Confession: Spiritual Disciplines for Youth Workers

by Kelly Soifer

Editor’s Note: This is the eleventh in a 12-part series on spiritual disciplines for youth workers, based on Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

I came to Christ at the beginning of my sophomore year in high school. That first year of faith was a whirlwind…I was blown away by the New Testament and could not read it fast enough. I was discovering the relief and power of prayer. I was talking to many friends about what I was learning, and some were coming to faith. It was an exciting time, and I still smile as I think about it.

Within a year or so I was encouraged by my Young Life leaders to try out for the “work crew” summer program, where students who have already been to camp are invited to contribute a month of their time to working at one of the summer camps, learning about service and discipleship at the same time. Part of the application process included attendance at several training meetings and scripture memorization. This is the verse I remember the most clearly, some 35 years later:


Throwing Away the Rulebook

by Jill Richardson

If, like many people, you have aspirations to write a novel, you’ll have to learn some rules. Yes, stories have rules, and certain rules just don’t get broken. One of the first: Authors must never interrupt the story they’re telling.

Think about it. Imagine J.R.R. Tolkien dropping himself into “The Return of the King” to interact with the characters and say, “Excuse me, reader, but these guys are not handling the situation well. Aragorn and Frodo, I’m the author. Let me explain to you how this is all supposed to go and what the point is.”


Refocusing Yourself in the New Year

Yes, this would normally be a New Year’s post. But we thought it might be a little bit encouraging now, when the winter blues are settled in and the sun hasn’t appeared for several weeks. 

by Tom Shefchunas

One of my favorite holidays of the year is New Years Day.

I love to reset.
I love to think about the future.
I love to celebrate the past. 

And…I love to set goals for the next year.

One of my least favorite things to do is to match socks.

Seems random right?


My Imperfect Calling

In last month’s THE EARNEST CHRISTIAN I left off telling about one evening during my second semester at Azusa Pacific College when I shut myself up in my dorm room and began to earnestly seek God’s direction for my life.  As I was reading from the Bible and praying?asking God to show me what he wanted me to do, I turned to the book of ISAIAH.  I don’t remember where I started reading in ISAIAH, but I remember very clearly that, as I began reading in chapter 55, it seemed as though the Lord was speaking directly to me through the Scriptures.  The chapter begins with God’s gracious invitation to all who are spiritually thirsty to come to him to receive without money or cost drink and nourishment that will satisfy their souls.  Then comes the admonishment to seek the Lord while he may be found and to call on him while he is near.  The wicked and evil are encouraged to forsake their ways and to turn to the Lord who will have mercy on them and abundantly pardon them.


Guidance: Spiritual Disciplines for Youth Workers

by Kelly Soifer

Editor’s Note: This is the tenth in a 12-part series on spiritual disciplines for youth workers, based on Richard Foster’sCelebration of Discipline.

Whenever I am interviewing potential volunteers for youth ministry, I tell them a story from my early years as a way to illustrate how their decision-making processes affect their involvement in youth ministry. It goes like this:

In my second year of vocational youth ministry, I was interviewing a student at a local college who had expressed interest in volunteering. I’ll call her Kristin (not her real name.) She was a pre-med student, very earnest and energetic. One of my first questions in my interviews was some form of “What prompted you to contact us?” and she launched into an enthusiastic description of how God clearly revealed to her that serving with us was His will for her life! I didn’t need to hear any more. I believed that anyone with such conviction would be an outstanding addition to our team. She agreed to the year-long commitment with no qualms whatsoever.

After I accepted Kristin as a volunteer, I gave her our schedule of training and meetings for the year. She dove right in to relationships with students, and brought a lot of fun and energy to our weekly meetings with youth. This worked great for about six months; then Kristin started missing a meeting here and there. She was still involved, but I felt her initial urgency had waned. So I scheduled an appointment with her to see how she was doing, assuming her studies were proving to be more challenging than she anticipated.


Submission: Spiritual Disciplines for Youth Workers

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a 12-part series on spiritual disciplines for youth workers, based on Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

As I write this I am finding myself sucked in, day by day, to the Summer Olympics of 2012. If I’m not careful, I find myself watching sports I have never cared about (or even heard of!), simply because I LOVE the heat of competition. Don’t we all? How many times have we been with students and jumped right in as they create bloodsport out of seemingly harmless games like Slug Bug or Foursquare? The human propensity for competition at all costs is evident in the Genesis story of Cain and Abel (further immortalized by Steinbeck in his magnum opus East of Eden), seen in classic films like Gladiator, and glorified in countless other myths, fables and stories.

My morning devotions often include some time reading through Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Shane Claiborne, and Enuma Okoro. A recent reading touches on a remarkable example of competition:


One Is the Loneliest Number

by Bishop David Roller

Prayer is a delightful puzzle for logical people who wonder, “Why pray? Doesn’t God already know everything?”
Prayer puzzles people of action who wonder, “Wouldn’t it be better to do what I know God wants, rather than just sit here with my eyes closed?”

Prayer puzzles thoughtful people who react against the idea of “the power of prayer,” as though prayer were like a switch we can throw to get stuff done.

Prayer puzzles healers who can’t understand why sometimes He heals when we pray, and sometime He doesn’t.


Satellite of Prayer

by Bob Haslam

In the middle of the night in Michigan, Grandma Wakeman was awakened by an intense urge to pray for her former pastor.

When the pastor and his family left for missionary service in the Philippines, she promised to pray daily for them, but the nighttime prompting caused her to pray as in Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”



New Year’s Resolution or Prayer Life?

by Deb Lewis

New Year’s resolutions are made because we believe action is necessary, but why do we fail to keep them?

Four words form the heart of the life-reorientation process taught at a Choosing Mary’s Place prayer retreat: urgency, motivation, competence and determination. This article’s focus is urgency.


Service: Spiritual Disciplines for Youth Workers

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a 12-part series on spiritual disciplines for youth workers, based on Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

One of the most challenging moments in my career came at my 10 year high school reunion. At that point I was working for Young Life as an Area Director. I had become a Christian through the ministry of Young Life in Northern California, and was well known by my peers in high school as an active member. I moved down to Santa Barbara for college, and started serving as a Young Life volunteer leader during my senior year. After graduating as an English major and getting a job as an editor, I continued as a volunteer for another year and was then asked to come on Young Life staff. Since I was supervising other staff, running six clubs and overseeing fifty volunteers, I considered this a “real job” and a fulfilling one at that! But imagine my horror when we were standing around at my reunion, catching up on each other’s lives, and when I was asked what I was doing now, was greeted with, “Wait, you’re STILL in Young Life?? Isn’t that just for high school kids?!” I felt demeaned and disrespected, but had no quick comeback to defend myself.

Unfortunately, it did not get much better when I first became a youth pastor.