Husband. Dad to 5. Student Ministry Pastor. Follower of Jesus. Yatta yatta.


I don’t know what you would say the goal of your life or family or marriage or job or ministry or whatever is.  But I can tell you mine.  They are all the same.

Here it is in a picture:
This is the Raby family.  Thanks to Cassidy and facebook, I heard they were going to be a Disneyland today.  Since we have season passes this year, I called to ask if Shannon and I could crash their party for lunch.  They graciously agreed and we went up and spent 3 hours or so with them today in the park.   
We originally met 17 years ago in Fremont when I was the youth pastor there.  The memories we have shared over the years are way too many to list here.  Two of them were high school students in our ministry.  Three were very active volunteers.  All of them are still active in their respective churches, married men or women who are seeking Jesus, and are raising their kids to do the same.
Tom was on the search team when I was hired as a youth pastor at 22 and one of the questions that committee asked me was “How do you define success in youth ministry?”  My answer was this:  “You don’t define it by how many students come to youth group or how great an event goes or even by how significant a life change you see in 4 years in high school.  Instead, you define 5, 10, 12 years down the road when they’ve long since graduated and they are now loving God, working for him daily, and reflecting that in their home and family.” 
Freeze this picture.  Cuz this, my friends, is it.  
Tom (dad) told me (holding back the tears) in his gentle and humble voice, that he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt his family is blessed and any day the Lord wants to take him home, he’d be ok with it.
I wish I had a magic wand to make this happen.  I wish I had a “staples easy button” for every family I know that had shed tears of their own praying and striving for this in their own family.  I wish I could write a book about how to do this or tell you what to put in the water our kids drink.  But 17 years in youth ministry and watching countless families raise their kids around me, I’m absolutely positive there is no one-and-done formula for success like this.   If I’m really honest with you, my fear is that I won’t ever snap this picture of my own kids.  Tom and Nancy would tell you they doubted they ever would too.  
But, I have 5.  FIVE!  I feel like that is so many lines to have in the water at once and my chances of hitting the success lottery like this is so out-of-this-world miracle wishing.  I mean really, even if we avoid some major life and death kinda tragedy, How are my wife and I going to raise 5 kids who love God, love one another…  and if they get married, choose to do that same thing together?  Much less, how am I doing to even come close to that as a pastor investing into other people’s kids?
From this vantage point, here’s what I do know:
PRAYER IS NEEDED:  No, not like the cliche statement every parent is supposed to make.  I mean serious, pound on the door of heaven, beat down the gates of hell, oh God we need help and mercy kinda prayer.  Dear God I need tons and tons of grace.  I surely will screw this up bad on my own. 
YOU DON’T ACCIDENTALLY GET HERE:  Maybe I lied.  I guess I do know a formula.  I know some that don’t work.  I know that you can’t force or legislate this kinda family or youth ministry.  I know that you can’t get here while chasing money or fame or charisma or power or the American Dream.  I know you have to strive to love God and serve him as best you can if you expect to even get remotely close to this without going to hell and back- literally.  I know this does not happen by accident.  It can happen by grace, but not by accident. 
YOU CAN’T QUIT:  I also know you don’t get here easily or without sacrifice or pain or regret or unconditional love.  This family has required it’s fair share of all of that.  I know it takes endurance, long haul thinking, and the end goal in mind.  I know that I must press on. I must forgive and ask for forgiveness. I know that it won’t be easy. I know it might cost me everything.  I also know it will be all worth it.

I promise you this.  If I ever snap this picture with my adult children and grandchildren.  I’ll be crying. 


  1. Oh wow Brian! this is one of my big dreams, too. Rob and I are first generation believers and I sooo want to see it continue on and on and on and on! PRAYER with a capital P is such a huge key to success. Knowing God myself as well as letting him help you know my kids is hard. Each one is so different and precious, yet also so indiviaully designed. I hope to take that picture and cry tooo someday!

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