Ministry is full of difficult things.
The demands, the expectations, the responsibilities, the unknowns, and that to-do list. You know, the list that you check items off and immediately more gets added. It feels never-ending. I get it. I feel it.
And, there is beauty in ministry. That conversation with a kid. That adult leader who goes to a student’s game. That student initiated a conversation with a first-time visitor. That parent who asks, “how can I help you?” That kid who volunteers to pray for the first time.
In ministry, as in life, both are true. Ministry is full of difficulty and beauty held together. If we are not careful, we can succumb to the pressure of pretending “all is awesome” in ministry. That isn’t true.
There is great joy in serving kids, students, and their families. Joy doesn’t negate that it is also challenging and, at times, painful.
Here are a few tips to help you simultaneously hold the hard stuff and the beauty of ministry.
Name The Hard Stuff
What are you carrying right now that feels heavy? Maybe it is a new program or event you are starting for the first time, and the “what ifs” keep coming. Perhaps it is the tension you feel in your relationship with your supervisor. Maybe it is a student in a dark place, and you feel lost on how to support them well. Perhaps it’s the self-doubt you continue to battle.
Whatever it is- say it out loud, write it down, or tell someone you trust. Say it. Feel it. Give yourself permission to acknowledge it. Don’t suppress it or pretend like it doesn’t exist.
Look for the Beauty
What opportunities exist to grow, be challenged, or step outside your comfort zone? Often I’m not excited about these opportunities even though I know they are valuable. Finding the beauty doesn’t mean escaping or avoiding negative feelings. It doesn’t mean glossing over hard stuff with a happy vibe. That is toxic. Looking for beauty means- finding beauty in the middle of the messiness of ministry.
Hold both difficulty and beauty together.
We live in a world that tells us it is either this or that. This dualistic way of thinking is so prevalent today. It assumes there are two contrasting, mutually exclusive choices, thoughts, or realities. We can easily absorb this way of thinking without even realizing it.
We evaluate our thoughts & feelings, situations, or even people as good or bad, right or wrong. Most things in life are not that simple. Life and people are complicated and have layers.
When it comes to ministry being hard and beautiful, we can hold both simultaneously. Even though challenge and joy feel like opposites, both are true. It doesn’t have to be one or the other. Difficulty and beauty can be held together.
As we are on this ministry journey, let’s permit ourselves to be human, be honest, and embrace ministry’s hard stuff and beauty. And when you find yourself in the middle of the challenges, remember you can do hard things. You are not alone. God is with you.
Kirsten Knox is the Executive Director of Youth Ministry Institute. Kirsten was part of the second class to complete the Youth Ministry Institute two-year coaching and training class in 2009. She has since been a coach on multiple occasions. Kirsten Knox is married and a graduate of Asbury University with a degree in youth ministry. She began working in youth ministry in 2000, serving Pasadena Community United Methodist Church for a decade and still ministers to young people at Radius Church in St. Petersburg, FL. Click the social links below to engage with Kirsten.