A few years ago I was invited to co-lead a spiritual formation retreat located just outside of Toronto. It was in December, snowy, and quite cold I might add. When I arrived at the retreat center, it was evident that this place was off the beaten path. The silence of that space was piercing. The past six month of my life and ministry had been absolutely brutal – always on the go, always more to accomplish. In fact, for almost three months leading up to the retreat, my eye had been twitching, not just randomly twitching, twitching 24/7.
Now, I’d like to believe that my story was an isolated scenario, and far from the experience of most leaders, but the reality seems to be that most professional youth workers are pushing toward the edge of burnout. We are dangerously tired, overworked, and stressed. The way we are going about our faith, life, and the work of the ministry just doesn’t seem to be sustainable.
It was during this time that I began to realize spiritual formation wasn’t just something you added to your life, but rather it was the process by which God changes your life. It was only after three days in complete silence, intentionally sitting in God’s presence at this remote retreat center in the Canadian woods, that my eye stopped twitching. – Rick Rhoads
“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life…. We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to Him.” - Henri Nouwen
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation with someone as it slowly becomes apparent that they have no idea what they’re talking about? It’s annoying, isn’t it? What’s more, we find ourselves inclined to either dismiss them entirely or figure out a way to show them their ignorance. It bothers us when someone talks about something from which they’re obviously disconnected.
Here’s another thought: No one can build a healthy student ministry relying on skills and strategies alone. Of course we all know that, but if we’re honest, we can be tempted at times to live and lead that way just to make it through a busy season in the church calendar. The problem is the church calendar is always busy.
To truly connect with a teen at the heart level requires more than mere ice breakers and movie clips, it demands something much deeper. Healthy, authentic ministry to youth begins with the healthy, authentic personal faith of the youth worker. Your own personal faith becomes the very message that you communicate to teens. You can’t really talk about something that’s not true for you. You can’t lead others to a place you haven’t been.
We all want healthy, authentic personal faith,
but it doesn’t happen by chance.
It requires guidance and direction.
Here at the Project, when we talk about Spiritual Formation, we’re talking about just such a guide. It’s in healthy spiritual formation that we begin to understand that the life of faith is developed and nurtured by the Holy Spirit through prayer, scripture, spiritual community, and the other spiritual disciplines. These components offer a guide for the growth of our souls.
Spiritual disciplines give us the opportunity to experience a deeper connection with God. They create space in which we can pause, reflect, and become attentive to what God is doing in and around us. Practices such as silence, solitude, Sabbath keeping, communion, sacred reading, and fixed hour prayer can develop healthier spiritual rhythms in a youth worker’s life.
To start exploring spiritual formation and the disciplines, head over to the blog to see what people have been posting about Spiritual Formation and Youth Ministry or go to the Online Resources section to find some great websites to explore.