As youth workers, we give a lot—and we love doing that. We sip coffee with eager volunteers, draft engaging messages for students, support the staff however we can, and still manage to immerse ourselves in family or friends after a long day.
With 2017 approaching, we’re undoubtedly building strategic calendars, lesson series, and leader training. Amid all that, it’s easy to overlook our own personal development. Truth is, we can mete out only so much before we’re depleted and need to refuel for the next round of giving.
So try these suggestions for investing in yourself in 2017:
1. Choose one professional conference to attend. Go ahead! You don’t need to know the date or location yet to decide where your “boost” will come from. Budget for it now. Consider inviting some colleagues to join you. (Conferences are always better when you’re with people you know and love.) You might consider these offerings from Group: Kidmin Conference (Children’s Ministry), Simply Youth Ministry Conference, or other training opportunities for adult and general ministry.
2. Remember that doing nothing can actually increase your productivity. Are you identifying and keeping a day off each week? If you are, do you stay unplugged (no phone, e-mail, or social media)? Are you doing what you love best, whether it’s Netflix, hiking, video games, crocheting, basketball, or napping? Detaching can be a most effective form of personal development.
3. Find a mentor in everyone. Uncommon wisdom has a way of flowing downhill, but you must be poised to see the flood coming. Cultivate a teachable heart by practicing great listening skills, recapping conversations in writing and reflecting on those notes, or keeping in your phone the knowledge nuggets tossed your way throughout the day. Some of my best learning has come from unexpected encounters with students, grocery clerks, even infomercials.
4. Invest in Evernote or another note-taking app. These let you clip, categorize, and store data, websites, ideas, etc. I store notes on books I’m reading (see point #5), gather meaningful quotes, save web articles I can read when time permits, and generally dump anything that might help me down the road.
5. Develop an annual reading plan. I did this accidentally one year when I didn’t want to lose money that was left in a professional-development budget. I identified 12 books I thought I’d like to read during the upcoming year and purchased them all at once. I sorted them by “month-to-read” on my shelf, instantly taking the guesswork out of which good title to read next. Truth is, you might not get all the way through the list. I didn’t and rarely do. But since adopting this plan I’ve read more voraciously and eclectically. I choose some books for my role as a youth pastor, some for my roles as dad and husband, some for my role as a human, and some as a Christ-follower. Now I make a reading list before every new year. I save the “didn’t get to” titles for vacations, holidays, or other chunks of available time.
As in all areas, Jesus set an example for us with personal development. He had a wide variety of friends and acquaintances and spent time in deep conversations. He wasn’t afraid of solitude and even fought to have it. He might have fished as a hobby, because he sure talked about it a lot. And he read enough to quote important stuff when it mattered most.
So don’t feel guilty for taking time to invest in yourself. Make it a priority in the new year. Make it your plan!
Darren’s Reading List for 2017
January: Rising Strong, Brené Brown
February: Generational IQ, Haydn Shaw
March: Rescuing Ambition, Dave Harvey
April: Beyond the Screen, Andrew Zirschky
May: Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Jared Wilson
June: Revisiting Relational Youth Ministry, Andrew Root
July: Why Should Anyone Work Here? Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
August: Jesus Shock, Peter Kreeft
September: The Millennials, Thom Rainer and Jess Rainer
October: The Five Temptations of a CEO, Patrick Lencioni
November: Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull
December: You Lost Me, David Kinnaman
These books are waiting for me during the upcoming holiday break:
In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honore
Skin in the Game, Rick Lawrence
The Ideal Team Player, Patrick Lencioni