More than three decades ago I showed up for my first day of work at Group Publishing, a 26-year-old amateur theologian and journalist trained in investigative reporting, about to mount the lowest rung on my career ladder.
Six months later Thom Schultz, founder and CEO of Group, asked to meet with me… I remember the nervous, intimidated feeling I had as I walked the hallway to his office.
What unconscious screw-up could warrant a trip to the principal?
Instead, after my short stint as a copy editor minion, he told me he’d decided to hand me GROUP Magazine to edit, mentoring me into the role for a year before cutting me loose. GROUP was the hub of the organizational wheel at the time—everything we did depended on its success. I’d been a volunteer youth leader at my church, but knew next to nothing about the “standards and practices” of what was, at the time, an emerging “profession.”
It was a bracing, exhilarating moment for me…
And now, after an entire ocean under the bridge, I’m leaving Group—another in a long list of the pandemic’s collateral damage. My three decades embedded in the youth ministry world have re-formed who I am, changed the trajectory of my life, and have thrown me into the company of the most extraordinary and impactful people in the world. Along the way I’ve tried to steer the GROUP Magazine ship through the “hurricane years” of youth ministry—writing books (both inside and outside youth ministry), creating national training tours, developing online ministry courses, helping lead a national ministry conference, launching research projects, creating curriculums, and personally training thousands and thousands of youth workers. I have made too many mistakes to count, but who’s counting anyway?
Today I continue to lead a longtime “home church” for 25 teenagers every week, treating it as my lab for experimenting with interactive and experiential ways to radically deepen their relationship with Jesus. The group is called “Pursuing the Heart of Jesus, Not His Recipes”—and it’s the culmination of my passion for Jesus and my passion for teenagers.
As I leave, I just want to simply say thank-you to all of you for what you do, and for how you’ve enriched my life with treasures I could never repay. You’re my heroes, and you always will be. I don’t know yet what is next for me, but I always tell people that “trust isn’t really trust until there’s a high price tag attached to it.” I’m trusting Jesus to do what he does best—take the raw material of my “ugly” and re-fashion it into something beautiful…
Please, if you’d like to stay in touch, there’s a simple way to do that—just click on this link and we’ll be able to stay connected: http://ricklawrence.com/stay-connected/
My new email is: firstname.lastname@example.org, by the way. And for those of you who are listeners to my podcast—Paying Ridiculous Attention to Jesus—the good news is that I’m taking it with me into the great unknown. I’ll continue to produce a weekly episode, and continue to connect you to the Jesus-centered resources I’m so passionate about (including my upcoming daily devotional Jesus-Centered Daily and my friend Jeff White’s upcoming “adult story Bible” called Eyewitness).
I have a final gift for you—it’s a Winston Churchill quote burned into a piece of barn wood that hangs over our kitchen sink: “Never, never, never give up”.
You are the Navy SEALS of the church, so everything you do will be opposed. Just accept it, jut out your chin, and fight, fight, fight for your kids…