I’ve only been in ministry for about eight years. In those eight years I’ve experienced various seasons. There were seasons of naivety and of jaded cynicism, seasons of prayer and of silence, seasons of popularity and of criticism, seasons of personal growth and of personal anguish, seasons of ministry growth and of ministry anguish.
During some seasons, you’ve got little to offer. You’re exhausted, burnt out, having trouble in your personal life, or just expending all your energy in other areas of your life. You get the job done. You do the best you can. You get up and do the same thing the next day and every day until this season passes.
During some seasons you’re broken. You’re humble. There’s lots of tears and praying on knees. God works in you and molds you. He uses others around you to pick up your slack and help do your job for a while.
During some seasons you’re on fire. You gobble up the Bible. You submit yourself to God in prayer. You seek Him. You pursue him with your life and your ministry. You’re ready to charge the mountain, to sacrifice sacred cows, to take risks.
Over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed getting a taste of that last season again. I’ve felt a renewed commitment to my faith, to my God, to my ministry, to my family. Instead of settling for the best I can do; I want to do better, be better—in everything.
As the 2011-2012 school year approached, meaning a new “year” in student ministry, I had a renewed passion. We re-arranged, re-decorated, and re-purposed our physical space. We adopted a more ambitious programming schedule for 2012. I wrote small group curriculum again; something I love to do that fills me up and combines my gifts, talents, skills, and education. We got a logo. We started more small groups. We empowered our student leaders to step up and do more. We asked, “What could we do that we’ve never done before that could reach teenagers we’ve never reached before?” “What could we do that would have PHS buzzing: ‘Are you going to that thing tonight at that church?’”
The resounding answer in my head and from my student leaders was actually quite simple: a lock-in.
There’s nothing earthshaking about a lock-in. Churches of all types and sizes have been doing youth lock-ins for a long time. But I didn’t envision the kind of lock-in that all types and sizes of churches have been doing for a long time. I had ideas. I met with my team of student leaders. “Seriously?! Seriously?!” “That’s gonna be tight!” were their reactions to some of my ideas. They were excited; I was excited. Overarching, upholding, and interweaving our planning meeting were the questions, “Will you invite your friends to this? Will they want to come to this?” Yes! Yes!
Then, shortly before the lock-in, I found myself in the middle of a conflict I never envisioned. It was about the lock-in. I was a wreck. The other person was a wreck. All the anticipation and excitement stalled, actually crashed around me. But, I held onto Psalm 51:10: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. I prayed about the lock-in, about the specifics of the lock-in, like I never anticipated I would. I prayed for the conflict and those of us involved. I confronted the conflict, not combatively, but with a heart for reunion and reconciliation. The other person also submitted to God in prayer. God worked in us. God brought about reconciliation.
Then, I got sick—the kind of sick when you feel like you’re dying. The crying out, smacking walls, ‘cause it hurts so bad kind of sick. As I camped out all night in the bathroom, and then in the bedroom floor with my also-sick son, I prayed. First I prayed that my family wouldn’t get sick, too, but it was too late for that. Then I prayed for the lock-in. God reminded me of some words I’d written at the beginning of the week, “I’m taking care of myself this week because if I get to the lock-in an exhausted wreck, it won’t be good.” God reminded me that this lock-in wasn’t dependent upon me. It was his lock-in. There’s nothing like puking about 15 times (I wish I were exaggerating) to remind you of your own weakness.
So, the lock-in came. I was an exhausted wreck, more so than I had feared. As my student leaders, chaperones, and I convened, expressing our doubt over whether teens would show up…they showed up. They kept showing up. And kept showing up. 148 of them. I had planned for 50-70. I had hoped for 80-100. I guess God had a statement to make to me about the size of my hopes.
Now, I continue to pray. They came for a fun event. Will just five of them who hadn’t come before come back? Will they seek community here? Will they seek God here?