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Plurality in Discernment

Over the past few months I’ve processed some significant life changing stuff.

Before I said, “1-2-3 Jump” to joining The Youth Cartel, I forced myself into a discernment process. I knew the Spirit of God was telling me to move. But, in truth, what I was hearing was more clues than it was clear direction.

I knew it was time to do something else but I needed help knowing what it was.

Two fact-based fears lead me to a discernment process rather than a solo decision:

  1. Fear of making the wrong choice and costing myself a few years of setback.
  2. Knowledge that, left to myself, I’ve made a couple of wrong moves in the past.

The discernment group – plurality in decision

When things got serious and I knew I needed to make a decision soon I moved from talking to only Kristen about it to including four people in the process.

Here’s how I set that up:

  • I identified four people (they were all men this time) whom I respect, who know me in four different capacities, and whom I knew would not just blow smoke up my butt– they’d tell me the truth.
  • I asked them to be a part of it. To pray with and for me during the process. And to be available to exchange texts, emails, phone calls, or even get together a few times.
  • The four people wouldn’t ever meet. I’d meet with them separately and report back to Kristen what I was hearing and feeling.
  • I was up front that I needed to move quickly. So it would be a short, but intense, time.

The buckets

I knew I had five buckets of opportunity. These were five things I knew I could do. Discerning which bucket to fill was the first step, what to fill it with was the second.

  1. A youth ministry job in a local church or parachurch.
  2. A move to a similar role in another, existing, youth ministry organization.
  3. Freelancing McLane Creative.
  4. Starting my own youth ministry organization.
  5. Some combination of buckets.

The early process

There were a few significant points in the process. Each of the four drilled deeply into my time with YS. Each of the four sought to discover what I am passionate about. “If money weren’t a problem what would I dream about doing.” And questions like that.

Early in the process I spent a half day with Marko. (One of the four) He lead me through an exercise which plotted things I’m competent at doing, things I’m passionate about doing, and things that were opportunities. And we talked a lot about the impact of my work on my family.

At the end of that time two realities stared me in the face:

  1. As much as it was clear that I love the local church I shouldn’t seek a role in the church because that wasn’t a good mix for where I’m at right now.
  2. I really don’t want to live anywhere else right now. San Diego has become home our home.

I reported these learnings to the other three and they agreed with those two things. Which pretty much eliminated buckets 1 & 2.

Fear factor

Buckets 3 & 4 were both starting my own business. Something I wasn’t sure I had the energy nor the guts to do at this stage in life. (I’m 35, married with three young kids. Paying for college feels closer every day! Health insurance is ridiculous. On and on.) Having run my own business before I know that it’s a lot easier to work for someone than it is to work for yourself. Plus, starting a business is crazy with all the legal and tax implications to think through. I’ve been there before. Do I really want to go through all of that again?

The Aha Moment

Somewhere along that process, actually fairly early on, Marko and I exchanged text messages late one night. We were talking through a situation he was facing with the Cartel and it all kind of clicked. “Instead of starting my own thing why don’t we just work together?” That led to a flurry of calls and emails over the next few days.

I could do my own thing AND start The Youth Cartel with a Marko, someone I trusted and have walked with for a long time.

I took that idea back to the rest of the group. In truth, I wasn’t sure what they were going to say. As excited as I was about the prospects of it I was also committed to submitting to this groups wisdom. I didn’t want to just trust my heart on this. I wanted it to be a good, solid decision.

The resolution

The answers came really quick. All of them were excited about that. It would allow me to launch both McLane Creative and The Youth Cartel in similar trajectories with separate audiences. (Bucket five) While it was scary to think about going into start-up mode as a family of five… it was less scary than settling for something I didn’t feel called to do.

McLane Creative stuff would continue to push my creative and technological skills as I seek to best serve my non-church clients.

The Youth Cartel would serve my church-based clients with marketing and web stuff, but also allow me to push into other arenas I have huge interests in. Coaching/consulting, resource development, and speaking/hosting gatherings.

Maybe, if you’re going through something similar, this will help you? What decision-making processes have you used at significant moments? How could I improve this process? 

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

15 replies on “Plurality in Discernment”

I think it was the Quakers who used to do this all the time. They were called “Clearness Committees”. The logistics of how it all played out was different, but the principle is the same.

Cool. That sounds great! Happy for you and Marko!

Is Mclane Creative going to build webpages for individual clients or companies?

Great question. McLane Creative will continue to operate as it was. We are just mixing clients a bit. So people in the church/youth ministry world will get served by McLane Creative (me and my monsters) under TYC name. But clients not really in the church/YM world will still be with McLane Creative.

I “think” that will allow me to distinguish McLane Creative from just serving the Christian community and broaden it to serve the broader San Diego web community and general blog community. Whereas, The Youth Cartel’s marketing services will specifically serve individuals and organizations in the Christian community.

Clear as mud, right?

Thanks for sharing, Adam! I don’t have a major decision to make at the moment, but I will file this away for future reference! I’m very excited and encouraged for this next phase in your journey! Also, I’m super glad that San Diego is your home! 🙂

THANK YOU!
This post went straight to my heart and right into action. I’m “in between” jobs and with my wife and I initially discerning a move closer to her family (that’s 1500 miles from where we live now), we are now actively pursuing that, but not many youth ministry positions open in TX in my denomination (Catholic), but I do have one one interview a week from today. So I reached out to 4 prayerful men (multiple denominations) who have lives rooted in Christ, to pray along with me about what God is showing and speaking.

Anyways…THANK YOU! Love the blog, keep up the good work and the encouragement of us on the front lines.

Adam,
If you are comfortable, I’d be interested to know some of the hard questions or comments that your “inner 4” said. Were all 4 in agreement, including your wife about your decision? Finally, do the hurdles that keep you from going back into the local church full-time potentially hinder your ability to support youth workers through Youth Cartel?
(Sorry I sound like the friggin FBI, just interested)
nate

I’m happy to be transparent about the process.

The process was fluid and involved a bunch of meetings/conversations in a short period of time. So I can’t remember all of the questions word for word, but here’s the flavor.

But the 4 were hard on me. There were difficult, soul searching questions. Questions about ego. Questions about money/savings/spending habits. Questions about my marriage. Questions about my other relationships. Some stuff I wanted to hide from. And their bringing it up affirmed that they were the right people for the process.

In the end, all four were in agreement. Actually, they arrived at the conclusion that I landed on before I did but allowed me to get there at my own pace. At the end of the day, the route I chose was filled with the most risk. (Risk that a father of 3 kids has to take seriously.)

Kristen liked this option from the moment it came up. Her doctrine has been “it’s better to be happy than safe” and “choosing the most secure thing now isn’t the most secure thing.” Because of some of our past, this actually feels like less risk to her than going to work for another company or going to work at a church. And its obviously zero disruption to the kids.

Your last question is very interesting because seeking a FT ministry job was my first instinct. I never intended to leaving FT working with students to support people who work with students. But this group helped me face the reality that moving forward with The Youth Cartel while continuing as a volunteer at my church (I help in the HS ministry) was actually great stewardship of the talents, giftedness, and opportunities God has laid before me. It took outside voices to tell me that. It felt a little arrogant to say to myself, “Adam, you need to not look at working for the local church so that you can dedicate your attention to the national or even international level.” It took those other voices telling me that for me to accept it.

I’m just as biblically qualified for the role of a pastor in a church as I’ve ever been, I love the local church as much as ever, and not choosing to work at a church now isn’t a rejection of that. It’s just not doing it “for now.”

It’s the same help that I got from people like Tic. My time of working with YS is not over. But my time of working at YS is.

Does that help? Again, I’m happy to share my process if it helps others see how a similar process might benefit them.

Yes this helps tremendously! I think this response to my questions put even more meat on your original post. You painted a beautiful picture of community and that making decisions like this involve investigating the crap in our lives as well as the gifts.

Adam,

I think this is a great fit, and I’m glad that two of my favorite guys are working together…I’m equally glad you get to stay in San Diego!

T

[…] This changed when one day I had a Risky Business kind of thought. I awoke to the reality that God didn’t put me on this earth to go along with the crowd. It’s not in my DNA or character. And no one pays me to be on a team that makes bad decisions. Therefore, I have to speak up and call out bad ideas. And when someone is trying to rush a decision, I’ve learned to slow the whole thing down to help navigate us into a discernment process. […]

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