Friday, April 15, 2011

There's Always Next Time

This past week's junior high gathering was, to invent a word, ubertastical. That means really really really good. We enjoyed a warm Arizona evening outdoors for a quick and engaging game, spent some time in genuine worship through singing, students were incredibly tuned-in for the teaching on finding our identity in Christ, and the adult volunteers were on their A-game in loving students. I had some great conversations with both staff and students, and left the evening feeling like I was on top of the world. 

My Facebook status that evening: "I love my job."

Yet only a week prior to this amazing evening was a night filled with frustration and disappointment. The worship participation was apathetic. Students were quite disrespectful--I was actually shot in the face with a rubberband at one point while teaching. None of our discipline measures appeared to work. I left the evening nearly in tears, feeling like I was failing.

It's amazing how much can change in a week. Youth ministry can elicit a myriad of emotional responses, parroting the roller-coaster of emotions expressed by the typical 7th-grade girl. One week is invigorating and wonderful; the next is filled with despair. An encouraging meeting with a student or volunteer can quickly give way to frustration when you find out that they've been manipulating you, that their lifestyle isn't what it appeared to be.

Success in ministry cannot ultimately be defined by a week-by-week evaluation. Success is determined by long-term spiritual fruit. Discipleship is like growing a garden--it takes hard work, patience, failed attempts, and lots of retries. This means that I cannot define my ministry success in the short-term, but in the long haul. Whether I'm emotionally destroyed from a bad week or overjoyed from a good week, I have to remind myself: there's always next time. There's always the next meeting, the next small group discussion, the next summer camp, the next school year. I can't allow my own emotional stability to be defined by a single moment. Feel it, be present to your emotions, celebrate or mourn it, then begin preparing for what's happening next.

I'm not interested in making disciples that last a week; I'm consumed by making disciples that last a lifetime. And if they're going to last a lifetime, then I've got to celebrate the long-term growth, teaching students how to think over what to think, lovingly entering into their worlds and finding our stories intertwined, reminding myself of how far they've come and where God is leading them into the future.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Joel you have just summed my the last 8 plus years of my life. I love what you wrote! I also am reminded in those times when you wonder if you are doing any good, That this is really a God sized task. That His business is His business and my business is my business. That if I just focus and am faithful to what he has called me too the rest is His. Thank you for all you do. Kelly B.