General Ministry
Josh Griffin

I have been in a student ministry paid staff position for three years, nearly to the day (another three years of volunteer ministry before that). I am, well actually my family and I are in a place of transition, I just resigned from my position as Youth Pastor at our church yesterday. We will be presented to another church in view of a call in a couple of weeks, and although we are not assuming this church will call us, we truly believe this is where God is leading us. That said we felt our time at our present church is coming to a close, and regardless of the outcome of the vote we have decided that it’s time to step down. All this has got me thinking about how to gauge our effectiveness in the three years we have spent here. How effective has our ministry been? Has it been a huge success or a monumental failure? If I’m being completely honest, it’s been keeping me up at night. A conversation with a mentor in ministry has helped to put my mind at ease, so I share with you what he shared with me hoping it will keep you from long nights staring at the ceiling.

“Your going to be miserable in ministry until you get over this. Eventually, it may drive you out of ministry. You will always have naysayers, you will always be criticized by some. Here is how you need to evaluate yourself. Have you acted on principle? Have you acted in agreement with Scripture? You have worked harder for this church than any two people, and that’s all you can do. While we absolutely should consider people’s thoughts and opinions, do so understanding you will never be everything to everyone. Do your best, do what God calls you to do, and love people. When you evaluate yourself and your ministry, if you’ve done these things, then you have been successful.”

Ministry is tough, and for those of us called to either vocational or volunteer service the critics can sometimes be harsh. Regardless, I have finally been put at ease by this wisdom shared to me, and now to you. It’s the kind of thing we as pastors tell everyone else. It’s the kind of thing that when we hear someone share it with others we think to ourselves, “Yep. I would tell them the same thing.” But having it said to me instead of coming from me has been powerful. Maybe it can help you too.

Stephen Trainer is a husband, father, school teacher, youth pastor, dog owner and technology geek. What else could you want? Find out more at his blog: www.delightedtoshare.com

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  • Josh M says:

    I don’t even know you but I’m going to respond. May I submit a most gracious, sincerely, bullcrap.

    Our effectiveness in ministry is a really, big, deal. We wouldn’t read so many books, pursue so many students, work so hard, if we didn’t think in some significant way that what we do matters. It’s the very reason you have a mentor, so you can grow, right? Grow in your intentions? No, grow in your effectiveness, grow in your character, grow in your discernment, grow in your obedience, grow in your calling, always believing that if and when that happens, things happen in the kingdom that wouldn’t have otherwise happened.

    Avoiding these difficult conversations because we don’t know how to measure effectiveness isn’t effective.

    Asking ourselves if we tried hard, if we loved people, if we meant well isn’t effective either. That’s the bottom line, that’s the minimum standard, right? As if not trying hard, not loving people is what some youth pastors do but not us? No, everyone does that. The question is, did I love people and lead people effectively, skillfully, strategically? Is there evidence that I fulfilled my part, my responsibilities as one could, as one should, stewarding my calling and responsibility seriously? What is this evidence?

    I think when we confuse our worth with our work we shy away from specific and important conversations about the quality of our work. I believe we are to wake up and be reminded of the love that is ours, not for what we will do that day but for who we are. I believe we are to lie awake at night, amazed at the love that is ours, not for what we did that day but for who we are, thankful that who we are is not up for debate. In between, we are to reflect soberly and think critically about what we do, for the quality of what we do is up for debate and whether we do what we do poorly, or well, it matters.

    Now, the perspective your mentor has into your work, is one that none of us have. He could be speaking in generalities about your specific effectiveness and it could all be true. However, the tone of your post and his response taken without his perspective sounds a lot like, “Don’t overthink it, did you try hard? That’s all that matters!”

    What do you think, am I off?

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