Tag Archives: Pastor to Generations

With so many graduations going on this month, it occurred to me recently that I graduated from high school FIFTY years ago. Yep, a half-century ago, I marched with the Camarillo High School class of ’63.

More significantly, it also occurred to me that it was fifty years ago that I started doing youth ministry. I wrote about it briefly in my book Reinventing Youth Ministry [Again]:

My call to youth ministry came in the form of an actual phone call.

After I graduated from high school in 1963, I went to work for the architectural firm that gave me a job after I won the drafting contest. After several weeks working for the architectural firm I was absolutely bored to death. On top of that, I noticed how bored (and boring) everyone else there seemed to be. I wasn’t so sure I wanted to become an architect after all.

A few weeks later Don Goehner, the executive director of Ventura County Youth For Christ, called me and wanted to know if I’d be interested in working part-time for YFC as a club director. My responsibilities would include running one of the high school clubs, helping out with Saturday night rallies and doing some graphic design work. He also wanted me to help start a new junior high club program. The pay would be $50 a month.

I was stunned and absolutely overjoyed. It took me all of five seconds to say yes to Don. I definitely wanted that job. The pay didn’t matter. I was only seventeen years old, and gas was only thirty-five cents a gallon. What mattered was that I got to do something I really wanted to do, what I believed God was calling me to do.

Me on the left; Don Goehner on the right. 1963.

While there have certainly been times when I’ve wondered what my life might have been like had Don Goehner never made that phone call (Would I have become a world famous architect, designing impressive buildings and making millions of dollars …?), I have no regrets whatsoever. Youth ministry has provided for me a very rewarding and fruitful life. I met my wife in youth ministry. I learned how to preach, teach, write and play music in youth ministry. I made a lot of dumb mistakes and learned valuable lessons and leadership skills in youth ministry (as my old friend Bill Wennerholm was fond of saying, “Learn to run a junior high group and you can rule the world.”) I got to work alongside a lot of amazing and inspiring people in youth ministry. And I learned to follow, serve, trust and love Jesus more authentically in youth ministry.

So here I am, fifty years later, Pastor to Generations at College Avenue Baptist Church. Am I still in youth ministry? Of course I am. It really doesn’t matter what your job description is. Once you’ve been called into youth ministry, you’re in it for life.


cabcSince the middle of last year I’ve served as a family ministries coach (consultant) for College Avenue Baptist Church in San Diego. The church has caught the vision for becoming a more intergenerational, family-friendly and unified kind of church and they have asked me to help make that happen, particularly in regards to the youth and family ministries. My observation is that for quite some time this has been a church somewhat divided along generational lines with at least two distinct congregations—one that has clung desperately to the traditions of the past and another that has embraced the informal and edgy styles of the contemporary church. There are two services on Sunday morning for these  congregations: the “sanctuary service” and the “gym service.” You can guess which is which.

Being a divided church hasn’t worked out too well for CABC. Attendance declined significantly over the past decade and for several years the church was without a senior pastor. Many of the staff left or were let go. Four years ago the church called a dynamic new pastor, Carlton Harris to lead them out of the wilderness and as he has implemented his vision for unity and change, the church has experienced even more losses in staff and membership. While this is not untypical, it can be difficult for a church to endure.

Against this background I’m happy to announce that I have joined the staff of this historic yet historically forward-thinking church. I have been asked to serve as Pastor to Generations—a position that didn’t exist previously. I’ll be ministering to parents and older generations in the church, while at the same time providing visionary leadership for the middle school ministry, which has always been my heartbeat. I even have a new office at the church with a big picture window! The church wants to do a better job of serving youth and families and connecting the generations, something I’ve been speaking and writing about for the past twenty years. So this seems like a perfect fit for me, a chance to put my words into practice. The church is only a few miles from my home so we don’t have to relocate and the job is part time for now, allowing me to continue conducting parent seminars, playing bluegrass music and pursuing some of my other interests.

It’s definitely going to take some time for me to learn how to be on a church staff again (I haven’t done that in, well, decades), so I’m certainly going to make a few mistakes. I’ve already made some. But along with the struggles that CABC has experienced in recent years, I’ve felt some positive momentum just in the last few weeks that I have a hunch will blossom into something really special, a significant piece of what God wants to accomplish in San Diego. I’m excited about this opportunity.


Category: Ministry