Shifting Your Focus
Recently, we have had some serious issues with distractions in our youth group. Whether it’s a cell phone, a student talking with their neighbor, or someone putting their attention on something I said two months ago, my students have been struggling with focusing. To begin to address this problem, I have started having a conversation with them before our programming begins. That conversation usually goes something like this:
“Remember that when we come to church, our focus is on God and learning more about Him. If your focus is on your phone or the person sitting next to you, then you need to reevaluate.”
As I go through the message, I will try to bring this to their remembrance. If I see a student doing something they shouldn’t, I will ask, “What’s your focus right now?”
For the most part, this has worked. While there have been times I have gotten incredibly frustrated and said way more than, “What’s your focus?”, I have started to notice that little by little my students realize when it’s time to shift their attention.
What’s funny is that not only is this something I am trying to teach my youth group, but it is the very thing that God is teaching me.
Lately, before any event that we’ve had, I have found my self stressing out. Like, “I Need to Find Some Deodorant Because I am Sweating Through My Wal-Mart V-Neck” stressed out. My anxiety level is high as I run around like a crazy person trying to make sure everything is in place.
Do we have enough of this?
How many students will show up?
Do we have enough of that?
I wonder if I should do this?
Should I have done that?
My focus is on the event—the numbers, the supplies, the extras.
However, in the midst of doing this very thing, God began to speak to me. He began to remind me that it was not about the event itself, but the purpose of the event: to encourage these students in their faith and point them to Him.
It was as if God was asking me the same thing I ask my students.
“Karli, where is your focus?”
I realize now that it is so easy for all of us to do this. Whether you are a youth pastor, student volunteer, or small group leader, it is so easy to focus on the wrong things. We wonder if we should turn the chairs this way, or if we bought enough donuts, or will there be enough people? While thinking about these things is not necessarily wrong, what is wrong is placing their importance above what we are called to do: minister to the students God has placed in front of us. Seeing them saved, baptized, and drawing closer to the Father is our ultimate goal, and this should always be our main focus.
I am reminded of the story of Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. Martha is running around like a crazy person “distracted by all the preparations that had to be made”. Meanwhile, Mary is just chilling as she sat at the feet of the Lord listening to Him. According to Jesus, Mary’s focus was on what was better, while Martha’s focus was not. If we’re not careful, we can easily become like Martha—fixing our eyes on the wrong thing.
My hope is that in the midst of preparing messages, events, games, and so much more in our youth ministries, we would remember what is truly important at the end of it all.