Do You Want to Get Well? Handling Ministry Disappointments & Pain
I walked into my favorite coffee shop planning to finish up some conference material and spotted a good friend. He has prayed with me and over me on several occasions. He is that church leader that comes into my life at the right place and at the right time (God uses this man to speak truth and encouragement into my life). He pushed his work aside and invited me to take a seat with him. The conversation began. We talked about family, job and life updates for a while before the pain in my heart presented itself.
From the outside, there is not much to see. My wife and family are well. My job is going well. All is well, but not really. A year ago, I made the decision to walk away from the student ministry I had led for years. To be clear, I was not fired. I had simply reached a point in which a change in leadership philosophy and my ability to lead had been diminished. Leaving marked the end to a three-year journey that led me to the conclusion that my staying would eventually diminish the ministry’s ability to grow and the painful discovery that I was turning into a “not so optimistic” person to be around in the office and at home. My wife (kids, friends, staff…) had begun to witness the frustration, so I left. A decision that I would have coached any other youth minister to make (A shameless plug for YS Coaching here). As a leader, it was the right thing to do. My family is much happier with the return of “optimistic” husband and dad. And my ministry has grown in impact. My family attends and I volunteer faithfully at the church in which I served on staff. So why the pain?
I know in my head that stepping aside was the logical answer, but my heart has been taking its sweet time catching up. Back to the coffee shop.
As I visited with my friend, not so optimistic David began to resurface. I was not complaining about the church or arm chair quarterbacking decisions (I am not, nor will I be that guy). I began to share the leadership frustrations that went into my decision to leave. And the lack of “pastoral care” I received when I left. Really? Where was this coming from? Honesty time.
I know why. I am competitive, driven and attach a lot of my self worth on my ability to succeed. In other words, I have plenty of space for insecurity and bitterness to set into my heart when things do not turn out the way I thought or wanted them to turn out. And, even though it was the right move to leave, things did not turn out the way I thought they would at the church.
- Leadership philosophy differences happen, I know that.
- Leaders can and should choose how, who and where they want their staff to serve, I know that.
- I am not the answer to all things student ministry and that is more than okay, I know that.
- My heart is on a journey to catch up with that which I know.
My wife, one of the smartest people I know and my best friend, describes my journey like a wound I will not let heal. I keep picking at the wound not allowing God to heal the pain.
Do You Want to Get Well?
Today, in the coffee shop, my good and wise friend listened, acknowledged the pain and lovingly challenged me to stop picking at the wound. He took me to scripture and asked the question of Jesus, “Do you want to get well?” As we talked, we both agreed that my head says “yes” but my heart has been saying “no.” Ministry pain is personal and often difficult to let go of easily. Still, it must be released in order to move on and fully embrace current ministry adventures. You have to make the decision to get well.
In John 5, when Jesus asked the lame man the do-you-want-to-get-well-question, the man gave a number of excuses as to why the healing would not take place. Yet, because the power of Jesus is greater than our lame excuses (pun intended), he was healed. Perhaps today is the day my heart catches up with my head. “Jesus, I will take that healing offer.”
If you have been disappointed or hurt by ministry, you are not alone and the pain is real. If you are stuck in that pain, your journey towards healing begins with and will not continue until you stop picking at the wound and answer the question, “Do you want to get well?”
I do not like not so optimistic David. I like optimistic David. I choose healing!
David Fraze is Special Assistant to the President of Lubbock Christian University and Manager of DFW Character Coaches for Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Based out of North Richland Hills, Texas, David has been a student minister for over 25 years. David is a popular speaker at Youth Events, Public/Private School Events, Ministry Trainings and Seminars. David is a writer who has contributed articles for the YS Blog, ENGAGE, the quarterly journal of The Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, Youth Worker Journal, Journal of Student Ministries, and the Fuller Youth Institute. David serves as a Ministry Coach for Youth Specialties, speaker for Sticky Faith, and serves as Character Coach for Richland High School Football and Athletics.
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.