I’ve just returned with my family from 11 days in southwestern Colorado–our first time. It was the perfect place to be quiet and rest before the fall season begins, a season that involves some significant changes to my responsibilities, which I will explain below.
Some friends in church had offered us the use of their house in the San Juan mountains in Colorado. We drove there and back–two days each way–with the long drive as part of the fun. From Dallas to Amarillo the landscape becomes increasingly dry and flat and lonely, with the road passing through little brittle communities with one blinking yellow stoplight and paint peeling from deserted furniture stores, until in the Texas Panhandle grain elevators dominate the horizon, which stretches for what seems forever. And then, suddenly, the ground gives way and the Palo Duro Canyon opens up its reddish brown mouth right in front of your feet.
We took the time to drive down into the canyon and hike around for a bit. The Palo Duro Canyon isn’t as grand as its famous Arizona cousin, but it is similar, with the same warning signs about how the desert heat is deadly to the unprepared.
Our second day of driving took us north out of Santa Fe, from desert to high desert to an alpine landscape, passing through little clusters of houses in forsaken communities in the high desert, the kind of places where you drive past at 70 miles an hour and thank God you don’t live there. And then you arrive in Colorado and secretly ask God if perhaps you could live there, or if he could at least make Dallas a bit more like Colorado in the summer.
The house we stayed in was expansive, with a huge second story balcony off the entire back of the place, and a cool basement totally underground. Our cell phones didn’t work, but that to me was a feature of the place, and not a bug. We were there to celebrate my dad’s retirement from pastoral ministry–43 years. My parents and my brothers and their families joined us.
This time of year in that part of Colorado, the weather is perfect: upper 40’s at dawn, lower 90’s at noon. I’d get up every morning early to sit wrapped in a blanket on the back deck in the dark, waiting for the sun to rise. The deer and the wild turkeys and the hummingbirds paid me no attention, if I kept still enough. I would have stayed for a month, but my life is here in Dallas, and I have a lot to do this fall. We arrived back home last night.
Changes to My Fall 2018 Responsibilities
Earlier this summer, our youth director accepted an invitation to return to his home church and take his old boss’s job. We engaged a search firm to help us find his replacement, and on one of the phone calls with the founder (David), he asked, “What’s your interim plan before you hire someone?” We didn’t have a plan, but as soon as he asked the question, I thought to myself: “I think I’d like to do it.”
I got my start in full-time ministry by working with middle and high school students at a church in VA. I worked there for 5 years before I went to seminary, and I loved it–there was just something so obviously important and exciting about reaching kids that age with the gospel. Now at Munger I’m responsible for something much broader in scope than the youth ministry I led in Virginia, but I still haven’t abandoned one of my core beliefs from that time: that the strength of a church is determined by how well it is raising up the next generation in the faith.
At Munger, the area of the church’s ministry I know the least is our youth ministry, and I’ve always regretted that I don’t have more interactions with our 6th-12th graders and their parents. Although we are working hard to hire a new youth director, we just aren’t in the position to make that hire by the time school begins, and so David’s question on the phone caused me to think–could I personally offer some leadership to our youth ministry this fall? I’m ultimately responsible for the youth ministry whether we have someone in place or not, and I don’t want to let our youth ministry languish while we are waiting to hire a director. What if I stepped in as the interim leader? I shopped the idea around to some people within and without the church who would have no problem telling me it was a bad idea, but no one did.
So, I’m going to be leading the Munger youth ministry this fall.
On the one hand, with the commitments and responsibilities I have, this may seem crazy.
- We have an average worship attendance of just over 1,000 people on Sunday mornings;
- A budget of $3 million;
- And a staff of 10;
All of which I am ultimately responsible for. Behind those numbers are lots of people to love and lots of problems to solve.
But, in addition to the above, this fall has some big things coming up, including:
- The unveiling of our master plan for future growth and ministry at a congregational meeting on Sunday, October 21 at 5 PM;
- And the launching of a 3rd worship service at 5 PM on Sundays, starting November 4.
Do I have time to lead the youth ministry? At first, it seems clear the answer is “No.” But….
Here’s the honest truth: I have all the time I need for what’s important, and I think the middle and high school students in our community are extremely important. So, yes, I have time to lead the Munger youth ministry…if I get some help.
The Plan for Munger Youth This Fall
We’re going to keep things simple. Our weekly programming will be on Wednesdays and will run from 7:00-8:30 PM. Middle and high school students will meet at the same time, but they will not meet together.
High School Wednesday Schedule
7:00-7:45 PM, high school worship in the youth basement with me and our band. (High school is 9th-12th grades.)
7:45-8:30 PM, high school small groups and dinner/snacks on the 3rd floor.
Middle School Wednesday Schedule
7:00-7:45 PM, dinner/snacks, games, and small groups on the 3rd floor. (Middle school is 6th-8th grades.)
7:45-8:30 PM, middle school worship in the youth basement with me and our band.
Wednesday night youth will follow the above schedule from September 12 through December 12. We will NOT meet on November 21 (the day before Thanksgiving), though there is a Thanksgiving Eve worship service at the church that night. (Halloween is a Wednesday this year, so stay tuned for special programming on 10/31.)
In addition to the above weekly programming, we are looking to line up Bible studies at other times, etc. Come to our kickoff on 9/5 to find out more. (Kickoff info below.)
2018-2019 Confirmation Schedule
Confirmation is a year-long spiritual formation program for 6th graders. 6th grade is a transition period, and we want to do our best to prepare our young people spiritually to face the challenges of middle and high school, so they can own their faith as their own. At the end of the year-long Confirmation process, the students will be commissioned by me in worship to go forth and take their faith into the world.
Confirmation will meet on Sundays this fall during our 11:00 AM worship service, September 9-December 16. Confirmation will NOT meet on November 25 (the Sunday after Thanksgiving). In Spring 2019, Confirmation will meet January 6-May 12. Confirmation will NOT meet on March 10 or 17 (spring break) or on April 21 (Easter Sunday!).
Confirmation Sunday will be 11:00 AM on May 19.
Confirmation students need to attend 2/3 of Confirmation classes (20 out of 30 possible Sundays) to complete the course.
Please REGISTER your child for Confirmation HERE.
More info to come at youth fall kickoff.
2018 Youth Fall Kickoff
We’re going to start the new school year off with a BANG on Wednesday, September 5 from 7:00-8:00 PM for our Fall Kickoff. All 6th to 12th graders AND their parents invited. Bring friends, even if they don’t go to our church. The agenda: food trucks, live music, and then I will lay out the plan for the year ahead.
My goal: a full house, so please move heaven and earth to attend with your family.
Munger Youth: What Will I Be Doing?
Each Wednesday, I’m going to give a talk on the topics that middle school and high school kids are asking about:
- How can we know there is a God?
- What about other religions?
- Where did the Bible come from?
- What about heaven and hell?
- If God already knows what’s going to happen, why do we need to pray?
- If God is love, then why does he allow bad stuff to happen to people?
Every Wednesday, we’ll have a brief, high energy worship service with a band led by Josh Mojica (the young guy with the crazy hair who plays with Kate on Sunday mornings), and I’ll give a talk to our students trying to make the faith as clear, relevant, and attractive as possible. Then, adult volunteers will lead youth small groups broken up by grade and gender to talk over the week and see how the kids are doing.
I can lead the ministry by providing vision and direction for our weekly gatherings and to our adult volunteers. That’s what I’m good at. But, I can’t do everything….
Munger Youth: What I Will NOT be Doing
I cannot serve as the Munger youth minister. I can’t attend football games and concerts and recitals. I can’t order the pizza or pay the trip deposits or lead the small groups. In other words, I can lead the ministry, but I can’t do the ministry.
What I can do is recruit other adults who will do those things, and I’m going to need all the help I can get.
If you signed up earlier this summer to volunteer in our youth ministry, you should have already been contacted by us. Thank you! But, if you haven’t yet signed up or if you did but weren’t contacted by us, please consider stepping up and signing up below. I particularly need parents of 6th to 12th graders to help me make this fall season happen. We need a team of folks to support our ministry, to lead our small groups, to be positive influences in our students’ lives.
Want to help me and our youth ministry this fall? Sign up HERE to be a youth ministry volunteer.
We’re going to have a Youth Volunteer Vision Dinner on Wednesday, August 29, from 6:30-9:00 PM at a home in Lakewood, so please mark that down if you sign up as a potential volunteer.
A Final Word to Munger
I’ve been wondering if perhaps this transition period in our youth ministry is actually a gift from God, because it will both allow me to make some new relationships in our church and at the same time require other people to step up and and become involved in ministry. More than ever, I’m going to have to focus on the few things that I only I can do and do well and recruit other people to make our church’s ministry happen. I’ve found that the Lord seems to prefer to place us in situations where there is a gap between what we need and what we have, and that he delights in providing for us. That’s one of the things I’m excited about with regard to our new evening service–we currently have ZERO people showing up at 5:00 PM on Sundays, and we are going to have to pray and work like crazy to change that. In the same way, our youth ministry is lacking a permanent leader right now, which might actually be God’s plan–he wants the rest of us to step up so he can show us something awesome.
May Fall 2018 be our best fall yet.
P.S. To My Dear Readers: Changes to this Blog
Starting Friday, August 24 through Monday, December 24, at Munger we are going to be reading through the New Testament. I’m planning on posting more frequently in this space, including regular (daily?) commentaries on what we’re reading. Right now, subscribers get an email every time I post, but I don’t want to fill up your Inbox, so next week I’m going to be switching to a weekly newsletter that will contain links to the previous week’s posts, as well as some other original content from me not available anywhere else.
If you are already a subscriber, you don’t need to do anything else. (If you want to be sure and read each post as it comes out, subscribe to my blog’s RSS feed. There are lots of tutorials online to explain how to do that.)
If you are not a current subscriber, here’s how to subscribe:
I’ve written a very short whitepaper on a subject I care a lot about–communication.
Subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send it to you for free:
The Simple Technique Anyone Can Immediately Use To Become a Better Communicator.
(If you are already a subscriber, drop me a line and I’ll send you the whitepaper.)