One of the most stunning questions I’m occasionally asked is, “How do I get to be where you are…you know a speaker, author, big-shot type person, etc…?” Honestly, I think it’s a really weird question and I feel a little embarrassed for the person asking.
Here’s how I usually respond:
“I don’t really know how to answer you! Personally, I didn’t seek out a path for “this”. All I ever wanted to be was a youth pastor. I worked full-time in two churches for 29 years before I ‘stepped out’ on my own to meet the demands of a growing global ministry. I never sought to be “someone” other than a youth pastor. My encouragement to you is to stay in the church, love the teenagers and families entrusted to your care, and be faithful to that calling. If doors open for you to use your gifts outside of your church context…walk thru them…and see if it was really an open door or one you were working to push in. But, honestly, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t think there’s a formula. I’d seriously evaluate the motive behind your question and beg for God’s wisdom. Be faithful within the church, pay your dues in the trenches, and see what God does.”
When I was a younger youth worker there wasn’t a youth ministry “industry” like there is today. I’m sure there were several good organizations out there, but all I knew about was Youth Specialties (YS). YS was run by two young leaders (Wayne Rice & Mike Yaconelli) who wanted to help youth workers and did so by publishing ideas’ books and organizing training events. Over the years YS grew in size and influence and became one of the key reasons for today’s youth ministry industry. I still remember the phone call I got from Yaconelli in 1985 asking me if I would be interested in joining their training team (I returned his call from a pay phone at Fuller Seminary–long before cell phones)…I was so surprised. I think that was one of the “secrets” of the early days of YS, they didn’t ask people who were asking to be someone.
Things have changed in the youth ministry world and now that there is a youth ministry industry with so many opportunities, I wonder if this question is more valid than stunning. It may be. I need to think more about it because right now, it just bugs me.
Does it bug you…or, is it a legitimate question? I’m genuinely curious.