Dear parents, youth workers, youth volunteers, or anyone who wants to help spiritual raise a child, I have a message I feel the need to share!
This past semester I was able to to take an elective course titled: Discovering Sacred Space in Youth Ministry. This course was a very big eye opener for me not only as a youth pastor, but as a father and husband. For the most part, it helped me see that we all need breaks and we all need to have time set aside to interact with our God, outside of the work we do for our youth and our family. The best way I heard it put was that we must first breathe in before we breathe out. I think it’s good to remind ourselves that before we breathe God into our students and children, we must breathe in God for ourselves.
So I challenge you, where are you taking time to breathe in God? Is it struggle? I am the king at getting busy and forgetting to take care of myself. I give all I have into messages or lessons plans, but I never take time to experience God for myself, outside of trying to share the good news of Christ to others. But I was reading a book recently (Whats Right About Youth Ministry by Mark Oestreicher) and it had a three point way of having a successful youth ministry. The three points were as follows:
- Like Teenagers
- Grow in your own walk with Christ
- Share your growth with the teenagers you like
Although these rules are simple, I believe they are proof that to successfully be vessels that God uses to help transform his children, we must constantly be taking care of our own faith walk.
Taking care of myself is a new concept for me. I always thought in ministry and fatherhood, I am supposed to give every last bit of myself to the Job. This mentality leads to burn out. We are called to longevity, not a quick flame that passes over time. We must recharge and experience God for ourselves.
There are many ways to recharge and connect with God. We must find ways that suit our own personal identity and likes. I am going to share with you the few things that have been helpful to me that maybe you would like to try.
I never thought of myself as someone who would like to journal. I thought it was all about telling a book your secrets, I am out on that! But journaling looks different for everyone. I start by first writing down what I am feeling at that point so I can admit what I am going through. I then pray and go into a devotion. After the devotion I focus on what points impacted me and I go over the scripture that is apart of the devotion. After that I write down all the people and situations I feel led to pray about to help me be in prayer.
I love filming and taking pictures. I love walking around new places and taking in the creation of God. This helps me create memories as well as have an outlet for creativity. I always feel connected to God when I am creating (to me at least) a piece of art. Taking time to focus on something helps drain away my anxieties. It’s a Hobby that soothes me and helps me experience God in different ways each time.
(For real, don’t judge me!)
This is another one that surprises me. Let’s just say, my mom never saw a drawing I did and felt the urge to put it up on the fridge, so drawing to me was foreign. On our Sabbath retreat for class, we had tons of activities that called us to draw what we felt and draw what we see in scriptures. I really enjoyed it and it helped me focus on the words I was reflecting on. So I started to draw what came to my mind during sermons and it helps me focus on the word and internalize what it means to me. So if you see me drawing during the preaching on Sunday, I promise I’m paying attention!
These are just a few new ways I have been able to connect to God. It has been very impactful for myself, but also in the way I interact with my family and ministry.
But the biggest thing I have learned this past semester was the importance of taking Sabbath. I never fully guarded my days off and it would not be unlike me to work three weeks straight. This class has shown me to truly be able to stay in motion (Longvity in ministry) I must take time to not be moving. This goes even more than just a day a week, but it means taking “Little Sabbaths” everyday. I actively try and not bring home work and have my time at home designated for my wife and children. Part of breathing in before you breath out is simply taking time to take your breathe. So I urge you to be present with your family or friends when you get home, don’t bring your work in with you.
So to all my dear fellow parents, youth workers, youth volunteers (Im looking at you small group leaders) I plead with you to find ways to connect with God on a daily basis and take time to be present in your life personal life and rest. To be blunt, you will fail in keeping it everyday, but the key is to give yourself grace and pick it back up when you notice you are slacking. We need the best you to be available to minister to our youth and your own children!