Surprising Legacy

Names of Legacy:

Consider all these important and influential people: John Powell, Patrick Horgan, Tim Lee, Kate Dean, Rupert DeSalis, Chris White, Chris Knowles, Larry & Shirley Morris, Paul Williams, Julian and Kathy Hardy, Sam Cowell. Do you know these names? Probably not… (Unless you know me well)…

You see, these people have all played a part in my life leaving a legacy and ultimately have been instrumental in shaping many ideas, thoughts, and foundations of who I am today. Of course, there are writers and speakers who shaped my thinking, but these people I named are the ones who not only shared their faith and the gospel with me, but they shared their lives as well.

Currently I am the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago with 2500 other youth workers from all around the country and the world. The theme for this conference is “Surprising Legacy” and the idea (and the reality) of how our lives in student ministry are leaving a surprising legacy with the people we minister to on a weekly basis.

If you are like me, it’s often difficult to see what impact I am having on young people. I certainly don’t consider myself as someone who is having a profound impact on students’ lives. If your experience is like mine, students are not always forthcoming in their praise for what I do or what I teach. Teenagers do appreciate what we do, but we don’t always hear it or see it do we? To some degree, this is what makes our legacy surprising… Whether or not we know it now or in many years to come, we are all leaving a legacy with students…

In the last few years I have been contacting youth leaders and adults who were in my life when I was a younger and thanking them for what they did for me when I was younger. As I have tracked them down and talked with them it has helped me to see what it was these leaders did to make such an impact in my life. It’s been so helpful to consider what they did and consider what I do today to make a lasting difference too.

In ministry it is often very easy to get caught up in programs, events and the latest thing and forget what truly matters as we minister to students. As I consider the surprising legacy I am leaving, it is so helpful that I look back and remind myself what influential leaders did in my life to help find faith, grow in faith and be equipped for my faith journey. It is when I look back like this that I am to see what my ministry today needs to be like to make sure I am leaving a lasting and healthy legacy with students.

What could our ministries look like if we could live out what has been modeled to us by other influential Godly adults in our lives growing up? What did they do that so changed the course of our lives? What did they do to help us grow deeper? What did they do to encourage in times of struggle? What did you and I see in them when we were looking for direction?

What legacy are we leaving as we look back to the legacy that has been left with us? What do YOU remember about the Godly adults in your life growing up? How could you model that today in your ministry?

Priorities in a New Position

As some of my friends know (and noticeably by the lack of my blogging recently), I have been transitioning into a new ministry position at a church family here in Michigan as Pastor to High School and College Students. Making the change was challenging and required a lot of prayer, but I am very thankful for God’s clear leading. However, it is always painful leaving students and families who I have been deeply invested in. I am glad I haven’t made too many moves in ministry. Longevity is always better if it possible in ministry.

I have been in my new position for nearly a month now and I am “finding my feet” one step at a time… As I look at what is ahead and what I have been doing, I find it very helpful to keep the most important priorities in focus as I begin this new ministry position:

1) Building Relationships will take time and it’s important to take time to build them… Not rocket science, but it is something that can easily get overlooked on a daily basis. Coming into an established student ministry means there are lots of tasks that need to get done and attended to. It’s also easy to get caught up in being overly concerned with what I call “speaking performance” and investing too mush time in trying to “knock the ball out the park” with my first few messages. Of course, people are looking and hoping I am going to do a great job, but ultimately, it is solid God centered relationships which will make the biggest difference over time. Students will get more out of my messages if they know I genuinely care about them… This will only happen if I spend time investing in them from day one. I think students are perceptive enough to know if I am there to “look good” speaking or if my heart is for them…

2) Listening First Changes Later: It is easy to come in to a new ministry and see quickly what needs to change and bring ideas from previous experience. However, I have found that it is more important to ask questions about what has been before me. In doing so I get to hear the “what and why” behind existing programs and strategies. Not only does it help me understand the culture better, it helps to see if certain ideas and programs have a deep investment from the students and leaders. It is a mistake to to devalue or knock down something that has a deep investment. Listening comes first, changes later…

3) Meeting Parents is Key: Although our job title usually centers our attention on students, it is imperative we understand the importance and impact of ministering the whole family. Given that we usually have a few hours with each student and parents have a whole lot more, we must see the importance of meeting with and investing in parent relationships. In addition, there are many parents who are understandably nervous about t me. “Who is this guy? What will he be teaching? Is he going to invest in my student or be flaky? Does he communicate with parents or will I be in the dark again? Is he British or Australian?”  (I get that one a lot since I am from the UK with a lot of Americanisms in my accent). Parents have good reasons to be nervous, so it’s important to give them a good opportunity to put their fears to rest…

4) Start today what can be continued tomorrow: I am a big believer in this practice. Even though I would like to come in and make a “wow” impact, I have to ask myself if I am able to sustain the pace / events/ programs I come in with. I think it is important to try to make a positive impact, but if I burn myself out trying to keep pace in weeks to come, ultimately the students pay for it. Instead, I believe it is better to stay focused on a few but foundational objectives coming in, but ensure I can build from there…

Well, those are my initial thoughts for now. Right now myself and my family are in the midst of painting and staging our house to sell. It has been a very busy season changing ministries and getting ready to move house, but God always gives just enough.

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