Students in general are busy. How many adults do you know who have to be at work at 7:30 a.m., get a 30 minute lunch break, work an 8 hour day, spend two to three hours at a second job, then come home and spend two to four more hours trying to finish the first job. Not many, I would suppose. However, this is what our students do at school. No pay. No overtime. For youth camp or leadership camp, we then expect them to have a nonstop schedule from 7:00 a.m. to midnight for four nights in order to meet God. When do students get to breathe? Psalms 46:10 tells us “to be still and know that I am God.” Not only are students’ lives filled with busyness, but also with constant noise. There is either a cell phone, TV, or computer always on. With all this busyness and noise, how can students listen to the Lord?
Chap Clark, in his book Hurt 2.0, echoes these thoughts. However, he goes one step further. He believes, based on research, that the reason for this frantic pace is the adult who has to meet educational or athletic expectations of their superiors. (Chap Clark, Hurt 2.0, page 30) Adults want to earn more money, get a better job, and look good. In other words the frantic pace is not for the betterment of the student, but the adult trying to better themselves.
Youth Ministers are in the same boat and have the same risks. On one side, we can have an incredibly busy youth ministry with the goal to grow the biggest and most successful youth ministry in town. On the opposite side, if our goal is to invest in and take the time to care for our student flock, we may not see the same rate of numerical growth as the student minister down the road. This may be perceived as failure.
God’s calling is to take care of His sheep. Consider the youth ministry events you do. How many of them are like the schedule I described above? Youth Camp (yes), D-Now (yes), Mission Trip (yes). Have you ever done an event where the focus was on rest and silence in order to be fresh and ready to listen to God? How about not having events every month, but maybe once a quarter so you can focus on your own rest and listen to God and family?
It’s time students (and adults who lead them) realize that full transcripts won’t matter at the 10 year class reunion. One less activity is not going to cost students a scholarship. Students need to learn the value of commitment and passion, not overextension and burnout.
Students need to quit buying the lie that says you have to be involved in every extracurricular activity and have enough college credits to be a junior in college before you graduate from high school. Earning that many college credits, while financially beneficial, will rush social development and if not navigated by parents, rush identity formation.
I believe there is a difference between growing up fast and maturing. There are many immature adults. There are some very mature teenagers. Self-awareness, restfulness, discernment and decision making are signs of a mature teenager. Those are often not developed by a faster pace and fuller calendar. They are developed when a student is guided through life by parents and supportive mentors. Students are allowed the time to try a variety of careers through internships, job shadowing, and part-time work.
Jesus’ followers were unschooled, ordinary men, but they had been with Jesus and that made the difference (Acts 4:13) They spent three years growing with Him before they were handed full authority. Within that time of ministry, Jesus taught them not to buy into the “hype” by taking them somewhere else when the momentum was growing. Instead, He often took them away to pray and rest. Jesus’ life reinforced the importance of recognizing you can’t humanly do everything, and you can’t humanly help everyone.
Thus, as youth ministers, we need to work to model and disciple with the following in mind.
1. Encourage students to pursue passions, instead of full plates.
While work may not always produce fruit, it should produce an element of joy. Help students navigate what they enjoy and commit to it. Remember joy is different than fun. Not everything a student does will be fun. Practicing an instrument is not always fun, but playing a song to be a blessing can produce joy in feeling accomplished.
2. Model and teach the value and power of the word “no.”
If we always say “yes,” we allow others to have power over us. The word “no” helps us regain control. “Well, God opened the door.” Did He? Maybe He provided the opportunity to teach you discernment. It reflects poorly on a student’s character to say “yes” to something and not follow through because they said “yes” to too many people.
3. Teach on the biblical command of Sabbath rest.
It is more than worship. It is also about reinvigoration mentally, physically, and emotionally. It will be countercultural. God rested as an example to us because He knew we would need it. Unfortunately, parents don’t encourage students to rest when they are not in school. Instead, they run their students to the next game or practice on Saturday. If there is not a tournament on Sunday, then parents may take them to church. Even vacations are not very restful because we want to squeeze in as many adventures as we can. Can you imagine a student (or adult) who turned off all of the noise and busyness, then just on the back porch and reflected for two hours?
4. Live out the biblical command of rest.
See if your family and spiritual life isn’t healthier and more fruitful because of it. Too many ministers never take a day off. Even on our day off, we are still working. We come home for dinner, but our phone is going off, and we answer it like Batman responding to
Do something, but don’t do everything? Serve in your church, but don’t do everything for your church.
I believe less will allow you to produce more fruit in the long run.