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?”



Recently I was in a meeting of the youth ministry minds where this question was asked:

“How often does your group, your youth or your church think of missions?”

The answers ranged from weekly to monthly to an honest, “never.” It was a great question that I felt was poised around “opportunities” to “go and serve” both locally and abroad. In short it was really asking how often we “went” somewhere to think of the people outside the doors of the church. I believe this is an important question and I was humbled at how much others are doing to inspire students to “Go, make disciples.”

Later that week I was taking a flight with my husband. It was on one of “those” airlines where you do not get to pick your seats ahead of time. Instead you line up in a lump by “zone” and hope for the best (unless of course you want to pay the extra to get first pick.) My hubby and I ended up in the final zone, making me really grumpy that we would probably be separated for a four hour flight. Although we ended up towards the back thankfully we were together.


Now what I didn’t tell you is that I really hate to fly. It makes me nervous on a good day. Yet this time I especially had a knot in my stomach since my flight the week prior had literally bounced through the sky for hours until I reached the safety of the ground.

The “glitch” in this system of picking your seat was that families sometimes get separated.  It happened on this flight; a Dad and young child needed a seat that was not separated.  The voice on the intercom was asking if two people would move so they could be together.  The attendant made jokes about, “babysitting the child next to you” if no one would move.

No one budged.

Again the plead was made, explaining that the only empty seats available were two middle ones in exit rows. A small child is not allowed there. I looked at my husband and asked him if, “It was the right thing to do to give up our seats.” We waited for someone else to step up. I didn’t happen.

Did I mention this flight was at night and I hate, really hate to fly in the dark?

An offer to buy those that moved alcohol was made. I don’t drink.

One more time with desperation, the attendant called, “We can’t move the plane until this Dad and child can sit together.” It had moved from an inquiry to a demand.  Still none of us jumped up.

We looked at each other. Sighed. Gave up our seats. I got to sit in the middle of two people who had brought on food that stank to high heaven, were unfriendly, drank “Bloody Mary’s” the whole way and the flight was bumpy.  It wasn’t pleasant.

I did not want to give up my seat next to my husband. I did not want to have to sit where I did. I wanted my way. Obviously so did everyone else on the plane. Yet, we knew the “right thing” was to let the Dad and child be together.  We wouldn’t want our little one to be stuck next to a stranger just so we could be in a window or an aisle. While I lost four hours of conversation with my hubby there are worse things.

I wonder if thinking about “missions” is far simpler than we realize.

I got “nothing” out of moving. I asked if I could exchange the offer for alcohol for free wifi and the answer was, “I wish I could do that for you.”

There are so many lessons in my little interaction about the reality of “missions:”

  • Sometimes you serve because it’s right, not because you want to.
  • The “blessing” of serving is not always immediate in getting to “see” a “finished product.”
  • Service could be about going out of your way. When I had asked if I could ensure a seat next to my husband in the first place I was simply chided for not paying the money to get one early.  I was offered 3 $5- $7 drinks but no one could float me a code for $8 internet. What about a policy so that children always sit with parents?

I am not the picture of perfection here. I didn’t want to be the person who moved, I just did. I should have been the first person willing to go, and I am sad to say I wasn’t.

Trips are worth it. Yes, put them on your calendar. Use them as a catalyst to get your students thinking beyond themselves. Then teach them to give up their seats. The big events only work when we learn how to use them in the day to day.



Speaking of trips :) Group Workcamps and LifeTree Adventures offer some amazing options you should check them out!

Do you know your role?

720001Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been in the news this week. We can all empathize with how difficult it must be for them to sort out ordinary events in the public eye. While this young couple navigates the exciting news of their pregnancy with the hurdle of acute morning sickness (attributed to hyperemesis gravidarum), the rest of the world takes it all in, wondering in the background if and when William will be named the next King of England.

Can you relate?

Years ago, I was a youth worker in a church where our senior pastor was resigning. Suddenly I felt like my life was on display just a bit more than usual as people began wondering if I (or other staff members) would take on the soon-to-be-vacant role. I started attending board meetings a bit more, as I was invited to share my perspective on various things happening. I had to wrestle with the desires of God over the desires of people, including my own.

Can you relate?

Today I was reminded of this older photo of Prince William and Kate (fresh off their honeymoon) visiting with President Barack and Michelle Obama.

Which person in the picture are you?


Did you decide?

What do you think Barack and William are talking over?

What are Michelle and Kate chatting about?

Oh… and did you notice the gentleman in the background toward the right?

Look at his face. What is he attentive to?

Look at his posture. What is he ready to do?

Was he one of the choices you considered?


Why not?

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5)

What have you learned makes a serving experience or camp a great one?

Doug Franklin over at Leadertreks has some great thoughts on how most of this is up to the posture of adult leaders. Here are ten of his observations:

  • Mission_TeamGoing is not enough: “…we don’t just want them to go, we want them to grow.”
  • Be a trip mentor: “A trip is a great place to develop a long-term, life-changing relationship with a student.”
  • Have a purpose for the trip: “What do you want your students to look like when they return?”
  • Inspire spiritual growth: “Students will feel a need for God while on the trip, and this is a great opportunity for you to introduce them to spiritual disciplines”
  • Find teachable moments: “…mix a student’s experience with the truth of God’s Word.”
  • Challenge students: “… [it[ starts with challenging the top performing students.”
  • Get sleep: “Trips become increasingly ineffective as team members become tired.”
  • Add value to your adult volunteers: “… the number one problem I see over and over again is adult volunteers who have no idea what they are doing on the trip. They come because youth trips need adults, but beyond that they are not sure why they are there.”
  • Remember Boundaries = Love: “Don’t give students what they want; give them what they need.”
  • Stay connected to God: “You can’t impart what you do not have.”

(Read the rest of Doug’s solid article here.)

I think Doug is spot on. Just last month we had a major difference in a serving camp experience because of the investment we made into our adults, which in turn helped them better invest into students.

Which of his points most stands out to you?

Is there anything you would add or subtract?

It’s no question that we have “orphans” in our culture, and it’s obvious that caring for orphans (and widows) was not a suggestion for Christians. But it’s also no question that most of us have no idea of what life is like for them. This video, however, will change that.  Watch this because it may just move you toward obedience. That step of obedience will definitely look different for each of us, but we all need to take a step…

ReMoved from HESCHLE on Vimeo.

- Chuck

I have one final thought for you.

First, we asked the question: Should I stay or should I go?

Next, we pondered a couple check marks that remind us what’s most important.

In a moment, I’m going to post some wisdom from the trenches. As far as my contribution, I’m ending on something so simple that it will offend you with its innocence.

Still, it’s truth.

Consider this picture that shows the innovation of man. It’s a way to take an old trampoline that’s lost its bounce and help it to find renewed usefulness.


Now… if humanity is capable of that kind of innovation…

what do you imagine God can do in your life today regarding the clash you’re feeling?

Ponder that, all as you consider these thoughts from others in ministry:

If at all possible, “going” should be a planned act not a last ditch effort to maintain sanity or “peace.” Why can’t we leave as well (and as purposefully) as if we stayed, or even as well as when we came in? Leaving shouldn’t be the easy way out, but just as tough as staying because there is still some “umph” left in us and our ministry. We should leave well – not just leave and let some other poor youth worker pick up the pieces. How we leave (and how we stay) is a defining moment in our life, in our ministries life and in the life of the church. – Philip Allen

One thought: How do you help your kids in the process? Seems like they are left to survive or blow up as an after thought. They might not need to know details, but what and how do you include them? - Jon Batch

Family dynamics matter. Every time my dad moved churches as a pastor my parents created it as an adventure. For Chicagoland, it was the Hispanic culture, food and getting to go to Chicago. When we moved to MN they gave us Vikings sweatshirts and hyped up on the positives. They also coached us on how to say good bye to a friend. They definitely gave us time to adjust to the idea of moving and the adventure that was coming. – Kerensa Huffman

The clash can sometimes also be in understanding what your calling is and staying close to that… not that there may be times for that to change. An example is in my most last recent transition, when i went in as the Pastor of Student Ministries. In my second year, the Children’s Director resigned and I was now the Pastor of Children & Student Ministries. For a couple years I struggled through this as I was not wired to be a Children’s Pastor. I found myself treading Tuesday night “AWANA” and trying to survive it, but excited for Wednesday night Student Ministry. After a couple years of this, I felt like I was not doing anything well and that I needed to focus on what I believe God has called me to do and focus on Student Ministries. It was a very difficult decision because I did love the church staff, leaders, my Pastor and student ministry but knew that God had called me to serve full time in Student Ministry. There was not the possibility to stay where I was at because somehow I had proved to the leadership that I could pull off Student Ministry and another ministry so even if I was able to hand-off Children’s Ministry to someone there would be the expectation of “Well, what else will Scott do?”

It took a couple years of praying, looking and church interviews until we moved to where I am at currently. For me it came down to understanding my calling and finding a place where I can be laser-focused on how God has wired me. – Scott Tinman

I have a friend in our youth pastor network who floored me the other day. He said the good stuff happens after year 20. “Twenty?” I shuddered. I had only been at my church a year and 2 months and I was already looking at my watch, thinking “How long was long enough?” His comment made me realize that there is immense value in long-term commitment. Even if I don’t stay in the church as long as him, the commitment he had brought much fruit, and so I should consider this when constantly looking at the grass on the other side.

I told him that I am squirrely. That if things weren’t going quite the way I wanted them I would seek change. There must be “better positions, better churches.” But his comment reminded me that most likely it wasn’t the church that I needed to change, but my acceptance of it, for all it is. My perception was the thing preventing me from closer relationships to the folks I was serving and the commitment required to make an impact in our community and congregation.

I stayed. I still look to the other side of the fence. Not because I want to leave, or the grass looks greener, but I realize in my imperfection I may have chosen a place God wanted me for a short time, and I could also overstay. Only time and discernment will tell. - Ali Petrey

nowwhatAny thoughts?

  • If you stay, now is the time to invest and dig in. What do your goals look like? Is it time to make a new friend, venture into a new place in the community, create a five-year plan for youth ministry… one that you might actually see through?
  • If you go, now is the time to leave gracefully. What does it mean to communicate, communicate, communicate? How do you express your love and gratitude to your friends, volunteers and those who have poured into you? How can you speak into those you’ve had opposition with without bad-mouthing them?

What is your personal takeaway from this?

Should you stay, or should you go?

This is the question we pondered together in Part One. Where are you at with it today?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by circumstances. Even as I write this, I am fatigued by some things happening in my own circle – and yet I hear off in another room the song “Mighty to Save” playing. It’s as if there’s a battle happening inside of me for my focus.

Consider what your prayer life reveals about this other clash:

prayhandkneelIf there was a transcript of your prayers for the last month, would it have recorded you begging God to show you how to dwell with Him “no matter what,” or would it be a list of the pressures you face in life and how you want Him to fix them?

We can easily forget about the one thing that matters most.

I was talking with a friend recently who shared a conflict she and her husband faced after they were married years ago. She was caught completely off guard by something she hadn’t seen in him, to which he replied, “Honey, you married all of me. Not just the parts of me you knew about.” The relationship between you and your church is similar, for you will find things out about each other as you get to know one another that will require a similar revelation – they got into a relationship with all of you, and you got into a relationship with all of them.

Using the same metaphor, there will be times when a relationship (including a church relationship) has abuse in it. It’s often difficult to tell if that’s the case in ministry, or if you’re merely going through a challenge. So honestly – what constitutes abuse? Is it when you don’t get what you want? Is it when they promised you a certain type of job and you are now doing a different job? Is it when imperfect people act like imperfect people?

discernmentHow do you endure as an act of worship?

When is it appropriate to consider a transition out? 

Taking a cue from Jesus on what real worship looks like, here are two check marks that provide context:

  • Truth: Is the Bible still at the core of the church? Be careful if you answer no, because when you’re at odds with the leadership above you it will be hard to receive even the pure teaching of God through their lips. It’s quite possible that the Word of God hasn’t gone anywhere. On the other hand, if it does seem to be missing with no hope of return, it’s likely time to either start packing your bags or understand your role as a missionary in that situation.1 Timothy 4:3-5 explains: “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.”
  • Spirit: Are people willing to slow down and submit themselves to the Holy Spirit? Maybe they’ve been haphazard at this, but still trying. Look for any sign of this, for God desires to do great things in us before He does great things through us. Try to sit down with people you’re at odds with and pray, “God, we need you to lead us. We right now commit to follow you and not our own feelings. Show us what you want to do in between us, and empower us to do it.” Most people know Jesus said “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” What most people don’t realize is that’s right in the middle of a passage on conflict resolution.

spirttruth2If those two check marks are in place, you will be able to better understand your circumstances in the appropriate Light. You will develop a sense of calling, without which you can’t endure through anything tough. You will find yourself worshiping God more honestly and wholeheartedly.

I asked some friends for their wisdom on this. Click here for Part 3 and their insights (or reread Part 1).

For now, what do you think?

  • When is a situation “abuse” versus realizing that you married “all” of your church?
  • What are biblical and non-biblical reasons you’ve found yourself considering in the midst of the clash?
  • How do you personally serve… when you don’t feel like it, but you know God has asked you to?

stayorgo“Should I stay or should I go?”

The Clash made those lyrics famous in the 1980′s. The question the song proposes is one you may find yourself asking these days, creating your own kind of internal clash. Whether you’re paid or a volunteer in your church, you may be pondering what the lyrics suggest: “If I go there will be trouble… and if I stay it will be double.” Here’s what that clash tends to look like, broken down:

  • Church people of all ages that you love: It hurts you to think of not being around adults and students you’ve formed great relationships with. On the other hand, it hurts you to stay and continue to see what’s happening in/to them.
  • Efforts you began: You’re hoping to finish some of the great ideas that once brought you life. On the other hand, the roadblocks you’re currently experiencing are making even these things choke the life out of you.
  • Concern for your family: There are relationships and a rhythm your household has established where you’re at. On the other hand, you may be able to rest that if you go somewhere else that won’t upset that. .
  • The God stuff:You didn’t just step into this because you felt like it. God called you into it, so you shouldn’t leave unless He calls you out of it. On the other hand, can you really stay without having a clear sense of what He wants you to do?

Often we come to a clash when things become much harder than what we ever imagined they would be. I’ve been there myself more times that I ever thought possible. In these moments, we have to remember what it means to do what Jesus said – deny yourself, carry your cross and follow Him. This video offers a few thoughts I’d share with you on that. God can certainly do amazing things if you stay. He can likewise do amazing things if you go. The catch is as I share each of those truths, pay attention to which one you’re thankful I said. That’s your filter, and you’re going to have to overcome that in order to more objectively interpret God… because He may be guiding you the other way. How do you serve in the middle of this clash? Here are a few general guidelines:

  • God-At-WorkDon’t let circumstances call you in or out of ministry. Situations eventually change, and the benefit of not jumping ship is you at least know what you’re dealing with. You wouldn’t figure that out somewhere else for a year or two, as you’d eventually find out the only perfect church is in heaven. Everything on earth is at best a shadow of that ultimate reality.
  • Do love the next person who walks in front of you, whomever that is. You may not get the same grace you give out to others. It’s okay… that’s actually what real grace is, isn’t it?
  • Don’t overlook a deeper ministry within your ministry. You may have only signed up for “x,” but God really signed you up for “y.” In one church I served in I thought I was there to be a youth pastor. When the senior pastor left a year later, I realized I was really there to help that church remember what was most important and push through a defining moment. Your true calling at the church you’re in may be to help people remember what commitment really looks like when everything is against them – who can’t relate to that?
  • Do form a small prayer group of people who see your blind spots. They are not not be the voice of God (so take whatever they say with a grain of salt), but will help you hear the voice of God (so take whatever they say with a strain of prayer).

One of the greatest distractions to following Jesus is “a sense of peace.” We’ve somehow adopted this idea that unless we feel at ease with something, God doesn’t want us to do it. You may want to reread the Scriptures, for there are plenty of people in its pages who did things that they weren’t at all comfortable with. It exhausted them physically, chewed them up emotionally and pushed them into desperate places spiritually. These are the “heroes” Hebrews 11 gushes on and on about. In our culture, we can ignore all of that and go somewhere else that’s more “fruitful.” We can cite study after study about the detriment of a bad work environment and the benefits of finding something new. We can find “signs” in the next song lyric that comes on the radio, assuming it’s God’s way of telling us what we already want Him to say. Have fun with that. I’m not suggesting you ignore those things completely, but I am pointing out that Jesus did say there is something more important that will help you to put those gauges into a healthier context. Namely:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)

Click here for Part Two or Part Three.

In the meantime, what thoughts or questions does this raise for you?