Monday, January 31, 2011

Effective Influence

I recently came across a survey put out by the Barna Group that made me think about the term "role model." I've always been of the opinion that "everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher" (see Luke 6:40). In everyone's lifetime they will both be a teacher or role model and they will teach or model to others. I'd suggest that we're always doing both at some capacity, as even my 2 year old is teaching my 7 month old how to interact. Those that volunteer for me in Axis hear me quote this verse and share the opinion that we are making "spiritual" copies of ourselves. Not that we are great, but in the words of Paul "Imitate me, as I also imitate Christ." So... the question that has been floating around in my mind is what makes a role model effective?

Looking at the data from the survey and considering my own experience in life and in youth ministry, the most effective role models are those that have the most intense relationship with whom they are modeling to. To paraphrase the survey results, we emulate those we know best. Of course the survey is directed toward a teenage audience, but I have no problem going out on a limb and saying we all are most influenced by the ones we surround ourselves with. Within that group, the ones who have the most "intense" relationship with us are our biggest role models. Intense relationships have a rich combination of time, quality, and depth.

I don't think I am breaking new ground saying that effective role models have intense relationships with those they are modeling to. But I think we forget to act on that, leaving out the work that has to go into an intense relationship. The big takeaway in my mind is this:

1. If you are wanting to be a role model, your effectiveness is directly related to the intensity level of your relationship. For example, as a parent I want to model a life worth living to my daughters. Merely telling them what to do is not modeling anything. Taking the time to play with them, enjoy their company, be interested in their lives and "know" them creates a strong bond that makes my example effective. For me as a youth pastor and for my volunteers reading this, same applies to your influence within Axis. Bring up the intensity and with it will follow the effectiveness.

2. If you are the one following an example, evaluate who you are intense with. I'm assuming we want to be better people and grow in our faith. Who then do I intensely relate with? Do I share my life with someone I consider a stronger and more mature follower of Jesus than I? Life is lived in the example of others and following the best example in my opinion is no accident. I need to intentionally surround myself with others I want to shape my life.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Retreat Perspective: 2008 Timber Ridge

Yesterday I started a flashback sequence on my blog, looking back at each Timber Ridge as we approach our 5th trip up there under my leadership. It is great perspective both to what God has accomplished on these past retreats and to what has worked/not worked as I plan for our 5th time around. So here goes a recap of our trip to Timber Ridge in 2008:

What a difference a year makes! Yeah it was Timber Ridge again... but there were some notable changes. First, I had a full year under my belt at Grace. Believe me when I say that planning this over 3 months versus 3 weeks was much more fun and productive. Second, they finished the "barn" which gave us access to the climbing wall, a REAL meeting place, and a plethora of options when it came to games! Thirdly, we brought Aaron Cronen. Oh and lastly this was the year Rawney and I made our announcement that we were pregnant with our first baby!

The theme this year was Embrace. I stole the concept from one of my favorite authors and theologians named Miroslav Volf. It fit perfectly as we discussed the process of "embracing" others using the metaphor of a hug and the open arms of the father in the story of the Prodigal son. We talked about Jesus' "embrace" of us and how we in turn reciprocate that in His example toward others. One of the most powerful moments for me in this was when I had two guys come to me in complete sincerity at the end of the retreat asking how they can live this out back home.

It's difficult to explain in a blog the many stories and God-moments that they produce. We definitely turned a corner in 2008 with the devotions as I started using mp3 players as the standard. The warming house tradition on Saturday night became increasingly powerful. I started going out of my way to pray/speak into the lives of each student before they left the warming house on Saturday night. Everything flowed well and the retreat seemed to only get better and build off of the momentum of the year before it!

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Retreat Perspective

Coming up this weekend is the 5th retreat I've taken to Timber Ridge with the students from Grace Fellowship. I think it is fitting to spend a couple of short blog posts in reflection on over the past 4 time's we've journeyed up to Timber Ridge. For those of you reading who don't have inside information, this retreat is the culmination of class called Student Impact that begins in the Fall and ends with this retreat. It is a "reward" for those who faithfully accomplish the rigors of this class.

In 2007 the class was called "Loco" and the theme was "What's My Story?" I had literally just stepped into Grace Fellowship as the Junior High Pastor less than 4 weeks before leading this retreat. Talk about spinning heads, I could not have been more full of excitement or fear at the same time. Because Loco had been going on before I became the pastor, the volunteer leader of the class and I team-taught this retreat. I believe retreats are golden opportunities to shift the paradigms of students, so I was more than excited to plan this one out in great detail. Looking back on my notes I had planned out flow charts, leadership meetings and instructions, and every other logistic I could think of. Typical of my retreat planning style, it was over-planned =).

Believe it or not, the Barn was not finished at Trout Lake. We ate, played, watched our movie, did our worship, spent time in devotion all in the same room. I wrote the devotions for this retreat *gulp* without MP3 player accompaniment. Of the 9 leaders who went with, 4 of them (including Rawney and I) are still in this ministry. This retreat was were I started the warming house tradition on Saturday night. God was glorified no less in this retreat as He as been in each that have followed!

This retreat has come a long way in the past 4 years. I'm not surprised that God has worked and continued to show up in amazing ways, but I am always pleasantly surprised to see just how that unfolds. Since 2007 God has continued to do amazing things in the hearts of students and leaders on this retreat. Of all the things we've changed, the warming house tradition and the movie making has not changed =).