Posts Tagged ‘youth pastor’
Well, it’s been a little while since I’ve posted on our new chapter… needless to say things have gotten mind-blowingly busy. Today I had a little break, primarily because our daughter Morgan came down with a fever and we’re home resting. So let me take this opportunity to offer a quick break-down on how the last few weeks have been.
1. I am tired.
The transition from consultant to pastor has begun to catch up with me. As a consultant I had a ton of control over my schedule, but now, it seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. More than any other time in my life, I’m learning just how critical it is to learn how to say ‘no’ to good things so that I’m free to say ‘yes’ to the best things. Have you figured this out yet? PLEASE help me. I suck at it. In the last few weeks I’ve done everything from speaking at retreats to playing in golf tournaments (and getting my nose broken by a golf ball) to making bacon for a staff breakfast. These are all really good things, but I’m stretching myself so thin, I ended up getting sick three weeks ago and I’m still just now recovering. Needless to say, it’s also been incredibly difficult to exercise, which has only added to the feeling of being run-down.
2. I am wrong.
If you’ve been reading this blog since we began our new chapter back in June, you’ll no doubt recall all of my wonderful, brilliant ideas and plans for breaking ‘youth ministry as usual’ and creating a new way forward in the 21st century. Well, that was wishful thinking. It’s not that every notion fell flat–our team of 25 adult volunteer leaders are absolutely amazing; they are the backbone of all we’re doing. But many of the concepts we applied have just missed the target. I had a revelation in the midst of my failure. As a consultant, I would bring fresh perspectives to church leaders, who would then innovate and lead their congregations through pretty significant changes. I guess I figured we could do the same here. BUT, the piece I’ve been missing is what those church leaders had all along. Trust. They are trusted by their people because they’ve been in the trenches with them for a while. I wasn’t the innovator–they were. Just because I’m new on the scene here means that I simply haven’t had the time to build the necessary level of trust that’s required to make big changes. So, in light of this epiphany, my team and I sat down and crafted a way to continue to move forward while positioning trust development as the primary goal this year. We’ve already seen massively positive effects. God is good.
3. I am hopeful. (And really excited)
In the midst of all this craziness–getting sick, getting injured, traveling on a bus for 12 hours, our kids getting sick, not being able to exercise, dealing with all the challenges of ministry–God has poured out unimaginable blessing. The relationships we’re building with students, and with parents are flourishing. We have a good rhythm happening with our staff–everyone is digging in to make this new chapter great. We have new small groups starting, students genuinely interested in exploring the Gospel, and parents committed to partnering with us to make the ministry work. Most nights as I’m falling asleep I find myself marveling about and praying through all that God has been doing. It’s even clearer today that He has an awesome plan for us here.
Thanks as always for going on this journey with us. My apologies for the short hiatus from posting… I’m hoping to get back on track now. Until next week…
This week was good.
In fact, it might have been the best week we’ve had since we began this journey. We still had major challenges–students who vandalized our facility, some other students who are still pretty apprehensive about all the change that’s taken place–but despite these bumps I sensed this week was a turning point. It played out in three places.
Firstly in our staff. I feel like our team has really turned a corner in terms of being on the same page. We’ve had all the tension you would imagine a new team having, full of personalities and ideas, but the way that our people have managed the tension has been amazing. The word ‘quit’ just doesn’t exist in their vocabulary; they are determined to make this new way forward work and be great. I have a deep sense of gratitude for them and I’m more positive than ever that this is the right team at the right time in the right place. Praise God!
Secondly in our leaders. Just watching our leaders engage with students this past week was awesome. The growth curve for every one of them has been vertical since we kicked off last month. I saw a few breakthroughs unfold during our Midweek gathering between leaders and students–these are the moments I live for. When a student finally lets a leader ‘in’. It was a beautiful picture of the Gospel.
Thirdly in our students. Change isn’t easy for anyone, but when you’re young, I think sometimes it can be a bit easier. This was our third week gathering corporately and already the students are sensing a rhythm. They get it. Not all of them, but many are beginning to really enjoy our times together. They’re genuinely engaged in worship and in the discussions. Again, these are the moments I live for, when a student surrenders to something bigger.
This past Sunday, one of our students who’s been kind of on the fringes and quietly observing asked a really hard question about the nature of God. It took us in a completely different direction. As we got into deep discussion, something incredible happened. The students stopped offering up their typical ‘Sunday School answers’. I resisted the temptation to provide the answer and we just struggled through it together. We ended our time having not answered the question and we just let them wrestle with that uneasiness. I’m excited to see if that tension carries over to next week.
I think I have a tendency to look for the big sweeping wins in this role, but God brought me a revelation this week. It’s something I already knew at the cognitive level–I’ve even written about it here–but when you’re in the midst of it I think it becomes more real. I rediscovered this week that ministry isn’t about the huge moments at all. It’s about the small victories. The little moments of breakthrough, of epiphany, of students and leaders coming together, of surrendering in the practice of worship. Add these all up over time and you have something far more significant and meaningful and valuable than any well-attended event could ever bring. You have messy, beautiful Christian community.
Until next week, thank you again for walking this road with us! Grace and peace-
“You know, I know what you’re thinking. Because right now I’m thinking the same thing. Actually I’ve been thinking it ever since I got here. Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?”
Cypher, The Matrix
The last few years have caused me great consternation. God has brought into my life several mentors who have collectively disrupted most of how I’ve always seen Jesus and the Gospel and belief and faith. Before these men crashed into my life I was… happy, content and quite sure of myself. I had a good bead on things. Now I question everything.
Don’t get me wrong here–questioning everything and doubting everything are two very different things. We all deal with doubt. (In fact, I think doubt can be healthy. I preached one of Luke’s accounts on doubt here.) But I’m talking about scrutinizing the status quo. My mentors have opened my eyes to some realities that don’t necessarily match up with how most of the world, the faith community or otherwise, operates. Unfortunately, you can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube. Like Cypher said, “Why, oh why didn’t I take the blue pill?” I’d been quite satisfied with my view on life, but now I can never go back to it. I’ve taken the red pill.
So now I find myself removed from my role as theorist, as afforded by my status as a researcher and consultant over the last three years, and back in the role of practitioner. This new way of ‘seeing’ is now colliding with actual ministry, and it’s causing a major headache. I feel like a lot of what we’re trying to build here is occasionally (thankfully) embraced by a few, but misunderstood by many, and dismissed by others. This is what has effectively destroyed my sleep over the last few months. I’m running low on fuel and we’ve only just begun.
Those who have my back–my wife Amy, my boss, our senior pastor, my family and close friends–have gone out of their way to rally around me with encouragement through this whole process. For them I will never be able to fully express my gratitude. The bottom line is that change for most people is incredibly difficult. Whenever someone comes into a new leadership role, just that person’s presence causes change. Now add to that significant shifts in philosophy and methodology and things become extremely volatile. I won’t lie, I’ve had a few moments over the last three months when the thought of turning back has entered my mind. But these encouragers, these saints with whom God has surrounded me, have bouyed me. They have saved me from drowning.
Today begins the first week of our fourth month on staff here at Coral Ridge. Already I’ve experienced great highs and lows. I’ve been reminded that we’re here to build something great for the long-term, not just sustain what we’ve been handed. To do this, our first year is going to feel out of place. It is going to be frustrating. Not everyone is going to get it. But I’m resolved to stay on course, to do what I believe God has called me to do. I will submit to the words of one of my great encouragers, “Don’t make compromises today to speed up what you’re going after. You might achieve it quickly, but in two years, you’ll be right back where you started.”
Thank you all for going on this journey with me. I wanted to take this post, marking three months here, to just reflect on things instead of offering the regular ‘blow-by-blow’ recap of my week. Until next week, I pray that God’s presence overwhelms you as He has me.
This week was a total blur. I’m exhausted, and the worst part is I feel like I’m going backwards…
Saturday morning. 40 miles on the bike. I went out with intentions of cruising, but 5 miles in, I connected with a group holding at about 24mph. 15 miles later I made the turn to come home and almost instantly got passed by another group doing about 27. ‘Sure,’ I thought, ‘I’ll just slip in with them.’ With about 10 miles left, my body exploded. Total shutdown. I limped home, blurry vision, cramping legs, burning lungs and all. I felt like if I’d gone any slower, I’d be going backwards.
Thursday morning. 6AM, up and hustling, although it didn’t help that I finally got to sleep at 3. I had to go 18 miles in traffic in less than an hour. I went from our house (near downtown Fort Lauderdale), up to the church to get a whiteboard and then back to C&I Studios downtown for the South Florida Skunkworks Preview–a three hour workshop I co-hosted for about 30 business leaders and pastors. It was great, but the timing couldn’t have been worse, with everything that’s going on this week. It was tight, but we pulled it off, just barely. Hopefully we’ll have a good turnout for the three day Skunkworks in October–after all this work, I’d hate to take a step backwards.
Wednesday morning. This is it. Our first official Coral Ridge Students Midweek Preview Night. We’ve got the team ready, the leaders ready, the worship team ready. Tons of work is about to pay off with a great night celebrating Christ. First order of business today was my first opportunity to speak at Westminster Academy’s Middle School Chapel. I sensed it went well enough and I had a lot of fun. Now, onto the big night. I regret not having every little detail handled, but the team really came together to get everything ready. Most of our leaders were there and engaging with students–and doing a brilliant job. Just before we got going, I noticed that we had a lot of middle schoolers but very few high school kids. I was a little concerned but we needed to get rolling. I was, however, really impressed with the parent turnout.
First song, Happy Day. Should have been a huge start to the evening. Out of nowhere, the bass guitar amp just died. During the bass guitar intro to the first song. Unbelievable. After a month of flawless practice, it all came unraveled on the first note. We struggled through the song, and at the end I looked at the band and said, “Let’s try that again!” Meanwhile, the response of our students was one of confusion. Aside from the technical difficulties, it’s been a long time since a full band has led our students in worship. There were a lot of perplexed looks on the faces I could see.
By the end of the night, a lot of the students were getting into the worship, and that was good. The parents were in it as well, and that was great. During the hour we were together, quite a few students arrived, looked in the room and then just turned around and left. I could almost hear the long, drawn-out, “Yeeeaaahhhh… That’s, um….. not for me. Thanks though–see ya later.” I struggled to keep the discouragement at bay.
There were good moments on Wednesday night, but my best thinking is that it was so different from what the students are accustomed to, they just weren’t sure what to do with it. We’ll be adding the teaching element next week, so it’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. All in all we pulled the night off, but I couldn’t help thinking at the end as I reminisced about how much effort went into our first night… it just kind of feels like we’re going backwards.
Tuesday morning. Breakfast with my boss. Great chat, great encouragement. I said this to someone recently–I cannot remember having a better boss in any work I’ve done in the past. Ever. I am so grateful for him. On to the rest of Tuesday… no big deal, just staff devotions, then a team meeting, then student lunch, then a lunch meeting with another student pastor, then First Priority at Northeast High School. Tuesday should have been a day to slowly work through all the last minute plans and preparations for Wednesday night, but instead it was one of the busiest meeting days of the week. My strategy is all backwards.
Sunday night. Stormy night. Tropical Storm Isaac is blowing through the neighborhood with tornado warnings and sideways rain. I tried to focus on the week and pray a little bit. As I thought through how busy the week was going to be I kept coming back to one thought. ‘Adam, every step you take this week, no matter how stressful it gets, is a step in the right direction. Even when it feels like you’re going backwards.’
If last week was any indicator, I think I’m in for a rough semester.
All summer we’ve been in planning mode, experiencing relatively little stress as we develop all the pieces to what we hope is a great way forward. When the first day of school hit last week, as I said in my last post, it felt like a shuttle launch. I could barely see straight. As we got to the end of the week, I realized things weren’t going to slow down anytime soon.
This past week was a turning point, I think, in a few ways. First, I believe that our theory of how–that is, the methodology we believe in regarding everything we do–is pretty sound. Yes, it’s disruptive to the norm, but we know from experience that what we’re doing will be effective. This week, the theory was put to the test at certain levels. Most notably, I’d made a decision before I started to make myself available to anyone and everyone as a servant. From praying at the Convocation, to cooking bacon in the kitchen for the all-staff breakfast, I’ve said yes to everything. It’s all great during the summer months, but oh my goodness, trying to do it now that school has begun has been a nightmare. I’ve painted myself into a bit of a corner. Nevertheless, I’ve resolved to continue to say yes to anyone who has a need, but I’m currently assessing the time I spend elsewhere–doing the things that might have little or no value beyond the sentimental–to make sure I protect myself from burnout. All in all, this has been a good experience, and I’m learning even better how to manage my time.
The second turning point for me this week has to do with our team and how we operate at the organizational level. I received incredible wisdom from one of my mentors, my hero and big brother Matt Bond, about how I’ve created unnecessary tension with my team. He puts it down to language. I’m a born and bred strategist–a big-picture thinker. I have a knack for understanding where we are and where we ought to be, even if I struggle sometimes to see what first steps we need to take in order to get there. My partner in this ministry, Hope, is a born and bred tactician. While she might not see the future with the same vividness, she understands deeply the intricate steps we need to take in order to move forward. Tension has come when I try to manage our team using strategic language. Hope responds with tactical language, and then I get frustrated because I want her to see things from my perspective. Matt rebuked me in this, telling me that I’m essentially asking Hope to change who she is. I was wrong. If I want the team to work, I need to translate what I see into language that makes sense to the team.
Matt reintroduced me to Patrick Lencioni’s book, Death By Meeting. We’ve now taken his basic communications strategy and implemented it as our template. The basic form is that we only ever have 4 types of meetings. We will have a standing 5 minute meeting daily just to touch base and let each other know what we’re working on and where we’ll be over the next 24 hours. We will have a 1 hour tactical meeting at the beginning of each week to discuss what we need to accomplish in the next 7 days. We will meet once per month for a few hours to work through big-picture strategy stuff. And then we’ll meet for a full day at the end of each season–Fall Semester, Spring Semester and Summer–to review our progress and to develop plans for one season out (end of Fall will be Summer planning, etc.) The key for us is that Hope is running the weekly tactical meetings and I’m running the monthly strategy meetings. The template requires us to remain disciplined enough to operate in the tactical from week to week, which means if I try to get some strategy into the weekly ‘tac’ meeting, Hope can stop me and write a note to cover it in the monthly ‘strat’ meeting.
We’ve only done this for a week and already our whole dynamic has changed! Needless to say, I’m incredibly grateful to Matt for getting me back on the right path.
All in all, this was another busy week, but I feel really good coming out of it. We finished on a high note yesterday when, despite the threat of some messy weather, we had our first volunteer Leader Team Meeting. We have 27 adults fully committed to serving Christ through Coral Ridge Students at this point, and the number is climbing. I am blown away at the willingness of these people to engage in the hard work ahead. At the end of the day yesterday, I was almost in tears thinking about the gift these people are. I am so grateful to God for them, and I’ll never fully be able to express that.
This coming week we will officially kick off our Midweek gathering, with our band leading worship. I’m excited, but I know enough to expect the unexpected. Looking forward to sharing it with you in a few days.
Until then, thank you again for going on this journey with us!