Manage the Christmas Chaos

ChristmasChaosIf you’re a pastor or ministry leader, December is fun, right?

Unfortunately, most ministry leaders I’ve run into don’t feel that way. In fact, most people I know in vocational ministry look forward to the last week in December when they finally get some breathing room.

It’s not that we don’t love Christmas or what it stands for. And most pastors are genuinely excited for the people who will be coming to a Christmas Eve service who need to hear that God loves them and how Jesus’ coming and eventual death is a very real picture of that love.

But even when things are going well, most of us are relieved when December 25th is behind us. And if things aren’t going well—in ministry, in our family, or just in our hearts—December can feel like a marathon we never wanted to run.

And it shouldn’t be that way.

Could it be different? I think so (and I say that as someone who has also been overwhelmed in December). But it takes intentionality, and it takes work. I don’t think Jesus intended the celebration of his birth to be the cause of stress and even burnout for those who lead his Church. Here are some things we can do differently in the weeks leading up to the celebration of Jesus’ birth:Continue Reading

Lessons Learned From Being a Dad AND a Pastor

GirlBubbles

One of the greatest things I get to do in life is being a dad to my kids.

One of the greatest things I get to do in life is being a pastor.

Both are incredible blessings in my life. And yet a tension exists between the two that can be difficult to manage. That doesn’t mean that being a dad and a pastor are opposing interests; it’s just that both are highly relational roles, and there’s only so much “Dad” and “pastor” to go around. If you’re a parent in ministry, you’ve probably felt the same tension.

Our second daughter turns six this week. Our kids’ birthdays remind me that I have one less year to parent them before they leave our home. Reflecting on that fact helps me remember that I always have things to learn about being a dad, especially as a dad who’s also a pastor. Here are a few things I’ve learned (often the hard way) about being a dad and a pastor:

I can’t be a dad and a pastor at the same time.

There is no such thing as multitasking when you’re a parent. You’re either there or you’re not. When I’m home, I need to be Dad. When I drive my girls to school, I need to be Dad. There are times when I need to be a pastor, and that’s okay. It’s what I do. I just shouldn’t do it when I’m supposed to be Dad.Continue Reading

Video of the Week: Mommy Rhapsody (From Church on the Move)

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I give you one my favorite tributes to mothers. Enjoy!

For other great videos from Church on the Move, check out their YouTube page.

Video of the Week: It’s Not About the Nail

One of my favorite videos to watch with pre-marital couples we’re working with…such a great conversation starter!

(Email subscribers: if you can’t view the video, click here.)

Video of the Week: Blind Devotion (Jubilee Project Short Film)

This is an incredible short film produced in conjunction with Francis and Lisa Chan’s book You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of EternityCheck it out:

Make Your Kids Glad That You’re a Pastor

October was a crazy month for our family for a number of reasons, and this past weekend was the first weekend in a while that felt “normal.” I took the opportunity to do something with my two daughters they had been asking to do for a while: go on a behind-the-scenes tour of our church (or as they put it, “explore the church”). There were no ministry events going on, so they had fun running around the church, exploring “hidden” (i.e. locked) rooms, and seeing what the children’s building looks like when no one’s around.

The best part about our adventure was this: they thought it was really cool that their dad is a pastor. They knew that other kids don’t get to mess around in our church’s prop room (they thought it smelled funny) or play unlimited air hockey in the youth wing. It was a fun moment, because they are–even at the ages of four and five–aware that there are also times when my role takes me to overnight youth events or causes me to miss dinner because I need to care for someone or another family.

I hope that they always think that me being a pastor is cool. Because from their perspective, there will always be costs associated with my role: pastoral emergencies, having youth events on Saturdays (their favorite day to spend with me), or missing out on bedtime to be at my ninth grade guys small group. For every one of those things, I hope there’s at least one upside they can enjoy because I’m a pastor. Here are a few ideas to make sure that happens:

Full access to the church grounds. Let your kids enjoy your church building in ways other kids normally wouldn’t be able to. My kids loved exploring the empty buildings. Other ideas I’ve heard include having a picnic on the auditorium platform and allowing them to invite friends to enjoy the game room when no one else is around.

Allow your kids a free pass into your office. My girls know that they can interrupt anything going on in my office at any time. The only exception is if someone is seeing me for pastoral counseling. When they knock, I stop what I’m doing to hug them and have a conversation. They even have their own whiteboard (right under mine) that they get to draw on. And if I’m in a meeting that can’t be interrupted for a few minutes, they still get to come give me a big hug.

Allow them to be friends with other staff members. Sometimes I think my girls love visiting me at the office more for seeing all their “friends” than seeing me. I’m grateful to serve with a team that doesn’t mind when my girls wander into their office or cubicle to say “hi” and sometimes get a treat. When they visit our church during office hours, they feel like a blessing, not a distraction.

Invite your family to youth events. Since my kids are so young, they haven’t gotten to do this much, but they enjoy it when they get to come to hang out with the teenagers. Our girls came and played in a mud pit during our fall kickoff, and my family visited our fall retreat a few weeks ago for lunch on Saturday. They feel pretty special getting to come to things that only high school students are invited to.

Take advantage of a flexible schedule. Some seasons in ministry require extra time from us that can make it seem like we’re cheating our family. During seasons that aren’t as demanding on your time, make sure you cheat your job instead and spend more time with your kids. I’m well aware that not everyone has a job that offers the flexibility to go on field trips with their kids or take off a few minutes early to have a special “movie night” with their kids. And when you take some time off to spend more time with your kids, let them know that you’ve chosen to take off work in order to spend time with them. You don’t have to make a show of it, but it’s important for them to see concrete examples of you choosing them over ministry.

What are some other ways to make your kids glad that you’re a pastor?

Video of the Week: Quit Outsourcing Your Kids to Youth Group

Another awesome conversation on youth ministry from the Gospel Coalition. The full article (found here) highlights the Rooted conference, which looks really cool. Check it out:

Quit Outsourcing Your Kids to Youth Group from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Video of the Week: "Don’t Rob the Youth" from the Gospel Coalition

I love this conversation about the role of youth ministry in the local church, especially the question of how to integrate students into the broader church. Well worth five minutes of your time:

Don’t Rob the Youth from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

The Supposed Superpowers of a Youth Pastor

Youth pastors are pretty great people. I might be biased (being a youth pastor and all), but I make that claim having known a lot of youth pastors. Youth workers not only tend to have big hearts, but they have some talents that sometimes border on superhuman feats of strength and skill. They can pull off an amazing summer camp on a tight budget. Part-time and bi-vocational youth pastors somehow find a way to prepare a Bible study each week and care for students between their two other jobs. And most youth pastors can still genuinely love teenagers even after a night of zero sleep at a lock-in.

Despite all that, youth pastors aren’t the superheroes some make us out to be.

Now, I don’t think that I’m too bad of a youth pastor. I’ve learned a ton from experience and mentors, and I even have a fancy degree on my wall. But I’m no superhero. And even if I were, I probably would use my powers for my own benefit, and not for others. Still, I’ve found that some people believe that all youth pastors have a certain set of superpowers. Today, I’d like to set the record straight and let the world know that there are some superpowers that youth pastors don’t in fact possess:

I can’t make your teenager come to church. Listen, I really want your teenager to come to church to experience a loving environment and hear about Jesus. But if I could will him to come to church, I would have already done that by now. I’m happy to give him a call and extend a friendly invite or meet him for coffee if he’d be up for that. I’m flattered that you think your teenager would go to church if I told him to. I just don’t have that kind of influence over every teenager’s actions.

I can’t organize a youth service project to [insert major construction project that would likely require a professional here]. Serving others is a non-negotiable part of following Jesus, and so we do encourage our students to serve at a large group service project or in their small groups. But I’ve found that ideas for service projects that begin with, “You know, the youth really should…” often involve more power tools than I’m comfortable giving a seventh-grade girl.

I can’t organize a gathering of all of our teenagers on twenty-four hours notice, no matter how great the event or cause might be. At least a couple of times a year, a well-meaning person will call me to tell me about a great event coming up in the next one or two days, and that I should get “all the youth” on the bus and take them. If I had that kind of ability, it would save me a ton of time promoting our upcoming fall retreat.

I can’t make teenagers stop whispering and giggling in church. Or turn off their cell phone, take off their hat, or bring their Bible with them. Or any other behavior you desire. Well, I might be able to do it occasionally, and if I’m sitting with a teenager who’s playing Candy Crush during service, I’ll politely ask them to stop. But in general, you can’t control every aspect of a teenager’s behavior, because when you try to, they’ll realize you don’t love them without any strings attached and leave. So take a cue from Jesus and love teenagers despite their imperfections. Besides, that’s how Jesus loves you, too.

I can’t love your teenager as much as I love my own kids. I love your family. I sleep with my phone by my bed just in case you have an emergency that can’t wait until the morning. I’ve turned around my car on the way to a dinner date with my wife to rush to the hospital to be with your teenager in the Emergency Room. And I’ve spent Christmas Eve with your kids (and away from my own family) because their dad died suddenly the day before. I do love your teenager, and that’s part of what it means to be a youth pastor. But I need to set boundaries, because the kids that get majority of my time and love are my own.