youth ministry

You know you’re onto something when…

  • the powers that be (doing nothing for years) are nervous about you.
  • people from the church start leaving tracts and books on your desk anonymously.
  • an old lady cusses at you and about you.
  • country club members decide to worship elsewhere.
  • tattoos and pick-up trucks outnumber lattes and minivans in the parking lot.
  • you get sued.
  • your building gets tagged.
  • you get a “performance improvement plan” and are assigned to take the Strength Finders test.
  • a week later the Senior Pastor confesses that he’s jealous of your ministry.
  • the janitor starts covering for you.
  • a ministry magazine and an investigative reporter want an interview on the same day.
  • you schedule volunteer meetings and everyone shows up.
  • your budget gets slashed.
  • you can’t remember whose graduation party or wedding reception you’re at anymore.
  • the fellowship hall you booked for a fundraiser is suddenly being used for a knitting conference.
  • you get called a heretic.
  • you can’t sleep at night.
  • the discouragement is unbearable.
  • the walls of the church seem paper thin.
  • you are exhausted, weary, blurry eyed, but can’t imagine yourself doing anything else.

Remember: Discouragement does not come from the Lord. When you’re onto something our enemy attacks. The closer you get, the more you can expect to be attacked.

Christian Living

There are crappy days ahead

There are crappy days ahead.

Reading blogs and Facebook updates and happy tweets from your friends, you might begin to think that you are the only one who has truly awful days.

This past week I heard from a friend who told me how wonderful my life is going. “Keeping up with your blog and stuff… boy, things sure do seem to be going great.

My response was one word: “Editing.

My life is just like yours. There are good days, bad days, and days when the well-hidden excrement of my life hits the quite literal fan to spray proverbial crap all over my life.

This I can promise you: There are crappy days ahead. James says it way more politely than I have.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. (James 1:2-3)

Notice James didn’t say, “If you face trials…” He said, “whenever.” Hard times are coming. It’s inevitable. Hard times are a guaranteed investment.

So the question isn’t, “How can I avoid hard times?” If we’re realistic the question is, “Whatchagonnado when you have a crappy day?

Here’s a few things that have helped me, maybe they are helpful for you?

  1. First– Am I just being sensitive? Sometimes I just get bent out of shape over things that aren’t really that bad. Am I mislabeling something as a crappy day when it’s really just a day when things didn’t go my way?
  2. Perspective helps. There will be days in life when your spouse is disappointed in you, or your kid gets in trouble at school, or you end up in the hospital, or your bank account read -$128.32. But any day you aren’t dead is another day things can get better.
  3. It’s OK to laugh. I don’t mean laughter as a way to hide from what’s going on. But sometimes the circumstances of our crappy days are just plain ridiculous and laughing about it is great medicine.
  4. Grab a friend and a drink. For millennia people who have had a bad day have met up with a friend for a beverage to unwind. Text a friend and go out for coffee, a beer, or a glass of wine. I’m not talking about getting drunk… I’m just talking about relaxing and getting some fresh air.
  5. Go for a walk, a jog, a bike ride. Anything physical seems to help me. Even if it’s late at night. This will help relax the tension so you can sleep. Oh, it’s the dark night of the soul which we all must avoid! 
  6. Just shut up. Sometimes when I’ve had a bad day I run my mouth. I say too much, I think too much, I worry too much, and I fall into anxiety about stuff I can’t control. All of that makes matters far worse!
  7. It’ll be better tomorrow. Nothing cures a crappy day like waking up the next morning.

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Photo by Dennis Wong via Flickr (Creative Commons)
Christian Living

Consider it Joy!

King James Knew Trials
Oh wait, not this James. The other one knew a thing or two about turning daily trials into joy. This one was kind of the opposite.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 1:2-3

Twisted Life

James knew what was up. 

He knew that if you’d take walking with Jesus seriously, truly lead people, got past the fluff, and entered into the Christian life, trials would come. A life with Jesus isn’t the absence of trials.

Instead, James says to look at the trials in your life with a twisted little smile. We know how this ends, right? We know that while minute-by-minute life might stink we can look at our tough times from a Kingdom timeline and know we’ll be OK.

James doesn’t tell you to avoid trials. He says to put them in perspective because a trial is nothing but a workout for your perseverance muscle.

I Choose Joy

I’m not trial-less. Like James predicted trials indeed come my way. People who don’t really know me line up to ask, “Are you OK?” And secretly I think they want to see me squirm. They want to know that my faith is wavering because it might somehow give them permission to continue in their wobbly-kneed journey to the throne.

But I choose to take James’ advice. I choose joy. Even when it’s not rational I choose joy. Odds stacked against me? Things aren’t going to go my way? Joy is a choice and not a foregone conclusion.

It comes from inside of me. Joy flies in the face of despair, slaps it, and then gives despair a hug.

I choose joy because Joy chose me. 

Sticks-n-Stones Can Kiss My Butt

I spent a lot of Monday licking my wounds from unkind things said to me over the weekend.

Maybe I deserved it? Maybe I’ve offended some people? I can’t know why people make the choice to say something rude/sarcastic/passive-aggressive– then smile and walk away.

I think to myself, “It was good seeing you, too. Thanks for being the mouthpiece of Satan.”

You see, James helps me know that discouragement isn’t from the Lord. (Even if it comes from a fellow believer.) He says that things like this are going to come your way… but you need to choose joy through them because if you pass the test your faith will grow.

When people say nasty things to me (or about me, which is somehow supposed to be better) I am reminded of Genesis 50:20. Joseph said to his wolf-like brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

I’m no Hebrew scholar but I’m pretty sure Jospeh was saying… “You sold me as a slave and told dad I was killed. I should have you killed or just let you starve! I know everything you’ve said about me… kiss my butt. I’m going to bless you despite what you deserve.

A faith-filled life isn’t the absence of trials. A faith-filled life comes when you are able to choose joy when trials come your way.

For more joy, BRING IT ON!

Here’s the truly twisted thing about this passage from James. Walking with Jesus isn’t about avoiding trials. It isn’t about operating your life in such a way that people don’t have nasty things to say about you or don’t want to take you out.

As I read the Gospels and pastoral epistles I see Jesus imploring us to live a life of boldness. Paul says in Ephesians 5 to be light in dark places. We can’t be that until we pick up our lamp and go into the dark, scary places and change things!

And changing things… walking in darkness to bring light… is going to bring about drama.

Walking with Jesus in joy is telling trials to come on with it– because trials produce joy and faithfulness!

I don’t know what’s going on in your life. But in my life? I’m choosing joy. 


hmm... thoughts

Dealing with discouragement

Last Sunday, I wrote about some of the discouragement I was feeling. Anxiety. Self-doubt. Questioning my abilities. Questioning decisions I’ve made. Paths I’ve chosen. I wish I could say that was just a moment of self-doubt and second-guessing. And I wish I could look back on that 7 days later and laugh.

But I can’t. It seems I’m passing through a little season of discouragement.

And it sucks.

It is completely antithetical to reality. My head knows it but my heart doesn’t seem to care.

As I look out my window right now, the Eastern sky is about to burst with the morning. With the blue sky to later burn through the morning mist– I’m reminded that discouragement comes from Satan.

Discouragement is Satan’s ministry to me. He wants to distract me and destroy me. He wants to get a foothold. He’d love nothing more than for me to give up.

3 Ways I’m Dealing with this Season of Discouragement

  1. Looking back – I reread two posts this morning that really helped me put this whole thing into perspective. The first came from July 2010. (5 Ways to Encourage Your Church Staff.) The second needs more context as it was written nearly 6 years ago. A lot was changing in my life. We moved to Romeo in 2003 with hopes that big things were to come at that little church. It had grown from about 100 people to about 400 people when I was hired. Then four months after I arrived, the senior pastor resigned and we quickly went from nearly 400 to about 175. In the midst of that, my new boss (a person I had lead the charge to hire) didn’t have the same high-view of youth ministry I had. So, in turn, I was getting pulled away from the thing I loved most, youth ministry, and pushed into more of an assistant pastor role. On top of that, I’d go to my local network meetings and because Romeo was seen as this little town in the country and because my church didn’t have 3,000 people like everyone else at the table… I was often completely ignored. In the midst of that I wrote a post called, Am I OK with “Just OK?” As I reread that post this morning my own words from 2005 put tears in my eyes. I have dealt with seasons of self-doubt before and yet here I am, STILL STANDING in the simple knowledge that God is the author and I am not!
  2. Looking around – I’m in an amazing season of life. The last six weeks since Jackson’s birth have been some of the best times we can remember. That little boy has been an amazing gift to our life. Not just in welcoming a new child. But also in how he’s brought our entire family closer together. On top of that, it’s been an amazing six weeks of blessing from our friends as we’ve relished in watching Jackson act as a joy machine everywhere we’ve gone. As I think back over the last year, I just shake my head at how much God has shown Himself. It’s more than just Jackson, (and Ruby, Eliza, Xander, Sofia, Lucy… and the other babies who have arrived into our life) it is in my work, in our community group, in our neighborhood, at our church, at the kids school… God shown Himself clearly and repeatedly.
  3. Looking forward – This Winter and Spring I said no to a ton of things. I missed two YS Palooza’s, I missed a PlanetWisdom, and I missed a few other conferences/opportunities because I wanted to be home for Kristen and the kids. I love those things. And I’m already looking forward to getting out and doing the thing I love most more this Summer: Meeting and encouraging ministry folks. More than that, there are some really fun things on the horizon with our family & our church. Even our garden gives me something fun to look forward to.

Here’s the excerpt that made me smile this morning. I love when my 2005 self preaches to my 2011 self:

How come so many youth workers look up to Mike Yacanelli, but when it comes down to it… They don’t have the balls to live like him? They read his books, they chuckled at his joke “I am the pastor of the slowest growing church in America” but they wouldn’t ever put themselves, their talents, their families, or their reputation in that situation. Let’s face it, a lot of youth workers out there HAVE EGOS THE SIZE OF THEIR YOUTH GROUPS. They are snobs who wouldn’t ever want to work with broken and busted churches. They hear what church I work at and head for the hills because we are too small, too broken, and can’t offer them anything of value. So the reality is, that they are in ministry for themselves and not for others. They have been trained and are getting experienced so that they can have easier jobs with more stuff and less problems. The concept of “others first” or “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is foreign to them. A lot of the “big guys” I know have bought into and perpetrate the lie “bigger is better.”

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