(Welcome to our youth staff meeting. For more info about the 5 Essentials click here.)
1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us layaside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience therace that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for thejoy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the righthand of the throne of God.
I want to start by asking you a question. What is the longest trip that you have ever taken? The longest trip that I have ever taken was to Africa. It was a very long trip. I had to drive to Atlanta. Then I had to fly 19 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa. My trip was absolutely unnerving at times. When we got on the plane they gave us a personal hygiene packet. In the packet was a toothbrush and dental floss, along with mouthwash and blinders for your eyes. I understood all of that. However, in the packet there was also a pair of fluorescent green socks. They were absolutely hideous. Some people chose right from the beginning of the flight to put those socks on. I thought to myself, “I will never put those socks on.” I think the socks were a social experiment, because about 10 hours into the trip I started thinking to myself, “Everyone is wearing those socks. I wonder why everyone is wearing them. I bet those socks are comfortable.” And when I stepped off that plane 19 hours later, I too was wearing the green socks.
That is kind of the way student ministry is. Not the green socks, but the journey. The destination is not reached in a moment. It takes time. Youth ministry is more like a road trip than it is a flight. It would be nice if you could just ease back in your seat and sip on some cran-apple juice, while watching a rerun of the Office and looking at a SkyMall magazine. However, ministry does not run on autopilot. As a matter of fact, ministry is more like a marathon than it is a road trip. There is no cruise control in ministry.
If you are going to be a successful leader of students you must realize that IT’S A JOURNEY. Ministry is not a day-trip. Ministry is not a one mile sprint. Ministry is a marathon. It takes time if we are going to be effective as youth leaders. Sometimes we ask the common question, “Are we there yet?” When it comes to ministry. You deal with that troubled student and you ask, “Are we there yet?”
I want to encourage you to not give up in the middle of the journey. I understand that there are seasons in our life and God directs us to serve in different capacities. I think it is totally fine that some feel a change in ministry. I totally understand that. However, there is a difference between being weary from the journey, and feeling a change in your calling to student ministry.
I want to let you know that the longer you work with students the easier it becomes because you develop deeper influence with them. Students do not need anymore “short-term” adults in their lives. They need people who are committed to them for the long haul.
Through being with students for the long-haul you will have lasting impact on their lives. You will be “that person” to them. All of us have had “that person” in our lives. The one that we get strength from. The one that inspires us. The person that we go to for advice. The person that is our rock. This does not mean that we are perfect. That is actually the point. Students see us in all of our glory, or lack thereof. And through that process they realize that they too can live for God.
How do you make sure that you don’t “Burn out” in student ministry? I think the answer is in our "Pace." Pace is vitally important in any race. I can run fast, but not for very long. If I am going to cross the finish line on the “Marathon of Ministry” then I have to make sure I have the right pace. What is the right pace?
Pacesetter 1: Time with God
There is no way around this one. You must spend intimate time with God if you’re going to last in ministry. Ministering to students can be overwhelming at times and you must expend a lot of energy and effort to work with them. You must spend time with God alone by yourself. You must develop an intimacy with God that is not dependent on him using you in ministry. This means that you must take time to pray and read God’s word when you are not preparing to teach. You must have worship times in your life when you are not responsible for others.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Runin such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Pacesetter 2: Manage your Commitments
This may seem strange to hear, but you are not called or expected to give 100% to working with students all the time. There are times when you have commitments that you must tend to. Do not sacrifice your family on the altar of ministry! Everyone has seasons of life when things are stressful and problems arise. If you are going to survive ministry for the long haul you must be honest about your commitments. I understand that there will be times when you can’t be at everything. I only ask that you are upfront and communicate. If you can’t be at youth service or a meeting, please be up front and let me know about it. I want each of you to be in ministry for the long haul. I want to partner with you and with your family.
Pacesetter 3: Don’t take it Personal
1 Samuel 8:5-8
5 They said to him, "You are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have." 6 But when they said, "Give us a king to lead us," this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: "Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.
If you are going to survive for the journey you have to learn to not take everything personal. This is much easier said than done. For you WILL be hurt. There WILL be times when people offend you. But understand this, it is not about you! Do not take your work in ministry so personal. We are working at the request of Jesus Christ. This would be like the mailman quitting his job because someone got mad at him for delivering a bill to their house. He is just delivering the mail. It is the same for us. You will have to forgive students. You will have to forgive parents. You will have to forgive other youth staff members. You will have to forgive me.
This also comes down to a principle I call, BELIEVE THE BEST. If you are going to survive in ministry you must be willing to believe the best in people, instead of consistently assuming the worst. With life it is easy to assume the worst about people and situations. However, if you are going to last then you must be willing to believe the best in others.
Effective ministry is a marathon, not a spint. It is a journey, but it is not a journey we must travel alone. I am thankful that we have each other to work with and walk alongside on this journey. I am thankful for each of you and am excited about taking this trip together. I believe that together God will use us to be part of impacting this generation for his glory!
Let us not forget that "It's a Journey."