When was the last time you learned something that revolutionized the way you operate?

A while back, God laid this thought on my heart that I had fallen into a rut for a few months of replacing learning with improving. I think the two are vastly different, and I think this mistake is one that is very easy to slip into. Don’t get me wrong, we should always be improving. But I think we also have a very real and great need to constantly be learning new things at the same time.

When God laid this thought on my heart, I had two things pop into my head.

First, I thought of my wife’s Grandpa. The man has lived a quite remarkable life, and he has a lot of wisdom. Yet at the same time, if you spend any time around him, you would agree that though he has a lot of wisdom, he stopped learning around the age of 55. For whatever reason, he is no longer interested in learning, and because of that, the wisdom he does have to share is often met with a resistance by those he is sharing with.

Here is where I think that resistance comes from. You know that age old Youth Ministry quote “They wont care how much you know until they know how much you care?” Well, with my wife’s grandpa, he has made it clear that you have nothing to offer him, he only has something to offer you. There are a number of other reasons, but those are besides the point. But mainly, because he has stopped taking an interest in learning, he has stopped taking an interest in growing relationships.

life-long learner 

The second thought that popped into my head was P90x and 6 minute abs. This popped into my head because it would be one thing to do crunches for 6 minutes every day of your life and call yourself healthy, but it would be a completely different version of health than someone who did P90x every day for the rest of their life.

One of the beauties of P90x is that it doesn’t work out the same muscle every day, and it doesn’t do the same workout with the same muscle every day. It focuses on muscle memory that occurs when you do the same motions and exploits the fact that if you confuse your muscles and don’t let them get accustomed to one motion, you will have rapid growth.

This relates directly to my aforementioned rut that I felt I had slipped into for a brief amount of time. 6 Minute abs is the equivalent of simply improving. You are going to have wicked strong abs when you die, but you will not have the renewed physical body of someone who did the P90x system, learning new muscle movements and workouts constantly.

I would break it down like this. The 6 minute abs of youth ministry is going out and buying ten books by your favorite youth ministry author and reading those over and over again. You might even get into the blogosphere and have a few different youth pastor blogs in your reeder that you check daily, but for the most part, you agree with everything they are saying. You’re improving yourself as a youth pastor, and you have definitely seen results in this aspect of your life, but you also aren’t being challenged.

But there is so much more. Why settle for this when you can do the P90x of Youth Ministry. For you, it may not look like this, but I know for me, if I want to be a Life Long Learner, I need to follow these three guidelines:

1. I need to read things I disagree with

I read a book a few years back and disagreed with it tremendously. For the following two years, I think it was, I stayed away from anything and everything that had that authors name on it because I thought it was just such a dumb book. But then I read one of his other books, and it knocked my socks off. I never learned so much in one book as I had in that one.

2. I need to read authors who work in the church, but not in youth ministry

If you’re a youth pastor, when was the last time you learned from a children’s pastor? Have you ever read any of their blogs? I think for too long, we have tried to be partners without ever really engaging in conversations, and that’s the fault of both youth pastors and children’s pastors. Some great children’s ministry blogs to check out are:

Anthony Prince – http://westcoastcm.wordpress.com/

Sam Luce – http://samluce.com

Jared Massey, http://www.smalltownkidmin.com

Kenny Conley, http://www.childrensministryonline.com

Senior pastors who blog are great to read as well.

3. I need to read things that are not youth ministry related (or even church related)

This one is kind of like above, but slightly different. I wrote a post last year about the fact that there aren’t enough Leaders in Youth Ministry, because Youth Pastors who show great leadership are encouraged to become (senior) pastors or burned out, and we do too much copying.

So for me, I need to read leadership blogs and books to learn how to be a better leader. But this also includes business blogs, finance blogs, craft blogs sometimes. One blog I love that I discovered through Rachel Blom’s recommendation was the Harvard Business Review Blog. You never know where you might find inspiration for something in your ministry.

So these are my three keys, but they may not work for you. I cant tell you what will teach you the most, because I don’t know how you learn. But the important part is that we try. Figure out for yourself what works best and what teaches and doesn’t just improve, and go for it. And if you find something that is just awesome, share it with others!

Are you a life-long learner? What do you do to feed yourself? Share your tips in the comments!

Today’s post is a guest post by Ben Read, who has been mentoring youth since he was 18 years old. He grew up as a pastor’s son, but he and his siblings devoted to breaking the stereotype typically associated with Pastor Kid’s. Ben met his wife, Sarah, while they attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, and they currently serve youth in the North Shore area of Boston, MA. He regularly blogs at intentionalstudentministry.com.