A strange thing happened when I was first hired as a full time youth ministry coordinator. As a 22-year-old young adult just out of college, I was hired to be the “expert” in youth ministry for my church. At least, that’s what I thought I was hired for. I came into the parish having all the answers to make youth ministry happen. Parents came to me hoping that if I could just start an awesome youth ministry program, their teenage son or daughter would have faith and start coming to mass again. The Pastor deferred to me when any youth ministry question came up. I was asked to serve on the Liturgy Council so that we could integrate youth more fully into mass. Every where I looked, people were looking to me as the “expert.” I had to have all the answers!
Well, actually, the reality was that I didn’t have very many answers at all. I wanted to have the answers, but I just did not have the experience and wisdom. However, people had an image of me as a leader. I thought I had to live up to that image. So what did I do? I pretended to have all the answers.
Needless to say, that didn’t work out well. It’s funny how when we are giving leadership, people automatically look to us for answers. They think we have the answers. We clearly do not have all the answers. But the pressure is real. I’m no longer the 22-year-old youth minister, but I still feel that very real pressure everyday. So what do we do?
- Learn to say “I don’t know.” When someone comes to me asking for guidance and wisdom, I’m always shocked by their response when I say those magical three words. I think they are going to look down on me. The fact is, many people really respect you when you admit that. It takes a humble heart for a leader to admit the truth that they don’t have the answer.
- Pray for the answers. There has been a relationship in my life recently that has been strained by something I did. The funny thing is, I had no idea what I did. But I know I did something wrong. I didn’t know what the answer was. After racking my brain for weeks, I finally decided to take it to prayer. I asked God for wisdom and guidance, and to reveal what it was that I did. Almost immediately, the answer came to me. All of a sudden, it became clear what I did wrong. Wow, I thought to myself. I need to take this stuff to prayer more often. Do I think God will reveal the answer to me every time? Absolutely not. But in this situation, it really helped.
- Jump off the pedestal. Don’t let people put you on a pedestal. It’s easy to be “raised up” when you are a leader. That’s fine on occasion. But I need to remember that I am serving God in my ministry as a leader, and that helps remind me who really gets all the glory. Jesus was sometimes raised up on a pedestal. He took himself down from there. In the end, Jesus was raised up, but not on a pedestal. He was raised up on the cross.
I don’t have all the answers, but I’m learning as I go.