This weekend, I got some time off from ministry (work) to go spend a few days with some friends kayaking and fishing on the Colorado River in the Texas hill country. While youth ministry was not at the front of my mind, it is always swirling around in my head. So here are a few nuggets I learned on my trip as they apply to the amazing world of youth ministry.
1. It's okay to turn off your cell phone. While we were camping, I did not have cell service for 3 days. While I was frustrated about not being able to call my wife, I found out 3 days later when I had cell service that the world went along just fine without me. And the ministry-related text messages I received Sunday morning took care of themselves, too.
2. It's good to spend time with people who aren't in ministry. While we can learn a lot from colleagues who are in ministry (and we should), we also need to remember to spend time with people who are not in ministry-especially those of other denominations. This keeps us grounded and in touch with reality. I met some great new friends on this trip and just enjoyed talking about spiritual things without worrying "how this applies to ministry."
3. It is okay if a program reaches a different, unintended goal. While my main agenda on the trip was to catch fish, we were doing it by kayak. Well, the fishing left much to be desired, but I still had a blast kayaking down the river. Many times we schedule an event for a certain purpose but when it all pans out it wasn't that at all. For example, we may schedule a mission trip so that we can teach our kids to serve. Well, maybe we didn't finish the project, but our kids are closer together. So we increased the fellowship more than the service. We shouldn't call the event a bust just because it did not meet its intended goal.
4. Important things should be cherished and nurtured. In the kayak I had a thing called a dry box. This is a small box to put your valuables in (camera, wallet, no-service cell phone) to keep it dry in the event that you go into the drink. While ministry is a great adventure, we need to make sure not to neglect the things that are most important in our lives which God has given us, like our families and our relationships.
5. Trying to do to much, too fast, will create problems. My first time out in the kayak, I tried to paddle upstream through a patch of fairly swift water. Being inexperienced, I got off my line and the current turned me sideways and began pushing me downstream. Not to be outdone by the river, I began paddling vigorously on the downstream side. You can guess what happened-I wound up in the drink. I had done in a kayak exactly what I was trying not to do in my ministry job-do too much too fast. While the 50 degree water was refreshing, I knew next time what NOT to do. When we try to do too much too fast in ministry we can burn ourselves out and before we know it, we are off of our boat.