My friend Mark Ostreicher, President of Youth Specialties, is writing a book called Youth Ministry 3.0 (his working title) and has some great insights on youth ministry and slowing down. Here’s what he says (an excerpt from Chapter 6 of the book):
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
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, de-construct 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.
Read more of Mark’s thoughts on God, life, and youth ministry at ysmarko.com.