A Thankless Job or an Opportunity to Create
You spend months of your life planning something.
You pour yourself into it. You bleed for it. You give up your time and energy to make this thing work.
Maybe it’s a trip or an event or a message. Whatever it is, you’ve given a part of yourself to make it the best you possibly could make it. Then the time comes to share it with your students
If you’re anything like me, when I’ve been preparing something for a long time, I create a narrative in my head of what the response should be like, according to my thoughts. However, the majority of the time, it doesn’t go that way.
More often than not, I’ll spend a large amount of time planning and creating something that’s unique and worthwhile, and the reaction is nothing like I desired. As humans, we crave praise or applause, or sometimes even a simple “thank you.”
However, in youth ministry, that often doesn’t happen. Frequently, our students will walk away from our talks, events or trips with little to no thanks or praise at all. Just this past week, I led a camping trip for our middle school ministry. I had spent long hours planning this trip, and as the trip itself was unfolding I kept thinking how great it was. The trip was better than I could have even imagined. When we arrived home, I realized that not one student thanked me for such an amazing trip. After a couple days went by, it was apparent that no one was going to reach out and commend me on such a valuable and life-changing trip. Quickly, I began racing through a number of thoughts.
- Was the trip actually horrible?
- Did I do something wrong?
- Should I quit youth ministry because clearly, no one likes what I’m doing?
…ran through my mind.
I realize now that those thoughts were simply my ego feeling wounded. I wanted someone, anyone, to tell me that I had done a good job. But in ministry, we often don’t get that.
Ministry can often feel like a thankless job.
It can be a place where we long for approval but never seem to get it.
The problem is we’re seeking approval from people, and our job isn’t to please others. Yes, ministry is about meeting people where they’re at, and that means you need to create things that speak to specific people groups. However, your role has never been about cultivating something that is designed to please people.
We were created to bring glory to God.
If you’re sincerely creating something that you believe God has instilled in your heart to create, that’s all that matters. Yes, you should do your best, but if people don’t respond in the way you hope they do, you can’t do anything about it.
Our role is to listen to the Holy Spirit and do our best to discern what He’s asking us to create. How people respond is out of our control.
Think about any museum. If you walk into an art exhibit, odds are you won’t absolutely love every single one of them. But that doesn’t matter. Art isn’t about everyone liking it. Even the things that the mass audience enjoys, doesn’t mean everyone on earth enjoys it.
When we’re creating talks, putting trips together, or planning events, you must keep in mind that you yourself are an artist. Everything we create is a work of art. People will experience our art differently, and that’s okay.
You don’t need a heap of praise for you to feel worthwhile. You can feel worthwhile by simply creating something that brings glory to God. When we approach the things we plan from that angle, we’re far more likely to create something that actually deeply inspires people, not something that simply pleases them.
RYAN SCHMALL is the Student Ministries Pastor at Redding First Church of the Nazarene in Northern California. He is married to his wife Jeanette, and together they have three amazing girls. Ryan is passionate about creating experiences and environments for people to encounter God in new and unique ways. You can follow him on TWITTER or read his blog over at IAMRYANSCHMALL.TUMBLR.COM.
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.