Why I didn’t go back into a church ministry position

My familyAs I mentioned yesterday when I announced my new position at Epipheo Studios, it was very difficult for me to think of myself as doing anything other than full-time vocational youth ministry. “Church world” is all I know. I started serving in youth ministry to my peers as a high school student myself and just haven’t stopped since then.

When Epipheo contacted me about the potential opportunity there, it sounded intriguing to me, but I really saw myself more in traditional ministry because it’s where my heart, passion, skills, and connections are. But the more I talked with the CEO of Epipheo, Jeremy Pryor, about what Epipheo does and his vision for where he wants the company to go, so much of what he shared vibed with my heart and passion for ministry. I even took him up on an offer to go out to their office in Cincinnati and talk more with him and other leaders in the company. It was there that I think several things clicked with me despite my wrestling with the idea of no longer being employed by traditional youth ministry.

1. First and foremost, the owners of the company and most of its leaders are former pastors, youth pastors, and ministry leaders. Their hearts for ministry haven’t changed — their ministry is just expressed differently through their work at Epipheo. It’s been fun for me to see that in the few weeks I’ve been talking with them!

2. Perhaps by biggest frustration with serving in churches is that, as far as my experience is concerned, they tend to be very content with just maintaining their ministry. As a big-picture guy who needs a compelling vision in order just to function, nothing frustrates me more than a church that’s content with where they are. No church actually says they’re content and comfortable. In fact, they say just the opposite and sometimes they even think they really mean it, but yet most that I’ve been in contact with are unwilling to really make the deep-rooted changes that are necessary, often because doing so may be costly and uncomfortable. They like the idea of innovation and a vision that facilitates momentum, but the actual implementation may be risky. I’m hoping this starts to change, but more on that some other time.

At Epipheo I sense they operate the way I wish a church would operate. I feel like we hold similar values not only in our philosophies of ministry, but also in vision, innovation, and forward movement. Their vision of, “Revealing truth in a way that changes people’s lives,” is one that resonates with me and offers such tremendous potential, especially as we talk about how we can continue to make “truth” a capital T and tell God’s Story in engaging ways.

3. When I think about the ministry potential that Epipheo offers in revealing Truth online through video, social media, and technology, it really starts to blow my mind! I feel bad for saying this, but I feel like I can make a bigger eternal impact for the Kingdom through Epipheo than I can through a church. At Epipheo I sense like there are fewer barriers, there’s less resistance, and more potential to change people’s lives by telling God’s Story in innovative ways. I truly believe the church is the bride of Christ and is His divine plan for spreading His story on earth, but thankfully I believe the Lord will continue to use me to influence His bride while not relying on it for my full-time income.

4. Over this past year I had the tremendous privilege of volunteering in the youth ministry at our church and man, I loved it! It really played to my pastoral giftedness much better than the traditional youth pastor role as a program coordinator and event planner. Working full-time for Epipheo will provide me the opportunity to really dive in deep with a youth ministry on a volunteer basis and continue to serve in that capacity. In fact, I’ve already started talking with a church in the Cincinnati area that’s really trying to move toward a family-based approach to ministry and appears to be willing to make some of those deep-rooted changes. I’m excited about the potential of partnering with them and helping them continue to move forward however I can.

5. Let me just be honest with you guys: I’m the kind of person that tends to jump in with both feet and be totally immersed when I’m doing something I’m passionate about, almost to the detriment of my family. I’ve had poor boundaries between my ministry and my family in the past. Sometimes that’s praised in “church world” because, “It’s so clear that you are dedicated to the Lord’s work!” And to be even more honest, sometimes I think that kind of immersive ministry was not always based on passion but on insecurity. I felt like I needed the church to feel like their financial investment in me was worthwhile. It doesn’t take a genius to see how unhealthy that is on so many levels.

While no one at Epipheo asked or talked about that, in my brief time with them, they modeled something for me that was so refreshing: on Friday evening cell phones go on airplane mode until Saturday evening. That time is spent eating meals together with their family, family Bible study, games, movies, and dedicated family time with no work interruptions. I want to work at a place that not only says they value family as our primary ministry, but actually lives it out. Seeing that modeled for me will really empower me to emulate it, which I want more than anything else.

So, with all that said, our next steps are this: we’re moving out of our house in Minnesota after church this Sunday (which we were planning to do anyway) and will drive all our stuff to a storage unit in Cincinnati where Epipheo’s office is located. After spending a few days at Epipheo and scoping out different neighborhoods we’ll continue on to my parents’ house in Pennsylvania. We’ll stay there for a few weeks while I fulfill some speaking engagements on the east coast before driving to my wife’s parents’ house in Texas. We’ll be there for two months while I work remotely for Epipheo. Then, at the end of April we’ll move to Cincinnati to settle down and work closer to the office. At least that’s the plan for now.

These next few months are going to be crazy! Follow along on Facebook or Twitter!

Posted on February 8, 2012

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