Some time after my first few months of doing landscaping and the Youth Ministry that Works project one of my team members asked me if I had saved my first dollar. They had owned some of their own businesses in which they were quite successful financially and they had saved their very first dollar when their doors had opened. As it turned out by complete accident, I had. But, I was struck by the fact that after so many years of ministry how that never would have occurred to me to save.
Ministry by definition is about people and God and you can't really untie those two. I often tell people that I love to work on landscaping and read mystery novels because they are always finished when you finish them. You can step back and look at a lawn or a landscape job and know that it was good work that is now completed. A good mystery novel eventually finds closure as well. Even if it takes 2-4 books to get there. Not so with ministry. Ministry is never finished. People are always dancing with God (and attempting to do so without) in new ways. Sometimes its beautiful and sometimes its a train wreck, but their story is never complete. Even in death. So, it never occurred to me to put my business hat on and save that first dollar. What I am doing feels more like ministry than business most days even though its both. But what I had intentionally saved was the photo at the top of this post.
That photo is my first dollar. It is a photo of Ethyn McLaughlin and I. Ethyn was my first hire with Mowtown Teen Lawncare and I couldn't be more proud of that image. It represents a revolution in my ministry and I think a revolution in his life. It MAY also represent a new way of doing ministry with teens altogether. Yesterday evening at our standard youth group we opened with the question, "Who is it in your life that gives you the most direct feedback, that kind of calls you on stuff in a way that you can listen to?" Ethyn's answer was that it was his Dad at home and me at work. I was both stoked and floored that was true. I have watched him start to develop some key leadership skills over time and his confidence continues to grow as a result of this new way of doing ministry. He is learning to take risks and growing in his willingness to make mistakes. God is bringing his gifts to the fore in his life and to me watching all this is like standing in the spray of the parting Red Sea. It is a fascinating and terrifying miracle to take part in. Fascinating and terrifying. Both at once.
So this is my first dollar. I hope to frame it in the coming months and put it on the wall in my office. To me its value and the worth of the labor and ministry it represents is inestimable. If this is the kind of work and ministry that social entrepreneurship can create then I want more of it. It is absolutely thrilling.