I am a man who appreciates a mile stone. I believe that created within each of us is the desire to remember, reflect, and celebrate where we have come from and where we are going. God’s a fan of it as well. If you don’t believe me just skim the Bible for about two minutes and look at all the times that God commands his people to remember the lessons of where they came from so that they can focus on where they want to go. It seems that it is a dangerous and foolish individual who does not possess the capability to celebrate the past while focusing on the future.
November 10th marked one year of ministry at the Church I serve, and 10 years of youth ministry total. To most a year may not seem like a big deal. To me it’s huge. Partly because of the journey I was brought through to get to this point (that’s another story for another time), and partly because I’ve just really enjoyed my time here. In the grand scheme of ministry a year is really just a drop in the bucket, but it’s a drop that has taught me a few lessons. I’d like to share those lessons with some of my youth ministry friends. Believe me, these are not profound, groundbreaking, or new, but I do hope they can be helpful.
1) Appreciate your older members
A few months ago I was having a conversation with one of the oldest, and in my opinion sweetest ladies of the congregation here at Gethsemane. In the middle of that conversation she stopped me and said, “Jonathan I can’t believe that you remember my name.” This really caught me off guard, and made me a little sad. It seems that we in youth ministry (me included) have done quite a disservice to our ministry by creating the “us and them” atmosphere. Something that I always need to remind myself of is that without these dear older members my ministry would not exist. Take the time to get to know them. Learn their names, listen to their stories, and allow them the blessing of serving students in any way that they can.
2) Be your ministry teams biggest fan.
Let’s just lay this fact out on the table. When you are new to a church just about everyone loves you. They love your preaching, your programs, and the freshness that you bring to the congregation. If you play your cards right you can ride that wave for quite a while. With that love comes the tendency for very well-meaning members of your church to tell you things that can make you feel pretty good about your self. That’s ok. Take those compliments and store them away for a rainy day, but in the midst of that praise we in youth ministry (especially new to the church) need to make sure that we are affirming the work that has been done, and is continuing to be done by the other ministers you work with. It’s not a competition and nothing good has ever come from making it one. One day I’m going to do something stupid, when that day comes I want to make sure those I work alongside have my back. That starts with me taking every opportunity I get to affirm and praise the work of those I minister with.
3) Take out the garbage.
Seriously. You’re not the prince of the church. Help out when you can help out. I don’t mean just cleaning up after youth events that’s just part of your job (although I am very blessed to have a great team that helps me with this). You can’t do everything in ministry, and you shouldn’t, but you know what? Sometimes stuff needs done that falls out side of your job description. If you want your students to live the kind of life of service that Jesus talks about then you need to model that yourself. It’s the small things that make the biggest impact sometimes. So try it. Take out the garbage. Most of us could use the exercise anyway.