What Voices Should I Listen To?

Each day, I’m confronted with hundreds of voices. Blog posts. Books. One-on-ones. Meetings. Teachers. Professors. Magazine articles.

The question is: What voices should I listen to?

For purposes of this post, let’s say I want to grow as a student pastor. Even still, there are hundreds of voices I could listen to. The last three years, I haven’t been very selective. I have read approximately 100 books a year for 3 years, and have devoured more than my share of blog posts, articles, and other information regarding ecclesiology, theology, leadership and student ministry. One of the reasons I haven’t been very selective is because I didn’t know HOW to select. If you don’t have a comparison (this is good; this is bad) then how would you ever be able to select?

Now, after three years of devouring anything and everything, here’s how I’m going to select:

1. Start with God’s Word
This might seem like an obvious one, but in some ways, I valued reading other people’s thoughts about God rather than my own. This year, I want to steep myself in God’s Word – what HE is saying TO ME through HIS WORD. I want to take out the middle man more often (the authors) and focus more intently on what God is saying to me. NOT to them to the page to me.

2. Those Who Do It or Have Been There
This year, I’m going to focus on listening to those people who do student ministry or have at least done student ministry. I’m tired of reading the thoughts of people who just aren’t student pastors. It’s not that I don’t respect their opinions; it’s that they are usually so whiny, jaded, and irrelevant.

Now, as a caveat, there are some great people out there who have NEVER really been in ministry and yet really know their stuff and know how to convey thoughts. But this is a rare exception.

Most of the “youth ministry” experts I read these days are global think tank people — people who study others, read research, and present their findings. It’s NOT that I disrespect their opinion; it’s just that I want them to be able to translate this from their world (which they don’t have) into my world.

Either way, I’m tired of reading books based on surveys, research studies, people’s opinions of these studies, and people who sit around in a “thinking room” and whine about the ways student ministry is done. IF they have some solutions that they have literally tried, tested, and proved to be effective, I’ll listen. But if people are going to sit around and bemoan the fact that “youth ministry” is like x and x and the world is falling apart and they don’t do anything about it, then I’m not going to listen to their crying anymore.

Again, just to be VERY clear – those voices can still be helpful. It’s just that THIS year I’m not going to listen to those voices.

3. Those Who Effectively Parse All Sides
I don’t even know if I’m phrasing this right, but what I mean by those who effectively parse all sides are people who analyze, evaluate, debate, and honestly assess ALL sides of a solution, thought, and idea. I’ve read WAY too many books and articles that say: “HERE. THIS is the SOLUTION. THIS is the ANSWER!” And then guess what? I read a book that says the opposite. “THIS, not THAT, is the answer.” And they present an equally valid argument and point.

Here’s the point: I want to read people who aren’t just trying to oversimplify and demean my intelligence. There is much more complexity to life and ministry than simply A+B = C.

In conclusion, these are the voices I’m listening to this year.
What about you? What voices are you listening to in 2012?

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