rut [ruht] – noun
a narrow or predictable way of life, set of attitudes, etc; dreary or undeviating routine

There have been many days, recently, where I have found myself staring at my office walls thinking, “I wonder how many youth workers find themselves in a rut. How often does this occur (for most)? How do they avoid it? How do they get out of it?”

I imagine most of us didn’t get into youth ministry for the promise of a narrow, predictable, dreary, or undeviating experience. And, like the women’s restroom I accidentally walked into the other day, we want nothing more than to get out of this position.

What I am discovering is that sometimes the best way to get out of a rut is to revisit what got me excited about youth ministry in the first place.

Here are a few of my rut busters…

1) Get with students: As our ministry grows and we focus on forming relationships between students and leaders, unfortunately, I feel less and less connected. This is difficult. I need to pray and look for my own opportunities to connect. The other day one of my former students came to me and said, “Hey, do you think we could get together and study a book in the Bible?” I wanted to jump out of my skin! Heck, yes, I do! It gets even better. Then he said, “Oh yeah, and do you still want to come to one of my football games? I’ll get you a schedule.” Is that the Hallelujah Chorus I hear? I’m there! If only all of my students showed that kind of initiative.

2) Get with Jesus: In the first 11 verses of John 15, Jesus uses the word “remain” 11 times. I know that the best version of me is found in Him; it’s just a matter of getting there.

3) Get in community: Ever since the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, I always wanted to be a part of a great team. My best times in youth ministry are when I am sharing life with a team of people, focused and committed to a common goal. My loneliest and most monotonous times are when everything in our ministry comes from the idea bank of me.

4) Get creative: We serve such a creative God. When I accepted the call to communicate God’s love to students, I longed to reflect even a fraction of that creativity. In a rut, creativity is one of the first things to go. I need to allow myself the time and space to get creative.

What about you? What have you found to be your greatest rut busters?

Bryce Gernand is the Middle School Pastor at Jackson First Church of the Nazarene in Jackson, MI where he has served for eight years.

One of our incredible Life Group Leaders put together a final few week of small group with his guys that was truly incredible. First, he wrote 24 Thoughts for Graduating Seniors – a final hit list of things he wanted them to know as a man and as someone who was finished with High School.

Beyond that, he planned a parent beach bonfire night where dads wrote letters to their sons that was incredible powerful as well. Terry is a great leader and after seeing his notes I asked if I could share them here on the blog – felt like it would be a win for others to read and maybe something other small group leaders could rip-off or adapt for their guys as well. Here’s a link to part 1, and part 2 below:

7.) Treat others like you want to be treated

Trust men and they will be true to you; treat them greatly and they will show themselves great.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. -John 15:12

8.) Friends are a BIG deal

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he hath not another to help him up.

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. -Proverbs 12:26

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. -Proverbs 13:20

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” -1 Corinthians 15:33

9.) The next few choices and decisions are a BIG deal

When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.

We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer. -Proverbs 16

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. -Jeremiah 29:11

PRAY – PRAY – PRAY – LISTEN – LISTEN – LISTEN – SEEK OTHERS

10.) When you fall – get back up

“Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that’s the end of them.” -Proverbs 24:16

Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up. IBM Story of leader who lost $3,000,000

When Thomas Edison was interviewed by a young reporter who boldly asked Mr. Edison if he felt like a failure and if he thought he should just give up by now. Perplexed, Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.” And shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.

11.) Take time to review and look forward every New Year

  • Set Your Priorities
  • Set Some Goals
  • ALWAYS have something to accomplish

12.) Remember it is good to celebrate

Find things to celebrate.  Little things, big things.

JG