One month after being fired

In no particular order, some things I’m learning, thinking about, and experiencing in the past month since being fired as a youth pastor.

1. While I knew the termination was coming long before it actually took place, I think that emotionally helped only my initial response when it actually happened. For the first week or so, my emotions were mostly a tremendous sense of relief and freedom. But then around 2 or 3 weeks that turned to sadness, disappointment, and even anger, not necessarily at the situation, but other things surrounding it. Responding to it respectfully has been a huge area of growth for me. I’m learning that it’s more important to protect God’s reputation than to try to defend mine. What God thinks matters more than what others think. It’s something we all learn in Sunday school, but can be much easier said than done as adults.

2. I think I’ve heard, “When God closes a door, He opens another one,” more in the last month than the rest of my life combined. While I appreciate the heart behind it, I’m not sure it’s Biblical. (Some Twitter followers pointed out that the saying originated with the Sound Of Music and has since turned into Christianese.) If you want to go with the analogy, maybe God shuts a door so someone can sit in a dark room alone for a while. We certainly see many examples of that in scripture.

3. It’s been helpful to be out of town a lot lately. In fact, we’ve only been home for only a couple days in December due to speaking and visiting friends and family for Christmas. Escaping the drama and the scenery has been nice, but now we’re glad to get home again today and back in our own space.

4. People say that church is like a family. Maybe that’s true for the congregants, but when you’re on staff it feels more like a dating relationship: at any time either party can choose to end the relationship. Possessions are boxed up, given back to their rightful owners, and both parties walk away wounded, pretending to move on like nothing ever happened. Weird.

5. I’m not sure where God is taking us at this point. I’ve been learning a lot about the business side of blogging to investigate whether Life In Student Ministry could start generating an income that could support my family, but it seems like the youth ministry niche is too narrow for that. Youth workers and their budgets (or lack thereof) don’t spend money the way people in other niches do. Advertising opportunities are also fewer and pay much less than other markets, so most of the “make money blogging” principles don’t really apply here. Oh well. I have picked up some short-term consulting gigs related to social media and online video marketing, though, both ministry-related and not. Interesting.

If I can do some consulting for you or your ministry, let me know! Or, if you’re interested in having me come speak to your teens or train your youth leaders, use this form to let me know!

6. Going to a different church in town the Sunday after I was fired was full of so many mixed emotions, especially for my wife. The Sunday after that was a bit easier. We’ve been out of town for 5 weekends in a row since then, but when we return and enter “church shopping mode,” that’s gonna be weird. My church shopping has always been on an employee-level.

7. I feel two very strong forces pulling me in different directions lately. My heart is pulling me to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids, but my need to provide is pushing me to figure out potential income streams and jobs. Balancing the two is hard! On one hand, I want to take this opportunity to spend a lot of time with my family, but my internal “man-drive” to provide is almost overwhelming that. Ugh.

8. My heart is in the church because it’s the bride of Christ. He died for it, so I will choose to love it and serve it even when it’s difficult. At what capacity, though, I’m not sure. I feel like I should take a break from being employed by a church in order to heal and not carry baggage with me into a new ministry, but for how long and what to do in the meantime, I don’t know. I’m not necessarily opposed to going right back into a church context, it just definitely has to be the right one (obviously). I dunno. I’m thinking through a lot about this.

9. A couple people told me I shouldn’t be afraid to just ask for money on my blog. They said they’d gladly pay for the content I provide,, mentoring, and other stuff. I don’t feel right doing that because I’ve been so blessed by the people who have invested into me for free, but for those of you who want to give a donation to say, “Thanks,” you can do so via PayPal here. Or contact me if you want to mail a check.

10. After talking with many churches this past month, I’m realizing that the same thing is true for this search as it was during my previous search 4 years ago: most churches have no vision. I definitely know I don’t work well in a visionless ministry, so having a strong and compelling vision that has forward movement to it is essential for me, not to mention essential for the health and life of the body!

11. My wife and I have felt tremendously blessed and encouraged by so many people through all this, it’s been amazing. We really need it. Thank you! It’s been especially encouraging when former youth group kids want to stop by to visit with us or send us notes of thanks and encouragement. Thank you so much!

Please continue to pray for us. We’re still doing our best to hear what God has next for us and how we can best serve Him and His teenagers.

Posted on December 29, 2010

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