sacramento calling, muscles tensing, breathing shallow

in a couple hours, i’ll get on a plane to fly to sacramento for the first of our three national youth workers conventions. these are the highlight of my year, in so many ways. they’re completely exhausting for me, and i usually get about 3 – 5 hours sleep/night for 7 days. but the real exhaustion comes from the whiplash swapping of roles i do at these babies — one minute i’m presenting a seminar, the next i’m having lunch with a key author or potential ministry partner, then i’m MCing a general session or trying to figure out how to explain one life revolution in two minutes, then i’m hosting people at a reception or giving a 5-minute “we’re glad you’re here” pitch to an affinity group of some sort.

my family is joining me on friday, and staying through monday, so that will be great.

but here’s the “muscles tensing” part. i can do seminars about middle schoolers all day long and not get stressed. and now that i’ve done the MCing thing for a few years, that doesn’t make me nervous (it did at first!). but this year, i’m actually giving a general session talk in all three cities. it’s difficult to describe the level and complexity of both self-projected and real pressures this brings. i mean, just the fact that i’ll be speaking in front of 3400 of my peers, and in a general session line-up of speakers who do this all the time and have really good things to say — that should be enough to send me cowering to the closet in my hotel room, right? but that’s truly just the beginning. last year was the first time yaconelli didn’t speak in the closing general session (since he’d died the year before). so there’s been a one-year buffer. but it still feels (at least to me and many of the ys insiders) like this spot i’m speaking in is “yac’s”. and that makes some sense that i would speak in it — but it adds a level of comparison and expectation (again, both real and self-projected). it’s pretty much unavoidable that many of my closest friends — like those on our CORE team — will be seeing how i do “in yac’s spot”.

then, there’s the general youth ministry professional audience, who, while they might not be thinking of “yac’s spot”, will (many of them) be thinking, “ok, so here’s the new guy. let’s see if he can bring it. probably can’t. how come i’m not up there?” (i’m exaggerating a bit, and bringing together several different kinds of responses into one quote there).

finally, there’s the internal (tic and i even agreed to this) sense of “test”. if i suck, i likely won’t be up there next year. to be honest, sucking isn’t likely. but “ok, but not great” is always possible!

wrap all that up into a burrito and here’s where i’m at: i don’t want to be driven by these factors. i don’t want them to influence my prep or delivery or anything. i want to speak from my heart to those willing to stay (and, i do feel like god has given me something to share — which almost makes it MORE stressful!). but i’m human and imperfect and do care more than i should that people like me and approve of me being the president of this thing.

i’d hoped to be way further along the preparation-road by now (shoot, frankly in maturity also!) — but i can hide in my hotel room tomorrow and wednesday.

18 thoughts on “sacramento calling, muscles tensing, breathing shallow”

  1. such big shoes to fill. remember – he was the one who put you there. he knew you could do it.

    i won’t be at this one, but we will be in pitt. i’ll be praying for you and your staff through this next week. i still have the fish bowl sketch with your name over it taped to the wall by my computer to remember to pray about that – so i will add this to my list. just be yourself. i know to you it might not seem yac-like, but to many of us marko-like is pretty damn great all by itself.

  2. I could tell you that you don’t have to impress anyone until I’m blue in the face, but we both know from experience that it’s pretty hard to believe it in times like these. So do an emerging kind of thing — be vulnerable and yourself. If anyone isn’t impressed with that, well then damn them.

  3. To be honest … it didn’t even occur to me that any of those expectations would be on you … I figured if anyone was feeling pressure, it would be Mark Yaconelli (hopefully he doesn’t read this … because now I’ve made it worse). But maybe that’s just because I’m used to you by now; I’ve been using resources with your name on them for years now. I think the vast majority of us are just looking forward to hearing you have the opporunity to share what God has put on your heart with no strings attached. But I can definitely see how getting up in front of a crowd that big can be nerve wracking. Make sure you wear your preaching hawian shirt … you’ll feel better, and that woman that complained about it most likely won’t be there. : )

  4. Dude you should totally wear your utilikilt in front of everyone. That would at least take the focus off anything that you might say that people don’t like.

  5. Mark, You will be fine doing a general session. We leave for Sacramento this Thursday. If I see you and you look reasonably free I will introduce myself.

    In His Grip, Mike …

  6. Mark, as a Sacramento youth worker, a junior high volunteer, a NYWC junkie, and a regular reader of this blog, I am absolutely STOKED that you’re doing a General Session this year. Don’t be nervous, because there’s gonna be a lot of love for you in that crowd.

    Thanks for everything that you do for us, and especially for NYWC. God Bless.

  7. marko-
    I’m cheering you on man. I thought at the Emergent Convention that you brought a different level of leadership and I felt you fit the lead role well. You seemed really centered. Keep bringing it. Dude, by the way I think your brother was on Wife Swap tonight. He even had your glasses on.

  8. Just imagine that everyone in the audience is Don Ho playing a Uke and it should make you feel a little less nervous…on second thought 3500 Uke players may put you over the edge.

  9. Just do what Yac always said, Grab a bottle of wine and stay in your room with your wife and see what happens!!!!!!

    I’m bringing my team and we will be there this weekend. Can’t wait!

  10. Oh Mark, if I were there I would give you a hug and say (I hope) quietly, “How can you expect not to be influenced by those things…How would it be if you could talk a little about that in your session before you move on to the points you want to make?”
    Just a thought.

  11. Hey what if you let your blog buddies write part of your talk? You throw out the subject, give us some parameters, and we’ll do it. You still have a day right? Sweet.

  12. Dude… be yourself.

    That includes the part of Yac that he invested into you. So of course that will come out. Let it…

    But just remember the rest of you has something to say, too. Let it…

  13. Hey Marko

    First heard you at Soul Survivor this year and as a Brit won’t be in Sacramento (although I hope to get over to one on you conferences some time!) Just wanted to say though that I have been a big fan of Mike’s for years since first hearing him in the 80’s, if I have heard any speaker that God is using in a way that can move forward from where Mike left off then it has to be you, your talks were awesome and so encouraging and engaging. God is doing his stuff through you just let him keep doing it!

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