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The Lords Prayer prayer

At church we have been doing a series on the Lords Prayer. I preached this past weekend and ended my message by praying the lords prayer over people, praying inside the prayer things we have learned about the prayer and things we long for. Some people have asked for the prayer for here it is:

OUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN
Thank you God that we are not alone, that not only are you my daddy but you are OUR daddy. That all of us belong to you and that you are here and not far away. Thank you that you are a safe refuge for us, and that we can come to you at anytime, because you are not in the distant heavens but present with us in these heavens where we live right now.
You are in the air we breathe, in the molecules that make up our existence. You are before and between our thoughts. We are completely surrounded by your presence.

HALLOWED BE YOUR NAME
God your name is what matters; it is the name above all names. All of creation starts with and hangs on you. Your name was before everything and will outlast everything. It is worthy of our complete attention and adoration. If we need to understand one thing it is that you are it; that you are to be treasured and loved. God we are seeking to make you the central concern of our life. We want our lives to be defined by your name. To find our identity in you

YOUR KINGDOM COME. YOUR WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN
God may your rule be completed in and around us. We know we are jacked and continue to make a mess of things. God our kingdom sucks, and we need yours. The way things are in heaven, we want that here. We need the things of your kingdom: Healing, Wholeness, Mercy, Kindness, Justice, Love and Peace, all that stuff. God, we are tired of War, Hatred, Envy and Evil. We want to see an end to sickness and suffering. God we admit our need and beg for your spirit to be unleashed. Bring the beauty of your kingdom right here in the space before us, here on the dirt where we stand. God use us to help make that happen. Unleash your kingdom inside us to permeate this world we live in. God move us to be all in!

GIVE US THIS DAY OUR DAILY BREAD
God give us the things we need today. Thank you for supplying our needs. Help us to live in the truth that you hold all we need for each and every day and all our worrying and fretting doesn’t do squat for us. We get so confused between our needs and wants and have to be reminded that you will meet all our needs. God, we want to live in the present and not miss today worrying about tomorrow. We long to live with you in the present, to attend to your promptings. God we want be present and responsive to all those around us. God help us to live in the moment

AND FORGIVE US OUR DEBTS, AS WE ALSO HAVE FORGIVEN OUR DEBTORS
God we know we don’t deserve forgiveness, we know that it comes from your heart. God we can’t make things right. There is nothing we can do to tip the scale in our favor, to impress you somehow or force your hand. We can’t make some kind of deal and promise to never do it again. We are simply recipients of your love and mercy. God, your forgiveness amazes us, it gives us a new start again, and again and again and God, as we have received this, how can we not extend it to others. As crazy as it sounds we don’t. We still keep score, hold grudges, seek revenge and withhold forgiveness. We still want to make others pay, so God we are asking for your help. Somehow we have disconnected out relationship with you from our relationship with others and we need that reconnected. Flood us with an awareness of your forgiveness so that forgiving others becomes a way of life for us.

AND DO NOT LEAD US INTO TEMPTATION BUT DELIEVER US FROM EVIL
God, we don’t want to go through trials. Please don’t lead us to where we get tempted, we do that enough on our own. God we know we are not all that strong and slip pretty easily. We are tempted by so many things: tempted where to put our trust, what to value, how to treat people, how to view ourselves. God there is so much temptation we need you every moment. And God every once in a while we are reminded that Evil is real, that Satan is real and despite our denials. He is real and out to destroy us and we need you to deliver us from his grip, a grip that takes so many forms, some of which are so subtle they catch us off guard.

FOR YOURS IS THE KINGDOM & THE POWER AND THE GLORY FOREVER
You are the one in charge. You have all the power. All glory and credit belongs to you always and forever and that is completely the way we want it. God, we do not want any other kingdom, any other plan, no other power, no other God. It is you and you alone. Remind us of that when we get overwhelmed with this life you have given us and we lose perspective.
Amen

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I loved Rolly Richert

First the selfish part. With Rolly’s passing my world lost some of it’s light. A rich texture in the fabric of my life has been removed. I am and will always be grateful for the friendship I shared with Rolly. Proverbs 17:17 says “A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for a time of adversity” Rolly was my friend and brother. We shared tears of laughter and tears of pain. We have seen each other in our most vulnerable moments and spoke with trust words we feared to say out loud. We argued, collaborated, created, prayed, dreamed, laughed, challenged, encouraged and….Loved. I will miss all of that. So let me tell you a bit about me and Rolly but I hope mostly about Rolly. I would have never predicted us to be friends when we met about 30 years ago.

I was cocky….Rolly was humble.

I was loud…Rolly was quiet.

I worked with Mike Yaconelli…Rolly worked with Dawson Mcallister.

I drank….Rolly Didn’t (At least back then :-)

I was impulsive…..Rolly was measured.

I was uneven…Rolly was steady.

I was left leaning…Rolly right leaning

I stirred things up…Rolly smoothed things out.

Rolly was a super insider to the conservative youth worker world and that whole world made me crazy at the time.

Nothing really matched up excepted for this:

Rolly loved Jesus and so did I.

Rolly loved students and Youth Ministry and so did I.

I was passionate and so was he (in fact, Rolly was one of the most passionate people I knew, you just couldn’t tell by looking at him)

I liked to try new things and take chances and so did he. (Another surprise, Rolly was one of the biggest risk takers I have ever known but again that was not easy to see at first glance with him)

We both loved to give new people chances and completely LOVED to discover & launch new talent.

We also both LOVED to create environments for people to experience God.

As you might guess the things we had in common drew us together in the end and stayed unchanging while the first group of things I listed either changed or didn’t matter.

So we would come across each other ocasionally in the youth ministry world but nothing really clicked. At one point, Rolly had taken over the Youth for Christ chapter in Detroit and changed it’s name to Young River. He was uncomfortable with the current state of youth ministry (part of which he helped create) and was searching out new ways to reach and develop students. One of the things they came up with was a big event that was ahead of it’s time and featured music, speaking but also skateboarding, BMX, a whole XGames vibe. Kind of a teenage Chaos for Christ (my words not his) event where all kinds of crazy stuff was going on intended to attract all kinds of different type of kids. This whole experience shows some of Rollys amazing qualities.

#1 Creative outside the box thinker. Trying something completely new.

#2 Risk taker. I say this because the whole farm was bet on this. They set up a 12-18 city arena tour and it all crashed and burned. Rolly lost everything and Young River closed. That was a real risk not the pretend risks we so often take.

#3 Heart for  developing and empowering for young leaders. Actually part of the reason for the failure was Rolly gave real decision making power to younger leaders on his team and some of the decisions they made lead to the failure (decisions by the way that Rolly was against but he had empowered them so he was sticking with them)

#4 Loyalty  (See #4) This is only one example of this, but Rolly stuck by all the people that had worked with him and when it all hit the fan put their well being before his in getting all of them set up in different jobs or situations, helping with their fininical crisis.

#5 Integrity Rolly stepped up and took responsibility for the whole financial fiasco that followed. He personally made calls to artists, speakers, arena management…. everybody to try and work things out. Because of who he was, many people stepped up to help him or forgive debt. Because of the way he handled it, for years to come he could still work with all those people.

It was around this time that YS was experiencing a lot of growth in our conventions.At the time, I was doing way too much. I was working with the venues, creating the program, “calling the show”, being onstage, leading our team……needing help but not knowing it.

I decided to hire Rolly to come and help us. I was actually hiring him because I hated seeing what was happening to him, knew he needed the money (even though we didn’t pay him much), wanted him to know some people still believed in him and that he had value. I didn’t really think that we needed him….boy was I wrong. That year in Nashville a friendship and a partnership that lasted many, many years was born. Over the years Rolly added so much to the National Youth Workers Conventions and to my life. We could not have grown the conventions to be as creative, powerful and meaningful as they became without out him.

He did that for us and did that for others. Rolly was the only thread that ran through all the DCLA’s He was the constant and God used him to minister to thousands and thousands of kids. No matter whose name was up front: Campus Crusade, Youth For Christ or Youth Specialties it was Rolly’s name behind the scene guiding it.

Rolly worked for so many diverse organizations. If it helped students know Jesus, he was all in. It didn’t matter if you were Black, White, Asian,Native American, Liberal, Conservative, Urban, Rural, Rich or Poor, Rolly was willing to jump in and help . Here are just a few of the ministries Rolly has served over the years besides YS with and the others I mentioned:

Dare 2 Share, Greg Stier’s ministry

JAMA, A Mostly Korean ministry

Ron Hutchraft Ministries, Working with Native American teens

Archdiocese of Detroit

Urban Youth Workers  Institute, creating a first class training event for urban youth workers

The list goes on and on, Salvation Army, D6 event, National Network, Compassion. The list goes on and on but I think you get the idea. Rolly had aKingdom perspective.

I have lost a friend but the church and youth ministries everywhere have also lost a friend. Most of them just don’t know it.

Rolly did ministry all over the world and I would love it when he would drop some crazy story over dinner like when he was kidnapped and I forget if it was in Africa or Eastern Europe but they threw him into the back of a van, swept him away, and he thought he was going to die. They ended up having him go back to the hotel and get all his money (funds they were using for ministry). He was pretty sure they would kill him once they got the money, so on the street just before reaching the whole group, he threw all the money into the air and ran. They had to chase him or the money, they chose the money. Or the time they were doing ministry illegally in the Soviet Union and he was being followed by the KJB. Crazy stuff and he would just casually drop it while we were passing the green beans. He was freaking amazing.

Rolly was so forgiving and non-judgmental of people. Very seldom did he have something negative to say about someone (even though he had plenty of reasons). I think that quality is what allowed him to work with so many differient ministries and so many knuckleheads like me. He would always keep his focus on serving Jesus and students and if that meant doing it with all of us meatballs, so be it.

I will treasure our many conversations.When Rolly was with you he gave you his complete attention, a wonderful gift that made you feel so valued. As I put on my face book post I know that Rolly has already heard these words from his heavenly father “Well done my good and faithful servant

I Loved Rolly Richert and now he experiencing love in it’s fullest form.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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The World of YS, Take Four: God is still funny like that

OK so it has been 15 months since I last posted on my blog, which was right after I got hired back to lead YS. I titled that post “God is funny like that” because well, coming back to YS was so unexpected. Now in another unexpected turn in my life I am in the process of leaving YS again. I am leaving to become the executive pastor of my home church, Journey Community Church in La Mesa. If you haven’t watched the video of me talking about it with Mark Matlock you can watch it  on the YS site . The video pretty much sums it up but if you want a little more about my process and the back story read on my friend.

As I said in the video, when I came back to YS I told YouthWorks that I was not the future of  YS but could serve as their bridge to the future. I came back because I LOVED YS, LOVED youth ministry, thought I could help after all the crazy drama YS had been through, and because it really felt like a God thing. I also felt very strongly that I didn’t want to lead YS into my mid-sixties, after  all, it is YOUTH Specialties and I felt we needed younger leadership before too long. I came back with the intention of helping find or develop someone who would replace me and take YS into its next season. I have watched too many youth ministry organizations grow too old and stale in their leadership and I did not want that to happen to YS.  (Funny, I do not feel this way about older youth workers in a local church. I know some completely awesome “seriously veteran” youth workers. But for some reason leading a Youth Ministry organization is different, at least for me.) Lastly, Marko’s and my firings (Mark Oestreicher and I worked together for years at YS and were both let go and  both of us still carry some hurts from the whole experience) felt so corporate and painful to so many, I wanted to be part of a transition that more reflected kingdom values and would honor God, YS and the youth workers YS loves serving.

I have  known Mark Matlock and his ministry with Planet Wisdom for a number of years, and was really excited when he joined YS a few years ago. We loved working together but didn’t get to for very long, as six months after he came on, I was fired.  He lasted through all the YS craziness which says a lot about him. We were reunited when I came back to lead YS and once again enjoyed working together. Over this past year it became clear to me that he would be a great person to lead YS into its new future. He was feeling the same, so we worked up a succession plan last November that would show Mark taking over the leadership of YS in about three years. We were both excited about this and looked forward to working together until then.

Things started to change:                                                                                                                                                                                               In December, my wife Terrie got in a horrific auto accident that landed her in the hospital where she had two seven hour surgeries and had one of her vertebrae replaced. We were completely thankful that she was not killed or injured worse and that no one else was involved, but life came to a halt for us for about a month. (By the way we were overwhelmed by the love, prayers and care expressed by the Body of Christ). It also created a pretty serious time of introspection about our lives together and my life in ministry. I was thinking a lot about how much I traveled, how my gifts were being used, everything. I was listening to God more intently  than usual. I don’t sit still very well, I don’t listen very well, but God had my attention.

About a month after Terrie’s accident I met with Marko.  We try to get together every couple of months just to stay in touch with each others lives. Terrie and I had now been attending Journey for about 4 months which is also Marko’s home church. While we were meeting, Marko was updating me on things that were happening at Journey. They were on the verge of hiring their first Executive Pastor, but at the last minute it didn’t happen. Ed Noble, the lead pastor, was bummed about it because he was feeling the need to bring someone on. When Marko finished,  I said, “Dude I would love to do that job”.  What I meant was, it would be a cool job for someone else because I was loving our church and knew it would be a cool place to serve. I didn’t mean it in a “I want to do that job now” way, I was happy at YS and not looking to change. That’s when the conversation took an unexpected turn:

Marko: You would love that job?
Me: Oh yeah that would be an awesome job.
Marko: Would you think about taking it?
Me: umm..ahh.. sure, I would think about it.

We kept talking and he finally said, “Would you be willing to talk to Ed about the job?” and I said, “sure.”  The whole conversation was kind of crazy and completely out of the blue. I left thinking what the heck did I just do.

Unbeknownst to me, at the same time Marko and I were talking, Ed was on a silent retreat praying about his need to have someone help lead the church with him. He had thoughts of what he wanted in that person but didn’t know anyone who fit. Seemed like maybe God was up to something behind the scenes, God can be sneaky like that.

Two weeks later I had coffee with Ed and Marko and we talked about the church, what Ed’s vision was for it, and what he was looking for in someone to join him. It was crazy how much the job and I were a match and how Ed and I fit – we shared views of ministry and hope for what the church could be. Our theology matched, our styles and personalities blended, and of course we both like to goof off and have fun. So, that started a series of meetings and prayer times with Ed and eventually the board of the church.

This also started bit of a wrestling match with God about my calling. I have always felt called to youth ministry. God was reminding me that actually I was called to serve God and Youth Ministry was just the place where God had me living out that calling. “Whoops, got it. That’s what I meant ,God”

Some strange things were going on. When I was let go from YS, one of the things I could not get out of my mind was this thought of being an executive pastor and I specifically thought about Journey.  It was odd because everything else I was thinking, dreaming and talking about to others about was youth ministry. I was a Youth Ministry guy, my calling was in youth ministry, I have given my whole adult life to serving youth workers and students. Still, that thought stuck in the back of my head. I was not attending Journey at the time, but knew a lot about the church. Several of the YS staff  have attended there, the church hosted many YS one day events, and Journey hosted Mike Yaconelli’s memorial service after his death.

The other thing that is funny to Terrie and me, and completely ironic and a God kind of thing, is that Marko is involved. Marko is the one who fired me at YS. Actually he was being pressured from Zondervan and had no choice but to fire me, so he did. Not only that, but back in the day Marko was the one who replaced me as President of YS, not one of my favorite experiences. There have been plenty of reasons for us to not have a good relationship. It has not been easy, but we have worked at it and attempted to treat each other as brothers. Many times, neither of us have been at our best but somehow we have kept a friendship even if a lot of people didn’t want us to have one. So now, God uses Marko as the bridge and advocate for this new calling in my life. God is completely funny like that.

Early on, I told Matlock and Youth Works about these conversations because I didn’t want to play any games. I loved being involved with YouthWorks.  They are great and godly people and it is a great home for YS. I wanted to honor them. Besides I was not looking to leave, this whole thing was coming out of left field.  I was sniffing around to see if God was really in this and I wanted them to pray with me.

After much prayer, conversations, and some brutally honest self assessment, I was convinced that this was indeed a God thing. There was a change happening in my heart. My entire time in ministry at YS has been on a national level.  My  ministry was serving youth pastors all over the country and it has been amazing. However I could sense something changing in my spirit. I started to get excited about investing myself locally. I have always loved and been involved in a local church, in fact, I helped plant a church 29 years ago. I truly believe that the church is the hope of the world. I started sensing that my calling was moving from serving the church to serving a church, and more specifically, I was called to serve this church, Journey Community Church. I was getting excited about investing in the lives of the staff and people at Journey. I was getting excited about using a more full array of my gifts in this setting. I was gaining clarity.

Another “sign” that helped convince me that this was the right move was Journeys commitment to take a kingdom perspective and allow me to make a slow transition from YS to the church. I could never make a move like this if it would hurt YS.  The church is totally on board with a slow transition even though it means they get less of me now.

I am also convinced that Mark is ready, willing and more than capable to take over the leadership of YS. He will do an awesome job. He is passionate, a great thinker and a visionary. He will be fantastic in this role.

So, over the next several months I will share leadership at YS with Mark, help establish his leadership, and continue to give direction to this years conventions.  I will also start working in my new role at the church. I will split my time between YS and the church. I know this will be a completely nuts season….but…Bring it on!

I became a Christian in high school. I was unchurched and my older sister, who was a Christ follower, paid my way to go on a ski trip with her church’s youth group. My life was radically changed on that trip. From then on, I wanted to become a youth pastor and work in a church and reach kids like I was reached. I knew first hand the power of  God expressed in a local church youth ministry. It’s funny that I never ended up being a full-time paid youth pastor. Sure, I led and served in some youth groups, but always as a volunteer. My full focus was with YS and I spent my  adult life serving youth pastors. Now at 59 I am going to be a rookie pastor. At a time of life when a lot of pastors are looking to leave a church staff,  I am just jumping in. Really I have to laugh, at 59 I am jumping into something I have never done.  I am making less money, walking into a whole new set of expectations, and am going to try to and learn a couple thousand new names.  Oh, and because we have a Friday night service I am kissing all my free weekends goodbye. In case you are wondering, yes I have always done things a little backasswards.  This is so crazy but it feels like God to me and  I am excited. I can think of no greater calling than serving in a local church. For 34 years I have served pastors and now I get to be one. I never saw this coming, but then again God is funny like that.

It won’t be easy leaving YS.  Man, has it been an awesome wild ride. I have loved it and never thought I would do anything else, but God had other thoughts and that is good enough for me.  I have always loved saying “Hi! I’m Tic from YS.”  I will always be a “YS Guy” It has been a completely humbling, rewarding and wild ride serving youth workers. I have been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. Thank you, to all of you who have been so gracious to me over the years.  I guess in the end, more than being a “YS Guy” I long to be a “God Guy.”  I am pumped about my new journey at Journey.

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The World of YS, Take Three: God is funny like that

    How crazy is this, I am back at Youth Specialties. Starting January 1st I came back full time to lead YS. God must have some kind of sense of humor and once again I am made aware that I can never really predict what God is going to do next in my life. Who saw this coming…… I know I didn’t. I thought my time with YS had ended but obviously God had other ideas. This may take a while but let me unfold this Journey. As some of you know and as I have blogged, at the end of this past July I left YS after 32 years. If you are interested you can read about my thoughts and feelings on this on my previous posts. I spent most of August backpacking and starting the process of shaking free of  YS and trying to see what my post YS life might look like.I had given myself a three month Sabbatical to rest and recharge before starting to look for work again. I needed some time to try and discern what God might be writing in the next chapter of my life. My Sabbatical was scheduled to end October 31.

    I was at a friends condo with my wife in the Colorado Mountains in early October when Marko called and told me that YS was going to be sold. He then asked if I would be interested in coming back to run the conventions again (so much for my plans of 3 months away before I really started thinking about work again). This of course was all very hush, hush. As you might guess this started me spinning a bit. YS being sold and me returning to YS were not any part of my thinking. It was a total left turn. Things got even stranger after that, Marko was let go by Zondervan and all kinds of drama abounded. All my friends at YS who in January 09 were put through an emotional ringer when 12 of us were let go from YS once again found themselves in a very difficult place wondering what was going on. Was the sale really going to happen? When was the sale going to happen? What would it all mean? My heart really hurt for them. So that kind of ended the conversations of my returning to YS other than the occasional rumor that the perspective new owners wanted to talk to me. Meanwhile I was having some pretty exciting conversations with people about what to do next. These conversations were moving along and I was pretty pumped but I could not totally shake “the whole YS thing” . Too many friends were involved in the YS situation so there were always conversations about what was and what might be going on at YS.

    Sometime before the Atlanta NYWC I had lunch with Paul Bertelson the President of YouthWorks who was the one trying to buy YS. We spent a great couple hours together. I felt really good about the possible new home for YS. I got an understanding of why they wanted to buy YS, got a feel for his heart. We talked a bunch about YS including some possibilities of involvement on my part if the sale went through. That was pretty much the last I heard from Paul or anyone at YouthWorks as they were consumed with trying to do this deal. At the Atlanta NYWC the intended sale of YS went public (actually by that time it was one of the worse kept secrets in the youth ministry world). I never heard back again from Paul so I was thinking they wanted to move in another direction. My conversations with the others I was talking with heated up and I was pretty sure I would know before the first of the year what I would do next.  The week of December 14 Paul called and said they were coming out to the YS offices and wanted to meet for breakfast Thursday morning. Paul, John Potts (the YouthWorks COO) and I met for breakfast. The sale of YS finally closed the day before. We talked for a couple hours and our time ended with them inviting me to come back and lead YS. Holy Guacamole, Whodathunk this!

    I had a lot to think about. The other things I was looking at were very exciting and a couple opportunities had firmed up. They were with people I really liked and one with people I loved. They were all involved in youth ministry which is my passion so I was getting excited. What the heck was God up to? December 21 I spent the day in Minneapolis at YouthWorks headquarters. I know Minneapolis in December, right.  December 27 after much prayer, reflection and sorting I said yes to return to YS. There are many reasons why I am returning, here are a couple of them:

    I kind of fell for YouthWorks. I have been touched deeply by their humility, grace, sense of following God in this whole process, their calling to youth ministry and the grounding of their faith in justice, simplicity, generosity and caring for others. When I met with Paul I ask him why the heck would a youth missions organization want to buy YS? What I learned is that YouthWorks was not a youth missions organization but that youth missions is just one expression of who the are even though it is the most well known and largest expression. Let me tell a bit of their and Pauls story. Paul was a youth pastor at a large and well resourced church in Minneapolis. He thought all churches were like that as he had only been involved in a couple. As he got to know other youth workers in his area he realized that was not the case and in fact many folks we tying to do youth ministry with little or no training or resources. So he decided to just share his resources and started opening his youth ministry up to others. They would do concerts, retreats, camps, leader training even mission trips together. Eventually his church said um…ah…. Paul this is all very cool but it is not the mission of our church (I’m just guessing here but I think liability issues may have played a role in this). They encouraged and help him (very cool) to start a non profit organization to help train, encourage and resource youth workers. So YouthWorks was started.

    It just so happened that helping youth groups do mission trips was the part that took off, so away they went. Years later YouthWorks board and leadership team felt they we not fullfilling their calling just focusing on doing mission trips, as important and successful as they were. They were formed to help youth workers and it was time to continue to take more steps in that direction. In 2002 they talked to Mike and Karla Yaconelli about purchasing YS. Paul and others LOVE YS and had been greatly impacted by the ministry of YS over the years. They had attended the YS conventions almost every year. They  had heard through the grapevine that Yac might want to sell it. Mike had be playing with the idea of selling YS a few different times and was VERY close to doing it twice. I remember when the YouthWorks folks came out. They had great conversations with the Yaconelli’s but for whatever reason the timing was just not right. They parted friends and kept in relationship. Their interest in YS never really died. This last fall found them in conversations with Z about bringing YS into the YouthWorks family.

    YS is now part of an expanding family of ministries that will work side by side. Each will focus on their specific calling to help the church be the church.

    I love that they are a non profit and that they measure their success on Kingdom impact. They know how to do the business side really well but that serves the ministry side not the other way around. I really like that turning a buck is not the main thing here. They are all about stewardship of what God has given them. Here is a really cool thing. They give away a million dollars a year to projects and ministries in the communities where they do the mission trips. That really blew me away. So here is the funny thing, as a non profit they are very profitable but they give that profit away in Kingdom work.

    When I came to their offices I cracked up because they are ….um….ah…..kind of dumpy. They are in an old Coke bottling plant. Their thinking is simple. They had the money to build a big fancy office but doing that would mean they would have less money to give away. They remember that the money that comes their way came from youth groups around the country who did fund raisers to pay for their missions trips. They remember that they are serving the poor all over the country. A big fancy building flies in the face of that….Nice.

    They love youth workers. They see them all summer long. They have a heart for the small churches as well as the big churches. They hang out all summer with the adult volunteer who brought 5 kids from a small church with no paid youth pastor. They want to serve that person as well as the full time paid youth pastor from thriving youth ministries….they get it……they get youth workers…I like that.

    OK so that is some of why I fell for YouthWorks as a great home for YS and a great place for me to serve. Oh yeah one more thing. They are keeping the El Cajon office. Minnesota in the winter, Dude.

    I still get to serve youth workers. It became clear to me in my time away that youth ministry is where I wanted to stay. Youth ministry is where God has called me. I tried to think about other things to do and places to serve but nothing excited me as much as youth ministry. I guess I am just a lifer. We are a quirky bunch, we may be a sick and twisted group but it’s home.

    I get to work with the YS Staff and family again. This was really big to me. I love the YS staff, they are awesome. With some of them it is a chance to continue doing together what we love doing together. For others it’s a chance to do something new. Like in the case of Mark Matlock. We were so excited to get to work together and had all kinds of dreams but never really did get a chance, now we can…way fun

    Lastly I am just a YS guy. It’s in my DNA. I blogged it was going to be painful to no longer be able to say “Hi I’m Tic from YS” . I can’t believe I get to say that again. I Love YS. I love that we are all about youth workers and youth ministry. I love the way YS has served them over the years. I love our love our playful irreverence, our commitment to the church. I love that we care for the Youth Workers soul and want to help them walk deeply with Jesus. I love that we feel there is no ministry more important or more rewarding than working with students.In the end I just could not say no to YS

    Now I am back. I never even considered this as an option but that is where God comes in. God seems to like to do goofy stuff, likes to do the unexpected. God is funny like that

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The World of YS, Part Deux: SAD, BAD and BUT

After having several conversations about YS over the past couple weeks I thought I would write a little more to clarify my thoughts for those few of  you who are interested. It’s funny how the words SAD and BAD sound a lot alike and can easily be mistaken for each other. In my last post I talked about how SAD I was about Zondervan breaking up YS and selling it, how it felt like the end of an era. Yes I am SAD, BUT  I don’t think Z selling YS is a BAD thing. In fact, I am kind of excited about it,. First let me speak to why breaking apart the publishing from YS makes me sad.

1. YS started with books. For YS, it may not have been “in the beginning was the Word” but it was in the beginning of YS there were  words. Words in the form of the ideas books. Words that came not only from YS but from youth workers all over the country to create extremely practical books to help adults work more effectively with teenagers.  Books to help make youth groups more fun and attractive to students and to help adults communicate the gospel more effectively. YS started with a vision of creating books that would impact youth ministry. In my 3rd or 4th year at YS I suggested that maybe YS not do books anymore…..I thought Mike and Wayne’s heads would explode. I’m lucky I lived through it.,

2. I loved that YS equipped youth workers and influenced youth ministry through it’s publishing. I loved that it was about way more than just books by Mike Yaconelli and Wayne Rice. We gave Chap Clark, Doug Fields, Duffy Robbins, Les Christie, Kara Powell, Walt Muller, Rich Van Pelt, Ginny Olsen, Marv Penner, Jeanne Stevens, just to name a few, a platform to share what God had laid on their hearts for youth workers. I loved that we had all kinds of books from practical “how to” books to theological, cultural, academic and books for youth workers own souls. YS helped lots of people with its publishing. I know it’s hard to believe, but there was a time when there were almost no books on youth ministry and YS responded to that void.

3. I just like books. I have been shaped professionally, personally and spiritually by books. I must admit however that I am that person who buys more books than I actually get around to reading. I must think that if I have enough good books around me I will somehow get smarter BUT still I love books and always will.

4. Lastly, there was a synergy  that existed between publishing and live events. When writers spoke and speakers wrote something special happened. When you got to meet and hear someone whose books you had read and had been influenced by, it was fun. The interaction between the two usually (but not always) made both better. Having publishing and live events gave YS an amazing opportunity to interact with and influence youth workers. Neither publishing or events could have had as much impact without the other.

That is why its is SAD to me that YS will no longer be publishing books in the same way it was. BUT, and it’s a big BUT, that does not mean it’s all BAD.

Speaking of BAD, let me add my 2 cents worth about Zondervan being the BAD guys in all this. They are not the BAD guys. Doug, Wayne and others have pointed this out and they are right. Z and YS had a good relationship for over 25 years before they bought YS. Z loved YS. Scott Bolinder and Doug Lockhart  (who are no longer at Z but who were the driving forces behind the purchase) had a strong sense of the mission of YS and great admiration for YS and it’s staff. Z had great hopes for YS, BUT it just didn’t work. YS did not perform well while Z was it’s owner. There are a lot of reasons for that, BUT not all of them were on Z’s side of the table by any measure. When you run something, be it a local youth ministry or a big company you have to make decisions. You never really know if those decisions are right till you see them in the rearview mirror and you can be sure not everyone is going to agree with your decisions but you do your best. I would not have made the same decisions that Z made but that’s not the point, they were their decisions to make, they owned the company. All this to say Z isn’t evil or anything like that. In the end, it was just not a good fit. It just didn’t work and we don’t really need to make up a villain for this story. Z could have could have just let YS die but instead they are giving YS a chance to move forward in a new home. For most of us who have been let go by Z, even though we didn’t like being let go and disagree with their reasons, they have treated us fairly in our dismissal.  In the end, I don’t think Z really “got” YS or youth workers. Our cultures were just too different. Lets face it youth workers are a quirky bunch. Lots of the time we don’t even get ourselves. No one outside our world can fathom the idea of being locked in a church overnight with a bunch of middle school kids voluntarily!  Publishing companies see  Youth ministry as a “market”  but actually it is much more of  a fraternity or a brotherhood, a calling, a mission or just a bunch of goofballs who just love students. I don’t think they really ever got their arms around that. Z is not alone in not entirely getting youth ministry and youth workers. If you are a youth worker my guess is many, if not most, of the people in your church don’t really get you or your ministry.  They still ask you if you have any adult friends or when are you going to get a “real job”. That does not make them bad people, just not part of our tribe. Sometimes I think we are like that Groucho Marx quote where he says he would never want to join any club that would allow him in as a member.

Lastly I would like to comment on even though this really is the end of the YS I helped create and am SAD about that, it may be more than not BAD, it  may be the best thing for YS. No one loves YS more than me, BUT it wasn’t working with Zondervan! Hello….. This sale gives YS a chance to reinvent itself and that is why I have some excitement. I know there are no guarantees this will happen, but there is a real chance a very exciting YS could emerge from this. Maybe a YS that is close to the beginning vision of YS which was to unashamedly  love and serve youth workers. Maybe a YS that you would love as much or more than the old YS will emerge. I know maybe that is a stretch but that’s my hope and I hope yours as well. Will they be able to pull it off? I don’t know as I have not had any conversations with the new owners (I should say potential owners as it is not a done deal yet) but I know who they are and as I said before they are good people. Several of my friends have had conversations with them over the last week and came away with a sense that they were humble, genuine, love YS and feel called by God to make this move and that is a great place to start. Could they screw it up? Of course they can screw it up BUT that does not mean they will. Who knows who they might gather together in their ownership of YS or what their dreams are for it. It may be BAD, BUT it may be awesome and that would not be SAD. Believe me, I know they are taking a big risk but I’m praying for them as they seek to take on YS and I hope you do as well. I sure like the youth ministry world better with a healthy YS  in it’s midst.

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The World of YS

As many of you know, the world of YS is crazy these days. Marko was let go, Z is splitting up the company and selling the events. I have decided to hold my thoughts a little longer. I know this is not like me as often I am a Fire, Ready, Aim kind of guy. All I will say at the moment is that I am extremely sad. The YS I gave my adult life to will be no more. I know this is not the end of YS, there will still be good resources published by Z. The new owners (who I can’t name yet but are good people involved in youth ministry) will still create really good conventions. It’s just that the YS I loved, the one I shared with Yac, Wayne and others and which has been fading over the last few years will be no more and to me that is sad. Life goes on, ministry goes on, God is good. I am sad to see it end but it’s my prayer that something new and exciting can result from all this and that is just the kind of thing God does.

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I like being empty headed

So I had the opportunity to spend a bunch of time backpacking this summer with three very close friends. Actually, on one big adventure, I was in the Wind Rivers range and Grand Teton’s in Wyoming as well as the Beartooth range in Montana. All of those places were  incredibly  beautiful. As you would guess there were many days without email, websites, phone calls, CD’s, DVD’s, TV, movies, ipods,radios, billboards,newspapers, magazines…..I think you get the picture. I was without any unwanted or unnecessary  stimulation. All I had was good conversation with close friends, natural beauty everywhere I looked and quiet, lots of quiet. Over my time there and especially when I got back I realized  how little time I have alone with my thoughts and even more than that how much my mind is filled with the thoughts, ideas and images of others. Some of those thoughts, ideas and images are invited in but most are not, they are just the byproduct of my lifestyle and the world I live in. My head has become a very crowded and busy place. What I found on my trip was that in the absence of all that noise and stimulation my heart, mind and soul had space to make themselves known. I even sensed God in a different, almost casual way because there was space and time (and I think because I was in his backyard). Once my head was emptied it refilled at a leisurely pace and in a less frenzied manner. Half thoughts were allowed to wander around inside my head till they became whole. They were on a nice walk, not a sprint. Emotions that had been buried or neglected were allowed to surface. Unfinished personal business got some needed attention. But all these things happened slowly, casually and sometimes unexpectedly. It was like letting my mind out for recess in grade school. It was allowed to play with no real direction or maybe like nap time in kindergarten, a time for rest even when I didn’t know I needed it.

Let me give you an example. On the fifth day in the Beartooths we were hiking and as we often did we were spread out on the trail. It was not uncommon to walk alone for 30-45 minutes at a time before we got back together to rest or eat or to try and figure out where the heck the trail went. We had been hiking like that for about 45 minutes when we stopped for a photo. When my friend John walked up there were tears streaming down his face. When we asked him what was going on he said “I have been grieving for Isaac”. “I have not grieved for Isaac for over twenty years, he would be 25 now”. Twenty Five years ago John and his wife lost their one year old son in an accident in their home. John’s “empty head” provided space for him to have a holy and tender moment, a needed moment for his soul and most likely a moment that would not have happened in his busy everyday life.

A couple other things happened. I found that I liked my thoughts. I don’t need  my mind to be bombarded all the time by others. It was nice to allow my incomplete and haphazard thoughts to work themselves out, to not have to “do anything” with them and just let them live  or die on their own. Some thoughts and ideas went away to never never land while others became part of me. I also found that I was well rested. Even though I was carrying a heavy pack and hiking my butt off I felt refreshed and so did my friends. I was physically trashed but emotionally and mentally refreshed. I wonder if that says something about the price we pay with our minds being so over stimulated?….Ya think!  Seems like it is more exhausting than we care to admit.

So I wonder why I don’t empty my head more. I know some of it is fear, fear of what might surface. Some of it may that I have lost the ability of how to do it or don’t really see the value any more. I’m not sure that being “empty headed”  from time to time is seen as being all that productive. I didn’t come out from the mountains with new marching orders from God or an incredible new vision. My guess is most of the time we don’t come out with answers and amazing new insights but we might come out more spiritually receptive. We might come our with space in our heart for others and we might come out more human.

So I hope I don’t leave what I learned on the trail. I do know I don’t have to go to the mountains to get “empty headed” but I do have to make an effort. I won’t get “empty headed” by chance. I will have to figure out how to do that. I hope I am a little closer to becoming “empty headed” more often. I think I will like myself, others and this crazy world we live in better if I do.

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Being Rich is Awesome

I love watching the classic Christmas movies like Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and Saw III, but  as uplifting and full of merriment as those are, I think my favorite has to be It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart.  I know, I’m a big wuss. I can’t help it. I just love that movie and even though I have seen it a couple dozen times, I still get a little emotional watching it. I love it when Clarence the angel says, “You see George, you really have had a wonderful life”.  George Baily ends up being the richest man in town, not because of money or possessions, that of course would be Mr. Potter. George Baily was the richest man in town because of friendships. 

On July 18, I had a party at my house celebrating my years at YS, kind of a reunion of everybody I had worked with over the years. It was a fantastic evening and I was overwhelmed with the love and affection shown by so many friends. That night, and the weeks leading up to it with calls and emails, I was reminded that I am a rich man. I was reminded that I have been blessed with meaningful relationships, with lots of good friends. I am so thankful for the people God has placed in my life. Yes I am one rich dude!

It’s funny, most of us say relationships matter but live much of our lives like they don’t.  We spend way too much time  “being productive”, “planning”, “strategizing” , “reaching goals”, trying to build our own little kingdoms, scrambling for power, position, wealth, recognition, whatever. We just get caught up. In the end, that stuff just doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. It’s fool’s gold.  I am not saying what we do does not matter, of course it does.  I want to do everything with excellence, I want to give my best to my job or calling, I’m just saying often we give too much and we pay a price for that.  We KNOW what Jesus says about loving our neighbor. We KNOW, amazingly enough, that Jesus calls us his friends. We KNOW relationships matter to God, yet somehow we get sidetracked and focus on other things. 

During the past election we kept hearing the phrase “it’s the economy, stupid” to remind us what some people thought was the only real issue in the election, the only thing worth paying attention to and talking  about.  Maybe we need to start saying “It’s people, stupid”. People are what matter….pay attention.

One of the unexpected benefits of  losing my job at YS, is that I have been so powerfully reminded of  just how rich I am. How blessed I am with friends. But I am also aware that I was forgetting that. As I look at my last few years at YS, I am aware of how I was letting relationships go fallow. I was not giving my relationships at YS (and other places) the attention they deserved . I was too “on task” . I was trying to “get things done”.  I was spending way too much time in front of my computer and not enough time face to face with the people I cared about. Work was drowning out friendships and if I am honest with myself, I was not as happy, not as fulfilled …I was getting too caught up. In the rear-view mirror I see it a little more clearly.

I guess what I am realizing in a new way, is just how easy it is to take relationships for granted, assuming  they will just happen. I’m amazed at how easily I can focus instead on the fool’s gold. If friendships truly make us wealthy, and I believe they do, I want to get rich, filthy rich, obscenely rich. This is the kind of prosperity gospel I can get behind.

PS I will be backpacking and joyfully away from my computer till August 23

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Of Grief and Gratitude

It was around midnight almost six years ago when Karla Yaconelli called to tell us that Mike had been in a horrible car accident.  A few hours later she called again with the numbing news that Mike was dead. We were in shock to say the least. This could not be true!  I had worked with Yac for over 26 years and he was one of my closest friends. Terrie and I lay in bed holding each other, talking, crying (you know, the kind of chest heaving, snot running down your face, hot tears on your cheeks kind of crying)…..our grief  instantaneous and searing.

Then the strangest thing happened, we started to laugh. We would think of some goofy thing Yac had done in the past and we would start giggling right in the midst of our tears. This went on for a couple of hours, periods of deep sobbing interrupted by surprising outbreaks of healing laughter which after a while moved us to gratitude. We were face to face with the reality of how grateful we were for the years we did have with Yac. Gratitude for how much richer our lives were because we knew Mike. Gratitude for how the love of Jesus had a greater grasp on us because of this wild-man. Gratitude for just how much darn fun we had together.

There was grief to be sure; in fact it was easily the most pain I had ever experienced in my life but gratitude just kept showing up and it changed us. It was powerful, it changed our perspective, it saved the day. It was like this unexpected and uninvited guest who would not allow grief to stand alone, not allow grief to be the only emotion in our life, not allow grief to drag us into despair. It did not replace or remove grief but would accompany it. It was a gift of the Spirit. And it stayed with us day after day after day. It seemed so strange to me that those two emotions could be so closely aligned. Even now when I think back on those days I am so aware of the presence of this odd couple, the unexpected companions who walked beside us through those dark days. The grief eventually went away but the gratitude never has and in fact it has grown stronger over time.  As I think about Yac today I am so very thankful for what we shared together.

Now as I am leaving YS I find them both back in my life again and I’m so glad they are. Yes I’m grieving leaving YS in a big way, it’s been my life’s work but just like in Yacs death, gratitude has shown up again unexpectedly (I know I’m a slow learner) and powerfully.  I am so grateful for what an amazing run it has been at YS. I am overwhelmed that God has allowed me to serve, train and encourage youth workers for 32 years, way more than I could have ever hope for and certainly more than I deserve. I have been so blessed!

So here is the deal. The grief means it has been great. The grief means it mattered. We don’t grieve things we don’t care about. Would I really want it any other way? I’m glad I am grieving. I’m grieving because it has been so freaking awesome!  It would so suck to leave YS after all this time and not have it hurt, to not care. But once again the gratitude has allowed me to not be overwhelmed by the pain and disappointment. In fact, in a mysterious way it allows me to embrace my pain and work through it instead of trying to deny it. In a way, it gives grief its proper place now so it will leave later. So once again I have these two uninvited guests taking up residence in my life, guests for which I am thankful.  In time, only one will remain and for that I’m grateful.

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We get to Choose

It seems like a lot of life comes to us or even at us, often leaving us with the feeling that we have no choice in the matter. Sometimes it’s little things like our kid gets on a lousy little league team, the restaurant runs out of the special of the day that sounded so good to us, some car wreck in front of us brings traffic to a crawl or a storm comes in and rains out our plans for a big day outdoors. We didn’t do anything to cause these things, they just happened to us. Other times however it’s big things, difficult things, painful things, things that can alter the course of our life. A loved one gets cancer, our pastor gets caught in an affair and our church is a mess, our child has a learning disability that makes school way too difficult and painful, or in my case your job comes to an end. It wasn’t my choice to leave YS, the choice was made for me. I wasn’t the only one involved in the “downsizing” but I had no say in the decision and in a sense it was done “to me”. Of course nothing is really that clear cut in real life. Very seldom are things completely one way or another. Seldom are any of us completely innocent or without any responsibility in a situation but we can still be left with a feeling or a sense that something was done to us and we had no choice. But of course that is not true. We always have a choice. WE ALWAYS GET TO CHOOSE! This was not how I envisioned leaving YS, this was not the time I would have chosen to leave YS but I do have a choice in HOW I leave YS. I get to choose my response. We all get to choose how we respond to something that comes our way. We get to choose our response and in the end that may be the most important choice of all.

In the difficult “big things” that come our way there are many questions that flood our minds and emotions. You know the “why”, “how”, “what”, “who” and “where” type of questions. Some questions come at you like waves on the beach one after the other while others you hunt down, sometimes in hot pursuit of them. For me I have found chasing the “why” question to be the least productive and in fact actually a waste of time. Do we ever get an answer to that question that is truly satisfying? I don’t think so and at least for me it often ends up an exercise in self -justification, self-pity or blame placing. Not a very healthy place to take up residence and not a place where I find God hanging out much. For me there are other questions that are much more powerful, much more life giving and more God finding. The “what”, “how”, “who” and “where” questions area much better place to live in. Chasing down answers to these questions are allowing me to leave the way I want to leave.  I want to leave with integrity, grace and gratitude so these are the questions I am choosing to ask myself these days to help me stay that course:

What is God trying to teach me in this? 

What do I need to lean about my myself?

What is going to be revealed in me?

What if all that God has taught me to this point has been preparing me for what  is next?  

How can I respond to this situation with integrity, grace and faithfulness? 

How can I find God in this? Can I embrace that God is in the midst of this? Can I remember that it was God who brought me to YS so can’t it be that God is leading me away from YS?   

How can I be anything but grateful for the wild and exiting ride it has been at YS? 

How can I be anything but thankful that God has allowed me to minister to youth workers for 32 years? 

Who am I going to become in this process?  

Who is God bringing into my life right now and for what purpose?  

Who can speak truth into my life that I need to listen to?          

Where am I placing my trust?   

Where am I finding my identity?   

Where am I going to serve next and can I embrace this as an adventure with God?

These are the questions that bring me life, hope and faith these days. My guess is that in a difficult situation you might be facing it is questions like these that will bring light to dark places. Remember we get to choose our response. It is never helpful to play the victim, to think we have no choice in a situation. That posture gets us nowhere and in my case is an act of faithlessness. It is saying that what I am going through is outside Gods control. It’s denying, as crazy as it may seem, that God may just be in this after all. This does not mean denying the real pain of a situation or acting like it is all no big deal or playing some “happy Christian” game.  It’s just the opposite, choosing these responses and ones like them allow us to embrace our pain and grow through it.  My leaving YS is incredibly painful for me and I have been on an emotional roller coaster and imagine I will for a while. I don’t try to deny that.  But, and it’s a big But, it’s not the end of the story. I get to choose how to respond to what God has put in front of me and to embrace the adventure. To me it’s all about the journey and we get to choose how to embrace that journey and that is a pretty awesome thing.

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