Are you lazy? Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty pointed question. Most of us recoil defensively, but I think it’s a question we need to wrestle with if we want to be great ministers of the Gospel. Last time I checked, the call of Christ was pretty intense, and passages like James 3:1 make it clear that we who teach will be held accountable for our efforts.
But instead of just ranting about the “lazy youth minister,” I want to come at this from a new perspective, and point out that we are all in this together. This isn’t an elitist pointing fingers at the masses. I’m a normal Youth Minister, like many of you, and have to constantly guard against “coasting.” This isn’t an “us versus them” post – we are in the trenches together, and this battle is too important for internal squabbling. Call this post a rant if you want, but I prefer to think of it as returning to fundamentals.
With all that said, let’s look at a few of the facts regarding laziness in ministry.
- Perception is reality to some. No matter how hard you work, or how many hours you put in, there will always be people that think you are a lazy slob, just because you’re a minister. There are some in my blue-collar congregation that assume since I don’t regularly change transmissions or hang drywall, I’m lazy. I just recently returned from a mission trip with 50 people under my leadership. We had an outbreak of influenza B, hung more drywall than you’d care to know, and I was “on” every moment except for the 5-6 hours of sleep I got each night. When I returned, someone asked me how my VACATION was. “Did you have fun?” they asked. Your goal should be to work hard, be faithful, and strive without drawing attention to your work ethic. After time, people will recognize your hard work. Stick with it.
- Stereotypes exist for a reason. Even though we hate to admit it, there is usually a reason for a stereotype’s existence. Somewhere along the line, someone in ministry “mailed it in,” and we’ve been paying for it ever since. As a matter of fact, there might be more truth to this than you think. Have you ever met someone in ministry that is lazy? Have you ever worked on staff with someone who doesn’t put in the effort? The truth is that this is probably more common than we care to admit, so make it your goal to never be “that guy.”
- It’s easy to get lazy. No matter what field you are in, it becomes easy over time to cut corners. Sometimes, we assume things, or we just decide to let something slide, or we find a quicker, less effective way to do something, but “it’ll do.” For whatever reason, though, laziness is a consistent temptation. We’ve noticed on this site that articles about games, design, and social media get a ton of hits, while articles on planning mission trips, preaching and teaching, and evaluating your ministry get far less. The truth is that it is hard work to stay fresh and press on, but it’s always worth it.
So, with the foundation laid, here’s a list of questions I want to challenge you with. As I share these, I hope you know I’m asking myself these same questions. I’ve been called to this ministry, so I never want to do it halfway. I know you want to be excellent as well.
- What am I doing to stay spiritually healthy, and how do I model that for my students? We all know staying connected with Christ can be hard work, but it’s vital to our ministry. Colossians 1:28-29 remind us that it’s through HIS power we preach, not our own. Don’t let laziness creep into your spiritual life.
- How am I actually spending my work week? A while back, I started tracking my work hours. No one asked me to, but I wanted to see what I was actually doing with my time. I would challenge you to try it. How many hours are you actually working a week? And be honest with yourself – playing XBox Live with students probably doesn’t qualify as “work,” no matter how much we want it to.
- How am I sharpening my skills as a minister? What are you doing to sharpen your skills or learn new ones? What books are you reading? What blogs are challenging you? What new ideas have you recently worked through regarding your ministry? When was the last time you really had to sharpen your pencil and figure something out in your ministry? Has status quo become your status quo?
- How much Biblical material am I actually producing? As ministers, sharing the message of Christ is probably the most important task we’ve been given. Are you digging into the Word and preparing messages for your students, or are you letting someone else do it? Are you living off of pre-written curriculum or sermon websites? Remember, we are called to “preach the Word,” not “update our status.” Don’t miss the most important thing.
- When was the last time something in my ministry failed in some way? In my experience, a ministry that doesn’t bomb on occasion probably isn’t trying very hard. Sometimes, you have to try new things to determine if they work or don’t. But laziness says “keep doing the same old thing.” Laziness doesn’t allow for new, different, difficult, and uncharted.
- Will my ministry fail without me there? This seems backwards, because being in the spotlight makes it SEEM like we are working really hard. But we know that investing in leaders and training them to do ministry is actually harder work than doing it ourselves. Are you investing in your leaders? Are you giving them a chance to lead without you?
- When was I last uncomfortable? We all love comfort, and we gravitate toward it naturally. But comfort is often the enemy of effective ministry. How is God challenging you, moving in you, and transforming your ministry? If you’re not sure when you were last uncomfortable, maybe it’s time to pray for God to “shake you up.” WARNING: God may answer this prayer radically.
I’m praying for God to give us the heart, the energy, and the motivation to strive after Him. I’m so thankful for a group of leaders and ministers who are never satisfied, and who are seeking new and creative ways to share the most important message in history. May God challenge us away from laziness so we can be more productive in our knowledge of Him.