By Adam McLane My first foray into youth ministry leadership came when I was about 20 years old. I'd recently dropped out of Bible college and gotten involved in my home church's youth ministry program. One day the youth pastor called me and asked me to take over teaching the middle school group. “They are a lot of fun, if not teachable.” Perfect. I'd always wanted to teach Sunday School and now I had gotten my big shot. I'd teach them the lesson provided and drop in some tidbits of systematic theology when they weren't expecting it. Next thing you know Youth Specialties would write a book about how I got a room full of kids to memorize Bible verses and Henry Thiessen's textbook. This was my big break!
All of those aspirations came crashing down on the first Sunday. I quickly learned why the previous teacher quit! Cradle Christians yawned as I slipped in my killer illustration. When I turned around to write something on the whiteboard a spitball splattered right next to me. No lie, my first Sunday a kid threw a big juicy spitball at me. My head sunk as all of my dreams faded. This wasn't a coronation, it was one of those moments where you have to decide… am I going to blow up or am I going to make the best of this?
In a passage filled with encouragement for Timothy to keep going when ministry threw spitballs at him, Paul wrote, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction.” (2 Timothy 4:2) I find that encouraging. Paul was an expert at what to do when things didn't go according to plans; throughout his ministry a pattern emerged where things went well for a while and then tanked in an instant. And his instructions to Timothy are very helpful for me as I lead. I love the simplicity of his advice. Bad things will happen! You'll get beat up, your friends will say mean things, you won't feel appreciated.
So how do you respond? Do you throw the spitball back? Do you fire back some cutting words?
Paul tells us… “With great patience and careful instruction, preach the Word.” Roll with the punches, keep focused on your task at hand, and preach the Word.