A while ago I wrote a post about what I wished I knew when entering youth ministry. This is the beginning of a series dedicated to elaborating each of those eleven points. Enjoy.
Some would like to think that being surrounded by the programs, activities, people, books, studies, services, teaching, and social engagements that being a Youth Pastor brings means that life with Jesus would be easy.
Some would like to think that because of the all encompassing nature of being a Youth Pastor, rubbing shoulders with the things and people of God, then life with Jesus would be a breeze. That it would be a constant joy to be involved in so many so called ‘spiritual things’ that a closeness with God would naturally occur.
Some would like to think that a relationship with God would be so easy to sustain through the conversations, events, and teaching opportunities each week. After all, there isn’t the monotony of the 9-5 existence (is that a thing anymore?) and so connecting with God during the day will occur without too much effort.
Perhaps at one time I would’ve thought it’d be easier to maintain a great relationship with the Lord while doing ministry too. Nothing seems to be further from the truth.
Youth Pastors, Young Adult Pastors, Student Pastors, they aren’t good at telling people this. They aren’t good at telling people they struggle with faith sometimes. They aren’t good at telling people they lead that they struggle to read the Bible. That they find it hard to bring teaching to life for the students they disciple. They find it hard to confess that the passage they prepared for small group this week was the only part of the Bible they’ve read this week. They find it hard to admit that their prayer life only happens at church things, five minutes before their next meeting or event.
There is the constant pull to be using our time for what seems to be ‘active ministry’. For many Youth Pastors the actual programs and events of the church take up the allocated time allowance they’re paid for. Outside of this there needs to be time found to do adequate preparation, planning, administration, and hopefully time to counsel people as well. The pressure can seem overwhelming, as there seems little time to take stock, reflect, and breath.
Oh, and in all of this connect and commune with God.
Every Youth Pastor knows that connecting and communing with God is their main priority. The difference is in its application. Every Christian knows the need to commune with God regularly. The difference is in its application.
Youth Pastors are no different to anyone else in seeking to walk with God closely in their life. The difference is that because they are surrounded by issues of faith and spirituality each week one would think life with Jesus would be easier.
I suspect we’ve all heard of the date night for couples. This is usually a dedicated week night for the couple to spend time on their own and without any distractions. They may go out, they may stay in. While the date night is great it would also be wrong to believe that this is the only connection for the week. No relationship is sustained because of a two-hour period one night a week. It’s an added extra. It’s a more intentional time, but not one that takes the place of regularly plodding with each other while doing dishes, checking in at the end of the day, or driving to various engagements.
It’s the same when we consider our relationship with Jesus. At times in our walk with Jesus we might be prone to thinking that we simply need to have a date night with Jesus. That is, simply spend a couple hours one night each week and this will bring some sort of sustainable relationship. Unfortunately this is not the case. As those who seek to help lead others in the faith we should be striving to walk with Jesus each and every day.
The priority is there but the application can be lacking. And it’s in the application that makes the difference.
For Youth Pastors it is simply a must to structure our time and day to help our relationship with Jesus. Out of this we can then disciple and lead others in the faith.
Depending on the season I’ve attempted to do a variety of things to help sustain my faith and life with Jesus. Here are a few suggestions, in particular order, if you care to read them.
1. Have a quarterly ‘Read & Reflect Day’
This is a whole day dedicated to reading scripture, praying, journaling, and spending time in silence. During this day I usually take time to run through the calendar of the last three months, writing down everything I’ve achieved. I then turn to the coming three months, writing 3-5 specific goals to aim for.
2. Meet up regularly with someone older in ministry
I’ve generally tried to meet up with people who I respect and who I believe I can learn from. I’ve gone directly to them asking for an hour or so of their time and bring specific topics of discussion to the meeting. Some will call this mentoring, I’d prefer to stick with discipling. If this occurs once every eight weeks or so then that’s great.
3. Structure my Bible reading
I don’t understand people simply opening up their Bible’s and reading whatever they land on. I at least have a plan and seek to work through a book, at least one chapter at a time. For deeper study a commentary alongside this is helpful.
4. Write people’s name on a prayer list
Just grab a piece of paper, write a name that comes to mind, note down a little something about their life you can pray for. Then actually dedicate a set amount of time to praying for that list of people.
5. Set a phone alarm as a reminder to pray
One thing I really appreciate about observing other Christian traditions, and even Islam, is their commitment to praying at set times of the day. Setting your alarm at certain times in the day will help you to stop and remember to pray. If this is done over a period of time a certain rhythm begins to form.
6. Listen to different podcasts
Listening to sermons all the time can get a bit much, but I’ve found listening to a variety of different podcasts can help in life, faith, and ministry. I have podcasts that are for fun and enjoyment, for learning and education, for news and culture, and for faith and ministry.
7. Listen to music
I know some people really enjoy listening to worship music and find themselves refreshed in doing so. Search Spotify for the ‘Hymns for Hipsters’ playlist. You won’t need anything else.
8. Write in a journal
Writing your prayers or thoughts down in a notebook might sound wussy to you. It’s not. All the hipster pastors do it. But the key here is to understand that by writing these prayers and thoughts down will allow you to slow down. In doing this you can take time to pray and gain a clarity of thought you wouldn’t otherwise.
9. Read old, dead authors
Read Spurgeon – He’s fun. Read Calvin. Read Luther. Read Sibbes. Read Edwards. Read Augustine. Read Wesley. Read Whitefield. Read Lloyd-Jones. Read Stott. Read Carey. Read Taylor. Read Barth. Read Bonhoeffer. Read Lewis. Read Owen. Read Aquinas. Read Jay. Read Paton. Read Simeon. Read Gregory. Read their sermons, their writings, or both.