ministry (and life in general) is so often discouraging.
especially when your ministry or church is on the verge of God-sized breakthroughs, the attacks through discouraging emails & conversations is about as predictable as indigestion after eating a garbage plate.
and it’s in these seasons where i remember how critical my encouragement folder really is. some days i want to pitch it all, or i think i should just give up. i truly believe the enemy sometimes wants us to believe that there’s someone out there better suited to do the job God has called us to do.
and that’s exactly when we need to be reminded of his call on our lives and given the encouragement to keep going.
do you have a place where you store and collect pieces of encouragement to breathe life into your soul during tough times?
conflict is a part of life and certainly a part of ministry. been dealing with some lately and it’s wearying, draining, and down-right exhausting. to be honest there have been moments this week where i’ve wanted to pop someone (i didn’t, mind you…but i wanted to). and i know you’re not that different than me. you probably have some conflict lurking around too. if not, duck! because there’s probably some coming your way!
"i don't like confrontations!"
here’s 4 things i’ve been reminded of lately with the conflict i’ve had to deal with:
1. deal with it quickly
dragging it out and avoiding the tough conversation only makes the issue harder. it’s like raw chicken in the garbage can… take out the trash now or wake up to something funky in the morning!
bill hybels at the leadership summit last year said that they give employees with a bad attitude at Willow 30 days to get it right, or they’re out on the curb, regardless of how valuable the employee is to the team. i think there’s wisdom in that.
2. how we deal with it is usually more important than the issue itself
let’s be honest, as christians we’re not always great at handling conflict. in fact some of the ugliest approaches to conflict that i’ve ever seen have happened in a church!
meet face to face, don’t write a letter. email works great for transferring information, not emotion. start with a compliment, insert the challenge, and then end with another compliment. be humble.
3. there’s always a lesson to be learned
with every criticism there’s usually at least a little bit of truth to consider. and there’s always things we can learn for next time to either avoid or soften the hurt.
4. count yourself worthy to suffer like Jesus
1 Peter 4:13 was a big encouragement to me this morning. Jesus had quite a few conflicts in his day, and when we slow down enough to consider this truth, our pain rubs shoulders with joy. “wow… i get to experience some of the same stuff that the creator of the universe and savior of my soul did because i’ve been living and leading like him!”
one thing most of us in student ministry are well aware of – especially during the summer months – is how unpredictable attendance can be. families go away on vacation, some teens are in summer school, sports camps & band camps are in full swing, and some teens just can’t get a ride. we tend to envision big turnouts, plan for high numbers, but then feel discouraged and defeated when the actual number comes in low.
so how do you still do the event without being discouraged? every summer we face this in some form or another, and this question surfaces in my brain a lot.
resist the temptation to think about who’s NOT there.
i’m all for tracking attendance and charting numbers. i have big goals for our sunday morning attendance 2 years from now. but when it’s go time and the event has started, i’ve learned that if i don’t walk in the room forgetting about who’s not there, i’m gonna waste some important opportunities with those who are. if i’m not grateful and thankful for who did show up, the lies of defeat will slither in my mind and try to discourage me.
here are 3 things you can do to help you forget about those who aren’t there:
1. pray through the list of students who are signed up. it’s amazing what happens when we get away and pray. it doesn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to get up before the moon goes away (that aint happening for me)… but just pray.
2. think about their individual stories (and the big voice you have to speak into their life at this event). some of them have had a rough year. some have been in the middle of their parents’ fights. some have endured bad breakups. some have been asking big questions about their identity but haven’t verbalized it to anyone yet. some have just started cutting. some laugh when everyone’s around but cry when they’re alone. some just need a new friend network, and they’re trying your event in order to find that.
3. make it the best event for them that you possibly can. they’ll likely go back to the rest of the group and let them know all that they missed. it’ll make a make a big difference in their life, and other people will see the change. there’s value in simply providing an atmosphere where students can have the time of their life.
it’s graduation season and for those of us in student ministy, it means popping from
party to party, trying not to get thrown in the pool, and politely staying away from the mayo-ridden salads that have been out in the sun too long (thanks Todd!). it certainly is an exciting time as we watch our students enter a whole new stage in life, hoping that they’re ready. but the question we’re all silently asking is just that: “are they really ready?” “did we do enough to come alongside their family to ensure they didn’t just graduate from their faith when they graduated last week?”
the hard thing is that many times, we as their shepherds have a gut feeling, if we’re honest, that they probably aren’t quite ready. that despite our best efforts and 7 years of our hearts, their faith just isn’t rooted deep enough… at least not as deep as we would have liked to see at this point.
and then the discouragement sets in. and we beat ourselves up. and we question our ministry paradigms. and we read books by disgruntled authors about the failure of modern youth ministry. and we question our calling.
if you’re there right now, i want you to be encouraged. yes… i want us to push ourselves and evaluate our ministries with our leadership teams and fill the holes. but do yourself a favor and recognize that in this season the enemy may simply want nothing more than to discourage us so that we go into september defeated and beat up.
if you have 5 minutes, can i encourage you to listen to this audio clip? it’s from dan webster’s leadership of the heart seminar. a few months ago i sensed our volunteer team feeling overly discouraged, and played this clip for them. it did my heart good to see the truth breathing new life into their souls, and it can do the same for you!