When You’re At a Loss.

Contributions, depression, youth ministry, youthmin.org

ministry loneliness

This post originally appeared here.

I checked the stats on my personal blog the other day, you know, to see if my 12 followers were interacting with it.

I saw that someone found my blog using this search term:

I don’t know what our ministry is about anymore.

I just broke.

What a humbling reminder of the brokeness we feel in ministry sometimes.

And honestly, what do I even say to this?

Ministry is tough, and I’ve concluded that it is because your heart is involved.  There are tons of careers that are difficult and have hard moments, but most of them are jobs you can leave at work.  Ministry is something you take home with you, something that keeps you up at night.  So it makes sense that you will feel this way at one time or another.

I can tell you to do the obvious:

  • Talk to someone about how you feel.  If you get to a point where you are just questioning the entire ministry, you need some help.  Find a mentor, a Christian counselor, or someone who is just a heck of a lot wiser than you are. 
  • Talk to your senior pastor/supervisor.  Get their vision and wisdom.
  • Take a sabbatical or a super-long-sabbath and just breathe.  Pray.

I was completely lost a few months back.  I went to the Simply Youth Ministry Conference and attended theEverybody’s Urban sessions; I was at a loss with my at-risk teenagers and didn’t know what to do anymore.  I talked toLeneita Fix after the session, practically drowning her in my tears.  She quoted my favorite passage, a passage I’ve come to countless times when I’m discouraged:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

…and then said the most brilliant thing to me:

Sometimes we don’t even plant the seeds.  We may have to dig the rocks out of the soil, to prepare it for the seeds.

Even if you don’t see growth, that may not be your duty.  Some of us have to prepare the path for our teenagers and our ministry—dig out the rocks of apathy and programs that don’t work and leaders that don’t quite cut it. Some of us have to work in our teens’ lives simply to help them dig out the junk that’s in it.  Through this, you (or someone else) will be able to plant the seed and water it. And, when it’s God’s time, that student and ministry will grow.

I wish I had more to say, yet to be honest, this is one of those things that just needs prayer and time.  Words can’t express how much I care for this network of youth ministers, and I pray for you guys daily.  Be encouraged and hold fast.