Are You A Complainer Or Embracer: Moving through the limits of ministry

I haven’t been the best at running lately, I’ve only been doing 6-9 miles a week and that hasn’t even been consistent.  But this morning despite wanting those few extra minutes in bed, despite the tiredness of the week I got up and I did what I enjoy doing so much…I ran.  As I ran I reflected on a passage that I came across the other day.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access (by faith) to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Romans 5:1-5

What I thought about as this message went through my head is that as youth ministers we’re tempted not to boast about our afflictions but complain.  We complain that parents are out to get us, we can’t get enough ministers, students are apathetic to their faith, the world is cheating and God just blesses more churches then other.  But really it’s something different, it’s a problem of:
Embracing Our Limits
How do you embrace your limits?  You start by:

  • Listing Them Out: When you make a list of your limits, you identify your obstacles, when you can identify your obstacles you can overcome them.  Paul is saying that when we boast our afflictions it produces endurance.  As a runner preparing for a race I do my best to identify hills, distances between hydration stops, etc. because I need to know how to pace myself.  When we can pace ourselves we produce endurance.  After you list out your limits start answering the question:
  • Do I Go Through, Around or Over Them?:  Sometimes we need to lean into the conflict, maybe that’s sitting down with parents we think are out to get us.  Sometimes we need to go around, meaning take ourselves out of a situation that’s going to hurt us as a youth minister or even worse a Christian.  The temptation in ministry is just to do things, but in reality we need a plan, a strategy, systems and structures…what are your systems and structures for ministry?  When you can answer that question you are then ready to:
  • Identify Your Vision:  Creating vision for your ministry isn’t just writing down, this is what I want to be and expect it to happen…that needs to come from God.  I’ve looked at other churches (especially mega churches) and said, “That’s what I want my ministry to be.” but in reality that’s not what God wants me to be.  Just because I write a statement on paper and make it a vision, doesn’t make it so.  What Paul is telling the Romans is that when we identify our limits, we begin to identify our character and our character leads to hope.  Hope is vision, but it’s hard to have hope unless we embrace the identity our limits bring.

Embracing our limits, being okay with the path that God has put us on is a difficult journey.  It’s something we not only have to embrace, but something we need to pass on to our students.  When we don’t embrace our limits, we become slave to those limits.  When we don’t boast of our afflictions we never find the endurance, that produces proven character, which leads to hope.  And that would be a shame, not to live in God’s hope.
What are the limits that surround you and your ministry (i.e. small town, low budget, part-time staff)  Feel free to identify them here.