I saw a shirt once that said: “I run…. I’m slower than a turtle in molasses in the winter, but I run”. I have never seen something that more accurately describes me as a runner. But I do love to run, and actually will run pretty much anytime, anywhere. For me, it’s my escape, and a time for me to connect to God and re-charge.
As I was running this week, I realized that I was about to hit a new personal record, and was thrilled! I am not a competitive person, but I love to compete with myself, and push myself to do better. But as I finished out the final mile, and ended with that new PR, I realized that one of the reasons I love running, is that it’s all about me, and what I can do. Now hear me out- I’m not saying that as a selfish thing. What I’m saying, is that when I run, I don’t compare myself to those around me. And I certainly wouldn’t determine whether or not I had a good run by whether or not I beat someone else’s time.
Unfortunately, we so often don’t adopt that same mentality in life. I would never compare myself to an Olympic athlete when it comes to running, so why am I so quick to do it in other areas of my life? Especially in ministry, we are quick to look at what we are doing (or even worse, what we aren’t doing), and compare it to other youth leaders, other ministries, and other situations entirely. But we aren’t those people. We don’t know what resources they might have, or what the situations are. I would never compare myself to an Olympic athlete because it would be absurd. Now, that is a big exaggeration, but you get my point. If I compared my running times and paces to someone else, it wouldn’t make sense. I know what I am capable of, and I push myself to my limits based on that capacity, not on anyone else’s. And that’s what we need to do in our ministries as well.
There is nothing wrong with looking to other ministries and leaders for ideas, resources, or suggestions. But when we let that become a way of comparing what we are doing to what they are doing, and let it reflect negatively on our mentality, it becomes a problem. We are all running this race together. And we come into the race at different points, and with different levels of experience and energy. Some have been doing this for years, while others are new at this and still finding their way. Some have a group of 5 and are killing it, and others have a group of 500 and are learning how to manage. There is no magic formula to measure success or determine what is right or wrong for you and your group. But you have been placed there for a reason. So keep running, and keep pushing yourself to do better than where you are right now. Push yourself to your limits (in a good way- not to the point where you burn out), and keep improving. But stop comparing yourself to everyone around you as a measure of your success. Do what you know how to do best, and what I’m guessing drew you to youth ministry in the first place- love God and love students. And if you can do that, the rest will fall into place.
I’m the Children & Youth Pastor at Ebensburg UMC in Ebensburg, PA. I’ve been involved in youth ministry off and on, but have been a bi-vocational youth leader for two years. I love youth ministry and am passionate about seeing students grow in their relationship with God!