At the end of a new academic year, we can sometimes find ourselves in one of three places mentally, spiritually, emotionally . . . they are these (all from personal experience!) ::
- Excited beyond words. Yep, absolutely ready for it . . . the summer has been a long time coming, we have plans and motivation for next year and we can’t wait to get stuck in.
- Terrified. Oh no, where has the year gone? I’ve got to keep going . . . and there is no time. Activities to organise, people to meet, new faces arriving in the youth group before the summer break. Argh. I can’t do this, who am I kidding . . . ARGH.
- Not bothered. See this face? Not bothered. Been there done that, here we go again. I’ll show up, I have to . . . you know, it’s my actual job. Hopefully I can scrape through until Christmas . . . but really, what’s the point.
I might be exaggerating the second two (or not, I don’t know how you might be feeling) . . . I have though, had doses of the “terrified” and the “not bothered”, sometimes I have veered between the two at the same time and been on some kind of crazy ministry rollercoaster. Strapped in to a ride that never ends!
Well, however you are feeling – maybe your ministry just needs a bit of C.P.R. It needs resuscitating, bringing back to life.
Jesus came that we might have LIFE and have it to the FULL (John 10:10) – and we are in youth ministry because we long for young people to discover Jesus or grow in Jesus and serve Jesus . . . the flip side of that verse is we battle an enemy who is looking for those He can devour, the devil would love to stop Kingdom work wherever he sees it. So even though we LOVE Jesus, we can sometimes have a LOVE / HATE relationship with ministry . . .
#1. Creativity. First up then, how is your creativity? Do you find you are rehashing each year the tired material you covered a couple of years ago? Do you feel uninspired when you pick up the Bible? Do you pick up the Bible? Youth Ministry does not end, we serve and maybe see a generation through and then, well it starts all over again. The longer we are in it – the tougher it can be to keep “starting” fresh each September. Creativity opens us up to possibilities – it is the process of making, sometimes through our thoughts, but also through what we can turn our hand to . . . we ALL have talents in this area, it is not indulgent to sit and ponder and wonder and think and doodle (when we should be working!) for me it is part of my process, it is part of what stimulates me in my work.
Get reconnected with your creative self. Yes, you are creative. This is not about whether you love craft or draw or knit . . . this is about whose image we are made in.
“We are ourselves creations. We are meant to continue creativity by being creative ourselves. This is the God-force extending itself through us. Creativity is God’s gift to us. Using creativity is our gift back to God.”
Whether you are salaried or an extra timer, make space for your creativity, make space to express yourself . . . consider this, how might young people use their creativity when you gather together? For further thought and inspiration around this whole topic check out ::
- “Creative Inspiration” from James Fox Robinson :: Check out his blog here [Creative Inspiration]
- Creative Market Blog – 10 Infographics to spark creativity [Creative Market]
- TED Talks – Never watched some TED talks? Get over here and take your pick [TED Talks on Creativity]
#2. Passion. This is not something you can manufacture. We are (or we are not) passionate about youth ministry. It is a challenging question to ask ourselves. Am I done? Is this what I am living to do? Is this part of what I was put on this earth for? Am I passionate about making a difference in the lives of young people. We can loose our passion, it can be dulled, the light can grow dim and we can feel cold . . . but, it is still there, that whisper or that spark (tiny though it might be) that keeps us going.
It’s good to think about our passions, what we spend our time investing in. Are we doing youth ministry because we have grown to love it – or are we doing youth ministry because we didn’t want to let someone else down and couldn’t say no. I’ve been in places where my passion has been smacked out of me by circumstances and it has taken a while to get back to a place (well, actually go forward to a new place) where that passion, that love for this work has been re-kindled.
Do you need your passion re-kindled?
I once wrote a blog called, “Teabag theology” (you can read it here) but essentially . . . . the root of the word enthusiastic is “en theos” which literally means, “in God”. It is also the same root as for “infuse” as in, to infuse a cup of tea.
Now, imagine, you are the water – the Holy Spirit is the tea bag. Are we unfused with God? Are we, as the vessels in which the Holy Spirit dwells, are we hot for the things of God? What He is doing in our lives? What he longs to do in the lives of the young people we work with? If we have a cold cup of water we can stir the teabag all we like . . . it makes no difference. But, if have hot water and drop a teabag in – whoosh! Everyone can see it! We need to be infused with God! People need to see we are His and passionate about His work.
Don’t let cynicism or knock backs or disappointments or let downs or failures or mistakes stop you from seeking God’s presence and asking Him to re-ignite that spark. Fan it in to flame again!
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
#3. Persistence. In the “Road Less Travelled” M Scott Peck starts by saying, “Life is difficult”. He goes on to explain that part of the reason we often struggle is because we think it should not be, we are entitled in some way to life being better than it is. That is not to say life is bad, but we – as humans – have a habit of focusing on the bad and the stuff that is going wrong rather than the good and what is a blessing and a joy. We stick at it with persistence. We don’t give up – on ourselves or our young people. We keep going. We fall, we get up – they fall, we help them up.
Nothing speaks of God’s love quite like sticking with someone when nobody else does. We share God’s love as we keep serving, blessing, helping, crying with, praying over, living alongside, journeying and running after the young people in our care.
Your persistence over the years means that you see a breakthrough at a weekend away.
Your persistence in inviting that young person every week to youth club has meant they turned up three times last year.
Your persistence in the face of resistance marks you out as a follower of Jesus.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
So, do you need a bit of C.P.R. to get you going for this term? Consider how you are using your creativity and make space and time for it. Be passionate about what you do, if you are at a low ebb, pray and ask God to show you just what He has done and give you glimpse of what He plans to do through you . . . as you persist, keep going and press in.