Let’s Not Go Over This Again

“Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?” –C S Lewis

This quote caught my attention on Twitter and reminded me, as a Pastor, that going back over someone’s life’s mistakes isn’t the road to healing.

Yes, the past matters in regards to not making the same mistakes, but what’s important isn’t that we get a full confession and an admission of guilt. What is important is that I am the water bearer and the struggling soul needs a cup of cold water, not a lecture.

The Pharisees completely missed this. They, as Jesus said,

“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” Matthew 23:24

Rather than rejoice with the man born blind that he can see again, that grill the whole family about whether he was ever born blind.

They became angry at Jesus for healing on the Sabbath. That’s why Jesus said,

Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” Mark 2:27

Sadly, many people would rather hear, “You were right” than “Thank you for the water.”

We must get the order of things right. Care first, talk later.

I am learning this even more in the life of one of our kids. This student is not on the right path at the moment, They’ve missed the well many times. What he needs right now is cold water. He’s dying for living water and I am committed to giving him that in the present. Grace and love does not mean weak and stupid. I understand the choices he’s making is wrong, but I also know how God has dealt with me in my time of missing the well.

God has rebuked me in my sin and said, “Let’s move on.” It was his kindness not his judgement that drew me back to him. I am committed to this same kindness to all who are struggling and wayward.

It would sound insane if I came upon a car crash and asked the person in the car, “How did this happen?”  or “Didn’t you know you were suppose to have your seatbelt on.”  Sounds pretty callus, doesn’t it?

It’s no different in the case of a soul in chaos who just wants you to call 911 and get them some help.

There’s A Last Day For Everything

There’s a long list of last days, last times,

That restaurant you love.

That book your reading.

Your child not needing you anymore.

The last day you’re on the earth.

Even the world will have it’s last one day

Last night was my last night as full time youth pastor. It’s not nearly as dramatic as having your last day on earth, but it was still a last day and one I knew was coming for 30 years.

My last youth meeting came the same week as VBS was going on. Half of our students were working VBS and I told them via Instagram that I would have it no other way. It’s the thesis of my book The Disciple Project: more ministry, less meetings. How could I encourage anything else.

My last meeting was unconventional. It was like and unlike any youth meeting I had in the past. For the first 45 minutes we played spoons and slap jack. The kids and adults who were there howled with joy as cards and spoons went flying.

After this, I share my lesson, it was average. We sat around on our couches instead of the folding chairs facing the stage. It  was youth service, family style. I was not the speaker, I was just another guy in the room, maybe the crazy uncle at Thanksgiving.

There was no swelling worship music, no slick message, just a few kids and adults playing games, learning together and loving Jesus.

Not a bad last day.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

 

To The Very End

I think I found the quote I want on my tombstone

“To the very end”

What do you do, consistently?

Is it important? Valuable? Generous?

Does it bless others? Does it encourage?

Most importantly,  is it worth doing all the way the end?

I want to

Love to the very end
Follow to the very end
Lead to the very end
Encourage to the very end
Hope to the very end
Live to the very end

And not to the end of my job, but to the end of my life. I want to people to come by my grave stone and say “that guy lived out his faith to the very end”. Life makes you want to give up, cut corners, and wallow in despair. I, by God’s grace, will not.

We do not have control over much, but we can control what’s worth practicing and for how long.

 

Is This My Last Mission Trip?

I’m sitting in a motel room in  Montgomery, Al. waiting to go to sleep before my trip to Panama tomorrow. Since I am retiring from full time youth pastoring, I started to wonder if this would be my last mission trip.

I think this might be my last mission trip of this kind. By this kind I mean a trip where all the kids do dramas, etc. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a great introduction to missions, but I’d like to go deeper.

I’d like to arrange trips to a Yavapai Indian reservation, where my friend Russ serves as an official. I visited him once, with some students, and I wondered what it would be like to do more.

I’d like to serve veterans. I have no idea what that might look like, but it would be cool to host them at a retreat or something like that.

I’ve like to serve the LGBT community in some manner. To simply love on people, offer hope and meet needs.

I’d like to serve in the urban community in some way. Maybe doing a grocery service or letting  students do handy man jobs.

I’d like to serve in all 50 states, doing something for people or cultures I’m not familiar with.

I guess mission has a new meaning for me. Mission isn’t a trip, it’s a lifestyle. I’d like every day to be a mission of service to someone or some group I don’t know or understand.

The purpose of every mission, to me, is to show off and grown in Christ’s love. I hope to bring some students with me on some of these trips, but some of these trips I think I’ll do for me.

 

 

400 Gone. Just. Like. That.

It was like Thanos had snapped his fingers and 400 subscribers vanished.  In my earlier post I shared how I had lost over 100 subscribers, but I had no idea I had lost that many. Here’s what really happen and why I think it happened.

After some back and forth with Mail Chimp, my e-mail list provider, here is what the compliance team told me,

Paul. Reviewing the account and the contacts who were unsubscribed from that recent campaign, we can see that many of them are on the yahoo.com or aol.com, and domains which use them for their email service. It appears that some automated process at these domains is clicking through all links in the campaigns, including the unsubscribe link. After checking our system for similar cases of high unsubscribes, we also found that virtually all accounts experiencing this issue are using an address at icloud.com or me.com as the reply-to address in their campaigns. Looking at the account, we can see that your campaign also matches this criteria.

So, it wasn’t my fault after all and everyone did not hate me for sending  one too many e-mails. Oh, did I mentions the good part, all the e-mails that are gone, I can’t add them back.

Unfortunately, we will not be able to return the addresses that unsubscribed back to your list. US Federal CAN-SPAM Act regulations are very specific with regard to respecting all unsubscribe requests.

I went from a list of over 700 to a list of a little over 300. There are lessons to be learned here.

Don’t Take Anything Or Anyone For Granted

You know when people tell you “nothing lasts forever”? They ain’t kidding. I can’t say I took all the great people on my list for granted, but I took the list itself for granted. I never thought something like this could happen. Stupid technology.

Don’t Put Your Trust In Anyone But God

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. Psalm 20:7

I was up at 2:00 a.m this morning thinking, praying, and repenting. Somewhere along the line, I had misplaced my trust. I put too much trust in a list to bring me what I needed, be it affirmation or sales, or whatever.

One of my old Associate Pastor friends told me a story about trusting God. One of the Busch sons of Anheuser-Busch beer fame, attended our church for a while. When the church as not doing well financially, my friend  told me he would be sitting on the platform, on A Sunday morning watching the back door to see if the Busch son came in. My friend thought, “if he’s here today, its going to be alright”. He also told me that God immediately checked his heart by “I wish you trusted Me as much as you trust him”. Wow!

By looking at my new number of subscribers, I could not help but think of Gideon. Gideon had a war to fight, but God thought he had too many men so God pared them down to, yep, 300. God will get the glory in the end, not my list (sorry guys)

Whether God was involved in this purge or not, it doesn’t matter. The incident itself revealed my heart. Anything I accomplish isn’t because I have a list of people, who are awesome by the way, but because I put my trust in the Lord.

Going forward, I’m watch the back door to make sure God is walking in. When he does, I know everything will be ok.

Good News:  I have room for a few more subscribers, plenty of room. 🙂

Sign up at the bottom 🙂 vvvvvv

 

 

I Resigned My Youth Ministry Position. Now What?

No, this isn’t clickbait or even and article about what you should do if you resign (that will come later), but I really did resign from my job.

I didn’t get in trouble and all my relationships in the church are fine. This process has been going on for about a year and a half. I have been praying, thinking, blogging, and more praying some more about what’s next for my life.

I turn 50 this month and I graduate my last child from high school. I have been told this is a natural season of life change. I haven’t been here before so I’ll accept that. There were several factors at play in resigning my position ( I resigned because I never quit anything, btw.)

I had taken these students as far as I could take them

The kids I have served for eight years are the best. Over time, I was able to develop leaders and watch them shine, but I knew I couldn’t take them any further. We had done so much together from retreats, to mission trips, to service projects, to outreaches. It started to feel like wash, rinse repeat. There’s nothing wrong with repetition as long as your getting results, but I felt like I was becoming a manager when these kids needed a leader.

The kids need a younger leader

As I said earlier, I’m turning 50 this month and I would be lying if said I haven’t felt all 30 years of my youth ministry life. It was just getting harder to care about certain things, not the kids, but the role. I love my students with all my heart and they need someone who is fully engaged and hitting on all cylinders.

I’m not ashamed to say that it all caught up to me. It happens to all of us at some point. The kids need a younger leader more than I needed the job. I could have selfishly hung on for another 10 years, no one was kicking me out, but I don’t think that would have served these students or the church well. I want them to have a younger leader who can bring life to the group for a longer period of time.

The church needed a creative crises

Most in the church see me leaving my position as a bad thing. I do not. Every church needs a creative crisis. Every church needs moments where they need to rally around or behind a person or program, In this case, it’s the youth group.  I am not leaving the church permanently, I will still attend Sunday mornings and maybe Wednesday’s when I’m  not traveling.

For those who do not know, I am serving (until July 2018) an aging, small, rural church. Like most rural churches, there can be a bla·sé, get comfy attitude with  the way things are. My hope is that the church will see the need to wrap it’s arms around the youth ministry like never before .

We are One Church, adults, teen, kids. The adults need the youthfulness of teens to see the now and the future of our Body. Youth gives them hope. The teenagers need the wisdom and maturity of the adults to help them on their journey. My hope is that they do not hire someone too quickly otherwise everyone will wipe their brow and say “Whew! glad I can stop working with those teens. Let that young feller do it.” This only perpetuates a ” let’s hire out our responsibilities” kind of mentality. No church, it’s still your responsibility.

I need to grow as human being and not just a youth worker

You can be in youth work so long you forget their are other adults in the world. Most of my conversations are about relationships, events, culture, etc and most of the stuff is not in my wheelhouse.

The best thing I love is having conversations with my wife at the dinner table or in the sun room with the tv off. She’s the real adult in the room. We talk about our day, our plans,  and stuff we love. I want to do that, with her,  for the next 30 years.

I want to stretch my faith

To be honest,  I came to a place where it didn’t take a lot of faith to execute my job. I always went in with faith that God would be God and He would move in the life of student, and he did; but I knew my role too well, and it became too easy. It wasn’t like when I was young and had no clue what I was doing and would rush heavens doors for answers. I need that back in my life.

Everything in my life can be connected to a movie. In this case, Rocky III. Mick, Rocky’s manager, had set Rocky up with fights that were below his potential to keep him safe. In doing so, he made Rocky soft. When he fought Clubber Lang, he got destroyed. Rocky had lost his hunger, the *cue the music* “eye of the tiger” He went back to they gym, faced his fears, and came back leaner, meaner, and ready to take on the tougher opponent. Spoiler Alert: Rocky wins.

I said earlier that I resigned my youth pastoring job, but I have not resigned doing youth ministry. That’s literally impossible for me to do.

So, what now?

Good question, I am thankful that 12 years ago I started this blog/website. It’s become the hub and launch pad for what’s next. I plan to keep writing and serving the needs of youth workers right here. I love to help good youth ministries get better and great youth ministries become epic, it’s what I love.

If you’re a regular reader, thank you for your attention and please let me know how I might serve you and your youth ministry.

I’m now booking training sessions, youth meetings, retreats, revivals, camps, and anything else I can do to serve youth workers in the fall of 2018.

If you’d like to support me in my endeavors you can 

You can watch me talk about this in more detail in my Facebook Live announcement

A Crafty Gift For Christian Grads

 

My wife gave a metal impression kit with some washers and that got us thinking about graduation gifts. If you’re still needing an idea for a meaningful grad gift to your students, this may be the ticket.

There are links below to get your own kit and, because I’m an Amazon Affiliate, you’ll be supporting the ministry to boot.

 

 

 

I’m Not A Professional Youth Pastor

I’m a person in love with reach students. Yes, I’ve been a youth pastor, professionally, for 28 years, but that’s not why I reach and disciple students. I reach and disciple students because someone reached and discipled me.

There is something weird about saying you’re a professional youth worker. It’s like saying you’re a professional Christian. There’s no such thing. Being a youth pastor was simply the easiest way to fulfill my calling and passion.

This is not to say we shouldn’t act professionally. We should take our role and responsibilities serious and fulfill them with excellence.

Never get caught up in your “profession”. Don’t love titles. Don’t be enamored by degrees. Distance yourself from accolades. The Pharisees were professionals. We serve Jesus and the greatest title we will ever have is servant.

The Powerful Reason Why You Should Be Unreasonable

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

Being unreasonable doesn’t sound nice or fun, but it is necessary if we want progress. Being unreasonable, to me, means

Not giving in on morals and values

Expecting others to give their best if I’m going to give mine.

Keeping a high standard of performance for myself and others

The powerful idea behind being unreasonable is, as the quote says, without it you can’t make progress.

If you are not unreasonable with others about where you eat you, you may never lose weight.

If you are not unreasonable with your time, shutting out the culture of programs and gossip, you’ll never get anything done.

If you are not unreasonable about who you hang out with you may pick up bad habits or  they might just slow you down.

It is often necessary to be unreasonable if you want to succeed at anything.

Unreasonable people put their idea into the world and will not compromise. They say, “this is the way it’s suppose to be and I will align my life to create that reality.”.

Being unreasonable means mediocrity, average, and middle of the road are unacceptable as is anything that keeps progress from moving forward.

Being unreasonable is:

The mental discipline of seeing a picture in your mind and working to complete it.

The emotional discipline of embracing times of loneliness when no one understands you.

The physical discipline of keeping a schedule and not getting distracted.

Be unreasonable, don’t be unkind.

Be unreasonable, but don’t be inflexible.

Be unreasonable, but don’t shut others out.

Be unreasonable, but don’t lose the war for the sake of a battle.

Be unreasonable. Your success and/or happiness may depend on it.

 

 

 

What Does It Mean To YOU?

“When you enter the land which the LORD will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. “And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ you shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the LORD who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians, but spared our homes.'” And the people bowed low and worshiped.…
Exodus 12:25-27

You know when you’e looking for one verse, and then you cross reference it and find another amazing verse? I love when that happens. The verse above is what I found and I passed it on to my parents and invited them to ask themselves deeper questions in response to their kids questions.

If you have kids, you know they ask us many questions, “Why is the sky blue?” “Why do Zebras, have stripes” “Are we there yet?” . It seems like a never ending stream of questions.

When they are older, the questions get a little harder “Why did so and so have to die?” What am I supposed to with my life?” and so on.

In-between the easy and the hard questions, they may ask you about your faith, “What does this rite mean to you?”

“Why do we go to church/Sunday school?”

“Why do we worship?”

“Why is the Bible important?”

Really, what they are asking is, “why is it important to you?”

Our student are out extended kids. They have questions too. But, they don’t necessarily want to know what the Bible says, they want to know what you say. That want a human answer not a Bible App answer. They want to know why ____________________ is important to YOU.

We can explain in very broad terms, such ‘That’s just what we do”

That’s cheating. Now’s a good time to examine why you do what you do. Why do YOU read your Bible? Why do YOU worship as you do? Why do YOU believe Jesus is God’s son? Why is communion important to YOU? Why is church important to YOU? and a dozen more. It’s a good idea to make a list of possible questions and write out your answers.

Youth Workers, you’re students may also have some questions about why you do what you do and why do you do it that way.

Why do you preach this way? Program this way? Lead this way?

Your kids deserve some deeper answers of why you’re doing what your doing and why you’re leading them the way you are.

Take some time, ask yourself some big WHY? questions so when kids ask you why is sharing Christ with others important to YOU? Why is camp important to  YOU? They deserve a little more than, “I’ve always done it this way.”

Who knows, maybe you don’t have a good reasons and you find that you can change, try something different and change your youth ministry’s course in the process.