“Help me not be a jerk.” – A Youth Worker’s Prayer
“God, please help me to not be a jerk today. Amen.”
Have you ever prayed this prayer? If so, I totally get it—I prayed these words this morning.
Ministry is a rollercoaster. You hang on tight and hope you make it to the end of the ride without getting sick along the way. Some days you summit peaks as high as the clouds, taking it all in and savoring the view for just a moment. Other days you go racing downward toward the lowest valleys. The g-force you experience in the twists and turns and abrupt changes of direction tests your mettle, causing you to wonder if you can—or even should—hold on until the end.
I hate the valleys. I’m not a big fan of abrupt direction changes. I often find myself nauseated, and most mornings as I head to the office, I wonder, Do I dare climb onto this ride again? For 15 years I’ve chosen to climb into my little car every morning, buckle my seatbelt, and pull the safety bar over my legs for good measure. I’ve sat on the track, dreading the ride ahead. Sure, this rollercoaster we call ministry takes a different path from one day to the next—and some days the ride is spectacular. I’ve often come home thinking, I wish the ride had never stopped today! I sure hope I get to do that again tomorrow!
But let’s be real. Many days, I dread the ride, and often the ride I hoped would be spectacular turned out to be anything but.
So what do you do when you’ve paid for a disappointing ride? What do you do if the ride is downright gut-churning and the violence of it leaves you bruised and sore the next day?
You ask for your money back. You consider never riding that rollercoaster again. You think about taking up a new hobby and leaving amusement parks in your past.
Still following me?
On my worst days in ministry, I’m seriously tempted to quit and walk away. I know my church will find someone just like me who can plan activities and placate our people—after all, this is what I do on many, many days.
I’m often resentful. I get angry with the people I’m called to love. Some days I’m angry with them for being jerks themselves, and other days I’m angry simply because I lack compassion. In either case, I struggle to find the right heart, the right attitude, and the right words to minister the way I think Jesus would.
When I’m acutely aware of my resentment, my anger, and my cynicism, I recognize the dangerous possibility of me becoming toxic to others. These feelings come on certain days, and they sometimes persist through entire seasons. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I don’t want to hurt my church. For this reason, I choose to lock myself away. Like the werewolf who knows his identity and isolates himself during the full moon, I do my best to avoid interactions with others—I might bite on those days.
And so I offer my prayer: God, please help me not be a jerk today. Amen.
Some days this is the best I can do. If I choose to stay on this rollercoaster, I know there are peaks and thrills in the ride ahead. I also know the valleys will come, and I fully expect days when I’m nauseated, exhausted, and dreaming of other ways I could spend my life.
For some of you, there’s a simple solution: you can remind yourself to trust in Jesus or maybe even “Let go and let God.” If this works for you, great! But it just doesn’t work for me. I do my best to pray. I try to say how I feel and explain what I mean. God can handle it, and he wants to hear from me. Some days I pray for people who are sick or dying. Some days I pray for my wife and kids. Some days I pray for my ability to bless and build up others. Some days the best I can muster is “God, please help me not be a jerk today.”
Then I get back on the rollercoaster.
Dave Blanchard is the Director of Student Ministry at the West Houston Church of Christ. He is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who has worked in Oregon, Michigan and Texas—from churches of 175 to 900. Dave has been married for 18 years with three kids and two pug dogs.
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.