by Tony Akers
Every Monday morning it happens. I walk into the room with my biggest critic. He doesn’t say much, he just stares back at me. He mocks me with his unspoken criticism. My time with him is usually interrupted as my wife enters the bathroom after me and asks why I am staring at the mirror.
If you are like me you are your biggest critic. That is why the criticism of others is often difficult for youth pastors. They hear self-criticism enough in the recesses of their own mind. Things like…
Ultimately these kinds of questions lead one to ask the most dangerous question, “Why do I bother?”
I call it the Monday morning blues. If your youth group meets on Wednesdays then your blues might fall on Thursdays (adapt the concept as needed for your youth ministry).
I know others experience the same thing. I have spoken to them.
I know Jesus did too.
Two bits of advice I was given years ago that made a huge difference for me as I encountered “Ministry Blues” were:
Clear perspective is not gained in the valley. They day following your largest expenditure of ministry energy will be a valley. You cannot see clearly from there. You are tired. As the famous football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
You cannot make helpful long-term decisions from there. Avoid the job boards on your “Monday.” Just don’t go there. You don’t need to escape your situation, just the negative nature of your own thought processes. The problems encountered the day before will likely only be recalled by you. Others have moved on. Their “Monday” is presenting its own challenges.
It is a hypocritical life we live when we long to give grace to everyone but ourselves. Give yourself grace. Use this day to do something that you like to do. I use my “Monday” to write curriculum. It is a solitary process, it buries me in scripture, it drives me to prayer, and it is helpful to the ministry.
This brings us to the next bit of helpful advice:
This is not a reference to the National Basketball Association. The pay would be great of course, but that is not what I am referring to. The NBA referenced here stands for “Next Best Action.”
What is your Next Best Action? Use your “Monday” to do something to swing momentum toward the positive. The truth is that there are many reasons why things might not have gone well the previous day, but fortunately most of those reasons likely had very little to do with you.
Remember. You work with youth.
Our youth are living in the crossroads of physical/emotional development, the crush of cultural expectations, the tensions of family (functional and dysfunctional), and they are trying to do so while presenting themselves seemingly unscathed to the world. This is tough work.
Remember the wise words of Jesus. The wise man and woman builds his or her house on the rock. We cannot base our ministry “esteem” on the actions and attitudes of a 15-year-old. They are shifting sand.
So, what is our next best action? Our next best action is likely something unseen and unappreciated by others, but it is foundational to what we do.
Here are a few ideas
Your “Monday” morning blues are bound to come. Turn your gaze from the mirror of self-critique. Don’t quit. Do something helpful. The kingdom awaits your next best action.
We are hearing from numerous youth ministers that during this season their plate is just too full. Caring for others is a ministry staple, but often it comes at the expense of caring for oneself. Self care for the Youth MInister is so important. If you don’t take time for yourself and your own relationship with God, not only will you suffer, but eventually your students will too.
We’ve created a Pandemic Youth Week curriculum bundle that combines elements of both a summer camp and a youth week. Many youth are missing out on both of these due to cancelled camps and trips among other cancelled important events your youth would usually attend. We’ve written this curriculum such that it can be used in person while socially distancing, online, or some combination of both.
Despite all the challenges the pandemic has presented to youth ministries, it has also created an opportunity to allow youth more involvement in worship. Although youth sunday will look very different this year, it is a great opportunity to empower our youth to be leaders. Youth’s comfort and familiarity with technology make them a great resource for churches who are seeking to move their worship services online for the first time.