It is good to be back with the Columbus Mennonite community after my seven week sabbatical. I know I’ve said it before, but it is truly an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve within a community that recognizes the value of setting aside intentional time for rest and renewal.
I spent a bit of my time during sabbatical thinking, reading, and talking with others about youth ministry, but one thing that has stuck with me is something that is not restricted to the realm of youth ministry. In the book Contemplative Youth Ministry, Mark Yaconelli asserts that so many of the ministries within congregations (not just in the youth room) are built around anxiety and control rather than allowing people to be present to the realities around them.
Instead, Yaconelli attempts to call people back to a more contemplative space of doing ministry that slows things down and encourage all people to be present to each other, to their environment, and to God. One of the ways that he does this is by drawing on principles of spiritual direction, specifically the three-fold movement: notice, name, and nurture. He writes,
Noticing refers to the way in which we help people (through careful attentiveness) become more aware of their experience of God. Naming involves aiding people in finding language and theology for their experience. And finally, nurturing concerns the ways we help people develop practices and disciplines that deepen their relationship with God.
Maybe it is just because my Type-A brain likes structure,organization and lists, but the more I sat with this three-fold movement and read about Yaconelli’s ideas for how to live them out, the more these three actions made sense as a framework for thinking not only about my work as a pastor but also about what it means for anyone live out Christian formation. Sometimes I need more space for noticing in my life, for slowing down and taking the time to see and appreciate the ways God is present all around me. Sometimes I need help naming these things that I’ve noticed, putting them in a theological and historical perspective alongside the ways that others (both ancient and modern) have named their experiences of God. And sometimes I need more structures, disciplines, and practices in my life to help nurture this kind of mindful awareness.
I am thankful for the ways that Columbus Mennonite helps us all to notice, name, and nurture, and I pray that we continue to deepen our commitment to each of these actions as we live out the love of God together.