Or at least that’s how I’m understanding my call at the moment. (Always a good idea to keep listening.) Starting in January of 2015, I jumped off the cliff called “freelance” and, as yet, have not hit the ground. I didn’t fully know what to expect, and still don’t. My trajectory, if you’re unfamiliar with me, is moving increasingly into influencing youth ministry more than practicing it. Not to say I’m done with lock-ins and small groups by any means; at some point I’m going to be somebody’s best volunteer. After a bit of a needed respite from the local church. But my call is leading me deeper down the rabbit hole of curriculum, books, and other youth min resources of written and spoken word.
What nothing could have prepared me for I’d like to offer to you as a kind of gift, if you can receive it. Having had my week hinge on Sundays (& Wednesdays) for what was approaching 20 years, I was expecting some joy and relief in a new schedule. To tell the truth, the real impact there is that to this point in 2015 I’m largely uncertain what day of the week it is at any given time. Many scheduling conversations begin with me saying, “Hold on, today is…?” But the greater, surprising impact was this: the sudden silence in my head was deafening.
I had no idea how much opinion I was fielding in my day to day thinking. My head had virtually echoed for years with every opinion of every parent, youth, staff, or member-at-large in our ministry about my every move, decision, word, or deed. The depth of our studies. How fun our games were. What time on Tuesday the weekly email went out. How cleverly I worded the monthly newsletter (or the other monthly newsletter; for some reason we needed two). How quickly I might respond to an email or text. I had been letting all of those people talk to me in my head, continually, for the duration of my time in ministry.
I was amazed at how quickly it all turned off. It took me a couple of days into January to realize what was going on in my head – a blessed nothing.
So here’s the gift, if you can receive it: you can turn off those voices, too. I don’t mean that you can abandon listening to your families and operate with impunity in your ministries; obviously we’re still co-laborers with the local church. They are, after all, the reason for the ministry at your church. But if you can be aware that’s where all the background noise in your thinking is coming from, you can begin to control it. To isolate it. To give those voices office hours, so to speak.
It goes back to a lot of what we’ve said here in a lot of different ways before: you actually have more control over when you work and when you don’t than you probably think. Set up some boundaries for when and how you communicate and do the work of ministry. Regain the time you need to think about family, yourself, and especially your own spiritual tending. Listen when you need to, but remember to step away from the noise when you don’t.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Flora