“How do youth workers thrive amidst the demands of ministry?” That’s a question we need to ask—as early as possible—so that the ministries we’re a part of are characterized by both effectiveness and longevity.
Often, we’re obsessed with effectiveness: “How do we run our small groups better?” “How can we better equip our students to reach out to their non-Christian friends?” “How can our teaching times better engage everyone within our group?” But with every year of ministry that passes in my own life, I become more convinced that one of the most important gifts we can give our students, families, and churches is a ministry characterized by effectiveness and longevity.
Longevity without effectiveness is torture for everyone. But effectiveness without longevity may be worse. A lack of longevity indicates leader burnout or turnover, and the tremendous ministry inconsistency (and ineffectiveness) that results. I’ve come to believe that much of our pastoral impact only comes through a consistent, long-term pastoral presence within our communities.
Effectiveness is a value I hold very dear, but the last few years have taught me that I need to be carving out time in order to ensure the ministry I’m called to steward has “legs” and will continue to thrive year after year.
Lately I’ve been exploring Jesus’ command to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30) from a number of angles, including how I can use it to create a holistic and practical framework for the refreshment and renewal of both myself and my volunteer leaders. I’ve used Jesus’ holistic emphasis on loving God as a template through which to evaluate my own plan for pastoral renewal and refreshment.
Heart: Am I experiencing God’s renewing love by spending time with close friends and family?
Soul: Am I experiencing God’s renewing love by spending time in personal prayer, solitude and contemplation?
Mind: Am I experiencing God’s renewing love by spending time in personal Scripture study and reflection?
Strength: Am I experiencing God’s renewing love by spending time in personal recreation and physical activity?
I believe both effectiveness and longevity in ministry will demand a commitment from us in each of these areas. Each of us probably relies on one (maybe two) of these areas to fuel ourselves, but the strain of modern ministry necessitates us spending quality time in each. Our longevity in ministry will be tied to our ability to create a holistic strategy for personal growth and pastoral renewal. Jesus’ command to love God heart, soul, mind, and strength opens up such a possibility for us, if we’ll do the hard work of shelving our obsession with effectiveness in order to spend some time focusing on the principles and practices that will lead to longevity.
Each week carve out time for personal renewal in the areas of heart, soul, mind, and strength, and watch your ministry thrive with both effectiveness and longevity.