By Adam McLane On a recent drive home I came to a very important conclusion. Just about everything I do disappoints someone, somehow.When I tell my kids that I have to go to a meeting and can't play Wii with them, I disappoint my kids. When we recently moved across the country, that disappointed our friends in Michigan. When I go out to lunch with a friend, I disappoint my wife. When I spend time with my son, I disappoint my daughter. When I spend time with my daughter, I disappoint my son. When I put a book on my “currently reading” list, I disappoint a blog reader because they don't like that author or topic. If I volunteer for something at church, I disappoint my family. If I say no to that ministry opportunity, I disappoint a church leader. Even right in this moment, I've disappointed some readers who had hoped I would talk about something else today.
It's a demented thought. I admit it. But work with me on this one.
Acknowledging the “disappointment factor” may not seem like much of an encouragement for a column dedicated to encouraging youth workers, here is how it is. With the tapestry of your whole life in consideration you are left with choices every single day. Effective time management leaves you with the daily question, “Who am I going to disappoint?” On the one hand even thinking of the question shows that you care enough to notice that your decisions as a leader have far reaching effects both for what you chose to do and what you chose not to do.
Being in ministry is unlike many other jobs because the entire tapestry of your life is considered when people are under your teaching. It is nearly impossible for a middle school student to separate “Pastor Adam” at his church job from “Pastor Adam” who watches his kids score goals at soccer or “Pastor Adam” who sits at home and watches a football game on Sunday afternoon. We simply don't have the luxury of having a life separate from our youth ministry role, do we? If you're like me you've even had parents say to you, “So this is what you do in your free time?” We both know that she's really saying, “Why are you wasting your time when you could be investing in the spiritual life of my child?”
Here's the good part. This is what had me smiling on my drive home. Jesus acknowledged this tension and he relished it! He famously disappointed the masses with how he chose to prioritize his time… a lot! I hadn't thought about it very much until I recently read through Luke looking for it. If you have about 5 minutes, read through Luke 8 as it's full of times where Jesus moved on or lingered or otherwise disappointed one group by spending his time with another. My favorite one starts in verse 40:
Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus' feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.
Did you catch it? A crowd of people waited for him to arrive. Presumably, each of them had their own reasons. Each with needs. Each with hopes. Jesus chose to disappoint the mass of people who waited in order to serve someone who just showed up, Jairus.
A life in ministry is just like that. You will often have to chose to disappoint some in order to serve others. You aren't alone. Each of us makes these choices all day, every day. Take comfort in knowing that it's both perfectly acceptable and healthy. In fact, the longer you stay in ministry the better you'll get at disappointing the right people.