DEALING WITH DISCOURAGMENT IN MINISTRY

One thing I have learned in ten years of ministry is there will be lots of disappointments.  Especially, for those of us in Student Ministry, discouragement will be abundant.  Students, parents, leaders, members will all let you down and the flip side, you will most certainly let them down as well.  So I am writing this to let all of my friends in ministry know how to fix the problem…..

Ready for it…

Get rid of all the people!

There you go.  If you eliminate all the people in your church, the problem of disappointment will be gone… unless you are a numbers guy.  Now of course I am joking but from time to time we all feel that way.  The problem is people, but this is what God planned.  Think about it, God decided to use broken and messed up people to help broken and messed up people.

So, if discouragement in ministry is inevitable, where is the hope in ministry?  Because, in the illustrious words of the late Charles Siburt, “there is no possible way to contort the human voice to make whining appealing to the human ear.”   So how do you deal with discouragement?

1. Focus on YOUR NEED for the Gospel.  One of the biggest traps I fall into in ministry is focusing on how much everyone around me needs to hear the message of Jesus, because they are broken and messed up people.  When we do we begin to see our self as a practitioner rather than a patient.  Unfortunately, the church has lost sight of this truth, expecting for those in ministry to not struggle as everyone else does. We find great joy in the appearance we present to people.  In doing this it is “self” that is glorified and not Christ.  Paul makes a point to point out his weakness…

 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16

People will follow the example we set.  If we are unwilling to admit our brokenness, it is pretty ridiculous to expect those we are leading to admit their brokenness.

2. Surround yourself with a close group of people you can share things with, who can help to encourage and pray for you.  For me there are several different circles.  One circle consists of people in our church, who know me and my ministry very well.  They know where I want this ministry to go.  They offer an open ear and loving voice.  They know my heart and genuinely care for me, not just what our ministry is doing.  These are the people I go to with leadership problems, thoughts, dreams.  I also have a close circle of 5 or 6 friends in ministry, who are in the trenches, we share ideas and dreams. We seek advice and counsel from each other drawing on the experiences of each other.  The most important circle though is my family.  This is also my first and most important ministry.  I have to focus on taking care of this relationship, because the health of this relationship, with my wife and children greatly affects my mindset in the rest of my ministry.

3. Our job in ministry is not to fill people up, it is to empty yourself.  Somewhere along the way someone convinced me it was my responsibility to fill people up to send them out.  They were wrong!  You have absolutely no control in ministry of how people with respond to the message of Christ.  Jesus told us, there would be people who hear this message and want absolutely no part of it.  There would be people who say they are a part of His Kingdom and would continue to choose other things.  So it floors me, that I get so discouraged when people chose other things over Christ.  And just maybe they are following their leader, if we are completely honest.  No matter how badly you want someone to know Christ; they might want nothing to do with Him.

Jesus has called us to build His Kingdom here on earth, not our own.  It is amazing how easily we confuse the two.  Discouragement is something we will always deal with in ministry.  Jesus did, Paul did, the apostles did, and the early church did.  Get use to it, but by all means do not give up on what God has called you to do and more importantly WHO he has called you to BE!

These are just a few examples of what I rely on, and of course there are many other principles out there.  So how do you deal with discouragement in ministry?

GREAT WEEK OF HARDING UPLIFT

UPLIFT at Harding is always a great week, although we started a bit shaky but the week end on some great notes.  We left bright and early on Saturday morning but a couple of hours into the drive we had a blow out in van 2.  And yes it is the 666 license plate van.  We have to get that changed before Missouri next month.  Made for a stressful rest of the day; running behind.  Day 2 we spent in the ER with a student we thought was having appendicitis.  She ended up heading back to Cleburne for more testing.  She is doing better.  Day 3 we spent the afternoon at the doctor’s office for a student with Strep throat.  From then on things ran very smoothly.  Day 4 and 5 were great.

Day 5 was the highlight of my week though.  I was done teaching for the week so I got to just hang out with kids that morning.  After lunch I went and hung out with coach Fullerton my college baseball coach.  I had not gotten to see him in several years, so it was great to catch up.  That afternoon we played a lot.  I played in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament with Ben and Trent.  Well, we played 1 game anyway.  We lost 10 to 8.  Then several of us played some volleyball and dominated.  We won 4 straight and then lost our focus and lost our final game.  Britany challenged Makalah to a race so we went out to the track and they raced in the 200 meter which Britany won… and Makalah almost died.  Then the rest of us ran a 100 meter which Taylor won with a blown out knee.  Our group devo that evening was amazing.  It was one of the highlights of the week.  We spent an hour and a half encouraging each other.  Such a great evening!  The evening was topped off with Mary Beth making the decision to give her life to Christ in baptism.

At times youth ministry can be very frustrating because you are dealing with people.  Kids make dumb decisions, things go wrong and summers can be very tiring.  But it is days like Tuesday and Wednesday that remind me why I do love Youth Ministry.  I love hanging out with students, I love seeing them grow and I love seeing them make decisions to follow Christ.

THE SUMMER IN YOUTH MINISTRY

Let’s face it as youth ministers we only work 3 months out of the year (wink, wink, wink).  In youth ministry it can be very difficult to follow any kind of consistent diet, but this is especially true during the summer.

I have always used the summer as an excuse to get away from eating healthy, falling into bad habits and gaining weight.  It is impossible to stay in shape during the summer for a youth ministry, right?  Wrong, it is nothing more than an excuse.  I am great at making excuses, but not so great at honoring promises I have made to myself.  I decided this summer would be different.  This summer I am not going to make excuses and I am going to honor myself by sticking with my goals.

This is making me plan and prepare ahead of schedule.  This week we are at Arlington Work Camp.  Typically this is a week I would just say I can’t stay on track.  I will have donuts at church, burgers or pizza for lunch, there is no way to avoid it.  This week I am not giving in to the excuses.  I have stuck to my diet all week so far.  I have gotten up early and fixed my breakfast, I have taken my lunch box with Shakeology, lunch and an afternoon snack.  Cami has helped out by cooking a healthy dinner.  I have even given our interns a heads up and asked them to help keep me accountable.

I am in week 5 of the Insanity workout, which is a Recovery week.  It just so happen to fall on a perfect week.  I have switched out the Cardio Recovery program with P90X One On One “Fountain of Youth.”  It is a Yoga workout and I am finding it great at the end of a long work day.  So far I am down 16 pounds and I want to keep moving in the right direction.  This summer is about me not making excuses.  I can’t control what others are doing but I can control what I do.  When I get tired and hungry I want junk food.  When I eat junk food I have less energy, I am more irritable and moody.  When I am tired it is more important than ever to eat right and exercise.  You can follow my health and fitness journey this summer at www.garyalbrittonfitness.com

5 INSIGHTS FOR MENTORING STUDENTS

Over the past several years, I have been focusing more and more energy on discipling and mentoring students.  At Cataylst this past year Andy Stanley challenged leaders with this statement, “teach people to do what you do.”  Pretty basic right.  I have been looking at different things in my ministry I do on a regular basis and trying to teach and empower students to learn to fill those roles.

I made the decision to stop getting adult co-teachers each quarter but instead to pair up an experienced teacher with a young inexperienced teacher or better yet a student.  So this quarter has been our first try, it has been really good, and really bad.  Haha  I thought I would share some insights and things I have learned from the first go around that could help those in ministry beginning in this process.

This quarter our High School class has been taught by a guy who has been teaching for me for a while.  He is a fireman and has to miss every 3rd Sunday.  I paired him up with one of our seniors in High School who does a good job teaching and is contemplating going into ministry.  Our Jr. High class has been taught by me and a 9th grader who has taught a couple of times in the past and has really enjoyed it.

  1.  Prepare to be frustrated, because you will.  Especially, when dealing with students.  There will be a time they will not show up.  Whether, they didn’t have a ride, they forgot, something happened.  Just because they don’t show up does not mean they will call and let you know they won’t make it.  You must remember these are teenagers, and part of this process is mentoring them through these issues.  I have had to let them know on several occasions when you say you will be somewhere, be there.  If something urgent comes up, call.
  2. Create a covenant.  I wish I had done this early and asked them to sign it.  Also, I would have parents sign it so they know what is expected of their student.  Lay out the expectations.  For instance, we will meet every week at 5 PM on Wednesday to plan out Sunday.  Do not assume the student will tell their parents their schedule.
  3. Value the relationship over the instruction.  The teaching aspect is very important but the relational aspect is even more crucial.  Pour into the person’s life first and foremost and everything else you are trying to teach them will be communicated to.  Most adults when asked to teach focus on the tasks of teaching.  This has been difficult for someone who has been doing this for so long.  Yes, I want you to teach your class, but more importantly I want to you teach this student how to teach, prepare and study.  The goal is not make sure the class has a teacher that week.
  4. Have a set schedule.  I set up a calendar at the beginning.  I would teach the first 3 weeks and they would observe.  When we would meet we would talk about different aspects of the class, why did I choose to do or say something a particular way.  The next 7 weeks we would team teach.  Divide the lesson out and both have roles.  The final 3 weeks is all the student.  Also, schedule your meeting time on a weekly basis to prepare for class.
  5. Read a book together.  We have been reading “Communicating for a Change” by Andy Stanley.  Each week we read a chapter or two and discuss the reading in our weekly meeting.  I have found this is very helpful for them because the book is so practical they can use what they are reading right away.

I would love to know some ways you are integrating students into ministry and what are some of the lessons you are learning in the process?