For All the “Old” Youth Pastors

dym_logo_featured-450x253One of the blogs I subscribe to is on the Download Youth Ministry website. They not only offer low-priced, downloadable youth ministry resources, they also provide articles for those who work with students.

Today’s blog had a good article for those who are getting “old” in youth ministry. For a long time I think the ideal youth worker has been pictured as young, “cool” and in touch with students because he/she is close to their age. I thought today’s post, The 40 Year Old Youth Pastor, had some good insights for those who have been in a youth ministry, well…for a few years. Read on….

Looking back, I thought they were the golden years of youth ministry for me….I was close in age with the students and was often confused for being a teenager by parents. I thought this is it…it will never get better. I related to their world and I didn’t have to try hard to be cool…I was cool (notice the past tense.) Now as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday…I can’t help but feel that I am a better youth worker than I have ever been.

At least, mostly better. When we got back from summer camp this year, it took me a week or more to recover when before all I needed was one day to sleep in and “veg-out.” (Of course, I didn’t have kids myself so “sleeping in” was really sleeping all day.)

Or when I use to talk with students about their favorite movies or music…I would find that we liked very similar things. I could relate to their world. Now when we talk about movies or music a student is quick to say “Oh yeah, my mom likes them too.” Nice.

Besides it taking longer to recover from camp and being compared to their mom…I feel like I am in my sweet spot. I love being with students and with our leaders. I feel like I am just getting started. Instead of trying to be cool, I can focus all my energy on caring. I also find that rejection hurts less now the older I get…Don’t get me wrong…it still hurts but I have learned to not take rejection so personally. It’s not so bad being older.

This got me thinking about the trends of youth ministry and how long youth pastors stay at a church. Or the new trend of youth workers planting churches. Neither of those things is bad but I want to encourage my youth worker friends…that longevity is a gift and your best years may be ahead of you.

With that in mind:

If you are young, don’t give up….stick it out…you will find it only gets easier and more rewarding the longer you stay.

If you are in the middle, we’ve made it…keep going strong…it’s just getting good.

If you are “older” than the average, thank you! Thank you for not seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone and for believing in teenagers. I look up to you. You are my heroes. And if you start to doubt yourself…know that teenagers need your love more now than ever due to the breakdown of the family unit. Don’t believe the lie that you are too old for youth ministry.

Truthfully, I look forward to the day that a student says “oh yeah, my grandma likes them too.”

What about you? Where do you find yourself? Any “older” youth workers have some wisdom for the young-uns?

10 Politically Incorrect Reasons to Stay Married

Wedding-Ring-FingerI subscribe to Tony Morgan Live and today received an email about his top blog posts from May 2013. One that caught my attention was the post entitled 10 Politically Incorrect Reasons Why We’re Still Married. I just posted about weddings yesterday and really liked what Tony Morgan had to say.

In the post he talks about being married to the same woman for 22 years, so right away he had my attention. I admire couples who have been married for two decades and beyond because you know that not all those years were smooth sailing.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve listened to other voices and read other blog posts is that I don’t have to agree with everything everyone says in order to gain value from what they share. There is much we can learn from other people and not feel like we have to agree with everything they say. There are some good principles in Tony Morgan’s post that can be of help to those who are already married and those who looking to marriage in the future.

Here are the 10 Reasons he shared in his post:

1. We put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own needs. From what we’ve learned, our basic needs are different from each other. The book His Needs, Her Needs is a great book to begin this conversation.

2. We’ve made our physical appearance a priority. Neither one of us would admit to being “10s” by any stretch of the imagination, but we want to look sexy for each other. We work at it. That includes eating right, exercise, clothes, hair, etc. For example, Emily and I have made a pact — she decides what my hair looks like, and I decide what her hair looks like. Again, we prioritize the needs of our spouse.

3. We’ve embraced traditional roles. I work outside the home, and Emily works inside the home. Does that mean we’re against couples who try to juggle two jobs outside the home? Absolutely not. For Emily, though, she gains significance through being a great wife, mother and home manager. That’s a full-time job. Since she owns that role, it relieves quite a bit of stress that we know other couples have to navigate.

4. We prioritize our marriage over our careers. To do this, we have a tight budget. We spend less than we make. We avoid debt. We do this so we can live on one income. We do this so we can invest in time away like our recent trip to Cancun. We say no to overcommitment in our careers, so we can enjoy regular time together.

5. We prioritize our marriage over our children. We have four beautiful kids, but they will eventually grow up and leave. My relationship and friendship with Emily is more important. Ironically, when we put our marriage relationship first, our kids feel loved and more secure. This is one of the reasons why we are strict about limiting the activities our kids engage outside of school.

6. We didn’t have sex before marriage. We didn’t live together. We dated for six years before we got married. I can assure you, we wanted to have sex before marriage. Again, God forgives. I know all couples can’t begin here, but we did. And, I’m convinced learning that discipline to restrain ourselves before marriage has freed us up to thoroughly enjoy ourselves after marriage.

7. We’ve had lots of sex after marriage. God created us to have sexual desire. Christian couples, in particular, need to get over their inhibitions, talk about sex and continue to discover. Again, the principle of putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your needs holds true here as well. If you want to help your spouse avoid temptations outside of marriage, your sex life needs to stay spicy.

8. We enjoy wine together. (My unchurched friends won’t understand why this is politically incorrect. Trust me. It is with church people.) In other words, we don’t let religious people define how we live our lives including our marriage. We let God’s Word direct our lives. Because of that, who we are publicly is who we are privately. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We can be ourselves with each other and with everyone we do life with. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

9. We never meet alone or publicly with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t have meals alone with another woman. I won’t travel alone (even in a car) with another woman. I won’t meet a woman alone in an office without windows or without an open door. (My consulting clients can verify this.) This protects both of us from the temptations we all face. These protections help us avoid mistakes that would reduce the freedoms we have in our marriage. We’re not willing to sacrifice that for a momentary inconvenience.

10. We’re committed to a covenant where divorce is not an option. For Emily and me, that means we need to work at loving each other. We don’t wait for love to happen — we work at it. We need to discipline our lives to avoid mistakes that could end our marriage. We prioritize our faith, because that creates order for the rest of our lives including our marriage. Since we both agreed to fulfill this covenant ‘til death do us part, we have confidence that, even when marriage is difficult, we will persevere.

I know. Some of this sounds really shallow. Some of this sounds impractical. Some of this sounds inappropriate. I hope it challenges your thinking and generates some healthy conversation with your spouse.

Let’s choose integrity. Let’s choose to stay married.

Youth Ministry at Age 40 (repost)

I enjoy reading the posts that Josh Griffin puts on his “More Than Dodgeball” blog.  I have borrowed some creative ideas, cool videos and other youth ministry insights from what he writes.  In a recent post he shared something he had put together about Youth Ministry at age 40 verses age 20.  Since I fit into the former category as opposed to the latter, I was interested in what he had to say and agreed with several of his thoughts on it, especially the last part regarding credibility and longevity.

Here’s what he wrote:

Name some things you can do at 40 that you could never have done at 20. Being 36 … I take a little offense to this question. But I do have a growing “black list” of things I’ll never do in youth ministry again. And I definitely do things differently 15 years in. The most exciting thing I can do with this age and experience is assure students that “I’ve seen it all” – they can share whatever is going on in their life and I won’t be shocked. I think I’ve heard of, dealt directly with, and am prepared for whatever mess students can make with their lives. I don’t think I could have said that in my earlier years.

What are some things you know at 40 that you wish you has known at 20. I think I can see now how rich and rewarding long-term youth ministry is – I think as a young youth pastor I saw the day-to-day pain of senior pastor relationships, poor time management and students screwing up their lives to appreciate the perspective of the wise old Yoda that I am now. Ha. Look like Yoda, I do, wise I am not.

What are some things you no longer do at 40 that you used to do at 20. The obvious answer is overnighters … but we still do those on occasion and honestly I look down on youth workers who refuse to do them. Just kidding. I think I used to worry more about keeping my job when I was 20, I used to worry more about how God would provide for my family. I used to worry about making everyone happy. I used to worry about … well, everything. I wonder sometimes if I should worry MORE now than I do, because I don’t anymore.

What are the benefits of growing older and remaining in youth ministry? I think there’s a certain credibility that comes of age. I think you don’t strive to be cool, you just want to care. I think there’s a rewarding aspect to mentoring other youth leaders that is really exciting. Most of all, it is seeing the teenage lives that God changed now grown up and doing His work. Some you thought would be incredible are … others flamed out. Some you prayed for but gave up on came back to Him and He did some amazing things with them. Who knew? Fun to see it from a few years down the road.