The Danger of Study, Preach, Repeat

I know it can’t only be true for me, but there was a time where I would only read the Bible to “get a message” for my students or congregation.

Sad, I know, but I think it’s because of the way I viewed scripture that caused me to treat it in such a way .

I thought the Bible was a textbook for my job and, like a student, I had a test every week I had to prepare for. I thought I had to know all the answers and ace the test. I made the Bible about me knowing things for other people rather than enjoying the Bible for myself.

That’s the danger of study, preach, repeat; we see study/preaching as a job rather than an authentic way of living.

It’s possible to know a lot about the Bible and be as spiritually dry as a bone. How can we, as youth pastors, balance the reading and study of scripture for work and the devotional side of scripture which grows our own soul?

Plan Growth Into Your Schedule

Some people plan a study time, maybe 2 hours to work on a message. I know there are all kinds of ratios of how long is the message versus how much should I study, but that’s not me. Growth is a 24/7 endeavor for me, so sectioning off time tells me there’s a stopping point when I don’t believe there is one.

Just like when we pray, we say amen at the end but that doesn’t mean we won’t pray the rest of the day. I know we have to have some hard core time for study, I just don’t limit that time.

I plan study into my day in different ways.

Daily Study/Sharing Versus Message Prep

  • When I go for a walk I listen to scripture through the YouVerion Bible App
  • I do a FB live devotional on Facebook from 9-9:30 a.m. . I read, study, and pass it on which means it comes back to me through my own ears. Doing this daily means accountability and doing it live means I better be engaged with the Word I am reading.
  • I post scriptures on my Instagram with a short devotional.
  • I use websites like www.biblehub.cc when preparing so I can look up Greek/Hebrew  words to get context and understanding.

I can’t say enough about learning and sharing on a daily basis. I love doing this  because it keeps me from becoming a Wednesday and Sunday Pastor (or Christian). It shows my community that I am all about the daily living and not about preparing for a once a week meeting.

The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.  – John C. Maxwell

Meditate and Reflect

Just like I build in study time, I build in meditation time, think time.  I like to chill and listen to podcasts like Pray As You Go  witch is like an audio Lectio Devino which asks me to think and pray and engage with God.

I don’t put pen to paper, as far as a message, until I have fully thought through the scripture and have

  • asked “what is means
  • asked “what it means for/to me?”
  • ask, “because of these revelations, where do I need to take my students.

I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. Psalm 119:15

Practice What It Says

We cannot divorce the preaching and the doing. When I am prepping my message, I try to figure out how to put myself in position to practice or obey what I’m learning.

If I’m talking about forgiveness, I have to find ways to be forgiving or reflect on if there’s anything to be forgiven of by God or others.

If I am talking about giving I have to look at my giving and ask God how this principle needs to be reflected in my life and how do I demonstrate this to my students.

In the practicing of scriptures, we won’t have to look up good illustrations for our messages, we can share from our personal experiences.

An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching. – Mahatma Gandhi

I judge no one but me. I know me and you know you. I would ask you to consider your current spiritual practices and if they contribute to, first, your daily growing, and secondly, to the growth of others.

Growing others without growing yourself  is to water all the plants but one. Soon, that one plant will die and then who will water the other plants?

Grow your own soul and you’ll have no problem growing others.

I recommend these books

Soul School (Enrolling In A Soulful Lifestyle)

Nurturing The Soul Of The Youth Worker

Soul Food For Youth Workers

 

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The Anxious Rantings Of A Burnt Out Youth Pastor

“I just want to get out alive” I told myself before a recent youth meeting. That’s when I knew it, I mean I saw it coming, I just couldn’t stop it. Burn out.

I had yelled, “Why does any of it matter. ” towards, not at, my wife that morning. Is there a difference? Not to her. I said,, “Sorry, I was letting out some repressed feelings.” My comments  sounded like the incoherent babbling of an insane person.  I mean, I am a youth pastor, is this much of a stretch?

I’ve had several of these moment in the past few months, mostly alone. God just sits, nods His head a lot, and listens to my rantings until I wear myself out. He’s there to help me, but He’s left me some options to choose from. There is no one right answer and so He leaves me to choose. Yeah, thanks God.

This  blog is not just about youth ministry tips and tricks, it’s about the life of a youth worker, this youth worker; and if you’re cringing at the fact that I choose to be this honest, look away, go back to watching cat videos. Only the brave may read on.

Let me be clear, I don’t hate my job or the people I work with, but I am asking whether full time church work is still for me. I mean, 26 year is a long time. Burn out isn’t about hating what you do, it’s about the feeling that you are sued up, that you do not have enough left in the tank. I have moments of great energy and vision but I cannot shake the over-all feeling of either wanting or needing something different in my life.

I am not on suicide watch. No has had to take my shoelaces or sharp instruments from me. And, you happen to be a young person in my group or a church member who may read this, I am not unhappy with anyone  or quitting tomorrow.. This post is shared in good faith as I work through my journey with some kind of honesty, something many ministers lack because they are afraid they will not be seen as perfect or that something is wrong with them.

If you know me you’ll read this in the context of the relationship we have, if you do not know me, welcome to what it feels like to be me.

I was, I am, burnt out, but what am I to do? Youth Ministry is all I know and I still have to supply for my family. I am, as I heard Gary Vaynerchuck say recently,

“Fixing the plan as I fly it”

There’s really not any time to pull the plane in for a full inspection. I can only fix “the plane” in flight, as many people do. This leaves me with simply weighing options.

Here’s what I feel my options are and they may even reflect your options as well. Feel free to offer you suggestions in the comments.

Option One: Quit

Just quit. Just walk away. Leave full time youth pastoring, never to return. This begs the question is whether I can live without it or not. I have no idea. Several years ago I came back to youth pastoring from being fired. I was doing camp ministry at the time and decided that I should write the ending of my youth ministry career and not someone else, so I went back with God’s leading.

Quitting full time ministry is never an option because our lives are full time ministry, but quitting church ministry certainly is an option.

Option Two: Quit To Serve In Something Besides Youth Ministry

I could stay in church ministry but quit youth pastoring and move into a different kind of ministry, maybe discipleship, small groups, community outreach, all of which I would be qualified for. My fear would be that I would be sneaking over and hanging out in the youth pastors office and giving advice he didn’t ask for.

Option Three: Quit and…Part 2

I could quit church ministry and do some work in a community that is underserved and doesn’t have many youth workers. I could work in an inner city ministry, etc.; there are plenty of ideas but I have to let my heart simmer on those things for a while.  Any ideas you have are welcome.

Option Four: Take A Sabbatical 

In many churches, Lead Pastors can take an extended amount of time off to think, pray, write, serve etc. It’s possible that in taking this option I could try a few of the ideas I mentioned above but not many youth workers are offered this option. May be I could take my day off and try out a few things. It’s certainly and option.

Option Five: Go on my own and do more training of youth workers 

I have struggled with this option for quite some time.  To be honest, I don’t think youth workers, or potential supporters think this is a great need. I recently updated my Patreon page and offer s some cool benefits to those who pledge as little as $5.00.. You are welcome to check it out and see what I offer and then offer me feedback on what I could change that would inspire you to support this option.

I have to say, this is my preferred option because I would love nothing better than to walk along side youth workers and offer resources and through my Youtube Channel and the Youth Ministry in  Motion podcast.

Only time, prayer, and the market (you) will decide if this option is viable.

Option Six: Find a life coach or someone to talk it out with

This is easier said than done, but I am wide open to talking with someone who understands careers and not just my current moment. I am looking long term and I need someone for the journey. Ministry, like other jobs, is about hiding our faults and doing our best to look perfect and competent. Ministry, unlike other jobs is hyper secretive because in saying you are a Christian, and especially a minister, that everything in your life is supposed to be ok because we serve God. That’s just stupid. In fact, many times it is quite the opposite.

If you know of someone, feel free to recommend someone who is not half my age and looking to make a quick buck.

Option Seven: Sit, Wait, Pray

This is the hardest option, yet the most viable. Quitting is much easier. But, when I think of the kids and families I serve,  it’s the right choice. They mean the world to me and it’s the tension may youth workers who are in this thing for any amount of time live in. We love the kids and work, but we reach a point whether we believe we are giving them our best or not  and are better served by someone else.

For now, I’ll continue to pray and give my best. It’s what God would have me do until my next step is clear, or at least clearer.

This morning I was listening to classic rock radio and the song The Question came on by The Moody Blues. The line which grabbed me and reflects my heart at this moment is

I’m looking for someone to change my life
I’m looking for a miracle in my life

Your prayers are welcome as I continue this journey of life and ministry. If you are on the same journey, feel free to leave a comment below.

Here is my video breakdown of this article

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