Clay Jars and Youth Ministry [Time Out]

Time Out quiet times for the youth worker's soulTime Out: Weekly quiet times for the youth worker’s soul.
(by Benjer McVeigh)

Answer this question honestly before you read on: what do you wish you could change about your present ministry situation? If you have a piece of paper handy, take a few minutes to write down all the things you would change.


For some, the list is mercifully short right now.  For others, the list is painfully long.  But all of us have at least one item that we can put on that list.  My guess is that most of us have plenty more than that.

Perhaps you listed several strained relationships.  Maybe you wish God would make it clear to you whether he’s really called you to youth ministry.  There are some who are reading this are on the verge of losing their job, or are still working through the pain of being let go from a church.

Maybe yesterday was a painful Sunday morning.  Perhaps you’ve been accused of not doing your job correctly, and the strain of criticism from others and the self-doubt are taking a toll on your family and your health.  Or maybe you’ve questioned whether it was really wise for you to take that youth ministry position, now that it’s becoming more and more difficult to make ends meet, pay the rent, and feed your kids.

Yes, for many of us, the list is long.  Paul knew that reality all too well.  He was beaten, stoned, lashed, ridiculed, imprisoned, and eventually executed because of his ministry.  Certainly most of us do not and probably will not face a situation even close to the one that Paul was facing.  But the principle is transferable: ministry is hard on the body and on the soul. But for Paul, that didn’t take away from his ministry; it strengthened it.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. -2 Corinthians 4:7, ESV

We often hear the phrase, “jars of clay” from Paul, and connect with the fact that God has chosen imperfect human beings to spread the message of Jesus.  That’s true, but it’s more than that.  We are not only imperfect, we are weak.  We are breakable.  We are fragile.  Keep us around a few years, and we’ll bear the marks of a hard life of use, misuse, and abuse: chipped edges, discoloration, perhaps a few cracks that make it more difficult to hold water.  Where we once were a magnificent piece of art, fresh from the kiln, we now sometimes feel more like a forgotten kitchen utensil, left to collect dust in the corner.

Perhaps your wear and tear is showing.  At one time, you had an unquenchable passion for helping teenagers know Jesus, but a difficult conflict has made you wonder if it’s worth the pain.  Or maybe the Church you pledged to serve and love has caused you more pain than joy.  Maybe life’s pain has made it difficult for you to stand before a group of teenagers and tell of the unending joy that comes through new life in Jesus—because for you that joy has been fleeting.

Take heart.  You are in good company.  This is what it has meant to serve Jesus for thousands of years.  In fact, when things are difficult, it makes us more prepared, more equipped to serve Jesus.

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken;  struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. -2 Corinthians 4:8-12, ESV

Ministry is hard.  Discipleship is hard.  But don’t quit.  Don’t quit.


Questions for reflection

Take a look at your list of things you would change about your ministry situation (or write it if you haven’t already).  What is the nature of most of those tough situations?

What has been the most disheartening thing you’ve ever faced in ministry?

What are the things that encourage you, even when ministry is tough?

In what ways do you believe you are better equipped for ministry because of the tough times you’ve faced in ministry?


Benjer McVeigh is a youth pastor in Ogden, UT, where he works with students in grades 9-12 and their families at Washington Heights Church. You can read more from Benjer at or follow him on twitter

Posted on March 21, 2011

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