Wanna Hang Out?
I can’t tell you how many times Jason or I have gotten a text from one of our students simply saying “hey”, or asking an off-the-wall question. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in their brains that compels them to do this. I’m starting to think it’s nothing more than they want to know you’re there and that you care.
Let’s face it, whether you’re in full-time ministry (like Jason) or working full-time and doing ministry on the “side” (like me), our schedules are packed with church events, youth events, meetings, small groups, and unstructured hang out time. Hang out time is very important to your ministry and to the people in your ministry. They need to know you’re a real person, and they can also glean so much from your own life.
I write today with 2 warnings:
1. Don’t neglect time to just hang out with your students. Some of the best times you’ll have is grabbing coffee, watching a (youth-appropriate) movie, or playing games. Chances are, they will only remember a few lessons that you prepare or challenges you make. But they will always remember the “insignificant” times you spend together! I know when I was in youth, there were a ton of great lessons! But I only remember a handful. Sure, they’re part of my knowledge base now, but I don’t remember who said it, when, or how. What do I remember? All the times I went over to my youth pastor’s house and hung out with him and his wife. I remember the time Margo (my youth pastor’s wife) cut my hair and it ended up being too short because we had to leave and help a friend who called because their apartment was flooding. I remember playing foursquare in their unfinished basement. I remember the many meals we had together in their home. I truly felt like family to Dave and Margo, and they hold a very special place in my heart. But not because of the lessons and small group times we shared, as important and growing as those were. Next time a student texts you and wants to know if you’re free, maybe they just want a few minutes of your time. Give it to them! We have a few students that have become like family to us (Jason is even called “Papa Bear”!), and it’s because of lunches together and having them over to hang out. Students won’t always remember what you say, but they will remember what you do and who you are.
2. Don’t neglect time to step away from your students. Now don’t shoot me before I explain! Time with your students outside of structured youth time is key; however, so is the time you spend with your spouse, family, and adult friends. God gave us a Sabbath for a reason, and we need a day or night a week to unwind and get refocused. If you spend all your time with your students, you will wear out. Jason and I couldn’t wait to find “adult friends” when we started full-time ministry, and they hold a very special place in our lives. We love our students (aka “youth friends), but it’s completely different. Also remember that aside from God Himself, family ALWAYS comes first! I highly recommend you read the book Choosing to Cheat by Andy Stanley for this one. Remember that God comes first, then your spouse/family, then work/ministry. For those of you working in full-time ministry, remember that ministry is your job! So don’t become a workaholic and neglect everyone else in your life in the process. There needs to be a good balance. For instance, if you’re married, pick a date night. Do not EVER compromise on that night. If you can’t avoid doing something that night, then move it to another night that week. This is you and [spouse] time only. Trust me, you need time away to rejuvenate.
If you don’t yet have a “hang out” relationship with a few of your students (I’m not asking you to invite all of them over all time time!), then start to build some. Scope out a few in your ministry that you see potential leadership in and develop that in some time outside of your normal meetings and events. Pull out your board games and Xbox’s, and waste a night of getting things done just to hang out and invest in your student’s life. It will make a huge difference!
If you find yourself exhausted with events and feel like your only friends aren’t even able to drive, then put on the breaks and mark off a day on your calendar this week. You may even have to cancel something! But this time is necessary, because God designed you this way. Waste a night watching movies, build a fort with your loved ones, or even take a nap if that’s what does it for you. Do yourself a favor and take a break – you will end up being much more effective.
Posted on February 22, 2012, in Christian Living and tagged Authentic, Christianity, Church, Church Ministry, Family Ministry, Pastor, Religion, Student Ministry, Youth Ministry, Youth Pastor, Youth Work. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.