Every week is different in Ministry isnt it? – whether you’re working with young people or adults. I often say that in the management of youth ministry is not dissimilar to trying, and often not always succeeding, to keep a number of plates spinning in the air at the same time. But it neednt be managing an organisation, it is the same for being a youth worker or minister, clergy or chaplain.
Often the plates that are being spun require different capacities of effort, different skills and mental and emotional energy.
In a way its not that there are so many tasks or activities that are part and parcel of a ‘normal week’ – its coping in the contrasts of them, and the personal performances that are required;
sometimes it requires a coaching response or a listening one
sometimes its an activity that needs to be thought through and led from the front
sometimes its to support and guide
sometimes it involves having the ideas
sometimes it involves letting others have ideas, therefore creating space
sometimes it involves planning and vision, other times to be in the moment and in the intricate.
Contrasts – Life and Death
Being in Ministry involves a whole host of roles, of different personal performances depending on the situation, and most of this is fairly obvious to anyone. What i have been reflecting on is the contrasts of all that is required, some activities and situations feel life giving, purposeful and sadly there are other situations and moments that just feel sapping, and have a whiff of death about them.
If you have read my recent articles on some of the difficult issues that youth workers face you will have read about the situation I am facing regarding pending redundancy and the closure of the youth work charity i work for. This is difficult, clearly, but because the writing has been on the wall for quite a while it has made it feel quite a challenge, and almost the slow march towards an inevitability, just waiting for the decision to be made, even more so now that a decision has been made, the end is close.
But it neednt be something so obvious to have a whiff of death about it. It could be that the mundane, the admin and emails or planning feels like such a slog compared to the face to face work with young people. It is still a contrast.
On a real positive there are moments of life in Ministry, the great conversations, people sharing faith, acting in love to solve issues of injustice, of taking risks or forming community.
So, its about coping, enjoying even, the contrasts. There can be long ongoing phases of trial when activities and ministries are in their death march – and these require the support of others and being hard skinned to deal with them, on other occasion it might just be the one activity that feels like this in a week of activities and responsibilities that feel full of potential, life and purpose. Often it takes effort to move between the different activities, an emotional challenge, determination and attempts to act with integrity.
Your situation might be something in the middle.
So, Ministry might be about coping in the contrasts of what it required on a day to day and week by week basis.
However, it might also be as worthwhile to reflect on whether it is appropriate to interpret such things as having such extremes. For the reason that many people who participate in what be interpreted ‘dead’ activities might find meaning in them. And if one of the images of the church is a body, or a city, then bodies also need mundane aspects, and even a city needs a functional street light system. Not spectacular, but regularly shines the light on others. Making prophetic statements about how things sense might not be hugely helpful, dealing and thriving in ministry where there are contrasts enough in a week, even in terms of expected role, is tough enough.
Maybe there needs to be a different contrast to thinking about contrasts. Put all of Gods work in the church in a different focus.
But if you’re about to start a vocation in working with young people, youth ministry in a church, or managing in a youth charity, then the ability to cope, react and thrive within the varied contrasts of the role is really important. If you’re in it, youll know what i mean. As people we might gravitate like a moth to the light and life, or to try and change the culture or activity that feels dark, or ending, so that can make being involved in it more of challenge to protect ourselves, but thats not always where we’re needed, where we have an impact, or given the destiny of Jesus ministry that was about heading to a purposeful death, where we might be called to be. Though that doesnt make it easy for us personally, even if whats to be expected.