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?”

SONY DSCAnyone out there ever drank a Red Bull?

Don’t worry – you don’t have to admit it to us. Admit it to them, though, and you get ten bucks through a class action suit… for real: http://energydrinksettlement.com/claim A lot has been written about the dangers of a “red bull” type of youth ministry. It would be real easy for us to just talk about that and the dangers of running a youth group on adrenaline.

pastor_coffee_mugs-r06d4567426634d96844692280c573bf0_x7jgr_8byvr_512Instead, allow me to be a tad more personal… how’s your caffeine intake these days?

I once joked with a friend at a ministry conference how addicted pastors and youth workers can be to coffee or energy drinks, yet shrug it off as if it’s something laughable. “I just can’t start the morning without my caffeine,” we reason, high-fiving each other over it. “Where should we meet? Starbucks, of course. We’ll talk about our upcoming lesson on addictions there.” In that conversation with my friend, I noted how many people at the conference (even during sessions) kept getting up to get a free cup of coffee from the dispensers alongside both sides of the room. I asked him, “What do you think would happen if word got out that they’re about to run out of coffee?” He smiled and replied, “Nothing would happen.” SONY DSCAs the words were floating out of his mouth, another friend who was with us (and somewhat hard of hearing) interrupted. “THEY’RE ABOUT TO RUN OUT OF COFFEE?” he innocently asked, not realizing how loudly he was talking. As he got up to get what he thought was going to be the last cup available, others around us heard his declaration and saw his movement. Soon, a small swell of people began to get up and tactfully race over to the carafes to obtain what they also assumed would be the last remnant of caffeine available. As that played out, a new swell of people around them joined in… which prompted the other side of the room to put “two-and-two” together – and they got up to race for coffee on their side of the room. I’m not making this up. In a matter of a few minutes, an official break had to be called from the front of the room as the majority of people in a room that sat hundreds quickly got up to fill their styrofoam cups with hot java. I turned to my friend… and I smiled. This all happened years ago, way before Red Bull was such a household name… way before youth workers started pounding energy drinks in the name of being able to do ministry. Granted, I’m picking on one thing in life we could be addicted to. Others might cite other overlooked addictions like food, sleep, laziness and more. Feel free, as long as it’s not a defense mechanism to you addressing what your addiction might be.

skitched-20090812-090411What is your “excusable” addiction (note the quotes) that you claim in order to do ministry?

  • Is it daily caffeine?
  • Is it staying up all night to get another project done?
  • Is it horrible personal fitness?
  • Is it way too much time online?

Maybe it’s something tangible, like liquid in a cup or a can. “I need to stay awake… for the kids,” we reason. Or… maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline you crave from ministry itself. “I’m just not feeling useful,” we say. “My senior leaders keep me down from feeling like I’m making a difference. I don’t want to just be a part of the machine. I need to feel excitement… what’s in it for me if I’m just plugging away without a buzz?” Maybe ministry does need to be exciting. Maybe you do need to be maxed out physically to do what God’s asked you spiritually. Maybe. Or maybe not, Maybe you’re just an addict?



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?

prince-william-kate-middleton-relationship-photos-obamas

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?

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)

frozenThere is no shortage of parodies surrounding the movie “Frozen.” 

You’ve likely seen your share.

I apologize for sharing another one.

The leadership team at this church came together to create their own, all related to a pastor who is working on his sermon and won’t come out of his study.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScxTsuRMMS0

Cheesy? Sure.

Unnecessary? Perhaps.

I do have a few questions of my own, though:

  • How do you think the church reacted after seeing this on a Sunday?
  • Why?
  • What in your church/ministry could elicit a similar reaction?

My opinion? Without knowing this church, I see a snapshot of leaders who love doing life together. Everyone got involved… and I can only assume you felt that, too. I wonder how they’re nurturing that.

Any applications or desires for your ministry?



up

Summer is a great season for youth workers. For some, things slow down a bit and you finally get some breathing room while for others, it’s packed with tons of extra events and activities. And even though the ministry I’m part of falls into the latter category, summer is still my favorite part of the year. So whether you are swinging in a hammock a little more often this summer or staying late getting ready for tomorrow’s youth event there are a few things you can do that will “Up” your summer.

“Grow Up”: Summer is a great time to read the latest youth ministry, leadership or personal growth book that’s been sitting on your shelf or taking up space on your tablet. Fall is a great time to say to folks around you, “This summer I was reading and….”

“Show Up”: Where can you show up this summer where your presence would be a welcomed surprise? Can you pop into the senior adults potluck and love on the oldies of your church? Maybe your parents have grown to expect you to miss family stuff in the summer because of your youth ministry schedule? Taking the time to “show up” unexpectedly in the middle of summer shows others that the ministry you lead isn’t the only item of importance in your life.

“Blow Up”: Summer is a fantastic time to make changes…especially changes for the upcoming school year. Far too many youth groups do way too much stuff simply because they are afraid to blow up an older, ineffective piece of their program. Sometime this summer, escape for three hours and make an honest list of the stuff your ministry still does every school year that it really doesn’t need to. Then, mentally light a fuse and blow that sucker up.

 

stirstickI go to Starbucks every morning. I’m like an old man stuck in his routine. It’s where I read, write, think, pray, and drink $2.00 tea that I could make at home for 25 cents.

Today, after ordering my tea I headed over to the condiment counter to add some milk and sugar. To my dismay, in the little spot that normally holds the stir sticks was a note that read, “We are out of stir sticks. Sorry!” I was a little surprised, because for a coffee place to run out of stir sticks seems sorta like a hamburger place running out of buns. Forgivable, I suppose.

What was more surprising to me was that two hours later as I was walking out the door…the little note was still there! How many customers had wandered over to the condiment bar hoping to find stir sticks had been left frustrated? Less than 50 yards away sits a grocery store, and I’m pretty sure they sell stir sticks. Now, they may not sell the eco-friendly wooden stir sticks that Starbucks uses, but they certainly sell something.

Why didn’t anybody on the Starbucks team feel empowered to go buy some random stir sticks from the store?
Is sticking to the “approved stir sticks” cited in the manager’s notebook more important than customer service?
Would it have been totally okay to go buy some, but nobody took the initiative?

Those are all questions that went through my mind as I walked out the door. And they raise some interesting questions for those of us who lead youth ministries:

Are you a leader who is creating a culture of empowerment…does your team feel the freedom to problem solve?
In what areas does ministry to people in real-time trump your policies and procedures?
Do you have people on your team who, if given the freedom, take initiative or do they assume somebody else will do it?

- Kurt



worldaroundmeThe world doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing.

You wouldn’t consciously disagree with that, and yet it still seems hard to believe, doesn’t it?

  • It’s why you get frustrated with “clueless” parents.
  • It’s why you wish your church leadership would just “get on board.”
  • It’s why you yell when students are lacking in their “commitment.”

(Notice the words and phrases with the quotes around them. Maybe you don’t use these, but you likely have your own collection of “accusational grammar.”)

When you’ve spent chunks of your life on something you believe in, you hope it becomes viral. If everything fizzles and what you’ve been up to doesn’t become a part of the local social dialogue, it can be dishearteneing. You’ll take it personally, when in reality it just may be that the season was wrong or people were distracted by something else that they felt was more important (and it may have been).

It’s nothing short of difficult, which is why you’ll be tempted to do one of three things:

  • Walk off. You’ll eventually grow weary of the fatigue, politics or misunderstandings and find/create/justify a self-righteous reason to give up on the Divinely-righteous thing God called you to do. There will be rare occasions when this is God’s plan, but the majority of the time you will simply be tired and looking for validation to quit. Don’t argue with me on this – be honest, and let’s own this temptation.
  • Play the game. There’s likely a “system” that you can work within to get the margin or resources to do what you really feel called to do. Actors do this all the time, doing big budget movies to earn what’s needed financially/professionally so they can make independent films. Some call them sell-outs for doing it, while others ascribe value to their ingenuity.
  • Push through the disillusionment. Maybe what you’re experiencing is a matter of your own immaturity, which is way easier to see in others versus ourselves (raise your hand if you know a punk who doesn’t know how good he has it). On the other hand, maybe it’s more of an issue with legitimate roadblocks that are in front of you. Either way, you are not done… you are simply paused/stuck/stalled – and you don’t have to stay paused/stuck/stalled. You may never see the “thing” become “right,” but you don’t need to let that stop you from doing the right thing.

stalledcarPicture your ministry like a car that has a dead battery, a flat tire and is out of gas – you wouldn’t give up on the whole vehicle simply because of these hindrances. Even if you had to bust out your jumper cables 12 times in a week, you’d do it until you had the means to get a new battery; even if you had to replace all four of your tires, you’d replace all four of your tires; even if you were leaking gas from under your car, you’d find a mechanic who could work with your budget to fix it.

I dare you to quit saying, “Yeah, but…” – you’re better than that. There is greatness in you and the thing God has asked you to do.

The world doesn’t revolve around what you’re doing. It won’t ever, nor should it.

What you’re doing should help people revolve around God. The reason it’s so hard is the very reason why it’s ministry – there’s a need for someone to minister. If it was easy, God wouldn’t have needed you to do it.

So… how will you take a different path toward achieving what you seem to be struggling with achieving?

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.

trampoline

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?