Ministry Envy…

Two years ago at the National Youth Workers Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, I attended a general session where Doug Fields spoke on the topic of “Ministry Envy.” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last week or so about how I used to view things in youth ministry as opposed to how I currently view them. I am a totally different youth worker now than I was back then. And that is a good thing…

When I think through my career thus far in youth ministry, I realize that I have been very envious at times. If I would have let that envy continue, it could have destroyed my future in youth ministry. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, ministry envy is simply being envious of other youth pastors, youth workers, or youth leaders. It is seeing the awesome things that they do (teach, lead games, perform skits, write, preach, relate to students, lead Bible studies, etc…) and wishing that you could be as awesome or as good as they are. It is seeing a youth worker that you view as better than you are and getting upset with and down on yourself.

I’d love to say that I never struggled with this, but that would be a lie. I’d love to say that I only struggled with this with youth leaders that I didn’t know (those I read about or saw at retreats or events), but that would also be a lie. The truth is, I was envious of the way that many of my close friends and co-workers did ministry. I wanted to be like them and do the things that they did. I wanted to be the kind of youth leader that they were/are.

If I could talk to myself then as myself now, the conversation would look something like this…

Me Now: “If you want to be like them, what is that saying about the youth leader that God created you to be? Aren’t you, in essence, saying that how God created and gifted you isn’t good enough?”

Me Then: “You know what Paul from the future? I think you are right! Maybe I shouldn’t waste my time trying to be like them and just focus on the skills and abilities that God gave me to do youth ministry.”

Me Now: “You sir, are a genius!”

Me Then: “Yeah, that’s true! Before you go back to the future, do you have anything else to tell me?”

Me Now: “Yeah, don’t try to tow an empty u-haul trailer early in the morning on February 5th, 2009. If you turn around when it starts snowing like you think you should, you won’t get into an accident that results in your truck being totaled!”

Me Then: “Thank you kind sir!”
So…as you can see from the conversation I just had with myself, I learned to overcome ministry envy. The session that I attended on this topic served as an eye-opener for me. I never knew that I had this problem and I am very glad that I found out earlier rather than later.

Now, don’t get me wrong…It is ok to see what others do and to admire those things…and maybe even steal a few of them (a.k.a. borrow some ideas from them). But it is not ok to do everything in your power to be like them. It is not ok to obsess over how good they are and beat yourself up for not being able to do what they do.

Everyone is geared differently. I am geared to be a different kind of youth leader than my friends, co-workers, and mentors. I can’t be like them in some aspects because God made me to be me. He geared me to do ministry the way that He intended, not the way that I think I should do it.

I’m glad that God created me to be me.

– paulg

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6 Responses to Ministry Envy…

  1. […] read Paul G’s latest blog. In it, he imagined a conversation with the person he used to be and the person he is now.  That […]

  2. Anastasia says:

    You should also tell yourself to wash your Tupperware before packing it to move to your new apartment.

  3. emergingyouth says:

    Thanks for your openness and honesty. I appreciate your thoughts and sincerity. You have much to say to all of us in ministry about being comfortable and confident in who God has created us to be. Keep up the good work and ministry out of your unique identity

  4. Good thoughts my friend, I remember that session on Ministry Envy. You are not alone, I myself have struggled with that and had to come to the same realization as you. I am so glad youth ministry is moving to be more contexual to your own church, because I could really give two chicken patties from Nyack College how awesome another ministry is. I will just be glad that God is moving within that context.

  5. meghan g says:

    I’m glad that God created you to be you too…

    and…off what stacia said, you should also tell yourself when you’re done washing them, to give them back to me…that’s my tupperware!!

  6. Mark Allen says:

    Paul, I completely understand this, just want you to know your not alone in this fight. Over the summer, I candidated at my dream church: huge, staff out the ying yang, budget of your dreams, secretary, a familiar place where I had interned in college for a summer. I got to the end of the process before I was cut, I was devastated. Then God brought me where I am now and what I realize 8 months later, he was protecting me from that situation. I would have died there, it would have been a logistical nightmare where I would have spent limited time with students. While I saw it as the end all, be all of youth ministry, my dream job, it wasn’t right for me. God’s funny about placing us where we should be. I am learning to be content in every situation and to cheer on my brothers in all churches, denominations, sizes, styles because God has them exactly where they need to be as well.

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