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 Peter led our team in devotions during breakfast, then we headed out and caught the train over to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn. We helped sweep and clean the sidewalks around the building then worked in the warehouse sorting and organizing donations of school supplies. When we finished working, Diana, one of the LC staff members asked the students about their hopes and dreams, then shared about how the LC works to help people and how our contributions were helping them to be able to minister to their friends in the community. We then gathered around the LC staff and the students prayed over their ministry. We left at 2pm and took the train back to Living Waters. We had lunch, prepared 75 bag lunches, had a little downtime, then the team went to Manhattan and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge into Brooklyn where they had pizza at the famous Grimaldi’s Pizzeria. While the team had dinner I went to Manhattan where I had the joy of reuniting with my youth pastors from when I was growing up. They were in town from Florida, and we were able to have dinner together. It was the first time we had seen each other in some 23-24 years! What a privilege! They were a major influence on my life as a teenager, and a big reason why I went into youth ministry. It was so great being able to have dinner with them while two of my former students, Rebekah and Peter, now on staff with me, were leading my current students. They are an extension of the legacy that was passed on to me by Bill and Carla Clark. After dinner we all met back up at Living Waters. At 9pm we prayed over the 75 bag lunches we had prepared, and for the people who would be receiving them, then we headed down to the park and gave them out to people. Within about 30 minutes we had given them all away with a smile and in the name of Jesus. We came back to the church and had a good time of debriefing and sharing.
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.
This morning our team left Shelter Rock Church and drove to The Legacy Center in Brooklyn where we helped prepare food, then we drove to Maria Hernandez Park where we served lunch to folks, some of them homeless, some working poor, and others were just passing by and accepted the gift of a free meal. We then unloaded the shuttle and got settled in at our host church, Living Waters Fellowship, which was just a couple of blocks from the park. After lunch and a brief chat we took the subway over to Manhattan and went to the New York City Rescue Mission, the oldest rescue mission in the country, and the second oldest in the world. It opened in 1872! We helped serve dinner to 308 guests. The team did an awesome job in each of their roles! After cleaning up we walked over to Little Italy and enjoyed dinner and some gelato. We then took the train back to Brooklyn. The team is now in orientation and taking some time to debrief the day together.
On Saturday we were planning on going to the Red Sea, but there was a hiccup getting our passport information to the police department in time. Rather than trying to push it through, we decided to just take the day and relax at the hotel with some of the Wellspring staff. It was Lydia’s 14th birthday, and she was treated to “Happy Birthday” in Arabic by the hotel staff. Turning 14 in Egypt … what a cool memory! After a time of debriefing with our team, the students went to the pool to swim, and the leaders had a time of sharing with the Wellspring staff, sharing our feedback and learnings with one another. After a few hours of fun in the pool we went to the mall then out for dinner. You would think that is a simple thing to do, but we sat in our vans for an hour waiting. Our security detail had gone home for the day, and the hotel security did not want to release us to go unaccompanied. Eventually our hosts were able to work it out and we were able to leave. All day Sam had been asking what we wanted to eat for dinner. “What are we going to eat for dinner?” he asked. He then asked, “Fish?” But we realized through his repetition that it wasn’t an invitation for other ideas. He wanted fish! LOL! We went to a nice seafood restaurant and had a wonderful last dinner with our hosts. There were lots of hugs and tears and pictures as we said farewell to our new friends. We really did have a heart connection with one another that was so special. The beginning of new friendships! We went back to our hotel and turned in by midnight. We got up, packed, had breakfast at 6:30am, then headed to the airport. We had to go through 3-4 security screenings before we were able to board the plane. It was very thorough! The flight home was fine. We shared our Care Cards with one another. After landing we went through Immigration and Customs, got all of our luggage, and emerged from baggage claim into the welcoming arms of our very happy family members. This was an amazing trip! One of my all-time favorites! Thanks to Wellspring for such a wonderful experience, our leadership team which was made up of a perfect mix of people for the task and challenges that we faced, and our students, who were unified, upbeat, and served so well. I am proud of all of you!