Distractions define youth ministry because it’s a relational calling, and relationships are an engine for distraction.
And if you’re like me, distractions are like catnip—three years ago a test for ADHD came back positive, though my friends could’ve told you that without a test.
But transformational ministry requires focus. Hebrews 12:1 reminds us to “throw everything off that hinders us”—distractions would be first up for me. So I met with Northpoint Community Church Campus Pastor and author Clay Scroggins, author of How to Lead In a World of Distraction, for some coaching. Clay is a veteran of the youth ministry trenches, so he can translate what he’s learned into our everyday reality. He spotlighted for me five steps that I can take as a leader to avoid distractions and lean into my calling with greater purpose and intention…
1. Pay attention and stay awake to the distractions around you.
Clay says, “I’m often asked if there are more or fewer distractions than we faced 10 years ago, and the answer is MORE!” He says the increasing clutter in our life has ratcheted up our need for living intentionally. If we don’t choose our way through the clutter, it will propel us into a scattered, reactionary life.
2. Be present to the present.
We have a lot going on in our life. If we’re going to offer our focused presence to the teenagers and adults in our life, we’ll have to decide what’s important and what’s not. Clay is the campus pastor for one of the largest churches in America, located in the bustling heart of Atlanta. When I asked him how he remains focused in the middle of all that swirl, he points to “the practice of presence”—the determination to focus in the present moment on the priority at hand. No presence = no traction in life.
Distractions define youth ministry because it’s a relational calling, and relationships are an engine for distraction.Click to tweet
3. Prioritize a daily schedule.
Clay says the one tool that helps him stay focused is his daily planning schedule (by the way, pick up one of Group’s 2020 Jesus-Centered Planners before they’re sold out). He begins his day in the office before anyone else gets there because it allows him to open up his planner and plot out his day before other agendas press in on him.
4. Cultivate self-awareness.
According to Clay, a lack of self-awareness is one reason why many youth leaders bend to distractions. Pick up a copy of Terry Linhart’s The Self-Aware Leader—Terry is a veteran youth pastor and longtime youth ministry professor, and you’ll benefit from his deep dive into the life habits that lead to greater self-awareness.
5. Slow down for focused time with Jesus.
It’s impossible to clarify our priorities and develop great self-awareness without help from the Spirit of Jesus. When we slow down, breathe deep, and focus our attention on Jesus every day, we live from a weighty center rather than a knee-jerk mentality. Try the 40-day devotional Center Your Life on Jesus as a slow-down catalyst for your time with Jesus.