I’ve been there….believe me, I’ve been there. I remember sitting on my couch one evening, literally in tears wishing I could do more, feeling like I had failed in my ministry. The problem wasn’t that a student had passed away not knowing Christ. I hadn’t caused a huge break up in the church’s student ministry, and I hadn’t driven away any students from church. My sin that I was weeping over? I had to tell one of my students, “No.” Now, I am a parent of two amazing little boys who hear this word on a regular, almost daily basis. It’s not a situation where I always say yes you can do this or yes you can have that- it isn’t one of those parental spoiling a child situations. The student had simply asked me to come to one of their concerts. I believed, truly believed that I had just committed the unforgivable sin of student ministry by telling them that I couldn’t come. The fact is, when I started as a student minister, I knew that all of the full time guys visited schools, went to games, went to concerts, and made it a point to be where their students were. I also knew that I was at a severe disadvantage because I couldn’t be at the schools during lunch- I had to be at work, at my school- teaching. So, I truly believed that since I couldn’t do lunch visits, I had to say yes to everything else- I was wrong.
This is a lesson that I learned early, but I didn’t learn well if that makes sense. It’s a lesson that I keep having to learn and remind myself of, or I will fall right back into the trap. As a student pastor, if you try to make EVERYTHING your students are doing, you will be missing out on the activities of what is important- your family. I won’t get into the ramifications that student ministry can have on your family just yet though (that’s saved for a later edition). The point is my weekly scheduled was getting down right unmanageable. On Mondays I had AP tutoring and cub scouts, Tuesday, if there were no meetings I got stay home, Wednesday church, Thursday was college bible study, Friday was football, Saturday depended on what event was next, Sunday church, and the week started all over again. This is not to mention that I had to come home every night and stay up til 1am getting stuff done for my class I had to teach the next day. Eventually, I had to re-learn that sometimes, the answer is no.
Listen to me, there is no way you can make every game, every concert, every recital, every program, every birthday party, every little event that your students are involved in. If you have kids of your own, you should understand this. My full-time counterparts will tell you the same thing- they can’t make it to everything either, so stop trying. The bottom line is this- to have a healthy and happy student ministry, part of that is having a healthy, happy student minister. Learn what you can and can not go to. Be up front with your students about needing family time at home- you will be amazed at how much they will protect that time for you. Go to some of the activities, but you must learn that you can’t make all of them. Sometimes the answer is “No.”
Lastly, you need to be open to your Pastor about your limitations. You need to set your limitations. Most churches have a minimum requirement for part-time guys like us. Likewise, most of us far exceed the minimum requirement our churches give. You need to understand, however, that we are spoiling our churches to the point where they just expect it. I have had to sit my Pastor down and remind him on occasions that I don’t get to come into the office every day. One of the more vivid memories on this is when my Pastor started visitation on Mondays. I live 30 minutes from my church in another town. My Pastor expressed his desire for me to come down for visitation on Mondays. This is when I had to remind him that I have another job. I had to remind him that I can’t drive to Knoxville on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, some Saturdays, and Sundays. It wasn’t intentional, he had just gotten accustomed to full time hours from me. It is important that you sit down with your Pastor and set some limitations for yourself and your time.
When it is all said and done. When you walk out of the youth room for the last time, after you’ve hung it up, do you want to look back and see how much fun it was and how many lives you touched? Or, do you want to look back and remember all the stress, heartache, and pain that the job caused? You have to take time for yourself occasionally, because sometimes, we too forget that we work another 40 hour per week job. Sometimes, the right thing to do for your students and your ministry is stay home. sometimes, the answer needs to be “No.”
In Christ Alone,
Rev. Bro. Coach