Steeping the tea: The importance of timing in Youth Ministry
I am coming up on my 1 year anniversary of living in the UK. As I reflect on the first year of this journey I have a shocking confession to make. I am starting to drink almost as much tea as I drink coffee. For those of you that know me and my love of coffee you will understand A) what a big statement that is and B) that I now probably go to the bathroom 10+ times a day based on the amount of liquids I consume. I have come to appreciate tea in its multiple forms and the art that goes into preparing and serving it.
The Art of Steeping Tea
I have really found a fondness for steeping tea. There is an art to it. The temperature of the water and trying to get it just right. The amount of time you let it sit in the water finding that sweet spot between too weak and too bitter. Do you press the bag against the side of the cup to squeeze out that little extra or hold the bag over your cup letting every last drop drip out? Every person I meet over here seems to have a different process of tea making, and according to all of them, their way is the only right way to do it.
A practical exercise for you is this. There are a few common teas that you are likely to come across if you visit the UK and there are very different methodologies to putting the bag in the water and coming out with tea. Twinning’s teas, for example, can be really enjoyable and flavorful but often take a little extra time than the packet recommends getting it just right. My go-to common tea is Yorkshire Gold. It is straightforward, no frills and should not sit in the cup for more than 30-45 seconds. The water should be just cooled from boiling. To finish it off you should lift the bag out of the cup and with your spoon and finger squeeze the bag and get every last bit out. PG tips, on the other hand, is an entirely different process. Step 1 take your box of PG tips. Step 2 throw it away because PG tips are gross.
When I am feeling a bit fancier I dive into my collection of loose leaf teas. A collection that always seems to grow and never shrink because I buy new teas faster than I can consume the other ones. I think that is because with the variety comes the challenge of getting it right. As I write this post I am enjoying a delicious Caramel Pu-erh that calls for 2-3 minutes at 95 degrees Celsius (Confession the first cup was great but I forgot to take the strainer out and the second turned bitter). Sometimes when I am brewing my tea I take the time to do a little prayer, meditation or reflection and I have really come to enjoy this part of the process.
The Importance of Timing in Ministry
The whole idea of steeping reminded me of the importance of timing in ministry. Often, we as youth ministers get accused of speaking without thinking, not planning, not turning things in when we were supposed etc. The reason we often get accused of it is that we are guilty of it. Even if you yourself are a timely, organized, person as soon as you get labeled “youth leader” you come with a set of presumptions about you. So, what can we do to change that?
Applying Time Management to Your Ministry
Like a perfectly crafted loose leaf Darjeeling, figure out what different areas of your ministry need. For example, I am terrible at sending out newsletter emails. It is not that I don’t like them or that I don’t make them. I just suck at remembering to either have them ready by the send by time or hitting the send button. Sometimes I send it too soon before I have had time to revise it. Other times I send it and realize I am promoting an event after the registration deadline. So now I have timed out how I do my emails and I do it every week this way. On Mondays, the first thing I do is draft my emails. I then go over them once with revision and once I am mostly certain the emails are where I want them to be, I schedule them to go out at the same time every week. This gives me a window to edit or ask someone else to look over them, but also means my leaders and parents can expect a communication from me at the same time every week. The whole process makes me look much timelier than I am.
Take time management a bit further and start applying it to other parts of your ministry. How much time does it usually take to get kids to sign up for things and how many sign up right at the deadline? If it’s like my youth the answer is all of them at the last minute and few after that! Save yourself a headache and set your deadlines a week or two before you need them so that you are not caught panicking at the 11th hour.
How long does it take to get traction for a new idea at your ministry? If you want to role something out and you can predict the sort of bumps you will run into along the way you can plan your responses ahead of time so that when things come up (Things will always come up!) you hopefully have a response, a backup plan and a backup plan for that backup plan because you gave yourself time to work these things out.
Like my last few posts, this might sound more like business and professional skills. The truth is we as youth workers are not the most respected or trusted when it comes to adulting. I hope as you start off your programs for this year you can find some practices, rhythms and rules to help you succeed professionally. Because at the end of the day succeeding professionally helps you succeed in your ministry!
Denny Burda is the Senior Youth Minister at St. Paul’s Howell Hill in the United Kingdom. After over a decade in youth ministry in the States, Denny, his wife Merina and their cat Elliott followed God on their big adventure of a new life in a new culture.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.