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Finding Slomo In The Youth Ministry Life

I struggle with the discipline of stopping and being in solitude with God. I haven’t figured out how to live out Psalm 46:10:

“Be still, and know that I am God.”

This is such an easy verse, but it’s one of the hardest things for me to live out.

I love the fast-paced ministry lifestyle.

Nine weeks ago, I tore my patellar tendon and had to have surgery. This injury forced me to stop as I lay on the couch for three straight weeks. I hated every second of it. In addition, I had to wear a knee immobilizer for six more weeks, so I had to walk through my day-to-day activity very slowly. During my injured, slow-pace life, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect about why it took a major knee injury for me to finally slow down. During this  forced reflection time, I stumbled across two things.

First, during Doug Fields’s talk at the Orange Conference 2012, he stated, “Hurry is the enemy of busyness.” I respect Doug because he is a veteran youth worker. And he is a very busy and active dude and probably has learned a few things through the years on how to stop. So his statement rang true for me and I needed to hear this truth.

Second, I read a Harvard Business Review article called “Slow Down, You Move Too Fast” that Kara Powell tweeted. The author suggests that speed is a source of stimulation and fleeting pleasure. “The faster we move, the less we feel,” which may be a major reason why I move so fast. It is easier moving from thing to thing without having to really feel. Fast pace leads to shallowness. The bottom line is that slowing down is a route to depth, more enduring satisfaction, and to excellence.

The problem for me (and many youth pastors) is that I just don’t know how to stop. Over the years I have trained and conditioned myself to build a tolerance to moving fast; plus, I love the stimulation and pleasure youth ministry brings.  So it is apparent that I need to continue learning how to slow down. Over the next few months, here is how I am committed to stopping and enjoying the abundant life God has given me:


My wife and I have to eat, so why not fully stop while eating? I have committed to really enjoying one meal a week where I thoroughly enjoy and be thankful for the food that nurishes my body. This should be easy, since my wife has been finding some killer recipes on Pinterest.


One of my 2012 goals was to be a great friend to a few friends. My few friends not only know who I am and what I am called to do but know when to tell me I need to slow down. They know my pace and limits. I am carving out time in my week just to hang with my few friends. No agendas or business; simply a time to be present with one another. My friends are the ones who have kept me sane in my ministry career.

Friends are an aid to the young, to guard them from error; to the elderly, to attend to their wants and to supplement their failing power of action; to those in the prime of life, to assist them to noble deeds. – Aristotle


I read two things: the Scriptures and authors who have successfully lived out solitude. My two favorite solitude authors are Dallas Willard and Thomas Merton.

Willard: “Of all the disciplines of abstinence, solitude is generally the most fundamental in the beginning of the spiritual life, and it must be returned to again and again as that life develops.”

Merton: “Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.”


I am a big mini-moleskin guy. I like the smaller ones because I can fit it in my pocket or messenger bag. A few days out of the week, I take a few minutes to write in my mini-moleskin what I feel grateful for, what is going well in my life, and what are some of my dreams about life, marriage, and ministry.


It takes everything in me to retreat. But once I do, I am so thankful I did. My wife and I like to take one big vacation a year and a few weekend getaways a year. There is nothing better than completely detaching from your work life and being able to enjoy another location without any stress. I also have experimented with finding a local monastery and taking a day just to be still and quiet.


So do you struggle with the fast pace youth ministry life too?

What do you do about it?

How do you hit the brakes?