Tuesday, September 2, 2014

A Ministerial Quandary

When a youth leaves the youth group, for whatever reason, I take it pretty hard. Ministry has an incredibly high burnout rate. And this is for good reason. The numbers on ministry burnout are staggering, as are the numbers on youth ministry burnout in particular. There are so many moving parts to all of it. And the pressure feels great. You want to help your church grow, but you also want to witness to what God calls you to. You try to be true to the call of Christ, without alienating people.

I make mistakes, as much as the next guy. I try, and try, and try. People are all different, and youth are all different. Most of the time when a youth leaves it is because a family left and that has little to do with me. But even when that is true, I don't know it for sure, and doubts nag at me.

Look, prayer and sabbath, and Bible study, these help. It would be impossible, absolutely impossible, for me to do my job without them. But they are not cure-alls. The idea that if you have God in your life and if you have a good relationship with Him, you cannot possibly be crushed down by life, is ridiculous. It is counter to everything we read in the Old Testament and is tantamount to a denial of the gospels. The point is taking up your cross and bearing it, and allowing oneself to 'die' with Christ. Do you think these are going to be easy things? Pleasant things?

The truth of the matter is that I am a sinner like all God's children. And I fail to maintain a heart free form anxiety from time to time. Success and failure in ministry are hard to measure. But success and failure in a church SEEM easy to measure. I want to do right by God, right by the youth, right by the church, and yes even right by my wife. Right by my self, too.

Of course there is the simple fact of the cosmic dimension of life within which every dedicated person of spiritual commitment swims. This in and of itself can make the job hard. It seems like the devil does all he can to slip up those who are dedicated most to to God. Sometimes I swim in the shallow end of the pool just to get some of the weight off of my shoulders.

But what really makes this job and especially losing someone out of the group hard is that to do ministry right, you have to form relationships with people. This is especially true of youth ministry. You have to make yourself radically vulnerable to the people around you, in imitation of Jesus Christ. You open your heart and soul to those around you, and guess what? It isn't a perfect heart and soul. I've had this thrown back in my face before. I've had it disrespected before. I've had it discounted before. To make this connection with another person and just have them drift off into the grand world, it hurts.

I'm generally a happy guy. This is a gift from God. I'll turn to Him and give this over and feel better. But there is no resurrection without crucifixion. This job is an honor an privilege. But y'all....it costs. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Praise be to God I get to do this job every day. Just say a little prayer for your ministers, all your ministers.

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