According to Tripit, my travel tally for 2011 looks like this:
That’s as of February 2nd.
And it doesn’t include all of the cities I’ve been to… just the places I’ve spent the night.
The first 33 days of 2011 have been a total whirlwind. This was something I did intentionally to try to get as much done before the baby arrives so I won’t have any pressure to go anywhere. Anyone who knows me knows that I push myself 10 times harder than anyone could possibly push myself.
33 days into 2011. 18 days on the road. 15 days at home.
Yesterday, waiting for my bags in San Diego I habitually popped open Tripit, my app and travel companion. (Because it always tells me where to go and what to do next.)
It said, “No trips planned. Want to add one?”
I hit the home button and shoved my phone in my pocket.
Symbolically, I’ve hit the home button for the next few months. My hope is to not have to travel for work for a while. I have no need to leave San Diego County until mid-April. And I don’t think I’ll spend a night away from my family until May. That’s plenty of time to regain footing in our family routines and work hard to bond as a family of five instead of a family of four. (2-3 more weeks!)
Last night, as I was talking to Megan and getting her ready for bed, I said, “It’s really nice to be home. Did mommy tell you that I won’t be going anywhere until after your birthday?”
The smile said it all.
I’m grounded. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
For the past 2.5 years my job has shifted from being a youth pastor to being a cheerleader, encourager, and fan of youth workers around the country.
And, not surprisingly, I’ve bumped into a lot of youth workers with a shared story. Careers flopping. Getting fired. Financial struggles. And marriages crumbing.
As you’d expect during a down economy (mixed with a season of re-thinking ministry strategies) there are a whole lot of people in full-time youth ministry who aren’t emotionally healthy.
But I’ve also gotten to know some pretty happy and satisfied youth workers. They face the exact same struggles in youth ministry but they seem to have figured out how to manage it. (For lack of a better term)
Rather than share what I think some of the problems are… I thought it would be more useful to share a couple of things that I see, universally, that emotionally healthy youth pastors have.
Two hallmarks of an emotionally healthy youth pastor
Low ownership of the youth ministry program. They tend to have Sunday school (even if they don’t teach it) and a mid-week program with some events/camps/retreats along the way. They seem less focused on being on the leading edge and more focused on doing what they are good at. They see their role as the leader of the program more than they define themselves as the leader of the program. It’s a profession and they can turn it on and turn it off. It’s not a “it’s just a job” mentality. It’s bigger than that as its a healthy acceptance of their role in students lives.
Belonging to adult community.This is the bigger of the two. We are made for community. Healthy youth workers have more than just a couple of friends they see occasionally. They have community. They have a group of people in their life that don’t see them as the youth pastor but as just another knucklehead in a group of friends. This is being a part of a softball league or a fellowship of star trek geeks or even joining a small group from a church across town.
The interesting thing about these two hallmarks is that they are completely within the control of the youth pastor. These are things you can actually do and change relatively easily. You don’t even have to tell anyone. You don’t have to preach about it. You can just do it.
If you are starting to feel like youth ministry isn’t for you. Or if you are thinking that you aren’t really built to do this for the long haul. I’d suggest looking at these two things, first.
Perhaps this recession really has taught us some things?
I’ve noticed some trends softly changing in the past 2-3 years that are enlightening a cultural shift in our work-home-success life quotient. And they are encouraging.
Here’s a few things I would label under “the new corner office.” (Things that todays worker use to label that “they’ve made it.”)
No fear of self-employment. You’d think that a serious downturn in the economy, a tightening of credit, and exploding health insurance costs would scare the bejeezers out of people starting their own business? That’s just not happening in my circle of friends. And these new businesses, self-ventures, and new careers are all doing pretty well.
Working from home, working remotely, and location independence.Within the workforce, I think these are becoming status symbols. Kristen works from home as much as she likes. I like to work remotely about one day per week. And I know plenty of people who don’t even live in the same state as their company but work remotely permanently and just come in when needed. The net result for the company is that employees are actually more productive and the company needs less/different work space. The way technology is now… there’s a whole breed of worker growing less and less dependent on the traditional work environment. It’s a win-win.
Choosing “right job” over “big pay” jobs. [Note: I’m not talking about unemployed/unemployable recent college grads holding out for dream jobs that don’t exist at their level.] Plenty of people in my world have left jobs they pursued for years for something that was better suited for their personality/gift match. In many cases, that means they are pursuing a new career that pays less but feels right over a job that pays more but sucks the life out of them. That’s awesome for everyone.
Hard work is now and will always be the grease that makes the machine of success work for 99.9% of workers. At the same time, these new trends seem to show a desire for a simpler life. The new mantra seems to be, “I don’t mind working hard for the right things.“
A few weeks back I drove up to Oceanside and shot this interview with Jim Britts. If you don’t know Jim, you need to! He’s a youth pastor at a local church who, together with his executive pastor, had a crazy idea of making a move. And along came To Save a Life.
Let’s face it… Jim is squeaky clean. But I did my best to ask the questions I thought a youth pastor would want to know about the movie. If you’ve not seen a preview, this is a “Christian” movie with a pretty solid sex scene and doesn’t shy away from language. Time will tell if this added street credability or not.
On January 1st, 2010 I will become an employee of YouthWorks.
Before I talk about YouthWorks I do want to mention some things about Zondervan. A lot of negative things have been said and written (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.) about Zondervan through this process. I want to convey publicly what I told them privately. They have been great through this. The last few months have been painful to say the least. (I think the right term is agonizing!) And at every turn the people I worked alongside at Z were professional, kind, and quick to pray for and with me. Whether or not you agree with all of their decisions in the last year or so, know that they are not awful people with maniacal laughs and evil plans. From the CEO (Moe Girkins) to the CFO (Gary Wicker) on down through the leadership team and the ranks of employees, I’ve found them to be intelligent, hard-working, and upstanding people. I’m a better person for having worked with them. I’m thankful and proud of my 18 months of work with Z. (And by proxy, being an employee of HarperCollins and News Corp was pretty nifty, too.)
A couple weeks back, as the deal became final for YouthWorks to buy Youth Specialties, also came an opportunity for me to continue on in my ministry with YS as an employee of YouthWorks. Despite the fact that I had every reason to suspect I would be offered a job, the offer itself still came as a shock! I really had never thought about what my response would be if I were given the chance to stay on.
The next 36 hours were as near to insanity for me as I’d ever like to get. I asked hard questions that needed to be answered. (Of YouthWorks and myself) I listened a lot. I took a couple long walks by myself. I talked to my dog. I wasted gas driving around San Diego for an evening. I shed some frustrating tears. I aimlessly walked around Best Buy for a couple hours. I talked in circles to Kristen. I burned through a few hundred text messages. I put out a Twitter request for a burning bush. Around and around I went. I just didn’t know what to do.
See, it’s not in my nature to do things halfway. There was a lot of wisdom in the advice I was getting… “Play it safe.” But that’s not me. That’s not how I roll. To me, it would have been better to just say no and move on with my life than to do something halfway with an eye on the door. I wanted to be resolute one way or the other. “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” I wanted to be true to myself even if it meant putting into action plans B, C, D, or E and all the fear and second guessing that went with that.
Long story short. On Friday morning, I talked to the folks at YouthWorks and let them know that I had decided to stay on with Youth Specialties/YouthWorks.
And so a new adventure begins! After a weekend off, transition work began bright and early on Monday morning and will continue through the Christmas holidays. I’ve got this theory that decisions generate energy. And in this case, I’ve got lots of new energy and enthusiasm for what is next for YS.
Just as surely as it is hard to say goodbye to so many co-workers… its been exciting to meet a whole new staff of people from YouthWorks. Over the past couple months I’ve gotten a chance to meet the leadership at YouthWorks. In my desire to learn more, I even went out looking for complaints and couldn’t find any. Lots and lots of happy customers. Lots of people impressed with their mission trips and how they go about their ministry. As I’ve gotten to know them I’ve been very impressed with how forward-thinking they are. And it’s been scary how much we’re on the same page with overall ministry-styles. I’ve only met about 10 of their staff of 60 face-to-face, so I am looking forward to getting to know more and more YouthWorks peeps over the coming months. They are differently culturally from the SoCal-YS-style, but in heart and ministry value they are very much the same.
Soon, we’ll be rolling out a lot more about the future of YS, what’s next, etc. But just know that a big reason I’m joining YouthWorks is because I have a deep-gut belief that the best days of Youth Specialties are ahead. I know that’s a bold statement considering how great the past has been for YS, but that’s why I’m on board. I think there are even better days to come.
Here’s a few quick FAQs based on the innumerous texts, Facebook messages, and Twitter DMs I’ve gotten in the past couple weeks.
Will you have to move to Minneapolis? Nope. Sorry San Diego, you are stuck with the McLane family for a few more years. We’ll be keeping it classy together. We will be moving offices eventually. Hopefully, it’ll be something near a trolley stop.
How does Kristen feel about this? I just want her to get to know my new co-workers. They are, as a whole, very missional. That’ll resonate with her. At this point, she is just glad to have my sanity back. This decision released a lot of energy! She got her husband back.
What’s the new YS going to look like? More will come out in the next few weeks/months about our plans. I’ll just say I’m really excited about the stuff we’re talking about! I do know this… whatever it is, it’ll be true to the long-term mission of YS and YW, serving and equipping youth workers and church leaders.
Will you be at NYWC this Fall? Even if I had to pay my own way, I’d be there. You will want to be in Nashville the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Will you travel more or less? For some reason the YouthWorks staff wants to come here to San Diego more than they want me to come to Minneapolis. Go figure! So time will tell on that one.
What will you be working on? As time goes on, this will get more clear. But for now not a lot is changing with my job. It’s a safe bet that I’ll be calling 612 now more than 616.
Do you even own a winter jacket? No, we donated it to the Salvation Army when we left Michigan. I do, however, own a lot of t-shirts, shorts, and sandals. See question 6.
Can I ask you more questions? You bet. Leave me a comment. (Verbal comments would be awesome!)
Convention season is over. As you would expect, I am exhausted.
My mind is marshmallow. My heart for the conventions is that I am there to serve and minister… And that I want to leave every ounce of myself “on the field.”
All three cities left me physically spent. But in Atlanta I made a special effort to open myself to time with attendees. As a result I did a lot of listening and praying with fellow youth workers. This has left me emotionally drained. I have so much going on in my mind, but it just won’t come out in written word.
The next few days I will be pretty absent. I just need to rest, think, pray, and be present with the most important people in my life.
Until then, my feet will be up, I am turning it off, and I will see you all again soon.
That’s how I feel about the next 90 days. This week starts the first of three National Youth Worker Conventions. For me, it’s a huge honor to be able to go to the three U.S. conventions and to play such a cool role. On site I am in charge of capturing the story of the convention for our internet audience, snapping a couple thousand pictures, filling a years worth of blog content, co-leading a seminar on social media and video, plus a whole littany of other normal stuff the whole staff does on site.
What this really means is that this is my busy season. Between now and the end of the year I’ll be gone about a week a month for work. Of course, while I’m gone doesn’t mean that regular work doesn’t get done, it just backlogs. And I stil need to use a weeks vacation in there. So the pattern is go away for about a week. Rest HARD on the travel day. Push through as much work as possible. Rest HARD some more. Get everything together to go back on the road. Repeat.
The point of this post isn’t to lament about the next 3 months of my life. Not at all. Trust me, I consider this insanity to be a blessing. I am thankful to God for the opportunity. The point of this post is to think about the question, “How do you find sanity when your life hits warp speed?”
Here’s how I do it. I’d love to hear how others go through similar times.
1. Embrace some insanity. This might be super unhealthy, but when I’m on site at a convention, I focus on what needs to be done. If these trips were a sport I want to make sure I leave it all on the field.With thousands of attendees coming I want to do whatever I can to make their experience awesome.
2. Schedule rest when on the road. The attitude of #1 above will kill you if you aren’t disciplined. Last year, I was so wide-eyed about the whole thing that I barely slept, said yes to everything, and allowed my schedule to get out of control. This year I’ve blocked out times for meals, rest, and “me time.” I’m an introvert– this is for my sanity and everyone else’s safety.
3. Schedule rest when at home. I’ve gotten better about not working on weekends, I need to keep that pattern going through this busy time. I also need to look at holes in my schedule and stay home to work a bit during the week, leave early when possible, stuff like that.
4. Do fun stuff with the kids. My travel stuff is hard on the kids. Sure, they don’t express it. But I can tell when I come back that it hasn’t been easy without me. I’m cooking up some evil plans to spend time with them.
5. Accept that some stuff won’t get done on time. As much as it drives me insane to know that I need to do that, I just need to decide which things get done on time and which things are less important and get pushed off until later.
6. Take notes. My mind swells with ideas/thoughts/reflections during these times. This year, I’m going to capture so much more with Evernote on my iPhone.
I’ve been open about my struggles to find a healthy work pace. I’m not sure why but I have an innate tendency to want to be plugged into work 24/7. This isn’t new… I’ve been this way since high school. I remember stopping in on the little restaurant I worked at on my nights off just to see how things were going. That habit has pretty much continued up through today! I always want to know how things are going.
Full time ministry just made it worse. After all, checking email or making a phone call to a student on your day off is ministry and how can that be bad? Jesus wouldn’t want them to have to wait… would he? With all due respect, the staff at the church just loved the fact that Adam was always available, always game, always willing to answer the call. My work in churches took some horrible tendencies and labeled them as reliable.
When I started at YS a year ago I dealt with a bit of culture shock. I would send e-mails on Friday night that wouldn’t get read until Monday. I would stay late and have co-workers tell me to go home. I’d respond to emails at 10 or 11 PM and get made fun of. It was actually frustrating at first. It took me some time to recognize that I wasn’t seeing a lack of dedication… I was encountering healthy work habits.
It’s taken me a long time to begin to break some of these habits. It’s taken this long to wake up to the reality that it was me who needed to change my habits. In the past few months I’ve thought a ton about the idea of sustainability and pace. Reality is that I have a natural tendency to want to increase the pace at the cost of my personal health and the relationships with my family. The pace at which I desire to work simply isn’t sustainable. In the past few months I’ve constantly been telling myself, “Slow down.”
The last two weekends have been great signs of health.
– Never checked work email.
– No responding to Facebook messages that were work related.
– Didn’t check up on all of the websites, stats, numbers… OK, I did that once or twice. (Dangit!)
– Spent excessive amounts of time with family and friends.
– Said “no” to things that were outside of my goals/responsibilities right now.
– Was not the first one to arrive nor the last one to leave the office at all last week.
I still have a long, long way to go in establishing healthy and sustainable habits. But these are signs of health. It’s like after you start working out… it takes a few weeks until you start to feel the difference. And I hope the people in my life who are most important are starting to feel the difference.
What about you? What are some boundaries you have established that help you have a sustainable work pace?
Here are a few categories of responses to job stress. I think I’ve exhibited them all in the past 3 months.
– The ostrich: This person looks at the stress at work and just sticks their head into their own work, trying to ignore anything else that goes on. This can be good because at times of high stress there is a need for some people to keep plugging away at work. But it can be bad in that this response can lead to that person working on old priorities and foregoing new priorities.
– The jackal: This person is the cynic. Generally makes fun of the stressful situation. I think of this as a nervous response to stress. This person tends to have a “sky is falling” type of attitude and veils negativity with humor. But this person will also have every intention of being the person to turn out the lights on the last day. Keep working, keep scavenging, it’ll pay off in the end.
– The parrot: This person repeats everything. Not so much a gossip, but a person who likes to communicate what the problem and solution is as presented. Both helpful and annoying at the same time, this response seems to be a self-motivating one. But the parrot likes to think it is helping those around it.
– The bear: This person is all black cloud. They think that today is as good as its going to get. Tomorrow is just another day closer to destruction. This stress response is toxic to a stressful situation because its pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Their Eeyore belief system is not cautious, it is reckless. This person secretly likes stress. Above I said I’ve expressed all of these in the past three months, that’s not true. I refuse to be the bear.
– The bull: This person sees an opportunity in everything. Relentlessly over-optimistic. This stress response is helpful in times like this because they don’t care about forecasts and the nightmares MSNBC predicts.
– The honey bee: Similar to the ostrich, this person just shows up and gets the job done. The swarm of activity around doesn’t seem to matter as this person merely concentrates on building the hive and following the orders of the queen bee. Collect pollen, make honey, repeat. If anything the stressful situation makes this person more urgent.
– The sloth: This person responds to a stressful situation by retreating. They burn up sick and vacation days. They find excuses to avoid dealing with the cause of the stress. Really, this is just a lazy response to stress. This person hopes that while they are checked out the problem will get resolved.
– The viper: This person just gets mean. Like a snake, they strike out of fear. They feel like if they are mean they can just scare their problems away. Of course, fear is a short term motivator… but this person doesn’t seem to care about that.