The End of My Rope

BY 30 HOUR FAMINE TEAM

By Anonymous

April 30th, 3:30 pm I arrived at church to start my Sunday night routine. It is a typical Sunday afternoon so the first thing I do is get the kids ministry check in system up and running and prep the kids ministry area for that night’s service. Kids will start arriving in about an hour. Now it is time to focus on the student ministry. It is now 4 pm and the next 45 minutes is filled with loading songs and games into our media presentation software, printing off notes for the message, printing off small group questions and turning on the Xboxes. Now it is 4:45 and it is time to meet and greet parents and students downstairs. At 5 pm our kids ministry starts and I’ve got 30 minutes till our youth service starts, let’s get some supper, head upstairs and chat with some students.

I see a volunteer as I head upstairs…

“Hey Dave, how are you tonight?”

“Doing good Josh. Hey just wanted to let you know that Jim and Sarah won’t be able to make it tonight, I know that they were handling their small groups this week but they had something come up and couldn’t make it tonight.”

“Ok Dave, thanks for the heads up, we will make it work. See you upstairs in a few.”

Oh man, now what am I going to do? My main small group leaders for High School are not going to be here tonight, and they didn’t even contact me to let me know. Well, we will just have to make it work tonight.

“Hey Josh, the computer in the youth room just froze up and we are not sure how to get it going again.”

“K, service starts in about 10 minutes I think we can get it up and going before we start.”

Computer starts, software loads, service ready to roll…I stand up to open up with our game and my heart sinks down into my feet…8 kids show up tonight. 8 of the 35 that we should have. In fact my adult volunteers outnumber the students. The youth service continues on as planned and we finish the night with small groups. Already defeated and discouraged I have a conversation with one of my most faithful high school students that just crushes the rest of my spirit.

“Hey Josh, listen I’m just not sure if I am going to keep coming man. I know you need me here but if I am the only high school student here I just don’t want to be around all these middle schoolers by myself.”

“Trust me Aaron, I know how you feel but don’t bail on me yet. We can get this thing turned around. I just know we can.”

The drive home that night was lonely, not because I was alone in my car, but because I felt like everyone had abandoned me. I felt alone because nobody seemed to care about the time I spent prepping for the youth service. I felt alone because my students seemed disinterested. I felt alone because I just didn’t think my small group leaders were getting it. I felt tired, abandoned, frustrated, discouraged and angry. At this point in the spring, with summer looming one month away, I wasn’t even excited about summer. Thinking about the fundraisers coming up, about camps (one youth and one kids), about VBS, about the time off everyone else gets to take and how crazy busy I was going to be, I wasn’t excited; I dreaded what the next three months held for me. I was ready to give up and quit! I felt like I was sinking into a deep hole in the ground and honestly I didn’t want to do anything about it. Just let me fall in and let me be.

After voicing my frustrations and asking for prayer to some people, I had a few people reach out to me who just wanted to talk and share some advice. They help me realize that I was beginning to start down a really unhealthy road. I was going to become a statistic if some things didn’t change.

The first thing that needed to change was my personal time of worship. My devotions had become dry and routine. I was focused on just doing my devotions to get them done and out of the way instead of spending time with God. I was not spending quality time in personal worship and this needed to change in a big way. One passage that I read during this time hit me hard and brought me to my knees before God. It was Psalm 62:5 and it says, “Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” I had forgotten to take my rest in God. My soul longed to worship God and all I was doing was checking a box. So I began to change my devotions. I started worshiping God on a deep personal level instead of just seeing how many chapters of the Bible I could consume in twenty to thirty minutes. I still have a reading plan that I follow, but when something in scripture hits me to my core, I stop right there and focus on what God is speaking to me through that scripture. I’ve started to listen to a worship playlist of music as I read. “Here’s my heart” by Lauren Daigle, “Oceans” by Hillsong and “Simplicity” by Rend Collective have brought me to my knees weeping before God more times than I would care to admit over the past two months. Another new thing I’ve added to my personal time of worship, finding a way each day to use my gifts and talents to worship God. God has given those to me to bring glory and honor to Him. I should be using them in return to worship Him.

The second thing that needed to change was my personal time off. I cannot tell you how many days off I’ve taken over the past year, but I know I could probably count them all on one or two hands. There always is something that needs to be done, and if you’re like me, being a Student Pastor also means that you’re the IT guy, Web page guy, graphic designer, the wifi guy, the media guy, the sound guy, and the guy who knows how to transfer music to everyone’s iPhone. I’ve realized that some weeks it all isn’t going to get done and that is OK. There are major priorities that I make sure get done every week and when there is time for the other stuff, I then tackle those other projects. For me the major priorities are specifically youth and kid ministry related. Connecting to students every week is a priority. Making sure I have prepared my message every week is priority. Connecting with my adult volunteers is a priority. My middle school small group of guys is a priority. My day off is a priority. Sometimes I have to leave the office and hide in town so I am not distracted by other projects (or people) to focus on my priorities and that is OK. I am making sure that I am getting the proper time off that I need to stay rested and refreshed.

The third thing is something that I still need to do: I need to take some time away from everyone to refocus on my place in ministry. I need to get alone with God and have a serious conversation with Him about where I’ve been in ministry, where I am in ministry and where I am headed in ministry. What mistakes have I made? How can I avoid them? How can I be more effective in ministry? Am I doing ministry my way or His way? Am I doing the ministry He wants me to be doing? How do I use these newly discovered passions that I have in ministry? And, where is that smell coming from in my office? (Probably the unclaimed dirty socks from camp) But I need to let God show me how He wants to use me and where He wants to use me. I need to get that passion back in my life that I had 15 years ago when I started student ministry. I know that God has something for me, I have to just get with Him and have this conversation. That meeting with God is already scheduled for a few days at the end of summer as I sit down to plan this up coming school year.

Anybody can lose focus in ministry, anyone can get frustrated at students, with volunteers or parents, anyone can quit because you’ve had a night where everything has gone wrong, but is that what God wants from us? My encouragement to you, one follower of Christ to another, is this: Make sure your having a personal time of worship everyday, make sure you’re getting your days off to rest and refresh, and take some time to have tough conversations with God about your ministry. If you feel like you’re at the end of your rope like I was, find someone that you can talk to about how you’re feeling. Find some people who will pray for you. Find someone who you can pour your heart out to and who will hold you accountable to make the necessary changes in your life. The worst thing you can do is keep it bottled up inside. First and foremost, like Psalm 62: 5 says, you need to find your rest in God. Your soul is longing to rest in Him so find Him and rest.