I-am-wrongConfession…

my favorite part of being wrong is when I admit it out loud.

That may seem like the average person’s least favorite moment.

Let me explain why I feel the opposite about it.

When you’re wrong, there’s usually someone who is passionately trying to point it out to you. Perhaps they’re on a mission to highlight what is plain to them that you’ve somehow been blind to. They’re attempting to get you to be mature or responsible about something you may have been immature or shortsighted about.

This tends to amplify when they feel you wronged them.

On your end, it’s likely not easy to admit that you missed something or made another person feel awkward. This is why when you actually do own it as a genuine step of maturity to the situation or the relationship… something amazing and unexpected happens.

The other person is also now tasked to choose if they’re going to be mature or immature in response to your response.

coneofshameAgain, this individual was on a quest to point out something you missed. In doing so, they situationally claimed the high ground – perhaps for all the right reasons, or maybe for the wrong reasons. They may not have even expected you to own it.

Only… you did. They had a great point. You confessed it, along with a desire to grow.

This is where it’s revealed if that person truly is a friend who will stick with you into the next curve or simply was a critic who wanted to lay a zinger on you. You once were being small in not owning something big, and now that person has to decide what they’re going to do with your mature ability to own your immaturity.

Unfortunately, this is where many conscious accusers become unconsciously divided.

  • They have nothing new left to say… yet they don’t know what to now do with any remnants of the unspoken negativity they felt toward you seconds earlier.
  • They have nothing left to point out… yet find themselves still wanting to be a critical spirit when they generally look at you.
  • They have nothing left to get you to admit… yet find themselves wanting to become your personal “life coach” and show you other things you’ve been blind to.

I adore this moment, not because I’m waiting to see if the accuser will be hypocritical… but because what once was a one-sided pursuit in my direction gets to be a defining moment in every direction of the relationship.

Will the person who felt you were wayward choose to let it go and walk into the future with you?

(By the way – think about how you handle this when you’re the one trying to expose another person to something they’re blind to.)

Reconcile_With_One_AnotherThe reason this is a defining moment?

Because it shows what the relationship is really made of and if two Christ-followers will keep following Christ together. Jesus said in the Lord’s Prayer that we should pray for forgiveness from God that is equal to the way we’ve forgiven other people who have wronged us:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)

So the best part about being wrong?

It’s an opportunity for everyone involved to put Jesus on display in what happens next between those involved.

Then again…

I could be wrong.

EXIT

Everybody likes guarantees, and in youth ministry there are few. But if you are hoping to stay involved in youth ministry in a local church setting for the long haul, I know the secret, the silver bullet…guaranteed:

REFUSE TO EXIT!

I’ve been traveling the local church youth ministry road for over 26 years, and there have been all sorts of times that I could have exited; “off-ramps” that nobody would have argued if I would have taken. But I refused to exit. Because I’ve simply refused to take an off-ramp, I’m still on the road.

Some typical youth ministry off-ramps:

- Graduating college and need a full-time role. Nobody would blame you for that.
- Getting married and need to make more money. Nobody would blame you for that.
- About to have first child and need a job with more regular hours…
- Child #2 is on the way and my wife would like to work part-time…
- Being burned by the church…
- Feeling tired, on the edge of burnout…
- Being successful and loved by the church so a “promotion” is offered…
- Getting older and feeling a little out of touch…
- Realizing how much money your friends in non-church-based work make…
- Failing, being fired, or in someway becoming disqualified for a season…
- The opportunity arises to teach, write, or speak about YM full-time….

Why do men and women leave local church youth ministry? Because they take an off ramp. Nothing wrong with that.

Want to stay in youth ministry in a church setting for a long time? I can guarantee you a long youth ministry career in one simple step:

REFUSE TO EXIT.



Fill It Up?

 —  November 13, 2014 — 2 Comments

10475979-largeA minister waited in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump.

“Pastor,” said the young man, “I’m so sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.”

The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. It’s the same in my business.”

I’m not sure who the original author of this piece is. I came across it in a compilation of funny illustrations that someone in my church passed along to me, but this one stood out to me in particular.

On one hand, it’s easy to see why you might want to share this as a teaching illustration. It certainly does paint a picture of how many people view God and faith. He certainly does seem to get the last burst of many people’s time.

prayingOn the other hand, might there be an inverse message for you and I? Specifically, people like us who are so busy doing the work of God that we aren’t letting Him adequately work in us?

  • “I probably should start my day out in prayer, but let me just check (the news/email/Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/texts) first.”
  • “I’m really feeling spiritually dry, so maybe after I work on this lesson for everyone else I’ll spend some quality time with God.”
  • “Sure, Bob. I’ll pray for you.”

    (days go by, you see that person again)

    (to God, as the person is walking up)

    “Dear God, I pray for Bob. Amen.”

    (to Bob)

    “Hey Bob! I’ve been praying for you!”

Can you relate?

Any wisdom on how instead of running on fumes as we serve we might all more regularly say to God, “Fill it up?”

lemonade

Been wondering lately about why some people seem to have a much better ability to handle adversity well. People who love Jesus, seem firmly rooted in faith, often have completely different reactions to the struggles they face. I’ve come to a simplistic conclusion that because there are so many factors in one’s “makeup” and none of us come anywhere close to being cookie-cutter versions of each other, it would make sense that lemonade making comes easier for some folks than for others.

My simple formula looks something like this:

Personality + spiritual journey + family dynamics + Past history + current mental health + security/insecurity + approximately 23 other factors = How somebody responds to crisis and adversity.

Now think about the teenagers in your youth group and add to this formula the various, and numerous, aspects of adolescent development. At this point it becomes glaringly obvious how pointless….and perhaps damaging….it becomes to give our students cookie-cutter answers with three easy steps to overcoming their hurts, habits and hangups.

Life hands our students lemons on a regular basis. Don’t respond by handing them a simple recipe for lemonade.

Note: As I was writing this, I suddenly felt like it was inspired by something I’ve read on Adam Mclane’s blog, so I went on a hunt to see if he had written something similar recently, and found nothing. But, if you don’t read his blog, you should because it’s full of thought provoking stuff on a regular basis!



Well, if you work with college-age people (or most anyone that breathes), these are “hot” topics to discuss. But they cannot and must not be dodged. For any reason. Yet, I’ve found most leaders dodge these subjects because they have questions and fears themselves. They are intimidated, at least, by the thought of leading discussions on these topics. This is just too far into the wilderness of the unknown, too deep into the chaos of more questions.

But beyond our fears, most of us can’t seem to reconcile these ideas personally. We simply can’t articulate how they fall in line with our ideas of the God we have come to love and serve. But what if understanding the larger story of scripture, who God is and what He does on an ongoing basis, actually lends to these ideas? And, what if, great exegesis (i.e. drawing truth out of scripture) and in depth theology/word study, actually leads us to conclusions that few, if any, conservative or liberal scholars have articulated up to this point?

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 8.52.47 AMWell, it’s of my opinion that Josh Butler articulates scriptural truth in these areas in a way that very few, if any, people have up to this point. Now, okay…I know the very idea that someone has articulated things that nobody has up to this point might be scary for some. But despite articulating unfamiliar conclusions in these areas, Josh has not only won theological awards (even from conservative seminary) for his work on these subjects, but in his book, Skeletons In God’s Closet: The Mercy of Hell, The Surprise of Judgment, The Hope of Holy War he writes with simple creativity that makes reading about these topics not only fascinating, but fun for the “average” church-goer.

There have been some books written lately on some of these subjects (especially hell), but this one lands differently in so many refreshing ways. From pastors on my staff, to friends who are theological geniuses, to my wife, to college students…everyone I know who has read this has said a very similar statement: “I’ve never thought about it like that.”

Because I know that could easily sound like a “sales pitch” for something let me bring full disclosure here: Josh IS a friend of mine and I have a ton of respect for him on a personal level. But that said, I have a lot of friends who write books…that I don’t post blogs like this for. And, to be 100% forthright here, Josh and I don’t know each other that well AND I was not asked nor am I paid to post this. I simply posted this because I mean what I’ve said. You may not agree with everything Butler writes (I’m trying to wrap my head around a few things myself), but I genuinely think this is a must read for anyone working with college-age people. No question. So, for whatever it’s worth, there you go.  Get it today. Seriously.

Lebron

16221152-large

It’s not a leadership principle most would subscribe to; in fact I’m not sure it’s a leadership principle at all….but it makes sense to me most of the time:

Be confident enough to under-promise and over-deliver.

Lebron James reminded me of this last night as his much-anticipated return to Cleveland fizzled with a mediocre performance and a loss for the Cavs. Now, to be fair, Lebron wasn’t entirely responsible for the hype, but he certainly added to it with antics like his Twitter campaign asking followers whether or not they wanted his return to be accompanied by his trademark chalk-dust toss (95% of his followers said yes).

Most leaders like hype…they like to get people excited about their vision and rally the troops to take the next mountain.

Youth workers do this stuff all the time:
“This summer camp is going to change your life!”
“I want to tell you the funniest story ever!”
“Bring a friend to this event…I promise you that you won’t regret it!”
“I believe we can change the destiny of the continent of Africa with this missions project!”

How often have our deliverables failed to measure up to our promises on the front end? For me, more times than I car to admit.

I don’t know how often, or in what areas, you should become comfortable under-promising and over-delivering instead of the other way around….I just know it’s worth thinking about once in a while.



Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 7.14.24 AMI’ve always said, “Giftedness can get you places, but character will keep you there,” for more on that, click here.

I believe that statement. But one of the toughest aspects of leading younger people who want to be in ministry is teaching them that being developed sometimes means limiting the use of “gifts.” This can be viewed as hindering them, misunderstanding them, devaluing them…on and on. Now, to be clear, we don’t want to (and cannot) unnecessarily hinder God using people. But, in leadership there is a balance. And this can be a relationally tough line to walk sometimes.

Here’s the consistent bottom line issue I’ve seen the past decade or so: Millennials (and in many cases anyone who wants to be developed for ministry) can view the Church as an object where their “gifts” are developed rather than a subject they humbly serve. In other words, in the former view, the “gifted” person is at the center of the equation whereas in the latter view, other people (i.e. the Church) are in the center.

The discipleship battle is really felt when someone thinks that to be developed for ministry means they should gain more exposure to decision making, they should gain more influence over people (particularly in teaching) and they should have more experiences in developing their giftedness. Those aspects can be and most often are part of developing people for ministry. However, experience in these ways can NEVER be a hindrance to developing character in someone. And, sometimes, limiting their exposures is what is best for the development of them as a human being. In my view, developing the person for ministry is less about giftedness and more about the leadership heart. And this is less and less cliche for me. In the development process there are many battles to be fought..most of which are not chosen by the younger person being developed.

Too often I see the development of giftedness being at the center of “leadership development.” And, well, I think this is detrimental to those being developed. Being short-sited in the development of leaders in this way, in my mind, is simply poor leadership. Developing people includes both sides, but even though God using someone in the life of other people (i.e. gifts) is important, I happen to think God is more concerned about the heart of the person we are leading.

- Chuck / @chuckbomar

Gears

You’ve been there. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. “There” is that moment when you admit, and determine to do something about, what you’ve already been sensing for a little while: Things in your ministry just aren’t clicking. You’re frustrated. You’re stagnant. You’re hitting the gas but can’t get traction. You’ve quit hitting the gas and are idle. You know something isn’t quite right, but can’t put your finger on it.

What do you do when things aren’t clicking? Here are a few places I’d look at first.

The Structure:
Oftentimes the various structures we have in place are like old wineskins, unsuitable for the current realities of our ministry. “structures” that may need to be reexamined might include your budget, your schedule, your ministry paradigm and strategy, your physical meeting space, etc.

The Team:
Ministries with healthy structures aren’t always healthy! Because ministry is “of the people, for the people”, the team leading the charge is usually highly instrumental in whether things are clicking or not. And, when looking at the team, the question isn’t, “are things clicking?” so much as it is, “Are we clicking?” Are people being used in their areas of giftedness? Do we trust each other? Can we disagree without being disagreeable? Are we all pulling on the same side of the rope? Do we have a clear sense of purpose? Is anybody a continual source of frustration and conflict?

The Leader:
This may come as a shock, but you aren’t a perfect leader. And your weaknesses affect (and sometimes infect) your ministry as much as your strengths. Because leaders are influencers, a ministry that isn’t clicking requires you to take a look at yourself, too. Are you spending time with the Father? Do you still have a passion for the movement you are leading? Do you still feel called to it? Are you pursuing a life of health (personal, spiritual, emotional, relational, financial)? Do you feel supported by your supervisor(s)?

When a ministry feels stuck, there’s rarely a silver bullet that will get things moving forward again. But I’ve learned over the years that the answer oftentimes lies in the structure, the team or myself.