Pouring Out When You're Empty
“Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain.” I once heard a Pastor say that, and while the idea of a great ministry excited me, the backend of that quote did not. But here I am, living on the backend of that quote, and I still haven’t found the front end of it. On February 21, 2023, I received “the call.” My sister called me to inform me that they had to take my dad to the E.R., and two hours later, he was in the presence of Jesus. I was not prepared for this; none of us were. My church was very gracious and gave me more than enough time for bereavement, but when I returned to work, I still wasn’t ready. I went back on a Monday and had to preach Wednesday night to a group of students that I hadn’t seen since before Dad passed, I had emails to respond to, students to disciple, parents to pour into, meetings to have….
I was trying to pick back up where I left off, but I was a shell of the person that I was when I left. I didn’t have the strength to pick back up where I left off. So, how do you pour out to students when you are empty? How did you give your best version of yourself to your church, Lead Pastor, students, and parents when you have nothing to give? Student Pastor, maybe you are like me right now. Maybe you have gone through an unimaginable season, and it has left you empty. Here are some ways that you can begin to fill back up:
1. Be Honest
I know that sounds ridiculous, but Student Pastors (at least the one writing) have to be on all the time and never have anything going on that can hinder your work. You will have to be honest when grief is getting the best of you. I had to walk into my Senior Pastor's office and tell him that I wasn’t doing well and just word vomited all over him. Two hours after leaving his office, I felt so much better. Grief is a cerebral assassin, and it will take you down when you least expect it. You will have to be honest with your students and parents when you are not having a good day and just want to give up and go home because you have students and possibly even parents going through it too. That’s an automatic moment to minister. If you are going through it, someone else is, too, bank on it. I have had students walk into my office and tell me how much what I am going through has helped them in their relationship with Jesus (so maybe I am on the front end of the quote more than I thought). Be honest and real always, especially when you don’t feel like you have anything to give.
2. Grief Counseling
I know what you are thinking, “You want me to tell someone my problems, they’ll think I am weak and crazy.” To that, I say we are all weak. Why would we need Jesus if we weren’t? And you’re a Student Pastor. You’re crazy! When I signed up for Grief Counseling, my counselor asked me what I wanted out of it, and I told him I wanted to begin to heal and get my confidence back. I took grief counseling for 7 weeks, and let me just say, I got what I wanted out of it and so much more. I also gained a mentor and friend from my counselor. If you even think you might need counseling, get it. Your church will work with you. Mine let me go during work hours. Again, you can’t pour out if you are empty, but you shouldn’t want to stay there either. Grief Counseling filled my cup more than I thought it would, and we rarely talked about my dad. Don’t get me wrong, we did at first, but then it bled over into other things that I didn’t even know were there. If you want counseling, go to your Senior Pastor, explain why you need it, and watch how they work with you.
3. A Daily Reset
You may read this part and think I’m nuts, but how often do we get so busy with ministry, especially when we feel like we don’t have it all together, that our Bibles just become a sermon manual? Matt Chandler once said, “Once your Bible becomes about someone else, that is the moment you are done in ministry.” Hard words, but they are true. When you’re down, that is when the devil will kick you. When you are a fragment of yourself, that is an opportune time for him to ruin you. Having a daily time with Jesus is the most important thing you can do when you are empty. I saved the best and most important for last. Sadly, I didn’t read my Bible for almost two weeks after Dad died. I wasn’t mad at God or anything. I just didn’t want to do anything at all. But I got a new Bible and a journal with a reading plan, and those two things have brought life back into my quiet times like never before. All I had to do was find something that excited me when it came to quiet times. Are you empty? You won’t even begin to fill back up without the Word.
Student Pastor, if you are like me and in a season of grief and despair, be honest, seek out counseling, and above all—get in the Word daily! Watch how God begins to refill you.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- Out of these three things, what is most difficult for you and why?
- Why do we feel like we have to be on all the time, even when going through difficult times?
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