Its transition time around my, church and everyone is moving up into their new ministries. We often talk about helping students navigate transitions in ministry, but where is the seminar to help youth workers navigate the transitions themselves?
I think one of the main reasons youth workers don’t last in ministry is they have a hard time personally navigating transitions. You invest in a group of students and when they graduate, it’s hard to fall in love with a new group of students.
Another reason transitions are tough happens when we see students connect with the next ministry or ministry leader and we start to feel like we get forgotten. Though I lead our entire student team, when I was the middle school pastor I remember how hard it was to say goodbye to my 8th graders. I remember feeling like I was saying goodbye to students just as I was making progress. I also remember thinking that Senior Sunday at my church was really about celebrating our high school ministry. I frequently felt like our high school ministry got full credit for the work I did.
If you’re catching that this post is a bit of therapy for me, you’re probably right. I just sat through a senior service where our students shared what they learned through their time in student ministry. Guess what? They NEVER mentioned our middle school ministry. Most of these seniors where my students. Even though I’ve got a lot of longevity in ministry those feelings still persist.
- When I’m feeling forgotten and overlooked, I have to remind myself of one truth. Ministry to pre-teens was not about me getting the credit. It’s not about how good I feel or how much progress I made. With student ministry in general and middle school ministry in particular, it’s more about enjoying the process than the progress.”
- When we focus on the progress, we’re really focusing on results. Progress makes me find my ministry satisfaction based on how much growth (spiritual, numerical etc…) we see. It’s maddening because Spiritual formation isn’t linear. There’s no way to know when the end is achieved. A student who thrives in middle school, may falter in high school and come back in college (or never). That’s why progress is not a good metric for ministry satisfaction.
- When we focus on process, we’re focusing on two things: God’s faithfulness and my faithfulness. Trusting God’s faithfulness means that I celebrate ANY spiritual victory because ALL spiritual growth belongs to God. Trusting that God is author of Spiritual growth, we’re less bitter when someone else gets the credit.
“I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow.”–
1 Corinthians 3:6 (NLT)
- When we focus on our own faithfulness it means I take pride not in results, but in how faithful we are to the calling. We’re looking for God’s “Well done good and faithful servant” as a source of our main ministry satisfaction.
So what are some practical things we can do to actually enjoy ministry transitions?
- Stick it out. Longevity in middle school ministry is directly connected to ministry satisfaction. The longer you minister to young teens, the more long term growth you’ll see. You’ll also see more of your former students walking with Jesus. Some students and parents will also come back to thank you for the investment you’ve made.
- Actively celebrate other’s wins. Instead of looking for praise and recognition for yourself, seek for ways to celebrate when someone else gets to cross the goal line. Get satisfaction in knowing that you played a part and God get’s the glory.
To handle these transitions well, having the right perspective makes all the difference in the world. You’ll not just survive, you’ll thrive.
Kevin Libick is a student pastor with over 15 years of ministry experience. Most of that time has been dedicated to middle school ministry. Currently, he is the Student Ministry Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, TX. He’s the husband of Kara and father of Knox. In his off time he loves watching his Texas Rangers and making his own bacon.
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– Blog studentministryodyssey.wordpress.com