Actually Stop


Ross Carper, Director of SHIFT_jrhi Middle School Community, First Presbyterian Church Spokane

iStock_000002493733XSmallIf you’re a youth worker by trade, you’re probably rolling up to a rare part of the year when you have time to breathe. You know: that ever-so-fleeting moment between summer (craziness of camps/events/mission trips) and the launch of your fall programs. When (and if) this relatively calm chunk in your calendar comes, do something radical with it: actually stop.

Yep: put your phone down. Yep: set up an autoreply and let your inbox go for a few days. Yep: do a social media fast. Yep: quit filling any void in your calendar with meetings and coffee dates. Stop being “productive.” It might be a cliché, but try to make that shift from “human doing” to “human being.”

What isn’t a cliché is John 15. As Jesus delivers his beautifully layered vine and branches metaphor, he makes it clear that a disciple’s job isn’t to produce fruit. That’s above our pay grade. What we’re really called to do is maintain our smallish part in the branch/vine connection. He cashes out the metaphor in verse 9 by saying, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Now remain in my love.”

Here’s what I love about the “remain” command: it’s ongoing. It’s not a static, one-time decision (“decide on my love”) but a dynamic, relational concept. Like the rest of Jesus’s teachings, it’s both profoundly simple and beautifully complex. It takes just a second to apprehend his point, and then a lifetime to practice living it out.

For me this summer, “remaining in his love” looks like watering my garden in silence (or sometimes with plugged into my ears).  Sometimes I have a mug of coffee in hand as I walk around soaking the tomatoes and greens; other times I have our baby in a front pack. In any case, I simply ask God to teach or remind me of something, and then just leave things open-ended. I’m also making myself take long walks or runs with my dog, and I’m intentionally reading stuff that has nothing (directly) to do with youth ministry or a talk I’m preparing.

The book I’m working through right now is Creating a Missional Culture by JR Woodward. It’s not student-ministries specific, but I’m learning that, as youth workers, we should be studying the work of missiologists and church planters like Woodward. These resources help us freshly look at how the gospel and the church works. From there, we fill in the details of how we can empower and equip students to live an active, dynamic faith—both in their local spheres of influence and in global movements like 30 Hour Famine.

That’s just a quick dispatch on what I’m doing to stop the busyness and “remain in his love” this summer. Whatever it looks like for you, carve out some time this summer to actually stop. Then watch what God starts inside you and how it flows out into your work. Come harvest time, the fruit might taste a little sweeter.