Archive for July, 2009

Latest Article – Forecast Your Future

By Judy Gregory

July and August are the times in which Atlanta lives up to its nickname…Hotlanta. Playing two hours of tennis yesterday in the 95 degree heat and sunshine just about took me out. Had I listened to the weatherman the day before, I might not have been so quick to hit the court.

Back in my northern Indiana hometown, January marks the annual concern over the amount of “lake-effect snow” a storm will bring. During the Blizzard of ‘78, the “lake-effect snow” did not just threaten to take us out, it did! With snow drifts up to the roof, our world came to a complete stand still for nearly two weeks. While it was decades ago, I remember as if it were yesterday when our meteorologist, Dick Addis, foretold – before the first flake hit the ground – that there would be no school the next day. He was right!

Some things are just predictable, the signs are everywhere…youth ministry is no exception! Just like Dick Addis, you too can learn to forecast the future…YOUR future, both personally and professionally! If you simply pay attention, not only will there be less surprises, you’ll have a fighting chance of winning the game, set, match and title.

When it comes to the future, the past 15 years in youth ministry has taught me…

· You don’t program a serious, come to the cross moment the day before middle school students get out for Christmas Vacation or Spring Break. They are like Energizer Bunnies on steroids before they even hit your door!

· If your Wednesday night program takes on a different look over the summer, you need to fire it back up by rallying your leaders and veteran students before you re-launch it with a special fall kick-off.

· If you have a bump in your momentum due to a snow storm or school break, you typically will experience a negative bump (i.e. reduction) in your attendance the following week. Momentum is everything. It’s just like a car, even if your foot is only off the accelerator for a few seconds, it takes a moment to get back up to speed.

· Obey your gut out of the gate when it comes to questionable leaders. It’s a whole lot easier to never bring them onboard, then to get rid of them once you’ve got them.

· Eighth grade is one of the most physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually turbulent years ever! You would do well just to encourage your parents “to hold on” and occasionally remind them “it will be ok.”

· The more senses you engage when speaking, the more likely students will remember the message.

· If you can get the ring leader of the group of troublemakers on your side, it makes all the difference in the world.

· The minute your favorite kid goes spiritually south, you’ll feel like your heart just got ripped out. But, if (big “if”) you stick around long enough, in a couple of months…or years…there is a high likelihood he will come back around.

And the list, while a little on the random side, goes on…and on…and on. But, your ministry isn’t the only thing predictable, so are you! Here are a couple things to watch out for…

· There is something I like to call the three year itch. I’m not sure what causes it, but I know after about three years in a position, you’ll get an itch to move on. I’m not sure if it’s the point where boredom sets in, the senior pastor’s flaws become glaringly obvious, you get fed up with church politics, or what…I just know at the three year mark you can expect the itch. I remember the conversation I had long ago with a youth pastor in Iowa. Almost bragging, he was giving me the list of churches he’d been at over the previous decade. No joke, he concluded by saying, “I don’t know what it is, but every three years I feel God calling me to move on.” It’s not for me to say, but I’m not sure it was God. The only cure for the three year itch is to stay put.

· This personal pattern of mine took me a little longer to figure out. Yours might not look exactly the same, but you need to guard against it. The first week of August for a number of years, I’d hit a “low” that bordered on depression. It was like clockwork. It left me wondering what the heck was going on. But then, it was as if someone flipped the light on as to the reason. Let me try and explain. I feel there is no greater cause worthy of my life, outside of my family, than youth ministry. It drives me to get out of bed in the morning. But you can only be driven so far before you have to refuel. I had worked hard all school year preaching, teaching, planning, counseling and taking care of leaders, and then, without skipping a beat, I’d move right into summer camps, mission trips, events and Bible studies. When August hit and it was time to plan for the upcoming school year, there was nothing left in me. I wasn’t driven to get out of bed, but seriously just wanted to pull the covers over my head. I learned to call it quits the first and second week of August every year. No appointment, event or meeting was planned for that two-week period. Unless it was absolutely necessary, I wouldn’t ever respond to phone calls. I’d spend the minimum time possible in the office. Sometimes, when I needed to pick something up from the church, I’d send a friend after it just so I didn’t have to hear “Hey Judy, you got a second…” I didn’t work “less,” just “differently.” Sometimes I would take a week of vacation and sleep part of the “low” off but it’s not always ideal to blow your vacation trying to “recover.”

I could continue, but I think you get my drift. It’s time for you to check the radar. What’s brewing on the horizon? Based on past experiences, what can you forecast about the future? I guarantee if you take the time to reflect and begin writing some of it down, it will make riding out the storms so much easier.

Houston…we have hair

Sarah turns 2 soon and the hair is coming in. Looking at this pic reminds me how this little apple of our eye came at just the right time. Her and I go for a lil prayer walk everytime I’m home.

Baby Sarah

Pint size baby Sarah when I was home last month. We were making faces at each other. Word on the street is that she’s finally got an appetite. But I think she’s holding out until she’s 2 on the hair, at least that’s what her dad did.

Leadership vs. Discipleship

Jesus and I have been spending a lot of time hanging out on my mini-deck lately. He’s been stirring some things up in my heart for awhile in regard to discipleship vs. leadership (both are great, neither bad). But, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve been a better leader than discipler a good chunk of my Christian life. In the coming years, I hope to rectify that by bringing the pendulum back into balance through focused effort. In fact, I wrote an article on it. It’s rapped around a story, but this is the nuts and bolts of where I’m at…

What does a great “discipler” look like? Beats me. I do know it goes beyond encouraging someone to have a quiet time, creatively preaching a message and orchestrating a few events. Studying Jesus’ life, the ultimate discipler, I know He did more teaching in circles, than preaching in rows. I know He asked a lot of questions, some of them uncomfortable, that forced those around Him to verbalize the thoughts bouncing around in their heads. I know He studied human behavior enough to know what people were thinking and, as a result, drew a few lines in the sand and forced them to choose a side. I know the first words He spoke to the disciples collectively in Luke 6 included challenging choices they would come face-to-face with that would, depending how they responded, either catapult them forward like a slingshot or derail them like a freight train. Choices they would later see Him make up close and personal as they did life “beyond the not so comfortable surface” together.

Coming out of hibernation

The good ol’ blogs been silent for awhile. I decided it needed to be when I started to hang out more with it than with Jesus. But, I’m back. Probably less frequent, but back.

I’ve discovered the coolness of the deck of my apartment. It’s become Jesus’ and my favorite place as of late as I discover what it looks like to be a better discipler than leader. Long story, but maybe I will post what the Lord helped me to spill out on the computer screen a week or so ago.

I’ve also discoved the coolness of Logos Bible Software. One of our board member’s wife gifted me with the Gold Edition. It was like a kiss from Jesus himself. The discounted price is a grand and it’s supposedly the largest electronic theological library ever assembled with $11,700 in equivalent print editions. I don’t know if its claims are true, but the software is off-the-hook. It’s taken my Bible study up about a thousand notches. Having it reminds me of something God laid on my heart a few years back, which lines up with what He’s laying on my heart now …. hmmmm, wonder if I should do something with that.