Our churches and youth groups become what we are – both the good and bad bits we are. We believe in preaching and teaching the Word, but they get more from seeing your lives. They don’t seem to remember our talks, but they do remember how we are when we’re on a trip with them, or doing coffee with them. So it’s important that when we get busy, and in youth work there is always more you can do that we focus on Jesus.
There’s always someone you could see for longer, some issue you could address better – we can’t tick things off with people. Often the first thing we do when we’re busy is lose our spiritual walk with Jesus, so we become satisfactory partners with Jesus, losing the beauty of the relationship, and then we become juniors partners in heaven incorporated. We lose the joy in the Way and the Gospel. Bit controversial but we lose the romance in it, it was a complete change in our life at first, we never wanted to tire of spending time in prayer, the joy of reading the Bible.
How do we deal with disappointment and struggles – they so often rob the joy of our faith. We can end up just playing politics in the church, having to fight your corner, when setting the budget you had to work out who you had to cook dinner for, etc! You can get so immersed in the politics that it drains you and you become cynical. Our nation and society is great at being cynical – we’ve been let down and struggle with that.
This cynicism leads us to move on, either somewhere else or to move up and work with the adults! How do we guard from this:
It’s about relationships
We must fight this, the antidote to cynicism is authenticity. The church of Jesus should be the most authentic, transparent place and yet so often it isn’t. We think we have to play according to the rules of church politics. But that’s not true both pragmatically but also spiritually it spells death, atrophy. We need to keep going back to the wonder of the cross, the wonder of salvation, not to lose sight of the first things. What we keep our minds on is usually where our hearts follow. Meditating on the Father’s love is critical. Along with the Bible there are certain books that you re-read, friends that encourage you to learn new things. That keeps you soft. Make a pact with two or three others to never stop being pilgrims, on a journey towards Jesus. We’re all very busy but we’re going to carve out time; we can all say we’re really busy, we’ve got so much to do, I can’t spend time this way. But if you’re too busy to do that, you’re too busy, you’re so busy you’re ineffective. There is a richness in growing in our spirituality together.
The whole thing is about relationships; it’s everything Christianity is about. Consumerism is doing a lot of damage but individualism is much more serious. We work as individuals, and focus on our own self and our own ministry. But if someone is blessed we’re blessed, we’re part of the wider body, we’re part of a team. Make it a priority if you want to stay close to Jesus find others that you can go on the journey together with. They are inextricably connected. Don’t wait for them to come to you, find them, seek them out. In our individualistic society everyone is afraid of intimacy, that’s why we se this over sexualisation of society because we don’t do the non-sexual intimacy.
Intimacy is a discipline, Richard Forster says it best in a Celebration of Discipline. We desperately want to keep that intimacy, worship isn’t just a warm-up act but is one of the main things. We spend all our time looking during the worship at the young peoples reactions – are they lifting their hands, oh no they’re texting. John Wimber is one of Mike’s heroes – at a conference in Westminster Central Hall in 1983 – the worship was amazing. Some people asked for less worship and more teaching, Wimber replied you can do coffee, read your bibles etc., but still kept the worship at 35 minutes as “the worship isn’t for you, it’s for me” – sounds very egocentric – but he explained that we can’t teach and minister until we’re in the presence of the Lord.
We need to know ourselves and finds ways for that discipline. Crofty gets up at ridiculous o’clock to read and pray, but Mike isn’t built that way so he finds space throughout the day, sometimes going up to the top of a local hill. It takes a while to get out of the busyness of life, to stop thinking of all the jobs to do, but spending time in the presence of God. We shouldn’t treat our quiet time as a job to do but it’s a relationship we want to cultivate –it should be like marriage and that shouldn’t feel like a job to do.
Met too many youth workers who have been bitter, cynical and given up on church. Church has a lot to answer, but we can’t give up on church until Jesus does, and he thinks it’s his bride.