The Cool Ministry Syndrome
Ministry Envy. If you are a youth pastor you know what I am talking about. If you are a church member you might just know what I am talking about too. Ministry Envy is when you look at what some other group of people are doing and think, "Why can’t we be doing that?"
One of things about living in the south is that there are lots of churches. This is a good thing because there are only so many people that we can effectively minister to and many churches means that there are more people getting paid to take the love of Christ to people who need to experience it. But sometimes all of these churches can make things a little crunchy for us who work in them.
Ministry Envy is one of those things that no one likes to talk about. The official party line is "I’m glad they are doing good." or "As long as those people are in church somewhere I am happy." We say those things and smile big and try to be excited, but there are days when we just don’t feel that excited about what is going on in other places. There are days when we are just down right jealous of all of the students who are flocking to some new place of another.
(By the way if you are reading for some big point about how this is wrong and how we can fix it I don’t have one I am just putting this truth out in the open so that everyone knows that they aren’t alone.)
My Ministry Envy Observations:
- There are some times when you are genuinely happy for another ministry. You hear about the success and after a momentary, "Man, I wish we could grow like that" you are excited that students are involved in church.
- Then there are times when the people who have been going to your church decide to go to another one. There are many factors that can induce this. Probably the number one factor would be a new boyfriend or girlfriend, but there are others as well. When this happens you immediately feel like you have been dumped. When someone quits going to church you can say "They aren’t turning away from me they are turning away from God." But when someone switches churches it is hard not to take it personal.
- When this hurts the most is when someone switches who has been a major part of your group. Youth ministry is so hard because you turn over new members every 6 years or so. There must be a constant flow of leaders and new people or else the ministry will suffer. When one of the people whom you have been investing in and shaping to be a leader goes somewhere else it leaves a major hole.
- When you are jealous of another ministry the first thing you do is try to find negative reasons why they are growing. The most common one is "All they do over there is play games." I have been on the receiving end of this criticism and I am ashamed to say that I have been on the giving end of it too. When someone else is growing we tend to try to come up with all of the reasons other than the fact that they are tuning in to what God is doing.
- This is the one bit of advice I am going to give. NEVER TELL YOUR CRITICISMS TO YOUR STUDENTS. Even if they are valid never talk negatively about another church group. (It just makes you look petty)
- Don’t forget that small town youth ministry goes in cycles. Sometimes you are the cool group and sometimes you are not, don’t get too much of a big head when you are and don’t let it get you down too far when you aren’t
I guess the one thing that I have learned working in the same place for 8 years would be to continually pour your life into your core students. Work to reach the masses, invite them in, create safe places for them to meet with God in worship, challenge them to make a difference, but pour your life into your core. They are the ones that will be there when you are cool and when you are not. God has placed them into your path so that you can invest your life in them. Don’t spend so much energy trying to be the coolest youth ministry and forget that your time with these students will change their lives for eternity.
Sorry about the randomness of this, but these thoughts have been in my head lately. Hope they helped.