By Adam McLane This past week my family moved. I have a love-hate relationship with packing up everything I own and moving it to a new location. I can say from experience, it is a major pain in the rear-end. At the same time we love moving! In almost 12 years of marriage we have moved 8 times. If moving was a sin, my life would be a great illustration of Romans 7, wouldn't it? We do what we hate to do and we aren't quite sure why!
Of course, a big reason I have moved so often is that we have accepted a life calling for youth ministry. Some people in youth ministry are fortunate enough to stay in one location for a career. While that's always been my goal I've averaged a ministry move every 3 years while in full-time ministry. As much as I'd like to live in one place for a lifetime God's plan for my life has left me feeling like a nomad. Like sands through the hour glass, these are the boxes of our stuff.
Maybe you're like me? Perhaps this Spring you find yourself packing your belongings once again and moving to a new place. Maybe you are feeling like a nomad too? If that's you, I want to share three things that I appreciate about nomads. See, I don't think nomads are as bad as they sound. I think they are a valuable part of the church ecosystem.
- Nomads bring life, living, and fun to really lame places. I mean that with all due respect to the places we have served. I have to say that we have helped bring some fun to some otherwise boring places. It wasn't that the people themselves were boring. It's not even that the places they lived were boring. I'm convinced that it takes people who are new to an area to breath fresh life into what locals consider boring.
- Nomads open a church's worldview. One thing I've learned about people who have lived in one town their whole life is that their world is pretty small. That's not inherently a bad thing, but it is limiting in perspective of what God can do through a ministry. A new set of eyes can help rejuvenate a ministry simply by opening their eyes to ministry opportunities they may be missing.
- Nomads are brave enough to go where they need to be. I can't tell you how many times I've met people who are paralyzed as they think about moving. It's not that they don't see open doors, its that they refuse to walk through them. The world needs people bold enough to pack their stuff up and move. Nomads are brave by design.
Listen to me, nomad-to-nomad. You know that we live a tough life. Sometimes it really stinks. Putting all of your belongings in the U-Haul we call life lacks the sexiness at 32 that it did at 20. It's not fair. It's not fun. It's not how it should be. But it can be healthy for your ministry! Every time I get frustrated about God moving us across town (as in the last case) or across the country (just 6 months ago) I am reminded of the Hall of Faith, and all those people who took God at his word, like Abraham. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” [Hebrews 11:8] A nomadic lifestyle may not be ideal, but there is plenty of biblical evidence that some of us are called to it.
Each week I get an email from a brother or sister who has been hurt by their church. In a few instances those youth workers were knuckleheads and brought a world of hurt on themselves. However, we are living in a season where many of us are under immense pressure. (I won't say why, we all know why.) And as a result of that stress many of us are giving in to our nomadic tendencies and cashing it in. We're giving up a little too easily. If that is you right now, and you think that it may be time to walk into your bosses office and sing Dolly Parton's “Take This Job and Shove It”, hear me when I scream this at you. Don't give up!
If you're in a tough spot in your ministry life but haven't heard the strong loud voice of God's call to the next stop of your ministry career, don't give up. Don't cash in. Don't cave to the politics for the sake of not moving. Don't sell out your dreams for the ministry you are in to make your boss happy. Don't give up on reaching God's kids… you know, the ones you're supposed to reach even though your boss says they “aren't the right kids.” The pain you are enduring daily is worth it in the end.