This guest post is from Kevin Patterson. Kevin is the Youth Pastor at FBC Dawson Springs, Kentucky. He blogs at Life in The Youth Ministry Fishbowl
This past week I just relearned this important lesson. Without getting into to many details, the community our church is located in has a tradition of having a amateur league baseball game and fireworks display around the 4th of July every year. I usually cancel youth group that day if it occurs on Weds, another lesson I’ve learned is don’t try to compete with things like this in our community. Even more of a reason to take a day off is that we just returned from a week long mission trip the previous week.
So what do I do? I say yes. Back the story up a few weeks. I had a parent of some of our students ask me if the youth and I would be willing to volunteer at the baseball game serving concessions. Every warning alarm in my head went off but what do I do? I say yes, because I love this family and I have a servants heart. Long story short, I got burnt. The people of the community from outside the church treated myself and the students like criminals, claiming that we were just trying to get into the baseball game free. After getting in, the concessions people had nothing for us to do. The youth were mad because they were wasting their time having to be there. And to top it off I was stranded because my car got boxed in. I took three big lessons away from this:
1: Just say no!
There is an art to saying no that I haven’t mastered. I always look at opportunities like this as a way to serve. I’ve learned that the first question I need to ask is “How will this affect me.” I know it sounds self centered but if you want to avoid burnout, you better be looking out for yourself because no one else is. Is this an opportunity that is beneficial for me and my family? I should have said no, just because I love this family was no reason to say yes. As much as I love them, I love my family more. For my health and their’s I should have stayed home and had a family night.
2: Don’t waste your students time.
I felt horrible when my students were left with nothing to do. This event is not one that my students would have normally gone to. This event is typically geared to the adults and young kids. The teens typically stay at home. What do I do? I relied on the non-church community people to organize and lead this. I should have took more of a hands on approach and been more involved instead of showing up and serving. If I had took a more hands on approach I would have realized that there was no real work for us to do there and would have called my students and cancelled. Don’t waste your students time, give them real tangible ways to serve of let them alone.
3: Keep calm and smile.
I’m not the calmest of all people, this is something that is a continuous process that God is doing in my life. After being called a criminal, having my time wasted, being trapped because of inept parking attendants, being told to get lost by the community leaders, and being pretty well ignored by the chief of police. I was pretty mad and it was obvious. I didn’t compromise my witness but I wasn’t far from it. I should have just took a few minutes, sat in my car, took some deep breaths, and figured a way out. After I did this I was able to find a way out with my SUV. I had to do some redneck engineering but after taking off a few trailer hitches off of trucks that were blocking me and eventually putting my Escape in 4WD and going mudding in the parking lot I was able to get out.
So what do I say next time? NO NO NO! But if I do say yes again, I better make sure my students have something to do and when I’m let down again I better remain calm. Hard lesson, Ive learned it before, and I’m sure before my youth ministry career is over I learn it again.