Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Success in Youth Work Is About Organization And Lack Of Sleep

Success in Youth Work Part 3

I have been a youth worker for a long time and through many different phases of life.  At each new phase it becomes necessary to stop, catch my breath and reevaluate why and how. 

The situation:
As I was working through the challenge of trying to figure myself out I realized I needed to concentrate on getting my life foundations figured out before trying to figure out what to build on it.  I enrolled in Bible College, not to become a youth pastor, but to simply explore what following God was really all about. However this required a serious amount of volunteer hours and it so happened that my church youth group, which was in the midst of looking for a new youth pastor allowed me to lead the group in the interim.  To me, running a weekly event and connecting with students was effortless, but I found out for the first time that there are a lot of pressures faced by full time youth workers.  Parents would call me all hours of the day with various opinions for the group needs.  I was expected at leadership, board and committee meetings.  Along with this came budgets, reports and mentoring expectations.  I struggled with how to make everyone happy.

Why am I doing this?
I was only doing this to meet a need I had for a school requirement and for a love I had for my church.  Yet, unintentionally on their behalf, I felt like I was being taken advantage of.  I realized that my why needed to include a certain level of sacrifice. I realized that needed to prioritize and organize my life.  I had to look at the realities I was facing.  I needed money to pay for school, my car, insurance and gas.  I was still living at home, but really wanted to make my own way.  The sacrifice that I made was sleep – why was I wasting all that time unconscious anyway?

How would I do it?
I bought a laptop (which was rare for college students at that time).  I could then simultaneously take notes in class as well as plan youth group, fill out my reports, email students and volunteers, design flyers and correspond with students.

Conclusion:
This experience showed me that technology could help me to multiply my time.  I remember feeling quite proud of myself when people looked shocked at how much I could successfully be involved in.  However, looking back this set a trend of severely overworking myself and becoming all consumed with “ministry”.  I stopped eating well, sleeping well, spending enough time with God on my own and setting unrealistic expectation on myself that became normal from my employers.  These are repercussions that I am still dealing with today.  Did God intend for us to “work” 80+ hours per week? But if you try to cut back – or even if you are told to cut back – no one reacts well to that.  They may say, good for you but they simultaneously shoot you disappointing eyes. So should we try to be successful in our own eyes or in the eyes of others?
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