I am an expert at nothing. There. I said it. The truth is out.
Ironically, everything I do depends on people around me seeing me as “The Expert”. My children count on me to know what I am talking about (p.s. they aren’t full blown teenagers, yet). My wife depends on me to fix things (ha, that is tongue in cheek). The churches I consult with rely on my expertise in matters dealing with youth ministry. I have friends that hold me in high esteem.
The truth is I’m not that good. Don’t you feel that way from time to time – or all the time?
The pressure is great.
With pressure comes intense scrutiny – from myself.
My children are huge Harry Potter fans. They have read the books. My wife and I have read them also. But, they each have read some books in the series multiple times. They are true fanatics. Two weeks ago we went to Universal Studios (one benefit of living in Orlando) to experience the new Harry Potter attraction. Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express were worth the trip. We also rode some roller coasters. When I say, “we” I mean all but one of us, my youngest.
We almost got him on one roller coaster. At the last minute he opted out. Near the end of the day, we were walking by Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls, a log flume ride with a big drop at the end. I asked both of my boys if they had ever ridden it. They said, “no.” We had season passes for a few years. So, I was amazed they hadn’t checked this ride off the list. So, I offered. One son said, “yes,” and my youngest son refused. I did what any expert in parenting would do. I grabbed him by the hand and told him that he needs to ride this ride. My wife and daughter escaped in the other direction to buy us all butter bear.
Walking the cue was like a journey to hell. He complained, cried, screamed, tried to run away, and called me names. Right before boarding our log flume the attendant politely said to me, “Sir, I can’t let him go on this ride if he doesn’t want to go.” As my other son enjoyed the ride we were riding together, I lamented on how horrible I am at parenting. I tried to justify my actions. Common sense took over. When we met back up after the ride I apologized to my youngest son and told him I was wrong to make him go on the ride.
I have moments like this in the other roles I play. There are times I am not a very good husband. Even when I try to be good, I make mistakes that cause me to lose confidence in my ability to meet my wife’s needs.
I make a living at helping churches to become more functional. And, sometimes, I miss obvious clues to deeper issues existing within the system. Worse, yet, I sometimes struggle to find solutions for churches who are desperate for some words of hope. I received a phone call yesterday from a member of a church I am working for. Her pastor told her to call me because he felt I could provide a solution. Our conversation resulted in agreement about the problem. I felt defeated though. The answers were non-existent.
Am I too hard on myself?
Maybe. But, others are hard on me, too. In my job I have to be a recruiter, a fund raiser, a visionary and a support to the people who work with me. Evidently, I need to spend over 50% of my time doing each of these roles to be successful. That’s what people tell me. Oh, and I need to eat healthy food and exercise 20 minutes per day. I’m obviously not very good at those things either.
How do I know when I mess up on these? Somebody tells me that I need to spend more time doing this or that. Never do I hear someone tell me what I need to be spending less time doing.
- Placate me. Tell me that I’m not so bad or that I don’t need to be an expert at anything.
- Quit. I don’t need all this stress!!!!!!!!!!
- Stop complaining. We all have problems. Yes. Yes, we do.
I don’t like any of these solutions. The truth is I am not an expert at anything. But, I don’t have to be the expert to be competent. I don’t have to know all the answers if I am asking the correct questions. If I’m able to swallow my pride (even if it took a while) to apologize to a nine year old, then maybe there is hope. My time is limited. I can only do the best with what I have in the time period I am given. My diligence and commitment to excellence will never result in perfection. It will always result in moments where I learn more about myself and how I might do it better the next time. Who really wants an expert anyhow?
Steve Schneeberger is the Executive Director of the Youth Ministry Institute. Beginning in 1985, Steve began a vocation as a youth minister serving churches in Kansas and Florida. He is a 1981 graduate of Shawnee Mission West High School in Overland Park, Kansas, has a business degree from Baker University (1985) and a law degree from the University of Kansas (1988). He is married to Carol, an elementary school teacher and former counselor. They have three children. Steve consults, coaches and teaches Visioning, Organizing and Planning for Success, Budgeting, Helping Youth Over Developmental Hurdles, Beginning Leadership – Mastering the Core Competencies, Conflict Resolution and Expecting Great Behavior for the Youth Ministry Institute.