Every Monday it happens. I awake and walk into the room with my biggest critic. He doesn’t say much, he just stares back at me. He mocks me with his unspoken criticism. My time with him though is usually interrupted as my wife enters the bathroom after me and asks me why I am staring at the mirror.
If you are like me you are your biggest critic. That is why the criticism of others is often difficult for youth pastors. They hear self-criticism enough in the recesses of their own mind. Things like…
- Where was everyone?
- Why was worship so dead?
- Where has _____________been?
- Why was my lesson so flat?
- Why were the kids so talkative?
- Why did they visit that other youth group?
- What does my volunteer team think?
- Why didn’t that game work?
- Why don’t they get it?
- Why don’t I get it?
- Why don’t they like each other?
- Why don’t they like me?
Ultimately these kinds of questions lead one to ask the most dangerous question, “Why do I bother?”
I call it the Monday morning blues. If your youth group meets on Wednesdays then your blues might fall on Thursdays (adapt the concept as needed for your youth ministry).
I know others experience the same thing. I have spoken to them.
I know Jesus did too.
Two bits of advice I was given years ago that made a huge difference for me as I encountered “Ministry Blues” were-
1. Never quit on Monday
Clear perspective is not gained in the valley. The day following your largest expenditure of ministry energy will be a valley. You cannot see clearly from there. You are tired. As the famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
You cannot make helpful long-term decisions from there. Avoid the job boards on your “Monday”. Just don’t go there. You don’t need to escape your situation, just the negative nature of your own thought processes. The problems encountered the day before will likely only be recalled by you. Others have moved on. Their “Monday” is presenting its own challenges.
It is a hypocritical life we live when we long to give grace to everyone but ourselves. Give yourself grace. Use this day to do something that you like to do. I use my “Monday” to write curriculum. It is a solitary process, it buries me in scripture, it drives me to prayer, and it is helpful to the ministry.
This brings us to the next bit of helpful advice-
2. Embrace the NBA
This is not a reference to the National Basketball Association. The pay would be great of course, but that is not what I am referring to. The NBA referenced here stands for Next Best Action.
What is your next best action? Use your “Monday” to do something to swing momentum toward the positive. The truth is that there are many reasons why things might not have gone well the previous day, but fortunately most of those reasons likely had very little to do with you.
Remember, you work with youth.
Our youth are living in the crossroads of physical/emotional development, the crush of cultural expectations, the tensions of family (functional and dysfunctional), and they are trying to do so while presenting themselves seemingly unscathed to the world. This is tough work.
Remember the wise words of Jesus. The wise man and woman builds their house on the rock.
We cannot base our ministry “esteem” on the actions and attitudes of a 15 year-old. They are shifting sand.
So, what is our next best action? Our next best action is likely something unseen and unappreciated by others, but it is foundational to what we do.
Here are a few ideas-
- Send an e-mail you have been avoiding.
- Make a recruiting call to fill an important ministry position.
- Have lunch with a parent who needs your time.
- Update ministry website information.
- Turn in ministry receipts.
- Visit a school lunch.
- Write an encouraging note to a volunteer.
- Send a birthday card to a student in your ministry.
- Pick a ministry event 6 months from now and do something to work on it now.
- Calendar your ministry out further than folks need information for.
- Have lunch with a ministry colleague.
Your “Monday” morning blues are bound to come. Turn your gaze from the mirror of self-critique. Don’t quit. Do something helpful. The kingdom awaits your next best action.
TONY AKERS has been in ministry to youth and families in large and small churches for three decades. He is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary and just entered his 14th year in ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church in Huntsville, Alabama where he serves as the Director of Disciple Life. Tony is also a youth ministry coach and writes fairly frequently at WWW.STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM
This post was previously published by STUDENTMINISTRYSOLUTIONS.COM.