The Realities of Ministry

Posted by Ashlyn May, Woodbridge Students Resident, on Nov 05, 2021

The Realities of Ministry

Two years ago, I was hired as a resident at church and it has been the biggest blessing.

I never would’ve guessed I’d be living a dream of mine by the age of 18. Before reading any further, I want to make something extremely clear: I love church, I love my job, and there is literally no other place I’d rather be. However, sometimes it’s hard.

My life doesn’t feel real. It wasn’t long ago that I was a student who thought my leaders and pastors had all the answers…and now I’m on staff and I can most definitely say I do NOT have all the answers. But I see that the relationships I'm building with leaders and students are deepening over time. And I recognize how some of my students latch onto me. It’s sweet to be adored by a younger person (and yet I know the only thing super about me is that the Savior of the world died for me).

There is a dark side though. While logically I know it’s not my burden to carry, I don’t want to screw up. I want to lead them well. Actually, if I’m being honest, I want to lead them better than well. I want to lead them perfectly… and I can’t.

That being said, I’m grateful for growth. I’m grateful for mistakes and challenges that are developing me and sanctifying me. As I reflect on these past two years, here are some lessons I’ve learned:

1) Jesus’ blood covers me too.

Proverbs 18:21 tells us that our tongue has the power of life and death and I have felt that weight. I have witnessed how mistakes that I’ve made have HURT people. I don’t take church hurt lightly, and I don’t take my mistakes that hurt people lightly, either. But God has had to teach me something recently: His blood covers me too. I may be in a position of leadership in a church, but I am no less broken than anyone else and I too am in desperate need of a Savior. A verse the Lord has brought me back to a lot is this one:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

God does not look at what people look at, He looks at the heart. Even when I’ve messed up, God saw that my intention was not to hurt people. God saw my deep love for those in my life and ministry even when everyone else just saw the decision I made.

Learning that God has grace for me is sadly something I feel I’m learning for the first time. Grace feels sparse in ministry sometimes. I feel a pressure to say the right things, have all the right answers, not sin, make no mistakes, and remain joyous in all situations. Well, from personal experience, I can tell you this is impossible. I am so grateful for the blood of Jesus Christ and that His grace never runs out.

2) Ministry is personal, but I can’t take everything personally.

I’ve also learned that sometimes I make decisions for my ministry, and I truly believe they are what’s best (based on prayer and wise counsel) and people still disagree! Did you know that you can’t please everyone?!

It’s crazy. Ministry is supposed to be personal and intentional. However, when I’m overseeing a lot of students with a lot of personalities, not everyone will love every choice I make. At the end of the day, I can be kind, choose my words carefully, and do my best to make the best decisions. What I cannot do is abandon my convictions to please everyone. Disagreements and people who question me do not have authority over the calling Jesus gave me. People say hurtful things sometimes, but what they say should never override the calling God has placed on my life.

3) Vulnerability speaks volumes.

Amidst my mistakes I’ve learned that hiding them doesn’t make me a good leader. I’ve learned that transparency and honesty are some of the most important pieces to my messages.

I wish I knew that my leaders made mistakes when I was growing up. I had this warped idea that once you REALLY started following Jesus, you’d stop messing up. At least in BIG ways. It was as if I wasn’t aware that the enemy seeks to kill and destroy rather than just trip me occasionally.

Temptation doesn’t disappear as a leader, anger doesn’t cease, gossip isn’t less intriguing… sin still lurks, and I have to fight every second of the day to deny my flesh, and sometimes I don’t. In fact, I fall short OFTEN. My students don’t want a perfect leader, they want an honest and repentant leader.

My prayer, Lord, is that You to continue to refine me into that kind of leader.

4) There’s no job I’d rather have.

While I’ve made a fair share of mistakes and have had some ROUGH days, they don’t compare to my mountain top moments.

I’ve seen the power of life that my tongue holds as a leader.

I’ve seen my sweet students' eyes open to a brand-new world when suddenly something about the Lord clicks.

I’ve watched a student for whom I pleaded before the Lord give her life to Christ, and I had no words to express my joy. I just wept.

I had the blessing of being the interim student pastor at my church campus, and I don’t know if I’ve ever grown more in a 3-month period. It was the most exhausting and exhilarating summer of my life.

I learned that despite my limits and weaknesses, God is up to something. No matter how hard it gets, I know this is what I was created to do.

Reflecting on these lessons has most definitely been an encouragement to me, and I pray that it has been for you, whether or not you are in vocational ministry. May we continue to seek the Lord, love His people, submit to His Word, and receive His grace.

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