We called it The Ascent, and it may have been the slowest week of ministry I’ve ever had. It also was one of the best.
I was several years into a rural student ministry in Southeast Nebraska, and I knew our summer needed something with a little different pace to it. The usual slate of summer camps and CIY conferences was fine, but before school started back up, I wanted us to just stop and breathe.
We drove across the state and met some new friends in Laramie, WY whose outdoor ministry (SROM) focuses on adventure trips and leadership development. We backpacked in the Snowy Range area and rock climbed an awe-inspiring area of granite formations called Vedauwoo.
The name Vedauwoo is a play on an old Arapaho word meaning ‘earth-born.’ I didn’t know that at the time, but it seems really appropriate now. We spent the better part of a week outside the busy lives we live, reconnecting with the One who drew mankind out of clay and breathed His own life into humanity. There were no appointments or due dates, no deadlines or classes, no countdowns or ‘game overs’… There was just God, a bunch of rocks and trees and stars, and a handful of His children learning to breathe again.
I’ve learned since that trip, that it’s critical to my ministry health to slow down from time to time and just notice God. I’m a 38 year old father of 4 who’s been in youth ministry longer than many of my current students have been alive. There’s no way I can keep up with the dozens of students I work with… but I’m also so stubborn that I’ll grind myself down trying. I need moments of quiet and even solitude to stay emotionally sane and spiritually fit. It’s in those moments of still slowing that God reminds me that I haven’t been called to keep up with my students’ frenetic scurrying from one activity to another, but to show them a healthier rhythm of living that includes slow moments in the midst of running the race set before us.
Neither have you.
But what can you do about it? How are you supposed to fight against the ever quickening current of our fast and frenzied culture?
- First, do away with the ego telling you you’re indispensable and you have to keep going at light speed. Too often, we feed the ministry monster that over-inflates our pride and keeps us running. Let’s stop feeding it. We can’t change lives, but God can when we point students toward Him. We can’t do that if we’re so busy doing our important things that we don’t notice Him. Stop and notice.
- Get out of your routine. Spend a morning alone outside or in a coffee shop or library. Really the place doesn’t matter; find somewhere you can just breathe and listen to your Maker.
- Ditch the data. Leave your cell phone & tablet behind for several hours every week. We are bombarded with information so much that we let it suffocate us. A digital slow down makes room for God’s voice to break through again. There’s always one more article or post or podcast… they’ll still be there tomorrow.
- Work hard. Wait.. what? Ok, here’s what I mean: Take time to be still, but when it’s time to pick up the plow, go forward at full speed. Lead diligently and refuse to fall into the notorious slacker caricatures that seem to stubbornly float around youth ministry. You’ll find the stillness even more refreshing when it comes in the midst of hard work.