Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Stability In Life, Family and Ministry

The other night my wife and I ended the day as we usually do by reading a devotion together. Currently we have been working through "Night Light For Parents" by Dr. James Dobson. This week’s study is focused on fathers. Dr. Dobson set up the book so that the reader goes through the devotion and then is faced with three questions about the topic at hand. One of the questions was, “How did your dad influence the person you’ve become today?" I simply responded to Tracy with the word stability. My dad is not a college educated man or even a high school graduate. However, he valued education. I cherish the memories I have from when I was 7 or 8 years old and watched as he worked to get his GED so that he would have a stable foundation if his job situation would ever change. 

My dad was a polisher at one location in Menomonee Falls, a suburb of Milwaukee, for decades. They made all kinds of things for doctor’s offices. If it had chrome on it, he was probably the one who polished it. He was there for decades until customers decided to get the equipment shipped in from overseas. I remember him being a bit frantic because his job was part of who he was - it was how he defined himself. For 20+ years he worked at this one place and did the same thing. Thankfully, it wasn't long before he found a new employer in Milwaukee that had a contract with Harley Davidson Motorcycles to do all of their chrome work. Despite the fact that my Dad was in his 50s, they hired him shortly after he applied. They knew the value of experience and hard work. He proceeded to work there until he retired in his late 60s. My Dad built a strong work ethic in my brother and I. He showed me how to provide for my family and build a strong future. I am thankful for his strong work ethic and the way he displayed the value of stability. It’s one of the things I most admire about him even today.

I have only applied for two jobs in my entire life. My first job was at a toy store in Mayfair Mall and my second job was at a factory after I graduated from high school. This provided me with insurance and a livable income so that I could work for free as a youth pastor and associate pastor. The jobs in-between those two main jobs were simply because the managers asked me to join their team, which included working in a bookstore and a few software companies. When I was hired as a youth pastor for the first time it was an unpaid position. The church was unable to offer me a salary but the pastor offered me the job and it seemed like a good fit. I stayed at that one church for eight years, which goes against all statistics regarding youth pastors and their longevity at a church. The position went from free to part-time pay and eventually to a livable income for a single guy (which I was at the time). My role evolved and I ended up pastoring the youth, children, elderly, and every age group in-between. This is what’s expected of a staff pastor at a small church. You know: see a need and fill it. Of course there were times I got disgruntled but there were many more times I simply loved what I did. In the words of Reggie Dabbs, “I cannot believe I am getting paid to do this!” I loved the place. If circumstances were different, I would still be there.

During this time I had three offers to go on staff at other churches. One in Kansas, another in a now huge church in Germantown, WI and the third at the church I am currently pastoring in Waupaca, WI. Tracy and I came to Waupaca each summer as we grew up. We loved the area and decided to accept that offer. I was once again an unpaid youth pastor and had to commute to Milwaukee each week. This transitional time was difficult, but thankfully I was soon given a small part-time salary and the youth group began to explode. We had 80+ kids coming to our outreaches and 30+ attending youth group every week. This is incredible because this church only had 5 or 6 teens as regular Sunday attenders! After an unexpected problem arose in the church, I was asked to become the senior pastor. This was a crazy time in my life and I was bombarded with job offers to leave and go here or there. I had an Assembly of God district official ask me over and over again if I would come on staff at his church. 

Opportunities were everywhere, but I had the values of stability and loyalty deeply seated in my heart from my father. I knew God called me to be a husband first and placed me in this church in Waupaca, WI for a reason. Despite the turmoil in the past, the church was doing well. I knew I had to stay where I was, regardless of how alluring the other offers were. Fast-forward to today and I have now been a part of this church for 12 years! August of 2015 will mark my 10 year anniversary as senior pastor. I have been in full time ministry for almost 20 years and have only served at two churches. I believe this is my Dad's strong work ethic reflecting in me.

What kind of traits are you passing onto your children? Kids grow up fast and we need to set a good example. We cannot selfishly do what we want to do at the cost of our kids not having the upbringing they deserve. What is your work ethic like? What do you value and give your time to? Sometimes I wonder about social networking. It is safe to assume that this semi-new way of communication will not be going anywhere anytime soon. When our children are able to have their own accounts, what will they see when they scroll back on us? You do realize they will be able to do that, don’t you? Will they see parents they are proud of or will they be shocked or disappointed by what they see? I hope to leave a legacy like my Dad did. One to be proud of.

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