— Written July, 2016
I thought this PS’s Ponderings from my youth ministry days, just about 8 months before I came to Willard, related so well to the message for this week on encouragement.
I quit youth ministry yesterday.
Mired in the middle of a 5th week in a row of 60+ hour work weeks I had my head down as I plowed forward toward all of the finishing details on our summer trip. Writing devotions for the students, dividing them into small groups, trying to honor over 80 rooming requests, packing the trailer with snacks and water, trying to make time to pray… really pushing hard, you know. But it was ok, because the finish line is on Sunday. I could do this! Weary? Yes. Excited for what God could do next week? You better believe it.
And then… bam! The dreaded email from someone who basically says that you stink at what you do. If you are in ministry you know those emails. Seems like the timing of those things hit you with the precision of a Swiss watch — right when you really DON’T need it. It was 8 paragraphs long. It was deeply discouraging. So… I quit. Walked right out of the building.
Don’t get me wrong, I love youth ministry. I love having students at my house till midnight – I really honestly do (that’s happened a few times this month:). I love teaching students from the bible. It is a thrill to lead and equip students who want to lead others. Working a 90 hour week on a summer trip and averaging 4-5 hours of sleep a night — those are often the highlight of my year. Seeing students get excited about their faith in Jesus and then put it into daily practice is priceless.
But there is a reason why the average youth pastor lasts about 18 months on the job… it’s really hard work and people can be critical. Certainly sometimes the criticism is necessary and helps to improve us, but oftentimes it is unfair and unwarranted. Now we get to the nitty-gritty of ministry… why do I do what I do? Is it a job or is it a calling? Is it about people and what they think or is it about Jesus and what He thinks?
The following verse is written on a piece of paper and taped to the wall right over my computer screen where I can see it often: “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” 1 Corinthians 15:58 Nothing. Ministry… serving… life… it’s all about Jesus and it is in Jesus that I have my worth and my being.
So… this morning, I un-quit. I went to the church. I got on my knees, and begged God to do great things in my student’s lives. I wept for them — and claimed the truth “nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless”. This isn’t meant to be a rant. It’s not to seek attention — it was to remind myself of what is really important and perhaps encourage someone along the way.
So, don’t let outside influences, whatever they may be, keep you from doing what Jesus wants you to do. Don’t quit. Press forward. Whatever He has called you to — you can do it, because He will help you! Work enthusiastically for Jesus… because nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless!