February 18th was a great day for baseball fans all across the country as pitchers and catchers reported for spring training. A week later position players reported and spring training begun in earnest and on March 2nd when cactus and grapefruit leagues start playing. College teams have all ready began playing, and in the neighborhoods I drive through regularly I am seeing the signs that it is time for little league baseball sign-ups.
One thing all these baseball players have in common, from the 6 year old playing for the first time, to the greats like ARod, Jeter, and Pujols is that they will all spend a significant amount of time this spring hitting off a tee and fielding ground balls. These multi-million dollar athletes will be hitting baseballs off a tee tweaking the swings to try and gain a few percentage points in their batting average.
So I got to wondering, what would it be like if we as youth workers went back to the basics every year? What would we need to do every year, year after year, to make sure we stay at the top of our game? Here is my, non-exhaustive list.
1. Spend time in Scripture. Not just studying scripture to prepare for Wednesday nights lesson or as a daily check off of things I have accomplished today, but spend time pouring over scripture, mediating, memorizing, and marinating in the word of God. If we are to be disciple makers to a generation of students and their parents we have to do so out of the overflow of our time with God.
2. Prioritize prayer. One thing I have noticed in 30+ years of ministry is the lip service we give prayer. We open and close meeting with prayer, and sometime us prayer time to transition from one thing to the next on our program, and most of us wouldn’t dare eat without praying. But honest, gut wrenching time in prayer, interceding for our students and their families I just don’t hear much about. Nor do I hear about time spent teaching our students how to pray, calling the next generation to intercede on behalf of the nations.
3. Evaluating what we do. Sure we have done disciple now for 20 straight years, but is it still serving a purpose in our ministry or are we still doing it because it is easier to keep doing it than it is to face the lynch mobs that would come to our door if we stopped doing it. Taking time on a yearly basis to evaluate programs, literature, leadership and the like is never wasted time.
4. Make time for family. There is always one more ballgame or school activity to go to, one more student that needs to talk, a parent that wants to bend your ear or an event that needs planning. But you only have a limited amount of time every day and from what I have seen of most of us as youth workers it is our families that get the shaft. Take your calendar, mark off birthdays, anniversaries, special events, and a regular date night with your spouse and time with your children. Make that time non-negotiable, and in the real emergency or no way around it conflicts, then negotiate a new time. It is amazing how quickly my two kids grew up. Ask any parent or grandparent how quickly their children grew up and to a person they will tell you “in the blink of an eye”.
5. Reexamine your call. It was, or should have been God that called you to this incredible journey of working with students and who gave you an answer to the question, “now why do I do this”? We need to take the time to evaluate our why. Has our “why”? changed? Does the methods and programs we offer line up with our “why”? Do our volunteers and the church leadership know our “why”? Understanding our “why” , brings a lot of things in line.
Hitting baseballs off the tee isn’t rocket science, but it is a necessary exercise if we want to be the best we can be.