Sunday, February 26, 2012

a mentoring letter to myself:

I was at this conference earlier this week, and they were talking about mentoring, and someone said something that led me on to a little time of day-dreaming, and I thought to myself, “what if I could somehow, send a letter back in time to myself from now? what kind of mentoring would I have given a young youth pastor named Rob, who was fresh out of seminary, staring out in a new town and a new church?” first of all, if I COULD send myself a letter, I probably wouldn’t talk a whole lot about work; I’d probably tell myself a lot more about family, real estate, stocks, and stuff like that; but for the fun of it, I gave it some thought::
“Dear Rob-
this is a letter from you, from the year 2012. I don’t want to give away too much about your future, but I’d like to give you a few words of advice that should help you navigate the next 11 years:

:: find some friends- I know that you’re kind of a loner, but there are some wonderful people in this town that will be a huge help and support to you. when you find them, invest in them, trust them, encourage them, listen to them and cherish them. lean on them in hard times, share with them and let them pray for you. have some fun with them.

:: take care of yourself- you’re going to be tempted to work quite a bit, and that’s ok for short seasons, but look after your soul. take time for the bible and prayer, and solitude- lots of time. go on lots of walks and hikes, this place is great for that. do the things that encourage you and replenish your soul. take care of your body- I know that the Malibu grill is just down the street, but take it easy on the calories. take time with deanna, lots and lots of time with deanna! she is way more important than work and ministry!

:: invest in people- God is going to surround you with some of the most amazing people- invest in them. invest in your volunteers. get to know them and become friends with them, they will become some of your dearest friends here. invest in your bosses (you’ll have a few!) be a refreshing person for them. be easy to lead. invest in your students- the middle school ones and the college aged ones; if you stick around for awhile, you will have the chance to have enduring friendships with them with the opportunity for a lasting impact.  

:: deal with problems quickly- its been said that there are tensions that need to be managed, and problems that need to be fixed. if you discover a problem (and you will!) fix it soon before it becomes a mess.

:: get over yourself- I know you, and I know that you have the tendency to think that you’re pretty cool; and I encourage you to lower yourself and be humble. people like to be with humble people. treat everyone with kindness, respect, and dignity; everyone! seek out advice from mentors, volunteers, parents, books and friends. learn from everyone, because you don’t know it all. you don’t need to be the center of attention, and your opinion is great to you, but you don’t always have to share it. you'll see some successes, and make sure that you share them with God and your team- its not all about you! being right isn't as important as you think it is.

:: don’t worry so much- you worry a lot; and in some ways that’s ok. its ok to worry about safety, security and correct teaching. but don’t worry so much about what people think about you. don’t worry so much about the numbers or appearing smart. here is a good verse from proverbs 29: "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." don’t worry too much about the church budget or facility- it will never be enough. don’t worry about the people who don’t like you (sorry- you’ll meet some of those). if you’re going to worry, worry about kids, and families; about integrity, health and your community.

:: have a little fun- you're too serious! laugh often. go for walks and day trips. take someone out to lunch or coffee often. be interested, no, fascinated in others. give it your very best.

Rob, I’ll be honest with you- there are some tough days ahead, but stay close to Jesus- follow Him and He will lead you into some big moments; moments so big that you’ll wonder how you got there, and if it gets any better than this. no matter what comes your way, don’t give up. don’t let anyone make you lose your cool. the joys will far outweigh the tough spots. you’re going to make it.


P.S. if you should ever get the idea of renting a woodchipper to use at a youth event…
never mind…go for it! it will be a good story someday!”

God is love.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

youth sponsors

if you work in a youth ministry, or have worked in a youth ministry, or have been in a youth ministry, what do you call the volunteers? I think about this stuff. there are lots of titles to give them, and all create a word picture of what their role is. here are some examples-

:: volunteer- this word has some pros and cons. the pros are that everyone knows WHO you’re talking about when you’re talking about “the volunteers.” I don’t like this title because it can be used negatively. for example, one time I asked one of my volunteers for a more regular attendance and commitment and they replied, “what do you expect? I’m just a volunteer.” (our relationship didn’t last long). I don’t like this title because the people who serve in ministries are way more that JUST volunteers.

:: staff- this is my go-to title for volunteers. I often refer to my team and the middle school staff. this creates an idea that these people have a position of authority- but it can be confusing, because some people from an older generation think of the “church staff” as the PAID staff. this got me in trouble recently when I said in a meeting, “the middle school ministry has the best staff in the world!” it made it sound like I was calling MYSELF the best middle school staff pastor in the world, which I wasn’t trying to say…well, not really…

:: leaders- I have heard this used quite a bit. I like this title because it communicates who the people are and what they do. I think it creates confusion about WHAT they lead. small groups? the ministry? who is the leader? are we all the leader? I may be over thinking it, but its still a good title that I should probably use more.

:: counselors- in ministries that are really into camp, they usually use this. camp almost always refers to volunteers as counselors. I like this because it creates a sense that this group of people are there for individual relationships and counseling. whenever I hear ministries use this title, it always sounds a little outdated, but it’s a good word to describe what the people are there to do.

I’ve heard a few other names that are a little wonky to me- facilitators, shepherds, servants, mentors and others. the other night I was talking to this middle school dad who grew up in the early days of youth ministry. he was telling me about one of our mutual friends who was his leader when he was in middle school and he said, “yeah that guy was my sponsor all the way through high school.” I have heard that title used a lot by an older generation. I have always felt like it sounds off, but in that conversation, it sounded so comforting-

:: sponsor- it sounds like a person who is dedicated to another person- who is there to see you through a tough time, an advocate, a cheerleader, a supporter. when my friend said that, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “what a cool title for a staff person!”

whether you are a staffer, or a volunteer, or a counselor, or a leader, or a youth sponsor, give it your best today. whatever your title is, make sure you know what your role is- to shepherd kids toward jesus. I like how paul puts it in 1 thessalonians 2:8:
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”

here is a picture of me and a couple of guys who invested me:

did you have a sponsor when you were a kid? take some time today to pray for that person, and send them a thank you for investing in you in a time when you needed it the most.

God is love.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

my take on rick warren-

I’ve been thinking a lot about Rick Warren lately. One of my friends used to work closely with Rick Warren, and he tells me stories about amazing this guy and his church is. He also gave me this book about his life. I’ve read Rick Warren’s books, and have heard him speak a few times. I have visited his church and even got to meet him once. I have always had a big respect for him, but after reading this biography about him and hearing stories about him, I come away with a whole new admiration of him. here are a few of the things I respect the most:

:: his capacity- rick warren runs a huge church, plus a network of pastors, plus several charities, and still seems to have room to tweet, and interact with people as though he were not hurried at all-

:: his friendliness- I have heard it said that rick warren can meet with the president of a country, and then a busboy at a restaurant and treat them both with the same level of kindness, interest, and respect. he has friends on the left and on the right and from all walks of life-

:: his message- a lot of people want to be famous or influential, but few have a message that is as concise and as accessible to as many people as Rick Warren.

:: his intellect- rick warren is a genius. he goes through at least a book a day and can converse with anybody about anything and at a high level. he is extremely curious and loves learning.

:: his faith- if you ever read through the story of how he planted his church and how he acquired the property, you’ll discover that he is a man who believes that God can do anything.

:: his humility- I have heard Rick Warren often speak of how he was given a simple honor by a fellow pastor, and that honor brought him to tears. when you’re that successful and that humble, it’s a rare combination.

:: his generosity- Rick Warren seems to have coined the phrase “reverse-tither” where he lives off of 10% and gives away 90%. most of that goes to AIDS victims in africa.

:: his contentedness- his book the purpose driven life is possibly the best selling book of all time- and yet he did not buy a new house or even a new car after its release.

:: his character- it takes a special man to point attention away from himself and onto Christ and onto the people who are hurting in the world. it takes a special person to say no to riches and fame for the sake of others. it also takes a special character to be put in the spotlight and to be found with integrity.

I used to think it would be cool to have a church like Rick Warren, or a book, or notoriety like him, but I don’t really want any of that. what I would like is the qualities I’ve listed above. I’m not asking God to make me a super-star pastor or author, but if He wanted to make me into something like that, I would want to have the character that could survive that kind of attention and money.
and that’s what I’m after these days.

God is love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

photobooth pics of dad and jane: