What are some of your biggest discouragements in student ministry? A youth ministry student at Liberty University asked me that question last week. I thought it was a wise question for someone to ask at the beginning of his student ministry journey. My answer was, “when it seems like students just aren’t getting it.”
There have been times when I’ve been deeply discouraged by the lack of spiritual activity in the lives of some of my students. I believed I was working hard, praying hard, teaching the Word, planning solid events, and there was nothing. There were times when students were in attendance frequently but never moved passed attendance to really living for Jesus. There were times when I felt like I preached my guts out and no decisions were made. Those situations would leave me discouraged. Have you been there before?
I readily admit that I haven’t figured this whole thing out. There will probably be times when I face discouragement again. I share these things with you in the hope that they will help you deal with discouragement while at the same time knowing I will need to revisit these thoughts in my own life at some point in the future.
God is in charge of results.
This was harder for me to learn than it should’ve been. When things aren’t happening in the ministry the way you have prayed or the way you believed they would happen it is always good to evaluate the process as well as yourself. Were there any gaps revealed in your evaluation? That process is healthy. What’s not healthy is beating yourself up over something that isn’t in your control.
I remember times in ministry when I would spend hours, sometimes days, thinking through what I messed up that caused no one to respond to the message that I preached. Throughout all of this I claimed that God was in charge of the results, but acted like I was. Deep down I wanted to be in charge of the results, and therein was the source of my discouragement. My discouragement was fueled by the desire to be in control of the results because that way I could take credit for it. Surrendering to the reality that God is in control of the results was the most freeing thing that has ever happened to me in ministry. It was harder for me to learn than it should’ve been.
Push through or let it rule you.
When we face discouragement we are left with one of two choices: to push through it or to let it rule us. Its desire is to rule you. The enemy is an accuser, and the weapon of discouragement is used often. Discouragement accuses. It breaks down. It enslaves. Some of you are feeling that at this moment. Choose the other option. The gospel brings freedom, not accusation. During times of discouragement the best thing that we can do is cling closely to the gospel. Jesus is the way to freedom.
There will be students who never have that moment where the light bulb brightens, where you can see in their eyes that they “get it.” There will be times when no decisions are made and when you plan something that doesn’t happen just right. God is still God. Use those moments to evaluate, but don’t allow the accusations of discouragement to enslave you. Your freedom is found in the gospel.
This article was originally published as part of a series by Ben Trueblood, Director of Student Ministry at LifeWay. To read more from Ben, visit his blog HERE.