Monday, November 03, 2003

Most of you who knew who Mike Yaconelli was, probably have already heard that he was killed in a car accident this past weekend, just in time for All Saints Day. I felt like I had to note his passing here. For better and for worse, Mike Yaconelli was a mentor and encourager to youth workers for decades. One thing you could not deny is that he loved kids and those who gave their lives to loving kids. The guy was 61 when he died a few days ago and he was still doing Young Life at his local high school as he had for probably 40 years. He had a passion for youth, but was not uncritical at all about youth ministry.

Yaconelli was also the founder and, for many years, the editor of the Wittenberg Door just The Door. We all loved The Door for it's irreverent and satirical jabs at the faithful. The Door, especially in its earlier years, was, I gather, very much the embodiment of Mike Yaconelli.

There are various tributes around the web (I enjoyed Jamey Bennett's more than most) so I'll not add mine...just one recollection.

I remember when I was a young, clueless, and tremendously discouraged youth worker and I walked into my first National Youth Worker's Convention in Chicago. Yaconelli gets up on stage and opens the convention by saying something like,

"If I know most of you like I think I know you, you are tirelessly ministering to and loving kids all week, every week. And if know most of your churches like I think I know your churches, they probably think you aren't doin' nothin'. Well, we know that you love kids and care for kids and teach kids and show kids how to follow if you don't wanna come to any of these sessions and hear these stupid lectures and go to these stupid workshops...don't!! I'm not only giving you permission to skip this stuff, I'm commanding you...Get up to the hotel room, take in a movie, have dinner, make love to your wife and check out of here at the end of the week. For many of you that would be the best use of this convention. So get outta here, right now, we don't care if you come back. We won't tell your churches."

And he was right (though I faithfully attended every session). ;-)

I'll miss Mike Yaconelli, and I was definitely better for having read and heard him.

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