My former pastor apologizes

Wow. The title should say enough, huh? Definitely wasn’t expecting this one.

The Story
Last night as I was on my way out the door, my cell phone rang. Didn’t recognize the number, but immediately recognized the voice to be that of the sr. pastor from my former youth ministry. I resigned from past position about two years ago for several reasons that are unnecessary to go into now. Regardless, I unfortunately haven’t talked with him much since then. Through word of mouth I heard that the church eventually disbanded and ceased to exist, which was disheartening to hear. Although I’ve been in touch with several students from that ministry and even his son from time to time, I really haven’t kept in touch with him at all.

So when I heard his voice I was pretty surprised and unsure how to react. As I drove to a friend’s house for dinner, we had a good time talking and catching up a little. He told me about his current part-time position at a new church and some of the expectations and pressures he was feeling from the sr. pastor there. As he vented some of his frustration he referred to a moment earlier that day and said, “So I sat there on the pew and started thinking, ‘Is this how Tim Schmoyer felt when he worked under me? Did I do this same thing to him?'”His conclusion was “yes,” that he found himself in a situation very similar to the one I was in at his church. So he felt compelled to contact me and apologize for it. Wow.

The Application
Working at that church was a huge learning experience that has shaped my philosophy of ministry in ways that are still probably unforeseen. One way I do know it has changed, though, is how I work with the volunteer youth leaders God has entrusted to me. Instead of plugging people into my vision and using them to fill my empty holes, I’ve found it works much better to hear their dream for ministry and equip them to pursue it. Instead of saying, “Mr. Adult Volunteer, I need you to teach Sunday School and lead a new small group on Wednesdays,” I now say, “Mr. Adult Volunteer, what is drawing you to youth ministry and what passion is God wanting you to pursue in this area?” Although Mr. Adult Volunteer may do great at teaching Sunday School and although he might make an exceptional small group leader, he will still thrive best when he is equipped and encouraged to pursue the dream God placed in his heart.

When we follow our passion, we somehow pursue it differently than something that’s just assigned to us to fill a “gap.” We end up pursuing it in such a way that’s contagious. Other people want to jump on board and rally behind us because it’s something they can see and feel in a very real way. Somehow it becomes more “tangible” than just an Sunday School teaching assignment.

I’ve decided to trust that God will supply the volunteers needed to run the youth ministry. I trust that the volunteers He brings each contribute a unique vision that they feel called to chase after and accomplish. It is my job to hear their dreams and help them make it a reality, as they do the same for me. As I see it now, that’s what a ministry team is all about.

Posted on November 5, 2005

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