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.