speaking to middle schoolers with “the wayne” in the audience

a few weeks ago, i spoke at forest home‘s middle school winter camps. the middle school director at forest home is my friend, nate rice, a fantastic middle school youth worker and a deeply good guy. but in a great quirk of life, nate is in a role that was once — decades ago — occupied by his dad. and his dad is none other than wayne rice, the co-founder of youth specialties.

when i was just getting going in middle school ministry, i heard wayne speak. he was the man, the guy who fairly single-handedly legitimized ministry with young teens as a calling (not merely a stepping stone to high school ministry). wayne saw himself as a life-long junior high guy; and brushing against that was a significant part of my own life-long calling to middle schoolers being formed.

it’s been wonderful and at times surreal, over the years, to get to know wayne due to my time at youth specialties (though he and i never worked there at the same time).

but it was off-the-charts surreal, and somewhat intimidating, to find out that wayne was going to be sitting in the audience at my second weekend of winter camp. he was attending as a cabin counselor, with the kids from his church. yup, wayne was and is still living out that life-long calling. but it was trippy to have him sitting out there, amongst a room full of 600 middle schoolers, as i was speaking. he was nothing but gracious, and said some lovely and encouraging things to me in private and on his blog. but, really… he’s “the wayne”! and i wouldn’t be where i am were it not for him!

that’s why scott rubin and i dedicated our book, middle school ministry, to wayne. he took many of the early hits, carving a path for many of us to follow.

here’s a pic from that weekend, with me, nate and wayne.

7 thoughts on “speaking to middle schoolers with “the wayne” in the audience”

  1. As a new youth pastor, I dreaded junior high ministry and thought I put up with it so I could work with the high school kids. Hearing you year after year hammering the message about how worthwhile middle school ministry is, and how fun it is, played a big role in my own attitude changing about it! In a larger church I could easily see myself doing either one and being completely happy with that decision. The role Wayne had in you is a role you have had in many others.

  2. Wayne rocks! I rarely make a big ministry decision without a consult with him. He has always had the right words to say to me right when I needed them…whether i like them or not.

  3. such a cool photo dude. makes me think about the people i respect, love and admire on this path. gonna put some of those photos on my wall now to remember… we stand on the shoulders of giants.

  4. Wayne Rice, Nate Rice, and Marko… 3 of my JHM Heroes!
    Wish I coulda been there to see it!

  5. I love this picture. Weird, but I’m sort of a 2 1/2 or 3rd generation ministry guy as a result of all of you. I’ve definitely benefitted from The Wayne (though not through direct relationship) and have benefitted and been shaped by both you and Nate directly. And certainly through FoHo too. Very cool.

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