a few years ago one of my adult youth leaders handed me a leadership training seminar on CD to listen to. not thinking it was anything special, i popped it in the car as i drove around town and was immediately drawn in. i’m so thankful for that gift and that i didn’t blow it off. it has been one of the best leadership talks i’ve EVER sat under, and i’ve since listened to the whole thing several times through. totally worth the $35.
just a few weeks ago i had the opportunity to sit in on one of dan webster‘s seminars, and he shared in detail something worth posting here. as the youth pastor at willow creek for years under hybels’ leadership, dan used the following method to personally connect with God and lead his student ministry from an authentic heart.
as youth pastors, we’re often great at telling our teens that they should be doing regular devotions, but terrible at doing our own, for a variety of reasons…
the never-ending stress-inducing work load
sporadic, inconsistent schedules (it’s just part of the job)
we’re already in God’s Word alot as it is prepping for messages & events
84% of us have ADHD and have a hard time focusing on anything for an extended period of time
what i love about this plan is that it address all of these road blocks.
PLAN TO JUST DO IT 2 DAYS A WEEK FOR 2 HOURS EACH TIME
there’s nothing sacred about doing your devotions every day. in fact, it’s probably not even practical for many of us in ministry. 4 hours a week is still > 15 minutes every day of the week. webster said he did it every tuesday and thursday morning when he first got into the office.
GET IN A SETTING FREE FROM DISTRACTIONS
do it during your office hours. tell one of the secretaries where you’ll be in case of an emergency, but don’t tell anybody else. put your phone on airplane mode. be in a place where you’re completely alone and free from distractions.
BRING THE FOLLOWING THINGS WITH YOU:
a pen, your bible, a journal, a blank pad of paper, and some greeting / note cards.
READ THE BIBLE UNTIL SOMETHING SPEAKS TO YOUR SOUL
if you’re reading through a book of the bible or some kind of reading plan, pick up where you left off and just read. there will naturally be verses and phrases that jump out at you to “preach” in upcoming messages – this is ok… it’s what we do and we can’t turn that calling off. jot them down on the blank pad of paper to come back to later. as to-do items and other unrelated things pop into your mind as you read that you don’t want to forget, jot them on the paper as well. once you write them down, your mind is released from thinking about them and you can refocus back on your own soul.
when you finally get to a verse or phrase that is meaningful for you personally, spend time with it. write it out in your journal. meditate on it. memorize it. pray about it. worship and praise God with it. argue with God about it.
SPEND TIME PRAYING AND LISTENING
after focusing on scripture, spend time in prayer. there are always people with big needs on our hearts – take this time to pray for them. there’s the ones we’ve told we’re praying for, and of course there are others we just can’t get off our minds. our families are always on our heart. and we always feel guilty for not praying enough for the teens we’re intentionally discipling and mentoring. use this time to pray for each of them.
one of the most powerful things we can do though happens after we pray for them. simply ask God “what do you want me to know about this person?”. and then stop praying and be silent. sometimes you won’t hear anything. but there are other times when God’s spirit will whisper a prompting. a specific verse may come to mind. or a word of encouragement. or sometimes a sense of warning and concern may surface.
WRITE A NOTE TO THOSE YOU’RE PRAYING FOR
once you’ve prayed for someone and listened for God’s perspective on them, write them a note to encourage them. let them know you prayed for them, and include a verse or prompting that God left you with. it can sometimes seem incoherent to us, but it’s amazing how much it’ll connect with the person when they get the note.
dan webster shared the story of a time he did exactly this. he was praying for one of his adult leaders, and when he asked for God to speak up after praying for him, a strong sense of concern overwhelmed him. he thought of a leadership retreat they and the rest of the team attended recently, and how he seemed to be a little “too friendly” with another leader he wasn’t married to, and a strong sense of darkness came over him in that moment. he proceeded to write a note reminding this leader of the importance of purity and how sin can ruin everything in our lives and ministry. believe it or not, when the note arrived at this guy’s mailbox, it happened to arrive on the very day that he was planning to initiate sexual contact with this woman. he was on his way out the door when he read the note… stopped dead in his tracks… and turned right around.
kinda freaky… but at the same time not surprising (since the spirit of God in you is the same as in other believers).
let’s get better at connecting with God, caring for our own souls, and leading from that place.