Thursday, March 10, 2011
Coaching + Mentoring = Better Me
2010 and into 2011 has been a big year for me in a lot of ways. The only reason that I am using a timeline of last April to this March is because of an incredible program I just finished called the Youth Ministry Coaching Program (YMCP). Teamed with the leadership class I took at the Air Force Academy on Dynamic Leadership, focusing on character development in leadership, and the weekly meetings with a mentor that shook my perspective, challenged my notions, and pushed my boundaries, I came out way ahead.
A year ago I knew a few things about myself: I loved the students in my ministry (I still do), I was pretty good at being a youth pastor, I had a wonderful family (I still do, of course), ... and I was dissatisfied, frustrated, tired, and above all, just plain wanted to get better at being all of the things I am - husband, father, pastor, leader, friend, mentor, protege, etc.
The first step happened a while earlier when the father of one of my high school guys approached me on a mission trip and told me that he saw potential in me above where I was professionally and personally and that he could tell I wasn't being developed to my maximum (which was like having someone tell me I wasn't crazy and that the emperor truly had no clothes). I began meeting with him regularly, nearly every week in September 2009. It started hard ... I had to break some bad habits and look at things differently if I really wanted to get better. After a rough, honest meeting the very first time we had coffee, I sat and gave myself the space to ask if I truly wanted to have my heart wrung out and reanimated with stronger things. I did, and I grew immediately and quickly.
Next, I found out about the Youth Ministry Coaching Program run by Mark Oestreicher, whom I have read for years and admired as the former president of Youth Specialties and a thinker that I have always wanted to be more like. After reading about the launch of it, I knew I had to be involved. My church graciously paid the tuition and Josie and I made the sacrifice to pay for the travel expenses of going to San Diego every other month for a year. It definitely helped that I got to travel to the area I grew up in. Those who know me also know how deeply sentimental and borderline cheesy I am about all things, but especially San Diego. Of all the experiences of the last year outside the program, which I'll get to in a second, the capstone was taking a run on La Jolla shores along the ocean as the sun set my last night in town after the closing YMCP. There is a metaphor about endings and beginning in there, but simply put it was inspiring and one of the moments of my life as a movie that will replay for the rest of my days. Like all of the coaching cohort experience, it was just a spiritual moment.
The program itself changed me in rich and profound ways. Marko has an uncanny ability to state things that are complex in ways that are penetrating. Or, said another way, my soul was pierced by the application of simple truths both about God, but also about myself. And the marriage of those concepts is really where ministry comes from.
I found a new confidence, a new clarity, a refreshed inspiration. I rekindled my love affair with the craft of youth ministry, challenging thinking, and vigorous application. My students benefited, my family benefited, my career has flourished and is taking new directions that have given me life in places that were at least dying if not dead. In all honestly and without hyperbole, I don't know what kind of rut I would be in if I had not pursued this opportunity.
If you are a youth pastor, go. Do this ... now, not later. Sell your car or whatever, it's well, well worth it. Your life will change, I promise.