Anybody remember the retro business book “Who Moved My Cheese”? Well, after almost a decade of ministry at the same church, I’ve found myself asking a similar question at times. Who stole my staff?

It’s almost embarrassing and selfish to admit. And, I’m sure many of you have either thought or even asked it yourselves. Maybe your question is “who stole my” – musician, intern, worship guy (or girl) or best of all “who stole my volunteers”? In a growing ministry, there’s no escaping this dynamic. Although the intentions are good, it seems like everyone eventually moves on to bigger and better things. Here are a few thoughts that help me when I look up all-of-the-sudden and wonder where everybody went:

1. They were never mine to begin with.

None of the individuals I lead belong to me. They belong to God. He gave them to me, and as hard as it is, He can take them away. The fact that God blesses giving more than receiving is nothing new. But, for some reason this is really hard to live out within a church organizational structure. I don’t have a problem at all giving away my money, but whatever you do, don’t ask me to give away one of my team members. The key to not being offended when someone moves on is leading with a loose grip. The tighter you hold on, the more your hand hurts when you have to let go. So, lead with a loose grip on ideas and people. A loose grip doesn’t equal not caring.

2. You can only fill an empty chair.

One thing that overcomes the pain of losing a great team member is discovering a new team member. I continue to be blown away (and even embarrassed at my lack of faith) every time a new face appears immediately after losing someone I thought was irreplaceable. I’ve struggled toward learning; God can’t raise someone up without moving someone else out. No one likes losing a great leader. But sometimes, great leaders are discovered when other great leaders get out of the way.

3. Youth ministry often involves more sowing than reaping.

Both spiritually and organizationally, youth ministry is a launching-point not a landing-point. The rhythm of our job is to rescue, equip and release. So by nature, youth workers will always be expert sowers that often never see the fruit of their labor first-hand. Those under your leadership will grow and move on. Whether it’s within the church or in life, it’ll happen. And when it does, you have to learn the art of enjoying your labor from a distance. There’ll be times when a former student or staff member (or even a superior) expresses their gratitude. But, often you will not get the recognition or benefit from your work. You have to decide in advance it’s about the Kingdom benefiting more importantly that you benefiting. And, that’s not always easy.

4. Your investments matter.

Even if you never get the credit, you still matter to God. This sounds so theologically cheesy, but it’s crucial. You matter to God. Your worth is not dependent on your present recognition or organizational success. Your worth is based on the eternal investments you make in the lives of individuals week-in and week-out. When you see your leadership investments as eternal, then it doesn’t matter so much who benefits from your effort. Your current and past people-investments are storing up treasures in heaven. You might not get a chance to benefit from each one along the way, but no matter what your investments matter.

Joe McArthur is the Lead Student Pastor at Bay Area Fellowship Church in Corpus Christi, TX. He oversees student ministries at Bay Area’s 9 multi-site locations across South Texas. Joe is madly in love with his wife Melissa. You can check out his resources on DYM right here!