Archive for January 10th, 2009

Youth Ministry Essentials 6


While this should go without saying, Prayer is essential to youth ministry.  As a Youth Pastor I know I would not be able to continue doing what I do if I were not a person of prayer.  On top of my personal prayer time I also have people that are praying for me.  One of the best things that any Youth Pastor can do for themselves and their ministry is to gather a group of prayer partners.  We need people who would intercede on our behalf.  Nothing refreshes my spirit more than when I receive an email, text message, or phone call to let me know that someone has been praying for me.  I have found many times it is the people that are praying for me that serve as the Aaron’s & Hur’s in my life.  

When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset.   Exodus 17:12 

When people pray for me I am rejuvenated.  When people pray for me I can feel the refilling of strength that I need to continue on in the ministry that God has called me to.  I often find that new wisdom comes to me and I am able to make wise choices when people are praying for me.  There have even been days when I did not know I needed prayer and yet someone would connect with me at a later date and let me know that they were praying for me at a certain time.  Nine times out of ten, as I recall the times they mention to me, I was in some form of a struggle and did not even realize it.

Prayer for your ministry and for yourself is vital.  However, we must also be teaching the teens that we minister to on how to pray.  Prayer is not just reserved for the leaders.  We all need to be praying!   One question that comes up more frequently than I would have guessed is in regards to how to pray.  My standard answer is that prayer is simply a conversation with God.  I have listened to some young people who have attempted to pray using every possible 5 syllable vocabulary word they know.  The thought, I believe they have, is that the bigger the words you use in a prayer the more you get Gods attention.  

I try and help them through this by having a conversation with them.  As we talk I relate our dialogue to the conversation that God desires from us.  Just a simple talk.  No big words.  No King James English needed.  Just a conversation between two people who care very much about each other.  One of the struggles that people have with prayer is that it ends up being one sided.  Our prayers sound more like a wish list that rolls on for quite some time and then we end the requests with a simple “Amen” and go about our day.  In the way that we would feel in a one sided conversation with another person, I believe God feels the same.  

When we speak with God we also should find the time to sit quietly and wait for a response.  The common frustration that I hear from young people is that they never hear from God.  As I listen to them pray I share this insight and ask them if they are ever really listening for Him.  I think that we don’t hear God speak because we don’t let Him get a word in.  We have our requests and that is all we have time for.  If we want to hear from God we must spend some real time listening.  How do you model this with the youth in your ministries?  Are you, as a leader, hearing from God?

The more that we can model a consistent prayer life to the youth that we serve the better they will get it themselves.  We need to set the example.  I know I used to fail in this area all the time (and still do far too often).  I have begun something new over the last few years that has helped me in this area.  As I speak with people and they share a need or concern I make it a point to pray for them right then and there.  There have been too many times in the past that my response would be, “I’ll pray for you.” and then walk away, go about my day and never end up praying for them.  If we can model the fact that prayer is our lifeblood to young people they will begin to live in quite the same way.  Don’t put off what you can pray for in the present moment.

I was asked a question a few weeks back as to a practical way to be able to pray for the youth that are a part of my ministry.  I loved being able to share my response.  In my office I have a wall that is 8 feet high by 12 feet wide.  I have literally covered this wall with pictures of the teens that I am connected with.  Throughout the course of each day I will notice different faces that stand out to me on my prayer wall.  As I see the faces of the teens I will pray for them.  There isn’t a day that has gone by when I am in my office that I haven’t found myself praying for a teen.  As an additional bonus, I also ensure that I know the names of each of the youth that come through our doors.  By looking at the pictures of the youth frequently I remind myself of who each one is.  We, as leaders, need to know the people that we are leading.  Scripture talks about how the Shepherd must know that condition of the flock.  How can you know your flock if you can’t remember their names? 

I also keep a prayer journal.  As I speak with people and they share their needs I write them down.  As I go about my day I refer back to the journal and pray for these needs that are listed.  The other benefit to writing these needs down is that I can also go back and see just how many of the prayers have been answered.  This for me serves as a fantastic faith builder.  One recommendation that I would make for everyone is that they record their prayers and track the ones that have been answered.  There is nothing that helps build a heart full of gratitude more than seeing just how active God is in our lives.  He does answer prayers and acts on behalf of us far more often than we tend to acknowledge.  By tracking answered prayers this truth will become a reality to you.

  How often do you pray?  Do you have others that are praying for you and your ministry?  Begin a practice of doing nothing without beginning it in prayer.  Not only will you see more fruit in your ministry, you will find more peace as you go about your day.  Ministry is hard.  Without prayer we will not make it far…