Have you ever had someone complain, and now it’s all you can think about? Have complaints ruined a meaningful moment in ministry? In this Five-Minute Mentoring episode, Brian discusses the interwoven web of joys and complaints. Understanding this web can help you stay positive and joy-filled as you serve in ministry.
Welcome to the Making Sense of Ministry podcast. The podcast designed to help you lead well in your ministry, transform lives, and impact generations. I’m Brian Lawson here with another Five Minute Mentoring episode.
Not too long ago, I experienced something unlike anything I have ever experienced before, and yet at the same time it is maybe not that different than your experiences.
After our Sunday morning worship service, I went over to our Fellowship Hall. I entered the hall excited to have some cake and celebrate young people and the decisions they had made for Jesus. After all, we had just celebrated a baptism and confirmations of faith. It was a joyous occasion and a great day.
As I began walking across the room, toward the young people and let’s be honest the cake, I was stopped. This particular individual decided to share with me a lengthy discourse about her feelings. She made it very clear to me, and to everyone else in the room, how upset she was that we did not have fruit available that morning. And when I say discourse, that’s probably an understatement. She was vividly angry, using nearly every curse word without concern about who would hear her. Yes, that morning, I was cussed out for a lack of fruit during fellowship time.
I wonder, have you ever had such an encounter? Perhaps not so wild, but I’m sure you’ve experienced these moments. What is supposed to be a joyous and celebratory occasion becomes spoiled by something or someone.
Maybe you just had an amazing experience presenting Bibles to third graders, when a member of the congregation expresses that they are upset because you gave out, quote, the wrong translation. Or you arrive home from a meaningful weekend retreat only to discover that a young person broke some of your rules on the trip. Now you will have to go back and talk with that teen and their family about their behavior.
All of this got me thinking about a lesson I learned several years ago. In ministry, no matter what age level of ministry you serve, the wins you experience are often interwoven with mistakes, complaints, problems, or challenges.
You were thrilled to give out Bibles to those third graders. What an exciting time! And now, all you can think about is the one complaint from someone who doesn’t even have children in your program.
Or, on that retreat, you saw teens praying with one another and engaging their faith in a profoundly new way. But, you now have to deal with the troublemaker. And you quickly forget all the good and now dread the phone call to their parents.
Ministry is wins and pains interwoven together into a complex web. And this web can be difficult to work through. It can suffocate our joy, our positive momentum, and even our passion for our call and our Lord.
So what do you do?
Whenever I have experiences as I did, when someone felt a lack of fruit was worth giving me an ear full, I first try to recognize what is happening. Recognize that it was a good day of ministry. That there were meaningful things happening.
Next, I write them down. Write the bad and the good.
Here’s one recommendation you could try. Take out a piece of paper. Make two columns.
In one column write all the good stuff. A young person was baptized. Young people confirmed their faith. Five children were given third-grade bibles. Juniors in high school engaged their faith more deeply.
In the second column, write down the bad. An upset person about fruit. Someone thought we should give out different translations. A young person broke the rules on the retreat.
Now, rip that paper right down the middle, right down the middle of the columns. Keep the side with the good stuff. Write those in your journal or put it on your bulletin board. Those are the things that you share with your leaders, your congregation, your parents, and yourself. Those are the things that you need to hold onto. They give life.
And that other side, burn it. Tear it up. Scribble all over it. Those things, in the long run, often do not matter. Yes, you might need to deal with them still. You might need to clean up a few messes and try to avoid them in the future. You can learn from them. But do not let those be the things that keep hold of you.
Ministry is complex because people are complex. And as we serve we will encounter this interwoven web of joys and pains. We will see our wins suffocated by complaints. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Take the time to reflect on your wins, pull them out of the web, write them down, and remember them. Share them with others. Don’t let the person angry about fruit, steal the gift of what God is doing in your life, and the lives of the young people in your ministry.
Friends, that’s all I have for you today. Until next time, I hope we’ve helped you, make sense of this thing we call ministry.