Monday, October 13, 2008

Ministry During Difficult Times: Part 1

Before I start out on this blog entry, I must thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement during our stressful time with Garrison. He is now HOME and doing very well! I've been telling people he's doing exactly what babies do...eating, sleeping, pooping and keeping us awake!

During our recent hospital stay, I learned that God can provide ministry opportunities even during difficult times...
I had called a friend of mine to let him know of a youth ministry opportunity, and he returned my call the day Garrison was born. This kid is "cream of the crop" in my books. I mean, he and his family are just precious people. He's been in youth ministry for a few years now (3 or 4?) and I believe God has, and will, use him in great ways.
So, my heart dropped when he told me, "Franklin, I'm thinking of getting out of youth ministry. I've never been so discouraged in all my life. I can't believe that people treat each other like this. Is this what Jesus died for?"
My heart immediately recalled some difficult times in my own ministry. There were dark moments where I felt the world was against me, and that nothing I did made any difference. I remember feeling like I had no friends and no support.
It kills me to hear of people dropping out of ministry. If this guy leaves, it will make TWO of my good friends that have now left.
Sometimes it's because of bad leadership. Sometimes it's because people are stubborn and won't follow a vision that's laid out before them. Sometimes it's because you've called people out for their shortcomings. And sometimes it's because of misconceptions and shortcomings on the youth minister's part.
Youth ministry is not easy. Caring for the souls of people can be a heartbreaking business. Many times you pour your life and love into people, and get "nada" in return.
If you are in that boat, hang in there. What doesn't seem to yield immediate results may be planting eternal seeds. Your patience and dependence on God is your greatest weapon.
Would you show some loving kindness to your youth minister today? (Please, I am asking this for other guys, and not myself! I am very well taken care of!!)
Write them a note, take them to lunch, volunteer to teach Junior High class (OK, maybe that's a bit much!) Tell them they are making a difference. Let them know you at least appreciate their efforts. PRAY FOR THEM. Pray WITH them! Spend time with them.


preacherman said...

I had some rough times in youth ministry. The first church that I was at hired me and when I graduated we where loading the U-Haul I recieved a phone call that they had fired their preacher but everything was okay. They wanted me to come on and work for them. When I got to the church the church has split and it was their 3 split in 5 years. The preacher kept on coming to the church and causing problems. Cussing me out. So, my first job I was doing church reconciliation parents went to one church while kids where at our church. I was doing family counceling. I was preaching and doing youth ministry. One activity I told a boy that he couldn't wear shorts to a function becuase the church we were going to was a bit more conservative during their worship. Well he got made and told his mom some lies about me. She believed them of course and on top of that she had mental problems. She actually start stalking us. She would follow us to the store, restuarants, movies, she would call and hang up like 10-20 times a day, it got to a point she would drive around our house and try to look in our windows. The elders did nothing about the situation because they gave alot of money. So I sent out 120 resume's in 1 month and took the first job I was offered.

My wife and I loaded up and moved to California. They said they wanted a youth minister when all they wanted as a youth director to play with the kids. They were interested in spiritual growth just numeric growth. I would do Bible studies on wed nights at different houses. The teens wanted me to talk for like five minutes so they could go swim. Well fall came and the elders asked me to do a fun raiser for the youth group. Selling pumpkins in a pumpkin patch. Well instead of building relationships with the teens I was sitting out in a pumpkin patch 14+ hours a day. We even had some Wiccians come an by some pumpkins from our patch. Yes, there was a Wiccian church not to far from our church. Well one night we had a lot of pumpkins being smashed so 3 of the youth agree to stay the night and watch it. Well during the night they downed 3 cases of beer. These 3 boys were elders sons and the elders, their dad's didn't believe it and didn't want to hear it. So we left california and moved to Texas.

We lived and ministered in Texas for four years. Great youth ministry program until the parents started not wanting to host and get involved with any activities. I know that a lone ranger program will fail. Well one morning one of our teens went to school first and second period and then went and shot himself. He committed suicide. I had tried to councel the boy before the incident but parents didn't want me to get involved. I rushed to the school and did counceling and praying with our teens. The youth group went over to our house to eat, pray, be together. None of the elders called to see how the teens and youth group was doing. None of them came by with food. No hugs, no encouragment the next sunday. Didn't even come into the class. On the day of his funneral one elder turned to another elder and said, "We had a youth minister and this had to happen!" None of the elders called to see how me and my wife were doing. I got very discouraged and burned out.

I got mad at God.
I quit the ministry and took a secular job.
I drank a lot.
Did thing that was in total rebelion to God.
One thing I learned is that just like Jonah you can't run from God. If you have been called by God he will catch you sooner or later.

I am know preacher at church in south Texas. God has blessed me with a great congregation. I have been extremely sick over the last 2 years. You can find more on my blog. Yet they have been so patient with me. God can take the bad that happens in our live and make them blessings by strengthening our faith, relationship with him, family, friends and on and on.

Thanks for letting me share this brother. God bless you and working with you. It is one of the hardest jobs of all. You will be in my prayers daily.

preacherman said...

Yes, I totally agree that encouraging your youth pastor is so important. Take them to lunch. Teach a class for him so he can go to class himself. Volunteer to host and put on activities for the teen (Bible Studies, 5th Quarter Parties after football games on friday nights). Get involve. Be a mentor. I know this would have helped me and did help me when I was a youth minister for 8 years.

Franklin Wood said...

Preacherman, thanks for sharing your story. Unfortunately, that is becoming a common story among youth ministers. Spoke to a YM friend the other day who said there is a severe shortage out there right now.
I'm glad God brought you through to ministry once again, and I know he is using you in awesome ways. May He continue to bless you in all you do.