Years ago author Bill Hybles wrote a book entitled Too Busy Not to Pray. He was onto something. As a leader and pastor of a huge church the demands upon him were great. Prayer is one of those things that can easily seem like a waste of time when you have so much work to do. But Bill understood that the busier he was, the more he needed to pray, because by praying he was admitting that he was completely dependent on God. In prayer he spoke with God about the burdens on his heart, the weight of his responsibilities, and asked God to show him what he should be putting his efforts into that day. He confessed his weaknesses and asked God for His strength to do the work God was asking him to do. He was simply too busy not to pray.
One of the common things I hear from both parents and students on a regular basis is that they are just too busy. “Megan has a big test to study for,” they say, or “Ryan has a lot of homework,” or “I have practice after school.” I don’t just hear these things from other students or parents; these realities are in my own home! I have teenagers, and our family is right there with you. The struggle is real!
And yet, I want to challenge all of us to have a paradigm shift. The truth is we are all busy! When I speak to students and parents, it is this reality that drives me to say, “Our busyness is precisely why we must make time to be together.” I wrote this down a few years ago: Our feet reveal our values. Where we choose to spend our time communicates what is most important to us. When, in the middle of our busy week, we take a time out — when we choose to stop for a couple of hours to take a breather, to be with other Christians who have also stepped out of the rat race to catch their breath — we are saying some important things.
We are testifying that we are followers of the way of Jesus not simply minions of our culture. We are getting together to hear what God says about how to live well.
We are humbly admitting our weakness as humans, and our need for rest and refreshment. We can’t just go, go, go all of the time. Even Jesus (God living as a human) needed time away from His busy schedule, and He told His disciples to disconnect from their busyness as well. (See Mark 1:35-37; 6:31)
We are confessing that our strength comes from the Lord, not simply from our efforts and will power.
We are reminding ourselves that we are not alone. We offer one another the gift of fellowship. We are supporting our fellow-strugglers by gathering together to share and listen and pray for one another.
And finally, we are obeying God’s Word which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25).
My challenge to you is to not see youth group, small group, or church generally as just another thing you have to do — an item on a checklist. It is not extra credit; it is a core requirement of life. Taking a time out isn’t the most efficient use of time, but it is essential to your health.
Several months ago I asked my staff members to dream a God-sized dream. I asked them what they would like to do this year and said I wanted to get behind them to make their dream a reality. Peter Ladenheim came to me a few days later and said his dream was to run our own summer youth camp. Today was history in the making! Camp Dynamis Year 1, Day 1! I am so proud of him and excited for what God is going to do this week!
This morning after breakfast Jordan led us in team devotions. We then had a time for personal devotions. Today we focussed on doing some discipleship and leadership training. Peter did a teaching on Colossians 3 then the team did some team-building activities. After lunch we learned about prayer walking and did a prayer walk around the neighborhood. We came back and shared what we heard, saw, and learned from God as we were praying. We then got ready and headed to Times Square where we had a bite to eat then attended the Hillsong Young and Free worship concert. It was really awesome! We got to see several of our SRC friends including the Pauluses and the Kendzierskis. Afterward we hung out in Times Square and did a little shopping and got some food. Got back to Living Waters at midnight.
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Today we only did 134 miles of driving; a nice, relaxing day without the long drives we have done the other days of our trip. We got up at 7am and drove to The Founder’s Inn hotel and spa for showers. We then returned to New Life Church, cleaned, packed, had breakfast, loaded up, and departed at 9:30am. We had our personal devotional time during the half-hour drive to New Covenant Church in Hampton, VA where we unloaded and setup for tonight. We then worked on our memory verses during the 30 minute drive to Colonial Williamsburg. We spent 4 hours touring and exploring the historic town. Afterward we had our small group discussion about our theme for the day, Legacy. We then went to my Aunt Patty’s home where she and her family had prepared dinner for our team. My Grandpa Mahaffy also came by and everyone got to meet him. While the team was hanging out after dinner, Grandpa and I went out for a bit and stopped by to say Hi to my Aunt Susan and Uncle Alan. The students played with their chickens, played games, had a bonfire, roasted marshmallows, then my cousins came back to New Covenant with us and we enjoyed playing Manhunt and games in the gym. After making sandwiches for tomorrow’s lunch we had some team time. Carol shared a word with us, then we prayed together before heading off to bed.
533 more miles traveled today. This morning all the boys got up at 6am and drove to get showers at the YMCA in Asheville. The girls chose to get a bit more sleep. We then packed, cleaned, ate breakfast, loaded up and departed at 8:15am. After a 7 hour drive we arrived at The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC where Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first persons to successfully fly an airplane. Our theme for the day was Vision, we following our visit we had some great discussion during our drive to Moyock, NC where we stopped at Southland for Eastern Carolina BBQ. We then drove over the border into Chesapeake, VA and passed by our old family home, and Natalia and I popped by to say hello to our dear former neighbor Miss Frances who has been having some recent health issues. We then drove to New Life Church in Deep Creek, VA where we are spending the night. New Life is the first church I served at in full-time ministry. After settling in I was so blessed to have two of my former students, Rachel and Jeremy, come by. Rachel shared a greeting, then Jeremy Miller, who is now a pastor at the church, spoke a great word to our team. We are really lookingforward to more sleep tonight than we have had on either of our first two nights, since we don’t have to drive far tomorrow. We are having a great time!
I am passionate about small groups. They are the backbone of the youth ministry that I lead. I am not personally leading one of our student small groups at the moment, but I do visit our groups each week and take time to observe and connect with our students and adult leaders. Here’s a principle that I shared with our leaders recently. I call it the “Look Who’s Talking” Principle.
I am a teacher by gifting. I love standing in front of a group of people and communicating. But when I am leading a small group, I have to remind myself that my role is different. The primary role of a small group leader is not talker, but facilitator. The reason I love small groups is that they give us a chance to help students learn in a more effective way than simply sitting in a chair and listening to an adult talk to them. Ouch! As a teacher, that hurts just a little bit. The truth is, students learn best, not by listening to us talk to them, but through experiences, and in the small group setting, through the experience of sharing what they are processing as it pertains to the topic.
A small group leader is not primarily a sage imparting wisdom, but a miner extracting wisdom from students through asking good, open-ended questions, listens carefully, and gets students involved in the conversation. Yes, adult leaders can share insights and experiences occasionally, but that should be an exception, not the rule. When leaders do all of the talking, students are relegated to the role of passive listeners rather than active participants. As leaders we must ensure that students are engaging in the conversation through sharing their thoughts with the group and listening to their peers. If you think in terms of the old Pareto (80/20) principle, as leaders you should be doing 20% of the talking, and students should be doing 80%.
If you are a small group leader, or if you have a few leaders in your group, take some time after small group to reflect and ask if students were engaging, or if you were doing too much talking. As a principle, remember the title of the 1989 movie, “Look Who’s Talking.” If there were a video recording, or even just an audio recording of your small group meeting, whose voices would you hear? Your goal should be to ensure you hear a whole lot of students’ voices (dare I say, all of your students?) and very little of yours. It’s tough, but it’s the best thing you can do for the spiritual growth of your students.
Here’s a little glimpse of our incredible weekend in Pennsylvania for Youth Winter Fest 2017! I want to say a very special Thank you to our amazing team who worked so hard and tirelessly to put this event together and made it possible for students to come and have an encounter with Jesus. Also, a big shout our to Josh Griffin for coming as our speaker, Dan Bremnes for leading us in worship, and John Branyan and the Nubian Gents for blessing us with their gifts and talents. Let’s continue working with Jesus as He is building His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. #YWF17
Would love for you to join us! Contact me to bring your youth group!