The summer is over? …so soon?
At the end of the school year, I stop and think, “Man, the school year went by so fast,” and I think about how bored I’m going to be not seeing my young people every waking minute, or how I don’t know what I’m going to do with my newfound free time. Then the summer starts and something magical happens: yes, you get to sleep in a little, but you have time to reads books you have neglected. You get to catch up with old friends you haven’t seen in a while. You eat well, thanks to great cookouts and barbecues. Wednesday nights are yours to spare. And suddenly, summer doesn’t seem so bad.
For me, when the first back-to-school commercial comes on the TV, I know that summer comes to a screeching halt, and I think to myself, “Man, the summer went by so fast,” and if you’re anything like me, you find yourself completely not ready for the year ahead of you. And for you that are about to stop reading this because you feel like you’re not only prepared but also ready, please hold on, because maybe there are some things that can help you as well.
I know you’re like ‘Duh J.C.,’ and yes, it does seem pretty simple. But I know how easy it is with programs and schedules and lesson plans that we end up forgetting to talk to God. I have opened meetings without first talking to God. It’s my arrogance that sometimes causes me to believe that I can do anything that HE allows me to do without first seeking his blessings. Without consulting God first, nothing we do will succeed. Praying is as much listening as it is talking. So many times, even as a youth leader, when I’m talking to God, I feel as if I’m going through the motions; like I’m the leader and everyone is expecting to pray so I just do. That’s how we transition from being youth leaders who keep God in the center to youth leaders who put leading youth in the center. Every deep revelation I’ve ever had (as it pertains to youth ministry) was when I totally submitted myself and listened to God’s voice. So take time as you begin this new year, before you do anything else, to intimately talk to
Praying is as much listening as it is talking. So many times, even as a youth leader, when I’m talking to God, I feel as if I’m going through the motions; like I’m the leader and everyone is expecting to pray so I just do. That’s how we transition from being youth leaders who keep God in the center to youth leaders who put leading youth in the center. Every deep revelation I’ve ever had (as it pertains to youth ministry) was when I totally submitted myself and listened to God’s voice. So take time as you begin this new year, before you do anything else, to intimately talk to God because when you submit to God through prayer, your young people will submit to God through prayer.
If you’re anything like me, the summer has a tendency to empty you. It’s really funny what 2.5-3 months can do to you. Oftentimes, by the time summer is over, I find myself scrambling to get everything together. However, what I have learned is that you need to get into things that pour into you. For me, I listen to Matt Chandler podcasts and dig deep into the Word. If you don’t do things to recharge from the summer, then you will die before you get a good footing on the year.
I love to read; I am always taking book recommendations. So for me, digging deep into what God has said and inspired in other people is key. Jerry Bridges, C.S. Lewis, Joel Williams, Bryan Loritts, Matt Chandler, Chris Battle, Tim Gombis and Fredrick Buechner (just to name a few) are great authors. If you are looking for something to get you fired up about ministry, and how the saving power of Jesus Christ can impact your young people, check out these authors and always start with the Bible. The Bible is the most powerful source of energy to recharge us as the year begins. I know that for me, if I’m not in my Bible once a day, then my whole day is off and my world just isn’t in balance. There is something about God’s Word that always seems to say the right thing to me at the right time. So as you head into this year, make sure you are charged up and able to handle whatever the enemy might throw at you.
Set Real, Measurable Goals
When I first started in youth ministry, I had the idea that I was going to save every child on the planet. My programming was going to be so great that I was going to grow the youth ministry by 300%, and I was going to rebuild the whole community through community service. The only problem with that is that those weren’t realistic goals. A new year gives us new eyes and may make us think that nothing is impossible, but there are times when youth leaders are more advanced than the youth ministry. Eventually, I got to the point where if I got young people to come on Wednesday nights consistently, then I had a good year. You know your young people, and you know what’s achievable. Always make sure you operate according to the Holy Spirit! When I came off the summer, I would reach out to other youth leaders in the area to see what they are doing and compare our goals. Setting real, measurable goals gives you something to reach for during the year.
Yes, the summer is about over, and it went really fast, but now the ministry begins. I know that I am super excited to see my young people and how they grew this summer, how God impacted their life in a new way and how they reached out to extend discipleship to someone else. As we – as youth leaders – embark on this year, let us remember that we are the conduit by which young people see the light of Jesus Christ, and if we aren’t spending time praying, recharging and setting realistic goals, then we won’t be a good steward of the precious gifts that God has given. Summer is over, and I’m hoping that you took time to do all the things that you enjoy, but now the real work begins, and the only question left to ask is “Are you ready?” Because whether they say or act like it, your young people are.
J.C. CARMICHAEL is a youth leader at New Prospect Baptist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been in youth ministry in some form for the past 10 years. He has a passion for seeing the young people realize their purpose for being world-changers. J.C. has had the opportunity to minister to young people all over the country and has also been instrumental in creating youth ministry models for youth leaders to adopt in their own church. He believes that everything that is done is for the glory of God. You can connect with J.C. on Twitter @JCCARM.
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.