Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

Although you wouldn’t really be able to tell from looking out my window at the 3 inches of snow that fell today, the seasons are beginning to change.  Winter turns to spring.  Academic busy-ness turns to spring fever and summer fun.  The ministry madness of the Christmas to Easter season begins to turn slowly to the more relaxed pace and flexibility of summer ministry.

As I was glancing today through my calendar for the next few months, I couldn’t help but notice something.  While there certainly isn’t a lack of work to do, events to plan, and family functions to attend in the coming months, they are looking significantly less full than the past few months have been.  Things are beginning to wind down for a season – you know how I can tell?

  • The number of youth events on my calendar has dropped.  SAC lunches are down to a minimum (due to upcoming holidays that fall on the 2nd Sunday of the month) and we’re preparing to wind down this academic-year-season of youth ministry at PLC.
  • There are fewer classes on the calendar this quarter.  Since one of my registered classes this quarter is Field Study, which is mostly taking place in conjunction with my ministry at PLC, I have fewer classes per week and at least the notion of less homework.  It’s a nice reprieve and lead-in to summer.
  • My little sister graduates from college in a month!  Even though her academic calendar finishes up about a month before mine, I’m already hearing the sounds of summer.

In addition to the change in perceived busy-ness, I’ve noticed a bit of a shift in my ministry.  What does this season look for me as I face a calendar with fewer events and more office hours?

  • Evaluation – For the first time I am facing the end of this academic-year-season of ministry knowing with certainty that I’ll be continuing in my ministry in this place.  I’ve been spending a lot of time lately reflecting on how we’ve done youth ministry this year at PLC and trying to figure out ways to build on that for next year.
  • Relational Connections – I’m beginning to step up my efforts in connecting with youth on their “turf” through coffee connections, texting (as much as I despise it sometime) and just checking in to see how they have grown during the course of the year.
  • Future Planning – I’m in the early stages of figuring out where Youth Ministry at PLC will be headed next year.  We’re in a place right now where some shifts are beginning to happen, and I’m excited to see where God is calling us to go this Fall.

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God has been challenging me this Lenten season in big ways.  I journaled about this on March 2nd, but figured that it’s definitely blog-worthy:

I noticed a lady in the waiting room at the Cleveland Clinic today who seemed to be upset about something.  I couldn’t tell for sure, but as I occasionally heard what sounded like the sniffles of sorrow, I began to notice something: I was aware.  Not only was I aware, but I felt compelled to do something – talk to her, pray for her, anything.  I’d like to say that the story ends with me walking over, striking up a conversation, and then praying with her.  Unfortunately, though, the ending is quite different.  Rather than acting out of compassion I just sat there, minding my own business and occasionally glancing over to observe her state.  Then a nurse came in and invited her back to the recovery room to join whoever it was she had accompanied to the office today.   I then watched in humility as this woman struggled out of her chair and into two arm braces/crutches and struggled across the room on her clearly handicapped and under-developed legs.

Now, I know nothing about this woman.  I don’t know if she was upset or if she was just getting over a cold.  I don’t know her story, who she was waiting on, or what she believes.

What I do know is this:  I failed to express the love of Christ and seize the opportunity to serve him by loving another person.  It makes me wonder – if she had been undeniably upset would I have done something or said something?  Do I have the courage to step out of my comfort zone like that?  Did I miss out on an opportunity to minister to someone in the name of Christ?

There are some life lessons that you just can’t learn in a classroom.  One of them is humility.

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I am very fortunate to be living and learning in the company of people who come from all walks of life.  I am in classes with people who are parents, people who are right out of undergrad, people who have been pastors for years, people who are working a part-time food service job just to get by, people who come from different ethinc backgrounds than myself, people who have lived through some of the “historical” events that come up in our discussions, etc.  I have the privilege of working alongside people who are in ministry as a second career, who have experienced more pain in their lives than I can imagine, people who have been effected by the government and society since before I was born, and with people who know the true value of family, friends and life experience.  Many of the people who I have gotten to know the most in my classes are easily old enough to be my parents.  As I sit in classes alongside these fine people, I have recently been challenged.  I am humbled by the amount of “life experience” with which I am surrounded in any given day.

Life experience is one of those things that doesn’t happen over night.  (Duh, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life experience.)  Lately, I’ve become painfully aware of a rather annoying habit that I have — every time someone has a story to tell about one of their life experiences, I seem to have a “similar” story to share (although often times it’s nowhere near similar).  I’m notorius for saying, “Oh yeah, like this one time when I…”  or “When I was in college…” or “When I was your age…” (usually that one comes out in the presence of my youth group kids).  It wouldn’t surprise me if any one of those phrases instantly cues somebody to put on that filter that reduces everything that follows to “blah blah blah blah-dy blah-dy blah blah…” Who am I kidding?  Most of the time, my “life experience” pales in comparison to the people I’m talking to.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  There are a few things I am not saying:

  1. I am not saying that life experience isn’t important.
  2. I am not saying that my life experience isn’t valuable enough to share with people.
  3. I am not saying that I don’t have any life experience.

Rather, I’m beginning to realize some things:

  1. There is an appropriate time to keep my mouth shut and just listen to the life experience of others and learn from it rather than feeling the need to interject with some story from my own life that is probably completely unrelated.
  2. For as much life experience as I think I have, I still have so much to learn and experience in life… after all, I’m only 24 years old – I’m still a youngster compared to many of the folks I keep company with.
  3. I hope that 25 years from now I have the same patience to listen to the life experience of a 25 year old as many people have had with me.

Just some thoughts I’ve been having lately.  Hopefully they’re at least somewhat coherent.  What value do you place on life experience?  Are you guilty of being too arrogant about your own?  Do you value the life experience of those younger than you? …older?

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So, it’s surprising me a little bit that the transition from full-time youth ministry at Grace Lutheran Church in Fremont, OH to my current part-time position at Parma Lutheran Church has actually gotten harder instead of easier.  Back when I started in Parma, I was loving the fact that I had dropped from working 40+ hour work weeks down to 20 hours a week, but lately it’s seeming like those 20 hours are never enough.

In a lot of ways, it’s helping me identify some of the differences between  a “job” and a “vocation”.  Dictionary.com defines a “job” as “a post of employment; full-time or part time position”.  That makes sense to me… I’ve had a number of “jobs” during the course of my life: concession stand worker for the City of Mayfield Heights, filing and for Shuttler’s Uniforms, birthday party hostess for Chuck E. Cheese’s, camp counselor for Camp Mowana, and most recently Director of Youth & Education Ministries (at Grace) and Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries (at PLC).  All of these “jobs” have fit the dictionary definition, but only the last few have qualified as fitting the Dictionary.com definition of “vocation”:

  1. a particular occupation, business, or profession; calling.
  2. a strong impulse or inclination to follow a particular activity or career.
  3. a divine call to God’s service or to the Christian life.
  4. a function or station in life to which one is called by God: the religious vocation; the vocation of marriage.

See, vocation is far more than a job.  And for me, youth ministry is far more than a job – it’s a vocation, a calling from God to pour Christ into the lives of youth, and to walk alongside them on this journey of discipleship.  So, in essence it’s a lifestyle (and I’m sure most of you in any form of youth ministry would agree with that – or any form of ministry for that matter).

So, maybe that’s my struggle in transitioning from a full-time youth ministry “job” into a part-time youth ministry “job” – my calling remains the same, and the more time I spend investing myself in that calling, the more joy I find in it.

So, what do you do when you’re confined to part-time hours in a full-time vocation?

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I’ve been trying to shift my priorities in youth ministry for a while now with little to no success.  I’ve had the tendency for the year and a half that I’ve been in ministry to spend more of my “work hours” sitting behind a desk than actually spending time with youth (yikes!).  This week, however, I’ve taken the leap – and I love it!  Why didn’t I change my priorities sooner?

Because of the size of the church I’m in now (relatively small, and much smaller than Grace was), it’s pretty manageable for me to get to know all the kids in our ministry fairly well.  So, for the time being (until we start to experience some growth), I’m taking advantage of that and making it a top priority to do exactly that.  I want to know the kids that I’m ministering to and with.

In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus says these words when asked about the “Greatest Commandment”:  “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” So, if Jesus said that these are the two greatest commandments, I’m realizing that I should be doing ministry in that way.  So, the new priorities for youth ministry:

  1. Relationship with God: Deepening my own relationship with God and helping our youth to deepen their relationships with God by supporting and walking alongside them in this journey of faith.
  2. Relationship with Others: Seeking to develop relationships with youth both in and outside of our congregation by meeting them in “neutral” territory (such as coffee shops, fast food restaurants, etc.) and on “their turf” (i.e. school programs, athletic events, concerts, etc.).

That’s it.  Everything beyond those two things is gravy.  These two things will be the meat of my youth ministry, and I’m excited to say that my schedule this week has already begun to reflect the shift in priorities!

Shifting Priorities in Youth Ministry

How does your schedule (ministry or otherwise) reflect your priorities?

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