We live in a fast pace generation.
We want fast food and immediate contact. I’ve just read a secular book called Wait by Frank Partnoy, who suggests that many actions and decisions were made too quickly, resulting in disastrous consequences. In response, some diagnoses now take days as a ‘first guess’ answer might be fatal (I had always feared my resistance to ‘fast replies’ was an old dinosaur phenomenon). He cites examples from various aspects of life. One of the most telling was a surgeon’s use of a checklist which he would consult at various stages of his operation to check all was well. Apparently it has reduced operational errors by 40%.
Perhaps we have lost what he calls ‘the gentle art of procrastination’ which he defines as being the wisdom to know when the action time comes at the end of your planned delay. The Bible encourages us to wait on the Lord and I wonder if we have fallen for the ‘microwave’ solution rather than using the ‘slow cooker’. But does this have anything to do with youth ministry? I think so.
Young people come to us with tangled relationship questions either about their family or their peers. We feel an immediate piece of wisdom is needed for them to go away happy. I can think of situations where quick answers have been wrong ones. We say we want to give ‘biblical answers’ to their questions but we rely on our memories to, perhaps, quote verses out of context. Perhaps we should say – ‘I’d like to think and pray around your question and see what the Bible has to say’. We should be training our young people in using the Bible to answer their faith and life questions.
Press the pause button
Our own decision making can be another victim of too rapid response if we are considering a change in the way we do things. Partnoy points out that very few amazing discoveries are the result of a sudden flash of genius. There may be a moment where light dawns but it comes after months or even years of work and study. We wouldn’t have ‘the moment’ without the years of work and study. Surely our commitment to pray for our work involves, in one sense, delay. We pause to pray to seek God’s will on a pastoral issue or on a major decision.
I am concerned that the received email assumes immediate response. As I book speakers for major events, I am increasingly finding that they will use both delay and councils of reference before they give me an answer. I find it frustrating when I don’t get a prompt reply but maybe our haste shuts our sovereign God out of our thinking and decision making.
By the way – some emails can be answered promptly and some of us are guilty of too full inboxes. The routine ones can go straight away. Don’t make good decision making an excuse for inexcusable delay.
Dave Fenton – associate minister at Christ Church Winchester and Training Director of Root 66 which runs training courses for youth ministers across the UK.