It’s time for youth group to start, and I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off, finishing last-second details. (Sound familiar?) Deep inside, I know I’m telling every young person, “I don’t have time for you.” But my to-do list beckons.
If someone naïvely dares to stop me, I nervously fidget and struggle to maintain eye contact because I’m worried about dropping the ball on the looming program. I peer over this mere mortal’s shoulder and silently freak out as the countdown to start time nears zero. I pacify the person who caused this momentary diversion with a shallow promise to connect later in the week. Although I know that probably won’t happen, I desperately need to return to the important task at hand. Just to make sure I’m not stopped again, I take out my phone, participate in a ghost call, and resume my pace.
Ouch! Enough confessional time. Here’s my new plan to conduct Operation Slow-Down:
• I will ease my pace. Walk. More. Slowly. Resist the urge to end conversations quickly and move on to the next project. I want the pace of leisure to be my default and attentiveness to be my act of generosity.
• I will dial-in the program in advance. Work hard during the week so the youth service or meeting goes off without a hitch. Don’t save last-minute details for when people are arriving. Make it a goal to be standing around, with nothing to do, 10 minutes before the first young person walks through the door. That way, you’ll be ready to fully engage with kids.
• I will care about people and the program. I’m a program person all the way. Nothing’s more exciting to me than sharing the timeless message of Christ in creative ways. Tension will always exist between presenting a top-notch service or meeting and spending time with people. But final details and adjustments shouldn’t crowd out expressions of love. Care about the program, care about the creative elements, be proud of your innovative message or creative mini-movie that you spent several late nights sweating over. But be keenly aware of the people who might need you beforehand.
Trying to outdo yourself can become a vicious cycle. So stop walking around with such urgency. Instead, overflow with love for the listeners. After all, that’s who you’re trying to reach.
Originally appeared in the May/June 2012 issue of Group Magazine. Don’t get the magazine yet? Hit this link to subscribe and get in on the action today!