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.

Church Leadership

Competitive Advantage

This clip from Tin Cup highlights the differences between an amateur and a tour professional. 

Whether you are a casual golfer or a week-to-week preacher in a church. You and the guy on tour are fundamentally different in how you approach your craft.

What you do is similar! But how you approach it and how it’s carried out are completely different.

As the movie shows, the tour pro takes calculated risks, repeating the same simple winning swing over and over again, week-to-week, tour stop to tour stop.

Whereas the casual golfer, even the aspiring professional, has to take greater risks to see lesser rewards, often swinging wildly and taking big risks in hopes that it’ll pay off.

Having been around PGA and Champions Tour players as a tour volunteer I know that there are a lot of differences between their game and your game. 

  • They will hit +/- 1000 practice balls per day. (Driving range, sand, putting green, chipping)
  • They are surrounded by people who advise them on their game all the time. (People who know what they’re talking about, too.)
  • They only play on courses at the top of their condition. The greenskeeper at a Tour stop builds his whole growth cycle around that week.
  • They have a caddy with them who does all of the math and can tell them exact distances and best approaches to every shot on the golf course.
  • The TV cameras only show the best players on shots that have been edited. Each minute during a tournament 40-50 players take a swing, you only see the best of the best.

I’m a 12 handicapper on my own. But I guarantee you that if you put me on that stage, in those conditions, with that practice… I’d look a whole lot better than I do normally. Give me a week with those set of circumstances and I’d break 80.

It’s not that they don’t have skill or talent. It’s that their skill has been put on display in the best possible conditions for them to look good. (They would argue that they rose to this spot just like everyone else. Sure, they take advantage today. But they got to that point with nothing but hard work and rising through the amateur, college, and mini-tour ranks. Fair enough.)

It’s that the game they play is similar, but completely different from the game I play with my friends. It’s set up for them to look good.

What’s my point?

A lot of times we go to a conference, camp, retreat, or a convention and we see a tour pro on their best day, in the best conditions, absolutely NAIL a talk. And we walk away thinking… “Why do I even bother?!? I’ll never be that good. Why not just buy that dude’s DVDs and play them at my church each week?

But before you get upset or lament realize this: The talk you’ve just heard has likely been delivered dozens of times. It’s been critically reviewed by an inner circle. It’s been refined, they know when to drop what line, they know how to adapt it to your setting. They have only booked themselves at events they know they’ll play well to. The lighting, sound, and environmental conditions are tailored to their strengths and weaknesses. A professional band set them up. Someone else introduced them. At best, their talk has 1-2 calculated moments of risk.

It’s not that they are better than you. It’s that given the conditions their talents are amplified and you’re able to see them at their absolute best.

In the end… the act of speaking at a conference is similar to what you do on a week-to-week basis, but completely different at the same time. They are only thinking about that talk. They didn’t drive the van to the retreat. They don’t have to give a new talk each week. On and on. It’s completely different from what you or I do on a week-to-week basis in our ministry.

Here’s the fun part: Just like in the movie– you could tell that the tour pros got a kick out of the caddy hitting the big shot on the big stage. There’s a little glimmer in their eye when you take a big risk. They kind of wish they could do it, too. 

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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