There can be a range of emotions for anyone involved in youth ministry. The emotional rollercoaster can, at times, be brutal.
There are the obvious highs:
- A kid becomes a Christian
- The night runs smoothly
- There is a significant conversation
- The attendance is high or growing
- The leaders are developing
- It was simply a fun night
- People were connecting with one-another
- A parent gives positive feedback on the way their child is enjoying the youth ministry
All these bring terrific intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, as well as emotional highs for any youth leader.
But, of course, the opposite is also true.
- Criticism from a parent for failing to communicate
- A night where everything planned goes wrong
- When you’re the only one left to clean up and lock up the church
- Observing that no one else is taking initiative to lead, serve, and connect with others
- A medical emergency in the middle of the program
- A conversation that is awkward
- The hard slog of week in week out with hardly anyone coming along
Here you can see how disappointment and discouragement can occur. Things don’t go right or there is simply nothing to feel motivated and happy about.
The thing with the emotional rollercoaster is that it is exactly that; up and down, up and down. Riding these waves of emotions often causes increased stress and anxiety, it can become tiresome, and also lead to the seeking of more and more highs. In this way, the rollercoaster can begin to affect the way we do youth ministry.
Helpful ways to settle these emotions is to gain perspective.
Perspective is crucial to understanding the long-term stability of oneself and the ministry.
Early in youth ministry I would have been up and down most weeks because of the way the program ran, what the night consisted of, and how the students reacted to its various parts. But now, realising that this is a long-term game, I don’t get that as much. If things aren’t that great, then it’s OK, it’s one week and a crucial question at the end of a night is, “What can we learn from this?”
You see, youth ministry is like a test match.
A cricket test match.
A test match goes for five days, the players need to be patient, perform their roles, understand what they’re there for, and apply themselves in a stable and steady way.
In test match youth ministry any leader needs to do the same.
We need to understand what we’re there for, what our role is on any given night, and apply ourselves to that. This involves intentionality and being alert to what’s going on. It means we look out for other ways we can help the team. And it also means we make sure we gain perspective while we’re in a season when things don’t go so well. There’s always next week, and the week after that. It’s a long-term approach, a long-term game that requires persistence and endurance.
It’s hard to judge what I love more. Youth ministry or test match cricket. But in both I see parallels in the need to keep perspective. Make sure the long-term game is in the picture, rather than getting emotionally caught up in the short-term ups and downs.