Be Present

Colton Harker —  June 14, 2013 — 1 Comment

Every year, our ministry finishes out the school year with “Senior Weekend,” where seniors take over and run the weekend. Instead of having the traditional one speaker for the service, we had two speakers and a panel (I know it sounds like a lot, but it worked out great). The panel was themed “What I Wish I Knew in High School” and each student had something different to say like having a mentor, a good group of friends, a good idea of self, etc. One student did “be present.” When I first heard it, I was thinking, “what a good point, such a great thing for our students to hear.” Then I thought, “wait, what a great thing for ME to hear.”

In youth ministry, we are constantly trying to balance working in one season and planning the next. We are always looking forward… and we kind of have to if we want to stay on top of things. But often our pursuit of the future can lead to us to an unhealthy place where we lack the ability to be present. As I unpacked this in my head I came to the conclusion that there are two different ways we need to be present, in the “big picture” and everyday life:

Big Picture: Sometimes I will focus way too much on something that happened in the past or something I want to happen in my future. That could be me holding on to a grudge and just not letting something go. I can get stuck thinking “what would life be like if this would have happened.” Or maybe it is focusing too much on my goals and ambitions. I sometimes am always looking forward and don’t take a ton of time to slow down and see what is happening in the present. Whether it is focusing too much on the past or future, it is important to be present enough to see what God is doing in our lives. To see what He wants for us to learn and do in this season of life.

Everyday Life: Focusing too much on the future doesn’t always mean life goals and dreams, it can be focusing too much on what needs to happen next in your day. While we may be physically present and an event or project, we are mentally preparing for our next meeting, weekend service, etc. Or we can physically be with our family and friends, but mentally, still thinking about our ministry. Our lack of everyday presence can have some big consequences including loss of ministry opportunities and even just being refreshed by the people God has put in your life. Pay attention to what God is doing in the moment.

Now there is a series of books that can be written about being present. There are so many different ways to be present, meaning so many ways that we can be challenging ourselves. In what ways do you need to be more present?

article.2012.12.25[1]Christmas is either a time where you ramp things up to “crazy level” or a time when things slow down just a bit. Of course this mostly depends on your church culture, events, and expectations—but we’re thankful you’ve given us another minute of your time as we end 2012 together with a celebration of the birth of Christ.
As you prepare for the candlelight service at your church—or perhaps you’re reading this from your iPhone as you drive to Idaho to be with family this week—here are a few reminders in this season full of presents.

Be present with your family.
 Take the next few days, when the whole country slows down, to be with family…and really be with family. Break out the video camera; leave your phone on “Do Not Disturb” a little more often; really be present with the people who love you the most. And, if your idea of “present” means paying attention to the family festivities in hopes of capturing the perfect Instagram moment, you are missing the point entirely!

Be present in your ministry.
 One of the benefits to being present with your family, and a little disengaged from church during the holidays, is that it can create a new sense of hunger for ministry heading into the new year. Take advantage of the slower (we hope) ministry season to prayerfully consider what the next year holds and how you can engage more fully and effectively as it begins.

Be present to listen. 
Too often we focus on volunteers and students and the next big overnighter in our ministry and don’t take the time to really listen as we walk hurriedly to the next big thing. Take some time to listen over the break—listen to what parents are saying, listen to students a little more closely, and listen to God’s voice speaking life and guidance into your heart and ministry. Be present in God’s presence.

Merry Christmas! Looking forward to a great 2013 together, too!

This interview  originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.

When crisis hits your youth group … think of it as an incredible opportunity to serve your students and their families. Time to jump into action! In future articles we’ll cover some specific things to say or to avoid — this is more of a take from 50,000 ft. that we hope will be helpful as you serve students this school year.

Let’s say that someone in your youth ministry was in a pretty bad car accident and it is midnight. How do you respond to a crisis like this? Here are some principles that should translate to this and other situations:

Be the First to Show Up
In a real way, you are a tangible expression of Jesus Christ in the lives of your students. Showing up immediately in crisis assures them of their connection to God and of God’s love for them. They find incredible value in your presence, so show up as soon as possible. Assure them that God loves them and there is hope. If you have any question whether or not you’re welcome, go and be turned away rather than not go and regret it later.

Be Present
When you’re there, make sure you’ve got time to give them your full attention. There’s nothing worse than something that is an all-consuming-crisis for someone else that doesn’t carry that same weight with you. Turn off your cell phone, make great eye contact, cancel other appointments so you can give the situation proper time. In short… give them your full attention.

Be Available
In times of crisis a family or student may make some special requests of you. Do everything in your power to make it happen, even if it isn’t in your talent wheelhouse. Lean into your team to help you pull of whatever you can.

Show Up Later
When someone is in crisis — usually a ton of people jump at the chance to help. That’s the beauty of the church and the power of community in action. The problem is that people’s problems lose some of their attraction over time. Make sure that you show up at the front of a crisis, and circle back when everyone else is gone. You might find an incredible window to minister to people when there’s less of a crowd around.

Thank you for serving students! Thank you for being there when their young lives hit a serious crisis. It is a privilege and heavy responsibility to walk through tough times with them. Thanks for doing what you do!

This post was written by Josh Griffin and Kurt Johnston and originally appeared as part of Simply Youth Ministry Today free newsletter. Subscribe to SYM Today right here.