MinisteriAL: Top 10 “Must Haves” for the Youth Minister Office

Looking around my office I’ve realized that I’ve started to add some items through the years that have helped me in my ministry. More than just Star Wars posters and superhero bobble heads, there are actually quite a few things that I’d recommend to anyone in ministry. Below are a few items I’d personally recommend and a couple I’ve heard from other youth ministers. Feel free to comment with any items we might have missed!to-do

  1. White Board: This one might seem obvious but I have only recently added a white board to my office wall and I use it almost every day. It is a perfect creative space for writing things to remember and to brainstorm ideas. I even write prayer requests on it to make sure I remember to pray for and follow up on my students’ prayer requests. But what I use it most often for is writing my daily and weekly “To-Do” lists. It helps me divide up my day into compartmentalized sections and keeps me on task since it stares at me on the wall all day. This is a very useful tool for my ministry.img_4724
  2. Calendar: While I get great use out of the calendar on my phone and a monthly desk calendar, I have come to love the year-at-a-glance calendars. The one I currently use is from NeuYear.com and it really helps me to keep in mind big events that are still months away. Having next year’s summer camp in mind when choosing curriculum for next quarter is the mark of a planning aficionado! (I’ve never used that word in my life)                                               thank-you
  3. Thank You Cards: Ephesians 4:29 was always a verse my youth minister drilled into our heads when I was younger and I continue to grow in appreciation for the importance of giving encouragement. If someone has contributed to your ministry in any way, if someone has blessed you or your family personally, if you’ve witnessed someone going the extra mile in service to someone, write them a Thank You Card right now. Whenever I text someone instead of writing them a card for something big they’ve done it feels cheap. Even catching them in the pews at church can feel forced due to time constraints and general awkwardness of which I can proudly boast. Writing a note is a great way to make it personal. Let them know it was important enough to you to stop and recognize what they did. Plus, a bonus is that it’s something they can hang on to and save if they feel they may need to be reminded and encouraged later on. I personally keep a file in my desk titled “encouragement” that has nothing else but notes of thanks and encouragement because I know I need those reminders when I go through tough times in ministry.candle
  4. Scented Candle: This one might seem silly to some people but I’m a big believer in creating a pleasant atmosphere in any area you do ministry. Whether it’s background music in the youth room, a clean classroom, or an office that smells good, it’s important to make these places of ministry a place people feel comfortable. I fully confess to hypocrisy on this issue in that my desk is rarely organized and that does stress some people out. I still believe that everything from your seating to your lighting in your office can have a positive or negative effect on those who visit it.laptop
  5. Standing Desk: I recently purchased from Amazon a reasonably priced laptop platform that allows me to stand while I use my laptop. This helps me cut down on my sitting time, gets me to burn more calories, and often givse me more focus and energy. While they do sell entire standing desks or desktops, this $30 substitute has been a practical compromise.phones
  6. Bluetooth Speaker/Headphones: Rarely a day goes by that I work in my office and don’t listen to music, a podcast, or even the Bible. Most laptop speakers offer the bare minimum when it comes to sound quality. I have found that for the purposes of a fuller and more immersive listening experience, which in turn helps me focus and distract me from becoming distracted, a quality bluetooth speaker and/or headphones (depending how thin your walls may be) are a worthwhile investment. img_4728
  7. Spiritual Mementos: This is probably another no-brainer for most ministers but this list would simply be incomplete without it. It is imperative to have tokens that serve as spiritual reminders pinned to your wall, displayed on your shelf, or kept on your desk. Each of these items should represent a spiritually significant point in your life or a Biblical truth that has bearing on your personal relationship with Jesus and your ministry. In my office, I proudly display a picture of one of my best friends from my youth group days and I praying together to remind myself the importance of accountability and brotherhood. I have a picture of my wife and family nearby that reminds me where I came from and who I am accountable for. I also have pictures and items from mission trips, camps, and events that hold spiritual significance on their own. Something else I got from my youth minister was to keep pictures of graduated seniors on my wall. I love this because it reminds me to pray for them, check in on them, and it gives me perspective for how I should be preparing my current students for life post youth group. Meaningful quotes, scriptures, purpose statements and commitments are also placed strategically where I can see them everyday.                                          bookshelf (not my book shelf)
  8. Shelf Space: Having a book shelf in an office of any kind may seem pretty standard but I’ve come to view them as indispensable. Being someone who struggles to hold still and read consistently it helps me to have shelf space that is specifically designated for books I’ve actually read or need to read, for curricula I want to teach, and for resources that I need to utilize. Empty shelf space challenges me to read more and be more purposeful in how I continue to educate myself and my students. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have a place to put a bobble head or two. commentary
  9. Bible Commentaries and Dictionaries: Speaking of shelf space, no minister should be without a reliable commentary or dictionary they can turn to when preparing lessons and sermons. James 3:1 is no joke and it’s always good to have a trusty commentary nearby, even if its for a quick glance to make sure I’m on point when teaching from a specific scripture. A quality Bible commentary or dictionary can be pricey but are worth it especially if you commit to using them.img_4725
  10. Personality Tokens: I almost didn’t  add this one to the list, but I’m going to anyway because I do think it can be very important. First of all, no, your office should not equate to your personal man cave where you store all your toys and decorations your spouse doesn’t let you show off at home. Secondly, professionalism is important, even in youth ministry and your elders and ministry staff will appreciate your understanding of that fact.  That being said, I believe having these tokens displayed in your office can have some profoundly positive effects. The decor in your office communicates many things to those who visit it and for the minister that inhabits it. Personality tokens can add an element of comfort and confidence in one’s identity. I always like to remind myself that my identity in Christ is of utmost importance but that Christ didn’t call to ministry the version of Alan who only reads scripture and fills his hours with prayer and meditation. Christ called the version of Alan who also likes to talk about movies, spend time outside with students playing ultimate or disc golf, eat pizza and go on adventures with his wife, and who embraces the gifts God’s given him. I love it when a student comes in my office who points out an action figure or a movie poster and we spend 10 minutes connecting over that topic before we move on to a more spiritual one.

Honorable Mentions:

Kleenex, Bottles of water, snacks, a mini fridge, computer, extra bibles to give away, comfortable chairs, a change of clothes, deck of cards or board games, coffee, frisbee, exercise mat, and lock box.

Don’t forget to comment if you think of one I missed and thanks for reading!

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SpirituAL: Path of Least Resistance

gallery-scenic-cycling

This past Saturday I had the privilege of participating in a bike ride titled the “Paluxy Pedal” in Glen Rose, TX. I went with a group of three friends and we all agreed on riding one of the shorter routes, the 29 mile ride. For some, 29 miles may seem like a foreboding distance, but in the world of cycling this is truly an amateur attempt. However, it remained plenty challenging for someone of my athletic ability (inability/disability). The temperatures on this particular October morning started out in the chilly upper 50’s but soon warmed to a pleasant lower 70’s. The scenery of the Texas hills and Brazos river were quite wonderful to take in on the downhills and completely ignored on the more challenging uphills.

Though I’ve only been riding for about a year, it quickly became evident to me that the name of the game in cycling is endurance and efficiency. Obviously, conditioning your body’s muscles and cardiovascular system  to work continuously for hours at a time is an ordeal in and of itself. It is an ordeal that remains true to most any race or testing of physical ability. Indeed, in our faith it is quite apparent that endurance is paramount in overcoming the hills that we ride down and over. It’s the efficiency that i find does not translate as well to my faith. Let me explain what I mean.

In cycling, a good bike is the more efficient bike. Cyclist will get clip in pedals so that their leg muscles can work more efficiently with a push and pull motion. They will spend sometimes thousands of dollars to get the lightest and most aerodynamic equipment. Road bike tires are quite thin in comparison to mountain or cruiser bike tires to reduce friction between the rubber and the road. Uncomfortably tight clothing is worn just for the sake of decreasing air drag. There are countless and very meticulous measurements made to ensure the most efficient seat positioning, frame size, handlebar length, wheel diameters, crank positioning, gearing, etc. All this seems almost overly OCD… that is until you start cycling uphill and for long distances. Suddenly, every bit of measuring and maximizing of efficiency becomes worth it.

In reading Hebrews, the author tells us in chapter 12 how we should maximize our efficiency in our journey of faith.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” -Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV

It is so obvious to me that while I’m riding my bicycle on a long ride like I did last Saturday, I don’t allow a brake that’s sticking to my wheel to go without adjustment. I don’t allow a tire with low pressure to go without proper inflation. I unburden myself of any items that will weigh me down unnecessarily. To ride well and reach the finish line with maximum efficiency, I have to throw off anything that hinders or entangles my performance. How can that be so clear in riding my bike but become so lost on me in my faith journey?

The only race that truly matters is the one we are all in at this very moment. Life comes with many hindrances and hills. Entanglements that hamper efficiency are around every corner. Sometimes we are riding on the downhill and a low tire or a sticking brake may not seem like a big deal. But the moment you start to climb that hill, you’ll wish you stopped to fix it. It is worth the discomfort of giving up something that makes us feel comfortable if it in any way interferes with our efficiency of following Christ. Not only does this ensure maximum performance, it actually allows you to enjoy the ride that much more.

Let me also clarify, I realize that there are hills in life that are unavoidable. I’m not advocating we go to Kansas and find the flattest race we can. Surely there are things we can not change that will challenge our faith. What we do need to realize is that there are many things within our power to change. Sin is like someone offering me a more comfortable bike seat or clothing that may feel better temporarily but ultimately hinder me in the race. Too often we buy in to the lies sin sells us and we willingly strap these parachutes that drag behind us and slow our pace.

Therefore, let us throw off the Netflix series that hinders and the negative thoughts that entangle. Whether it is guilt, pornography, swearing, gossip, over-eating, dishonesty, or whatever sin is  trying to remain hidden in your life and make you more comfortable, let us go to war with that sin and drive it from our lives. We are better off without it. We are committed to the race! We are committed to fixing our eyes on the author and perfecter of our faith, Jesus Christ!