management The Youth Cartel

How Dreams Come True

If chasing dreams is the folly of youth I want to be forever young. 

I’m chasing some dreams right now. I’m unashamed about it. For too long I sat on them, taking little action in their pursuit or even allowing myself the mental capacity to dream about these dreams.

Perhaps I was convinced they weren’t worth chasing? Or perhaps I lacked the wisdom, skills, knowledge, or intestinal fortitude? Or– worse yet, perhaps I was convinced that dreams that I had wouldn’t make a difference and were therefore meaningless to pursue?

If not me than you?

youth ministry

Too big to fail

Too big to fail” is a colloquial term in describing certain financial institutions which are so large and so interconnected that their failure will be disastrous to the economy, and which therefore must be supported by government when they face difficulty. ~ Wikipedia

Since the mid-1980’s the federal government has mandated that some banks are so important to the operations of our country that they, literally, will not be allowed to go out of business.

No matter how bad it gets. No matter much much money they lose. If you stick your ATM into the machine or swipe your card at checkout, it should work. Those companies can be bought and sold, they can be taken over by the government, and their business practices can morph over time.

But these banks are too important to the livelihood of our country to be allowed to go away. 

Youth ministry is too big to fail

Youth ministry is too important to the Kingdom to be allowed to fail. (As I wrote in this article, we do need to address our actual failure though.)

It’s too important to be folded in as an extension of children’s ministry or simplified into a church-facing, sterilized family ministry. (I love potent, community facing family ministry!)

It’s too important to be tamed by lawyers and protected from actually doing ministry by safety policies. And all-too-often true youth ministry can’t be measured by business goals or contained to mission statements, it’s bigger and more important than those things created for Main Street.

We need to remember what youth ministry has always been… A little bit wild, a little bit dangerous, and recklessly chasing all of God’s kids.

Organizations like Youth for Christ and YoungLife were created, not as nice extensions of the church, but as a response rebellion to the churches failure to reach teenagers for Christ.

Sometimes, youth ministry isn’t nice. I know too many friends who were nice about getting fired for reaching “the wrong kids.” I know too many people who are silent as a board embraces stupidity to the default of its most important ministry. I know too many people now tamed by jobs they hate to hold onto a sliver of hope that one day things will get better.

We’re too nice. We need to embrace rebellion again. We need to drag this thing back to the drawing  board and innovate like we used to.

We need to re-embrace our 1-eared Mickey-Mouseness when it means reaching “the wrong kids.” We need to be willing to get fired for the sake of bringing “the wrong kids” into the church. We need to yawn at staff meetings. We need to forsake office hours. We need to be more willing to please our Father than please the board.

We need to adapt to a climate that is less likely to fund youth ministry endeavors, becoming empowered by unleashing our creativity instead of held back by a lack of resourcing.

We need to get really engrossed in ethnography while restlessly becoming disinterested in chasing the latest craze.

Precisely because youth ministry is too big to fail we need to step back, take a deep breath, and allow ourselves to dream again!

Christian Living

To be like Joseph

Mr. Insignificant

You don’t get much more insignificant in a family of 12 than being number 11. As the 11th born you aren’t the baby of the family. And in this case you aren’t even the last baby boy. You are just number 11 with an abundant allotment of big brothers.

Joseph was an insignificant son with significant dreams. One night Joseph had a dream that one day he’d rule over his brothers. This was a seemingly impossible dream. And, sophomorically, he told his big brothers about his dream which lead to them hating him.

All throughout Joseph’s life he lived in the reality that he was chasing his dreams but his anti-dream was also chasing him. Over and over again we see Joseph’s life take wicked turns. His brothers staged his death while selling him into slavery. His slave owners trade him like a camel and he ends up in Potifer’s house. There he becomes the object of a cougar’s affection causing him to flee naked from the house before being caught, accused of adultery, and thrown in prison. On and on this calamity continues– his whole life!

Life didn’t just deal Joseph lemons. Life dealt him poison.  Joseph was a man with big, significant dreams but a murderous monkey on his back.

But that never stopped Joseph’s dream. He worked towards that dream, not knowing if it’d ever come true. Until one day it did!

We are all Joseph

Most of us are insignificant. By birth, by education, by performance, and by recognition… we are not born rulers or leaders of tribes.

But we all have dreams. Some are aspirational and within reach. And some are so big that our dreams make the 6 year old who lives inside of us blush to mention them in public.

We are all driven by dreams while gravitational held back by circumstance.

Joseph’s Posture

With all the crap that hit the fan in Joseph’s life no one would have blamed him if he’d defined himself by the poop splattered on the wall of his life. Everywhere he turned there were people sinning against him, seeking to destroy both him and his dreams.

Instead, Joseph makes a radical choice. He refused to allow the sins of others to define his life and ruin his dreams. No one could have forced him to do that. It came from within. It was a daily posture he took as he continually kept his eye on his dreams. He worked hard, he overcame, and eventually– his dreams came true.

The Cycle Ends with Me

When I think about my own life and my own dreams it is easy for me to think of all the obstacles. I can point to specific instances where my dreams were thwarted because someone sinned against me. (In some cases, maliciously intending to harm me.)

But the choice is mine. I can define my life by taking a victims posture or Joseph’s posture. I could be destroyed, defined, and devastated by the sins against me OR— supernaturally and by God’s grace– I can decide that the cycle of retribution, revenge, anger, malice, and sin ends with me.

I can’t control my circumstance but I can control my response to my circumstances.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Genesis 50:20

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Discover something brand new

One of the biggest lies floating around is that there is nothing new under the sun.

That’s only true if your name is God.

But God is creative and He has shown us before that He can create something brand new whenever He wants. (Genesis 1) Yes, Ecclesiastes 1:9 does say, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Again, it’s all about perspective. If you’re God that is true. If you’re a finite being we learn and discover new things all the time.

Case in point, check out this tiny chameleon discovered off the coast of Madagascar recently.

Read more.

There is lots more to discover in this world. Whether you are a parent trying to figure out how to best raise your children. Whether you are a pastor trying to learn how to best communicate the Gospel in your community. Or whether you’re a biologists looking to cure a disease. Keep seeking. Keep chasing. Keep hunting for new stuff.

There’s lots of new stuff to discover in this world. And you are perfectly positioned and equipped to discover it.

We’re typically not held back by the capacity of what’s possible so much as we’re held back by the smallness of our dreams.

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Wanted: Dream Chasers

Photo by Laura Burlton via Flickr (Creative Commons)

My favorite story in the Bible, hands down, is that of Joseph. I’ve read Genesis 37-50 about 100 times. It never gets old!

From the first reading of the story until today, I’ve always wanted to be like Joseph. Dream on, dreamer!

Take it from this dreamer… dreams do come true.

May God grant you the opportunity to chase dreams like I’ve been fortunate to chase dreams.

Just once in your life… it’s my prayer that you wake up in a cold sweat with an idea that won’t let you go. And you realize that in order to shake the dream, you need to chase it. So, not knowing how else to get rid of it, you set out to fulfill it.

Maybe that dream takes a day or a week or a month? (Like building a treehouse for your kids or running in a 5k or recording a song.)

Or maybe that dream takes years until you see real progress?

Both timeframes bear the same satisfaction.

Here’s my encouragement today:

Just chase. Be a dreamer. Get after it. Geek out on it. Own it to the point where people call you Joseph. Invest yourself to the point that your friends mock you like they mocked Noah. Enjoy the satisfaction of getting fired for dreaming too much.

The results will come. And seeing things happen in your life will give you a glimpse of something heavenly. As you chase dreams you’ll see God do things you’d never thought possible.

The world is full of perfectly ordinary people like you or I doing extraordinary things.

They are dreamers. And membership in the tribe of dreamers is open on only one prerequisite.

God has dreams for you more wild than you could ever imagine.

Since before you were born, before your fertilized egg implanted in the womb of your mother, before she peed on a stick and knew you even existed… God knew who you’d be and what kind of person you could become! Could is the operative word. It is the opportunity placed before you if only you’ll act on the impulse to chase recklessly.

Contrary to the pessimists in your life chasing dreams is not child’s play.

The world needs more dreamers. Not fewer. We have big problems that need big dreams to fix.

Chasing dreams is horribly inefficient. It takes time to make the impossible possible.

The bottom line is simple:

Your dreams will never be fulfilled until you do something with them. A dream is just a dream until you do something with it.

Maybe today is the day you start?

I’m fulfilling mine. Are you fulfilling yours?

No more carpe mañana.

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When Dreamer, When?

In the cold dark morning of my day my soul cries for new days, new songs, new delights.

I wonder where the dreamers are dreaming this morning.

My heart weeps in disdain for a time and place lost. It lives in my sleep; it dies in my schedule. Such a place feels real but the left side of my cranium conquers the right with alarms beckoning.

This new day is not dedicated to dream, but to task.

Yet in moments of stolen shadows, my mind reveals a new day. A new alarm buzzes between my ears calling me to create, basking in the presence of a bee hive of something so fantastic words cannot capture.

I wonder where actors practice their craft.

I wonder where champions train.

I wonder where the beat of the poets rhyme comes from.

It is at that founts source I want to drink.

It is at that 7-11 my coffee cup wants refilled.

I wonder if there is still a place in peoples hearts to imagine new days? New life? New aspirations of inspirations beyond awe.

Or am I alone in my tears of anticipation?

I long to cry at creative expressions so wondrous, like dolphins dancing to their own song before your eyes on a lonely walk of solitude.

I long for moments where awe seems a ridiculous expression in light of my eyes observation and ears hearing.

Are those moments now lost?

I see days lost milling with friends pondering in circles of delightful giggles as words create paradigms faster than people with pens can write books about them or lawyers can lay claim to who’s words are whose.

In anxious tension I envision manifestos so delightful that poets scribe them in a loss for expression.

People sleep in their seats collected in rounds, as if at the circus, because they fear they will miss the next moment.

Where do I find such a place. Where is moment so thick with creation that hunger pains and mortgages are checked against the register of the moment and forgotten?

Where is the place where pedigree is placed behind the streaming flowing waterfall of ingenuity, it’s bars of acceptance overpowered by respect for the moment.

Where is the place patent laws and egos vanish for the sake of the moment?

Where is the place that time is irrelevant in the measurement of my day?

That’s my Zion. That’s my Jerusalem. That’s my city of dreams.

That’s my alarm.

Am I awake now? Or am I dreaming when I call it wake and alive when I am dreaming.

Where is this place?

Take me there.

Harbor Mid-City youth ministry

To the mountaintop

I’m a dreamer. I like to dream big dreams for myself. But I really like to dream big dreams for the students in our ministry. So when Kathy gave me the opportunity to paint a big picture and ask big questions as we start off this Fall in our high school ministry, I jumped at it!

When I look at the transfiguration in Mark 9, I am left asking… How do I get to the mountaintop with Jesus? I want to be there! What do I have to do to be there and see what God sees?

And what is it about God and mountaintops?

Click the link below to download my talk notes

[download id=”9″]


3 Documentaries Worth Watching

I love documentaries. I think it’s the non-fiction narrative that gets me. But given the choice between a feature film and a documentary, I’ll take a documentary every time.

Now that we have NetFlix streaming through our Wii, (and Hulu has lots of great ones completely for free) I’m getting the opportunity to catch-up on some great documentaries I’ve wanted to see but missed.

Lord Save Us From Your FollowersLord, Save us From Your Followers I don’t know who Dan Merchant is, but I really appreciate his outlook on the church. The film is dripping with the “inside the Nashville Christian scene” smell… But if you can look past that and the Michael Moore copying, the message of the movie is really interesting.

Essentially, Merchant points out that over the last few years Christians have made themselves outcasts in the greater society. Merchant points out some areas where we look especially nutty and reminds us, “Um,  this isn’t the Christianity of the Bible. Where’s the love?” I was especially touched by the scene where Dan sets up a confessional at Gay Pride weekend in Portland. How’s that for cultural engagement?

If you can get past the cheese and the stupid outfit he wore the whole time– its a decent film. I’m looking for more from Merchant and assuming that future films will be better. I’d suggest dropping the book deals as it just makes the film seem like a commercial for the book.

Man on WireMan on Wire I wasn’t alive when this event actually happened, but I was completely captivated by the documentary about the  stunt. On August 7th, 1974, Philippe Petit spent 45 minutes dazzling onlookers below as he walked a 3/4″ wire he had rigged between the north & south towers of the World Trade Center. Later, when questioned about the stunt by the media he told them, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.

Besides winning the 2008 Academy Award for Best Documentary there were a few things I appreciated about the film. First, while the centerpiece of the movie was the Twin Towers there was never a mention of the September 11th attack which brought them down. Second, the movie was beautiful. The filmmaker uses light and darkness in a way that makes the entire movie enchanting. Third, this movie is about chasing ones dreams– even if they are absolutely insane and may get you killed. Fourth, the film shows the power of artistically and magically breaking cultural mores. The delight on the arresting officers face tells the whole story.

Jesus CampJesus Camp This movie has been out since 2007, so plenty of people have seen it. As I was watching it, I fell for the sucker pins. The producers of the film wanted to show how crazy Evangelicals can be and how churches are manipulating children to be political activists for the religious right. I was appalled and a bit angry that any parent would allow Becky Fischer to talk to their children like that. (And the one kid with the mullet, man he rocked that mullet HARD!)

Of course, the movie went to find extremes. It labeled the main characters as Evangelicals– yet they were far from middle-of-the-road evangelicals. These are our Evangelical cousins who are just a little bit short of handling snakes. Where homeschooling is normative and cultural engagement is seen as grabbing the devil by the tail.

Stepping back, I think the film has a lot to teach those of us who work with children and teenagers in the church. Anyone who teaches teens knows that it is really easy to manipulate a response and what we saw was some pretty nasty manipulation. (I mean, really? Talking to 9 year olds about abortion and giving them tiny fetus’ to hold onto. Really?)

Anyone who teaches knows that we can scare kids to get them to do whatever we want. But if we want to change a students life we know that they have to encourage them to make rational decisions which they can own for themselves. We know that when we allow students to encounter truth, giving them space to think about it, and respecting their personhood– they will make lifelong decisions. The film reminded me of the phrase, “Fear is a short term motivator.

All three are great documentaries for creating discussion. They’d be really cool to watch with your leadership team or adult small group.


“I don’t have any dreams”

Just a little reminder from my son that the job of passing on from father to son doesn’t happen by osmosis.

Deep exhale.

Of course, I looked at this and watched Dr. King’s speech– yup, Dr. King’s dream was for his kids.


Megan is a reader

Megan having fun

Originally uploaded by mclanea

My oldest daughter, Megan, is just like her mommy. Besides being endlessly sassy, sarcastic, and competitive… Megan is a hard core learner.

Her latest weakness is reading long chapter books. We will send her to bed at 8:30, but she’ll stay up super late enraptured by her latest book. And just like her mommy, it’s all top secret.

It’s impossible for me to get angry with a little girl wanting to expand her imagination. Dream big girl.