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A Side Effect Of Longevity In Youth Ministry

A Side Effect Of Longevity In Youth Ministry

Here's a youth ministry truth:

The longer you serve at a church, the more chances you have to grow a track record of success.

The longer you stick around, the more trust you'll earn. Ideally you become more proficient. You learn how things REALLY work. You're able to accomplish more change. Certainly there are exceptions to this rule, but ideally, this should be the case.

However, there is another side of longevity, as well. Newton's 3rd Law of Physics comes to mind: "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Newton was talking about physics. But he could have been talking about longevity in youth ministry. Why?

Because the longer you serve at a church, the more chances you have to grow a track record of failure.

It's an interesting dynamic, isn't it?

You will have more successes the longer you invest in one place. But you will also have more chances to fail. Fortunately, very few people have tenures at churches where nothing goes right. And yet, very few people have tenures where every single thing they do goes right. You will fail. And the longer you're in the same place, the more likely it is that you fail more than once.

But instead of being beaten-up by this, there is a really cool paradox at work here:

You may grow your list of failures by staying in one place over the long haul. But, you will be in a better place to deal with failure because of your long-term investment.

Here's what I mean . . .

  • You're better able to deal with the disappointment of seeing a student stumble because of the relational capital you've built up.

  • You can weather an event that didn't quite go right because you've been a part of numerous events that were awesome.

  • You can deal with relational conflicts better because you have a history of good relationships. You have a legacy of making it work.

It's funny . . . we talk a lot about the positives of longevity. There are many. The list of reasons to stick around at a church (as much as it is up to us) is long. We don't often think of the negatives. And when we do, we don't often view them in light of the grace longevity buys us. We rarely think about how much easier it is to navigate failures because of the relational equity longevity afford us.

There are many reasons why youth ministers leave churches. Most leave for the right reasons. Some leave for the wrong. But this is yet another opportunity to stop and reflect on the benefits of staying put.

We all experience failures. But I'd rather fail in an environment that has been made better by my history of engagement. Wouldn't you?

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