In a recent “Forbes” magazine article, writer Dan Diamond makes some interesting observations about the Apple Watch.
“All the Apple Watch has to do to be successful — all it has to do to make us healthier — is do one thing: Get us to stand up. And the device is perfectly designed to do just that.”
Why is standing up so important?
Diamond goes on, “Simply standing for a few moments matters because we're increasingly a nation of sitters. The average American adult now sits between seven and nine hours per day between work and during the commute — basically, we spend more time sitting than sleeping. And this ‘sitting disease,’ as MayoClinic.com puts it, shortens our life expectancy and increases risk of heart disease and cancer.”
What does this have to do with Young Life? While this “sitting disease” shortens our life expectancy, a similar “sitting disease” in Young Life can shorten our ministry effectiveness and impact.
See if you can relate to a few examples of what might be deemed “Young Life sitting disease.”
Texting kids from the comfort of your desk or couch.
Posting a club flyer or promo on Instagram.
Downloading this week’s club skits and songs on the Internet.
Ordering club or camp T-shirts from a jpg sent to you by another staff.
Keeping up with your kids via social media.
Are any one of these things in and of themselves completely wrong? No! But if you’re like me, and begin to rely on such sedentary things from the comfort of your office or home, then the individual symptoms can collectively become a disease. This Young Life sitting disease’s main effect is that it makes us forget one of our most important mandates from Jesus: “Go.” In other words, contact work.
It’s been said that the worst thing that can happen to a church youth minister is that you give them an office. I wonder if the same is true for a Young Life staff person. In our high tech, social media, instant-access world, it can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking we are “in a world of kids” when actually we never step foot in it.
How would the above list look differently if we cure the “sitting disease” and actually “go?”
Get off the couch or out of the office and take a stroll through campus before or after school. You might be surprised at the conversations God brings your way.
Gather with a few kids to make an actual physical flier that can be taken to the school (if allowed) or places where kids gather. Give them to kids so they have an excuse to walk up to a table of underclassmen and invite them to your event and maybe leave behind a phone number if a ride is needed.
Meet a group of kids at Starbucks and create a song list. Search YouTube or the Young Life Leader Blog TOGETHER to plan next week’s club.
Meet a group of kids at the mall, grab Chick-fil-A, and search the stores for new T-shirt ideas. Gather kids at your place to vote for the most popular design.
Call your leaders and show up at the game, musical or school event. Then you’ll be in the pictures with kids on social media from the event rather than just “liking” them.
All of the above aspects of your ministry should create CONTACT WORK. If our MacBook Pros and iPhones have provided a “workaround” that no longer requires us to go where kids are to do ministry, then we are not doing ministry. We are simply administrators of events who will eventually pass away from this ministry sitting disease.
Now reminding Young Life staff to do contact work is kind of like reminding Starbucks employees to make coffee. It seems ridiculous. How much time have you spent in the office this week or in meetings about ministry in relation to how many hours you have spent where kids are doing contact work?
How can we cure this Young Life sitting disease that causes us to leave contact work behind and settle for technology from a distance? Let’s go back to the Forbes article …
"My own research in the workplace has shown that a prompt on the work computer every half an hour, reminding people to stand up, reduced prolonged sitting by 40 minutes a day," writes Philippa Dall, senior research fellow at Glasgow Caledonian University.
Apple Watch will go further than a computer prompt … “it taps you on the wrist," according to Apple marketing material — to remind you to stand up every hour, along with a digital reminder: "You've been sitting for a while," a sample Apple Watch message reads. "Take a minute to stand up.”
What would it take to make sure you get a “prompt” to do contact work every day? There’s no app for that, but perhaps a discussion with our supervisor or coworker about contact work accountability is in order. How can you daily remind each other to keep contact work front and center and not let it get lost in the shuffle?
And don’t forget to pray. During those times we are tempted to fall into sedentary ministry, pray the Holy Spirit would nudge you (or at least tap you on the wrist as the Apple Watch does!) and remind you to get out of the office. Go where kids are! After all, Jesus didn’t sit around the temple all day hoping people who needed Him would stop by.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has even called sitting "the new cancer.” That might be a bit extreme as sitting is not actually a disease but a chosen behavior, but I still get his point. It’s a real public health issue.
Lack of contact work is a Young Life health issue and a threat to a healthy ministry. The cure is to “GO.”
Need some inspiration to get up and go? Read the words of Lauren Bocci, Young Life committee member and marketing director.
“Go. You have permission. Permission, to do what we’ve always done.
Go show up in lonely places. Show up in the stands. Show up in the hallways. Show up where no one else would think to go.
Go. Share your life side-by-side with a kid. It is the method of Christ. It is the method of Young Life.
There is no other thing. There is nothing better. Go.
Go waste some time with a kid today.
Go in the name of Jesus.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will GO for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!”
— Isaiah 6:8
— Written by Brian Summerall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Announcing Brian’s New Book
and a chance to win a free copy!
First 10 people to email email@example.com with the subject line “TELLING STORIES” will win a free copy!
Now available for pre-order at www.tellingstoriesthebook.com and can be purchased in bulk ($10 each for orders of 10 or more!) for donors, committee, and leaders by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I’m excited to order Telling Stories for our leaders, committee, and donors . christian Brian is a great story teller and I love the way he thinks about life, people and Jesus!” - Jason Archer, Young Life
"The art of telling a story is a lost one. One needs to look no further than this wonderful book, Telling Stories, by Brian Summerall, to find it recaptured. Put one more gift under the tree this Christmas for your leaders and staff. Buy Telling Stories today! - Craig Hutchinson, Young Life College
"I had the great privilege of editing and publishing “The Diaries of Jim Rayburn” and “Letters to a Young Life Leader” by Bob Mitchell. I am happy to add “Telling Stories” by Brian Summerall to that list. This is a great book and it will be a blessing to all who read it; it certainly has been to me. Like Brian, it is funny, insightful, and encouraging. As a former staff person myself I know “Telling Stories” will be a great gift for leaders, donors, committee, and even kids. It’s not a “Young Life book” — Brian wrote it with a general audience in mind — but since Brian has been on staff for decades, it has a real Young Life sensibility to it. Giving this book to someone is like giving them a little bit of Young Life. I am really excited about this book! - Kit Sublett, Whitecaps Media