Like in the same physical vicinity as him. And actually talking to him.
Not via text. Or Twitter. Or email. Or Facebook.
One-on-one. Face to face.
I’m not going to go on an anti-social media rant or diatribe here. Obviously, I see its merits and understand the blessings that come with it.
But I also see the challenges. In an effort to be more efficient with our time and more strategic in our approach – whether in youth ministry or in general life – we sometimes get caught up in the quantity of our relationships and not the quality of them.
This evening, my good friend Mary and I went out for dinner before our meeting for young adult ministry leaders. As per usual when we get together, we had a delightful conversation touching on everything from family to work to ministry to speed stacking. Not once did either of us reach for our phone.
“This is nice,’ I said. “I always look forward to our time together.”
“Me too,” Mary replied. “One day we’ll have to hang out when we’re not rushing off to a meeting, though.”
We were fully engaged in our conversation – and in our food – and before we knew it we had to depart for the meeting. We continued our chat in the car.
After the meeting just before 10pm, we returned to my vehicle to embark on our journey home. We picked up where we left off previously, and got to talking about youth ministry meetings. Mary mentioned that one of the leadership teams that she’s on usually wraps things up between 9:30pm and 10pm and that she’s home by 10:30pm at the latest.
I then told Mary about a period of time over 15 years ago when I led the same team. She was astounded to hear that we would start off with a choir practice from 7pm to 8:30pm. Then, we would start our youth ministry meeting (at a different location) at 9pm and go until 11pm. But we wouldn’t be done. We’d hang out together socializing, praying, doing whatever until 12:30am or 1am. Everyone would then go home and go to bed, only to get up 5 or 6 hours later for school or work. Such was our typical Monday night routine!
Sure, we were sometimes exhausted the next day. And maybe we were a little bit silly back then, perhaps thinking we were young, tireless, and indestructible. But there is no doubt in my mind that those late nights helped us become stronger as a team: we built a strong trust and faith in each other. And it showed in our ministry.
It’s a different world now. In today’s hyper-busy and over-scheduled world, we often get caught up being in the moment without living in the moment.
But In the late 1990s there were hardly any social networking sites – save for ICQ – to go home to. YouTube hadn’t been invented so you couldn’t waste time watching videos. Besides, everyone was on a dial-up connection.
Thus, there was never a temptation to check your Twitter feed. Or change your Facebook status. Or post a picture of your meal on Instagram.
Instead, we hung out with each other. We talked. We laughed. We cried. We prayed. We discussed. We debated. We agreed. We disagreed.
We remained in each others’ presence. Physically. Emotionally. Intelluctually. Spiritually.
That’s how we connected with each other.
And we never had to fear the network going down.