“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him” – Genesis 1:27
Being made in the image and likeness of God we participate in one of His greatest qualities: the act of creating. This is most beautifully seen through marriage and creating a family. We are also creators in our work and in youth ministry. We need to have creativity in how we present the Gospel to the youth we minister to.
I recently read an article on Relevantmagazine.com. In it, Donald Miller gives advice on being the best creators we can. I thought I would pass it along to you and share some of my thoughts on how some of these tips apply to a youth ministry setting.
Our Work is a Reflection of Us
We need to take ownership of our work. As youth ministers we create programs, events, talks, skits, etc. Our work is a reflection of ourselves. If we see our work as an extension of ourselves we will have more pride in our ministry and will not be happy with the mediocre but seek to always make it better.
St. Jose Maria often talks about our need to glorify God in our work. As Christians we should strive to be the best in our fields to the glory of God.
As Reflections of ourselves, our ministries, to a degree, should take on some of our qualities. If we are passionate about the faith our ministry should reflect that passion.
What do you want your ministry to say about you?
A Creator Doesn't Just Talk About Their Work
I love "talking shop." I get pumped up and excited when I talk with others about my vision for, and trends in youth ministry (that is part of the reason for me starting this blog.) However, if I just talk without DOING, I am just a bunch of hot air without any power behind my words.
A good example of people who spoke eloquently about ministry and the faith but didn’t follow it up with practice would be the Pharisees. Don't be a Pharisee - they weren't cool.
“Pray as though everything depends on God. Work as though everything depends on you.” – St. Augustine
Youth ministers do not have good reputations for their work ethic. However, we need to strive to create a work ethic where we build up the disciplines necessary to create a good ministry. Once we establish good habits within our work we give God the opportunity to move through us, and our work.
I know many youth ministry oriented people who do not like to plan talks to far ahead because they would rather plan minimally in order to allow the Holy Spirit to give them the words to speak at the moment. Planning a talk or youth night in advance (more than the night before or day of) does not stifle the Spirit. I would argue it actually allows more room for the Spirit. In my experience, the more familiar I am with my talk the more comfortable I am with going ‘off script’ because I know what the message is that I want to convey to my audience and how certain tangents can compliment that message. Those are the moments when I feel the Holy Spirit is at work through my talk.
“…And there was evening and there was morning, one day.” – Genesis 1:5
Even at the beginning of Creation there was a rhythm. The days, the seasons, even our very lives have rhythm. I am pretty sure, even though He was anticipating man, God did not look forward to the completion of each of his creations – at least not in the sense of relief upon completion: “Finally, I am so glad I am done with Earth. Now I can rest.” God was in love with the act of creating – its who He is.
It would serve us well to find a rhythm within our work. Sometimes we can lose sight of the beauty of the work because we are anticipating being done with a certain talk, program, retreat, etc. I am not saying this is an easy thing but it is something I will definitely be striving for. I will let Donald Miller put it better than I can: “If you have a rhythm, if you get up every morning and work for a few hours, and you like the getting up and the work, and you don’t think about how great it will be when it’s done, but rather how great it is every day that you get to get up and do the work, your creation will be tremendous.”
Find a rhythm to your work – love your work.
It is easy to give in to the fear of failure. Fearing the hypothetical situations in which your program bombs. Surround yourself with a community where you can vent your ideas and concerns and hear the honest feedback from others. Find people who can affirm your ideas or help you amend them. Also ask friends to give you honest feedback after a talk or event. Many times you will find that you did not fail as badly as you perceive. Many times we are our own harshest critic – we only see what we did wrong and lose sight of where we succeeded. We need an outside perspective to gain an honest view of how we did. I work with another youth minister and it is great because we are able to bounce ideas off each other and give each feedback after events. If you are the only youth minister at your parish find someone within the ministry that will commit to giving you honest feedback. Build up an atmosphere where your volunteers feel comfortable giving you feedback.
Many times we need to just step out with courage. If we fail then we learn from it and the damage done probably is not that bad. The phrase “Be not afraid” appears 365 times in the Bible. Our God is a God of encouragement, He waits with the eager, encouraging anticipation that only a Father can have, awaiting our decision to step out into the unknown – especially when it is in His name.
The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive
If our work is a reflection of ourselves then our daily experiences will affect our ministry. We need to be aware of this fact and seek out those experiences that will enrich our faith and ministry. We cannot disengage from the world. We can’t simply sit in our rooms thinking about life and God. We need to go out and live life and encounter God in the world around us. We need to live! Only by the witness of a life lived will we draw others to Christ. Insert personal stories into your talks as much as possible. I have only recently been convicted of not telling enough stories in my talks. Now that I am sharing more of my life the youth are more interested and the more they want to hear. We need to present the Gospel lived out, otherwise it is all book knowledge with little power to move the heart. Finally, surround yourself with people and activities that enrich your life; in turn your ministry will be enriched.
Know that I am praying for you. Come Holy Spirit!