Trust The Process

Washing my car is both one of the most therapeutic and rewarding things as well as one of the most tedious and cumbersome things that comes with car ownership.

I own a 2000 Nissan Xterra, and I love everything about it. It’s got enough room on the inside to fit all my stuff, top racks to strap gear to, and if I put a hitch on the back, it could tow up to 6,000 pounds. It’s the quintessential adventure vehicle (in addition to my fiancé’s Subaru Outback). So, I want to keep it extra clean and looking like new, or as close to new as an 18 year old vehicle can look.

A few nights ago, when we were washing our cars, I paid extra attention to the process involved in getting them clean.

First, you give it an initial rinse.

Second, you put soap on it and scrub it down.

Third, you rinse off the soap.

Last, you towel dry the car.

Voila. You’re done. It sounds pretty easy, right?

Not so fast there. While the steps look simple on paper, they are far from easy.

If you don’t give it an initial rinse, the soap won’t pick up all the dirt well. If you let the soap sit too long, it gets all scummy and gross. If you don’t dry off your car, it gets all streaky and looks almost as bad as it did beforehand.

There’s a detailed, specific, and perfectly timed process behind washing your car, and there’s a detailed, specific, and perfectly timed process at work behind the scenes in your everyday life.

We are all in the middle of a process. Whether you realize it or not, you’re in the middle of some kind of situation. You might be just starting a new season of life in a new city, celebrating 5 years at the same job, or getting out of some kind of toxic situation. In different areas of your life, you very well could be experiencing beginnings, middles, and ends. This is what I’d like to call a step. Each process has many different steps, and your life is one big process. It’s a process of getting you from start to finish. And, where you are now is smack dab in the middle of the two points.

Without getting too preachy and pastoral on you, let me put forth a few thoughts.

Each step has a lifespan of potential.

Just like when we put together furniture or refer to a recipe, each step is only applicable for a certain amount of time. In other words, each step has a specific lifespan of potential. You cannot get the maximum amount of output if you try to speed up or slow down a certain step in the process; you’ll pervert the purpose of the step if you try to do so.

So it is in our lives. The step you’re on in life has a lifespan. It’s only potent and relevant for the lifespan of the step. If you try to get out of the situation where you find yourself too early, or try to relive the glory days too long, you’ll miss your window of potential both in that step and the steps to come.

Each step has a purpose.

The minute details within the instructions manual seem pointless sometimes. They seem more cumbersome and boring than essential to the final product. In time, if you dwell too much on the tedious nature of it, you get so frustrated that you start to question whether or not it’s worth it anymore. But, then you finish the last step in the manual and you see that without the small things, the larger picture couldn’t come into view.

This frustrating, annoying, and downright enervating step that you seem to think has no point really does, somehow, some way, have a purpose. The purpose may be solely to get your mind off of what’s coming next and prepare your heart and mind for something better, but no matter what there’s a purpose behind every step of the way.


In closing, I leave you with this idea:

Without the process, there is no product.

If you have a goal in mind for your life, or you believe like I do that a Higher Power has something in store for you, then you must remember that you cannot get where you’re going without passing through where you are right now.

If you want results, you have to do the work. Sometimes the work drags you down. Sometimes the work makes you rethink why you’re on this path in the first place. But, you cannot get to where you want to go without going through where you are right now.

Be aware: in the process, you have to discern whether or not you’re trying to rush the step, or prolong the inevitable. Sometimes in order for the next step to come, you must put an end to the step where you are.

But, at the end of the day, there is no product without a process.

And each little step matters just as much as the big ones.

What The Enneagram Means For Your Ministry

One of the things I find most interesting is how understanding our personalities can make (or break) different areas in our life.

When it comes to our relationships, understanding how we’re wired is necessary to communicate do’s, don’ts, and don’t evens to our friends, partners, and colleagues. The self-awareness that comes with knowing what makes us run allows us to collaborate, delegate, and initiate with synergy like never before.

Before I move forward, let me acknowledge this: it’s very possible to get too interested in personality profiling. There’s a fine line between healthy observation and unhealthy obsession, and I’ve seen in multiple settings how these helpful tools can become a source of identity and empty fulfillment.

But, when used properly, personality profiling can blow the roof off of your capabilities. As someone serving in full-time ministry, I’ve seen such practices among teams leverage every ounce of productivity, leadership, and, most importantly, vulnerability to create a culture of excellence, innovation, and trust.

In just a few (not so) short thoughts, I’d love to show you why I believe that personality profiling can enhance and propel your ministry to the next level.

WHY PERSONALITY PROFILING?

The beauty of tests like the Myers-Briggs, DISC, StrengthFinders, and Enneagram is that they’re diagnostic in nature; they help you get closer to seeing the real you, and give you a glimpse into how you can best use your personality to move forward. They take simple questions that are seemingly unrelated and use your answers to paint a wide brush stroke of who you are as a person, what fuels you, what drains you, and what you can do with that information. As a result, you can go into different settings, whether business, leisure, or somewhere in between with a solid arsenal of answers when someone asks you to tell them about yourself.

As I interviewed for a church in May 2017, one of the first things they had me do was take a series of tests (which honestly was one of the most painful 3 hours of my life, outside of the SAT). The first half was for their internal purposes, but the second half was purely for my self-awareness. While the results of the second half did go on file, they didn’t get sent to the recruitment team during the process, and honestly the staff members with whom I connected weren’t super concerned with them and how they related to the interview process; they were only concerned with me understanding the results that I received and learning how to apply it as I moved forward, whether as a part of their staff or not. It was great to see, specifically through an expanded Myers-Briggs test, how I’m wired in regards to the 4-letter classification.

However, if you rely on just the Myers-Briggs to fully evaluate your personality, I believe that you’re missing out on a deeper understanding of yourself and how even your spiritual side interacts with the world around you.

Enter the Enneagram, a 9-type powerhouse filled with layers of mystery, depth, and a whole lot of, “Whoa, it’s like this thing knows me.”

Stemming from the 7 deadly sins (with fear and deceit added to make 9), the Enneagram suggest that there are 9 core personality types at work within every single one of us. When it comes down to it, each type has a specific weakness that correlates to those 7 deadly sins. Here’s how it breaks down:

enneagram passions

(courtesy of The Enneagram Institute)

Before I dive further into the Enneagram, most of what I’ve learned about the profile comes from Ian Cron and the aforementioned Enneagram Institute, so for more information that goes more in depth, please please PLEASE: use these resources. Pay the $12 to take the full test on the Enneagram Institute website. If you’re looking to use this test as a resource, then you need to be properly assessed and outfitted with the right tools and knowledge.

KNOWLEDGE IS POWER

Concerning the Enneagram, Ian Cron posits this thought in his Q Talk from 2017: we cannot truly know God unless we truly know ourselves.

Now, if you know me, I write out of my beliefs. What I say, do, and think originates from my worldview. I’m a Christian. I’m a pastor. I’m what the world calls, “pretty religious.” So, it proceeds from that vein that there’s a deep connection between knowing ourselves, the created, and knowing God, the Creator. I would argue that without knowing God, we cannot know who we truly are.

Therefore, in reciprocal fashion, we cannot truly know God unless we know how He’s wired us. We cannot have that deep connection with our Father until we take steps to know what makes us who we are, what makes us stumble, and what makes us succeed. The self-awareness that comes with knowing our personalities will inevitably created a heightened awareness of God within us, and we would do well to prioritize understanding our inner selves.

John Calvin, the famous Protestant reformer of the 1500’s, wrote in his seminal work, Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God,” as well as, “Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self.” This constantly circulating, constantly intensifying, constantly revealing intersectionality reveals that we can’t be who God made us to be unless we first dig deep into the recesses of our souls, only made possible by first entering into a relationship with the Creator.

MINISTRY AND YOUR PERSONALITY

For the Christian readers out there, we have a deeper responsibility than just knowing ourselves when it comes to our purpose. No matter what industry, vocation, or position you find yourself in, we all have the same calling: make disciples. We each have a ministry that is completely our own, and we must use our giftings and blessings in order to bring other people closer to Christ.

There are so many ways for us to use our personalities and gifts in order to reach others, so there’s no right or wrong formula. But, here are a few ideas and thoughts I have concerning how using the Enneagram can skyrocket your potential, both in your personal ministry as well as within the ministries where you serve.

Knowing your vices helps you love people better.

Sometimes, when we admit that we’re messed up, and figure out what our weaknesses are, we have more empathy for those around us. We come to place where we finally admit that we don’t have it all together, and we stop condemning other people for their mistakes because we’re right where they are too. We can stop being a slave to the “holier than thou” mentality, and finally do what Jesus calls us to do in loving our neighbor (see Luke 10:25-37).

As an Enneagram 2, I struggle with my pride. I can, at times, view myself as irreplaceable. I can be too self-absorbed and end up only looking out for me. Just admitting these things is painful enough, but what I can do in knowing my vices is point myself first toward the truth that we’re all in this thing together; we can’t do it alone, and we need each other. And by preaching this to myself, I can help others who are facing the same problems learn that it truly isn’t about “me”.

Knowing how you’re wired helps you plug into community better.

A holistic approach to who we are as individuals not only helps us see ourselves in the right light; it lets us know how we can best connect with others. Life isn’t meant to be lived alone, so it only makes sense that such a diagnostic method should help us ensure that we don’t have to go on the journey by ourselves. Using your vices, strengths, and tendencies, find people who have at least a basic understanding of what you’re going through. Take an inventory of your interests, and look for people who do the same things; more times than not, those people can relate to your struggles because they have similar wirings.

Knowing your strengths helps you lead better.

When we know where we excel, we can play to our strengths and go after situations, positions, and/or opportunities that excite our passions. Knowing your niche enables you to find people, positions, and places that will allow you to feel at home, and lead from a place of security instead of from fear. And that’s a really good feeling. To know that you can be yourself while doing what you love and moving forward with it is one of the most satisfying, gratifying, and electrifying feelings.

Your strengths are what will be on display when you’re at your healthiest, so this is where taking care of yourself comes into play. When you’re self-aware, knowing how to identify the good, the bad, and the ugly within your soul, you have a deeper responsibility to dive deeper into your relationship with God, as we discussed earlier. When you as a believer are detached from the source of your peace and true fulfillment, these strengths and high points ultimately mean nothing.


In closing, I think my biggest admonition to those of you who have made it this far is this: know where you’re at with God. Knowing yourself is great and helpful, but only to an extent. You hit a ceiling of self-knowledge without a definite knowledge of the Divine.

So, wherever you are, whatever you do, however you do it, please take the time to assess your relationship with God. It’s okay to be where you are, but it’s not okay to stay where you are.

How Can I Reach Students Better?

Have you ever gone to the mall on a Friday night to get some clothes shopping done, and ended up spending more time people watching?

Don’t lie to me. You have, and I know it.

Normally, the big things you see at the mall on a Friday aren’t people accomplishing their gift shopping or locals supporting small businesses. You see so much more than just these rare gems.

No, you see high school students out on “dates,” which means the guy is aimlessly wandering around with a cute girl from school until their moms come to pick them up before the mall closes.

They’re the most interesting creatures on the face of this earth. They want to act like adults, spend mom and dad’s money like adults, but have none of the responsibilities of adults. They think they’re older than they really are, more mature than they really are, and more competent than they really are. They love their independence, but can’t help but flock to attention. They scorn authority, but want to be the ones in charge. They’re the most intricate oxymoron in society, and we adults know it because we once were one of them.

These high school students, and middle school students alike, are the ones who fascinate me and break my heart in the world right now. I’ve spent the last almost 6 years (3 years vocationally) pouring my heart and soul into seeing these kids take the next step in their faith, including the first step into seeing who Jesus really is. I fought the calling I had for student ministry for a good while when I stepped back from it in 2015, but I’m more convinced now than ever that student ministry, middle school through college, is where my heart is.

Over the past 6 years, I’ve learned so much about how to relate to students that stand where I once stood. I’ve learned that the way I understand things isn’t how they understand them, nor is the way I understood things in high school the same way high schoolers understand them now.

For all intents and purposes, as I move forward, here’s how I define the “students” to which I’ll be referring:

A student is anyone including, but not limited to, those in 6th grade through 12th grade, and at times including post-secondary education individuals. These individuals are held to a high standard in the academic world, being tasked to complete rigorous course requirements in order to certify mastery in any given subject.

This definition seems a little like a no-brainer, I’ll admit. But, I think our church culture has gotten this all wrong. The big C American Church has belittled the potential and the power of 6th through 12th graders and unknowingly confined them to their age instead of their position. When churches call their 6th through 12th grade programming grouping a “youth group” instead of a “student ministry,” they grossly mistake what these students can do.

A “youth group” is just a gathering of young people. A “student ministry” is a discipleship community of responsible individuals who have the potential to disciple others, which the church recognizes.

So, I’d like to share 5 thoughts on student ministry with you that I’ve observed over the past 6 years, and thoughts that I think can change the way you reach students better in the church and outside in the community.


1. Go where they are.

If you want to know the people you want to reach, you must be in the environments and places that those people are. It’s no different with students. If you want to know more about your students, then at the very least you need to be at the places they are. Seeing students in their normal lives, without the careful scrutiny of parents or people who want them to be something they aren’t, will tell you a great deal about what they believe, who their friends are, and what they’re dealing with at any given time.

Go to the mall, see how you can get into their school lunches, go to their football/baseball/basketball/soccer games, etc., and you’ll see what I mean. Not only does that let you see who they are; it lets them see that you care. It shows them that you care enough about them just to show up, and that goes a long way when ministering to students in this day and age.

2. Be who you really are.

If you want to know who your students really are, what makes you think that you can be some self-righteous, holier-than-thou person who puts on the church mask when you’re around them? Another big component to student ministry is being the real you. If you fake your life around your students, they’re going to know. They can smell fake from a mile away, since they’re so used to fake people at school with them. Being a part of a safe environment means being a source of truth in their lives, and that starts out the gate by being the real you.

When you’re real with students, they’re going to see that you don’t always know all the answers, you mess up just like them, and you haven’t figured it all out, which is really comforting to them in the most roundabout way possible. They’ll see that it’s okay to not be okay, and that even following after Jesus like you are doesn’t solve all the problems in the world; instead, it gives them rest and peace when everything around them is chaotic and disheartening.

3. Don’t skimp on the hard stuff.

With students, it may seem easier to give a watered down, easy-to-swallow lesson that contains basic principles of faith, like “Love Others” or “Tell The Truth”, without any sort of depth or substance to it. You may think that they’ve sat for 7 hours in a classroom all day, so they don’t need another weighty lecture at a place where they don’t actually have to be, even if their parents said they had to be there.

In as few words as possible, that’s wrong. That’s the furthest thing from what they need. They need the hard truths of Scripture, even if they don’t always say they want it. When crisis strikes, or when what they’re learning at school conflicts with what you’re saying on Wednesday nights, where will they turn? If you give them the right tools through theology, apologetics, and a deeper understanding of the Bible, they’ll more readily turn to Jesus when hard times hit. Go deep in your messages, lessons, and conversations; you’ll see your students think more critically and more objectively, and, in turn, will take what you’re saying more seriously.

4. Observe their culture.

Culture is a really interesting topic when it comes to student ministry. Do we bring culture into the church, or do we bring church into the culture? It’s a concept that has stumped me as I prepare my messages and lessons, and have conversations with students at church and out in the open. But, the reality is that culture shapes so much of what your students do. And not just culture as a whole; their culture specifically determines what’s “cool” and what’s trendy to them. The things they hear on the trending Spotify playlists, listen to on the radio, watch on TV, and see on the Internet are the defining pillars of their world; as a rule of thumb, whatever we see in the media sphere is what we can expect to determine what our students think.

So, in order to understand students better, take the time to study their cultural norms. Listen to their music. Watch some of their TV shows and movies. Ask them what their go-to playlist on Spotify is. Figure out what voices they’re listening to in their world, and figure out how to tune in your ear for just one moment. By doing so, you’ll put your finger closer to the pulse of culture, being able to reach your students through the media they enjoy and to which they respond best.

5. Take them on the journey of a lifetime.

This, by far, is the most important thing I’ve learned. Old-school church says, “Do this. Be here at this time. Don’t have too much fun. Don’t do these things.” And old-school church has pushed students further away from church than they’ve ever been before. Don’t do the things that are old and outdated when you relate to your students. Don’t tell them just to follow Jesus; show them how. I firmly believe that if we walk alongside our students in the relationship with Jesus, then they’ll see the wonders and beauty of our Lord and Savior more clearly.

Everything in their world is pulling their attention in multiple different directions. Show them the brightness, the vibrancy, the sufficiency of a relationship with Christ. Don’t change the Gospel message to be more attractive; let your life show them that it’s attractive to you, and that you’d stake your life on it. Turn their heads with how much you love Jesus for Jesus’ sake. Invite them on the most exciting, most interesting, and most thrilling journey they’ll ever go on in their lives: a journey with Jesus.


There’s so much more I wish I could tell you about these things. There are so many more components to these five thoughts, but it would take books upon books to give you a fuller picture. Student ministry has changed my life, because God changed my life through student ministry. Through men like my student pastors, Ben Trueblood and John Paul Basham, and my leaders in middle and high school, Jake Holland and Donald Whipple, God gave me life in my deadness and changed my world forevermore.

In closing, if you’ve ever wanted to change the world, then get involved with those whose world is still being formed. If you want to make a difference in your community, get involved in student ministry. Be a volunteer at your church. Call your church’s student pastor and say that you want to help, even if it’s just standing at a door while students funnel into service. I urge you and challenge you to influence these kids for the better, because they’re our world both now and in the future.
 

How To Handle The Future When You’re Not Sure What’s Next

This time of year is incredibly exciting for so many reasons. Between summer being right around the corner and school getting out soon, there’s an endless amount of celebration and joy to be had. This is the perfect representation of how I feel personally:

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via GIPHY

And like this too:

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via GIPHY

As I get ready to graduate college, move to a new place, and go back to adulting, it’s almost natural to look back at the past few years that have led me to today and examine them. In the past, I’ve given lists of things that soon-to-be high school grads should do, ways to get the most out of college, and other pieces of advice to succeed in life, mainly because I’ve lived those instances and wanted to help others out.

Today, however, I’m going to try something different.

Let’s talk about the unknown a little bit. Let’s explore ways to get the most of out the situations that you have no clue how they’re going to turn out.

Lists are my jam, so here’s my list of the best ways to handle the future when you’re not sure what’s next.


1. Keep the main thing the main thing.

We all have our priorities. In most cases, our priorities fall into the same categories: faith, occupation, relationships, life goals, etc. Our list of non-negotiable options informs our decisions, maps our life courses, and determines what our lives will ultimately be like. We stake our lives on our priorities. So, my biggest piece of advice is predictable if you know me: your faith in God needs needs to remain the driving factor of every other priority in your life. Without faith, we truly have nothing to hope for in life. Without faith, everything else is meaningless. Keeping faith in Christ no matter what is the only way that the future can be bright and hopeful.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Most of the time, when we want to grow and mature, the natural choice is to be serious and determined, putting away what we deem as childish and adolescent. We take everything way too seriously, and lose our sense of fun and sense of child-like enjoyment. By living a light-hearted, joy-filled lifestyle where we understand the divide between being serious and having fun, we end up getting the most out of our future and end up living a life in which other people want to take part and witness.

3. Be flexible.

Don’t get me wrong, I live and die by the calendar. I have to have this sort of structure in my life or else I’ll waste my days watching Netflix and laying in my Eno hammock, watching the clouds go by without a care in the world. But, there’s a balance between living a structured life and a spontaneous life that leads to a beautiful sense of flexibility. Someone once told me, “Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape.” I have my priorities planned out in my everyday life, like my work schedule, my volunteer activities, and other important events, but otherwise, I do what I can to live a life that allows me to fly by the seat of my pants at times, creating variety and healthy irregularity.

4. Take your time.

As I get older, I realize that time is ticking. The clock is winding down on things like marriage, vocational decisions, and things like the “five-year plan.” It’s a harsh reality that won’t go away. But, I can dwell on the fact that I’m not where some people my age are and be frustrated, or I can rejoice in the fact that I’m not rushing into situations where God never wanted me in the first place. Life isn’t necessarily about the destination; we’re all going to end up somewhere when we die, whether heaven or not. Life is more about the journey, experiencing the ups and downs and ebbs and flows of how everything happens. So take your time, and make sure you’re sure.

5. Don’t settle.

It’s possible that this piece of advice and the last piece could be combined into a more condensed idea. However, there’s something separate about not settling that begs more detail. Sometimes, there’s a situation that comes up that looks appealing, even though it’s ultimately not exactly what we want. Maybe a member of the opposite sex is interested in you and the feelings aren’t exactly reciprocated, there’s a job that opens up that isn’t completely what you want to do in life, or you’re offered an opportunity that is less than what you were hoping for. You could entertain that relationship even though you know full well that you’re 100% interested in someone else (who may not feel the same way just yet), you could take the job (even though there’s a job that’s opening up in a few months that’s the perfect fit), or you could take the opportunity (even though you know that you don’t want it all that much). Settling happens when you let fear seep into your life that what God wants for you won’t come, so you take matters into your own hands. Ecclesiastes 3:11a says that God “has made everything beautiful in His time.” Don’t be afraid to wait; God’s timing is perfect, and His best will come for you, so don’t settle.

6. Follow your dreams.

Within us is the desire to live out a story that is unique to our own lives, that no other person can ever live because it’s our own. But, society tells us that our dreams aren’t attainable, and that we need to be more realistic and do something more normal. I listened to those voices at one time. I let what I thought was my dream of working in music be overshadowed by working in ministry, not fully realizing that my dream was to do ministry within the music industry. I put my dream on the back-burner, and while I loved every minute of where I worked and what I did, I knew that I was meant to do something different. Your dreams may not bring in the top dollar, and they may not make sense to others, but when you love what you do, it doesn’t matter how much you make or who approves; God will provide because He placed that dream within you for a reason.

7. Be yourself.

I feel like this is kinda self-explanatory. I won’t say much on this, because you know that authenticity and honesty is the best policy. Don’t be someone you’re not. It takes way more energy to craft a fake story than just live out your own and be who God has made you to be.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There’s this perception that being an adult and being mature means being self-sufficient. That’s the furthest from the truth. We can’t do life alone. We can’t make it into the future without the help of others walking side-by-side with us and taking this journey together. There are something in our desired field that we just can’t do, and that others around us can, and we have to swallow our pride and ask for help. Being isolated will only destroy us from the inside out, so when it comes to life, ask for people to help you.

9. Put yourself out there.

This could take on different meanings. In every area of life, there are times when we sometimes have to take that leap of faith and hope that people welcome us and receive us well. We put ourselves out there in the dating scene, asking that guy or girl you think is cute to grab some coffee or get to know each other. Otherwise, we sit in the corner staring at them, hoping THEY’ll make the first move when we know full well that we know what we want. Babe Ruth, yes THAT Babe Ruth, once said, “Don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” He was right. Don’t let fear keep you from pursuing what you want. You’re going to fail, and that’s okay. Failure sometimes is just a part of life, and it’s a closed door leading you to the right one that’s open.

10. Don’t forget where you came from.

Life takes us on some amazing journeys. We get incredible opportunities to “make it big” and go places we never could’ve imagined. But, if we aren’t humble about it, our pride will be our downfall. Remember that you’re only who you are with God’s help, and you couldn’t have gotten to where you are today without God’s help and the help of your close friends and family.


I’m still figuring out this whole future thing. I still don’t even know if I’ll have a job in Nashville. But, I know if I keep these things in mind, I won’t have a problem living the story that God has for me.

 

What advice would you give for the future?