More People

I don’t judge, I react and sell. – @garyvee

I love entrepreneur and CEO Gary Vayerchucks’ directness. He’s a salesman and he’s trying to get to the sale. Gary eliminates anything that gets in the way of the sale because he values speed. Judgment gets in the way of him moving as fast as possible, so it has to go.

His words have been bugging me for a few months now because I know I’m not doing as much as ministry as I like, going as fast as I like,  because I’m allowing judgement to interfere with “the sale”.

In other words, I’m complicating things.

Judgement is an anchor that slowing me down.

Judgement make my life less aerodynamic.

Judgement makes me process things too long. It makes me fearful of who I might offend or upset.

Judgement keeps me from saying yes to loving people right where they are.

Too much thinking, processing, exegeting,  keeps me from, what Gary calls, “the sale”.

Gary doesn’t allow a persons color, gender, or sexual orientation, or even past hurts get in the way of “the sale”. Gary loves to tell stories about people who screwed him in the past but later wanted him on their podcast or to do a favor or to do business with. Gary said yes every time. In other words, if he deal is good, everybody’s money is as green as the next persons, even the people I don’t like. Gary doesn’t let personal feelings get in the way of his generosity. He likes to say, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing.”

As a follower of Jesus, I don’t see Jesus getting bogged down in the process of who He will minister to. Everyone needs help. Everyone’s soul is of equal value.

Jesus didn’t care if you were a woman, a leper, or a tax collector. He didn’t care about the taboo or the rules. His  “sale” was ministry. Jesus wanted people to be well, to be whole, to be saved, to be safe, to be loved and He didn’t allow for anything to slow that down.

Me on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been living the Christian life at a snails pace. I feel like I’ve been moving in spiritual slow motion. If I want to move faster and minister to more people, I have to cut the anchor.

In the movie Yes man, Jim Carey, plays a man who has played it safe, until he decided to say yes to every opportunity that came his way. This new way of approaching things was liberating at first, but in the end it was exhausting. Good judgement doesn’t mean saying yes to every opportunity, but it does mean saying yes to the right opportunities.

My judging is keeping me from helping people, praying with people, eating with people, building stronger relationships with people, forgiving people and depriving others from the help and hope I might be able to offer which, in the end, is ultimately hurting me.

Judgement is a barrier to my progress, my prosperity, and my personal growth and I need to stop. It’s easier said than done, but I’ll start with cutting the anchor off today today and see how fast I can go from there.

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My Top 10 Favorite Podcasts (at the moment)

It’s #InternationalPodcastDay and I thought I’d share some of of my favorite podcasts. I try to be balanced between business, fun, and ministry because life is not one thing, it’s many things.

The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast

Carey is a pastor of. fairly large church in Canada. This is a fairly new podcast, for me, but I’m enjoying the diversity of guests.

Creating Disney Magic with Lee Cockerell

This is also a new podcast for me. Lee is a former executive with Disney and Marriott. He brings some great down home advice on deal with various issues from HR to planning.

The Deliberate Creative with Amy Climer 

Amy talks about leadership and team dynamics but, as the name implies, has a strong emphasis on creativity.

The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins

Jeff is a best selling author but also a very good conversationalist. Jeff’s easy going manner and focus on practicality make this a listen I look forward to.

Youth Ministry After 9 Podcast 

I don’t listen to a ton of youth ministry podcasts, but these guys are super real and fun.

The Secret Cabal Gaming Podcast

These guys are a ton of fun. They have great team dynamics as they talk about board and table top games.

The Showrunner

If you are a show runner of your own podcast, like I am, what better podcast than a show about podcasts.  Jerod Morris and Jon Nastor  break it down abut what means to run a podcast. It’s certainly upped my game.

Six Pixels of Separation

When I am looking for something a little headier, Mitch Joel does not disappoint. He comes at things from different angles and ask great questions.

The Fizzle Show 

I’ve been listening to these guys from almost the beginning. I have been with them through host changes and they never miss a beat. They are a great team to have around business table;

Ask Pat with Pat Flynn

This is the shortest podcast I listen to. Pat is direct and answers one question in just a few minutes. The questions are usually ones I am asking myself.

That’s it, these are my favorite podcasts of #internationalpodcastday. What are yours? What do you recommend?

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Halfway Is The Problem

It sounds great when we say things like,

I’ll meet you half way.

I’ll give you half my sandwich.

We won the lottery! I’ll give you half.

But there are plenty of things you don’t want half of.

Would you like to have half sex? Nope.

I’ll drive you halfway. Not good.

I’ll pay you half now. What?

No one advises us, “If you want to be successful, give it your half”

Half measures won’t fix anything.

Half-heartedness won’t impress anyone.

Half assed execution won’t get the job done.

Half doesn’t cut it in real life so why do we give, on most occasions, half of our selves to God, to our marriage, to our kids? Half won’t cut it if we want to impact the world.

Half doesn’t cut it in youth work either. We can’t preach half a gospel. There’s good news and bad news. Heaven and hell, judgement and grace, flesh and spirit. Life is is not made up of halves but wholes.

Loving and serving half way will not make a dent in the universe.

Jesus gave all of Himself. He didn’t get beaten and then skip the crucifixion. He didn’t just love the Jews but also the Gentiles. He served the zealot as well as the tax collector. He fully died and then fully rose.

God doesn’t do things halfway.

He forgives all our sins.

He loves the whole world.

He doesn’t make half promises.

There is no halfway Christianity.

Therefore, we must love God with our whole hearts and all of our neighbors as our selves. Anything less won’t make a difference and only shows half of who our God really is.

 

 

 

 

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31 Faces Of Fear

Think of all the things you’re afraid of. Most will never come true, except for maybe death. How do you handle the real fears? Not the clowns or the spiders (yet, for some, its very real) but the real fear like never having close friends or being alone. These are real fear to us and they’re real to the teens we minister to.

How we handle our fear is measured by the risks we take. The more risks we take the more our fears are exposed as frauds.

We don’t take risks because we fear the outcome, we fear failure and we fear public opinion. We’re not that much different than teens are we? We still have these small fears just in bigger bodies.

I want my students to try everything. Not the bad stuff, the stuff they’re afraid of. Why? Because I want their fears to be shown as frauds and Satan a liar and defeated foe. If they can learn that now, how many more risks will they take wen they get older?

What if our teens became fearless like Samuel

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.” I Samuel 14:6

And what if their fearlessness became contagious? Like how Samuel’s armor bearer responded.

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.” I Samuel 14:7

Samuel had no idea of the outcome, but he knew God

Could act on their behalf

Nothing could hinder the Lord from saving

Their big or small number did not limit God

And because he knew this, it was worth the effort, the risk, the act of faith.

Turns out Samuel was right.

Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre. I Samuel 14:13,14

The month of October is all about scary horror movies, Halloween, etc. We know those things aren’t real so we focus on them for 30 days. The fears we and our teens face are year round; that’s why I put together a resource that combines scary and scripture,

For 31 days I’m going to post a graphic that combines a horror movie trop (fake) with a Scripture that reveals  God’s nature and character to save, to protect, and to empower (real)

I want to challenge my kids for the next 31 days to be fearless, to be bold, to say. “What if…” and “God could…” instead of “I can’t, because…”.

You could do the same. What if you did? What conversations might arise? What misconceptions could you put to rest? What boldness could you instill? What could God do?

If you’re interested,  you can check the the 31 Faces of Fear here.

 

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