The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Monday, July 10, 2006

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign...

How is that for you? A little old school Tesla lyric for an opening...

Well, I seem to be slowly but surely being lead to one particular church in one particular area. I have spent some time with them twice and while they and I would have some hills to climb, it seems like a good fit. Since I last visited with them, I have twice done interviews at other places and had a sense of "This wouldn't be as good as ." So, why I still await for God to knock on the door and hand deliver a clear plan, it would seem like a leap of faith would be called for.

Here are some reasons that I like where I think I am going:
1. They have done the hard work of discovering where they are broken and working towards fixing what has been a perpetually bad situation for their church. They understand it is going to take some time and that the move they are about to make is a move into the big leagues. And kudos to Youth Ministry Architects for helping them with this process.
2. The church staff seems very solid and are spiritually minded from the time I have spent with them. Such a place to serve and grow was/is big time on my list.
3. The process of evaluation and expectations is established, clear and I have some input into it.
4. They have a great group of core kids, who want to be led and loved. It is a weird mix but every youth group I have served is a weird mix.
5. They love me for me. There isn't any talk of changing me into something I am not. They want me to real, genuine, authentic and myself.
6. In addition to making a major upgrade in staffing, they are hard at work to improve facilities for youth ministry. This is huge.

Some things that I didn't like at some churches that I interviewed with:
1. The bait and switch. One church clearly advertised and sold itself as something that it is most definitely not. And it is really irritating. When "lots of great adults already involved" becomes "the youth minister and some high school kids ran junior high youth with 60 kids" there is some honesty missing from the equation.

2. The "we need to reach the athletes" approach to youth ministry. Basically, I interviewed at a church that said it really, really needed to compete with the Baptist church down the street who has all the athletes. And this approach really, really irritates the hell out of me because it basically means that kids aren't equal. This area has a high school with over 1500 students and less than a hundred of those kids play football, which is the largest sport. The other 1400+ kids aren't good enough for us to reach? They really matter less than the others? The day of reaching a small subset of kids and using that to reach all the rest is over. Kids think, move and live in tribes and all the tribes are equal. The skater kids will avoid your church if for no reason other than you reach all the football players. (Recent addition to the the Senior Pastor's Reading List: A Tribe Apart by Patricia Hersch.)

3. Supportive parents who want to do anything other than really engage. Look, great youth ministry needs people behind the scenes, managing details and working hard at the "stuff" that has to happen to make youth groups work. But it needs far more people who are willing to really engage in the life of the students. If your youth ministry has just one youth shepherd, your youth group will be small, it will be less effective, it will have fewer students involved and you will burn out your youth pastor in less than 2 years. Teams are what make great youth ministries work; individual lone ranger youth workers have decent youth groups. Notice the difference...

4. Don't have the expectation that I am not interviewing at other places. I understand that each church thinks that it has a great position at a great place to serve. But, I also think that not everyone that interviews at those positions is the best person or fit for those churches. And if I wasn't working on two solid months without a paycheck, then maybe you can make an argument for me coming to your place, seeing if it is a good fit, taking the time to do the homework and, if it isn't a good fit, then moving on. However, I don't have that luxury thanks to the manner in which I was asked to resign from my last church! I need a job and while there are some flaws with my "Take all interviews" approach, it has helped some churches clarify what they want and it has helped me clarify the kind of place I am looking for.

I hate moving. But a move to a new conference (where I won't be blackballed because of my involvement with the previous youth ministry regime), a new church (that I think I can serve for a long, long time) and a new area may be something that is happening in me and God is calling me to.

Thanks to all you who have prayed.


At 9:07 AM , Anonymous Turff said...

I know God's hand is at work in this because you and I and a host of others have prayed for it to be so. God bless you as you move on to the next step in His plan for your life and the life of the church to which you are going.

At 6:35 AM , Blogger SLY said...

I can identify with the "black balled" feeling because of being involved with the previous conference guys programs, I've been there myself. Looks like you have made a decision, can't wait to hear where you are going. God bless!

At 6:35 AM , Blogger SLY said...

I can identify with the "black balled" feeling because of being involved with the previous conference guys programs, I've been there myself. Looks like you have made a decision, can't wait to hear where you are going. God bless!


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