Exactly ten years ago my teen coordinator from my (old) church asked me to get involved with leading teens at church. From teaching lessons, to leading Bible studies, to planning events, to preparing for church performances, to working one on one with parents and teens. I can say that it’s been a fun and very much character building ride since that moment.
A ride that has been full of moments of both laughter and tears.
Moments where I clearly understood God’s purpose for my life and I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Moments when I wondered if I was even cut out for ministry at all.
Ministry in any shape or form can be trying but in the end the sleepless nights are worth it.
The endless prayers to God for wisdom and strength to do what He calls you to do is worth it.
Because you know that you have planted a seed in someone’s life, no matter how small and one day it’ll bear fruit that will bring glory to God.
Over the years ministering to teens I have learned many lessons about what it means to serve and lead and I’d like to pass them along to anyone who is either serving in church or wants to in the future.
1. Unless you want to burn out and come to an end of yourself don’t try to do it all on your own. It will not only make you tired and overwhelmed but you will stop enjoying what you do. It’s better to do less wholeheartedly than more halfheartedly. If you have too much on your plate you need to learn to say “no” instead of committing to everything people ask you to do or learn to delegate some of your tasks to other leaders who work with you.
For many years I was involved in both teen and youth ministry (although I was much more devoted to teen ministry) but there came a time when two leaders left unexpectedly at the same time from teen ministry and I had more on my plate to do and I knew that I couldn’t commit to being as involved in youth ministry anymore. It was a really difficult decision for me to make but I knew that unless I wanted to burn out I had to let one of them go.
Sometimes you need to remember that you are human, not superman or superwoman and that you can handle too many things on your plate for only so long. Do whatever you can to keep yourself energized and ready to give your all in ministry for the long run.
2. In order to spiritually “feed” others you must first feed yourself. Before you can give to others you must first receive from God because you cannot lead someone to a place you haven’t first gone yourself.And the way you receive is through prayer, fellowship with other believers, and reading God’s Word consistently.
There have been many times when in the middle of a lesson or Bible Study one of my teens would ask me a question and the only way I knew how to answer it was because that same morning I had read about that very question they were bringing up during my daily devotion time. It’s vital for every leader to feed themselves daily in God’s Word and spending time in His presence before going out to minister to others. Learn to discipline yourself and your spiritual habits so that you will never run and try to lead on empty.
3. You need to always have a teachable spirit and be willing to learn from leaders above you, especially ones that have been in ministry much longer than you have been. They have wisdom, experience, and insight that will help you in your ministry.
It’s important especially that if you mentor and disciple others you also have someone to mentor and disciple you. Someone who can give you evaluations and constructive criticism when you need it.
My mentor was the teen coordinator at my previous church and more than once she would come to class to check on how I was doing and give me helpful advice on how to teach more effectively as well as work with teens outside of church. And there were many times I went over to her house when I needed counsel and prayer for certain situations I was dealing with in ministry as well as my walk with Christ.
It’s important that as you lead others you are first led not only by Christ, but also by other leaders that He puts in your life to mentor you.
4. Give grace to people when you find yourself in the middle of a conflict. As a leader it’s inevitable that you will come across conflict with leaders above you, with leaders you work with, or with the group of people you are leading.When that happens remember to pray for the situation you are in, for the people you are in conflict with, and give a lot of grace.
Often times we have misunderstandings because of miscommunication and we forget that we are all on the same page with the same vision to lead others to Christ and by arguing and fighting we are wasting precious time that we could be using to bless others.
I’m sure that I have been given grace far too often in the past with shortcomings and mistakes I have made and I want to do what I can to extend that same grace and forgiveness to others as well. The quicker you learn to forgive and move on the better ministry will be.
5. Don’t give up on serving just because you don’t see any fruit from the work that you do and timeless energy and effort you put into ministry. Not all seeds bear fruit right away and it can be discouraging at times when there seems to be no evidence of your work but you must always remember that it’s only your job to plant those seeds and God will do the rest. He will do the watering and He will do the growing. Just because you don’t see something come out of your ministry at the moment doesn’t mean it will never come in the future. Keep on planting and keep on praying and know that nothing you do for Christ is in vain.
6. Don’t wait for recognition for what you do. Sometimes people around you will thank you for what you do but for the most part you most likely will not get a standing ovation from people or some kind of certificate for what you do (especially if it’s in the background) but you must remember who you’re doing the work for in the end: God, not people. One day you’ll receive your reward in heaven but until then be faithful in serving Him wholeheartedly.
Remember that He sees every little thing that you do for His kingdom. Nothing goes unnoticed or overlooked by Him.
I could add so many more things to this list but these are just a few of the top lessons that came to mind when I first thought of what it means to be a servant leader in the church.
If you have served in church (or in any other place) what have you learned that has helped you as a leader?
I would love to know what has helped you develop and grow into the leader that God calls you to be. 🙂
I hope you have all have a blessed an lovely weekend. Keep walking strong and serving others in the Lord! -Anna… ♥
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17