In May of 2006, a good friend of mine, his son, and my wife Jenny and I went to Denver to participate in a retreat about contemplative spirituality and teenagers, worked from the book Contemplative Youth Ministry and led by the author, Mark Yaconelli. That retreat experience, and the book, have left a permanent imprint on my soul and ministry mentality.
I’ve found it hard in my youth ministry years to retain a mindset and a ministry that isn’t clouded and damaged with anxiety. The anxiety comes from all kinds of things: feeling anxious about what sometimes feels like a declining-in-numbers youth group, feeling anxious about kids making bad decisions in life, feeling anxious about not knowing how to pass on a faith we feel somehow to be important yet many of us lack the vocabulary to express…
With each successive school year, the feelings and vocabulary of ministry anxiousness are revisited like a game a mentally lost person plays with himself as he speaks the same sentence a hundred times again, wondering if he’ll miss a word. Meetings quickly turn toward program launching and marketing abilities and reducing the Jesus Way to some kind of purchasable item and a feeling you get if you do certain things.
So, I have to step back and ask myself, How do I lead in such an environment and pay attention to the call of God while not reducing God and things of God to a marketable item, a fleeting emotion, or just an answer to alleviate some of our anxieties?
It starts with prayer. Solo time in prayer. Time in community in prayer. Bringing others alongside the ministry, listeners of God who want to immerse their lives in God-reality and awaken teens to this same reality of Life Abundant (as Jesus gets at it).
May I and the people with such beautiful hearts around me become more attentive listeners. May we seek faithfulness and life with God. May God fill us with his guidance and calm our felt need to be anxious. He is with us. We are becoming alive!