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The struggle of being a “professional Christian”

The struggle of being a professional Christian youth workerIn last Monday’s LIVE YM Talk we talked about the struggle of growing spiritually in the midst of ministry. As people who are paid to be spiritual role models for students, we often feel expected to be in a constant state of passionate spiritual growth, but we all know that’s not true. Our graph of spiritual growth over time is a jagged arrow that goes up and down just like it does for anyone else.

Unfortunately, the unwritten expectation to be a “professional Christian” causes us to start faking it, pretending to be something in the church that we’re really not. Worse yet, when teens are transparent with us about their struggle to grow, we totally identify with them but our advice defaults to things that essentially boil down to, “Try harder,” even though trying harder hasn’t worked for us. “Spend more time reading your Bible. Pray more. Go to church more. Do more with the youth group. More, more, more.”

I shared a lot more about this back in my 2006 post titled, “Knowing God: Relationship, not ritual,” and encourage you to go check that out, especially the, “Ten questions to ask when your spiritual life is dull and dry,” PDF at the end.

In the beginning of last Monday’s LIVE YM Talk show I shared Mike’s story, which is exactly where many of us are coming from. He asks the question:

“How am I supposed to stand there [at youth group] and talk about following The Way and being a disciple when I’m struggling with the same thing?”

I encourage you to go and listen to it or download it in iTunes for free to hear the rest Mike’s story and our discussion that followed.

Tomorrow I’ll share 5 things that have been critical in my own spiritual growth lately. That post is now available here: “When I’m spiritually dry and dull.”

QUESTION: Do you feel the expectation to be a “professional Christian?” If so, how do you respond to that pressure? How transparent should we be about our own spiritual growth struggles with the teens in our ministries? Share with the rest of us in the comments below this post.


Posted on September 8, 2010

  • Do you feel the expectation to be a “professional Christian?” If so, how do you respond to that pressure?
    I don't, but I think part of that's because I didn't grow up in the church. However, I have felt the "How am I supposed to teach this when I'm struggling with it?" issue, like Mark in your story. I've found that the best way to deal with it is to just plainly say, "Sometimes, this is really hard for me." I think when we do this in a healthy way, it helps students with their own struggles.

    How transparent should we be about our own spiritual growth struggles with the teens in our ministries?
    Here's what we tell our small group leaders: please feel free to be transparent with struggles, but when you do, keep these two things in mind: 1) share so that the purpose is to highlight what God has done in your life through your struggles, and 2) don't let it become a place where you work out your issues, like a counseling session or a confessional.

    • Those are really good boundaries for sharing struggles. Thanks for sharing them.

  • Pingback: When I'm spiritually dry and dull | Life in Student Ministry()

  • Also tough to balance your own spiritual life when you're responsible for others.

  • Lately, I've been responding by swinging from one extreme (workaholism) to another (becoming a spiritual hermit). I'm finding that disconnecting from the internet for the whole weekend and spending time outside away from distractions have become spiritual/vocational lifelines. Also the realization that if I fail at my "Christian" job it doesn't mean that I've failed at being a Christian has been revolutionary for me.

  • Jason

    Do you feel the expectation to be a “professional Christian?”
    YES, I do.
    If so, how do you respond to that pressure?
    My struggle kicks in because I know, no matter what my role in life, I should be growing and learning in my relationship with God. That looks totally different depending on the day of the week but even as I stumble in life I want to learn from it. In responding, I truly have to pray through my motives, hoping that I'm growing because I love God and not because I'm in vocational ministry. AND if my motives aren't right, that God will change them.

    • Yeah, examining motives is so important, and being honest about them is even more important. Most of us have learned the lingo and we can even walk it on the outside, but those dang motives reveal WHY we're doing it, which is just as important as the WHAT we're doing.

  • Pingback: When I'm Spiritually Dry and Dull by Tim Schmoyer - ChurchLeaders.com - Christian Leadership Blogs, Articles, Videos, How To's, and Free Resources()

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