Posts Tagged ‘ministry’

“I didn’t join the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.”The words were spoken over a decade ago.  In fact, it has been almost 15 years since I heard them.  I remember the conversation well.  I was in jump school at Fort Benning, GA and there was a break in the training.  The Army doesn’t like to pay its soldiers to sit around and do nothing (especially in a training environment), so when there is a lull in legitimate work, special provisions are made.  Cleanliness is a virtue in the military, and someone has to make everything neat and tidy.  The task at hand was a simple one, and not nearly as degrading as spending an entire Saturday cleaning bathrooms.  Our task at the time was picking weeds out of a gravel bed.Sometimes we have to do things that sound stupid, or seem like a waste of time.  There are always tasks that we have to do that we just don’t want to do.  We are, inherently, selfish beings who have been told to look after number one.  We are groomed to put ourselves, our needs, our desires, above all others.  We are also told that we should bail out of any situation that does not bring us joy and pleasure.

Nobody joins the Army to pick weeds out of rock beds.  But sometimes picking weeds out of rock beds just so happens to be the assignment for the day.

This is how the Army determines success

I love to complain about things.  I’m not bragging about it, but I generally need to vent about whatever is frustrating me.  At times I can take things a little far, but I know that if I don’t say something about it, I just sit and fume about whatever the problem is.  I know I complained about picking the weeds, but there is a big difference between complaining and feeling superior to the non-enjoyable parts of work.  I did not join the army to do menial tasks in the hot, July sun but that was what I was told to do.  I was not too good for that job.

I just got back from standing behind a concession stand at an Ohio State University football game this afternoon (I like to wait a few days before I edit and post my articles for those of you wondering why you aren’t reading this on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning) and honestly, I did not want to go and help out.  I was not being paid for it, and this was supposed to be my first Saturday to relax at home with my wife in far too many weeks.  I was asked by a very close friend of mine who needed a couple of people to fill up gaps in the team.  I reluctantly accepted and woke up way earlier than I wanted to this morning to get up to the stadium by 9am.

Once I got over myself; my lack of sleep, my lack of quality time with my wife… I was able to enjoy myself.  I may not have enjoyed running around and fetching hot dogs, waters, popcorn, pretzels and all sorts of other stuff.  I may not have liked getting up early on a Saturday.  I may not have wanted to spend eight hours away from my wife.  But you know what?  I love helping people.  That’s why I’m in ministry.  That’s why I work for a school district instead of a corporation.  That’s also why I showed up this morning.  Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do, because it helps others.  Someone has to serve food to hungry football fans.  Someone has to clean the bathrooms, and yes, someone even has to pick weeds out of rock beds.

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It doesn’t take a keen eye or some sixth sense to know that today’s kids are struggling with life. There are so many options and so many paths they have laid out before them. Most don’t seem to know where they’re going or even that they should be going anywhere. Their parents tell them what to do after school(usually college), their teachers tell them what to do, and their friends tell them what to do. They are constantly bombarded with options and choices, some with dire consequences. I see students all of the time. I work for a public school district and I am a youth leader at my church. What I see around me are students who are trying to figure out where they fit into the grand scheme of life. They have lots of decisions to make, and lots of factors to weigh. The big question is; who is actually helping them?

You won't get through to him if you can't get him to pay attention

Teenagers need direction; but who can they turn to for real help? Parents would be the easy answer, as would teachers, friends, older relatives, clergy… and many others who may or may not be the ones you want investing time into today’s youth. Sometimes even those who seem like obvious answers to us adults are not necessarily the first places teens will turn for advice. In fact, those people might be the last people teens turn to. Some teenagers are afraid of looking stupid, or failing to meet expectations. Some just don’t want to deal with the stress. The fact is, some teenagers just don’t have good role models to emulate.

See, still not paying attention

What can be done to help? Is there any way to offer help and support? I think there is. I spend a lot of time working with teenagers, and I consider that one of the best decisions I have ever made. Working with the youth group at my church has been amazing. I get to spend time with some of the greatest people I have ever met. These students are fun, funny, smart, caring, energetic and lovable. Like anything, there are good times and bad times. Joy is mixed with frustration and heartache. There is also a lot of work and it can be very stressful at times. The rewards are worth the effort, though.

I get to watch teenagers grow and mature. I get to see them stumble and fall, and then pick themselves back up again. I get to help them make decisions (well, those who choose to listen) and many have bent my ear from time to time. The relationships built as teenagers can grow into real adult friendships, too. I still spend time with a lot of my former students, and one of my old students was even the best man at my wedding.

What is the secret to being a good mentor? There really isn’t one. There are some ingredients that are needed, but they aren’t really secrets. Time and effort are key, though. Make time to be with those you mentor. It’s like any other relationship. If you neglect to spend time with someone, the relationship you form will start to die. If you don’t invest any time at all, there will eventually be no relationship. Effort is also important. Some teenagers have been let down before and it may take some legitimate effort on your part to build a solid relationship with them. They need to know you aren’t going to throw them to the wolves or berate them when they make mistakes. They need to know they can confide in you and that you are trustworthy enough to listen without judgement. There might be some baggage to sort through and some pains that need healing, but when you can see hope in the eyes of a teen, especially one who never had hope before, you will see why people devote their lives to investing in others.

I have not been teaching lately. With the wedding coming up, and some important details still in the air, I have delegated a lot of my youth group leading to other leaders. The young adult group that I lead is on a hiatus for the summer, as well. Therefore, I am not teaching right now. This break started a couple of weeks ago, but already something is noticeably different.

Image: smokedsalmon / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hello??? Am I just teaching myself here?

I feel like my relationship with God has changed, or has at least dwindled some. The funny thing is, I have been reading my Bible more often and my prayer life is as good as, if not better than, it has been over the past few months. I was kind of at a loss about what was happening, until I talked to an old friend of mine the other day.

He told me that faith is a very interesting thing. It is something that only increases as you give it away. He told me that it was normal to feel a little out of it right now. He told me that my break from teaching right now is what’s causing my supposed slump. It isn’t that my faith is weaker, but just that it’s different. I’ve been teaching the young adult group for about five years and both that group and the youth group for around three. My faith has grown into something that I love sharing and teaching. So now that I’m not teaching anyone, it feels like something is wrong. I don’t believe that there is actually anything wrong with my faith right now (not compared to when I was teaching twice a week), but that I just need to learn how to deal with this aspect of my faith.

I know myself as a creature of habit, and I generally try to find patterns in things so that I can find the most efficient way to do any task. Once I get the pattern down, I can just hammer out whatever it is I need to do. While I was teaching, I had my faith organized to work within my schedule and my life. I am starting to think that my problem lies within my pattern based life. Maybe I do need this shake-up to take stock in where I am with God. Maybe He wants me to change how I interact with Him, and how I show Him to those around me? Have you ever been in a situation where God has changed some part of your walk so that you can refocus on Him? If so, how did it work out?

I know this one guy.  He’s one of those people who is always running around.  He has a job, serves at his church, has a social life and a lot of other things that pull at him from seemingly every direction.  He never seems to rest, and is almost always stressed out or tired.  Actually, come to think of it, you probably know this guy, too.  He is probably every guy (or girl) you’ve ever met.  He’s probably you.  In fact, you’re probably hoping that this will be a short article so that you can get back to something else that’s demanding your attention.

The question is, how did we get here?  I don’t know about you, but my life is fairly busy.  I work, lead a young adult group, and help lead a youth group.  I am generally teaching twice a week (sometimes three times a week) along with having a full time job in IT.  I have wonderful friends who would like to spend time with me.  There are teenagers and twenty-somethings who seek me for advice and guidance.  I am a fairly busy man.  Don’t get me wrong, I ike what I do, so I’m not really complaining about it, I’m just setting the scene.

I think I hit the main problem with a lifestyle like this.  I like it.  In fact, I really like it.  I truly enjoy the lunches, dinners, meetings, group times, study sessions… all of the things that make ministry difficult and time consuming.  If I didn’t like these things, I would stop doing them.  But how long can I (or you) keep up this pace?  What happens when we start to lose our footing, or our momentum?

I think we need breaks.  Not necessarily long breaks, but we need breaks.  A couple of weeks ago I asked some of the other leaders in my groups to take over for a bit.  I’m in the middle of planning a wedding and looking for a house, so I need all of the extra time I can find.  I am grateful for these people who are helping me with the teaching and planning of these ministries while I take a short sabbatical.  One of the things I started to notice once I shared the responsibilities is that I felt free again.  Not in a “see you later, sucka” kind of freedom, but I noticed that I don’t need to lead everything all of the time.

photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Just tell the intern I'm looking at houses

Since I have these people around me who are capable of teaching and leading, I should use them more often.  In fact, they have been asking to help out more often, and allowing them to step up not only helps me, but it also helps them.  What an amazing concept.

Now that I see that I have people around me who can take charge and lead these groups, maybe I will plan for a couple of these breaks every once in a while.  I know I can use the time off to regroup and refocus.  Also, I can help others to grow as leaders while I recharge my own batteries.

Do you take breaks?  How do you plan them out?  I’d love to hear how you guys do it.

I am reading through the Bible again, and I’m in Leviticus right now. It’s a great book, but one that causes a lot of people to give up on their “Bible in a Year” plan. It contains a lot of specifics and rituals that bog people down, but if you can back away from the rituals, themselves, and see the big picture, a lot can be gleaned from the text. If you want, you can check out my last post on Leviticus 9 here.

Anyway, on to Leviticus 13. The stuff that has to happen in the lives of people in the Old Testament is pretty, how should I put it…. intricate. The rules to follow, the painstakingly precise measurements and strict guidelines, seem almost impossible to get right. Again, just like in Leviticus 9, I am glad I don’t have to do these things to follow God. But, also like Leviticus 9, I believe that there are principles and ideas that transcend the strict guidelines, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

In Leviticus 13 God gives Moses and Aaron the steps to take for determining the cleanliness of the Israelites. Specifically, God is talking about defiling skin disease, but the process is pretty interesting. When someone feels like they have become unclean, they go to the priest for an assessment. From there, the priest spends time inspecting the person and seeing if the person is unclean. If he is unclean, the priest is supposed to give instructions and then (and pay attention to this) check up on him. The usual, initial step is to give the guy a week and see what happens. The priest comes back after seven days and reinspects. This process continues until the man is clean. An interesting piece of information is that the unclean man is kept away from the others while he goes through the cleansing process. God works on him away from the other people to protect them throughout the process.

Is this how we take care of peolpe today? Do we take those who are in need of help and help them until they are “clean”? Do we continue to investigate and help others until they are restored? These are questions I ask myself as I deal with people who are in need of help. I try to spend a lot of time working with those who ask for and need help and support. I try to be there for those around me so that I can help restore them.

I have even asked people to step away from ministry for a while to give them time to be restored. Restoration is a big part of healing. We tend to turn our backs on those who fall short of our standards, but we rarely do anything to help them get back on their feet. I have seen many people stumble, and I have seen many of those people let down by those around them. Ministry is about reaching out and restoring people to a right relationship with God. How are you accomplishing the mission?

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Leviticus 9 tells an interesting tale.  In it, God instructs Moses and Aaron how to prepare for their new ministry.  The preparations are very ceremonial, with directions on how to sacrifice and even what to wear.  Moses and Aaron are given specific instructions and told how to prepare both themselves and the others around them for this new ministry.  I’m so glad we don’t have to go through these steps now, especially the sacrifices, but in this I see something that may be missing from our current ministries.

 

Ministry is a beautiful thing.  God allows us to partner with Him to share the Word with others.  I wonder how often we start new endeavors with a reverence like Moses and Aaron had when they started theirs.  I know that as time goes on, I spend less time preparing myself for ministry and more time thinking about the lesson plan itself.  I think I miss the significance sometimes.  In fact I know I do.  I think about the people God has placed in my care, and I pray for them.  I do think about the lesson plans and what God wants them to learn, but I really don’t spend time preparing myself for the ministry.  I know we don’t live in an era where sacrificing animals for God is appropriate, and I don’t want to think about ministry preparation in a legalistic way, but I think that there is a place for real reverence in our ministries.  In prayer and in just listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can gain much strength for our ministries.  Those of us who are teachers have a job that comes with a lot of responsibility.  How are you handling that responsibility?



Surface Of Red Brick Wall

Image: nuttakit / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hit the wall. Hard. It happens from time to time, but it’s never fun. Maybe it’s happened to you at some point. You’re doing fine, the world seems to be as it should. Your walk with God is going well, and everything just seems to fall into place. The next thing you know you feel like the SWAT team just mistook your house for a meth lab, and you as the neighborhood drug czar.

All of the warm and fuzzy feelings seem to fall away in an instant, and you’re immobilized. You never saw it coming. It just happened. You don’t know what to do, and you’re not even sure you want to do anything at all. You just want to find cover, and lay quietly, licking your wounds.

Well, that’s kind of where I am right now. I feel disconnected from God, and life seems to be fairly out of control. I can’t seem to get a grip on anything, and the more I tried to grasp, the more I ended up pushing things away. So now I’m just tired. I just want to lie down and recover.

I know that I need to get up and keep moving, but I seem to lack motivation. I would love to be able to stay down and recover slowly, but I don’t have the luxury of time. I lead at least two ministries a week, and I cannot stay out of the game for very long before people start to notice, and ministries start to lose steam. I have to get back up and keep moving. I have to dig in deep, brush the dust off and keep fighting. It’s what I’m called to do.  It’s what He’s made me to do.