Too Busy Not to Be There

Fall is upon us. Everything is cranking back up. School, sports, band, chorus, clubs, church programs, and more.

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.

Look Who’s Talking!

lookwhostalkingI 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.

5 Questions to Help You Get a P.U.L.S.E. on Your Leaders

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Over the next few weeks my staff and I will be meeting with all of our volunteer adult youth leaders one-on-one. During our conversations, here are the 5 questions we are going to be sure to ask:

  1. How can I Pray for you? For your family?
  2. What do you need to Understand about the youth ministry or something coming up?
  3. Who is another potential Leader that we could invite to consider being on our adult leadership team?
  4. Tell me Stories of how you see God moving in the lives of students. How do you see God using you? Who are you connecting with?
  5. What can we do to Equip you to be a better leader for students?

Small Group Kits

Small groups are the most important thing we do in our ministry to students. Today I put together kits for each of our groups to help them maximize engagement and eqip our leaders to be even more effective. You can put all kinds of things into a box like this. Our leaders already have thri curriculum content, so here’s what we put in ours:

Small Groups Kickoff Night!

Last night we had our Delta Small Groups Kickoff Party. We all met at the church, had food, played some dodgeball, then I cast vision for small groups and our dream to see every student connected in a group. We introduced all of our incredible small group leaders then showed a preview video for Youth Alpha, the curriculum we are using in our groups this fall. (Yes, I know … there are a lot of Greek letters flying around here. I should tell you that before deciding to do Alpha in Delta, we ran a Beta test.) Finally, the students got into their groups to get to know one another and their leaders. I am very, very excited that we are adding two more groups this year, for a total of 7! I dream of the day we have 50 all over Long Island! Next week the groups begin meeting in homes, and I am praying and believing for an amazing year of connection, decisions for Jesus, and spiritual growth. If you are a student or a parent and you want information about groups, click here for times and locations.
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