3 Tips For Staying Physically Fresh In Ministry

Every Friday morning I meet my mentor. This is someone who’s a member of the church but not employed by them. It’s a chance for me to talk over the week I’ve had, both at work and at home, reflecting on what’s been good or bad, and sometimes to let off a little steam. At the end of our time together he then prays for me, giving thanks for the good or praying for my needs and concerns. It’s a really helpful time and I look forward to it each week.

One thing which I’ve noticed him say on a number of occasions is that I need to look after myself. This is nearly always in relation to looking after myself spiritually and this is off course the priority. But he’ll also regularly say something like this; “you must look after yourself physically, get some exercise,” etc.

I don’t think this is an area we talk about much in ministry. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a conference or read an article which has suggested those of us in ministry need to look after ourselves physically. There’s a multitude of stuff out there about staying spiritually fresh but I haven’t seen a lot looking at the physical side. Having thought about this a little, I want to suggest three simple things we need to do to stay physically fresh in ministry.

1. Sleep Well

Sleeping?! No, I was slain in the Spirit boss, I swear!

If you’re anything like me, you’re a bit of a night owl who likes to burn the candle at both ends. This inevitably ends up with me waking up exhausted and struggling to really function the next day. I need to remember that I’m not at university anymore and staying up ’til 4am playing Fifa is now a luxury I no longer have. I need my 8 hours if I want to be effective the next day, as well as to avoid becoming grumpy with those around me.

I find the reason I tend to stay up late is because I find it’s the only time I have in the day to do what I want to do, so I try and justify it as being ‘my time’. We all need to have some down time to indulge our hobbies but staying up half the night to do so doesn’t help anyone, least of all you.

Others stay up into the wee hours working, often justifying this by seeing themselves as being some kind of martyr making sacrifices for the Lord’s work. Again, this is actually counter-productive, and it also raises some questions about your time management.

2. Eat Well

I love to eat and there is barely anything you could put in front of me that I wouldn’t eat, such is my love of food. But with a dodgy sleeping pattern, I often find myself skipping breakfast in order to get to work on time. I’ll then skip lunch too in order to try and keep on top of the work I need to do and so I’ll often find myself not eating anything all day until my evening meal. Again, this isn’t really helpful or healthy and I know that I function far better if I’ve had a good breakfast in me at the start of the day and can then take the time out for lunch later. So basically, keep stuffing yourself with food. Don’t worry about any potential weight gain as we should also…

3. Exercise Well

Working those guns!

Exercise; you either love it or you hate it. My motto has always been, “No Pain, Good!” But whether you love or hate exercise, none of us can deny that it’s good for us and it makes us feel better. I try and get down to the gym 2-3 times a week and work really hard. I can’t say I always look forward to it but once I’m done, I never regret having done it. I find it’s the best way to work off any stress I’m feeling and I come out feeling really good. If I can get down to the gym before work, I find it really sets me up for the day and gives me a head start. It almost feels like cheating to turn up top a staff meeting at 9.30am having already done an hour and a half in the gym. I’m just so much more on the ball than I would have been otherwise. I find exercise so helpful that I even find myself getting a bit edgy and grumpy if I don’t get to the gym as regularly as I’d like. The gym might not be for you but there’s a million and one ways to get your exercise, whether it’s walking to work, going for a jog or doing sport with friends. Paul even tells us in 1 Tim 4:8 that physical exercise does have some value. Sure he goes on to say godliness is more important but that doesn’t invalidate the value of physical exercise, and so we shouldn’t underestimate it’s importance.

So those are my 3 tips staying physically fresh in ministry, or indeed any walk of life. I can’t say I’ve got it completely nailed and I know I certainly need to get better at both sleeping and eating but hopefully these relatively simple things might be of some use to you.

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Does Your Youth Work Need to Get R.E.A.L?

Last weekend myself and some of my other youth work team attended a training morning run by Sussex Youthworks, the youth work arm of the Sussex Gospel Partnership. It was the first of 6 training mornings running over 3 years. This first session was on “Principles of Youth and Children’s Ministry,” and the speaker was Rory Bell from TnT Ministries.

He started by drawing us to Colossians 1:28:

“Him (Christ) we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

This is the goal of youth ministry, in fact all ministry, that we may present people as mature believers before God on the final day. The two things we need to notice from this verse are that firstly we need to present people mature IN Christ and secondly that this means PROCLAIMING Christ. People are only going to be made perfect through Jesus and so that’s obviously going to mean telling people about him. It’s good for us to keep this verse in mind as we do ministry.

 

We then talked about how our youth work needed to be R.E.A.L. if we wanted it to be a success: Relational,Educational, Authentic & Life-Changing.

Each of these were expanded on with some verses from 1 Thessalonians 1&2. Here’s a very brief synopsis of what was said.

Relational

God as trinity is inherently relational, therefore ministry ought to be as well. Jesus was only ever alone at 3 points in his ministry; in the wilderness, whilst praying and on the cross. With that in mind we can deduce that being around people and in relationship with them must be a pretty important part of ministry. 1 Thessalonians 2:8 supports this idea:

“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”

Paul didn’t only share the gospel with the people he ministered to, but he shared his life with them as well and that’s something we should do too. This needs to be face to face stuff. I was challenged by the idea that using twitter and Facebook is not sharing our life with people, they’re actually a very shallow form of interaction. Real relationships take time and that means sacrifice.

Educational

Good ministry will educate people from God’s word. It’s not ad-hoc and slapdash but is planned. Schools have a syllabus and so should we. If as a parent you turned up at a school and said, “what’s the plan?,” and the school says “Well we don’t really have one, we just see what happens,” you certainly wouldn’t want to send your kid there. It’s the same for youth work. There needs to be some kind of plan and this will involve teaching the Bible. This is what Paul says to the Thessalonians in 1:5a;

“…because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.”

The gospel always comes with words so we need to teach the word. Some of us might be tempted to shy away from this and to think that a quaint idea. But Paul shows us that not only does the gospel come with words, it comes with the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel might seem foolish and weak, but the Holy Spirit has the power to open people’s eyes and it’s pleasing to God to bring people to him through the weakness of our preaching.

Authentic

As leaders, (and as Christians generally) we need to be living authentic Christian lives. Kids can smell a fraud a mile off. Ralph Waldo Emerson says this: “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” If we teach kids the gospel but then they hear us swearing or see us out getting trashed on a Saturday night or being inappropriate on facebook then it’s all for nothing. If we don’t look like what we’re preaching, we’re only going to be doing the gospel damage. Check out what Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7:

“You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.”

The people in Thessalonica saw what Paul was like and so they became imitators of his example (he himself imitates Christ), even though this meant suffering for them. That’s quite a testimony to his life. Do we set as good an example as Paul? We always need to be asking ourselves the question – “Am I desperately trying to become more like Jesus?”

Life-Changing

Look at the change that Paul says occurred in the life of the Thessalonians when they came to Christ:

“For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

The people’s lives were completely changed. They turned away from lifeless, powerless idols to serve the living, powerful and true God. Christianity changes lives. Or at least it should do. Rory used the illustration of a sword lying in a field facing an advancing army. Without someone to wield it, it can do nothing. But in the hands of a skilled swordsman, it can cut with skill. It’s the same for the Bible. In the hands of a skilled teacher, it cuts to peoples hearts, just as it does in Acts 2:37. So we must invest time in learning how to handle the Bible correctly.

In my mind these four areas pair up quite nicely. If you’re being relational, then you have to be authentic. One will fall apart without the other. And I’m a firm believer that if we educate people with the Bible and we do it well, then lives will be changed, such is the power of the word of God.

Overall, it was a great morning. In terms of the principles themselves, they weren’t new to me, but it’s always good to be reminded of what we’re here for and the principles undergirding that. I was really pleased to be able to take my team along as I know it will have been really beneficial for them as leaders and therefore beneficial for our youth work. Already looking forward to the next session in March! If you’re Sussex based and you do youth work, make sure you get yourself along.

Staff Away Time Day 2

Day 2 in Fritwell has been long but good. We had two sessions in the morning, one discussing our core values and what they should be and one discussing how they should change the life of All Saints & St. Richard’s. I didn’t really contribute much to these as I felt it was better to let the big boys kick those around and just watch where the balls landed.

Lunch was followed by some free time during which I chanced another walk, which joyfully turned out to be poo free this time. After this we had an afternoon session run by Vaughan Roberts, vicar of St. Ebbes in Oxford (I think) and author of some pretty good books, on staying spiritually fresh in ministry. It was a really great session and he had some very helpful and insightful things to say, clearly drawing on much wisdom and experience. I might write more about that once home and not having to type in a phone.

The evening consisted of some prayer led by Graham and Chris led us through 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 which gave us all some food for thought. It also led to an interesting theological discussion between our three clergy which I had the privilege of being able to listen in on. It was great to be able to just sit and absorb all that accumulated wisdom and humbling to see how little I still know in comparison.

Hats must also be removed to Katherine who amidst all this excitement has kept us brilliantly fed and watered so that we could want for nothing. It’s been a real blessing to have her here to look after us. Last day tomorrow.