This is a guest post from John Keim
I had a chance to sit recently with two ministry mentors and our spouses over a meal together and I made sure to take care and select a restaurant that would provide a great experience. Things were off to a great start; the host sat us promptly, the waiter was quick to greet us and get some Diet Cokes out and he paid attention to when we set our menus down to come take our orders. This restaurant was absolutely nailing it and after enjoying some appetizers and salads it was time for the main course. For the most part everything came out correct but we called our waiter over because one dish wasn’t right and one of us was missing a side. And that’s when it happened. The waiter started to rant about how the “guys in the kitchen” have been messing up orders tonight and that he’d go straighten it out. My friend was very polite about the simple misunderstanding and assured the waiter it was no big deal. But after the dish was corrected the waiter continued to weave into the conversation the error of “those guys in the kitchen”.
The thing that the waiter didn’t seem to grasp was that our 90-minute dinner was not categorized by an evaluation of 6 different departments of the restaurant, but rather by one cohesive dining experience. Rather than working with his teammates, he chose to throw the unseen kitchen workers under the bus for a simple mistake. He chose to make things about “him” vs. “them” rather than working to unify the restaurant team as a “we”.
I wonder how many times we as youth workers can take a similar stance inside of our ministries? Have you ever chosen to;
- Tell small group leaders that their time is cut in half because the teacher just wouldn’t land that last point about the Festival of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23?
- Tell parents that youth group ran over because the worship leader thought we needed a 4th run through the bridge of Oceans?
- Tell students that you wouldn’t be having the lock-in after all because their leaders didn’t love them enough to sacrifice and commit to a night filled with paranoia and potential catastrophe?
And sadly, it doesn’t just exist inside our student ministries, but sometimes we can take this stance into our whole church. You know like when you;
- Tell the facility care staff that the paper towel wads stuck to the bathroom ceiling must have been left-over from the kids ministry.
- Tell parents that you’re late getting back from the trip because the maintenance department didn’t change the oil on the church van.
- Tell the new guests you’re sitting next to in service how they shouldn’t bother giving any money because it’s all going to just end up in the missions budget anyways.
Too often I can become so focused and so consumed by the pieces of ministry that I am passionate about that I forget about the teammates I have around me. I begin to have tunnel vision with my responsibilities and anything that prevents me from accomplishing those goals is in my way. And like the waiter who was just trying to take and deliver correct orders, I can begin to throw my teammates under the bus and turn our student ministry or even our church into a “me” vs. “them” situation.
What can be missed in all of this is that our students, our parents, our community just sees us as one church and not a bunch of departments or ministry teams. Whether they verbalize it or not people are looking for an experience of God, they are seeking hope for the brokenness in their world and they are desperately wondering if there is a place for them to belong in our community of faith.
What we do in ministry is too important to get side-tracked with pettiness and the blame game. So, the next time things don’t go as planned, when it feels like another department isn’t pulling with you or when one of your teammates (or you) drops the ball let’s turn to Paul’s call for unity in the early church. Your students, your church and your community are worth it!
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:1-4
John Keim has served in student ministry for over 12 years at Granger Community Church (GCC) in Granger, IN. As the pastor of student ministries, he oversees all initiatives and teams to reach 6th-12th grade students and help them take their next steps toward Christ together. A unique part of John’s story is that he is leading in the church that he started attending as a 6th grade student and counts it a huge blessing to lead the student ministry that radically changed his life. Equally awesome for John is that he met his wife Angela during their time as students in youth group together at GCC and they are now raising their 3 daughters at GCC.