More than any other “big name” youth worker, Mike Yaconelli has made a profound difference on me as a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a minister. Yac used to say that the Job of Youth Ministry often got in the way of the Call of Youth Ministry. His writings have always helped me see the difference between those two realities. I had the opportunity to eat dinner with Yac the year before he passed away. I can remember reading the report of his death at my computer at home and the sense of loss I felt for a man I had barely met but felt I could call a friend and mentor. I’ve been thinking a lot about Yac lately.
Over Christmas, I downloaded a collection of his articles and talks to my Kindle to read while at the in-law’s cabin in the mountains of Virginia. I remember reading some of them in YouthWorker or other youth ministry resources. I remember how jazzed up they made me feel about youth ministry and I remember how they challenged me to move forward with an open heart and open mind all the while keeping my eyes firmly fixed on Jesus.
Below is an excerpt from Yac about the importance of taking care of your own soul while in ministry. Most of you know I am a ferocious reader. I consider reading to be a spiritual discipline that keeps me grounded and gives me the knowledge/tools/desire/focus to progress. Here is the advice Mike Yaconelli gives to youth ministers about the habit of soul tending through reading:
Most youth workers don’t read nearly enough. Yet reading is absolutely essential to your spiritual growth.
ASK THE PEOPLE WHOM YOU ADMIRE AND RESPECT WHAT BOOKS THEY READ.
If you’re drawn to certain people, then chances are they have the same reading interests you do—so trust them to get you on the right track.
NOTE THOSE AUTHORS YOU RESONATE WITH, THEN GET ALL OF THEIR BOOKS.
(I have my own group of authors who, through their books, have become my reading-world friends: Eugene Peterson, Barbara Brown Taylor, Walter Wangerin Jr., John Claypool, Earl Palmer, Henri Nouwen, Calvin Miller, Frederick Buechner, Alan Jones, Will Willimon, Evelyn Underhill, and Philip Yancey. I read everything they write. Somehow they know me; they name my struggles and put into words what I’ve been unable to find words for.)
PLACE THOSE FEW BOOKS THAT HAVE REALLY AFFECTED YOU IN A BOOKCASE CLOSE TO WHERE YOU WORK.
In my study I have all my favorite books—my friends—just to the left of my desk and within arm’s reach. I have lots more books in my study, but my friends are right next to me.
INTERACT WITH YOUR BOOKS. Mark your favorite passages, make notes, mark and then file the quotes that grip you. Books are made to be marked—and stained with tears, too. Reading is more than gathering information—it’s a relationship.
DON’T WORRY IF YOU TAKE A BREAK FROM READING NOW AND THEN.
Sometimes your soul needs space and time to process what’s going on in your life. At such times reading can distract you from the soul work you should be doing.
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T LIMIT YOUR READING TO SPIRITUAL BOOKS.
Read recent novels, old classics, biographies, short stories, essays, articles. Christians aren’t the only ones speaking truth. Truth is truth, regardless of who says it.
Thanks for the challenge Yac!