youth ministry 3.0, part 20 (last one, finally!)

youth ministry 3.0 is the working title of a book i’ve mostly written, which is expected to release this fall. it’s an attempt to name where and how we’re missing the mark in youth ministry, and what needs to change in order to more truly live into our calling as youth workers.

we’ve decided to open up the book a bit and solicit youth worker contributions as sidebar comments, and i’m going to use my blog for this purpose. until late april, i’ll be posting a series of snapshots from the rough draft of the manuscript. i invite lots of comments — questions, disagreements, ideas, very short stories or examples, reflections — which will be considered as additions to the book.

by posting a comment, you are giving permission for your comment, with your screen name, to be added to the print book.

so, here’s the twentieth bit, from chapter 6:

Finally, don’t be driven

I’m a big fan of passion – both the concept and the experience. I’ve probably chosen passion as a speaking theme to both teenagers and adults more than any other subject over the last ten years. I believe that Jesus’ promise in John 10:10 – “I have come to give you life, and life to the fullest.” – is one of the most inspiring and wonderful verses in all of Scripture.

But I have come to believe there is a difference between passion and being driven. Passion calls to us; being driven coerces us. Passion seduces us; being driven guilts us. Passion is invitational; being driven is prescriptive. Passion is inquisitive; being driven is punitive. Passion is full of emotion; being driven is cold and calculating.

Teenagers desperately want to experience passion. But they are sure not interested in being driven!

And youth workers who embrace a Youth Ministry 3.0 mindset and approach will stop being driven by job descriptions, measurements, buildings, time demands, and Messiah complexes. Instead, we will slow down enough, deconstruct enough to be fully present.

First, present to Jesus Christ active in our own lives. The nourishment of your own soul must become priority #1 for youth workers in this new epoch. We simply must stop giving lip service to this while imitating the cartoon Road Runner (beep-beep!).

How this personal soul refreshment work out for each youth worker is, of course, contextual. I have found, for my temperament and tastes, that a quarterly three-day silent retreat does more for me than a half-day of down time once a week. I am ruthless about protecting this practice in my life. I find a place where I can prepare my own food (usually someone’s cabin, or something like that) so I don’t even have to make small talk with someone. I turn my cell phone off, leave my computer at home, and completely disconnect for three days. I bring a stack of books, I sleep, I pray, I meditate, and occasionally journal. Sometimes God meets me in profound ways or reveals new insights into myself, my relationships, or God’s character. But often, it’s just the discipline of slowing down and shutting up that brings the detox and realignment I need.

But we need to be present to more than ourselves. We need to adopt a constant mindset and discipline of presence: to our primary relationships, to the teenagers in our midst, to the beauty of creation, to God’s presence all around us. Without presence, we can be ignorant to the needs of teenagers. Without presence, we can ram our ideas and assumptions onto them, rather than waiting and listening for their ideas and assumptions. Without presence, we can totally and completely experience a drive by relationship with God.

Be present to your calling; present to Christ in you; present to teenagers and Christ in them.

7 thoughts on “youth ministry 3.0, part 20 (last one, finally!)”

  1. great stuff marko!.. i believe that ‘remembering the sabbath day” is probably the commandment most broken by christians…especially those of us in ministry. we think that having a day off is the same thing as sabbath…when most of the time if we take a day off the day is used to get caught up on laundry, do errands, cut the grass, do paperwork, housework etc. a day away and times of silence too often are seen as luxury items, not necessities. for the last several years i’ve taken a 5 day silent retreat as a birthday present to myself. i started this in the midst of full time, full blown youth ministry and it saved my life! now i cannot do life without it! and i’m discovering ways to put days of silence into my monthly routine. if we want our students/congregations to experience the presence of God then we need to model this for them in our own lives. and we cannot keep pouring from an empty cup…we need to take time to get our cups filled up.

    another thought. ministry tends to honor the over filled calendar. but sometimes we do this to ourselves and think that we don’t need to take time to be still, or to recover from times of intense ministry like a retreat or a camp or just the weekly youth gathering.
    as a recovering work-aholic i can totally relate to never feeling like there is enough time…the list never gets finished and the personal expectations are high.
    as leaders we need to set the example of sabbath and silence and allow ourselves and our students to be still, to rest, to have times of recovery, to learn to hear God in the still small voice like elijah. and in the economy of God there is always enough.

  2. Been looking forward to the book since you talked about it at NYWC man. Can’t wait to get it! God is definitely using you for great things-
    I constantly have to remind myself that Jesus didn’t cram as much as He could into his 3 years of ministry. He was constantly going off on His own to be with the Father. It was a regular thing for Him.
    In fact, right before He began His ministry, He went off into the wilderness for 40 days. 40 days! Can you imagine the response you would get if you asked for 40 days to spend time praying and being in God’s word?
    Sadly, I fall into the trap of thinking that if I’m not doing anything ministry related, then I’m not serving God. But the truth is, if we really want to be used by God, then we have to be with Him constantly in prayer, in His word and in our rest.

  3. For a season of my life, I was burned out from trying to maintain a drive-by relationship with God while taking on more and more ministry responsibilities. I’ll never forget the words that my mentor, David Beach, shared with me when I came to him when I was at my worst…

    “Nothing essential stops when I rest.”

    The world is not going to fall apart if I take some time to myself. My students will survive without me while I pull away for a short period of time. The church will continue to go on without me.

    Those six simple words have become a rule of life for me.

  4. My relationship with God and my job at the church have to be separate things. I am passionate about both; however, when I see them as the same I find myself working more than I can sustain to try to make myself feel holy. And if I’m totally honest that “holy” feeling only ever comes from my own sense of satisfaction or the praise of other people.

  5. I’ve been living outside the U.S. for six years and in countries where I’m usually considered the outsider, especially where I live now in West Africa. Sometimes the only thing I know how to do is be there. I’m not always sure what to say or what to do. But, I can be all there . . .listening, maybe smiling, reflecting Christ in small ways. One of my African friends once told me, Africans value solidarity. What is solitary? Standing together, being all there. Not a bad way to live and serve in ministry.

  6. I think what church leadership forgets and misses th boat on is: rest and family. Sadly it seems like ministry first, rest if you get it, then family. When I do get a day off I am still doing work. And most churches I served at frowned at me taking vacations longer than a weekend.
    Church leadership says be passionate but it’s mostly purpose driven (pun included). It always seems to be seek job, fit job description, interview, if you seem driven they take you in, and then they expect to be the driver the hole time, never a passenger, or even allowed to get off at the next stop and rest.

  7. I think this problem comes from the church again emulating society. Parents want driven programs for their kids because that’s the world they have given them, driven academically, school sports have way too high an expectation on time and energy, band practices every night, no sleep during the school drama, part time jobs that convince students they need to work 30 hours a week.

    To seem reasonable, chruch has to fit that mold, not to mention that the only way to ensure that a church event reaches a student is to hold as many events as possible. That way at least one or two of those events will fall into the hole in a particular student’s schedule (I can think of a couple of parents who want me to plan 17 things a week just on the off chance their child might make 1).

    To me the big question always goes back to the parents. Are they living their lives with purpose or are they simply driven? What model is that showing their child?

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