One of my mentors told me over ten years ago that I needed to view ministry as being a marathon. I was a young and ripe seventeen with my first shot at youth pastoring and I knew absolutely nothing. I had no idea that there was such a thing as dirty politics in the church, much less backstabbing, bribery and the like. However, my mentor also told me that this stuff is anywhere and everywhere I would work, ministry or not, and I needed to do my best to keep myself on the right track. And thus the journey began.
"Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."
A life with Christ is about continually learning and getting closer to him each moment. I have tried to live my life this way and tried to do ministry this way over that last several years. We are given a chance as church workers to make a difference in the lives of our students and their families. We are given freedom to speak into their lives, so we have to take it seriously.
Some of my best times in ministry were the long nites of midweek program. The staff of collegians and parents always worked so hard to minister and serve the students. And at times it got frustrating. But then at the end of the nite we would do some debriefing stuff and inevitably one of the volunteers would pull me aside and talk to me about stuff in his or her life. That was always my favrit part of ministry. These were peeps who put in tons of time for students and much of the time it was a thankless job. One of the dads had a really hard time in thinking that he was making any kind of difference at all. What's funny about that is how many of the students, and staff for that matter, who would tell me on a regular basis how cool a guy he was and how much they appreciated him being around.
Your staff does a crazy job. And I know that sometimes they frustrate you. But they are the backbone of your ministry and if you treat them like gold then they will make a difference in the lives of tons of students and their families. Never let a day or program nite go by without telling them how much you care for and appreciate them. But make sure you are sincere. They can see right through fakeness. Be genuine. Lavish praise on them. Help them to see what they are doing right and what they can work on.
When you come to the end of a program nite and you have someone come up to you and want to talk about stuff, important or not, do it. Take the time. I know you are tired. I know you are away from your family and sometimes you just want to go home and climb into your bed and forget about the world. I know that your eyes are heavy and burning from being up for days straight and there are tons of projects that are due by the end of the week. But these are the times where we change lives. Learn to prioritize your time in such a way that you can afford to have that late nite talk with a staff member and still survive to the next day.
And when you get home and look around your street, knowing that the rest of the world went to sleep hours before, you will know that it was worth it. You may not receive the rewards or the appreciation till years later – or maybe even till Heaven – but you know that God sees it. You are a youth pastor and have been called to press on. So until we lay hold of what Christ has in store for us, I will be praying for you and your ministry. It is worth it... it is why we do ministry.