The Quiet Time

Jeff Harding
March 3rd, 2021

My youth ministry constantly emphasized this concept as foundational for developing a healthy relationship with Christ. However, aside from carved out time at retreats, summer camps, and mission trips, this was something largely absent from my daily routine.

Developing habits is relatively easy, in theory. Depending on the studies you read, habits can be loosely formed by doing something daily for 21 days, more substantially formed after 66 days, and all but completely engrained in just under a year. Repetition is the key for habit formation. 

And yet, we have seen time and again how repetition does not equate to spiritual formation.

Think about all of your friends who attended church with you nearly every Sunday when you were growing up. Think about all of the adults who sang, listened to sermons, took communion, attended Bible studies, prayed before meals, and helped work the holiday food drive without missing a step. Think about the many people who still do those things with others. 

How many of them would you hold up as champions of mature and lived out faith?

They most certainly exist. Though, compared to the numbers of people described above over a period of decades, it’s embarrassingly disproportionate. Why is that?

I think the low ratio of spiritual exercise to spiritual growth and maturity is about perspective and self-awareness. I know that those are fairly broad terms, so allow me to narrow them and introduce an incredible resource for you and your students by sharing a story about an older resource.

The only time I can remember having a consistent “quiet time” growing up was in junior high, when our entire church went through the well-known study by Henry Blackaby called Experiencing God. That study revolutionized the way I saw God at work in my life, and I’m still grateful to this day that I was able to muster the discipline to go through it each day.

Although it was curriculum, the practical and wholistic appeal of the study is what kept me coming back each day. But even the simplest of curriculums is still pretty dense to take on as a daily time with the Lord. 

Enter The Near Journal.

Jacob Vandenbark, the founder of Draw Near Co. and creator of the journal, says the story of The Near Journal began with his desire to have a daily time with God that provided guidance without complication or the weight of a homework assignment. He tried various devotionals, studies, and reading plans. “Everything was just prewritten,” Jacob explains. “Full of other people’s thoughts and ideas. Those were good sometimes, but I wanted something to be my own; where I could learn and study what I wanted to.” The final product was the result of input and trials – through twenty different iterations – before arriving at what he thought was the premier approach to achieve the original goal. It has that practical and wholistic feel similar to what I experienced in my junior high study.

Here are the five elements that compose a daily time using The Near Journal.

  1. WRITE (thoughts & feelings): Like any journal, this is where you record what happened that day or what’s on your mind. Burdens, joys, events, relationships, etc. There are reflection prompts in the front of the journal to give some guidance if desired.
  1. FOCUS (progress & goals): There are always things we need to complete, healthy habits we would like to form, and specific methods to employ that would help us in our walk with Christ. This space is where you can record and track those.
  1. THANKS (blessings & gratitude): Not only does research prove that writing helps with memory, but also that having and maintaining gratitude can provide several biological benefits. This space is for recording three things for which you are grateful.
  1. PRAY (requests & results for others/yourself): This one is pretty self-explanatory. Prayer is a necessary and often trivialized aspect of our faith that deserves all of the time we can give it.
  1. MEMORIZE (verse memory): This section is for you to focus on a set verse or passage that you would like to try memorizing over the course of ten days/entries. This space is also for answering the question of how memorizing this verse will provide help and encouragement in your walk with the Lord. You can choose your own verses, or use the page of suggested verses in the front of the journal.

There are ninety daily entries and several blank lined-pages in each journal. The entries have a space at the top to record the date instead of “day four” or “day sixteen” to avoid the feeling that you have to do one daily or risk falling behind. I think eliminating the guilt factor is a great and needed step.

After my interview with Jacob, and getting to try the journal out myself, I soon ordered copies for my students. They were intrigued and enjoyed the unique layout as I did a demo for them. I was thrilled to provide them with something I think is a game-changer in the realm of daily devotion content. Jacob also loves giving back, so he provides substantial discounts on bulk orders, and gives away one journal to another youth ministry for every four journals purchased.

Check it out on Jacob’s website. I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Jeff Harding

Jeff is a 17-year youth ministry veteran. He’s a Phoenix native, ASU Sun Devil, Dallas Theological Seminary graduate, and Chipotle fanatic. He currently serves as the Dallas/Ft. Worth Coordinator for the National Network of Youth Ministries, as well as the youth minister at Trinity Fellowship Church in Richardson, TX. You can also hear him on his weekly podcast, Youth Ministry Maverick, at youthministrymaverick.com or wherever you stream podcasts.

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.