12 Years A Youth Pastor (5 Critical Transitions For Churches and Youth Workers)

I started in the youth department. Well, I was the youth department.

I loved it and entered into youth ministry believing it would be a career. I wanted, if not all of my ministry career, most of it, to be spent guiding teenagers. Coming up on 20 years of working with churches, it doesn’t look like I’m going to make it.

As a full-time youth minister, I worked just a little over 12-years.

There are many reasons women and men transition out of youth ministry – some aren’t very good at it, others burned or bailed out, a few made huge mistakes, and still others transitioned into other ministry roles or went back to school. Regardless of the reasons, when a pastor transitions, more times than not, myriad opportunities get missed and there is almost always some kind of useless, avoidable disruption.

The majority of youth workers I know who have left youth work – even for other ministries within the church – might have held their ministry posts for longer had they and their churches been more adept at navigating a few crucial transitions. In most cases, both church leadership and youth workers failed to recognize and negotiate critical evolutions leaving youth worker feeling the need to move on in life and ministry.

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4 Reasons Churches Stink At Transformation (and what we can do about it)

The church stinks at transformation!

Though we have many stories of people whose lives have been made better, few church leaders would argue that far too many people in the pew make significant spiritual transformations even though they’ve spent years in and around churches.

In my other life, I’m a fitness “coach.” I’m not so much a coach as I am an encourager and friend. The unrivaled aspect of working with people to reach their fitness goals is having a front row seat for transformation. We take pictures to note physical transformations, but changes in physique aren’t the most important ones. The most important transformations are spiritual and emotional ones. And quite frankly, the fitness community does transformation better than churches do.

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Why?

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Dead Presidents, Details, and the Bethlehem Baby Gap

This homily was given on December 22, 2013 at The Vine Church, and was originally entitled, “Details.”

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I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about dead presidents. It’s not because it’s Christmas time and I’ve been handing dead presidents to retailers like Toys-R-Us and Amazon.

I’ve been thinking about dead presidents because a few weeks ago I started reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s newest book, “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism. By “reading” what I really mean is listening to the audiobook, because the text of the book is over 750 pages long. I’m not reading 750 pages unless I absolutely have to?

Fool me once, shame on you, Doris, fool me twice shame on me.

A few years ago I read Goodwin’s book about Lincoln, “Team of Rivals” and I learned my lesson. When it comes to her books, listening is the better way to go. Doris Kearns Goodwin spent over 7 years writing “The Bully Pulpit.” While reading, you can’t help but realize the superabundance of newspaper articles, editorials, interviews, journals, calendars, and dairies she combed through to master the material.

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The Secret We Can No Longer Keep

There’s one secret we can no longer keep secret. It’s mental illness.

Perhaps, like me, you were saddened for Rick and Kay Warren when you learned of their son, Matthew’s suicide this past weekend. In a letter to his church, Rick acknowledged Matthew’s long struggle with mental disease and how it affected their family through the years. Matthew’s story, to the tragic horror of Rick and Kay, ended in suicide.

I don’t know the Warrens and have only been in the same room with Rick Warren twice, but their experience is the greatest fear of all of us. No, not all of us who have children – though I’m sure that’s true – but all of us who have mentally ill family members.

Without much detail, I confess that Rochelle and I have mental illness on both sides of our family. What makes that last sentence a “confession” is that people don’t talk about mental illness out loud, in public. Sadly, mental illness is rarely spoken of in churches and among Christians.

And that’s a shame, because I want it to be.

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The Most Dangerous Thing About Advent

A re-post and update of one of my favs from a few years back.

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A lot of ministers love preaching during Advent…but it’s also dangerous!

For those of us in free church traditions, this is a time of year we can unapologetically turn to the lectionary and no one will give us grief about it. People also like preaching Advent sermons because words like peace and hope are easy to grab hold of. Plus, folks in the pew are typically glad to be worshipping together, congregations are filled with visitors, and sanctuaries are decorated in red and green. There are lots of good feelings around Christmas, and there should be.

At the same time, though, I fear some of the preaching during Advent is selective in it’s approach – a temptation even when it’s not Christmas. This year as I’ve re-read the birth narratives within the gospels, I’m shocked again by the scandal of the story; a story that is truly unbelievable without the asset of faith.

The story doesn’t stop at the scandal though. Just think about all those mothers clutching their little boys as King Herod’s minions draw knife and sword. And then, there’s John the Baptist, this wild man of the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord, while looking like the last person on Earth you’d want to be around.

John’s preaching also reminds us that life in the service of Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean a happy ending.

Christmas is a scary holiday.

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