Monthly Archives: May 2012
I have written before about fundraising, if you haven’t read those posts I recommend you do.
I realize I have a unique view about fundraising, and because of that I say no to a lot of fundraising options. I typically say no to EVERY fundraiser that involves selling something through an outside company. There are three main reasons why:
1. Profit margin is typically too small
2. Had bad experiences dealing with outside companies
3. Everyone else, from sports teams to elementary schools, do them
This year I received an offer in the mail from a company called Save Around to sell coupon books. What caught my attention at first was the profit margin, 40% minimum, more depending on how much you sell. Next was the quality of coupons, both the deals and the businesses included. What pushed me over the top on giving in was the face there was zero upfront cost.
I just closed out our account with Save Around this morning, and we had a great experience. Their customer service was great, they went above and beyond what they promised to do, and we made a good amount of money for our trip.
I am still not a huge fan of “selling” fundraisers, but this was by far the best experience I have had doing one.
Click Here to check out their website.
About six months ago my family and I moved into a new house. Just like any upgrade, it takes some time to adjust and grow into the change. As we were planning out what would go where in our new house, we quickly realized that we had no furniture to go into the front living room.
As we moved it was where things were stacked that needed a temporary spot, but once we were mostly settled it was completely empty. It did provide a spot for the Christmas tree, it was the regular wrestle and roll around room for our boys, and several other temporary uses, but for the first several months it stayed relatively empty and unused.
By the end of this month, that room will be completely filled with furniture, almost to over flowing status.
I look at the progression of our “extra room” and see some major parallels to how I live my life and manage my time.
1. Having extra room was strange
The house we moved from was filled to brim; one of the main reasons we moved. Our expectation was to get more room, but once it was there it felt odd. It kind of felt wasteful. We often feel like we need more time, extra margin in our schedules, but once we fight for it and reach that goal it feels strange. Even thoughts of guilt for being lazy might set in.
2. There was pressure to fill it with something
We were so used to having every corner filled there was this unwritten pressure to fill it, and do it quickly. Our society has made busyness equal importance, and so when we have un-planned time we often go looking for something to fill it with, and quickly. Soon we are back to being over-scheduled and busier than ever before.
Ephesians 5:15-17 (NLT) 15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.
How much of your time do you fill thoughtlessly because you feel pressure to always have something scheduled? I realize for me I do it a lot. I need to be more wise about what I plan and why.
3. It seemed much bigger when it was empty
The room seemed absolutely huge when it was empty. Now that there is furniture in it, the size has shrunk by several feet, I am sure of it. My life seems to go a lot slower when it is not scheduled every second of every day. After constantly running at such a fast pace, once we go on vacation or have a free afternoon, we realize how long two hours can really be.
Exodus 20:8-9 (NIV) 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God.
God did not design us to be going full speed ahead all the time. Especially as a full time pastor, Sunday is not a “Sabbath day” at all. It is one of my busiest work days, which is exactly why I have a day off during the week. And yet I often fill it with everything but rest and time with God.
Do you have any “empty rooms” in your life? Are you putting pressure on yourself to fill them? Maybe you should stop and think about it for a minute…
I was recently visited by a federal agent. When I first received a call from him I started mentally going through anything I might have done wrong, over my entire lifetime, just because I wasn’t sure how else to react. I am not sure about you, but being contacted by the FBI is not a regular occurrence for me.
The reason for this interaction was not about me at all, it was about a former student. He is not being charged with a crime or in any kind of trouble, but he is being investigated, and very thoroughly.
He recently left for basic training as a proud member of the United States Air Force. He is being investigated so he can receive a high level of security clearance. He will be able to say “I could tell you but then I would have to kill you” and being telling you the 100% honest truth.
As a federal agent sat at my dining room table asking me a million questions, there were a few things that went through my mind:
I knew more about this student than I first realized
He had been one of my small group guys, a student leader, and a good friend so I did know the answers to a lot of the questions. When it came to questions like “has or does he hold any foreign business contacts or off shore accounts?” I had to answer “not to my knowledge”. But when it came to personal and character questions I could answer with confidence.
Discipleship doesn’t end at graduation
This student is someone I have personally discipled. He has been out of high school for nearly two years and we have stayed in touch and still share our lives with each other. It was a great honor to be on the list of people that could testify toward his character and background. When I was asked “Is he a person that can be trusted with our countries’ secrets?” I could confidently answer “yes”!
God is at work everywhere
I am glad to know that God’s light will be shining even among highly classified information and duties. We often tell students “you have no idea what God might want to do with your life”, and this is a testament to that.
Every decision has consequences we have no idea about
I think a lot of teenagers carry the attitude that they can do whatever they want now and clean up their life later. I was asked about past drinking, drug use, etc. This student had lived up to this verse:
1 Timothy 4:12 (NLT) Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
And that decision as a teenager is paying off now. The decisions and choices we make as teenagers will follow us for the rest of our life, the good and the bad. I know he did not realize it at the time, but he could have made different choices in high school and they could have ruined this chance for him now.
It is a rare thing for an FBI agent to knock on my door, but this experience has encouraged me as I realize that what I do every day for God is making a difference, not only in my church and community, but in the world. What you do as a youth worker has a larger impact than you realize, keep pressing on!
I don’t know very much about super heroes.
I don’t know which ones go with what comic company, I can’t name every face on everyone’s T-shirts, and I can’t hang with a conversation about which super hero is the best. I realize this admission might make me the most irrelevant youth worker on the planet right now, but the truth is still the truth.
This last weekend I went and saw the Avengers with my small group guys. They all wanted to see it, or see it again (for one it was their 3rd time), and I knew my wife would never go so we went to the movie instead of doing a Bible lesson. Not only did I gain a few “cool youth leader points”, I also experienced something in that theater I have not felt in a while. I was an outsider.
That’s right, I am an Avenger outsider. Most of my world revolves around me being an insider, my family, friends, and my church make up most of my time and energy. I am used to being on the inside, but for those few hours I was most definitely on the outside. Here are a few things I observed and felt during the movie that can help us tremendously in our churches and ministries.
There were cues I didn’t catch
Throughout the movie there were a ton of different characters, symbols, uniforms, and other things that any insider knows instantly. It took me nearly half the movie to realize one of the characters was The Hulk, I know…lame huh. How many times have you stepped on stage in your church and assumed that everyone knew who you were? Have you ever done communion or another Spiritual discipline or ritual without fully explaining its meaning? How many people were left out or left behind because of those assumptions?
There was stuff that I simply didn’t get
There were two or three times in the movie when the entire theater broke out laughing about an inside joke between the superheroes, I had no clue why it was funny. I could tell there was some back story to the plot that never got filled in, and so I was left in the dark. I have heard many sermons (and delivered a few) and testimonies that were so full of inside jokes and personal stories that instead of helping me learn they left me knowing I was on the outside looking in.
Some things came through loud and clear
Despite there being a lot I didn’t get the movie was well made, the graphics were amazing, and there were messages that came through loud and clear. Team work, loyalty, how your heart and motives really count, how there is only one God and he doesn’t dress like Thor. All of these things came from the movie loud and clear. Even when a Christian outsider comes to church or youth group there will be things that are clearly communicated, they don’t have to leave empty handed.
Everyone wants to belong
Among the millions of people that have seen this movie I know I am not the only Avengers outsider, yet not many people openly admit their shortfall. We were created to belong, to be in relationship with those around us, and we crave it so much that we will fake what we really know and like to fit in. People are starving for true fellowship and God’s love in their lives. Are we doing our part as youth workers and Christian leaders to help them find it?
I don’t believe we need to change our message or our culture to better include outsiders. I do believe that we need to be welcoming Spiritual outsiders into God’s family and helping them to understand God’s way of doing life. Help people transform from outsider to God’s child. Are you doing that?
Thanks for hanging with me through these posts, you have made it all the way to number 1! I see that these posts are among the most personal ones, which probably explains why they are my favorites. I hope that my life experiences have some way helped your life and walk with Christ. Whether you have been reading my blog for this entire first year or have just stumbled upon my writing, thanks for reading!
My Top Five Posts #1: I Should Not Be Alive Part 2
As I said in my previous post, I had a lot of questions to answer during my hospital stay. It seemed like the doctors and nurses asked me a million times what had happened and how I was feeling. I quickly grew tired of answering both of these questions; what happened was in my chart and the fact I wanted more medication should adequately and completely answer the later question.
Not only did I have to answer a lot of questions, but I had a few of my own. The biggest questions in my mind and heart were not directed toward any medical professional, but mainly to myself (how could you have done something this stupid?) and to God (Why?).
This two word question, God why, was anything but simple. In those two words, those 6 letters, was a mountain of emotion, confusion, distrust, hope, anger, faith… Those words do not even begin to describe everything I was feeling as I prayed those two words over and over again. As I laid in that bed talking with the stream of people that kept coming through the door, no one had any answers, at least not answers to my real questions. Hope and faith truly were a huge part of what I felt, because I knew that God had the answers I sought, the bigger question was would I hear his voice, and if I did would I accept his answer?
I did hear His voice, but not in any way I expected. An audible voice would have been nice, even a hand writing on the wall would be acceptable, whatever was fine with me as long as what I got was an actual answer, not just something that raised more questions.
As I prayed, and slept, and took more meds, and saw more people, and felt the enormous outpouring of love from so many people one distinct phrase constantly ran through my mind, “I will make you lie down in green pastures.” I had memorized the 23rd Psalm several years ago and this phrase had always stood out to me, but this didn’t really make much sense. At first I just credited the medication and tried to focus on other things, but it would not go away. “I will make you lie down in green pastures.”
Once I realized this was God trying to answer my question through this familiar scripture all it did was raise more questions. “Oh, so you made me lie down, so that means you caused me to crash.”
“No, you made the decision to ride that fast through that empty lot”
“Ok, I understand being the victim of my own stupidity, but why didn’t you protect me?”
“I did. You rode out of your garage with out your helmet on, I made you go back and get it”
“Then why am I in this hospital bed if you protected me?”
“Because you won’t be obedient if you didn’t end up in this bed.”
I wish my conversation with God was that quick and that precise, it wasn’t. Over these several months God has filled in some of those answers for me. But one thing I did get loud and clear before I ever left that hospital room—I was not being fully obedient to God. That conviction stung, I felt like I had given God a lot. I was a pastor, I had given him my whole life (so I thought), and I had genuinely felt close to Him. But I knew right away one thing I was not doing all the way; writing my book.
The amount of time between when my book idea went from scribbles on scratch paper to actual words typed in a computer and me lying in that hospital bed was about 9 months. At that point I had written what now in the final manuscript are 2 and ½ chapters. As soon as I was home and could sit up for more than a few moments I started writing. I finished the next 1 and ½ chapters literally typing with one hand as my broken left arm was elevated on a pillow. I finished the rough draft of my book 3 months after being discharged from the hospital (it is 9 chapters). I fully believe that if I had not crashed that day my book would still not be completed.
But, not diligently writing was not the only thing God was trying to get me to realize. I had focused on the “God making me lie down” part, and it definitely got my attention. But that is not the whole phrase God told me over and over again. “I will make you lie down in green pastures.” It was not until my book was completed that I began to understand what on earth could be “green” about this experience, but that will have to wait for part 3…
Exactly 11 years ago today I proposed to Maureen. I remember how nervous I was on that night, not really sure why. I was 100% sure she was the one God wanted me to share my life with and 100% sure she would say yes. Now all these years, 3 kids, and lots of ups and downs later I am still just as sure she is a gift from God to me.
This week I assigned my small group to read Proverbs 31, I thought it would be fitting considering it is valentines day and all. This morning as I read it I thanked God over and over for putting a “Proverbs 31 girl” in my life.
Proverbs 31:20 (NIV) “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”
Whether you are poor or needy or even just in our life in some way Maureen will provide hospitality for you, it is truly one of her Spiritual gifts to make people feel special.
Proverbs 31:25 (NIV) “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”
Maureen is very good at what she does and I am very proud of her accomplishments. Her strength and dignity are a worthy example for every one of her kindergarten students, youth small group girls, and friends. She also likes to laugh and have fun (even though that is really not what this verse is referring to) and I love that about her too.
Proverbs 31:26 (NIV) “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue”
I feel so honored to have Maureen as a ministry partner. Yes, she does help me A LOT within youth ministry, but she ministers to people in every aspect of her life. Co-workers, her students, her friends, her family members, and most anyone she interacts with she provides Godly counsel and wisdom to.
Proverbs 31:28 (NIV) ”Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her.
She is a wonderful mother to our boys, I hope they realize how blessed they are to have the mother they do (I know they do). As you can see, I do praise her, although not as much as I should…
I could honestly do this for the entire chapter, but I think you get the idea… but I do have one more verse to share.
Proverbs 31:30 (NIV) “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Maureen is charming, and she is very beautiful. But I know she loves God with all her heart, I see it in her every day, and that is what I love the most about her.
I love you more than words can say Maureen, and thank God for you every day. Happy Valentines Day!
If you have a Proverbs 31 girl in your life I encourage you to tell her how much she means to you and why.
“I feel closer to God right now than probably any other time in my life, yet I feel like a dismal failure in just about everything I am doing.”
I recently met with my accountability partner, who is also a youth worker in my area, and this was one of my first statements to him. His response: “me too!”
I have known him for several years, we have shared a lot with each other. At one point we even shared an office, although I can only remember one time that we were ever both working in it at the same time.
We have been official accountability partners for the past three or four years, and it always has amazed me how we seem to be dealing with the same things at the same time. We work in different churches. We have a completely different circle of friends. Our families know of each other but rarely ever get together. We have very similar outlooks on life and on ministry. These are all reasons why I feel so incredibly blessed to have him in my life and why our relationship is so valuable. There are two verses that perfectly summarize our friendship.
James 5:16 (NIV) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Because very few things in our lives cross paths it creates a very safe place for us both to be completely honest. I trust him completely, and he doesn’t know the people I need to vent about. He can give me Godly advice and tell me the truth about myself. I know he prays for me, and that brings a lot of comfort and assurance into my life. He knows all of my biggest victories and biggest failures; other than God and my wife he probably knows the most about who I am.
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
After we talk, I always feel refreshed. There is no area of our lives that is off limits in our conversations, so I feel like a better Christian, a better husband, a better dad, and a better youth worker than I did before we talked. Sometimes I talk the entire time, other times he does. We share struggles, and victories, frustrations, and praises. We pray for each other and part ways feeling “sharper”.
This world can be a lonely place (especially as a youth worker), and I hope you have at least a few “iron level people” in your life like I do. If you don’t, then start praying for God to lead you to one. This relationship did not happen by accident, it was purposefully pursued and kindled and built.
1. Pray for God to show you the right person.
2. Act on His leading and ask that person if they are interested in this kind of relationship.
3. Actually meet on a regular basis.
I hope you don’t feel like a dismal failure in all you are doing, but if (I mean when) you do I hope you have someone to confide in that will pray for you and help you to keep going. If you would like me to pray for you to find the right iron level person let me know on my prayer page or in the comments and I will pray with you!
I have seen a few blog posts and books circulating around lately about the youth worker/senior pastor relationship. I understand for a lot of people, and a lot of churches, this can be a struggle. I thought I should write a post showing that it is not always a bad situation.
I have a great relationship with my senior pastor!
Here are a few keys to our success:
1. We communicate often
We talk literally almost every day, and it is rarely a formal meeting. Because we have an open line of communication, when we do have issues to discuss it is not awkward. Two days ago Tom came into my office with a list of “business” things to accomplish, but it went just as smooth and comfortable as all of our conversations–which felt nothing like talking to the principle.
2. We know we are on the same team
We both want the same thing; for our church to be effective and relevant while expanding God’s kingdom in our community. We have a united vision and purpose, but we also understand each other’s roles in fulfilling them. Just like any team, we are stronger together and we know the other will get our back when needed.
3. We are involved in each other’s lives
Our lives interact in many ways outside of our formal ministry context. I know and care about his wife and daughter. He knows and cares about my wife and boys. We have some mutual interests (like sports) and use those to connect. Yes, we are in very different phases of life, but we are still friends outside of church. When I wrecked my dirtbike he was the first person to the hospital, and I would do the same for him.
4. We both are true to our roles
He trusts me completely with the youth ministry. I trust him with running the church and he knows I am not there to take his job someday. Yes he sometimes gives his opinion on something I should do or change. I sometimes give my opinion on something he should do or change. But he lets me run the youth ministry, and I faithfully follow his leadership as he runs the whole church; we have a mutual respect for one another.
5. We have both worked at it
We have been working with each other for over nine years, and there have been times our relationship has not been as good as it is now. There have been times when I have been upset with him, and definitely times when he has been upset with me. But we both had the expectation that our partnership was going to work and not be awkward or fragile. We have both worked at it but it has definitely been worth the effort.
I know and realize how blessed I am to be in the situation I am in. I wish every youth worker felt like their Sr. Pastor was one of their biggest fans. I wish every youth worker felt supported and encouraged. I wish there were more articles and books telling positive stories. My hope and prayer is my experience and situation can help make yours better.
My one year anniversary of blogging came and went this last week. I can most definitely say this past year has brought some surprises, some disappointments, and a lot of things to add to my “stuff I didn’t know I needed to learn” list. I have debated back and forth for a few weeks on the best way to commemorate this blogging milestone. I landed on the idea of sharing with you my top five favorite posts. These are not necessarily the most popular posts, but they are the ones I am most proud of.
If you are a regular reader you know that I don’t post every day, but for the next five days I will. One post a day leading up to my #1 favorite post of all time, I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them!
Favorite Post #5: What Season Is It?
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) 1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make. Are you ready, here it comes…
My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.
I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that. To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.
The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t. In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:
Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
My question is this: what made Jesus so upset? Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson. Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in. If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit. But “it was not the season for figs.” The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was. It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.
To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t. Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that. But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.
What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?
I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:
Seek God more than you ever have before
Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting… All of the above-at the same time!
Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.
During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest. It may be something that needs to change about you. It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment. Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)
I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests. If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.
Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) 4 A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it. Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off. Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done. Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.
Keep going and give God your best no matter what
2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.
Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful. The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest. Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.
The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner. I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.