The kids had a snow day today, and the youngest three were begging to go sledding. Normally, begging in our house is a worse than worthless effort, but since this is basically the first time all
winter sorry, Spring, that there’s been enough snow to sled on, after lunch I took them out to the hill where everybody sleds in town. For a few minutes, I thought about calling around and getting a bunch of my youth ministry kids together to meet us out there, but decided to just take my own brood for some undivided attention and fun with ice & gravity.
Just a quick reminder to fellow youth minsters out there: Don’t forget that your first youth group is the one that shares your address. There are times for the whole big group, but your kids need you to be mom or dad with just them, too – even more than your youth group needs you to be their youth pastor. It’s tempting to turn everything into a “ministry opportunity” especially when 90% of your congregation has an unexpected free day. But don’t miss too many opportunities with your own kids. You never get them back.
And just for the record, these ‘snow day’ moments are never frequent enough in my house. I’m no consistently shined & polished hero dad… but I was today.
Also, just to tarnish the image a little more, I was going to let my kids skip half a day of school to go sledding anyway. They’d have coped with it… (Don’t tell them though ~ they think I was making them go.)
There’s nothing so miserable as enduring pain without a narrative context. Put me on a mountain and point me toward the summit and suddenly being pelted with rain and ice feels like an exhilarating challenge. If you sit me on the couch and throw ice chunks at me, though, the pain is less satisfying.
-Donald Miller, Storyline
The struggles we face in life, in youth ministry, in relationships… they can hurt.
Be sure to live a story that makes the pain a part of something that matters.
Come on, do you really want to spend your life managing what was lost to the neglect of what’s still lost?
Andy Stanley likes to ask questions that create tension. This one certainly does. Usually, though, these questions come shortly before he strikes a well thought out point in precisely chosen words that instantly and memorably cut to the heart of the matter. But this question came after all the points had been made, after 300 some pages of carefully crafted statements and stories – and started the tension all over.
In the concluding chapter of Andy Stanley’s Deep & Wide, this question for church leaders funnels everything back to “creating churches unchurched people love to attend” (which is the book’s subtitle). For those of us placed into (or being drawn into) church leadership, this question is critical. We really need to get this right. But it’s so easy to accidentally shift from our original commission to something else. Our focus can slide away from the search for the “one lost coin” to the preservation of the “coins” already in our grasp.
In conversations with other youth ministers over the last decade and a half, I’ve heard (and expressed) a lot of frustration at this tension. Why are we spending so much time and effort and resources trying to keep committed people from leaving when there are so many other people growing up and living with no idea who Jesus even is? Are we so busy caring for our safe and found sheep that we don’t make time to go and find the lost ones?
Thankfully, this isn’t an either/or situation. Reaching wide doesn’t have to mean going so shallow that church people aren’t challenged… And digging deep doesn’t have to mean we ignore the majority who are missing the most important relationship they could ever have. This book is a great resource for those who want to lead a church that’s not just there itself.
A few of my students shared this song (Precipice) yesterday during the Easter service. It was a great morning celebrating Jesus’ defeat of death and being reminded of what that means for our lives. As they sang, I kept getting hooked on a couple lines… (This song is from The Classic Crime’s album Phoenix which is pretty awesome and which you can buy at that link. I don’t know if any of this is what Matt MacDonald had in mind as he wrote the song, but this is where my mind went as I listened – and where it keeps coming back to a day later.)
so I took a leap off of the precipice
Recently, I’ve been led to sort of stand on a hill and take a look back, to see what I’ve accomplished (much like the chorus of the song). What have my years added up to? My pride wants to direct my attention to a few things that look good on a resume, but the truth is that the sum total of my accomplishments is not that impressive. Don’t misunderstand: this isn’t a hyper-critical moment of beating up on myself (I have enough of those already). It’s just that… I’m a vapor. So the best I can do, the best any of us can do, is take the next leap of faith God leads us to. For Jesus, that meant a cup of suffering on our behalf and a leap into the grave. All the miracles, all the healing and teaching and loving and serving… it all led to the precipice of death for Jesus. If he failed to take that leap, all his other accomplishments would have meant nothing. But Jesus did take that leap and the world has never been the same. He allowed himself to be brutalized on our behalf, then He took the fight to Death, itself. And won!
Whatever the cost… whether it works out or not… I’ll follow you with my heart.
Anybody else tend to over-analyze? Have you ever felt paralyzed, wanting to know how a decision would turn out before taking a step? I can be guilty on both counts, but this line in the song was a great reminder of what we’re actually called to do with our lives. We’re called to trust our Maker with every breath and moment. The key to being able to look back at your steps and see the beauty and meaning and victory of it all is to take the next step He’s asking you to take – even if you don’t know it will work out. Then the important question isn’t “How much will this cost me?” or “Will it work out?” The results are left to Him to work out (and He will) and the cost is up to Him to cover (and He can)! The question, then, is “Which leap of faith will make my life a beacon that pulls people’s attention to Jesus?”