Good or Better?

What with camps and holidays, it’s been a while since I posted on here, but now that the start of term is only a few weeks away I thought I’d try and out down some thoughts.

Well the new term isn’t far away and with it will come a phenomenal amount of things to do as well as many hectic and busy days. When I think about it, I can’t honestly say that I’m filled with joy at the prospect. But I feel that the passage I read for my quiet time today speaks into this situation. The passage was Luke 10:38-42. You’re probably familiar with it.

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

   41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

There is no bad guy in this story. Martha is a good woman and her actions are not bad actions. There isn’t a choice between good and bad here, but rather between good and better. Martha’s intention is to serve Jesus and she shows this by her actions. But yet she is distracted by her preparations to such an extent that her focus ceases to be on Jesus. They actually distract her from the very person she was trying to serve. This makes her irritable and grumpy and she even tells Jesus what he should say to Mary: “Tell her to help me!” She just needs someone to share the burden with. But Jesus’ response indicates that this isn’t the real issue. Martha made a choice to become distracted by her preparations rather than to sit at Jesus’ feet. Mary made the right call, Martha made the wrong one.

This got me thinking about this new term. Things will be busy and it’s easy to slip into an attitude that if we’re busy then we must be doing something right, especially if you work for a church. “I’m busy with the Lord’s work,” we say to ourselves. But whilst we busy ourselves with preparations for Sunday services or the next youth group, it’s easy to omit making time to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to what he has to say to us. And when we do that, it’s a choice. We often don’t realise we’ve made a choice. We think we’re doing the right thing because we’re serving Jesus. But in our desire to serve Jesus, we can let our serving become a distraction, so that our focus is not actually on Jesus at all. I guess this means that sometimes (most of the time?) we have to actively make a choice to sit at Jesus’ fit and put our preparations aside, even though that can feel counter-productive.

This applies to more than just church workers though. It’s just as relevant to anyone who serves in church in some way. How easy it is for us to immerse ourselves in serving at church whilst neglecting to spend any real time with Jesus. We sing in the music group, we do a reading, lead the prayers, move the chairs or serve tea or coffee. All good things but they’re not a substitute for sitting at Jesus’ feet.

And we’re just as guilty of this outside of a church context. It’s easy to justify our busyness. “I need to revise for my exams. God want me to honour him in this so I haven’t really got time to read my Bible at the moment but it’ll still be there after my exams.” “Work is really hectic right now so I’ve got to put in the extra hours. It means missing church for a bit & I won’t make home group but I’ve gotta honour God at work too.” OK, so those are extreme examples, cliched up to the hilt but they still make a point. Of course God wants you to honour him by working for your exams and of course he wants you to honour him at work, but not at the expense of spending time with Jesus. That just misses the point.

In honesty though, I’m being a bit easy on us here. I’m making out that most of the things that distract us from sitting at the feet of Jesus are things we do with good intentions, intended to honour God. In reality, most of our distractions are not like Martha’s, they’re more like this:

I have actually had someone tell me they’ve had a busy week because they got a new computer game that took up all of their time. That’s not being busy. That’s being at at a huge loose end and just doing what you want to do. And if we’re honest, more often than not, it’s stuff like this that distracts us from sitting at Jesus’ feet.

But regardless of whether or not our distractions have good intentions behind them, they’re still distractions and distractions that we often choose to continue in. In a world that constantly tell us that busyness is good, we need to be more like Mary, stepping away from those distractions and making time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

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The Name’s Youth Worker, Over Worked Youth Worker!

Apologies for not posting sooner. It’s been an insanely busy month and I’ve also had time off, during which the last thing I really wanted to do was think about youth work.

We ran our annual Easter holiday club in the week before Holy week this year. It’s normally reserved for the week after Easter, but with Easter being so late this year, Sussex schools have gone for a two week holiday before Easter. I didn’t think  we could get away with running the club during holy week as there was just going to be too much going on in the rest of the church so we went for the week before.

Our theme this year was spies and secret agents, drawing on the Mission:Rescue material from Scripture Union. It works through the story of Moses, focuses on God rescuing his people and then linking that in with God’s ultimate plan to rescue us through Jesus. It’s a really clear link and it was good to see the kids seeing that quite clearly and really understanding what Jesus had done for them. Overall it was a great week with plenty of fun, even if I did get soaked at the end of the week, but that’s just part of the peril of being the overall leader.

Quite frankly, it was a miracle that the club occurred at all this year. I normally run it alongside our children’s worker, but unfortunately she was signed off work with exhaustion two weeks before the club, meaning that all the planning fell to me. If you’ve never run a holiday club before, you can have no idea how much prep needs to be done before the event itself. Trying to sort out 30 leaders and 73 kids is no mean feat, especially if it’s just you. By the time the club rolled around, I was ready to be signed off with exhaustion. But despite some teething problems on the first day, somehow it came together.

What amazes me is that despite it feeling like we were flying along on a wing and a prayer, the kids had a great time and they were completely oblivious to the mild/extreme panic going on behind the scenes at times. If anything, the week was a reminder that God is pleased to work through our weakness, and thank goodness, otherwise none of us would have much of a chance.

Anyway, that feels like a long time ago now. Since then I’ve had a good chunk of time off, been home to see the rentals amongst others and have attacked our garden, revealing a large area of undiscovered patio, so I’ve been feeling relatively productive. Tomorrow, it’s back to work. Who knows what this term will bring. But I resolve to try and write on this blog a bit more often whatever happens. Hopefully now I’m not singlehandedly trying to organise a holiday club, I’ll have a little bit more time on my hands.

Wham, Viagra & Leaders!

The last few days have a been a daze of busyness.

Sundays are generally a bit manic anyway but last Sunday was just crazy. My plan was to get up at 8am as I had some work to do before church. I knew I really needed to be up then to get some stuff done for later in the day and if it didn’t get done then, then it never would… So I got up at 9am. Good start.

So I spent the time before church planning the Scout Carol service I was leading later in the afternoon. Luckily, it came together quite quickly. The scouts had planned the outline of the service with some input from myself, so it was really just down to me to do the up front stuff and tie each section together seamlessly. Once that was in the bag it was just a matter of running through my talk a few more times so I could be sure I knew what I was doing.

Time for church. I got there at about 10.30am to open up and get ready for our 11-14’s arriving. I didn’t have to lead that morning which was a weight off so it was just a matter of crowd control and chipping in when needed. When others are leading I don’t like to chip in too much. I’ve generally got a competent bunch of leaders who know what they’re talking about so I’m happy to let them get on with it. There’s time for discussion in small groups at the end anyway so I can always steer things back on track if I feel an issue hasn’t really been done justice. It’s a rare occurence though.

Church finished at 12pm and we managed to scoot off pretty quickly (well comparatively). Just had time for a quick bite at home before I was back at the church for 1.30pm to make sure the Scouts had what they needed and everyone knew how to use a microphone etc. The service kicked off at 2.30pm and went surprisingly smoothly and I did my best to make light of a few small issues like song verses missing from the powerpoint and people all seeming to know very slightly different tunes to some songs. My talk went well too, despite my horrific use of a Wham related joke (it got a groan and everything) and a reference to viagra! It’s not what you think.

So that wrapped up at 3.30pm followed by drinks and nibbles before at 4pm I had band practice with the youth. We’ve just started planning an evangelistic music cafe for the end of February and this was our first rehearsal. Songs on the agenda were Run by Snow Patrol and Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. Glee has a lot to answer for! Bit of a shaky start but in fairness we’d only decided on the songs the day before so none of us were really on top of it. I’m confident it’s gonna come together though. Some of the musicians have really got behind the idea and have been manicly sending facebook messages back and forth this week. I’m glad they’ve taken some ownership of the event and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. Just gotta hope people will be as enthusiastic about inviting friends along.

So that finishes at 6pm. Cue the arrival of the evening service music group who immediately co-opt me into the group to play drums. No problems there, it happens most weeks. But I was supposed to be doing the prayers at the 6.30pm and I still hadn’t written them. Weeell, I had made a start but I hadn’t finished, so I have admit that I actually wrote them during the service. Not great, but they came together. I just did bullet points and made them up as I went along. I don’t like writing out prayers as I just find it feels a bit unnatural and false, which is probably why I find “the prayers” part of a lot of services rather uninspiring.

Service finishes at 7.50pm just in time for our 14-18’s group at 8pm. Thankfully our Curate was our guest speaker that night so I could kind of relax. And he did a great session about Jesus’ views on adultery. He didn’t pull any punches but I think he was right not to. I also think it worked in our favour that someone from outside the regular leadership came in to do the “sex” talk. But it was a great session and I’m sure it touched upon some real issues for people.

By the time we were done, we’d run over time and it was 9.45pm.  Got home and of course, we had to watch the X Factor final. So that took us up to about 12:40am. My bed has never looked so good.

Today and yesterday have been taken up with drafting a document which lays out roles and expectations for leaders involved in our youth ministry. Lately I’ve felt that it is important to make it clear to my leaders and potential leaders exactly what youth work involves and actually what a huge commitment it is. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, but there have been one or two incidents where I’ve felt that leaders haven’t really lived up to what I would expect of them in their role, things I would have taken for granted.

www.weloveouryouthworker.org.uk has some good outlines for volunteer agreements which I was able to draw upon. The idea of having an agreement might seem quite formal, but the idea isn’t that it’s a binding contract, rather people know exactly what is expected of them and what they can expect from me in terms of supervision. I hope that by having this clearly laid out, not only will it help people to stay on the ball so to speak but it will also deter some of those who are interested in helping with the youthwork but who realistically can’t give the commitment required.

I’m aware that this could possibly be me shooting myself in the foot, as if anything, I’m desperate for new leaders. Telling people that I expect two nights out of there week (sometimes three), commitment to weekends away, the possibility of doing one2ones, as well as attending church regularly and maintaining their own walk with Jesus amongst other things, seems like a lot to ask. But isn’t that really the kind of commitment we should be looking for in our leadership? I want the right people; people who will be committed and have the time and inclination to really do a deep work in some of these kids, not just see it as a bit of a laugh. My curate has told me at least twice in the last week that he thinks the youth ministry is the most important ministry in the church, as well as being the most time consuming. No pressure then! But that’s why I need the right people. A good, solid team of people who’ll be in it for the long term. It’s just a bit worrying that in a church of over 700 people, I’m struggling to find 1 person to be involved. I’m sure God knows what he’s doing though. If he could perhaps let me in on some of the plan though that would be much appreciated.