Finding Your Jonathan
If we were to list the top qualities of youth pastors, I don’t think “asking for help” would be high up on that list, or maybe on that list at all. We tend to be the “charge ahead, ask questions later” type rather than the “slow down, ask for guidance” type. I mean really, who has time to stop what they’re doing and seek out help? Asking for help sucks time out of our already busy days and makes us look incompetent. We’re supposed to be pastors after all; we don’t ask for help, we get asked to help.
I learned the hard way that I suck at asking for help. One of my youth leaders – a person who also happened to be one of my youth ministry professors – took me aside one day and said these words: “You are doing ministry alone right now. You keep doing the things you think you’re good at and aren’t reaching out to your leaders to help you.”
These words stung, but I knew he was right. Not only was I living that way with my ministry, but also my life. I was trying to do the work of the ministry by myself, but I was also attempting to handle my stress points, sin issues and growth on my own, and that wasn’t working very well either.
I realized that I needed desperately to have a Jonathan. I needed a comrade in arms who will stand by my side through thick and thin. I needed that one who loves me and whom I love enough to be real, honest and gut-wrentchingly authentic. Like Jonathan was to David.
Sometimes, we feel like we should be able to handle whatever comes our way because we’re pastors, and for some of us male youth pastors because we’re “men”. When looking at the story of David and Jonathan, that argument doesn’t hold water! These guys were dudes! One was a prince, the other the commander of an entire army! Both were warriors and important people; if anyone is entitled to be too cool to ask for help, these two guys would be it. If the elite of the elite need help, we all need help.
I believe this is an epidemic in the lives of many youth pastors and is one of the leading causes of burn-out. Not having a companion to fight alongside you is like going into battle without a sword. Translation: it’s really, really stupid and very much NOT recommended!
How can I find a Jonathan?
When I was in college, the buzz was “accountability partner” and I began to be aware of my need for a friend who would stick closer than a brother. Someone I could trust, be real with and share my junk with. So, I sought out my own accountability partner, and began this process with Ben. Ben and I shared everything together, we worked through our engagements to our now wives, and I even went with him when he bought the ring! We were honest in our confessions and hard on each other like iron sharpening iron. We were best friends and true companions.
After graduation, Ben and I began our lives together and had a tough time remaining in contact. We lived close to each other, but for some reason our lives were so different that it was hard to chat and find time to go deep. Then he moved! During this transition of having a Jonathan, yet not having a Jonathan was when I got the wake-up call from my youth leader/professor and realized I needed my Jonathan back.
As it happened, God brought another man into my life. Nate is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met and he would ask penetrating questions. He forced me to not be a lone ranger and he challenged me to lean more on God and taught me the art of being blunt.
As I have been on this journey I’ve found that in order to find your Jonathan you need someone:
- in the same call in life as you
- who won’t let you get away with junk
- who calls you out
- who leads you closer to Jesus
- who loves you deeply
- whom you deeply love
- with whom you can laugh, cry and share life.
The key to getting a Jonathan is the heartfelt desire to stop going-it alone, to be challenged to grow – to recognize we all need to ask for help.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.