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This post is part of the Lessons Learned series. Read part 1 here.

NETWORK
I remember being a new in youth ministry and craving to know how to best do all of the things necessary to have a successful youth ministry. I read every book I could get my hands on. I found though, that the best thing I ever did was connect with and build relationships with other, more seasoned youth workers. Picking their brains, even observing their programs gave me tremendous insight.

As a matter of fact, I found networking with other youth workers to be such a tremendous blessing to both me and to them that I did it right up until I left youth ministry. I found that networking was so encouraging to me that I once headed up a network of youth workers in my area for a few years mainly so that we could come together to support and pray for each other along with sharing some ministry insights with each other. We collaborated on a few events, but that was not our purpose for meeting. We needed each other.

As the adage goes, “You need to stand tall on the shoulders of those that have gone before you.” Some things about doing ministry you just need to figure out for yourself. But don’t waste time trying to figure out things that people have already figured out and will work great for you.

ATTEND TO THE THINGS THAT ARE MOST IMPORTANT
In my 30 years of ministry, especially in my earlier years, I admit that I very often didn’t keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. For me the main thing is actually two things; my relationship with God and my family. As a single guy you will be tempted to work way more than you should (I sure did, even after starting a family). As I stated earlier, being faithful in ministry means working hard and smart. You also need to work hard and smart so you can stop working. Those that are undisciplined in their work habits will often find it difficult to stop working at the end of the day and never really “clock out.” Things don’t get done during the workday so work is taken home, either physically or mentally or both. This is detrimental to your spiritual, personal and family life.

If you can never put work away, both in front of you and in your mind, the constant distraction will cause you to pay the price in the form of a dry personal and spiritual life. Work will begin to invade your prayer life (as a distraction, not as matters of prayer). Work will invade you personal life by constantly invading spaces that should be reserved for friends and family.

Some suggestions:

    1. Put everything on your schedule/calendar, including your quiet time and times with friends and family.
    2. Keep a daily to-do list and stick to it as much as possible.
    3. Keep a clean office and desk. A cluttered office and desk only add to the chaos and make it more difficult to focus.
    4. Decide which nights you will keep sacred for friends and family (as much as possible).

Rob McIlvoy is a 30-year youth ministry veteran who has worked in churches, Young Life and internationally. He initially wrote this for his 23-year old son who had just landed his first full-time youth ministry position. He was hoping to impart words of advice as he began his own calling.

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