Yesterday I met with my local NNYM network group. I have been “helping” coordinate this group of youth workers for several years. Helping is in quotations because I have not always been convinced that my influence in the group has always been helpful; it has struggled to gain any kind of traction or momentum for a long time.
Yesterday was one of the best network meetings I have ever been to.
As I have pondered on this, I have realized some reasons why it has struggled, and why it seems to be working now.
Why it has struggled:
- Inconsistent leadership. When I was first hired in the Treasure Valley there was a very strong network in place with very consistent leadership. Those people either moved out of the area or out of youth ministry positions within my first year serving in Boise, and it has struggled since. The leaders that have been involved have not been bad leaders, but other factors have not lead to consistency.
- Lack of clear vision and purpose. People are usually pretty clear about what they don’t want in a network, but are not able to clearly convey what will bring them back month after month. We have not had a clear purpose for our meetings, so they become pretty easy to blow off.
- Personal Agendas. I remember a few times the network started to rise above the first two things, and then it would completely implode because of someone’s personal agenda. Someone would see the network meeting as a great opportunity to push their product or ministry or cause or event and the next month no one would show up.
Why it is working now:
- A clear purpose. At a prior meeting we made a list of discussion topics that would be beneficial for our lives to talk about. Yesterday we talked about how to find and maintain proper balance in your life as a youth worker. No article or book, we just shared stories and struggles and victories from our lives. We talked about our marriages, our families, our own faith, our church responsibilities, and how to actually balance them all and find health. We say up front, we are having lunch and talking about this, that’s it.
- Mutual respect. Those who attended represented large and small churches, single and married, veterans and rookies and everything in between. Comparison is checked at the door and we just enjoy being together and talking shop with people that get what it is like to minister in our valley.
- A comfortable and neutral place. One of the youth workers hosted us at his home. Our plan is to rotate around our valley to different homes as we take turns hosting. Restaurants are loud and hard to have good honest discussions at. Going to other churches makes the mutual respect value harder because we all by default compare facilities. Our valley is pretty spread out and people won’t always drive far to meet. This way it will be close to everyone at some point.
- We all want the same thing. Seems it should go without saying, but it needs to be said. We started the discussion by reiterating the fact we all want the same thing: every teenager in the Treasure Valley to fall deeply in love with Jesus Christ. We are all on the same team and understand the unique challenges of our community, so lets help each other.
If you do not have a local network in your area, I encourage you to step up and start one. Visit www.youthworkers.net to get started.
There have been times in my life and ministry that networking has been a tremendous blessing as well as a few struggles–but overall all the effort to make it happen has been worth it. One thing that is always true about networking with other youth workers is that if you don’t pursue it then it will NEVER happen, so whether that means starting your own or just showing up at the next meeting please do it!
The reason why this is number one is because it is the one that fills me up the most. This is something that is not easily attained in our society and in my current phase of life, at least not for more than a few minutes in a row. There is always some interruption or pressing need that hinders any solitude. When I can get it, this time is usually filled with meditating on scripture, prayer, and journaling. I do a regular “quiet time” most days, which does include all three of these, but it is normally only a ten minute part of my morning routine and does not qualify as solitude. It does help me to “top off” my emotional and spiritual tank, but when I am on empty I need a few hours, not a few minutes.
I am not, and have never been a “reader”. Reading is not enjoyable for me, the phrase “pleasure reading” is an oxymoron in my book. However, I do love to learn. I quickly realized while in college, if I am going to learn I need to read. I like reading blogs because I can read and learn in quick and small doses, and if I want I can react or comment to the author instantly (which is sometimes a good or a bad thing). Since I don’t read books on a regular basis, when I do it is very refreshing.
I think this is somewhat of a guy thing, but I love to play. This is one of the reasons I love living in Idaho because the outdoor recreation is close and abundant. I am definitely one of the people that come home from an ideal vacation more physically exhausted than when I left. Staying in a hotel is not my idea of relaxing. I would rather sleep on our boat so I can literally step out of my sleeping bag and directly into my wakeboard.
This is something I have just started doing in the past few years. As God has continued to mold me and use me in different ways I felt like writing was something He wanted me to do. I can say the publishing side of writing is NOT refreshing or fulfilling for me, in fact it has proven so far to be quite frustrating. But the actual process of writing does indeed fill me up, whether anyone actually reads what I write or not.
5. Spend time in community
One of the most refreshing things I can do as a youth worker is hang out with other youth workers. Whether it is a local NNYM meeting, a national conference like SYMC or NYWC, or online through social media I love connecting with other youth workers.
One of the most refreshing things I can do for myself is to hang with my wife, my kids, my extended family, family friends, or even a good conversation with the random person that gets stuck next to me on an airplane. No agenda, nothing to accomplish or create, but just time together.
As I look over this list, I realize that every single one of them have to be done intentionally. If I don’t purposefully schedule it, set it as a goal, or focus on it none of these five things would ever happen. My daily life always has other things that are more pressing or more urgent, and if I let it happen these things will get pushed to the bottom of my priority list.
The other thing I notice is how they directly counteract the things on my empty list. It is almost like God knew what he was doing when he made me….huh, how about that! This week while I am away, I am purposefully pursuing all five of these things.
I challenge you to take a few moments in the next few days, and write out your empty list and full list. Obviously yours will probably be different than mine, but I am sure it will be just as valuable for you as it has been for me.