Thursday, August 05, 2010

    How to Schedule Dreaming, Resting and Growing

    We're excited to offer this guest post by Chris Wesley, author of one of our favorite youth ministry blogs: Marathon Youth Ministry.  Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at the Roman Catholic Parish Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD.  Chris works to create opportunities, environments and relationships that will help students grow as disciples of Christ.  An avid runner and cook, Chris resides in Pikesville, MD with his wife and son. You can read more about him and his ministry on his blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

    I’m not sure how it was for you but when I first got into student ministry I thought a lot of my time would be spent planning lock-ins, ski trips and youth group fun.  It doesn’t take long to realize that student ministry is more than event planning and Sunday school.  I believe the reason most people struggle with youth ministry is because they don’t know how to plan for the long haul, that’s why creating a weekly schedule is important.  With a weekly schedule we create margin, we create purpose and a flow that will help us avoid burnout.  And creating a schedule doesn’t mean filling it up with tasks, we need to schedule time for dreaming, resting and growing.  So what do you put in your schedule, here are a few of my suggestions:
    Vision Casting...if you aren't spending time vision casting, you aren't looking at the future.  You aren't asking the questions: Where do you want to go?  Where is your ministry heading?  How do you want it look in 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc?  On top of a vision think of your mission, meaning, what’s your purpose?
    System and Structures...this includes meetings with point people, staff and looking at how your ministry functions.  This is the opportunity to address problems, obstacles and success that are moving or stopping your ministry.  How do you greet students, how do you set-up ministers, what are you communicating to parents, etc?

    Reading, Research and Writing...We need to find time to grow in our ministry.  Listening to podcasts, reading magazines, books, blogs are all important to growing in our profession. I do a lot of writing for messages and curriculum; however, not every minister needs to be creating curriculum and not every minister speaks, but writing is a form of communication that can help us sell vision.  Creating vision isn’t just thinking about it, it’s about writing it out.  Sometimes I just like to write about what our ministry could be like one day.
    Pastoring Students...This is a tough area to balance because it can often overlap into family time.  It’s important to put into your work schedule time to visit with students, whether it’s before, during or after school.  But it’s important to be scheduled and not random with this because students need consistency and so does your family. Hanging with students should be casual but try not to mix it with personal time...that's for family and God.  If it does involve having the students over to the house, attending an event that might conflict with date night, make sure the spouse is okay with it first.
    Break/Off Time...This is the most important thing to put into our schedule because it is time for family and God...if I'm not giving the majority of my time to God and my family than I cannot be healthy.  My Friday is my sabbath, if I spend it on work, I'm cheating God, myself and my family.  God has called me first to husband and father, second to student ministry.  If we don't know when we leave and when we arrive, things become grey.
    Once you create a schedule, you may want to set a date to look at it again, because it’s something that should change seasonally. As life changes, so does your schedule.  Other than time with God, and family what you give towards the other areas can be compromised from time to time.
    A great leader needs to have direction, direction helps us get where we need to go.  To stay on point we need to pace ourselves accordingly.  A schedule sets the pace, a schedule keeps you going, a schedule means a healthy minister and a healthy ministry.

    I would be interested to hear what other ministers do to pace themselves in order to create a good relationship between their personal and professional life.
    -- Chris Wesley


    Steph said...

    I have found as a single person in ministry that I often neglect "family time" because I don't have any family around to spend time with. It seems hard to justify taking vacation time to be alone since I can only afford to fly home about once a year. For this reason, I think it is vital to find something that you like to do apart from youth ministry (scrapbooking, reading, flag football, etc.)and schedule it into your week and then protect it like it is family time. It is hard to explain to your church that you can't attend a meeting on Thursday nights because you play football, but I imagine it wouldn't be as hard to tell your church that you couldn't make it because of your child's football game. Just because you are single does not mean that your you need to be available to the church 24/7

    Brian said...

    Steph,thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. As many youth pastors are single, you raise a really important issue, one where we might have to educate congregations a little more. People in ministry, I find, often neglect the spiritual practice of sabbath -- I know I did when I was single and I'm not much better at it now that I'm not. And the truth is that if you make yourself avaialable 24/7, there are congregations who will be happy to take you up on that offer!

    Christopher Wesley said...

    It's funny that you raise that issue. I work in a Catholic Church so my boss is a priest (single), so explaining family time is sometimes an obstacle. But, I do agree with Brian, you raise an important issue and even though we label it as family time, it really falls under Sabbath. So the question should be what do we do that fills us up and brings us closer to the Lord?