I (Tasha) adored my youth leader when I was in high school. He was a little nerdy (although his wife was super cool), I could beat him in basketball, and he loved t-shirts with lots and lots of neon, but despite these minor shortcomings, I thought he was a rockstar.
I felt called to ministry when I was 17, and I’ve felt that stirring every day since. I wanted to spend the rest of my life telling people about Jesus – just like my youth leader did. And if I was truly honest, part of me wanted to be a rockstar as well – just like my youth leader. I wanted people to adore me just like I adored him.
So you can imagine how surprised I was when I learned that not everyone in the church I was serving loved me. I expected persecution from the world, but hate from the church was shocking! I’ve been in ministry for over 20 years now, and I’ve been hated a lot.
Hated because I wasn’t the last youth worker.
Hated because I wasn’t good enough.
Hated because I was too good.
Hated because I read the wrong verse.
Hated because I made a mistake.
Hated because I made a change.
Hated because I was too young.
Hated because I was too old.
Hated because of my personality.
Hated because of my gender.
Hated because I didn’t have enough experience.
Hated because I had too much education.
Hated just because . . .
You might be thinking, “C’mon Tasha, people don’t really hate you.” And you might be right – in fact, you probably are right. But in those moments, in a lot of scenarios, it sure feels a lot like hate.
So, what can we do when we are hated?
- Expect it! For me, the first year in a new church is the hardest. You’re dealing with your grief and the church’s grief; your dysfunction and the church’s dysfunction; your fear and the church’s fear; your expectations and the church’s expectations. It’s tough on everyone. Expect to be hated.
- Don’t vent. Don’t talk to church members about your frustrations with students, deacons, elders, or pastors. We all want people to side with us, but part of our calling is to protect people and their church home. Gossiping about our church family and leadership within our church family leads to church hurt.
- Don’t vent to your spouse in front of your kids. Be careful that you don’t poison your kids towards the Church. The family of God is beautiful, and our kids need to know they are safe and loved by God and His people. Protect them from overhearing ministry conversations or attending contentious church meetings.
- Don’t spend a lot of your free time talking it. Tim and I have been guilty of talking about the struggle too much. Work hard to solve the problem during office hours, but enjoy your time off with your family and friends. And NEVER talk about church problems on a date!
- Focus on the ones who love you. As a recovering approval addict, I’m tempted to focus on the ones who hate me and ignore the ones who are on board. The goal is not to ignore anyone, but giving attention to the ones who want to move forward along side you can make the discouraging voices sting a little less.
- Love those who hate you. Everyone has a story . . . even mean people. My current mean person has made it her life’s mission to put me in my place. God calls me to love her. The evil one tempts me to obsess about her. I waffle between loving and obsessing, but my desire is to try to love her. It’s easier to love her when I think about her story (but I want to punch her in the face when I think about mine).
- Communicate well. Make sure all of your communication with the people who hate you (or your spouse) is intentional and laced with love. No sarcasm. No cheap shots. No passive aggressive emails, texts, or social media posts. Face-to-face communication requires guts and grace, but it communicates best.
- Forgive. Forgive. Forgive a lot. And then forgive some more.
- Ask your ministry rockstars how they handle hate. Everyone has haters! Learning how the pros fair in the firestorm can be fuel for your journey.
- Find a mentor. Find someone outside of your current church setting to help you process what you’re experiencing in your ministry. You need someone who loves you enough to listen to you, be honest with you, and pray for you. Tim has usually done a better job at this than I have, and he would tell you that sometimes it’s the voices of these trusted friends that encouraged him to press on.
- Be an encouragement to other youth workers. We think it’s great to talk about your God moments and successes with other youth workers. But we also think it’s important to be transparent and talk about your struggles, heartache, and failures. Be real and encourage.
- Be still. Avoid trying to gain approval by working more hours or creating more programs. Lean heavily on God when dissension is great. Sing to Him. Pray to Him. Hear from Him. Allow what He thinks about you to matter more than what they think about you.
- It’s not about me. A healthy ministry is not determined on whether or not they love me. A healthy ministry is determined on whether or not they love Jesus and others…and hopefully one day soon, I’ll be included in the “others” category.
We are called to be youth workers. We are not called to be rockstars. Jesus is the only rockstar, and He love us, and you, even when some don’t.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10 (The Message)
– Tim and Tasha Levert