Today marks the fourth official day of the Olympics, and I have had so many incredible experiences already. Quick catch up:
My name is David Thompson and I am a youth pastor and former elite athlete for Team USA. Every Olympic games, a group of the United States Olympic Committee select two athletes to serve in a non-competing role. So for the 2016 games, I was chosen to live in the Olympic Village where I support, encourage and advocate for the competing athletes. One of my primary responsibilities is to run a lounge where the US athletes can hangout, snack and build camaraderie. I’m blogging about my experiences and how they can help me (and maybe you) become a better youth minister.
In many of my conversations with athletes over the last few days, the concept of time has come up. I was speaking with a 10-meter diver yesterday and we got on the subject of preparation. Her competition is in a few days, during which she will dive a total of five times. She said that each dive is less than three seconds. She has been training and preparing for those few seconds for the last 13 years. Literally, she has worked and sacrificed the last 13 years for around a total of 13 seconds. I asked her if it was worth it, no matter the result. She said that she wouldn’t change a thing. She knows that when she stands on that platform (representing her sport, her family and the United States of America) at the highest level of competition, she has given and prepared her very best. I thought about that in the context of my role as a youth minister. It is easy to get frustrated when I spend hours working on a 15-minute lesson for youth worship. But if I stop to think about what I am doing (sharing the most important message, the gospel of Jesus Christ, with students) I understand and appreciate those hours of preparation.
There is an old theory that says, “To be an expert at something, you must do it 10,000 times.” Whether you are serving a tennis ball, diving, or sharing your faith, the more times you practice and prepare the more likely you will actually be able to give God your best. The difficult part about preparation is that it often times goes unseen and unappreciated.
But when that moment comes in your ministry, whether you are talking with a small group of teenagers or to a group of hundreds, your preparation combined with the Holy Spirit can reveal God in amazing ways. See, I believe that God is all about preparation. I am often reminded that Jesus went off to the desert for 40 days to prepare for his ministry. Jesus didn’t just prepare for 5 minutes, he spent 40 days in preparation.
If Jesus chose to prepare that seriously, shouldn’t you and I choose to prepare even that much more?
Things are so exciting here at the Olympic Village! If this is your first time reading my posts, I am currently in Rio for the 2016 Olympics. I used to compete for Team USA Handball and now the United States Olympic Committee has brought me back to serve as a non-competing athlete for the 2016 games. My main role is to support our competing Olympic athletes from an athlete's perspective. While I’m here, I’ve decided to share some of my experiences and how dealing with our athletes in the Olympics can help me be a better youth pastor.
I recently went to a youth ministry event at a local, well-known Christian college. I arrived at the event on-time only to remember too late that youth workers seldom arrive on-time to anything. The school's greeters directed me to the event space and a meager array of bagels and vanilla yogurt.
We are about to enter into our second fall kick off and I was talking with our worship leader about things are way different this time around. He said, “It’s like we have a whole new group of people and values.” It’s true. The atmosphere is way different now, intentionally so, and it’s been something we have ben working towards all year long. All year long we have been striving to change the culture of our Wednesday nights to one of actively seeking Jesus, leaders who are bought in, and one of fun, and all of the things we have done are starting to pay off.
If I can pin point the determining factor of why I am where I am today I can point it back to my small group experience. When I was in high school, this is where my faith really started to come into play. I grew up in the church but didn’t really do anything about my faith until my junior year. That all changed when I was thrown into this random group of guys where I truly began to understand what true, authentic, spiritual community can do for someone. Now I have to warn you, my experience was a little weird, well, because these guys were a little weird.
I have one of the coolest roles in the world right now. I get to hangout with, encourage and support Team USA athletes during the Olympics. As I explained in my first blog post, I was selected to be one of two former Team USA athletes to serve our current Olympians in Rio. While my primary role is to act as an athletic encourager and not a chaplain, I’m learning a lot about how supporting our nation's best athletes will help me become a better youth pastor when the games are over.
Another episode of the Download Youth MInistry Podcast. Enjoy the show - and please be sure to visit and thank our sponsors Orange, Leadertreks, YM360 & Azusa Pacific University. Just enough youth ministry so you don't feel guilty for listening!
Doug Fields is a 30+ year youth ministry veteran who is the Author of 50+ books, Founder of Simply Youth Ministry, Speaker, Pastor, Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth & Family at Azusa Pacific University, and a Partner in DYM.
Rachel Blom is from The Netherlands originally and has youth ministry experience in several countries, both as a volunteer and on staff.
Justin Knowles is the Lead Next Gen. Pastor of Christ's Church of the Valley in San Dimas, CA. He oversees Jr. High, High School and College ministries at the church.
Colton Harker serves college-age students at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. He loves Jesus, people, life change, and Netflix.
Blogging serving at a Catholic Church. Chris Wesley has been in youth ministry for over 9 years as the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Maryland.