“Ben, wake up!” My wife exclaims as she bursts into our bedroom one Saturday morning, “it’s December!” I walk out into our living room to discover a pile of decorations on the floor and ornaments hanging on our Christmas tree. The busyness and tradition of the Christmas seasoninvolves time with loved ones, classic Christmas movies, and most importantly, celebrating the gift of our Savior. The Christmas season is a time to recharge for most people, in theory at least.
As I watch my wife set up decorations, and listen to her list of Christmas plans, I sit down at the coffee table. I open my computer to discover an inbox full of emails and countless texts from students. I am reminded once again that student ministry does not stop.
The Christmas season is supposed to be a time of celebration and rest. However, for the average student minister, it is also a time of heavy planning, countless events, and various student meetings. DNOW is nearing, students are out of school, and spring and summer events need planning. Student ministry does not stop.
This can be an overwhelming reality to face and accept. However, to me, the busyness of the season has been a great gift. The continuous demands of student ministry have forced me to realize: Jesus is my only source for strength and true, lasting contentment.
In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul speaks on strength and contentment. He writes:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul’s words remind me of two truths that have become an anthem in my own ministry.
First, I am reminded that in my own strength, I can accomplish nothing.
Burnout is on the rise for student ministers. Coming off the heels of COVID, student ministers are dealing with low numbers, hurting students, and at the same time, high demands from parents. This weight is certainly impossible to shoulder on human strength alone. If we are relying on our own strength and capabilities, we are bound to burn out and to fail. Paul is writing these words in Philippians from a cold, isolated jail cell. Paul has been beaten, starved, and imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel. Paul understood that he was not strong enough to bear this weight alone.
Student minister, you are not strong enough to bear the weight of ministry on your own. In ministry, we are bound to fail. We will let people down. We will displease parents. We will overbook ourselves. We will struggle to balance work and family. We will preach a message that we are unsatisfied with. We will have some of the students we disciple choose a wrong path. The church will hurt us or let us down in some way. It is essential for us to realize that God does not desire perfection. Instead, God desires full dependence on Him. The only way to faithfully shepherd the sheep of God is to be fully dependent on the One True Shepherd.
Secondly, we minister best out of full dependence upon Jesus.
Jesus truly is all that we could ever need. Jesus is the only source for our strength and peace. This propels us into deeper living. No longer are we tied to the fading comforts of this world. Through faith in Jesus, and because of the power of the Holy Spirit, true strength and contentment dwell within us for eternity.
Ministry success fades, expectations rise, students leave, and events pile up on the calendar. Student ministry is a roller coaster of emotions and expectations, impossible to bear in our human strength alone. This is a reminder that has become an anthem in my own life. Too many times have I found myself seeking contentment in this world, and every single time, I have been reminded of the same truth: this world fades, but the presence of Jesus prevails for eternity.
So, as we live in a season of high expectations, demands, and responsibilities, we remember this truth – Jesus is the only source for true strength and lasting contentment. Jesus is the only one able to empower you through the presence of the Holy Spirit. He is the only one able to provide you lasting security and hope. He is our rock and our foundation.
You might find yourself in a season/situation like Paul, an uncomfortable, cold, unsteady, or dark season. Right now, the peace of Christ might feel distant, and the weight of the ministry is stealing your every last breath.
Or you might find yourself in a season of blessing. You are comfortable and have more than you could think to ask for.
Whatever season you are in, remember that the seasons come and go, but God remains forever. Whatever season you are in, no matter how difficult or how rich, remember that there is only one true source for our strength and contentment—the One True God.
Due to the grace of God, and upon our proclamation of faith in God, wherever we find ourselves on this earth, and whatever we face, we can abound through God’s presence with us. There is no better news than this.
Yes, student ministry never stops. Yes, Christmas might be another reminder of the continual pace of student ministry. Yes, responsibilities, events, and expectations pile up. Praise God because Christ is all we need. So, student minister, never forget– lean into Jesus.