Small is Beautiful

So we do this BIG student event called DCLA, the name comes from the cites in which the event in held. It is a BIG event!  It has some BIG names, is held in BIG convention centers, has BIG sound and BIG lights, with BIG video and BIG graphics.  It’s BIG time, get it. We just finished LA and next week do DC. One of the things I do at the event is to run what we call “Youth Worker Oasis”. It is a time for adult leaders to get away for their students and chill for an hour or so.  I get the privilege of chatting with lots of leaders and in doing so I began to realize that sometimes these BIG events can make these youth leaders feel small. They may only have 5, 10 or 20 kids in their youth group and compared to what is going on at DCLA it doesn’t feel like much. At DCLA there are BIG time speakers and BIG time artist who are so much “better” than they are and they start to feel small or worse yet insignificant. Nothing could be further from the truth!

BIG events don’t really change students. God uses loving “small time” adults who leave these places with their students and do beatiful small things back at home that really make the BIG difference in the lives of students.

It is a small thing to sit for hours with a student and help them sort out their feelings and thoughts about God, family, friends….life. It’s a small thing to stay up all night at a lock-in to build the relationship and trust with a middle schooler that leads to meaningful conversations when they are ready to talk. It’s a small thing to listen to a students dream. It’s a small thing to speak truth into a students life about God’s dream for him or her. It’s a small thing to pray day after day for one students relationship with Jesus, to pray for their hurts, to pray for healing, to pray for their family that is falling apart or to pray for the destructive relationship they find themselves in. It’s a small thing to have a small group of students meet  in your home week after week. It’s a small (and sometimes painful) thing to go to a middle school band concert, a freshman basketball game or a school play. It’s a small thing to listen. It’s a small thing to give a kid a hug, a smile, a welcome, or is it?

Compared to the BIG time speakers and BIG time artist these things seem so small. You know where I’m going with this, these are not small at all but in fact are HUGE, they are the things that matter the most. These things are the beautiful things God uses to change lives. All the BIG stuff we do at events is to set up youth workers to have more opportunities to do the “small” things. The real stars of events like DCLA are the people who came with the students and will leave with them. The ones who will be there when no one is looking, when the lights are no longer shinning brightly and all the music has faded. Our real job at BIG events is to set up these youth workers for doing what they can do best, speak knowingly into the life of a student that they have established a relationship with, to guide, Shepherd and disciple those students.

I love BIG events and God uses them in mighty ways but almost always over time those ways involve the small beautiful things done by caring adults. To all you folks who come to DCLA take heart in the Kingdom of God you are ROCK STARS because in Gods kingdom SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL

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Everybody needs a second home

So I Got an email today that was like many of the calls and letters I have received over the years from youth workers telling me how much the National Youth Workers Convention means to them and how much they love it.  I love getting those emails, call and letters.  This email expressed a common theme and that was that this person didn’t feel they could continue in youth ministry without the convention. I have heard this time and time again. This sentiment along with others like those saying they were ready to quit when they arrived at the convention and how their vision and calling were restored there come in all the time. Why does this happen? How does this happen? How can such a short period of time have such a profound impact? I’ve come to believe that for many people that place has become home. A healthy home is a place where we feel understood. Where we feel safe, where we are affirmed and valued. A home is a place where people get us, get who we are and what we are about. It’s from our “home” that we venture out into the world.

We all have a home as in the house where we live and that place may or may not be a home in the way I just described. For the people where that place is less than they desire, those people need to find a “second home”. Their primary home may be god but it is just not enough to sustain them in this crazy demanding world. For most Christians their local church or ministry becomes their “second home”. It may be the church as a whole or it may be a subset of the church. Maybe it’s a home group, accountability group, a ministry or mission team but it has become “home” to them. But for folks who lead churches and ministry it often doesn’t work that way. At church or in their ministry they often feel judged, misunderstood and disconnected. So where do they find their “second home”? I think that is where the National Youth Workers Convention and other events, gatherings and experiences come into play. Here is what I have heard people say about our convention: “we circle the date on our calendar and count the days still we will be renewed and refreshed”, “only 4 more months till someone will tell us we are doing a good job”, “only 3 months till we are told that what we do really matters and that we are making a difference”, “only 2 months till someone will tell us that all our sacrifices are worth It”,” Only a month till our calling gets affirmed”, “Only two weeks till I will be with people who get me. “Only one more week then I will be with my type of people”, “At last I’m with people who know that this is a real job”. When I hear these statements I hear people who are longing for a “second home”.

If you are in ministry or even if you are not most of us need to find a “second home” to survive. We must all find place where we are loved and valued for who you are not for how well we perform at our jobs. We all need a place where we can relax emotionally, spiritually and relationally, a place where we don’t have to be “on”. It’s out of a healthy home that we flourish and for some of us that means finding the right “Second home”. House hunting is not easy but after all as Dorothy taught us, there is no place like home, even a “Second home”.

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Living into the mission of God

So at YS we are in our season for doing our two DCLA student events. This time we themed DCLA “Living into the mission of God”.  I love that whole idea. The idea that God is actively about redeeming and restoring his creation and if fact has always has been and always will be till in his time he reestablishes his kingdom on earth like he foretells in scripture . Too often we think, especially as Americans, that we have to do something for God. We need to come up with a great campaign or a new and exciting evangelism tool. We have to start a new movement. We act like God isn’t doing anything. That God  is on the sideline hoping we will come up with something to save the day. We are so busy creating, developing, selling and marketing the kingdom of God that in all our activity, our programs, our strategizing  we miss what God is actually doing and in fact all too often miss God completely. We have our heads down going full speed and we don’t stop long enough to see what God is doing and join in. We don’t even know where to look. We assume it’s always in some church sponsored program and miss what God might be doing outside those walls.  Part of this is our addiction to doing of which I am a total addict. We have lost the ability to stop, to listen, to discern. We love activity, we love new and we love programs and campaigns.

In our learning labs at DCLA this year we flesh out a bit of what it means to join in the mission of God with “Be.Love.Serve.Repeat.” It’s not a program; our approach is helping students take on the attitude of Jesus in loving and the lifestyle of Jesus in serving. It’s not serving as an activity, like a service project but becoming servants. However it all starts with being. It starts with understanding our identity in God, our beingness if you will. Understanding that the truest thing about us is what God says about us. That is where my personal struggle lies.  I am trying to find my identity, to find out what is true about me and who I am by doing. Way too often I’m doing instead of  being and I miss God. I don’t hear the still small voice, I don’t create a thin space where I can connect with God and I wonder why I’m not content. To me that is my and I think one of our biggest challenges in being the church. Unless we learn how to be we will continually miss what God is up to.  I want to live into what God is about and for me that means slowing down, creating time and space for God just to be God in my life. God does not need me to do something for him, he needs me to be his and when I am I will be able to be me and that me won’t miss what he is about in this world

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