Often in the busyness of life, I can run from one thing to the next without taking the time to reflect. I am resolving to not allow myself to do that as I make a switch in my professional life leaving my youth ministry position at my church where I have worked for nearly 15 years to work full time with Dirty Vagabond Ministries.
I am thankful that God continually transforms my heart. I want to share with you 4 simple things that God has patiently taught me:
Be a committed learner not an expert.
Coming out of college with a degree in Theology and some volunteer youth ministry experience, I was confident I knew a lot. I considered myself a young youth ministry expert. I also knew as a young youth minister that nothing was more important than what I was doing. In my mind all other activities and ministries were only significant if they complimented what we were doing in youth ministry.
Thankfully, people were both patient and generous with me as a young youth minister. Most importantly, God was patient with me and taught me many lessons over the years. As I prepare to leave my position as a youth minister, I am more confident today than I was 15 years ago. That confidence, however, is a drastic shift. While I have learned a lot and gather some great experience, my confidence resides not in me, but in Jesus Christ.
I’ve worked to shift the attitude of my heart from being an expert to being a committed learner. Experts have arrived while committed learners are always seeking to grow as a leader. The best leaders never stop learning. When you believe you are an “expert” you can only see what you have done. It becomes easy to overlook what God has done and the new things he is currently doing.
Let your confidence rest in God and your heart and mind be open to learning.
It’s all about people. Love people.
This might seem like a no brainer, but it’s truly worth mentioning. When I first started in ministry, I was driven. I knew some of the things that needed to happen to make youth ministry great. I knew that people were necessary to make that happen. The end goal was noble but at first people were a means to an end. I needed them if I was going to achieve ministry greatness…
When you are rebuilding or starting a youth ministry, you are looking for great core team members. They are people who give of themselves on a regular basis and pour their lives into the lives of teenagers. One of the greatest tasks the youth minister faces is putting into place a plan to recruit, train, and retain good volunteers.
Over the years, only one strategy has ever worked for me: love people. People are never a means to an end. People are always the end in themselves first. Loving others is never a wasted an opportunity, even if they don’t turn out to be a volunteer or someone who helps you personally. I learned this lesson first and foremost from a community of people at our parish that loved me and have become a part of our family over the years.
Serving at one parish for a long time allowed me to see the fruit of loving people. We have an amazing core team today because each of the members of the core team were former teenagers from our youth ministry program. I’ve been blessed to walk alongside these young adults throughout their lives and love them. Love changes hearts and real love always leads us closer to Jesus.
Love people. Love takes time, energy, and can even be painful, but nothing else really matters if love is absent.
Lead with Vision.
I’ve often said that I would love to have my life and my ministry defined by being a person of vision. I thought about inserting some pithy quote about vision here but decided to instead explain what I mean by vision.
To me vision is defined as discerning what God is calling you to do and doing whatever it takes to make that happen. It’s a long term goal that you are willing to put your life behind. Vision means having the courage to dream big and to take bold actions to make those dreams become realities.
We are not called to be dreamers whose lofty dreams leave as quickly as they come. I pray that each of us can learn to pray through what God is calling us to do and be willing to take decisive action and invest our lives to see those visions become reality.
Let us pray that God will give us a vision for our lives, our families, and our ministries.
Discipleship is the heart of the matter and a matter of the heart.
Disciple is one of the most misused and misunderstood words. It’s one of the words and phrases we use too much without thinking about the true meaning.
Too often we think of discipleship in terms of the actions we take.
- Go to church
- Give Money
- Attend activities at church
This list can go on and on…My point isn’t that these are not activities disciples need to do; it’s that discipleship is not first and foremost an activity. Discipleship is a fundamental movement of our hearts. Discipleship starts with our surrender to Jesus, not with doing the actions of a disciple.
It’s quite possible to look like a disciple while not being a disciple. I say this primarily not as judgment of others but as a reality I have known in my own life. I can do the things that a disciple does and not have my heart in it. I can do the things a disciple does and do them for my own gain.
I have come to realize over and over again that God wants my heart first and foremost. It’s in and through the lens of that relationship that those actions of a disciple have meaning. Disciples of Jesus didn’t just follow instructions of Jesus, they followed him. They ate with him. They laughed with him. They went where he went. Like Peter, they dropped their fishing nets and left everything to do so.
Think about the actions of a young man falling in love with a young woman. He sends her flowers, writes her notes, sends her text messages, etc. If you were to do these actions without a relationship you would seem less like someone falling in love and more like a stalker.
Sometimes we can seem to be just stalking God. We are doing the actions of a disciple without the relationship. It’s not just about the heart, but it starts with our hearts, each and every day. Take a step to grow in your relationship with God today. Give him your heart and listen to his heart beating for you.
God keeps teaching me that he is enough for me. I get distracted. I lose focus. I want it all. Sin can seem alluring, but sin never satisfies. It only leaves you wanting more.
God alone is enough. Surrender to him today and every day.
What has God been teaching you recently? Share below.