Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Value of a Service

We live in a service-oriented society. Car maintenance, haircuts, and financial/legal services come to mind as common areas where people hire out needed work. Then there’s the recreational services common in our culture such as music lessons, exercise classes, karate schools...and juggling clubs. I’ve observed that the prevalence of services to middle class America has skyrocketed in the past 20 years or so. While not everyone can afford all the services our society has to offer, nearly everyone chooses to afford some services.

Some services are critical: if the furnace goes out, it needs to be fixed. Others are negotiable: my sister, Jean, has saved hundreds each year by cutting her sons’ hair their whole lives. Some are key for certain times of life but may be short-lived: consider private music lessons and well-intentioned-but-seldom-used gym memberships. Then there are some services that may not be critical, but offer such enrichment to life that they are thought of more as a lifestyle than as a conscious expense. It’s just part of the family budget, often as crucial to overall well-being as dental cleanings and oil changes.

 I know that nearly all families choose JH membership for their kids instead of something else. Even if money isn’t an issue, time almost always is. For the vast majority of JH constituents, juggling stays a priority at least year-to-year due to the social, athletic, artistic, and long-term benefits to the childhood and adolescence of each Jughead. In the full swing of our 19th year as a company, I hope that you see the value of this grass roots, tuition-based, optional, extra-curricular youth development service.  One fall session costs more than a year’s worth of typical haircuts, but my continual prayer is that each club day serves toward a lifetime of memories, changed lives, and loving relationships that far exceed that of merely having a busier schedule or lighter pocketbook.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reflections on 20 Years of Youth Work

In my summer column, I described how God called me away from my planned vocation in talk radio and to the unlikely career of older child care manager, which led to the one-of-a-kind business that I’ve now run for 14 years after leaving Wise Guys in 1998.  But whether going to Wolf Ridge with the Wise Guys, IJA with the Jugheads, or any myriad of experiences in between, youth work has been the calling that ties together the last 20 years, three months, and 11 days of my career.

I’ve had interpersonal fulfillment in youth work too vast to even summarize here, but suffice it to say that my direct experience of making a difference in (many) kids’ lives, and the amazing support from the parents over the years, are major factors keeping me going.  I realize that 20 years really isn’t a big deal from the perspective of a classroom teacher; I respect that profession greatly, and I don’t know that I could have kept up with either those early hours or the perpetual “home-work” had I pursued my thought of teaching high school English.  However, as my job more closely resembles a youth pastor than a teacher, and since the average youth pastor reputedly only lasts about 3-5 years, 20 years is a long haul indeed!

Given my career origins in child care management, I must admit that the term “juggling coach” has always been a little uncomfortable for me, since I have neither formal training nor can I match the skills of Ultimate Club (let alone my coaching staff!).  However, by God’s grace, I do consider myself a “life coach,” and I can think of no greater joy than to comprehensively influence and guide others who seek, or at least are open to, mentorship. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve had real desires—and real attempts—to change my vocation since 1992, but I’ve been met with closed doors.  Even when I hired Scott in ‘07, I dreamed of pulling back more and more in order to try out new sidelines.  However, even if my technical skills are lacking and my ego has longed for other forms of talent-based accolades, my passion for youth work has had a 2nd (or 20th?) wind in the last couple of years, and contentment is now more common than elusive for me.

So, I can say after 20 years that despite all of the world-class accolades this company has garnered, juggling is still just a tool—a means to an end—toward true youth development.

Developing Youth Through Juggling Since 1994,