Remember when you had the perfect ministry role?
It was the night before you started serving in it.
After that, and every day forward, you likely thought: “This isn’t exactly what I expected.” Maybe it was close enough that you stuck it out. But then you unearthed more surprises, or were disappointed by broken promises, or felt hurt by the way others treated you or experienced disrespect. If so, maybe you’ve determined your ministry wasn’t “right” for you.
So… you decided to do something about it…
- You started looking around for new options—pondering potential choices in your head.
- Of course, you still got your job done, but you did little beyond basic expectations. Your heart was no longer in it. Just thinking about continuing exhausted you.
- Maybe you reluctantly decided to persevere, re-committing in the face of your disappointments,
- Or maybe you pulled the plug and quit, moving into a new ministry you hoped would finally deliver on your dream.
If your “perfect” ministry role has turned out to be less than perfect, here are five ways to respond…
1. If your ministry is simply flawed because human beings are flawed…
From what they endured growing up to what happened on the drive to the church, every individual you serve and serve with has imperfections that are common to our human-ness.
Try This: Get to know more deeply the people you serve with, and why they’re drawn to youth ministry. Get past the surface to understand their wounds and motivations. As you do, ask Jesus to help you see them through His eyes so you can embrace and support His calling upon them.
2. If your ministry is toxic…
The worldview, language, and habits of the people around you can become like black mold in your life—a toxic influence that erodes your soul. It’s particularly toxic when it comes from people who claim to be believers but don’t bear the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. If left unchecked, you’ll become so fixated on what annoys you that you forget the reasons Jesus called you to serve there in the first place.
Try This: The only antidote for viral impact of others in your life is a greater infection of Jesus. As your internal pressure ramps up because of toxicity in your environment, it’s time for preventive care—increase the quantity and quality of your solo time with Jesus, so that His “still, small voice” carries more weight than what you hear from others.
The only antidote for viral impact of others in your life is a greater infection of Jesus.Click to tweet
3. If your approach to ministry has reached its shelf-life…
Your ministry strategy may have out-lived its traction. At some point the flaws in all our strategies are exposed, and a more “valid” way to do ministry makes your tried-and-true obsolete.
Try This: Hold your strategy loosely, but hold fast to the relationships that form your ministry community. If you have parents, adult volunteers, and teenagers who are “all-in” with Jesus, each other, and the church, then focus more on who you are together and less on your “sacred cow” strategy.
4. If your approach to ministry is obviously misunderstood…
In the church, youth ministry is a joke—but don’t read that the wrong way. I mean, in many churches what we do is nothing more than a punchline: “The chair broke? Probably because of a teenager.” “I hear they did a sugar-eating contest the other day.” “Does that youth pastor ever wear professional clothing?” Of course, over time, it’s hard to not take these thousand-little-paper-cuts personally.
Try This: Every time you get to do a crazy video, or share a message that matters, or create an event that unchurched kids respond to, pause and thank Jesus that you get to do this. And if you’re getting paid for it, thank Him a few more times. You aren’t just investing into teenagers’ lives, you’re helping Jesus form followers who love, trust, and follow Him.
5. If your ministry is definitely needed…
So, how is this a negative? Well, when your ministry is going great, it’s easy to assume it all depends on you. This is a path into the land of disillusion. To be clear, Jesus can do this without you or any of us. He chooses to invite us in—when we assume we’re needed more than we are, we become needy.
Try This: Instead of doing it all and assuming the ministry will fall apart if you leave it, invest in others who will (as the Body of Christ) do what they do best so you can do what you do best.
Full disclosure? I’ve experience ministry funk in every role I’ve ever been in, including my current one (which, for the record, is an amazing job). But it’s in our nature to want things to feel amazing all the time. Instead, value thriving over striving. Just as there is value in thinking outside of the box, there is value in thinking inside of the box. When was the last time you looked around where you’re at and asked Jesus, “If I’m here, what does it mean for me to fully be here?”
Ephesians 6:7 says: “Serve wholeheartedly as if you were serving the Lord, not people.” If you keep looking for something else around the corner, you’ll miss what’s already in front of you (and WHO is already in front of you.)