Monthly Archives: July 2011
I am sure you have noticed, but I have not posted in a while. I am home now for the next 6 days before I am off on my next trip. I also do not have a computer right now (it is getting fixed…I hope) so I am typing this on my phone so please excuse any mistakes.
I have been gone as much or more than I have been home the last few months, which seems to be the norm for youth ministry in the summer. The camps, mission trips, off-site events, and family vacations all add up quickly.
This is my tenth summer as a full time youth worker, and I am realizing I have a love/hate relationship with the summer months. They seem to be as busy as the rest of the year, but a different busy. Here are a few things about summer that I love and hate at the same time:
1. Office days are not consistent.
I love not having to be in the office everyday, I like being outside more than inside. I hate that the office work still must be done but in half the time.
2. Summer Recreation
Living in Idaho most people love to be outside playing in the summer, and I am definitely one of those people. I love the lake, I love the mountains, I love the golf course, I love the dirt bike trail. I hate that a lot of people blow off church to go do all of these things. Mid-week, Sunday mornings, doesn’t seem to matter. Nothing we have tried seems to help the “summer attendance slump.”
3. Family Vacation
I love my family. I love spending time with them. I hate missing out on stuff when we are gone. I hate other people missing out on stuff when they are gone. Yet, the “staycation” just does not have the same relaxing effect.
4. Camps and mission trips
I love the time with the students. I love seeing them stretched outside of their comfort zones. I love that a year or more worth of ministry can happen in a week or less. I hate that some students and leaders are left out. Whether it is a time deal, or a financial issue it doesn’t seem to matter – there are always some that can’t go. I love the bonding that happens with everyone that goes. I hate the cliques that form and how they exclude those that don’t go.
5. No School
As a dad and husband I love that my wife and kids are home in the summer, it is a lot easier to coordinate schedules this way. I hate the “I’m bored” whines, the increased fights between brothers, and the frustration level that tends to go up as parents. I love that the students are available during the day and we can hang out more. I hate that they go into “summer mode” and their intensity seems to drop, so they forget what day it is and/or sleep through stuff.
Even though I do have a love/hate relationship with summer, it is still my favorite season (other than football season of course). What are some of your loves and hates about summer?
When was the last time you thought about your own spiritual journey? If you are a Spiritual leader of any kind; a youth worker, a parent, or a believer for that matter you need to think about it.
Over the past several months of my life, I have thought a lot about my own spiritual journey. It started with my bike wreck; you can read about that here. It continued with a visit to Spokane,WA and the church I accepted Christ as my personal savior at when I was six years old.
It continued as I sought God about the youth ministry I lead, evaluate how we are doing things, and what needs to change for us to move forward. And it all seemed to culminate at Jr. High camp a few weeks ago (you can read about that here and how it affected me here).
I am sure there has been much written about spiritual journeys and the transformation process, but a summary that has helped me sort all this out is from George Barna’s recent book Maximum Faith. He summarizes it as 10 stops on the transformation journey:
Stop 1: Ignorance of and indifferent to sin
Stop 2: Aware of and indifferent to sin
Stop 3: Concerned about the implications of personal sin
Stop 4: Confess sins and ask Jesus Christ to be their savior
Stop 5: Commitment to faith activities (behavior modification)
Stop 6: Experience a prolonged period of spiritual discontent
Stop 7: Experiencing personal brokenness
Stop 8: Choosing to surrender and submit fully to God: radical dependence (Jesus becomes Lord)
Stop 9: Enjoy a profound intimacy with and love for God
Stop 10: Experience a profound compassion and love for humanity (see the world through God’s eyes)
*The parenthesis is my interpretation/summary/clarification of the stop
Where are you at on this transformation journey? Especially if you are a full time pastor, chances are you have not had to honestly answer that question in many years, maybe never. Many people never make it beyond stop 6, and during that time of spiritual discontent either leave the church completely (like after graduation) or settle back into stop 5 thinking that is all the church, and God, has to offer them. So where are you?
I can honestly tell you that God, over the past few years or so, has slung me from stop 5 to stop 9 in a whirlwind of experiences. As I reflect on all this, two key things keep popping up in my mind and heart.
I cannot lead someone where I have not been myself
Most churches (especially youth ministries) do a great job programming up to stop 5. Stop 6 through 10 become very personal and nearly impossible to program. The only way I can help anyone through those last five stops is by personal encouragement, prayer, and leading by example (sounds a lot like discipleship). If I have not gone through those stops myself, I cannot guide anyone else through them. It does not matter if that person is a teenager, my own sons, or my next door neighbor. If I have not navigated through those stops, no one I am leading will either.
I will not ask a student to do something I will not do myself
This has been one of my core values as a youth worker from day one. I tell my volunteer team this applies to everything from scrubbing a toilet on a retreat to reading my Bible daily and everything in between. We all follow what we see before what we hear, especially if you are under the age of 18. So what example are you setting? Not by what you say, teach, or preach; by what you do. Your own spiritual journey is the most important thing for you to focus on as a spiritual leader, yet the more we “do” the more we tend to neglect our own faith.
When is the last time you read the Bible just to read, not for a lesson or to prepare a message? When have you prayed for more than a few minutes and not done all the talking? When have you been in silence for more than the time it takes to go to the bathroom? When did you last fast?
1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV) 1Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
What example are you really setting?
This past week has been interesting. After returning home from camp and sharing in the main service about the miracle God did, this week I returned to the “real world”. Even with the Holy Spirit moving in a new way there is still office work to get done, phone calls to return, emails to answer, and upcoming events to finalize. Amidst all of the “normal” work this week I have had an abundance of conversations with people and how this whole event has affected them.
I must say, I have loved all of the conversations. I have loved the honest questions and the courage it has taken to ask them. I have loved the genuine thirst for more of God’s Spirit and Truth. I have loved hearing how this miracle has and continues to bear fruit for God’s kingdom.
During one of these conversations someone asked me “How are you different after this whole experience?” This is not an entirely easy question to answer, but as I have thought and prayed about it, my answer is based on these verses:
Luke 9:23 – 24 (NIV) 23Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
I am at 100% instead of 98%
My commitment has not changed. I have always been committed to God and given Him a lot. But, there has always been that 2% of me, the thought in the back of my mind; “what if it isn’t all true?” I can say now with complete conviction, that 2% is not there anymore. After this experience I truly have lost my life for God, He wants 100% and that is exactly what He has now.
I feel humbled
Through the past 8 months of my life I have realized it over and over again and even more so in the past week; I am a pretty selfish person. Sure, I have denied myself in some areas, perhaps even many areas of my life compared to others. But the standard God compares to is not other people, it is himself. Compared to God I am an incredibly selfish person. I have realized how a lot of my decisions are based more on my self and my own ego than on God and His standards. I want to actually deny myself and take up my cross. This is a daily battle, but one I cannot ever give up on.
I feel empowered
Jesus says in this passage that if I can truly deny myself and give Him my life, that I will actually save it. I am more invested and more humbled than I have ever been before, and I feel more alive and more excited about what God will do in and through me than ever before. The point of any miracle is that God’s kingdom will be advanced, both through first time commitments and deepened and/or revitalized relationships. Both have happened for many people because of this experience, and I cannot wait to see how God will use this miracle and me to further his kingdom.
After this experience I don’t know what the future holds for my family, for my church, for my writing, or for speaking opportunities. What I do know is that my relationship with God, how I walk through life daily, and how I serve and minister to teenagers and adults will never be the same and I am forever grateful to God for that.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –Jesus (John 10:10)