Family is more important than we think…

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Reflecting on the Thanksgiving weekend we all just experienced, I was reminded of this post from last spring and thought it would be fitting as we navigate yet another holiday season.

Today I taught Launch Pad, a Christian religious release class in public school.  Today’s class was about how God is a God of joy and delight.  Being happy and having fun truly can be an act of worship!

The last part of the class we all sat in a circle, ate ice cream, and went around the circle sharing a bit about our lives.  We all answered two questions:

1. What is one thing you are looking forward to doing this summer, and how will that bring joy into your life?

2. Describe one person that you have observed in your life that truly lives out the joy of the Lord.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because I was a bit surprised by the majority of the answers.  There were a few of they typical/predictable answers.  But the majority of the students mentioned an activity like a trip or camping or vacation.  Why did it bring them joy? “Because I will get to be with my family.”  Literally almost every student mentioned that.

And then the second question; literally half of the students said a grandparent.  A few others answered one or both of their parents.  Not a single one identified their youth pastor or youth leader, and these are all students that are at least loosely connected to a church youth group.

If you are a parent or a grandparent: your influence is HUGE in a teenager’s world

I realize teenagers don’t always say thank you and sometimes it doesn’t seem like they care if you are involved in their life.  But they are listening and they are watching, and they care for you A LOT.

If you are a youth worker: you need to be encouraging and helping families

If you truly care about teenagers’ faith growing (and I know you do), your efforts need to include parents and multiple generations.  I have heard it said for my entire youth ministry tenure–the #1 influence in a teenager’s life is their family.  That was once again proved accurate today.

What are you doing to support and/or encourage parents in your church?

How are the multiple generations within your church interacting with each other?

It’s Not ALWAYS Harvest Season

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I was looking through some old articles and I found this one that I wrote two and a half years ago.  A lot has happened since I wrote this, a lot of which I had no idea was coming.  But because of doing the things I described in this article, I feel confident in saying the harvest is finally here again! I hope this can be an encouragement to you, no matter what season your ministry is in.

Here is the original article:

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

 I am about to make one of the most humbling statements any spiritual leader can make.  Are you ready, here it comes…

My church and my youth ministry are both in a sowing season.

I had two separate conversations last week, one with a youth worker and one with a senior pastor, and both of them were relieved to hear me say that.  To be able to admit it, not be ashamed of it, and not just give the token “things are fine, we are growing” pad answer.

The truth is you cannot always be in a harvest season, but for spiritual leaders (especially youth workers) it is very hard to admit if we aren’t.  In Mark chapter 11 Jesus has a little run in with a certain fig tree:

Mark 11:12 – 14 (NIV) 12The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  13Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  14Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

My question is this: what made Jesus so upset?  Obviously he didn’t hate trees—but he was teaching his disciples a very important lesson.  Jesus was upset because the tree was not being true to the season it was in.  If a fig tree has leaves, it is supposed to have fruit.  But “it was not the season for figs.”  The tree was faking it, there was no fruit but it wanted everyone that looked at it to think there was.  It couldn’t admit it was not harvest season.

To state it bluntly: if you or your church or ministry is not in a harvest season, don’t try and fake it, just admit that you aren’t.  Believe me; I know how hard it is to do that.  But it is OK to not always be in a harvest season, as long as we do the right things when we aren’t.

 What do I need to do once I admit I am in a sowing season?

I don’t have all the answers, but here are a few things God has shown me as I walk through my own sowing season:

Seek God more than you ever have before

Reading scripture, prayer, solitude, fasting…  All of the above-at the same time!

Jeremiah 5:24 – 25 (NIV) 24…‘Let us fear the LORD our God, who gives autumn and spring rains in season, who assures us of the regular weeks of harvest.’ 25 Your wrongdoings have kept these away; your sins have deprived you of good.

During those times ask God for wisdom on what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest.  It may be something that needs to change about you.  It may be something that needs to change in your church or ministry environment.  Just be open to the truth when God speaks it (and remember God speaks in a still small voice, so you have to slow down to hear it)

Plow

I am not a farmer, but I do understand what has to be done in the times between harvests.  If you don’t plow, cultivate, fertilize, and plant new seeds the next harvest will never arrive.

 Proverbs 20:4 (NIV) A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.

 Once God speaks to you about what needs to be done or changed to bring on the next harvest, you have to actually do it.  Make the sacrifice, have the hard conversation, do whatever it is that you have been putting off.  Often times we know what needs to be done, we just drag our feet until it is too late or too much damage has been done.  Do the work God needs you to do to move forward.

Keep going and give God your best no matter what

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV) 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.

Even if you are not in a harvest season, God still needs you to be faithful.  The people that make the biggest spiritual strides during your sowing season will be the leadership during the next harvest.  Anyone can be a good pastor and/or leader when everything they touch or do is turning to gold, be an even better pastor/leader when things aren’t going right.

The encouraging thing is that in all three of these passages, it implies that another harvest is right around the corner.  I have faith and trust in God that he will bring another season of harvest, and until he does I will keep trying to do the right things for the season I am in.

My Next Step

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beach footprintsPerhaps you have noticed, but this site has been pretty quiet for the last few months.  While the site was quiet, the rest of my life has not been.  I had lots going on in just about every area of my life, and I needed to take a step back to seek God and work through everything privately as I figured out what my next step would be in my ministry journey.

I have spent extended time alone with God on a spiritual retreat, enjoyed a great vacation with my family, had numerous conversations with the leadership of my church and my inner core of confidants, and prayed A LOT.

This last weekend everything went public to our church, and now to you.  On August 1st, I will for the first time in my ministry career, not be a youth pastor.  I am staying at Cloverdale and taking a new position as Associate Pastor to Families.

I am excited for a new challenge.  I am excited that I don’t have to say goodbye to the Cloverdale family.  I am excited to see God work in new ways.  I am excited to still contribute to the youth ministry world from a different perspective.  I am excited that I can once again be at peace and fight for God with everything I have as I fulfill his will for me.

From this point, I hope to jump back in with writing and speaking as well, so please keep checking back, reading, and listening.  I’m excited for the future, and I’m honored to share my journey with you!