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.

The Importance of “Hey! I Missed You”

I love telling kids I miss them. Now, I don’t necessarily like that kids were missing from the event or meeting but I love to tell them that I missed them. I know how it makes me feel when someone misses me. They are saying, “You are valuable. You presence is important and we know when it is not among us.”

If you are not telling kids they are missed, shame on you. You’re missing an opportunity to affirm a kids existence. You can take this to the next level.

I do my best to text parents the next day to let them know I missed their kids. I also tell them in person and they know me well enough that I’m not making a big deal about attendance. I am telling them that I value their kids. I have an opportunity to tell parents that I value what their kids bring to the youth meeting/ministry

Presence – They make a difference in our group

Leadership – Their example/influence makes a difference.

Servanthood– They offer their gift of practicality and helps.

Voice – They add value to our worship and ministry time

Compassion – They have open hearts and welcoming arms

Communicating with parents about the value of their children, to you, the ministry, and the world, is just as powerful as telling the kids themselves.

It’s a lonely world. Kids need to hear it. Parents need to hear it. You need to hear it. “Hey! I missed you.”

For more on the loneliness epidemic, listen to my interview with Tim Eldred: Alone Sucks

 

If You Love It, Make It Better

I am currently reading Brene’ Brown’s Braving The Wilderness. There’s a quote  (among many) that really spoke to me. The quote’s context deals with living in the tension of taking an opposing view. In this case, it was a Penn State athlete who supported the victims of Jerry Sandusky abuse and Joe Paterno’s silence.

The quote was

When you love a place like Penn [State], you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

I imagine it wasn’t easy for this person to take the victims side when there was an avalanche of support for the head coach Joe Paterno, but, because he loved Penn State, he wanted to make it better. That meant disagreeing with the masses.

This says so much about how I feel about The Church, God’s Bride. I see so much potential in Her, yet I am so mad with her much of the time. I could replace the word church with Penn and it would describe perfectly how I feel about The Church.

When you love a place like The Church, you fight to make it better, to own our problems and fix them. You don’t pretend everything is ok. That’s not loyalty or love, its fear.

When we do not speak up, when we do not challenge the status quo, when we avoid rather than offer our suggestions, we do not love that thing. When we do not try to make a thing better, it is because we fear the push back and the resistance.

How much do I love the Church. I have loved it enough to fight within it’s walls and I love it enough to know when to move on. The Church is not ok.  If you love the church, your church, take a position to make it better.

Why I Won’t Hold The Hand of A Dying Church

It just hurts too much. I’ve been a part of a few churches where I saw it happening in front of my eyes. Why is it that the number 2-4 guys can see it but not the number one guy?

I’m not built for it, emotionally that is. I can’ stand to watch things die. This probably goes back to watching my dad die of cancer. It was a slow and emaciating death. There is a cancer in many churches

  • lack of vision/leadership
  • the inability to get rid of idiots
  • silence
  • pretending that the church is not dying and doing nothing aka apathy

No matter what the cancer is, I don’t want to watch it happen. When I was 12 a neighbor asked me if I wanted a dog. I said no, because I had dropped a dog when I was little and it had to be put to sleep. I told them, “I’d probably just kill it anyway.” It may be the reason I won’t pastor a church. I’d probably just kill it.

I don’t understand it, death that is.  Maybe I’m still too young. At 49 I have more life still left in me and those in dying churches are in their 70’s. That’s not an official stat, it’s the average age of those in the dying churches I’ve worked. Regardless of all the stupid crap I’ve seen, I still have some optimism and faith in me. Not in myself, mind you, but in God.

I’m not special, not like hospice nurses. Hospice nurses have a special calling. They meet the needs of the dying. Both recognize that death is a reality and, barring a miracle, inevitable. Day after day, nurses bath, give meds, talk , and make the inevitable more comfortable. I respect them and I respect the pastors who can stay with a church to the bitter end. I’m not that guy.

I just don’t believe communities of faithful people have to die. I understand that every organization has a stopping point. Amazon caused hundreds to go out of business. Toys R Us will be closing soon. Every business fulfills its purpose and moves on, but not the Church. The Church was built to last and will last in whatever form it takes.

Maybe churches are the same in respect to change. Toys R Us could have been the world wide online toy deliverer, but they were too slow. Books A Million could have been the word wide book deliver, also too slow. The Church is and can be the greatest deliverer of hope there has every been, but to many are to slow to change. To weak to change. The Amazon church has gobbled them up.

I don’t blame churches for dying any more than I blame a human being for dying, except if it could have been avoided. Smoking causes cancer. Drinking too much leads to alcoholism and  liver failure. Bad eating and not exercising leads to obesity and heart disease. All can be avoided. Churches that are dying could survive, but it’s like they don’t want to.

I can’t bear to watch the church throw away it’s potential and its’ resources on crazy “get well quick”experimental drugs (programs, trends, snake oil, etc.) rather than do what keeps them well, prayer, evangelism, serving the poor, worship, neighborhood outreaches, killing their ego, and getting rid of cancer causing toxins.

What do I know. It’s 4:40 am and my heart is heavy for the dying church, that community that Christ died to fill with power and will marry one day. I just don’t want Him marrying a corpse.