- Prepare a sermon for Wednesday night.
- Look over the Sunday school material.
- Make that phone call. Visit with a parent.
- Meet with the senior pastor.
- Eat lunch.
- Schedule a volunteer meeting.
- Visit the school.
- Spend some time in prayer.
- Pick up your kids.
- Send some emails.
- Design sermon graphics.
- Post on social media.
- Eat dinner.
- Spend time with family.
- Go to bed.
These and host of other things comprise a “normal” work day for a youth pastor. Our schedules can be filled with administrative tasks, times of study, and various types of meetings with staff, parents, and volunteers. Not to mention when events are coming up. Summer camp, winter retreat, D-Now, Leadership Camp, and many others sprinkled throughout the year add even more administrative tasks and meetings. Is this what youth ministry is? I mean at least you can say you’re busy doing kingdom work right?
No way. You became a student pastor because you had a passion for students to become mature disciples. You didn’t sign up for all these meetings and tasks; you just want to invest in students and see them grow spiritually. Although the tasks and meetings have their place and are needed to get things done in ministry, when do you have time to be with students? When do you have time to genuinely invest in students you know you could impact with the gospel? Students who are hungry for the Word and discipleship? Where does that fit in the mix of it all? In many cases, those students get lost in the haze of running a student ministry and don’t get the investment they need at the time.
But what if you took the time you are already spending on something and added students to it? Would that work? Would that help? How could that happen?
In our lives, we do everyday things that almost all people do, even people of different cultures. These are called rhythms, things like eating, celebrating, traveling, exercising, recreation, and resting. No matter who you are, there is a chance you do several if not all of these things at some point in the year, and these are all areas that can be opened up to students without requiring more time. However, this means you have to be vulnerable. The “superstar” or celebrity youth pastor is not the one who allows students into much of their lives. This requires humility. So let’s look at how each one of these areas can be leveraged for investing in students.
Most people eat three times a day. And honestly many of us do this much more, especially if you’re a hobbit. Use this time eating during your week to share with students. This can mean going to the school for lunch, having students over for dinner some nights, or meeting for breakfast before school starts. However it looks, this is time, you are already spending, so simply add a student or two.
From the Super Bowl to a birthday party, we are people who like to get together and celebrate all types of things. Your kid has a birthday coming up? Great! Invite some students to help you get it all planned and set up. Is there a holiday coming up, maybe the Fourth of July? Invite some students over to grill out and shoot some fireworks. Every holiday is an excuse to spend time with students, and chances are you are already planning on doing something, just add some students.
Need to go pick some things up from Sam’s or Walmart for an event? Take a student with you to help. Going to a conference or training meeting? Take a student who might be interested in ministry with you, and if it is a long trip you have a great opportunity for debriefing on the drive. We travel all the time for all sorts of things, so see when a student might be available and bring them along.
Do you get up early and run, or go for a walk after work? Have a CrossFit gym you are a part of? Find a student that might need a workout partner. We all know we need one right? It will give you some great one-on-one time with them and they can help keep you accountable to being in the gym during the week.
In every culture, there is some type of recreation to enjoy. What is yours? I don’t mean the ping pong and pool games you play on Wednesday Night, I mean what is it you enjoy doing away from church? Playing golf, going fishing, and rock climbing are all places you could take a couple of students to spend time together. Chances are there are some students that enjoy the same things you do, so ask them to join.
Many youth pastors aren’t very good at this, or they do it badly. Resting usually means hours of Netflix and fast food or diving into a video game for hours on your day off. This isn’t really resting; it is just not working, and rest is something different.
To truly rest you need to be doing something that brings appreciation to God in a worshipful way. The day of rest was to be set aside for the worship of God according to the Sabbath commandment, but you are a youth minister, and Sunday is a work day. So hopefully you’re taking some time in the week to appreciate God in some way, and in some of these times you can invite a student in. For me these days look like visioning in the ministry and thanking God for what he has done, or setting aside time to read a book for spiritual growth and encouragement. Dream with a student, read with a student, show them what it means to rest in the goodness of God.
The point is not to use all these means to connect with students. There are some of these areas that need to be reserved for your own personal time alone or with your family, but choose a couple and begin to incorporate students in them. Maybe start with one meal a week or your weekly shopping trip and see what comes of it. When we spend our time like we normally would and bring students in, it makes us accountable and open to share life with them in a way that opens them up as well.
For more advice on how to find rhythms in life, check out Community by Brad House, and to see how spending normal time with students can help make disciples, be sure to grab With by Alvin Reid and George Robinson.
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About The Author: Andrew Harper
Andrew is the husband to Amber, a graduate of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the student pastor at First Baptist church of Altus, OK. He spends his time reading, drinking coffee, and schooling students in ping pong. His goal is to see students find their place in the mission of God.