4 Ways Youth Pastors Can Weather A Tough Season Of Ministry
Here in Houston, we just experienced rain. The kind of rain that floods rivers and roads. Rain that wrecks commutes and destroys homes. The storms that came through Texas were completely unavoidable. No one asked for them, and there was nothing that anyone could do to stop them from coming.
Have you ever encountered a season of ministry like this? You were riding the waves of a flourishing student ministry for months or maybe even a few years. Maybe you had an awesome camp experience where students met Jesus for the first time. Perhaps you took a group on a mission trip and your student’s hearts were set on fire for helping the broken and poor. But what happens when the storm clouds roll in? When someone you do ministry with breaks your trust? When your midweek program attendance starts to steadily decline without reason? When you have been told that you will no longer have the budget to back parts of your ministry? How can you prepare yourself for those storms?
Here are 4 lessons I have learned are incredibly helpful in the midst of whatever storm you are facing now or will face in the future. My hope is that they will strengthen your student ministry and strengthen you as a leader.
1. Vision, Vision, Vision
In tough seasons of ministry, vision can, and usually will, get cloudy. Through attendance decline, programming shifts, staff turnover, etc., the vision and mission of your youth ministry can get very lost. You, as a Youth Ministry leader, might also forget why it is you do what you do.
As you walk through these hard seasons it is absolutely crucial for you as the leader to carry the vision with you wherever you go. Type it out on a sheet of paper that you hang somewhere in your office as a physical reminder that you see every day. Tell as many people as your can about your vision. It will seem painfully repetitive to you, but cast vision to your leaders and students at any chance you get; during your program, leaders meetings, random conversations, on social media.
It might not immediately lift the clouds, but it will let everyone around you know that your focus is not on the rain but on what God has in store for you next. And once the storm has passed, you can move forward with full confidence knowing that you, your leaders, and your students know and are bought into what your vision is and will now carry it with them every day.
2. Be Authentic
I have been able to rub shoulders with some incredible leaders in my life. I have found that the leaders I admire the most live and lead with authenticity and integrity in every season. In the thick of the storm, it will be tempting to put on a front that everything is awesome though it’s really storming behind the scenes. But you will gain an incredible amount of credibility as a leader if you can lead authentically.
Don’t be dishonest about the storm the ministry is facing; define reality. Chances are, your students already know or can feel that things haven’t been great. Depending on the circumstances of the situation, you may not be able to share all the details with your students. What is most helpful to them, however, is for you to share your heart for them, your heart for the church, and your heart for following Jesus no matter what. They need to know that you are walking with them and that you are for them through it all.
3. Seek Counsel
One of the worst things you can do through the storms in ministry is to stay inside your own head. I don’t know about you, but I have to talk through tough situations with another person. The simple act of taking what’s in my brain and forming it into words makes everything significantly clearer.
Find someone to talk to that you trust and know well. Maybe someone who has walked through a similar situation can offer wise counsel. Don’t let yourself buy into the lie that you have to figure everything out on your own; that you have to single-handedly calm the storm. That will put you in the fast track to ministerial ruin. God has never asked you to do this alone. So, set aside time to regularly meet with someone who can love, encourage, and pray for you right where you are.
4. Celebrate The Small Victories
Even if you have one student who shows up to a mid-week service, that is one more student who got to hear about the love of Christ. Celebrate every seemingly minor win. Once you are able to celebrate the small things, when the big wins come, it will be all the more reason for celebration! And if you as the leader can model this attitude of celebration in front of your students, they will catch on and start looking for little things to get excited about as well.
Your students (and usually their parents) are watching you, through both sunshine and torrential down pours. How you navigate the ministry through both of those will make it very clear what kind of leader you are. I know that weathering each storm that comes can be exhausting, but I don’t know many greater callings than helping students take steps towards Jesus.
How do you weather the storms you encounter in ministry?
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