Lesson 2: I care, but I’m busy. How can I help?
Boundaries and Work Rhythms
By Betsy Zarzour
In the middle ages, the French implemented a means of torture each of a person’s limb would be tied to a horse, and all four would run in opposite directions. It is commonly known as quartering, but the French had their own name for it: “distraction”.
It is easy to become distracted into barren types of busy when clear vision is not in place. In ministry, it is easy to become distracted, pulled apart, and tortured when boundaries and work rhythms are not applied and set.
There are three main areas that can be beneficial to focus on within boundaries and work rhythms as a youth worker:
Mentors It is important to have sounding boards and guides on any journey. This includes cultivating friendships and conversations both in and out of a ministry setting. Michael Phelps spent years perfecting his swim strokes, yet he still relies on a coach to give him consistent feedback to stay focused on the direction that he wants to go. A coach allows a player to stay attentive to fundamentals and gives pointers for improvement. Also, a coach can provide cautionary instruction to prevent a bad habit from creeping in and taking over unexpectedly. Not only are coaches fundamental for a balanced youth minister, but friends along the journey are vital for success. For triumphs and struggles, a “me too” empathic ear can be sustenance and sustainability in long term youth ministry.
Develop a Rhythm: Ruth Haley Barton talks about boundaries and work routines through the lens of “Sacred Rhythms”. She defines this practice as an intentional arrangement of attitudes, relationships, and spiritual practices by which we regularly and routinely make ourselves available for God’s work of transformation.
An attitude of focus, fun, and faithfulness is a common result when a clear vision is established. An expectation of awesomeness in all endeavors is one key attitude when starting out in youth ministry. Although there will be days (as volunteers, staff, and youth) where programs and people fall short, a focus on attitude will help protect from burnout and becoming too beguiled in triviality.
Second is a rhythm in relationships. Often in ministry, there is a cadence to relationships: seasons of new faces, dry spells, and deepening connectedness. Remembering that relationships have rhythm will assure youth workers that it’s not “just them” or that programming needs to be immediately changed, instead keeping in mind that relationships are continually changing and evolving. To remain focused on what Eugene Peterson so aptly names, “long lines of obedience in the same direction” is key to developing deep and impactful relationships.
Finally, developing a rhythm of spiritual practices as a person who works with youth is foundational to longevity in ministry and connectedness to God. It is easy to let one’s own spiritual practices slip when continually pouring into others. Without a set rhythm and daily routine to listen and speak to God, the fruit that a youth worker bears will become dried up and barren all too quickly. Recognizing that it is not rigidity to a routine, rather a rhythm of continually seeking Jesus, will deepen youth worker’s faith, as well as bearing good fruit for all those around.
Balcony Time Taking time to look up and see where we are going serves well in preventing the trap of becoming lost or unaware of those things that are right in front of us. To take intentional time to become PROACTIVE will help a ministry grow into a set vision, rather than continually REACTING to problems that arise. Some in ministry have found, as a part of their annual rhythm, that it is helpful to set aside a week to do nothing current, rather to focus on what is happening one, three, and five years down the road. For example: What do we want our current sixth graders to know, experience and participate in the church’s youth ministry before they graduate? What is one area that could grow by the time current freshmen finish high school? In the coming year, what is one thing that needs mending or reinvention before the fall? These questions (and many more) are helpful to ask ourselves, as youth ministers, as well as our parents/leaders/volunteers/fellow staff members. Setting aside time to dream will help undergird the ministry in a strong vision and (hopefully!) foresee some challenges before they happen.
Work rhythms and boundaries take continual reinvention and growth, and are also key to preventing burnout and stagnation. In regards to tempos and stages, there is a view of time that is important to remember in ministry: it is written about in the Old Testament in Ecclesiastes, and oftentimes depicted in art and tales from the Greeks. The Greeks defined time in two ways, chronos and kairos time. Chronos time is a linear view of time that is important in ordering our days and patterns; it is a quantitative measurement of time. But there is also another view of time that are measured in moments, in grace and gratitude – apart from quantitative chronos time, these kairos moments are the richness that exists apart from time, defined as quality moments. It is important to remember in youth ministry that staying focused on both definitions of time assures a rhythmic balance of strategy and spirit. Being ever prayerful and attentive to the kairos moments, while remaining committed to keeping chronos time, allows youth workers the opportunity to move their ministry strategically forward.
Betsy Zarzour is the Director of Youth Ministry at Christ Church Charlotte. She also serves as a lead consultant for Ministry Architects.
Gathering and Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
Logistics and Organizational Topics (5-10 minutes)
Training Time (20 minutes)
- What challenges do you find in keeping a general rhythm in life? A schedule?
- Watch Video together.
- In ministry, why is it important to keep boundaries?
- Have you ever seen an unhealthy example of loose boundaries in ministry?
- How would you define difference between reaction and proaction as it pertains to our schedules and rhythms?
- What will be most challenging about setting boundaries for you?
- How do you decide when to say no?
Take aways (10 minutes)
- How will this impact our church, our youth, or our team?
- Hand out essay for further reading
Close in Prayer (5 minutes)