Wilderness Experiences Enhance Longevity in Ministry

Today I read a youth pastor’s response to a comment I made in my book about why the Desert Fathers and their wilderness experiences have so much to teach us today. I wish that every youth pastor could take pause and think about what this transparent youth pastor, Peter Ivey is processing in his own heart![1]

Here is the passage from the book, which caused Peter to pause and reflect on the health of his own ministry rhythm:

We may view them [Desert Fathers] as crazy for retreating to the wilderness but maybe they did this because they valued being pure more than being useful…we can at least appreciate that these desert hermits were more interested in who they were becoming rather than being preoccupied with what they were producing (which is more of my bent if I’m honest).[2]

Peter’s reflection:

After I read this passage from chapter nine, Retreats, I had to pause and reflect for a while before I could move on. Just like the author mentions, if I’m honest most of my days are spent trying to produce as much as possible so as to look good in the eyes of others. Regardless of where you work, whether for a local restaurant, a Fortune 500 company, or even a church, most everyone around you seems to be much more concerned with what you can do rather than who you are….

I get so caught up in creating the most attractive trip brochure possible, or making sure Sunday morning youth services run smoothly, or purchasing a new piece of gear. These things begin to drown out the voice of God in my life, and before I realize it, I’ve drifted miles away from shore. If I hope to be effective in ministry, be a loving husband, and most importantly, be a faithful and passionate disciple and warrior for Jesus Christ, retreat must be a consistent part of my life. I don’t want to get to the end of my life here on Earth able to list off pages and pages of accomplishments. I hope to get to the end of my life and be able to say that Jesus was my “one thing”.

Thank you Peter for letting your heart be known so that other youth pastors can glean from your vulnerability and wisdom and be led into a healthier rhythm of ministry that is more about who we are becoming, rather than what we are producing!

Sincerely in Christ,

Ashley Denton

[1] Peter Ivey is on staff at Waterstone Church serving in the student ministries as well as their adventure ministry called “Expeditions”.

[2] Denton, Ashley. Christian Outdoor Leadership: Theology, Theory, and Practice. Fort Collins: Smooth Stone Publishing, 2011, p. 199.

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