by Cory Sullivan
How many of you have heard at least one of these things this past year?
We don’t have enough volunteers
That isn’t in our budget
We need better curriculum
We need a better sound system
You double booked that room
It is easy to get caught up in the negativity of ministry. There are constant barriers and frustrations that come up. Space is limited, your budget was cut in half, and you don’t have enough help to pull this event off. These are some of the most common issues of working in ministry. At a summer job in college I saw this quote on a sticker by politician Konstanin Jireček:
“We have done so much, for so long, with so little,
we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”
If this were in the Bible, it would be my life verse. It has stuck with me since that first time I saw it. I think it has helped me understand a few concepts in ministry and life. We will never have an ideal situation or everything we need. This forces us to be creative, to hustle in our jobs, to be humble enough to ask for help and be dependent on God.
You won’t ever have everything you need. There will always be something you wish you could have. We look at what that church down the street did and get frustrated. Upset that we didn’t have that idea and we don’t have the resources to pull it off anyway, we can get blinded and stuck in negativity. We could shake up our view of things. As ministry leaders we need to play to our strengths. What is the goal you want to accomplish and what do you have to make it happen? Dwelling on the thought of “if only” wastes precious time. Being faithful in your situation, with the people and resources you do have, and making an impact with it—this should be your focus. Maybe it means re-examining your programs and cutting out or reshaping the thing that takes the most resources and hasn’t been showing growth. It could also be a shift in attitude to realize where God has placed us, the people He has given us and the means He has provided for us to carry out His purposes and not our own.
One of my favorite things about student ministry is that I get to be creative, especially when it comes to problem-solving. There is always a problem. We can’t find something we had a day ago, the tech equipment decides to act up (seriously, twice this month), or we find a kid trying to make out behind the stage with his girlfriend. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box to solve problems. Ask for input of your leaders, and think through a simple solution to a problem. We organized our tech equipment, we create a back up plan for when tech fails us, and we put that one kid in charge of something so he doesn’t disappear.
Know that problems and issues will always be there. However, in those moments, when chaos abounds, how you act and how you respond to the people around you can show them the love of Jesus. Be smarter than a teenager, keep it simple, think outside the box.
When problems do arise, you need to hustle. Work hard and leverage the people, resources and time that you have to be the most successful. In my time as a teacher, I learned to beg, borrow and “procure” resources. Glean knowledge and curriculum from other sources. There is no need to reinvent the wheel.
Another mantra I’ve lived by lately is you get nothing you don’t ask for. Ask other people for help, ask them to donate some item that you need. Be intentional in asking people in your church for help, whether with their time or resources. Need something crazy for an awesome game idea but don’t have the money for it? Ask the church to help and see what you come up with. Think strategically about the resources you have and be intentional about the ask to find success when things go awry.
All the problems, barriers, frustrations that can come along with not having enough of something have helped me lean into God. I pray harder and ask bigger things of Him. God loves to come through for us, His kids. Seek and ask Him. Pray for more leaders, for more wisdom to deal with all the frustrations, and seek God in those moments. I can get in this mindset that it is all up to me to accomplish these things. I talk to God like, “I think I got this on my own, thanks though,” instead of, “God, I need help.” If you’re anything like me, I would say stop reading this and pray to God for help. What are the burdens you have in your ministry and the frustrations you’re facing? Pray, press into God, and get back to the basics.
Know that the frustrations will be there. Don’t dwell on them though. You’re smart and resourceful and you got this. Ask for help when you need it, be proactive about problem-solving, and press into God when you’re ready to run away.
Cory Sullivan is the student guy at New Life Christian Church in Chantilly, Virginia. He has served students in various capacities since his time in college. Find him at: www.theconqueringofchaos.com or on Twitter, @big_sully55.