Youth Ministry Truth: Don’t Let The “Hills” Define Your Ministry
I’m an avid runner. Not a particularly good one, but an avid one. My neighborhood is sort of on a bluff of sorts. We have a lot of really cool running trails through the woods. But to get to them, you have to go down an epic hill. Which means, of course, that to get back you have to go up it.
This is no ordinary hill. It’s a heartbreaker. It’s actually two-tiered, with a flat portion about halfway through that gives way to an even steeper second half. It dominates every run I’ve been on for the last 7 years. On quick short runs, it ruins my time. On long runs, it looms large near the finish line. I can’t go for a run without taking it into account.
But I learned long ago that I can’t let this one big hill define my run.
In the past I had a tendency to judge the entire run by how well I negotiated the hill. Did I give in and have to walk? Then the run was a failure. Did I successfully attack the hill? Then it was a success. How badly were my splits affected by it? And so on. The funny thing is that my performance on the hill would mentally impact the way I saw my entire run. No matter than I might have run seven or eight miles at a great pace. If I bonked on the hill it was a failure.
The great thing is that I’ve learned not to let the hill define my runs. I think the same thing has to be true for the “hills” in our ministries.
As I look around the youth ministry world, so many of us have hills we deal with.
Maybe you have leadership issues at your church.
Maybe your church is eliminating your salary.
Maybe you’re in a season where doing ministry is putting strain on your family-life.
Maybe you have a group of parents or deacons/elders with whom you’re at odds with.
Maybe your students don’t seem to be responding to your best efforts.
The list could go on. Each of these things . . . a hill.
Let me encourage you with what I’ve learned from negotiating the hill. How well or how poorly you deal with the hills in your ministry doesn’t define you as a person. And it doesn’t define your ministry.
Your ministry will have hills, for sure. Everyone’s does. But most of your ministry will be done in the flat, even, wide spaces where you gain your stride and leg it out. These are the places that define you and your ministry. Your “success” is in how committed you are to stay in the race, to faithfully do right by God, yourself, and others (to the best of your ability).
If you let your hills define your race, you’ll find yourself focusing on the hard parts of your run. When you do this, it’s easy to forget the parts of the journey that were scenic, peaceful, and fun.