Archives For August 2012

I told her I loved her when I asked her to marry me, do I really need to say it again?

How do you think that scenario would work out? Probably not so well, right? “I love you” isn’t something you need to say one time, but rather something we need to repeat often, both in words and in action. This doesn’t apply only to a marriage.

There is a generation among us that doesn’t know how deeply they are loved. They fill our schools, play in our parks, skate on our sidewalks, and eat at our tables. They desperately need to know the love of God.

I’m guessing we’re on the same page, so far. I hope so, because it’s about to get a little more bumpy.

See – many of them don’t know the love of God because they don’t know the love of… you. They can’t imagine a God who would love them when what they’ve experienced from those who wear His name is mostly patronization, scolding, and a few dirty looks. The church has done way too well at keeping kids at arm’s length. Many of the students I know think the church has nothing for them. The next generation is growing up right before our eyes thinking of the church as an outdated relic of the past.

None of us should be ok with that. It should tick us off enough that we change whatever we have to change about ourselves to make sure young people know the love of God.

Maybe it ticks you off a little that I implied that you may not be showing your love (and more importantly God’s love) to the next generation very well. I know you don’t hate kids, and I don’t mean to imply that you actually don’t love the next generation. But by and large, they don’t know that. Let’s change that. Let’s show them. What if your church could become known in your community as the church that loves teens? What would it take?

“Let’s stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.” 1 John 3:18

Here are a few ideas for putting the love you have for the next generation into action:

In Your Own Home:

  • TIME. Let them have yours. Give your kids your undivided attention. There is no one who can take your place in the lives of your family.
  • Coach their teams. You don’t have to be an expert or former all star to coach their AYSO or Little League teams; you do have to make it a priority to be a part of their lives. Sports are not only a great place to teach kids about teamwork and integrity and discipline… but to show them you love them.
  • Talk to them about money. Teach them what it takes to get it (and how to avoid letting it get you) and how to use it well (including how to give it away).
  • Study your kids. Get to know them well enough to know how they’ll hear “I love you.” in your actions. Then take those actions.

In Your Community:

  • TIME. Volunteer for youth organizations and sports. Giving time to be a mentor or a coach communicates clearly that students have value in your eyes.
  • Treat the kid behind the counter like a human being. It always amazes me how rude some people can be to the people taking their food orders, scanning their merchandise, or delivering their food (who are often young people). In a world that treats them like replaceable cogs, slow down and notice them. Make eye contact and let them know you actually see that they’re there. Be present to the next generation that’s all around you.
  • Volunteer to help out at the schools in your town. Whether it’s projects like redoing a playground, or guarding the crosswalk, step into the world of students for a while and pay attention to what you see there.

This is far from a complete list. I’d love it if you’d help round it out with some ideas of your own in the comments section. I’d love it even more if you shared a story or two of how you’re already putting one into practice. How are you loving the next generation in a practical way?

Check A Price Will Be PaidNo Substitute for Presence, and Enjoy the Journey for the rest of this series…

As you might guess, our hike to the top of Mt. Sherman was pretty physically demanding. The first part of the hike was on an old mine road so the footing was pretty good, but it was obvious within the first several yards that the elevation and the slope were going to make us work pretty hard. As the morning wore on, and the footing changed from road to trail to rocky talus, it got harder and harder to keep going.

Mt. Sherman

Leading to the summit requires us to keep fueling for the journey.

One of the things we had to do in order to make it to the top was to keep fueling. The human body in motion is a calorie burning machine and when the calories are depleted, things break down. We break down. Stopping for a snack and a drink once in a while was the only way to keep the fuel stores up enough to keep pressing on.

If you lead a youth ministry (or really anything else) you owe it to the people you lead to keep fueling. If you are not continually feeding your spirit in Scripture and prayer, you are headed for a breakdown. You may not flame out or blow up in your ministry, but you will run down. It’s almost impossible for a ministry to thrive when the leaders are out of fuel. Thankfully, we have a great example in Jesus of what it takes to keep fueling. He often left the crowds behind to be alone with His Father. We should do the same.

As I look back and think of some of the more frustrating periods of time in my ministry, often, they came about as a result of my own emptiness. I was out of fuel. Having neglected my own soul for too long, I had little to offer in the way of care for the souls of my students. I had nothing left to share, nothing left to teach… At times, I’ve needed to do a better job of refueling. I was reminded a couple weeks ago of how important this is when, during Willow Creek’s Global Leadership Summit, Bill Hybels stated:

Everyone benefits when the leader gets better.

Are you running too close to empty? You’re not doing anyone any favors by running yourself ragged – stop it. You’re not going to honor God when you’re twitching in a pile on the side of the trail, unable to continue because you didn’t give Him the time it takes to refuel.

What are your favorite ways to refresh your soul? Share them in the comments section below and you just might help another leader get better, too.

I mentioned the book Spark by Jason Jaggard a couple weeks ago, in this post.

The book is now released and I just wanted to bring it up again, so you can go get it. It’s about how to “transform your world, one small risk at a time” and revolves around a couple questions:

  1. What is a small risk I can take this week to be a better person?
  2. What is a small risk I can take this week to make the world a better place?

Jaggard has started Spark Good to help people take these small risks, and Spark is the story of how Spark Groups have started and flourished – how they have transformed not just the world, but the very people willing to risk. Check out the site and consider getting a group together for the next 5 weeks to encourage each other to take some risks that matter. Read the book. Ask yourself those questions & take some risks this week.

It won’t be easy, because risk requires faith. You have to move forward in faith when you take risks. But the world needs you to “partner together with God and others to pull off something beautiful…”

How are you living by faith this week? How can I help?

In the post about summiting my first 14er (Mt. Sherman), I mentioned that it really wore me out trying to keep up with slow down Andrew. He’s in great shape… I’m not… extra pounds… physical prime of his life… etc. But there’s actually more to that story.

WestWay 14ers

End of the hike. Andrew & I are both in the back – he’s the shirtless one all relaxed, I’m the one that looks dopey-drunk with my eyes half closed.

There are a handful of families here at WestWay that have ventured into Colorado often over the past several years to conquer other 14,000 foot summits. Many months ago, a few of them decided they wanted to invite more of our church family into the experience. They began hiking often in the nearby hills and engaging new friends in numerous preparation activities. I think I made it to two or three of the Bluff hikes, which are essentially identical to summiting an actual 14er if you throw out the pavement and jack the Bluff up about ten thousand feet and go up and down about 3 times… They also had several informational meetings about what to expect on the mountain, what kind of conditions to prepare for, what to pack, etc. I read the texts that told us about those meetings – but was out of the area for every single one.

I’m no sloth. I was born a mile high. I’ve run a marathon and a half-marathon before. I played soccer all through college and still enjoy a few hours on the pitch when I can find somebody to play with. But none of that was preparation enough for a 5 mile trek into cloud-level elevations. As we began to make our descent back toward the trailhead, my lack of preparation was painfully made clear. I started feeling worse and worse, to the point where, by the time I reached the van it felt like that van was running me over with every step. My head was pounding steadily while my knees decided to syncopate. My legs were shot, and overall I felt like a pinata at a 9 year old’s birthday party. Not the good kind that’s filled with awesome candy, either, but the kind you just beat and beat and beat until someone finally breaks out a pocket knife and cuts off the head and dumps out a pile of crappy gum from Y2K.

I was shot.

And I had no one to blame but myself. I hadn’t paid the price to be ready for the challenge ahead of time, so I was paying it now. When you’re climbing a mountain, or running a marathon for that matter… you can pay in increments ahead of time, or you can pay it all at once, but be sure a price will be paid.

Leadership is similar.

It hurts and it’s hard. The weight of leadership can wear you down. People you love and for whom you want the best will screw up, then keep you at a distance so they don’t have to explain. Some will seem to be with you all the way, but then will trail off into other endeavors. Others will outright oppose you and do everything they can do undermine your influence and mitigate any impact you may be having. For a leader, these events hurt, and if we’re unprepared can leave us paying a price from which we may not recover. I spent most of the afternoon and night on Saturday with a raging headache and a rolling stomach (and even a few minutes with my face in a big porcelain bowl)… I could have avoided that if I’d just payed in increments before the hike began.

Leaders can avoid the train wreck after effects as well if we’ll make sure to pay ahead in a few ways:

  1. Lead from God’s strength, not just your own. Grace isn’t just the stuff of a one-time moment, it’s sufficient for what you’re going through today and what you’ll face tomorrow. Live by it. Lean into it. It’s not your own will, skill, or talent, but rather the strength of God’s grace working in you and through you that is what will keep you going. The price to pay here is an ego surrendered in humility.
  2. Build up your stamina in prayer. Our conversation with God should be the running commentary of our lives, not a few little captions to the photos of the rough patches and bedtimes. Pay your time and attention into this account so that there’s some reserves to draw on when those tough & painful situations come up.
  3. Build strong bonds with your team. You are not alone. Sometimes I think we value independence so highly that it costs us dearly in terms of relationships. People that could be our closest allies are kept at arms length to maintain professionalism or because we don’t trust enough. But the pain of the descent could be lessened so much if we would just learn to lean on each other. Leaders can have friends – and we can even lead with them. We need each other. Let’s stop putting on the brave face and pretending we don’t.
What other ways have you paid ahead? Or maybe you’ve learned something by paying late fees like I did on the mountain…
——–
[Check out Enjoy the Journey, No Substitute for Presence, and Keep Fueling for the rest of this series.
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Saturday, I had the pleasure of summiting my first 14er in Colorado. A group of us from WestWay had planned the hike into the high elevations to the top of Mt. Sherman. Well… most of the group planned, anyway! Months of lesser hikes and informational meetings led up to our ascent to 14,036 feet above sea level, where the oxygen is thin and even the trees have given up their slow spread. Where the view is huge and where clouds are born. It was incredible to stand on top of such a great height and literally see the moisture in the air condensing into little wispy patches of white that scurried off together, drawn into the denser gray of the father clouds.

2012-08-11 08.32.39

One of the incredible views from the top of Mt. Sherman

But the view from the top was only possible because of the journey from the bottom.

There were about 20 of us making the trek to the summit and I couldn’t help but notice a few lessons throughout the day. The first of these was born out of my frustration with my hiking partner. Andrew is 17. He’s an awesome kid with a truck load of energy and more creativity on tap than water from a fire hydrant. If you’re bored around Andrew, you’re just not paying attention – or he’s lulled you into a false sense of security and is about to pounce! He’s been working on a farm a lot lately, and when he’s not playing some video game or another, he’s probably doing pushups or pull-ups or hanging from the rafters like Rocky or something. (Come to think of it, he’d seem totally at home in a meat locker punching sides of beef, too!) He has a long stride and about 20 oz. of extra weight on his frame (only due to the Dr. Pepper he drank earlier). The bottom line is, this kid is in great shape. Contrast that with my 37 years, of which much of the last 7 has been spent alone at a desk in an office, my short stride, and the 15 extra pounds I’ve found since I was his age. I had done next to nothing to get physically ready for this trip, so there was no way I was keeping his pace.

I managed to convince him to stop and rest often enough that my cardiac rhythm could stop setting the beat for a euro-tech club rave, but we still ended up almost an hour ahead of the rest of our group. As we waited at the summit for them to arrive, I couldn’t help but grow a little frustrated. By keeping up with him (sort of) I’d lost the opportunity to help the rest of the group. Later, as we tottered off down the mountain, the frustration continued to grow. We had arrived at the top first, but we hadn’t done anything to help our friends get there. That’s not leadership, it’s just going faster than the herd. Part of leadership certainly is showing the way, going first, taking point… but you can’t lead from way out ahead. There is no substitute for presence in leadership.

Mike & Andrew at the summit

Hanging out at the top

5 of our group didn’t quite make it to the top. That is probably bothering me today more than it is bothering them. I can’t help but wonder, what if I’d been there with them, encouraging, prodding, coaxing… It’s what I do. That is who I am. As I look back over my years in ministry, one of the fingerprints of God in my life has been the ability to get people to do what they didn’t think they could do. To get people to push just a little further when they didn’t think they could take one more step. But it’s only by being there, in the midst of the fear or anxiety or weariness that I can be effective. I can’t just stand at the top and shout for them to keep going.

There is no substitute for presence in leadership.

Who do you need to be present for this week? Who around you is about to turn back? Go be with them. Maybe you can help them take One More Step.

——–

[Check out Keep Fueling, A Price Will Be Paid, and Enjoy the Journey for the rest of this series of posts.]

CIY Move was followed closely this summer with a couple weeks of camp, along with all the planning, registering, chasing down forms, etc. that that entails. So last weekend, it was great to be able to get away for a few days with my family and enjoy each other. The six of us were able to spend a few days camping at Vedauwoo (some really cool rock formations near Laramie, WY) with no agenda, no schedule, and no plan. We set up the tent, hiked around & did a little bouldering, then settled in for a few days of adventurous rest.

What's Out There?

Looking at the creek below us near where we camped at Veauwoo.

My brothers and dad and a group of their White Water friends joined us on Sunday afternoon to climb around an area called Turtle Rock. Dakota & Josiah were joined by their Laramie buddy, Thad, and micro-explorers Lizzie and Xero put us full-sizers to shame a few times as we climbed, hiked, and leaped to the top. Emily stayed below keeping company with Mom & Grandma – and a few new moose friends. Not having any real rock climbing gear, we weren’t doing any technical climbing, but we did do a lot of scrambling around the various clumps of boulders and crevices. At one point, I even managed to find myself suspended in a crack about 30 feet above the last place my foot touched anything horizontal.

It may not have been my wisest move, but it was the one that provided the most exhilaration of the weekend! There was an area where there was almost a kind of granite hallway leading into a maze of fissures and openings. At the end of the “hall” was a crack I just couldn’t resist. Something in the conversation with my brother, who was the only other one at this particular juncture, revolved around Mom telling us to ‘just say no’, but I claimed to have missed that lesson! As I reached in tentatively at first, I found several areas where I could wedge in enough of my foot or arm to get some pretty good leverage, but I was hesitant to go all in. The results of failure would have been fairly permanent (once you’re dead you usually pretty much stay that way), so I wanted to  be sure. I could see a great handhold just out of reach from where I was safely planted, but nothing after that. The gravity of curiosity had me now, though, and as I fully engaged my grip and let my feet leave the seeming safety of the solid, I realized I was now fully committed. There was no going back from where I’d reached.

At this point, I called Brian over to plant himself just below, ’cause you know, 2 widows in the family are always better than 1 right? Ok, in reality, had I slipped, we would have both been a little freaked out and hurt, but not dead. Probably.

Though there was no going back, I also couldn’t see a clear path forward. Save for the one I’d found with my right hand, there were no other obvious holds. Thankfully, the crack stayed wide enough for me to wedge most of my body into and work my way up a little at a time.

It occurs to me, that this little episode is a reflection of my life right now. I’m standing on a ledge with a couple solid holds in sight. Beyond those holds, however, I can’t see what’s next. And I never will until I’m willing to let the gravity of curiosity overpower the gravity of the familiar and let my feet dangle a bit…

Maybe you’re on your own ledge. Maybe curiosity’s pull is drawing you to reach deeper in and leave what seems solidly safe for a climb that will make you feel your heart pounding with excitement once again… Maybe if I make my reach, I can help you make yours. Anyone else up for a climb?

Of Sleeping Giants…

Mike —  August 2, 2012 — Leave a comment

I stand among giants, sleeping.

Adventure and defiance, safe keeping.

Good goes undone

Between battles not won,

While the world suffers violence, weeping.

-Jason Jaggard, in Spark

In reading an advance copy of Spark by Jason Jaggard, I came across a few lines that are still resonating deeply. The book released this week. It’s not only thought provoking, but action provoking. You should probably just go get it now, and begin a process of letting God lead you in living a life of faith. It’s a life with risk, sure, but it’s really living, not just existing.

So much potential in the church is untouched. Latent. Buried.

And the world suffers for our inability or unwillingness to face what we fear, be it failure or our own power and success. While we keep watchful eyes on our buried fortune and busy ourselves with measures that ensure the safe harbor of our potential deep within ourselves, the world grows colder and more indifferent to that for which they are starving. And yet, we slumber.

Wake up, sleeper,

Rise from the dead,

And Christ will shine on you.

– Paul, in Ephesians 5

Top Posts of July

Mike —  August 1, 2012 — Leave a comment

July wasn’t a very busy month as far as posting goes, with two weeks of camp thrown into the mix. However, that didn’t stop you from viewing the new content that was posted and revisiting some older posts. The most viewed posts for this past month include a mix of both.

  1. Post Camp Wrap Up – Summary post after returning from camp.
  2. A Contrarian View of Independence – A slightly oppositional slant from the 4th of July.
  3. Hypothetically Church – Thinking about what does it really mean to be the church…
  4. One More Step – Cliff jumping reflections. Sometimes, you just have to take one more step.
  5. Imminent Crash – The inaugural post here.
One other development on the blog this month is that I’ve started up a Facebook page, hoping to broaden the community a little bit. You can ‘like’ the page through the widget in the sidebar here, or visit Imminent Crash on Facebook. Right now, it’s predominantly other youth leaders, teachers, friends, & family that I personally know, but as you share the page and join in the conversations that are starting, I’m seeing that expand and hoping it will continue to grow and engage the church with the upcoming generations.Thanks for reading and sharing here. I pray what you find will help you unleash the potential in your own life and in the lives of the young people you influence. If there’s every anything I can do to help you or your team do that, don’t hesitate to make liberal use of the post comments sections and the social icons at the top of the page, or feel free to get in touch using the Contact page.