On more than one occasion, I’ve been asked, “What do you do when you’re not doing ministry?” It’s a great question. And at times, I’ve had some difficulty answering it. What do youth workers do when we’re not doing ministry?
When someone works in the secular world, they often find the church to be a place where they can serve. They use their gifts and talents, and they give of their time and energy to do something for someone else. People often find great joy in that.
But what do you do when your work is ministry? What do you do when your gifts and talents are what you use in your career? Where do you serve? How do you serve? And can you find joy outside of ministry?
Yes, you can!
You teach your students they’re to use their gifts and talents to serve within the youth ministry, the church, and the community. You build your ministry around the idea of service. You teach servant leadership. Mission trips, service projects, and ministry teams fill your calendars and round out your ministry strategies.
Early in my ministry career, I came to the realization that I needed to rethink how I served: if I were to expect my students to serve, then I needed to be serving. And I did—but my service took me outside the walls of the church.
There are plenty of places and ways you can serve and find joy outside your ministry—and it begins by practicing what you preach. You ask your students what brings them joy, pleasure, or excitement. You ask them what their passions are—what they love to do. You must ask yourself the same. Your answers will help you discover how and where you might be able to serve.
For example, I served for a time as a volunteer basketball coach for a group of elementary students. Next, I helped coach a tee-ball team. I followed that with a couple of seasons coaching a little league team. Most recently, I helped with a high school varsity football team, running the technology needs, videoing their games, and helping with their website and social media. Each and every one of these activities was something that brought me great joy.
“But, Jay, that’s still working with students! Isn’t that still ministry?” Sure, I guess you could look at it that way. But I had opportunities to serve in other places as well. For a number of years, I volunteered with a small-town fire department and EMS unit. I went through the training, responded when our department was toned out, and served with some amazing men and women. The years I was a firefighter and first responder were some great years. I got to do something exciting and fun, something that made a difference and helped others, something I was passionate about, and something that brought me tremendous joy.
The point of this is simple. It can be difficult to find joy within your ministry or church. While it might be something you enjoy doing, it’s still your job. But when you step out of your ministry comfort zone and discover how you can impact and serve those in your community, then you find opportunities to rediscover joy.
Whether you’re a longtime youth worker or just getting started, I encourage you to begin thinking about what brings you joy. Ask yourself these three questions:
- What do I love to do when I’m not with students?
- What talents or abilities do I possess that bring me pleasure?
- What’s fun? What do I do that’s fun?
When you get your answers, start looking around in your community for places you can plug in and get connected. Consider local sports clubs looking for coaches or referees. Think about playing a sport yourself such as in an adult kickball league or pick-up basketball. Volunteer as a community servant such as a firefighter or first responder. Or maybe you would like to serve in a nursing home, retirement community, hospital, or with a community group. The possibilities are endless—it just might take you some time to land on the one or two opportunities that allow you to find joy outside of ministry.
Jay Higham is a 25 year veteran of student and family ministry; having worked with students in the local church and Christian camping settings. Jay is currently the Youth Director at Hickory Church, located in Western PA. Jay has been married to Amy for 20 years. Together, they are raising 5 kids. He is passionate about student ministry, family ministry, and resourcing and training fellow youth workers. You can learn more about Jay and his ministry to students and families by visiting his blog at www.JayHigham.com!