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.

I just got done sitting in the cold rain watching a high school soccer game…and it was absolutely amazing! God taught me something tonight about ministry that I too often forget. The power of presence. Sometimes just being with a student or going to one of their games can be more impactful than anything you say. I watched 3 student’s faces light up tonight as they walked off the field and saw that I braved the cold to watch them play soccer. It was really the highlight of my day! Too often we as youth pastors can become “too busy” to attend events and games but really it’s just inconvenient because it’s in the evening. It’s worth every minute.

Here are some helpful hints for attending events:

1) Spring is a great time to attend because all events are outdoors and they’re FREE!

2) If you can’t be there the entire time, show up halfway through or when they compete.

3) Stay after and connect with the student encouraging them!

4) Take the opportunity to meet their parents and build relationships while in the stands.

Brian Dickison is the Youth Pastor at Gold Creek Community Church in Mill Creek Washington 

Our church just finished up the Advent Conspiracy series before Christmas with a focus on the gift of presence. Being with people, spending time with them, investing in their lives. Throughout the series people were reminded of the reality that being present in others lives is true ministry. I loved that this realization is reinforced every week in youth ministry!
Is youth ministry really anything more than being present in the lives of teenagers? Teenagers might come once or twice because of your flashy program, awesome worship band or cool new video games but they keep coming back because you or one of the leaders in your ministry become a presence in their lives. Think about why you’re in youth ministry. I would bet my substantial public school teacher salary that you’re in youth ministry because someone was present in your life at some point. More than likely that point was while you were in junior or senior high and their presence made an eternal difference in your soul.
Youth ministry, at its core, is being present in the lives of teenagers. Going to their events, having lunch with them, taking them with you while running errands. It’s listening to their hurts, fears, dreams, questions and ramblings. By all means, continue to be creative. Plan great events. Strive for excellence in your programs. Don’t ever forget, though, that youth ministry is about presence. It’s about being a presence in a student’s life because of Jesus’ presence in yours.

Buz is a special education teacher who passionately loves his ladies (wife and 2 daughters). They live in Spokane, Washington and you can check out his blog right here.