I love humanity!
So here's a video of a family that took their autistic son to see his favorite band, Coldplay. The love is palpable, the emotion real, and the journey this family is on, amazing.
I love humanity!
I left my church about a year ago to start a new ministry. As some of you know, transitions can be difficult and my leaving wasn't an easy one. They did their best and I did mine, but there was awkwardness galore which, naturally, led to some hurt. We, and I mean the church, aren't very good with things like this. Regardless of the transition there was hope as a new and exciting dream was being born with Generation514. Launching this new ministry did not mean there wasn't a residue of pain. This pain, and then the burden of our new ministry, led my family and I into something that I wish we had done more consistently in the past. We started praying. It wasn't that we didn't pray before - we did - but we started a new rhythm of prayer. We come together for about an hour every night on a prayer walk and just try to become aware of the God who is with us.
I needed some healing and we needed guidance and direction. Frankly, we were desperate. The prayer was simply "HELP!!!" at times. Though I would hope that prayer times would be less self-centered than this, I cannot help but think that God heard us.
I recently saw someone tweet, "we don't pray to change God's mind, we pray to have our minds changed." Now I've heard a variety of something like this before and I've said something like it in the past, but after a year of nightly prayer walks I'm not sure I fully agree with it anymore. Or maybe it's just too formulaic for me. I think prayer is much more communal and mysterious and messy than that, and I don't think it's so one sided. Jesus even said that we have not because we ask not. That statement alone can screw with your theology. But I just wonder if prayer might be a complex, relational mash-up that unifies are hearts, minds, and souls with the creator and with those we pray for and with. I wonder if prayer really doesn't just make a difference in our lives or in the lives of the people around us, but somehow, mysteriously, God is moved and impacted by His connection with us? I know this is a slippery slope and I'm probably going to Hell, but there's just so much we do not know. What I do know is that, practically speaking, prayer has not only sustained us, but it has brought us into the middle of all kinds of crazy God-stuff.
On one of these such prayer walks my wife, daughter, and I felt like God was calling us to Washington DC and, specifically, we felt God wanted us to be there by September 1st, 2015. Now that's pretty specific, so we decided to pray into that a bit. We knew we'd need more funding and we'd need free housing... Ugh! This was no easy ask, but we just kept praying about it. Well, a couple of months went by, it was late August and there wasn't a single lead in DC... nothing, not one! Zipo! Well of course, I started to freak out a bit and began to doubt everything.
We started out on a prayer walk one night there in late August and a name came to my mind that I hadn't thought of in years. He was a man who was friends with my father and lived in the DC area. This man's name wouldn't leave my mind, so I called my father and mentioned him. My dad said, "That's funny, his name has been on my mind all day as well." So my dad called him, told him about our situation with our new ministry and this man said that he had a rental property that, for some reason, he couldn't find a renter for, and that we could stay in this place for as long as we needed to. Say What!?
We moved to DC September 1st - which to us was a huge sign of God's leading. There have been story after story of God being there in our midst - crazy, wonderful, God stuff!
But ultimately, this nightly ritual has become our peace. This year has been fairly stress-free - which is a miracle in and of itself. Starting a new anything is never easy and leaving our church was difficult, but getting with God each evening and throughout my day has brought to us some of that fruit that we are all longing for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control.
I've always prayed, a bit, but diving into the deep-end of a more communal life with God's spirit has opened up my life - it has opened my family's life. I've seen it change my daughter's life! Don't pray alone. Well, do that, but also make it part of how you interact with friends, family, your children and co-workers. As I'm finding from what I've been reading, all movements have begun with prayer and I'm longing for a movement.
Are there unanswered prayers? Yep. Is everything just smashing? Nope. But life is so good - it's adventurously expectant! The more I hang out with God the more I trust. The more I'm with him the more I feel free to risk - to just jump first and to fear later knowing that, either way, he's got me.
May you be overwhelmed and drawn into God's presence throughout your day and may your life be a ceaseless communion with HIM and with those around you.
Last night at youth group we continued making our way through the Alpha Youth Film Series. What I'm finding is that this series is bringing out our students' real questions - which is so good! Many of them want to believe, but like many of us, they're having a hard time making that leap.
A year ago when I wrote a book for teenagers, it was extremely intimating for me. Speaking to teens = easy, but writing a book that they would actually read, enjoy, and be challenged by? that seemed like no easy task. And I wanted to write a book that embraced them in the midst of their questions, whatever those questions and doubts might be. When I wrote, The Amazing Next my goal was to ease them into seeing how the faith is adventurously expectant, spiritual, and highly intellectual. It's wholistic and it's wide and there's room for them and their hang-ups, their questions, and their way of thinking. But it also had to be a book that they'd enjoy and keep coming back to as a reference and as a guide. In today's post, I want to show you one of my favorite chapters with it's goal being, to draw the reader in. Maybe the reader has a strong faith or maybe they are really struggling with doubt. It's a chapter for both of those people. I wanted them to begin to open their minds up to the question, "why Jesus?"
Here's this short sample chapter entitled:
Crazy Things Christians Believe
We met at the Taco Bell across the street that morning from the best break at Huntington Beach. It was just shy of 6am and we still had sleep in our eyes, but we were stoked to be getting there so early, beating the crowds of surfers. We crossed the street and stood on the edge of the beach looking at where we’d enter the water for our weekly surf session. I was standing there with my good friends Nelson, Reed, Anthony and a new friend of ours, John, who was becoming more well known in the surfing community as one of the up and coming young great surfers.
I first met him when a bunch of us grabbed breakfast burritos at the pier a few months earlier. Since then he and I had started to cultivate a bit of a friendship. Something you should know about John is that he’s not just an amazing surfer, he’s also brilliant and studying philosophy at Long Beach State. He thinks it’s odd that someone like me is a follower of Jesus.
So we got our gear, put on our wetsuits, and headed to the water; Me a little slower than the rest of them, which is typical for a novice.
I watched as they paddled up and over the waves, just missing the breaking water and the explosion of its aftermath between us. I stood there with chills all over my body. I felt a hint of fear and excitement.
“O.K. Brock, get out there”, I whispered to myself.
I made my way out and joined them in the quiet, waiting for the first set. We sat there on our boards as the sun was rising to the East, causing the Pacific to transition from dark and ominous to a beautiful emerald green. The waiting is actually my favorite part of surfing, just sitting there in all of the beauty. I took a deep breathe with my eyes closed, waiting for the first set to come rolling in.
John paddled over to me and we sat close together on our boards with our backs to the beach.
“Brock, I still have no idea how you’re a Christian,” he said with a smirk.
This conversation was ongoing over the past few weeks.
“Dude, I’ve got my reasons,” I laughed and splashed him with water. Then we heard Reed yell, “Sweet! Here they come!”
They were slow rollers with a nice gentle throw to them, which was good for me. We all jumped on the first break. I stood and road for a few seconds before losing my balance and slipping into the ocean under the swell.
We all paddled out again and then the waiting game began a second time. John and his questions or, more accurately, remarks was right beside me.
“I mean, how can you even be one of those Christians? Just to be associated with organized religion...”
“Why do you say that?” I responded.
“Well,” he said, “don’t you realize all the hateful things that they have been a part of? All of the crazy sh*t that they have believed which has led to them promoting slavery and violence and wars. I mean, just look at the Crusades!”
I sat there with my heart pumping, wondering what to say. Then inspiration came.
“I know.” I said, “I mean, there have been so many embarrassing things that Christians have done. Do you remember when that televangelist in the 80’s that preached health and wealth and how God wanted just to make us happy? Then he got caught with that prostitute? Dude, the worst was when Jim Carey impersonated him on that TV show In Living Color. I wasn’t sure if I should cringe or laugh.”
“Ha! I totally remember that and I loved that show! We never really heard from that guy again.” He smirked.
“Yeah, I guess he lost his career and then his wealth and then I’m guessing his happiness.” I said with a smile.
I went on, “I remember when I was in 4th grade and some Christian at the time had predicted the end of the world, a dooms day sort of thing. I was going to a Christian private school at the time and our teacher brought it up. It actually kind made me scared and so I spent most of the day trying not to think about it all day. “
“What kind of teacher would tell kids that?” John shook his head.
I continued, “I mean, this guy was a famous Christian and so he must be right, right?”
I laughed. “Of course that day came and went and I realized that there are some people who truly believe some pretty crazy things. I even heard that this guy is still out there predicting the end of the world.”
He laughed, “But here we still are.”
“I know, it just seems like too much, ya know?”
“Dude, here’s the next set,” he said.
I looked and saw huge ten footers coming right for us. I yelled, “Not me!” and I paddled further out into the deep before these massive waves crashed on my head. John laughed and paddled out with me, skipping the set, and our conversation continued.
He looked at me and said, “See you do get it. That’s what’s crazy. I don’t understand how you can be a Christian when you agree with me.”
I looked at him a bit puzzled and said, “I do agree with you, and yes, Christians have believed and done some pretty insane things over the years. But I think that is also true of humans in general. We’ve always believed, done, and participated in crazy things!”
“Yeah maybe you’re right,” he said.
I went on, “Did you know that there was a woman named Emma who had her named changed to Frank Thompson?”
“What?” he looked at me quizzically. I could tell he did not know where this was going.
“Yeah, she was a woman who lived during the time when slavery was booming in the 1800’s. She loved Jesus and because of her relationship with him, she felt compelled to join the abolition movement. “
“Really? What does that have to do with Frank Thompson?” He asked.
“Yeah, she actually moved to the Northern states from Canada and ended up going undercover, dressing as a man to get secret information for the abolitionists. Many credited her for getting information that was key for the North and they won many battles because of it. She did it because of her faith.”
“Or if you think of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, Alcoholic Anonymous, even most Ivy League schools, or companies like Toms – these were all started by Christians who were overwhelmed by God’s call to do something significant in the world. But I totally get what you’re saying. I am ashamed at many things Christians have done in the name of God and it breaks my heart. But the opposite is just so true as well. Go to Africa today or Haiti and meet people who are caring for the broken, the poor, the hungry and the sick. More than likely they are quiet, humble followers of Jesus working in the ghettos and villages and trash heaps where the marginalized live.”
I went on, “And John, I do have intellectual and logical reasons for being a Christian, but ultimately I think I have just kind of opened my mind up to God and he has truly shown up. I mean, look at what we’re doing today, and how our group is becoming family, and we’re living life together and surrounded by all of this beauty. The sky, the ocean, and us, it’s kind of miraculous. Some people in the world, maybe you included, look at us and all of creation and think it is all a big accident. I just don’t see it that way, you know?”
He looked at me in deep thought and said, “Yeah, I guess I get it. But why Jesus?”
I looked at the water. It had grown flat over the past few minutes. Each ripple shimmered in the early morning sunlight. It’s the question I had been hoping he would ask for a few weeks now. Now the moment was here and of course my mind went blank. Slowly the blankness gave way to calm and a few thoughts took shape. I gathered them together and continued the conversation.
“I knew that there had to be a cause for all of this. Cause and effect. Someone had to do all of this. But one day I heard a guy speak about Jesus in a way that I had never heard anyone speak before. And this guy was really cool. The way he described Jesus was in a way that seemed like Jesus was knowable, like he was his friend. And I thought, if this is true, then I want it! I want what he has. So I just opened my life to Jesus. The crazy thing is, he showed up.”
John’s brow furrowed. A breeze picked up and some spray dusted our faces causing us to laugh. Then he got serious again. “How? In what way?” he asked.
“Well, initially in subtle small ways. At first, and this might sound weird, but I was overwhelmed by a presence. I can’t really explain it, but I felt supernaturally loved, accepted, and cared for. I know, I know, it sounds crazy!” I said.
“Actually no” he smiled. “I went to a camp when I was in middle school and I felt something like that, but I just kind of chalked it up to eating too much sugar and not getting enough sleep that week,” he laughed.
Nelson came paddling way out to us, “Guys you’re missing all of this surf!”
He turned his board and straddled it, facing us. “What’s going on over here?”
“Just talking about how crazy I think it is that Brock’s a Christian.” We all laughed.
“I was just getting ready to tell John how I did a scientific experiment to see if Jesus was real,” I said.
“Oh good,” John said, “Do tell.”
“Well, like I was saying, That guy told me about Jesus and I just decided to take all of my doubts, questions, and skepticism and put them to the side for a minute. Now I came back to those doubts, because they are an important part of having an intellectual faith, but initially I just sat them to the side and said a little prayer, ‘Jesus if you’re real, then you’ve got to show up and work in my life; You’ve got to give me peace, I need that right now. ‘ I kept praying that prayer and embraced the mystery.”
Nelson spoke up and said, “Oh yeah, I heard Bono from the band U2…”
I interrupted, “Oh no, there he goes quoting Bono again!” We all laughed.
“I know, I love U2, but Bono said something about how he felt it was very plausible that Jesus actually was who he said he was. And then he opened his life to God, and Jesus has been a presence in his life ever since.”
“John,” I said, “Look, there are so many valid reasons not to believe in God and I get that. I’ve had to wrestle with those things in major ways ever since I opened myself up to God. But ultimately, we’re all on a journey and we’re all smart people, and we all arrive at different places on this topic. I just hope you take your shot, ya know? Just take a shot and see if God’s real.”
At that we laid down and started paddling, “Come on, lets catch some waves!” The three of us paddled back into the break. John caught the first wave, leaving us behind. We just sat there watching him, as the strength of the water pushed his board and shot him out the other side. Amazed at his seemingly effortless ability Nelson yelled, “Dude, that was sick!” Under my breath I prayed, “God soften his heart, reveal yourself to him. Help him to take his shot. ”
And then I caught my second wave of the morning.
For more information on the book click here.
Graduation is coming and for many parents and youth workers around the world, this is a bitter-sweet time. We are excited about our student's futures, but we will miss them immensely. And we have immense hope that what was invested will not be in vain. We long to see them flourish in all aspects of life - in their studies, in their adventures, in their choices, in their relationships- and we have dreams that they go on and have a faith that is continual, unceasing, viable, unending, and one that makes a difference in their world.
About a year ago we handed our graduating seniors a book - a book that I wrote for them that might act as a field guide for their futures. My hope was to not only write a book that they would actually read (which is no small task), but also one that they could refer to in the coming years. One that, when life got confusing or difficult, they could grab and be reminded of the truth that has had significant impact in their journeys.
Over the past year I have loved hearing from students across the nation. Marko, asked me to write this thing for The Youth Cartel about a year and a half ago and, initially, I was a bit hesitant. I had ideas about other writing projects, other burning ambitions, but the more I thought about our students graduating and students around the country, the more it all made sense. I really saw it as an opportunity to continue speaking into their lives.
But I was a bit nervous. I hate graduation books. I was given graduation books when I finished high school and I never read a single one. They sat in a pile in my room at home for years and eventually were donated or thrown out. So when Marko asked me to do it, I began to scheme and plan a little and asked myself, "What if I could write a fun, story driven, random, inspiring, yet intellectually challenging book that could be one of many things in their lives that continues to point them to the truth of Jesus?" Whew, that's a long question.
Six months later I finished The Amazing Next and a few months after that we were handing it to our students. The cool thing is, surprisingly, youth workers all over the country are giving it to their graduates. It has also led to a conference called, The Amazing Next Conference. Our prayer continues to be that students catch that the faith is a movement to belong to and that they play an incredibly important role!
Here are some write ups about the book:
The new go-to gift for the graduate is not a book of promises or a list of life hacks (not that there’s anything wrong with that). It’s a collection of stories, interviews, and journaling prompts woven together by veteran youth worker Brock Morgan to wake high school seniors up to the world of imagination and wonder—a life of faith lived to the full—that awaits them once the cap and gown have been put away.
So you’re a graduate. And a lot of people who love you are probably itching to tell you how to get this NEXT stage of your life right, maybe some of them are even hoping this book will do it for them. But there’s something you should know right now. This book is not a list of rules for spiritual growth; instructions on how to claim your best life now; or a formula for success.
Instead, this is a safe place to process your fears; read stories about freedom, imagination, and wonder; and consider a calling to live your life with the fullness God intended. Open it up, put your finger on a chapter (any chapter), and awaken the grace and hope you’ll need in the days ahead.
So go ahead, order the book for that Grad today!
As we are launching a new ministry called Generation514, I'm needing to pick up some extra speaking and I'd love to partner with you.
Below is a menu of options that you can pick from. I hope to hear from you soon!
Book Brock for a special event, seminar, retreat, or camp.
Menu of Options:
1. Creating a Legacy of Faith
2. The Struggling Identity: Finding the Narrative that Sets a Godly Pathway
This seminary is all about finding the story of your family and how your child may continue the legacy of the narrative and how it strategically weaves them in.
3. Understanding Your Kids without Losing Your Mind: A deeper look at Today’s Students and How to Respond as Parents?
4. Sidetracked: Bored with Church and God and Full of Doubts
5. A Stressed-Out Generation: Helping Your Children Wade through the World of Anxiety, High Pressure, and Overwhelming Fears
5. Parents Guide to Teenage Guys and Girls
6. Helping Parents Navigate Social Media
7. Teen Sexuality
Camp, Retreats, or Youth Conferences
I speak extensively around the country and on a wide range of themes - I'm flexible in my topics and I enjoy working with a team. I absolutely love speaking to middle school, high school, and college students. I'm open to week long camps or weekend retreats.
School Assemblies, Chapels, and Fall/Winter Kick-Off Events
I've done public school assemblies, chapels services at private schools, and special events for youth groups.
Youth Worker Training
As you might have guessed, I love and feel called to youth workers. I've worked for Youth Specialties and was the seminar developer there as well as overseeing youth worker training. Here's a list of topics that I regularly am requested to do.
1. Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World
2. The Present-Future of Youth Ministry
3. Teen Sexuality
4. The New Metrics: A new way of measuring success
5. The Way of the Sage
6. Building Sustainable Faith
7. Developing a Student Leadership Culture
8. Parent Ministry: getting into the home to see true transformation
I would love to hear from you! If you are interested,
please email me about pricing and availability at: firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about booking Brock in other ways: click here
Kami Gilmore, who is absolutely amazing, recently wrote a fantastic piece for youth ministry.com. When I read it, I actually got a little chocked up - which if you know me, I rarely get chocked up (just joking =) But please take a look at this open letter, it will warm your heart. Especially for those of us who haven't heard "thank you" enough from parents in our ministry.
Youth Specialties, easily one of the most influential youth ministry organizations in the world, contacted me a couple of weeks ago. They saw that I responded to one of their most recent articles written by Rob Bergman and it was getting some pretty good traffic and all kinds of reactions from every side. They asked if they could repost both articles alongside of each other and try to get more dialogue going on the subject of longevity. Since then, Rob and I have spoken a few times by phone and really had some amazing conversations. But this subject, while on the surface doesn't seem very sexy, is super controversial and opens all kinds of side topics and issues of the heart. The link below is just the beginning of the dialogue. There's more to come from Rob and I, and we hope you enjoy!
It's that time of year again. The spring break mission trips are over, we are approaching the end of the school year, and if you want a new youth pastor to begin by next school year, you better fire your current youth pastor ASAP. You think I'm joking? Over the past three weeks, four of my youth pastor friends have been pushed out or directly fired from their churches. It's called spring cleaning my friends. You want to make some money every spring and summer, then get into the youth pastor job placement career. Because right now there are a lot of youth worker positions opening up. I've even been asked to come on and help out at one of those agencies because they are just so overwhelmed.
Now, this post is not about why churches let youth pastors go or what the struggle is in churches - there's a chapter about that in my book, Youth Ministry in a Post-Christian World. But what I do want to talk about, or rather, who I really want speak to today are three groups: the fired youth worker, the newly hired youth worker who is replacing them, and those of us who are seeing this from the sidelines.
Now for those of us who have never been in this position or maybe you've never even seen it, let me explain. First, there are always two sides to every story. I remember when I was let go from a church a number of years ago and I have to tell you, it was extremely painful. Right after being asked to seek employment elsewhere, I flew out to San Diego for a round table meeting of leading youth worker voices. I felt fortunate to just be there in that room. But they asked me to share what had happened, so I did. As I told the story, I cried... I really wept. As I told my story, these amazing leaders in youth ministry were crying right along with me. That's called empathy, not sympathy. But after I shared, the leader of this organization spoke up and said, "Brock, we know that there are two sides to every story, but we want you to know that we don't give a _ _ _ _ about the other side. We're with you!"
Those might have been the most beautiful words I had ever heard up to that point.
But remember, there are always two sides to every story. If you are a newly hired person or if you are a church member whose youth pastor recently got let go, there are always two sides, but you're only going to hear one of them. Why? Because that youth pastor is probably just going to quietly leave, not really saying much because their church will make them sign a contract stipulating that they cannot speak a word. If that youth worker does talk (and they really shouldn't spout negativity to people in the congregation), then their severance pay will be cut off and they will be threatened by a lawyer. How do I know? Because when I told that round table my story, somehow my church found out. And they stopped my severance pay which put my family in jeopardy. Then they had their lawyer send me a VERY scary letter. That lawyer even showed up at an event I was speaking at to push home their message.
I walked away from that church extremely hurt (of course), but I also walked away very bitter, full of anger and unforgiveness. And that bitterness and unforgiveness nearly killed me. So I want this post to help all of us. As you process this please remember, we are never as awful or as awesome as people say, nor is anyone else. Most of the time, if you're replacing someone, please take what you hear with a grain of salt - both good and bad.
Let me just dedicate the rest of this post to help those youth workers who've been let go in a unjust or difficult way.
Here we go.
1. Keep a warm heart towards those who hurt you
For some of us this is a tall order, but it will rescue you. I walked away from a church full of anger and it began to affect everything. It impacted my next job, it impacted my relationship with my wife and daughter, and I became an angry dude. My wife eventually forced me to go get counseling, but the damage had been done. It took another 3 years before I could let go and forgive. And when I forgave, miraculously my heart became warm towards those who hurt me. See, this is a spiritual thing. Jesus wasn't joking when he told us to love each other - and when he said that the world will know this is true by how you love each other, he meant it. I had stopped loving. But when I finally softened my heart, the Holy Spirit empowered me and helped me to forgive. I just wish I would have done that from the get go. It would have saved me a whole lot of misery.
2. Don't read into the silence
A lot of times, and I would even say most of the time, when you leave a church, people tend to go silent on you. I've even seen friends and family members get asked to step down at churches and then they weren't allowed to say goodbye to the students or even get invited back to a staff gathering to say goodbye. It's very strange, but it's all about control. And the immediate severing of relationship creates a real awkwardness, and because of that, many don't reach out. But even when someone does leave a church and gets to properly say their goodbyes, many times the phone still doesn't ring. And when people go silent, the enemy will possibly use that to torture your thoughts. You'll be fine one minute and then all of a sudden your mind will start racing - thinking the worst, thinking people are saying or thinking bad things... This is called paranoia and it can come naturally in situations like this. If you haven't gone through it, you may think I'm nuts - but the enemy sees a vulnerable person and pounces. If you've been asked to step down you are probably already suffering from stress and anxiety, so find a counselor and spill your guts. Besides, people will believe what they want to believe, truth or not. And, in my case, I found that it really was mostly just in my mind. People love you, but they're busy and they don't know to reach out or they think they should give you space. Try not to read into the silence.
3. Pray. Without ceasing
This one will actually help you accomplish point #1 as well. Pray for those who have hurt you, pray for those who are staying silent, pray for the students, pray for your family... pray. Know that this is a prime time for the enemy to attack you, not just with bitterness, but also with all sorts of temptations. When stress and anxiety comes, we are vulnerable to attack. So pray. We have made that a habit and priority in our home and take prayer walks almost nightly. This has been an amazing and freeing and peace giving exercise.
4. Get counseling
I know, you think you're fine, but you're not. Trust me. Some of you have sworn off ever working in a church again. Some of you feel like you've lost your calling to students or maybe you feel like you might never even have been called to begin with. Some of you are just numb. Some, feel like complete failures. Go get help. I waited two years before I got help. Stress and anxiety can rip a hole in your marriage, in your friendships, and cause confusion in the minds of your children. Please get help.
5. Remember, you are replaceable in that church, but not in your family and friendships
Use this time to dream together, to play together, and to seek God together. Focus on being an awesome spouse, parent, brother, sister, and friend. Students may end up having more than one youth worker, but for your family and friends, you are the only you. Your kids will only have one mother or one father.
6. Let Yourself Grieve
No one died, but grief is real. I have watched myself and loved ones who have encountered trauma, stuff it down and act tough. Unable to cry and unable to deal with daily stressors. I have ignored the pain and the natural fall out for myself and my family and acted like I was above it. Don't read a book on doing ministry better, read one on how to deal with loss and trauma.
7. Exercise and Eat Right
Sounds like that's not connected? You are a whole person and you must respond holistically. Get the endorphins flowing! This is not the time to watch Netflix and eat Doritos (well, maybe a little). Put together a routine and try and sweat everyday. You'll thank me for it.
This is a perfect time to to reevaluate everything. There are things you probably could have done differently/better and maybe there are things that you just need to let go of. Decide to be a perpetual student. But not too quickly, because you have to do the work of grieving and getting help. So be patient and kind to yourself, but learn from this.
Go become the greatest version of you.
9. Don't give up on the Church
We are a messy, rag tag bunch, but we are God's picture of what his kingdom is supposed to look like. That means that we fight to stay warm and in love with his people. Don't swear off church, don't bail - instead, do the opposite. On the show Seinfeld, George found the secret - he realized that he needed to start doing the opposite of everything that he naturally would do. If he was afraid to go up and talk to a girl, instead of sitting there and saying nothing and regretting it all day, he decided to do the opposite and go up and talk with her. Of course hilarity ensues, but there's some truth for us. Right now your first inclination is to pull away from the church because of the hurt. You can't trust that in yourself. Do the opposite. I know, easier said than done and there's nothing wrong with a bit of a break. But love is easy when things are easy. When difficulty comes, that's when love can really be a beautiful picture. I have given my life to the church. I was a pastor's kid and trust me, pastor's kids do give their lives to the church - whether they want to or not. And I have served the church my whole adult life. Has there been hurt, difficulty, and struggle? You bet. But I have fought to stay in there and I am better for it. And hopefully, so is the Church.
10. Set the next person up well
Put your ego aside and offer encouragement and help. They may not take you up on it, but if they do, then speak highly of the church and help set them up for success. If you can, and if you have access, help prepare the volunteers, the leaders, the parents, and the students to welcome in the next person. Be an advocate for them. You don't want your hard work going down the drain because students refuse to open their hearts up to the next person. Try your best to launch them into a great season of ministry.
But my prayer is that we, as the church, get better at this stuff. If you're reading this and maybe you are on the sidelines watching something like this unfold, reach out to that youth worker. Tell them you love them and that you're grateful for their friendship and for their ministry. If you're heading into a new position, speak highly of the previous person. Reach out to them and thank them. Don't believe all of the hype that might color your perspective of that person. Lets love and live well.
I'd love to hear from you and if you haven't subscribed to the blog, then go ahead and lets take our relationship to the next level :)
I know that I've written about Christians being the unifying voice - the voice of reason, the voice that stands in the middle (because you know, we belong to another world) pointing both sides to truth and love and hope. But, of course I feel the urge to revisit this and, as a youth worker, to see my and our role in helping students wade through all of the hate. Just so there is no confusion, I am not talking about disagreement. Disagreement involves discussion and conversation that should lead to mutual respect and better understanding. Disagreement is not Hate.
Hate 101 is when a person has no ability to see another's perspective and their shallow understanding of the world and the another's perspective and experiences leads them into dismissing that person - or it leads them into feeling threatened, insecure and maybe jealousy and bitterness.
A few months ago I heard someone dismiss a church in our area because they were "charismatic." The thing that threw me was the way in which they spoke about this spirit filled congregation. They spoke about them and, in particular, the pastors like they were some satanic apostate community that was leading people to hell or into some false gospel. And I've heard this kind of talk from the other side as well. This is Hate 101.
This one caught me off guard because I've been around a more unifying environment in recent years, where a variety of differing churches came together in respect and in unity.
Just this week I was reading a thread on social media (I know, I know... social media...)
- but it went like this:
"Obama will go down as the worst president of all time. He has ruined our nation, hurt the economy, especially for inner-city black, and has brought nothing but disunity and divisiveness to our nation. He is a muslim and a radical, and he's trying to ruin our country!"
Then someone responded of course:
"I couldn't disagree with you more!!! Republicans are the divisive ones and Obama has done so much good: he's passed health care reform (after five presidents tried and failed to do it, millions of uninsured Americans are now covered). He ended the Iraq war, eliminated Osama Bin Laden, kept America safe from terrorists (safest the nation has been in years), saved the auto industry, a brought back our economy..." and on and on it went.
Only it got more and more toxic to the point that they were writing in all CAPS - SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER.
If it wasn't so awful, it would have been hilarious!
The horrendous thing was that they were both youth pastors, and I'm guessing that, not only did I see this exchange, but their students did as well.
This is Hate 101.
And by the way, hate like this is not based in the fruit of the Spirit. It is not about appeasing people, but recognizing that the language of dogma is not the language of the "peace maker". Remember the Beatitudes of Matthew 5? Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." Wow. How far away from that have we wandered, brothers and sisters in Christ. The problem with being a peace maker is that it requires us to stand in the gap between opposing views and ideologies. Peacemakers find what is true and right about each side and point that out to the other. That is a lonely job, because it isn't about being right and it isn't about standing with the majority. Seriously, Jesus? Why are you always so demanding??
Now, it's not that I haven't failed at much of this myself. I've crossed the line and delivered a judgmental, short-cited comment or two. I just think that you and I can do better.
So, to move us away from hate, what if we actually practiced the words of Paul, that were inspired by Jesus? What if this is what we modeled to our students?
Here, take a look, and read it slowly:
Love is patient
Love is kind
It does not envy
It does not boast
It is not proud
It does not dishonor others
It is not self-seeking
It is not easily angered
It keeps no record of wrongs
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
This has really challenged me when I think about interactions with:
People of opposing political views
PEOPLE WHO RESPOND TO ME WITH CAPITAL LETTERS =)
People who have hurt me
Churches who have hurt me
Anyone who has been critical of our ministry or of me personally
People of opposing theological views
That student that drives me nuts
and we could go on and on.
I think that when I can't see how ANYONE could think a certain way or have a certain perspective - this is the result of sin. I'm blinded, short-cited, and I can't love.
May you and I be empowered by the Holy Spirit to love the way Jesus loved. In fact, may we seek his daily empowerment and allow his spirit to guide and lead all of our interactions and all of our reactions. May you and I truly love!
I have lived in the Washington D.C. area for about ten years of my life off and on, with longer stints on the West Coast. But this past September we up and decided to move back to D.C. - And We Absolutely Love It!
As soon as you drive into D.C. you'll notice how beautiful it is. D.C. is a city that is highly walkable, with wide-open avenues, front porches, old neighborhoods and river views. It was thoughtfully designed by a Parisian, Pierre L'Enfant, and it still feels that way. He came to America to help fight the revolutionary war and eventually became George Washington's trusted city planner.
Lately I've been seeing thousands upon thousands of 8th graders on their stereotypical 8th grade trips, from all over the country, touring D.C. Every time we see them I embarrass my daughter by yelling out loud, "8th graders rock!" But I've noticed that all of the tour guides seem to take these awesome 8th graders to the typical places - or they don't point out really important things... Man I'd love the opportunity to take them where the road is less traveled, at least by tourists.
To Set the Stage: active and cool?
Forbes recently had an article about D.C. and it said a couple of amazing things.
First, DC is an incredibly active city (rated #1) - everyone is biking, walking, and running all over the place and it is fairly easy because of the mild weather. It's not bitterly cold in the winter like New York City and it's not nearly as hot and humid as their neighbors to the south. And you just can't help yourself - you have to run up Lincoln's steps like Rocky Balboa (even though that's Philly). But the second thing that might surprise you is that it was listed by Forbes as the coolest city in the nation. WHAT?!!
Now many of you are going to fight them on this, and I get it, you don't think of D.C. being a cool spot to hang out in. It's pretty well known that D.C.'s after-hours crowd hangs in the ultra-preppy Georgetown area, but maybe less known is the post-college Adams Morgan neighborhood. There are even some incredibly fun places in the emerging area called the Atlas District - a formerly gritty three-block strip near Capitol Hill that brings a pretty cool twist to its bars. At the H Street Country Club, you can play mini-golf and and chow down on gourmet Mexican food. There's also the VERY authentic Bavarian Biergarten Haus, which keeps a dozen German brews on tap, and Dangerously Delicious Pies, which serves -made-from-scratch baked goods until 3:30 a.m. on weekends.
At any rate, I've put together a list of some of my favorite things about D.C. (so far).
I'm still learning the city, but if you're ever in the area, let's go hang out! Kelsey, Dancin, and I will show you around.
Here we go:
D.C. is such a great biking city with bike lanes everywhere and beautiful trails to ride! And if you don't have a bike, no problem, you can rent one at the bike share station. It's so much fun!
Just last week my wife and went to the Arboretum on a date. Ive never been there before but we're definitely going back! It's 446 acres of the most amazing gardens you've ever seen. Insane! Plus bald eagles live there - look at them live here. Side note: bald eagles are actually everywhere... its a pretty cool to see them almost everyday.
Sporting events aren't usually known for their affordability, but baseball games at Nationals Park, start at $5! You can go as a group and just pay $14 and get your seat, a hot dog, chips, and a drink on Saturdays and Sundays. On select Sundays, kids are even invited down to run the bases after the game. Yes!
The Fish Market on the water front has become a go-to for my family. If you want to grab quick, cheap, and amazing seafood for lunch, this is your place. Or buy fresh to take home and cook yourself.
Old Town Alexandria is a gem! With its amazing restaurants, great shopping, live music and events. We are always there, and its our nightly family prayer walk area.
When we left the NY City area I thought for sure we'd miss the food. But D.C.'s restaurant scene is amazing. Some of our favorites has been: Lincoln, Boqueria, Blackwall Hitch, Virtue Feed and Grain, Ivy City Smokehouse, as well as a host of great restaurants in the Adams Morgan and Barracks Row areas - basically anywhere you go. Even Union Station has a great selection that's very affordable.
People don't really think of hiking when D.C. comes to mind. But there are amazing places in D.C. and all around: from Great Falls to Lake Accotink to the strip from Mt Vernon all the way into D.C. If you're wanting to find some great trails, check it out here.
The National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden hosts really cool and free open-air jazz fests every Friday from May to September. Locals know to arrive by 3 p.m. to stake out their spot. The area is dotted with dogwood trees & works by Miró and Calder. You can pack picnics or grab dinner from one of many nearby food trucks & order a glass of sangria from the garden's Pavilion Café.
The National Harbor area in Oxon Hill, Maryland is just down the river from D.C. and across the river from Old Town. Its become a new and fun place for area residents and tourists to come and eat, shop, or just hang out. This is where we are currently living and we're loving it!
As a kid we would head out on the 4th of July to the Jefferson Memorial to picnic and watch the National fire works. Having lived other places, including L.A. and the NYC area, there's just nothing like the 4th in D.C. Nothing!
Our church, National Community Church is made up of an amazing group of people and they have a great coffee house, in fact it's the #1 rated coffee house in the city. It's called Ebenezer's Coffeehouse and sits just down the road from the Capitol and directly next door to Union Station. I highly recommend a stop-in, if you're ever needing a caffein fix.
I know I'm missing a bunch, but as I figure more out, I'll let you know. Hope you enjoyed a bit of why we've come to love this area. Cheers!
Brock is an author, speaker, youth pastor & the executive director @ Generation514 who is doing his best to live the adventurous & expectant life of following Jesus.