So, it didn’t go well last night in your opinion, eh? Record low students? Record high disciplinary problems? Record hard unsolicited feedback from THOSE kids? Record number of tech issues? Record count of lies you started to believe at the end of the message?
Oh. Was that last one a bit too close to home?
Look, I get it. after ten years of youth ministry, I’ve felt the sting of a “bad night” over the course of the years. And while the beginning of this blog post seems more like an infomercial on public television on Saturday morning, the reality is that many youth workers have been there. That night that just didn’t seem to go as well as you wanted.
In the midst of “bad nights” some of the lowest moments for me have come on the heels of feedback that I received from the students that I’m trying to serve. And it never matters if it is solicited or unsolicited, when it is negative and it hits on the wrong night, it stings. The reality is that left unchecked with truth and reality, it can sting hard and sometimes hard enough to push you out of ministry.
So, when you get the negative feedback from “that kid” (and to be clear, we all know him and his name is Jimmy and on his best days he is annoying and on his worst days he crushes you with his sledge hammer of opinion) here are some things to think about and help you “capture every thought and make it obedient to Christ,” as Paul might say:
- They are students.
I’m not sure how old they are, but they aren’t old enough to have enough wisdom and experience to know what is effective or not. They aren’t cognizant of what is financially possible, or what can be resourced with the people that you have on your staff. While they think they know everything, they absolutely do not because their age and their shoe size are not distant enough apart yet and that, unfortunately, is the way to determine just how much expertise and street cred comes into the conversation.
So keep that in mind when you hear their feedback.
- You aren’t doing EVERYTHING wrong.
You might not be doing everything “right” or great. But you are not doing EVERYTHING wrong. You may be not be connecting with a few students, but you aren’t missing EVERYONE. Don’t let the lies of the Enemy convince you that every effort you are putting forth is worthless. When our emotions and feelings drive us, truth won’t be the thing that directs us. Their uneducated analysis and your unfiltered emotional response will only lead to the belief of lies that, quite simply, are not remotely true. If God has placed you there, then He is going to use you there. You are doing SOMETHING right but just showing up for kids and investing your life. So keep that in mind when you process their feedback.
- Feedback reveals more about the giver not the receiver.
I refer you to #1 and remind you that they just revealed something to you that not every student does: where they are in their faith. While it stings because, and I remind you of #1 again, they seem to be blaming you for their spiritual apathy, they just indicated that they clearly aren’t ready for the spiritual meat you prepared for them in the way that you have prepared it. Some students are ready to jump to the New York Strip, Medium on the Rare side, with garlic butter on top. But not every student is. Some students are only ready to drink the milk from the sippy cup with the handles on the side so you can hold it with two hands. So, perhaps this unfortunate and stinging indictment wasn’t of you, but more an indicator of them. Give them grace and recognize that you need wisdom from Jesus on how to lead them more specifically so you can connect with them more precisely. So keep that in mind as you try to consider next steps.
- Remember that you are not the fruit
Remember that you are not the fruit; you are the branch. Your job is to do branch-like things and stick to the vine so that you can bear more fruit. This morning, press hard into Jesus and then do whatever He says. That’s the branchy thing to do. Often we can get so involved and so invested in our ministry and the fruit of our lives that we begin to believe that we begin to focus on our fruit that we forget to do branchy things. Branches can’t produce fruit if they don’t first do the branchy thing of sticking close to the vine. He will produce fruit through you or the Father will prune it so you can produce more fruit. But you have to remember that you are the branch. So remember that when the Enemy tries to convince you to quit.
- You are loved.
Remember that you are loved. Because you are. And nothing in the world or above the world can separate you from the Love of Christ Jesus. I didn’t say that, Paul did and he seemed like a pretty confident dude who went through some stuff. So keep that in mind throughout the whole thing because on your worst day and on your best day, His love still remains and that will never change.
Find the blessings and then get back after it tomorrow.
Geoff Cocanower loves Jesus, his wife, the Church (primarily students, families and youth workers), and has been doing the youth ministry thing since 2008. Geoff is all about authentically leading and empowering others to flourishing life in Christ. You can find him online at www.pastorgeoff.com or on all the socials @geoffcocanower.