Never Give Up On Your Dream

It was Monday morning and I had just come out of a very important meeting at Cedar Valley Church in Bloomington, Minnesota. This meeting had been called because of some big changes in the plans for a citywide youth event scheduled for May 2017 at the new U.S. Bank Stadium.

You see, just a few days earlier the senior pastor lead team for the event had met and it was decided the best course of action would be to postpone the event till May of 2018. This would give time to extend this season of unity, prayer, and outreach we were experiencing in the Church of the Twin Cities.

It was just in September, at U.S. Bank Stadium, where over 400 pastors had gathered. As we all look out from the from the Hyundai Club, overlooking the new field, we heard Nick Hall, from Pulse share a “big” vision to fill the stadium in May 2017. Now it is February 16, 2017, and the momentum has been building in the city. On this day over 830 ministry leaders, representing over 350 churches were meeting at Cedar Valley to hear more about the “big” vision. All 66,200 seats with young people to hear simple, yet life-changing the message of the gospel.

But with the unexpected changes in plans for the biggest youth outreach we had seen in years in the Twin Cities, the youth pastor lead team met. In the meeting, I shared the verse from Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart at man plans his course, but it is the Lord that determines his steps.” Yes, we have been planning and taking action on what we felt we should do, yet all along, have had a sensitive ear and listening to God as He has direct each step. So, at this time God was leading us to set aside our timeline for his timeline.

But what can we do with this kind of momentum?

Not only with our strategic efforts with youth workers of the region, but too, continue to capitalize on the incredible support the senior pastors are giving us, in this season, to reach this youth for Christ.

Here is a reality! 

Those of us in ministry to youth in this region have been blessed over the years by the unity we have experienced. We have come together around a common vision, strategy, and actions that goes beyond just the excitement of big events. This vision has propelled us to work together as allies building a foundation of collaboration in our communities and across the entire region in our efforts to reach youth for Christ.

Historically the big events like: 1992 Super Bowl Outreach; 1994 NBA All-Star Outreach; 1996 with the Greater Twin Cities Billy Graham Crusade; a few See You at the Domes and Go M.A.D.’s in the late 1990’s; the 2004 Luis Palau Festival; and Rock the River in 2009 have all fueled seasons of greater unity of the Church of the Twin Cities.

Now many of the youth leaders from those seasons of the big events are senior pastors in Twin Cites churches. Too, many of the current youth workers who have never experienced this kind of unity of the Church in the Twin Cities. Honestly, in my 27 years of these kinds strategic events and initiative, I have never seen this kind of support of the senior leadership.

The Church of the Twin Cities has entered a new season

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding, abundantly, immeasurably more that we can ask, think, dream, plan, or even imagine. According to the power of God that is at work in us.”

This new season of unity of the Church gives us, ministry leaders, an incredible opportunity in leading this next generation. So, let’s dream big dreams. Let’s accomplish great things. Let’s climb many mountains with God. For with God, we can do anything who gives strength to us. So, let’s dream big dreams for God.

What are we in youth ministry going to do with this momentum and opportunity?

How can we help youth workers from over 350 churches and communities across the region, develop relationships, strategy, and create action plans to keep building on this momentum in their local church and community?

15 months is a longtime in the youth ministry world. When the average stay of a youth worker is only 18 months, typically during this season there could potentially be major leadership changes in the youth ministry landscape in our communities and this metropolitan region.

But could it all of this be a win/win? Both, for the church where a youth worker serves and the Church of the Twin Cities. A win for churches and for senior pastors where the youth worker stays in their leadership positions longer, simply because they are connected other youth workers and something bigger than just their youth ministry.

It is a proven fact and I have personally experienced it to be true over the years. A youth worker who is connected to other youth workers in a network in their city, will stay longer at their church.

The discussion around the table, at our youth worker meeting, quickly began to move to building relationships and having strong networks of youth workers in cities. Networks where the leaders can build relationships in their cities. Where they, collectively, could challenge their students to unite with other Christ followers at their school. We all realized this could be critical to continue to build the momentum for the U.S. Bank event in May 2018 and way beyond.

We also looked at events on the calendar where we could focus to continue to build the momentum.

Youth workers in community networks challenging, training, and mobilizing students in their ministries to lead and participate in these opportunities.

Just think what could be over the next 15 months with the 350+ churches? So, what if…

  • Every youth worker was connected to other youth workers in their community.
  • Every student from every church were to unite as the (Church on the Campus) to impact every school for Christ?
  • Every school staffer from every church was engage in this mission impact their school for Christ?
  • Concerned adults (parents, grandparents, church small groups, etc.) in every church prayed for every student in the youth ministry by name every day.

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Carpe Diem. Let’s seize the moment!

With all the support and the momentum, let’s lead the charge with a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal), an Ephesians 3:20 vision, a Kingdom vision for ministry to youth in the Twin Cities and beyond.

  • A vision big enough to capture our city
  • A vision simple enough to grasp
  • A vision de-centralized enough it can be owned
  • A vision relational enough it can actually work

So, it was a “Big Meeting” and a “Historic Day” for Church of Twin Cities!

Nick Hall made the announcement of the change of plans. He challenged us all that it isn’t a delay, but an extension of a season. He defined delay, as cause to be later or slower than expected or desire. But instead of a delay in our plans. This time is an extension, a lengthening, stretching out, or enlarging the scope of something. It has never been about one night at one venue, but a movement of the Church. At this time, we all are being invited, as the Church of the Twin Cities, to prepare, enlarge our scope, and increase our impact during this extended season.

This historic day is just the beginning of a new season for the Church of the Twin Cities. We are all, followers of Christ, invite into this season to see God change our city and the world.

Jesus prayed in John 17, for His Church would be one, just as He and the father are one. Why? So, the world will know the simple yet powerful message. We believe we are going to see the Twin Cities changed and the world will see the His Church united.

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Dan, why is this so important to you? 

As I came out of that all-important youth pastor meeting, I ran into and introduced myself to the Lead Pastor at Cedar Valley Church, Neal Rich. We talked for a few minutes about his journey to Cedar Valley. Then I shared with him my story. I told him, his Church was part of my journey. You see, his predecessor had played a big role in my life and the history the ministry I founded Allies Ministires.

I told him I had a conversation with their Senior Pastor 27 years ago, Jerry Strandquist. I was just starting Allies Ministries and was needing an office. So, I asked Jerry if I could get some space for my office at Bloomington Assembly of God (now Cedar Valley Church). He graciously found a room on their campus for first office of Allies Ministries.  Not only did I have the office space, but could use of the choir room as my prayer room.

At that time in 1990, the Church looked very different and not many churches worked together. There were many things that seemed to divided us; our denominational walls, our theology and dogmas, ethnic backgrounds, and our egos. We were not a united Church, matter of fact, we were a divided church in our own little silos.

But as a youth pastor, in churches I served in Ohio, Colorado, and Texas, God had put in my heart a desire to work with other youth workers. Leaders who were outside of my circle and denomination, with a goal to reach youth for Christ in our city. So that is exactly what I did!

When I left my church position in Colorado Springs, Colorado and moved to the Twin Cities in in the late 1989, God gave me a vision for Allies. As I sat in my rocking chair in my living room on December 4, 1989, He dropped three things in my heart as pillars for the ministry.

  1. Network youth communicators (school assembly speakers) with a vision to reach the youth of America.
  2. Network youth workers in communities with a vision to reach the youth in their communities.
  3. Network the students on the campus with a vision to reach a friend.

From the early days of Allies, we have been a leader in ministry to youth. We have faithfully worked with youth workers in the Twin Cities building partnerships and assisting the church leaders to reach and mentor the next generation by pursuing those three simple objectives.

Over the years, I have learned a few things. 

There is going to be change. Ministry leaders come into the city and they also leave the city and their youth ministry positions. Think about the change I have experienced. If a youth worker stays in their position for 3 years, I have seen the Twin Cities youth ministry landscape turnover 9 times. But though out all the changes there has remained a foundation of unity in this region to reach the youth for Christ.

Another thing I have learned is, how to live by faith. Yes, you can have little faith like a mustard seed, or big faith that can move mountains. On our journey, my wife Rachel and I have definitely experienced both those kinds of faith. But a time we have just called it stupid faith. Why? Because it just didn’t make sense.  Yet, as the late Dr. Mark Buntain would say, we just kept “pressing on”.

There were times when we would felt like we were just hitting our heads against a brick wall. The vision stretched our marriage, impacted our family, our health, and our finances. But despite these all the obstacles, barriers and challenges we faced we continued to pursue the vision God gave us. I guess what I am saying it hasn’t been an easy journey and it would have been a lot easier to give up!

But I am glad it didn’t quit. Because just a few days ago on February 16, 2017, guess where those 830+ ministry leaders from 350+ churches gathered? You guessed it? Cedar Valley Church (the old Bloomington Assembly of God Church).

I am sure that very few of those leaders had any idea of what I had envisioned over a decade ago just down the hall in that building. They never knew about the early morning pray times I had with Clarence St. John (Superintendent of Minnesota Assemblies of God) where we would pray for God to unite His Church to reach a generation for Christ. Now that room is packed with hundreds of leaders who are uniting with the purpose to reach a generation for Christ.

You might call me crazy, but it wouldn’t be the first time. But I believe we, the Church of the Twin Cities, are on the crest of a really big wave of unity that the world is going to notice. My friends, it all focuses on our mission to reach and mentor the next generation for Christ.

So, don’t tell me perseverance doesn’t pay off. I could have never even imagined that my vision would go full circle all the way back to Cedar Valley Church or Bloomington Assembly of God Church where it all started for me. 

Don’t give up on Your dream, it might be 27 years later, but #never, never, never give up on your dream!

God, do it again!

17 years ago, Allies gave 10,000 Students this Challenge 2000 Card!

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Now I am 60 Years Old

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June 4, 2016 – Surprise!

My day began with Derek, my son surprising me at the golf course. Derek was taking a little video of me warming up on the range and this guy walked up and said, “I believe the starter paired me with you today!” Wow! What a surprise. It was Eric, a friend of ours from Dallas who had come to play and celebrate my birthday.

After our round of golf and a little chipping contest, the plan was go home and grill some burgers and hangout with these friends from Dallas and my family. But on the way home I got a call from Derek telling me that I needed to stop at the grocery store and pick-up some baked beans for supper.

Then came the second surprise of the day.

When I got home I walked into a a house it was filled with 50 people saying, “Surprise, Happy Birthday!” I was greeted with a happy birthday sign, two big gold balloons (one was a “6” and the other was a “0”), and many other balloons. On the table a beautiful cake with a picture of me playing the 18th hole at Harbor Town at Hilton Head.

Yes, my wife, Rachel, had pulled off a huge surprise “60th Birthday Party” and I had absolutely no idea.

June 5, 2016, Now I am almost 60 years old. 

Tonight I sit at my in my chair contemplating the big day. It is when I move from living five decades to beginning of my sixth decade of life. You guessed it, tomorrow I turn 60 years old.

So this night is about reflecting on my life. I can remember the many of those milestones along my journey to this number. Whether it was 20, 30, 40, or 50 years old I took time to sit and think about where I was at an where I wanted to go, do, and be in life at those ages. Well, I have to admit, tonight is a little different.

I have now lived 21,900 days. In sports terms I am just starting the fourth-quarter. I have played the first three quarters (three at 20 years) and now it is time to start the fourth-quarter. It is the time in the game of life when a person’s practice, conditioning, experience become the most apparent. You have prepared for this time. There has been hours and hours of learning and trying to master those things that are important in life.

Just like I had to mastering the art of dribbling, passing, and shooting to be effective on a basketball court. A person in life needs to understand the their passion and purpose and then align their priorities to reach their potential. When you know your “Why” you then can align you priorities to reach your potential and learn to be great at being you. In my case I have tried to learn to be great at just being Dan.

There were those intense times of conditioning when you left the court and your legs felt like rubber and could hardly take another step. But it was that conditioning which separates you from the competition in the fourth quarter.

It is through those times of walking into the gym to practice your skills, run drills or do “killers” to get you in playing condition, or stepping on to the court to play the game, that you gain the experience needed to play in the fourth quarter.

Because of your experience and the wisdom (grey hair to go with it) you now are ready for the pressure you will get from the opposition. This isn’t your first time to the rodeo. You have been here before you know what you need to do in the fourth quarter to win the game. It is time to say, “Give me the ball, coach!” Let’s “Finish well” in the fourth quarter of this game of life.

When writing this I was reminded of songwriter Lukas Graham in his song, “Once I was Six Years Old”. There are a few very powerful parts in those lyrics. The song starts out, “Once I was seven years old my momma told me, Go make yourself some friends or you’ll be lonely. Once I was seven years old. He goes on to say, “Once I was eleven years old…” then states some advise he got from dad. “Once I was twenty years old…I see my goals, I don’t believe in failure.” He progress on, “Once I was thirty years old…” talks about how his career, traveled, and still learning about life.

He goes on to say, “Soon I’ll be sixty years old..my daddy got “sixty-one” (Wow!)” Aill the sudden the tone of the song changes to thinking death and dying. “Soon I’ll be sixty years old…will I think the world is cold or will I have lots of children to keep me warm.” Then ends the song going back to the original theme, “Once I was seventy years old…my momma told me go make some friends or you’ll be lonely. Once I I was seven years old.”

June 6, 2016, So now I am 60 years old. 

You see at this milestone I have started counting days and not years. Turning 60 you have a different outlook of the fourth quarter that is different than playing a game. When you play a game you get many fourth quarters. In life you just get one fourth quarter. All the conditioning of those challenges, failures, difficulties, and pain has prepared me for now. Many years ago there was a term that I used to motivate my leadership teams, “Carpe Diem”. It simply meant “Seize the Moment”. That is what I am going to do as I begin the fourth quarter.

I am glad that in this period I do have somethings figured out. I do understand my purpose. I have worked to alleging my priorities so that I can reach my potential. I too, have learned to balance my time and manage my activities with the priorities of my life. For the first three quarters I have worked hard to be the best I can be. So that in a world that isn’t about just about “me” I could learn to do be good at we. I learned years ago, their is no I in TEAM and I am a team player.

This is not the time so slow down it is time to reeve up the engine it is the most important part of the game it is the fourth quarter and it all about finishing well. That is exactly what I plan on doing!