Prayer Vs. Productivity
A few months ago, one of our student ministry interns snapped a picture of me asleep in my office. I don’t always take a mid-afternoon nap at my desk (I have several “secret” spots for napping). I wasn’t embarrassed about getting caught nodding off, because I wasn’t dozing. I was praying. More accurately, I fell asleep praying and I’m ok with that.
One of the biggest barriers to having an active prayer life in ministry, oddly enough, is ministry itself. Our meetings, events, e-mail and other tasks can get in the way of our Spiritual transformation. As we strive for professionalism, productivity is a benchmark of excellence. The problem with prayer is that it doesn’t feel productive.
Imagine telling one of your volunteers who runs a plumbing business that you spent part of your day praying. Would you feel ashamed, unproductive or guilty? Would you worry that they’d think you were lazy? One of my best friends in ministry once told me, “You should NEVER, EVER feel guilty for putting prayer into your ministry workday.” Prayer is the MOST productive thing we can do because only when we invite God into our ministry work will we see real power and transformation in our ministry and churches.
Thankfully, I serve in a church that sees the value of prayer and has never made me feel unproductive for getting time away to pray. They model dependance on Jesus because we pray together a lot as a staff. If you aren’t feeling the same level of freedom, I would suggest for you to meet with your leadership to talk about it. It’s too valuable of a matter to let fall through the cracks.
Prayer isn’t for the ascetics and monks. It’s for every Christian who seeks to live life in the Spirit. A flower would never feel guilty about soaking in the sun and water. You should never feel guilty for spending time soaking in the glory of Christ in prayer.
Prayer challenge for the week:
Schedule15-20 minutes of prayer each day in the middle of your work day. This isn’t your quiet time or personal Bible study. This is just time for you and Jesus to spend time talking about the pressing matters of your heart. See how this “appointment” with Jesus will transform the rest of your work day.
We all know that parents are the number one influence in the life and spiritual life of a teen. With this in mind we need to help parents engage their students in spiritual conversation. My pastor did a series this week and presented 5 questions that parents need to ask their children. Pass these on to the parents in your ministry:
#1: What will be the center of your worship?
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Matthew 22:37-38
“I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them.” – Jeremiah 32:39
#2: Who will you allow to influence you?
“Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33
“…so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” – Romans 12:5
#3: Who do you want to be? (Rather than ‘What do you want to be?’)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16
#4: What do you have to give?
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11
#5: What does your life tell others?
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” – 2 Corinthians 5:18-20read more
Are you really praying?
In ministry, we can hide behind a lot of things. We can hide behind our schedules. We can hide behind our numbers. Last year I realized that I was hiding behind my longevity. As a 15-year youth ministry veteran I got pretty good at doing the business of youth ministry. I could plan, teach, train, and counsel with ease. I got my tasks done and didn’t let things fall through the cracks. On the surface I was looking good, but underneath something was missing. That something was prayer.
In student ministry we pray, but do we REALLY pray? We pray when we are on stage teaching. We pray when we have a meal with students. We pray as we begin and end meetings. We pray with students when we counsel them.
I was praying these prayers, but I wasn’t praying the kinds of prayers that shape my eyes, ears and heart. I wasn’t praying the prayers of joy and desperation when no one is looking. These are prayers that we as leaders need to bathe in if we are going to lead teenagers into an authentic walk with Jesus.
Prayers of my eyes – I realized that I was talking a lot about the greatness of Jesus to my students but I wasn’t stopping to take a look for myself. Prayers of adoration and worship are the fuel for our lives. When was the last time you just spent a few moments resting in the Glory of your Heavenly Father? How long has it been since you allowed yourself to ponder the reasons you still love the God you serve? If it’s been a while, then maybe you need to schedule some time in your week to have your spiritual eyes enlightened.
Prayers of my ears – I realized that I had let myself believe that my experience was enough for my leadership. Instead of listening to God to hear what He would like me to do, I had been reacting based on experience. Wisdom and instinct are important aspects of leadership, but listening to God’s voice is better. I’ll be honest, most of my listening doesn’t result in any mystic revelation. I haven’t heard any audible voices, but when I spend time regularly emptying my agenda and listening for God’s I find that I am less likely to get stuck in a rut when it comes to my ministry.
Prayers of my heart – This is a big one. Our hearts can reveal so much about us. I noticed that my prayers had lacked passion and conviction. I wasn’t praying for students out of desperation. I wasn’t broken over the hurts and pains in my church. I still loved and cared for the teens I was called to minister to, but I felt somewhat detached from them. So I started to ask God for a new heart. I asked God to help me feel what He felt for my students. Over time, there was a difference. I found myself praying passionate prayers for my students, not just on stage, but also behind closed doors and alone in my car. I initiated more prayer with our leaders and challenged them to pray with me.
I’m not a prayer warrior that gets up at 5:30 to pray for an hour, but my prayer life has changed. Because I’m trying to see, hear and feel God more through prayer, I am actually seeing, hearing and feeling God’s presence better and my ministry is better because of it.
Do your students understand that they are in battle? A fear I have is that my students will turn out to be apathetic Christians who do and say the right things with absolutely no passion. I believe this happens when we fail to realize the cosmic battle we are in and whose side we are on!
So this past Sunday, I put a punching bag on stage.
Here’s what it conveyed. The Christian walk can often feel like a battle. We are training ourselves to do, say, and believe the right things. And this can be exhausting! As I preached, I had a student relentlessly punching the bag without stopping. Inevitably, he became exhausted and his pace quickly slowed.
This is how many view the Christian walk. Every punch and upper cut represents a good deed or spiritual discipline.
Right jab. Said my prayers. Left jab. Read my Bible. Right upper cut. Went to church. Etc…
Only this picture is incomplete!
Viewing Christianity this way, as many do, lacks both passion and an understanding of our enemy.
Ephesians 6:12 offers, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
To complete the illustration, I emphasized to my students that following Jesus is not like hitting a punching bag. Punching bags do not hit back and are not out for our destruction. Satan is.
Jesus followers are not training for holiness, but rather becoming holy as they seek Jesus and fight back against the enemy and thief who comes to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).
When it comes to discussing spiritual warfare, I see youth ministries error in two directions. They either NEVER talk about evil or make EVERYTHING the work of Satan himself!
As youth pastors we must help students navigate this battle. Here’s how:
1) Help them understand their role and the meaning of holiness.
2) Talk about the real presence and goal of Satan.
3) Remind them of the End! Jesus Wins! (Rev. 19)
As a staff, my pastor is having us walk through The Externally Focused Church by Rick Rusaw & Eric Swanson.
The book centralizes around the role of the church: Do we prioritize training and equipping the flock or do we prioritize reaching out to the lost and hurting?
Simplified, it examines the church and its battle to balance good works and faith.
Reading, I came across this:
Looking at this chart, I began to question where I would place our youth ministry at LifePoint.
In what quadrant would the youth ministry you lead fall?
Are you reaching out to students in need with the same intentionality that you are raising up your flock?
As we prepare our students for life after youth ministry, we must ensure that they hunger for the transformation of others. We must view our students as tools of transformation and change, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Raise them up, and send them out! If we are too internally focused we risk raising up a generation of pharisees who comprehend truth, but lack understanding on how to apply it.read more
This was the title of my Mothers Day message to students. The sermon itself was on the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:12 & Ephesians 6:1-2)
Not sure I have a student who hasn’t heard these verses, but the focus of the lesson centered around the the word “honor“.
I’ll post the video later this week so you can watch it yourself, but the question for today is:
How do you, as a ministry, honor mothers?
This last weekend we enabled our students to love their moms in a tangible way. We had them write notes of appreciation and gave every student a flower to give their mom.
The mothers LOVED it!
Fathers Day is coming! What is something tangible we can do?read more
Getting students to talk. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world! This is a generation that has been raised with communication devices in-hand. (iPhones, iPads, texting, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, kik, Snapchat, Skype, FaceTime, etc.) It seems everything out there from milk to toilet paper has socialization and connection in mind. Combine that with todays technology and anything is possible.
So you would think that in a world so social and connected, it would be no problem to get students to…well…talk.
Spend 15 minutes in a small group and you KNOW this is simply not true. Connectivity can be a fabulous thing! I feel very connected to my students and have the capability to reach many of them at a moments notice. However, this same connectivity can kill face-to-face communication, and the ability to be truly present.
This is why we encourage our Small Groups to stack the phones! As soon as it is time to begin the group, all phones go on the table or in a basket.
Can you hear the voices? “But I use my phone as my Bible…” Yup, in the 15 minutes of Bible study it will be your Bible and a million other things that will keep you from being…present.
So I encourage you to try it! Make a “Tower of Babel”…get it? Babel, as in talking, as in people talk on their phones…sorry. Sure you will get some push back initially, but in the long run you will have students focused on conversation, present in community, and who know how to use their Bible! Now get off this communication device and open yours!
What are you looking for?
We are in the middle of our love, sex, and dating series in Fusion Student Ministry and during a one-on-one discipleship session with Michael, I asked him this question. I asked, “imagine that you are a 22 year old senior at your favorite university, what quality traits are you looking for in a future spouse?” His response:
- A Believer
- Brown Hair
- A Great Smile
- A Good Personality
- A Good Friend
- A Worshiper of God
- Spends Time in The Word
- A Good Volunteer
I thought this was a fantastic list! Oh, and did I mention that this came from a 7th Grader!!! My mind was blown! I don’t know if I could have put that list together as a college senior and Michael’s doing it in the 7th grade!
It feels good when students “get it!” It feels good when students have a plan for their sexuality; a plan they have petitioned God for and decided in their hearts to follow. This is why we have the hard talks every year about sex and God’s plan for them. May you be reminded that the difficult conversations you are having…are worth it.
“What’s love got to do, got to do with it?”
Great question Tina Turner!
If you are a follower of Jesus…Love is everything. The greatest and second greatest commandment according to Jesus are for us to “Love God,” and “Love Others (Matt. 22:36-40).
But why? Why am I called to love others? And how? How do I love others?
1 John 4:19 offers that “We love because He first loved us.” This is our WHY and this is our HOW! The love that we have to give is a direct result of the love that Christ has shown to His creation. In the ultimate act of love, God sent his Son to die on a cross so that we might have access to His love! Why do we love? Because He first loved us and our only natural response should be return that love to Him and to show it to others.
But How? We show love to others by emulating the love shown to us. God’s love was sacrificial. Ours should be also. Love in our culture today is selfish and self serving. People love, not in sacrifice or servitude, but in order receive love back.
Here is our opportunity! When we love with the sacrificial love of Christ we tell a very different story than the one being told by culture. When we serve without recognition and love those who will not reciprocate we point to the ultimate source of love…God himself (1 John 4:8).
May our plea each morning be Psalm 143:8, “Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk (why & how to love others), for I give myself to you.
Youth Pastors are…mentors, sounding boards, social media gurus, studiers of pop culture, Friday night cheerleaders, doctrine/theology simplifiers, disciple makers, writers, visionaries, small group coordinators, communication directors, budget balancers, penny pinchers, counselors, parenting advisors, preachers, adolescent development enthusiasts,
(take a drink of coffee)
meeting attenders, over-worked, under-paid, technology lovers, wannabe video-gamers, book lovers, marriage counselors, Facebookers, Tweeters, occasional Google+ers, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sinners, broken, event planners, professional campers, retreat warriors…
(take another drink of said coffee)
dodgeball champions, “fill-in” preachers, chapel speakers, professional pranksters, curriculum planners, Bible expositors, thematic teachers, service planners, worship leaders, prayer warriors, professional van drivers, video editors, pizza eaters, party organizers, sleep deprived, and passionate followers of Jesus.
After 52 roles I have BARELY scratched the surface! What other #YouthPastorsAre have I missed?