Friday, May 4, 2012

Get Small

I love all the ways we can share our lives in this day of social networks whether it is through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, texting or some other mode. I use them regularly to complement my regular face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately there is a temptation to abuse this for telling others a little too much about our strengths and lives as if others are living for our next post.

G.K. Chesterston, in his classic ORTHODOXY  was well ahead of his time in challenging us away from our need to over self-promote. This is a great call toward what it means to be humble and genuinely care for others:

"Are there no other stories in the world except yours; and are all men busy with your business? Suppose we grant the details; perhaps when the man in the street did not seem to see you it was only his cunning; perhaps when the policeman asked you your name it was only because he knew it already. But how much happier you would be if you only knew that these people cared nothing about you! How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it; if you could really look at other men with common curiosity and pleasure; if you could see them walking as they are in their sunny selfishness and their virile indifference! You would begin to be interested in them, because they were not interested in you. You would break out of this tiny and tawdry theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Still In the Game

Alright, let's not count how many months it has been since I last posted.

This morning I wrote a response to a blog on longevity in youth ministry. Here is what I said:

"I’ve been in youth ministry for 32 years and 28 at the same place. Growing up as pastor’s kid, moving every couple of years I never would have dreamed of being at the same church for this long. When people ask me about tips for making this work in their ministry I list them under the following categories:


*I am very intentionally, a youth PASTOR. While I love youth the most I want to be a pastor to all the people of the church. I spend time with senior citizens, children and every age in between. I do funerals, weddings, make hospital visits and seek to be a great team player on our our pastoral staff.

*I work hard to be teachable. Years ago while leading a regional convention I recruited some of the best youth pastors I could find to provide leadership. One was a long-term guy who proceeded to shoot down or minimize almost every idea we had. I have told several people “slap me around” if I ever act like I know it all.

*I searched far and wide for long-term youth pastors to be mentors. These people are not easy to find but I have found a few and let them speak into my life.

*After three decades of youth ministry I still like middle school and high school students.

*I keep my relationship with God first, my family second, my ministry third.


*My senior pastor has been here for 36 years. One of our other associates has been here for 15 years. Long-term seems to be in the DNA of this church.

*This is a very healthy church. It is not perfect but is a place where communication is clear and encouragement abounds.

*This church loves youth ministry. They brought me here to begin a youth ministry. How often does that happen?"

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Eugene Peterson, in his book, “The Pastor” says, “The American stereotype of church. Salvation is God’s business. It is what God does. And then He turns it over to us. Church is our business. It is what we do. God, having given himself to us in Jesus, now retires to the sidelines and we take over. Occasionally we call a time-out to consult with God. But basically, we are the action.” (p. 117)

As I think back to many of my seminary classmates or those who have begun in ministry through my 30 plus years of being a youth pastor I observe how many are no longer in ministry or should no longer be in ministry. There may be any number of factors but one ingredient seems to be very common: believing we are the action.

Those who believe they are the “action” are defined by . . .

- the number of hours they work

- the length of their to-do-list

- how many committees, leadership positions and projects they can juggle at one time

- how many decisions go through them

- the too few days or full vacations they take off

- the minimal time they spend studying the Bible for themselves, in personal prayer with God

- the lack of time they give to their spouse and families as their number one ministry

This is not my ministry. It never was, it is not now nor will it ever be. There will always be more things to do and lives to shepherd. It is all God’s business, I am his servant and I desire to live life in His rest, and finish well. That’s my kind of action.

Monday, January 16, 2012


There are two words that seem to be almost constantly on the minds of people I know: time management. We long for the balance of work, play and rest. We look for gadgets and strategies to keep our time in order. We prioritize, categorize and excise all for the sake of doing what is most important in the 24 hour days we have been given.

In the mix of our desire to schedule wisely we identify areas where time might be wasted: lingering too long on Facebook or majoring on minors, to name a few. One “time-killer,” though, actually defeats all the rest. It is one we don’t want to admit and one we would rather not consider. Its name is “sin.”

When we willfully disobey God and choose our way we have immediately made the decision to waste our own time and the time of others. This became very clear to me several years when I had a former student make some very bad choices and consequently ended up in some very “hot water.” I spent at least a year of weekly walking with him through the challenges he faced. It was another 2 years before it all resolved.

This last week I spent nearly a whole work day worth of hours working through a situation with another pastor, caused by sin.

In my own life I have cost myself precious time from short-sightedness and failure to follow the wisdom God was trying to give me. I have lost count of how many times I wanted to push the “re-wind” button on decisions I made to take things into my own hands.

I could easily resent the sinner and I could easily be resented. Instead, I’m going to hate and resent the sin.

I know I will waste a little more time in my life because sadly I will sin. I also know, God through His mercy, offers me forgiveness and in fact will offer me ways to redeem the time. His time management is perfect.

Hosea 10:12: “Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that he may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (New Living Translation)