There are busy seasons and then there are seasons in which we make ourselves busy.  Your typical busy seasons in youth ministry are:


During those seasons everyone is busy, everyone is moving and so keeping up with the pace is natural.  Then there are the seasons in which we make ourselves busy.  Those can vary depending on your ministry and your personality; however, if you don’t slow down you’ll face disaster.  So how do you know when you are making yourselves unnecessarily busy?

Basic Mistakes Are Made: Things that shouldn’t go wrong go wrong.  Maybe it’s forgetting to call someone back or sending an email to the wrong person.  When you rushed there is no time to get feedback, and review materials.  And, that’s because it’s hard to focus when you are moving too fast.

Piles Form:  Being busy means consuming your entire margin.  When your margin disappears you sacrifice the time it takes to go through email, and process paperwork.  When piles begin to form, your sense of order disappears and with no order there is only chaos.

Relationships Become Tense – Healthy relationships become tense and tense relationships become confrontational.  If you are moving too fast you aren’t going to take the time to process everything you say or do.  Your words might say one thing; however, your tone another.  When we move quickly we focus on ourselves, which could affect others.  Relationships take time.

Your Physically Wasted – Busy seasons have an end point, when you make yourself busy the end isn’t as tangible.  This can lead to over exhaustion and when you are tired you cannot be productive.

If you notice that life has picked up pace and you don’t know why it’s probably due to a lack of discipline and accountability.  When tension strikes and the unexpected happens you need to have people and systems that will hold you accountable.

If you aren’t going through a busy period now, take time to prepare for them by gathering a group of individuals who will hold you accountable.  If you are in the midst of chaos find someone you trust and pray with them.  Have the people you love and trust work with you to build margin and a schedule that will get you through these busy periods.  In the end you will prevail.

What are the other consequences of moving too fast?  What are some of the reasons behind it?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Operation Slow-Down

 —  May 22, 2012 — 1 Comment

It’s time for youth group to start, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, finishing last-second details. (Sound familiar?) Deep inside, I know I’m telling every young person, “I don’t have time for you.” But my to-do list beckons.

If someone naïvely dares to stop me, I nervously fidget and struggle to maintain eye contact because I’m worried about dropping the ball on the looming program. I peer over this mere mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown to start time nears zero. I pacify the person who caused this momentary diversion with a shallow promise to connect later in the week. Although I know that probably won’t happen, I desperately need to return to the important task at hand. Just to make sure I’m not stopped again, I take out my phone, participate in a ghost call, and resume my pace.

Ouch! Enough confessional time. Here’s my new plan to conduct Operation Slow-Down:

• I will ease my pace. Walk. More. Slowly. Resist the urge to end conversations quickly and move on to the next project. I want the pace of leisure to be my default and attentiveness to be my act of generosity.

• I will dial-in the program in advance. Work hard during the week so the youth service or meeting goes off without a hitch. Don’t save last-minute details for when people are arriving. Make it a goal to be standing around, with nothing to do, 10 minutes before the first young person walks through the door. That way, you’ll be ready to fully engage with kids.

• I will care about people and the program. I’m a program person all the way. Nothing’s more exciting to me than sharing the timeless message of Christ in creative ways. Tension will always exist between presenting a top-notch service or meeting and spending time with people. But final details and adjustments shouldn’t crowd out expressions of love. Care about the program, care about the creative elements, be proud of your innovative message or creative mini-movie that you spent several late nights sweating over. But be keenly aware of the people who might need you beforehand.

Trying to outdo yourself can become a vicious cycle. So stop walking around with such urgency. Instead, overflow with love for the listeners. After all, that’s who you’re trying to reach.

Originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!

The other day I was sitting in my office, when a teenager I did not recognize knocked on my door.  He said, “Hi, I think I’m supposed to talk to you, but I need someone to sign these forms saying that I did service here.”  I took the forms from the teen and saw that the forms were for his school’s service hour requirement.  There is nothing unusual about this; several times a year (especially Fall and Spring) I get the mad rush of teens trying to complete their requirements for the school year. What made the situation odd is:

  1. I barely recognized the teen.
  2. What he wanted me to sign off on was something he did 3 years ago.  

The reason I knew it was three years ago was because we hadn’t done that type of service project at the church in the last three years.  Like I said, I’ve done a ton of recommendation letters and service requirement forms, and usually it’s for teens I know and I can confidently say have earned my support.  But, once in a while a teen or a parent I’ve never seen walks in and asks me for “This Favor.”

Ideally, you would want to have a conversation.  You would talk about how you don’t feel comfortable vouching for someone you don’t know or something you have never seen.  And then you would develop a plan to get the student more involved so that you could be confident in putting your name down, right?

In theory that’s what we would like to do; however, many of us are guilty for just signing off and enabling the situation because we are:

Too Busy – Often times we give a student a pass because we are just super busy.  I can’t blame you, there is a lot on your plate and when something like paperwork hits the desk, you look for the quickest way to process it.  If this is you, you need to come up with a system where you allot time for situations where you don’t feel rushed to just GET IT DONE.  The teen (or parent) might plead to get the form, letter, etc. back as soon as possible; however, you need to be their youth minister and sometimes that means holding them accountable to what they are requesting.

People Pleasing – You just can’t say no, you don’t want anyone to feel bad and you just hate conflict.  You’d rather a teen have pleasant encounter with you than feel rejected by the Church.  In fact isn’t that the reason people are leaving?  They feel rejected?  I believe teens crave structure and someone with a strong foundation.  Yes, you may upset the teenager; however, if you follow the NO with love and care, they’ll respect the fact that you are looking out for their best interests.

You Agree With It – You see things like recommendation letters and service hours as something small.  It doesn’t matter if you know the teen, it’s just a part of the system; therefore, having a conversation with them about whether or not they really earn this letter is mute.  You believe that as the youth pastor you have an obligation to do what the congregation asks of you, even if the teen isn’t a full-blown member.

While the situation may seem insignificant it does say something about your ministry.  It’s circumstances like these where we have a real opportunity to talk to teens about investing in the local church, especially if we don’t know them or they rarely get involved.  By signing these forms and writing your letters your vouching for your ministry, so you want to be as truthful as possible.  By signing for them, you are vouching saying they are a representative of the Church, and that is saying a lot.

What are your thoughts?  Is this a big deal in your ministry?  Do you have any solutions to fixing it?

Chris Wesley is the Director of Student Ministry at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, MD. You can read more great youth ministry articles and thoughts on his exceptional blog Marathon Youth Ministry.

Was honored to be asked to participate in a guest series over on – he asked what leaders should start and stop in the New Year. Here’s a clip of my answer to that question, head over there for the rest:

Stop walking around with such urgency. When it is time for the service to start and the church staff is briskly running around the worship center then you are basically telling everyone, “I don’t have time for you.” If someone dares to stop you, you fidget nervously and struggle to maintain eye contact due to fear of dropping the ball on the last lingering details on the program task list. You peer over this more mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown timer signifying the service start is now nearing zero.


I have been a youth pastor for 8 years now at the same church. I have had many pieces of graduation cake and have many awesome memories. Sometimes I can’t believe I am being paid for what I do. Sometimes I don’t think I am paid enough. I am getting older and don’t understand all the popular things in your high schools and each year the culture seems harder for me to figure out.

I often don’t feel equipped for the ministry God has led me towards. Sometimes I doubt a few hours of truth a week can compete with the endless hours of lies heard at school, on tv, online, and even from some parents. Am I making a spiritual dent?

I am not an outgoing, guitar totting, tech savvy, or an athlete that will amaze you with my awesomeness. Yet, I care about the students who walk through the doors of our church. My heart is that they will know they are loved by God so much that Jesus was the price to buy back their souls from grasp of sin. I want them to know they are valuable and have talents that God has given them to make a difference in their world. I want them to be people that worship with an inner sense of gratitude. I want them to serve others out of compassion rather than compulsion. I want them to have a hunger to know God more deeply and live more faithfully.

I ponder about those students I have not yet met. I dream that when a student comes into our modest youth room they will feel safe and know they are appreciated and respected. I pray that we can create a zone free of the bullying and competition that is too common today so that masks and walls can come down. I want students to feel this is their group, they want to be here, and they are growing spiritually from our time together. That church is at least as important as sports and music which are here today and gone tomorrow.

I confess that at times I have prioritized just making it though a lesson, instead of really listening to your hearts. I confess that sometimes I want to have control rather than let the Holy Spirit speak. Sometimes I spend more time planning a game than I do praying for my students. I pray that God will forgive me. Students will you forgive me for where I have not been the leader that I should have been? Will you help me refocus this group to the place that God wants us to be? Will you join me for the next chapter?

The last time I slowed down long enough to breathe was: Just now. The reason I’m going (or want to go) to the 2012 Simply Youth Ministry Conference is to breathe, to pray, and to ask God what those next steps will look like. *I am not alone.*

Posted anonymously with permission.