What To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do


By Marty Estes

If you’ve been in ministry for very long, chances are you’ve face a drought. Now, I’m not talking about the literal kind of drought, where there’s no rain and you have to ration your water. What I AM talking about is the drought you face when it seems like the Heavens are shut up, you’re not hearing from God, and there seems to be no direction or vision for what’s next. This is particularly nerve-wracking when you’re the leader. The main vision caster. The one who is supposed to empower and inspire your volunteers to go reach the masses and do excellent ministry. Yet, there you sit, on another random day in your office, wondering what to do next. Anyone else identify? Surely I’m not the only one.

Here’s the truth: there are going to be times in ministry where you flat-out feel like you’re wandering in the wilderness. Youth ministry is just not a continuous stream of burning bushes, parted seas, and voices from above. In the midst of wandering seasons, however, we still are asked to function, provide programs and direction for our students; and not just that, to grow them! The hardest part of ministry at this time is that you can feel as if you aren’t even growing yourself, let alone your students. However, we aren’t alone.

Abram knew how it felt.  Long before he was Abraham, father of the Hebrew nation and venerated icon of scripture, he was Abram, a man of self-made wealth who had it made. At 75 years old, when many people are winding down, Abram was just getting started. In the midst of all that comfort, God’s voice popped in and turned his world upside down:

“The Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you.” ~ Genesis 12:1

Excuse me. What? With that one command, God asked Abram to walk from a life of ease and certainty into a place of uncertainty, reckless trust, and blind faith. But, isn’t that exactly where God asks us to go? As you minister to students and their parents on a daily basis, please don’t try to tell me you have a complete roadmap for every single thing you’ll face and every little thing you’ll do. It’s impossible. Because ministry is the land of uncertainty, where schedules made for weeks can change in an instant. All it takes is a phone call, a text, or a meeting.  Or maybe for you, like me, it’s listening to the doubts, fears, and questions we have about our own ability to do this thing called student ministry. And there, in that moment, is the drought. I know you’ve felt it. You’ve felt it as you’ve wrapped your arms around another hurting teen, not knowing really what to say about the painful situation they’re in. You’ve dealt with it as your own family has faced a hard week, you’ve been overworked, and it’s Wednesday and you haven’t even been able to touch anything for student ministry yet because of getting asked to do other things. You’ve walked through it with your volunteers, trying to figure out what to do with them to effectively use their gifts to meet needs for your students.

And what do you do in the midst of all this, when you simply don’t know what to do?


Trust that, like Abram, God will lead you to the place you need to be. That he will tell you when to stop and when to go. When to speak and when to be silent. When to move and when to stay still. And you pray. Pray with full abandon, telling God everything and asking him to show you where you’re going. It never, ever hurts to ask! He may not say it, but He will show you when the time is right.

Abram’s journey lasted another 100 years, saw him take a new name, and not even reach the Promised Land of his people. But, where Abraham is buried is not what we remember most about him. Instead, we remember Abraham’s faithfulness, the trust he had in God, and his ability to follow through on God’s requests even if he didn’t see the endgame. If you are in a season in your ministry where you don’t know what to do, remember this: God is still at work, even when we can’t see. Hold on like Abram, and God will use you, too.