Time Well Spent
Ever since I was a boy my mother told me that I have two speeds…high and low. I am either running 100 mph or I am sleeping. Many who know me can attest that that this statement is still very true. I can only sit for about 30 minutes at a time so I have learned to take a lot of coffee breaks and work in places that feel less like an office…like Starbucks. I am a very active person, so when I started in ministry I struggled with the idea of being tied to a desk. Let’s be honest…most of us probably spend more time in our offices than anywhere else. For many of us ministry has become more about the church and programming and less about reaching the world. We have become comfortable tucked away in our offices.
One of the biggest influences in my life was my youth pastor and mentor Mike. When I look back at the time I spent with him, especially when I was his intern, we were rarely ever in his office. We spent time at his house. We would see each other at my school. We would also meet at a local diner a couple times a week for breakfast. Mike would even call me up and ask if I wanted to run errands with him like going to the grocery store or picking up vans for an event.
Now that I am working with students full time Mike’s example makes complete sense. Mike spent that majority of his time in the community because that is where the students were. He put himself in a position to have genuine interaction with them. He understood that his purpose and mission was to influence youth with the gospel of Jesus Christ so he took it to them. I used to wonder how Mike’s reach and impact was so huge…now I know. His commitment to seek out genuine relationships with students definitely played a huge part in the equation. He made a commitment to do ministry outside of the box…and the office.
Please understand that I am not saying we should all permanently remove ourselves from the church building and wander the streets seeking interaction with students. If you did this I am pretty sure that you would be wandering the streets due to unemployment. I fully understand that I must spend time in my office. I also understand that a bigger church usually means more time in the office. I have many responsibilities other than just hanging out with students. What I am saying is that there is a genuine need to develop ministry outside of the walls of the church. I am very blessed to be working in a church that understands my need to be out from behind my desk (and understands my addiction to coffee) and trusts that I am doing my job and fulfilling my ministry beyond the walls of the church. When I think about the type of impact that I would like to have and the students that I would like to influence I keep coming back to Mike’s example. I see a large need to spend time in strategic ministry in the community.
It seemed like everyone knew Mike. Pretty much everywhere we went we would run into someone he knew…and they also knew he was a local youth pastor. Mike did not just spend time outside of the church because he hated being in the office. He spent time in the community because he understood the value of being seen. Please do not overlook this point. It may seem really simple, but being seen and known by others in a community is huge. This expands your reach and develops your resources. Being seen connects your ministry to the real world. You become accessible and approachable. I have seen firsthand the value of just being seen in the community, schools, and sporting events.
Ok…let’s be honest…majority of students only spend a few hours a week at church. Sure you will have a few that are very invested (or their parents make them come) and will be there a little more often. If we want to spend great quality time with our students we need to accept that this means stepping out of our offices and into their worlds. Mike taught me that quality time is intentional. There is effort involved in spending time with students. We need to seek them out. At first running errands with Mike seemed really random, but I started to see that he was making quality time for me in his busy schedule. He was seeking me out. After a while it didn’t matter what we were doing…what mattered was that we were together.
If we look at the example of Jesus we see that He spent copious amounts of time with His disciples. Jesus did not invite them into His office…obviously because He didn’t have one and because the church wasn’t fully established until after His death and resurrection…but the point still stands that His interactions with His disciples happened throughout the course of daily life. The disciples were able to see how Jesus acted on a daily basis. They were never left to speculate what His character would be like…they saw it firsthand.
In the same way we should make it our goal to “live life” with our students. The best lessons are rarely ever learned from books alone, but also from life experience. Mike allowed me to learn from his example. He disciple me and taught me as we interacted in real life situations. Mike was Christ to me…I saw the love and grace of Jesus in him as I walked beside him in life.
It is one of my greatest desires to have the type of impact that Mike had on me. I want to step outside of my comfort zone and engage students where they are. I have been at Otterbein now for almost a year and some doors into the community are just starting to open…many are still firmly closed. I know that it will take time, but time spent seeking relationships and living life with teens is time well spent.