By Jake Kircher
Take a second and just think about this question: are you content in your current ministry setting?
If you’re employed in youth ministry, do you enjoy going into to the office every, or even most, days?
Do you have satisfaction in the work and ministry you are doing?
Do you feel peace around your peers and your boss?
If you answered adamantly “yes” to all of those questions, awesome! Please post in the comment section describing how it is you got to that point for the sake of the rest of us.
On the flip side, coming out my own experiences as a youth worker for 14 years, as well as numerous conversations with others in youth ministry, I think it’s safe to say that many of us would probably answer no to some, if not all, of those questions. And I think this is proven more so by the short stints (18-months to 3 years depending on the research source) that most have at a given church.
But let’s go a little deeper with this. If you don’t feel content in your current ministry setting, I would encourage you to take a few minutes to ask why. Or put another way, what would need to change in order for you to find contentment?
If you’re like me, over the years I have chased many answers to that question.
A bigger budget.
An associate youth worker.
For my boss to “get it.”
More or better volunteers.
The list could go on and on…
Here’s the thing, though, with these lists that we make. None of them will actually give us the contentment we want. Why? Because there will always be more reasons for being discontent.
You get a bigger budget and now the finance person at your church is asking more questions.
Your boss finally “gets it” but now the head of the church board doesn’t.
You get a raise and quickly find ways to spend it, and subsequently more things that you “need” but now can’t afford.
The fact is, we will always be able to find reasons to be discontent, and for some reason the human spirit seems to grasp on to them pretty easily. The true secret to finding contentment is to not look to our external situations, but instead to learn how to look within.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:11, “I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.” (NLT) The word he uses for content is an interesting term, especially given that it is the only time it shows up in the Bible. “In Stoic philosophy, autarkes (‘content’) described a person who accepted impassively whatever came…This philosophy fostered a self-sufficiency in which all the resources for coping with life were located within man himself.” (Baebrlein, Frank E. Expositors Bible Commentary. Zondervan, 1990. Olive Tree.)
Then Paul cites in verse 12 a number of situations that he has gone through in his life. (He describes these things in greater detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-27.) Paul understood that his external situations could always change. That even when he hit a point where everything was good, the tide could turn at any point. But, when life changed, contentment didn’t have to. Why? Because he learned to find contentment from within.
However, Paul goes a step further than the Stoic philosophers and adds in verse 13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” (NLT) It’s not just ourselves finding peace within, but it’s Christ in us. That is where true contentment comes from.
This is nothing new. It’s something that most of us have taught to our students. But how many of us actually, authentically, really live this out?
Yes, some of the things that cause us discontentment are valid issues in regards to supporting our families or being in a healthy ministry setting. Yes, sometimes the right decision is walking away from a church or ministry position for somewhere else. But what I have learned in wrestling through my own discontentment in different seasons is that the best response is learning how to go to God with your discontent and allowing Him to change you from within. Along the way, He will sometimes lead you to new external situations too, but fight the urge to put your faith and contentment in those things, because tomorrow could bring that all too familiar feeling of being discontent all over again.
So, what would need to change in order for you to find contentment?
Let us learn, as Paul did, to respond to that question with the answer of Jesus, and Jesus alone. May we remember on a daily basis that, “this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)