Restlessness in Youth Ministry

“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  — St. Augustine

I’m restless. Uncomfortable with down time. Uneasy with nothing to do.

And my assumption is most youth leader types are a restless bunch as well.

We replace solitude with phone calls to students.
We MUST read all 47 blogs every day before we dive into God’s word.
We NEED to counsel students before we counsel ourselves.

In a high-paced world of youth ministry, we are threatened by opportunities for restlessness at every turn.

And trust me, I’m the epitome of a restless youth pastor.

For me, restlessness is always accompanied by a tinge of sadness. I can’t explain it. It’s almost as if when I’m not doing something productive, I feel…useless…sad…worthless…

I’m reading Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser and loving how he redeems true Christian spirituality. In it, he offers some advice based on Henri Nouwen that I found exceedingly refreshing for restless souls like mine.

First, own your pain and restlessness. Admit it. I’m a restless sinner who can’t seem to find fulfillment in God alone. By owning the restlessness, we being to understand the time we are living in. As Nouwen writes, “Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.” There is an inescapable restlessness, sadness, incompleteness in every moment.

Second, give up false messianic expectations. Nothing in this life will every full complete us.  We need to stop demanding that our lives, our jobs, our youth ministries will give us what only God can give us.

Third, go inward. This is the step I’m learning. “When we are restless, everything in us screams to move outward, to seek some activity that will soothe the ache” (Rolheiser). Wow, how true is this of me! During moments of quiet and unease, I sense this overwhelming burden to move. But the actual step should be to go inward and sit still because restlessness can turn to restfulness, compulsion to freedom, impatience to patience…

Fourth, it’s never over. This isn’t a one and done thing. We don’t just learn one final time to become restful rather than restless.

As youth pastors, we need to model what it means to find our rest in God. Not in activity. Not in media. Not in busyness. Not in youth programs.

In God. Alone.

What ways to combat restlessness? How do you learn to find your rest in Thee?

Moving Day

Emily and I moving today. Since June 1, we’ve lived at The Blanchard residence (a not-too-shabby mansion in Dellwood) and with her parents in North St. Paul. We’ve been incredibly grateful for so many generous people to let us camp out for a time.

Today, we move into an apartment in downtown St. Paul. We are totally pumped to get some city living and apartment life. We probably won’t be saying that when we need to take our puppies out at 6 AM in 0 degree weather in January, but hey…

Anyways, I’ve lost count, but personally, I’ve probably lived in 7-10 different residences in 4 different states (and 1 country) the last 5 years since graduating college.

I’m tired of moving!

Now, realistically, we won’t be in this apartment more than 1 – 3 years, but I’ve been reflecting a bit on moving the last few days.

First, I do hate packing, carrying, and moving boxes and stuff. It’s just hard.

Second, there must be a part of me that loves to be “on the move.” My parents have lived in the same house for over 30 years. I think these two contrasting styles are definitely reflective on the varying generations. Some would label permanence and stability as “good” and others as “boring.” Some would label being “on the move” as “immature” and “bad” and others as “adventurous” and “living life.”

Third, being “on the move” is a part of the kind of life I want to live. In many ways, don’t get me wrong, I want to plant myself in a community, at a church, in a group of friends and family who know me, love me, and share life together. In my humble opinion, I could see Emily and I staying in Minnesota and at the church community we are at for many, many years.

On the other hand, I value the movement and spirit of God. I want to not just “settle” for comfort’s sake. I want to follow the radical, adventurous spirit of God as best as I humanly can.

We live in a culture that values stability, security, and comfort. But we follow a Christ who values faithfulness, dependence on the Father, adventure, radical obedience, and living with an eternal — and not just a earthly — perspective.

How do we balance being “on the move” and planting in community? How do we balance moving with staying?