Every year, our ministry finishes out the school year with “Senior Weekend,” where seniors take over and run the weekend. Instead of having the traditional one speaker for the service, we had two speakers and a panel (I know it sounds like a lot, but it worked out great). The panel was themed “What I Wish I Knew in High School” and each student had something different to say like having a mentor, a good group of friends, a good idea of self, etc. One student said “be present.” When I first heard it, I was thinking, “What a good point, such a great thing for our students to hear.” Then I thought, “Wait, what a great thing for ME to hear.”
In youth ministry, we are constantly trying to balance working in one season and planning the next. We are always looking forward, and we have to if we want to stay on top of things. But often our pursuit of the future can lead us to an unhealthy place where we lack the ability to be present. As I unpacked this in my head I came to the conclusion that there are two different ways we need to be present—in the “big picture” and everyday life.
Big Picture: Sometimes I focus way too much on something that happened in the past or something I want to happen in my future. That could be me holding onto a grudge and not letting something go. I can get stuck thinking, “What would life be like if this would have happened.” Or maybe I am focusing too much on my goals and ambitions. I am always looking forward and don’t take a ton of time to slow down and see what is happening in the present. Whether it is focusing too much on the past or future, it is important to be present enough to see what God is doing in our lives right now, and to see what He wants for us to learn and do in this season.
Everyday Life: Focusing too much on the future doesn’t always mean life goals and dreams, it can also mean focusing too much on what needs to happen next in your day. While we may be physically present at an event or project, we are mentally preparing for our next meeting, weekend service, etc. Or we can physically be with our family and friends but mentally thinking about our ministry. Our lack of everyday presence can have some big consequences including loss of ministry opportunities and even just being refreshed by the people God has put in your life. Pay attention to what God is doing in the moment.
There is an entire series of books waiting that could be written about being present. There are so many different ways to be present, meaning so many ways that we can be challenging ourselves. In what ways do you need to be more present?