My Rules Of Persistence

Persistence – firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.

I’ve been blogging for the past 12 years. I write because I want to, because I have a passion for encouraging and equipping youth workers and because nice people like you occasionally say I write good things (thank you and feel free to leave a comment) and has been helpful to you and that keeps me going.

If nothing else, I’m persistent. I have outlasted many other bloggers, ministry related or otherwise and wanna be-bloggers. This has paid off in many ways.

  • I have shown that I am serious about my subject
  • I have made a few dollars by making this a hub of resources
  • I have created a discipline for myself and have become a better writer along the way (I hope). 

Persistence might be my greatest attribute. Whatever you do, I think I can do it longer and better over time. I have faced my blank screens and writers block. I have overcome the self pity from believing (falsely) that no one cares what I’m saying. I am no longer easily discouraged and I enjoy the challenge that come my way.

Let me share a few ideas about persistence and why you might want to recalibrate your perception of persistence for longterm success.

Persistence is more than working hard

There are plenty of people working hard, they;re just working hard in the wrong direction. Ww all work hards, but some only work hard in spurts, like pulling bunch of weeds and needing a drink ten minutes later, possibly never to return. The persistent weed-puller, pulls a few weeds every day, after the sun goes down to maximum effectiveness and avoids the sunburn.

Persistence isn’t frenzy. Persistent people aren’t time sensitive, they know what needs to be done and they pace themselves. The same is true of goals Persistent people understand that where they are headed will take time and patiently plan their way there. Persistent people aren’t anxious, they know their hard work and smart moves will pay off.

Persistence is more than being hard headed

I think one of my past perceptions of persistence was that of someone who did’t listen to others. I thought a persistent person doggedly went his way regardless of what other said. There is some truth in this as it applies to not listening to nay-sayers, trolls, and negativity lords, but it does not apply broadly.

Persistent people have selective hearing. They know how to tune out the white noise and tune into those who genuinely want to help them reach their goals.

I can be super focused to the point of exclusion. I want what I want and anyone who used to say anything bad about my ideas was obviously an enemy. This, sadly, included my wife. I was so persistent in what I wanted, I would nor listen to wisdom, critique or advice if it disagreed with my vision.

Thankfully, I am not as closed off to what others are saying, because I know most of them are trying to help me.

Persistence is more than running over others to get to your goal

Persistence comes across as an aggressive word.  A running back stiff arming people down the field is a kind of persistence that works great in football but not so much in real life.

But, persistence can also be like a river that softens rocks. The river moves quietly and quickly but with great effectiveness over time.

persistently kind

persistently understanding

persistently empathetic

persistent encouraging

All of this, over time, can break down the resistance of your worst critics and turn them into your biggest fans

I have a few rules of persistence that have served me over their years and they may help you as well.

Rules of Persistence

Don’t settle for less

Don’t lower your standards

Don’t let others pressure you to compromise

Don’t take short cuts if it diminishes the outcome you want

Don’t use excuses like “That’s too hard” or “That takes too much work”

Don’t  try to be like anyone else. Persistently pursue your unique voice and vision.

The outcome may not be exactly what you want and you may not get where you want in the way you thought, but persistence, and patience, will always move you forward. Keep at it, what ever “it” is for you.

“Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”
― Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Thank You Week 9 LFYC Campers!!

Hey Campers!!

Wow! What a fantastic week! You guys stepped up big this week in your faith. You guys did some growing this week and I could not be more proud of you! I saw many of you go from shy and timid to standing on stage and sharing your heart. I saw many of you, maybe for the first time, publicly read scripture. But of course, it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish, right?

To help you along the way, I have a 21 day devotion for you that will take you through the gospel of John. You can download it for free HERE

I did not include the worship in the videos below, for the sake of time, but  here’s a Spotify list of all the songs that were played.

If you’re a youth worker, you can book me for your next camp or retreat here

Sunday’s Message 

Monday’s Message 

Tuesday’s Message 

Wednesday’s Message

Thursday’s Message

book me for your next camp or retreat here

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.

Don’t Tell Me You’ve Tried Everything

If..

You haven’t changed your habits
You haven’t changed your thinking
You haven’t prayed about it
You haven’t done research
You haven’t put in the work
You have looked for collaborators
You haven’t changed the crowd you run with
You haven’t read or listened to a book on the subject
You haven’t take steps to better yourself
You haven’t read your Bible
You haven’t taken a class
You haven’t budgeted your money                                                                                           
You haven’t gotten a second job if needed                                                                                              You haven’t searched Youtube on a way to do it                                                                        You haven’t asked for help

Commit to doing these 15 things to begin with, then I might listen, but you’ll still not have an excuse because I’ll have 15 more suggestions.

If, after all this, you still haven’t broken through or gained ground; you either didn’t want it that bad or you quit too soon.

Keeping Up The Cemetary

“The decision to close the church was “very, very hard,” said church council president Lance Michaelson. But the council decided that rather than spend its remaining dollars keeping up the church, they would use the money to keep up its cemetery, where so many loved ones are laid to rest — and where many members plan to be, too.” – Star Tribune Article 

This quote was from an article I recently read about a church closing. The statement stunned me. Now, if you’ll read the full article you’ll understand the context fo the quote, but it got me wondering how many pastors, youth pastors, and church leaders are keeping up the cemetery instead of putting money, energy and effort into keeping the church vibrant.

I understand there is only so much one can do for a church if the community around it is dwindling and leaving for the “big city”, but I also believe that humans are slow to adaptation and change.

Many a church has closed because it did not want to reach the people around them or the people God brought them. When people resist change, death has has been signaled to begin it’s march.

If I had a church and I had to close it due to lack of membership, I would have considered it losing, and I hate losing. I wonder, could have been done to stop this church from closing? Here are a few questions I would ask

How often did the church reach out to the broken and hurting?

Did the church embrace technology?

Was there a mindset of growth or a fixed mindset of “whatever will be will be?”

How much of the budget was put into reaching teens and kids when the church was in it’s hay day? If the budget was big, why did you stop giving to it?

Were your members wiling to change? If you knew in your hey day, what would happen to your church, what would you have changed?

One again, I don’t judge this church. There are a ton of factors that go into why a church closes from demographics to poor leadership and a dozen in-between.

Everything on this earth has a last day, including churches, but let’s not turn our our focus, our budgets, and hearts away from giving our best effort to keeping the living vibrant and engaged in reaching the lost to keeping the dead comfortable.

 

Advice To Young Youth Workers On Choosing A “Winning” Church Part Two

So, what is a winning church to you? In my last post, I detailed what I think scripture describes as winning components of a church. In this post I want to be a tad carnal, in a life giving, not offensive to God, kind of way.

I know as a young pastor, I just wanted to get in the game. I just wanted to be a youth pastor so bad, I would have taken any job at any church, and I did. Bad mistake. Several of them.

Every church says they want to grow, but that is not true, it’s assumed.  Most youth workers I know, like to be a part of churches that are growing or at least making progress. Yet, many of my youth workers friends are in churches who are more interested in maintenance that growth.

So, before you shake that hand or sign on the dotted line, ask yourself  a few deeper questions.

Does The Church Perform Like It Wants To Grow?

Churches that only hope to grow without a plan to grow, will not grow. Churches that plan and execute, on a regular basis, grow.

I’ve heard it said that we ought to pray like its all up to God and work like it’s all up to us. When I hear Pastors say, “Well, its all in God’s hands” I want to say,”No, it’s not. He put it in our hands” That’s the point of the Great Commission.  We work with the Holy Spirit to get the message out, make disciples of those who believe and build the kingdom of God through love and service.

What outreaches is the church running on a regular basis?

What corporate outreaches do they have? (Easter plays, etc.)

Don’t be a part of a lazy church.

Does The Church Pray Like It Wants To Grow? 

All work and no prayer makes the church a machine, a grind. Churches need to work and pray. Nehemiah says, of the rebuilding of Jerusalem,

 From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah  who were building the wall.  16,17

Yes, the work has to go on, but there must also be watchmen on the wall making sure the enemy doesn’t come and destroy the work being done.

Churches that make sure that there are leaders (the Pastor being chief among them) in the church who are upholding the work of God with prayer and urging the  pursuit of depth of spiritual life (personal and family) are necessary for a healthy church. Does the church you’re looking at feel like prayer is important?

The church who balances the work of God with the spiritual health of it’s people is a winning church.

Does The Church Plan Like It Wants To Grow? 

A well planned, purposeful  calendar is a sign of winning church. Events and activities to reach the lost, disciple the faithful, and offers leadership training opportunities is looking to avoid a growth crisis, a maturity crisis, and a leader crisis.

Organizations tend to only address things when they see that it’s becoming a crisis versus being a proactive to avoid the crisis in the first place. The winning church looks ten steps ahead, sees the potential problems and plans to avoid it best they can.

Some of this you won’t know about the church until you’re neck deep in it, but ask to see a calendar, ask how far along they are planned and look at what’s in the bulletin to give you an idea of what their planning mindset is like.

Do they have regular planning sessions? Monthly or Quarterly?

Do they have planning retreats? Do they plan for the whole year?

The attitude. leadership, and work ethic of a church will tell you whether that church is going to win or not. Sadly, many youth workers only look at is the pay check and youth room possibilities as to whether they work at a church or not; then two years in, they bolt.

Winning doesn’t mean perfect. Every church you apply to has it’s problems, even “winning” churches, but I can put up with the nonsense of church people. politics, and over all messiness of community life if I’m seeing people coming to know Christ and growing in their faith.

Non-winning churches are exercises in futility, constantly putting out fires for no gain. Life’s too short for that. Choose your church wisely.

 

 

Quit Hating Your Struggle

If you are trying to achieve anything, expect the struggle. The struggle is the most important part of growth. 

We struggled from the womb to world, now here we are. 

We must wrestle with our struggle as Jacob wrestled with God and we must not release our struggle until it has blessed us with knowledge, insight or some boon that furthers our journey. 

Struggle is the in-between. It is the holy ground between where we are and where we want to be. We must honor the struggle, but not worship it. It is both passing and present in the same moment. 

The struggle is not the absence of God, but rather it is the time span or the moment where we choose to press in and know God better. Struggle is where we have our grow up, put on our big boy and big girl pants moments and face the excuses that want to kill our dreams.

The struggle exists to remind us that we are struggling FOR something.

Don’t give up. 

There is no growth without struggle.

Struggle on.

 

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.

 

 

 

Advice To Young Youth Workers On Choosing A “Winning” Church Part One

It’s middle of summer and I’m missing football.

This got me thinking about the churches I’ve served at and I feel like I needed to equate them to NFL teams. In no particular order, on purpose,

One church I compare to the  Chargers, They were fun with lots of great moments and lots of talent, and had  some success.

One church I thought of as the The Browns, they didn’t not know how to win. Bad coaching, bad players, messed up locker room.

One church thought they were the Cowboys, lots of hype and chatter, but lots of drama in the locker room.

One church, Packers for sure. Legendary coach, hard working, lots of tradition, but lost the vision for what winning meant as well as the fans who supported them, no matter what.

Another church was the  Jets but with Brett Favre. This was a short stint.  Felt like I got traded . This was a pristine team. Strategy over comradere. All machine, no passion, no wins.

There were the Steelers.  A team of great tradition, but with an aging quarterback. There’s some talent, but they just can’t put it all together.

I know, you think I’m being judgmental. I’m not. These are my opinions. Youth workers have to decide what a “winning” church is and then apply to them.

When a football player retires, he remembers the good and bad of each team he’s played for. His favorite coach and his least favorite. Somehow, we think we shouldn’t define winning teams and losing teams when it comes to the church. I disagree.

If you’re a young youth pastor, you’re going to have  define, early on, what winning is and what does a church look like when they are winning. Otherwise, you’ll be desperate for a job and sign up with any team. Don’t do it!

By the way, prayer is a big part of this search, but I find that all prayer and no discernment is a terrible way to choose a youth pastor position. All I am saying is, I could have avoided some :losing” churches if had committed to Acts 2:42-47 as my Biblical definition of winning and what I really wanted out of working at a church.

First, look for the biblical definition of a winning (not read as perfect) church and then consider asking these questions of the church you are applying to or at least ask them inwardly and look for signs to the answer.

42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 

Does the church stick to the Bible or does it run on the pastors personality?

Do the people of the church like to get together or is it a chore, just one more event/meeting?

Does the church enjoy meals together? (most to)

Doe the church value prayer in and out of Sunday service?

43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.

What do you believe about the supernatural power of God? Does the church you want to work at share your beliefs?

What signs and wonders or manifest works of God would you want to see at your church?

44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.

Is there a general sense of unity in the congregation?

Are people on board with the pastor’s vision? (How can you tell?)

45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.

Is this a generous church?

Do they bless the community or take from it?

46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

Does the church have a small group piece to facilitate discipleship?

Is there a general sense of hospitality?

47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

How many new members have been added in the past year?

How many are finding Christ in the church and through it’s members?

Is there a premium put on evangelism events and personal soul winning?

How many have been baptized?

How many guests are in service during your visit?

Don’t be enamored with the preaching, there more to church than preaching

Don’t be enamored with the worship, trends come and go.

Don’t be enamored with the facilitates, they only facilitate the work being done.

Don’t be enamored by “potential”, look at what is real and happening in real time.

If you want a long term, fruitful youth ministry and you want to maintain your own spiritual health and life goals, these questions are a critical part of making these decisions. Winning churches, not perfect churches, care about the process, the journey and not just the destination.