Guest Post by Ben Denen
Hi. My name is Ben and I have a “details” problem. I am addicted to getting all the details just right. When it comes to student ministry, I’m obsessed with working out all of the little things that make a program or event run perfectly.
The problem is that this can sometimes separate me from the God I’m trying to connect to, and the students I’m called to minister to.
If you’re a leader of a small youth ministry, I think maybe you can relate to this in a personal way. Don’t get me wrong, I know the grass is not always greener in a large ministry. We all have our challenges. However, an under-staffed and under-resourced student ministry has its unique challenges.
One of them is that every detail of every program usually falls to the responsibility of one person. I remember in my early days of ministry feeling the burden and the crush of feeling like my ministry needed more . . .
More serving opportunities.
More. More. More.
Before I realized it, I came down with a severe case of Martha-itis.
Take a moment to read Luke 10:38-42. This passage has had a profound impact on how I now approach ministry. I found myself really identifying with Martha. Every youth worship service, retreat, or event I found myself “running around in the kitchen” (so to speak), frustrated, stressed, and ashamed at the realization that I was a long ways away from the feet of Jesus. I wanted so desperately to lead a ministry with excellence and attention to detail so that I could create the best experience possible for students. I told myself that I was feeling the pressure to offer a “full range of opportunities” for students to connect to God. In reality, I was feeling the pressure to be as good as that student ministry up the street.
Over time God began to reveal to me how this story of Mary and Martha applied to my ministry approach.
What was I teaching my students? That it is more important to get the details right than it is to sit at the feet of Jesus? You see, I was guilty of a double standard. My words said one thing while my actions taught a much different picture. The reality is my actions were the loudest sermon my students were hearing.
In student ministry we feel a lot of pressure to do more. Some of it is external: parents, church boards, parents, senior staff, students. Did I mention parents? Often that pressure is internal. The story of Mary and Martha is a story of “less is more.” Take some time and reflect on the last couple of verses in this story.
But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, ESV)
Though it is easier to say than it is to follow, there is so much freedom in giving up those things that make us so anxious and troubled and focusing on that one thing that is so much more important: simply being with Christ.
We need that as leaders, and just as important, our students need to see modeled by their leaders.
Ben Denen is the Director of Youth and Worship Ministries at Fellowship of Faith in Mchenry, IL. He has been working in Youth Ministry in some form or fashion for nearly a decade and is currently pursuing his graduate degree in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Visit Ben’s personal blog at www.leadinginthemargins.com.