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You Can Only Do So Much

Youth Pastors as a whole are ADD.  “Back in my day,” which really wasn’t that long ago, kids didn’t go to the doctor to get diagnosed for ADD like they do now.  In some ways it seems like doctors are handing out Ritalin like it’s a Flintstones vitamin, but I digress.  The thing is, I often get distracted in my office by anything and everything that goes on around me.  For example, last week I had a fly in my office for about a week and a half, and I would often find myself with a legal pad in my hands chasing and failing to kill said fly.  There is something about a little black flying bug (or insect or whatever it is) that completely sidetracks the work that I am trying to accomplish on a given day.

Then the are our cell phones that hijack our days.  Most of us keep our cell phones sitting on our desk and we react to its ever beck and call.  The sound of the Sportscenter alert grabs me every time, and I end up checking to see what the latest tweet, text, or notification may be.  I specifically recall a time when the lead singer from Casting Crowns (who is also a youth pastor) talked about beach balls in the audience being a major distraction for him.

I tell all of these stories for a reason, and that is partially because today has been an especially distracting day for me.  There are no major pressing thoughts on my mind.  However, I have a basement office that has a sunken window.  When I arrived at work this morning and looked out my window, I saw two mice who were climbing the screen on my window and the corners of the cinderblock wall outside my window (this is the point where my mom would freak out).  They weren’t climbing simply because it was fun, but because they wanted to be free.

You can imagine that as someone who is ADD, the struggle of these two mice caught my particular attention, and my window has basically been an Animal Planet special on the survival of field mice.  However, I couldn’t help but feel bad for these two little guys who, despite their best effort, could not seem to make it out.  Not to mention the fact that I imagined how it would feel to be that small and fall 4 feet over and over again.

My Mouse Bridge to Freedom

After sitting and watching all day I decided that I would become the “mouse savior.”  I was not about to pick up these guys and toss them out of the hole, but I found a piece of wood and gave them a bridge to freedom. So there I sat waiting for these two mice to come across my little bridge, climb to freedom, and be thankful that some mysterious giant came to save the day.  However, as I sat and waited some more, neither of the mice decided to take the way to accomplishing the goal they’d worked for all day. They had both seen the stick but they hadn’t been willing to try it out.

While part of me wonders, why won’t you just climb this stick and be free I can’t help but think, that I can only do so much.  You see, I can sympathize and provide a way out, but I can’t force the mice to climb the stick to freedom.  God deals with us in much the same way. God gave us a way to freedom, peace, and forgiveness, but we have to be willing to take the way God has provided.

Many of us, as youth pastors and parents, want to convict and force our students to make the smart decision, but the best I can do is to provide them a way to make the right decision and pray that they have wisdom to do so.  As much as I can look at a situation and say, “It’s so obvious; can’t you see this bridge that I’ve provided for you?”, I cannot force a mouse or a student to make the wise choice.

Never neglect prayer in your ministry because while you can provide bridges, the Holy Spirit has to be the one to prompt your kids to use the bridges you’ve built.  Strive and push your students, but realize you can only do so much.



The Best Things Take Time

From left to right: Aeropress, French Press, Clever Coffee Dripper, Kyocera Ceramic Burr Grinder, and Cuisnart Grind and Brew

I absolutely love coffee!  “According to research by the National Coffee Association, 56 percent of adults living in the United States drank coffee every day in 2006, about 112 million people (Source).”  However, there is a difference between loving coffee and simply drinking coffee.  For example, I refuse to drink Folgers, Maxwell House, Dunkin Donuts, McDonald’s, or other such brands that people typically buy in the grocery store.  This may make me a little difficult to deal with at times but it’s a standard that I am unwilling to bend.  While I typically buy Starbucks, which is still not a great option, I prefer buying from roasters that I know such as Alabaster Coffee or Rosetta Coffee Company!

Beyond just drinking coffee, my wife and I love creating quality crafted cups of coffee.  We are now the proud owners of an Aerobie Aeropress, a French Press, a Clever Coffee Dripper, a Keyocera Cermaic Burr Grinder, and a Cuisinart Grind and Brew (a Chemex is next on our list). Alicia and I are even getting ready to start roasting our own coffee at home! I love our Grind and Brew, but when we have time (or make time), I love to play with our other coffee brewers.  There is something about controlling all the elements that make a phenomenal cup of coffee.  The fact is, the best cup of coffee I can drink is not going to come from the drip coffee pot in my office.

The best cup of coffee takes time.  If I have 10 minutes I would much rather have a cup of coffee from my Clever (this is currently my personal favorite).  If you want flavor profiles you are not going to grab that bright red Folgers can, scoop a few scoops of coffee in a filter, and wait anxiously for a delicious hot cup of coffee (if you’re like me, that statement may have just made you cringe).  Flavors take time to develop, to steep, to draw the best flavors out of the beans you’ve purchased.

In much the same way, drawing the best out of students takes time.  Granted, you could take Joe High Schooler, give him a task, and he could successfully complete that task.  However, is that student growing and developing, or are they simply getting the job done?  If you simply want the task of getting your caffeine fix, then Folgers can accomplish your task.  However, what if you took your time investing in Joe High Schooler?  What if once a week you started pouring into your kid and doing a weekly devotion and accountability with them?  What would Joe’s impact look like if you took the time to pour into them?  I would dare say that the task would not only get done, but Joe would walk away a better student, person, and Christ follower.

Student ministry both in the home and in the church takes time, but then again all of the best things do.  The question to all of you parents and leaders out there is, are you willing to take the time or are you willing to settle for less?


The NFL Draft

Who would you rather have, future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning
or the NFL's biggest draft bust and convict, Ryan Leaf?

If you are a lover of the NFL, then the draft is like Christmas morning.  All of the future NFL stars are brimming with optimism, the fans deck themselves out in their team gear, and if you’re a Redskins fan, you thank God for Robert Griffin III.

As a football fan I love the NFL draft because I love to see the names and college careers of the players that will affect the Packers’ franchise.  I celebrated as the Packers picked Derek Sherrod an Offensive Tackle from Mississippi State (2011), Bryan Bulaga an Offensive Tackle from Iowa (2010) and Clay Matthews a Linebacker from USC (2009).  However, not every pick is a home run and sometimes that person you put all your confidence in turns out to be more like Ryan Leaf than Peyton Manning.

As much potential as a player may have coming out of the draft , you never want the player to be satisfied with where they are at.  This is where coaching comes in.  If a team with poor coaching drafts a player with unlimited ability, that player will never reach their full potential.  The amount of work we put into coaching and raising up our students matters!

Alicia and I ready for the 1st round of the NFL draft, on our date night!

I am the result of parents who took a lot of very intentional time to pour into my life.  I praise God that is the case because until I was close to high school, when we got Steve as our youth pastor, I had a youth pastor who could have cared less about me.

We have a huge calling to draft and develop students who are following after Christ with all the heart, soul, mind, and body.  Our students, like future NFL players, have tremendous potential to do amazing things for God, but if we as parents and youth leaders don’t harness that potential, then our students reach their full potential!

I thank God daily for parents who are invested in their students’ lives and I pray daily for the students who aren’t as lucky.  I appreciate the fact that when the Green Bay Packers draft a player they already have a plan in mind to develop that player to fill the role that they drafted them to fill.  I was ecstactic when the Packers picked Nick Perry to be a bookend to Clay Matthews on the defense.  However, just because he ran a 4.6 40 yard dash and benched 225 lbs 35 times does not mean Perry will be successful. Coaching takes time, effort, and a plan.

How are you being intentional about drafting and coaching your students to reach their full potential?


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