After being at my church now for just over 18 months as a youth pastor I have come to the realization that I have reached my expiration date. Yup, the average tenure of student pastors across the nation. But why? In comparison to other jobs and positions held both inside and outside of ministry why only 18 months? We can knock on leadership’s door and ask why and many times the excuses could vary from we can’t have more money for our ministry or more staff to help us do our job, perhaps we just feel like a step-child in the church at times, staff and parents patting us on the back thanking us for “dealing” with the teenagers. I don’t think a student pastor leaves a church or ministry because of the students, budget, or even staffing, it’s simply a leadership thing.
A nugget shared from J. Oswald Sanders in his book, “Spiritual Leadership”…
“True greatness, true leadership, is found in giving yourself in service to others, not in coaxing or inducing others to serve you. True service is never without cost. Often it comes with a bitter cup of challenges and a painful baptism of suffering. For genuine godly leadership weighs carefully Jesus’ question: “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:38b). The real spiritual leader is focused on the service he and she can render to God and other people, not on the residuals and perks of high office or holy title. We must aim to put more into life than we take out.”
I inherited the leadership of a student ministry with a small handful of dedicated leaders knowing we needed many more to help develop authentic faith for our students… forgetting what was behind and pressing on toward the goal over the last 18 months we now have 45 leaders and volunteers serving in student ministry! And while many give the thumbs up and applaud the numbers, we know it wasn’t just handed us. Take a good hard look at any church or ministry in the world that is growing – growth didn’t happen without painful moments and suffering that cuts deep emotionally and spiritually. In my situation I would say for every one leader recruited there has been a difficult or bitter conversation to be had with another. If anything, I have learned that my leadership sufferings have made me stronger, allowed me to carry more and develop a higher capacity of compassion for others.
The next time a challenge is added to your bitter cup or you experience painful suffering, just know that it’s part of the job description. And if you think quitting your position will excuse you from that, you are simply wrong. Challenges and suffering live at the top of the list when it comes to following the way of Christ. Hang in there, work through the bitterness and find joy on the other side, don’t quit too soon.