Year One, and Some Things I've Learned

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It's been a whirlwind of a year as the High School Pastor.  In many ways it feels and seems that I have been in the role longer than a year, but it was last November when I was announced as the Pastor of High School Students at Mariners Church.

In accepting this role I made a commitment to God, my team, my church, and the students of HSM, and in trying to lead them well I have had many learnings, mistakes, failures, and some victories along the way. The year has gone by fast--too fast almost.  It is an understatement to say that I've learned some things, and it is hard to boil down my learnings down to five.  But with that said, here are five things I have learned, and a simple challenge to help you lead in your ministry.

1) I learned to keep the main thing, the main thing
There are a lot of things.  Too many.  Events, emails, cleaning storage rooms, pizza orders, nights out, life groups, worship, teaching, workshops... the list goes on.  This year there were moments when I lost sight of the main thing and made other things the priority.  And other times I didn't even know what the main thing was... I needed to take a step back and remember what the main thing actually was. During that tiring season I decided to say yes to a relief trip to Houston, one where my church partnered with a local church in for hurricane relief efforts.  This trip reminded me what the main thing was: students meeting Jesus.  Once I returned I felt like I began to lead differently, and I believe my team would say the same thing. 

Now, students meeting Jesus is seemingly cliche, right?  But tangibly I needed this reminder.  But that challenged me to ensure that for each event or thing we did, that the main thing was always articulated clearly.  (Main thing for an outreach event: students using their gifts.  Main thing for Winter Retreat: Spiritual Growth.  Main thing for replying to an irritated parent: communicate love and care for their child...)

Challenge: whatever you are doing, an event, volunteer gathering, or returning an email, think of the main thing.  What is it? Can you articulate it?  Before each event or thing you do, remind yourself and your team what the main thing is.  

2) I learned that the ministry that IS is better than the ministry that COULD BE. 
I am a visionary, and sometimes I like to live with my head in the clouds.  I often dream of things that could be. Things like BIG ministry, reaching campuses, revival... It was easy this past year to live for the dream while disregarding what was right in front of me.  God has given me something, a ministry, students, many of them... Thank God for that.  

Challenge: When dreaming or thinking about where you want to go next in your ministry, first make a list of where you have been.  Things you are currently thankful for in your current role before jumping to the 'vision-phase'.  It will help shape your vision, and remind you about the ministry you have right in front of you.

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3) I learned to never take for granted the people in your corner.
I heard it maybe 20 times before accepting this role, that "leadership is lonely."  It is.  No doubt.  It's sobering to sit in the seat of the leader because it is always different than you expected it to be.  But, the good news is that you're not as alone as you think.  While running hard and leading your ministry, don't forget and run too fast that you don't stop and take wisdom from or sit and talk with people that believe in you.  Youth Pastors never get the "thank you's" or the "I believe in you" that they deserve.  When a parent, mentor, friend, or anyone believes in you, write it down and remember it.  Thanks to the people in my corner because I couldn't have done it without them.

Challenge: Be in someones corner.  WE recognize how hard the work is, so be in the corner for someone who needs it.

4) I learned to pace myself
I learned this thanks to my team and well, my wife.  People coming to me telling me to slow down.  If you run too hard, too fast then well, you cant take the hill that is around the corner.  Pace is everything... As Doug told me, as he has many... It's a marathon, not a sprint.  I got tired, my team got tired, and where tiring seasons do exist, don't let it define your ministry.

Challenge: Say NO to one thing you normally do in order to bring that exhaustive pace to slow a bit.  Saying NO is a hard thing, it makes you feel like you are letting someone down... But, you aren't.  I struggle with this, but

5) I learned that it's a team effort.
This years biggest learning for me, i'd say, is recognizing that everything I do is for and with my team.  I am a people-person, no doubt.  Yet there are moments I tend to isolate myself within my own thoughts or whatever else.  Winning with my team isn't always possible...but making decisions with them in mind became a priority.  

Challenge: For you, your team may be your volunteer team, your staff team, a leadership team of students, or all the above.  How can you bring them into conversation and decision making?  Try to stop and think about your team before jumping to an immediate decision. 

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It's been a year!  What a blessing it was.  Onward to more!

Til' next time!