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Before You Go Chasing Down That Problem

After ever Sunday of ministry, I’m left with several questions:

  • So what? Did that make a difference?
  • Did anybody decide anything that will matter?
  • Are there any problems I need to solve?
  • What do we need to do differently next week?
  • Should I keep my job?
Ok.. that last one was mostly a joke. Mostly. I confess that a lot of Sundays, my mind plays tricks on me and I wonder if what I’m doing matters. Sometimes I get discouraged by the crowd. Sometimes I think of stuff I would have done different if I could do it over but it’s too late. Sometimes I’m my own worst critic. Sometimes other people give me lots of help.  But in the end, working with teens is both a joy and gut wrenchingly hard.  There is so much at stake and I feel like what we do really really matters.  I can’t afford to suck at it.  WE can’t afford to suck at it. 
So in the pursuit of excellence, I’ve had to decide some stuff to ignore and some stuff not to ignore.  So, before you go chasing down that problem or quitting your job, here’s a few things to consider.
GOSSIP IS GOSSIP.  Ignore it or you’ll become part of it.  Don’t fall into the trap of chasing down every thing students say or that you hear students say. Most of it will just burn itself out, so let students be students and leave it alone. 
DISCOURAGEMENT IS NOT FROM THE LORD.  God may correct, but he never cuts.  If you can’t see the good the correction is pointing to, question it hard before you heed it.  
DON’T MESS WITH THE SEEDS.  When you teach, let it sit for several days before inspecting it.  Wait to see what God does with it.  Sometimes, when I think stuff impacted no one, a couple of days will go by and some student will say or do something profound and I’ll have to apologize to God for my dumb doubt.  If you go inspecting the seeds you planted you risk uprooting the ones that fell on really good soil.  Just plant and sow God’s Word and leave it alone.  Let the Holy Spirit water it. 
CHASE IT IF IT THREATENS YOUR REPUTATION.  If your in youth ministry, then your reputation is the bank account from which you write credibility checks.  About the only fire I will chase down without hesitation and put out is the one that threatens my integrity.  If someone starts spreading division and lies about you, then don’t write an e-mail and don’t call them, just go find them and have a conversation ASAP. 
ASK SOMEONE YOU TRUST.  Before you call something a success or label it a failure, run it by someone who was in it and whose opinion you really respect.  Find someone who loves you and loves God and is in it with you.  Then ask them for their honest feedback.   
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?
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Brian Berry is a proven veteran of student ministry. He serves as the generation ministries pastor at Journey Community Church near San Diego, California, where he works directly with the high school ministry and oversees a staff that is responsible for infants through teens. Brian is also a frequent blogger, writes and teaches for youth workers, and is the author of both As for Me and My Crazy House and Criticism Bites. He speaks at various conferences, camps, and retreats for a variety of audiences. He is married to Shannon, and they have five kids.