Monthly Archives: May 2011
On October 7th, 2010 I should have died.
Now, just over seven months from that day I am still processing all that I have learned from this experience. As I continue to seek God as to why I am still here, why this happened to me, and what it means for the rest of my life I have decided to let you process along with me.
I am realizing now that crashing my dirt bike quite possibly could be one of the most significant spiritual events of my life, but before we get to that let me tell you what happened.
I had just sold an old dual sport motorcycle the week before, and I already had my eyes on a newer, faster, lighter, and better performing dirt bike. On Monday of that week I went to test ride the bike with a friend, we saw it needed a few things done to it, but the guy was willing to negotiate and I ended up buying it that night. This whole process took longer than expected and as a result I was late for music practice at church.
Due to my obvious excitement for my new purchase, my next several evenings were filled with working on the bike. I had made plans to go on its inaugural ride after church on Sunday so I needed to get it ready. On Thursday I got a call saying the new clutch cable had arrived, so after work I picked it up before I went home. Once I was home I changed the cable and crank case oil; now it was time to test it out.
I started the bike for the first time since I bought it and rolled it out of the garage. As I did, my 3 boys were playing in the driveway, and now watching me intently. Feeling the weight of leading by example, I went back into the garage and grabbed my helmet. Once I strapped it on, I jumped on the bike and took off around the corner. There are a bunch of vacant lots behind our house I decided to ride through, and once I was in the dirt I punched the gas. I started through the gears—the bike was running strong, the new cable was working great, and I was full of confidence. I made it to the top of 3rd gear (somewhere around 40 miles an hour) and suddenly everything went into slow motion.
The only thing I remember about that moment was this thought continually running through my mind over and over again, “Maureen is going to kill me, Maureen is going to kill me.”
I had hit a pile of rocks and concrete chunks someone had dumped in one of the lots. It was on a slight down slope and covered by some weeds and I did not see it until I was already in the air, off the bike, and flipping through the air. I can still see the vivid picture my mind took, which I later realized was the aerial view of the rocks. The first thing to hit the ground was my head, followed quickly by my left arm. After the impact of the ground I ended up flat on my back. I sat up and trying to catch my breath I lifted my arms and instantly my left arm buckled.
A lady driving through our neighborhood saw me fall, and quickly drove down by where I had wrecked. As she yelled at me asking if I was ok, I stood up holding my arm and walked toward her. She drove me back to my house where my wife and boys were still out front. My wife, in a state of panic drove me to the hospital. Once I was assessed I was transported by ambulance to a different area hospital, one that could handle my injuries better. I had surgery on my left arm that night, which started my 3 day hospital stay full of scans, tests, pain meds, needles, nurses, tons of family and friends praying for me, and a lot of questions.
My injuries were summed up into a broken left radius (arm), a broken sternum, and a broken back. When I landed on my head, the face shield of my helmet dug into my chest which broke my sternum. My helmet stopped my neck from being injured but the force went further down my spine which crushed T9, T7, T5, and T4 vertebrate. The doctors said if I had not had my helmet on it would have most likely killed me instantly. My life would have ended 50 feet past that pile of rocks.
I soon realized that a week before while selling my old motorcycle, I had done basically the same thing on my old bike with out a helmet on. Truthfully if my boys had not been out front, I am not sure if I would have put on my helmet. This obviously hit me like a ton of bricks, not that I needed to be “hit” with anything more.
After being in a back brace for 10 weeks, a lot of medical bills, and a pretty cool scar on my arm I can say I am mostly physically recovered. However, I am still not completely sure of all the spiritual and emotional lessons I have taken from this. If you want to process it all along with me, stay tuned…
This is an article I wrote a few years ago and thought it might be helpful again.
It is that time of the year again; graduation season. As a youth worker, you get tons of invites during this season, and at least for me, it is one of my busiest times of the year. All the school year programs are winding down, I am deep in summer planning and trip details, and it is when we do our once a year evaluations and youth staff retreat. And on top of all of that are all of the graduation festivities. Over the years I have come up with some ways to lighten the load during graduation season, here are a few tips:
1. Arrive 45 minutes to an hour late. If you have heard one graduation speech, you have heard them all. And no one is going to quiz you on what the speaker said. If you don’t believe me, try and remember anything that the key note speaker said at your own high school graduation. Exactly…the students don’t care about the speeches, and you don’t need to either (unless a student you know is giving a speech). If you get there in time to watch them walk across the stage and greet them afterward, you are covered.
2. The smaller the school, the longer the ceremony. Small school graduations are almost as bad as 7th grade girls basketball! Since there are fewer people, there is a TON more stories, inside jokes, slide shows, and speeches. And, #1 does not apply, because the students do care about the actual ceremony, and they will notice if you are not there the whole time. So you have to just endure it, but block out at least 3 hours.
3. Family parties are way more important than the formal ceremonies. Sooner or later you will come to a place when you can’t make it to all the graduation festivities; so when you have to choose, choose the family party first. If you are invited to the family party, it means there is a real relationship there and they were not just fishing for a graduation present. So do everything in your power to make the BBQ.
4. Divide and conquer. We hit this wall a few years ago, we had so many invites it was physically impossible to attend them all. That year my wife and I both attended 4 graduations each, and never together! So, divide your volunteer staff up among parties and ceremonies, and send your regards with them. Chances are a lot of students know the volunteer leader better than they know me anyway, so strategically divide up and cover them all.
5. Picture slide shows are not worth it. We broke this tradition a few years ago, and caught some grief for sure. Yet, the only two people that truly care about seeing the baby picture morph into the senior picture is Mom and Dad, not your entire congregation. And despite your best effort, you will always leave someone out, or the picture won’t scan right, or they will send it to the wrong email, or… you get the idea. It is a ton of work, the graduates themselves are typically embarrassed, and most people just endure it. Definitely acknowledge them in church, just leave out the slide show.
There are my top 5 tips for the graduation season. What is your tip?
How do you define success in youth ministry? This seems like a fairly easy question to answer until you sit down and really start to think about it. Is having large attendance at programs success? For a lot of youth workers (and their senior pastors, supervisors, board members/Elders, etc.) that is the definition of success.
That is not my definition of success. If I have HUGE numbers but none of them want anything to do with Christ or with learning to serve him better then I am a failure as a youth worker; a successful entertainer and activities director yes, but not a successful youth worker. The goal of any Christian ministry is positive life change through the power of Jesus Christ, this includes youth ministry.
With positive life change as the goal, what can I do as a youth worker to help move students toward this end? This is a question we must ask, since every youth ministry I have ever seen (my church included) has a portion of participants that just don’t seem to get it or care. There are two things God has shown me out of this scripture that I need to remember for me not to fuel this problem:
John 17:1 – 5 (NLT) 1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2For you have given him authority over everyone in all the earth. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do. 5And now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.
1. It is not about me changing their life
The truth is I can’t save anyone, only God can do that. Jesus defines salvation in verse 3 as a relationship with the Father, which means for anyone other than me it has nothing to do with me. It is between them and God, so I have to trust in God and His power not my own. For more on this read my previous post.
2. I need to hold up my end of the deal
Jesus held up his end of the deal, he says so in verse 4: “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do.” Part of what God has asked me to do as a youth worker is to present the truth, the whole truth about salvation. Presenting salvation as something free is not the whole truth.
George Barna in his book Maximum Faith says “Yes, it is free in the sense that you cannot buy it or earn it, but it is not “free” in the sense of it being given without any related responsibilities or expectations.” (pg. 27) Salvation was not free at all; Jesus paid an incredibly high price for me to be saved. Just because I don’t have to pay the price (because of grace) doesn’t mean it was free, and God expects a return on the investment he has made in me. Accepting my salvation and starting my relationship with God is exactly that, a start. It is not the end goal. Just showing up to church is not what God has asked us or the students we minister to, to do. Hearing that salvation is a free gift all the time does not promote me to action, or obedience, or even taking it that seriously. We all need to follow Jesus’ example and hold up our end of the deal. At the end of my life I hope to say those same words to God, “I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to do.”
How do you define success in youth ministry? Are you presenting the whole truth? Are you helping students follow Jesus’ example?
Recently I have seen a few other blogs answer this question, and I have been thinking about it for days. Especially since starting this blog a week ago it is definitely a question that I needed to answer for myself. I have done more “self promotion” in the last week than ever before and truthfully I don’t like doing it. But I am realizing that in order for my book to ever be published it is something I must do.
With that said I don’t want anyone to think my writing is an attempt to be famous or rich which is simply not true. Here are the reasons why I write and will continue to write.
- It helps me be a better Christian. I am a conversational learner, I think out loud, and most of my ideas need to be processed through. Writing helps me do this when I have no one to talk to or annoy with my ramblings. I was taught as a teenager to journal my devotions and I now have a shelf in my office with several full notebooks that constitute years and years of quiet times. Writing has truly become a spiritual discipline for me.
- It helps me be a better youth worker. Because of all the same reasons I stated above it is important for me to have a way to process through ministry ideas as I grow and learn ways to better minister to teenagers and to the church as a whole. As more and more pages in my journals became devoted to my views of youth ministry, they eventually (over a year long process) turned into my book manuscript. Once the manuscript was finished I realized how important the time I spent writing had become to me and I needed to replace it with something; one of the main reasons for this blog.
- I want to pass on the investment. There have been many people who have and continue to invest a lot of themselves into me; through their writing, through conversations, through accountability relationships, through friendships, through conferences, through training articles, etc., etc., etc. Some of these people know me and how important their investments are to me, and others (authors, speakers, bloggers) have no idea who I am or how much they have helped me. I am not a perfect person and I don’t know all the answers, but I do want to follow their example and pass on the investment to others as best I can. I feel my writing is one way I can do this, so as I learn I hope others can learn along with me.
That is why I write.
The other day I was reading through the gospel of Luke and noticed a verse that seemed kind of odd. The content of the verse is not odd, but how it is placed between two different miracle stories is, at least at first glance.
Luke 5:16 (NIV) 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus heals a man of leprosy, then moves on to the crowded house where the man is lowered through the roof and eventually healed. This one simple sentence randomly sits between these two stories, seemingly having nothing to do with either one. However, in verse 17, right before the man is lowered through the roof Luke makes this statement: “the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.”
There are two powerful lessons that I need to be constantly reminded of from these two simple statements by Luke.
1. It is all about God’s power.
If I am doing anything out of my own power, it won’t be as good or effective as it would be with God’s power. Even Jesus could not heal someone without God’s presence. I can’t accomplish anything in ministry without God’s presence either. Sure I can entertain teenagers on my own, but that is not what God has called me to do as a youth worker. In order for teenagers, or anyone for that matter, to be saved or grow as a Christian it has to be God’s power working in and through them. The truth is I cannot save anyone, only God can do that. My job is to present them with the truth, help them anyway I can to tap into God’s power, and then get out of the way.
2. The way to get God’s presence and the power that comes with it is through prayer and solitude.
The more I study the life of Jesus, the more I see how often Jesus went off by himself and prayed. The more popular he became throughout his ministry the more he did it. Typically the more successful I am with stuff the less I do it. Obviously this is not a good trend on my part, and also why it is easy to start relying on myself instead of God for success. If I neglect my own faith and spiritual health because of the busyness of ministry I am not being an example worthy of following, and I never want to be in that place.
These are two truths that I need to be reminded of on a regular basis. How about you? How are you doing at living these out?