14 days until New Years Eve, Seven days until Christmas and 3 more until the end of the world (At least that’s what the Mayans say).  In the next several weeks a lot will be happening and that’s because everyone is in a season of transition.  During these times it’s so easy for a youth ministry to get derailed because seasons of change are messy, fast moving and crazy.

Especially during this time of year, nothing is of the usual. All of your students are away from school, some go away on vacation, while others are in the midst of midterms. Nothing is normal during a season of change.  But, when the dust settles, it’s important to keep moving as if nothing changed.  You need to keep the momentum of your ministry going.  If not, it’ll be a long winter and rough spring.  So, how does one make the transition from one season to the next?

Embrace God’s Grace: Do what you physically can do and allow God to do the rest.  It’s easy during season of change to overextend yourself.  Unfortunately, if you are depleted of all energy, there is no way to move forward without feeling burned out.  Make sure you schedule in time to sit with God, even if it’s just five minutes a day.  It’s essential that it’s scheduled in.

Pass On Future Tasks: During times of transition it’s easy to get focused on the now and forget what’s coming up.  Before you get in the midst of the chaos pass off future responsibilities to volunteers or coworkers.  Doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as stapling paper, just get it off your plate so that you can do what only you can do.  When the chaos settles down you can walk into the next because everything has been prepped.

Write Down Goals: Make a check-list of tasks that need to be done.  When you get moving it’s easy to overlook simple tasks and responsibilities.  Each day check that list several times and use it as a way of measuring your progress.  Celebrate each time you eliminate an item and then move forward.

Sleep, Rest and Sleep: As hard as it might seem try to get as much sleep and rest as possible.  During times of high stress it’s tempting to resort to staying up late, eating, and other bad habits that will slow you down.  You need to maintain your energy; therefore, with the free time you do have, take it to refuel and refresh.

Transitions and seasons of change can be difficult; however, with a healthy pace and focus you’ll make it through.  Build a system, don’t be afraid to rely on others and above all else know that God is walking with you.

How do you move through seasons of transition and chaos?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

Creating a culture of spiritual growth is hard work. It’s easy to talk about but quite a challenge to do so. It is a bit odd (and sad) that churches aren’t more open to spiritual growth, but any resistance is simply human nature doing what it does best: fight

Of course, even when you prayerfully and methodically take time to establish that your church and ministry is indeed a “spiritual growth zone,” be prepared for the following three obstacles. But take heart, there are solutions.

Challenge #1: Busyness
I addressed the topic of misplaced priorities in another entry, “spiritual maturity: a note to parents.” While I don’t have time to address it thoroughly here, it’s a big deal. And as a parent, I can tell you I am often guilty. I’ve got plenty of good reasons why my children are involved in a million and one things…to the detriment of their spiritual growth…so I can use a friendly (read: kind) reminder from time to time

More and more kids are growing up in single parent homes, and for those with two parents at home, more than 60% of them have both parents working outside the home. As a result, many families try to keep their kids busy. Some declare it’s just to keep their kids out of trouble, while others believe kids need as impressive a resume as possible in order to get into a good college. Regardless, quite often, both kids and parents end up exhausted, emotionally and physically. And since time often doesn’t allow for spiritual development, families deplete themselves in that area, too.

Solution: Focus on the parents. When families are over-committed, they’re also likely feeling guilty, so be sympathetic and encourage them. Celebrate any effort they make and work hard to establish a “guilt free” persona. You want parents feeling refreshed when they talk to you, not beat up. Once a month, provide a brief overview (no more than 1/2 a page) of upcoming lessons, along with 2-3 drive-time or dinner-time follow-up questions. Think short and sweet and be encouraged by any spiritual conversations they have.

Challenge #2: Laziness
I don’t think many people are lazy. We just find too much fulfillment in sedentary activities. How can I do a Bible study when I need more time to beat my friend’s video score? Why should I serve at a retirement community when I am intimidated by older people?

Solution: Students need vision and a challenge. First, it’s important to be sure you are providing worthwhile reasons for spiritual growth activities…more than “WWJD.” Secondly, students need to be challenged, followed by more challenges. Or they need to be challenged, followed by encouragement. The different strategy depends on the personality of the student and the relationship you or another leader has with that student.

It’s important to handle this distinction with prayer, because your attempt at motivating a student could drive him or her away. Still, don’t allow fear to paralyze you. As long as students know you care and are ready to engage with them when they’re ready, you’re in good shape.

Challenge #3: Disinterest
Face it: some students could care less. They only show up because they’ll be grounded if they don’t, so like a prison sentence, they’re doing their time.

Solution: Love and encourage them. Essentially, disciple from a distance. Students may not want to have a relationship with you or God, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do everything possible to build into them. Write notes, go to their games, plus any other ministry means that will allow them to see the love of Christ through you. You may never get a ‘thank you’ note from them, but you probably don’t get many anyway, so show and tell the love of Christ with great abandon!

Youth workers are resilient. Remember that the next time you’re discouraged! And also keep an eternal perspective–or at least 5+ years–so that you can continue to lay a foundation of faith, one brick at a time. Now, if we could only do something about those people moving our bricks….

Gregg Farah is the Student Ministry Pastor at Shelter Rock Church on Long Island, NY. He’s excited to be back in student ministry after his 7-year journey as a church planter in New York City. Prior to his church planting days, Gregg served as youth pastor for 9 years in the suburbs of Seattle, WA and Orange County, CA. Be sure to visit his blog for much more, including a way to help finance his new line of books he is writing!

Danger: Trusting everything a student tells you. I know most dads want to think the very best about their student. So, for example, if (insert your student’s name) says that they are reading their Bible, most dads take that for face value. When what the student really may be saying is that they are spending one minute looking at the Bible so that they can tell their dad they are reading their Bible.

Solution: Actually engage your student in conversation. Talk with them. Ask questions. Probe the statement they are making. In every arena. Not just Bible reading, but talk with about school, and other activities. Take time to go have Starbucks, cast a line, or go for a drive time and really talk to them. They need it. You need it! This is a form of spiritual protection…knowing about your student.

Danger: Spiritual health is just another aspect of our busy life. Corporate worship, Christian fellowship, and Christian accountability are just other items on our long list of things that we do. In fact, we typically do those things when we don’t have anything else to do (homework, sports practices/games, family trips, attending sporting events, etc…). Students are taught through this behavior that spiritual health is something that we are ultimately concerned with when we have nothing else to do.

Solution: Make spiritual health a priority for your family and its members. Don’t miss corporate worship. Don’t allow your students to make excuses for missing church (i.e. no one else is going, I have too much homework, I have a game, etc..) There are certainly occasions when families miss church (which should be rare). The idea is to promote the importance of Christian fellowship and accountability. When you are forced to be out of town as a family, find a church to attend on Sunday mornings. Communicate to your students that they cannot be involved in extracurricular activities that draw you as a family away from church by playing/performing on Sundays. This reinforces the fact that our spiritual health is the ultimate priority in your family. This too is spiritual protection!

Danger: Tell them what they should be doing, but don’t model it in your own life. They need to see it in you! When is the last time your students saw you tell yourself “No” to something? Yes, you tell them no to things (which by the way is, in many cases, the right thing to do), but they never see you telling yourself “no” for the sake of the gospel and glory of the Lord. In my opinion, this is the greatest exposure to spiritual danger for students. A hypocrite. If there is one thing that a student can recognize and see instantly it’s a hypocrite. Satan can use that to either push them totally away from the faith or damage their faith significantly.

Solution: Students need genuineness. They need to see you talk a big game and live a big game for Christ. They need you to be open and honest with them. They need to know areas in which you struggle and when you mess up (you will!) they need you to man up to your mistakes, ask the Lord and your family for forgiveness, and commit to doing better for the glory of God. Too many dads either don’t allow their students to see who they really are (which makes them hypocrites in the eyes of their students) or they simply aren’t really who they say they are (which is the definition of a hypocrite).

Tony Richmond is the High School Pastor at First Baptist Church Keller in Keller, Texas.