As I sat across the table at Starbucks sipping coffee, I knew I was hearing the same story I had heard multiple times; but I tried not to reveal it by my response or body language. I was neither bored nor impatient. I knew this Youth Pastor was bearing his soul to me and I truly cared.
As he shared, I began to check off the symptoms I have become all too familiar with over my four decades of local church ministry. I could sense the frustration, loneliness and desperation that had accrued over his ministry tenure. He was not ready to quit today but you could tell the thought had crossed his mind.
I did not have any magic words for him that would make everything better as there is no such thing as a perfect ministry or a utopian ministry position. There are however some steps you can take to protect yourself from giving into the frustration, loneliness and desperate aspects of the ministry.
Be forewarned I still think you are going to have these real life issues, but I believe you can fortify yourself so you can overcome them. So what do you do to “Create a Safety Net” for yourself in the ministry?
- Constantly cultivate your love relationship with Jesus. The idea is to spend time with God in His Word and in prayer. You are going to be busy and are always have a million “to do” things on your list. There is nothing more important than developing your spiritual life.
- Establish accountability relationships. I suggest that you have at least one accountability relationship within your church. My reason for this is so there is someone onsite that can be there and be involved in your life. I have friends who are in other ministries who are accountability partners but I always have someone close by as well.
- Build relationships with other Youth Pastors in the area. I know that sometimes Pastor and Youth Pastor Fellowships are looked upon as a “black hole.” You should not let that perception stop you from creating a “roundtable” of friends with whom you can fellowship, share ideas and gain encouragement.
- Commit to ask for help early. Make a vow to yourself that you will swallow your pride and tell somebody when you need help. I mean spiritual, physical, emotional, ministerial or any other kind of help. And do it sooner than later. Don’t wait until you are ready to quit or you’re in over your head to call a friend.