Are You Creating a Self-Serving Youth Ministry?

My name is Charles Rikard and I’m selfish.  For years, I tried making ministry about me and my personal achievements.  The value of my life was placed highly on the numerical and spiritual values that I placed on the students and adults that I serve.  In turn, I neglected important relationships and overlooked important spiritual leaders.  I’ve discovered over the past year though that the success of the ministries I oversee at the church I serve has little to do with me, and more with what I’m asking God to do in my church and community.  Understand though, that I have to be centered in a deep relationship with Christ in order for my prayers to be properly placed at the throne of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  And honestly, there have been moments over the past 10 years where a Wednesday night or Sunday morning has left me dismayed because it did not achieve for me the satisfaction of looking in the mirror and saying, “You’re doing a great job!!  God is truly working.”

It’s hard to confess these things… but why?  All of us at some point struggle with our own identity in ministry because of the different circumstances that we encounter.  Throughout seminary and beyond, I discovered that most pastors go through a season where they struggle with their role in ministry.  When we encounter these struggles, we begin to change things about who we are in order to adapt to what we think might work.  And on top of that, we attend conferences where we second guess our efforts because of the success of others we know in ministry.  We do the same small groups, youth Wednesday nights, college bible studies, church fellowships, etc.  But for some reason, the dynamics are much different.  Of course there are many factors that contribute to the success of certain ministry programs between churches that deal less with programming and more with environment or cultural climates, but the personal heart struggles are still the same.

Over the past few years, there are some verses that I’ve clung on to that help keep me grounded when I try to take the ministry of my church in a selfish direction.  For the rest of this confession, I’ll focus on one section:  Acts 1:12-14.

“Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James. All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” – Acts 1:12-14

There are a few things in my life that I have gathered from these verses.  So to finish, I want to give you a few things that God’s Word has shown me about myself that I need to address and affirm on a daily basis.

  1. Go to where Christ is leading you:  In Acts 1:1-11, Christ appears before and spends time with the disciples.  While with them, he orders them to return back to Jerusalem and wait.  I’ve asked myself the question before, would God have impressed on them the Holy Spirit if they had decided to go in a direction other than Jerusalem?  Would the church have had as great an impact?  Personally, am I going in a different direction than what God is ordering me to go?  My ministry can only be as effective as the direction I am going.  By pursuing the direction God is calling me too, I can trust that is where He will decide to move.
  2. Pray and wait there together:  Once the disciples returned to Jerusalem, they met together,prayed, and waited for the God to move just as Christ had instructed them.  In order for God to be successful in your ministry, your prayer and your patience have to be front and center.  You cannot expect God to move in area when you are not asking of Him to move at all.  More specifically, are you praying for something of selfish intent?  Are you praying for something that will make you or your team feel better about the work you are doing?  Instead, pray as the disciples did.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to begin moving in your ministry.
  3. Be of one accord:  As the leader of your ministry, ask your leadership to pray in one direction and in one spirit.  This may require that you have a volunteer meeting centralized on prayer and  the how-to’s.  If the apostles had to ask, then do we think that we are above understanding how to pray individually and as a collective.  Instead, lead your people to pray specifically in the direction God is calling you to go.  And spend time with them to make sure that they are seeking personal time in devotion with God.

I hope that this helps you as you begin to see that you are not the only one who deals with heartache in ministry.  Rather than sitting in silence, let’s be bold enough to open up the conversation of ministry ups and downs, without fear of condemnation from our peers and colleagues.  If we find ways to work and pray together, than we get the privilege to reap and celebrate together.  In honor of my former college professor Dr. Robert Foster, “Peace be with you.”