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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

LeBron James knocks the spindles out of a railing at a work site in AkronWould you like to serve with LeBron James at the Big Day of Serving in Akron?

It’s actually possible.

LeBron and his sons made recent headlines when they joined with HGTV’s show Rehab Addict to renovate an Akron home. HGTV worked with the same Mayor’s Office that I’m working with to coordinate our fourth Big Day event in Akron, happening on October 4th, 2014.

In other words, I “know a guy” who knows “the guy.”

What is it about an athlete like “King James” making headlines by picking up a few tools and throwing himself into a community service project? You likely know part of the answer - it’s atypical.  Our church building is only 15 minutes away from LeBron’s house, and you’d better believe it was all the buzz the weekend after it happened.

How would you feel about bringing your teens to spend a day of community service that included selfies with the NBA great? If you were choosing between events to take your students to and one boasted that you could hang out with a celebrity (assuming that celebrity was someone you wouldn’t mind them being around), how would that affect your decision? Consider the excitement level when kids went home and others asked, “What did you do?”

  • “We spent most of the day at a cemetery pulling weeds and moving branches around so people can visit their loved ones.” “That sounds nice.”
  • “WE TOTALLY HUNG OUT WITH __________!  WE WORKED TOGETHER ALL DAY!” “FOR REAL!?!”

You’re more than welcome to write an altruistic reply if you genuinely don’t struggle with anything shallow like this at all. That’s great, because I have something else to share with you in a moment. Stay right there being holy while I talk to everyone else.

bigday-608x261Because experience tells me we’re all tempted to be a little star-struck. Our last Big Day of Serving in Akron involved a project at the community center where LeBron learned how to play basketball. The youth group who served there couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was to be that close to the legend (even though he wasn’t anywhere near Ohio that day).

That’s not to say that other students and teams didn’t also have stories to tell. We did a lot of quality work together through more than a dozen different projects. Each task mattered for different reasons.

Akron_Day_of_Serving_5_20121013145105_320_240I’m more probing if you intentionally want students feeling good from a serving experience.

For that matter, how much of your ministry is based on getting kids excited for what’s about to happen next?

  • “You need to come do this thing with us. It’s going to be incredible!”
  • “Don’t miss what’s going to happen this week at youth group!”
  • “Check out the highlight video from our last trip. We took all of the fun moments and put them together with a high energy song.”

Isn’t serving and following God something other than that?

The Bible is full of Christ saying things like, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…yes, even your own life,” and  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” He would even pull away when the crowds wanted to turn Him into some kind of healing rockstar.

We know that, and yet it just seems easier to pump kids up about the next thing than ask them to sacrificially respond to what Jesus has done in them and wants to do through them.

fads001Christianity is not a craze to get hyped up about, like kids who spend all their time and resources on something today that ends up in a garage sale tomorrow. Ever notice how they’ll even build a community of friends around them to validate the interest? Then the craze is suddenly over, because they either couldn’t find the next thing to get hyped up about or something in the system itself that was motivating them changed.

Does that describe your youth ministry or mine?

What will happen when students graduate and don’t have us to hype them up about Jesus anymore?

So, no… as close as LeBron is geographically, “King James” likely won’t be at the Big Day of Serving. If he chooses to sign up with his church, we won’t turn him away. We just won’t be intentionally soliciting him to be the “keynote server” that day.

The King, however, will be and is already is at work in these neighborhoods that we’ll be diving into. He’s also at work in your area and all across the world.

Maybe if we stopped hyping Him up the next place He’s going, it wouldn’t be so hard to help students notice and connect with His powerful, life changing presence… right where they’re at.

- Tony / @tonymyles

P.S. – Sign up for a Big Day of Serving happening near you this Fall! Check dates and locations here.

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