I talk a lot about running your ministry on all cylinders at all times. I get a lot of questions and concerns that I expect too much from others and myself, ministry and people in general. And they are right... I do expect a lot. But ministry is not about just working for no reason, spending your wheels, doing activities just for the sake of doing something. Everything is intentional. I remember one of my boys asked me one time what it meant to be a youth pastor. This kid was a sophomore at the time and one who I was mentoring. We would meet about once a week and talk over coffee and chill, go over church stuff, family issues, theological questions and whatever else. The funny part about it was that I had and asked the exact same question to Cobb when I was in high school. I answered the question in terms of time.
I told this kid that ministry was about relationships. Spending time with peeps was going to bring about the most fruit in your ministry. I wanted to add value to others every day of my life. This was a tall order. John C. Maxwell talks about this in all of his books. Leadership is all about adding value to at least one or more peeps each day. Henri Nouwen writes that ministry is “having meals at different houses, 'wasting time' with my own people, talking, playing, and praying with them, and allowing them to really know me.” To do this takes tons of discipline in your life. There is a difference between spending time with peeps and investing into their lives.
Cobb was and still is the master at this. When I was in high school I remember when he and his wife would invite a bunch of us at a time to have dinner at their house. Mind you, this is when our ministry was a lot smaller and we pretty much knew one another on one level or another. But we went though a season where Cobb would invite about ten students and leaders to his house. We didn't do any program or anything specific. I do know that the time was intentional though. It was one of the best seasons of ministry in our time together at HCC. A lot of good relationships and commitments to ministry came about from those moments of intentionality.
When I graduated and came on staff I knew the expectations that Cobb had. He did not ever worry about the work that I could do. He knew that I was a work horse and that I was down to put in the long hours. But what he was more concerned with was that I was “wasting time” the right way. Anyone can spend time with another person, but few could be disciplined enough to invest on a continuous basis. This is how I do ministry today. I am always aware of the relationships in which I invest. When I speak to youth pastors I encourage them to do ministry this way.
The peeps on your staff are too busy with life to have you devalue their time. They will put in long hours investing into students if you teach them to do so. But to keep them healthy, yourself and your ministry from hitting burnout, you need to be very careful. Ministry moves fast. It always has ans always will. It is the nature of the game. But moving fast does not mean spinning your wheels. Learn to waste time in the right way. Use it to invest into peeps. Your staff will see the way you treat them and value their time. When they feel loved and cared for they will put more time in, which will produce tons of fruit in the ministry you share together.