“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:31)

I am a runner, but I confess that I have not always been one.  Even when I first began to run regularly, I was not yet a “runner”. It wasn’t until I developed a mindset about running and ultimately embraced this as my own that I began to see myself as a runner.  Initially, I felt compelled to run as a way to better fitness.  I saw myself as one of those graceful Saturday morning runners covering the miles with what appeared to be a minimal amount of effort.  And so, I placed running as a component into my daily routine.

I read up on it and followed as many of the basic suggestions as I could.  I approached this new experience in a very rigid manner.  I set specific goals and developed personal training plans.  It was rough, but I improved and got into shape.  There were times that I got excited about my progress and trained harder than I should, usually creating physical problems for myself.  There were times that I failed to follow my plan and I got mentally down and every once in a while quit running for a short period of time.   It was not until I had begun to run and quit running several times that I gradually began to view running not as a separate part of my daily routine, not as some prescription from a writer unknown to me,  but as a  vital component of who I am.  I had finally hit my stride as it were.

After many failures and some successes I came to understand what it meant to be a runner.  It was not only daily road work and running plans, but also diet, rest, in season training and off season training, times of hard running and times of relaxed short running, and most importantly, running just to run as an extension of the new me.  I no longer relied on reading about every kind of run and didn’t rely on being so rigid about how when and where I ran.  I just ran.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t still look for new ideas or practice the basics, but running has become for me a form of relaxation as well as a personal challenge.

So what does all of this have to do with youth ministry?  You have to be able to run to keep up with the kids! While that may be true, that is not where I am going with this.  Over the next several installments of this column we’ll take a look at developing as participants in ministry as it parallels running.  To get an idea where this might lead, paraphrase the above thoughts substituting the idea of doing ministry for running.  A runner is most successful when he finds and hits his stride.  I think the same can be said for ministry.