Life Lessons for the Week

Here are a few major lessons I am learning right now! They may help you as well. Read through them and spend some time thinking about any of them that will help you grow. Then after you are done, take some time and share a few things that have been on your mind lately in regards to personal growth.

MOMENTUM

I read a quote recently that says: “A weak leader with momentum, looks like a strong leader; and a strong leader without momentum looks weak.”

Personally it is so interesting in reference to my ministry. Right now our youth ministry is in a period of great fruit. We are experiencing the highest numbers and the greatest influence that I have seen in my ministry since I have been here. The question that one might ask me is: What are you doing differently? My answer: Nothing. I have been in youth ministry for 6 years and there have been many ups and downs. Right now things are definitely up. Is it because of my leadership style? I would say, no. It is because we have momentum. I have been thinking a lot about this, and I am currently trying to discover how to develop this same momentum in other ministries. I do not have all the answers regarding establishing momentum, but I know this, do what you have to do to get momentum and things will look up very quickly.

GRACE

I have an incredible leadership team that supports me in youth ministry. They are great for many reasons: These leaders build relationship with teenagers, they love teenagers, they love the youth ministry, and they are extremely faithful. But there is something about these leaders that has been especially encouraging and powerful as they have been involved in Suncoast Youth Ministry. It is that they are leaders with Grace. At Suncoast Youth Group we always define grace as “God giving us what we do not deserve.” The leaders of Suncoast Youth Group support the ministry and they support me with an incredible amount of grace. They understand that things do not always operate the way that they would prefer, but they show grace, and they support me anyway. Our leaders know me and all of my weaknesses and failures, and they support me anyway. They show grace and they look past themselves and their own preferences and comforts and they support both the youth ministry and the youth pastor with great grace. If every ministry of the church had such graceful leaders, the church would look very different.

PASSION 

I asked my wife this week what I am passionate about and she said that I am passionate about being passionate. I understand where she is coming from. Whether we are talking about my favorite restaurant, P.F. Changs, or my favorite drink in the world, Sonny’s Sweet Tea. I tend to be more on the passionate side of things. One struggle that I have been working with is that often my passion about something can be perceived as arrogance. Whether in casual fellowship, in praise team practice, or in staff meeting I have been told that sometimes I come across “more jerky” than I intend to. It is not my desire to be arrogant, or to be controlling, or in charge, but many times my passion gets the best of me, and I give off vibes that are not quite what I am going for. I read two great blogs recently that reminded me what the Bible says about this: James 1:19 “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.”

I am working on balancing my passion with this verse. Let me be clear, I love being passionate, and this verse does not tell me to be more apathetic. For me, it says, be passionate, but use less words.  Listen more, and think through your opinions and your thoughts, and then share them with fewer words. I believe that this will be a huge step for me, not an easy one, but incredibly important for my personality.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU ARE LEARNING RIGHT NOW?

POST THEM IN THE COMMENTS! Thank you!

Lee

Dealing with Teenage Death

This past week I was watching the news about the disasters in Japan while getting dressed one morning, and I could not help but reflect on how blessed I am to wake up in peace with my family by my side while many people around the world are waking up to what they wish was only a nightmare. These disasters are very real and very painful for much of the world.  However, because we are constantly bombarded with information about people around the world who are struggling to survive because of this or that, it is common to grow caloused to the seriousness and the pain of death. That is, until it happens in your own neighborhood.

Yesterday, Marcus Freeman and his girlfriend were headed home on I-75 from a dentist appointment. On the way home Marcus lost control of the vehicle and was killed shortly after the impact of the crash. With news and technology in todays world, news travels faster than ever.

Within an hour of the accident you can see concerned teenagers posting comments on Facebook asking for details and asking to know that everything is OK. Then over the process of a few hours you can begin to read the shock and heartache in the comments made by friends and loved ones as the news spread.

Marcus passed away leaving behind countless friends that are trying to understand how something so tragic could happen to someone they knew so well.

Many times we understand that those things happen in the world we live in, but not to us! Not in our neighborhoods. However scripture says in Hebrews that: “it is appointed unto men once to die”, and the Psalmist wrote: “What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?”

There are two main issues that occur for a teenager during a tragic death:

1. The teenager grieves over the loss of a friend, or acquaintance.

2. The teenager is stunned at the realization that death is possible even at their age.

 

So the question is: (With the hope that you never need to ask it)

How can we help teenager grieving over the death of another teen?

1. A teenager needs unconditional love and patience during a time of mourning.

2. A teenager needs a listener not a teacher during a time of mourning.

3.  A teenager needs adults to understand different gender responses:

– Guys tend to hold things in and respond out of anger. Provide a safe environment for guys to be emotional.

– Girls will generally have very obvious emotions. Provide support and appropriate physical comfort.

4. A teenager needs the people closest to them to be available for communication and support.

5. A teenager needs to understand the importance of being honest, open, and transparent about their emotions.

6. A teenager needs to be encouraged and told that it is a good thing to seek help and counseling.

7. A teenager needs people to be OK with silence and give them space if they appear to need time alone.

8. A teenager needs to be able to continue with as much normalcy and continuity in life as possible.

9. A teenager needs to share the good memories and funny stories about their deceased loved one.

10. A teenager needs to be encouraged to think about others and not only on themselves during a time of loss.

 

Take some time to pray for the Freeman family and the O’Boyle family today and post any prayer requests of other tragedies that you may need prayer for in the comment section below.

A One Week Shadow


I have been thinking over the last few days about how great it would be to pick a handful of people who are successful at things that I want to be successful at, and figure out a way to spend a week with them learning what they do, and how they do it.

They say that you will be the same person one year from today except for the people you meet and the books that you read. Well, what if you did not only meet those people, but you followed them around for the week shadowing their daily routines, watching their methods, and learning all of the details that make them successful at what they do?

This is a new concept, and I am trying to sharpen my plans for this, but here are a few thoughts that I have already come up with:

Find people who are doing what you want to do.

What field are you interested in growing in? Find someone who is successful who will have time to share with you and contact them about the idea of shadowing them for a week.

Find someone who is successful without being a “Superstar”.

I would love to spend the week with men like Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, and Michael Hyatt but scheduling five minutes with these guys would be extremely difficult let alone a week. Instead find people who are on the same course of success without achieving a level of stardom.

Find someone who is passionate about investing into others.

Whether I am reading a blog or meeting a new contact, I am much more drawn to someone who is willing to invest in others, instead of investing into their own agendas. One day I hope to return that favor by taking what is invested into me, and use it to invest it into others.

Understand the Potential Burden

It is not easy for anyone to follow another person around for an entire week .  Make sure that you discuss with your investor what goals you have in regards to this experience. Make sure that you do everything possible to be an encouragement and a blessing to your investor as opposed to being a burden. Make them sad to see you leave, instead of happy that the time is finished.

Be Willing to Settle

You may not be able to seal the deal with a full week of time. Take what you can get, but I would recommend really trying to get at least two days. The reason for this would be generally it takes a day with someone to get past the initial “meet and greet” dialogue to the substance of daily routine. Also, the purpose of this shadowing is to learn routine, and other details that one may not mention in an initial dialogue. By spending a few days together many of these things will come up.

Understand the Purpose

You may wonder how in the world you could get that kind of time off to go on such an adventure. I would argue that taking a week to learn from someone more successful will more than pay for itself in the time that is invested into you. Many people may not be able to fit something like this into their schedule, but for those who can, it just might be an incredible asset.

Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

What are some other factors that you would recommend?

Who is someone that you would like to shadow for a week?

Great Service

I was reading a tweet the other day where someone asked the question: “Why is it that Chick-Fil-A is known for their service, and the church is not?” It made me think about it, but I was not reminded of that thought again until I met David today. Katie and I joined Pastor Rick and his wife Laura for lunch today for some Soup and Salad at the Olive Garden. Overall, it was a wonderful dining experience, but the best part was the service. I have been to the Port Charlotte Olive Garden many times, and the service has always ranged from barely acceptable to mediocre, until today. David was our server. He was absolutely great! David was versy professional, very courteous, and very efficient. The first thing that captured my attention about David was that when He walked over to our table, the very first thing that He said was a compliment about the waitress who had helped us just before He began to serve us. He made sure to point out what a big help that she was. I thought that was very impressive. David went on to take our order, bring our salad, soup, and bread sticks, all the while serving us with a great attitude. Honestly, I ate at the five star restaurant,  Five Sixty, by Wolfgang Puck, in Dallas, TX three weeks ago, and the service that we received today was just as much a “fine dining” experience. Our party was so impressed that we asked David how we could recognize him for his great service, and He said, “Just telling me is enough, you made my day”. We went on to fill out a comment card, but sadly, I doubt that David will receive the recognition that He deserves. Frankly, If more servers served like David, people would be far less likely to complain about the prices of the food, because service like that is worth it. Anyway, I put my blog address on the comment card, so that maybe David would have a change to come and read this post and be encouraged. David, if you do read this, thank you for great service and a wonderful experience. My wife and I both said that we wish that we could just request you as our server at whatever restaurant we decide to go to that day of the week. Thanks again for remarkable service. At the end of the meal, David forgot to bring my pregnant wife her small Ande’s chocolate mint candy, and before we knew it He brought us a whole cup full of mints to make up for it. Dave went the extra mile to serve his customers and I was so thankful for the opportunity to be served by him.

Now back to that first tweet. Here are a few quick lessons that we can learn from David on how to serve better. Whether in our church or at home.

1. Look for ways to build others up.

(Encouragement takes minimal effort and it goes a long way. You never know who is one encouraging word away from quitting, or simply giving up.)

2. Be Friendly, but get the job done.

(Have you ever had a server who was all about being friendly and not about getting your food? Have you ever had the opposite? We need to find the balance, and maintain friendliness and productivity. David mastered this!)

3. Some people will give you a hard time, just keep pressing on anyway.

(One table nearby kept sending David back and forth for softer bread or this or that, but He kept on keeping on without a negative attitude)

4. Don’t get distracted

(At one point during lunch there were actually a few servers getting into a little verbal scuffle. One server said to another: “stop acting like you are in High School, and start acting like you are at work” David wasn’t even phased by it, he would not allow himself to get involved with the drama going on all around Him)

5. If you make a mistake, fix it in a big way, and then move on.

(David handled that perfectly! My wife loved the extra chocolate… ok, I did too)  🙂

If the people in church would serve like this, we would see some amazing things happen. Don’t get me wrong, many servants are doing this, but what if we all did. It would change the dynamic of the entire church. Jesus was the greatest servant of all, and we should live to be known as great servants like Christ was.

Thanks David! If you are still reading this… come check out our church one day! Suncoast Baptist Church Our desire is to serve you and your family the way that you served us!

Free Fuel!

I read a great book about a year ago called: “Creating Magic” by Lee Cockerell

One of the points that jumped out the most to me as I read this book was a major point called Free Fuel. As I read this, we had just come out of a gas price hike, and those beautiful words: “Free Fuel” were sure to catch anyones attention.

The great thing is, there is no catch here, just a genuine truth, a flawless principle, that you can use today to get free fuel. Wondering what it is? Here you go: “Encouragement”

Can you remember a time when you were younger, and your Mom or Dad asked you to do something, like wash the floors or wash the car, or go pull weeds or something like that? Well, I sure do. I remember working decently. I would scrub for a while, I would pull a weed or two, and so on. But if my Mom or my Dad walked in the room and said, “Wow! Lee, you are really doing a great job” I was rejuvenated. I worked harder, I worked better, I was passionate about what I was doing and all they did is throw a little encouragement my way.

It doesn’t matter if someone hates what they are doing, if they are encouraged, they will try a little bit harder, they will go on a little bit longer, and more often than not, they will do a little bit better. Who is discouraged in your life? Why don’t you test out this theory? Why don’t you use some free fuel.

By the way: let me explain the “free fuel” line incase you did not catch it yet. Encouragement is a fuel, a source of energy that costs nothing. It will cost you nothing to lift someone up, it will cost you nothing to encourage your team, your family, our spouse, but you will definitely reap bountifully by spreading around some encouragement.

Who can you encourage today?

A Refreshing Day… WITH TEENAGERS?!?!

Well if you were to ask a hundred adults how they would want to enjoy a  refreshing day, I bet none of them would say that they want to enjoy a refeshing day with almost 20 teenagers. Believe it or not, today I did just that. I know, it may be hard to believe, but I spent the day (from 10:00am – 5:30pm) with almost 20 teenagers and I had such a great time.

We decided to make MLK Day an activity to hang out with each other instead of sleeping in until 3:00pm.

The day started with a couple board games, then we went outside and played a huge game of basketball. After that we had lunch, then we talked about some exciting plans for our youth ministry for about an hour. After that, we went outside and played football for a while and then we came in and “Jammed” to some awesome music.

It was definitely an action packed day, which might make you wonder how I could call that refreshing. Well, the fact is, it was not physically refreshing, but spiritually and emotionally refreshing. I was able to spend the day with several great teenagers! They were so much fun to be around. We spent time talking about what we can to to make our youth group even better. We spent time learning some new things on the guitar and piano. We even spent some time recruiting a few teenagers into the Church Orchestra! (Yay! Jessica!!!)

It was such a delightful day!

It makes me wonder… WHY IN THE WORLD IS IT SO HARD TO FIND YOUTH WORKERS?!?!?!?!

God has truly blessed our church with some sharp teenagers and they are in some of the most important decision making days of their lives. I would think that if there were people who want to make a difference in someones life, that I would have a waiting list of workers trying to get in to work with the teenagers. But instead, I am with the teenagers each week, alone… Did you get that? 35 teens and one adult. Think about the impact that our church could have on teenagers, with just a few more adults. I am praying that God will provide some adults that want to get involved with some teenagers to encourage them and edify them in the Lord during some of their most difficult days…

Here are a few misconceptions that I believe keep people away from serving in the youth ministry.

1. Teenagers have bad attitudes.

Maybe your teenagers have bad attitudes, but honestly, most teenagers don’t. See, when my 2 year old son is around his mommy and I, the kid can be really naughty!! Seriously, but as soon as he is somewhere else, with someone he is not as familiar with, he magically turns into an angel. That doesn’t change when they become teenagers… Ok, well maybe they aren’t angels, but they do not hate everyone all the time. The way to get past the apparent attitude is to build a relationship with them… By the way: You are probably the same way, you are a little bit friendlier and warmer to the people who have formed a relationship with you.

2. Teenagers think that they are too cool for me.

No they don’t. They are so insecure that they ACT like they think they are too cool for you, but inside they know that they are not. What they need is someone who will build and edify and love them (unconditionally). If they are receiving the encouragement that they long for, once again, the walls will come down.

3. It is the Youth Pastors Job to reach our teenagers.

Wrong again. Sorry, but it is not. God says that it is the parents job, so parents… come get involved. I often hear the excuse that, “my teenagers don’t want me around them and their friends.” If they don’t want you around, there is probably a reason… Fix it! Stop nagging them, or getting on to them about being silly… Major on the majors and minor on the minors.

My parents weren’t perfect, but somehow… they were cool! And my friends loved having them around! Be cool Mom and Dad!  (not weird… that is embarrasing) Get involved!

4. I could never teach a lesson to teenagers!!!

You don’t have too!!  Ralph Waldo Emerson said: “Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying.” Many times, they are not listening anyway… they are watching… Be the real deal and it will rub off. That is better than any preaching you or I can ever do!

5. Teenagers don’t want to talk to me.

Yes they do… they are just insecure! So, stop being insecure yourself, and GO TALK TO THEM!!!!

6. I don’t know how to get involved.

I am so glad you asked… see the nearest youth pastor TODAY!!! and sign up! Get involved as soon as possible! Seriously! If you put it off, then you will forget about it and your youth pastor will continue to be all alone week by week! What a refreshing time you are missing out on!!! Get involved today!!!

Wanted: Guys that want to Grow

Something that I have envied over the past year are the tweets and the status updates that mention a group of men going to their “fraternity group” or their “book and a bagel club” to meet, socialize, hold each other accountable, sharpen each other, and grow together.

As I have mentioned this idea to some, I have heard, “I do not have time to fit something else in my schedule”. I understand. But I think that the sacrifice that might be required to make time for a group like this would be well invested.

Here are some reasons that I think a mens group is important and necessary:

1. Men Do Not Have Friends
– I mean we have golf buddies, work colleagues, and church acquaintances but we are not very good at establishing enjoyable lasting transparent friendships with other men. I recently started reading a book called: “Men Without Friends” and it has explained how hard it is for most men to build friendships. I remember growing up and hearing my Dad tell me how he had no friends, and I thought that was unusual, but the fact is that it is not. Far too many men have not sought out and invested into friendships and therefore they are not being sharpened, encouraged, and held accountable like they should be! “Iron sharpeneth Iron, so a MAN sharpeneth the countenance of HIS FRIENDS!!!

2. Men Do Not Have Accountability
– Now I know, that is a scary word, but it is so important. I have heard over and over through college and through different podcasts and other methods of learning how important and necessary accountability is. The problem is: What kind of guy wants to walk up to another man, and admit that he is not superman, admit that he makes mistakes, admit that he struggles with something, and then ask that other man to help him with it? None! That is not natural! If a guy walks up to me and pours all his baggage out and ask me to hold him accountable, I have to admit, it is a little uncomfortable, and I am a pastor!!! If a group of guys meet together on a regular basis there is an automatic and much more comfortable form of accountability. The word of God says that a 3 chord string is not quickly broken, how about a ten chord string?

3. Men Do Not Grow

As I was growing up, I would go over to my grandmother’s house and measure my growth on the back of one of their doors. It was so exciting to see where I was and see how far I have come! At about 17 years old,  I stopped growing. If I went back to that door today, I would be the same height that I was many years ago. I stopped growing. Every man does the same thing physically, but worse, many men stop growing spiritually. We get apathetic, complacent, and just plain busy. If we do not make our own personal growth a priority then we will fail to grow. Every guy has a natural desire, or passion for success, an obsession to be the best that we can be. But if we stop growing that passion fades and we become less that what God intended for us to be. We must grow spiritually, mentally, and relationally.

There are many other reasons why this is something very important to me, but these are three fundamental reasons. My desire is to start some kind of mens group in January. We will study things like being a godly husband, father and leader. We will generally read a chapter a week and then meet somewhere to talk about what we read. Don’t worry! I know many of you DO NOT READ, but it will be simple, no more than a page or two per day. I am so excited about growing with you guys!!

Ladies, if you are reading this, get your husband on board… Now don’t freak him out by telling him up that you are signing him up for a mens accountability group. I don’t know if I would go to that either!! 🙂 Just tell him to read this! Thanks!