You can quite literally fill that blank with almost anything.
There was a moment in my youth ministry days that left me a bit puzzled. I received a call from a woman in our church who wanted to come in and talk to me about some concerns she was having with her daughter. I didn’t know the woman. I had never met her (or her daughter for that matter) before. After I got off the phone with her I checked in with our senior minister to see if he knew who this woman was. He informed me that she was an on and off attender and that he had not seen her around in a long time. Of course, I told her I would be happy to meet with her and see if I could offer any sort of help or encouragement. The time came for us to get together. This concerned mother arrived with her daughter. The three of us then sat down and chatted. Well… not really. Honestly, the mother talked, I listened and the daughter sat in silence, drifting off into her own little world. It was a bit awkward as this mother essentially sat down with me to list out complaint after complaint about her daughter while the child was sitting there with us. Her daughter was falling in with a bad crowd, being promiscuous, getting in trouble at school, and growing more and more disrespectful at home. After she exhausted her list of concerns we fell into a discussion about what our youth program had to offer. I explained the value of being involved in regular Bible study and fellowship with other Christians her daughter’s age. She didn’t seem interested at all, and her daughter was completely checked out. She wasn’t interested either. I also offered to meet with them regularly to help them sort through what was going on in their family. Again, there was no interest. I’m not sure what she was expecting from me. Was I supposed to give her a magical piece of advice? Was I supposed to snap my fingers and make things all better? I was a youth minister, not a magician. What solution was she expecting? Anyhow, the awkwardness of this encounter reached its pinnacle at the end of our meeting. After talking up our youth program and offering counseling, I ended our time together with an offer to pray for them. The mother kindly rejected my offer. Like I said, I was puzzled. But even more so, I was frustrated. I felt like I cared more about this woman’s daughter and family than she did! Of course, to be fair, I can in no way say that was true, but it was the feeling I had, and whether they are true or not, the things we feel and believe dictate our behavior.
At one point or another every single one of us has felt like we care more about ________ than other people do. It’s frustrating. We have all been on both sides of this as well. Sometimes we are the one who is concerned, and other times we are the center of someone else’s concern. Ministry leaders tend to be more vulnerable to this frustration because their is a sense (accurate or not) that their work is important. Their work is needed for the church and for the community. After all...
The preacher is sharing the message of Salvation in Christ.
The Sunday school teacher is helping children build roots in the scriptures.
The benevolence team is seeing that people have their most basic human needs met.
The grounds team is making sure the church property is attractive to the community.
The list of ministries goes on and on. but they are usually present because someone thinks they are important. Sometimes they are brainstorms by the ministry leader, and other times the ministry leader is commissioned to work. Regardless of the ministry’s origin, the leader generally attaches to it because they care about the cause.
That care leads to passion.
That passion leads to work.
That work usually leads to more work.
More work leads to being tired.
Most ministry leaders will continue to joyfully work as long as they believe what they are doing is benefitting the church, the community, or those involved in the ministry. However, the minute they believe that no one else cares about ________, they will burn out or quit.
So how do we challenge this belief?
1) Participate in their ministry. There is no better way to show someone you appreciate the ministry they are leading than by participating in it. This could mean working alongside them, or letting them serve you. When people participate, the ministry leader sees their work as valid and will want to continue. When no one participates, they ministry leader will soon stop participating as well.
2) Share what their ministry is doing. Maybe what they do really isn’t something you can participate in. You may not have the skills, time, resources, etc. to participate. However, you can still share the good they are doing with others. This can help build a good reputation for the ministry. If the ministry’s reputation is built up, others who are able to participate will get involved and the ministry leader will be encouraged.
3) Encourage the ministry leader directly. Even if you are not involved in the ministry at all, and don’t even know what to say to others about it, when you see the leader, tell them you appreciate the job they are doing. You don’t have to be a participant or a beneficiary of someone’s ministry to recognize it as a good thing. Next time you see that person who visits the nursing home to encourage the residents, pull them aside and tell them how great you think it is that they are willing to meet that need. Receiving such encouragement could be the thing that helps the ministry leader stick it out for the long haul.
Now of course there is merit in discussing whether we should encourage the continuation of every ministry under the sun. Sometimes there is a reason no one else cares. Sometimes the ministry leaders have ulterior motives and shouldn’t be leading at all. But that is not the focus of this post. We want to consider how we encourage those who are serving.
If your minister, pastor, or ministry leader believes that they are the only person in the church who cares about _______, it will destroy them.