There are certain times of year that naturally push me to spend a bit more time reflecting than I spend doing. Those times of year tend to coincide with natural transitions–the turn of a new year, the change of seasons, and of course birthdays. This year, as I inch closer and closer to the three-decade milestone, I am finding myself feeling both nostalgic and reflective.

The result is this series of blog posts over the 10 days leading up to my 30th birthday in which I am sharing a total of 30 lessons that I have learned in 30 years of life.

Youth Ministry Isn’t Just for “Young People”
In fact, as I approach almost 10 years in camp or congregational ministry, I am finding that youth ministry seems to get better with age. When I was first starting out, I honestly would ask myself questions like: How am I going to keep this up in 10 years? Will I still be able to relate to kids in 20 years? Is youth ministry really a long-term career? Good news: I have found that each year of experience gives me more to draw from, and my love for students and their families just seems to grow. And, maybe, just maybe, my credibility has grown, too.

Thriving Introvert in Extrovert-Dominated Career
I am, without a doubt, an off-the-charts introvert. Don’t get me wrong. I love people, I love being with people, and I really value relationships. And all of those are important in youth ministry. I used to stress out about those parts of my job because I didn’t really understand my introversion. Over the past few years as I have really begun to understand and embrace my introversion, I have discovered some keys to thriving in youth ministry as an introvert. Things like making solitude a priority so that I can recharge after big events, embracing the power of deep one-on-one relationships with students because that is an area in which introverts like myself excel and find great meaning, and maintaining an awareness of how our ministry appeals to both introverts and extroverts. This lesson alone could probably be a whole series. It’s taken time to embrace introversion, but my youth ministry has only gotten better since doing so. And for that I am thankful.

Success is a Matter of Perspective
As a lifelong perfectionist, I used to believe that success meant some very specific things: winning the game, getting the best grades, being the first chair in band, having the biggest youth ministry, making a lot of money, or being the best of the best in your career field. But you know what? The more I experience in life, the more I am finding success in the little things: loving what I get to do every day, being surrounded by a community of friends and colleagues that I wouldn’t trade for the world, enjoying marriage to the best husband in the whole world, being on a journey of lifelong learning, and contributing to the world in a way that matters for the individual lives that I get to influence. It’s all a matter of perspective.

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