Martyrdom youth workers [Time Out]

Topic / Time Out

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

Two weeks ago in my post, “Being a youth pastor is not the ultimate calling,” I mentioned that I started reading Dan Miller’s book, “48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal.” It’s really challenging the way I think about work, play, hobbies, passion, gifts, talents, my job, my calling, and more. Similar to Dave Ramsey’s common-sense approach to finances and the influence it had on my wife and I, Dan Miller’s book is not a particularly revolutionary concept — it just makes me believe it’s possible to spend my life doing what I thought was probably a fairy tale. Better yet, it gives me 48 days of steps and assignments to get there.

In chapter 5, Miller tells a fable about animals in an organized school that had adopted a curriculum for running, swimming, climbing and flying. It’s a fairly detailed story, but for the sake of brevity, he tells of a duck that was a better swimmer than the instructor, but had to stay after school to work on his running and climbing skills. In the end, his feet became raw and his ability to swim became just average. Along with the mediocrity came a weariness that prevented him from enjoying what he really loved and excelled at: swimming. But since average was acceptable in the school, no one thought anything of it, except the duck who really loved swimming.

How unfortunate is it that we often spend so much of our time developing skills in areas that are not our strengths? Miller recommends we invest into what we’re good at. In fact, he even breaks it down like this for organizing our work strategy:

  • Work where you are the strongest 80% of the time.
  • Work where you are learning 15% of the time.
  • Work where you are weak 5% of the time. (page 82)

When it comes to youth ministry, how many of us are spending 80% of our time in our areas of weakness? For example, a church hires you because you’re relational and they want a relational leader for the kids, but then you get stuck behind a desk where you spend 80% of your time doing administrative work. In the long-run, it’s a lose-lose situation for everyone: you don’t enjoy what you do with most of your time, the church is frustrated with your clear lack of administration skills, the kids aren’t getting the time from you that you want to give them, and you end up taking the stress and frustration home to your family.

But too often youth workers write it off with verses like, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…” (Colossians 3:23) or, “I will praise the Lord at all times” (Psalm 34:1) or even, “Do everything without complaining or arguing…” (Philippians 2:14) as if serving in church ministry is an acceptable form of martyrdom where it’s acceptable to “suffer” for the sake of serving Jesus. I’m not saying there aren’t appropriate times to suffer for Christ, but it’s different when you’re “suffering for Jesus” because you’re a duck that’s trying to be a runner.

What we do for 40-50 hours a week is a big deal! “Our work must be a fulfillment of our unique ministry; otherwise, we are wasting a lot of our time and energy” (48 Days, page 86). Life is too short to waste your time on what God has not equipped you to do, even if it seems like a very godly task. Instead, be thankful for how God has uniqued created you and use it for God’s glory in whatever way that works best.


  • Approximately how much of your time do you spend where you are the strongest? Where you are learning? Where you are weak?
  • Have you adopted a martyr attitude about serving in ministry? What’s causing it?
  • If you could serve the Lord in any capacity doing anything in the world and money wasn’t an issue, what would you do?

“Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10).

Posted on April 10, 2011

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